Syndicate content

Democracy

Quote of the Week: Niall Ferguson

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Niall Ferguson at a Chatham House event on 9 May 2011"Politically, most of the world has never been more boring. Instead of the alarms and excursions of the past, we now have technocrats versus populists. Any violence is verbal and the technocrats nearly always win."

Niall Ferguson, a British historian from Scotland, who specializes in international history; economic history, particularly hyperinflation and the bond markets; and British and American imperialism. Ferguson's books include Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World, The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World and Civilization: The West and the Rest. He is also the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University; Senior Research Fellow of Jesus College, University of Oxford; a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution of Stanford University; and visiting professor at the New College of the Humanities.

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.
 

State of Civil Society Report
CIVICUS alliance
The scale of the threats to civic space should not be underestimated. CIVICUS’ analysis suggests that, in 2014, there were serious threats to civic freedoms in at least 96 countries around the world. If you take these countries’ populations into account, this means that 67 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guaranteed our freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association, 6 out of 7 humans live in countries where these freedoms were under threat. And even the most mature democracies are not exempt

6 Astounding Ways Africa Is Paving the Way for the Future of Technology
Open Mic
Every week, the American tech sector uses the most advanced mobile technologies in the world to create some new meaningless distraction. Tinder for dogs, Airbnb for boats, Yo — all sorts of luxury convenience tools created to manufacture and solve problems that don't exist and extract some in-app purchases along the way. Meanwhile, in Africa, a budding generation of technologists, coders and entrepreneurs are rising to solve their continent's most pressing problems. Entire new industries around payment solutions, crowdsourcing and entertainment media are springing up in tech hubs in Kenya, Nigeria and other countries.  This is the rise of Silicon Savannah — and a few ways it's going to change the global face of technology.

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.
 

Why don’t voters demand more redistribution?
The Washington Post
If you believe economic inequality is a political problem, these are trying times. As economic inequality increases in many of the world’s wealthy democracies, so does the disproportionate political influence of the rich. As a recent Monkey Cage post explained, even though economic inequality is on the rise, politicians around the world have grown increasingly attentive to the demands of the “1 percent” — and less responsive to the less well-off.  If you believe inequality is a bad thing, this trend is worrisome. The power of the rich to mute everyone else’s political voices could push economic inequality even higher, as the wealthy erect ever-higher barriers to policies that might work to reduce poverty and/or inequality.

Why Technology Hasn’t Delivered More Democracy
Foreign Policy
The current moment confronts us with a paradox. The first fifteen years of this century have been a time of astonishing advances in communications and information technology, including digitalization, mass-accessible video platforms, smart phones, social media, billions of people gaining internet access, and much else. These revolutionary changes all imply a profound empowerment of individuals through exponentially greater access to information, tremendous ease of communication and data-sharing, and formidable tools for networking. Yet despite these changes, democracy — a political system based on the idea of the empowerment of individuals — has in these same years become stagnant in the world.

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.
 

Why Governments Target Civil Society and What Can Be Done in Response
CSIS
Chief among the current challenges facing the global human rights community (and broader civil society) is a contagion growing in intensity and described best—if inelegantly—as the closing space around civil society. Drawing on a literature review and on discussions with activists from around the world, this report identifies five causal factors affecting closing space—in some cases hastening it, in other cases, helping to keep it at bay—that merit extensive, systematic inquiry. These various lines of inquiry provide a rich, new agenda that if addressed can help generate remedies to improve the conditions under which citizens organize in support of human rights.

What’s gone wrong with democracy?
The Economist
Democracy was the most successful political idea of the 20th century. Why has it run into trouble, and what can be done to revive it?  The  protesters who have overturned the politics of Ukraine have many aspirations for their country. Their placards called for closer relations with the European Union (EU), an end to Russian intervention in Ukraine’s politics and the establishment of a clean government to replace the kleptocracy of President Viktor Yanukovych. But their fundamental demand is one that has motivated people over many decades to take a stand against corrupt, abusive and autocratic governments. They want a rules-based democracy.  It is easy to understand why.

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.

In international aid, people should be seen as consumers not 'beneficiaries'
The Guardian
A poor widow in rural Bangladesh can choose from many competing mobile phone operators, weighing the best rates and customer service in order to reach her decision. Why should she not also have the right to choose, or at least be informed about, which NGO builds her flood-resistant home and be given the right to seek redress if it is washed away next flood season.  For the billions of the poorest people around the world who rely on philanthropic aid to meet even basic needs, as the saying goes, “beggars can’t be choosers”. But why shouldn’t philanthropic programmes abide by the same consumer rights rules expected of a traditional business selling soap or toothpaste? Both are delivering products or services to people, be they wealthy or impoverished: the only major difference is who is paying for it.

Democracy Does Not Live by Tech Alone
Foreign Policy
Enthusiasm for reforming our democracies has been gaining momentum. From the pages of Foreign Policy to the colorful criticisms of comedian Russell Brand, it is evident that a long-overdue public conversation on this topic is finally getting started.  There is no lack of proposals. For example, in their recent Foreign Policy piece, John Boik and colleagues focus on decentralized, emergent, tech-driven solutions such as participatory budgeting, local currency systems, and open government. They are confident that such innovations have a good chance of “spreading virally” and bringing about major change. Internet-based solutions, in particular, have captured our collective imagination. From Pia Mancini’s blockbuster TED presentation to New Scientist‘s recent coverage of “digital democracy,” we’re eager to believe that smartphone apps and novel online platforms hold the key to reinventing our way of governance. This seems only natural: after all, the same technologies have already radically reconfigured large swaths of our daily lives.
 

