“You can’t tell somebody how to express themselves — you can’t. But I think you can tell people, ‘Hey, the way you’re expressing yourself, that hurts me.’ "
Liberalism, perhaps the dominant political ideology in the modern world, is under attack everywhere these days. Its core ideas – namely, constituting the political community in a manner that protects fundamental human rights, liberty and equal opportunities for all citizens – are being rudely dismissed. The norms that it cherishes and promotes – for instance, a public sphere that promotes free and open debate and discussion of the great issues of the day in a manner that is respectful of all participants – are being ridiculed by sundry boors, thugs, and loudmouths with megaphones. Within liberal constitutional democracies, the challenge is coming from populists and nativists. Outside these democracies, the challenge is coming from autocracies… a growing band of hard men and maximum rulers. In Africa, for instance, rather than the building of vital and strong institutions we have the saddening return of the Big Men. They win power and refuse to leave, even when they become doddering old fools.
I submit that all this would not matter that much if Liberalism itself were in rude health. But it is in a bad way. The following are some of the reasons why this is the case.
How the other tenth lives
WHAT is the most important number in global economics? Judging by the volume of commentary it excites, America’s monthly payrolls report (released on October 7th) might qualify. Other contenders include the oil price or the dollar’s exchange rate against the euro, yen or yuan. These numbers all reflect, and affect, the pace of economic activity, with immediate consequences for bond yields, share prices and global prosperity—which is what economics is ultimately all about. But if global prosperity is the ruling concern of economics, then perhaps a more significant number was released on October 2nd by the World Bank. It reported that 767m people live in extreme poverty, subsisting on less than $1.90 a day, calculated at purchasing-power parity and 2011 prices. The figure is not up-to-the-minute: such is the difficulty in gathering the data that it is already over two years out of date. Nor did the announcement move any markets. But the number nonetheless matters. It represents the best attempt to measure gains in prosperity among the people most in need of them.
Post-war Political Settlements: From Participatory Transition Processes to Inclusive State-building and Governance
The last decade has seen a growing convergence of policy and research discourses among development, peace and conflict, and democratisation experts, with regards to the assumed benefits of inclusive transition processes from conflict and fragility to peace and resilience. The realisation that the social, economic or political exclusion of large segments of society is a key driver of intra-state wars has prompted donor agencies, diplomats and peacebuilding practitioners, as well as the respective academic communities, to search for the right formula to support inclusive and participatory conflict transformation mechanisms and post-war state-society relations. While these various stakeholders profess rhetorical commitment to inclusivity, the term is used in very different and sometimes even in contradictory ways.
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.
Every child has the right to a fair chance in life, regardless of where they are born. However, according to new data from “The State of the World’s Children”, an annual flagship report from United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), nearly half of the world’s extreme poor are children, and many more experience multiple dimensions of poverty in their lives. Unless progress is accelerated, 167 million children will live in extreme poverty in 2030, and 69 million children under 5 will die between 2016 and 2030.
Children living and working in the streets are one of the most marginalized and disadvantaged. They are often deprived of services and care, pushed aside and neglected. Lack of shelter, nutritious food, and access to education robs these children of an opportunity of a better future.
In June 2016 UNICEF published the video below to illustrate the challenges children living in the streets face, especially the stigma society associates with them. It is a social experiment to test the public’s reaction to a young homeless girl.
Source of the video: UNICEF
I’m sure that to readers of this blog the Ebola epidemic that devastated West Africa a couple of years ago needs no introduction (just in case, here’s a nice summary by the Guardian’s health editor). So I’ll cut to the chase, and to a narrative that at the time was bubbling underneath more familiar debates about responding to health crises – you know, things like imperfect governance, fragile health systems, drug shortages.
All of them important, but this narrative was new. It was about fear, communication and cooperation – the human and social side of the crisis (explored in a SciDev.Net collection I commissioned at the time). There was also an unsettling undercurrent to it – one that conveyed ‘otherness’ and ignorance on the part of West Africans, fuelled by reports of violence against health workers and of communities resisting expert advice against risky funeral rites.
But if you listened closely, you could just about make out the voices of anthropologists trying to dispel notions that these reactions were about exotic or traditional cultures. Paul Richards was one of those voices, and luckily he’s put together a rare account of evidence, theory and experience in a book that should trigger real reflection on how we can do better in handling similar crises (hint: more listening).
Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic tells the story of the epidemic through the eyes of someone with intimate knowledge of the region and the rules that influence human interactions – very much an anthropologist’s perspective, not an epidemiologist’s. The book turns the mainstream discourse on its head, putting what Richards calls “people’s science” on an equal footing with the more orthodox science behind the international response. It captures how people and experts adapted to each other, falling into a process of knowledge co-production.
"Whatever the counterculture was, I had seen enough of it. I was sick of the way my lyrics had been extrapolated, their meanings subverted into polemics and that I had been anointed as the Big Bubba of Rebellion, High Priest of Protest, the Czar of Dissent, the Duke of Disobedience, Leader of the Freeloaders, Kaiser of Apostasy, Archbishop of Anarchy, the Big Cheese."
- Bob Dylan, in his memoir, Chronicles: Volume One (pg. 120), on how some critics have interpreted and studied his music, calling him the voice of a generation.
- Quote of the Week
I saw some effective academic-NGO cooperation last week, and even better, it involved some of my LSE students.
