Alternative Media Sources


  1. A (weak) homage to democracy in Catalonia

    The images of a half-empty parliament during the referendum law vote illustrate how Democracy and Catalonia have gone their separate ways. Democracy is not the law of the majority, but the protection of the minority.

    Hundreds of Catalan separatists gather to protest in front of the Catalan Economy Ministry. September 20, 2017. Barcelona, Spain. Matthias Oesterle/Zuma Press/PA Images. All rights reserved.

    “Being in a minority, even in a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.”

    - George Orwell, 1984

    Catalonia may be closer than ever to being independent, but it is increasingly far from embodying the democratic evolution that many of its supporters would have us believe. The secessionists have used a slim majority to approve the referendum and transition law, without any regard for legal safeguards and democratic norms. The images of a half-empty parliament during the votes, while a MP removed the Spanish flags left behind by members of the opposition, illustrates how the secessionist movement and democracy have gone their separate ways. With the full support of the president of the Parliament, a position that ought to be impartial, the road was left open for a referendum to be called for 1 October, and for less than a half of Catalans to decide on the future of the rest. Mr. Rajoy´s government in Madrid says it will not allow it, as both the referendum and the laws approved to enact them are unconstitutional. But as the 1 October nears and appeals for dialogue make no progress, both sides seem to be in route for a head-on clash.

    Just ends can never justify unjust means

    Recognizing that nationalism often springs from the wounded pride and sense of humiliation of a people is important. But the sense of humiliation alone cannot explain the sharp increase in support for independence in Catalonia – from 15% in 2009 to 41% in 2017. A severe economic crisis, a populist narrative blaming Madrid for every failure and a well-oiled propaganda machine offers a better – and  more plausible – explanation.

    Catalonia may be closer than ever to being independent, but it is increasingly far from embodying the democratic evolution that many of its supporters would have us believe.

    The conservative party – Partido Popular – refusal to accept the symbolic recognition of Catalan nationality in 2006 and the Constitutional Court´s decision to deny it on 2010 lit a fire that has been burning ever since. The decision was quickly followed by a demonstration in Barcelona and by Mr. Artur Mas – PdeCat, former Convergencia –  victory in the following regional elections. The same politician who back in 2002 classified independence as an old-fashioned and rusty concept had had a change of heart: Catalonia should begin its national transition. And so it did. Demonstration after demonstration, provocation after provocation. First in 2012, when thousands demanded a nation of their own. After, in 2014, when thousands demanded their right to decide. And by the end of the year, when an unofficial referendum was called, in which only 33% of Catalans participated.

    But elections in September 2015, however, saw the secessionist coalition fall short of their electoral objectives. Less than 50% of the votes gave them no legitimacy to open the door for an independence process. They had recognized that themselves before the elections. Regardless, the secessionists decided that 48% of the votes were now enough to call for a referendum on independence. Although 61% of Catalan are against a unilateral referendum and only 41% want Catalonia to be independent, nothing seems to dampen the secessionists from going to the last instances to impose their will. Ramming the referendum and transition law through Parliament may have successfully provoked Madrid and opened the floor for populist manipulation of what democracy is and what a democrat does and doesn’t do. But it has also deprived the secessionist movement from any legitimacy it may have ever had. For in democracies, just ends can never justify unjust means.

    Perverting democracy

    A half-empty Parliament is the perfect representation of what is happening in Catalonia. The secessionists have 72 seats, but only 48% of the votes. Yet, 48% is enough as the President of Parliament is a zealous secessionist and most institutions have chosen their cause over citizens. This allows for the 48% to bypass the Constitution and the Statue of Autonomy of Catalonia, and to grant themselves prerogatives they don´t have. This, according to Catalan secessionists is being a democrat. Rejecting this logic implies not being one. The referendum has been, thus, reframed as a simplistic narrative: either you´re with us or against us. Beyond a debate of ideas and solutions, it´s a contest between political agitators and the abstract values they hold dear. But nation-defining decisions cannot be imposed by less than half of the electorate. Defending that every Spanish is entitled to participate in a referendum deciding the future of Catalonia is certainly debateable. But Catalan authorities apparently are no interested in a proper referendum whatsoever: they just seem interested in putting a stamp of popular approval to something they have decided on their own.

    A half-empty Parliament is the perfect representation of what is happening in Catalonia. 

