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How to change the world

Nicholas van Praag's picture

     Violence reporting tool

Can new communications technologies change the way we change the world? That’s the big question.  Last week I got some clues from an international crowd of peace campaigners and social activists who have used digital communications to great effect. 

They were meeting in London under the banner of the Alliance for Youth Movements, a US NGO umbrella group. The focus was on new media as a game-changer in dealing with today’s morphing, metastasizing forms of conflict.

This is a trend we are tracking in the World Development Report 2011 which looks at conflict, violence and development.  I was in London with Carol Pineau, the curator of Conflict Convo—an initiative we are launching to revolutionize the feedback loop from people living in conflict zones.

After two-days of fascinating conversations, this is my checklist of what a would-be world changer needs to remember about new media:

Return to Gaza

Nigel Roberts's picture

In my last few blogs I have been writing about a visit to the West Bank & Gaza in January of this year. The WDR 2011 is looking at how peoples' expectations can affect the course of a conflict, and the extent to which actions by governments and the international community can change those expectations. This new video explores these ideas.

Return to Gaza from WDR Video on Vimeo.

Let them drink milk

Nicholas van Praag's picture

Reflections on a journey through the Rift Valley..

My main take-away from a visit to Kenya last month is that the ‘post-electoral violence’ has deep pre-electoral roots.  While inter-ethnic violence is not uncommon, the legacy of the displacement of tens of thousands of people in early 2008 seems to have created a Balkanization of Kenya. There is so much poverty, so much hatred, so much fear, and so many politicians willing to exploit this, that I felt a long-term peace is still elusive.

Driving up the Rift Valley, ground zero for much of the violence that erupted after the disputed elections in December 2007, I got a chance to hear tale after tale of loss and disruption, and to learn about people’s hopes and fears for the future.

   Hoping for a better future. Photos © Nicholas van Praag

At first it is hard for me to remember all the ethnic groups and follow the history of decades of social and ethnic disparity.  In many places Kikuyu were attacked by Kalenjin.  In others, Kikuyu gangs killed and displaced Luos and Luyas and Kalenjins.

The outcome today is a redrawing of many towns and villages along ethnic lines.  Most prominent of all is the town of Naivasha, reknowned for its flower farms that export roses and carnations around the world.  Once home to many different groups, it is almost entirely Kikuyu now. Luos and Luyas have been kicked out, their jobs taken.  None dare to return.

View from the bottom: the conspiracy of violence in Nairobi's slums

Nicholas van Praag's picture

Urban violence has reached unprecedented levels in many cities around the world, destabilizing whole societies and making life miserable for its victims.  It is a trend we are looking at in detail in the upcoming World Development Report which looks at conflict, violence and development.

To get a better understanding of the complicated inter-play between poverty, gangs, and bare-knuckled politics, I visited Nairobi's Mathare slum which is home to 850,000 people.  Julius, who runs the Julius Mwelu Foundation, showed me around.  I took a small video camera with me and this is my report:

Video blog: Nairobi's slums from WDR Video on Vimeo.

Great expectations in Southern Sudan

Nicholas van Praag's picture

When I last visited Juba in 1981, it was a sullen garrison town.  Today the mood in Southern Sudan’s capital is more upbeat, but it is tempered by concerns about the present and hard-to-realize expectations for the future.    

 
    Basic services remain basic.  Photo: Arne Hoel / World Bank.

As Sarah Cliffe and I discovered on a trip there last month, there is a lot going on.  Trade is as brisk in the town’s market places as traffic is slow on its crowded streets.  We did not get a chance to leave town but I would have loved to discover what's happening beyond the city limits. 

The city itself has grown rapidly—to half a million people—since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in 2005, ending decades of fighting and setting out a timetable for self-determination. 

At the open-air cafes along the river Nile, talk is all about next’s April’s national elections and the referendum that follows in January 2011 when voters will decide whether the South will remain part of a unified Sudan or become independent.

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