Cette page regroupe l'ensemble des publications de Futuribles sur cette thématique (Vigie, revue, bibliographie, études, etc.)
From the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran to the recent collapse of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, the "Shiite question" has regularly been mentioned but seldom analysed in depth, even though it plays an essential role in the regional equilibrium and, increasingly, the gap is widening between this minority strand within Islam (fewer than 15% of Muslims) and the majority denomination (the Sunni). François Zabbal provides a portrait of Shiism here: the identity, history and political involvements of Shiites (from Iran to the Lebanese Hezbollah, not forgetting Palestine), their presence in the Middle East etc. He touches also on the "Shiite revival" (particularly in the area of philosophy) and discusses the possibility of a Shiite axis developing around Iran that could lead to a break up of the Middle East along the lines of recent Iraqi experience, one of the consequences of which is to have put off the prospect of any kind of Arab or Islamic unity for many years.
En Chine et en Inde, la combinaison d’une croissance économique soutenue, de capacités militaires en expansion et de populations nombreuses constitueront le socle d’une croissance attendue en forte accélération, tant sur le plan économique que sur le plan politique. La Chine et l’Inde ont amorcé « un sprint soudain dans la course à la puissance » et ont à ce jour à peine commencé leur bouleversement de l’ordre international. Chindia, la Chine et l’Inde agrégées du fait ...
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Un sondage récent du centre Youri Lévada montre que les Russes sont de moins en moins nombreux à vouloir défendre " une démocratie sur le modèle occidental ". Le nombre de nostalgiques du régime communiste reste stable.
Le dernier document de stratégie de la Commission européenne sur les pays candidats à l'entrée dans l'Union manifeste des perspectives très incertaines d'élargissement à court et moyen termes.
A new intergovernmental meeting was held at the end of July 2007 in order to try to overcome the institutional impasse resulting from the rejection of the European Constitution by France and the Netherlands in 2005. The EU's member states discussed the drafting of a "constitutional mini-treaty" to be submitted to the meeting of the European Council in October 2007. In this month's op-ed piece on the EU, written before the Council meeting, Jean-François Drevet examines one of the matters that must be sorted out: how powers should be divided between the EU and the member states, focussing particularly on France and Germany.
Jean Hourcade, membre d'Asie 21, le groupe de réflexion de Futuribles sur les futurs possibles de l'Asie, nous présente dans ce texte des scénarios d'évolution de la situation politique en Birmanie, pays dans lequel il a vécu et dont il analyse les évolutions depuis des années.
Ever since the intervention in Iraq by the coalition led by the United States, begun in 2003 and continuing today, Iraq has been the scene of terrible conflict. The fighting between coalition forces and the army of Saddam Hussein has been followed by civil war, the rivalries being in some cases religious (Sunni versus Shia), in others ethnic (Kurd versus Arab), with in addition violence of various kinds against the occupying forces. In August 2007, the number of civilian Iraqis killed since the start of the intervention is estimated as somewhere between 70,000 and 76,000 (according to Iraq Body Count).
Faced with this situation, increasing numbers of Iraqis are fleeing their country and seeking refuge in neighbouring states. François de Jouvenel examines where matters now stand with regard to the population movements and the problems they raise - not just humanitarian but also social and political - in the receiving countries (Syria and Jordan in particular), and highlights the geopolitical risks that result from them for the region as a whole.
This month Jean-François Drevet's op-ed piece focuses on the relations between the European Union and its neighbour Libya, which is seeking to normalize its international relations, but also with the other Mediterranean countries that are the EU's partners in the context of the Barcelona agreements. He argues that there are many obstacles in the way of establishing concrete policies to promote co-operation between the EU and these nations. In addition to the criteria related to encouraging democracy and respect for human rights, the relations that these countries have with each other reflect the difficulties involved in improving regional co-operation. The best way forward is probably to be pragmatic, for example by encouraging the countries south and east of the Mediterranean to develop collaborative action in some sectors (such as the environment) in order to test how far they are prepared to co-operate at the supranational level.
Dans les efforts qu'elle a déployés lors du sommet de juin 2007 pour sortir de l'impasse créée par les réponses négatives aux référendums du printemps 2005, la présidence allemande a obtenu un accord sur un calendrier d'adoption du " traité simplifié ", appelé à se substituer au projet de traité constitutionnel.
