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The Wild Wild South

Cover of Courrier International No 970

Cover of Courrier International No 970

Now, that’s a change. Europe has been Africa’s Eldorado for years, but it looks as if the reverse is now true, too.

Among the countless ‘boat people’ and ‘fortress Europe’ headlines, two articles caught my eye. In the same issue, Courrier International reports about Portuguese immigrants in Angola (pay site) and it reproduces a Wall Street Journal piece on French people with North African roots emigrating to Morocco.

The paper says that about 100,000 Portuguese live in Angola at the moment. They get better career opportunities there than back home, especially with the oil economy booming. That figure is pretty impressive when you think that the Angolan civil war only just ended in 2002.

At the same time, something similar is happening between France and Morocco. Many young educated French-born people with Moroccan roots  decide to migrate to the country of their parents or grandparents. They have access to better jobs and social recognition in Morocco. Life is still pretty difficult for people with an Arab name in France. » More

One Man’s ‘Burden’ is Another’s Refugee

Eritrean refugee in Sudanese camp, Khashm el Girba / photo: daveblume/flickr

Eritrean refugee in Sudanese camp, Khashm el Girba / photo: daveblume/flickr

Every year, 20 June marks World Refugee Day . The UNHCR notes that for the 42 million uprooted people around the world, “a shortage or lack of the essentials of life – clean water, food, sanitation, shelter, health care and protection from violence and abuse – means that every day can be a struggle just to survive.”

So how could this situation be improved? In the first of his lectures as part of the Reith Lecture Series 2009 , Harvard professor Michael Sandel discusses the idea of tradable refugee quotas. In this system, each country would be allocated a yearly quota based on national wealth. Then, states would be free to buy and sell these obligations – and, according to market logic, everyone benefits: Countries unwilling to accept refugees meet their obligations through outsourcing, those willing to accept gain a new source of revenue, and more refugees are rescued than would otherwise find asylum. » More

Twitter: The ‘Forest Gump of International Relations’

Weighing Twitter trust / screenshot: Twitter search

Weighing Twitter trust / screenshot: Twitter search

This is just a tiny, tiny word of caution to remember as we take in the Twitter feeds, YouTube videos and other user-generated content from Iran.

First, although it’s invigorating to see the amount of info being passed on Twitter, I think there may be a quantity vs quality issue going on. I won’t go as far as Kara Swisher and call it the ‘Forrest Gump of International Relations’, but some of the tweets I’m seeing are…well…if not exactly Forrest Gump material, then maybe that of his long lost cousin who made it out of Savannah, Georgia before he did.
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Honesty is the Best Policy

Two boys at a cafe, Makassar, Indonesia / photo: Mo Riza, flickr

Two boys at a cafe, Makassar, Indonesia / photo: Mo Riza, flickr

What do you do when you’re number 126 out of 180 on Transparency International’s corruption perception list? What do you do when prosecuting mid- and high-level officials for corruption doesn’t seem to be doing enough to curb the corrupt tendencies rampant in society?

Well, if you’re Indonesia, you start with the basics. In an ingenious move aimed at teaching people the value of honesty, Indonesia’s attorney general and his provincial counterparts have kick-started a national campaign that aims to open 10 000 so-called ‘honesty cafes’ all over Indonesia by the end of the year. The idea- intuitive and inventive at once- is that instead of paying a set amount to a cashier (someone who is, in effect, employed to enforce morality in a low-level commercial transaction), customers pay an ‘honest amount’  into a clear, unsupervised  box.

In effect they pay what they think they should pay and pay because they know it is the right thing to do (and because others watch them pay). If I ever saw an interesting social experiment on a society-wide scale, this must be it.

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Lessons in Leadership: Problem Solving

Two clips, two different approaches to problem solving. Vladimir Putin was recently filmed putting a pesky oligarch in his place (in this instance for shutting factories and denying workers their salaries). His performance makes for great agitprop. The last line in particular is a charm.

Meanwhile, over in Washington, President Obama finds that he too is struggling to make sense in a world turned upside down. The cause of his headache? A pesky fly.

Two very different problems. But both resolved with a certain ruthlessness.

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