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Quote of the week: Mark Twain

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"If you don't read a newspaper you are uninformed. If you do read a newspaper, you are misinformed."

- Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. Among his writings are The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), the latter often called "The Great American Novel". William Faulkner called Twain "the father of American literature".

The “voice of the people” is a fearsome thing

Sina Odugbemi's picture

The form of rule known as liberal constitutional democracy – the high achievement of the Enlightenment – is under attack almost everywhere these days by people claiming to represent that most fearsome of things: the voice of the people. This claim is made in a self-justificatory, there-is-no-arguing-with-that manner. All that opponents have to do is bow to the force, the power, and the majesty of, you guessed it, the voice of the people.

This is no ideological divide here. Populists on the right are making the claim as they push for the unchallenged sway of the genuine interests but also the grievances and prejudices of a portion of “the people” which they claim is “all the people”. Spot the slick rhetorical move. Populists on the left make the same claim as they agitate for the genuine interests but also the grievances and prejudices of another (but sometimes overlapping) portion of “the people” which they too claim is “all the people”. The same slick rhetorical move. What is left unsaid is a blunt claim: “The people I represent are the only ones that matter in this political community, and what they want takes priority over all else.”

There is a second rhetorical move that these populist leaders make, especially if, as often happens, they have acquired charismatic authority. It is the elegant dance from the “we” to the “I”. When these populist movements erupt the leaders say “we” a lot, but after a while they become the embodiment (or so they claim) of the “will of the people” and to oppose them is, they suggest, to oppose “the people”. The leaders of nationalist movements make this move easily. Once the “we” becomes the “I” these leaders become truly powerful and dangerous. If you oppose them they can unleash a mob on you, even if the mob is only online. And if they win power, to oppose them is treason. Mere criticism of the leader can land you in jail, and this is happening in some contexts as we speak.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

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

Foreign aid is a shambles in almost every way
The Economist
NOT long ago Malawi was a donor darling. Being dirt poor and ravaged by AIDS, it was needy; with just 17m inhabitants, a dollop of aid might visibly improve it. Better still, it was more-or-less democratic and its leader, Joyce Banda, was welcome at Westminster and the White House. In 2012 Western countries showered $1.17 billion on it, and foreign aid accounted for 28% of gross national income. The following year corrupt officials, businessmen and politicians pinched at least $30m from the Malawian treasury in just six months. A bureaucrat investigating the thefts was shot three times (he survived, somehow). Germany said it would help pay for an investigation; later, burglars raided the home of a German official and stole documents relating to the scandal. Malawi is no longer a donor darling.

The capabilities of finance ministries
ODI
All countries have a finance ministry. If one organizational feature defines what makes a state a state, it is a central unit that handles income and expenditure – or aspires to. This remains remarkably consistent irrespective of the huge variations in the purpose and institutional shape of government. Finance ministries are also at the centre of many current policy discussions, whether on how to respond to the 2008 financial crisis, how best to fund global development goals, or how an emerging economy should go about establishing a welfare state. Virtually every policy decision that involves the raising and spending of public money involves a finance ministry at some stage. Yet despite their almost self-evident importance, very few studies focused on finance ministries as objects of study.

Campaign Art: Dance lessons for scholarships

Davinia Levy's picture
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Do you know how to dance? You may be one of those that have a natural instinct for rhythm and movement, or you may be one of those that need some lessons to just learn how to do the steps.

How about exchanging dance lessons for scholarships? The Juan Pablo Gutierrez Caceres Foundation in Colombia offers scholarships for post-graduate studies to Colombian students with limited resources. This foundation capitalized on the great dance skills of the people of the Chocó region in Colombia. They offer online dance classes for a fee, and the money is used for the scholarship program of the foundation in that region.
 
CHOCÓ TO DANCE

Source of video: MullenLoweSSP3

Thomas Piketty on inequality in developing countries (great, but still not enough on politics)

Duncan Green's picture

I heard econ rock star Thomas Piketty speak for the first time last week – hugely enjoyable. The occasion was the annual conference of the LSE’s new International Inequalities Institute, with Piketty headlining. He was brilliant: original and funny, riffing off traditional France v Britain tensions, and reeling off memorable one liners: ‘meritocracy is a myth invented by winners’; ‘It’s difficult to be an honest country in today’s world. Britain used to be an honest country.’

He started with a mea culpa for the lack of attention in his best selling Capital in the 21stCentury to inequality in developing countries. The good news is that he is now putting that right, with research under way on inequality in South Africa, Brazil, the Middle East, India and China. He gave us a preview on the first three.

His overall conclusion? "Official measures vastly underestimate inequality". The most common reason for this is that inequality stats are drawn from household surveys, but samples of households typically miss the few megarich ones, and so underestimate the money at the top. He prefers to use tax and income data, which he has now got access to from governments because of his newfound fame. Even that data doesn’t tell the whole story, as it misses tax evasion, for example, but it’s a step in the right direction.

The things we do: Can computer games contribute to HIV prevention?

