To help people help themselves …

… should be the ultimate goal of each and every NGO. But this is not always easy, especially when you’re working in highly insecure areas – such as Aghanistan. Asuntha Charles, head of Oxfam office in Kabul, knows what she is talking about. In this interview she is referring to all of the more than 300 international NGOs in Afghanistan and she is trying to explain what are the challenges and what are the opportunities to build sustainable structures. The situation today in Afghansitan is a structure of dependencies which most likely will put thousands into unemployment when international help will step back from Afghanistan in the years to come. Asuntha argues that it is very hard for development workers in Afghanistan to design successful solutions because they have almost no direct contact with those the programs are designed for. (The obsession with) Security destroys many things … But security and how to deal with it is a different discussion.

Asuntha gives us some great insights into her daily work. For her – as for many others we’ve spoken to – education is key to improve people’s lives. The GREAT IDEA project is her first education project – she sees huge potential in the field of mobile learning.

Her over all outlook into the future of Afghanistan isn’t though really optimistic!

Assumptions to improve the status quo (from my naive point of view):

  • bridge the gap between locals and expats
  • decentralize
  • build “with” the locals, not “for” them
  • design communities, not just bureaucracies
  • avoid economic dependencies
  • provide max. transparency in all your activities
  • respect and accept cultural differences – the “western” model doesn’t necessarily work everywhere in the same way
  • work “for” the people and NOT for your own interests

By Virtue Of The Current Situation In Algeria …

… I re-post an interview with Arslan CHIKHAOUI, CEO and chairman of Nord-Sud Ventures in Algier. He is also a senior consultant to Algerian Government bodies and senior analyst on international affairs for national and international media. I’ve met Arslan last November and we’ve had a long conversation on what’s going on in Algeria. I think these videos give some insights on daily life in Algeria and help to understand why Algeria is different from Egypt and Tunisia.

Even though I do hope for the people that they will have the power to stand up!

Here you find a transcript of parts of the interview.

Part 1 of 5 deals with:
Introduction of himself
Overview -politics and economy – of what has happened in Algeria from 1960 – 2002

Part 2 of 5 deals with:
2002 first “weak” reforms started
times of terror, 1996 was the peak of terrorism in Algeria political and social system up until today

Part 3 of 5 deals with:
Algeria within Africa
Relation between private sector and government
Freedom of Speech, Media
Looking for new forms of government

Part 4 of 5 deals with:
Need for a Vision / Lack of Leadership
Algeria needs first of all stabilization, decent life for everybody
Drivers for transformation
Role of Internet / Mobile

Part 5 of 5 deals with:
Social Society
Autocratic systems are in times of crises “better” for transformation than democracies
His personal role within the existing system

Talking about a Revolution: Tunisia

Netizens are deeply concerned about repressive measures used by Tunisian authorities in response to the current protests and political unrest in the country. It urges the government to refrain from the unnecessary use of force against peaceful protesters and to respect the fundamental rights of its people, including the right to freely express dissenting opinions.

The unrest began nearly two weeks ago when a young Tunisian man, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire to protest the country’s high unemployment rate. The incident, which took place in the provincial town of Sidi Bouzid, became the catalyst that sparked widespread protest and riots that have become a referendum on the government of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. Protesters are calling for an end to corruption, nepotism, and restrictions on basic freedoms. There have been reports of Tunisian security forces opening fire on protesters as well as large scale arrests and torture of prisoners. Although traditional media in Tunisia is heavily restricted and authorities have sophisticated methods for repressing internet freedom, reports of the protests have spread through non-traditional forms of media as bloggers and regular citizens have been tracking the events.

And – this is what strikes me most – hardly any news on this in “western” media.

So I felt very happy yesterday, when I got the chance to interview Lina Ben Mhenni, a Tunisian Teacher Assisstant of linguistics at Tunis University and a blogger. Thanks again to Hisham who connected us. Lina is mainly blogging about freedom of speech, human rights (especially women rights and students rights), social problems, and organ donation awareness . She likes photography, reading, writing, watching movies. Lina is also an athlete but within a special team: The Tunisian National Organ Transplant Team.

Here is the mp3 file is here , the sound quality is not really good, but it is O.K.
A transcript will be available next week as part of the latest issue of we-magazine.