Developing democracies can thrive — messily

Brian Levy's picture

In a recent blog post, I introduced some data on patterns of governance change in developing democracies. The data confirm a central theme of Working with the Grain that most developing democracies are messy, and are likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future. For the overwhelming majority of developing democracies, transformational fantasies are just that – fantasies. In these messy settings, our conventional frameworks of good governance and technocratic policymaking are of little use. Those of us who are committed to democratic pathways need new understandings of the way forward.

This post provides the empirical detail which I promised in the earlier post – and highlights also what the reality of democratic ‘messiness’ implies for action. As I laid out in the earlier post – and as the attached file on MAJOR GOVERNANCE IMPROVERS 1998 to 2013 details, — 65 countries are on a democratic pathway and have populations in excess of 1 million and per capita incomes which (as of 2000) were below $10,000.  The group divides more-or-less evenly between 35 countries for which the recent period has been one of continuing (albeit often uneven) economic progress, and 30 countries that have experienced limited, if any, gains on either the institutional or economic front.  The 35 countries in turn divide into three predominant patterns.

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.

States of Fragility 2015: A New Approach to Fragility Post-2015
OECD
States of Fragility 2015 is published at an important time for international development cooperation. In 2015, the world's government will agree on a successor framework to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  This framework will be more ambitious than ever, requiring in turn more urgent efforts to reduce the persistent poverty in fragile situations and strengthen the institutions that can deliver economic and social development. This 2015 OECD report on fragility contributes to the broader debate to define post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), and argues that addressing fragility in the new framework will be crucial if strides in reducing poverty are to be made. 
 
How interactive radio is reshaping politics in Africa
SciDev.net
The powerful combination of interactive radio and mobile phones is a force for political change in East Africa, says researcher Sharath Srinivasan in this audio interview.  As director of the Centre of Governance & Human Rights at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, Srinivasan leads a team that uses ethnographic research, behavioural data and audience surveys to analyse how people in Kenya, Uganda and Zambia use radio for political and social debate. He says that call-in shows are hugely popular in these countries, particularly in rural areas where radio remains the dominant form of media. The rise of these shows has compelled politicians to tune in and directly engage with the on-air debates, Srinivasan says, shifting the relationship between people and policymakers.  But challenges remain.

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.

How democratic institutions are making dictatorships more durable
Washington Post
Voters in Uzbekistan, Sudan, Togo, and Kazakhstan will go to the polls in the coming weeks. Freedom House and others classify these countries as authoritarian and the elections are widely expected to fall short of being “free and fair.” How should we think about these elections — and the presence of other seemingly democratic institutions like political parties and legislatures — in non-democratic regimes? Why do leaders of authoritarian countries allow pseudo-democratic institutions? In a recent article in the Washington Quarterly, we use data on autocracies worldwide from 1946 to 2012 to show that authoritarian regimes use pseudo-democratic institutions to enhance the durability of their regimes.

Information Economy Report 2015 - Unlocking the Potential of E-commerce for Developing Countries
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD )
The 2015 edition of UNCTAD’s  Information Economy Report examines electronic commerce, and shows in detail how information and communications technologies can be harnessed to support economic growth and sustainable development. Electronic commerce continues to grow both in volume and geographic reach, and is increasingly featured in the international development agenda, including in the World Summit on the Information Society outcome documents and in the outcome of the ninth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization. The Information Economy Report 2015 highlights how some of the greatest dynamism in electronic commerce can be found in developing countries, but that potential is far from fully realized.  The report examines opportunities and challenges faced by enterprises in developing countries that wish to access and use e-commerce. 
 

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.

Discarding Democracy: A Return to the Iron Fist- Freedom in the World 2015
Freedom House
For the ninth consecutive year, Freedom in the World, Freedom House’s annual report on the condition of global political rights and civil liberties, showed an overall decline. Indeed, acceptance of democracy as the world’s dominant form of government—and of an international system built on democratic ideals—is under greater threat than at any point in the last 25 years.  Even after such a long period of mounting pressure on democracy, developments in 2014 were exceptionally grim. The report’s findings show that nearly twice as many countries suffered declines as registered gains, 61 to 33, with the number of gains hitting its lowest point since the nine-year erosion began.
 
Digital Inclusion: The Vital Role of Local Content
Innovations, MIT Press
The journal features cases authored by exceptional innovators; commentary and research from leading academics; and essays from globally recognized executives and political leaders.  The current issue contains lead essays entitled “Building a Foundation for Digital Inclusion”, “Inequitable Distributions in Internet Geographies”, and “To the Next Billion”.  It also includes case narratives entitled “A Mobile Guide Toward Better Health” and “A Social Network for Farmer Training” and more.

Despite the Growth, India Needs its Activists

Suvojit Chattopadhyay's picture

Activists are under attack in India. Columns such as this one on how misguided activism has created a “mess (that) will take some time to be sorted out” are not uncommon in the popular press these days. Part of this is mainstream journalists trying to make sense of a field where the motivations and incentives of the primary actors is hard to fathom. It is far easier to paint everyone as disruptive and regressive.

I am not an activist myself. However, the space for constructive activism in India is one that I care about. I will therefore, attempt to present a contrarian argument, advocating for greater space for activism in India.

It is still fashionable to present growth and development as a dichotomy. This is at a time when income inequality qualifies as possibly the biggest threat to India’s future. An aspiring global super power, we have the unenviable burden of literally hiding our poor behind make-shift screens every time we organise an international event or an important dignitary visits us. Many of those who are left out of the growth story also simultaneously suffer from disadvantageous social status and lack basic capabilities, due to an inability to access quality education, healthcare and the like. The experience of the past seven decades has shown that neither the state not the market on their own can empower citizens to exercise “individual preferences” that will pull them out of the vicious cycle of poverty.


Pages