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Where to for the Arab Spring??

It’s been almost eight months since the first Arab dictator, ousted President Ben Ali of Tunisia, fled the country under unprecedented popular uprisings signaling a snow-ball effect that has swept across North Africa and the Middle East like a political tsunami.

Since then, events in Egypt led to similar outcomes with the spectacular demise of President Hosni Mubarak and the subsequent initiation of his trial in Cairo. Indeed, these are tense times to be in power in the Arab world as the fear and prestige of office all but disappeared amid popular demands for political reform and genuine accountability.

Events in Libya have in the last couple of days developed to the point where the rule of maverick self-appointed doyen of Arab and African leaders, Colonel Gaddafi,  has all but collapsed relinquishing the capital Tripoli to the rebels and the political leadership of the transitional council.

Pakistan’s experience amidst debt crisis has lessons for other nations

Debt crisis is indeed a burning current issue in the whole world.   A true glimpse of this reality is provided by the ongoing violent protests against a series of fiscal austerity reforms in Greece.  The worsening debt crisis of Greece is expected to trigger a contagion of sovereign debt crises in several other European countries.
 
It is interesting to note that the nature and the economic  aftermath of the current debt crisis of Greece and 1998 debt crisis of Pakistan have remarkable similarities ─ For example, the debt-gross domestic product ratio of Pakistan as well as Greece exceeded 100% during their respective debt crises,  national external debt has been acting as a drag on the national economies of Pakistan, and Greece, and now both Greece and Pakistan desperately need fiscal consolidation as well as economic growth for resolving their respective external debt crisis.

In Search of the New 'Multiculturalism'

In discussing multiculturalism, there is always a tendency to focus on the challenges posed by increased cultural and religious diversity to social cohesion. This is especially the case in states that are supposed  to be more ‘secular’ or where religion is not expected to dominate public  life.
 
But how nation states deal with religiosity in general is not always easy to predict. In Australia, for example, Section 116 of the Australian Constitution explicitly provides that the Commonwealth shall not legislate to establish any religion, impose any religious observance or prohibit the free exercise of any religion.
 

Western Muslims and the Challenge of Integration and Intercultural Understanding

This is an extract from my keynote address at the Iftaar Dinner Function’ hosted by Deakin University and the Australian Intercultural Society at Deakin Prime, 12 August 2011

Current debates in many western countries seem to suggest that the current tension surrounding Muslims is essentially linked to the perceived incompatibility of Islam and Islamic values with values associated with liberal secular democratic states.

Parking Politics 101

I hope my political science colleagues in the Faculty of Arts & Education very carefully document everything that is happening in the Deakin University parking discourse (which, I hear from reliable sources, will go down into history as ‘The Great Deakin Parking Battle of 2011’).
Virtually every aspect of the issue lends itself to exquisite political analysis. It also allows for an absolutely hermetic alignment with principles of engaged student learning, life-integrated learning (let’s please move beyond the shallow ‘work-integrated learning’) and various aspects of reflexivity, both for students and staff! Over time, you would hope, even the Executive –through a process of osmosis- might actually learn a thing or two about this.

Tightening Control

How do we interpret the recent crackdown in China?
 
Unlike most commentators who foresee a coming dark age of Chinese authoritarianism, Edward Steinfeld argues, “It would be wrong to read the current crackdown as a sign of stasis or regression.” He offers convincing evidence such as the pluralization of actors and institutions and the coexistence of “profound change and harsh repression” in China, backed by a comparative perspective.

But while I agree with his assessment, I think that his evidence, which is primarily focused on economic and social changes, is incomplete. He doesn’t delve deeply enough into the “profound change” that has also taken place in Chinese politics.

Policies, not parties or personalities, for Aceh’s future

In a short couple of months, Aceh will again go to the polls to elect a governor and vice-governor, bupatis and local representatives. The election will mark a consolidation of the democratic process in Aceh, introduced as a result of the 2005 Helsinki peace agreement.
Even though the campaign period for the elections has not yet formally started, there is great interest in who will run, what they stand for and what their chances of success might be. It is healthy that people take an active interest in the political life of their community, as the political process determines how the people of the community are to live, within the constraints imposed by their circumstances.
That the political environment in Aceh has remained more or less peaceful since 2005 represents a victory for the idea of democratic, representative government. The electoral process itself represents a victory for accountability, which is the opposite of the imposed rule that Aceh once experienced.

SHALL WE TALK ABOUT WHALES AND WHALING? (7)

Is this just a “small” careless mistake? Or…?

On Monday, ABC News online released a report titled “Japan whaling forum warned against sympathy vote.”  
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/07/11/3266160.htm?section=world

Ah, yes.  It’s that time of the year … yet again.  The annual four day meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has started in Jersey, UK.  

The article by Sarah Clarke, an environmental reporter, expressed a concern about the outcome of this year’s meeting.  Given the situation of Japan which was hit by an unprecedented disaster earlier this year, some IWC member states may feel sympathy towards the country and may vote in Japan’s favour.  That was the concern expressed in the article.

Revolutions, Democratic Transitions and Reform Debates

Being in Tunisia post the revolution, one can not help but notice the explosion in political debates every where, the public fora held on a daily basis, the endless Q&A programs on all TV and Radio channels, the print press saturated with opinion pieces and open letters and most of all of internet-based social media following every new development and value-adding to it with its own analysis and recommendations for action.

 Truly, the scene at the social and political levels have totally transformed.

Of course, there are challenges in this first-ever Arab nation to successfully dislodge a dictator by peaceful means.

 First and foremost, has been the security challenge or how to restore a degree of confidence and trust in a police force that for the past half century was seen as the oppressive arm of the authoritarian regime of the dictatorial president.

Migration, cultural diversity and the GDP debate

While in Barcelona for a scoping conference to set up a new research institute for the UN 'Alliance of Civilisations', I was asked how it is that culture should be looked at and taken more seriously in economic debates.
 
My take on this complex question is not a simple one. In fact, we can argue easily that a lack of appreciation for cultural specificities can easily derail the best development programs even those with the best of intentions. This is a no brainer!

But we can also argue that the prevalence of 'intercultural tensions' and conflicts can damage a country's efforts to improve its lot economically. We can look at countries in Africa, the Middle East and South/West Asia to realise this.

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