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Not everybody’s business: corporate crowding into the tents of global governance

jeu, 01/23/2014 - 7:06am
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pAs invitation-only Davos gets under way, our public space and politics shrink that little bit more across the globe. Rolling back state authority will turn today’s accountability gap into a yawning abyss./p /div /div /div pThe annual gathering of “fat cats in the snow”, as one of those cats, U2’s frontman Bono, once named the World Economic Forum (WEF), continues to grab attention as a big platform for powerful people. More than two decades old, this schmooze fest will once again attract an estimated 2500 businessmen, politicians and some selected representatives of civil society’s polite camps. /p pThere are few comparable events where your business card could end up in so many powerful people’s hands. But the media’s infatuation with the personalities neglects something bigger, namely how the private interests assembled at Davos have begun crowding in on public space in the rickety tents of international governance./p pFor a central argument made in Davos contends that when it comes to tackling global problems, nation-states and their public politics are not up to the job. They must therefore be replaced by a sleek new system in which ‘stakeholders’ –- that is transnational corporations, a few powerful governments, selected intellectuals and invited members of ‘civil society’ – will henceforth manage the world’s affairs together. Governments will become merely one actor among several running global affairs. /p pThe working prototypes for such a scheme of governance are the invitation-only Davos gatherings themselves. The WEF proclaims that it represents the kind of global governance the world needs at a time where globalisation, as its founder Karl Schwab put it, has its “shining upside and the complex and unpredictable downside”./p pIn 2009, amidst the financial crisis, the WEF seized the opportunity to advance this vision of a corporate-led transnational governance through its Global Redesign Initiative (GRI). The aim was “to stimulate a strategic thought process among all stakeholders about ways in which international institutions and arrangements should be adapted to contemporary challenges.” Bankrolled from Qatar among others, the GRI enlisted some 1200 experts in thematic consultations. A year later it published a massive final report, emEverybody’s Business: Strengthening International Cooperation in a More Interdependent World./em/p pRanging across issues as varied as chronic diseases, ocean governance and systemic financial risk, the GRI report argues that the way to manage just about every field of policy is through a stakeholder approach, claiming that “better coordination” between a self-select group of leaders is the best way to address complex problems. Intergovernmental agreements, international frameworks, enforceable hard law are out; voluntarism, codes of conduct and soft law are in. Corporations become part of global authority. However, and crucially, they are not expected to take on any mandatory obligations. Democracy is overlooked in favour of bringing the ‘right’ people together./p pMeanwhile governments and democracies that up to now are seen as final policy authorities, are called upon to “re-invent” themselves “as a tool for the joint creation of public value.” The term “joint creation” refers to such things as public-private partnerships (PPPs). That of course ignores the usually less-than-mediocre experience of PPPs. As a British Parliamentary Committee recently verified, for example, PPPs largely burden public taxpayers with the costs, while enriching private financiers./p pIt is not hard to see the myriad dangers of this approach. Rolling back state authority while private bodies carry no real liabilities for consequences of their neglect or mismanagement will turn today’s accountability gap into a yawning abyss. Replacing democratic systems with stakeholder systems raises serious questions about representation and who is chosen to represent us. Substituting enforceable laws with voluntary codes of conduct introduces capricious ad-hoc ways of making rules and enforcing them. Given the public’s declining trust in today’s governance, already in thrall to private interests, WEF’s vision is hardly propitious for a stable public order that everyone, including business, needs./p pThe real danger of WEF’s proposal, though, is that its design has already passed from drawing boards to routine practices in many realms of our life, including health, nature conservation, trade, security, and digital rights. UN institutions have adopted corporations as leading partners, chiefly under terms of its UN Global Compact. It is seen in workings of the World Water Council or in Food-Water-Energy nexus summits where corporations are both the hosts and driving participants while governments and civil society take back seats. It is also evident in the many international boards and regulatory agencies that set standards and rules for specific industries which are either toothless or captured by the very corporations they seek to regulate./p pThe rise of ‘governance lite’ may have aided corporations, but it has proved of little use to people whose jobs, livelihoods and rights to public services have been hit by volatility, fraud and claims on public revenues stemming from the financial sector. People with obvious stakes in the workings and impacts of this kind of governance are consistently denied access to information and means to call the powerful to account./p pMore than 60 years ago, the UN affirmed sovereign nations and their peoples as the ultimate authority for international affairs. The UN Charter , after all, begins with “We the peoples” and affirms the “equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small”. While the practice of global management has fallen short of these ideals, no principles of governance enjoy wider endorsement around the world. A ‘global redesign’ is no doubt needed, but one that should genuinely reflect “everybody’s business” by preventing business interests from crowding the public out of the tent./pdiv class=field field-country div class=field-label Country or region:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Switzerland /div /div /div div class=field field-topics div class=field-labelTopics:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Democracy and government /div div class=field-item even Economics /div div class=field-item odd Equality /div div class=field-item even International politics /div /div /div div class=field field-rights div class=field-labelRights:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Creative Commons /div /div /div

Participation Now: patterns, possibilities, politics

jeu, 01/23/2014 - 5:17am
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pAt one end of this spectrum we have started to place initiatives that offer to rationalisenbsp;public engagement and make the participatory self-organisation of publics morenbsp;efficient. At the other end, initiatives seem more focused onnbsp;enrichingnbsp;processes of engagement and participation./p /div /div /div pThat nowadays there are a growing number of research and archiving projects devoted to cataloguing specific types of participation and engagement activity is perhaps to be expected.nbsp; The current context is one in which institutional breakdowns, crises, rapid technological change as well as restless variations in patterns of collective identification and belonging are now increasingly intersecting with our everyday lives. More and more people and organisations are trying out inventive forms of public participation in response. emParticipation Now/em is particularly concerned to illuminate the emdifferent forms/em that these emerging practices of participatory engagement take, as well as the emwide variety of actors/em who are initiating them./p pBy bringing to life a collection of this kind weem /emhave three aims: to help track and animate the growing emvariability/em of the ways in which participatory public engagement initiatives are being imagined; to support the investigation of what is at stake in this emerging landscape of thought and practice; and to inform the broadening of an on-going current debate about the possibilities (and difficulties) of forms of participatory public engagement as mediums of public action, now and into the future./p pThe emParticipation Now/em project has already passed several milestones that we want to mark here, developmental and analytical.nbsp; Having elaborated these, we want to close with some brief remarks on two issues at stake in this fast-changing contemporary landscape of participatory public engagement.nbsp;/p pThe first of the project milestones concerns the collection of initiatives on the emParticipation Now/em site. This week the collection reached 100 initiatives, identified through a combination of our own research and suggestions we’ve received from people. This is hardly intended to be a ‘representative’ sample of the constantly shifting and growing field of participatory public engagement (this would be impossible!), but the size of the collection now begins to make the activity of sorting through, comparing and analysing relationships between different initiatives a valuable one.nbsp;/p pThen there is the design of the site. emParticipation Now’s/em recent design upgrade now offers users a much more accessible and immediate browsing and searching experience. Within the basic typology that allows the collection of initiatives to be filtered according to issues addressed (the emwhat/em filter), individuals or organisations behind them (emwho/em), emhow/em organised, and emscale /emof the project - wide-ranging as well as more specific forms of searching have been made easier to undertake. For those interested in exploring different links and relationships in this intriguingly diverse collection of initiatives, the aim is to offer as free-flowing an experience as possible./p pimg src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/ZU88xX2MfPQFmSN8_c9pG6ZHeqayxH8oGpLI-Wj26wE/mtime:1390471524/files/Sceenshot1.jpg alt= width=460 //p pWe recently conducted some rudimentary quantitative analysis of how the initiatives map onto the four categories – emwhat/em, emwh/emo, emhow/em and emscale/em – in the emParticipation Now/em typology. The emwhat/em category ( first chart) shows the many different issues that people mobilise around, ranging from emanti-discrimination, equality amp; social justice /emto emresearch, knowledge amp; information/em – and even emparticipation/em itself. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most commonly addressed issue here is emneighbourhood amp; community/em (35% of initiatives) – illustrating a tendency for participation projects to focus on people’s immediate context – and emdemocracy, politics amp; representation/em (29%) – reflective of how participatory public engagement projects frequently are used to compensate for a perceived ‘democratic deficit’.nbsp;/p iframe src=http://cf.datawrapper.de/fGm1R/1/ frameborder=0 allowtransparency=true allowfullscreen=allowfullscreen webkitallowfullscreen=webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen=mozallowfullscreen oallowfullscreen=oallowfullscreen msallowfullscreen=msallowfullscreen width=460 height=550/iframe pThe emwho/em category (second chart) plots the diversity of actors and organisations behind the initiatives, ranging from emartists amp; cultural organisations/em to emresearchers, scientists amp; educators/em and even emfor-profit enterprises/em. The results currently show a majority for what political scientists refer to as non-traditional actors, such as emnon-governmental organisations/charities/em (42%) and emsocial movement activists/em (25%), while emgovernment/em and empolitical parties/em are responsible for 17% and 2% of initiatives, respectively./p piframe src=http://cf.datawrapper.de/ATHdf/3/ frameborder=0 allowtransparency=true allowfullscreen=allowfullscreen webkitallowfullscreen=webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen=mozallowfullscreen oallowfullscreen=oallowfullscreen msallowfullscreen=msallowfullscreen width=460 height=350/iframe/p pNew information and communication technologies clearly have been key to the proliferation of these projects – as many as 55% of the initiatives in the emParticipation Now/em collection use emonline platforms/em. But several other modes of participation are evident too in the chart relating to the emhow/em category – with these ranging from ‘established’ forms of collective action such as emorganising amp; campaigning/em (13%) and empublic assembly/em (17%) to a diversity of emspecial events/em (23%) and forms of emprotest amp; direct action/em (6%). A sizeable proportion of initiatives involve people through emresearch amp; learning/em (24%) – this category includes both university-led public engagement with research projects and a variety of independent education initiatives./p piframe src=http://cf.datawrapper.de/YJj3B/2/ frameborder=0 allowtransparency=true allowfullscreen=allowfullscreen webkitallowfullscreen=webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen=mozallowfullscreen oallowfullscreen=oallowfullscreen msallowfullscreen=msallowfullscreen width=460 height=350/iframe/p Finally, while the majority of these hundred initiatives are lt;igt;locallt;/igt; in orientation (51%) – underlining the relative ease of organising participatory action at this scale – a sizeable proportion also claim to operate at the lt;igt;nationallt;/igt; scale (31%) as well as at the transnational (11%) and global (19%) – the latter two perhaps reflecting a growing ambition to mobilise publics beyond the scales at which politics and social life have traditionally been imagined and organised. piframe src=http://cf.datawrapper.de/FJqVx/1/ frameborder=0 allowtransparency=true allowfullscreen=allowfullscreen webkitallowfullscreen=webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen=mozallowfullscreen oallowfullscreen=oallowfullscreen msallowfullscreen=msallowfullscreen width=460 height=350/iframe/p pAlongside this basic analysis of some of the characteristics of the 100 initiatives, we have begun to explore how they mediate forms of public action. This more qualitative research is still at an early stage. However, for the purposes of debate and discussion we’d like to report back on three themes emerging from this work that have caught our attention.nbsp;/p pThe first of these is public ‘representation’. One attribute that we have already found is common to many of the initiatives in this collection is that they offer people possibilities to organise around specific issues or problems. These include ‘the environment’ (e.g. a href=http://www.open.edu/openlearn/society/politics-policy-people/participation-now/everyawareEveryAware/a), ‘the media’ (e.g. a href=http://www.open.edu/openlearn/society/politics-policy-people/participation-now/the-media-co-opThe Media Co-op/a), ‘knowledge’ (e.g. a href=http://www.open.edu/openlearn/society/politics-policy-people/participation-now/wikipediaWikipedia/a) or ‘the city’ (e.g. a href=http://www.open.edu/openlearn/society/politics-policy-people/participation-now/open-streetsOpen Streets/a). Nevertheless, there are significant differences in how these initiatives offer people possibilities to articulate a position and enact forms of representation in different settings.nbsp;/p pSome provide tools to help emindividual/em members of the public represent themselves in relation to others (e.g. a href=http://www.open.edu/openlearn/society/politics-policy-people/participation-now/connected-citizensConnected Citizens/a, a href=http://www.open.edu/openlearn/society/politics-policy-people/participation-now/life-dayLife in a Day/a), while others support the organisation and development of representative public emnetworks/em (e.g. a href=http://www.open.edu/openlearn/society/politics-policy-people/participation-now/peoples-voice-mediaPeople’s Voice Media/a), or the representation of emterritory-based (local, national or transnational) collectivities/em (e.g. a href=http://www.open.edu/openlearn/society/politics-policy-people/participation-now/e-democracyorge-Democracy.org/a)./p pThe technologies and techniques being used to calculate, document and represent the publics that are being convened across these settings are different too. In part, these differences seem to relate to whether the forms of representation are being resourced and underwritten by pre-existing institutions, such as co-ops (e.g. a href=http://www.open.edu/openlearn/society/politics-policy-people/participation-now/rochdale-boroughwide-housingRochdale Boroughwide Housing/a), unions (e.g. a href=http://www.open.edu/openlearn/society/politics-policy-people/participation-now/unite-community-membershipUnite Community Membership/a) or local government (e.g. strongnbsp;/stronga href=http://www.open.edu/openlearn/society/politics-policy-people/participation-now/barnet-pledgebankBarnet Pledgebank/a), or performed at a distance from such pre-existing forms of organisation and therefore more easily able to offer people the possibility of ‘new’ spaces (e.g. a href=http://www.open.edu/openlearn/society/politics-policy-people/participation-now/europieEuroPie/a, Radical Library Camp), methods and technologies (e.g. a href=http://www.open.edu/openlearn/society/politics-policy-people/participation-now/simpl-challengesSimpl Challenges/a) or forms of assembly (e.g. a href=http://www.open.edu/openlearn/society/politics-policy-people/participation-now/democracy-maxDemocracy Max/a). Some initiatives also offer to represent hitherto emhidden/em publics or histories of local, or national, public life (e.g. a href=http://www.open.edu/openlearn/society/politics-policy-people/participation-now/restore/restoryRestore/Restory/a, a href=http://www.open.edu/openlearn/society/politics-policy-people/participation-now/mapping-memoriesMapping Memories/a)./p pThen there are those that don’t set out to represent people at all, but rather focus on representing certain ‘things’ in the public sphere, including trees (a href=http://www.open.edu/openlearn/society/politics-policy-people/participation-now/treezillaTreezilla/a), ‘the earth’ (a href=http://www.open.edu/openlearn/society/politics-policy-people/participation-now/earth-speaksEarth Speaks/a), and ‘the universe’ (a href=http://www.open.edu/openlearn/society/politics-policy-people/participation-now/galaxy-zooGalaxy Zoo/a)./p pThe second theme we see emerging is ‘self-organisation’. A spectrum of ways in which participation is cast as a medium for voluntarary public action is readily discernible. At one end of this spectrum we have started to place initiatives that offer tonbsp;emrationalise/em public engagement and make the participatory self-organisation of publics more emefficient/em. At the other end we are placing initiatives that seem more focused on emenriching/em processes of engagement and participation. We’ve noticed that the former are often cast as ‘toolkits’, technological ‘platforms’, or ‘methods’ that offer to support various kinds of ‘deliberation’, ‘consensus-building’ or ‘decision making’ (e.g. a href=http://www.open.edu/openlearn/society/politics-policy-people/participation-now/puzzled-policyPuzzled by Policy/a, a href=http://www.open.edu/openlearn/society/politics-policy-people/participation-now/planning-realPlanning for Real/a). The latter, by contrast, emphasise the importance of making the experience of engagement and participation a more intensely affective, relational, imaginative or creative one.nbsp;/p pThese initiatives can work through genres that involve the body, sound or moving images and sometimes also make use of emrelational/em media such as festivals (a href=http://www.open.edu/openlearn/society/politics-policy-people/participation-now/100-1-day-cape-town-2012100 in 1 day/a), bar-based informal discussions (a href=http://www.open.edu/openlearn/society/politics-policy-people/participation-now/drinking-liberallyDrinking Liberally/a), café style conversations (a href=http://www.open.edu/openlearn/society/politics-policy-people/participation-now/the-world-cafeWorld Café/a) or participatory art installations (a href=http://www.open.edu/openlearn/society/politics-policy-people/participation-now/these-associationsThese Associations/a). In these ways such initiatives seem to be offering people possibilities for forms of creative and imaginative emself-organisation,/em as well as processes that may potentially affect forms of public change beyond the bounds of these events./p pThe third and final theme that has caught our attention is ‘identification and belonging’. This overlaps with the first theme of ‘representation’ but relates more specifically to the myriad of assumptions that different kinds of initiatives make about contemporary publics’ needs, identifications and capacities; ties and relationships; desires and preferred modes of association./p pAssumptions about people’s identifications and desires for belonging also vary quite considerably across the collection of initiatives, with some (e.g. a href=http://www.open.edu/openlearn/society/politics-policy-people/participation-now/occupy-londonOccupy London/a, a href=http://www.open.edu/openlearn/society/politics-policy-people/participation-now/uk-uncutUK Uncut/a) assuming that people are almost entirely disenfranchised from mainstream political institutions and conventions, and others assuming people will now identify primarily with less overtly political genres and modes of public action (e.g. a href=http://www.open.edu/openlearn/society/politics-policy-people/participation-now/one-otherOne amp; Other/a, a href=http://www.open.edu/openlearn/society/politics-policy-people/participation-now/complaints-choirsComplaints Choir/a).nbsp;/p pBy beginning to explore the initiatives in the emParticipation Now/em collection as emsites/em of possibility which offer emopenings/em for new forms of public action, we are hoping to build on a long history of research, literature and debate about the topics of participation and public engagement. We end this post by highlighting two of the many issues we think will be at stake as we investigate these sites and possible openings for new forms of public action in more depth:/p olliThe first is the issue of how to research what is being emproduced/em by the many different initiatives in the emParticipation Now/em collection. Our preliminary analysis has started to trace patterns in the different ways that initiatives are set up. Our aim has been to pinpoint a set of similarities and differences in the possible forms of participatory public engagement. However, these initiatives, in common with other forms of participatory public engagement, also offer openings for participants to emenact/em forms of production. Furthermore, there is always the possibility that such initiatives will somehow be productive beyond the bounds of the immediate settings and interactions through which they were initiated – whether by intervening in a pre-existing context, or, say, in the configuration of a specific public issue or problem. What is the best way to explore the effects of all these many, varied and highly distributed forms of production? Should researchers such as ourselves participate or intervene in these processes? If so, how?br / br / /liliOne further issue that we think is at stake here relates to the first, but specifically concerns how different versions of participatory public engagement may, or may not, gain legitimacy over time. What we already begin to discern, as we look across the collection of initiatives, are a range of different imaginaries of ‘progressive’ public-ness. Rather than focusing our research efforts primarily on investigating the emefficiency/em of these participatory techniques, we’re interested in exploring some of these imaginaries of ‘progressive’ public-ness in more depth. /li/ol pFor example, in precisely what ways are different initiatives working to re-structure relationships between individuals, between individuals and groups, between groups and organisations, or between publics and issues? How are initiatives in the emParticipation Now/em collection working to redistribute resources such as technology, information, time, expertise or money? What levels of public appeal do different imaginaries of ‘progressive’ public-ness have? nbsp;nbsp;/p pOur hope is that, over time, emParticipation Now/em can become a site where such questions can be further explored not only by researchers, such as ourselves, but by others too. This is of course a very ambitious aim. But it arises from the recognition that the stakes are high in this terrain and that there is therefore a need for spaces that can support social networking, debate, participatory forms of research and experimentation among those who are interested or involved in this field on an on-going basis.nbsp;/p pIf you’re interested or involved in participatory public engagement projects and you have a view about current activities, future possibilities or obstacles to the further development of this field, we’d love to hear from you. There are now a number of different ways of being part of the emParticipation Now /emproject:/p p-nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; Join the conversation via Twitter: a href=https://twitter.com/NowParticipate@NowParticipate/a;br / br / /p p-nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; Comment on this blog-post via the ema href=http://www.open.edu/openlearn/OpenLearn/a/em or emopenDemocracy/Participation Now/em websites;br / br / /p p-nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; Contribute a short piece to the emopenDemocracy/Participation Now/em site;br / br / /p p-nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; Let us know about a participatory public engagement initiative that we can add to the ema href=http://www.open.edu/openlearn/society/politics-policy-people/participation-nowParticipation Now/a/em collection./p pThe emParticipation Now/em project emerges out of a number of years of research, at the Open University’sem Centre for Citizenship, Identities and Governance/em (CCIG), concerned with investigating changing configurations of ‘the public’ (click a href=http://www.open.ac.uk/ccig/programmes/publicshere/a for more info). emParticipation Now/em was first developed in prototype form as emThe Experimental Democracy Console/em in 2010, but has since been significantly developed under the auspices the emOpen University/em funded emCreating Publics/em project; an initial version of emParticipation Now/em went online in Spring 2013 and is now being developed in collaboration emOpenLearn/em. Work on emParticipation Now/em is also supported with funding from the RCUK-funded emOpen University/em Public Engagement with Research emCatalyst/em project./p br / div style=margin-bottom:15px; background-color: #F0F5F0; padding: 15px;emThis contribution has been commissioned for an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and a href=http://bit.ly/17J7gasParticipation Now/a, a project that aims to support exploration, innovation and debate about contemporary forms of participatory public engagement. Participation Now is an Open University project supported by a href=http://bit.ly/17IV0BtOpenLearn/a, the a href=http://bit.ly/1djRq8FCreating Publics/a project in the a href=http://bit.ly/1c5kDiRCentre for Citizenship, Identities and Governance/a, and the a href=http://bit.ly/1bmeEIbRCUK-funded Public Engagement with Research Catalyst/a project. Explore the initiatives a href=http://bit.ly/17J7gashere/a./em/div pa href=http://bit.ly/17J7gasimg src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/Z-KU2FNh_p0_DWkBzsD1afnvF8Y7FnOUNROZJaIetSI/mtime:1389711741/files/PN_Editorial_620px-1.png alt=PN width=460 //a/pdiv class=field field-topics div class=field-labelTopics:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Civil society /div div class=field-item even Culture /div div class=field-item odd Democracy and government /div div class=field-item even Ideas /div div class=field-item odd International politics /div div class=field-item even Internet /div /div /div

