Episodes

  • Fi Glover, Martha Lane Fox and Henrietta Moore are on the hunt for solutions to the world’s problems. Their aim is to create the perfect country made up of the best global policies that actually work. In this episode, the panel hear the voices, opinions and criticisms of the World Service audience. Together, they debate how the perfect country is shaping up.



    The policies include: Rwanda reducing the gender pay gap, Cuba’s disaster preparedness, Germany’s refugee integration, Norway’s prison system, Nepal’s maternal healthcare, and Canada’s sustainable fishing programme. Listeners who have first-hand experience of these policies give their own personal reflection of living through them – and direct feedback to the verdicts from the My Perfect Country panel. Members of the audience from vastly different nations give their views of whether the policies could work where they are. And, in cases where they might not – listeners offer alternative suggestions for the countries they would look to instead.

  • Fi Glover, Martha Lane Fox and Henrietta Moore from the Institute for Global Prosperity at University College London are building an imagined utopia made up of the best solutions to the world’s problems. They look at a sustainable fishing scheme in British Columbia in Canada called catch share, a quota system based on dedicating a secure share of fish to individual fishermen, co-operatives or fishing communities.



    It means fishermen have the ability to catch a certain amount of fish each year and are responsible for not exceeding that amount, promoting stewardship of the seas.



    Just outside Vancouver, local reporter Madeline Taylor goes to meet the fishermen who spearheaded the scheme at the British Columbia groundfish fishery, which has evolved over the last 40 years from an open access, high discard fishery to a full retention, fully monitored fishery that accounts for all catch whether retained or released.



    Could it work elsewhere? With the help of Erin Priddle from the Environmental Defense Fund, the team discuss the achievements and shortcomings of this model for sustainable commercial fishing and whether it should be adopted as a policy for an imagined perfect country.



    (Photo: A commercial fishing boat on British Columbia's West Coast. Credit: Getty Images)

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  • Nepal has managed a record achievement for its maternal mortality rates. Between 1991 and 2011, it has seen an 80% decline in the number of women dying in pregnancy, during labour and after childbirth - meaning it is one of the few countries on track to achieve the fifth Millennial Development Goal. The foundation of their achievement comes from an outstanding women’s volunteer programme known as the Female Community Health Volunteers. Currently over 50, 000 women volunteer to distribute life-saving advice and tools to mothers across the country. They administer vaccinations, contraceptives and ensure women understand the importance of self-care in pregnancy. Moreover, Nepal’s government have created a financial incentive programme to ensure women stop giving birth at home, and instead under the guidance and supervision of health professionals in local hospitals.



    However, these achievements may be undermined by entrenched problems that lie deep in Nepal’s health and social welfare. Alongside, superstitions and dangerous social customs that have been passed down the generations – Nepal’s alarming rate of child marriages may stop the panel from selecting this policy for their perfect country.



    (Photo: A Nepalese resident carries a child through a relief camp for earthquake survivors in Kathmandu. Credit: Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP)

  • How has Norway managed to have the lowest rate of prisoners reoffending in Europe, and one of the lowest in the world? Their policy revolves around the fact that the justice system see taking their citizen’s freedom away as punishment enough, and prisoners are expected to carry on a life as similar to normal society as possible. As a result, high-quality education is given to inmates – as well as opportunities to work, to receive mental health support, and remain self-sufficient by cooking their own meals. This support is further strengthened by the prison guards who are some of the most highly-trained in the world and who are encouraged to spend time with inmates. The Norway government also brought in top architects and asked them to redesign prisons from scratch – focusing on decreasing any tension or conflict between inmates. Upon release, inmates are given significant help to reintegrate back into society – as help is provided for them to find both housing and employment.



    However, the policy is not without criticism as some detractors view Norway’s prisons as too luxurious, and questions are also raised over why Norway needed to rent space in Dutch prisons in 2015.



