This article was originally published by the East-West Center (EWC) on 9 November 2016.
The Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, seems intent on taking his country down an untrodden path. Since being sworn in as the Philippines’ 16th president this June, the first from Mindanao, he has made international news by advocating extrajudicial killings while at the same time thumbing his nose at the US. What could be motivating his dramatic actions? Many observers focus on his idiosyncratic personality. But greater insight comes through understanding the political culture of Mindanao in which he honed his political skills. The political culture of Mindanao sits within the broader Philippine context that is racked by violence, poverty and corruption.
Human Rights Watch reported that in 2015, the year before Duterte came into power, the Philippines was a country where attacks against indigenous people were rampant, child labor, especially in small-scale mining, was commonplace, eight journalists were murdered, and extra-judicial killings especially in Mindanao were routine. In the 2015 Perception of Corruption Index released by Transparency International, the Philippines ranked 95th out of 167 states. While certainly not the worst by global standards, the Philippines is hardly a model of good governance. Its rank of 115 out of 188 countries in the 2015 Human Development Index underscores the challenges it faces. The current tidal wave of population (approximately 102 million with a growth rate of 1.7%), strains the nation’s budgets and infrastructure. Metro Manila’s population exceeds 12 million and continues to grow. The burgeoning population, corruption, disregard for the rule of law and poverty have combined to dramatically inflate the crime rate in the Philippines. In 2012, a total of 217,812 crimes were reported; by 2014 that number had exploded to 1,161,188. Arguably the Philippines was in crisis even before the election of Duterte. His election can be seen, in part, as a reaction to that crisis, as much as it can be seen as contributing to it.
This article was originally published by the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) on 28 June 2016.
Basque Country Needs You. Credit: Iker Merodio via Flickr
Five years ago, the Basque militant group ETA (Basque Homeland and Freedom) announced a unilateral and permanent cessation of operations. Since then, the disappearance of political violence has given rise to a new debate on Basque nationhood: more inclusive, more open, more civic, and at the same time stronger in its affirmation of the legitimacy of popular sovereignty and the democratic demand to exercise ‘the right to decide’, as against the earlier radicalism of immediate independence.
A new book edited by Pedro Ibarra Güell and Åshild Kolås, Basque Nationhood Towards a Democratic Scenario, takes stock of the contemporary re-imagining of Basque nationhood in both Spain and France. Taking a fresh look at the history of Basque nationalist movements, it explores new debates that have emerged since the demise of non-state militancy. Alongside analysis of local transformations, the book also describes the impacts of a pan-European (if not global) rethinking of self-determination, or ‘the right to decide’.
Secessionist statement on a mural in Vilassar de Mar, Catalonia. Image: 1997/Wikimedia
This article was originally published by LSE EUROPP, a blog hosted by the London School of Economics and Political Science, on 2 October, 2015.
Catalonia’s independence movement secured a majority of seats in the regional parliament on 27 September, but fell short of winning an outright majority of the vote. The result strengthened the case for a referendum, which Madrid has for long rejected, but weakened the case for independence: after years of campaigning and mobilising Catalans, the pro-independence camp is still unable to secure half the regional vote.
The path to independence will remain a long, contentious and indeed controversial one. But what lessons can Spain draw from other secessionist movements around the world? The primary lesson is that secession, whether it takes place in Europe, the Middle East or Africa, in industrialised democratic countries or war-torn developing countries, tends to bring more problems than it solves. » More
The European Union’s (EU) separatist movements have never had it so good. Faltering economic conditions, unpopular austerity measures and ‘out of touch’ governments have combined to reignite secessionism like never before. As a result, separatist fervour has never been so vocal – both in public and the national corridors of power. And there’s more to come. » More
Poroshenko, Merkel and Putin at the 70th annual D-Day commemoration. Image: www.kremlin.ru/Wikimedia
“They say the next big thing is here,
that the revolution’s near,
but to me it seems quite clear
that it’s all just a little bit of history repeating”
Shirley Bassey ~ “History Repeating”
The board game Risk: The Game of Global Domination is an extreme representation of geopolitical power dynamics. It pits players against each other on a simplified map of the world controlled by soldiers, cannons and cavalry. Although simplified and exaggerated, Risk is a crude model of thousands of years of international history: the rise and fall of empires, shifting balances of power, alliances, betrayals and perhaps the most disturbing factor – that the widespread death and destruction controlled by the ‘players’ is portrayed as a normal and inevitable part of geopolitics. » More