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ISN Insights: Look Back, Week Ahead

The new ISN Insights week starts today, check back in daily. Photo: Leo Reynolds/flickr

Last week ISN Insights traversed Brussels relations with the Arab world, moved south along the Central Africa coast, ending up in South and Southeast Asia:

  • On Monday Drs Federica Bicchi and Caterina Carta of the London School of Economics and Political Science examined how the Lisbon Treaty reforms are impacting EU relations with the Arab world in the midst of the uprisings.
  • Professor Gerard DeGroot of the University of St Andrews explored the ‘resource curse’ phenomenon as it applies to the tiny island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe.
  • Chatham House’s Dr Farzana Shaikh analyzed Wednesday Pakistan’s relations with Sri Lanka and the implications of renewed bilateral ties for regional security.
  • Thursday we published a piece by Southeast Asian-based independent journalist Simon Roughneen on how freedom of expression is – literally – on trial in Thailand.
  • We rounded out the work week with our Friday ISN Podcast interview with Rear Admiral Michael McDevitt on the challenges of ensuring maritime security.

This week we’ll be taking a closer look at: backsliding on democracy in the Ukraine; rising Chinese naval power; a new drug-busting Central American partnership; the past and future of statebuilding – and much more. Stay tuned…

Croatia: Ready and Willing to Join the EU?

Kuna, fuel of Croatia's politcs? Courtesy of SantiMB/flickr

While the media spotlight has been focused on the uprisings in Libya and other Arab countries, violent protests have also erupted in Europe. Over the past weeks thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in Croatia’s capital Zagreb, urging their government to step down.

Protesters are accusing the governing HDZ Party (Croatian Democratic Union), as well as the opposition, of  incompetence in dealing with economic stagnation and endemic corruption. It seems that many Croatians are not only disillusioned with their government, but with the political system as a whole. Moreover, a recent poll suggests that only 49% of Croats are still in favor of joining the EU as their dissatisfaction with domestic politics translates into a skeptical attitude towards Brussels.

In light of the ongoing political unrest, the question of whether Croatia is ready and willing to become the 28th member state of the European Union remains unclear.

The Mafia and the State

Croatia is now only few steps away from fulfilling the EU’s accession criteria: Out of 35 accession negotiation chapters, 28 have been closed. The chapter dealing with reform of the legal system, however, is proving to be a hard nut to crack. In a country plagued by corruption, distinguishing politicians from criminals is not always easy. According to the Index of Economic Freedom, Croatia’s economy and politics are rated as corrupt as Tunisia’s. » More

Fund Peace, not War

Tunnel, courtesy of twicepix/flickr

Tunnel, courtesy of twicepix/flickr

Back in the days when I was practising for my driving test came the moment to overcome my first tunnel. There are lots of these in Switzerland, and they tend to be rather long… My teacher warned: “Don’t look at the wall, or you’ll crash right into it; focus on the middle of the lane instead”.

Indeed, one of our many cognitive biases is to focus too much on immediate dangers, while losing sight of the way out.

The US Congress was contemplating the wall and forgot about the lane when it voted to cut all of the funding for the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) on 17 February.

If you aren’t familiar with USIP yet, I recommend you take a look at their excellent publications series, or at this praise of their field work by Anthony C Zinni, a former commander in chief of the United States Central Command.

Meanwhile, a wave of support for USIP’s work has spread in the hope of persuading the Senate to vote otherwise. Two senior staff members argue here that it makes a lot of economic sense to invest in peace and conflict prevention rather than pay for the wars these efforts contribute to avoid. As Anthony Zinni puts it, “the institute’s entire budget [$43 million] would not pay for the Afghan war for three hours“.

Last autumn, a study by Media Tenor and the Institute for Economics and Peace measured peace reporting in international media. Their detailed case study of Afghanistan demonstrates that media coverage has been focusing on defence and crime, while neglecting news of progress in critical areas needed to build lasting peace.

Lack of visibility is a real problem when it comes to persuading busy non-experts to give you money. On the face of it, “I trained 20 people in negotiation skills this month” doesn’t sound quite as decisive for national security as “I killed an insurgent today”.

Building peace is not spectacular. It’s slow and a lot hard unrewarding work. But it’s still the most efficient way out of the tunnel. Good luck and a lot of courage to our colleagues at USIP!

International Women’s Day Centenary, 1911-2011

Only one in a growing number of proud women. photo: DVIDSHUB/flickr

Today, 8 March 2011, the world celebrates International Women’s Day. This year, nearly 1,500 mass rallies, business conferences, government activities, networking events, craft markets, theater performances, fashion parades, parties, and more around the globe will celebrate 100 years of women’s achievements.

In these 100 years, both women and their International Women’s Day (IWD) have come a long way. The IWD was commemorated for the first time on 19 March 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, following its establishment during the Socialist International meeting the prior year. More than one million women and men attended rallies on that first commemoration. In 1975, during International Women’s Year, the United Nations began celebrating 8 March as International Women’s Day. Two years later, in December 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions.

Today, the IWD is celebrated as a national holiday in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia. In other countries, the IWD has the equivalent status of Mother’s Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers. In most countries, however, the IWD is simply the day for women to celebrate themselves and their achievements. Today, a global web of rich and diverse local activity connects women from all around the world ranging from political rallies, business conferences, government activities and networking events through to local women’s craft markets, theatric performances, fashion parades and more.

Most major events taking place at this year’s International Women’s Day Centenary are listed either on the official IWD website, or on the Women for Women International website. These are thus also the best places to find the IWD events taking place closest to where you are. Furthermore, the IWD is commemorated by the United Nations which continues to run themes on political and human rights, and gender equality, to create social awareness of the struggles of women worldwide. Its official theme for today’s International Women’s Day is Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women.

From their mouths to God’s ear.

For a wealth of background information and analysis on this issue, see our Digital Library holdings under the keywords “women” and “ women’s rights”.

ISN Insights: Look Back, Week Ahead

number seven

The new ISN Insights week starts today, stay tuned. Photo: Leo Reynolds/flickr

Last week ISN Insights took an analytical tour through Southeast Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East:

  • On Monday we took a closer look at the storied diplomatic history – and increasingly important ties – between India and Indonesia, thanks to an analysis from Dr Rupakjyoti Borah.
  • Tuesday’s article by the Jamestown Foundation’s Roman Muzalevsky examined the impact that increasing Tajik-Uzbek tensions are having on Iran’s regional economic ambitions.
  • Dr John CK Daly laid bare the rising human, political and fiscal costs of ISAF’s logistical supply missions on Wednesday – in particular how astronomical fuel prices are hampering the battle for Afghanistan.
  • On Thursday, the Center for Security Studies’ Danny Bürkli analyzed the details of the United Arab Emirates’ ambitious nuclear plans.
  • We closed out the week with a round-up of Syria – both its internal political and economic dynamics as well as regional relations – in a Friday podcast interview with the Economist Intelligence Unit’s David Butter.

This week we’ll dive into: how the reformed EU architecture outlined in the 2007 Lisbon Treaty is tackling the Arab uprisings; how the tiny, island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe is handling the big burden of newly discovered oil reserves; the regional impact of Pakistan’s renewed bilateral ties with Sri Lanka; the internal political dynamics propelling a harsh, new government crackdown on freedom of expression in Thailand and much more…

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