UK PM Boris Johnson promised to ‘build back better’ with a new education program, which prompted suggestions he swiped a tagline of US presidential candidate Joe Biden. But did both plagiarize it from somewhere else?
Speaking at the Exeter College in Devon on Tuesday, Johnson put forth something called a Lifetime Skills Guarantee, that should help Britons “train and retrain – at any stage in their lives” and enable the UK “not just to come through this crisis, but to come back stronger, and build back better.”
If that phrase sounded somewhat familiar to political journalists, it’s because Democrat candidate for president in the US, Joe Biden, used it as the title for his economic program unveiled in early July.
Turnabout might be fair play, considering that in 1988 Biden ran for president by plagiarizing a speech by British politician Neil Kinnock, which ended up torpedoing his candidacy at the time. However, there is no indication Johnson purloined the slogan from Biden.
Rather, both politicians (or their speechwriters) might have swiped it from something called the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, adopted in March 2015 at a UN conference in Japan.
The Japanese delegation proposed “Build Back Better” as a concept in chapter 7 of the book they presented at the Sendai conference. It was eventually incorporated into the framework and endorsed by the UN General Assembly.
In a nutshell, the idea is to restore the local infrastructure, culture and environment to what it was before the natural disaster that disrupted them, only making them more resilient.
Then-PM of Japan, Shinzo Abe, explained the concept as “common sense to the Japanese people, coming from our historical experiences in recovering from disaster and preparing for the future,” and something that has become “an important part of the culture of Japan.”
Both Biden and Johnson seem to have embraced the soundbite more than the concept, given that the economic and societal damage from the Covid-19 pandemic was not caused by the virus itself, but the political response to it in the form of lockdowns.
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