Our Perspective

      • Democratic transition demands courageous leadership | Olav Kjørven

        09 Nov 2012

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        Tunisia Constituent Assembly Elections 2011

        Of late, we have witnessed dramatic change in many parts of the world. Autocratic leaders in the Middle East and North Africa have been ousted or forced to resign. Myanmar has embarked on a determined path towards reform. Economic, social and political reasons triggered these societal changes. Hence people’s call for “bread, freedom, dignity” in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, where we saw that political transition can – if rarely - happen almost overnight. But autocratic regimes leave legacies, economic structures, incentive systems and institutions that do not disappear as a dictator steps down or aside. Political rights, human rights, progressive social and economic policies, fair jobs and the primacy of the rule of law do not automatically follow moments of significant political change. One of the first choices the leaders of transition must make, therefore, is to be inclusive as they start to define their future.  For legitimacy and longevity, there must be sustained channels for dialogue and decision-making with all people – civil society and academics, the business elite and the military, the politicians and the public, especially the marginalized. This is the only way to renew trust and rebuild a nation’s social contract. This is most difficult. At the very Read More

      • We must act now to stop climate change | Helen Clark

        08 Nov 2012

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        A woman walks through a flooded market in Port au Prince. Hurricane Sandy passed to the west of Haiti October 25, 2012. Photo Logan Abassi UN/MINUSTAH

        The devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy reminds us once again of the destructive potential of extreme weather—even in a developed country such as the United States, and even with ample warning and swift emergency response. From Kingston, Jamaica to Jamaica, Queens, this “perfect storm” exacted a deadly toll that New York’s mayor said was even higher as a result of climate change. But while developed countries dig ever deeper to fund elaborate flood defense systems, compensate farmers, and adjust thermostats to accommodate hotter summers, the consequences of climate change in Africa can be catastrophic: Crops fail. People go hungry. We could, as a global community, make the transition to green and inclusive economies that tackle inequality, advance development, and stop the ongoing assault on our ecosystem. This begs the question: Why isn’t the world doing more? At the global level, policy responses lag well behind where science tells us they should be. Short political cycles discourage long-term thinking, particularly where up-front costs may be high. This is especially true in times of fiscal constraint and sluggish growth. Little appreciation exists, further, of how climate change undermines gains in the developing world, hitting hardest precisely those people who have contributed least to Read More

      • Optimism in the field of anti-corruption | Magdy Martínez-Soliman

        07 Nov 2012

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        "Fighting corruption is everyone’s business" Photo: Kenny Miller / Creative Commons

        Every year, corruption is estimated to cost more than 5% of global GDP (US$2.6 trillion). But its costs in terms of dignity cannot be calculated. Widespread rent-seeking and patronage have the power to undermine democracy and the rights of communities, especially those who live on the land of their ancestors, on mineral resources or surrounded by global commons.  These communities can then be subject to exploitation by companies or interest groups who push for environmental and social safeguards to be ignored or bypassed. High-profile corruption cases and publication of resources lost through illicit forms have begun tempting many to believe the fight against corruption is being lost. Weak anti-corruption agencies, porous institutions and opaque political party financing do not help. I would like to argue, however, that there is still hope for cautious optimism for the following reasons. First, even as gaps in enforcement and practice persist, over the years global instruments and related international initiatives have grown in number and fame. From international diplomatic conventions to new instruments to citizens armed with cellphones, fighting corruption is everyone’s business. Second, corruption has now been termed clearly as a governance deficit and a development challenge, rallying the forces that work on democratic Read More