Syria at Geneva II: the missing proxy

jeu, 01/23/2014 - 1:30am
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pA way forward in Syria must address the rival positions of Iran and Saudi Arabia. In this context, the Geneva talks offer little hope./p /div /div /div pThe first day of the Geneva II talks, 22 January 2014, was marked by a href=http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-25836827acrimonious/a speeches from representatives of both Bashar al-Assad's regime in Damascus and the Syrian rebels. The United Nations representative Lakhdar Brahimi is meeting the two sides separately and try to persuade them to move towards direct negotiations in Geneva on 23 January, or at least to agree to be in the same location. a href=http://www.un.org/News/dh/iraq/brahimi-bio-jan04.htmBrahimi/a is an impressive diplomat, quite possibly the best in the UN system for this kind of task, but there are doubts whether even he can bring the sides together./ppEven if that does happen, the most that can be hoped for is that aid channels may be improved, maybe even to the extent of allowing temporary ceasefires. Yet in such a bitter civil a href=http://beta.syriadeeply.org/war/a as this, moves such as these can be utilised by either or both sides to regroup and resupply. In any case, this is not really the crux of the Syrian situation. Two quite different aspects are far more significant./ppstrongA double proxy war/strong/ppThe first and most obvious is the conspicuous a href=http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-25820373absence/a of Iran. Syria is, as several columns in this a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/author/paul-rogersseries/a have argued, a double proxy war in which two a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/syria-last-chancepairs/a of rival forces - Iran-Saudi Arabia most immediately, and the United States-Russia at a higher level - are proxy actors. The latter two are at a href=http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-24628442Geneva/a, and show some evidence of determination to make progress; but Iran is missing.nbsp; /ppMoreover, who else emis/em a href=http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-25811692present/a will rile Tehran - for the cast-list includes almost every Arab country across the middle east and north Africa (including Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, the UAE, and of course Saudi Arabia). Beyond the Arab world, Turkey is there and even the Vatican, but not Iran!/ppWhatever the politics of the a href=http://theconversation.com/torture-pictures-may-not-stop-syria-talks-but-irans-absence-is-a-glaring-omission-22261omission/a it makes nonsense of the talks - given Iran’s support for the Syrian regime, its links to a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization/hizbollah_3757.jspHizbollah/a, and the presence of Iranian paramilitaries inside Syria. Moreover, Rowhani appears keen to a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/iran-hopes-and-fearswork/a more closely with the US and there are signs that he wants to see a scaling down of the war, not least because of the risk that Syria becomes another seat of radical emSunni/em paramilitaries (see a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/paul-rogers/syria-peace-marginSyria, the peace margin/a, 16 January 2014)./ppThe second, linked element relates to Saudi Arabia’s a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/madawi-al-rasheed/saudi-arabia-and-syria-logic-of-dictatorsinvolvement/a in the war, which appears to have undergone significant changes in recent months. Though accurate and relevant information is not easily available, reasonably competent analysis indicates that inside Syria there are three quite distinct Islamist entities. /ppThe first is the ISIL. This has the closest identity with a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/al-qaidas-idea-three-years-onal-Qaida's/a vision, strong connections with emSunni/em paramilitaries opposing the Nouri al-Maliki government in Iraq, and the most significant a href=http://www.yalibnan.com/2014/01/04/new-syria-rebel-alliance-declares-war-on-al-qaedas-isil/involvement/a of foreigners from across the region and beyond. /ppThe a href=http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-24179084ISIL/a is competent and disciplined. It seeks clear-cut Islamist governance in territories it a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/syria-next-blowbackcontrols/a. It may bring order with relatively low levels of corruption to towns, villages and city districts it takes over but the a href=http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/01/rise-fall-isil-syria-201411572925799732.htmlrigidity/a of its rule loses it popularity with a Syrian population that has - despite the authoritarianism of the Assad regime before the present war started - been more cosmopolitan in culture than many other Arab states,/ppThe second entity is the a href=http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-18048033Al-Nusra Front/a. This also follows the al-Qaida idea, but is rather less strict in its governance and has a smaller proportion of foreigners in its ranks. /ppThe third entity is the Islamic Council. This is composed of a a href=http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-25053525cluster/a of Islamist paramilitary groups that came a href=http://news.yahoo.com/syria-39-islamic-front-issue-strong-warning-jihadists-193320113.htmltogether/a in late 2013.nbsp; /ppWhat makes this mapping important is Saudi Arabia's shifting a href=http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/1/20/saudi-arabia-walksafinelinkinbackingsyriarebellion.htmlapproach/a. In the past Riyadh appears to have provided support for ISIL and Al-Nusra, but it now focuses on providing aid to the groups acting under the aegis of the Islamic Council. It is, furthermore, doing so in a systematic a href=http://mebriefing.com/?p=415manner/a that seeks to ensure that the Islamic Council becomes the a href=http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/12/syria-fsa-islamic-front-geneva-ii-jarba.htmldominant/a voice of opposition to Bashar al-Assad./ppSaudi Arabia may have formally agreed to support the notion of a a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/carsten-wieland/syria-decade-of-lost-chancespost-Assad/a transitional government, but it plan to ensure that this itself becomes no more than a transition to a far more Islamist Syria. Riyadh's success in that objective would curb the influence that Iran has a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/americas-wars-long-falloutgained/a since the Americans terminated the Saddam Hussein a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict/article_1900.jspregime/a in Iraq in 2003, inadvertently boosting Tehran’s influence in Baghdad in the process./ppstrongA slim chance/strong/ppThe core a href=http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/01/syrian-peace-talks-stuck-over-assad-future-201412218560594671.htmlreality/a is that Saudi Arabia is set on seeing the regime in Damascus fall, and Iran is equally adamant that it should survive. But Saudi Arabia is at Geneva II and Iran is a href=http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/iran-blames-us-for-blocking-it-from-syria-peace-talks-in-geneva/2014/01/21/53814508-8276-11e3-a273-6ffd9cf9f4ba_story.htmlnot/a, thereby negating any possibility of substantive progress, even under Lakhdar Brahimi's skilled guidance. All else is little more than window-dressing./ppMeanwhile this a href=http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/01/report-syria-tortured-executed-11000-20141211307452644.htmldisastrous/a conflict claims more lives and further wrecks Syria. Can Russia work behind the scenes to bring Iran into the frame in some guise? Perhaps it can, with Sergey Lavrov’s personal warmth a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/syria-war-and-negotiationtowards/a John Kerry one of the very positive aspects of a wretched situation. If not, then whatever fine words are spoken at Geneva, any progress will be meagre at best./pfieldset class=fieldgroup group-sideboxslegendSideboxes/legenddiv class=field field-read-on div class=field-label 'Read On' Sidebox:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pa href=http://www.brad.ac.uk/acad/peace/ target=_blankspanspanDepartment of peace studies/span/span/a, Bradford University/p pPaul Rogers, ema href=http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745320878amp;A War on Terror: Afghanistan and After/a/emnbsp;(Pluto Press,nbsp;2004) /ppa href=http://mebriefing.com/Middle East Briefing/a/ppa href=http://www.janes.com/emJane's Intelligence Review/em/a/pp a href=http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/ target=_blankspanspanOxford Research Group/span/span/a/ppema href=http://www.longwarjournal.org/ target=_blankspanspanLong War Journal/span/span/a/em/ppPaul Rogers, a href=http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745329376amp; target=_blankemspanspanLosing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century/span/span/em/a (Pluto Press, 3rd edition, 2010)/p /div /div /div div class=field field-sidebox div class=field-label Sidebox:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pPaul Rogers is professor in the a href=http://www.brad.ac.uk/acad/peace/department of peace studies/a at Bradford University, northern England. He is strongopenDemocracy's/strong international-security editor, and has been writing a weekly column on global security since 28 September 2001; he also writes a monthly briefing for the a href=http://oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/Oxford Research Group/a. His books include a href=http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0745641962,subjectCd-PO34,descCd-authorInfo.htmlemWhy We’re Losing the War on Terror/em /a(Polity, 2007), and a href=http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745329376amp; target=_blankemLosing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century/em /a(Pluto Press, 3rd edition, 2010). He is on twitter at: span class=screen-name screen-name-ProfPRogers pill@ProfPRogers/span/p pspan class=screen-name screen-name-ProfPRogers pillA lecture by Paul Rogersnbsp;on a href=http://sustainablesecurity.org/what-sustainable-securitysustainable security/a, delivered to the Quaker yearly a href=http://www.quaker.org.uk/ym-updatesmeeting/a on 3 August 2011, provides an overview of the analysis thatnbsp;underpins his openDemocracy column. It is available in two parts and can be accessed fromnbsp;a href=http://www.networkforpeace.org.uk/resources/qpsw/paul-rogers-lecture-sustainable-securityhere/a/span/p /div /div /div div class=field field-related-stories div class=field-labelRelated stories:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd a href=/opensecurity/paul-rogers/syria-peace-marginSyria, the peace margin/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/paul-rogers/syria-iraq-and-al-qaidas-opportunitySyria, Iraq, and al-Qaida#039;s opportunity/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/paul-rogers/kenya-nigeria-syria-iraq-dynamics-of-warKenya-Nigeria, Syria-Iraq: dynamics of war/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/paul-rogers/iran-hopes-and-fearsIran, hopes and fears/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/paul-rogers/al-qaidas-idea-three-years-onAl-Qaida#039;s idea, three years on/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/paul-rogers/syria-and-libya-slow-meltdownSyria and Libya, a slow meltdown/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/paul-rogers/non-violence-past-present-futureNon-violence: past, present, future /a /div div class=field-item even a href=/paul-rogers/syria-realigning-warSyria, realigning the war/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/paul-rogers/al-qaida-nigeria-and-long-warAl-Qaida, Nigeria, and a long war/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/paul-rogers/syria-next-blowbackSyria, the next blowback/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/paul-rogers/americas-wars-long-falloutAmerica#039;s wars, the long fallout/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/paul-rogers/syria-path-to-new-warSyria, the path to new war/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/paul-rogers/syria-war-and-negotiationSyria, war and negotiation/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/paul-rogers/syria-decades-legacySyria, a decade#039;s legacy/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/paul-rogers/syria-big-danger-small-hopeSyria: big danger, small hope/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/paul-rogers/syria-spiral-of-warSyria, spiral of war/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/paul-rogers/syrias-war-new-phaseSyria#039;s war, a new phase/a /div /div /div /fieldset div class=field field-topics div class=field-labelTopics:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Conflict /div div class=field-item even Democracy and government /div div class=field-item odd International politics /div /div /div div class=field field-rights div class=field-labelRights:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Creative Commons /div /div /div

Be clear who Britain is great for

mer, 01/22/2014 - 9:10pm
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pWhilst campaigners against Scottish independence like to romanticise Britain, Britain is not the greatest political union in the world, and has failed most of the people who live here. It's important to break free of the myths./p /div /div /div pThe independence debate is about many things - politics, practicalities, personalities. /ppMore than this it is about emotions – ranging from hope and fear, to anger, indignation and even incomprehension./p pWe have heard enough about the supposedly ‘Braveheart’ idea of Scottish independence, but what of the emotional case for Britain and the union?/p pThere is still a powerful, resonant argument for the UK in its present form which has appeal and a rationale, albeit a declining one. This week Chris Deerin in ‘The Guardian’ (in a piece republished from the Scottish Daily Mail) attempted upon his return to Scotland to lay out such a case, and was backed up the redoubtable Alex Massie a day later./p pDeerin puts fully into words the magical, mystical, mythical case for Britain – which is taken as assumed by some of Scotland’s supposedly progressive voices – but never in such explicit, unconditional terms./p pDeerin’s Britain and Massie’s too is a land of exceptionalism. It is a place which stands for morality, modernity and progress; a land which is a beacon on the hill (with shades of Camelot here) for those fighting for freedom and justice the world over. /p pIn this world the innovations of 1603 (one kingdom, two states) and 1707 (retention of Scots autonomy; dual identities) are still supposedly to be marvelled at today. These were brilliant compromises of the feudal age, but to pose, as Deerin does, part of his present day case for the union on them, well, isn’t that a bit, dare I suggest, romantic nationalist? For that increasingly is the terrain of much of the pro-union case./p pThe problem with the ‘isn’t Britain the greatest nation/union/partnership in human history’ argument is this sentimentalised, romantic, backward Ladybird book mythologising of the past. And it begs the question: great for whom and in what way? /ppFor a factual point, it is not the greatest union or partnership by longevity. The founding of the UK in name dates back to 1801; and on its present borders 1922 (leaving aside the beginning of decolonisation from 1947 onwards). This means on the first date the UK is pre-dated by the US which would have a better claim in the game of ‘greatest union’, and in the second is actually still a very young state. /ppOf course Britain’s elites have never let a few inconvenient facts get in the way of presenting the UK as the land of continuity, preservation and seamless change. In this, traditions are suddenly invented and then claimed as timeless, whether it is all the flummery around the Royals or the pretence they are not political (when until 1963 they directly appointed Tory Prime Ministers). /ppThe forward march of British democracy is a story many of us have been told at school and by our parents. It emphasises the non-violent way that Britain, unlike most of Europe, became a parliamentary democracy, embraced the rule of law, and became a land which cherishes freedom and individual rights. /ppThe problem is it isn’t completely true. Britain never became a fully-fledged democracy. So as Michael Gove tries to whip up a patriotic storm to celebrate one of the most pointless imperial wars in human history, claiming it was about British democracy against the Kaiser’s aggression, the only trouble with this, as historian Richard J. Evans pointed out is that Britain wasn’t a democracy in 1914. In fact, 40% of adult men did not have the vote, and many of those sent to die for ‘King and Country’ were yet to be enfranchised. /ppBritain never fully democratised politically. One of our tragedies is the failure of the Labour Party to embark on a programme of challenging the institutions of ‘the conservative nation’ of privilege – the Lords, public schools, Oxbridge and the City. /ppBritain remains a land with only one part of the constitution elected: the Commons, and the whole apparatus of the Lords and monarchy having the effect of infantilising the people. /ppNumerous feudal relics litter the land. These include the Royals being consulted and having a potential veto on legislation before it goes to Royal Assent, to Prince Charles in his role as the Duchy of Cornwall pocketing each individual’s will in the region if they die intestate. And some people actually think there is no difference between being a citizen and subject. /ppProgressives have had their chance to democratise and modernise. There have been four distinct periods of post-war Labour Government over 30 years which is a long enough timescale to conclusively judge the capacity for reform. /ppAnd while they achieved many notable gains many of us are proud of, they failed to bring Britain into the modern age. Britain is a pre-democratic state in an age of post-democracy: and that limited state of affairs has allowed the old and new elites to collude at the destruction of what many used to hold dear about Britain. /ppWe have to stop pretending that a fantasyland Britain where everything is all right and mythical stories can be told to enchant the children is enough. A good example of this was Gordon Brown’s recent intervention calling for a new constitutional settlement to make the purpose of the UK a legally binding commitment to ‘social justice’. What parallel universe did that come from given New Labour’s record in office or the longer 30 year story of missed opportunities under Labour? /ppBritain has consistently and deliberately failed the majority of the people of these isles – Scots, English, Welsh and Northern Irish. The progressive clarion call of Britain is not completely dead, but exhausted, hollowed out and humiliated. /ppThis isn’t to excuse some of the obvious limitations in Scottish public life – our belief in our own comforting stories, or our readiness to accept conservative elites telling their own self-serving myths, as somehow progressive, but those making the emotional case for the union have to do better than invoke some Monty Python like version of Camelot. /ppProgressive Britain is in terminal crisis, and the Scots collectively have a chance to do something about it, namely, to stake out a different direction and future. That is a great opportunity but to fully take it we have to break free of our own myths as well. /ppemstrongspanThis piece first appeared a href=http://www.scotsman.com/news/gerry-hassan-be-clear-who-britain-is-great-for-1-3272866in the Scotsman/a/span/strong/em/p pnbsp;/p pnbsp;/p pnbsp;/ppnbsp;/p

The golden age of journalism? 


mer, 01/22/2014 - 4:43pm
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pIt took the arrival of the twenty-first century to turn the journalistic world of the 1950s upside down and point it toward the trash heap of history.nbsp;So when was the golden age?strong/strong/p /div /div /div pIt was 1949.nbsp; My mother - known in the gossip columns of that era as “New York’s girl caricaturist” - was freelancing a href=http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51aAGD-lPKL.jpgtheatrical sketches/a to a number of New York’s newspapers and magazines, including the emBrooklyn Eagle/em.nbsp;That paper, then more than a century old, had just a few years of life left in it.nbsp; From 1846 to 1848, its editor had been the poet Walt Whitman.nbsp; In later years, my mother used to enjoy telling a story about the emEagle/em editor she dealt with who, on learning that I was being sent to Walt Whitman kindergarten, responded in the classically gruff newspaper manner memorialized in movies like emHis Girl Friday/em: “Are they still naming things after that old bastard?”/p pIn my childhood, New York City was, you might say, papered with newspapers.nbsp;The emDaily News/em, the emDaily Mirror/em, the emHerald Tribune/em, the emWall Street Journal/em... there were perhaps nine or 10 significant ones on newsstands every day and, though that might bring to mind some golden age of journalism, it’s worth remembering that a number of them were already amalgams.nbsp; The a href=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_Journal-AmericanemJournal-American/em/a, for instance, had once been the emEvening/em emJournal/em and the emAmerican/em, just as the a href=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_World-TelegramemWorld-Telegram amp; Sun/em/a had been a threesome, the emWorld/em, the emEvening/em emTelegram/em, and the emSun/em.nbsp; In my own household, we got the emNew York Times/em (disappointingly comic-strip-less), the emNew York Post/em (then a liberal, not a right-wing, rag that ran Pogo and Herblock’s political cartoons) and sometimes the emJournal-American/em (Believe It or Not and The Phantom)./p pThen there were always the magazines: in our house, emLife/em, the emSaturday Evening Post/em, emLook/em, the emNew Yorker/em - my mother worked for some of them, too - and who knows what else in a roiling mass of print.nbsp; It was a paper universe all the way to the horizon, though change and competition were in the air.nbsp; After all, the screen (the TV screen, that is) was entering the American home like gangbusters. Mine arrived in 1953 when the emPost/em assigned my mother to draw the Army-McCarthy hearings, which - something new under the sun - were to be televised live by ABC./p pStill, at least in my hometown, it seemed distinctly like a golden age of print news, if not of journalism.nbsp; Some might reserve that label for the shake-up, breakdown era of the 1960s, that moment when the a href=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_JournalismNew Journalism/a arose, an alternative press burst onto the scene, and for a brief moment in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the old journalism put its mind to uncovering massacres, revealing the worst of American war, reporting on Washington-style scandal, and taking down a president.nbsp; In the meantime, magazines like emEsquire/em and emHarper’s/em came to specialize in the sort of chip-on-the-shoulder, stylish voicey-ness that would, one day, become the hallmark of the online world and the age of the Internet.nbsp; (I still remember the thrill of first reading Tom Wolfe’s “The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby” on the world of custom cars.nbsp; It put the emvrrrooom/em into writing in a dazzling way.)/p pHowever, it took the arrival of the twenty-first century to turn the journalistic world of the 1950s upside down and point it toward the trash heap of history.nbsp; I’m talking about the years that shrank the screen, and put it first on your desk, then in your hand, next in your pocket, and a href=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Glassone day soon/a on your eyeglasses, made it the way you connected with everyone on Earth and they - whether as friends, enemies, the curious, voyeurs, corporate sellers and buyers, or the NSA - with you.nbsp; Only then did it became apparent that, throughout the print era, all those years of paper running off presses and newsboys and newsstands, from Walt Whitman to Woodward and Bernstein, the emnews/empaper had been misnamed./p pJournalism’s emamour propre/em had overridden a clear-eyed assessment of what exactly the paper really was.nbsp; Only then would it be fully apparent that it always should have been called the “adpaper.”nbsp; When the corporation and the “Mad Men” who worked for it spied the Internet and saw how conveniently it gathered audiences and what you could learn about their lives, preferences, and most intimate buying habits, the ways you could slice and dice demographics and sidle up to potential customers just behind the ever-present screen, the ad began to flee print for the online world.nbsp; It was then, of course, that papers (as well as a href=http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/02/business/media/long-on-cutting-edge-of-print-new-york-magazine-cuts-back.htmlmagazines/a) - left with overworked, ever-smaller staffs, evaporating funding, and the ad-less news - began to shudder, shrink, and in some cases collapse (as they might not have done if the news had been what fled)./p pNew York still has four dailies (Murdoch’s emPost/em, the emDaily News/em, the emNew York Times/em, and the emWall Street Journal/em).nbsp; However, in recent years, many two-paper towns like a href=http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/27/business/media/27paper.htmlDenver/a and a href=http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/17/business/media/17paper.htmlSeattle/a morphed into far shakier one-paper towns as papers like the emRocky Mountain News/em and the emSeattle Post-Intelligencer/em passed out of existence (or into only digital existence).nbsp; Meanwhile, the emDetroit News/em and emDetroit Free Press/em went over to a a href=http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20081216/FREE/812169989three-day-a-week/a home delivery print edition, and the emTimes Picayune/em of New Orleans went down to a three-day-a-week schedule (before a href=http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/13/business/media/in-new-orleans-times-picayunes-monopoly-crumbles.htmlreturning/a as a four-day emPicayune/em and a three-day-a-week a href=http://blog.nola.com/updates/2013/04/nolacom_the_times-picayune_to.htmltabloid/a in 2013).nbsp; The emChristian Science Monitor/em a href=http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/29/business/media/29carr.htmlstopped publishing/a a weekday paper altogether.nbsp; And so it went.nbsp; In those years, newspaper advertising took a a href=http://stateofthemedia.org/2013/newspapers-stabilizing-but-still-threatened/newspapers-by-the-numbers/terrible hit/a, circulation a href=http://www.theguardian.com/media/2010/jun/17/newspaper-circulation-oecd-reportdeclined/a, sometimes precipitously, and a href=http://multimedia.journalism.berkeley.edu/tutorials/digital-transform/print-editions-decline/bankruptcies/a were the order of the day./p pThe least self-supporting sections like book reviews simply evaporated and in the one place of significance that a book review remained, the emNew York Times/em, a href=http://www.thenation.com/article/death-and-life-book-reviewshrank/a.nbsp; Sunday magazines shriveled up.nbsp; Billionaires began to a href=http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324653004578650390383666794buy papers/a at a href=http://nypost.com/2013/08/03/new-york-times-sells-boston-globe-for-93-percent-loss/bargain-basement/a prices as, in essence, vanity projects.nbsp; Jobs and staffs were radically cut (as were the TV versions of the same so that, for example, if you tune in to NBC’s emNightly News/em with Brian Williams, you often have the feeling that the estimable a href=http://www.nbcnews.com/id/44961779/ns/rock_center_with_brian_williams/t/richard-engel/#.Utc4mPYVmHkRichard Engel/a, with the job title of chief foreign correspondent, is the only “foreign correspondent” still on the job, flown eternally from hot spot to hot spot around the globe)./p pNo question about it, if you were an established reporter of a certain age or anyone who worked in a newsroom, this was proving to be the aluminum age of journalism.nbsp; Your a href=http://jimromenesko.com/2013/08/01/gannett-lays-off-journalists-at-newspapers-across-the-country/job/a might be a href=http://newspaperlayoffs.com/in jeopardy/a, along with maybe your a href=http://multimedia.journalism.berkeley.edu/tutorials/digital-transform/print-editions-decline/pension/a, too.nbsp; In these years, stunned by what was suddenly happening to them, the management of papers stood for a time frozen in place like the proverbial deer in the headlights as the voicey-ness of the Internet broke over them, turning their op-ed pages into the grey sisters of the reading world.nbsp; Then, in a blinding rush to save what could be saved, recapture the missing ad, or find any other path to a new model of profitability from digital advertising (a href=http://www.salon.com/2013/03/03/mainstream_media_meltdown/disappointing/a) to pay walls (a a href=http://www.cjr.org/the_audit/the_dallas_morning_news_drops.phpmixed bag/a), papers rushed online.nbsp; In the process, they a href=http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-rosenblum/chicago-sun-times-photographers-fired_b_3367253.htmldoubled the work/a of the remaining journalists and editors, who were now to service both the new newspaper and the old./p h2The worst of times, the best of times/h2 pIn so many ways, it’s been, and continues to be, a sad, even horrific, tale of loss. nbsp;(A similar a href=http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/05/opinion/sunday/the-loneliness-of-the-long-distance-reader.htmltale of woe/a involves the printed book.nbsp; It’s only advantage: there were a href=http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175015/the_time_of_the_bookno ads/a to flee the premises, but it suffered nonetheless - already largely crowded out of the newspaper as a non-revenue producer and out of consciousness by a blitz of new ways of reading and being entertained. And I say that as someone who has spent a href=http://globetrotter.berkeley.edu/people4/Engelhardt/engelhardt-con0.htmlmost of his life/a as an editor of print books.)nbsp; The a href=http://www.salon.com/2013/03/03/mainstream_media_meltdown/keening/a and a href=http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/mediawire/172329/prints-decline-could-hurt-future-hemingways/mourning/a about the fall of print journalism has gone on for years.nbsp; It’s a development that represents - depending on who's telling the story - the end of an age, the fall of all standards, or the loss of civic spirit and the sort of a href=http://ajrarchive.org/article.asp?id=4904investigative coverage/a that might keep a few more politicians and corporate heads honest, and so forth and so on./p pLet’s admit that the sins of the Internet are legion and well-known: the massive programs of government surveillance it enables; the corporate surveillance it ensures; the loss of privacy it encourages; the flamers and trolls it births; the conspiracy theorists, a href=http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/01/when-misogynist-trolls-make-journalism-miserable-for-women/282862/angry/a a href=http://www.psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/women-arent-welcome-internet-72170/men/a, and strange characters to whom it gives a seemingly endless moment in the sun; and the way, among other things, it tends to sort like and like together in a self-reinforcing loop of opinion.nbsp; Yes, yes, it’s all true, all unnerving, all terrible./p pAs the editor of a href=http://www.tomdispatch.com/TomDispatch.com/a, I’ve spent the last decade-plus plunged into just that world, often with people half my age or younger.nbsp; I don’t tweet.nbsp; I don’t have a Kindle or the equivalent.nbsp; I don’t even have a smart phone or a tablet of any sort.nbsp; When something - anything - goes wrong with my computer I feel like a doomed figure in an alien universe, wish for the last machine I understood (a typewriter), and then throw myself on the mercy of my daughter./p pI’ve been overwhelmed, especially at the height of the Bush years, by cookie-cutter hate email - sometimes scores or hundreds of them at a time - of a sort that would make your skin crawl.nbsp; I’ve been threatened.nbsp; I’ve repeatedly received “critical” (and abusive) emails, blasts of red hot anger that would startle anyone, because the Internet, so my experience tells me, loosens inhibitions, wipes out taboos, and encourages a sense of anonymity that in the older world of print, letters, or face-to-face meetings would have been far less likely to take center stage.nbsp; I’ve seen plenty that’s disturbed me. So you’d think, given my age, my background, and my present life, that I, too, might be in mourning for everything that’s going, going, gone, everything we’ve lost./p pBut I have to admit it: I have another feeling that, at a purely personal level, outweighs all of the above.nbsp; In terms of journalism, of expression, of voice, of fine reporting and superb writing, of a range of news, thoughts, views, perspectives, and opinions about places, worlds, and phenomena that I wouldn’t otherwise have known about, there has never been an experimental moment like this.nbsp; I’m in awe.nbsp; Despite everything, despite every malign purpose to which the Internet is being put, I consider it a wonder of our age.nbsp; Yes, perhaps it is the age from hell for traditional reporters (and editors) working double-time, online and off, for newspapers that are crumbling, but for readers, can there be any doubt that now, not the 1840s or the 1930s or the 1960s, is the golden age of journalism?nbsp;/p pThink of it as the upbeat twin of NSA surveillance.nbsp; Just as the NSA can reach anyone, so in a different sense can you.nbsp; Which also means, if you’re a website, anyone can, at least theoretically, find and read you.nbsp; (And in my experience, I’m often amazed at who can and does!)nbsp; And you, the reader, have in remarkable profusion the finest writing on the planet at your fingertips. nbsp;You can read around the world almost without limit, follow your favorite writers to the ends of the Earth./p pThe problem of this moment isn’t too little.nbsp; It’s not a collapsing world.nbsp; It’s way too much.nbsp; These days, in a way that was never previously imaginable, it’s possible to drown in provocative and illuminating writing and reporting, framing and opining.nbsp; In fact, I challenge you in 2014, whatever the subject and whatever your expertise, simply to keep up./p h2The rise of the reader/h2 pIn the “golden age of journalism,” here’s what I could once do.nbsp; In the 1960s and early 1970s, I read the emNew York Times /em(as I still do in print daily), various magazines ranging from the emNew Yorker/em and emRamparts/em to “underground” papers like the emGreat Speckled Bird/em when they happened to fall into my hands, and emI.F. Stone’s Weekly/em (to which I subscribed), as well as James Ridgeway and Andrew Kopkind’s emHard Times/em, among other publications of the moment.nbsp; Somewhere in those years or thereafter, I also subscribed to a once-a-week paper that had the best of the emGuardian/em, the emWashington Post/em, and emLe Monde/em in it.nbsp; For the time, that covered a fair amount of ground./p pStill, the limits of that “golden” moment couldn’t be more obvious now.nbsp; Today, after all, if I care to, I can read online every word of the emGuardian/em, the emWashington Post/em, and emLe Monde/em (though my French is way too rusty to tackle it). And that’s emevery single day/em - and that, in turn, is nothing./p pIt’s all out there for you.nbsp; Most of the major dailies and magazines of the globe, trade publications, propaganda outfits, Pentagon handouts, the voiciest of blogs, specialist websites, the websites of a href=http://www.juancole.com/individual experts/a with a great deal to say, websites, in fact, for just about anyone from a href=http://hnn.us/historians/a, theologians, and philosophers to a href=http://www.wired.com/techies/a, a href=http://davidabramsbooks.blogspot.com/book lovers/a, and yes, those a href=http://www.poynter.org/fascinated /awith a href=http://pressthink.org/journalism/a.nbsp; You can read your way through the American press and the world press.nbsp; You can read whole papers as their editors put them together or - at least in your mind - you can become the editor of your own op-ed page every day of the week, three times, six times a day if you like (and odds are that it will be more interesting to you, and perhaps others, than the op-ed offerings of any specific paper you might care to mention)./p pYou can essentially curate your own newspaper (or magazine) once a day, twice a day, six times a day.nbsp; Or - a particular blessing in the present ocean of words - you can rely on a new set of people out there who have superb collection and a href=http://www.cjr.org/the_kicker/leave_curation_alone.phpcurating abilities/a, as well as fascinating editorial eyes.nbsp; I'm talking about teams of people at what I like to call “riot sites” - for the wild profusion of headlines they sport - like a href=http://www.antiwar.com/Antiwar.com/a (where no story worth reading about conflict on our planet seems to go unnoticed) or a href=http://www.realclearpolitics.com/Real Clear Politics/a (Real Clear World/Technology/Energy/etc., etc., etc.).nbsp; You can subscribe to an almost endless range of curated online newsletters targeted to specific subjects, like the “morning brief” that comes to me every weekday filled with recommended pieces on cyberwar, terrorism, surveillance, and the like from the a href=http://www.centeronnationalsecurity.org/Center on National Security at Fordham Law School/a.nbsp; And I’m not even mentioning the online versions of your favorite a href=http://www.thenation.com/print magazine/a, or purely online magazines like a href=http://www.salon.com/Salon.com/a, or the many websites I visit like a href=http://www.truth-out.org/Truthout/a, a href=http://www.alternet.org/Alternet/a, a href=http://www.commondreams.org/Commondreams/a, and a href=http://www.truthdig.com/Truthdig/a with their own pieces and picks.nbsp; And in mentioning all of this, I’m barely scratching the surface of the world of writing that interests me./p pThere has, in fact, never been a DIY moment like this when it comes to journalism and coverage of the world.nbsp; Period. nbsp;For the first time in history, you and I have been put in the position of the newspaper editor.nbsp; We’re no longer simply passive readers at the mercy of someone else’s idea of how to “cover” or organize this planet and its many moving parts.nbsp; To one degree or another, to the extent that any of us have the time, curiosity, or energy, all of us can have a hand in shaping, reimagining, and understanding our world in new ways./p pYes, it is a journalistic universe from hell, a genuine nightmare; and yet, for a reader, it’s also an experimental world, something thrillingly, unexpectedly new under the sun.nbsp; For that reader, a strangely democratic and egalitarian Era of the Word has emerged.nbsp; It’s chaotic; it’s too much; and make no mistake, it’s also an unstable brew likely to morph into god knows what.nbsp; Still, perhaps someday, amid its inanities and horrors, it will also be remembered, at least for a brief historical moment, as a golden age of the reader, a time when all the words you could ever have needed were freely offered up for you to curate as you wish.nbsp; Don’t dismiss it.nbsp; Don’t forget it./p pnbsp;emThis piece, published by a href=http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175796/TomDispatch.com/a/ememnbsp;on January 21, 2014, is reposted here with that site's permission./em/pdiv class=field field-country div class=field-label Country or region:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd United States /div /div /div div class=field field-topics div class=field-labelTopics:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Culture /div div class=field-item even Democracy and government /div div class=field-item odd Economics /div div class=field-item even Ideas /div div class=field-item odd International politics /div div class=field-item even Internet /div /div /div

