Organized by Oxfam, Chulalongkorn University (Thailand) and the Lew Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (Singapore), with support of the Rockefeller Foundation, these and other perspectives were suggested at a two-day forum in Bangkok on Visions of Democratic Governance in Asia 2030. While there were certainly key influence makers from around Asia – a minister from Pakistan - leadings civil society leaders from Thailand Cambodia – intellectuals from India and Singapore, the meeting in itself was not a typical conference highlighted by long speeches and irrelevant questions.
We love watching the Olympics, and are inspired by athletic and organisational excellence. However, the Olympics are not a neutral venue. Every medal is based on a stream of money, power, genes and deep culture. In this essay  we unpack the political-economy of the Olympics.
In this essay, I outline Five futures for Pakistan: (1) the Pendulum continues forever, (2) Collapse, (3) Joining Chindia, (4) the Great Game, and (5) a South Asian Confederation. The most familiar and likely are based on the pendulum of rule by the military and rule by landlord/politicians. However, what is needed is to move from the more likely and less desirable futures to a process of anticipatory democracy where the citizens of Pakistan consider, create and commit to building their preferred future.
For centuries, world politics has been organized around nations and their official functionaries—with artificial borders drawn up, separating French from German, Australian from New Zealander. But this could all be blown away as technology and political movements reshape our understanding of world governance.
Five alternative futures for Muslims are explored in this essay. In the first, the Islamic world attempts to return to its historical memory of grandeur. As this return is not a contextual return but a reiteration of the conditions of the 7th century, a medieval feudal Islam gains supremacy. For most Muslims, this is decline. In the second possible future, divisions within the Islamic world heighten. War with the West, among Islamic nations, and among sects in Islam is primary. This is a slow, but potentially dramatic decline. In the third, Islam follows a linear trajectory, becoming part of the modern secular world. In the fourth, Islam and the West undergo pendulum shifts, as one declines and the other rises. The final future is a “virtuous spiral” that imagines not only an alternative modernity for the Islamic world, but an alternative global future.
Will Asia lead the world in green technologies and in the political-economic transition to sustainability? Can Asia bury past conflicts and create stronger regional institutions including perhaps, step by step, an Asian Union? In what ways could Asia’s traditional cultures – Islamic, Tantric, Taoist, Confucian, Buddhist and Vedic – be resources in inventing an alternative more hybrid cultures?
While there is a great deal of bad, indeed, horrendous, news in the world - global warming, terrorism, the global financial crisis, water shortages, worsening inequity - there are also signs of positive change.