    Regardless, it´s worth reminding every democrat, home and abroad, that referendums are not a democratic tool per se. Not every decision reached by a majority rule is necessarily democratic. Checks and balances and separation of power exist for many reasons: one being to avoid that decisions that can negatively affect minorities are approved. That´s why the procedure to reform the Constitution differs from the procedure required to pass a simple bill. That doesn’t make it less democratic. It makes it democratic.

    Pro-independentist members of the Catalonia Parliament celebrate at the end of the parliamentary session. September 6, 2017. Barcelona, Spain. Jordi Boixareu/Zuma Press/PA Images.

    Celebrating a referendum under these circumstances would be a dereliction of everything a parliamentary democracy and a referendum ought to stand for. It violates international law, international principles, domestic law and regional law. It does not meet the necessary formal requirements required by any serious consultation: an electoral law approved (and debated) by a significant majority, a neutral convening authority, a clear separation of power and a minimum participation for the referendum to be valid. How can we talk about a democratic referendum if it does not respect legal guarantees and democratic principles?

    Referendums are not a democratic tool per se. Not every decision reached by a majority rule is necessarily democratic. 

    A political solution

    The polarization that surrounds this process raises many questions, but asserts one thing: this process it will leave a very ugly scar. And both parties are to blame for it.

    On one side, there are those willing to gamble with the future of their region, their families and their constituents for the sake of power. Promising more jobs, a better healthcare system and automatically entering the European Unions is a fantasy. Promising to put an end to corruption, a bad joke. On the other side, we have technocrats disguised as politicians which treated as a legal problem a political one: Mr. Rajoy has failed to do something about a problem that escalated during his time in office.

    How can we talk about a democratic referendum if it does not respect legal guarantees and democratic principles?

    The secessionists’ strategy was to provoke an overreaction from Madrid. And they have succeeded. The state has taken control of Catalan finances, several members of the team responsible for organising the referendum have been arrested, the official referendum website has been taken down, more than 6 million referendum leaflets and posters were confiscated and Spain´s top prosecutor has begun investigation the mayors who have agreed to facilitate the celebration of the referendum, after the Spanish Constitutional Court suspended the referendum law.

    But make no mistake. Mr. Rajoy´s and his government incapability to deal with this crisis doesn’t exonerate the Catalan government and Catalan institutions of violating the rights and freedoms of all Catalans. Democratic norms are above emotions and politics. They are certainly above opinions and personal allegiances. But Mr. Puigdemont´s Government, the Catalan Parliament and the local police forces – the Mossos d’Esquadra – have openly taken sides. And they have left half of Catalans without a government, without a Parliament and without a police force. Going against the rule of law and the Constitution to celebrate a referendum that lacks the necessary guarantees and hasn´t set a minimum level of participation is an exercise in irresponsibility. Disallowing the celebration of this referendum, in these circumstances and within the existing framework, is the right thing to do. The image of consensus over the referendum, that the secessionist forces tried to create during Catalonia´s regional day, doesn’t exist. 61% of Catalan are against a unilateral referendum. And only  41.1% of Catalans support independence.

    Mr. Rajoy has failed to do something about a problem that escalated during his time in office.

    Mr. Rajoy should resist the urge to suspend Catalonia´s autonomy by applying article 155 of the Constitution. This would fall right into the secessionists plan, and it would fuel the misinformed notion that Catalonia is being repressed and Madrid is just being intransigent. Catalonia is a free society. It manages its education policy, its hospitals. It has its own police, its own media. Catalonia is not Kosovo. And it has not been invaded like Ukraine. Spain, contrary to what has been voiced by Mr. Puigdemont, it´s a democratic state. Being one, the Catalan President should by now be aware, requires you to safeguard the coexistence between all members of society and protect the freedom of every citizen. Not just those that think like you. What is at stake is the coexistence between Spaniards. And between Catalans. The voice of a Catalan citizen waving the Spanish flag is just as important as the voice of the Catalan citizen waving the Estelada. Less than 50% of the electorate – despite holding a simple majority – cannot start a revolution.

    The voice of a Catalan citizen waving the Spanish flag is just as important as the voice of the Catalan citizen waving the Estelada. 

    Fortunately, far more unites us than divides us. The terrible attacks this summer in Barcelona should serve to remind us that we live in open, cosmopolitan, and free societies. And that is in these societies where we want to keep on living. Catalans should be allowed to vote, but not like this. Laws and electoral procedures do exist for a reason: to protect citizens from arbitrary decisions. Spain is not attempting to gag 7.5 million people by force, as Mr. Assange suggested in Twitter. And it’s certainly not afraid to hear what they have to say. What the Spanish government is afraid, like everyone that believes in Democracy, is of those that claim to champion freedom and human rights, while they undermine them. Democracy, wrote Albert Camus, is not the law of the majority, but the protection of the minority. 