Between exit and voice: refugees' stories from Lampedusa to Hamburg

mer, 01/22/2014 - 3:42pm
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pEuropean politics currently serves to reinforce the ‘Fortress’, leaving refugees vulnerable and futureless, battling a system which is waging war against them. But 'Lampedusa in Hamburg' demonstrates that civil society can work effectively with migrants for their rights to a safe existence./p /div /div /div pspan class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'a href=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/Y1DBYQ_k7FUiYCi1SqfPAPy2Gjte_kVWfROS4w_2It8/mtime:1390444616/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/551726/Lampedusa%20in%20Hamburg%20image.jpg rel=lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline] title=img src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/imDpAR2nTFK5DChs52o7mDk2Uf_xD6S8yFOEjgYoSgs/mtime:1390444586/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/551726/Lampedusa%20in%20Hamburg%20image.jpg alt=A group of protestors in Hamburg rally in support of the 'Lampedusa refugees' title= width=400 height=267 class=imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large style= //a span class='image_meta'span class='image_title'Migrants march in Hamburg in support of Lampedusa refugees. Demotix / Mauricio Bustamante. Some rights reserved/span/span/span/ppWhile we were travelling across Italy in mid-October to document the many different migrant realities, the media and public in Italy and abroad were mourning the death of the three hundred and sixty-six migrants, a href=http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/04/world/europe/scores-die-in-shipwreck-off-sicily.html?_r=2amp;drowned in waters off Lampedusa/a at the beginning of the month. From the island of Lampedusa - dubbed the “gateway to Europe” - as well as from Rome and Brussels, we heard daily declarations and promises of migration policy changes. While politicians had to bow down before the latest immigrant tragedy, suggesting honouring the dead with Italian citizenship, we were seeking out the voices of the living to ask what it means to be a migrant inside Fortress Europe - an arena where waging war against immigrants seems to be the only diligently practiced response. In our journey from south to north, we saw borders erected everywhere; not just at Europe’s external frontiers, but increasingly within it, in its urban spaces, in people’s lives./ppTwo months after the October Lampedusa tragedy and those that followed it, politics is still only offering to reinforce the Fortress, pouring yet more resources and efforts into border control programmes such as Frontex, the EU Integrated Border Management (EUBAM) and Eurosur. Nothing has changed. But on our trip we also encountered other ‘voices’ in civil society, reclaiming rights and recognition. These realities, which often start locally, seem to be growing increasingly inclusive, involving multiple actors and using different strategies to support the emergence of new forms of consciousness. ‘Lampedusa in Hamburg’ is one, and perhaps also the more promising, of these initiatives. /ph2'Emergency Lampedusa'/h2pOn November 2, a public demonstration was held in Hamburg Mitten for ‘Lampedusa in Hamburg’. More than 10,000 people showed up, and the event was followed by several other public initiatives which similarly gathered large numbers. The events demonstrated how the violation of rights such as the right to work, and the right to a decent living, can act to mobilize large sectors of civil society from diverse political positions./pp‘Lampedusa in Hamburg’ is the latest stage in what can be called the ‘Emergency North Africa’ odyssey. The emergency started in 2011, under the NATO-supported war in Libya, exacerbated by the geopolitical instability in Tunisia and Egypt. In 2011, the official number of registered migrants from Libya in Italy reached 28,000 - but actual migrant figures are expected to be much higher. Originally, most of the asylum seekers originated in the sub-Saharan region - as well as from other parts of Africa - all of them forced out of Libya where they had managed to make a living, despite their already long and difficult migration life stories./ppIn Italy, the emergency was a profitable economic business for most of the actors involved in the care of asylum seekers. The government allocated double funding to cover the daily expenses of the migrants - with amounts reaching 40-45 euros per person per day. The resources were hastily shared amongst the improvised hosting organisations and structures. Asylum seekers were housed in dismissed hotels, empty residences and houses that had never before been used for such a purpose. The large number of requests for asylum led to lengthy waiting lists and many did not get an answer until the end of the programme in 2013. The total costs of the emergency, after years of mismanagement and nepotistic administration reached over €1,300,000,000./ppThe project, however, was abruptly ended in February 2013 under the Monti government amidst an institutional silence in both Italy and Europe. With the emergency declared over, it seemed that nobody cared much about the life and future of the thousands of refugees. In a bid to remove them from being under Italian responsibility, the authorities issued a one year humanitarian permit to all - and in many cases a bonus of 500 euros, which many used to travel to Switzerland, France, and Germany. According to the directives of the Dublin Regulation, however, which considers the first safe country of arrival the one responsible for asylum, most of them were sent back./pp'Emergency North-Africa' shows that even when migrants succeed in crossing the border and obtaining refugee status, they still have to face a system that wages war against them./ph2Lampedusa in Calabria: ‘Here alone and without a future’/h2pWhile Italian and European political authorities gathered in Lampedusa, we met a group of African refugees from ‘Emergency North Africa’ in nearby Lamezia, Calabria. All had come to Lampedusa, or the Sicilian east coast, from Libya in 2011. Unlike others, the refugees we approached here had managed to occupy houses and were organizing themselves within. Some others had joined them from other parts of Italy, where they otherwise had no place to stay. They may have shelter for now, but who knows for how long? There are no local organizations, and no support structures to help them./ppInitially, the group did not welcome us. As one of them told us “every day someone comes to talk and talk. But nothing ever happens”. When asked how they are keeping themselves afloat, they explained that sometimes they find occasional work in agriculture, hired on a temporary basis for onion and orange picking when there are no eastern European migrants available. But as one refugee from Burkina Faso commented, he had worked for two months for a farmer on the agreement of 700 euros per month, five days a week for more than ten hours per day. But he had never been paid./ppMost of the group agreed that they wished to leave Italy as soon as possible. “There is no future”, they commented, with no prospects for employment in the north or south of the country. In the past at least, there had been work opportunities in the industrial districts of north east Italy, but the economic crisis has changed this. Moreover, with the humanitarian residence permit, refugees also need an Italian domicile for renewal, which they say can hardly be found, yet alone paid for. Many are thus at risk of being deported./ppA few kilometres south towards Lamezia, 6-8 refugees have rented the facilities attached to the local football field. They live in what is normally the cafeteria and locker rooms in an area which is just a few square metres, and yet they pay 40 euros per person - as well as the additional costs for gas and electricity. The group were forced to accept this accommodation when they were pushed out onto the streets by the owner of one of the houses nearby following the halt in government funding - he had locked them out and walled up the entrances. As one of the refugees commented “In Italy there is a big problem, there is no work... I thought that all are equal, I cannot understand why they treat us like this”. The area is also far from safe - as one of the refugee inhabitants explained, local gangs appear at night intimidating the residents. They climb on the roof of the building and make a terrible rumpus. Having happened repeatedly, many feel that this is yet another reason to leave.nbsp;Lampedusa in Hamburg: ‘We are here to stay!’/ppIn early spring 2013, the emergency resurfaced thousands of miles from Lampedusa: in Hamburg where Africans from the emergency number approximately 300-350. There is also a ‘Lampedusa in Berlin’, a group of about 200-250 which last year, together with other asylum seekers, occupied Oranienplatz in the Kreutzberg district. They are now currently resisting eviction from the authorities./ppThe examples of the 'Lampedusa in Hamburg' and in Berlin are paradigmatic of the biographies and journeys of thousands of men and women denied mobility and trying to survive the consequences of migration and rejection-based asylum politics. Since their entry into Fortress Europe, most of them have had to deal with a situation that deprives them of freedom of movement and of the chance to find work to rebuild their lives: they are seemingly devoid of any real chance of a certain future./ppOf those refugees who came to Hamburg from Italy after the end of the ‘Emergency North Africa’, many had tried before arriving here to make a living in Naples, Rome, Milan or Turin. In Hamburg, we talked to one native - A. - of Bamako, Mali, inside the Church of a href=http://www.stpaulikirche.de/de/St. Pauli/a.nbsp; Around us some were finishing their breakfast whilst others cleaned the Church that today hosts 75-80 refugees of the Emergency. For A., immigration experiences had been tough: over nine months in the overcrowded immigration detention centre of Sant’Anna in Crotone, and living homeless in Rome for more than a month. A similar fate was shared by several others such as O. and M. from Mali, and Al. from Sudan. Their travels to Germany may have been different, but each was a tale of difficulty. Some came by bus, others by train, a few by plane. The 500 euros they had received from the Italian state had gone towards the tickets - unless the money had already been used for basic needs. Some such as A. meanwhile had never received his money, and had been forced to borrow from friends./ppMany refugees of the Emergency met again in Hamburg, at the central station, on the streets or in the shelters arranged for the homeless. They came with the hope of being able to start anew. But in April, the municipality closed down the winter programme for the refugees. This was one of the first attempts of the SPD-driven municipality to send the refugees ‘voluntarily’ back to Italy, denying them basic services such a place to stay at night. The position is based on the a href=http://ecre.org/topics/areas-of-work/protection-in-europe/10-dublin-regulation.htmlDublin Convention/a: refugees must return to Italy - their first safe country of entry - as soon as possible. The humanitarian permit most refugees have does not allow them to find work, nor to stay abroad beyond the ninety days provided by the tourist visa./ppThe ending of the winter programme in early spring would have pushed the refugees back onto the streets. With night-time temperatures well below zero, some dedicated associations and movements for the rights of migrants began to help the refugees of ‘Lampedusa in Hamburg’ to start mobilizing. /ppAt the beginning of May, the Hamburg section of the a href=http://thecaravan.org/'Karawane'/a, a network for the rights of refugees and migrants, met up with 50 refugees of the ‘Lampedusa in Hamburg’ for the Kirchentag, the international conference of the Protestant churches, bringing together more than three thousand participants. At the meeting, representatives of the Protestant community, politicians, intellectuals and pundits discussed immigration and integration. The action prompted the reply of the Protestant bishop of the city, Kirsten Ferhs, who acknowledged that something had to be done./ppPublic opinion was equally outraged by the reactions coming from the Hamburg municipality. The attempt to set up a tent camp near the Hamburg central station, where the refugees could sleep at night, was brutally stopped by the police. It was this demonstration of force which contributed in mobilising wider segments of civil society for the rights of the refugees, and it prompted the group of ‘Lampedusa in Hamburg’ to become increasingly self-aware and organized, advancing specific claims and selecting its own spokespersons from amongst the refugees. In one protest in front of the town hall a banner aptly summed up their message: ‘We did not survive the NATO war in Libya to come and die on the streets of Hamburg’./ph2Solidarity in St Pauli, solidarity in Hamburg/h2pThe St Pauli Church opened its doors to the refugees in late May. Other places of worship followed its example: the mosque in St Georg housed 20-25 refugees, and the church Erlöserkirche began tonbsp; offer warm meals twice a week to refugees. Added to the private shelters - mainly located at St Pauli and offering refugees a place to stay in during the cold months - this helped compensate for the lack of help from the municipality./ppThe group of Lampedusa asks for housing rights, working rights and the opportunity to become part of society. a href=http://hamburg.verdi.de/presse/pressemitteilungen/++co++0e7e5a60-359e-11e3-a582-52540059119eExplained by one of their spokesmen/a, Asuquo Udo: “We want to become part of Hamburg society. We cannot and do not want to go back to misery, neither in Italy nor in an African country”./ppIn the ‘Karawane’ headquarters at St. Pauli, we met Ralf Lourenco, an activist in the Hamburg branch. “When refugees turned to us, they were already organized and had four spokespersons...We have helped them to publicize their demands - organizing demonstrations, public meetings and issuing press releases. But the content was already clear from the start”. Unlike other organisations that consider refugees and migrants ‘victims to be helped’, Karawane is committed to encouraging and supporting refugee and migrant self-empowerment and self-organization: the refugees are seen as autonomous subjects, who can represent and help themselves if given the right opportunities. /pp‘Karawane’ support consists mainly of practical aid: networking activities, organizing demonstrations and helping in understanding how the different social and institutional realities work within the country. But there are no intermediaries. It is the refugees who attend meetings with the authorities, the press, the trade unions, the students, the various citizens’ movements and who are at the frontline at the demonstrations. This represents one of the strengths of ‘Lampedusa in Hamburg’./ppBut it is this specific demand which created a degree of disagreement among the various subjects supporting the claims for rights of ‘Lampedusa in Hamburg’. “The Church”, said Ralf “is primarily concerned with the humanitarian aspect of the issue and tends to focus on individual cases. For the church, a group solution is not possible. Also ... they do not like political campaigns. The church of St. Pauli is de-politicized, and this has a negative impact on the group. In the last month ... the group has had some bad experiences with community representatives of the Protestant Church of St. Pauli involving themselves in political negotiations without the backup of the group of Lampedusa”./ppOf course, church involvement was crucial in solving immediate needs and problems related to food and housing, and it had a vital role in raising awareness and mobilizing parts of the community in Hamburg which had not seen the issue in political terms. But relationships were complicated when activism and participation evolve from being a predominantly humanitarian issue that links to the immediate needs of the individuals, into a political position, inevitably implying a critique of power relationships./ppThe reaction to the recent proposal by the Federal Senate of Hamburg to the requests of the group of Lampedusa exemplifies this. The Hambug Senate proposed that refugees accept ‘Duldung’ - a practice which requires asylum request to be made exclusively on an individual basis. For the Lampedusa refugees, this would mean losing all that they had gained since 2011 such as the recognition, after months of postponements, of asylum already obtained in Italy. If the asylum application were rejected, the consequence would automatically be deportation and detainment in one of the German immigration centers. The proposed ‘deal’ offered no recognition of the group, and instead only offered a choice to be taken individually - seemingly in the aim of splitting up the group. Considered unacceptable by the group of 'Lampedusa in Hamburg', an a href=http://www.thevoiceforum.org/node/3396open letter/a was sent to the Senate stating their opposition to the offer./ppAt a Monday meeting of the St Pauli church activists, one man argued that it is a matter of pragmatism: “It is one thing to intervene when the situation shows that certain policies do not work, but it is another to claim a radical change in asylum policies...The humanitarian act is also in itself a political act”. Of course, it is recognised that there are both political and economic constraints, and that limits dictated by the very role and nature of church relations with institutions must not be underestimated. Initially, the church helped considerably, communicating the motivations of ‘Lampedusa in Hamburg’ and engaging people who do not see themselves as political activists but who considered the situation to be unjust. /ppBut we couldn’t help noticing that no representative of ‘Lampedusa in Hamburg’ attended the meeting. A few of them sat to one side trying to following what was going on, and others listened from the upper floor, but there was no translator present to help them understand./ph2Hope/h2pspan class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'a href=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/6euPhmkODKijIBPM0KlJibTgmQnmxyO8AaxXlZOA4Pc/mtime:1390444616/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/551726/Hamburg%20-%20refugees%20welcome_0.jpg rel=lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline] title=img src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/ogO--JftYQgsFFinRZcslwyVD66K2-o5sGJWJWbrHa8/mtime:1390444586/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/551726/Hamburg%20-%20refugees%20welcome_0.jpg alt=A sign welcoming refugees is hung from a school bus in Hamburg title= width=400 height=300 class=imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large style= //a span class='image_meta'span class='image_title'Pupils rally in support of Lampedusa refugees in Hamburg. Demotix / David Fischer Baglietto. Some rights reserved./span/span/span/pp“We did not expect such a strong solidarity” said Ralf, “and this is also one of the reasons for the results we attained up to now, even compared to other experiences, such as in Berlin”./ppWalking along the streets of St Pauli it is hard not to notice the widespread and diffuse support for the group of Lampedusa. Everywhere there are posters with the slogan ‘We are here to stay’, or ‘Freedom of movement is everybody’s right’.There are Lampedusa banners in the windows, graffiti and slogans on walls and footpaths, brochures on show in local pubs and stores. The city theatre has hung a banner in support of 'Lampedusa in Hamburg'./ppThe refugees are the first to acknowledge this broad demonstration of solidarity on the part of St Pauli and more generally the community of Hamburg. We were told that even the police refused to proceed with the authorities’ request to carry out ID checks within the churches hosting the refugees. This is also considered a sign of a growing solidarity, the result of a new form of community network grown locally, which has spread to numerous different realities: the churches, the popular St Pauli football club, the local schools, the university, the theatre, alternative social movements and increasingly trade unions such as a href=http://international.verdi.de/ver.di_fremdsprachig/%20was_ist_ver.di_%20-%20_eine_einfuehrung_auf_englischVer.di /aand IG Metall (IG Metall having initiated meetings between migrants, metal workers and dockers to exchange knowledge and experiences). Students meanwhile organized a demonstration in support of asylum rights on December 12 and it is estimated that about 3,000 were on the streets.nbsp; nbsp; /ppThere are reasons to hope for the future of ‘Lampedusa in Hamburg’. “We are confident”, says Ralf, “and we will continue to strive for a solution that recognizes the rights of the group of Lampedusa”. ‘Lampedusa in Hamburg’ is also a frame through which we can reflect more comprehensively on the current regulations and legislation on asylum and reception, at the national and European level, and hopefully it is a case that can positively affect others. “Many are looking at what is happening here in Hamburg”, Ralf tells us “because here there was a concrete response to the promises made by politicians on the island of Lampedusa but which were never maintained”. It is an experience that is prompting movements and organizations for the rights of the migrants to reflect on their strategies, methods and opportunities./ppMeanwhile, the struggle continues. Demonstrations, events and activities have already been arranged and promoted via social media, with the hope that time will bring good news to the refugees of Lampedusa, as well as those from elsewhere./pfieldset class=fieldgroup group-sideboxslegendSideboxes/legenddiv class=field field-related-stories div class=field-labelRelated stories:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd a href=/can-europe-make-it/marco-scipioni/lampedusa-italy-and-euLampedusa, Italy and the EU/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/5050/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/lampedusa-never-againLampedusa: Never again/a /div /div /div /fieldset div class=field field-topics div class=field-labelTopics:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Civil society /div div class=field-item even Conflict /div div class=field-item odd Democracy and government /div div class=field-item even Economics /div div class=field-item odd Equality /div div class=field-item even International politics /div /div /div

