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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.
 

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.


The New Global Marketplace of Political Change
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Western democratic powers are no longer the dominant external shapers of political transitions around the world. A new global marketplace of political change now exists, in which varied arrays of states, including numerous nondemocracies and non-Western democracies, are influencing transitional trajectories. Western policymakers and aid practitioners have been slow to come to grips with the realities and implications of this new situation.

Progress of the World’s Women 2015-2016: Transforming Economies, Realizing Rights
UN Women
Progress of the World’s Women 2015-2016: Transforming Economies, Realizing Rights, UN Women’s flagship report, shows that, all too often, women’s economic and social rights are held back, because they are forced to fit into a 'man’s world'. But, it is possible to move beyond the status quo, to picture a world where economies are built with women’s rights at their heart. It is being published as the international community comes together to define a transformative post-2015 development agenda, and coincides with the 20th anniversary commemoration of the landmark Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China which set out a comprehensive agenda to advance gender equality. Since Beijing, significant progress has been made, particularly in advancing women’s legal rights. However, as Progress shows, in an era of unprecedented global wealth, millions of women are trapped in low paid, poor quality jobs, denied even basic levels of health care, and water and sanitation. Women still carry the burden of unpaid care work, which austerity policies and cut-backs have only intensified.
 

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.
 
Freedom of the Press 2015
Freedom House
Freedom of the Press 2015, the latest edition of an annual report published by Freedom House since 1980, found that global press freedom declined in 2014 to its lowest point in more than 10 years. The rate of decline also accelerated drastically, with the global average score suffering its largest one-year drop in a decade. The share of the world’s population that enjoys a Free press stood at 14 percent, meaning only one in seven people live in countries where coverage of political news is robust, the safety of journalists is guaranteed, state intrusion in media affairs is minimal, and the press is not subject to onerous legal or economic pressures.  The steepest declines worldwide relate to two factors: the passage and use of restrictive laws against the press—often on national security grounds—and the ability of local and foreign journalists to physically access and report freely from a given country, including protest sites and conflict areas. Paradoxically, in a time of seemingly unlimited access to information

The Path to Happiness: Lessons From the 2015 World Happiness Report
Huffington Post
Getting richer but not happier: It's a familiar story, for people and for nations. The purpose of the World Happiness Report, now in its third edition for 2015, is to remind governments, civil society, and individuals that income alone cannot secure our well-being. True happiness depends on social capital, not just financial capital. The evidence is straightforward. Around the world Gallup International asks people about their satisfaction with life. "Imagine a ladder with steps numbered from zero at the bottom to 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand?" Countries differ widely, and systematically, in their average scores. Using these scores, it is then possible to determine, statistically, the causes of life satisfaction around 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.

The data revolution: finding the missing millions
ODI
For governments wanting to end poverty, steward sustainable environments and foster healthy, thriving populations with the opportunity to earn a decent living, many of the necessary pieces are now in place. They start from a good base. Millions of families have escaped poverty and many million more children are in schools than was the case 15 years ago. Much more is known about successful developmental pathways. And many of the world’s poorest countries are experiencing strong economic growth.  But, finance aside, there is still one key element the absence of which is impeding progress: data. Governments do not adequately know their own people.
 
Economic Coalition of the Willing
Foreign Affairs
or the past decade, a quiet experiment has been underway at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Paris-based body composed of the United States and other advanced market democracies. Although it is often dismissed as sleepy and technocratic, the OECD has found a way to remain relevant in a quickly shifting global landscape, and other multilateral organizations would be wise to pay attention.  The OECD, like numerous other international bodies, must adapt to changing geopolitical dynamics that have left new major global players outside its ranks. Its response is a so-called “key partner” initiative that allows it to engage—and seek to influence—pivotal nonmember states. This method strikes the right balance between maintaining the OECD’s symbolic role as the enforcer of Western norms and meeting its practical need to maintain a foothold on the global stage. 
 

