Majority of Chinese people rank environment higher than economy – Gallup

From Gallup’s website:

Fifty-seven percent of Chinese adults surveyed in 2011 — before the country’s economic slowdown grabbed headlines — prioritized protecting the environment, even at the risk of curbing economic growth. About one in five believed economic growth is more important. Chinese attitudes are typical of those in other emerging-market economies, where residents sided with the environment over the economy in earlier surveys.

Similarly, Americans historically prioritized environment protection over economic growth from 1985 to 2008. However, economic growth has taken priority since the economic recession deepened in 2009. If China’s economic troubles worsen, residents’ attitudes could change too.

Sympathy for the Devil: Charles Taylor and his Apologists in the West

Photo: BBC

Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president who was last week sentenced to fifty years imprisonment for crimes committed in Sierra Leone’s civil war, was a man with many enemies. As a warlord, he would have expected nothing less – only the most insane of his ilk expect to be universally popular, and whatever else he may be accused of, Taylor’s sanity has never been called into question.

He dispatched his first important foe, his predecessor as Liberian leader Samuel Doe, within a year of beginning the rebellion that would lead him to the presidency. As his army rampaged towards the capital, they gained notoriety for the brutality of their methods – cutting off limbs, enslaving women and boys, torturing children and eating the flesh of their enemies were all on the menu, all endorsed by Taylor. With Doe out of the way, his swansong a home-video recording featuring Taylor’s men slicing off his ears as he begged for mercy, the young warlord then turned on enemies within his own group, precipitating a further six years of civil war. His efforts led to the deaths of over 200,000 people and the physical and psychological maiming of many more, but he has been tried for none of his actions in his homeland.

Taylor did not delay long in internationalising his list of enemies. Sierra Leone’s government had played host to a West African intervention force that was set up to end the bloodshed in next door Liberia. Taylor retaliated, pledging that the people of Sierra Leone would “taste the bitterness of war”. As his trial found, he lived up to his promise by providing financial and operational support to Sierra Leone’s rebel army as it murdered, raped and pillaged its way around the country, as well as planning the horrific 1999 assault on Freetown that was the war’s nadir. Among the atrocities committed in the latter attack were the mass rape of students at the college of nursing, the torture of patients in their hospital beds, the use as human shields of those the rebels had enslaved in the hinterland, and the throwing of live children into burning houses. Taylor’s conviction was celebrated on the streets of Freetown – the words of Musa, an informal medicine seller, who told me in 2010 that ‘Charles Taylor was a wicked man,’ encapsulating the views of many of his compatriots.

But it has not all been isolation and ostracism for Taylor. Throughout his life, he has been able to count on a significant network of friends. Not all of these are the type of friends you would expect to find in the circles of a warlord. Continue reading

What Does it Mean to Work Politically in Development?

Adrian Leftwich gives a great description of what it means to work politically in the development field in a recent publication Politics, Leadership, and Coalitions in Development for the Developmental Leadership Program:

There is understandable caution and reserve about the idea of ‘working politically’, or for donors trying to address ‘the political dimensions of development’ – and for good reason. The phrase itself is easily misinterpreted as insensitive interference, as an invasion of sovereignty and a disregard for principles of ownership and endogenously driven developmental processes. It may sound like ‘regime change’. Given those many cases of bullying or intervention by conditionality of the international community in developing countries, there is good reason for such caution, as the very idea of working politically might seem to suggest a flagrant violation of the principles of Accra and Paris. Continue reading

“Cool UN”: multilateralism gets hot and sweaty

The following email was circulated to UN staff in New York today.

As summer approaches in the Northern Hemisphere and the mercury rises, it is time again to get ready for “Cool UN”, a practical way for the UN to demonstrate its commitment to using energy wisely.  As in previous years, from 1 June, thermostats at New York Headquarters will be set to 77 degrees Fahrenheit / 25 degrees Celsius in offices and to 75 degrees Fahrenheit / 24 degrees Celsius in conference rooms.  Once more, we are also inviting the landlords of our leased spaces to join us in this effort.

So far, so easy to mock.  But there is more… so much more.

Over the years, we have learned that not all colleagues agree on what constitutes a comfortable temperature. Depending on their cultural background, what is pleasant for one person can be “borderline” for the next. It is also a reality that, in some buildings, either because of the direction an office faces or possibly due to older ducting, the consistency of temperature can be difficult to finesse.

Damn that combination of aged ducting and cultural pluralism.  What can the UN do?

We nonetheless do our best to find an acceptable compromise and, in setting the thermostats, we are guided by temperature ranges recommended by international human comfort indexes.

International human what?

The idea is simple: Rather than having to bulk up on clothing in the summer because the air conditioning is too cold inside, we dress according to the season, keep the thermostat a bit higher and save energy.

During the “Cool UN” initiative, therefore, staff are encouraged to dress in lighter clothing appropriate for a business setting, including national dress, so as to remain comfortable.

My despair is complete.  Oh no, there’s more.

Increasingly, the “Cool UN” practice is being echoed by other UN agencies and offices away from Headquarters.  Together we can set an example.

That’s so true.  This is an example of how not write an email, for a start.

The perils of Googles Images…

Pity whichever hapless BBC researcher was in a hurry to find a background image for a report on the UN Security Council today and instead managed to post this. As someone on Reddit notes, “I’m pretty sure that’s not the United Nations emblem, BBC”.

Well, it sort of is: as a less cursory look on Google Images would have revealed, it is in fact the emblem of United Nations Space Command in the video game Zombie Pandemic.

Hooray for rolling news, eh readers?

Correction: as Peter rightly points out in the comments below, a look cursory look on Google Images would have revealed that the emblem in fact originates in the video game Halo, and was then adopted by a group of Halo fans playing on Zombie Pandemic.

Hooray for rolling blogging, eh readers?

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