Sochi = Syria: boycott the Olympics

mer, 01/22/2014 - 1:13pm
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pThe crimes of Bashar al-Assad's regime and its support by Vladimir Putin demand an answer, says Martin Shaw./p /div /div /div pThe revelations of massive torture, starvation and executions by the regime of Bashar al-Assad should reawaken everyone to the a href=http://edition.cnn.com/2014/01/20/world/syria-torture-photos-amanpour/horror/a faced by the Syrian people. For three years now the world has watched helplessly as protests were repressed, neighbourhoods flattened, villagers massacred and populations gassed. As the armed opposition has become increasingly divided, some of it dominated by Islamists, Assad has regained some control and a gruesome war appears hopelessly stalemated. The United Nations has been incapable of meaningful intervention, Barack Obama’s plan for demonstrative missile-strikes following a chemical-weapons attack was shelved, and the Geneva a href=http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-24628442talks/a that opened on 22 January 2014 a href=http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Security-Watch/terrorism-security/2014/0122/Dueling-opinions-aired-at-Syrian-peace-talksappear/a to be going nowhere. Above all, people around the world who have viewed Syria’s fate with horror have found no effective means of influencing the appalling conflict.br /br /Until now. At the very heart of Assad’s position lies the support of Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation. And in fifteen days’ time, on 7 February, the a href=http://www.sochi2014.com/enwinter Olympics/a begin at Sochi on the Black Sea. Putin has been ruthlessly clearing the decks of all possible causes of international embarrassment. The dissident magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been freed, as a href=http://news.yahoo.com/2-pussy-riot-members-released-prison-104718932.htmlhave/a Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina of Pussy Riot. Greenpeace's Arctic 30 were a href=http://news.discovery.com/earth/oceans/final-arctic-30-greenpeace-activist-leaves-russia-131229.htmallowed /ahome. Putin even seems to have suggested, in a typically insulting a href=http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/1/19/putin-russia-mustcleanseitselfofgays.htmlway/a, that gays will be left alone during Olympics. He wants no politics spoiling his international media show.br /br /strongA simple message/strongbr /br /There are many reasons to boycott Sochi and quite a few people are already doing so. But no reasons are as important as Syria. How can we, citizens of European and other countries, celebrate the agile bodies of Olympic athletes when so many Syrian bodies lie tortured, emaciated and mangled at the hands of Assad? Let us say to Putin that until he removes all political, military and economic a href=http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/assad-and-putin-continue-to-play-the-west-for-fools/story-fnb64oi6-1226793231465#support/a for the Syrian regime, and until he calls for Assad’s resignation and his a href=http://www.fletcherforum.org/2013/09/26/portilla2/referral/a to the a href=http://www.icc-cpi.int/en_menus/icc/about%20the%20court/Pages/about%20the%20court.aspxInternational Criminal Court/a, we will have nothing to do with Russia’s Olympics.br /br /This is a unique opportunity for millions of people around the world to put Putin on the a href=http://www.dw.de/moscow-digs-in-at-syria-peace-conference/a-17377360spot/a and force him to abandon Assad. This is a challenge for the athletes and sporting organisations, but not just for them. Spectators should not go to Sochi. Sports writers should not write about Sochi without writing about Syria. Publics should not just switch over their TVs but boycott public facilities showing Olympic events. On every day of the sixteen days of the Olympics, Russian embassies around the world should be surrounded by protests. People should demand that their governments a href=http://metro.co.uk/2014/01/03/russias-winter-olympics-in-sochi-to-be-hit-by-protests-and-boycotts-over-anti-gay-laws-4247570/boycott/a the Olympics unless Putin changes his position.br /br /A simple message. Assad must go - to The Hague. The regime must fall. Putin must help make this happen. And soon. Only then can the UN, together with the various sections of the Syrian opposition and representatives of the different Syrian communities, begin to put in place a plan to a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/paul-rogers/syria-peace-marginend/a the war and enable the millions of a href=http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.phprefugees/a to go home. We have a duty to do what we can, now, to stop this war, whatever the cost to sport.br /br /Putin = Assad. Sochi = Syria. Putin must tell Assad to go, and let the UN Security Council send his case to the International Criminal Court. No change on Syria, no winter Olympics./pfieldset class=fieldgroup group-sideboxslegendSideboxes/legenddiv class=field field-read-on div class=field-label 'Read On' Sidebox:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pa href=http://martinshaw.org/Martin Shaw/a/pdiv pMartin Shaw, a href=http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745631820emspanspanWhat is Genocide?/span/span/em/aem /em(Polity, 2007)/p/div diva href=http://statecrime.org/%20spanspanStatecrime/span/span/a/divdiva href=http://www.massviolence.org/spanspanEncyclopedia of Mass Violence /span/span/a/div p a href=http://www.yale.edu/gsp/spanspanGenocide Studies Program, Yale University /span/span/a/ppnbsp;/p /div /div /div div class=field field-sidebox div class=field-label Sidebox:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pspannbsp;/spanMartin Shaw is research professor of international relations at the emInstitut Barcelona d'Estudis Internacionals/em (a href=http://www.ibei.org/index.php?option=com_contentamp;task=viewamp;id=135amp;Itemid=16amp;lang=enIBEI/a) and the University of Sussex, and professorial fellow in international relations and human rights at the University of Roehampton. Among his books are a href=http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745619064emWar and Genocide: Organised Killing in Modern Society/em/a (Polity, 2003); a href=http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745634104emThe New Western Way of War: Risk-Transfer War and its Crisis in Iraq/em/a (Polity, 2005); and a href=http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745631820emWhat is Genocide? /em/a(Polity, 2007). His website is a href=http://martinshaw.org/about/here/a/p /div /div /div div class=field field-related-stories div class=field-labelRelated stories:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd a href=/martin-shaw/syria-and-egypt-genocidal-violence-western-responseSyria and Egypt: genocidal violence, western response/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/martin-shaw/paths-to-change-peaceful-vs-violentPaths to change: peaceful vs violent/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/martin-shaw/israel-and-hamas-momentum-of-warIsrael and Hamas: momentum of war/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/martin-shaw/united-states-and-atrocity-preventionThe United States and quot;atrocity preventionquot;/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/martin-shaw/2012-next-upheaval2012, the next upheaval /a /div div class=field-item even a href=/martin-shaw/holocaust-and-genocide-loose-talk-bad-actionThe Holocaust and genocide: loose talk, bad action/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/martin-shaw/libya-revolution-intervention-dynamicLibya: the revolution-intervention dynamic/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/martin-shaw/international-justice-wild-west-vs-icc-coming-crisisInternational justice, wild west vs ICC: a coming crisis/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/martin-shaw/libya-popular-revolt-military-interventionLibya: popular revolt, military intervention /a /div div class=field-item even a href=/martin-shaw/iraq-war-and-wikileaks-real-storyIraq, war and WikiLeaks: the real story/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/martin-shaw/global-democratic-revolution-new-stageThe global democratic revolution: a new stage/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/martin-shaw/street-politics-violence-and-mediaStreet politics, violence, and media/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/martin-shaw/politics-of-genocide-rwanda-and-dr-congoThe politics of genocide: Rwanda amp; DR Congo/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/martin-shaw/holocaust-genocide-studies-and-modern-politicsThe Holocaust, genocide studies, and politics/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/martin-shaw/nigeria-and-politics-of-massacreNigeria and the politics of massacre/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/martin-shaw/britain-and-genocideBritain and genocide/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/martin-shaw/sri-lanka-power-and-accountabilitySri Lanka: power and accountability/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/article/democratic-republic-of-the-congo/dr-congo-arc-of-war-map-of-responsibility-0DR Congo: arc of war, map of responsibility/a /div /div /div /fieldset div class=field field-country div class=field-label Country or region:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Russia /div div class=field-item even Syria /div /div /div div class=field field-topics div class=field-labelTopics:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Conflict /div div class=field-item even Democracy and government /div div class=field-item odd International politics /div /div /div

The heavyweight guide to Ukraine

mer, 01/22/2014 - 9:44am
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pimg style=margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; float: right; src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/huYX1dRxiZBSfcrCKkn2CRUm3QbElSDm8E7pkC1FAzk/mtime:1390399032/files/Kitschko%20Daily%20Sports%20Herald.jpg alt= width=160 //ppDon't know your Klitschko from your Titushki? Can’t remember which oligarch is which? What or who is a ‘Maidan?’ With our heavyweight guide, you won’t have to buy the next round…/p /div /div /div pstrongUkraine /strong– Not ‘The Ukraine.’ Only John McCain calls it that./p pstrongKyiv /strong– Used to be called ‘Kiev,’ but that spelling apparently is for Russian imperialists, or people who had a classical education./ph2And in the left corner…/h2 pstrongVitaly Klitschko /strong– A former heavyweight boxing champion, Klitschko is more than two metres tall, and has used his towering physique to defuse potential altercations between Berkut and protestors. Stridently pro-European with deep ties to Germany./ppimg src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/ES89EiFvYahjOb_7Qf-u9SwvMhFIXm6XtN83sC_-IgA/mtime:1390399120/files/Klitschko_crowd.jpg alt= width=460 /br /span class=image-captionKlitschko's height has come in handy during Euromaidan. Photo CC spoilt.exile/span/p pstrongUDAR/strong – Klitschko is leader of the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform whose initials, UDAR, spell out ‘punch’ in Ukrainian. His brother, Vladimir Klitschko is also a boxer and opposition activist./pp class=pullquote-rightAutomaidan – Essentially a protest on wheels/p pstrongMaidan/strong –Technically the Ukrainian for ‘square.’ Kyiv’s main square, emMaidan Nezalezhnosti/em (Independence Square) became the scene of mass protest during Ukraine’s ‘Orange Revolution’ in December 2004. Since then the word ‘maidan’ has become shorthand for protest, not only in Ukraine, but also in other former Soviet Republics./p pstrongEuromaidan/strong – The protest movement that has arisen following Yanukovych’s last- minute refusal to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union./ppstrongAutomaidan/strongspan – Essentially a protest on wheels, in which Ukrainian drivers ride in convoys with flags and signs. New legislation brought in on 16 January 2014 by Ukraine’s parliament, the /spanemVerkhovna Rada/emspan, bans driving in groups of five or more cars./spanspannbsp;/span/p pstrongOrange Revolution/strong – Term for the mass protests that followed the rigged presidential run-off elections between Viktor Yanukovych and Viktor Yushchenko in 2004. Though Yanukovych was declared the winner, protests forced the election to be annulled and the run-off was run again, with Yushchenko taking 52% of the vote. The Revolution took its name from the colour worn by Yushchenko’s supporters./p pstrongViche/strong – Taking its name from traditional councils in medieval times, the term is now used for popular assemblies at protests where various citizens from all walks of life, and political sympathies, are allowed to address to the crowd./ppimg src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/Gd2TbmbO6WJL6jOCp_a1b3RDBGlOfy6IbAlyuhvl35o/mtime:1390399469/files/avtomaidan%20via%20fb%20rezise.jpg alt= width=460 /br /span class=image-captionTravelling in convoys of more than five nbsp;is now punishable by by fines and confiscation of automobiles. Photo via Facebook./span/ppspan class=image-caption/spanstrong‘Jeans’/strongspan– the name used in Ukrainian journalism for seemingly objective articles in the press that have, in fact, been planted or purchased by the country’s powerful oligarchs./spanspannbsp;/span/p pstrongArseniy Yatsenyuk/strong – De facto leader of Ukraine’s largest opposition party, Batkivshchyna or ‘Fatherland’, whose nominal head, strongYulia Tymoshenko/strong is currently imprisoned on corruption charges. Yatsenyuk is the opposition’s most experienced political leader but is widely seen as lacking the charisma of Tyahnybok or Klitschko./ppspanstrongOleh Tyahnybok/strongspannbsp;– Leader of the Ukrainian nationalist party Svoboda (‘freedom’ in Ukrainian). Svoboda has been criticised for its ties to right wing and anti-Semitic elements. Tyahnybok is a former urologist by profession, and his powerbase is primarily in the country’s Ukrainian-speaking western region./spannbsp;/span/p pstrongPetro Poroshenko/strong – Former Minister for Trade, and also Foreign Minister, Poroshenko is owner of the successful ‘Roshen’ chocolate company, and one of the few oligarchs to declare open opposition to Yanukovych. Poroshenko’s chocolates were recently embargoed by Russia on ‘health’ grounds./p pspan class=pullquote-rightPoroshenko’s chocolates were recently embargoed by Russia on ‘health’ grounds./span/p pstrongAssociation Agreement/strong –A treaty that would have granted Ukraine a privileged position in terms of trade with the EU. It would also provide Ukraine with funds for harmonising standards, and for reforms aimed at improving the rule of law and human rights in the country. Both sides had initialled the treaty in July 2012, but negotiations stalled over the imprisonment of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Ukrainian President Yanukovych was expected to finally sign the agreement in November 2013 at a conference in Vilnius but didn’t, claiming in the final round that he would need at least 20 billion euro a year for reforms. His refusal prompted the Euromaidan Protests. Opinions differ over how beneficial the Agreement would actually be for Ukraine./p h2And in the right corner…strongnbsp;/strongstrongnbsp;/strong/h2 pstrongViktor Yanukovych/strong – President of Ukraine since 2010, Yanukovych’s powerbase is in the Ukraine’s industrial and Russian-speaking southern and eastern regions./ppstrongTitushki/strongspan – Originally named after Vadym Titushko, a martial arts fighter and part-time bodyguard who had been accused of beating a female journalist at a rally for the ruling Party of the Regions. The term is now widespread in the Ukrainian media for hired muscle at political rallies./spanspannbsp;/span/ppspan class=pullquote-rightSvoboda has been criticised for its ties to right wing and anti-Semitic elements./span/p pstrongBerkut /strong– Literally ‘Golden eagle’ in Ukrainian, the Berkut are the country’s elite riot police and have played an important and controversial role in policing the protests. They are largely veterans of Ukraine’s paratrooper and naval marine units./ppimg src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/AwOmUQ9f1pkzxLuPqRd4LtwU7cvOBqKyvLy4yXga4K8/mtime:1390397764/files/titushkis.jpg alt= width=460 /br /span class=image-captionVadym Titushko, who gave his name to the titushki, at a Party of the Regions rally. /spanspannbsp;/span/p pstrongRinat Akhmetov/strong – Ukraine’s richest oligarch and a powerful political ally of Yanukovych, Akhmetov owns the football club Shakhtar Donetsk, and has close ties to London. nbsp;spannbsp;/span/p pstrongViktor Medvedchuk/strong – Oligarch and leader of the small party ‘Ukraine’s Choice.’ Arguably the most pro-Russian political figure in Ukraine, Medvedchuk has long lobbied against the signing of the Association Agreement. Russian President Vladimir Putin is his daughter’s godfather.spannbsp;/span/p pstrongCustoms Union/strong – The tariff-free economic zone that has existed between Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan since 2010. The Customs Union is seen by many as the first step towards greater integration of the former Soviet republics into Russia’s proposed ‘Eurasian Union’, an economic and political union similar to the EU but politically centred on Moscow.spannbsp;/span/ppspanimg src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/_xcOwYruNvBCcX5J8ZEwwSLUbye2NgbLJfp4Yo8e07I/mtime:1386085249/files/Bankova%20-%2004.jpg alt= width=460 /br /span class=image-captionThe Berkut face off against Ukrainian nationalists. Svoboda has been linked to far-right and anti-Semitic elements.nbsp;/span/span/p h2And the referees for this heavyweight bout are…strongnbsp;/strong/h2 pstrongVladimir Putin /strong– President (again) of the Russian Federation, aka the ‘Godfather’ (see strongViktor Medvedchuk/strong).strong /strongHis government warned Ukraine that a deal with the EU would be tantamount to ‘trade suicide.’ Ever the pugilist, he has promised Ukraine a 15 billion handout, and [more] cheap gas. Perhaps a good idea to read the fine print…/p pstrongStefan Füle /strong– EU Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy. Was given a bloody nose by Yanukovych when they went head to head in Vilnius./p pstrongCatherine Ashton/strong – High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy,’ in other words EU foreign minister; has repeatedly expressed 'concern' at developments in Ukraine but so far been silent on the prospect of sanctions./pp strongJohn McCain/strong – An American politician who keeps calling Ukraine ‘The Ukraine.’/pfieldset class=fieldgroup group-sideboxslegendSideboxes/legenddiv class=field field-related-stories div class=field-labelRelated stories:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd a href=/od-russia/iryna-solomko/face-of-tyrantThe face of a tyrant/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/od-russia/anton-shekhovtsov/provoking-euromaidanProvoking the Euromaidan /a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/od-russia/elena-gnedina/come-in-ukraine-your-time-is-upCome in, Ukraine, your time is up/a /div /div /div /fieldset div class=field field-country div class=field-label Country or region:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Ukraine /div /div /div div class=field field-rights div class=field-labelRights:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Creative Commons /div /div /div

Putin’s political triumph - but economic impasse

mer, 01/22/2014 - 9:00am
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pimg style=float: right; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/c64vNkr7w1_kKq7timv-hbXqQ_BENWKUkeOBaAoAegQ/mtime:1390347286/files/Putin%20World%20Economic%20Forum.jpg alt= width=160 //ppGlobal attention is focused on Russia’s hosting of the Winter Olympics, a PR coup for President Putin. But all is not well on the economic front and the scenario the Russian government will probably choose going forward is unlikely to be much help./p /div /div /div p2014 dawned as a year of triumph for Russian president Vladimir Putin. Forbes magazine a href=http://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinehoward/2013/10/30/the-worlds-most-powerful-people-2013/named/a him the most powerful person in the world, and he did indeed have some considerable successes in 2013./p pFirst, he emerged victorious from the tussle with the EU over Ukraine.nbsp; Second, he managed to propose a sensible way forward for dealing with the situation in Syria, so for the first time in decades leading foreign politicians were actually listening to the Kremlin. Third, next month will see Sochi hosting the Winter Olympics, which means that for more than two weeks the attention of the whole world will be focused on Russia. Many people consider Russia’s selection as host country for the Olympics a personal Putin coup and by the end of February his popularity ratings will almost certainly have improved./pp class=pullquote-rightAt the start of 2014 Forbes magazine has named Vladimir Putin the most powerful person in the world./p pBut in actual fact Putin is currently facing a very testing time: the Russian economy is in such a bad state that the difficulties of the 2008-09 crisis and the 2011-12 protests will pale into insignificance by comparison./p h2Stagflation hits Russia/h2 pIn 2009 Russia’s GDP fell by 8% because of oil price slippage, though economic growth began to recover as soon as prices started to climb again. The crisis didn’t last long enough for the Russian public to start really feeling the pinch and, though Putin’s popularity may not have reached the dizzying heights of pre-crisis times, he continued to enjoy the support of most Russians.spannbsp;/span/p pAt the end of 2011 many people took to the streets in Moscow and St Petersburg to protest about the fraudulent parliamentary elections; there were many fewer protesters in the provinces. The protests lasted for several months, but the opposition failed to offer any real threat to Putin’s political regime. Today, only Moscow has any opposition politicians (Aleksei Navalny and Mikhail Prokhorov) who enjoy mass support – on the whole Putin has no serious rivals to speak of in the rest of the country.spannbsp;/span/p pRivals might well appear on the horizon, though, if Russia becomes mired in economic stagnation. There were definite signs of this kind of threat in 2013, when GDP grew by only 1.3%, and that at a time when the price of oil, Russia’s main export, was stable and high. In crisis-ridden 2009, politicians and economists were optimistic that the Russian economy would receive a shot in the arm when the global economy recovered; today neither group expects anything good from the future. A best case scenario would be long-term GDP growth of 2.3 – 2.5% per annum. For a developing country like Russia, with many social problems still to be solved, this growth rate is clearly not sufficient. Most importantly, it is not sufficient for the continued survival of the current political system where, irrespective of elections, power remains in the hands of one and the same person, one and the same regime./ppimg src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/8-yfhzIRaTm3TF1fgn8LjNMQ1ltBp0QDZ0x3OJJ-4Fc/mtime:1390336269/files/Russian_economy_since_fall_of_Soviet_Union%20LokiiT.png alt= width=460 /br /span class=image-captionRussia's economic growth since 1992. High levels of growth under Putin may be a thing of the past. Image CC LokiiT/span/p p class=pullquote-rightIn 2013 Russia’s GDP grew by only 1.3%, at a time when the price of oil, Russia’s main export, was stable and high./p pThis year’s a href=http://www.gaidarforum.ru/en/Gaidar Forum/a recently took place in Moscow. This major annual economic conference is named after Yegor Gaidar, the prominent Russian politician and academic who was behind the very significant reforms of 1992 – effectively the transition from the Soviet system to a market economy. At last year’s Forum, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev demanded that the GDP growth projection be increased to at least 5%, but this year he did not risk any such unrealistic requests. Moreover, this year saw the first discussion of the Russian economy in terms of ‘stagflation’ (slowing economic growth rate and high inflation).spannbsp;/span/p pShortage of money has already forced Putin to abandon several costly projects that so recently seemed surefire winners. Arms spending has been cut back and construction plans for high speed railways have been frozen; but the main problem is that there is not enough to spend on welfare. The situation is not expected to improve in the next few years, so it is highly likely that ordinary people will become increasingly disillusioned with Putin’s running of the country. Ten years ago he was popular because the public could see that life had improved by comparison with the difficult 90s. There are no such hopes today, so Putin will find it hard to hold on to the affection of millions of Russians./p h2Ways out of the crisis… one/h2 pThe Kremlin regularly consults economists and commissions projects in search of ways to deal with its problems. There are many different ideas around in Russia today, including some very strange suggestions as to how the economic difficulties might be overcome, but these can be boiled down to two main approaches, bearing the names of two leading politicians, Kudrin and Glazyev.nbsp;/p pa href=http://indrus.in/economics/2013/11/23/former_finance_minister_kudrin_says_urgent_change_of_economic_polic_31091.htmlAleksei Kudrin/a is a former Finance Minister who worked with Putin in the period 2000-11, resigning because he did not want to be part of the current Medvedev government. Today Kudrin heads up the a href=http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/kudrin-creates-committee-of-civil-initiatives/456222.htmlCivic Initiatives Committee/a, founded by him and one of Russia’s most influential public bodies. Putin still asks his advice on ways of developing the economy./ppimg src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/1QP0cjnp7QAkYh36F4LOJn6PMotEaknZ1yfMyjFEjZ8/mtime:1390337792/files/Kudrin%20Medved%20London%20Summit.jpg alt= width=460 /br /span class=image-captionFormer Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin with former President Dmitry Medvedev in 2009, when both occupied higher offices. Photo CC London Summit./span/p pKudrin’s approach is based on the view that traditional economic instruments will not enable Russia to buck the current unpleasant trend towards economic contraction. He believes that neither increased government spending nor cheaper credit for businesses can guarantee the growth of the economy. Russia today has serious institutional problems, which make capital outflows inevitable. In other words, there is money in the country, but it’s not worth investing it there. It’s better to send it abroad.spannbsp;/span/p p class=pullquote-rightKudrin believes that if the rules of the game are changed, the flight of capital can be halted and foreign investment will increase./p pThis is because the investment climate is so unfavourable. Businesses have no protection from attacks by criminals and the ‘emsiloviki/emem’ /em(i.e. the police, the public prosecutors and the security services). Court decisions favour those who pay up, or who are assured of the support of powerful people. The economy is in the hands of the very few and barriers in the way of newcomers to the market are extremely high: clearing them requires enormous bribes and takes a long time./p pAs the current government can’t (or won’t) continue with the reforms which could change the situation for the better, Kudrin sees Russia as in desperate need of democratisation. If the rules of the game are transformed (first in politics, then in economics), the flight of capital can be halted and foreign investment will increase, as is happening in many developing countries where the state protects business./p h2… and two/h2 pThe second leader of economic opinion, a href=http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/putin-appoints-outspoken-critic-as-aide/462866.htmlSergei Glazyev/a, is Putin’s current economic adviser. During the period of reforms twenty years ago, he was minister for external economic relations; he then joined the ranks of the nationalist opposition. He is a full member of the Russian Academy of Sciences./p pGlazyev approaches the question of the economy very differently from Kudrin, leaving politics out of the equation. The presidential adviser considers that the economy needs money and if this is forthcoming, by whatever means possible, then economic growth will pick up, possibly to 8% per annum.spannbsp;/span/ppspan class=pullquote-rightGlazyev approaches the question of the economy very differently from Kudrin, leaving politics out of the equation./span/p pIn Glazyev’s view, it is the job of the government to provide money for the economy and there are various ways of doing it, for example by increasing public funding, support for the military industrial complex, more public contracts. Or, on the other hand, by lowering the official bank rate, providing cheap loans via the banks and making borrowing easier. The positive benefit of this will, he believes, be much greater than the cost of achieving it, as the industries receiving government support will drive the economy in a particular direction: demand for a whole range of goods will increase, so growth will accelerate, even in those industries which do not themselves receive financial support./p h2The experts’ opinion (to be ignored)/h2 pMost economists of any worth take Kudrin’s view. His view of the problems facing the Russian economy is not narrowly liberal. There is a broad consensus among academics and experts of various affiliations on the need to regularise the investment climate, and so President Putin, on the whole, supports this view./p pHowever, even if Putin formally agrees with Kudrin, this doesn’t mean that Russia will actually take the steps needed to improve its investment climate. The main priority of the current political regime appears to be self-preservation, so it is not prepared to change the rules of the game in such a way as to halt capital flight. So even though he recognises Kudrin’s approach as the correct one, Putin cannot act on his recommendations because he fears democratisation./pp class=pullquote-rightThough he recognises Kudrin’s approach as the correct one, Putin cannot act on his recommendations./p pFor this reason the government, with an eye on improving growth rates, is more likely to take up Glazyev’s recommendations in one form or another. The authorities would rather have a dubious economic policy than no policy at all, which would mean waiting passively for the economy to start disintegrating in front of their very eyes. But Glazyev’s theories are indeed dubious, based less on a clear understanding of what’s happening in the country than the belief that government support will in itself produce powerful engines of growth. In an ideal market economy, this would probably actually happen, but Glazyev is ignoring the realities of the Russian economy. His approach is strictly theoretical and his theories will be unlikely to withstand the test of being put into effect./p pThe problem is that in such an unfavourable climate for investment, making money more accessible could end up increasing profiteering and speculation, rather than developing the economy. Or else causing a scramble to convert roubles into foreign currency for export to safer investment havens. And if this is how matters develop, increasing rates of inflation and the fall of the rouble will make Russia an even less attractive investment environment.nbsp;/pfieldset class=fieldgroup group-sideboxslegendSideboxes/legenddiv class=field field-related-stories div class=field-labelRelated stories:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd a href=/od-russia/margot-light/russia-at-home-and-abroad-past-successes-future-challengesRussia at home and abroad: past successes, future challenges/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/od-russia/dmitry-travin/on-disillusionmentOn disillusionment/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/od-russia/andrei-zaostrovtsev/russia-oprichnik-economyRussia: an Oprichnik economy/a /div /div /div /fieldset div class=field field-country div class=field-label Country or region:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Russia /div /div /div div class=field field-rights div class=field-labelRights:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Creative Commons /div /div /div