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.
 

Watchdogs Under Watch: Media in the Age of Cyber Surveillance
Center for International Media Assistance
The report looks at the implications that electronic surveillance–of e-mail communications, telephone calls, visits to websites, online shopping, and even the physical whereabouts of individuals–presents for privacy and for freedom of expression and association on the one hand and for national security and law enforcement on the other. Striking the right balance between these fundamental human rights and the need for governments to protect their citizens poses a daunting challenge for policy makers, civil society, news media, and, in the end, just about everybody.

Measuring what policymakers want from academics
Washington Post
An increasing number of unsupported, but plausible, claims assert a widening gap between the policy and academic communities in international relations. Certainly both IR scholars and IR practitioners perceive a growing gap between the academic and policy communities. But how would we know if there were an actual gap and whether it was growing or shrinking? Scholars have addressed this question by drawing upon personal experience and anecdotal evidence. Joe Nye and Steve Walt have argued that academic research is increasingly irrelevant and inaccessible to policy practitioners. Others, such as Peter Feaver and Mike Horowitz, offer a more qualified take but provide no systematic evidence. So we still need to do what Kate Weaver has suggested: “mind — and measure — the gap” between what scholars are researching and what policymakers are demanding.
 

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.

The surprising benefits of autocratic elections
Washington Post
After a bitterly contested election campaign and several controversial postponements, Muhammadu Buhari engineered an upset of Nigeria’s incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday, the country’s first-ever case of electoral turnover. Legislative elections will follow on April 11, while two other African countries, Sudan and Togo, are also scheduled to hold elections over the next two weeks. Besides the coincidence in electoral timing, these countries share another surprising link—all three are generally recognized as autocracies. The marriage of autocracy with contested elections is, in fact, the norm nowadays. All but five autocracies have held a national election since 2000, with about three in four allowing multiparty competition. What makes these regimes autocratic is that the elections fail to meet democratic standards, typically with state power being used to favor the ruling party.
 
Cellphones for Women in Developing Nations Aid Ascent From Poverty
New York Times
Here is what life is like for a woman with no bank account in a developing country. She keeps her savings hidden — in pots, under mattresses, in fields. She constantly worries about thieves. She may even worry about her husband taking cash she has budgeted for their children’s needs. Sending money to a family member in another village is risky and can take days. Obtaining a loan in an emergency is often impossible. An unexpected expense can mean she has to pull a child out of school or sell a cow the family relies on for income. Or, worse, it can mean she must give birth at home without medical assistance because she doesn’t have the money for a ride to a clinic. In ways big and small, life without access to financial services is more difficult, expensive and dangerous. It constrains a woman’s ability to plan for her family’s future. At the community level, it traps households in cycles of poverty. More broadly, it limits the economic growth potential of developing countries.

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.
 
How disasters drive displacement – and what should be done about it
IRIN News
The risk of people being displaced by natural disasters has quadrupled in the last 40 years and, unless governments adopt national and global plans to address the main drivers of displacement, increasing numbers of people will lose their homes to floods, earthquakes and landslides in the future. This is the main message of a report released on Thursday by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) ahead of the third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction due to take place in Sendai, Japan in the coming days. UN member states are expected to adopt a global plan to reduce disaster risk that will build on the Hyogo Framework for Action adopted 10 years ago.  The Hyogo Framework addressed disaster risk reduction but not the risk of being displaced by a disaster..

6 Ways Technology Is Breaking Barriers To Social Change
FastCompany
We all know that technology is changing the world from artificial intelligence to big data to the ubiquity of smart phones, but many of us working to change society are just starting to understand how to harness tech forces for good. The stakes are high: Some 2 billion people continue to live on less than $2 a day. Millions of women and girls around the world lack basic human rights. Forty percent of children in U.S. urban school districts fail to graduate. A slew of initiatives address these and other intractable social issues, yet often, even the most successful ones only address a fraction of the problem.


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