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August 2015

Quote of the week: J.K. Rowling

Sina Odugbemi's picture

J.K. Rowling"Those who choose not to empathise enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy."

-J.K. Rowling, a British novelist best known for writing the Harry Potter series. The books have gained worldwide attention, selling more than 400 million copies. Rowling led a "rags to riches" life story, in which she progressed from living on state benefits to multi-millionaire status within five years.


Quoted in her 2008 commencement speech at Harvard University that has been published as a new book, Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination, and re-published online by the Guardian, "JK Rowling's life advice: ten quotes on the lessons of failure"

Blog Post of the Month: Football: A powerful platform to promote respect, equality, and inclusion!

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

Also available in: العربية

Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion. In August 2015, the featured blog post is "Football: A powerful platform to promote respect, equality, and inclusion!" by Leszek J. Sibilski.

FIFA Women's World Cup 2015Less than a year before the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics and over one month after the final match of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Vancouver, BC, I would like to share and focus my reflections on the Women’s World Cup, mostly emphasizing the social psychology and sociological milieu around the match as it was extensively covered by all media.

 “How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!” Maya Angelou

In the past, I had the privilege of being present at multiple global sporting events around the world in many capacities, but I had never attended an event as a spectator until the final match between USA and Japan on Sunday, July 5 at BC Place Stadium. Women’s sport is very close to my heart as I had the privilege of managing my daughter’s junior and collegiate tennis career for almost ten years. Nevertheless, I was very excited to find myself in a new role as a part of the overwhelmingly American crowd of 53,341. On that day, a golden haze from wildfires blanketed the Province of British Columbia and Vancouver, BC, perhaps due to the 16-year US winning drought at the Women’s World Cup! However, during the 90 minutes of playing time and finishing strong with a winning score of 5-2, the US team extinguished the flames within the boundaries of the football pitch substituting golden smog with flashy golden confetti, a golden trophy, and gold medals around their necks at the award ceremony.
 
This summer has seen North America pleasantly packed with global sporting events. First we had the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada, then the Pan-American and Parapan-American Games in Toronto. In between, there were the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles, and coming in late September, the City of Richmond will be hosting the UCI Cycling Road Championships. One would wonder what these events have in common… The answer is relatively simple. In all of these events, female athletes play either the main role or a shared role as competitors. I am very cautious with the usage of the term “equal participation” as we hear some critics voicing their opinions. During and after the Women’s World Cup some complaints were raised about the artificial turf.  Others complained that the opposing teams were staying in the same hotel, and that offensive comments about player’s appearances had been made. There were also comments about paltry financial rewards for women athletes as compared to the Men’s World Cup.  But on the day of the final in the packed-to-the-brim BC Place, no one was thinking about these shortcomings.
 

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.
 

Income inequality: poverty falling faster than ever but the 1% are racing ahead
The Guardian
How are the benefits of economic growth shared across society? Much of the current discussion assumes that income inequality is rising, painting a gloomy picture of the rich getting richer while the rest of the world lags further and further behind. But is it really all bad news?  The reality is complex, yet by looking at recent empirical data we can get a comprehensive picture of what is happening to the rich and the poor.  Let us start with the share of total income going to that much-maligned 1%. Reconstructed from income tax records, this measure gives us the advantage of more than a century of data from which to observe changes.

Global Journalism Education: A Missed Opportunity for Media Development?
Center for International Media Assistance
Media development organizations have worked for many years directly with media industries to train journalists. Little of their effort has been focused on shaping the training these journalists receive before they are immersed in the media industries, which in many countries are weak and are not fertile ground for building journalism skills nor for upholding journalism standards. But top journalism schools have now reached a quality that suggests media development organizations should begin to work more directly with the best schools. Such partnerships could substantially contribute to better professional training that many of these schools want to offer.
 

