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Kyoko Altman

Hong Kong, China

Kyoko Altman has worked as a correspondent and anchor for CNN and CNBC, and as a news-magazine reporter for Japan's top-ranked news program 'News Station' on TV Asahi. She has covered more than twenty countries. Close.

Kyoko Altman

Hong Kong, China

Kyoko Altman has worked as a correspondent and anchor for CNN and CNBC, and as a news-magazine reporter for Japan's top-ranked news program 'News Station' on TV Asahi. more »

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Distrust of National Leaders a Good Sign

The Current Discussion:A new poll finds widespread mistrust of world leaders. Are trustworthy national leaders a thing of the past? If not, who's an exception?

Mistrust in national leaders may be a healthy thing. One possibility is that the media is doing its job – examining and questioning the state of affairs. In a world reeling from the Iraq war, genocide in Sudan, skyrocketing oil prices, acute food shortage and a global economic downturn, it’s not surprising that a new international poll finds people mistrust today’s leaders. These leaders have failed to resolve these problems.

In the poll, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Hu Jintao fair better than many of their counterparts. Both of them are bosses of authoritarian states where the media is under their control. Their images are carefully honed. Criticism of their leadership can lead to arrest. Foreign correspondents are kept at bay, unable to get a close up look at the inner workings of their leadership. Their citizens voiced strong support for them but when combined with overseas’ responses, only 32 percent expressed confidence in Putin and 28 percent in Hu. That’s better than the 23 percent who say they believe in Bush - but not by much.

With the internet and new technology enabling news to travel faster and further around the world – even seeping into places like China and Russia – today’s leaders face far more scrutiny than their predecessors have ever before. Of course the media is far from perfect, but better that people be skeptical than blindly trust their leaders.

So can there be a head of state who can withstand intense global scrutiny and emerge trustworthy? The poll finds that respondents expressed the most confidence in Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations. Ban is not a national leader. As the head of an international organization, he has limited power to do much on his own. Still, the confidence in Ban suggests that people are turning to international leaders for leadership. They want someone who does not have a national agenda to tackle the problems that are now increasingly global. If this is the case, it is time for national leaders who’ve lost credibility to work more closely with international leaders like Ban who inspire trust. International leaders need to be empowered to do more on the global stage.

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