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Saturday, 23 September


A (weak) homage to democracy in Catalonia openDemocracy

The images of a half-empty parliament during the referendum law vote illustrate how Democracy and Catalonia have gone their separate ways. Democracy is not the law of the majority, but the protection of the minority.

Hundreds of Catalan separatists gather to protest in front of the Catalan Economy Ministry. September 20, 2017. Barcelona, Spain. Matthias Oesterle/Zuma Press/PA Images. All rights reserved.

Being in a minority, even in a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.

- George Orwell, 1984

Catalonia may be closer than ever to being independent, but it is increasingly far from embodying the democratic evolution that many of its supporters would have us believe. The secessionists have used a slim majority to approve the referendum and transition law, without any regard for legal safeguards and democratic norms. The images of a half-empty parliament during the votes, while a MP removed the Spanish flags left behind by members of the opposition, illustrates how the secessionist movement and democracy have gone their separate ways. With the full support of the president of the Parliament, a position that ought to be impartial, the road was left open for a referendum to be called for 1 October, and for less than a half of Catalans to decide on the future of the rest. Mr. Rajoys government in Madrid says it will not allow it, as both the referendum and the laws approved to enact them are unconstitutional. But as the 1 October nears and appeals for dialogue make no progress, both sides seem to be in route for a head-on clash.

Just ends can never justify unjust means

Recognizing that nationalism often springs from the wounded pride and sense of humiliation of a people is important. But the sense of humiliation alone cannot explain the sharp increase in support for independence in Catalonia ...


Web standards body constrains digital rights against members' wishes openDemocracy

A letter from Cory Doctorow after the World Wide Web Consortium moves to enforce a digital rights management standard without compromise, despite agreement from only 58.4% of members.

Constrained content. Pixabay. CC0.In July, the Director of the World Wide Web Consortium overruled dozens of members' objections to publishing a DRM standard without a compromise to protect accessibility, security research, archiving, and competition.

EFF appealed the decision, the first-ever appeal in W3C history, which concluded last week with a deeply divided membership. 58.4% of the group voted to go on with publication, and the W3C did so today, an unprecedented move in a body that has always operated on consensus and compromise. In their public statements about the standard, the W3C executive repeatedly said that they didn't think the DRM advocates would be willing to compromise, and in the absence of such willingness, the exec have given them everything they demanded.

This is a bad day for the W3C: it's the day it publishes a standard designed to control, rather than empower, web users.

This is a bad day for the W3C: it's the day it publishes a standard designed to control, rather than empower, web users. That standard that was explicitly published without any protections -- even the most minimal compromise was rejected without discussion, an intransigence that the W3C leadership tacitly approved. It's the day that the W3C changed its process to reward stonewalling over compromise, provided those doing the stonewalling are the biggest corporations in the consortium.

EFF no longer believes that the W3C process is suited to defending the open web. We have resigned from the Consortium, effective today. Below is our re...

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Friday, 22 September


A metal pipe for your trouble openDemocracy

The Russian authorities campaign against Alexey Navalny is getting violent. 

The pipe used to attack Nikolay Lyaskin. Source: Twitter. The Russian authorities continue to refuse permission to Alexey Navalnys election campaign to hold public rallies, and campaign activists are, on occasion, being detained. But sometimes the anti-Navalny campaign gets even more serious: Nikolay Lyaskin, the coordinator of Navalnys Moscow headquarters, was attacked this week with a metal pipe. Police are investigating, but rather strangely.

As a result of a blow to the head, Lyaskin is suffering from concussion. The police quite quickly opened a criminal investigation into what they classified as hooliganism, and several days later announced they had found a suspect. True, he was not shown to Lyaskin immediately. However, a video appeared in which the suspect alleges Lyaskin himself had promised the man money if he attacked him. Lyaskin claims this is a set-up. The day of the face-to-face confrontation with the suspect Lyaskin was kept waiting the whole day in the police station, and before he left they tried to take away his telephone.

On a positive note, in Kostroma a criminal investigation has been opened into an assault by a police officer on a volunteer from Navalnys election campaign, while in Makhachkala an investigation into an...


On the eve of the German elections, Alternative fr Deutschland prevails on Twitter openDemocracy

Populist parties have a higher capacity to exploit digital arenas to boost and propagate their slogans and influence the political agenda. This should not be underestimated by mainstream political forces.

lead Election poster of (Alternative for Germany, AfD) party in the district of Lichtenberg in Berlin, Germany on September 15, 2017. NurPhote/Press Association. All rights reserved.It is a bit puzzling how, after a year in which populist forces have threatened the political order of countries all over Europe, Germany so far has managed to have itself a normal many would say boring electoral campaign.

Angela Merkels Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is likely to be the largest party in the new Bundestag, as polls show its likely share of vote to be between 36% and 37%, at least 15 or so points ahead of Martin Schulzs Social Democratic Party (SPD). However, given Germany has a proportional system, the CDU will most likely be unable to govern by itself, so all eyes are on the battle for the third place, which will have an effect on which party will be Merkels coalition partner.

The right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD), with its eurosceptic and anti-immigration programme, will most probably win parliamentary seats for the first time. This will perhaps be the most important development of this election. Moreover, according to the latest polls AfD is leading the race within the race for the third place with 11-12%, maintaining a slight lead over its main competitors the Left Party (Die Linke), the Liberal Democrats (FDP) and the Green Party all lagging behind at 7% to 10%.

Recently in Europe we have witnessed a steep rise in so-called populist parties, alongside with a significant wave of innovation in political communication, especially in times of electoral campaigning. When new political actors walk into the scene, they often show innovative communication strategies, such as the widespread use of online channels, a highly engaged network of supporters, and a general inclination towards negative campaigning.



Empire of madness: fiddling through the smoke in 2025 openDemocracy

The year is 2025, and the war on terror rages on as does the increasing extremity of the planet's weather.

Sep 15, 2017; Bonita Springs, FL, USA; Louis Sarangi pushes a boat out of the flood waters along Pawley Avenue in Bonita Springs five days after Hurricane Irma. USA TODAY Network/PA Images. All rights reserved.Its January 2025, and within days of entering the Oval Office, a new president already faces his first full-scale crisis abroad. Twenty-four years after it began, the war on terror, from the Philippines to Nigeria, rages on. In 2024 alone, the U.S. launched repeated air strikes on 15 nations (or, in a number of cases, former nations), including the Philippines, Burma, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, the former Iraq, the former Syria, Kurdistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Mali, and Nigeria.

In the weeks before his inauguration, a series of events roiled the Greater Middle East and Africa. Drone strikes and raids by U.S. Special Operations forces in Saudi Arabia against both Shiite rebels and militants from the Global Islamic State killed scores of civilians, including children. They left that increasingly destabilized kingdom in an uproar, intensified the unpopularity of its young king, and led to the withdrawal of the Saudi ambassador from Washington. In Mali, dressed in police uniforms and riding on motorcycles, three Islamic militants from the Front Azawad, which now controls the upper third of the country, gained entry to a recently established joint U.S.-French military base and blew themselves up, killing two American Green Berets, three American contractors, and two French soldiers, while wounding several members of Malis presidential guard. In Iraq, as 2024 ended, the city of Tal Afar already liberated twice since the 2003 invasion of that country, first by American troops in 2005 and then by American-backed Iraqi troops ...


Unionism isnt ready for a deal anytime soon Slugger O'Toole

Stormont is staring into the political abyss. It already was I hear you say, but over the past week the tone of compromise that gave a faint flicker of hope has all but disappeared.

Unionism has marched right into a cul-de-sac nudged along by the current leader of the Orange Order who has about as much political wit as Jolene Bunting.

Edward Stevenson said that when language is used as a cultural weapon by political republicanism it clearly becomes a threat to our identity and community.

And lo and behold within days the DUPs initial proposal to deal with the Irish language was taken off the table with nothing to replace it. Removed by none other than party elder Sammy Wilson who once referred to Gaelige as a leprechaun language.

The DUP grassroots have had anti-Irishness drummed into them for so long that for some this now appears as a bigger concession than going into government with republicans a decade ago. Words like weapon, threat, impose and the painting of a picture to unionists that they will be stripped of their Britishness is indicative of the siege mentality that unionist leaders reinforce when it suits them.

The most blatant example of this was when the UUPs Reg Empty stated that Irish will be a compulsory subject in all schools if an Irish Language Act is introduced. No party, no group, no individual even has ever proposed this in the debate about this Bill. The UUP sensed the degree of pressure on the DUP about the current talks. So to undermine them, well they just decided to make things up!

Unionism is not ready to make a deal. Not now, not anytime soon.

I wish I was wrong but there simply are no signs of optimism from any party. If James Brokenshire had been replaced by Droopy the Dog perhaps the parties would have been more driven to reach a deal. However the limpless Secretary of State has done nothing more than set up the occasional press conference in his front garden.