    Country or region: 
    Civil society
    Democracy and government
    International politics
    CC by NC 4.0
  2. On the eve of the German elections, Alternative für Deutschland prevails on Twitter

    Populist parties have a higher capacity to exploit digital arenas to boost and propagate their slogans and influence the political agenda. This should not be underestimated by mainstream political forces.

    lead Election poster of (Alternative for Germany, AfD) party in the district of Lichtenberg in Berlin, Germany on September 15, 2017. NurPhote/Press Association. All rights reserved.It is a bit puzzling how, after a year in which populist forces have threatened the political order of countries all over Europe, Germany so far has managed to have itself a normal – many would say boring – electoral campaign.

    Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is likely to be the largest party in the new Bundestag, as polls show its likely share of vote to be between 36% and 37%, at least 15 or so points ahead of Martin Schulz’s Social Democratic Party (SPD). However, given Germany has a proportional system, the CDU will most likely be unable to govern by itself, so all eyes are on the battle for the third place, which will have an effect on which party will be Merkel’s coalition partner.

    The right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD), with its eurosceptic and anti-immigration programme, will most probably win parliamentary seats for the first time. This will perhaps be the most important development of this election. Moreover, according to the latest polls AfD is leading the “race within the race” for the third place with 11-12%, maintaining a slight lead over its main competitors – the Left Party (Die Linke), the Liberal Democrats (FDP) and the Green Party – all lagging behind at 7% to 10%.

    Recently in Europe we have witnessed a steep rise in so-called populist parties, alongside with a significant wave of innovation in political communication, especially in times of electoral campaigning. When new political actors walk into the scene, they often show innovative communication strategies, such as the widespread use of online channels, a highly engaged network of supporters, and a general inclination towards negative campaigning.

    At EuVisions, we have recently followed two weeks of the German electoral campaign on Twitter, collecting more than 200,000 tweets. We monitored the online activity of six main parties, following all candidates and collecting citizens’ reactions – in the form of retweets and replies – to candidates’ tweets. Special attention has been dedicated to the electoral campaign of Alternative for Germany. As it is often the case with non-traditional political actors, AfD emerges as a party in which digital activism, both on the candidates’ and supporters’ side, plays a major role.

    As Figure 1 shows, AfD candidates have proven to be by far the most prolific on Twitter: the average AfD candidate tweets six times a day, roughly twice as much as other parties’ candidates. At the same time, they are the most able to engage their electoral base: on average, AfD tweets are retweeted seven times, whereas tweets by other parties’ candidates only resonate (on average) 1,66  times (see Figure 2). At the other end of the spectrum we find candidates of Merkel’s CDU, who are retweeted less than once per tweet, on average.

    Interestingly, analogous results emerged from a previous EuVisions which compared the online behaviour of supporters of the UKIP and mainstream British parties at the time of the Brexit referendum.

    There’s a second aspect worth noting in AfD’s digital campaign, which this party shares with the SPD: in both cases, online campaigns are highly personalised, revolving to a great extent around spitzenkandidaten (see Figure 3).

    Most of SPD-related tweets, however, talk about the party candidate Martin Schulz, who is mentioned in one out of three tweets. This is not the case for AfD, whose tweets are only in small part centered on the two party leaders, Alice Weidel and Alexander Gauland. On the other hand, the party and its supporters make large use of negative campaigning against AfD’s competitors, in the first place, unsurprisingly, Angela Merkel.

    These results show how the social media battlefield in the German electoral campaign largely departs from current polls. Thanks to an effective use of social media strategies by their candidates, and a highly motivated action on the part of supporters, Alternative für Deutschland seems to be dominating the scene on Twitter. The extent to which elections can be won or lost on social media is still an open question. However, it seems by now quite a solid finding that populist parties have a higher capacity to exploit digital arenas in order to boost and propagate their slogans and influence the political agenda. This should not be underestimated by mainstream political forces.

    Country or region: 
    Civil society
    Democracy and government
    International politics
    CC by NC 4.0
  3. Empire of madness: fiddling through the smoke in 2025

    The year is 2025, and the war on terror rages on – as does the increasing extremity of the planet's weather.