    (Photo: The interior of a cell at the Norgerhaven prison in Veenhuizen, The Netherlands. Credit: Catrinus van der Veen/AFP)

  • Is the way Germany has handled refugee integration a model other countries could follow? In September 2015 the German chancellor Angela Merkel agreed to take in one million mainly Syrian refugees, and over the past three years more refugees have arrived in Germany than anywhere else in the European Union.



    But Germany did not just open its doors to those seeking refuge, it recognised that integrating them into society was crucial. The foundation of this is free but compulsory state-run German language and civic orientation courses for qualifying refugees, as well as help finding employment. There are also thousands of volunteer-led and non-governmental refugee projects across the country.



    But not everyone in Germany is happy with this approach to newly arrived refugees, and despite a tightening of refugee policy the fallout has resulted in political instability in the country. With the help of professor Christian Dustmann, director of the Centre for Research and Analysis on Migration, the team discuss the achievements and shortcomings of Germany’s refugee integration policy and whether it should be added to the policy portfolio that would build an imaginary perfect country made up of all the world's best policies and schemes.



    (Photo: Refugees from Syria hold up signs, one reads: 'We love you. We want to stoday, work and live.' Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

  • After 2017 brought a string of hyper-active and destructive hurricanes in the so-called Atlantic Hurricane Season, it is said that Cuba is a world leader in both hurricane preparedness and recovery, as it has one of the lowest fatality rates.



    It has been a cornerstone of their government for decades – at the heart of the model is the promotion of local level decision-making that relies on co-ordinated early warning systems, high-quality weather forecasting and community preparedness. Most notably, when disaster hits, every Cuban at every level of society has a role to play. Children are educated from a very young age of what to do in the event of a hurricane and there is an annual nationwide training to ensure plans are kept up to date. As the country also gives a particular focus to vulnerable members of society, other Caribbean countries are starting to take notice of Cuba’s policy – and this model could be implemented globally.



    However, Cuba’s achievements may be under threat as Hurricane Irma in 2017 took Cuba by surprise and shook the foundation of its policy. Efforts to rebuild and bring the country back to order are still taking place – with some critics doubting Cuba’s priorities.



    Fi Glover, Martha Lane Fox and Henrietta Moore ask whether Cuba’s lack of action in the aftermath prevents this policy getting their stamp of approval.



    (Photo: Cubans flags are hung from balconies to dry during the cleanup after Hurricane Irma in Havana, 2017. Credit: Yamil Lage/AFP)

  • Rwanda has closed its gender gap by 80% since the 1994 genocide. How has the country done it, and should others be following its lead?



    Under the leadership of President Paul Kagame, the 2003 Rwandan constitution states that at least 30% of all decision-making jobs in government or public organisations must be held by women. The constitution enshrines the right to equal education opportunities for girls and boys, the right to equal pay in public sector jobs, and the right for women to own and inherit land.



    Since 2012 there has also been a drive to get more women into business, and women’s access to financial services such as bank accounts and credit has now more than doubled.



    In the Rwandan capital Kigali, Maggie Mutesi reports on the experience and views of a range of women, including Chief Gender Monitor Rose Rwabuhihi and Rwanda’s first woman taxi driver Amina Umuhooza.



    With the help of Dr Keetie Roelen, co director of the Centre for Social Protection at the Institute of Development Studies, the team discuss the achievements and shortcomings of Rwanda’s gender policy and whether it should be added to the My Perfect Country policy portfolio.



    Fi Glover, Martha Lane Fox and Henrietta Moore from the Institute for Global Prosperity at University College London are scouring the globe for more policies that actually work, and using only the functioning bits of our planet they’re attempting to build a perfect country.



    Photo: Supporters of the governing Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) walk to a campaign rally in Kigali, on in July 2017. Credit: Marco Longari /AFP/Getty Images

  • In Sierra Leone, the Ebola outbreak in 2014-16 caught everyone, including the World Health Organisation, completely unprepared. Award-winning reporter Umaru Fofana talks to Tulip Mazumdar about his own experience of the outbreak; plus we hear from both local and western doctors and aid workers about the fight to bring the disease under control. Central to this was persuading grieving families – with the help of social scientists – to change their burial practices.