It appears that the time for a deal has passed. The DUP would rather take their chances on Direct Rule with our 90 MLAs constituency services ticking over in the background, similar to the situation we had between 2003 and 2007.

Our MLAs are working hard. Of course they are because constituents are demanding and there is plenty of work to keep them occupied. The case that they do nothing is nothing more than a lazy argument.

However If the DUP thought that their constituency offices would be closed and Arlene Foster had to check into the dole office once a fortnight that would make a deal more likely. Remember theres one thing that motivates the DUP more than anything else money.

Its not going to happen though. The Tory dog isnt going to bite its DUP tail.

For nationalists and republicans this must also mark the end of the age of constructive ambiguity. The trust that ensured the implementation of agreements in the past is gone. Negotiators wi...


Have womens rights institutions been ignored again? openDemocracy

The European Unions announced 500 million for work to end violence against women and girls. This should strengthen, rather than bypass, existing womens rights institutions.

At a high-level women leaders' forum co-hosted by Germany, the African Union and UN Women, in June 2017. At a high-level women leaders' forum co-hosted by Germany, the African Union and UN Women, in June 2017. Photo: UN Women/Flickr. Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). Some rights reserved.If someone offered you half a billion euros to end violence against women and girls, youd thank them. Especially if you were acutely aware of the many worthwhile strategies and organisations presently starved for support. Especially if you had seen the diverse and insidious forms of violence from intimate partner violence to state-sponsored violence that women have been courageously standing up against for decades.

We join others in extending huge appreciation to the European Union for announcing this week a 500 million grant to the United Nations, to support work to end violence against women and girls. This pandemic destroys lives, communities and families in every country. It requires urgent and comprehensive action from everyone. 

But the launch of this EU-UN partnership was also notable in its failure to mention one of the primary and most consistent sources of support for the work that it now wants to fund: The UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women.

Funds and trust

The Trust Fund was established in 1996 by a general assembly resolution. It is administered by the UN Women organisation on behalf of the UN system. It makes grants to NGOs and womens rights groups, UN country teams and go...


Rising from the abyss - the Corbyn effect openDemocracy

In an exclusive and edited extract from his new book The Corbyn Effect, Mark Perryman measures the scale of Labours 2017 recovery.

In February 2017 Labour faced two by-elections. Losing one and with a much reduced majority in the other, the results seemed to leave Labour staring into the abyss.

In the Guardian Jonathan Freedland (who admits he is one of the people who warned Corbyn would be a disaster from the start) advised:

Those who voted in good faith for Jeremy Corbyn need to ask themselves what they value more the dreams they projected on to this one man or the immediate need to hold back a government wreaking intolerable damage on this countrys future.

Whilst were revisiting Corbyns critics and their unqualified certainty of the disastrous outcome awaiting Labour under his leadership, it is worth recalling the open letter from Jamie Reed MP, whose subsequent resignation triggered the by-election Labour lost:

At Prime Ministers Questions today, an inexplicable development occurred whereby David Cameron spoke for the overwhelming majority of Labour MPs and Labour voters everywhere it might be in my partys interests for him (Jeremy Corbyn) to sit there, it is not in the national interest. I would say for heavens sake man, go!...The Labour Party stands for a moral purpose that you do not share. We exist to redistribute power, wealth and opportunity through parliamentary democracy. Your (Jeremy Corbyn) actions have repeatedly shown that you do not believe that.

Serving up humble pie to the Corbyn critics is of course no recipe for the unity Labour now craves if it is to turn a decent second into first place. But we need to understand why those who convinced themselves - and did their best to convince the rest of us - of Labours dismal electoral prospects under Corbyn, got it so wrong.

Of course Jeremy has form as a serial backbench rebel himself. But he was ignored by most of the media with only rare appearances in the TV and radio studios...


We just want to stop pleading openDemocracy

A call to the people of Spain, because the Catalan independence referendum on October 1 is about rather more than that. Espaol

lead September 20, 2017. Flowers and a banner reading ' I want to vote' on the floor as Spanish Guardia Civil police officers stand guard close to Catalan Governance Ministry in Barcelona. Jordi Boixareu/Press Association. All rights reserved.

When the Spanish Government overturned the Catalan Statute of Autonomy in 2010, even after it had been approved by an ample majority of voters in a referendum that had actually been permitted by the state, I said nothing because I wasnt Catalan; when the Catalans then asked the state to engage in talks on federalism and the state refused, I said nothing because I wasnt Catalan; when they asked for a new referendum and were told we will never even talk about this, I said nothing because I wasnt Catalan; when the state denied Catalans any possibility for being listened to, sabotaged their security and taxes, undermined their schools and administration in order to use these as arguments to cover up their own corruption and play the victim, I said nothing because I wasnt Catalan; when the state throttled their freedom of expression, intercepted their mail and shut down their economy, when uniformed men entered their political organizations and their media, when it confiscated publications, closed websites and arrested mayors, I said nothing because I didnt read this press and hadnt voted for those mayors. I even believed they deserved it for complaining so much and hoped theyd be silenced.

So when they broke my communitys rules of coexistence, violated my right to control my administration, betrayed my security and used me as cannon fodder I responded but, by then, irrationality had pervaded everything. They only had to say thats illegal and everyone kowtowed.

The official media has harped on and on, hammering into peoples heads, all around Spain, the notion that what large numbers of Catalans are askin...


Catalonia: recognition and dignity openDemocracy

On October 2, it will be necessary to find a way out that does not imply the total defeat of the other and that enables us to recognize Spains national diversity. Espaol

Members of the Catalan National Assembly, distribute information through the streets of Barcelona asking for the vote in the referendum of independence of Catalonia on October 1. September 17, 2017. NurPhoto/Press Association. All rights reserved.A reader not familiar with the ins and outs of Spanish and Catalan politics over the last ten years would be surprised at the unusual events happening these days in Catalonia. There is talk of "attacking democracy" and of a "serious breach of constitutional legality", political leaders are being arrested for wanting to organize a referendum, while the police surrounds political parties headquarters and searches printing houses and newspapers. All this is happening in Spain, forty years after the recovery of democracy following Francos forty-year-long dictatorship, in a country where citizens enjoy by no means negligible levels of economic development and social welfare, the economic and institutional structure of which is fully embedded in the European and global fabric.

How did we get here? Let us spare the details. At the risk of being too schematic, we could say that there is a deficit in Spanish democracy regarding the recognition of its national plurality, and also a widespread perception in Catalan society that the Spanish political system has not been treating them with adequate dignity.

The political regime established in 1978, which has allowed a fully legal and legitimate functioning of Spanish democracy for several decades, has been losing steam. The stern refusal to reform it  for fear of the economic and political elites represented by the two major parties, the Peoples Party (PP) and the Socialist Party (PSOE) has ended up sounding its death knell.

In the agreement that was reached back then, the existence of an internal national plurality was accepted only in part, but in practice a standardized decentral...


Not another story of failed liberation: tensions in Bashur and Rojava in the light of the referendum openDemocracy

Kurds need to rely on their own strength. The people must directly participate in and control their affairs if the fate of many other postcolonial countries is to be avoided.

lead Oslo Architecture Triennale 2016: New World Embassy, Rojava: installation view, Oslo City Hall, 2016. Democratic Self-Administration of Rojava & Studio Jonas Staal. Flickr/Istvn Virg. Some rights reserved.The situation of the Kurds in a drastically changing Middle East has received little attention in academia and less in the media despite their growing impact on regional and international politics. The biggest stateless people living in the Middle East are on the verge of a new status, not only in Iraqi Kurdistan, where a referendum for independence takes place on September 25, 2017, but also in Syria and Turkey. Then there are the Iranian Kurds. Their stories and the conditions they live in are the least known, not only by the international community but also by fellow-Kurds living in three neighbouring countries, due to an intense isolation. This weeks short series looks at current political struggles of the Kurds in four neighbouring countries or in a country that does not exist on the world map but in the hearts and mind of 40 million people. Mehmet Kurt, series editor.

In less than a week, the people of Bashur will go the polls to vote on independence. As the referendum decision has created ripples through the Middle East and beyond, the reactions of Turkey, Iran, and Iraq have been predictably hostile. After all, in the last hundred years since the World War One, these states have repeatedly tried to keep the Kurds in line through a combination of war, repression, and even attempts at genocide.

So, one should not be so surprised as they throw various threats at the KRG now. More interesting, however, is how the political fractures among Kurdish people and different parts of Kurdistan have become more manifest. Indeed, we now have at least two Kurdistans: Bashur with its capitalist modernization and Rojava and its allies with their democratic confederalism.

It is difficult to say how the relati...


Psychedelic socialism openDemocracy

Acid communism? Psychedelic Corbynism? Freak left? Call it what you will but re-infuse endeavours with a spirit of radical collectivism and unselfing to revivify co-opted countercultures for a world that would be free.

