The CSS Blog Network

UN, G20 and the Dollar

Dollars ! / Photo: pfala, Flickr

Dollars ! / Photo: pfala, Flickr

In the August 2009 ISN Special Issue entitled “Redesigning Global Finances- The End of Dollar Dominance?“, I asked whether the window of opportunity to redesign the global financial architecture has already passed with no real progress having been made. This week, the UN Trade and Development report was published, calling for a “new approach to multilateral exchange-rate management to complement stricter financial regulation.” Their critique of the dollar system contains the usual arguments: it is prone to fluctuations, creates current account disequilibria and requires poor countries to create huge reserves better used elsewhere. To mend this, they suggest nothing less than a new Bretton Woods system. Accordingly, it would be based on managed flexible exchange rates at sustainable levels, thus making great fluctuations and currency crisis a thing of the past and level the playing field for international trade. The report is interesting not because it contains revolutionary new ideas, but because a UN agency officially calls for alternatives to the dollar system.
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ISN Weekly Theme: Democracy – A Problematic Panacea

A lot to live up to / Photo: Lori Greig,flickr

A lot to live up to / Photo: Lori Greig,flickr

Democracy is usually touted as a stabilizing force, a way to welcome a developing country, or a country that has been under the thumb of an autocratic ruler, into the global community by way of the ballot box.

But millions of dollars and lives later, that theory is being put to the test.

This week the ISN is focusing on the problems that may stem from the implementation of democracy, starting with a Special Report by Professor Gerard DeGroot, “Exporting Equality, Importing Instability.” In addition, we also speak to BBC correspondent Humphrey Hawksley about his book “Democracy Kills: What’s So Good About Having the Vote?” in our latest edition of ISN Podcasts.

Also for this week:

  • From the Digital Library, Making Elections Count from the Overseas Development Institute in London (ODI) states that voter should be aware that their power at the ballot box goes only so far.
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  • The Insitute for Security Studies in Pretoria, South Africa’s Democracy, Elections & Political Parties discusses the role of democracy, elections and political parties in Africa, also in our Digital Library
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  • We highlight NCCR Democracy in our IR Directory.

And don’t forget that you can join our fan page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

The Consequences of German Decisions

Small button, big consequences / Photo: Steven De Polo, flickr

Small button, big consequences / Photo: Steven De Polo, flickr

After the German-directed ISAF air strike on two fuel vehicles stolen by the Taliban reportedly cost civilian lives, public calls for clarification are accompanied by both palsy and hectic in Berlin. Federal elections will take place in less than 3 weeks.

What often happens when things go very wrong is that people engage in speculation and search for a scapegoat. Too seldom though, we see people take responsibility, especially in politics. Clausewitz wrote that war never is an end in itself and always serves a political purpose. Imagine now a trigger in the hands of a German soldier serving in an army with a heavy legacy; an army from a pacifistic, self-traumatized post-war state, in which military planning, strategy and even tactics are subject to widespread emotional discussions. How much politics can efficient tactics bear? » More

Social Media Misers

The usual suspects according to ONI / Screenshot: OpenNet Initiative

The usual suspects according to ONI / Screenshot: OpenNet Initiative

The OpenNet Initiative, a partnership according to the site between “the Citizen Lab at the Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto; Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University; the Advanced Network Research Group at the Cambridge Security Programme, University of Cambridge; and the Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford University,” has posted an interactive map showing which countries filter or block particular social media sites. Facebook, Flickr, Orkut, Twitter and YouTube are the ones they focus on.

The usual culprits are represented: China intermittently blocks Facebook, Saudi Arabia totally blocks it; Saudi Arabia and Iran block Orkut (they seem to be the only two that care to do so); China and Iran block Twitter from time to time; and Indonesia apparently blocks YouTube off and on.

There are a couple of user-friendliness issues with the map: The pop-up that appears about a country when you hold your mouse over it seems to be too wide for the map window; and it would be nice to have instructions on how to navigate the map for those who aren’t click-savvy.

Not all countries have been tested though; hopefully that’s in the near future.

Other than those picky little things, ONI’s map is a great start, giving an interesting overview on which countries are extending their authoritarian might onto the internet.

Politics in Motion

ISN Booth

ISN Booth

Greetings from the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association in Toronto.

In the first time in its 104 years, the meeting takes place outside the US. According to the organizers, this traveling across a border is symbolic for the conference theme “Politics in Motion: Change and Complexity in the Contemporary Era”. The event, consisting of hundreds of panels and an exhibition, looks at what is new, different and unusual in politics today and aims to think about what knowledge is needed to deal with change and complexity and address today’s crucial challenges.

Emotions and Politics

Looking for the unusual in the thick conference program, I attended a panel on neuropsychology and international politics. The panel converged two fields that have been unconnected previously: brain science and international politics.
The presenters advocated the consideration of emotions when studying political decision making. Evidence shows that cognition (thinking) is actually preceded by emotions (feelings). Hence, “rational” decisions are taken on the basis of emotional beliefs. According to the panelists, it is, however, still unknown how cognition and emotions work together in different situations.

What do these findings in brain science mean for political science and international affairs?

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