Lord Simon McDonald spent over four decades in HM Diplomatic Service. Sir Simon joined the British Diplomatic Service in 1982 and served in Berlin, Jeddah, Riyadh, Bonn, Washington, and Tel Aviv, and in a wide range of jobs in London. He served as the British Ambassador to Berlin from 2010 to 2015. He was the Prime Minister’s Foreign Policy Adviser and Head of Foreign and Defence Policy in the Cabinet Office from 2007 to 2010. From 2003 to 2006 he was British Ambassador to Israel. His government career culminated with him being Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, and Head of the UK’s Diplomatic Service. He is Master of Christ’s College, Cambridge. In his first book, Leadership: Lessons from a Life in Diplomacy, Lord Simon McDonald shares his observations from working in close quarters with ministers, diplomats and leaders – on some of the most complex issues faced by our world. In this interview, I speak to Lord Simon McDonald, Former Ambassador & Head of HM Diplomatic Service. We discuss the nature of leadership, how diplomats work to resolve challenging and complex situations, and what his life in diplomacy can teach us all about leading.

Thought Economics

On 24th February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine in a major escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian War (which began in 2014). Whilst exact figures are difficult to establish, by May 2022, some 8 million Ukrainians had been internally displaced and some 7.7million had left the country. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations has estimated over 16,150, and expectations are that military losses are several times more. Commentators have said this is one of the greatest threats to the international peace since the outbreak of World War 2. Simon Smith is chair of the steering committee of the Ukraine Forum at Chatham House. He was previously the British ambassador to Ukraine, and Russia, South Caucasus, and Central Asia director at the Foreign Office. He has also served as British Ambassador to South Korea and to Austria- where he was also the UK’s Permanent Representative to the UN and the UK Governor on the Board of the International Atomic Energy Agency. In this interview I speak to Simon Smith CMG about the history of the Russia-Ukraine War, Russia’s role in the world, how this war could play out, and what it means for international peace and order.

Thought Economics

Human rights activist and recipient of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, Nadia Murad is a leading advocate for survivors of genocide and sexual violence. Her New York Times bestselling memoir, The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State, is a harrowing account of the genocide against the Yazidi ethno-religious minority in Iraq and Nadia’s imprisonment by the so-called Islamic State (ISIS). Nadia’s peaceful life was brutally disrupted in 2014 when ISIS attacked her homeland in Sinjar with the goal of ethnically cleansing all Yazidis from Iraq. Like many minority groups, the Yazidis have carried the weight of historical persecution. Women, in particular, have suffered greatly as victims of sexual violence. After escaping captivity, Nadia began speaking out on behalf of her community and survivors of sexual violence worldwide. In 2016, Nadia became the first United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking. That year, she was also awarded the Council of Europe Václav Havel Award for Human Rights and Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. In 2018, she won the Nobel Peace Prize with Dr. Denis Mukwege. Together, they founded the Global Survivors Fund. In 2019, Nadia was appointed as a UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Advocate. In this interview, I speak to human rights activist and recipient of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, Nadia Murad, about how communities are destroyed in conflict, how sexual violence becomes a weapon of war, and importantly – how we can build peace, rebuild communities, and give hope for a better future.

Thought Economics

Alan Murray is CEO of Fortune Media. Fortune Media Group are a multinational company that publishes Fortune magazine, Fortune.com and other business media including the Global Forum, Most Powerful Women and Brainstorm conference. Alan has spent four decades at the forefront of business journalism, getting to know the most influential businesses and business leaders on the planet. In this interview, I speak to Alan Murray about the origins and meaning of stakeholder capitalism. We look at how businesses are activating and helping to solve, some of the greatest challenges our world faces from climate to inequality.  We look at why businesses need to engage with broader stakeholder groups, the business case for it, and how tomorrow’s corporate leaders will need fundamentally different skills than today.

Thought Economics

Benjamin Sledge is a wounded combat veteran with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, serving most of his time under Special Operations (Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command). He is the recipient of the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and two Army Commendation Medals for his actions overseas. He was at the front line of some of the deadliest battles in Iraq and Afghanistan, served in Special Operations Command, on the Pakistan border after September 11, and eventually in the deadliest city battle of the Iraq War, Ramadi. In this interview, I speak to Benjamin Sledge about the realities of war, how soldiers prepare for combat, and what war reveals about the best, and worst, of humanity. In this conversation, Sledge reveals an unflinchingly honest portrait of war that few dare to tell.