Details of the Acid Corbynism session at this years The World Transformed conference in Brighton, UK, are HERE

Acid communism: on the origins of an idea

When my friend Mark Fisher died in January, he had been working on a book with the provisional title Acid Communism: On Post-Capitalist Desire. He had discussed the book with me, but I only saw the draft introduction when a mutual friend sent it to me after he died. A few days later, some of his students at Goldsmiths College sent me a copy of the curriculum for his MA course on Post-Capitalist Desire, asking me if I, along with a number of other invitees, could contribute a session to allow the course to complete.

I still haven't worked out how to express the very strange complex of feelings I had when reading over this material. To put it bluntly, it felt like Mark was putting forward a set of arguments and ideas that Id been developing for several years in different forms not least in direct conversations and public discussions with Mark which were quite different from the positions hed held before we started collaborating, a few years earlier. There was no direct reference to my work in any of it; but more than half of the references and reading list consisted of books Id...


The protection lotto against gender-based violence in the US openDemocracy

Women in the United States receive vastly different levels of protection against gender-based violence in the work place depending on where and who they are. 

My name is Cassandra Waters, and I'm the global worker rights specialist at the AFL-CIO.

Penelope Kyritsis (oD): Can you say a bit about why you think gender-based violence in the workplace is such a prevalent issue in the United States today?

Cassandra: It's a prevalent issue in the United States and throughout the world because the reality is that we still live in a society that has a gendered power hierarchy. Gender-based violence stems out of that system. That's something that affects workers all over the world, but is especially prevalent here in the United States because we were founded on unequal power relationships between men and women. There's a lot at stake in preserving those power relationships.

Penelope: What current avenues of recourse do women have to report sexual assault, or abuse, or other violations of their rights?

There are a lot of protections on the books that a lot of people can't reasonably access.

Cassandra: It's sort of piecemeal. At the national level we have Title Nine and we have protections against sexual harassment both direct and with regard to a hostile work environment. We have those protections in place, but there's a really piecemeal approach to how much is protected, and a lot of women feel as if they can't access these protections. People who don't have a regular migration status might be afraid to come forward and report, for example. People who are in temporary work or in a fractured workplace might not even know who their employer is or where they can go to report it. So there are a lot of barriers, and a lot of protections on the books that a lot of people can't reasonably access.

At the state level, some states have much higher levels of protection than others do with regard to what sort of behaviour is guarded against. So, I think that overall we really need something like an international standard to put together a more comprehensive approach.

Penelope: And what would an international framework to protect women against gender-based violence in the workplace look like?

Cassandra: At the ILO level, it would be something that would be negotiated between governments, unions, and employers to define the best practices. I think it would include explicit protections for workplace violence that is rooted in the gendered hierarchy...


Michel Martin signals his TDs to get out and hunt for SF votes Slugger O'Toole

Youd think that lagging 7 points behind Fine Gael in the latest B&A face-to-face poll would induce panic in the ranks of Fianna Fail, but Im not picking that up. If anything, Michel Martin looks like a man who has taken time out to carefully examine the battlefield.

Im not sure I buy everything in Stephen Collins piece lauding Martins isolation of Sinn Fein. Theres little chance SF could pursue a populist agenda and adopt the kind of policies that Hugo Chvez and his successors implemented in Venezuela.

Collins sees this as a gamble:

By ruling it out, Martin has limited his room for manoeuvre in post-election negotiations, but it could help him in his ambition to restore Fianna Fil to its position as the biggest party in the country.

Adopting a clear position on Sinn Fin should help protect Fianna Fil from leaking support to Fine Gael during an election campaign.

The prospect of a deal with Adams or McDonald would certainly have the capacity to scare middle-class voters into the arms of Leo Varadkar, and to shore up Fine Gaels recently acquired status as the biggest party in the country.

More importantly, even if the numbers do add up, a deal to form a government with Sinn Fin would prove a very dangerous embrace for Fianna Fil.

Just look at how Sinn Fin gobbled up the SDLP after the Hume-Adams process or how it is manipulating the political situation in the North, using the powersharing institutions established under the Belfast Agreement as pawns.

If it is a gamble then it is something that we are much not accustomed to see in Northern Ireland, where our parties prefer to hoard their political capital rather than spend it, never mind gamble with it.

If some FF TDs had been weakening, the Tom Oliver story provided them with a very cold reminder of what any political party would face if they ever chose to go into government with Sinn Fein.

If the next generation of Sinn Fein leaders backed the Adams line that it would be totally and absolutely counterproductive to seek convictions of the killers of Mr. Oliver, Martin took another opportunity to reiterate that

he will not do business with Sinn Fin after the next...


They rode on horseback to deliver babies: a century later, midwives are still crucial openDemocracy

I grew up with mares foaling and cows calving. I knew critters could do better than that; kinda figured women could too if given the chance.

Jean Fee shows photos from her time as a nurse midwife for the Frontier Nursing Service.  Credit: YES! Magazine/Melissa Hellmann. All rights reserved.

Carrie Hall was in the middle of a hair-coloring appointment when she received a call from nurses at a nearby hospital: One of her patients was about to deliver.

Her blonde hair still wrapped in foil, Hall rushed from the beauty salon to the delivery room and within 20 minutes was holding a baby boy in her arms.

I was at the salon and nature called! Hall wrote that April day in a Facebook post through her alma mater, Frontier Nursing University. It went viral. 1st time for everything!

As one of only two nurse midwives within about 40 miles of her hometown of Whitesburg in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, the 38-year-old Hall is accustomed to dropping everything at a moments notice to deliver a baby or conduct a checkup.

But hers is a profession in flux. As the number of obstetrician-gynecologists declines in rural parts of the country and more primary care physicians stop delivering babies, the need for health professionals like her, who specialize in womens reproductive care and childbirth, is becoming critical.

Yet, nearly 100 years after the first American nurse midwives rode on horseback across the Appalachian Mountains to help women in childbirth, many in this region in particular and across America as a whole have still not fully embraced this more natural form of care. Nurse midwives are nurses who have completed graduate-level courses in midwifery. They are licensed in all 50 states to deliver babies and specialize in womens reproductive health. A few states require they be supervised by a physician to practice, but Kentucky isnt one of them. They differ from certified professional midwives, who are trained to attend to home births and cant be licensed to practice in Kentucky.

Still, not enough hospitals and other health care facilities are opening their doors to nurse midwives, and general misconceptions about the kind of education midwives receive leave the profession struggling for acceptanceeven in areas where studies suggest they are most needed.

Often theres a belief that midwives are trained by their grandmothers, said Dr. Susan Stone, president of Frontier Nursing University in Hyden.

Hall grew up in Whitesburg, a former coal min...


Not in my classroom: Russias refugee children struggle to get to school openDemocracy

Headteachers in Russias schools are turning foreign children away fearing hefty fines and pressure from the migration services. RU

Children of Syrian refugees in an improvised school in Jordan. Forty percent of refugee children from the Middle East are not educated. Photo: Freedom House, open source.Nura, 12, takes her belongings from her rucksack and lays them on the desk: a big, bright pink pencil-case emblazoned with the words Im CHIC, a notebook, textbooks, and erasers. Nura always shares erasers with her neighbour Gufran, with whom she sits at the back desk in this classroom. On the next row sit two younger girls another Nura and Soraya, who are best friends. The children slurp lollipops and freshly-picked plums as they take out trading cards. All of them are originally from Aleppo.

The girls have turned up for a lesson at an integration centre in the town of Noginsk, just outside Moscow. Its run by Civic Assistance, a human rights organisation that runs classes for the children of foreign citizens in Russia. The school itself comprises two classrooms in an office building. The walls are covered with posters of the alphabet, animals and household objects, as well as childrens drawings. Among them are samples of applications made to Russias Federal Migration Service (FMS), including possible answers in Arabic and Russian (and phrases such as documents must be submitted to file an application and refusal for temporary asylum).

Usually around 10-15 people turn up for a lesson, but today there are just five girls. After all, tomorrow is the festival of Kurban-Bayram. Theres no single timetable teacher Elena Lebedeva, who is trained in pedagogy, begins the lesson with multiplication tables, then everyone reads a text about a boy, in which they have to insert the missing words in the correct grammatical case. The towel is on the windows...


Uzbekistans new leader fails his first test openDemocracy

One year after the death of Islam Karimov, the continued use of forced labour in Uzbekistans cotton fields shows how slow the pace of change really is.


Labour in the cotton fields of Fergana Region, eastern Uzbekistan, 17 September 2017. Photo courtesy of Uzbek-German Forum for Human RIghts. All rights reserved.

While President Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan tucked into his third course at a New York dinner with wealthy American businessmen on Wednesday night, university students back home were preparing for a long day in the fields plucking cotton.

Despite the presidents promise to outlaw forced labour in the country from which I am exiled, institutions all over the country received an order to send their able-bodied staff and students to harvest cotton. September should be the start of the academic year. Instead, faculties, schools, kindergartens, as well as companies and hospitals, are emptying out as employees are ordered into the sweltering heat to work 14-hour days. 

