Ideas for a better world in 2011

To start the new year off right, the Monitor asked various thinkers around the world for one idea each to make the world a better place in 2011. We talked to poets and political figures, physicists and financiers. The results range from how to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world to ways to revamp Hollywood.

Jacques Attali

JACQUES ATTALI, economist, historian, adviser to French presidents

Idea: Empower weaker nations

Practical world change in 2011 must take place at the highest global institutions – but also among the world's most needy. Mr. Attali advocates a union of the G20 and the UN Security Council, but he also wants to help the world's poor through microfinancing and loans.

Attali works these issues daily. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, he cofounded the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development that helped rebuild the former East bloc. Later, with Nobel Prize winner Mohammed Yunus, he founded PlaNet Finance – helping people in poor nations get a start.

Attali is a free-market entrepreneur who believes in social democracy. He's a prolific author – "The kind of guy that writes books in airports," a friend says. His latest, "A Brief History of the Future," argues that governments may soon have to choose between bankruptcy and paying pensions.

 

He believes two areas need attention in 2011. The first is developing nations. He calls for "answering the demand of poor people in the form of microfinancing" – helping motivated individuals in developing countries. "It is fundamental to increase the ability of hundreds of millions of people," he says. "This growth is different – it is not coming from finance, but is creating markets and demand for real people in many places." He urges establishing more microfinance foundations, especially in the US, where there is money but less interest.

The second need is a more established global rule of law: "I'm not talking about a global world government, but a sound system that tells entrepreneurs the rules of the game are stable." To do this, he suggests merging the G20 and the UN Security Council, or at least organizing "less powerful nations into a system that gives them voting rights." "Voting in the G20 today is still too informal," he says. "It is in the hands of a very few leaders."

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