This month Jean-François Drevet's op-ed piece focuses on the European Union's policy to help the less affluent areas of the EU. As the Commission's fourth report on the subject is published in July 2007, he examines the disparities in economic growth within the EU and what impact the policy (in particular the structural funds) is having not only on growth in the recipient regions (especially the latest countries to join the EU), but also for the economies of the member states that provide the finance.
In this article, as the French government sets out to undertake a major reform of the country's higher education system, Barbara Kehm highlights current trends in Europe in this field.
The author starts by describing the "Bologna process", which launched a new system of qualifications and a series of major reforms of higher education programmes in more than 40 European countries. She then shows how this process (started in 1999) has been combined with the Lisbon strategy (2000) with the aim of establishing by 2010 a Europe-wide system of higher education linked to plans for research and innovation.
Barbara Kehm also examines how the role of the state in the management of higher education is changing in Europe. She discusses the new forms of governance that have developed against the background of the system's problems of both funding and legitimacy, resulting in growing moves towards greater autonomy for individual institutions and more vocationally oriented courses.
Finally, Barbara Kehm looks at three key issues for European higher education: more diverse sources of funding (in order above all to cope with increased numbers of students), research and improvements in quality (via better evaluation and accreditation), and internationalization (involving both co-operation and competition). She concludes her analysis by setting out the main trends in this field for the next 10 years.
In April 2000, Futuribles published an article by Nicholas Eberstadt warning of the risks of serious problems in Russia arising from the declining health of the Russian population and the demographic consequences; his analysis seems so far to be accurate. In this issue we are publishing another article by Nicholas Eberstadt, devoted this time to population change in the United States, which he says is the demographic exception because its population growth sets it apart from the other major industrialized countries.
First he describes the exceptionally high fertility rates of American women (a long-term trend that he reckons is likely to continue and perhaps even become stronger) compared with European rates and he outlines the factors that may explain this difference. He goes on to discuss the special contribution of immigration in the American case and the influence that this migration model continues to have on strong population growth. Lastly, extrapolating from the trends that he has described, Nicholas Eberstadt suggests several possible trends for American demographics between now and 2025: he stresses in particular the growing gap between the United States and Europe with regard to population change and the possible economic and geopolitical consequences that this may have.
Is it still possible to undertake foresight studies in the contemporary world, assessing its potential issues, challenges and developments? With the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001 - enormous changes that nobody really foresaw - the question is worth asking.
Frédéric Charillon argues that it is not only possible but indeed necessary to give ourselves the means of trying to predict the future of international relations. Here he offers some tools for deciphering the situation of a sociological nature, criticizing the theory of the clash of civilizations as too simplistic. He first sets out the main issues that need to be considered when analysing tomorrow's world and the cleavages within it that they are likely to generate; he goes on to make a series of observations about the current international situation, highlighting the confusion of models, the ever more frequent abrupt changes, and increasing complexity of the world and how it is represented...
Hence the three main questions about the future of the world analysed by Frédéric Charillon: is there still some system for looking at the future and, if so, what is it? How do we set about understanding international situations if they cannot be explained? Is making culture the focus of the analysis really the best way of capturing the dynamics of the modern world?
Hence, too, the three sociological questions on which he ends: is it better to simplify the reality in order to be able to act or to attempt to understand the complexities before doing anything? Is it better - in both analysis and action - to go for sudden change or for continuity? Is it better to emphasize explanations in terms of the individual or the group?
Alioune Sall, Director of the African Futures Institute, looks at the key question of this special issue - the future of relations between civilizations at global level - from the African angle, a view too often forgotten in this debate.
In this article, he sets out the major challenges that Africa faces (coping with modernity, bloody conflicts, problems of governance, etc.) and emphasizes how far the West (in particular the former colonial powers) is responsible for the current difficulties of the continent. Nevertheless, contrary to the view that certain commentators sometimes express, he thinks that Africa has a future and one that does not involve a clash of civilizations, but rather a dialogue which will give rise to a new sort of modernity.