One year ago, the 78-year-old former president, Islam Karimov, died suddenly after suffering a brain hemorrhage. He had been in office for 27 years, presiding over one of the worlds most repressive and secretive regimes. Thousands of innocent people were imprisoned for their politics or their religion. Dissidents were tortured and murdered. Others, like myself, fled in fear of another prison term. 

About one million people are forced to work in Uzbekistans cotton sector every year, under threat of losing their jobs or worse

The early actions of the new president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, have encouraged optimism among many of my compatriots and western politicians. He is improving relations with neighbouring countries, has...


Can democracy alone deliver prosperity and stability? openDemocracy

Democracy worldwide faces deep challenges. But good ideas can help overcome them.

Athens' Parthenon. Filckr/claire rowland. CC BY 2.0.Is democracy the only kind of political system that can deliver on prosperity and stability? This is the question that I was asked to address in a panel organised as part of the Westminster Foundation for Democracys 25th anniversary conference that took place in London last week. As much as I would like to argue to the contrary, I am afraid the answer must be no. There are many examples that show that democracy is not a necessary condition to achieve development.

However, we are at a juncture where the stability and resilience of democracy has come into question, not just in developing settings but in some of the worlds oldest and most established democracies. If we turn the question around and ask instead: "does democracy have to deliver in order to be sturdy and resilient over time?", then the answer is a resounding yes.

In many countries, democratic institutions that are in place are often hollow, weak and ineffective.

Why is it so essential for democracy to deliver? Many people agree that democracy has intrinsic value in its own right as a process to arrive at decisions in more inclusive, representative, participatory, transparent and accountable ways, as Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has argued. However, research emerging from Africa Latin America and Asia suggests that, across the developing world, people often place more instrumental values on their governance. While they care about democracy in principle, it is a decidedly secondary concern. People value political freedoms and democracy mostly in rela...


Lexit: defeatism dressed as ambition openDemocracy

Lexiters are deluded: Brexit is a right-wing project. The future of the UK left is with the European left, in the international struggle. This piece, introducing our Looking at Lexit series, is paired with a Lexit argument by Xavier Buxton.

Lexiters were on the same side as Nigel Farage and Donald Trump. CC image.It is perhaps an inevitability of such a broad question as Leave or Remain, in a referendum campaign where those words themselves became only synonyms for Open or Closed, that the debate around the UKs EU membership, potentially highly complex, has frequently been distilled into simple idioms.

Brexit, whatever its nuances, is a right-wing, extremist project. This much is in its blood. Politics should seldom be reduced to such easy heuristics as their enemy is my friend, but, if Donald Trump, Stephen Bannon and ISIS were all encouraging the idea of a UK leave vote, it is perhaps safe to assume that any with a leftist, leftish, or vaguely socially-spirited calling might have felt at least trepidation and at most horror at the prospect of helping to launder a project endorsed by some of the worlds most craven, bellicose, and volatile men.

There is a tendency within leftist, and perhaps especially anarchist, circles, that is easily animated by the prospect of self-reliance. It is often a very important and admirable tendency; I have only respect for those carpenters I know who set out to Calais in 2015 and constructed buildings that made the refugee camps there more habitable. There is...


Lexit: looking forwards, not backwards openDemocracy

The EU is riddled with neoliberalism. Brexit has shattered the status quo, and presents an opportunity to the UK left. This piece, introducing our Looking at Lexit series, is paired with a Lemain argument by Julian Sayarer.

In 1975 Thatcher argued passionately for Common Market membership. PAimages/PAarchive. All rights reserved.Hows Lexit treating you? friends ask, sardonically. Or is it Regrexit now? I have to say that Im not sure, but this I know: the European Union is no friend of the left. Its origins lie in the European Coal and Steel Community in the 1950s, which eliminated import tariffs within Western Europe; over the years this bloc has expanded its scope, powers, and borders, governing fishing policy, phone charges and asylum rights from Lisbon to Latvia; it has acquired a parliament, a president and a court, a social chapter and even a Charter of Fundamental Rights.

At its core, however, it remains a trade deal, like TTIP, with free-market neoliberalism embedded in its institutions. The results of 2016 referendum and the 2017 election present Labour with a historic opportunity to reset our economy, our civil rights, and our relationship with the rest of the world. The arduous pursuit of continued EU membership would, I fear, place all this in jeopardy.

The UK left has a long tradition of Euroscepticism. Labour campaigned to leave the Common Market in the 1975 referendum; on the eve of the poll, the Marxist historian EP Thompson colourfully dismissed this spoof of internationalism as a bourgeois fantasy of consumption: a distended stomach, a large organ with various traps, digestive chambers and fiscal acids, assimilating a rich diet of consumer goods. Far from empowering workers,...


Looking at Lexit: mission statement openDemocracy

Should Labour fight Brexit, or embrace it? Julian Sayarer and Xavier Buxton introduce a new project on openDemocracy, exploring the possibilities and limitations of Lexit.

Many progressives want Corbyns Labour to fight back against Brexit. PAimages/Jonathan Brady. All rights reserved.One year after the EU referendum, in which Labour all but unanimously campaigned for Remain, the party finds itself unexpectedly in a position to obstruct government legislation. With Parliament hung, Brussels bullish, and Tory rebels in the wings, the stage is set for a massive Brexit showdown. Jeremy Corbyn, many progressives argue, could and should lead a Remain revolt, campaign for a second referendum, and reverse the national blunder of 2016.

Why does he not? Where is this showdown? Some point to Labours fragile majorities in the north, vulnerable to Ukip and Tory surges at the slightest sign of Brexit backsliding. But many others suspect that Corbyn and McDonnell, in the Bennite tradition, have no great love for the EU, and see in Brexit an opportunity for the Left.

In our age of contractions and limited characters, it is no surprise that this left-wing Brexit is now Lexit, but while the term arouses strong feeling amongst a few exceptionally close observers of UK politics, it remains unused and largely unknown amongst the wider public.

Despite this limited resonance, there is reason to believe that the idea holds some sway within the Labour Party. Indeed, Labour-supporting Leave voters may also have been motivated by similar concerns, without recourse to the ideological framework of Lexit. And now the idea of a Brexit process presided over by a left-wing party, previously fantastical, has become plausible. Now people are asking whether a left-wing manifesto, recently so hypothetical, can be delivered within the very same EU institutions that right-wing Leave campaigners denounced.

The bustle of competing arguments is diverse. Gross simplifications abound: some see an EU controlled by bankers; some regard UK politics within the bloc as de facto unchangeable; for much of the Remain rump on the other side, the EU is wholly synonymous with progressive values and the common good. We believe the l...

Thursday, 21 September


Lure of Greatness, the video openDemocracy

Caroline Lucas MP, Zadie Smith, John Cleese, Kate Raworth, Aditya Chakrabortty, Peter Oborne, Quentin Skinner, Niki Seth Smith and Ralph Pritchard enjoy Anthony Barnett's new book.

In early August, before it was officially published, The New Statesman published a striking review of Anthony Barnetts The Lure of Greatness by John Harris, welcoming it as a punk polemic. Harris has distinguished himself with his outstanding video reports, Anywhere but Westminster. Taking a real interest in what goes on outside the bubble he engaged with Barnetts argument - that the frustration of English democracy and voice and its capture by Great Britishness was a determining factor in Brexit.

After that, there was no response at all in the main London newspapers to Barnetts call to understand the reasons for Brexit and Trump.  With the exception of Suzanne Moore in her G2 column, there seems to be a reluctance to confront his case that there are profound democratic causes which have enflamed millions. So we decided to make a video for social media to let readers know that the book existed. Here it is. Please share it and read the book, it is very stimulating.

Just as the video was finished Fintan OToole wrote a blistering review in The Irish Times that recognises the link between the best book on Brexit so far and openDemocracy flying the flag for transparency, reform and genuine popular power.

Please join Caroline Lucas MP, Suzanne Moore, Anthony Barnett and others to debate Confronting Brexit and Trump at London's Emmanuel Centre, 31 Oct 2017 7.30 to 9.15. Tickets here.