    (Photo: Health workers carry a stretcher at the Kenama Ebola treatment centre run by the Red Cross, 2014. Credit: Francisco Leong/AFP/Getty Images)

  • When the Rana Plaza building collapsed in 2013, it drew worldwide attention to the horrific conditions for workers in the garment industry. Over a thousand people were killed one day after the building’s owners ignored warnings about cracks. Four years later, contributors on the ground wonder if anything has changed in the rush for profit in Bangladesh.



    (Photo: A Bangladeshi worker who was rescued from the collapsed poses on the site of the former Rana Plaza garment complex poses at the former site. Credit: Getty Images)

  • In the most earthquake ready country on earth – Japan - a massive tsunami in 2011 hit two schools in Kamaishi and Okawa. At one everyone survived; at the other 74 children were killed. What went wrong?



    We hear gripping contributions from pupils at both schools, including Mai Ogasawara and Tetsuya Tadano; location recordings from Mai Nishiyama and Yu Wada Dimmer on the aftermath of the giant wave; plus interviews with Richard Lloyd Parry, author of Ghosts of the Tsunami and Robert Muir-Wood, author of the Cure for Catastrophe.



    (Photo: Cherry blossom covers trees amid tsunami devastation in Kamaishi City, 2011. Credit: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP)

  • 4/4 The shores of the Pacific are irresistible to tourists. From the coral wonders of Australia’s Gold Coast to the loneliest South Pacific atoll, local people make their living from the beauty of their surroundings. In the final edition of our series on the world’s oceans we explore how native traditions and the booming business of tourism co-exist.



    Many Solomon Islanders would like to see more tourists but worry about the loss of native culture. We meet local people anxious to hang on to traditions like shark-calling and shell money. Will more tourists help or hinder their cause?

    Diving on the Great Barrier Reef we hear how tour operators who once denied the coral was in decline now invest money in research to find a ‘super coral’ that can survive warming waters and the pressures of development.



    The Philippines is increasingly dependent on tourism and plenty of locals are attracted by the jobs that come with the construction of large scale resorts. Can they be built without destroying the delicate marine life of this stunning corner of the Pacific Ocean?

    We ask our oceans to provide an extraordinary range of services, from absorbing our carbon dioxide to providing a stunning backdrop for sunbathing and sipping cocktails. The more pressure we add, the more fascinating stories will emerge from life on the shore.





    (Photo: A reef in the Solomon Islands. Credit: Ellen Husain)

  • 3/4 As the ice of the Arctic and Southern Oceans melts, its composition changes completely. Ships can now sail through the Arctic from China to Europe; seals, walrus and polar bears have to move further north and find different prey.



    In the third edition of our series on the world’s oceans we visit Svalbard and Alaska to discover what change means for the people of the Arctic as the warming climate brings more trade, more tourists and new species. In the Norwegian territory of Svalbard residents find the doors and windows of their homes warping as the permafrost melts. In Alaska the traditional Inuit freezer cabinets - essentially deep holes cut into the ice - no longer keep whale meat fresh through the summer.



    The Southern Ocean, wrapped around a vast frozen continent, faces the same warming trends but here the witnesses are penguins and the scientists who monitor them, fishermen and the toothfish and krill that are increasingly easy to catch for a hungry world.



    Beneath the waves, oceanographer Jon Copley from Southampton University provides a fascinating underwater commentary, demonstrating how the Southern Ocean can lay claim to being the ‘mother of all oceans’.

  • 2/4 Only now is deep sea exploration beginning in remote parts of the Indian Ocean to reveal what lies on the ocean floor, what treasures can be found that could be used for scientific and technological development. Underwater mining for minerals is being carried out by several nations and there’s a huge rush around the ocean rim to promote what’s called the Blue Economy, profiting from the ocean and its riches.



    We travel around the Indian Ocean from South Africa to Mauritius and North West Australia via the Indonesian island on the edge of the Indian and Pacific oceans to meet people who are developing enterprising ways of profiting from the ocean, whilst being careful not to further damage the fragile Eco systems that have been depleted over decades through over-fishing and climate change.



