Archive for the ‘Development’ Category

Evolving democracy

By Johan Galtung

February 13, 2017

What is the essence of democracy?

“Rule with the consent of the ruled” implies two classes of people, Rulers and Ruled; concretely State and People, Statism. “Free and Fair Elections” implies voting for a Parliament; Parliamentarism. Together, a three-tier power structure State-Parliament-People; with People controlling Parliament, and Parliament controlling State.

In 2016 some voting differed from what State-Parliament expected; leading to talk about elitist vs populist democracy – from statism and parliamentarism to peopleism. A crisis. And talk about post-democracy.

Another answer about democratic essence is “one-tier self-ruling units”; no rulers vs ruled, and decisions are made by general assemblies for all. This is often referred to as Anarchism, “no structure”. A misnomer: there is no State and no Parliament, but many assemblies. A concrete interpretation would be Localism, the units being local authorities – LAs, municipalities; the assemblies being their municipal councils.

A key dimension then becomes the level of state control of LAs. In Spain, with an anarchist ideological tradition, the LAs are strong.

A different, not institutional – more philosophical, intellectual in general – answer would pick up words like transparency and dialogue.

Democracy is a context with everything in the open, no closed doors, available to everlasting people dialogue: by way of the word, logos. Fine for people who are good with words.

How about those who are not, Read the rest of this entry »

New year – old wishes left and right

By Johan Galtung

This New Year announces itself with bangs all over, not whimpers.

Pope Francis made a tour d’horizon on all continents, strongly denouncing the violence in favor of his alternative: negotiation.

Much violence is copycat or copyrat; violence being a la mode. Copying–aka learning–is not wrong. But it depends on what is copied.

Here my 10-11 wishes:

Wish no. 1: copying peace rather than violence, for instance from ASEAN and the Nordic Community, making peace self-reinforcing.

Wish no. 2: reporting violence less prominently, more toward the end of newspapers-TV-radio news, and reporting peace upfront.

Wish no. 3: understanding war better, not only how many killed but how many bereaved; understanding peace better as model for others.

Wish no. 4: introducing Yin/Yang in Western thought: no totally good or bad humans or states around; they are all improvable mixtures.

Wish no. 5: linking the good in ourselves to the good in others for peaceful cooperation, yet keeping the bad in mind, for security.

Wish no. 6: identifying unsolved conflicts and unconciled traumas that may lead to violence; solving the conflicts, healing the traumas. Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 394: The State of the World Right Now: A Macro View

By Johan Galtung

“View” meaning not only a glimpse from above, but a position taken on the world on which the US electorate is now dumping Donald Trump.

That world is today basically multi-polar, maybe with 8 poles: 1) Anglo-America, 2) Latin America-Caribbean, 3) African Unity, 4) Islam-OIC from Casablanca to Mindanao, 5) European Union, 6) Russia more region than state, 7) SAARC from Nepal to Sri Lanka, 8. ASEAN, Australia-New Zealand. [See list of abbreviations with links to the mentioned organisations under the article]

And thre is the multi-regional Shanghai Cooperation Organization, SCO, with China and Russia, Islamic countries, India and Pakistan.

There is a waning state reality, smaller states being increasingly absorbed into regions.

There is a waxing region reality with the above eight; adding West Asian, Central Asian and Northeast Asian regions, maybe eleven.

There is a global reality based on IGOs, inter-governmental organizations, with the United Nations on top; TNCs, the transnational corporations, with the US-based on top so far; and INGOs, international non-governmental organizations, with religions on top.

Now, insert into all of that something concrete from William Blum’s Anti-Empire Report #146 and his Rogue State.

From WWII, the USA has: Read the rest of this entry »

“Humanity Knows No Borders”

By Hans Graf Sponeck

Freiburg, 1 October 2016

1. The global sky is full of dark clouds. There is reason, there must be reason, for concern. Humanity has to take time out to reflect. To-day is a good occasion to do so, especially since we have among us Haifa al Mansour and Solmaz Panahi who, together with her mother, has joined us on behalf of Jafar Panahi, her father.

The Kant Foundation is honouring two artists from the Middle East, one from Saudi Arabia, the other from Iran. They have taken Immanuel Kant’s demand of yesteryear seriously and have shown the courage to use their minds with all the consequences that this has entailed. They have been swimming against the currents, they have built bridges and they have climbed mountains that try to separate people.