What's a funder to do?

mer, 01/22/2014 - 7:21am
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pIf international funding compromises the work of domestic human rights groups, what should international donors do? It is admirable for local groups to refuse international aid on principle, but the ethical implications for global human rights funders are complex./p /div /div /div pspanA few weeks ago, the director of one of India’s oldest and best-known human rights groups, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties’ (PUCL), /spana href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/node/78214/wrote in openGlobalRights/aspan of his organization’s principled rejection of bothnbsp;foreign and domestic funding./span/p pPUCL director V. Suresh was responding to a series of openGlobalRights articles debating the dependence of domestic rights NGOs on international donors. /p pSuresh’s stance isnbsp;admirable, but leaves many questions unanswered. Most importantly, if he is correct in asserting that international funding for human rights work is unhealthy, what should international funders do? /p pShould they simply stop sending money and close up shop? This solution seems problematic, as it takes the decision away from local human rights actors, and assumes they cannot, or should not, determine for themselves whether to seek foreign aid. /p pOne could argue that it is still funders’ ethical responsibility to withhold aid, even if it does undermine the independence of local human rights organizations. If Suresh is correct, thenbsp;need to decrease dependence overall trumps the right of individual, domestic NGOs to make their own choices. International funders’ ethical responsibility, after all, is to the human rights movement overall, not to this or that organization. /p pUnder this logic, the most ethical course of action would be to stop providing aid, especially in countries that already have strong domestic human rights movements, such as India./p pIndeed, research by Tsveta Petrova, an Associate Research Scholar at Columbia University’s Harriman Institute, a href=http://harriman.columbia.edu/files/harriman/newsletter/Petrova%20Working%20Paper%20No%203.pdfsuggests that/a human rights organizations typically begin as solidarity-driven actors focused on their ideas. Over time, however, they often become more instrumental, focusing increasingly on the priorities of the global funders who pay their bills. Political philosopher Michael Sandel, moreover, a href=http://us.macmillan.com/whatmoneycantbuy/MichaelSandelargues that/a the introduction of money into areas that are otherwise domains of moral responsibility undermine volunteerism, much as Suresh fears./p pYet does this really mean that the human rights movement would be better off with less international aid? Can all domestic human rights organizations survive without international funding? The Indian PUCL appears to have flourished, but is this feasible for others? If other groups can’t survive without foreign money, is thenbsp;work they do worth the price of obtaining international aid? /p pConsider this. The professionalization of human rights work attracts more paid workers; more international funding, more salaries, more human rights staffers. This, presumably, is a good thing. But these workers may, on the whole, be less selfless and dedicated than the smaller number ofnbsp;volunteers working for human rights without international funding. Which is better? /p pOr, consider this. A local NGO that receives international assistancenbsp;may be more likely to focus on a problem favored by funders, such as improving girls’ literacy. They may invest then in literacy programs that have measurable outcomes, rather than in the long-term struggle to transform the political and economic systems that perpetuate inequality. Is this emphasis on improving the lives of individuals worth displacing the collective struggles that may have few clear victories in the short term? /p pAnd how universal are the answers to these questions? Perhaps international aid should be reserved for causes that are unpopular locally and hence less likely to survive without funding. For example, perhaps it makes sense for aid to go to advocates for the rights of people who are HIV positive, in a place in which such people are stigmatized. But perhaps an organization fighting for better wages for workers, which could garner broader support, should do without such funding. But then organizations would probably position themselves to serve only the stigmatized rather than any majority, exacerbating the problem with which Suresh is concerned. /p pThe answers to these questions should not need to be sonbsp;absolute.nbsp;Ideally, funders couldnbsp;alter their own structures to better recognize and support local priorities. But such an effort has longnbsp;been part of the discourse and official aims of international funders. Suresh seems to suggest that the problem is intrinsicnbsp;to the nature of such funding, not something that can be tinkered away. If that is the case, then what should funders do? /p pThis problem can be addressed by clarifying the proper role of international funders in the human rights movement. A fundamental ambiguity plagues this issue. On one hand, funders set substantive aims for their work that align with international standards such as the Millenium Development Goals. “Best practices” dictate that they should evaluate the progress grant recipients have made toward such goals. /p pOn the other hand, though, most international funders emphasize the importance of supporting local goals. This is typically one reason why they have given funding to a local organization in the first place, rather than implement a project themselves. /p pThe staff of both international and local organizations often speak informally of how these goals conflict. Stories abound of the international staff that visits the field to find that the local NGO used the funding in ways that conflict with the funders’ goals.nbsp; Just as often, one hears of the international funder who fails to understand the realities on the ground, and insists on approaches or goals that make little sense to the staff of the local organization. /p pThese problems give rise to great discomfort, but rarely lead to serious discussion of the fundamental purpose of international funding organizations. In order to address the question of whether and how funders should contribute to local organizations, we must first evaluate what we think funders should be and do. Do they exist to guide the human rights movement and evaluate its ends? Or are they there to emfund,/em to provide support for movements that are local and appropriately beyond international control? /p pFraming the issue in this way leads to surprising conclusions. If international funders should play a substantive, guiding role in the human rights movement, then their ethical responsibility is to evaluate the results of their funding for the movement overall. Ifnbsp; Suresh is right, then they should cease to give competitive grants to local organizations. Perhaps they could find other ways to offer support that would have a less coercive effect on local priorities. /p pIf instead one concludes that international funders should not make strong evaluative judgments and should exist solely to support local NGOs, then Suresh’s argument has no ethical implications for funders. They should continue on as before, providing support for local NGOs regardless of the consequences, because their purpose is to enable local NGOs to operate based on their own choices. /p pThere is irony here. If international funders have a substantive role to play in shaping the human rights movement (and if Suresh is right about the ill effects of aid), then they should withdraw their funding from local organizations. If funders should not try to shape the movement but only support it, then even if Suresh is correct, there is no ethical reason for them to withdraw funding. The stronger a role one believes international funders should play, the weaker the case for their involvement with local organizations…if V. Suresh is right.nbsp;/p pimg src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/LnD0fTngDi-keDf0glx1Nu-ZIHVQYdiUgoofSb00yJA/mtime:1389708776/files/EPlogo-ogr-3.png alt= //pfieldset class=fieldgroup group-sideboxslegendSideboxes/legenddiv class=field field-read-on div class=field-label 'Read On' Sidebox:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pa href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/funding-for-human-rightsimg src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/IRANZuO-fWxCqUtiIcjNv7dpJnLB7bpM6NsSXCi3kKI/mtime:1390444386/files/GlobalFunding.jpg alt= width=140 //aMore on thenbsp;a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/funding-for-human-rightsGlobal Funding for Human Rights/anbsp;theme./p /div /div /div div class=field field-sidebox div class=field-label Sidebox:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pa href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrightsimg src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/WMX3RUrxNrS9Rg_Ssbv9OZR_t1RbuEbGfxr5HuZo9WU/mtime:1390444456/files/openGlobalRights2.jpg alt= width=140 //a/p img src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/LnD0fTngDi-keDf0glx1Nu-ZIHVQYdiUgoofSb00yJA/mtime:1389708776/files/EPlogo-ogr-3.png alt= width=140 / /div /div /div div class=field field-related-stories div class=field-labelRelated stories:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd a href=/openglobalrights/ravi-nair/time-to-challenge-india-for-its-stranglehold-on-funding-for-rights-organiTime to challenge India for its stranglehold on funding for rights organizations/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/kendra-dupuy-james-ron-aseem-prakash/foreign-aid-to-local-ngos-good-intentions-bad-policyForeign aid to local NGOs: good intentions, bad policy/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/openglobalrights/v-suresh/funds-and-civil-libertiesFunds and civil liberties/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/openglobalrights/rita-jalali/building-domestic-human-rights-constituency-in-indiaBuilding a domestic human rights constituency in India/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/openglobalrights/g-ananthapadmanabhan/going-local-0Going local/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/openglobalrights/alice-nkom/challenge-of-finding-funding-for-gay-rights-in-cameroonThe challenge of finding funding for gay rights in Cameroon/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/kendra-dupuy-james-ron-aseem-prakash/foreign-aid-to-local-ngos-good-intentions-bad-policyForeign aid to local NGOs: good intentions, bad policy/a /div /div /div /fieldset div class=field field-country div class=field-label Country or region:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd India /div /div /div

Suffering happens, but Pakistan's Afghan refugees are more than just victims

mer, 01/22/2014 - 5:00am
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pThe word 'refugee' conjures up images of rows of tents, barefoot children and saddened faces. The reality is more complex. My research shows that Afghan refugees have developed lives alongside Pakistani nationals in Karachi's poor emkatchi abadi/em areas: marrying, working, loving and learning together.nbsp;/p /div /div /div pimg src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/Fw8y36XWttIoq57aQIFNBukiwwcljTFbNOgAFUSZiTE/mtime:1390319381/files/Sanaa%20Alimia%20Afghan%20Refugees%20Pakistan%20Karachi%20Peshawar.jpg alt= width=460 height=345 /span class=image-captionAfghan children - wearing shoes - play in a Pakistani refugee camp. Credit: Demotix.nbsp;/span/ppKarachi is one of the world’s largest megacities. spana class=western href=http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-3-214351-Katchi-Abadis-house-half-of-Karachis-populationMore than half/a/span of the population live in informal housing areas called emkatchi abadis: katchi /emmeans raw or unfinished, a reference to the raw cement, mud, or timber used to make the houses. /ppIn one such emkatchi abadi/em on the outskirts of this Pakistani city, Afghan and Pakistani friends, many of whom work together in embazaars/em, internet cafes, and transport networks, gather every Sunday morning to play football./p pEnayat, a 35-year-old Pakistani Pashtun from Swat, and Qasim, a 28-year-old Pashtun and Afghan refugee are part of this group of football-playing friends. They have been living as neighbours for over ten years and used to own a women’s fabric store together in Karachi’s commercial area. “We cook together, go to work together, loan money to each other - of course we would, we’re friends,” Qasim told me. In recent years the relationship between spana class=western href=http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/05/10/18173078-afghans-united-in-anger-against-pakistan?liteAfghanistan and Pakistan state/a/span has been volatile and prone to breakdowns. But this political tension, I discovered, does not translate to social relationships on the ground in Pakistan./p pI have been interviewing families as a part of my a class=western href=http://www.soas.ac.uk/staff/staff63911.phpspanresearch/spanspan/span/a on Afghan refugees in urban Pakistan, and was struck by the warmth between these two friends. They told me how the income from their original store was not enough to pay for both their children’s school fees and to live comfortably. “Enayat loaned me the money I needed to get the rent for the shop floor and my stock. We trust each other, so he said I could have the money,” Qasim said./p pOn the outskirts of Peshawar, in a predominantly Afghan refugee emkatchi abadi/em area with low daily income averages and poor water supplies, residents described how they worked together to rebuild damaged houses and distribute water amongst themselves. In the devastating 2010 floods that hit Pakistan many mud walled homes in the area simply fell apart. /ppAfghan refugee and widowed father of four, Mustafa, told me how he and his sons worked to overcome this: “The emimam/em at the mosque, a Pakistani, has got a water-line in the mosque and says we can take water from there”. Slowly, the community rebuilt, sharing labour and cement supplies to save people’s homes. Official water suppliers have not yet provided the whole area with water lines. Pausing to show me the mosque, Mustafa continued, “It’s a little far, but at least the imam lets us have the water. And often some of the younger boys fill up bottles and distribute it to the poorest houses. We’ve always tried to work together here.”nbsp;/p pIn Pakistani media reports and government corridors Afghan refugees are described as a spana class=western href=http://tribune.com.pk/story/622518/burdened-economy-pakistan-has-spent-200b-on-afghan-refugees/‘burden’/a,/span or as a 'spana class=western href=http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/3914-pakistans-malek-blames-afghan-refugees-for-terror-attacksthreat’/a/span within the context of a deteriorating Afghan-Pakistan state relationshipstrong./strong In Islamabad, Pakistan, in June 2013, after giving a spana class=western href=http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-6-186646-Afghan-refugees-in-Pakistan-fear-forced-eviction:-speakerpublic lecture/a/span to government officials, academics, and ex-military personnel on the position of Afghan refugees in Pakistan I received scowls from the audience and was told, “They have taken all of our country’s resources”. /ppHow approximately 3-4 million Afghans managed to do this to a population of over 180 million remained mysterious.nbsp;/p pThe actions of Mustafa, Qasim, and other Afghan refugees innbsp;emkatchi abadi/em spaces are forms of ‘self-humanisation’. Though state institutions or international humanitarian organisations claim responsibility towards providing basic conditions that can enable a good human life, such as access to water, shelter, and food, they often fail to do so. Self-humanisation describes peoples' attempts to gain the basic conditions necessary to survive and live a ‘decent’ human life.nbsp;/p pSelf-humanisation is also about enabling a space for human ‘flourishing’, about pushing for a better life. Being human is not just about a basic right to life and survival. It also means being able to strive for an enriched form of life, to have social and emotional relationships, and be recognized as human by others.nbsp;/pp class=pullquote-right“I was advised to wear dirty clothes when going to the UN for the [refugee determination status] interview and to look ‘sad’ and ‘profound’.” nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; - Shahram Kosravi, 'Illegal' Traveller: An Auto-Ethnography of Borders, 2010./ppYet when you say the word ‘refugee’ it often conjures up images of helpless victims, usually female or children. Images of row upon row of tents, barefoot children, and saddened faces dominates the images used by non-governmental organisations, the international refugee relief system, and national and international media campaigns. /p pRefugees are pictured as a homogenous, unfortunate, passive mass of suffering. In the discourse of human rights intervention - the type that attempts to justify the supply of aid relief - only one particular type of humanity is accepted. This is the ‘exemplary victim’, a caricature of what a victim emshould/em embe. /emThe reality is much more complex. /ppIn my work with Afghan refugees in Peshawar and Karachi I was repeatedly struck by how refugees who failed to ‘perform’ to the regime's expectations of suffering, despite meeting legal requirements, were simply left hanging and rejected. With her asylum case in review, Amineh Jan, a 45-year-old teacher, widow, and mother-of-two who was forced to flee to Pakistan from Afghanistan in the 1990s told me, “I do not know what to do or how to get them to accept me as emgenuine” /em(my italics)./p pThe issue is not that suffering does not occur. It does. Nor is it that barefoot children do not exist. Rather, the issue is that the frames of suffering applied to refugees are totalising and universalising. Suffering becomes theem only/em thing a refugee can feel and be - anything more is too complex, too messy. And suffering must take one particular form, i.e., the sad barefooted child. Zoofshan, a 30-year-old who was living with her younger brother and five children in a emkatchi abadi/em was on a waiting list for her children’s entry into a local NGO school. She had been on the list for three months, being assessed to see if she was a ‘deserving’ case. She asked: “How much worse-off am I meant to be to satisfy them?”/p pBut the Afghan ‘story’ in Pakistan, as I have investigated it, challenges these caricatures of refugees in a number of ways./p pAfghan refugees have been present in Pakistan since the 1970s, through the spana class=western href=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_war_in_AfghanistanSoviet invasion of Afghanistan/a/span and continued conflicts in Afghanistan thereafter. This means that unlike current Syrian refugees, for example, they are no longer refugees in an ‘emergency phase’ of migration. Different phases of ‘refugeedom,’ from ‘emergency displacement’ to ‘protracted displacement,’ mean that being a ‘refugee’ is never one-dimensional; it takes on different colours at different times./p pFor this reason many Afghans have stayed in Pakistan and developed their lives within the country. Whilst some Afghans have returned to Afghanistan, many more have questioned the logic of national distinction by staying in Pakistan - marrying, working, loving, and learning within it in a quest to ‘live’ and improve, and thereby self-humanise their lives, and reject the over-simplified label ‘burden’./p pIndeed, the majority of Afghans do not live in refugee camps but have become a shared part of the rural and urban fabric in the country. In some cases some Afghans have also ‘become Pakistani', informally acquiring a class=western href=http://www.thenews.com.pk/article-33114-252-Afghan-citizens-get-CNIC:-secret-reportspanPakistani citizenship/spanspan/span/a. Afghans live in shared neighbourhoods home to Afghans, Pakistanis, and others. /ppRather than being hostile to each other in virtue of being different nationalities, Afghans and Pakistanis frequently face the same problems: a lack of access to water, housing, and shelter, or the potentials to ‘flourish’. They often work together to overcome these issues. For many Pakistanis the state is simply unable, and in some cases spana class=western href=http://www.dawn.com/news/766974/anti-poor-bias-in-policyunwilling/a/span, to provide for all of its citizens, particularly the urban poor. Yet despite this, the key point to take-away is that neither Afghans (nor Pakistanis) remain as helpless sub-human exemplary victims. Instead, they take action in an effort to improve their lives. Rather than ‘draining’ the state refugees are making do with very little./p pQasim and Enayat’s friendship and Qasim’s efforts to make a go of his business reveal people who are more than victims. For Qasim, human life is also about being able to strive for personal enrichment. As a refugee Qasim is reliant on his trust and friendship with Pakistani national Enayat to open his shop, but through his business he contributes to the local economy. Theem imam/em who helps Mustafa and his fellow residents on the outskirts of Peshawar also shows how Afghans and Pakistanis work together, calling xenophobic public debates into question. Indeed, spana class=western href=http://www.unhcr.org/4d2b1dd96.htmlreports/a/span are now revealing the empositive/em Afghan contribution to Pakistan, showing that, if anything, Afghans are boosting local and national economies.nbsp;/p pSub-human beings? Exemplary victims? Burdens on the state? Not at all. The self-humanising lives of Afghans in Pakistan demonstrate a very different reality./ppnbsp;/pp class=image-caption*All names of interviewees have been changed to protect their confidentiality./ppnbsp;/pfieldset class=fieldgroup group-sideboxslegendSideboxes/legenddiv class=field field-related-stories div class=field-labelRelated stories:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd a href=/transformation/chitra-nagarajan/how-politicians-and-media-made-us-hate-immigrantsHow politicians and the media made us hate immigrants /a /div div class=field-item even a href=/transformation/bob-hughes/open-borders-for-sustainable-futureOpen borders for a sustainable future /a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/transformation/themrise-khan/is-your-crucifix-too-bigIs your crucifix too big? /a /div div class=field-item even a href=/transformation/maureen-purtill/labor-of-loveA labor of love/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/transformation/m%C3%B3nica-enr%C3%ADquez-enr%C3%ADquez/marginal-bodies-queer-migrants-on-transformationMarginal bodies: queer migrants on transformation /a /div /div /div /fieldset div class=field field-country div class=field-label Country or region:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Pakistan /div div class=field-item even Afghanistan /div /div /div div class=field field-city div class=field-labelCity:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Karachi /div div class=field-item even Peshawar /div /div /div div class=field field-topics div class=field-labelTopics:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Civil society /div div class=field-item even Conflict /div div class=field-item odd Democracy and government /div div class=field-item even Equality /div div class=field-item odd International politics /div /div /div div class=field field-rights div class=field-labelRights:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Creative Commons /div /div /div