CC by NC 4.0


Strong and Cable? Jonathan Fryer

Vince Cable speechLiberal Democrats left sunny Bournemouth this week buoyed by the camaraderie and intellectual stimulation of autumn conference. It was make or break time for new Leader, Sir Vince Cable, who gave us all a rousing send-off with a speech full of meaty political content and a smattering of good jokes. Vince is a serious player; it was he, after all, who warned everyone where finance and the economy were going in the run up to the 2008 recession. And he has had ministerial experience in the Coalition government, notably as Business Secretary. So when he talks about the effects of Brexit, for example, people listen. But the big question is: can having an authoritative leader translate into votes for the party? The LibDems have been stuck around seven per cent in the opinion polls for some time and although the number of LibDem MPs went up from eight to 12 in June, the partys national vote share actually fell back slightly. When it comes to local elections the picture is a bit more rosy; as Vince himself acknowledges, the rebuilding of LibDem fortunes will, as ever, come from the bottom up. Nonetheless, a lot of the hopes for a Liberal renaissance rest on his shoulders. It was good to hear him at Bournemouth being the champion of Exit from Brexit a message likely to grow in appeal as the negative consequences of a looming Brexit become ever clearer but he is no one-trick pony. His speech had plenty of sound messages on a range of issues from funding the NHS to replacing tuition fees with a graduate tax. Given the totally shambolic performance of Theresa May and her UKIPTories recently, the soft Conservative vote must be wobbling, and it hard to see the increasingly left-leaning Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn scooping that up.


How to spend 500 million: womens rights groups on Europes UN grant openDemocracy

We welcome this weeks historic funding announcement for work to end violence against women and girls. But there are important caveats.

Photo: European Union 2017 - European Parliament. Photo: European Parliament/Flickr. Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). Some rights reserved.Although donors increasingly recognise women and girls as key agents in development, there has been insufficient funding dedicated to strengthening womens movements, which are critical to creating a gender just world.

In recent years, womens rights activists have struggled to access global resources. Countries including Egypt, Russia and India, have passed repressive new laws that prevent groups from receiving money from donors overseas.

This is why activists have welcomed news from the European Union and United Nations this week, who are setting up a new collaboration to fund work to end violence against women and girls, with an initial commitment of 500 million.

This is an historic investment. It follows Canadas recent allocation of CAD $150 million to support womens rights organisations in the global south. The Netherlands made the first such specific commitment in 2008 with its MDG3 Fund, named after the UNs gender equality millennium development goal. Their initial allocation of 50 million rose to 70 million later that year, after a call for proposals received a huge response.

Although the priorities of the new EU-UN initiative are still unclear, its size is potentially game-changing for work to end violence against women and girls.

But struggles for womens rights require more than high-level financial com...


Scottish Labour: The party for whom nationalism remains a dirty word

Independence supporter and former MSP Campbell Martin takes a look at the Scottish Labour leadership campaign, now that the two candidates have been formally launched. And he doesnt like what he sees

Campbell Martin

Firstly, there is no such thing as the Scottish Labour Party. Scottish Labour is a description registered by the Labour Party, which has its headquarters in London, England. Members of the Labour Party in Scotland can legitimately refer to their organisation as Scottish Labour, but the Electoral Registration Commission confirms there is no such body as the Scottish Labour Party.

Secondly, Britain is not, never has been, and never will be a nation. It is a geographical area that forms the largest part of a union-of-nations known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

With those facts in mind, lets look at the comments by the two men vying to be the next leader of the Scottish Labour Party as part of a British national organisation. They both oppose nationalism and state that, under their leadership, if elected, there will be no second referendum on Scottish independence.


The candidates positioning and choice of words is for them to decide. However, their statement on nationalism is clearly, and deliberately, used as a way of attempting to smear the pro-independence movement in Scotland by seeking to draw a link to other known nationalist movements, such as the far-right, black-shirted, goose-stepping Neanderthals who can be regularly seen on our television screens in undemocratic Eastern-European countries and now, under President Trump, in the USA.

Few reasonable and rational people would disagree with opposition to the far-right concept of nationalism, which, history shows us, stems from a national chauvinism, an exaggerated patriotism that believes a particular nation is better than any other. This is the type of nationalism associated with British nationalist movements, which, actually, is more accurately related to a belief in English chauvinism, an imperialist legacy that asserts England is better than other nations, including its neighbour, Scotland. However, the whole point of the comments from the Labour leadership-contenders is to link this toxic nationalism with the peaceful and democr...


The Cudd Perspective II: An orderly return to business as usual?

Citizen Cuddis: Separating the dancer from the dance, so we dont have to

Not since my days as a deckhand on a submarine have I held my breath for so long. But the post summer re-animation of the less than great and the not very good to the Hall of Guff-Spouters  or the Westminster parliament as it known Dan Saff has me breathing normally again.

Will there be an orderly return to daily politics? Theres more chance of a narcoleptic making it through an episode of The Love Boat without mumbling timber, falling face first into his fish supper and snoring like he has a mouthful of kazoos. Such an event is highly unlikely to happen its a once in a generation thing, like a successful Brexit or the egg and spoon race becoming an Olympic sport.

The deck of this very boat was home to Cuddis before he embarked on his lucrative career as a Newsnet columnist. Three dark years were spent here, where he had to strap himself to the funnel thing every time it dived.
Like most of his stories, this one carries the dark ring of truth.


My whistle blower Deep Heat spent the summer cruising selected bars across the Central Belt, antennae sensitised to the chiff and chaff of political scuttlebutt of every hue. Granted, these were the sort of bars where punters take a leak in the street even though there are toilets inside, and this may have skewed the data. Nonetheless, what follows is the pick of the creme de la cream of the cherry on top of the crop of fascinating, and in many cases, entirely fabricated stories a genre pioneered by Good Morning Scotland.

What the Papers Say

Hand picked morsels of British journalism (Titles have been withheld to protect the stupid)


The Tory partys ambiguity around its Brexit messages has led to a new poster by artist Sir Percival Twistleton-Penge R.A. The poster is to be circulated during the Conservative party conference. The poster depicts John Bullshit with his trousers around his ankles, leaning over the despatch box like Tom Brown about to be caned stupid by the beak. Michel Barnier looms over Joh...


So the Commies are fighting the Muslims? Not quite, Mister President

Commentary by Derek Bateman

Earthquakes in Mexico, a fusillade of hurricanes in the Caribbean, the unstoppable warming of the Earth, a Dr Strangelove President threatening total nuclear wipe-out, jackboot authority restored to Catalonia and an economy-crashing Brexit imminent as a shambolic government devours itself.

Oh, and Kezia resigns

Derek Bateman

If this isnt Armageddon, I dont know what is. Why Trump missed out Kezias resignation from his address to the UN will be debate by historians. I can only assume his advisers thought it best avoided in case he was asked to endorse her replacement.

You mean its a contest between a Communist and a Muslim? You can see his dilemma

Of all these global crises Kezia apart climate change is the most terrifying to me because it fits into a long-term worldview that mankinds destiny is to progress to destruction. In other words, we will develop science to the point where it wipes us out. We constantly create without weighing up the downside. So we discover nuclear fission and create a super efficient power source from it, nuclear energy. But we still havent worked out what to do with the dangerous waste it generates, therefore we pretend it isnt really a problem.


We produce a mass means of water distribution plastic bottles instead of cans, glass bottles or animal skins but dont know how to destroy the empties. The result is that millions of tons of tiny plastic particles are now in drinking water and in the sea. We dont know what impact it will have on human health. But its definitely killing life in the oceans.

We invented what our ancestors would regard as time travel airplanes that whiz us around to view the dazzling panorama of life of Earth yet those same planes are killing wildlife. Sixty seven per cent of all wild animals will have been wiped out in three years time.

Eighty per cent of rain forest in Ivory Coast has been destroyed to make way for cocoa because of our love for chocolate.

Sperm count in western males has halved probably due to lifestyle mobile phones, smoking and diet while science allows women to have children later when the r...


The President, the General and their country openDemocracy

The transition in Angola is already on its way. Fortunately for Angolans except for Mr. Dos Santos and his entourage it is not heading to where the former President wants. Espaol Portugus

CC0. Public Domain.

General, your tank is a powerful vehicle. It smashes down forests and crushes a hundred men. But it has one defect: It needs a driver. General, your bomber is powerful. It flies faster than a storm and carries more than an elephant. But it has one defect: It needs a mechanic. General, man is very useful. He can fly and he can kill. But he has one defect: He can think.

- Bertolt Brecht

Angola is not a democracy. Any serious and impartial analysis should start from the assertion that, in a democracy, journalists are free to do their work without being targeted and presidents do not stay in power for 38 years and unilaterally delay elections according to their own agenda. The nature of a regime does not depend on whether its leader is better or worse than, say, Equatorial Guineas Teodoro Obiang or Zimbawes Robert Mugabe. Neither does it depend on the interests of some politicians who capitalize on the richness of 1% of the population while the majority endures poverty and sickness in a resource-rich country. It does depend on political rights and civil liberties, the state of which in Angola is such, according to Freedom House, that the country can in no way be said to be a free country.

Respect for democratic norms and human dignity is not something that can be stopped at borders,...


The 51st State of Housing: The American housing crisis, and what it means for the UK openDemocracy

Three months after the Grenfell Tower fire, a moving extract from the author's Theres No Place: The American housing crisis and what it means for the UK. 

