Archive for June, 2014

TFF PressInfo: Democracy’s crisis – 10 points

By Jan Oberg

Democracy is a core feature of Western society, normally understood as representative parliament – i.e. in free elections citizens vote for people to represent their interests for a parliament consisting of parties of which some form the government and some the opposition.

It’s not always included in the definitions that democracy requires a reasonable level of knowledge and information, freely available. For instance, one often hears that India is the world’s biggest democracy but 26% of the people are still illiterate (287 million people).

So the ”world’s largest democracy” also has the world’s largest population who can’t read and write. In comparison, China illiterate citizens make up about 3% and is regularly called a dictatorship.

Also, in a society where the persons running for office are – or have to be – extremely wealthy to pay for their campaign and where large corporations make multi-million dollar contributions to certain candidates (presumably not out of altruism), falls outside a reasonable definition of democracy – even though they may also not be dictatorships; there are many stations in-between the two.

Are young people giving up parliamentary democracy?

When I was in my high-school years – a few decades ago – and wanted to contribute to changing society for the better, the most natural thing to do – and the finest – was to join a political party. Not so today. My students in peace studies around the world often ask me at the end of a course and it is time to say goodbye whether I can help them somehow in making their career. Their career dreams may be to work for the UN, for human rights, the environment or starting their own NGO with a peace profile or set up their own consultancy firm for a better world.

Significantly, over all these years, only one single student asked me what I thought about contributing to peace and development by becoming a politician.

As is well-known, people today engage in social issues mainly through civil society and the use of social media as their primary tool. This is good from most perspectives and holds fascinating prospects for de facto global citizenship and action, but it does something to the old type of representative democracy.

When we talk about global crisis, people think much more of the environment, identity issues or warfare than of democracy being in crisis. I think it is in fundamental crisis for the the following reasons. Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo: EU elections – To perform rather than live democracy

By Jan Oberg

Lund, Sweden, June 3, 2014

Fears has been expressed in Europe about the recent EU parliament voting pattern. Instead of the fear and denouncing the winners we should ask: What causes such an outcome?

My short answer is this: Democracy itself is in deep crisis. It has become performance or ritual rather than something genuinely lived.

Two things stand out – one, the increase in votes going to nationalist, populist, right-wing and anti-Muslim parties as well as Euro-skeptics – particularly in Denmark, France, Greece and Britain.

Secondly, the voter turnout has fallen from 62 per cent in 1979 to 43% in 2009 and this year it increased only 0.09% in spite of the EU Commission’s attempt to increase it.

So while people struggle around the world for democracy, only 43% of the EU citizens find it meaningful to go and vote every 4th year. How tragic for an EU that tries to promote democracy everywhere, even by military force.

It is understandable that the two mentioned factors is a combination that make many in Europe – the seat of two world wars, NATO and some of the most armed and two nuclear-weapons states – concerned. Perhaps the rest of the world should be at least as concerned? Other countries such as Hungary and Spain have, on different dimensions, moved in a worrying authoritarian political direction. Read the rest of this entry »

Keeping Africa going up

By Jonathan Power

Black Africa long went deeply down. Now it is rushing headlong up. But “up” brings problems of its own. A country’s policy makers have to work as hard in successful, speedy, times as they did when they moved painfully from the first rung of the ladder to the second and third.

Take today’s news – according to the Financial Times, Kenya, one of the poster boys of the African revival, is now financially strong enough to make its debut on the sovereign bond market in a deal worth $2 billion. But it has become entangled in a decade-old corruption scandal that cost Kenya $770 million. The government has decided to take on the responsibility for paying off the $770 million in order to get the $2 billion (and future bond market loans).

In Mozambique last week Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, warned that the planned issuing this year of a total of $11 billion worth of sovereign bonds around Africa could overload economies with too much debt. (This is up from $6 billion a year ago and $1 billion in 2000.) Read the rest of this entry »

Mexico: 50 Peaceful Peace Policies

By Johan Galtung & Fernando Montiel

Toluca, Estado De México; Workshop on Drug Traffic and Violence

300.000 kg of cocaine to USA via Mexico annually; 60% of marijuana producers had lived in misery, US$ 2/day; the drug traffic profit in Mexico was US$ 59 billion, 5% of GNP; 80% was spent on corruption; 125,000 were arrested since 2006; with an impunity of 98%.

2,000 weapons from USA to Mexico daily; 5.5 million legal and 20 million illegal arms in Mexico; 100,000 have died in the “war on drugs” from 2006; 30,000 disappeared; 42+ journalists killed (more than in Afghanistan); 50,000 military troops involved by 2006, 130,000 by 2009, 50,000 in 2012, 32,000 in 2013; US$ 16.6 billion spent on insecurity and violence, 1.34% of GNP.

Due process of law and violence did not reduce drug traffic and violence; a drug-arms-violence-police-military complex had evolved. No general prevention, maybe not even individual prevention. A discourse-change took place: the perpetrators were seen less as evil and more as products of the domestic and regional contexts. The new approach was prevention by eliminating causes. The goal is reduction of drug traffic and of violence, and even if related they were seen as two different goals not necessarily served by the same means.

Which are these means, causes to be handled? Read the rest of this entry »


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