2. The community of nations has created an impressive body of law which is as densely woven as the most magnificent carpets one can find in the Middle East. Life in all its facets is well protected by such law – or so it seems! The UN Charter remains the supreme road map for human life with peace. It echoes what many thinkers and humanists throughout centuries have proclaimed. Can there be any disagreement that the usefulness of a map lies in its use?

3. Emotions? Feelings? – important as they are, must be in harmony with reason! The irrational rejection of Europe by Britain would not have happened if feelings and reason had been in balance! How much more evidence do we need to accept that humanity knows no borders?

4. Let me pause here for a moment and interject… Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 392: Just how grey are the White Helmets and their backers?

By Jan Oberg

Added at the bottom on November 23, 2016:

The – bizarre – White Helmet Mannequin Challenge video;

The Swedish Institute of International Affairs’s event with the White Helmets on November 24;

The Right Livelihood Award Foundation’s Award Ceremony to take place on November 25

While thousands of humanitarian organisations around the world are struggling fiercely with diminishing support from governments and the public, one has achieved a surprising amount of support from Western governments in a surprisingly short period of time and gained a surprising attention from mainstream media and ditto political elites: The Syrian Civil Defence or White Helmets.

Their name of course makes you think of the UN’s Blue Helmets and white is the colour of those who should be protected in harm’s way – and the colour of innocence. However, for many years there has been an Argentinian relief organisation with the same name.

The SCD or White Helmets counts nearly 3.000 rescue workers who operate in very dangerous areas in rebel-held territories in Syria and claims that it has, in three years, rescued about 70.000 lives according to its Twitter account (or 65 per day).

Contrary to what you might think, it isn’t a Syrian organisation because Syria has its own organisation, incidentally also called Syria Civil Defence, which was established in 1953 and is registered with ICDO, the International Civil Defence Organisation, since 1972.

The White Helmets seems to have an annual budget of US$ 30 million and has raised a total support of well over US$ 100 million. And it seems that they operate exclusively in war zones in which the fighting against the Syrian government and the Syrian Arab Army takes place, i.e. in ‘liberated’ areas where hundreds of groups and some 80 countries, mainly NATO members, Gulf states and Saudi-Arabia, operate.

On the White Helmets’ briefing page it is stated that “funding for their humanitarian relief work is received from the aid budgets of Japan, Denmark, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States.”

Here is how the Foreign Ministry in Copenhagen explains the roughly US$ 9 million to the White helmets from Denmark, a country that bombs in both Iraq and Syria.

Other civil society and humanitarian organisations inside Syria have not been so fortunate. You’ve probably not heard that much about the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and its work? How much/little support have they received from Western humanitarian-concerned governments? And in general, civil society organisations in Syria – women, peace, human rights, culture, etc. – have received nothing like US$ 100 million in a few years and no one has such a flashy media appearance as the White Helmets.

Photo from the White Helmets’ homepage

The White Helmets was started in 2013 by James Le Mesurier who seems to have tried a little of everything everywhere, including the grey zones of special forces and intelligence in virtually all NATO wars, Yugoslavia in particular. He later set up a foundation in Holland to gather the funds. Here is a recent account by Scott Ritter, former US Marine Corps intelligence officer and weapons inspector in Iraq with tremendous knowledge of things Middle East:

“The organizational underpinnings of the White Helmets can be sourced to a March 2013 meeting in Istanbul between a retired British military officer, James Le Mesurier—who had experience in the murky world of private security companies and the shadowy confluence between national security and intelligence operations and international organizations—and representatives of the Syrian National Council (SNC) and the Qatari Red Crescent Society. Earlier that month, the SNC was given Syria’s seat in the Arab League at a meeting of the league held in Qatar.

At that meeting, the SNC assumed Syria’s seat, and the Arab League authorized member states to actively provide support, including arms and ammunition, to the Syrian rebels. The Qataris, working through the SNC, helped assemble for Le Mesurier $300,000 in seed money from Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom for a seven-day course designed to train and equip a 25-person rescue team, recruited by the SNC, for duty in so-called “liberated areas” of Syria. The SNC made available a pair of Syrian activists—Raed Saleh and Farouq Habib—to assist Le Mesurier in this work.