The following is an extract from the introduction to my book, Theres No Place: The American housing crisis and what if means for the UK. The book was published on 16th June 2017, two days after the Grenfell Tower fire. Three months later, its difficult to overstate the impact of the disaster.The following is an extract from the introduction to my book, Theres No Place: The American housing crisis and what it means for the UK. The book was published on 16th June 2017, two days after the Grenfell Tower fire. Three months later, its difficult to overstate the impact of the disaster. The deaths of at least 80 people (almost certainly more) have exposed not just the historic failures of housing policy, but also deeper fissures in our urban social fabric. Grenfell symbolises the conflict between housing as a private commodity, or a social asset a dichotomy personified by Donald Trump. Before Grenfell, I argued the UK was following in the housing footsteps of the US, with potentially disastrous consequences. After Grenfell, that warning feels even more pertinent.  Ive worked in and campaigned on housing in the UK for many years. During that time, Ive become increasingly conscious of the threads linking and ultimately binding the development of trans-Atlantic housing policy. This cross-fertilisation has, at times, appeared to define the differences between the two nations, with attitudes to housing reflecting wider cultural and political divergence. But it has now reached a critical point of convergence reflected in a common housing crisis. In both countries, plans are well advanced to detach housing, once and for all, from any semblance of public or non-profit provision and in the words of a right-wing UK housing academic, privatise the social rented stock and allow market relations to develop. I argue there are five broad features of this shared US-UK housing experience:

  1. Relentless government attacks on municipally-owned rented housing as part of a wider assault on public services.
  2. The unchecked rise of private landlordism as part of a broader advancement of private sector, profit-seeking interests.
  3. Growing corporate links between US and UK housing in the context of global speculative property investment.
  4. Socially-divided cities chara...


Brexit meansprogressive alliances, or corporate absolutism? openDemocracy

The Leave vote, however manipulated by the media, was not just a rejection of Brussels technocracy but of the political status quo at Westminster. Its time to rewrite the constitutional and political rules from scratch.

Image: Awaiting the Queen's Speech, UK Parliament, Creative Commons license.

The snap election in June tested to the limit the resolve by a progressive alliance of centre left parties to work together to defeat the Conservatives. The damage done to the Green Partys electoral prospects resulted from a simplistic mistranslation of the progressive alliance as a tactical voting exercise; one that played to the benefit of Labour without reciprocal gains for the Greens.

As a Labour supporter, I pushed hard for a local progressive alliance in Cornwall, and I share the dismay felt by many local Greens. In Cornwall, they stood down in three constituencies in the hope that local Labour would follow their example. They did not. What we got was the official line that it is not Labour policy to pursue a progressive alliance.

Yet I remain hopeful. The political bargaining over marginal constituencies to remove the Tories may bear fruit next time round.  Meanwhile there are other possibilities that progressives can explore, which side-step tribal politics; specifically, to turn instead to a 45-degree politics that involve centre-left parties looking outwards not upwards. To develop strong lateral networks with campaign and community groups as a counterbalance to the vertical structures of party control. But to what end?   

Currently in Cornwall and elsewhere, the focus has been on electoral reform and this is starting to gather a head of steam. While we did not break the Tory stranglehold in Cornwall, we have raised a much stronger awareness about our broken and outdated election system and the need to replace it with Proportional Representation.

Yet electoral reform cannot be considered in isolation from wider constitutional reform. It...


A new hope for a nuclear free world - but where is the UK? openDemocracy

A new UN treaty could make nuclear sabre-rattling and boasts of a willingness to incinerate cities, as unacceptable as threats to use chemical and biological weapons.

Image: United Nations/Flickr, Creative Commons.

Yesterday the UN Secretary-General Antnio Guterres opened the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) in New York.  Heads of state and senior officials from over 40 countries lined up to sign the ground-breaking treaty on its first day.  They represent billions of people from across the world, from Europe, Africa, Latin America and Asia-Pacific, including large countries that have given up nuclear weapons programmes, such as Brazil and South Africa.

More are listed to sign in the coming days.  But not the UK at least not yet!

The 2017 Nuclear Prohibition Treaty is the product of years of campaigning by thousands of civil society activists, scientists, doctors, diplomats, parliamentarians, and most of all from the courageous Hibakusha who survived the use and testing of nuclear weapons and have spent their lives raising awareness of the horrors and dangers.

This was not an arms control measure with counting rules, but a disarmament treaty driven by the imperative to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons because they are inhumane, abhorrent and unacceptable.

This treaty is the collective and effective revolt of nuclear have-nots, who overturned diplomatic assumptions and brought it to conclusion despite boycotts and opposition from nine heavily armed nuclear haves. 

With nuclear free governments in the driving seat, this was also a treaty dreamed up and significantly led by women, including  Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the Hiroshima bomb, and Costa Rica's Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gomez, who steered the negotiations to fruition on 7 July. 

As the governments beg...


Violencia de gnero en el sector agrcola centroamericano openDemocracy

Las trabajadoras del sector agrcola en Centroamrica buscan combatir la discriminacin de gnero a travs de los convenios internacionales. English

Soy Iris Mungua. Vengo de Honduras, estoy en la Secretara de la Mujer de la Federacin de Sindicatos de Trabajadores de la Agroindustria, y tambin estoy coordinando un trabajo a nivel de Latinoamrica en la COLSIBAque es la Coordinadora Latinoamericana de Sindicatos Bananeros y Agroindustrias. En la COLSIBA estamos todos los pases de Centro Amrica, Ecuador y Per. Ah estamos haciendo una articulacin de trabajo con las organizaciones sindicales del sector de la agroindustria.

Penelope Kyritsis (oD): Por qu es la violencia de genero un problema para las mujeres en la industria?

Iris: Nosotras entendemos que en el sector agrcola, al cual nosotras pertenecemos, se viene dando mucha violencia de gnero en trminos de las condiciones sociales, laborales y sindicales de las mujeres en las plantaciones agrcolas. Por ejemplo, existe mucho acto de acoso sexual en las plantaciones. Tambin, hay una diferencia de salarios entre lo que le pueden pagar a un hombre y a una mujer, aun haciendo las mismas labores.

Otra de las cosas que hemos visto en los ltimos aos es que ahora estn empleando menos mujeres en estos sectores. No s si es que estn mirando a la maternidad y la lactancia como un costo a la produccin. Esas son cosas que nos preocupan mucho, y adems cuando las mujeres se quieren organizar en sindicatos tambin son despedidas.

Esos ejemplos los tenemos en nuestros pases, principalmente en las plantaciones de meln, donde no existe organizacin sindical y estamos en una fuerte lucha con las autoridades de nuestros pases porque eso tambin es violencia de genero. Existen los convenios 89, 98 y 111, que hablan de la no discriminacin en el trabajo de las mujeres, pero esas cosas se siguen dando en nuestros pases.

Penelope (oD): Esas mujeres tienen recursos para hablar del problema o reportar este problema?

Iris: Bueno, para las mujeres es bastante difcil hablar de acoso sexual. Porque si a la mujer no se la ha dado una educacin, si no se le ha dado una formacin, difcilmente la mujer va a denunciar. Porque el acoso sexual principalmente es un acto que no se puede comprobar. Es la palabra de la mujer contra la palabra del jefe, y por lo general el jefe est en un grado ms alto que e...


Eastern Kurdistan: a silent politics with huge casualties openDemocracy

It is surely time that organisations that are internally active should dedicate their efforts to resuming activities that give hope to the people.

lead Screenshot: Leaders from the past: Dr. Qasimlo talks about abjuring terrorism during the Kurdish struggle. Youtube.The situation of the Kurds in a drastically changing Middle East has received little attention in academia and less in the media despite their growing impact on regional and international politics. The biggest stateless people living in the Middle East are on the verge of a new status, not only in Iraqi Kurdistan, where a referendum for independence takes place on September 25, 2017, but also in Syria and Turkey. Then there are the Iranian Kurds. Their stories and the conditions they live in are the least known, not only by the international community but also by fellow-Kurds living in three neighbouring countries, due to an intense isolation. This weeks short series looks at current political struggles of the Kurds in four neighbouring countries or in a country that does not exist on the world map but in the hearts and mind of 40 million people. Mehmet Kurt, series editor.

Inspired by the Kurdish movement in the north and Rojava (in Turkey and Syria), PJAK (the Kurdistan Independent Life Party affiliated to the Kurdistan Workers's Party (PKK) or Iranian branch of the PKK) and recently KODAR (the East Kurdistan Democratic and Independent Party also founded by the PKK, to replace the PJAK) were established to fill the gap of the Kurdish struggle in Iran. Yet, this new attempt has faced several serious obstacles. Can Kurdish politics in Rojhelat, (Rojhelat, literally means East, and refers to the eastern part of Kurdistan which is located within Irans current borders) look for a change of course to take it out of its current stagnation? Or will it continue to waste the time, resources and patience of a disappointed Kurdish people?

The Islamic state of Iran executes at least seven people every day. Tens of thousands of political prisoners and thousands of other p...


