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Zuma´s Regional Drivers of Change May 4, 2009

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by Mathias de Alencastro

South Africa is having one of the hardest socioeconomic crises since the ANC came to power. Although the country is technologically advanced, it hasn’t been capable of sustaining his energetic needs. The Rand, underachiever currency of the year, lost 12% against the dollar in the past months. The growing inflation and the high interest rates slow down the foreign investments. Supposedly the model of Africa’s development, South Africa is recaptured by its own demons. Mbeki’s “Africa’s renaissance” doctrine is not convincing.

Photo by Fábio Zanini

Photo by Fábio Zanini

Jacob Zuma arrival to the head of the ANC and his election as president are taking place through an important transition period in Southern African politics. Presidential elections will be held in Angola and Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe is facing its deepest crisis. Apparently, Jacob Zuma found an external solution for the South Africa internal crisis. This approach might shatter the regional relations in Southern Africa

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Connecting Europe – EU Elections (1) April 21, 2009

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 By Dídac Gutiérrez-Peris 

This is the first of a series of articles related with the June 2009 European Elections.  

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European what?

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The starting point is something called Predict09 (www.predict09.eu), a website where we can find an accurate prediction of the European elections results. Combined with the conclusions of the last Eurobarometer (EB71) (http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb_special_en.htm) one thing is pretty clear: people don’t care about these elections, and more than 40% will probably not even vote. ConnexionOne could argue that that’s the natural reaction when you have an election with an incredible lack of “politicization” but there’s another crucial factor while explaining the social disinterest and that’s the absence of a tough strategy of political communication. What do we have to do to motivate the national media, the newspapers, the radio stations and TV to speak about different subjects from an European point of view?

 

At this point if someone expected a “yes, we can” and a list of things to do he will be probably disappointed. The answer to this question is that these medias will continue to inform mostly about national issues. And the reason is purely economical.

When you have an election where the second major party (the Party of European Socialists) does not present any candidate for President of the Commission (giving almost automatically before the vote the presidency to the conservative candidate J.M Barroso), you don’t have that much to write about.. No political battle, no political interest, no selling, no covering by the traditional media. That’s the equation. That simple. (more…)

Land conflicts in the country of safaris April 19, 2009

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by Vera Quina

p10302671Violent land disputes and forceful evictions of pastoralists have become commonplace in the once calm district of Kilosa, southern Tanzania. Since last January, clashes between pastoralists and peasants have left six people dead, a large amount of properties and houses destroyed and led to the displacement of more than 2,000 persons. The land question is central to the ongoing disputes in this area, but for some reason these events go unnoticed in Tanzania, one of the last peaceful countries in Eastern Africa.

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The failure of Plan Colombia: a story of success March 16, 2009

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by David Díaz

The name of Cesar Gavíria by itself might not elicit worldwide recognition, but the former president of Colombia will always be remembered for orchestrating the military operation leading to the death of legendary drug lord Pablo Escobar. Such an achievement warrants the former first secretary of the OEA with an immaculate spot in the war against drugs’ hall of honor.

Yet, in a meeting with former presidents Zedillo (Mexico) and Cardoso (Brazil), Gavíria himself turns to be  advocating a change in drug policy, and his new stance stems from a simple conclusion: the war on drugs has been a failure. The latest chapter of this ongoing saga of erratic episodes is the bloodshed crippling the corrupted Mexican state of Ciudad Juarez where drug lords have overtaken the city.

However, in the drug war saga, another country has played a pivotal role in the experimentation of anti-drug policies: Colombia. (more…)

Anyone but Barroso February 16, 2009

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by Dídac Gutiérrez-Peris

What makes us democrats? Is it some kind of passion for a set of values and principles? Is it the will to be ruled by ourselves more than by an established, distant, authoritarian power? When is democracy “democracy”? If we have to choose one concept, one word, this would be responsibility. Responsibility understood as accountability, as the power and the guarantee given to the citizens to “judge” the political action of the governors. Max Weber said that a politician needs three things, passion, sense of responsibility and sense of distance to take the right decision at the right moment. Responsibility is what makes us democrats.margot-wallstrom-us-lied14oct03

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Zimbabwe: whose responsibility to protect? February 6, 2009

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By Vera Quina

As I am writing this article, the Zimbabwean parliament is approving a power-sharing deal between President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai that will supposedly solve the almost year-old crisis.

what-crisis

Last March there were general elections in Zimbabwe and the party of Tsvangirai, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) seems to have won the first round. However, the elections were tampered by the ZANU-PF party of Mugabe who asked for a second round, denying Tsvangirai an outright victory. Moreover, they unleashed a violent intimidation campaign against the supporters of the opposition; Mugabe’s brutal tactics surely paid-off as he was declared the winner of the June run-off election.