The group is – as will be seen below – treated as uncontroversial in virtually all Western mainstream media. However, there is enough material with documentation to merit caution. Read the rest of this entry »

Is Africa going downhill?

By Jonathan Power

October 11th 2016.

Africa up or down? After 10 years of quite remarkable growth across the continent most countries are experiencing a downturn, with average growth nearer 3.75% than 5% as before.

Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country with its largest economy, was at one time growing year after year at 7+%. Now it looks like it’s heading for recession and a growth rate pointing to zero.

It has been hit by a six-fold whammy – oil prices sharply down, the effects of the great recession in the industrialised countries, the Chinese economy slowing, bad economic and foreign exchange policies under the relatively new president, Muhammadu Buhari, increased corruption under his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, and the war against Boko Haram in the far north.

Nevertheless, Nigeria’s non-oil sector- agriculture and manufacturing- improved steadily until 2015, but now has plateaued. Some economists have said that since that Nigerians can’t get richer from oil they are being forced to diversify.

Most African countries don’t have such a string of problems. Star performers, such as Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Senegal, Rwanda, Mauritius, Ghana and Ivory Coast, have avoided much of this turbulence. They have benefited from low oil prices, good economic policies, wise investment, an emphasis on industrialisation and an ability to attract foreign aid. Also from the lack of wars.

Although the number of wars across the continent has fallen sharply Read the rest of this entry »

Perhaps economic stagnation is a good thing?

By Jonathan Power

August 16th 2006

The announcement was made yesterday – August 15 – by Japan’s Finance Ministry: In the last quarter of the year the Japanese economy grew at an annualised rate of 0.2%. “One wonders if the economy will remain at a standstill for the rest of the year”, the Financial Times asks.

But then Japan’s economy has been becalmed for 30 years. Even though the government has poured billions of dollars into the economy it has had only a small effect in boosting demand.

One wonders when the government will give up and what happens then – another decade of minimal growth? If that is what happens how much does it matter? To the Japanese themselves it seems not that much. By and large they are contented with their lot.

The rest of the word may be worried as a powerful country is importing less and less. It does not contribute to world economic growth as it did before when its fast growing economy progressed at Chinese rates from a much higher base.

Some American and European economists are worrying that the Japanese “disease” will spread before long among all the leading economies. Indeed it could be argued that with Europe in the doldrums – apart from Sweden and Poland – and the US economy not steaming ahead as it once did, this may be already happening.

The former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers has said that the world faces looming “secular stagnation” – a persistent period of low growth, low inflation and low interest rates.

But is this such a bad thing if the cost of living also falls? Read the rest of this entry »

Can China threaten the West?

By Jonathan Power

August 2nd 2016.

How far behind the West is China? Is its economy still booming so it could within 20 years overtake America? Is its military becoming of such a strength it will take the big decision to confront the US navy in the South China Sea?

While it is obvious that the Chinese leadership is much more far sighted and cautious than, say, Donald Trump, can one conclude with 100 % certainty that potentially dangerous clashes won’t occur?

The communist leadership believes that before long it will be the world’s biggest economy. Yet if one looks at national income per head it is way down the league table of economic achievers. Size is not everything. Moreover, if one starts from a low base, as China did before the paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, introduced capitalism in 1978, fast rates of growth, as reported in government statistics, overstate what is happening in many parts of the country.

Away from the booming coastal areas China is extraordinarily backward, with the countryside and smaller towns looking like, at best, Central America, at worst India.

The US, Japan, South Korea and Europe will always have the technological edge. It’s true for most things that the West can do better whatever China does. Compared with past rising powers – Read the rest of this entry »

Are we heading toward global autocracy, ecological collapse and political malaise?

By Richard Falk

What follows are preliminary reactions to both the BREXIT vote and the world according to Trump, but also a commentary on the related alienation of large segments of the public that are being badly served by both the established elites and their demagogic adversaries.

The failures of neoliberalism, the successes of digitization, the scourge of random violence, and more broadly, the dilemmas posed by late modernity are among the root causes of this global crisis of legitimate governance, which is deepened while being mishandled by unprecedented ecological challenges, extremely irresponsible geopolitical leadership, and a variety of ultra-nationalist backlashes against the encroachments of economic globalization.

