Reasons to be Cheerful: progress on international justice, arms control, economic and social rights and democracy in Africa

After Monday’s fairly depressing post, I thought I’d add some good news, from an unlikely source. Perhaps because it can break free from its heavy ideological baggage of laissez faire, the further the Economist strays from economics, the better it gets. This week’s issue has some really nuanced reporting on the impact of the International…

By admin December 17, 2008 0

What Happened at the G20 Summit on Saturday?

Some initial thoughts on the emergency summit in Washington DC, held to respond to the financial crisis. First, some positives: it was the first time the G20 have met at heads of state level. Could this mark the start of the eclipse of the G8, as major developing countries take a seat at a larger…

By admin December 16, 2008 Off

Agonizing over Aid

Nothing makes me feel more like a woolly liberal than the aid debate. I seem condemned to see both sides of the argument and veer between the ‘aid as salvation’ and ‘aid as imperialism’ camps. With equal vehemence and seemingly absolute certainty, aid pessimists slug it out with aid optimists, often citing the same evidence,…

By admin December 16, 2008 Off

How Change Happens: a framework, some case studies, and some reading

Why are ‘change studies’ not a recognized academic discipline? Politicians, social movements and NGOs think about little else, and portray themselves as ‘change agents’, but the intellectual basis for thinking about political and social change seems particularly arbitrary and threadbare. In discussions on this issue at various book launches and seminars, a few people have…

By admin December 16, 2008 4

Health is social, not medical

It is often argued that municipal sanitation, rather than doctors, ended the periodic scourges of cholera and other disease that afflicted Victorian Britain (e.g. see here). Now the World Health Organization has adopted an even broader version of the argument in the new report of its Commission on Social Determinants of Health. It marks a…

By admin December 16, 2008 Off

3 crystal ball overviews on global security – not looking good

The futurologists (from NIC, ippr, and DCDC) have been busy, with varying degrees of success. The US Government’s National Intelligence Council has a good report out, ‘Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World.’  Media coverage has focussed on its predictions of US decline and the ‘rise of the East’, but it’s much richer than that. Here are…

By admin December 15, 2008 0

Vietnam: really making poverty history

Today is ‘Blog Action Day’ (no, really) and this year’s theme is poverty, so I thought I’d write about a success story. Viet Nam, where I attended a conference last week, is arguably the greatest poverty reduction triumph of recent decades, changing so fast that it is actually visible, even to the casual observer.

By admin December 15, 2008 Off