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Coming Up at the ISN…

It's week 20 in our editorial calendar, Photo: Leo Reynolds/flickr

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

  • The tension between India’s search for ‘strategic autonomy’ and its growing relationship with the US is analyzed by Dr Harsh V Pant, Reader in International Relations at King’s College London, on Wednesday.
  • Barbara Haering will discuss explosive weapons in our Friday podcast.

And in case you missed any of last week’s coverage, you can find it here on: resolving the Kuriles conflict; US military ‘brain drain’ and retention problems;  enhanced US-India space cooperation; the efficacy of bin Laden’s assassination; and a podcast on Nigeria.

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Eurovision Song Contest: Kitsch and Politics

Serbia Eurovision Song Contest 2011, courtesy of flickr

Serious business. Photo: mjohn2101/flickr

It is a tacky show, and one well worth watching. This year’s Eurovision Song Contest features another round of spacy outfits and cheesy tunes with charming titles, ranging from Norway’s ‘Haba Haba’ to Armenia’s ‘Boom Boom’ and Finland’s ‘Da Da Dam’.

The first Eurovision contest took place in Switzerland in 1956, and only seven countries participated. Britain, Austria and Denmark were not present because they failed to apply on time. While most of Western Europe still doesn’t take the contest too seriously, it’s a different story in the East.

Looking at winning countries over the last two decades, there has been a marked move eastwards, as more countries from the former Communist block have joined the contest and award points to each other. The causes of bloc voting are debatable; some say it’s political, others argue that it is cultural. » More

Scottish Independence: a Question of Timing

Soon a new country? Photo: Sheep purple/flickr

Recent elections in Scotland were historically significant. For the first time in history, the Scottish National Party (SNP) has won the majority in the Scottish parliament. In the previous term, the SNP only managed to constitute a minority government. But more than the remarkable majority achieved this year, it is one of the party’s main goals that is now in the spotlight: obtaining Scottish independence from the United Kingdom.

One might think that the way for independence is clear now, after the vote of confidence given by the Scots to the SNP. But this assumption is misleading. The election of the SNP should not be mistaken for a popular demand for independence. Recent studies show a clear objection to independence and attitudes haven’t changed much since. Two years ago an opinion poll commissioned by BBC Scotland confirmed that even though the population would like the government to hold a referendum, only 38% would actually vote for independence.

But what made the majority vote for the National Party, if it wasn’t the independence issue? Some analysts point out to the importance of the strategic abilities of Alex Salmond, leader of the SNP, to collect votes. The damaged image of the Conservative and Liberal parties certainly also gave him a hand. Both parties have endorsed controversial deficit reduction plans at the UK Parliament, and the Scots have demonstrated their strong disapproval through these elections. » More

UN Summit for the World’s Poorest

Just a Drop in the Bucket? photo: rogiro/flickr

The Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC-IV) opened its doors on Monday in Istanbul. Before its close on Friday, it aims to approve a new action plan to improve the situation for the world’s least developed countries. As the world’s poorest states are today at risk of falling even further behind, politicians and development experts are calling urgently for more investment and an unhindered access to global markets.

In accordance with the UN General Assembly resolutions and the note of the UN Secretary-General outlining the modalities of the conference, the objectives of the conference are (1) to comprehensively assess the implementation of the 2001 Brussels Program; (2) to share best practices and lessons learnt; (3) to identify new challenges and opportunities for LDCs; and (4) to mobilize additional international support measures and action in favor of the LDCs.

It has now been 40 years since the international community first recognized the category of the Least Developed Countries as a group of states with a distinct set of problems. Today, qualification for the list includes a per-capita annual income of less than $905, assessments of malnutrition, child mortality and education levels, as well as an economic vulnerability rating based on population size, remoteness and instability in exports and production. The category does not include large economies, and the populations of its members must be below 75 million. » More

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