Language is one of the most neglected areas in the development field. It barely registers on any agenda to help poor countries despite its importance to a number of crucial areas and it being a barrier to progress in many fragile states. Why is this? more »July 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm | More on Africa, Economics and development, South Asia | 3 Comments
Continuing an occasional series about why the UK could take a leaf out of Norway’s foreign policy book on, well, pretty much every front (previous instalments here and here), here’s the BBC’s Richard Galpin on how Norway is dealing with terrorism a year on from Utoeya:
At the political level, the Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg pledged to do everything to ensure the country’s core values were not undermined.”The Norwegian response to violence is more democracy, more openness and greater political participation,” he said.
A year later it seems the prime minister has kept his word. There have been no changes to the law to increase the powers of the police and security services, terrorism legislation remains the same and there have been no special provisions made for the trial of suspected terrorists. On the streets of Oslo, CCTV cameras are still a comparatively rare sight and the police can only carry weapons after getting special permission.
Even the gate leading to the parliament building in the heart of Oslo remains open and unguarded. “It is still easy to get access to parliament and we hope it will stay that way, ” said Lise Christoffersen, a Labour party MP.
Via Bruce Schneier. Full disclosure: I am slightly Norwegian (and feeling more so every day…)
July 24, 2012 at 6:28 am | More on Europe and Central Asia, Influence and networks | 1 Comment
What on earth is all this about?
When the winter comes in the squirrel has already stored 3000 nuts in different tree holes that provide the food storage to overcome the harshest season of the year. The nuts have been collected in past months and will be shared with the other members of the community if someone is in need. The squirrel is small but has adapted to live in all sorts of environments including European capitals. It’s agile, collaborative and last but not least independent.
On the other hand, the cow needs to take shelter in the stable during winter. It would not survive without the famer taking care it of all needs. Its life is quiet and relaxed. It just needs to feed, reproduce, and produce milk. But it consumes a lot of resources and life ends always in the abattoir. Its life depends entirely on others for maintenance and aims. Cows live all together but don’t collaborate. The farmer is in charge.
That is in fact the baseline concept for a conference being organized this September by a consortium of Danish and Swedish institutes on “how the European Union can foster and support such pioneers through the new socio-economic policies, namely social business and social innovation.” Does it all seem clearer now? Maybe not…
This metaphorical comparison aims to help civil society leaders and social entrepreneurs picture the transformation our society is going through: less leadership and help from governments and corporations, and the need for self-organisation, funding, support and development of solutions to social problems. We have to rethink our strategy, collaborate and innovate in order to transform from the cow to the squirrel.
The traditional resources as public funding and sponsorships are shrinking but new opportunities and synergies are emerging.
Fair enough. But where does the EU fit into this metaphor? Is it the cow? Or the tree the squirrels hide their nuts in? Or the abattoir? I’m confused…July 12, 2012 at 4:52 pm | More on Economics and development, Europe and Central Asia, Influence and networks, Off topic |
July 12, 2012 at 12:36 pm | More on Influence and networks |
A key challenge faced by those engaged in international human rights policy and practice is adopting an effective framework for protecting and promoting human rights around the world in a way that preserves and articulates their universal nature, while at the same time respecting local values and practices.
One way to approach this challenge is to examine values, norms, customs and practices in non-Western cultures which can act as ‘receptors’ for human rights principles and practice. A new Dutch collaborative research project adopts just such an approach (and is thus called the ‘Receptor Approach’). It brings together experts from around the world and from a variety of disciplines – law, anthropology, sociology, political science, international relations and philosophy among others. more »July 9, 2012 at 2:21 pm | More on Africa, Economics and development, Middle East and North Africa, South Asia |
In a banking crisis, many – or most – banks flirt with insolvency. They stay in business through cheating, lying, and blackmailing the state. As I said in a speech in Tokyo in January 2009:
The past does not predict the future, of course, but it should make us wary. The pattern, as Japan found, is for policy-makers to underestimate the seriousness of the problem and for financial institutions to spend years refusing to confront their predicament head on. The required psychological shift is a profound one.
Throwing money at the problem is, in many ways, the easy bit. Much more demanding is the process of unpicking and revaluing the poorly-understood risks that are at the heart of the financial sector’s difficulties. This is a process that has barely begun.
Back in April last year… bold action was promised to sort out the ‘bad’ from the ‘good’ banks, but nine months’ later that is only beginning to happen.