Roxanne Bauer's picture
Also available in: Español

Preventing and controlling HIV is essential to ensuring that everyone can lead healthy, productive lives. It is essential to address this disease if everyone is to share in global prosperity.  The international community has made significant gains in fighting the spread of HIV as well as in increasing the survival rate of those already infected.

However, women- and in particular young women- remain vulnerable to contracting the disease.  According to The Gap Report from UNAIDS, adolescent girls and young women account for one in four new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa.  Globally, there are about 16 million women aged 15 years and older who are living with HIV, and 80% of them live in sub-Saharan Africa.  Within this region, women acquire HIV infections at least 5–7 years earlier than men, primarily through heterosexual transmission. While there is some research that younger women are more physiologically vulnerable to HIV, the evidence also points to several non-physiological factors that help account for gender inequalities, including inequalities in education and economic opportunities, vulnerability to intimate partner violence, and women having sex with older men.

Why collaborate? Three frameworks to understand business-NGO partnerships

Kerina Wang's picture

Nowadays, forming strategic alliances across sectors has become the new operating norm. But the blurring of sectoral boundaries among governments, businesses and NGOs makes it increasingly difficult to assess functions traditionally performed by a certain sector, since conventional boundaries have dissolved, and power and influence are distributed in networks. One sub-set of such collaborations – business-NGO interactions – has attracted much attention, as NGOs begin to move away from their informal, social roles and venture into economic and political territories.

Business-NGO collaborations may come in many forms: NGOs could partner with firms to function as “civil regulators”, primarily by addressing market and government failures through the development of soft laws, social standards, certification schemes, and operating norms; leverage social capital to transfer localized institutional knowledge to firms; mobilize collective action between governments and firms; and serve as information brokers to connect otherwise disparate groups.

How do we assess business-NGO dynamics? Why are they are established? And in what forms are they governed? I source a few inspirations from business, political science, and public administration theories and offer three theoretical lenses through which we can examine business-NGO partnerships.

Quote of the week: Thomas Jefferson

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies."

- Thomas Jefferson, an American Founding Father and principal author of the US Declaration of Independence (1776). He was elected the second Vice President of the United States (1797–1801), serving under John Adams, and in 1800 was elected third President (1801–09). Jefferson was a proponent of democracy, republicanism, and individual rights.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

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

Great news: people around the world are living longer than ever
Vox
The World Health Organization has some good news for the world: Babies born today are likely to live longer than ever before, and the gains are particularly dramatic in the parts of the world where life expectancy has lagged most. Worldwide, life expectancy is just under 74 years for women and just over 69 years for men. Babies born today across Africa can expect to live almost 10 years longer than those born in 2000, the biggest gains in life expectancy anywhere in the world.
 
To Fight Disease Outbreaks, Scientists Turn to Cell Phones
Discover Magazine
Cell phones ride in our pockets or purses everywhere we go, which makes them a powerful tool for monitoring explosive epidemics. Epidemiologists rely on computer models to simulate the spread of disease and determine how best to intervene, and tracking human movement is key to accomplishing this two-headed task. Now, a team of researchers says mobile phone records can provide better data about population movements, which in turn helps produce more accurate epidemic models. To prove this approach can work, researchers compiled cell phone records, from 2013, generated by 150,000 users in Senegal to track population movements and model a cholera epidemic that ravaged the country in 2005.
 
African Economic Outlook 2016: Sustainable Cities and Structural Transformation
OECD
The African Economic Outlook 2016 presents the continent’s current state of affairs and forecasts its situation for the coming two years. This annual report examines Africa’s performance in crucial areas: macroeconomics, financing, trade policies and regional integration, human development, and governance. For its 15th edition, the African Economic Outlook  takes a hard look at urbanisation and structural transformation in Africa and proposes practical steps to foster sustainable cities. A section of country  notes summarises recent economic growth, forecasts gross domestic product for 2016 and 2017, and highlights the main policy issues facing each of the 54 African countries. A statistical annex compares country-specific economic, social and political variables.
 

Meaty issues on the radio

BBC Media Action's picture

Ehizogie Ohiani, a Producer/Trainer for BBC Media Action in Nigeria, discusses how radio is raising awareness about the lack of hygiene amongst the butchers of Benue State, Nigeria.

A meal without meat is as good as no meal for most people in Benue State, North Central Nigeria. Considering its importance, one would expect that hygiene surrounding the preparation and sale of meat would be held in the same high esteem. This is not the case.

A murky mix of flies, blood, water, muddy walkways, sweaty bodies and smoke combine to make the abattoirs in the marketplaces of Benue State a perfect breeding ground for disease. Lack of adequate sanitation knowledge, lack of enforcement by market associations and insufficient supervision of animal slaughter by qualified veterinary officers conspire to create major health challenges for communities.

I was at Harvest FM, a local radio station in Benue State, to train producers. We were brainstorming ways we could use their popular early morning show “Good Morning Benue” to help serve the public interest. For the producers, an obvious choice was to discuss hygiene in abattoirs.

The programme explored a number of problems in the state’s local abattoirs: an absence of toilet and handwashing facilities and the practice of washing meat with untreated water sourced direct from the River Benue.

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