2018 Advent Calendar: 24 Days of Change

Advent Calendar – 24 Days of Change

Welcome to the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change's 2018 advent calendar. Over the next few weeks we'll be reflecting on the changes we’ve seen this year, and sharing moments you might have missed. Thank you for all your support in 2018 and please share this advent calendar with your friends on social media.

There is a huge demand for electricity across Africa - less than 35% of homes across Sub-Saharan Africa have access to energy. We've been working with governments across Africa to help them establish the systems and structures needed to deliver energy to the people in their countries. In February, Tony Blair and the team visited the Central Térmica de Maputo (Maputo Thermal Power Station) to see this in action.

Populism is on the rise globally - in 2018, our research showed that there are currently 20 populist leaders or parties in power around the world, five times the number of leaders in 1990. But as our report shows, it rarely prevails in healthy political systems. Our research on populism is focused on providing the answers to populism's popularity and developing a credible response to combat the rise of false populism. So what drives people to vote for populists? Watch to find out.

The Bella Flowers farm in Rwanda produces 3 million stems a month which are shipped around the world to countries including the Netherlands, Belgium and France. Our Governance team has been supporting the Rwandan government to strengthen its horticulture industry, drive exports and creating jobs. In February, Tony joined the team to see the impact this is having.

Our education programme Generation Global works with young people around the world, equipping them with the skills needed to be comfortable with difference and resilient to divisive narratives. This year we had the pleasure of working with thousands of students, connecting them via video conference with their peers in other countries and supporting them to build their understanding of each others faiths and cultures.

2018 marked 10 years since our Governance work began in Africa. Since 2008 we've faced challenges, not least the outbreak of Ebola across West Africa where the team helped lead the response to the crisis, but also seen enormous progress across the continent. Today, our teams are working in 14 countries embedded at the centre of governments and focusing on delivery for the people. Watch Tony reflect on progress we’ve made during a recent trip to West Africa.

AI promises to radically transform public services and put data at the heart of decision-making. Everyday we're edging closer to the onset of massive technological change. It's time for governments to think about how they can deploy AI effectively to realise its potential in meeting each individual citizen's needs while preparing for its disruptive effects. In November, we made several recommendations to policy makers to start embracing the promise of AI. More on this in our briefing on AI.

A self-driving bus

We work with young girls in communities affected by deprivation, hate crime and extremism. In September, we celebrated one full year of delivery from this programme. So far, Compass has supported over 300 girls across four London boroughs, who, through the programme's guidance feel more confident that they can achieve their goals and make a positive contribution to more cohesive societies.

Ethiopia has gone through immense change since we started working in the country, and this year saw even more, as Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in April, including the declaration of the end of the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. In November Sahle-Work Zewde became Ethiopia’s first female president. During a visit to the country in May, Tony Blair spoke to young people about what it takes to be a leader.

Our work in the Middle East this year continued to push for a regional process to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to finally bring about the two-state solution. There is enormous untapped potential for Israeli-Arab trade and economic cooperation, and our research this year explored the projects and initiatives that could unleash this potential. For the Palestinians, to support a future independent and economically viable state, their economy must be allowed to grow and develop beyond Israel. More on this in our report on trade in the middle east.

Through our Co-Existence work, we focus on developing local projects which can support local religious leaders to build social cohesion and work with their communities to build resilience to extremist narratives. This year the team worked with CARE International to incorporate a Community Scorecard in our peacebuilding work in Nigeria, to ensure positive relationships between religious leaders involved in the programme and members of their community.

Participants in a Supporting Leaders workshop

New leaders in Africa

In January, Liberia had its first peaceful democratic transition of power, with the inauguration of President Weah. We've also seen several new leaders take office across Africa, including Sierra Leone and Ethiopia. Our Governance team is working shoulder to shoulder with these new leaders to help them make their vision for development a reality.