Instead, many countries have pumped money into their financial institutions, without having the tools to force these institutions to identify, value and dispose of toxic liabilities.
This mistake is likely to prove costly. As Ben Bernanke admitted last week, large quantities of “troubled, hard-to-value assets” have now become the primary obstacle to the financial system’s recovery.
The Eurozone is now riddled with zombie banks, all using their too-big-to-fail status to distort the response to depression in the European periphery, while the deceptions of British banks are steadily being exposed, with Barclays currently in the firing line. In the United States, too, a pattern of rampant criminality is steadily emerging. Liars. Cheats. Blackmailers. Guilty as charged.
But as the Leveson Inquiry has shown, the British media has many of the same bad habits. Not just a willingness to break the law and bully both the powerful and the helpless, but a casual mendacity, where the story is pre-determined and facts are twisted to give it as much viral zing as possible.
We don’t know each other, but I want to offer you a deal: You each give me £20,000. And that’s it. What do you get in return? Well, it’s a fair question but I can’t even promise to pay it all back. But let me assure you of this: your hard-earned cash will keep me in the style to which I’m accustomed. And that’s got to be good for all of us. So I’m sure you’ll agree that 20 grand is an absolute bargain. Indeed, I would call it a once-in-a-lifetime offer; only I can’t promise not to come back again.
You’ve probably guessed that the transfer I’m talking about has already happened. Each man, woman and child in Britain has already handed over £19,271. And our money has gone to the banks.
That’s a carefully crafted hook, reinforced in the last paragraph (“next time, the British might need to cough more than 20 grand each”) to hammer the lesson home. It’s designed to be picked up on Twitter and Reddit, and grumbled over down the pub, all driving eyeballs to the Guardian’s website.
But as a meme, it’s deceptive at best. If 63 million UK citizens had each coughed up £19,271, the total bill would be around £1.2 trillion – but that’s more than the UK’s entire national debt which exceeded £1tn only at the end of last year. It’s simply impossible for the government to have dished out so much money to our banks.
So what’s going on here?July 5, 2012 at 12:36 pm | More on Economics and development, Key Posts, UK |
Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone:
To me what’s missing from all of this is the “Holy Fucking Shit!” factor. This story is so outrageous that it shocks even the most cynical Wall Street observers. I have a friend who works on Wall Street who for years has been trolling through the stream of financial corruption stories with bemusement, darkly enjoying the spectacle as though the whole post-crisis news arc has been like one long, beautifully-acted, intensely believable sequel to Goodfellas. But even he is just stunned to the point of near-speechlessness by the LIBOR thing. “It’s like finding out that the whole world is on quicksand,” he says.
Aditya Chakraborty in the Guardian:
July 4, 2012 at 6:51 am | More on Economics and development |
At a hearing in the US last month into how JP Morgan lost up to $9bn in the UK in derivatives trading, congresswoman Carolyn Maloney commented: “It seems to be that every big trading disaster happens in London.”
This is surely where the pressure from the Libor scandal needs to be directed. Miliband is right to demand a public inquiry. But rather than a nice, compact affair that can be swept under the ministerial carpet, any investigation needs to understand how to reform the finance sector so that crises like these don’t recur; and so that banks actually work in the public interest rather than hire propagandists to pretend they do. Because in the end, financial reform is not about technicalities, but about politics: deciding what role banks should play in an economy, and what kind of economy we want.
And just as the Leveson investigation has unpicked the toxic intimacy between the Murdoch empire and the political classes, so any inquiry into finance needs to expose the strength of its grip on our politics.
In the wake of the Lehman’s collapse of 2008, there was much talk about how the relationship between state and finance would be changed in the public interest. Those efforts were effectively killed off by the finance lobbyists and, if we’re honest, the unpreparedness of progressives in Britain to seize the opportunity. The Libor scandal offers a second go at the same argument. We either have it out this time, or we run the risk of repeating 2008. Only next time, the British might need to cough more than 20 grand each. A lot more.
July 3, 2012 at 8:58 am | More on Influence and networks |
Many fragile states suffer from incoherent legal systems. Whereas in developed countries, one single system exists and is effectively enforced, in fragile states multiple systems work side-by-side, each weakly enforced, and often operating in contradiction with each other. Creating a unified and robust system of law is one of the biggest challenges these countries face.