Thought Economics

It’s easy to overlook the underlying strategic forces of war, to see it solely as a series of errors, accidents, and emotions gone awry. It’s also easy to forget that war shouldn’t happen—and most of the time it doesn’t. Around the world, there are millions of hostile rivalries, yet only a fraction erupt into violence, a fact too many accounts overlook. Christopher Blattman is the Ramalee E. Pearson Professor of Global Conflict Studies at the University of Chicago. He is co-lead the university’s Development Economics Center and the Obama Foundation Scholars Program. In his new book, Why We Fight, Christopher Blattman reminds us that most rivals loathe one another in peace. War is too costly to fight, so enemies almost always find it better to split the pie than spoil it for everyone or struggle over thin slices. In those rare instances when fighting ensues, we should ask: What kept rivals from compromise? He combines decades of economics, political science, psychology, and real-world interventions to lay out the root causes and remedies for war, showing that violence is not the norm; that there are only five reasons why conflict wins over compromise; and how peacemakers turn the tides through tinkering, not transformation. In this interview, I speak to Professor Christopher Blattman about why we fight, the root causes of war, and how we can effectively move to peace. We talk about how to build resilient societies, how best to detect fragility, and the remedies that shift incentives away from violence and get parties back to dealmaking.

Thought Economics

Dr. Nina Ansary is an award-winning Iranian American author, historian, and UN Women Global Champion for Innovation. She is one of the world’s foremost experts on gender equality through history and in contemporary society. Nina is a prominent human rights advocate and has been ranked by many as one of the world’s foremost visionaries around inclusivity, equality and diversity. In this interview, I speak to Dr. Nina Ansary about the origins of gender inequality in our society, how it traces back to primitive society, and how deeply embedded gender and cultural biases are. We talk about the reality of global gender inequity in today’s world, and look at what we need to do to move to a more equitable society.

Thought Economics

Ousman Umar is a shaman’s son, born in a small village in Ghana, and his mother died giving birth to him. The traditions of the Wala tribe dictate that this means the baby is cursed and must be abandoned and left to die. Fortunately, Ousman’s father was able to use his position as a shaman to save his son’s life. Ousman grew up working the fields, setting traps in the jungle, and living off the land. But he dreamed of a different life. So, when he was only twelve years old, he left his village and began what would become a five-year journey to Europe. On a path rife with violence, exploitation, and racism, Ousman also encountered friendship, generosity, and hope. In his memoir, North to Paradise, Ousman tells his visceral true story about the stark realities of life along the most dangerous route traversed across Africa; it is also a portrait of extraordinary resilience in the face of unimaginable challenges, the beauty of kindness in strangers, and the power of giving back. In this interview, I speak to Ousman Umar about this treacherous boyhood journey from a rural village in Ghana, to the streets of Barcelona, and the path that led him home. We discuss why he, and so many, decide to migrate. We talk about the perils and realities of migration, and how we, as a society can deliver better aid, and stop the needless deaths caused by migration.

Thought Economics

What trapped humanity in poverty for most of our existence? What sparked the massive metamorphosis in living standards over the past two centuries? And what led to the emergence of vast inequality across the globe? The answers to these questions have the power to transform how we view our past and how we shape our futures. Professor Oded Galor (Herbert Goldberger Professor of Economics, Brown University) is an intellectual detective who has spent his entire career investigating the deep determinants of humanity’s development process. He is the founder of “unified growth theory,” which revolutionized our understanding of the forces that have governed the journey of humanity, and the impact that adaptation, diversity, and inequality have had on human development throughout the entire course of human existence. In this interview I speak to Professor Oded Galor about his book The Journey of Humanity; The Origins of Wealth and Inequality. We discuss why humans are the only species to have escaped the subsistence trap. We discuss the reasons for the astonishing progress of human civilisation, why wealth and inequality came to be, and how understanding our past could give us a better future.

Thought Economics

In late 2022 or 2023, the 8th billionth person will be born on Earth. Yet as history has shown, the thinning of valuable resources necessary for sustaining not only life, but a good life, continues to drive wars, disease, and poverty. How can we use the 8 billion people we have on the planet today to shape the world we want tomorrow? In her provocative and penetrating new book 8 BILLION AND COUNTING, political demographer Dr. Jennifer Sciubba mines a long academic career, including a stint as a Department of Defense demographer, to show how a deeper understanding of fertility, mortality, and migration trends point us toward the investments we need to make today to shape the future we want tomorrow. The challenges that besiege our interdependent, interconnected world easily touch us all: disease, climate change, economic crisis—but so do the good fortunes for all 8 billion of us. In this interview, I speak to Dr. Jennifer Sciubba about how demographic trends (age, structure and ethnic composition) can signal crucial signposts for future violence and peace, repression and democracy, poverty and prosperity.

Thought Economics

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