Indian women in Akbarpura / photo: lecercle, flickr
Well, it turns out microfinance institutions and microenterprises may very well be.
In an interesting reversal of fortunes, small, flexible and locally connected microfinance institutions seem to be fairing better than their larger commercial counterparts in the current economic climate. Due in large part to flexible business models, locally connected operations (microcreditors tend to know their customers much better), low exposure to the hazy world of high-flying finance, and an attractive product, microfinance institutions are flourishing all over the world.
By lending small amounts to poor people with no traditionally defined credit-worthiness, microfinance institutions are keeping the lower tiers of the world economy afloat, even thriving in parts.
Screenshot of Foreign Policy photo essay on failed states / www.foreignpolicy.com
In an insightful photo essay titled ‘Life in a Failed State’, Foreign Policy provides us with a sobering view on what life looks like in some of the most desolate countries in the world.
Haunting images serve as visual reminders of the failure of national governments and the international community to address the conflicts and history of instability and underdevelopment that underlies their fragility.
The 20 top countries on the 2009 Failed States Index are featured, among them: Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan, North Korea, Ethiopia, Yemen and Sudan.
Further, for a rare glimpse into life in North Korea, check out a haunting slideshow by Tomas van Houtryve for Foreign Policy.
“Everyone dies, but not every death has the same meaning.” (Ulrike Meinhof)
It is June. Thousands of students gather on the streets, venting their anger at the Iranian leadership which they consider to be corrupt and dictatorial. Suddenly, shots tear through the air. A young protester taking part in a political demonstration for the very first time, covered in blood, draws some last breath on an empty side road.
"Either you are part of the problem or part of the solution. There is nothing in between." / photo: localsurfer, flickr
That protester is not Neda Agha-Soltan, but Benno Ohnesorg. And we are not talking about June 2009 on the streets of Teheran, but rather of June 1967 on the streets of then West Berlin. And well, the corrupt and dictatorial Iranian leadership is not (yet) to be confused with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it is still Persian with Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi ruling from the “Peacock Throne.”
Landmines in Suarassy, Kashatagh Region, Republic of Nagorno Karabakh, courtesy of Onnik Krikorian / Oneworld Multimedia 2006
This week, the ISN focuses on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan over this de facto independent territory has been running since the break-up of the Soviet Union. Mediation efforts by the ‘Minsk Group’, a group of OSCE member states, haven’t brought any substantial success. Some even argue that they’ve been counterproductive.
As other disputes stuck in a ‘no peace, no war’ situation for so long, Nagorno-Karabakh belongs to the ‘frozen conflicts’ species. But the dramatic meltdown of the South Ossetia conflict last summer showed that frozen conflicts should be taken very seriously indeed.
You might also want to check our resources on the whole Caucasus region or on mediation in peace processes in general.