Peace writ large: peacebuilding works, but we may need to shout about it more openDemocracy

On International Peace Day, a new report showcases the positive cumulative effect of peacebuilding initiatives, even when conflicts worldwide and the people killed or suffering are on the increase.

Philippines - Participants in a discussion on International Alerts research on the illicit gun trade in Mindanao Photo by Ilaria Bianchi - International Alert. All rights reserved.As director of programmes for International Alert over the past 13 years, I have seldom doubted the importance of our work, supporting local efforts to reduce violence and build peace in troubled parts of the world. When I was asked earlier this year to write a report making the economic, moral, and political case for more resources to be applied to peacebuilding, I thought it would be a simple task. After all, I have long been convinced of this case, so what could be simpler than articulating it to others?

But as I did my research, and began to frame the arguments, I started to have doubts. I realised that one of the reasons international agencies spend less than 1% of the economic cost of war on building peace, is that their decision-makers are sceptical that peacebuilding really works so they reach for more familiar tools for international engagement, or walk away from conflicts that remain unresolved. After all, I heard them say in my minds ear, achieving sustainable peace is a massive, well-nigh impossible goal, so why not settle for short term stability, however imperfect, and leave it at that. They generate a critical mass of energy for peace, and... if this continues, it leads to a constantly diminishing risk that violence will return.

But this crisis of confidence did not last. I continued my research, spoke with others, and found the...


What is peacebuilding? Ask the public openDemocracy

This International Peace Day a striking 84% of people in the UK, US and Germany agree that human beings have the right to live in peace: free from conflict.

lead Political leaders and traders from either side of the Line of Control in Kashmir meet for the first time on the Chakothi Bridge after 60 years of separation, as trading across the Line of Control is established. Muhammad Arif Urfi. All rights reserved.Amidst heightened global insecurity and media criticism of foreign aid spending, one might assume a rise in public sympathy for military solutions to armed conflict. However, a new poll shows there is surprisingly strong public appetite to invest in long-term peacebuilding efforts.

During the UK general election campaign this year, the press reported a split in the Cabinet between defenders of the 0.7% foreign aid budget and those who favoured a cut and redirection to a combined defence and security budget. The purpose of this would be to shore up security in countries which are incubators for terrorism.

But cutting foreign aid to free up money to keep Britain safe is a false dichotomy. Spending more on defence and security in countries where chronic political and governance problems are fuelling conflict and providing fertile ground for radical groups will not resolve those issues or necessarily make Britain safer. Whereas, international aid, when it works with people to address the factors fuelling conflict, can do. 

Peacebuilding is often an invisible sub-sector of international development. There is no one definition of the term, but it is considered by the United Nations and those that work in the field as a process which goes beyond ending violence to establish the conditions for durable peace and prevent the recurrence of violence. For most practitioners, peacebuilding should be owned by people living with conflict, based on an analysis of conflict and peace, and involve strategic interventions to address underlying causes or drivers of conflict. 

Until now it has been unclear what the UK public knows and thinks about peacebuilding.  However, the results of...


Edwin Ardener: the life-force of ideas openDemocracy

The work of the social anthropologist Edwin Ardener (1927-87) remains a fertile source of insight and influence, says his former student and editor of a collection of his essays, Malcolm Chapman.

(This article was first published on 21 September 2007)

Edwin Ardener was born eighty years ago today, on 21 September 1927. He studied social anthropology at the London School of Economics immediately after the second world war, coming into contact with a number of major figures in the subject - Edmund Leach, Raymond Firth, Darryl Forde, and Audrey Richards (as well as encountering the strong posthumous presence of Malinowski). Ardener began a long fieldwork involvement with west Africa in 1949, which involved numerous long visits over the next twenty years. Ardener's published ethnographic and analytical work from this period is lengthy and extensive. This is a point worth stressing for those who (if they are aware of him at all) have been exposed only to his later work, a collection of which was published in 1989, under the title The Voice of Prophecy, and other essays,

I had the privilege of editing and introducing this book. It had been in preparation before Ardener's sudden and unexpected death in 1987. He had always tried to retain "urgent provisionality" in his writings, and joked that the only way such urgent provisionality could properly be turned into a bound volume was as a posthumous work. We referred to the collection as "posthumous' even as we were working on it together, not realising how soon the joke would be delivered. This assemblage of writings has been republished in 2007 by Berghahn Books, with an insightful foreword by Harvard University's Michael Herzfeld. [Editor's note: a second and expanded edition is published in October 2017]. It is a modest but real sign both of the lasting interest in and the intellectual fertility and contemporaneity of Ardener's anthropology.

Worlds and meanings

Edwin Ardener's ethnographic writings covered many subjects. He developed his interests through intense attention to social and linguistic detail, in closely observed fieldwork contexts. He studied and published on life in village and plantation in Cameroon. He published on the relationship between divorce and fertility. He came to know the value, and the limitations too, of the positivist approach to numbers, counting and meaning. He had a deep appreciation of the virtues of empirical engagement with society.

He also, however, was coming to a refined appreciation of the limitations of positivism within social anthropology...


Catalonias de facto independence openDemocracy

Catalonia is trying to hold a referendum, to provoke a reaction from the State that would boost massive protests and deliver a majority which, so far, has proven elusive.

lead Catalan Independence supporters wave Esteladas (Catalan pro-independence flag) during a demonstration of Catalan Mayors backing Independence Referendum on September 16, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. NurPhoto/Press Association. All rights reserved.It is hard to be an internationalist in the age of nationalism. It is hard to believe in individual rights in times when group rights are supposed to prevail. It is hard to believe in citizenship when all that seems to count is nationality. It is hard, in short, to be cosmopolitan in an age of parochialism and identity politics. 

And it is also hard, on the eve of a referendum/mobilisation due to take place on October 1 in Catalonia, to stay calm and moderate when facing a confrontation of two narratives that carry with them at least in part, some of the cleavages separating the two logics mentioned above. 

Two narratives

The hegemonic narrative will tell you that Catalonia has been oppressed by a central state for centuries, a state that treats it as a colony. That it is time for the nation to rise and free itself from this secular abuse which now comes in the form of an authoritarian Spanish regime that is heir to the centralist, authoritarian ideology of Franco times. It will tell you that, no matter how Catalan politicians have been willing to negotiate a better relationship to achieve greater autonomy, the Spanish government has shown its willingness to destroy it. And last, but not least, it will tell you that, because so many attempts at such a negotiation have failed, there is now no alternative other than to unilaterally secede and re-conquer the sovereignty lost to Spain by the force of the facts. 

Yet there is another narrative that tells you that Spain is a fully-fledged western liberal democracy and one of the most decentralised states in the hemisphere. That Catalonia enjoys more freedom and effective self-government than at any time in modern history, that its culture is thriving, its language ubiquitou...


The serious business of statistics Slugger O'Toole

When something you hear makes you burst out laughing, you know its time to write a blog.

In this case, I was listening to the biggest show in the country on the subject of Boris Johnson and his peddling of the myth that once Brexit is achieved there will be 350m a week available for the NHS.

Indeed, Sir David Norgrove, the Chair of the UK Statistics Authority took the unprecedented step of writing to the foreign secretary to say that to use the figure in the way was a clear misuse of official statistics.

So far so serious. The bit that made me laugh was the defence of Mr Johnson by former DUP MLA Nelson McCausland, who casually swept aside all concerns over accuracy by saying that Sir David wasnt infallible.

However its not really a laughing matter. There may be lies, damned lies and statistics, but I believe that having a robust evidence base on which to make decisions or shape policy is important. Its also important to understand how to interpret and present your evidence.

Yes, there can be accusations of spin, but to continually, blatantly, use inaccurate information takes it to another level.

Blaming the media for putting its own spin on things further muddies the water. Its true that different media have different biases, and, of course, the quality of journalism varies.

But there are many good journalists out there, asking the questions that we all want and need answers to. The Trump-esque media bashing of fake news is wearing thin.

There are plenty of resources out there such as the BBCs Reality Check, Spinwatch and Full Fact, the UKs independent fact-checking charity should you feel inclined to clarify what youve heard. Or you could read some news articles written by bone fide journalists who understand the need for truthful and accurate reporting.

In the meantime Im off to investigate the UK Statistics Authority. It sounds like heaven for a facts and figures nerd.


Environmental Governance Failure in Northern Ireland: High Time to Turn Over a New Leaf Slugger O'Toole

By Ciara Brennan, Ray Purdy and Peter Hjerp

Recent scandals including the RHI debacle and the discovery of illegal dumping on a massive scale (most notably at the Mobuoy Road super-dump) have catapulted Northern Irelands environmental governance failures into the public eye. The divergence from what can be considered good environmental governance is clear and the environmental, economic and socio-political consequences of these failures cannot be overestimated.

