15 July 2016

Terrorism, Hunger, Migrations : Why are we unable to address the root causes of our problems?

Yesterday 84 people were killed in Nice by a truck as they were celebrating the 227th anniversary of the French Revolution. Last night’s attack follows a series off terrorist attacks that have hit France over the last 18 months.

Listening this morning to the reaction of political leaders and experts, I despair of their statements.

The French President proposes to extent the State of Emergency for another three months, as if this could be of any help to prevent further attacks. If it were of any use, it would have been enough to stop the Nice attack from taking place. He also envisages to mobilise more security forces, while we have been told for months now that we are at the maximum level of security and that all means have been mobilised to protect the population. And further legal measures will probably be planned to add to all those already in place that have been unable to ensure security of our citizens, when everyone knows that “zero risk” is a myth.

Other politicians want all suspects to be kept in special facilities (camps ?), a proposal that reminds us of the worse periods of last century. “Experts” mention the possibility of blocking our avenues with concrete pillars to prevent trucks from using them (?) and of establishing safety zones at the entrance of every public building.

Nice is known to be on the forefront of security measures in France: hundreds of street cameras, algorithm-based software to analyse street behaviour and for face-recognition. What did it serve to prevent last night’s event?

All “solutions” in place or proposed have little chance of preventing an attack of the kind of last night… So where is the mistake?

To deal with terrorism, as is the case to deal with hunger, we tend to treat the symptoms but not the root causes of the problems we face and we waste our resources doing useless things that cause sometimes more damage than good, rather than mobilising our energies to tackle the real origin of the problem we have to solve.

Why? The main reason is that our leaders feel they have to show that they do something that has an immediate impact so as not to be accused to be inactive and, ultimately, of being responsible of what occurred. Also they have to show that they are using the latest “modern” technology to act. So short-termism and technologism are the words.

But how come that they don’t commission serious studies to understand what brought some of our fellow citizens to change and ultimately become mass murderers? Why don’t they combat the ideological and social causes that explain what happened? Why don’t they stop extremists from broadcasting their ideas and recruiting on the web? Why are some social networks (Facebook Twitter, etc.) more effective in combating nudity than racisms, hate and extremism?

The end result of this is that more rare resources are being mobilised that generate apparent outputs (more police, more cameras, more “protective” infrastructure), but they do not really reduce risk (terror attacks continue) and measures implemented may create other problems (undermine our democracy and freedom, weaken our security forces because they are overworked, etc.).

There is a striking similarity between the way we address terrorism and the way we tackle hunger or migrations. A few days ago the African Development Bank issued a report on what the strategy for agriculture in Africa should be, with a declared objective to reduce hunger in the continent. And what does it propose: produce more as if producing more were the solution to reducing hunger [read], while more fertiliser and pesticide further degrade our soils, our environment and our health, thus undermining sustainability of our food system [read]. Short term solutions that may show some positive output (more production) but that does not address the real problem (hunger) and creates more problems (pollution, diseases, loss of biodiversity, etc.).

When will there be really responsible politicians who will have the guts to be frank and tell us that it takes time to solve problems and that we will have to make long-term and costly efforts to address root causes of our problems and be patient before we see a lasting  impact?

I am looking around me, but I can see no head emerging. I see faces with eyes turned to the ground…


Read also:

  1. -Fences, walls, aid and fairer trade: reflecting on international migrations, June 2016


Last update:    July 2016

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