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Bringing Club of Rome to Asia

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PETALING JAYA — Bringing a different perspective to Western-centric thinking currently dominating Club of Rome will be high on the agenda of the first Malaysian to be inducted into the prestigious organisation.

Chandran Nair, is also the first from the region to be admitted into the think tank, said he aimed to introduce a paradigm shift in the organisation’s direction of thought.

The Global Institute for Tomorrow (GIFT) founder told Malay Mail he was honoured to have been inducted and hoped to add his voice to the 100 members of the global think tank.

“I was inducted to bring a different perspective on constraints to growth but more importantly on how we need to organise to meet these challenges. I hope to bring issues concerning the limits of growth and tailor it to the much larger audience in Asia,” he said.

“Countries such as China, India, Indonesia and even Nigeria cannot adopt the development models and strategies expounded by western leaders as these face different dynamic constraints,” he said.

Founded in 1968, Club of Rome deals with a variety of international issues, including the world economic system, climate change, and environmental degradation and describes itself as “a group of world citizens, sharing a common concern for the future of humanity.”

As one of only seven Asians in the organisation, Nair said he would work towards opening the eyes of members on specific challenges Asean and the developing world as a whole face.

He said Asean was one of the most densely populated areas as it has 700 million people in a 4.4 million sq km area and this was expected to hit 1 billion soon.

“This vast population is in a confined space with shared areas: if the forests of Kalimantan catch fire, several countries are affected. Or when the South China Sea is overfished, it affects regional economic activity and food security,” he said.

“How do you plan a future for them and how will we ensure everyone has access to their basic food, employment and housing rights? Solutions to these problems are what I hope to push for using the prestige of Club of Rome.”

Nair also hoped to bring the club “to the world” by setting up a north Asian chapter and an Asean chapter, for conferences to be held outside Europe.

He added that despite its eminence the organisation’s purpose and mission seemed to have been lost and that its prestige had not been effectively exploited as a decision-making body.

“This has to be done as a legitimate economic, governance policy initiative rather than a non-governmental movement. We need real action at decision making level to tackle the challenges before they become insurmountable.

“Ideas such as western liberalism may not be ideal for Asia. I am not trying to criticise these ideas but I’m saying they do not capture the essence of a large section of the world’s population,” he said.

Chandran added that he would advocate for an economic model which balanced rural development with urban growth rather than the tech-centric policies currently prevalent.

“Not everyone is going to be or wants to be a tech engineer in a city. The developing world has the largest population and many are disenfranchised…the trickle down economic model has not worked.

“For example half a billion Indians need basic housing, and they have the right to it, but this will not be fulfilled because they have to wait to get employed by foreign direct investments and multinational corporations,” he said.