Invoking various African thinkers, Alioune Sall offers three main arguments in favour of this dialogue of cultures: pluralism and respect for diversity, a new kind of citizenship that is not based on being native-born, and the emergence of what he calls "afropolitanity" (in a sense marking a post-colonial phase of modernity in Africa). He does not underestimate the scale of the challenges (population growth, economic problems, governance, etc.), but bases his hopes on the coming together of a vision of values and a certain degree of political intervention that makes it possible to envisage Africa's future with optimism, against the background of a genuine dialogue with other cultures, and especially with the West.
This month Jean-François Drevet devotes his opinion piece on European affairs to the European Central Bank. Although there are still reservations, especially in France, about the Bank and about a common European currency, he argues that it is useful. He stresses, too, that the Euro "protects but does not energize" the economies of member countries, hence the need to make greater efforts to develop common economic policies.
This article argues that we need to develop foresight studies with a strong geopolitical element, although it also stresses the need, as a preliminary, to meet the challenge of finding a way of capturing the dynamics of the contemporary world situation which is as relevant as possible - a world that clearly no longer resembles the world of the past, heavily dominated as it was by the interaction of nation-states and above all by the Cold War with its head-on confrontation of two opposing blocs operating according to a common logic.
In the absence of an apposite system of representation, the approach offered by Samuel Huntington in his book on The Clash of Civilizations met with great success. The essence of Huntington's thesis is that the civilization paradigm is the best means of analysing, perhaps of anticipating, changes in international relations. The article sets out the main points of Huntington's thesis and then examines what led up to it and, in particular, what its basis and limitations are.
Nevertheless, Hugues de Jouvenel recognizes the need to acquire new tools for deciphering a world where there is a vast increase in global interdependency as well as in tensions and conflicts that should not be viewed solely in terms of differences in culture or civilization, even if these factors undoubtedly play a growing role.
Hugues de Jouvenel concludes by raising the issue of the sense of identity and of belonging to communities of more or less shared values and interests which operate according to models that are sometimes quite unlike those of the past when geopolitics was considered to be the exclusive domain of states and the relationships they forged with one another. He therefore argues that we should thoroughly overhaul our ways of looking at the world which will undoubtedly determine, as always, the way we perceive possible futures.
For this special issue on the future of relations between cultures, François Zabbal focuses on the relationship between the Arab/Muslim world and the West.
He starts by tracing how anti-Western sentiments grew up in the Arab world, first during the Cold War and the period of East/West tensions, then in the specific context of the aftermath of September 11th 2001. In particular, he shows that the roots of Arab hostility to the West (above all the United States) is not a recent phenomenon, and while it is true that such feelings have been strengthened in response to the way that the Islamic world is represented by the West, they also arise from the desire on the part of certain Arab communities to forge (or revive) some kind of pan-Arab bond.
However, according to François Zabbal, the pan-Arab movement came to nothing. Islamic sentiment is developing more as a statement of identity vis-à-vis the West, against a background of creating national or regional solidarities. It is nonetheless the case that a globalized Islam, sustained by modern means of communication and the Muslim diasporas living in Western receiving countries, may well continue to attract the poorest sections of the Muslim world, for better or worse. Let's hope, with François Zabbal, that the "wall of mutual misunderstanding" between Islam and the West is simply a passing tense moment, the prelude to a debate which may well be heated but which is also essential about the place and the shape of Islam in the West.
In this article, Michèle Tribalat examines the consequences of migration for inter-cultural relations in European receiving countries. As she stresses, "in most European societies, immigration has brought about a growing ethno-cultural and religious diversity that is now generating anxiety and discussion about national identity and cohesion". Yet this diversity is likely to increase, partly because of growing demand in the receiving countries (linked to the ageing of their populations), but partly for more political reasons (inflows that are hard to limit because of humanitarian considerations: asylum seekers, family members, etc.).
Michèle Tribalat goes on to discuss the difficulties arising from concentrations of people of foreign origin in the traditional immigration countries (France, Great Britain, the Netherlands, for example) - in particular a certain type of segregation that becomes greater over time and the impact that this may have in shaping the perception of minorities by the native-born population and the special demands made by communities of foreign origin. Finally, the author looks at the ways in which European countries respond, or try to respond, to this cultural diversity: as nationalist sentiments decline, it is less and less straightforward to establish workable policies on immigration (apart from those based solely on demographic factors), but it is nevertheless indispensable in order to avoid ever greater divisions within societies.