In most cases, this incoherence is a direct product of colonialism. One system, often with the greatest relevancy to local populations, has roots in the precolonial system of governance. It may have evolved a lot since then, but is still based on local circumstances and institutions. The state, itself a product of foreign rule, follows another system, based on Western legal tradition, imported from abroad. Neither is consistently or equitably implemented. Corruption distorts outcomes. Officials (whether those of the state or local leaders) lack training. Favoritism is common. more »July 3, 2012 at 12:46 am | More on Africa, Economics and development, Middle East and North Africa, South Asia |
I have something very urgent to do, but instead I have found this, which kind of proves the point in a satisfyingly circular way. From Aaron Ausland’s blog, ‘Staying for Tea’
I don’t know if creativity is a finite thing, but I do know that once I started blogging and tweeting, I began using a greater measure of it for things of questionable value.
With accompanying cartoon entitled ‘Applied Creativity’ (and the blog post has loads more, allvery funny and too true…)
July 2, 2012 at 10:27 am | More on Off topic |
I was doing some thinking on possible ways that the post-2015 MDG/SDG scenarios might play out after the launch of the SDG process at Rio+20 last week. I’ve come up with six possible outcomes, based on the relative levels of political agreement within each of the the two tracks, which might be useful in framing how organisations think about and plan for the post-Rio post-2015 world (these, of course, represent the extremes, and outcomes at various points along the different continuums are also very possible).
There is also a huge unknown in how the two tracks will relate to each other, and the various permutations of that aren’t covered here. It’s quite plausible, for example, that a failure to agree on SDGs would poison the atmosphere to such an extent that even quite high levels of agreement on the post-2015 MDG framework don’t result in an agreement. But here are some possibilities, and I’d be really interested in any other scenarios that people are developing (the meaning of the ‘Christmas Tree’ ‘jigsaw’ and ‘bullseye’ frameworks are explained here):
June 29, 2012 at 11:47 am | More on Economics and development, Global system |
From the Economist:
June 29, 2012 at 9:25 am | More on East Asia and Pacific, Economics and development |
It is not exactly news that the world’s economic centre of gravity is shifting east. But it is striking how fast this seems to be happening. In a new study on the economic impact of urbanisation the McKinsey Global Institute, the research arm of the eponymous consultancy, has attempted to calculate how this centre of gravity has moved since AD 1 and how it is likely to move until 2025. Although the underlying maths (which involves weighting the approximate centre of landmass of a country by its GDP) has to be taken with a pinch of salt, the calculations show that the centre is rapidly shifting east—at a speed of 140 kilometres a year and thus faster than ever before in human history, according to Richard Dobbs, one of the authors of the study. The main reason for this is rapid urbanisation in developing countries, in particular China.
June 28, 2012 at 9:29 am | More on Influence and networks | 1 Comment
Wind extinguishes a candle and energizes fire.
Likewise with randomness, uncertainty, chaos: you want to use them, not hide from them. You want to be the fire and wish for the wind. This summarizes this author’s non-meek attitude to randomness and uncertainty.
We just don’t want to just survive uncertainty, just about make it. We want to survive uncertainty and, in addition –like a certain class of aggressive Roman Stoics —have the last word. The mission is how to domesticate, even dominate, even conquer, the unseen, the opaque, and the inexplicable.
Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, uncertainty, opacity, adventure, disorder and stressors. Yet, in spite the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile.
Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness: the resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better. It is behind everything that has changed with time: evolution, culture, ideas, revolutions, political systems, technological innovation cultural and economic success, corporate survival, good food recipes (say, chicken soup or steak tartare with a drop of cognac), the rise of cities, cultures, legal systems, equatorial forests, bacterial resistance… Even our own existence as a species on this planet.
A delicious tale from this morning’s Telegraph:
French secret service agents tasked with protecting President Francois Hollande “forgot to pack their guns” while on a recent trip to a climate conference in Brazil, it was reported on Wednesday. In a highly embarrassing Inspector Clouseau-style blunder, the presidential guards from the elite GSPR unit only realised the guns were absent upon arrival at Rio de Janeiro Airport.
They usually travel with a secured briefcase containing an array of firearms. But when they sought to present the weapons to customs officials, they were nowhere to be seen. “They searched the (presidential) Airbus with a fine tooth comb, to no avail,” according to French satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaîné. It later transpired the guns had been left at the Elysée Palace in Paris.
This meant that for the duration of the trip, the bodyguards’ only means of protecting the French president were their “bare hands”, Le Canard reported. “In police memory, it’s a first,” one elite officer was cited as saying.