    Sep 15, 2017; Bonita Springs, FL, USA; Louis Sarangi pushes a boat out of the flood waters along Pawley Avenue in Bonita Springs five days after Hurricane Irma. USA TODAY Network/PA Images. All rights reserved.It’s January 2025, and within days of entering the Oval Office, a new president already faces his first full-scale crisis abroad. Twenty-four years after it began, the war on terror, from the Philippines to Nigeria, rages on. In 2024 alone, the U.S. launched repeated air strikes on 15 nations (or, in a number of cases, former nations), including the Philippines, Burma, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, the former Iraq, the former Syria, Kurdistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Mali, and Nigeria.

    In the weeks before his inauguration, a series of events roiled the Greater Middle East and Africa. Drone strikes and raids by U.S. Special Operations forces in Saudi Arabia against both Shiite rebels and militants from the Global Islamic State killed scores of civilians, including children. They left that increasingly destabilized kingdom in an uproar, intensified the unpopularity of its young king, and led to the withdrawal of the Saudi ambassador from Washington. In Mali, dressed in police uniforms and riding on motorcycles, three Islamic militants from the Front Azawad, which now controls the upper third of the country, gained entry to a recently established joint U.S.-French military base and blew themselves up, killing two American Green Berets, three American contractors, and two French soldiers, while wounding several members of Mali’s presidential guard. In Iraq, as 2024 ended, the city of Tal Afar – already “liberated” twice since the 2003 invasion of that country, first by American troops in 2005 and then by American-backed Iraqi troops in 2017 – fell to the Sunni militants of the Global Islamic State. Though now besieged by the forces of the Republic of Southern Iraq backed by the U.S. Air Force, it remains in their hands.

    The crisis of the moment, however, is in Afghanistan where the war on terror first began. There, the Taliban, the Global Islamic State (or GIS, which emerged from the Islamic State, or ISIS, in 2019), and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan (or AQIA, which split from the original al-Qaeda in 2021) now control an increasing number of provincial capitals. These range from Lashgar Gah in Helmand Province in the southern poppy-growing heartlands of the country to Kunduz in the north, which first briefly fell to the Taliban in 2015 and now is in the hands of GIS militants. In the meantime, the American-backed government in the Afghan capital, Kabul, is – as in 2022 when a “surge” of almost 25,000 American troops and private contractors saved it from falling to the Taliban – again besieged and again in danger. The conflict that Lieutenant General Harold S. Forrester, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, had only recently termed a “stalemate” seems to be devolving. What’s left of the Afghan military with its ghost soldiers, soaring desertion rates, and stunning casualty figures is reportedly at the edge of dissolution. Forrester is returning to the United States this week to testify before Congress and urge the new president to surge into the country up to 15,000 more American troops, including Special Operations forces, and another 15,000 private contractors, as well as significantly more air power before the situation goes from worse to truly catastrophic.

    Like many in the Pentagon, Forrester now regularly speaks of the Afghan War as an “eonic struggle,” that is, one not expected to end for generations...

    You think not? When it comes to America’s endless wars and conflicts across the Greater Middle East and Africa, you can’t imagine a more-of-the-same scenario eight years into the future? If, in 2009, eight years after the war on terror was launched, as President Obama was preparing to send a “surge” of more than 30,000 U.S. troops into Afghanistan (while swearing to end the war in Iraq), I had written such a futuristic account of America’s wars in 2017, you might have been no less unconvinced.

    Who would have believed then that political Washington and the U.S. military’s high command could possibly continue on the same brainless path (or perhaps it would be more accurate to say superhighway) for another eight years? Who would have believed then that, in the fall of 2017, they would be intensifying their air campaigns across the Greater Middle East, still fighting in Iraq (and Syria), supporting a disastrous Saudi war in Yemen, launching the first of yet another set of mini-surges in Afghanistan, and so on?  And who would have believed then that, in return for prosecuting unsuccessful wars for 16 years while aiding and abetting in the spread of terror movements across a vast region, three of America’s generals would be the most powerful figures in Washington aside from our bizarre president (whose election no one could have predicted eight years ago)? Or here’s another mind-bender: Would you really have predicted that, in return for 16 years of unsuccessful war-making, the U.S. military (and the rest of the national security state) would be getting yet more money from the political elite in our nation’s capital or would be thought better of than any other American institution by the public?

    Now, I’m the first to admit that we humans are pathetic seers. Peering into the future with any kind of accuracy has never been part of our skill set. 