Campaign Art: Ebola still needs our attention

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

Ebola has largely disappeared from news headlines in recent months as the epidemic started to settle. Earlier this week, on August 24, Sierra Leone’s last-known Ebola patient was released from the hospital, possibly signaling the end of the disease in that country. No new cases have been reported in Liberia since mid-July, and only three new cases have emerged in Guinea as of last week.

Yet, experts have warned that international organizations are still not capable of containing it, if it were to re-emerge. It's also clear that the economic impact of the Ebola virus outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone is profound, as the disease affected livelihoods and led to food shortages, loss of education, and widespread fear and mistrust in communities.

This is why #TrendOnThis, a new campaign from the Ad Council and Y&R New York, aims to keep Ebola on the forefront of people’s minds.  The campaign includes a series of public service announcements featuring celebrities David Oyelowo, Olivia Munn, and Lance Bass. These ads play on the typical, pandering commercials many celebrities have done and, instead, uses ironic self-deprecation to get the message across. Here’s Actor David Oyelowo, who introduces some tongue twisters based on his own name, like Oyelowo's Yellow Oboes, while emphasizing the seriousness of Ebola:
 
David Oyelowo: Ebola still needs our attention


Social marketing master class: When is social marketing most effective?

Roxanne Bauer's picture
Social marketing emerged from the realization that commercial marketing principles can be used not just to sell products but also to promote ideas, attitudes and behaviors.  The purpose of any social marketing program, therefore, is to change the attitudes or behaviors of a target population— for the greater social good.
 
Combining ideas from commercial marketing and the social sciences, social marketing helps those who are designing development programs to decide:
  • Which people to work with
  • What behavior to shape
  • How to implement a program
  • How to measure the program’s impact
Rebecca Firestone, a social epidemiologist at PSI with area specialties in sexual and reproductive health and non-communicable diseases, has previously spoken to us about how to design programs that actively facilitate a market and why evaluation is so important in understanding the practical impact of a program in people’s lives.  We also asked her “when is social marketing most effective?”

Short answer: when marketing discipline is applied.  To her, that means having good insight into the target population and how to integrate a product or behavior change into people’s everyday lives. 
 
Social marketing master class: When is social marketing most effective?

Quote of the Week: Mariana Mazzucato

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Mariana Mazzucato“We are living in a depressing era in which we no longer have courage. We no longer think governments should have missions. But the market never chooses anything. IT wasn’t chosen by the market. Biotech wasn’t chosen by the market. Nanotech wasn’t chosen by the market. So why should green technology be chosen by the market? It comes back to the austerity craziness that we’re in today where governments are not allowed to dream; and green is a dream.”

-Mariana Mazzucato, an economist and author of The Entrepreneurial State: debunking public vs. private sector myths, which was featured on the 2013 books of the year lists of the Financial Times and Forbes. She is also the RM Phillips Professor in the Economics of Innovation at the University of Sussex, SPRU

Have the MDGs affected developing country policies and spending? Findings of new 50 country study.

Duncan Green's picture

Portrait of childrenOne of the many baffling aspects of the post-2015/Sustainable Development Goal process is how little research there has been on the impact of their predecessor, the Millennium Development Goals. That may sound odd, given how often we hear ‘the MDGs are on/off track’ on poverty, health, education etc, but saying ‘the MDG for poverty reduction has been achieved five years ahead of schedule’ is not at all the same as saying ‘the MDGs caused that poverty reduction’ – a classic case of confusing correlation with causation.

So I gave heartfelt thanks when Columbia University’s Elham Seyedsayamdost got in touch after a previous whinge on this topic, and sent me her draft paper for UNDP which, as far as I know, is the first systematic attempt to look at the impact of the MDGs on national government policy. Here’s the abstract, with my commentary in brackets/italics. The full paper is here: MDG Assessment_ES, and Elham would welcome any feedback (es548[at]columbia[dot]edu):

