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Understanding the balance of power, a strategic skill

Published on 01 July 2021 by NEOMA

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Geopolitics and commerce have always been interlinked, but in a complex world where interdependence is the norm, this connection has become indispensable. It is at the crossroads between geopolitics and management where the partnership agreement between IRIS Sup’ and NEOMA comes into play. Interview of Pascal Boniface, Founder and Director of IRIS (The French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs), Director of IRIS Sup’, school of geopolitics.

How do you view the position of geopolitics in the educational system?

First, I am delighted that it has become a specialisation offered in year twelve and the final year after the recent reform to the French secondary school system. In my opinion, this means its obvious importance is now recognised. No matter the type of profession that they will have later, students leaving secondary school need to acquire certain types of knowledge so they can understand the world around them. Young people have not overlooked this fact, seeing as how from the first year this specialisation existed, more than one third of them have selected it.

How would your explain its attraction?

We see students attracted to the subject throughout the educational system. Geopolitics is not a discipline reserved for specialists. I often say that it is like English: a vital tool for understanding the world and people around us. In every region where IRIS organises events, we see an interest in geopolitics among all ages and professions in the general public. It is a matter of personal interest, one based in curiosity, but most importantly it speaks to the profound need to understand the different events that we feel have a direct impact on our lives.

Can a manager get around acquiring this knowledge base?

No. Geopolitics is totally necessary in a context where borders no longer hold back much, which Covid has taught us in dramatic fashion. Regardless of the sector, the repercussions on our activity can be seen everywhere. Students need to face these issues in order to understand the balance of power at play and to fuel their analyses and strategic outlook.

Some people predict international trade will dry up after the pandemic. Do you believe that?

We shouldn’t be taken over by exaggeration. International trade will gradually rise again to pre-Covid levels. Just like mass tourism will not be eliminated. Students will travel and discover other cultures, and professionals will conquer foreign markets. Clearly the rise of videoconferencing tools will not disappear. They complement our activities and are not intended to replace going to the office and business travel. We have benefited far too much from the world opening up to return to a situation where the borders are closed.

Do you think that health and healthcare will remain an important factor in international relations?

Yes, of course. Epidemics will never disappear, including the most recent ones (Ebola, SARS, etc.), but it is certain that we have experienced a wake-up call, after the many warnings sounded but not heeded and prevention efforts relatively forgotten. That said, the Covid crisis did not develop new strategic factors. While it amplified them, it’s not the virus that created the power struggle for world domination between the U.S. and China, nor the western world’s crisis, which we have recently seen. Health will remain a major area of focus, but it will not keep the world from its former level of trade.

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