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Climate change, economic crises, ageing populations – to solve global problems, leaders will have to plan for the long term. But although many results of bad policymaking only show up generations down the road, politicians have to stand for re-election regularly, and are often only interested in short-term success.

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Major topics involving the future don’t bring in votes. Is democracy a system that is only able to provide shortsighted solutions?

‘Sustainability’ is a term politicians often throw around in public debates, and it has come to be applied not only to environmental topics, but also to questions involving both society and economics. Sustainability is supposed to secure decent living standards and resources for both present and future generations. It involves topics that affect us all, and should therefore be receiving top priority from politicians all over the world.

But sustainability is instead usually discussed and applied in shortsighted ways. After all, the next election is just a few years away. Politicians are interested in quick successes that they can brandish in the next campaign. And voters are mostly interested in their own immediate future, and punish leaders who don’t live up to short-sighted election promises.

Can politics be made sustainable? What do politicians have to do to ‘sell’ sustainability topics better to a sometimes unwilling public? And what can voters, media and NGOs do to help encourage sustainable policies?

Let us know what you think: No Future - Can Politics Think Long-Term?


Our guests:

Kevin Hoffmann – He studied sociology, political science and history in Hamburg before beginning work as a journalist. He is now a business correspondent for the Berlin newspaper "Der Tagespiegel", specializing in the fields of energy, raw materials, renewables and electricity.

Quentin Peel - he is international affairs editor of the Financial Times. He is also an associate editor, responsible for leader and feature writing. He is working at the FT since 1975. Between 1976 and 1994 he served successively as southern Africa correspondent, Africa editor, European Community correspondent and Brussels bureau chief, Moscow correspondent, and chief correspondent in Germany. On his return to London he became foreign editor. He took up his present position in September 1998. He was born in July 1948 and educated at Queens’ College, Cambridge, where he studied economics, with French and German.

Ahmed Badawi - After a course in Development Studies at the University of London, Ahmed Badawi joined the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik) as a research associate. He earned his doctorate in political science from Humboldt University. He has worked for the Institute of Development and Peace, University of Duisburg-Essen, the Oxford Research Group and the International Crisis Group. His research focused on Palestinian politics, the Israeli Palestinian conflict and the political economy of policy change. Prior to leaving Egypt in 1999, he used to work as a print and TV journalist and as a community development specialist. He is now a Research Fellow at the Zentrum Moderner Orient where he is studying representations of Europe held by contemporary Egyptian Islamists.