"This study reviews post‐2005 national development strategies of fifty countries from diverse income groups, geographical locations, human development tiers, and ODA (official aid) levels to assess the extent to which national plans have tailored the Millennium Development Goals to their local contexts. Reviewing PRSPs and non‐PRSP national strategies, it presents a mixed picture." [so it’s about plans and policies, rather than what actually happened in terms of implementation, but it’s still way ahead of anything else I’ve seen]
 

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 democracy can’t be democratic all the way down – and why it matters
Washington Post
Recent debates over the meaning of “one person, one vote” and the lessons of ancient Greek democracy for the modern world highlight an important truth about democracy: it can’t be democratic all the way down. Lincoln famously said that democracy is “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” But before “the people” can govern anything, someone has to decide who counts as a member of the people, what powers they have, and what rules they will vote under. And that someone usually turns out to be a small group of elites. Just as the world can’t be held up by “turtles all the way down,” so a political system can’t be democratic all the way down.
 
U.N. Marks Humanitarian Day Battling Its Worst Refugee Crisis
Inter Press Service
The United Nations is commemorating World Humanitarian Day with “inspiring” human interest stories of survival – even as the world body describes the current refugee crisis as the worst for almost a quarter of a century.  The campaign, mostly on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, is expected to flood social media feeds with stories of both resilience and hope from around the world, along with a musical concert in New York.  “It’s true we live in a moment in history where there’s never been a greater need for humanitarian aid since the United Nations was founded,” says U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.  “And every day, I talk about people and I use numbers, and the numbers are numbing, right — 10,000, 50,000,” he laments.  But as U.N. statistics go, the numbers are even more alarming than meets the eye: more than 4.0 million Syrians are now refugees in neighbouring countries, including Turkey, Iraq and Lebanon (not including the hundreds who are dying in mid-ocean every week as they try to reach Europe and escape the horrors of war at home).
 

A role for media: Empowering local voices in development debates

Mina Akrami's picture

“All human and development processes rely on the flow of information and communication between individuals and groups,” begins a PANOS paper. For communication helps donor countries, NGOs, development organizations, and other actors to understand the needs of the poor in developing countries, to form partnerships, to build consensus, and to facilitate change.   

Kindness Nehwon and Moses Kowllie work on producing a piece in the studios of the Liberian Media Initiative, which creates and produces radio and television shows, informercials and PSAs Media can play a crucial role in facilitating this flow of information. As outlined in a POLIS report, media can work to both build public awareness and support for development issues. It can also work to build a pluralistic public sphere where actors working in the field of development are constructively critiqued.

Public awareness is beneficial for both the public in donor countries and the recipients of aid in developing countries. As explored by a Guardian, media can help the public in donor countries understand how their money is being spent and that complex problems such as food insecurity require solutions that take a long time to demonstrate results.

To individuals, communities, and societies affected by the problems of poverty, terms such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are of little significance as these individuals are more concerned with daily struggles than global targets, elaborates the POLIS report.  Media can assist these communities in understanding how such targets could improve their daily lives while creating space for them to question these targets or other development strategies. It also provides a medium for them to push for development targets that are more aligned with the reality on the ground.

Media (R)evolutions: Facebook fatigue sets in

Roxanne Bauer's picture

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.

Facebook is, by a long shot, the world's largest social network.  As of June 2015, it claimed a staggering 1.49 billion active users globally and 968 million daily active users, with mobile users making up more than 87% of these totals. Outside China, over 80% of internet users have a Facebook account, and the platform still has the most members and active users of any social network.

Moreover, users tend to visit Facebook multiple times each day— activity not seen to the same degree on other networks. Visits from users in developed countries are generally briefer than those in emerging markets, but regardless of location, more than half of Facebook’s active users engage with the site more than once a day.

However, even though Facebook's empire continues to expand, with WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram all playing important roles, "Facebook fatigue", in which users avoid the platform for weeks at a time, has emerged as a new trend.  GlobalWebIndex (GWI) interviewed 200,000 internet users across 33 different countries, and the results appear to show that this trend is increasingly global.
 
