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This Week at the ISN…

It's week 21 in our editorial calendar, Photo: Horia Varlan/flickr

This week in ISN Insights, you can look forward to the following content:

On Monday, Shalva Weil analyzes how twenty years after Israel’s dramatic airlift of Jews out of Ethiopia, normalization has almost set in between the countries.

The role of opinion polls in the field of International Relations will be the topic of Tuesday’s ISN Insights, while the European External Action Service (EEAS) will be assessed on Wednesday. On Thursday, meanwhile, we will focus on Pakistan’s nuclear rationale.

And in case you missed any of last week’s content, you can find them right here. Once again, they cover a wide array of topics, such as: Rising tensions between Pakistan and its neighboring states; Turkey’s growing defense ambitions; India’s search for strategic autonomy; and a podcast on the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on the eve of its 10th year.

Missing Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei Protest in New York: “1001 Chairs for Ai Weiwei” in New York, 17 April 2011.

Ai Weiwei Protest in New York: “1001 Chairs for Ai Weiwei”, 17 April 2011. Photo: Jason B. Chen/flickr

China’s Ai Weiwei has recently been removed from the creative scene. Absent and yet present, he is an artist whose work has become renowned all over the world in recent years.

Special attention was given to Ai particularly because of his creative criticism and involvement in social and political questions concerning China. In 2007, for example, at the Documenta 12, one of Europe’s biggest art fairs, Ai provoked his public by inviting along 1001 Chinese compatriots. His statement was simple yet powerful. Ai’s experiment raised awareness about how China is booming, but at the same time, about how it remains separated from the West.

Despite the regime’s restrictions, new art in China has found diverse channels of expression in the years since 1989, ranging from direct criticism of Western consumption, to mocking stereotypes of Maoist propaganda or to addressing the weaknesses of the communist regime. Ai Weiwei belongs to the latter group of creatives. He is one of China’s best-known artists and at the same time one of China’s most despised dissidents.

Ai’s arrest at the beginning of April 2011 was met with consternation by the international public. Yet the most recent wave of repression affected not only Ai, but the entire Songzhuang art district, in the eastern suburbs of Beijing. This community of artists had elected a suggestive name for their latest exhibition: Sensitive Zone. The exhibition was in itself a provocation, a powerful collection of sensitive subjects, which were not only expected but also surely intended to lead to consequences. » More

Belgium: Time to Move Forward

Working on common features. Photo: Everjean/flickr

No more caretaker government, demands the King of Belgium. After almost one year of failed attempts to reach an agreement between the French and Dutch-speaking parties, King Albert II has officially asked Elio di Rupo, a French-speaking socialist, to lead a government.

For too long both communities have been struggling over the country’s institutional set up. Several negotiators attempted to break the deadlock, but without success. Now everyone, including the King, is tired of the impasse and Elio di Rupo will receive a second chance to break the cycle.

Last year he failed to create a government coalition, but his role will be slightly different this time. Until now the King had only appointed politicians to find a consensus for a new government, the so-called “preformateurs”. Now he actually asked Elio di Rupo to  form his own government and become Prime Minister. A new strategy that triggers a paradoxical feeling: either the situation will soon be solved, or things will get really desperate.

Even if Elio di Rupo succeeds, the real problem will yet have to be solved. The separatist Flemish Nationalist party, which won the largest share of votes in last year’s general elections, will not simply give up on achieving more autonomy. They argue that they are tired of subsidizing the poorest part of the country, French-speaking Wallonia. A state reform appears inevitable. » More

The Truth will Set You Free

Lie Detecting Politics. photo: PearlsofJannah/flickr

Explosive claims about guerrilla bribes, narco-trafficking and vote tampering have rocked Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, just days after he appeared to triumph in a national referendum. Today, prosecutors in Ecuador have finally decided to investigate allegations that President Rafael Correa’s election campaign accepted funds from Colombian rebels back in 2006.

It all began last week, when the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) published a report which claims that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) helped to fund Mr Correa’s 2006 presidential election campaign. The 240-page oeuvre cites evidence that a $100,000 payment was delivered by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia to Correo’s election coffers and goes on to claim that for the Colombian guerrillas, this was a “climax” of years of efforts to infiltrate Ecuador. The report is based on a two-year study of e-mails and documents recovered during a raid by Colombian forces on a Farc camp in Ecuador in March 2008 and testimony provided by a former rebel who later defected.

Meanwhile, at a news conference in Ecuador’s capital Quito, President Correa denied ever meeting the Farc or a representative thereof. “I’ll take a lie detector test to prove I never received funds from the Farc,” he proclaimed. Yet the sense of alarm in Quito deepened even further when Jay Bergman, the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s Andean region director, stated that Ecuador was slowly turning into a “United Nations” of organized crime, with drug traffickers from Albania to China using it as a staging ground for Andean cocaine. » More

Uganda’s Anti-Gay Law Shelved – Backgrounder

A different approach. Photo: Russel Higgs/flickr

Promising news from Uganda: the parliament has adjourned without debating a controversial bill that would have mandated life prison for homosexual acts and the death penalty for ‘aggravated’ cases. The move to wipe the draft laws from the agenda came amid mounting pressure from governments and citizens around the world. Bills not completed in the old parliament must be resubmitted to be considered. The fight isn’t over yet, but last week’s developments may prove to be a critical milestone for gay rights in Africa.

We have offered regular coverage of this issue:

  • You Can Run – Or You Can Hide recounts the assassination of gay rights campaigner David Kato Kisule and how homophobia in Uganda has grown even stronger in the wake of the murder.
  • Many western media outlets and human rights groups have failed to provide a proper context for understanding this new wave of homophobia. Gay Rights (and Wrongs) in Africa analyzes the complex cultural and political factors that underpin anti-gay fervor. » More
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