Reconfiguring the youth justice prison system

mar, 01/21/2014 - 8:01pm
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pThe youth justice system is failing our young people. It's time for a more humane approach./p /div /div /div p class=MsoNormalspan class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'a href=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/wB4Lh0co4pY-19qGshFCjVA-suGYus_kB-SQJyY5Zvg/mtime:1390397832/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/552765/Polmont_Young_Offenders_institution_-_geograph.org_.uk_-_17100.jpg rel=lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline] title=img src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/6Hi0vEkMCKwDKp2KadjaoBFMuPEvdjb1XC5De-3DuPA/mtime:1390397802/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/552765/Polmont_Young_Offenders_institution_-_geograph.org_.uk_-_17100.jpg alt= title= width=400 height=300 class=imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large style= //a span class='image_meta'span class='image_title'wikimedia/span/span/span/pp class=MsoNormalspanThe majority of children in custody are themselves victims of abuse. a href=http://www.prisonreformtrust.org.uk/Portals/0/Documents/careasteppingstonetocustody.pdfThe figures/a are staggering: 39% have been subject to a child protection plan, and experienced abuse of neglect; 76% have an absent father; 47% have run away or absconded; and 39% have been subject to a child protection place, and experienced abuse or neglect. Considering the struggle many of these children have experienced so early in their short lives, it’s surely not surprising that so many find themselves on a path of criminality and destruction./span/pp class=MsoNormalspanThe situation deteriorates further once children enter custody. Figures show that our nation’s youth justice system is failing children who enter the youth justice system. Vulnerable children too often leave the system far more damaged than when they entered./span/pp class=MsoNormalspanThe high levels of abuse children experience in custody indicate that there is a dire need to examine the institutional environment of the three secure estates where children are imprisoned. At present children are either imprisoned in under-18 Young Offender Institutions (YOIs), Secure Training Centres (SCTs), or Secure Children’s Homes (SCHs). Currently most children are imprisoned in YOIs. At the end of August 2013 there were 842 children held in YOIs, 270 in STCs, and 127 in SCHs. /span/pp class=MsoNormalspanYOIs and STCs have a poor record of delivering positive outcomes for children and have been described as adult prisons with children in them. But they are the cheapest option. YOIs and STCs have historically been the target of criticism from youth justice charities. Problems at YOIs and STcs have included suicides, bullying, and unsafe conditions for children. YOIs and STCs have the highest assault rates of any prisons in England and Wales./span/pp class=MsoNormalspanThe Government recently launched a so-called radical a href=https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/181588/transforming-youth-custody.pdfplan/a to convert YOIs into Secure Training Colleges, where education would be put at the forefront of youth justice. The plan is far from radical. It is simply a rebranding exercise. It is an attempt to rebrand YOIs into educational institutions, which offer 30 hours of education every week, double the education time currently provided by YOIs. Other than increasing education time, there are no major differences between YOIs and Secure Training Colleges./span/pp class=MsoNormalspanAs a href=http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/feb/14/young-offenders-education-detention-academiesFrances Crook/a of the Howard League for Penal Reform said, “confusion is at the heart of these plans, which risk repeating the mistakes of history such as the failing of secure training centres, where reoffending is sky high and two children have died.” While an emphasis on education is welcomed, particularly given that 47% of children in youth custody are underachieving at school, it is important to remember that children in custody have complex problems, and therefore require a holistic support package. Before increasing the educational requirements, children’s deep-rooted problems need to be tackled in prisons. One potential way of providing the support children require is by increasing the numbers of SCHs, and closing down YOIs, STCs, and Secure Training Colleges./span/pp class=MsoNormalspanEvidence shows that children’s needs would be better accommodated in SCHs. SCHs, which are run by local authorities on therapeutic grounds with a high staff-child ratio, could be the preferred model for secure placements, both in terms of their size and operation. A a href=http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmjust/339/339.pdfrecent inspection/a of the Young People’s Unit at HMP and YOI Parc, which holds around 50 young people, found a direct link between the size of the establishment and the fact that in small establishments fewer children felt unsafe and that they had better relationships with staff./span/pp class=MsoNormalspanStaffed primarily by social workers and support staff who are equipped to work with the youngest, and most vulnerable, SCHs have links to local and statutory services, which are vital to the delivery of interventions that are best placed to address the complex needs of youth offenders. Children receive 30 hours of high quality, individualized learning per week, the same amount of education time, which will be provided by Secure Training Colleges./span/pp class=MsoNormalspanSurely it is safer and more humane to detain children in small, local units with a high staff ratio and where they can maintain links with their families, and children’s services. Such links can also lead to better planned resettlement, and therefore reduce the likelihood of reoffending. /span/pp class=MsoNormalspanThe recent reduction in the number of children in custody has not been used as an opportunity to invest in the best option in the most challenging circumstances for the very few children who do require a period in a secure environment. Instead SCH have been cut to save money in the short term. In 2003 there were 28 SCHs in England, and since 2003, 12 have closed. /span/pp class=MsoNormalspanEvidence shows that locking up youth offenders does not stop them from offending, but actually supporting them in the right environment might./span/pp id=docs-internal-guid-64dcd149-b5cb-89ea-87ea-2bab773d1eb2 dir=ltremstrongspanLiked this piece? Please donate to OurKingdom /spana href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donatespanhere /span/aspanto help keep us producing independent journalism. Thank you./span/strong/em/pdiv class=field field-country div class=field-label Country or region:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd UK /div /div /div

Why do the Lib Dems care so much about Lord Rennard?

mar, 01/21/2014 - 8:01pm
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pLord Rennard was key to the rise of the Lib Dems - and the dirty politics that came with it. This is why so many Lib Dems have been quicker to defend him than they were to stand up for the NHS./p /div /div /div pspan class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'a href=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/-9kLMRJEE9yInvlfnZOqORunOkFmFWpZwTD469L6o8U/mtime:1390397832/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/552765/800px-Chris_Rennard_01.jpg rel=lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline] title=img src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/SIHfOGJIIEERHLnVm3S4FawioZmZrq19U0tao0EcX50/mtime:1390397802/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/552765/800px-Chris_Rennard_01.jpg alt= title= width=400 height=267 class=imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large style= //a span class='image_meta'span class='image_title'Chris Rennard - wikimedia/span/span/span/ppThere’s an obvious question probably hovering in the minds of many citizens in our kingdom at the moment, as they watch the LibDems tear themselves apart in a href=http://www.scotsman.com/news/uk/civil-war-hits-lib-dems-as-lord-rennard-suspended-1-3275707agonising civil war/a over ‘Rennardgate’: Why are so many LibDems going easy on him? Why don’t they join together and do every thing they can to ditch him, as quick as possible? Why spend more energy on a man who is clearly now a public liability, than on issues of genuine importance? It would have been wonderful to have seen the LibDems convulsed by (for example) the dismantling of the NHS that the Government that they are a part of is overseeing. It would have been cheering, if many of them had gone to the wall over that vital issue; but they don’t appear to be that bothered by it. They appear to be spending much more energy on Rennard (in some cases: on defending Rennard) than they ever did on the NHS. So the question I’m asking could be rephrased like this: why are some LibDems (notably, a good number of LibDem Parliamentarians) standing up to their leader when he is complaining about multiple serious allegations from women against Lord Rennard, but not when he was entirely complicit in the dismemberment of the NHS? The Lib Dems risk spinning this affair out right through 'til May, which will surely hurt them even more in elections that were already looking likely to be disastrous for them. Why? Why not lance the boil? /ppIn order to understand what the answer is to this question, it is necessary to understand the answer to a more basic question. Who is Lord Rennard? I mean: who is he to the LibDems? What does he mean, to the average LibDem activist? And thereby hangs a tale./p pBecause, while Lord Rennard has until recently hardly been a household name, he has been well-known for years to politicos, and worshipped by many LibDems. Ask an honest LibDem (if you can find one) who they most credit for their Party’s virtually relentless rise in electoral popularity from 1989 to the televised Prime Ministerial debates of 2010, and they will name not Paddy Ashdown, not Charles Kennedy, not Nick Clegg, not Shirley Williams, not even David Laws or Vince Cable; they will name Rennard. /p pFor it was he who, as Campaigns Director and then Chief Executive, masterminded so many of their often-startling byelection successes during that period. And it was he who oversaw the full-scale implementation of ‘community politics’ as a strategy for the seemingly-endless rise in LibDem Council seats, and a tripling of their number of MPs./p pHowever, this success had a very unseemly underbelly. For, while the LibDems’ nationally sought to portray themselves as a better lot than the two duopoly parties, the reality on the ground was that their campaigning tactics became widely-known in political circles as the dirtiest in the business. /p pTake these famous (in such circles) words, from a Rennard-inspired campaigning guide for LibDems, that was eventually leaked a href=http://www.theguardian.com/politics/blog/2009/feb/03/lib-dems-electionsand widely-circulated/a: /p p‘Be wicked, act shamelessly, stir endlessly’, ‘Oppose all service cuts… No cut is going to be popular and why court the unpopularity that goes with the responsibility of power?’./p pOr consider the infamous LibDem strategy of using dodgy graphs on their leaflets: graphs that misrepresent systematically the support of the LibDems’ rivals; graphs that always somehow seem to show that “It’s a two-horse race” and that one of those horses is orange; graphs that endlessly aim to encourage voters to vote tactically for the LibDems – even when there is no genuine tactical case at the election in question for voting LibDem./p pI have substantial personal experience of this. First, as a LibDem activist: I was present at various by-election HQs and saw these dubious tactics being employed, from by-elections such as Fulham in the 1980s onward into the full-blown Rennard era. (See for a href=http://another-green-world.blogspot.co.uk/2006/04/from-liberal-democrat-to-green-anti.htmlthis piece/a more. And yes, I know: there’s nothing like the zeal of a convert…)/p pSecond, as a Green politician: a href=http://liberalconspiracy.org/2009/06/17/those-fibdems/I have written about/a the obsessive use of dodgy graphs and dodgy claims as deployed against me / against the Greens by the LibDems during the 2009 European Elections./p pAnd some readers will recall the interesting events of the Norwich North by-election that followed, when, in a case of life imitating art (fans of emThe West Wing/em will know to what I refer, and whence I first got the idea) I sought to improve the way that politics was conducted in this country by initiating a href=http://www.dailyplanet.org.uk/Clean_Campaign_Pledge.htmla ‘Clean Campaign Pledge/a’. Perhaps surprisingly, a href=http://rupertsread.blogspot.co.uk/2009/07/extraordinary-invitation-on-clean.htmlit got traction/a. (see a href=http://www.totalpolitics.com/print/18218/it-is-a-good-sign-of-how-the-conservative-party-has-changed-speaking-to-theresa-may-about-norwich-north.thtmlthis interesting article/a looking back on the Norwich North campaign by Theresa May, who was the Conservative Party's Campaign Manager for the by-election. Note how May ends the interview.). All of the five main parties in the by-election signed up – a href=http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/election-2010/7617709/General-Election-2010-Nick-Clegg-uncovered.htmlexcept for the Lib Dems/a who instead unleashed a torrent of abuse at me, including twisting my record of staunch opposition to the Iraq War in order to try to make me appear an apologist for terrorism. On this occasion, it doesn’t seem to have done the Lib Dems any good: they spent 5 times as much as the Green Party did on the by-election campaign, but won only 5% more votes than we did. And the by-election campaign, apart from the behaviour of the Lib Dems, was cleaner than most; the pledge made it difficult for candidates to get away with stuff that they normally try on in by-elections./p pThe rise of the Lib Dems over the last generation has been at the cost of a dirtying of political campaigning in this country. It would be hard to evidence that the latter helped the former (because where is the counter-factual? Maybe the Lib Dems would have risen as far and as fast if they had actually played fair, and won a sounder reputation), but the two are inextricable at least in this sense: both owe a lot to Lord Rennard./p pThus, to those who care about the lowering of politics – and that is surely all of us here on emo/emempenDemocracy/em – Lord Rennard has a lot to answer for. He has presided over an atmosphere in which Lib Dems are encouraged to abuse their power, to lower the tone, to mislead and obfuscate: in a ‘higher’ cause. LibDems have let the ends (of getting what they wanted, at any cost) ‘justify’ the means for a long time now./p pSo: the answer to the question I posed above is relatively straightforward, once one understands what I have laid out above. Rennard matters because, rightly or wrongly, most Lib Dems credit him with being the architect of their rise to power over the past generation. Sadly, very few LibDems have as yet acknowledged that Rennardism included the systematic use of deception and worse, in order to help achieve that rise./p pMaybe, as they drag out their Rennardgate disaster over the coming months, and come to terms with the damage that this man has inflicted on them, that lack of acknowledgement might just start to change./pdiv class=field field-country div class=field-label Country or region:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd UK /div /div /div

China vs Facebook: intimate rivals

mar, 01/21/2014 - 6:57pm
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pThe Chinese state and the United States company are engaged in an epic if undeclared contest over control and wealth-creation, says Kerry Brown./p /div /div /div pA couple of years ago I was part of a group visiting the mighty companies of Silicon Valley in California. The purpose of the trip was to understand the views of organisations such as Facebook, Apple and LinkedIn about their international role. It was clear that China figures in all of their worlds. No wonder, for the country represents a potential market of over a billion people, who - according to most available data - look healthily a href=http://www.go-globe.com/blog/internet-usage-china/addicted/a to social media.nbsp; As many as 900 million mobile-phone users, and over half a billion who surf the internet every day, is a lure too large to ignore./ppBut where China is concerned, the business plans of such companies a href=http://www.businessinsider.com/wechat-blocks-facebook-growth-in-china-2014-1face/a an equally big obstacle: the Communist Party of China (a href=http://www.anthempress.com/friends-and-enemiesCPC/a), which stands resolutely between them and the vast numbers of eager users of their products. The CPC has its blind-spots, but it is clear-eyed over the value inherent in its people and their rising consumptive capacity. The idea that it would sell a href=http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21574628-internet-was-expected-help-democratise-china-instead-it-has-enabledaccess/a to this precious resource cheaply, so that it became an economic asset that benefited others, is preposterous. As Facebook, in particular, has found out./ppIndeed, a senior executive from Facebook briefly met us on that visit. He accepted that the collection of detailed personal information from the company's users, albeit by consent, a href=http://www.policymic.com/articles/78731/lawsuit-says-facebook-likes-pages-without-your-consent-and-you-might-be-owed-moneyraises/a complex legal and moral a href=http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10000872396390443884104577647600306243684issues/a. But with a billion subscribers, who was complaining? At one point in 2011, 400 million were on Facebook at a single moment. This offers the most powerful answer to anyone criticising the company - the world is voting with its fingers, argue with that! /ppEven so, the single issue that I recall slightly dampening this executive’s mood was the map of Facebook usage across the a href=http://visualizing.info/cr/facebook/users/#m=9amp;cv=0amp;cn=13369344amp;cx=52224amp;cr=2amp;l=0globe/a. Everywhere, from rural Africa to the hinterland of Australia, clusters of small dots signified the network's users. Everywhere, that is, except a vast, empty blank space more widely known as China, where Facebook was, and remains, stringently blocked./ppThis a href=http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-18082900blockage/a might be interpreted as a sign of how threatened the CPC is by the potential seeds of freedom that a href=http://www.chinainternetwatch.com/social media/a bring. But, as digital-technology analyst a href=http://www.evgenymorozov.com/Evgeny Morozov /ahas a href=http://www.publicaffairsbooks.com/publicaffairsbooks-cgi-bin/display?book=9781586488741shown/a, that would be naïve. The CPC has been more than capable of containing the threats of cyberspace and new information technology. It has done so by translating its guerrilla tactics from its distant but still potent wartime past to the virtual world, leading it to isolate and target what it sees are the main dangers while a href=http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2013/11/05/chinas-tencent-about-to-overtake-facebook/allowing/a everything else. So far, this plan has worked./ppThe CPC's determination to a href=http://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/in-chinas-new-free-trade-zone-you-are-free-to-facebook-all-you-want/prevent/a a company like Facebook from operating in Chinanbsp; reflects a calculation rooted in its modern character. It sees no reason to have a foreign business enter its space and make easy profits when an indigenous company can do the same thing. Facebook, in the end, is simply a network; and the CPC is more than capable in a society as densely a href=http://www.businessinsider.com/a-quick-guide-to-chinas-social-networks-2013-10networked/a as China both of supplying the same thing and taking a deep a href=http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21574638-wealth-internet-businesses-chinese-characteristics-ours-all-ourscut/a of the proceeds. /ppstrongThe next decade/strong/ppThe rivalry is also oddly intimate. In a way it's because they are so similar that the CPC and Facebook can't have a harmonious relationship. With its billion or so users, Facebook is the only entity in the planet that has the same number of citizens as the PRC. More to the point, it has the same kind of opaque, superficially egalitarian but in fact vigorously hierarchical structure as the a href=http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520260078CPC/a, where everyone is equal but real a href=http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-24396957power/a is in the hands of the very, very few. And both owe their phenomenal a href=http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2012/06/27/china-to-over-take-silicon-valley-claims-report/success/a to a remorseless focus on one key strategic objective - for Facebook, increasing the number of its users, for the CPC, pumping out GDP growth. /ppYet all this is about to change. For a company like Facebook, Edward Snowden’s a href=https://www.eff.org/nsa-spying/how-it-worksrevelations/a raise issues of trust in whatever you put online and thus make things much more complicated. And for the CPC, the era of double-digit a href=http://www.tradingeconomics.com/china/gdp-growth-annualgrowth/a is now over. Both are a href=http://www.springer.com/computer/database+management+%26+information+retrieval/book/978-1-4614-5307-9moving/a rapidly into worlds that are more testing for them, where the challenges are sharper, and the simplicity of their strategic objective is compromised and questioned. /ppEven so, looking a decade down the line, it is worth assessing which will fare better -nbsp; the self-proclaimed digital a href=http://politybooks.com/book.asp?ref=9780745652092carrier/a of free expression and personal networking, or the a href=http://www.anthempress.com/friends-and-enemiesdeliverer/a of Marxism-Leninism with Chinese characteristics. My guess is that if the CPC were to float some stock tomorrow on the foreign exchanges, it would be a better investment than its would-be nemesis in California. /ppThe forecast comes with a cost: of admitting that the most phenomenally successful a href=http://www.mis-asia.com/tech/industries/china-gdp-us-18-trillion-in-2020/creator/a of profit in the 21st century has not been a Silicon Valley business but a political party enjoying a monopoly of power in the last major country in the world under a communist system. More than anything else, this must be the deepest irony of the age. /pfieldset class=fieldgroup group-sideboxslegendSideboxes/legenddiv class=field field-read-on div class=field-label 'Read On' Sidebox:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd div pa href=http://sydney.edu.au/china_studies_centre/spanspanChina Studies Centre, /span/span/aUniversity of Sydney/ppKerry Brown, span class=sta href=http://www.worldscientific.com/worldscibooks/10.1142/p932emCarnival China/em: emChina/em emin the Era of Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping/em/a (Imperial College Press, forthcoming, May 2014)/span/ppEvgeny Morozov, a href=http://www.publicaffairsbooks.com/publicaffairsbooks-cgi-bin/display?book=9781586488741emThe Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom/em/a (Public Affairs, 2013)/p pa href=http://www.euecran.eu/spanspanEurope China Research and Advice Network/span/span/a/ppDaniel Miller, a href=http://politybooks.com/book.asp?ref=9780745652092emTales from Facebook/em/a (Polity, 2011)/p pKerry Brown, a href=http://www.anthempress.com/friends-and-enemiesspanspanemFriends and Enemies: The Past, Present and Future of the Communist Party of China/em /span/span/a(Anthem Press, 2009)/ppa href=http://www.chinainternetwatch.com/China Internet Watch/a/p pKerry Brown, a href=http://www.worldscientific.com/doi/abs/10.1142/9789814350037_fmatteremspanspanHu Jintao: China's Silent Ruler/span/span/em/a (World Scientific, 2012)/p pKerry Brown, a href=http://www.zedbooks.co.uk/book.asp?bookdetail=4407 target=_blankemspanspanBallot Box China: Grassroots Democracy in the Final Major One-Party State/span/span/em/a (Zed Books, 2011)nbsp;/ppa href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/kerry-brown/kerry-brown/chinadigitaltimes.net/ target=_blankspanspanChina Digital Times/span/span/a/p pa href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/kerry-brown/kerry-brown/thechinabeat.blogspot.com/ target=_blankspanspanThe China Beat/span/span/a/p pa href=http://www.eastasiaforum.org/ target=_blankspanspanEast Asia Forum/span/span/a/p pa href=http://www.chinadialogue.net/ target=_blankspanspanchinadialogue/span/span/a/ppNewton Lee, a href=http://www.springer.com/computer/database+management+%26+information+retrieval/book/978-1-4614-5307-9emFacebook Nation: Total Information Awareness/em/a (Springer, 2013)/p pa href=http://www.hoover.org/publications/clm/about target=_blankspanspanChina Leadership Monitor/span/span/a/p diva href=http://cmp.hku.hk/ target=_blankspanspanChina Media Project/span/span/anbsp;nbsp;/div/div /div /div /div div class=field field-sidebox div class=field-label Sidebox:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pKerry Brown is professor of Chinese politics and director of the a href=http://sydney.edu.au/china_studies_centre/China Studies Centre /aat the University of Sydney. He is an a href=http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/research/asia/associate fellow/a of a href=http://www.chathamhouse.org/Chatham House/a, and leads the a href=http://www.euecran.eu/Europe China Research and Advice Network/a. His latest book is span class=sta href=http://www.worldscientific.com/worldscibooks/10.1142/p932emCarnival China/em: emChina/em emin the Era of Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping/em/a (Imperial College Press, forthcoming, May 2014). /spanHis website is a href=http://www.kerry-brown.co.uk/ target=_blankhere/a/ppKerry Brown's previous books include a href=http://www.brill.nl/purge-inner-mongolian-people-s-party-chinese-cultural-revolution-1967-69emThe Purge of the Inner Mongolian People's Party in the Chinese Cultural Revolution, 1967-69: A Function of Language, Power and Violence/em/a (Brill, 2004); a href=http://www.anthempress.com/index.php/subject-areas/books-0/politics-current-affairs/struggling-giant.html target=_blankemStruggling Giant: China in the 21st Century/em /a(Anthem Press, 2007); a href=http://www.woodheadpublishing.com/en/book.aspx?bookID=1788amp;ChandosTitle=1emThe Rise of the Dragon: Inward and Outward Investment in China in the Reform Period 1978-2007/em /a(Woodhead, 2008); a href=http://www.anthempress.com/index.php/friends-and-enemies-1.htmlemFriends and Enemies: The Past, Present and Future of the Communist Party of China/em /a(Anthem Press, 2009); a href=http://www.zedbooks.co.uk/book.asp?bookdetail=4407emBallot Box China: Grassroots Democracy in the Final Major One-Party State/em/a (Zed Books, 2011); and a href=http://www.worldscientific.com/doi/abs/10.1142/9789814350037_fmatteremHu Jintao: China's Silent Ruler/em/a (World Scientific, 2012)/p /div /div /div div class=field field-related-stories div class=field-labelRelated stories:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd a href=/kerry-brown/china-what-we-think-we-know-is-wrongChina: what we think we know is wrong/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/kerry-brown/three-laws-of-chinese-politicsThe three laws of Chinese politics /a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/kerry-brown/chinas-elite-language-deficitChina#039;s elite: a language deficit/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/kerry-brown/china-who-is-in-chargeChina: who is in charge?/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/kerry-brown-david-goodman/chinas-party-bo-xilais-legacyChina#039;s party, Bo Xilai#039;s legacy/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/kerry-brown/chinas-visitor-cameron-in-beijingChina#039;s visitor: Cameron in Beijing/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/kerry-brown/north-korea-cost-of-paralysisNorth Korea, the cost of paralysis/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/kerry-brown/china-time-to-accept-differencesChina, time to accept differences/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/kerry-brown-cassidy-hazelbaker/china-and-syria-question-of-responsibilityChina and Syria: a question of responsibility/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/kerry-brown/china-party-states-testChina, the party-state#039;s test/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/kerry-brown/bo-xilais-fall-echo-and-portentBo Xilai#039;s fall: echo and portent/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/kerry-brown/china-politics-of-corruptionChina, the politics of corruption /a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/kerry-brown/gan-lulu-and-china-human-touchGan Lulu and China: the human touch/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/kerry-brown/chongqing-and-bo-xilai-how-china-worksChongqing and Bo Xilai: how China works/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/kerry-brown/inner-mongolia-china%E2%80%99s-turbulent-secretInner Mongolia: China’s turbulent secret/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/kerry-brown-cassidy-hazelbaker/china-and-egyptian-risingChina and the Egyptian rising /a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/kerry-brown-natalia-lisenkova/hada-liu-xiaobo-and-china%E2%80%99s-fearHada, Liu Xiaobo, and China’s fear/a /div /div /div /fieldset div class=field field-country div class=field-label Country or region:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd China /div /div /div div class=field field-topics div class=field-labelTopics:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Democracy and government /div div class=field-item even International politics /div /div /div

A fragile cold peace: the impact of the Syrian conflict on Israeli-Syrian relations

mar, 01/21/2014 - 12:10pm
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pIs the Syrian crisis threatening to end 40 years of cold peace between Syria and Israel? Hspan style=line-height: 1.5;ow long will Syria and its allies pursue a policy of restraint and containment?/span/p /div /div /div h2strongInsecurity along the Israeli-Syrian border/strong/h2 pSyria and Israel have maintained a long-standing truce since 1974, when the separation-of-forces agreement was signed, with its implementation overseen by United Nations (UN) observers. The 40-year cold peace between the two countries could now be jeopardised by the threat and actuality of spillover from the Syrian civil war. In particular the stability of the Golan Heights, which was taken over by Israel from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War, is in question. Since November 2012 a series of cross-border exchanges of fire between the Israeli and Syrian armies have occurred across the cease-fire line in the Golan Heights. Israel is also confronted by the humanitarian crisis unfolding on its doorstep. In contrast to Syria’s other neighbours, Israel, which is technically in a state of war with Syria, has no open-door policy regarding Syrian refugees. Nevertheless, since the Syrian uprisings broke out in March 2011, hundreds of Syrians have tried to enter the Golan Heights, most of whom have been turned away at border crossings. Still, a growing number of wounded Syrian citizens, both rebels and civilians, have been receiving medical care in Israel, challenging perceptions of “the other” and the impermeability of borders./p pThe Golan Heights is of great strategic importance to Israel for security, economic and settlement reasons. It provides a “buffer zone” against Syria and secures access to water resources. Since the end of the 2006 Lebanon war Israeli-Syrian relations have alternated between peace initiatives and the prospect of military confrontation. Regional instability, coupled with tensions along the frontier, renders renewed peace talks or an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights more unlikely than ever./p pIsrael fears that the Golan Heights could function as 
a launching pad for armed Islamist groups that dominate Syrian opposition forces. In response to heightened instability, Israel and Syria have strengthened their border security and military capacity in the Golan Heights. Israel has erected and reinforced a dividing wall over 5 meters tall and around 250 kilometers in length along the Israeli– Syrian border to prevent any attempt by Islamist groups to cross the border and attack Israel. This increased preparedness has functioned as
 a mutual deterrent while simultaneously raising tensions between the two countries./p h2Israel’s red lines/h2 pThe major Israeli fear concerns the security of the Syrian regime’s advanced missile systems and chemical and biological weapons. The Israeli government has enforced several red lines against Syrian facilities and weaponry. In September 2007 Israeli Air Force jets attacked a facility in northern Syria that the Israeli government claimed was a covert attempt to build a nuclear reactor based on a North Korean design. The Syrian civil war has accelerated the fear that Hizbullah or al-Qaeda- affiliated Islamist groups would try to seize Syria’s chemical weapons. The Lebanese Shia militia Hizbullah caught Israel by surprise in the 2006 Lebanon war by showing unexpected strength. Six years later Iran and its Hizbullah proxy are fighting in the Syrian civil war in support of their steadfast allies, the Syrian government and its embattled leader, Bashar al-Assad./p pWhile the Israeli government has remained largely mute about its interest in the Syrian civil war, it has been doing a great deal to pressure the US into direct involvement in Syria. In September 2013 the US planned to lead a limited military action against the Syrian regime after it crossed a red line when it allegedly used chemical weapons in an attack in Ghouta, eastern Damascus, on August 21. For Israel, the planned attack was seen as a test of international resolve to check Iran’s nuclear ambitions, which according to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu constitute the most significant existential threat facing Israel. Through Russian-initiated diplomatic efforts the US and Russia reached an agreement to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, thus avoiding external military intervention. For Israel, a fully chemically disarmed Syria, if the process proves to be successful, could remove Syria’s non-conventional threat. However, this process could turn out to be lengthy and challenging in the context of a civil war. According to the Israeli government the transfer of weapons to Hizbullah is likely to continue. The Syrian regime could also hide chemical weapons sites from international inspectors./p pThe Israeli perception that the US is increasingly unlikely to undertake any new military involvement in the Middle East reinforces Netanyahu’s much-preached doctrine that Israel must look after itself. The 2012 withdrawal by Austria, Japan, Croatia and Canada of their UN Disengagement Observer Force troops that have helped to stabilise the border territory between Israel and Syria has further enhanced Israel’s perception of the necessity of self-reliance for national security. Over the last year the Israeli government has authorised several air strikes inside Syria that officials have said were aimed at convoys carrying weapons for Hizbullah, thus extending Israel’s decades-old conflict with the Lebanese militant group inside Syria. The latest Israeli attack involving the illegal use of Lebanese airspace was on a Syrian military facility in Sanawbar-Jableh, near Latakia, a stronghold of the current Syrian Alawite-led regime, on 31 October 2013./p pThat Israel was responsible for the attack was leaked by an official source in Washington in an act that, according to several Israeli media outlets, was fiercely protested by senior Israeli officials. This is the third US leak of the past year, revealing a deep rift between the US and Israel concerning tactical moves on the Syrian crisis. By leaking classified information, the US, although not having made any official complaints about the attacks, was sending a signal that Israel cannot operate beneath the radar of international scrutiny. Moreover, the US was warning that Israel should respect the UN’s chemical arms resolution and attempts to seek a political arrangement with the opposition in Syria. In turn, Israel’s series of targeted unilateral attacks sent a message to Syria, Iran and the US that Israel is ready to act alone if necessary./p h2A beneficial cold peace/h2 pSo far Syria has not retaliated against Israeli attacks. The Syrian regime is a href=http://www.smh.com.au/world/high-stakes-hidden-foes- in-israels-intervention-20130510-2jdb6.htmlunlikely to open a second front/a at this stage, because it is too concerned with the unfolding civil war to have the capacity to consider a conflict with Israel. Hizbullah, which is perceived in Lebanon as having moved from a national resistance force to a defender of Shia interests, cannot risk military involvement with Israel without severe implications for itself. Iran and its new leader, President Hassan Rouhani, has agreed to negotiate on its nuclear programme and must consider the dynamics set in motion by their direct talks with the US. Any act by the Iranian regime that will further upset the fragile stability of the region is likely to damage Iran’s strategic interests./p pFor Israel, a prolonged conflict in Syria might prove the best way to ensure its security. A long-term conflict will strain the resources of the Syrian regime and its Shia allies Iran and Hizbullah, thus weakening Israel’s foes. It will give Israel time to utilise anti-Shia sentiment in the region to forge new strategic alliances with Sunni Arab states and Iran’s neighbouring countries. Israel and Saudi Arabia’s recent talks about security cooperation have grown out of mutual dissatisfaction with the new US approach to Iran. This previously implausible alliance may prove beneficial should relations between Israel and the US become more strained./p pThe question remains how long Syria and its allies will pursue a policy of restraint and containment. A Syrian-launched military strike on Israel or a US attack on Syria would cross both Israeli and Iranian red lines, respectively. Both would mark the end of a fragile cold peace and potentially ignite an all-out war in the Middle East./ppemThis piece was first published on NOREF on 6 December 2013. For full article with notes, click a href=http://www.peacebuilding.no/Regions/Middle-East-and-North-Africa/Syria/Publications/A-fragile-cold-peace-the-impact-of-the-Syrian-conflict-on-Israeli-Syrian-relationshere/a.nbsp;/em/pfieldset class=fieldgroup group-sideboxslegendSideboxes/legenddiv class=field field-related-stories div class=field-labelRelated stories:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd a href=/arab-awakening/nasrin-akhter/hamas%E2%80%99-response-to-syrian-uprisingHamas’ response to the Syrian uprising/a /div /div /div /fieldset div class=field field-country div class=field-label Country or region:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Syria /div div class=field-item even Israel /div div class=field-item odd Iran /div div class=field-item even Lebanon /div /div /div

France's European spleen

mar, 01/21/2014 - 10:53am
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pAs is now common in France, the biggest shock in the Euro elections will come from the far-right Front National, emboldened by a change in perception towards the party from many French voters. emEuro elections landscape, 2014./em/p /div /div /div p class=image-captionimg src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/lP5_fbl7iiXDozIGzRRyutraOiv_F0thYaV10JUawqU/mtime:1390317724/files/Front_National_2010-05-01_n03.jpg alt= width=460 height=307 /Marine Le Pen, Jean-Marine Le Pen and Bruno Gollnisch. Front National are expeted to do very well in the Euro elections in May. Wikimedia/Marie-Lan Nguyen. Some rights reserved./ph2What happened in 2009/h2pAt the height of the economic crisis, the 2009 European elections saw the moderate right’s UMP return as the strongest force in France, with 29 members of parliament out of 78 (27.9%) (up from 17). These elections also highlighted the weakness of the moderate left; in times of economic turmoil the Parti Socialiste (PS) was unable to convince and capitalise on the polemical start of the Sarkozy presidency, seeing its contingent shrink from 31 to 14 (16.5%). /ppThis failure to gather the protest vote was emphasised by the strong performance of its allies Europe Ecologie, who gathered 16.2% of the vote and gained 6 seats, and the success, albeit modest, of the Front de Gauche (FdG) alliance, who, with 6.3% of the vote, became the strongest voice on the extreme left. On the other side of the political spectrum, the Front National (FN) suffered a blow, with Jean-Marie Le Pen barely managing to exceed 10%. /ppFor many commentators, these poor results reinforced the growing feeling that Sarkozy might have succeeded in making the extreme right party irrelevant. With only three seats (Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine Le Pen and Bruno Gollnisch), the Front National registered its worst ever performance in traditionally favourable elections. Record abstention (59.37%) underscored their failure and Le Pen’s inability to capitalise on the disillusionment and anxiety of the French population amidst the crisis./ph2What is happening now/h2 pFive years on, the picture has changed dramatically. There is little doubt that most parties will face very different outcomes in the forthcoming European elections, and the suggestions made by polls have for the most part been consistent with the lessons learnt from French politics in the past five years. /ppThe only surprise comes from the relatively good prospects for the PS. With the popularity of François Hollande and Jean-Marc Ayrault at their nadir, and with a government unable to shake France out of the crisis, let alone offer a positive and coherent vision of the future, a href=http://www.ifop.fr/media/poll/2355-1-study_file.pdfthe ‘positive’ polls/a throughout 2013 were a breath of fresh air for the French moderate left. However, with a few months remaining before the election, and the bleak, albeit improving, economic prospects in France for the first part of the year, a further shift of the electorate towards stronger left-wing alternatives or abstention remains a clear possibility./p pIn this context, the UMP seemed in a prime position to benefit from the poor performance of the current government. However, despite its comfortable position in opposition, ongoing a href=http://www.liberation.fr/politiques/2013/12/19/quand-fillon-esquive-la-main-de-cope_967686internal feuds/a between François Fillon and Jean-François Copé, and the lack of a coherent leadership have plagued the party since the (a href=http://www.lefigaro.fr/politique/2013/12/13/01002-20131213ARTFIG00361-sarkozy-les-coulisses-d-un-retour.phptemporary/a?) retirement of Nicolas Sarkozy from politics. /ppThe failure of a convincing leadership renewal, added to Sarkozy’s heavy legacy, has been a clear disadvantage for the UMP in these second order elections. a href=https://theconversation.com/france-2012-sarkozys-ugly-campaign-6465#!Sarkozy’s constant flirtation/a with the FN’s electorate has left deep scars within the party. Internally, it has placed a wedge between those who still believe the rightward shift was the solution to the so-called rise of the FN in the early 2000s, and those clinging to the Gaullist tradition of refusing any kind of association with the extreme right. /ppFurther, having proven unable to deliver fully on its populist and xenophobic rhetoric during Sarkozy’s mandate, the UMP will struggle to appeal to those who turned away from Le Pen in 2007, in the hope Sarkozy would fulfil their expectations once in power. That same part of the electorate which deserted the copy to go back to its more extreme original in 2007 should remain with the FN in 2014. Added to Sarkozy’s many Eurosceptic comments, which have no doubt alienated some of the party’s traditional voters, it is therefore not surprising to see the UMP stuck in the low 20s in most polls./ph2What could happen in May 2014/h2 pOne of the main winners of the 2014 elections could be the new centre-right a href=http://www.lemonde.fr/politique/article/2013/11/04/bayrou-et-borloo-lancent-leur-alternative_3507547_823448.htmlAlternative/a. This alliance of François Bayrou’s Modem and Jean-Louis Borloo’s Union des Démocrates Indépendants could offer those unwilling to vote for the extremes, and yet wishing to express their discontent, an appealing alternative, and bring the centre back to life after its poor performance in the last major elections. Were they to perform well in the local elections in March, the Alternative could return as a serious contender in the future. In the final polls of 2013, a href=http://www.ifop.fr/media/poll/2355-1-study_file.pdfIFOP/a found that 11% of respondents supported the Alternative. However, previous polls where the two parties were offered as independent lists, hinted that their result could be closer to 15%./p pIn an opposite trajectory, Europe-Ecologie-Les Verts (EELV) continue their fall from grace unaided by their current governmental alliance. Beset by internal divisions over strategy and leadership, the Green alliance will not repeat their historic performance of 2009. After their disappointing result at the presidential elections (2.31%), and despite winning a record number of members in the French parliament thanks to their alliance with the PS, EELV seems set for another poor performance, with most polls placing them below 10% (as low as 6% for the latest IFOP)./p pUnsurprisingly, it is the extremes which are most likely to benefit from the current climate in France, particularly in the context of second order elections and high abstention. With a poor economic forecast and rising unemployment throughout most of 2013, the Front de Gauche and the Front National are ideally positioned to reap the rewards of growing political discontent. /p pFive years after its first electoral joust, the a href=http://tempsreel.nouvelobs.com/l-observateur-de-la-gauche-radicale/20120318.OBS4030/au-fait-c-est-qui-le-front-de-gauche.htmlFdG alliance/a of various left and extreme left-wing parties including the once powerful Parti Communiste (PCF) has become the strongest voice on the left. This became clear in 2012, when Jean-Luc Mélenchon received a href=http://www.lemonde.fr/election-presidentielle-2012/article/2012/04/22/melenchon-quatrieme-avec-11-7-pari-perdu-mais-score-record_1688859_1471069.htmla promising 11.11%/a of the vote in the presidential election. While this result confirmed the alliance’s potential and the space still present in France for a strong extreme left, many were left disappointed by a performance they had hoped would be better. This bitter feeling was reinforced by the FdG finishing fourth, far behind its nemesis, the Front National. /ppAfter the presidential election, Mélenchon’s clear animosity for Marine Le Pen and her party led him a href=http://www.lemonde.fr/politique/article/2012/06/11/a-henin-beaumont-le-pen-bat-sechement-melenchon_1716117_823448.htmlto compete against the FN leader/a in the north of France for the legislative elections, hoping for a face-off in the second round. Despite receiving a promising 21% of the vote, Mélenchon’s performance paled in comparison to Le Pen’s 42%. Therefore, while the revolution will not occur during these elections, the FdG should perform stronger than it did in 2009, with recent polls crediting it with up to 10% of vote intentions. However, a href=http://www.lepoint.fr/politique/le-front-de-gauche-fragilise-par-une-querelle-entre-laurent-et-melenchon-18-12-2013-1771735_20.phptensions/a between the PCF and Mélenchon’s Parti de Gauche over potential alliances with the PS could impact negatively on their cohesion and image./p pFinally, as is now common in France, the biggest shock will most probably come from the FN. Yet this could hardly be considered a surprise, with regard to the party’s progression in the 2010s. In May 2013, 21% of respondents of an a href=http://www.ifop.fr/media/poll/2355-1-study_file.pdfIFOP/a poll said they were considering voting for Le Pen’s party. In October, that had risen to 24%, taking a strong lead over both the PS and UMP. With polls suggesting that over 40% of the population had a bad opinion of the EU in 2013 (compared to 25 in 2004 and 30 in 2009), the deeply anti-European agenda of the FN is clearly appealing. /ppMore interestingly, while polls have often proven inaccurate with regards to the FN’s performance, a change in the perception of the party is striking in terms of the increasing number of poll respondents willing to admit they would consider the infamous party as an option. Until recently, the stigma attached to the Le Pens’ party often led to survey respondents giving false information, in turn forcing polling companies to adjust their results. Under Marine Le Pen’s leadership, this is proving no longer to be necessary. Yet it would be wrong to assume that the transition from father to daughter has been solely responsible for the FN’s improved prospects, or that the reasons behind their new-found popularity lie necessarily in their own actions. /ppWhile the FN has certainly benefited from its strategic and ideological evolution since the 1980s, under the influence of the think-tank Nouvelle Droite and with a href=https://theconversation.com/the-french-front-national-is-still-an-extreme-right-wing-party-20983#!an increased use of neo-racism and populism/a, its current popularity finds its roots beyond the remits of the Le Pens’ power. This new-found success after years of stagnation was the consequence of the legitimacy gained through the populist agenda of the Sarkozist right. a href=https://theconversation.com/far-right-earthquake-could-be-bigger-than-2002-for-france-15629#!The UMP’s unashamed pursuit of the FN electorate/a resulted in extreme right rhetoric leaking into mainstream discourse and being increasingly accepted as normal, or at least acceptable. /ppa href=https://theconversation.com/the-french-front-national-is-still-an-extreme-right-wing-party-20983#!While changes have been limited and much evidence points to the party’s extremism/a, the FN’s acceptance as a serious and legitimate contender has placed Marine Le Pen in a position her father could only have dreamed of. If the polls are correct and the FN becomes the strongest party in the European elections, this radicalising of the mainstream could take on a new dimension, something reinforced by other potentially strong performances from many extreme right-wing parties across Europe. /p pOf course, there are still a few months before the elections, and these predictions could be transformed by the a href=http://www.lemonde.fr/politique/article/2014/01/13/l-affaire-qui-destabilise-francois-hollande_4346989_823448.htmlscandals/a French politics seems prone to. The results of local elections in March could also impact on voters’ intentions. Yet with the failure of the major parties to either provide a convincing future narrative for France, or assuage their electorate’s fears and anxieties, these elections should confirm abstention as the largest ‘party’ in France, highlighting further the crisis plaguing the European democratic system.nbsp;/pfieldset class=fieldgroup group-sideboxslegendSideboxes/legenddiv class=field field-related-stories div class=field-labelRelated stories:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd a href=/can-europe-make-it/patrice-de-beer/how-european-france-ahead-of-european-electionsHow European? France, ahead of the European elections/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/can-europe-make-it/steffen-vogel/germany-sleepwalking-into-europeGermany: sleepwalking into Europe?/a /div /div /div /fieldset div class=field field-country div class=field-label Country or region:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd France /div /div /div

Women and peacebuilding in Yemen: challenges and opportunities

mar, 01/21/2014 - 10:00am
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pWhat are the hurdles facing and opportunities available to Yemeni women in light of UN Security Council Resolution 1325’s guidelines? Are internal and external stresses posing threats to women’s security?nbsp;/p /div /div /div pUnited Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325) has succeeded in inserting discussion of women’s concerns into Security Council discourse. Its charge to increase representation for women at all levels of peace-building and include gender perspectives in programming and support have led to national action plans and successful interventions in several countries. Challenges remain, however, with the universal implementation of this resolution. This expert analysis explores hurdles facing and opportunities available to Yemeni women and suggests ways in which UNSCR 1325 and international interventions can reduce women’s vulnerability and promote their capacities for effective state-building. It is based on the author’s long-term field research in Yemen (1978-2005), a review of the relevant literature, and recent interviews with Yemeni officials (who have requested anonymity)./p pYemen is currently in transition. Following public demonstrations, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed to step down in November 2011. A UN-backed Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) agreement granted him immunity and arranged for a transfer of power to a transitional government headed by Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, Yemen’s former vice-president. A National Dialogue Conference (NDC) composed of representatives from established political parties, including that of the former president, youth, women, and marginalised groups, has been charged with developing a framework for a new Yemeni state. However, the GCC agreement, while charging the transitional government to cease all forms of violence, does not exert pressure on the external states that are funding Yemen’s escalating war in the northern region and the various separatist factions in the south./p pWidespread corruption and capital flight, along with environmental degradation, high unemployment rates and ongoing conflicts, have led to a severe humanitarian crisis in Yemen, with 55% of the population suffering from food insecurity and the lack of health services. Exacerbating these problems are an estimated 1.2 million refugees from Ethiopia, Somalia and Syria and over 300,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs). Yemenis also suffer from ongoing attacks by al-Qaeda affiliates and US drones./p pDespite these serious problems, however, Yemen is rich in social capital. Deep-seated traditions of mediation and conflict resolution have been effective restraints against the facile use of violence. The protection of women is a local norm, and women are rarely victims of assault or direct targets of violence. When religious extremists beat some vociferous women during the 2011 uprising, their act was severely condemned, even by members of their own party. During the same period when presidential hopeful Hamid al-Ahmar broadcast verbal attacks against women’s participation in street demonstrations, four women took him to court for slander. A political assassination in September 2013 sparked public outrage because two women and a child were among those killed. Even members of al-Qaeda, who severely restrict women’s mobility in the towns they control, have not assaulted women in Yemen. Nevertheless, Yemeni women, like men, suffer from escalating conflicts in the north and south, extreme poverty, and state corruption. Women have been hurt or killed in cross fire and when heavy artillery and bombs are used, and have been killed by drones. Women have also been harmed during recent uprisings when government forces shot at demonstrators./p pContrary to common stereotypes of “conservative tribal” societies, rural Yemeni women are not secluded; they participate actively in the local economy and the mediation of disputes. Urban women, in contrast, are secluded by tradition, although the extent of their seclusion differs by region, community, class and level of education. Women with the highest levels of education participate actively in the labour force and government, and the poorest women, who cannot afford to remain at home, have always worked for wages. In urban and rural communities Yemeni women are known to be agentive and assertive. In 2006, 42% of voters were women. It is not surprising that women led the demonstrations of the past two years against the corruption of the previous regime. In sum, traditional social capital empowers Yemeni women and facilitates their participation in nation-building. They are severely constrained, however, by humanitarian crises, externally funded warfare and government corruption./p h2Refugees/h2 pFemale refugees are especially vulnerable, in part because they do not have the protection of male kin. They suffer first from conflicts in their home countries. On their way to Yemen and after their arrival many are subject to abuse, sexual exploitation, trafficking and sometimes torture. Attacks on Ethiopian and Somali refugees appear to be organised, and ruling elites are alleged to have profited from arms and human trafficking. The current transitional government appears to be unable or unwilling to halt these practices./p h2The impacts of poverty on women’s security/h2 pAlthough the framing of conflict and security issues in UNSCR 1325 prioritises traditional understandings of conflict and security (warfare), the alleviation of poverty and unemployment are the most salient “security” priorities for a large majority of Yemen’s population. With high maternal mortality, infant mortality, and adult illiteracy rates, poverty affects women disproportionately. Although wife beating and honour killings are rare in Yemen, “unprecedented” rates of domestic abuse among impoverished urban migrants have been reported. Child marriage has increased among the poor. The ages of 14 or 15 years are traditionally considered optimal for marriage among rural families, but with 10.5 million people food insecure, younger girls of poor families are increasingly given in marriage. Some young girls are married to wealthy Saudi men who abandon them after a few months./p pHistorically and currently a woman’s status impacts her vulnerability. Although economic and educational opportunities have led to considerable social mobility, the lowest status groups in Yemen, commonly labelled “akhdam”, remain excluded. Most members of this group suffer extreme poverty and their women are vulnerable to harassment. They have one representative in the NDC./p h2When the state perpetuates women’s vulnerability/h2 pUNSCR 1325 places the burden of compliance on member states. Unfortunately, and in spite of local safety nets for women, the Yemeni state tends to limit women’s economic and political participation in society. Yemen has not ratified UNSCR 1325. An influx of weapons from external parties allowed powerful elites to perpetuate local conflicts, leading to the displacement of women and men, the loss of property, and a consequent reduction of rural women’s agricultural and economic roles. Government co-optation of influential tribal leaders has resulted in a breakdown in tribal rules of restraint and protection of women./p pA major constraint to the participation of women in leadership roles has been the growing power of religious extremists: the Muslim Brotherhood, Wahhabis and Salafis. Although they advocate interpretations of Islam that are not native to Yemen, they have penetrated educational institutions, ministries, political parties and rural tribal leadership. Initially funded by Saudi Arabia and more recently Qatar, Turkey and possibly Iran, these movements give lip service to women’s rights, but target women’s mobility and public voice, and reject minimum marriage ages and progressive family laws. Although religious extremists insist they are adhering to Islamic tradition, they are perceived locally as “modern” because their interpretations of Islam clash with local traditions and their recommended lifestyles resemble those in wealthy Gulf states./p pConsequently, women in Yemen have steadily lost gains achieved in the 1960s and 1970s. Women in the former People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen) were active in the judiciary, army and police force. Since the unification of North and South Yemen, however, female judges have been removed, women who held military posts have been pressured to resign, and police women now only work in non-combative desk jobs. The transitional government has named only three women ministers: the minister of social affairs, minister of human rights and minister of state. Only one signatory of the UN-brokered GCC agreement is a woman. This agreement specifies that women’s representation in the transitional government should be “adequate”, with no mention of UNSCR 1325. However, women’s representation in the current NDC, at 27%, is relatively inclusive, and women are included in leadership roles. In the past few months the NDC’s calls for 30% women’s participation in all levels of government have passed despite the vehement opposition of the Islah Party, Salafis and the Yemeni Socialist Party./p pIn sum, the case of Yemen challenges assumptions that rural traditions are more likely to constrain women’s rights and agency than modern urban institutions. Although Yemen is rich in social capital, including protection and safety nets for women, external and internal stresses have fueled overt conflict and contributed to poverty, displacement and trafficking. Poverty and other humanitarian issues pose serious threats to women’s security, exacerbating conflict and exploitation. By prioritising geopolitical security issues related to the so-called war on terror over development, international organisations have severely limited the capacity of Yemeni women (and men) to build sustainable state institutions. External funding has facilitated the penetration of powerful extremist interpretations of Islam that severely hinder women’s agency and continue to perpetuate warfare throughout the country. Neither the NDC nor the transitional government has “significantly challenge[d] the informal networks of power that have proved remarkably resilient to change in the past.”
/p h2Recommended interventions/h2 pIn light of UNSCR 1325, recommendations are twofold: Yemen’s escalating war in Sa’da in northern Yemen and separatist conflicts in the south are highly dependent on external arms flows. The Security Council and international organisations must pressure UN member states to stop perpetuating warfare in Yemen. Secondly, in order to guarantee women’s security in Yemen, development aid must address the country’s humanitarian needs, prioritise the resettlement of IDPs, ensure the protection of refugees and halt human trafficking. Both women and men in Yemen need training in literacy and marketable skills, and rural women living on rain-fed agricultural lands would greatly benefit from agricultural and livestock extension. To the extent that international agencies are involved in advising Yemen’s transitional government, efforts should be made to avoid reinstating members of the past ruling elite./ppemThis piece was first published on NOREFnbsp;on 12 November, 2013. For full article and notes, click a href=http://www.peacebuilding.no/Regions/Middle-East-and-North-Africa/The-Gulf/Publications/Women-and-peacebuilding-in-Yemen-challenges-and-opportunitieshere/a./em/pdiv class=field field-country div class=field-label Country or region:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Yemen /div /div /div