Decline in Facebook use globally

Quote of the Week: Barrie Goodridge

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Hong Kong football spectators“You can change your home, you can change your country, you can even your wife, but you can never change your football team.”

- Barrie Goodridge, veteran of the publishing sector and former CEO of Edipresse Asia. In 1983, Goodridge joined Asiaweek, rising to the position of Publisher before leaving to join Global Sources Media Group. In 1997, he became the CEO for Asia of Publicitas Promotion Network (PPN), the international division of PubliGroupe. He joined Edipresse in 2004 as Regional Director for Asia and was later appointed CEO of Edipresse Asia in 2005.

The Politics of Results and Evidence in International Development: important new book

Duncan Green's picture

The results/value for money steamroller grinds on, with aid donors demanding more attention to measurement of impact. At first sight that’s a good thing – who could be against achieving results and knowing whether you’ve achieved them, right? Step forward Ros Eyben, Chris Roche, Irene Guijt and Cathy Shutt, who take a more sceptical look in a new book, The Politics of Results and Evidence in International Development, with a rather Delphic subtitle – ‘playing the game to change the rules?’

Politics of Results and Evidence in International Development book coverThe book develops the themes of the ‘Big Push Forward’ conference in April 2014, and the topics covered in one of the best debates ever on this blog – Ros and Chris in the sceptics corner took on two gung-ho DFID bigwigs, Chris Whitty and Stefan Dercon.

The critics’ view is suggested by an opening poem, Counting Guts, by P Lalitha Kumari after she attended a meeting about results in Bangalore, which includes the line ‘We need to break free of the python grip of mechanical measures.’

The book has chapters from assorted aid workers about the many negative practical and political consequences of implementing the results agenda, including one particularly harrowing account from a Palestinian Disabled People’s Organization that ‘became a stranger in our own project’ due to the demands of donors (the author’s skype presentation was the highlight of the conference).

But what’s interesting is how the authors, and the book, have moved on from initial rejection to positive engagement. Maybe a snappier title would have been ‘Dancing with Pythons’. Irene Guijt’s concluding chapter sets out their thinking on "how those seeking to create or maintain space for transformational development can use the results and evidence agenda to better advantage, while minimising problematic consequences". Here’s how she summarizes the state of the debate:

"No one disputes the need to seek evidence and understand results. Everyone wants to see clear signs of less poverty, less inequity, less conflict and more sustainability, to understand what has made this possible. Development organizations increasingly seek to understand better what works for who and why – or why not. However, disputes arise around the power dynamics that determine who decides what gets measured, how and and why. The cases in this book bear witness to the experiences of development practitioners who have felt frustrated by the results and evidence protocols and practices that have constrained their ability to pursue transformational development. Such development seeks to change power relations and structures that create and reproduce inequality, injustice and the non-fulfillment of human rights.
 

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.

Democracy, voting and public opinion in the Arab world: New research evidence
Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, Harvard University
In 2002 the United Nations issued a much-discussed report highlighting the lack of progress in Arab countries relative to other developing regions, and there has continued to be scrutiny of various social, political and economic indicators there. But a combination of closed regimes, highly nuanced cultural norms and burgeoning areas of conflict often make it difficult to interpret complex political trends and events. The available data relating to perceived changes in public attitudes must be read carefully, with the conflicting results of the 2011 Arab Spring standing as a stark reminder of this complexity. Still, a variety of studies published in 2015 help shed light on emerging trends relating to elections and public opinion in the Arab world, which continues to go through a state of upheaval and transition. Interpreting voter intentions, attitudes and outcomes is particularly difficult in regimes that are neither fully democratic nor totalitarian: Where citizens are not necessarily forced to participate, and yet many turn out to vote despite the fact that the process is highly unlikely to influence the ultimate outcome of the election. A 2015 study published in the journal Comparative Political Studies, “Elections in the Arab World: Why Do Citizens Turn Out?” seeks to explain voter turnout in such situations under authoritarian regimes in Arab countries.
 
