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Ann Florini

Ann Florini

      . . . Ann Florini, globalization expert. Author of The Coming Democracy: New Rules for Running a New World, Ann Florini is senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. She directs their project on New Approaches to Global Governance.  Earlier, Dr. Florini served the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace as a senior associate and worked for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. With a PhD from UCLA, her two young daughters motivate her.

Excerpts3:36 secs

Globalization is not optional, but the future that globalization shapes is, declares Ann Florini. Neither a hopeful nor a miserable future is inevitable, she says, opting for hope that drives actions with tools she says are already available. Put together three themes -- the growing norm of “transparency,” the rise of NGOs and civil society, and the dramatic change in information technology -- and we already have new ways to solve global problems. She shows how in The Coming Democracy:  New Rules for Running a New World. Whether it’s the rich and famous or the humble and unknown, people are putting the three themes Dr. Florini identifies to work.

Transparency:  This is a relatively new and rapidly growing concept that applies to any concentration of power -- a corporation, a government, an international organization -- and says that each has an obligation to report on itself.  Why? So that it can be held accountable by the people who are affected by what it does, not just shareholders or constituents, but everybody, Dr. Florini says.

Civil society and NGOs: The very broad concept includes church groups, NGOs, individuals who share a passion for a local issue or a global one, now that globalization has made global and local indistinguishable -- any group who gets together because they care about some kind of problem. They take the information made available by transparency (yes, they probably have to dig for it) and channel it in ways that make it usable for people who want to do something in response.

Information technology:  Right now, we’re inundated with noise, not information, and a lot of people shouting at each other. What is needed (and what transparency increasingly gives us) is useful information that tells us about what problems look like in the world and what you can do about those problems from your position in a corporation or a community group, wherever you decide to put yourself in civil society or an NGO focused on something that you care about.

But first, if anyone anywhere is going to be secure, Dr. Florini discovered, the vast economic disparities between the rich countries and the poor ones must be addressed. The real threats to the security of the vast majority of the world’s people are disease, foul water, dirty air, civil wars, migration and the stinginess of rich countries, she found when studying terrorists, nuclear proliferation and arms.

What’s the lantern to light this path she chooses?  Stories, Dr. Florini says. People getting things done when governments (national or local) don’t or won’t. She is heartened by villagers in India holding their local officials accountable with newly available information; by Bill Gates using his fortune to address world health issues; by a single Vietnam veteran whose decision that land mines were unacceptable resulted in record time in an international treaty and the Nobel Peace Prize.

It’s as easy to choose a hopeful future as to be a scare-monger of looming misery and gloom, Dr. Florini insists. Both futures are possible. Neither is inevitable. Everything depends on the kinds of choices we make and what we -- not a bunch of experts -- choose to do. Right now.

[This Program was recorded November, 19, 2003, in Atlanta, Georgia, US.]

Conversation 1

Ann Florini tells Paula Gordon and Bill Russell how the demonstrable inability of national governments to solve a range of global problems led her to look for new solutions which build on international momentum toward democracy. She describes the origin of her work in studying “security” and how that idea changed as she studied it.

Conversation 2

Rich countries, especially America, are downright stingy in helping poor countries, Dr. Florini says.  She uses the example of the unnecessary deaths of a mother a minute, around the world. It could be different, she says, putting great hope in rich countries’ citizens. She adds further examples. Intent on showing both that there are terrible problems and that they are completely solvable, Dr. Florini details how.  “Transparency” -- in governments and NGOs as well as corporations -- is key, she says, and elaborates.

Conversation 3

Who watches the watchdog? is considered, with examples. Financial, social and environmental accountability are explored.  Dr. Florini sees great hope for the potential of the idea of transparency plus the actions of concerned advocacy groups and private citizens directly addressing a range of global problems. She explains.  Economic fairness is key, Dr. Florini says, detailing some of the threats of gross discrepancies, then shows how economic issues affect a variety of issues that governments are not addressing.

Conversation 4

Noise, not information, currently inundates us, Dr. Florini points out. That’s particularly a problem when public discussion is increasingly coarse as is currently the case in the United States, she says. The solution, she believes, rests within civil society -- any group of people who get together because they care about something, from churches to advocacy groups.  She elaborates in the context of globalization, where the global is local.  She gives a series of examples, then describes the vital role of information technology. “Experts” have had too free a hand, she insists, and proposes alternative models.

Conversation 5

Democracy is a crucial element in getting to the world Dr. Florini envisions. She describes the particular kind of democracy it will take -- messy and full of new kinds of accountability, which, she says, separates democracies from dictatorships. People must have channels for “voice,” she says and explains. She offers Cancun as the encapsulation of many of her ideas. The kind of future that awaits us -- whether gloomy or rosy -- all depends on the kinds of choices we make now, she says, with examples.

Conversation 6

Look for successful stories, learn from them and then get busy on whatever you feel passionately about, Dr. Florini’s prescribes, as she outlines how to get to the hopeful future she envisions. She offers a series of such stories, noting the joy that can accompany the work.


Bill Bolling alerted us to Ann Florini and to her excellent book. We appreciate his keen understanding of what we are about and his eagerness to work collaboratively both with us and in his own community building work with the Atlanta Community Food Bank and Second Harvest.

Emily Turner at Island Press was most helpful in bringing us together with Dr. Florini.

Ann Florini chose to be with us on a very special day.  We are very glad both that she did and that her daughters were willing to share her with us.

Related Links:
The Coming Democracy:  New Rules for Running a New World is published by Island Press.
The Brookings Institution.
Pollution information for U.S. cities.
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

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