    A fascinating underwater commentary is provided by oceanographer, Jon Copley from Southampton University, explaining the geology and currents that link the shores of the Indian Ocean.



    Photo: Coral reef in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Kenya Credit: Tony Karumba//AFP/Getty Images

  • 1/4 In this first episode we cross the ocean from the Grand Banks to the tip of South Africa via Reykjavik in Iceland meeting those involved in fishing and working along the shores of the Atlantic.



    Beneath the waves, oceanographer Jon Copley from Southampton University provides a fascinating underwater commentary, demonstrating how currents and ocean ridges link the lives on every shore of the Atlantic.



    The Atlantic Ocean covers more than 100 million square kilometres, stretching from southern Africa to Iceland and from the Americas to Europe. Named after the Greek God Atlantikos and for the area of water near to the Atlas Mountains, it has shaped human history and culture in more ways than any other ocean as a trade route, a slave passage and as a vital source of food.



    For centuries it has been a source of wealth and prosperity for those who voyaged across it in search of food, from the Basque sailors who ventured to North America in search of cod and whale meat, to the Vikings who traversed it long before European explorers began exploring and exploiting its peoples and riches.



    It was fish that enabled this early travel and it is fish that has continued to sustain populations around the Atlantic ever since, from Newfoundland to Iceland and onward to West Africa. This first episode of our new series exploring the great oceans of the world looks at the communities eking a living from its waters - their culture, their livelihoods and the challenges they face.



    Presenter: Liz Bonnin



    (Photo: Icebergs off the coast of Canada's Newfoundland Credit: Getty Images)

  • 4/4 American democracy can easily frustrate change. The country’s Constitution is almost impossible to amend. The many interest groups swirling through Congress often paralyse or colonise it; and corralling 50 states is often beyond the capacity of the most able president.



    Yet America has been home to a string of popular movements across the last two centuries that have brought vigour and change to what otherwise might have been a sclerotic political system. It mattered, of course, that the country was born in revolution, meaning that popular resistance, beginning with the original Tea Party in Boston Harbour, is part of the nation’s DNA. We encounter the passion of America’s insurgents and the turbulence their movements generated.



    We begin with the struggle by African-Americans to end slavery. We continue with the titanic battles between labour and capital in the 1930s over the rights of workers and the obligations of government to regulate the economy in the public interest. And we conclude with an exploration of two 21st-Century movements: the modern-day Tea Party and the campaign for gay rights and same-sex marriage. We hear from veterans of these struggles in Ohio, California, Michigan, and New York; with museum curators in Cincinnati and Boston who are preserving and interpreting the history of past struggles; and with historians and other experts who can help us to make sense of the successes and failures of these movements, and of their role in sustaining, convulsing, and changing American democracy.



    (Photo: Protesters in Times Square against President Trump's decision to reinstate a ban on transgender individuals serving in the military. Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

  • 3/4 One of the most fascinating, and least understood, features of American democracy is that individual states possessed a scope of power much greater than what was given to the central government in Washington. On so many issues, the states went their own way. Whether to teach religion in schools; legalise or outlaw slavery; allow divorce or the sale of alcohol or the sale of firecrackers; permit birth control, pornography, or gambling - on all these matters, and many others, it was up to the individual states to decide.



    This episode examines the enormous powers possessed by these little leviathans and the diverse ways in which they used them. We visit Dayton, Tennessee, the site of the famous 1924 Scopes Trial, which put before a judge the question of whether the state of Tennessee had the right to ban the teaching of Charles Darwin and evolution from the schools (it did). We talk to experts on the history of marriage in America to understand why some states banned interracial unions while others didn’t seem to care. And we talk to Californians who see in the recent rebirth of states’ rights the best hope of sustaining a liberal politics in America on matters such as climate control, social welfare and racial equality.