Protecting the environment is not a one-way cost and there has been very little political recognition in Northern Ireland of some of the serious economic impacts that weaknesses in current systems of environmental governance are having. Conservative estimates suggest that resolution of the RHI commitments alone could cost the Northern Ireland taxpayer over 490 million. Combining the cost of RHI, cleaning up the illegal dumping that has been discovered to date and remediating the consequences of illegal fuel laundering gives a total and already incurred cost of over 1 billion. In addition, weak environmental regulation and the failure to uphold the rule of law present critical disincentives to foreign direct investment, where a top priority for investors is the stability and transparency of political, legal and regulatory environment. A further risk created by a damaged environment relates to potential damage to the tourist economy (worth 723 million annually to the economy and sustaining 43,000 jobs).

A well-managed environment should be seen as a vital asset for the shared future of the people of Northern Ireland and a greater focus on protecting this common interest would enhance confidence in power-sharing and demonstrate stability. The high membership numbers of environmental NGOs in Northern Ireland indicate that there is clearly an appetite for environmental protection that is currently at odds with the level of importance assigned to it by the previous devolved governments. Given the severe consequences of environmental governance failures and its potentially devastating economic and environmental consequences a reform of the current state of environmental governance is urgently required. With the current political impasse creating significant uncertainty surrounding the NI Assemblys future, these decisions must be taken by UK government directly or jointly with the ROI government as a matter of urgency to ensure that environmental protection in Northern Ireland is insulated from the surrounding political turmoil. We suggest the following reforms:

  • An environmental audit committee should be established to enhance environmental integration across policy areas and ensure that departments are carrying out their functions within environmental limits.
  • A...


It is representative of fear represented to us by our constituents Slugger O'Toole

This fascinating interview of Ian Paisley by Noel Whelan at the Kennedy Summer School is worth listening to. The whole thing is worth listening to, but if you are short of time, jump in about 18.08 in and him talking about the battleground that the Irish language has become


Open letter to Third World Quarterly on the publication of 'The case for colonialism' openDemocracy

A letter of complaint to the editors of Third World Quarterly at Taylor & Francis on the publication of 'The case for colonialism' by Bruce Gilley.

Third World Quarterly. Image: Image used under Fair Use: Istanbul Policy Centre. All rights reserved.Two weeks ago, Third World Quarterly, a respected, anti-colonial academic journal that is the home of both the Third World Prize and the Edward Said Prize, published a pro-colonial and not particularly academic article by controversial political scientist, Bruce Gilley (published here; free copy available here). In addition to the kinds of questions and criticisms the article itself encouraged, and that the author perhaps was hoping to provoke, one has to ask questions about the editorial process followed by the journal, and the dubious ethics of publishing such an article in a journal such as this. How did this happen? How could this particular article get published in this particular journal?

Arguing the case for colonialism, and continuing the authors crusade against what he sees as a left-wing bias in academia, the article has so far prompted: a wave of incredulity and outrage on social media; a couple of petitions (here and here, both of which managed to garner several thousand signatures) calling for the article to be retracted and for the editors to apologise for its publication; a handful of online articles; a problematic response from the editor; and, subsequently, the resignation of a large bulk of its editorial board.

Prior to their resignation, the letter of complaint below (instigated by Claire Gallien, Sara Marino, Patricia Prieto-Blanco and myself, and signed by over 40 international academics) was sent to the journal and to its commercial academic publisher, Taylor & Francis, as well as a copy, listing the various codes of conduct breached, to COPE, the Commit...


A long-forgotten wall: the struggle of the Sahrawi people openDemocracy

Lost Land exposes the painful reality of the Sahrawi people, whose homeland is occupied by Morocco, while they crave independence. At the Open City Documentary Festival on 7th September 2017.

Lost Land Pierre-Yves Vandeweerd. Some politicians enjoy talking about walls; they seem to be all the rage. The most recent example would have to be American president Donald Trumps obsession with building a wall along the US-Mexico border; since the second intifada in 2000, Palestinians have found themselves trapped by the Israel West Bank barrier; and, not so far from home, in the European Union facing the worst refugee crisis since World War Two walls have mushroomed despite the Schengen Agreements supposed abolishing of internal borders. 

Lost Land, or Territoire Perdu, a documentary by Belgian writer and director Pierre-Yves Vandeweerd, sheds light on a lesser known, but equally oppressive, wall: el hisam  'the belt' in Arabic.

El hisam is the word used to refer to the wall built by Moroccans in the Western Sahara. It stretches over 2,400 km and cuts the Sahrawi territory into two parts: one part is occupied by Morocco and the other is controlled by the Sahrawi Peoples Liberation Army.

This wall, unlike those listed above, has not benefited from the same degree of press coverage; Vandeweerd's documentary, released in 2011, is a raw testimony to the suffering of the Sahrawi people, and the nomadic lifestyle they preserve, compressed between Mauritania and Morocco.

Lost Land has a nostalgic feel: it is a collection of stills, sometimes of the arid and empty desert landscape and sometimes portraits of the Sahrawi people, filmed with Super 8 cameras (a Kodak model that was introduced in 1965 and is best known for making home movies accessible to the masses).

Throughout the black and white 75-minute long documentary, nine people tell their stories of the occupation. Some were alive in 1975 when the raids first occurred and had to escape to Moukhayyem, the strip of desert that Algeria handed...


How starting and losing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan helped create the conditions for Brexit openDemocracy

Anthony Barnett discusses one of the key arguments in his new book on Brexit and Trump, The Lure of Greatness.

Adam Ramsay: You argue that one of the causes of Brexit (and Trump) was what you call four great breaches of trust. Two of those relate to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (with the other two relating to the financial crisis and response to it). The claim that Brexit and Trump are a response to the flatling of income, increased insecurity and ballooning of ultra-wealth since the financial crash of 2007-8 is familiar. But your first two breaches less so. Can you describe them briefly? Is it really fair to argue that Britain and America lost the war in Iraq?

Anthony Barnett: Tony Blairs aim was for him and Bush to be acclaimed as liberators by the people of Baghdad just as he was celebrated by Muslims as a liberator of Kosovo. To grasp how badly Washington and Whitehall have lost, therefore, you need only consider what it would be like had they won as intended. Victory would have meant that today a pro-American government, established after a short war and welcomed by the Iraqi people, would be the legitimate representative of a unified, peaceful Iraq, with large US bases astride its oil-fields. There would also be a stable Afghanistan. ISIS or Daesh would not exist. Trumps complaint that America needs to start winning again would be otiose. The British belief in their capacity to project world power as a satrap of Washingtons world order would have been confirmed. Their regimes would have stood tall in terms of their own legitimacy, lauded by the media. Calls for Brexit would have been brushed aside.

In brief the four breaches of trust are that they lied, they lost, they screwed the economy and then cashed in. The latter two are familiar, if you will excuse my vulgar shorthand: the financial crash and the ballooning of asset wealth by the ultra-rich after 2008. Together they have broken the economy hegemony in the sense of an untouchable right to rule, there being no alternative of neoliberalism. But the first two undermined the military political hegemony of the Anglo-Saxon order that appeared unquestionable after the collapse of Communism in 1989. The combination was fatal to their overall, global power and internal, domestic assent.

Of the first two, that you are probing, the deceit undermined belief in the integrity of the system of government. But equally if not more important, losing militarily exposed the fundamental over-reach and catastrophic judgment of th...


Oops! How Moscows municipal election turned into a headache for city hall openDemocracy

The unexpected success of independent candidates in Moscows recent council elections may be relative but it's real enough. RU

City day (c) Evgeny Sinitsyn/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved.The Russian opposition enjoyed an unexpectedly decent showing at the municipal council elections in Moscow last week. The Yabloko political party, having broken with its own traditions by participating under the umbrella of Dmitry Gudkovs United Democrats coalition, secured 176 seats, while a further 108 were won by independents, the majority of which have been working together with Gudkov. Mikhail Khodorkovskys Open Russia movement, which set up a school for prospective municipal deputies, also contributed to the overall result. Theres even been talk of a united opposition victory at the election.

On balance, however, this talk is premature: United Russia candidates won 1152 seats out of an available 1502. In the wake of the elections, city newspapers controlled by Moscow mayor Sergey Sobyanin came out with identical editorials proclaiming a triumphant victory for United Russia. They cant exactly be accused of lying, either: winning over 75% of all seats is certainly a triumph.

Furthermore, the oppositions showing isnt sufficient to overcome the so-called municipal filter at next years mayoral elections: candidates must enlist the support of 110 deputies from 110 districts, but the oppositionists are represented on only 66 district councils.

System failure

At first glance, the results of this years municipal elections arent all that different from what we witnessed in 2012. Back then, United Russia also garnered some 75% of seats, with the rest being divided between nominal oppositionists.

In 2012, however, around half of all opposition seats went to the Communist Party. A year later, the Communists were able to overcome the municipal filter at the mayoral elections. In 2017, the Communists have only 43 seats. The respec...

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