By Ismail Serageldin* | IDN-InDepth NewsEssay
This is the first of a three-part series reflecting on the third anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution of January 25, 2011, launched by millions of people from a variety of socio-economic and religious backgrounds, demanding the overthrow of the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who had been at the helm of affairs since 1981.
ALEXANDRIA (IDN) - January 25 was the third anniversary of the Egyptian revolution. A milestone that calls for reflection on those three years of chaotic action, great moments, dashed dreams, big achievements, sacrifice and betrayal, and all the components of a human drama of the highest order. Tumultuous times, historic hours… greatness achieved, then lost, retrieved and lost again in the fog of uncertainty as the elusive dream of building our new republic on an inclusive society and a system of laws seems to be overtaken by an active war on terror.
By Julio Godoy* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
BARCELONA (IDN) - International negotiations on so-called “free trade agreements” have always had something surreptitious about them. In the late 1990s, the industrialised countries represented at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) wanted to pass a “multilateral agreement on investment” (MAI) with the alleged goal of facilitating – liberating, so to speak – international investment. But, for all the good that such investment was supposed to bring about across the world, the OECD managed the negotiations in a most clandestine way.
With good reason: Only thanks to the extraordinary work of civil rights activists and journalists, it was revealed that the MAI draft constituted a carte blanche for corporations to commit all kind of violations of national legislation on social and environmental matters.
By Shastri Ramachandran* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
NEW DELHI (IDN) - The South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is not a shining model of regional cooperation. It is seen as a talking shop – of a region that accounts for the largest population of the poor – with lofty goals, high-sounding resolutions, ringing declarations and little by way of achievement.
Hence, the increased international interest in SAARC – with more countries wanting to become observers, and observers aspiring to full membership – is surprising and flattering. Perhaps, this is because of South Asia’s rising geopolitical importance.
The eight-member body (comprising Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka), whose foreign ministers met in Maldives in February, has nine observers: China, Japan, South Korea, Myanmar, Australia, Iran, Mauritius, the European Union and the United States. There are others, such as Turkey, asking to be made observers. More observers might lead to a situation where they overwhelm the primary members; and influence the agenda.
By Jamshed Baruah | IDN-InDepth NewsReport
NEW YORK (IDN) - The UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser has expressed deep concern about “the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and the threat they pose to international peace and security”. Launching the book titled A Forum for Peace and opening a discussion on Global Citizenship and the Future of the United Nations at the UN headquarters in New York, he also stressed the importance of the culture of peace.
By Hirotsugu Terasaki* | IDN-InDepth NewsViewpoint
TOKYO (IDN) - According to UNESCO, ESD (Education for Sustainable Development), is “about enabling us to constructively and creatively address present and future global challenges and create more sustainable and resilient societies.”
The Great Earthquake which shook East Japan in March 2011 served as an important impetus for me to rethink the idea of “resilient societies.” My organization, the Soka Gakkai, mounted major relief efforts soon after the disaster struck. Living in Tokyo, I found that the degree of direct damage was relatively minimal, however, two months after the quake I visited the disaster-stricken areas of East Japan. Towns there had been entirely engulfed by the tsunami waves and everything was swept away along much of the coastline. I was speechless as I saw the horrifying devastation which was beyond my imagination.
By Hossein Valeh* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
TEHRAN (IDN) - Saudi Arabia is the name of both a society and a government. In fact, it stands for a very traditional, closed, and semi-tribal society, which is prone to very profound and increasing conflicts while being impregnated with a host of potential changes. The existing conflicts can be divided into three major categories:
1. Cultural conflicts: This group contains those conflicts, which are mostly pivoted around the two main axes of religious bigotry as opposed to religious liberalism. The outcome of such conflicts is emergence or religious divides in the society;
2. Economic conflicts: Such conflicts usually exist between the poor and the affluent classes in any society and, in turn, have their root in the divide that exists between the ruling elite and people as a result of which certain social classes are marginalized; and
3. Political conflicts: These conflicts are usually due to an ongoing competition for grasping more power within the political structure of the country. In fact, their main cause is the power struggle, which has been institutionalized within a profoundly traditional and very old patriarchal system of government which makes up the petrified organization of Saudi monarchy.
By Manish Rai* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
NEW DELHI (IDN) - It is hard to imagine that representatives of the 30 countries that assembled in Geneva actually believed that they could find a political solution to the ongoing three year old Syrian civil war. Given the differing strategic interests in Syria of the powers within and outside the region, reaching a consensus to end the crisis at this juncture is beyond the realm of possibility.
After the first round of Geneva II negotiations between the warring sides mediated by Lakhdar Brahimi adjourned without concrete results achieved, the second round resumed but saw little rift healed so far. The Syrian opposition coalition has no unity. A big part of its components withdrew from the coalition protesting the Geneva talks and the rest does not fully represent the Syrian people. And most armed rebel groups now are Islamist in character. They are fighting for Sharia law, not democracy, the objective of the peace process sponsored by the US and Britain.
By Julio Godoy* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
BARCELONA (IDN) – Writing about the referendum the Catalonian parliament wants to hold next November to decide whether the region remains part of Spain or not, I wondered in my analysis on February 6 how Europe would react to such demand.
The answer came sooner than expected: In an extraordinary action, which underlines the dramatic impasse in which the Madrid-Barcelona relation is nowadays, a group of important German business people operating in Catalonia published a manifesto, to warn about “the dreadful consequences” that independence would bring for the Catalonian economy.
By Richard Johnson | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
PARIS (IDN) - A new report finds that international donors are not doing enough to help fragile states increase their domestic revenue though they had pledged as far back as 2002 to make it a priority to help poor countries mobilise more internal revenues.
Subsequently, fragile states still collect less than 14% of their gross domestic product in taxes on average, well below the 20% UN benchmark viewed as the minimum needed to meet development goals and ameliorate poverty. Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Pakistan have tax collection rates below 10% of GDP, says the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in a report titled Fragile States 2014: Domestic Revenue Mobilisation,
By Murray Hiebert and Phuong Nguyen* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
WASHINGTON (IDN | Yale Global) - Cambodia’s foreign relations map has undergone dramatic shifts in the past six months. In the aftermath of Cambodia’s elections in July 2013, Beijing promptly recognized the results and congratulated Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party for their victory. However, as anti-government protests led by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party grew in the weeks that followed, with protesters condemning the elections as fraudulent and calling on Hun Sen to step down, China has since largely remained silent and kept the prime minister at arm’s length.
By Bernard Schell | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
ABU DHABI (IDN) - Internet is known to have played a crucial role in the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ aimed at overthrowing autocratic regimes and ushering in opportunities for majority of the people to shape their own future. Now a new World Bank report reveals that the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries lag behind other regions in use of a technology that is as crucial as the steam engine was as a driving force behind the Industrial Revolution.
But there is no need to despair. “The Middle East and North Africa region has been the cradle of science and technology and can again use modern technology to address the contemporary problems faced by the region,” says Inger Andersen, World Bank Vice President for the MENA region. "We at the World Bank Group are committed to working closely with all countries in MENA to improve access and quality of broadband internet connection.”