Needless to say that the 84 year-old Mugabe has been the uncontested leader of Zimbabweans for the last 28 years, and that he feels most comfortable in that position; he even went on saying that “only God” can remove him as the head of Zimbabwe. In the meantime, the majority of his 9 million fellow-countrymen are starving (90% of the population is poor), unemployment is massive (over 85%) and there is a rampant inflation (11 Million percent?!), not to mention the recent surge of cholera.

So, is Zimbabwe a case to invoke a responsibility to protect? If so, whose responsibility is it?

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Is Internet narrowing our view? February 3, 2009

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by Emmanuel Neisa

Here in India I receive two daily newspapers, The Hindu and The Times of India. However, I can’t help going to the Internet to consult the daily news. Internet users all over the world have changed their way to ‘consume’ news, tending to retrieve the important information from a number of newspaper websites, blogs and other sites on the web.

Even if in 80% of the countries newspaper circulation has been stable or continued to grow last year, in developed economies, they are facing the worst crisis in their history. A strong decrease in newspapers’ sellings has forced restructuring in diaries such as Le Monde and The New York Times –which has now debts for more than $1 billion-. With the spread of the Internet, catching readers’ attention is becoming more and more difficult as people can shift easily from a news source to another.

This map of the Internet realized by researchers fromBar Ilan University shows how is the content organized in the web

This map of Internet realized by researchers from Bar Ilan University shows how the content is organized in the web

Internet is now becoming the hub for political information and discussions and the recent Obama campaign confirms its importance in shaping the public opinion. It is said to have brought openness into our world, allowing us to meet people from diverse realities and opinions. However, communautarism in the web seems to go in the opposite sense of that supposed openness.

The information shift towards the Internet is not without consequences and changes the way we perceive current news and form our own opinion. What is exactly happening with the public discussion and what is Internet changing?

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Obama’s Presidency: balancing expectations January 26, 2009

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by Vera Quina

Hope for Africa too?

Hope for Africa too?

On Tuesday, the 20th of January Barack Hussein Obama, the first Afro-American winning the White House, was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States of America. I did not have a chance to go to Washington and see it live; in fact, at the time of Obama’s speech my plane was landing in Newark, New Jersey. But while I was waiting in the long queue of immigration, I managed to get some glimpses of the inauguration ceremony and was pleasantly surprised and touched by seeing the streets of D.C filled with thrilled faces of so many African Americans. When the TV screened showed a man selling T-shirts with a picture of the White House and the slogan “THE BLACK HOUSE” I could not help to crack a smile.

During his campaign Obama surely fueled dreams, and African-Americans, many of whom long felt estranged with politics, listened and gained “HOPE”.

But what will a black President really bring to Africans in the United States and in Africa?

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What drives euroscepticism? December 10, 2008

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By Dídac Gutiérrez-Peris

picture-11

“(…) instruire c’est construire”

Victor Hugo, 1850

Even if some authors like Majone (2002) and Moracsivk (2002) find it exaggerated and too idealistic to speak about a “crisis of legitimacy”, for me there exist too many signs of an erosion between citizens and the European Union to still deny a certain “malaise” towards the European Union.

A “malaise” that could be defined first of all as a “crisis of justification,” as Hannah Arendt puts forward, that is: “as the feeling of losing the direction of things, when doubt is the reaction that a purpose or a project provokes”. In other words, a situation where citizens are unable to answer to the questions for what purpose? with who? and in which direction? in relation to European Integration.

To my mind, two main factors are shaping the current attitude of mistrust towards the European Union: first, the disinformation and second the political disconnection between European institutions and citizens.

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Which Priority for Development? Growth vs. Redistribution November 16, 2008

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by Diego Zamuner

When thinking of poverty and its consequences on the lives of those affected by it, one question appears to be unavoidable: how to tackle this problem? This is one of the major concerns of development economics. Two main groups of answers are widely accepted: some think that priority should be given to economic growth, the others believe that human development should be the central concern. Thus, the former think of the spill-over effects of growth, and argue that sustained growth is the only means of reducing poverty in a definitive manner. On the other hand, the latter focus on what Amartya Sen calls the “capability approach”, which implies that poverty is not only a matter of income, and argue that society’s wealth should be redistributed in order to ensure a minimum level of welfare to everyone. This is the traditional debate between the Income-centred approach promoted by international financial institutions (World Bank, International Monetary Fund) and the Human Development approach championed by the United Nations. So, what can the observation of the real world teach us on this matter? Let us concentrate on one particular case study: India…

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