Generation Global brings young people together - from Indonesia to India - for open and honest discussions about their culture and identity. November saw the beginning of an exciting new project with the Government in Andhra Pradesh, with the potential to connect 7 million school children in state schools with their peers on the other side of the world.

Fishing is a vital sector in Sierra Leone, supporting the livelihoods of many. The coast of Sierra Leone is home to 40,000 fishermen, but this industry is under threat from illegal industrial trawlers depleting fish stocks and depriving locals of their income.

President Bio has made investment in the fishing sector a priority so this year, we’ve been supporting the government to achieve this with new measures to create jobs and strengthen controls. In May, Tony Blair visited Tombo village to talk about how we can help.

Anxieties about immigration is undermining people's faith in liberal democracies. But the longer these concerns are not answered, the more space populism is given to thrive. To start changing this, in March this year we set out a new framework with progressive measures to ensure the positive benefits of migration whilst tackling people's concerns.


One of our core objectives is the promotion of co-existence across the boundaries of religious faith and the combating of extremism based on an abuse of faith. This year we launched the Global Extremism Monitor, tracking the activities of 121 violent Islamist groups. This is the first monitor of its kind, helping leaders respond to extremism by drawing out the distinct commonalities in the way groups act. The data and analysis it provides will aid decision makers to develop evidence-based responses and monitor the impact of counter measures year-on-year. We'll be sharing more on this research in 2019.

Iraqis walk by the destroyed Al-Nuri Mosque as they flee from the Old City of Mosul on July 5, 2017, during the Iraqi government forces' offensive to retake the city from ISIS fighters.

Many governments throughout Africa are seeking innovative partnerships and developing new technological approaches to accelerate progress for their people. We're working with governments across the continent, such as Rwanda to promote technological change by developing an innovation ecosystem where the next generation of tech companies can thrive and change people's lives - just like this drone company.

The economic situation in Gaza is critical but as our recent study, published in November, shows, it is not beyond repair. Implementing measures such as ensuring salaries are paid to public sector workers, increasing electricity and improving access through Israel and Egypt could increase Gaza's currently stagnant GDP by 39% in just two years.

Palestinian protestors walk towards the border during a demonstration at the Erez crossing with Israel on September 18, 2018.

This year our team have been supporting Sierra Leone’s Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation, which is focused on driving innovative practices in the country. In November, Tony Blair joined Dr David Sengeh, Africa’s first Chief Innovation Officer, for a talk about the impact of technology on Africa’s future.

Tony Blair and Dr David Sengeh talking

While policies for the offline world have served us all well for many years, as the Internet revolution gathers pace and technology now reaching every aspect of our daily lives, we need a fresh start for policy making. In November we set out a new framework for regulating tech, at the heart of which, is a commitment to ensure that the interests of the public are aligned with private incentives of big tech firms.

This summer, our Supporting Leaders team travelled to Kenya to develop a new pilot project. Working shoulder to shoulder with our partners, including UN Women, the Horn Institute, Women Kind Kenya and Act Change Transform!, and local women, the team will be supporting religious leaders to build social cohesion and mutual respect in their communities. More to come from this in 2019.

2018 marked 100 years since the first women in the UK won the right to vote and stand for Parliament. In November, some of the young women in our Compass project travelled to the House of Commons to hear from women MPs around the world discuss women's empowerment and education for girls. The girls left the Commons at the end of the day with plenty of food for thought about their futures and feeling inspired about what they can achieve with the support of Compass.

With an important shift in female participation in the extremist groups, our Co-Existence team worked with fellow leaders in this field to publish a series of papers this September examining the evolving role that women are playing in violent extremism. With more knowledge around how female members fit into these movements, policymakers can begin to develop effective policies to respond to these changes. You can expect more of this work from us in 2019.

A member of jihadist group Al-Nusra Front stands in a street of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on January 11, 2014. Fighting pitting ISIS against other rebel groups.

Watch Tony Blair reflect on the past year's events and look ahead at what's to come from the Institute in 2019.

Thank you to everyone who has followed our 2018 Advent Calendar!

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