Imagining the World After the Cold War

After the end of the Cold War there were various projections that tried to anticipate the likely future of the world in broad interpretative strokes. Three of the most influential conjectures by three prominent American authors received attention in the public sphere: those of Francis Fukuyama, Samuel Huntington, and Robert Kaplan.

Fukuyama challenged conventional political imagination with his provocative claim that with the collapse of the Soviet version of state socialism and the triumph of capitalist liberalism the world had reached ‘the end of history.’ It was also somewhat dubious that Fukuyama validated his views by reference to the Hegelian contention that history is made by the march and interplay of ideas rather than through the agency of material forces.

In this respect history came to a supposedly glorious end because there was no grander possible political vision than that of market-based constitutionalism, epitomized by the American political system. Even the most casual observer of the global scene must have noticed the befogged Western optic through which Fukuyama saw the world.

Huntington, no less provocative or biased, although less comforting for the West, anticipated a ‘the clash of civilizations’ as the sequel to the Cold War, especially stressing the confrontation between the liberal West and the non-West or simply ‘the rest.’ His suggestive emphasis was on blood-soaked fault lines between states, civilizations, and peoples associated with Islam and the Western polities descending from the Enlightenment tradition as it unfolded in Europe, taking root in North America and elsewhere.

Kaplan, also punctured the Fukuyama triumphalist tone of geopolitical serenity, by writing Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 383 – Fearology and militarism but the real enemy is us

By Jan Oberg

Published on July 8, 2016, the day of the NATO Summit in Warsaw. It’s the 5th in the TFF Series “The New Cold War”

Russia and NATO have offensive capacities and MIMACs (Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex) but NATO’s is a much larger potential threat to Russia than the other way around

Why does an alliance with such an overwhelming superiority shout and scream and see ghosts on the horizon when, in reality, there are none?

Why does it seem to be intellectually unable to see things from the side of its opponent? Is the show of strength in reality a sign of weakness?

*

A threat consists of two main things: An intention to do something negative to you + a capability to actually carry it through – thus I + C.

Whenever NATO S-G Stoltenberg – a person who has gone through a serious personality change – speaks, he says nice things like: NATO does not seek confrontation and none of its moves are directed at Russia. NATO countries just have to protect themselves against Russia which they see as a threat.

Typically the talk is about an actor, a country, a leader – not about issues or trends that challenge the Alliance and certainly not that its own war adventures have weakened it in moral and legitimacy terms.

On their own side, NATO leaders buy none of – similar – Russian peace rhetorics. If you ask them why, they would say: Because as long as the Russians have offensive capabilities, there is also a risk that good/defensive official motives may – within weeks – be turned into an offensive, aggressive stance and we will be attacked. Can’t trust them!

But NATO itself excels in offensive projects, plans and capabilities – such as forward positioning, bases, long-range bomber and fighter planes, Ballistic Missile Defense and nuclear weapons – nuclear weapons are by definition never defensive because of their unlimited destructive capacity and because they can, by definition, not be used on one’s own territory.

To put it crudely: If you have no aggressive intentions directed at anyone – then scrap your offensive capabilities including long-range, particularly destructive and nuclear weapons and preserve only what can be used for defense – i.e. if you are attacked.

Why should you scrap the offensive elements? Because, no matter what you say about your intentions, the other side will see you as potential aggressive because you offensive weapons can reach them: If you don’t plan to come to our territory, then why do you have systems that can reach our territory and create unspeakable destruction on our people and culture??

Upholding offensive arsenals is a clear indicator of the possibility that officially stated defensive intentions can change to the opposite – how should NATO otherwise feel threatened by today’s Russia?

The eternal but non-credible threat needed by MIMAC

There are good-hearted people who believe that countries have competent experts who along a series of indicators measure and judge which security challenge are waiting in the future – and a series analyses of the threat towards their country on this or that time horizon.

The probability of each threat is also evaluated – to help politicians with limited budgets to allocate money to guard against some ‘realistic’ but not all possible/thinkable threats.

The – again very good-hearted – people believe that politicians and the industry then decide about the appropriate national defence, the necessary minimum of what we call a (military) defence policy and other measures to meet the challenges.

Unfortunately, as has been known since the last 50 years – except to politicians and the media – this description of security politics has nothing to do with reality.

Here is how it works, instead. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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