Michael Moore argues that Wikileaks is pro Democracy

I think these are great statements by Michael Moore, an Amercian Academy-Award winning filmmaker and best-selling author. He posted bail money for Julian Assange, the founder and head of Wikileaks. Here are some arguments why he posted the money:

“We were taken to war in Iraq on a lie. Hundreds of thousands are now dead. Just imagine if the men who planned this war crime back in 2002 had had a WikiLeaks to deal with. They might not have been able to pull it off. The only reason they thought they could get away with it was because they had a guaranteed cloak of secrecy. That guarantee has now been ripped from them, and I hope they are never able to operate in secret again.

So why is WikiLeaks, after performing such an important public service, under such vicious attack? Because they have outed and embarrassed those who have covered up the truth. The assault on them has been over the top:

– Sen. Joe Lieberman says WikiLeaks “has violated the Espionage Act.”

– Sarah Palin claims he’s “an anti-American operative with blood on his hands” whom we should pursue “with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders.”
– Democrat Bob Beckel (Walter Mondale’s 1984 campaign manager) said about Assange on Fox: “A dead man can’t leak stuff … there’s only one way to do it: illegally shoot the son of a bitch.”
– Republican Mary Matalin says “he’s a psychopath, a sociopath … He’s a terrorist.”

And indeed they are! They exist to terrorize the liars and warmongers who have brought ruin to our nation and to others. Perhaps the next war won’t be so easy because the tables have been turned — and now it’s Big Brother who’s being watched … by us!”

I was in London yesterday (and I am still there) – and it was only by coincidence (some of you asked me) that this day Julian Assange walked with a smile and a short statement of quiet defiance, free from custody and into the kind of media scrum more commonly seen after a decades-long prison sentence, rather than nine days on remand.

Nobody knows right now about the impacts wikileaks will have on our governments, on our society. It is a brand new situation for all of us. For us as citizens and for our governments. Are we people able to deal with these kind of information and are we capable to handle it? To make judgements based upon it? We don’t know yet.
Are our governments ready to deal successfully with this new kind of transparency? Aren’t they tempted to see more the threats than the changes? Indeed, wikileaks is challenging their fundamental ideas how they govern. At the moments it seems that they rather use it to restrict our civil rights such as freedom of speech, that they tend to control the Web even stronger than to accept the new terms of communication and transparency. We really don’t know where we are heading to. Nevertheless I do strongly support the ideas going along with wikileaks because I do think that transparency is a not a nice-to-have but a must-have in a lively democracy.

I have the feeling they we’ve reached for the very first time since the rise of the Internet a very critical and crucial moment for our societies as a whole, the Internet has heavily concussed the walls of our established systems – if governments and companies are continuing to control and restrict it, WE will fall way behind of what a great democracy could be.

And I only hope for the good that then a new Web will come into existence …

How Climate Change Correlates with Democracy

Peter Burnell attended last weeks Transformation Thinker Conference hosted by GTZ and Bertelsmann Foundation. He is a Professor in the Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Warwick. He is one of the first scientist bringing together an agenda including issues iof climate change, political regime and leadership. Just in time for the present summit in Cancun.

Here are the 3 key questions Burnell focused on during his impulse statement:

  1.  How do different leadership styles affect climate politics on the national level (and vice versa?)
  2. When dealing with the specific challenges of climate change, how does the political regime of a country influence policy-making?
  3. Is democracy more “climate-proof” when it comes to multisectoral collaboration or collective leadership?

In this specific interview we (Jocelyne Sambira form United Nations and me) talked about the correlations between democracy and climate change. Do "developed" democracies perform better in responding to climate change challenges than non-democrcies?

Parts of the interview are also published on UNRadio. Thanks to Jocelyne!


About Peter Burnell:

He was educated at the University of Bristol and University of Warwick. His long established research interests are in democratization and the political economy of foreign aid. He is a founding editor of the international journal Democratization.

A present research focus is a critical examination of how standard conceptions of democracy are being diffused globally through networks of democracy promotion actors based mainly in the West. Another examines the political drivers of international assistance to developing regions against a backdrop of competing, sometimes contradictory policy objectives and theories of economic, social and political change.

World Vote Now

World Vote Now is a movie project by Joel Marsden. It was shot in 26 countries, in every region of the planet, and deals with the construction of the first global democratic system.

I personally like this idea very much, even though it needs a lot of work to be done regarding the fact what democracy itsself means to the initiators and to all those who participated. To me democracy is much more than voting … But this still can be done as the projects proceeds … and its future sounds promising …
Click here for online class discussions about global democracy.

Listen to what Joel has to say: