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Transparency and Volatility: A New Era in International Relations

Johanna Martinsson's picture

The accelerated changes in communication flows are posing both opportunities and challenges in the global system.  A recently published book entitled ‘Diplomacy, Development and Security in the Information Age,’ edited by Shanthi Kalathil (a former colleague and contributor to this blog), seeks to better understand the changing face of international relations in a new era, by examining two emerging themes: heightened transparency and increased volatility. Leading up to the publication, practitioners grappled with these themes, and how they are affecting international affairs. Craig Hayde, one of the authors, notes that transparency and volatility are increasingly inextricable concepts. He says “transparency does more than simply put information out there – it inculcates a shared value that information should be available”, but that it is also “facilitated by the same technologies that promote instability, risk, and uncertainty in the business of international relations.”

The collection of essays provides fresh thinking in an area that has mainly focused on the use and impact of information and communication technologies (ICTs). While several essays discuss ICTs, Kalathil points out that “the premise for the series is not to minutely examine new forms of technology and their impact. Rather, the premise for the series is that ubiquitous global communication flows have, over time, created an encompassing information environment that nurtures transparency and volatility in pervasive conditions and/or guiding norms.”

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Nieman Journalism Lab
Deutsche Welle’s trying to use Africa’s mobile-phone boom to spread news by new means

“As the fastest-growing mobile market on the planet, Africa is facing huge opportunities — and distinct challenges — in news dissemination.

By the end of the year, it’s estimated that more than three-quarters of the population will be cell phone subscribers, including in places where literacy rates are low and electricity is unavailable. To better serve that demographic, German media giant Deutsche Welle is using over-the-phone voice technology to deliver news.

No Internet access necessary: Just dial a number to access the program Learning by Ear, an educational show for teenagers that mixes news and explainers having to do with health, politics, the economy, the environment, and social issues.”  READ MORE

What do Afghan Youth do for Fun?

Angela Walker's picture

It took almost two hours to drive the seven kilometers between the World Bank offices to reach Kabul University. The streets were clogged with frustrated drivers performing adroit maneuvers to steer through the stop-and-go traffic.

The tree-lined paths of the university are a still and silent oasis from the raucous, dusty streets of the city center just outside. Young people walk in pairs, stop to chat or read in the winter sunshine.

I am here to meet with a group of 18 students who use a dedicated corner of the student library funded by the World Bank. Here, students can use five computers and a printer for free. But demand is high so the wait for a computer can be two to three hours at a stretch.

The girls tell me there are few other options for them. They cannot go to an internet café on their own to do their research without a male relative accompanying them. When asked how many have computers almost all hands go up. But internet access is prohibitively expensive for them and the service very slow. The World Bank corner offers them a lifeline to do their research and access materials not available in the library.

Overcoming Gaps in Transport Access in the Middle East and North Africa: Share Your Views

Julie Babinard's picture

Transport planning in MENA and other regions does not routinely address gender issues and sex disaggregated data is limited as is gender and transport expertise. In the MENA region, as in many other developing regions, women’s mobility is constrained by limited transport supply and also by social factors that can reduce the access of women to economic opportunities and voice in local decision-making.

Air Transportation – Quo Vadis?

Charles E. Schlumberger's picture

For several years, the World Bank, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and the air transport industry met annually at a conference discussing issues concerning the air transport sector. The conclusions of these conferences are important as they guide the Bank’s aviation development agenda.

Violence and the failure of institutions

Marcelo Giugale's picture



The World Bank has just published its annual World Development Report, something it has been doing for more than three decades.  [Disclosure: this economist has been contributing comments to early drafts of the WDR for the past 20 years.] The new volume is about security and development.  It says that societies are constantly under internal and external “stresses”—think corruption, youth unemployment, racial discrimination, religious competition, foreign invasion, and international terrorism.

Bread, freedom and the WDR 2011 on Conflict, Security and Development

Merrell Tuck-Primdahl's picture

Which comes first in the wake of revolution, bread or freedom?

A Reuters reporter asked about this during the embargoed press briefing last Friday to launch the World Development Report 2011: Conflict, Security and Development. What she wondered about was the tough choices of what to deal with most urgently in the throes of revolutions like we are seeing in the Middle East and North Africa.

In other words, should policymakers pay urgent attention to, say, food, jobs and the flow of cash or do justice and political change take precedence? 

Wanted: a new strategy to fight crime in Latin America

Maninder Gill's picture

What strikes me most as we engage further in citizen security issues in Latin America and the Caribbean is the level of interconnectivity that can be found at every possible level.

To begin with, of course, are the criminals themselves. Crucial to the success of organized criminal organizations is their ability to transcend borders and effectively integrate the very diverse and harmful facets of their enterprise. We also know how much the different forms of crime – drug traffickers, gun traffickers, youth gangs -- feed off one another. This is especially salient in Central America and Mexico, two of our team's priorities.

Learning about Airports

Chris Bennett's picture

The World Bank employs a variety of specialists in different disciplines, often with abstract and hard to understand titles. Not me. When people ask what I do for the Bank I say “I build roads”. This often brings laughs from other Bank staff, but it’s true.

The challenge of forced displacement and survival Migration

Margarita Puerto Gómez's picture

The World Bank’s Social Development Department (SDV) and Migration and Remittances Unit hosted a brown bag lunch (BBL) on state fragility, forced displacement, and survival migration on September 21, 2010. Dr. Alexander Betts from the University of Oxford presented a compelling argument on the need for innovative institutional approaches to displacement and forced migration as a development challenge. In today’s world of internal conflicts, state and societal fragility, and climate-related threats to food security, constant movements of people are not only associated with political persecution (“refugees”) or the mere desire to improve livelihoods (“economic migrants”), but also with a concept called “survival migration.” According to Dr Betts, this concept refers to people who are forced to move outside of their countries of origin because of an existential threat to their liberty, security, or livelihood systems.  Such people do not fall within the existing conventions and agreements related to displaced people. Case studies conducted in Angola, Botswana, among others, illustrate that these migrants are extremely vulnerable groups and that their human rights are often violated in host countries.


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