    (Photo: American teacher John Thomas Scopes (1900 - 1970) (2nd from left) standing in the courtroom during his trial for teaching Darwin's Theory of Evolution in his high school science class, Dayton, Tennessee, 1925. Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

  • 2/4 The usual way to tell the story of money and democracy in America is in terms of a fall from grace. Once upon a time, democracy was pure, with little corruption, and rich Americans had no influence upon policymakers. The truth is more complicated. By the mid-19th Century, America had the largest, densest, and most labour-intensive democracy in the world. None of this had been anticipated by the country’s founders, who had made no provision in the Constitution for funding an electoral system that, because of its vastness, had become enormously expensive. When government failed, private entrepreneurs rushed in, inventing a new institution - the political party - to organise America’s intricate system of elections.



    These entrepreneurs took money wherever they found it - from wealthy individuals who wanted to become judges; from corporations who wanted to influence policy; from those who were expected to pay an “assessment” for the privilege of working for the party or in government. Tammany Hall in New York was the first of these powerful party organisations. We visit the Courthouse that “Boss Tweed” built, and the saloon, McSorley’s, where many Tammany deals were struck.



    And we examine the many efforts to reform America’s electoral system, beginning 100 years ago, continuing with the Watergate reforms of the 1970s, and concluding with the efforts by Bernie Sanders and others today to roll back Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court decision that has sent a new avalanche of money cascading into American politics. Separating American democracy from its money, its lifeblood, is as difficult a task today as it was a century ago.



    (Photo: Old photographs hang on a wall at McSorley's Old Ale House in the East Village, New York City 2012. The East Village has been home to famous artists, musicians and waves of immigrants from the 19th century on. Credit: Getty Images)

  • 1/4 America has the world’s oldest continuously operating democracy. Its political institutions have long been a model for democrats everywhere. Yet, American democracy is also troubled. In this four-part series, American historian Gary Gerstle takes a penetrating look at his nation’s democracy and the reasons behind the crisis that besets it today.



    In this episode, he goes back to the framing of the US Constitution. This gave only limited powers to the federal government, but by the mid-19th Century, Americans wanted it to do more. Because the Constitution was virtually impossible to change, those who wanted to enlarge the government had to use “secret weapons.” One of these was the Post Office, which as well as delivering mail, was called on to do things like enforce a ban on porn. Another was a Constitutional clause that allowed the government to regulate inter-state commerce.



    An Ohio farmer, Roscoe Filburn, challenged this in a key 1942 Supreme Court case, and lost. Since then, the government has relied on the Commerce clause to vastly increase its control over many new areas, such as civil rights.



    The subsequent huge expansion of the government has so enraged conservatives that they talk about drowning it in a bathtub. Liberals insist that the use of “secret weapons” offer America its only hope of effective governance. Both sides have powerful arguments. Will they ever be able to compromise, and allow the government to function properly in the interests of all?



    (Photo: The farmhouse of Roscoe Filburn, the Ohio farmer at the centre of a 1942 Supreme Court case)

  • 4/4 Angela Saini is on a farm in a rural corner of Karnataka in south India, meeting the team behind Akshayakalpa – a kind of Farm in a Box. When you are on a low income, how can you possibly find a way to raise the funds you need to get into farming, or simply keep your existing farm afloat? Angela meets an entrepreneur who thinks she has found the answer.



    Angela heads back to Nairobi to catch up with the founder of OkHi – the app that lets you find any address in the city, which we discussed earlier in the series. How are they getting on? Finally, she meets budding agricultural entrepreneurs in Nairobi and talk to the Agriculture Minister Willy Bett.



    (Photo: Cows in a field, Nyandarua County, Kenya)

  • 3/4 OkHi is a new navigation device which runs on your mobile phone and allows you to find an address, however remote, with GPS coordinates and a photo. It should be accurate to within ten metres and copes without the usual massive infrastructure changes required by sat nav systems.



    Just outside Bengaluru in India, we take a look at the problems of getting access to banking services in remote communities and the solution being offered by a new company called Sub-K, and their human ATMs.



    Finally, Angela calls in again on the creators of BRCK internet to learn about their major ambitions for the future.



    Image: Wes Chege, founder of OkHi, Credit: Whistledown