The Common Good

Dec 21 , 2019
By Tibebu Bekele

Alexandria, Bangkok, Basra, Mumbai, Shanghai and Ho Chi Minh City are some of the well-known cities in the world that could be submerged under rising tides by 2050, according to one recent study. Around 150 million people will be affected by this.

As the year comes to a close 2019 is slotted to be the second or third warmest year in recorded history. There has been exceptional global heat, retreating ice and record sea levels driven by greenhouse gases from human activities according to the World Meteorological Organisation.

Average temperatures for the five-year (2015-2019) and ten-year (2010-2019) periods are almost certain to be the highest on record.

It was with these loud alarm bells ringing from such statistics that the UN Climate Change Conference - COP25 - took place from December 2-16 in Madrid. It brought the world together to consider ways to strengthen the implementation of the Paris Agreement. Coming as it did at a time when new data shows the climate emergency debate is getting out of the abstract into the practical impacts affecting people’s daily lives, there were great expectations attached to it.

However, despite evidence that is hard to ignore clearly showing that worsening climate change is impacting people’s lives everywhere, whether from extreme heat, air pollution, wildfires, intensified flooding or droughts, the outcome of the summit was very disappointing.

There was a striking contrast to the optimism and determined energy of the Paris Climate Summit - COP21 - which resulted in an unprecedented agreement signed by 196 countries. What a difference four years can make. And what a difference leadership makes.

The leaders of the big and influential countries at the time were at the forefront of the summit and were really engaged with the proceedings and building consensus for the common good of humanity.

This time around there was a demonstrated lack of leadership from the big countries, who have abdicated their duty and responsibility to tackle the issue head-on. They seem to prefer to bury their heads in the sand.

More importantly, this may be yet another indication that this has become a post-dialogue world. Many times in history before, in the face of overwhelming challenges that were confronting the destiny of man, world leaders have been able to come together and come up with a solution to pull the world back from the precipice, be it after the world wars, the Cuban Missile Crisis or indeed for almost a century now since man has acquired the technology to wipe out its own species.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a lack of strong leaders who can step in to do that these days. Not only that, but a culture of mutual understanding and respectful dialogue to reach creative solutions that are a win-win for everyone has been replaced by a winner-take-all mentality. The rich and the powerful now seem to feel immune to the suffering of the less fortunate.

But that is only an illusion. If one was sailing on the Titanic, it would not much matter whether one is dining at the captain’s table or sweating down in the engine room. One could have the band play in ever louder tones in an effort to shout down the screams of the panicked. But at the end of the day, everyone on the ship sinks together. That is why it is important to work for the common good. It is better to sail together than to sink together.

By the way, the Ethiopian political situation is no different. It is wise to face the reality that having a common destiny, even not necessarily of one's choosing, but imposed by geography and history, means having the obligation to work for the common good. Failure to do that will result in a common demise, not with winners and losers.

PUBLISHED ON Dec 21,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1025]

Tibebu Bekele (, who is interested in constructive dialogue and civil engagement.

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