Georges Corm analyses, in this op-ed piece, what he calls "the binary vision" of the world in which East and West are opposed. He starts by arguing that the end of the Cold War has not brought an end to the hostility between different blocs that dominated the world between 1945 and 1990. In his view we now have two worlds - one pro-Western and favourable to Israel, the Euro-Atlantic bloc, the other more pro-Arab, the "Mediterranean/Asian" bloc - separated by a fracture line that gives rise to both cold (the Iranian nuclear issue) and hot wars (such as the Western interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan).
He argues that this new confrontation between "civilizations" arises from five main factors: the "war on terror" which he tries to analyse with a certain critical distance, especially with regard to the United States; a certain tendency to wish to dominate the rest of the world on the part of the United States that is not thwarted by its (somewhat naïve) European allies; a Mediterranean/Asian world whose capacity for harm tends to be overestimated, in particular because as a bloc it is far from being unified; the Israeli-Palestinian situation, which in practice now seems very hard to resolve (the creation of a Palestinian state appears impossible); lastly, the designation of Iran as a potential source of regional conflagration while at the same time the United States has deliberately let slip the opportunity to normalize relations with Iran.
With this view as his starting-point, Georges Corm sketches several possible scenarios for future geopolitical change; in general these are quite pessimistic, such as the hypothesis of all-out war between the Euro-Atlantic bloc and a coalition led by Iran with the more or less overt support of Russia and China. In order to avoid such a prospect, it is essential, Georges Corm argues, to dismantle the policy of forming blocs which threatens to reproduce the model of the two world wars; this requires, in particular, the rules of international law to be applied without exception as the only means of calming "inflamed imaginations".
Bruno Étienne argues cogently in this article that to think in terms of a clash of civilizations - Islam versus the West - is to make a serious error of judgement by ignoring the many non-religious factors that affect the relations between the Middle East and the West. In order to deal with this misunderstanding, he starts by setting out a clear definition of what he means by religion. He goes on to point out that politics and religion are often in competition, including in the Muslim world, and usually politics has the final say as to which strategy is adopted in international relations.
Bruno Étienne then ponders what kind of international system will emerge now that there is no longer a two-way split: will there be one Great Power or many? He notes that we are now faced with a "huge ideological shambles" and it would be too simplistic to describe it merely in religious terms when in fact the issues are clearly geostrategic: Europe and the United States have always wanted to (re)draw the map of the Middle East to suit their own interests. He also raises the current regional issues (e.g. the problem of Israel and Palestine, the Kurdish question, Iraq, water resources and oil reserves) and their possible impact on relations between the West and the Middle East.
Finally, Bruno Étienne focuses on the three countries competing for leadership in the Middle East: Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran, recalling along the way that "it is ignorance of the Other [that feeds] most of the fantasies, the prejudices and therefore the fears" .
Following its expansion to 27 members with the admission of Bulgaria and Rumania in January 2007, the European Union remains open to absorbing further new members, in particular Turkey - even though membership negotiations were suspended in 2006 because of the Cyprus problem. As is well known, the possibility of Turkey joining the EU has generated very mixed reactions from public opinion in some member states (including France), but what do the Turks feel?
Jean-François Drevet discusses the sources of the problems: domestic matters (democracy, rule of law, etc.) and foreign affairs issues (tensions with Greece, the Cyprus question, the Kurdish problem...). He stresses in particular that the Turkish government is perhaps not all that keen to join the EU, to judge from its resistance and reluctance to meet the criteria set by the existing member states. In contrast with previous negotiations (Mediterranean countries, Central and Eastern Europe), the Europeans must now deal with a country whose government, along with some of its people, is in no hurry to adapt to the European model. Perhaps it might be wise, the author argues, to allow Turkey to advance at its own pace before examining its possible suitability for entry.
The European Union has decided that electricity supply should be opened up to greater competition; in France the last phase will be reached in July 2007. However competition, which is supposed to bring about lower prices and improvements in the quality of service, threatens in fact to deliver none of these benefits, according to the honorary president of Électricité de France (EDF).