Why this year’s Davos could be bad for our health

mar, 01/21/2014 - 7:49am
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pEspan style=line-height: 1.5;U and US trade barons should enjoy the rarified air of Davos while they can. They have stormy times ahead./spanspan style=line-height: 1.5;nbsp;/span/p /div /div /div p class=MsoNormalspan class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'a href=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/Z5kQXC7mR5vhSwR3G67BPWxINkY50QGWo5OP9LIs9BU/mtime:1390387009/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/DAvos_0.jpg rel=lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline] title=img src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/4bHaCZKDovJiGDSRQZI1M8x42bbgQIPhQm39xG_4DRc/mtime:1390386982/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/DAvos_0.jpg alt= title= width=400 height=262 class=imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large style= //a span class='image_meta'/span/spanemImage: World Economic Forum/em/pp class=MsoNormalspanTomorrow sees the start of the World Economic Forum, the annual Davos gathering at which the transnational capitalist class looks to the year ahead and celebrates its continuing domination of the global economy. Open only to invited guests from the highest echelons of the corporate and government elite, the event sees no need to be modest in its pretensions. This year’s forum is entitled simply ‘The Reshaping of the World’./span/pp class=MsoNormalTwo Davos participants who are definitely seeking to reshape the world over the coming year are US Trade Representative Michael Froman and his European counterpart Karel de Gucht. The two men will discuss how they can complete negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) by the summer of 2015, an ambitious task given the time usually taken by trade negotiations./pp class=MsoNormalIf they succeed, the deal will change the way in which we order our social existence forever./pp class=MsoNormalThe TTIP talks have been taking place, in secret, between the European Commission and the US government since July of last year./pp class=MsoNormalTTIP is not a traditional trade agreement aimed at reducing tariffs on imports between trading partners. Tariffs between the EU and USA are already minimal./pp class=MsoNormalOfficials from both sides acknowledge that the main aim of TTIP is instead to remove regulatory ‘barriers’ which restrict the potential profits to be made by transnational corporations in US and European markets alike./pp class=MsoNormalThis deregulation agenda includes the removal of key social and environmental standards such as labour rights, food safety rules (including on genetically modified organisms), controls on the use of toxic chemicals, data protection laws and even the new banking safeguards introduced to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis./pp class=MsoNormalThe stated aim is ‘harmonising’ regulations from either side of the Atlantic. This poses a particular threat to those of us who live in Europe, as EU social and environmental standards are far higher than those in the USA. Government officials have confirmed there is emno chance/em of any upwards harmonisation of standards through TTIP./pp class=MsoNormalThe only way is down./pp class=MsoNormalBut TTIP is not just about deregulation. TTIP also seeks to create new markets for the private sector by opening up public services and government procurement contracts to unrestricted competition from transnational corporations. This in turn threatens to introduce a further wave of privatisations in key sectors such as health and education, allowing overseas companies permanent access to parts of our social life that have previously been beyond their reach./pp class=MsoNormalEuropean public services were previously excluded from the free trade agreements of the World Trade Organisation, thanks to a special exemption engineered by EU officials in the 1990s. This ‘public utilities’ exemption has up to now allowed EU member states to maintain public monopolies in key sectors without having to open them up to competition from private providers. Without this essential protection, public services like health, education and water would have had no choice but to be thrown open to competition from across the world./pp class=MsoNormalThree years ago, however, the European Commission quietly announced that it planned to abandon this exemption in trade talks. According to the Commission, protecting public services from competition was an outdated concept, and the private sector should be allowed to bid for public service contracts as a matter of course. From now on, they said, only security services such as the judiciary, border policing and air traffic control should be excluded from trade talks. Everything else is fair game./pp class=MsoNormalThis is music to the ears of the US government and its private sector friends, who see the public health systems of Europe as a vast and enticing business opportunity waiting to be tapped. It also fits nicely with the privatisation agenda of the British government, which has spent the last three years opening up our own public services to private companies while at the same time starving the public sector of funds./pp class=MsoNormalDavid Cameron clearly has no need of a Transatlantic trade pact to carry out his privatisation agenda at home. The significance of trade rules is that they are binding on countries that sign up to them, and thus make it impossible to reverse privatisations in the future. Moreover, TTIP turns out to be particularly useful when it comes to rolling out the Tory agenda across the rest of Europe. British government officials have confirmed that one of their goals for TTIP is to ‘complete’ the European single market by forcing open public service and procurement contracts in other EU member states./pp class=MsoNormalResistance to TTIP’s privatisation and deregulation agenda is now building, as people become aware of the threat that the negotiations pose to so many aspects of their lives. Public health, environmental and social justice campaigners are joining forces with trade unions and consumer groups in both the EU and USA to oppose TTIP and stop the talks. Parliamentarians across Europe have voiced their concerns at the threat posed by TTIP, just as 178 members of the US Congress have written to President Obama rejecting his call for ‘fast track’ authority to press ahead with the negotiations./pp class=MsoNormalAnd the campaign has already registered its first victory. Just yesterday it was revealed that European trade commissioner Karel de Gucht is suspending talks on one of the most controversial elements of TTIP: the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism that allows corporations to sue host states before ad hoc arbitration tribunals for actual or potential loss of profits. The European Commission is now calling for a three-month period of public consultation to reassess its position on this aspect of TTIP. But it is pressing ahead with its central deregulation and privatisation agenda regardless./pp class=MsoNormalEspanU and US trade barons should enjoy the rarified air of Davos while they can. They have stormy times ahead./spanspannbsp;/span/pp class=MsoNormalspannbsp;/span/pp class=MsoNormalstrongemspanIf you liked this piece, you can sign up for OurNHS’s weekly updatespannbsp;/span/span/em/stronga href=http://eepurl.com/uZeSfstrongemspanhere/span/em/strong/astrongemspan, join our Facebookspannbsp;/span/span/em/stronga href=https://www.facebook.com/OurNHSoDstrongemspanhere/span/em/strong/astrongemspan or follow us on Twitterspannbsp;/span/span/em/stronga href=https://twitter.com/OurNHS_oDstrongemspanhere/span/em/strong/astrongemspan./span/em/strong/pfieldset class=fieldgroup group-sideboxslegendSideboxes/legenddiv class=field field-related-stories div class=field-labelRelated stories:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd a href=/ournhs/gus-fagan/eu-us-free-trade-and-risks-to-nhsEU-US Free Trade and the risks to the NHS/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/ourkingdom/clive-george/whats-really-driving-eu-us-trade-dealWhat#039;s really driving the EU-US trade deal?/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/ournhs/corporate-europe-observatory-transnational-institute/transatlantic-corporate-bill-of-rightsA transatlantic corporate bill of rights/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/ournhs/meri-koivusalo/free-trade-trade-creep-and-risks-to-our-public-healthFree Trade, #039;Trade Creep#039; and the Risks to our Public Health/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/ournhs/ashman/nhs-must-be-exempted-from-useu-free-trade-agreementThe NHS must be exempted from the US/EU Free Trade Agreement/a /div /div /div /fieldset

What’s so special about storytelling for social change?

mar, 01/21/2014 - 6:52am
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pA new world requires new stories, but people will only listen to them when they themselves are included in the storyline. This requires a ‘gear-shift’ in conversations about radical action./p /div /div /div pimg src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/Z_lVv6MmPrrv7Iw_GfGiiGacP-usABeZbXbZoX5-TUE/mtime:1390260477/files/shutterstock_94921276_0.jpg alt= width=460 //pp class=image-captionCredit: Shutterstock. All rights reserved./p pWhile working in the belly of corporate communications some years ago, I stumbled across a storytelling night at Amsterdam’s a href=http://www.mezrab.nl/Mezrab/a cultural centre. Nude model drawing classes and the emMahabharata/em in Dutch were also on the menu, but it was the storytelling that caught my eye, hosted on an open stage by an Iranian storyteller by the name of a href=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U83kGee-beoSahand Sahbedivani/a. /p pEven through the candlelight and the smoke, the rapt attention on the faces of the audience made it clear that they loved the stories of human drama they were hearing, which was the opposite of my experience in my work. Despite the fact that I was working extremely hard to get the company’s stories more attention, they rarely ignited anything like this response in the public’s imagination. The difference between a profit-making organisation and an alternative arts event was obvious but intriguing. Why did storytelling at Mezrab succeed while corporate communications generally fell flat? The answers are relevant to anyone who has a story to tell, and nowhere is that more important than in the field of social change./p pToday, storytelling is wildly popular. It’s seen as the key to succeeding in business, a href=http://www.getstoried.com/zappos-insights-the-brand-link-between-culture-and-storytelling/strengthening organizational culture/a, and drumming up a href=http://www.forbes.com/sites/skollworldforum/2013/08/01/the-5-secrets-of-storytelling-for-social-change/support for advocacy and campaigns./a But why is that? The first reason is obvious: climate change, inequality, violence and other challenges can’t be solved by doing more of the same. We need new narratives that connect with peoples’ deepest motivations and promote more radical action. Stories engage people at every level - not just in their minds but in their emotions, values and imaginations, which are the drivers of real change. nbsp;So if we want to transform society, we must learn to tell - and listen to - a new set of stories about the world we want to create./p pSo far so good, but what actually makes for a good story in this sense? That’s where my visits to Mezrab were so instructive. For one thing, the storytellers that got the most attention were not necessarily the funniest or wittiest. Instead, they were the ones that were most prepared to put their skin in the game, to state something that was uncomfortably close to how they saw the world. This radical subjectivity – perhaps the basis of all great art – is a crucial lesson for anyone who wants to communicate a complex topic. When we allow our own insights to organise the telling of a story, we give a more compelling account of events. Why? Because our deepest values are closest to what we share with others./p pBusiness is only now learning that telling a good story requires authenticity, as if bewildered by the discovery of truth. Storytelling in social movements is more advanced. In fact for those who work for social justice, the problem has not been making up good stories, but getting people to listen to the ones they have already. This can be especially hard when movements are very broad, and when the issues they deal with are so large in scope. But my storytelling sessions taught me another lesson that’s useful in this context: even when the issues are large and complex, we feel compelled to listen when we ourselves are included in the storyline. /p pspanThe danger of much current rhetoric is that justified frustration at injustice comes across in torrents of abuse. The parlous state of the economy, for example, is not just the fault of the bankers and politicians who have overspent, it’s also something that involves all of us on a daily basis in our roles as consumers and producers, employers and employees, shareholders and borrowers. When anyone is marginalized or demonized in this context, they are less likely to be part of the solution, even if they have the power to make change./span/p pspanThe Mezrab storytellers were successful because they and their audience felt united with each other at some level, even if they might disagree on the surface. In myth, drastic opposites are often reconciled through elaborate plots and casts of characters. We can do the same in our own stories by not alienating the people we need to talk to or persuade. /spana href=https://www.getstoried.com/Michael Margolis/aspan, a San Francisco-based ‘story architect,’ makes this point elegantly by asking that our stories of social change become /spanemlove stories/emspan. His argument is that undermining belief systems – a necessary step in social change – requires an emphasis on shared values and commonality. These shared values can then be used to show when, why and how some people aren’t living up to them in practice./span/p pStressing unity between divergent interests has often been the basis of effective change - look no further than the genesis of the European Union after World War Two. A more local example came in the wake of the a href=http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/dec/09/lee-rigby-trial-adebolajo-killingkilling of British soldier Lee Rigby/a by two self-proclaimed Muslims in Woolwich, southeast London, in 2013. This event outraged the far-right English Defence League (EDL) who organised a protest outside a mosque in York. Knowing of this plan and anticipating violence, members of the mosque invited the protestors in for tea and biscuits. In the discussion that followed, both parties realised that they had a common interest in ending extremist violence. The protestors’ anger was successfully defused, and the day ended in an impromptu game of football./p pThe leader of the mosque, Mohamed El-Gomati, a href=http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/may/31/edl-english-defence-league-york-mosque?commentpage=1initiated a dialogue/a to identify elements of a shared culture among members of both the EDL and the Mosque. We can do the same with our own stories. Whenever there’s a situation in which we tempted to label one group as ‘the other’, telling a story that reveals shared values aids in the creation of new communities. The narrative ceases to be the property of one side’s rightness over another side’s error. Instead it becomes a story of co-creation and mutual responsibility./p pIdentifying common value is attractive, not just to those with whom we want to communicate directly, but also to other listeners who have to be part of the conversation. Focusing on commonality puts everyone in a stronger position to undermine belief systems and lay out new possibilities for social change. That, at least, is something I learned from corporate communications./p pWhere the business community excels is in its story of possibilities. After all, branding is simply an exercise in creating the idea that something is valuable, so that others will buy into it - in this case literally. Where these ideas about value are already present - as in social movements - much of the job is done, but not all. In addition to telling stories that inspire people’s imagination, movements can also activate their energies for action by including a greater sense of concrete possibilities in the stories they want to tell. And that requires something of a ‘gear-shift’ in conversations about the nature of radical action./p pspanMyth, says /spana href=http://www.schoolofmyth.com/Martin Shaw/aspan, is not just about awakening a past that is forgotten; it’s also about describing the possibilities of the present. Values - as the core of all good stories - can lay the foundations for social transformation by simultaneously undermining beliefs and retaining some continuity, so that people are not immobilized by the changes taking place around them. When stories are deeply grounded in values, they can communicate a vision and not merely a picture of the realities we face./span/p pspanThese visions - as enablers of action - are necessary to the path of social and political change. Those on the Left are often criticised for pointing out the problems rather than presenting some solutions. By identifying the values that underpin our activities and weaving them into a story of how the world might look, we will become more effective at opening hearts and minds to accommodate a positive future./span/p pnbsp;/pfieldset class=fieldgroup group-sideboxslegendSideboxes/legenddiv class=field field-related-stories div class=field-labelRelated stories:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd a href=/transformation/paul-kingsnorth/age-of-endingsThe age of endings/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/transformation/henrietta-l-moore/protest-politics-and-ethical-imaginationProtest politics and the ethical imagination /a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/transformation/clementine-beauvais/how-childrens-books-can-transform-worldHow children#039;s books can transform the world/a /div /div /div /fieldset div class=field field-topics div class=field-labelTopics:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Culture /div div class=field-item even Ideas /div /div /div div class=field field-rights div class=field-labelRights:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Creative Commons /div /div /div

The European elections in May, 2014

mar, 01/21/2014 - 6:06am
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pa href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/esplanadeimg src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/obuBN0ZDt-H6EaSKh-s1unPjTECs62hPNJGZxc5HHuw/mtime:1389707648/files/logomini.png alt= width=140 //aHow to make European elections coverage less boring than usual? Here is openDemocracy's ema href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-itCan Europe make it?/a/em take./p /div /div /div pspanThese elections may be more interesting than usual for our European and global readers alike, given polarizations more dramatic across the continent than there have been for decades. The EU, originally billed as offering a new model to replace the chaos of the Westphalian system, is itself in chaos. Instead of burdensharing or offering joint multilateral efforts to mitigatenbsp;severe financial, economic and social pain, EU governments have introduced various methods of punishment under the auspices of 'austerity measures’./span/p pAs a result we have an escalation of scapegoating, mutual accusation, exclusion and national introversion. The EU, in its construction and mission, was designed to manage just these traditional social-cultural and political tensions within its expanding boundaries. But what we have found in the last few years of crisis is how little emde facto/em solidarity remains among European citizens belonging to economically and culturally different regions in times of real hardship and severe existential troubles. Support for the EU itself has plummeted. All of this has led not only to new levels of Euroskepticism, but to a huge disaffection with politics as usual./p pBut it is one of the most curious features of European politics that there are so few spaces in which the voices of Europeans can be heard in debate about how these shifting tectonic plates are affecting our every day lives – no demos in which to negotiate our way forward. Perhaps, it is only now that we are beginning to miss this space which has never been an EU priority – quite the reverse - but which arguably was the precondition for a successful Union. /p pThose Europeans who have most to complain about, since they are least responsible for this unholy mess, are the young – caught up in what my co-editor, David Krivanek has called, ‘a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/david-krivanek/are-we-sleepwalking-into-lost-generationa tidal wave of youth unemployment/a’ and all its implications, beginning with almost 15 million Europeans neither employed, nor in education and training. /p pSince Europe’s youth are its future, Alex Sakalis from emCan Europe make it? /emhas invited twelve young people from across the continent to join with us in the run-up to the elections and help openDemocracy to create a small European demos on this website at least between now and Maynbsp; - one, we hope, which really enables people to talk about the opportunities for European citizens today or the lack of them, what they think about Europe and the European Union, what they feel any future Europe should be like and how that could make a difference even if it takes some fundamental changes to bring that about…. /p pOf course, in important ways this is a self-selecting group, and you could say representative of a minority of young people who actually wish to think about what it means to them to be European today – their hopes and fears, and who don’t mind doing this in English and in public.nbsp; Of course that means that immediately they have some important things in common – such as the fact that most of them have experienced more than one European culture in some form, and have found integrating into that culture if not ‘a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/euro-elections-you-tell-us/maximilien-von-berg/i-wish-to-see-more-europe-more-participative-europeeffortless/a’ as Maximilien suggests – then at least highly rewarding. (Indeed, some people might be surprised at how glad Christoph seems to be to have left Germany and become a self-proclaimed a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/euro-elections-you-tell-us/christoph-heuermann/what-has-happened-to-idea-of-united-europecosmopolitan/a.)/p pBut there are a huge range of attitudes and preoccupations among this small group… which is how a European demos should be. We hope that over the coming weeks, with the help of our many thoughtful emCan Europe make it?/em regular contributors, our a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/euro-elections-you-tell-us/bloggersemYou tell us/em participants/a and readers will enjoy this space enough to show that this kind of opening up of democracy across European nations should be an integral part of all our futures. /p h2strongEuro elections on emCan Europe make it?/em: a walkthrough/strong/h2 pThe way we have structured our coverage of the European elections is – we hope! – simple to understand. First is the a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/euro-elections-2014Euro elections 2014 landing page/a, which will feature all the oD content that relates, in one way or another, to the elections. Our aim is to go beyond the type of empty pre- and post-electoral analysis that passes as expert opinion these days; expect informed a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/john-grahl/trouble-in-austeriacomment/a, much-needed a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/lorenzo-marsili/europe-is-diverging-ignore-it-at-your-perilwarnings/a and important a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/heather-mcrobie/austerity-policies-in-europe-are-fuelling-social-injustice-and-violating-human-investigation/a. We are also running a European elections landscapes series that will tell you everything there is to know about the national factors that will influence the outcome of the vote in, say, a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/takis-s-pappas/greece-and-european-elections-previewGreece/a, a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/patrice-de-beer/how-european-france-ahead-of-european-electionsFrance/a, the a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/jan-horn%C3%A1t/reflection-on-czech-euroscepticism-before-eu-electionsCzech Republic/a and a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/steffen-vogel/germany-sleepwalking-into-europeGermany/a. Do get in touch at europe (at) opendemocracy.net if you'd like to tell us more about wherever you're from!/p pThe other half of our coverage is a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/euro-elections-you-tell-usEuro elections 2014: you tell us!/a, a more informal space where our a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/euro-elections-you-tell-us/bloggersbloggers/a will share and exchange their views. We've basically invited them to write about what they care about, how they want – some of them have already experimented with new forms of blogging, such as a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/euro-elections-you-tell-us/adri%C3%A0-rodriguez-lotta-tenhunen/europe-that-isn%E2%80%99t-any-more-and-isn%E2%80%99t-yetthis exchange/a between two activists, one Spanish and the other Finnish. Every two weeks or so, we will collect the best blog posts into a 'bumper edition' for your convenience, maybe under a particular theme heading – here's the first introductory edition (partsnbsp;a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/alex-sakalis/euro-elections-2014-bloggers-introduce-themselves-part-oneone/a and a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/alex-sakalis/euro-elections-2014-bloggers-introduce-themselves-part-twotwo/a). /p pYou can also follow us on Twitter a href=http://www.twitter.com/od_europe@oD_Europe/a to stay up to date on all our Euro elections coverage. Please do let us know what you think, and do feel very welcome to send us suggestions on how to make this election campaign less boring at Europe (at) opendemocracy.net!spannbsp;/span/pfieldset class=fieldgroup group-sideboxslegendSideboxes/legenddiv class=field field-read-on div class=field-label 'Read On' Sidebox:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pa href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/euro-elections-2014Euro elections on openDemocracy/a/ppa href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/euro-elections-you-tell-us/bloggersEuro elections: you tell us!/a/p /div /div /div div class=field field-related-stories div class=field-labelRelated stories:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd a href=/can-europe-make-it/alex-sakalis/euro-elections-2014-bloggers-introduce-themselves-part-oneEuro elections 2014 bloggers introduce themselves: Part One/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/can-europe-make-it/alex-sakalis/euro-elections-2014-bloggers-introduce-themselves-part-twoEuro elections 2014 bloggers introduce themselves: Part Two/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/can-europe-make-it/rosemary-bechler-david-krivanek-alex-sakalis/can-europe-make-it-looks-back-at-201Can Europe make it? looks back at 2013/a /div /div /div /fieldset div class=field field-country div class=field-label Country or region:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd EU /div /div /div