Open data ‘not enough to improve lives’
SciDevNet
Governments in developing countries must ensure the statistics they publish can be used to improve citizens’ lives, practitioners told SciDev.Net following an open data meeting. Liz Carolan, the international development manager at host organisation the Open Data Institute (ODI), said countries should instead start with real-world problems and then work out how data can be part of the solution. “A government might say: ‘We put the data on the web, that’s enough’ — but it’s not,” she said. “You could not get away with that”, especially in countries where internet connectivity and literacy are low and it is difficult for people to access the data in the first place.  Ivy Ong, outreach lead at government data provider Open Data Philippines, added: “Do not be blinded by the bright and shiny milestone of developing and launching an open data portal.”
 

Football: A powerful platform to promote respect, equality, and inclusion!

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

Also available in: العربية

Less than a year before the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics and over one month after the final match of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Vancouver, BC, I would like to share and focus my reflections on the Women’s World Cup, mostly emphasizing the social psychology and sociological milieu around the match as it was extensively covered by all media.

 FIFA Women's World Cup 2015“How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!” Maya Angelou

In the past, I had the privilege of being present at multiple global sporting events around the world in many capacities, but I had never attended an event as a spectator until the final match between USA and Japan on Sunday, July 5 at BC Place Stadium. Women’s sport is very close to my heart as I had the privilege of managing my daughter’s junior and collegiate tennis career for almost ten years. Nevertheless, I was very excited to find myself in a new role as a part of the overwhelmingly American crowd of 53,341. On that day, a golden haze from wildfires blanketed the Province of British Columbia and Vancouver, BC, perhaps due to the 16-year US winning drought at the Women’s World Cup! However, during the 90 minutes of playing time and finishing strong with a winning score of 5-2, the US team extinguished the flames within the boundaries of the football pitch substituting golden smog with flashy golden confetti, a golden trophy, and gold medals around their necks at the award ceremony.
 
This summer has seen North America pleasantly packed with global sporting events. First we had the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada, then the Pan-American and Parapan-American Games in Toronto. In between, there were the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles, and coming in late September, the City of Richmond will be hosting the UCI Cycling Road Championships. One would wonder what these events have in common… The answer is relatively simple. In all of these events, female athletes play either the main role or a shared role as competitors. I am very cautious with the usage of the term “equal participation” as we hear some critics voicing their opinions. During and after the Women’s World Cup some complaints were raised about the artificial turf.  Others complained that the opposing teams were staying in the same hotel, and that offensive comments about player’s appearances had been made. There were also comments about paltry financial rewards for women athletes as compared to the Men’s World Cup.  But on the day of the final in the packed-to-the-brim BC Place, no one was thinking about these shortcomings.
 

Campaign Art: Water is... Life

Roxanne Bauer's picture

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

Did you know that more people in rural India have access to phones than to safe drinking water? It is estimated that only 18% of the total rural population of 833 million have access to safe, treated water while 41% of the rural population, or 346 million people, own mobile phones.
 
While access to drinking water in India has increased over the past decade, the tremendous adverse impact of unsafe water on health continues. Every year, about 600,000 Indian children die because of diarrhea or pneumonia, often caused by toxic water and poor hygiene, according to Unicef.

Likewise, did you know that more than 40% of Ghana's 25 million people lack access to safe water. Due to drinking contaminated water, diarrheal disease is the third most commonly reported illness at health centers across the country and 25% of all deaths in children under the age of five are attributed to diarrhea.
 
Clearly, water is a ticket to better health. This short video from the Safe Water Network provides insight into what water is and how important it is to community and individual health outcomes through a succession of images and statements. The music was written and performed by Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club.

VIDEO: Water is...


 

The things we do: Mobilize your potential through self-talk

Roxanne Bauer's picture

Also available in: العربية

People often talk to themselves.  This was once thought to be a hallmark of the self-absorbed.  Social science research, however, suggests it may be a powerful way in which we can motivate and cheer ourselves on.

thinkingHave you ever spoken to yourself?  Have you spoken to yourself in third person? Most of us have done so, but we may not have considered why we do it.