The occasion was the launch of Beyond Integrity: Exploring the role of business in preserving civil society space, commissioned and published by the Charities Aid Foundation and written by Silky Agrawal, Brooks Reed and Riya Saxena, three of last year’s LSE Masters students. They researched and wrote the report as part of a student consultancy project, and CAF were so impressed that they decided to publish it. Result.
First the content: the authors went looking for cases where businesses had got involved in defending civil society from attacks by government, and identified four really interesting cases (see table). They interviewed a number of the players in each case.
They found some ‘key learnings’ (bit depressing to see them already adopting the barbarisms of aidspeak!):
- Firms in consumer-facing industries are responsive to large-scale social movements that raise awareness regarding human rights abuses;
- Privately owned companies with strong ethics and values tied into the core business model, led by engaged leaders, are likely to respond to civil society;
- At times, privately held dialogues between key stakeholders and host governments can be more effective at initiating positive action than a public challenge, as the respect and dignity of each stakeholder is maintained;
- Leveraging formal and informal cross-sectoral networks is instrumental in convincing corporations to act on behalf of civil society.
Culture gives cities social and economic power, shows UNESCO report
Culture has the power to make cities more prosperous, safer, and sustainable, according to UNESCO’s Global Report, Culture: Urban Future to be launched in Quito (Ecuador) on 18 October. The Global Report presents evidence on how development policies in line with UNESCO’s conventions on the protection and promotion of culture and heritage can benefit cities. Current trends show that urbanization will continue to increase in scale and speed, particularly in Africa and Asia, which are set to be 54 and 64 percent urban by 2050. The world is projected to have 41 mega cities by 2030, each home to at least 10 million people. Massive and rapid urbanization can often exacerbate challenges for cities creating more slums and poor access to public spaces as well as having a negative impact on the environment. This process often leads to a rise in unemployment, social inequality, discrimination and violence.
Sustainable Cities: 3 Ways Cities Can Contribute to a Renewable Energy Future
This week, global policy makers gather in Quito for the Habitat III Conference to reinvigorate the global commitment to the sustainable development of cities. Meeting every 20 years, the Habitat Conference will this year focus on setting a new Urban Agenda. Within this context and for the first time ever, the Conference will also discuss the rapid deployment of renewable energy as a means to achieve a sustainable urban future. This could not be timelier. Dramatic cost declines and technological innovations, present cities with an unprecedented opportunity to transform and decarbonise their energy supply on the basis of a positive economic case - an option that did not exist when the Habitat Conference last convened in 1996. This is great news, considering cities are home to 54% of the global population and generate 70% of global emissions.
“She who succeeds in gaining the mastery of the bicycle will gain the mastery of life.” - Susan B. Anthony
In America during the 1890s, the bicycle provided women with unprecedented autonomy of mobility and abolished many old fashions, including corsets, bustles, and long voluminous skirts. Bicycles came to epitomize the quintessential “new woman” of the late 19th Century. She was believed to be college educated, active in sports, interested in pursuing a career, and looking for a marriage based on equality. The image of the “new women” was also almost always portrayed on a bicycle! An 1895 article found in the American Wheelman, mentions suffragist leader, Elizabeth Cady Stanton who predicted: “The bicycle will inspire women with more courage, self-respect, self-reliance….”
At a conference I attended on cycling, the coffee break chatter included this intriguing question: “What can be more picturesque than a woman on the bicycle?” After a few moments of loud deliberations none of the cycling scholars were able to come up with a clever enough answer, but the expected answer was very obvious: “TWO women riding bicycles!” What a perfect match for the testimony of women’s rights activist, Susan B. Anthony, who stated: “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel… the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”
It’s amazing to witness people from different walks of life; different countries or differing religions work together for the social good. Such is the compelling story about five women who indirectly and directly empower each other to advocate for the usage of the bicycle as a means of transport in Uganda’s Capital, Kampala. When the London based staff writer, Maeve Shearlaw of The Guardian, wrote an article in August 2015 titled, "Potholes, sewage and traffic hostility: can Kampala ever be a bike-friendly city?", she was most likely not anticipating that a year later her story would inspire three female students from Sweden’s Red Cross College University in Stockholm. The three were taking a course called: Documentary in the World, as a part of a one-year program focused on global social issues.
New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.The Internet is overwhelming. It’s simple as that. We’re bombarded with content and advertisements on pretty much every website we visit. Advertisers struggle to collect data on what will catch our eye and what will take us to their content. How old are we? Where do we live? What devices are we using to get to their page?
But one thing that has been overlooked often, among researchers is the ‘Why?’
Why are consumers more likely to engage with some content over others? What are the motivations behind consumers to seek out information?
A research study done by AOL seeks to uncover that ‘why,’ and explores over 55,000 consumer interactions with online content to better understand their motivations. The research revealed that people around the world are engaging with digital content in eight different ways, which this research refers to as “content moments.” A content moment is comprised of four elements before, during, and after engagement: the motivations for initiating the content experience, the emotions felt during the experience, the outcomes of the content, and finally, the topic of the content.
These eight content moments are:
- Inspire - Look for fresh ideas or trying something new
- Be in the Know - Stay updated or find relevant ideas
- Find - Seek answers or advice
- Comfort - Seek support or insight
- Connect - Learn something new or be part of a community
- Feel Good - Improve mood or feel relaxed
- Entertain - Look for an escape or a mental break
- Update Socially - Stay updated or take a mental break