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middle east

Accidental agents of change

Nicholas van Praag's picture

In places where conditions are ripe for political change, actually unseating tyrannical regimes requires a spark to light the tinder of revolution. But where does that spark come from?

    In the vanguard

The upcoming World Development Report argues that there is no one push factor. Rather, it shows how a wide range of domestic and international stresses—including economic inequality, political oppression and corruption—can eventually bring a country to its knees if its institutions are unable to mediate tensions and overcome stresses.

But, absent an institutional set-up capable of heading off the pressures before they boil over, when does enough become too much?

Many people are wary and their natural reticence may win out.

I was reading last weekend that most people in the UK pay parking fines—even when they are given erroneously—rather than go through the hassle of complaining.

If that is the case in the UK, what does it take to ignite direct action in places where the dissuasive powers of the authorities are used to scare people into submission?

Smart Lesson: Combatting the Resource Curse in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Countries


  

Control over natural resources often plays an important role in armed conflicts, either because warring factions fight over access to natural resources or because natural resources help finance one or several of the factions. Recent examples include the several wars fought, in part, over access to oil in the Middle East and wars fueled by “blood diamonds” in West Africa. The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) facilitates public control over the wealth generated by these natural resources and limits corruption.

The EITI, launched in 2002 and endorsed by the World Bank in 2003, has provided tangible governance improvements in resource-rich conflict-affected countries. It works with multiple stakeholders—a coalition of governments, companies, investors, international organizations, and civil society organizations — to manage a process of publication and verification of company payments and government revenues from oil, gas, and mining.

The medium and its message: how new media is changing the dynamic of dissent

Nicholas van Praag's picture

 

    Grand old man of the medium Photo: Reckon, Chris Weige

The role of cell phones and new media in mobilizing people on the streets of Egypt and Tunisia has evinced as much interest in some quarters as the grievances that lie behind the unrest.

Some commentators dismiss this fascination as a cliché driven by the born-in America phenomena of Twitter and Facebook. But make no mistake: these new types of media are flattening the hierarchical media environments long held in the iron grip of governments and elite owners of the means of communication.

Their grip on these levers of control remains strong, as we have seen in Egypt these past few days, but the advent of new media threatens the continued dominance of top-down communication.

That’s a big change; one that empowers ordinary people in a potentially revolutionary way. According to Jason Liebman, co-founder of Movements.org, “these technologies not only shrink the world by allowing us to communicate with more people than ever—but they enable every person to be an activist for peace and human rights”.

His organization provides a go-to site for movements around the world where they can find how-to guides, case studies, and blog posts about digital activism.

Elections and their limits

Nicholas van Praag's picture

We have heard many calls this past week for free and fair elections to create order, or at least legitimacy, out of frustration and rage. But elections may not always do the trick -- or the many tricks -- that people expect of them. In this interview, Professor Jack Goldstone of George Mason University, who authored a paper for the WDR on Representational Models and Democratic Transitions in Fragile and Post-Conflict States, discusses the limits of the ballot box as a tool of reconciliation and the conditions necessary for elections to play their part in complex transitions.

WATCH:

Democracy and the foundations of legitimacy

Nicholas van Praag's picture

This post is part of a series of interviews with members of the WDR 2011 Advisory Council.

With the ongoing protests and calls for democratic reform in Egypt -- and in other parts of the Arab world -- there is a lot of interest in the grievances and aspirations that lie behind the unrest. In this interview, Mr. Louis Michel, a member of the WDR 2011 Advisory Council and member of the European Parliament, discusses the role of the state and the foundations of legitimacy.

WATCH:


The Yemen Challenge

David Craig's picture

Last month’s High Level Donor Meeting on Yemen in London reminded the international community once more that we have to support this country in need.

Yemen is in trouble. A worrying mix of security-related and economic crises has the potential to destabilize the country. We are now paying more attention to Yemen, because the Al Qaeda-inspired failed airliner bombing in the United States on December 24 originated, at least in part, there. But Yemen is also facing long-standing civil unrest in the north and south, as well as an increasingly deteriorating fiscal situation.