In 2013, Malala Yousafzai appeared on the Daily Show and Jon Stewart asked her when she realized the Taliban had made her a target. She begins her answer in first person but switches to third person part-way through, saying “When in 2012 I was with my father and someone came and she told us ‘have you seen on google if you search your name that the Taliban have threatened you?’ I could not believe it. I said ‘No, it’s not true.’ Even after when we saw it, I was not worried about myself that much. I was worried about my father because we thought the Taliban are not that cruel that they would kill a child because I was 14 at that time. But then later on, I started thinking about that. I used to think a Talib would come and kill me. But then I said, ‘If he comes, what would you do, Malala?’ Then I would reply to myself that, ‘Malala, just take a shoe and hit him.’ But then I said, ‘If you hit a Talib with a shoe then there would be no difference between you and the Talib.’ ”

Ethan Kross, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, studies self-talk, the introspective conversations we have with ourselves about ourselves, and believes that speaking to or about ourselves in the third person may be one way in which we help ourselves cope.

Fukuyama’s history of the state, book 2: Political Order and Political Decay

Duncan Green's picture

Last week, I reviewed Volume 1 (from pre-history up to the French Revolution), but before reviewing Political Order and Political Decay, the second volume of Francis Fukuyama’s monumental history of the state, it’s probably worth asking, why bother?

Political Order and Political DecayBecause whether providing/denying services, freedoms or functioning markets, the state is the most important institution underpinning development, and yet people in the foreign policy and development world operate with hazy and simplistic understandings of where states came from and how they evolve. Another example of historical amnesia, alas.

That blindness was epitomised by the 2003 invasion of Iraq, where the US government "seemed to think that democracy and a market economy were default conditions to which the country would automatically revert once Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship was removed." Oops.

According to Fukuyama, that is a particular problem because "If there is a single theme that underlies many of the chapters of this book, it is that there is a political deficit around the world, not of states, but of modern states that are capable, impersonal, well organized and autonomous."

The second volume picks up from the late 18th Century (French and American Revolutions) and brings us up to the present day. It feels both dryer in style and more fragmented than Volume One, hopping between discussions of the spread of democracy, geographical determinism, political Islam, the role of the Middle Classes and the experiences of various continents and countries in the developing world, before returning to Fukuyama’s two overriding interests – will China’s rise continue, and will anything arrest the US’ ‘political decay’? So instead of trying to identify a single thread, here are some highlights/insights:
 

Quote of the Week: Justin Farrell

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Justin Farrell, author of The Battle for Yellowstone"Environmental conflict is not ultimately about scientific true and false, but about moral right and wrong. It is not about the facts themselves, but what makes the facts meaningful. There are important moral and spiritual bases of conflict that observers and participants in the conflict have ignored, muted or simply misunderstood."

- Justin Farrell, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Yale University and the author of The Battle for Yellowstone
 

‘Authoritarianism Goes Global’

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Policeman patrols 99% protestNorms, especially global norms, are exceedingly fragile things…like morning dew confronting the sun. As more players conform to a norm, it gets stronger. In the same way, as more players flout it, disregard it or loudly attack it, it begins to lose that ever so subtle effect on the mind that is the basis of its power.  When a norm is flouted and consequences do not follow the norm begins to die.

Looking back now, we clearly had a magical moment in global affairs a while back. Post 1989, as the Berlin wall fell, communism ended in most places, apartheid South Africa magically turned into democratic South Africa, and so on; it seemed like an especially blessed moment. The bells of freedom tolled so vigorously mountains echoed the joyous sound. It seemed as though anything was possible, that the form of governance known as liberal constitutional democracy would sweep imperiously into every cranny of the globe.