One reason for this is that the EDF's prices were already well below those in the rest of Europe because the firm has always been strictly managed; this factor has been much more important than the advantages which some consider that the EDF derives from its nuclear power plants. Another reason is that there are inevitable limits to competition because of the "natural monopolies" related to the distribution networks.
Lastly, Marcel Boiteux, arguing from the EDF's experience, warns us against the Brussels authorities' rather too blind faith in market forces. He demonstrates here, adducing specific examples, how naive it is to imagine that the best results are spontaneously achieved by the market alone. Along the way, he offers justifications for France's decision to rely on nuclear power and the investments made to that end; he points out that, while the EDF did indeed enjoy some state support, the state benefited much more.
Why have a European Op-Ed section in Futuribles?
The unforeseen events that occurred in Europe starting in 1989 have brought about great upheavals on the continent as the static situation after 1945 suddenly started to change at unprecedented speed. The rapid spread of the market economy, and to a lesser extent of democracy, in Eastern Europe radically altered diplomatic relations and generated a strong demand for international co-operation and for some degree of shared sovereignty.
This situation has brought with it new challenges for foresight studies. Whereas in the 1970s 1980s there was plenty of time to analyse what might happen in Europe, it is now necessary to keep ahead of the constantly changing scene in order to maintain both its role in exploring possibilities and the quality of its work.
These transformations are closely linked to the moves towards European unification: expansion of the European Union, development of as yet ill-defined policies towards its neighbours, and the first hesitant steps towards a common policy on security and defence.
Indeed, the role of EU institutions is often not properly appreciated since information about them tends to be limited, biased or incomprehensible. As recent debates have shown, this can sometimes result in serious failures to analyse situations correctly, which leads to erroneous assessments of the future of Europe and of the world in general.
For all these reasons, we have decided to include a new section in Futuribles which will examine aspects of current affairs in Europe that have a future-oriented dimension and could therefore be valuable for analyses of what is happening in France or other European nations. The intention is not to take the place of existing publications, nor even to comment on all the varied and complex events occurring in Europe, but rather to highlight some things that could help to promote a better understanding of possible future developments. The editor of the section will be Jean-François Drevet, a former civil servant with the European Commission; his views are obviously freely expressed and are his alone. The first article of this section deals with the Slovak opposition to a common position of the EU foreign and security policy on the independence of Kosovo.
The deterioration of the world's environment, and in particular the ever greater likelihood of global warming, is the subject of an increasing number of studies. But what is known about the environmental situation in Europe? Despite the political impasse that the European Union is currently in, what are the individual member states doing about the environment?
The EU's policy on the environment dates back to 1973, and is remarkable as one of the few areas where the member states appear to accept restrictive agreements unanimously and try afterwards to respect them. Furthermore, the activities of the European Environment Agency seem not to attract the criticisms levelled at most other EU institutions.
As Thierry Lavoux explains in this article, the EU's measures have made it possible to stop using both lead in petroleum products and chlorofluorocarbons. The latest challenge for the member states is to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases (especially by meeting the Kyoto criteria) at the same time that emissions generated by the transport and construction sectors are growing steadily.
In addition, he stresses, the member states need to be concerned by threats to their ecosystems from urban sprawl, massive use of pesticides and irrigation, and overfishing...
Lastly, says Thierry Lavoux, the EU members must quickly apply their minds to ways of making their agriculture more sustainable and limiting their production of toxic chemicals.
Le 4 mars 2007, la Chine a annoncé pour 2007 un budget militaire de 45 milliards de dollars, une augmentation de 17,8 % par rapport à 2006. La croissance spectaculaire du budget de la défense se poursuit depuis 10 ans et permet le renforcement quantitatif et qualitatif des forces armées chinoises. L'objectif affiché par les autorités d'un " développement pacifique " n'interdit pas de poser la question des intentions chinoises dans une situation internationale marquée par l'écrasante suprématie ...
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Ce chapitre est extrait du Rapport Vigie 2016 de Futuribles International, qui propose un panorama structuré des connaissances et des incertitudes des experts que l'association a mobilisés pour explorer les évolutions des 15 à 35 prochaines années sur 11 thématiques.