Just as important, there were precious few defenders of autocracy in those days. Almost every regime on earth claimed to be democratic, even if the evidence was discrepant. They could at least claim to be ‘democratic’ in some utterly singular if implausible way. Now, all that has changed. Despots and sundry autocrats strut the earth. They are not ashamed. They are not afraid. They are brazen. They are in your face. They say to anyone who asks: “Hey, I am a despot. I have my own League of Despots. Deal with it”.  And what is confronting the brazenness? The apparently exhausted ideals of liberal constitutionalism suddenly bereft of defenders.

The specific occasion for these reflections is the July 2015 issue of the Journal of Democracy (Volume 26, Number 3). It is a special issue focused on these matters, and I took my title from the lead essay: “Authoritarianism Goes Global: Countering Democratic Norms”, written by Alexander Cooley, Director of the Harriman Institute at Columbia University. His basic claim is as follows:

"Over the past decade, authoritarians have experimented with and refined a number of tools, practices, and institutions that are meant to shield their regimes from external criticism and to erode the norms that inform and underlie the liberal international political order." (Page 49)

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
 

Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Finalised text for adoption
United Nations
This Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. It also seeks to strengthen universal peace in larger freedom. We recognise that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development.  All countries and all stakeholders, acting in collaborative partnership, will implement this plan. We are resolved to free the human race from the tyranny of poverty and want and to heal and secure our planet. We are determined to take the bold and transformative steps which are urgently needed to shift the world onto a sustainable and resilient path. As we embark on this collective journey, we pledge that no one will be left behind.  The 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets which we are announcing today demonstrate the scale and ambition of this new universal Agenda. They seek to build on the Millennium Development Goals and complete what these did not achieve.

There Are Still Tons of People Around the World Who Haven't Heard About Climate Change
Vice
Whether a person is aware of climate change or not — and how much they worry about it — depends on a range of factors, including what country someone lives in and how developed it is, their education level, and even what the local air quality is like, according to a report published in the journal Nature Climate Change.  In fact, when researchers analyzed data from over 100 countries collected by Gallup in 2007 and 2008, they found two big trends. The report could help to explain why, as extreme weather events displace tens of millions of people each year and diplomats prepare to meet in Paris for a historic climate change conference, public attention remains low in many countries, even ones most impacted by climate change.
 

Can WASH deliver more than just sanitation?

Suvojit Chattopadhyay's picture

WASH interventions can save lives and engineer social changes within communities-- but only when an inclusive approach is taken. Sanitation issues should be framed as a collective action problem that requires everyone's input to solve.

The abysmal state of access to safe water and sanitation facilities in the developing world is currently a major cause for alarm; 580,000 children die every year from preventable diarrheal diseases. This is due largely to the Boy getting water from community water pipe in Sri Lanka. 2.5 billion people around the globe who do not have access to safe sanitation. Not only can an effective WASH intervention save lives, it can also engineer changes in the social fabric of communities that adopt these behavioural changes. This points to a key attribute of a successful WASH intervention – that through these programmes, communities not only access a new service that improves their quality of life, but they also learn from being part of a concrete intervention that emphasises equity and inclusion.

Let me explain how. Safe sanitation is essentially ‘total’. In a community, even one family practising open defecation puts the health of other families at risk. Also, unsafe sanitation practices pollute local potable and drinking water sources in the habitations. Together, this can undo any gains from partial coverage of WASH interventions. This much is now widely accepted by sanitation practitioners around the world. However, there remains a serious challenge when it comes to the implementation of this concept.

When a community is introduced to a WASH-focused behaviour change campaign, there are often variations in the levels of take-up in different families. This could be because of several barriers – financial ability, cultural beliefs, education levels, etc. In response, external agencies have many options. They can focus more on families in their behaviour change campaigns, offer them material and financial support or incentives, or exert peer pressure (which may in some cases become coercive, etc).

However, the best approach – whether facilitated by an external agent or not – is for a community to devise a collective response. The issue should be framed as a collective action problem that requires solving for the creation of a public good. In many instances, communities have come together to support the poorest families – social engineering at its finest. At its best, recognising the needs of every member of a community will lead to a recognition of the challenges that the typically marginalised groups face. It is this recognition that could prompt a rethink of social norms and relationships.
 

Media (R)evolutions: Social media in China linked to mobile devices

Roxanne Bauer's picture

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 social media market in China can be bewildering because it changes quickly.  Just a few years ago, Renren was king of social networking in the country… until the emergence of Weibo, and more recently, WeChat.  At the same time, the demographics of social media users in China have been shifting as smartphones become increasingly popular and affordable.  Social media is now used by more age groups and across a greater geographical spread than before.

After conducting a survey covering 100,000 people in 60 different Chinese cities, Kantar, a network of 13 companies engaged in market research, created a massive infographic, including this slide on mobile social media. According to the results, social media's reach among urban residents has increased to 34% from last year's 28.6%, and 85% of respondents use mobile devices to engage in social media, compared to 71.5% last year.  

Among the social media that are accessed on mobile devices, WeChat is the most popular, with 74.8% of respondents claiming they visit the app on their mobiles, followed by Weibo with 18.4% and Bulletin board systems (BBS) with 8.9%.  BBS sites allow people to post basic messages online and, in contrast to many countries, they continue to be popular in China today.

Media penetration is another area of rapid change in China. The Internet, not surprisingly, now has 100% penetration among social media users and a 69.4% penetration rate among urban residents. Similarly, mobile online (which simply indicates accessing the internet from a mobile device) has 91%.4 penetration rate among social media users.  Out of home (OOH) encompasses a variety of platforms, from digital billboards and signs atop taxis to digital signs at airports, gyms, and waiting rooms, and has a penetration rate that is also high at 88.7%.

China Social Media infographic

The Origins of Political Order: Review of Francis Fukuyama’s impressive history of the state

Duncan Green's picture

Origins of Political Order by Francis FukuyamaRicardo Fuentes has been raving about this book for months, so I packed it in my holiday luggage. Actually it’s two books – The Origins of Political Order takes us from pre-history up to the French Revolution/American Revolution, and the subsequent Political Order and Political Decay brings us up to the present day. They each weigh in at around 500 pages, so hope you won’t mind me taking two posts to review them.

Fukuyama is notorious for his ‘End of History?’ post-Cold War triumphalism, but he’s older, wiser and considerably more nuanced these days. The ambition of the two books is astonishing – nothing less than a history of the birth, evolution and current condition of the state worldwide, with fascinating potted histories of the states both obvious (China, England, Germany, US) and less so (Hungary, Poland, Nigeria).

The starting point is that ‘Poor countries are poor not because they lack resources, but because they lack effective political institutions. It asks (and tries to answer) wonderfully big hairy questions like:

  • why are some countries (eg Melanesia, parts of Middle East) still tribally organized?
  • why is China historically centralized, while India isn’t?
  • why is East Asia so special in its path of authoritarian modernization?
  • what explains the contrasting fortunes of the US and Latin America?

Fukuyama’s big idea is that political order is based on three pillars: effective centralized states, the rule of law, and accountability mechanisms such as democracy and parliaments. ‘The miracle of modern politics’ is achieving a balance between them, which is difficult both to achieve and then to maintain, with many states having one disproportionately stronger than the others, while others achieve it, and then lose it. Its achievement is often accidental, rather than deliberate. Analysing each state’s unique combination of the three pillars helps us understand the strengths, weaknesses and historical trajectories of different countries and empires.
 

Quote of the Week: Janan Ganesh

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Office workers"Another word for 'profession' is 'ghetto'.  People who work in the same field develop their own codes and slang.  They sleep and socialise with each other.  Without intending to, they seal off their world from uncomprehending outsiders."

- Janan Ganesh, a political columnist for the Financial Times. Previously, he was a political correspondent for The Economist. He appears weekly on BBC1's Sunday Politics television show and wrote a biography of George Osborne, the UK chancellor