    Now, I’m the first to admit that we humans are pathetic seers. Peering into the future with any kind of accuracy has never been part of our skill set. And so my version of 2025 could be way off base. Given our present world, it might prove to be far too optimistic about our wars. 

    After all -- just to mention one grim possibility of our moment -- for the first time since 1945, we’re on a planet where nuclear weapons might be used by either side in the course of a local war, potentially leaving Asia aflame and possibly the world economy in ruins. And don’t even bring up Iran, which I carefully and perhaps too cautiously didn’t include in my list of the 15 countries the U.S. was bombing in 2025 (as opposed to the seven at present). And yet, in the same world where they are decrying North Korea's nuclear weapons, the Trump administration and its U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, seem to be hard at work creating a situation in which the Iranians could once again be developing ones of their own. The president has reportedly been desperate to ditch the nuclear agreement Barack Obama and the leaders of five other major powers signed with Iran in 2015 (though he has yet to actually do so) and he’s stocked his administration with a remarkable crew of Iranophobes, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, all of whom have been itching over the years for some kind of confrontation with Iran. (And given the last decade and a half of American war fighting in the region, how do you think that conflict would be likely to turn out?)

    Donald Trump’s Washington, as John Feffer has recently pointed out, is now embarked on a Pyongyang-style “military-first” policy in which resources, money, and power are heading for the Pentagon and the U.S. nuclear arsenal, while much of the rest of the government is downsized. Obviously, if that’s where your resources are going, then that’s where your efforts and energies will go, too. So don’t expect less war in the years to come, no matter how inept Washington has proven when it comes to making war work.

    Now, let’s leave those wars aside for a moment and return to the future:

    It’s mid-September 2025. Hurricane Wally has just deluged Houston with another 1000-year rainfall, the fourth since Hurricane Harvey hit the region in 2017.

    It’s mid-September 2025. Hurricane Wally has just deluged Houston with another thousand-year rainfall, the fourth since Hurricane Harvey hit the region in 2017. It’s the third Category 6 hurricane -- winds of 190 or more miles an hour -- to hit the U.S. so far this year, the previous two being Tallulah and Valerie, tying a record first set in 2023. Category 6 was only added to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale in 2022 after Hurricane Donald devastated Washington D.C.) The new president did not visit Houston. His press secretary simply said, “If the president visited every area hit by extreme weather, he would be incapable of spending enough time in Washington to oversee the rebuilding of the city and govern the country.” She refused to take further questions and Congress has no plans to pass emergency legislation for a relief package for the Houston region.

    Much of what’s left of that city’s population is either fled ahead of the storm or is packed into relief shelters. And as with Miami Beach, it is now believed that some of the more flood-prone parts of the Houston area will never be rebuilt. (Certain ocean-front areas of Miamiwere largely abandoned after Donald hit in 2022 on its way to Washington, thanks in part to a new reality: sea levels were rising faster than expected because of the stunning pace of the Greenland ice shield's meltdown.)   

    Meanwhile, the temperature just hit 112 degrees, a new September record, in San Francisco. That came after a summer in which a record 115 was experienced, making Mark Twain’s apocryphal line, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco,” an artifact of the past. In another year without an El Niño phenomenon, the West Coast has again been ablaze and the wheat-growing regions of the Midwest have been further devastated by a tenacious drought, now four years old.

    Around the planet, heat events are on the rise, as are storms and floods, while the wildfire season continues to expandglobally. To mention just two events elsewhere on Earth: in 2024, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR), thanks to both spreading conflicts and an increase in extreme weather events, more people were displaced -- 127.2 million -- than at any time on record, almost doubling the 2016 count. UNHCR director Angelica Harbani expects that figure to be surpassed yet again when this year’s numbers are tallied. In addition, a speedier than expected meltdown of the Himalayan glaciers has created a permanent water crisis in parts of South Asia also struck by repeated disastrous monsoons and floods.

    In the United States, the week after Hurricane Wally destroyed Houston, the president flew to North Dakota to proudly mark the beginning of the construction of the Transcontinental Pipeline slated to bring Canadian tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to the East Coast. “It will help ensure,” he said, “that the United States remains the oil capital of the planet.”

    Think of it this way: a new weather paradigm is visibly on the rise. It just walloped the United States from the burning West Coast to the battered Florida Keys.  And another crucial phenomenon has accompanied it: the rise to power in Washington -- and not just there -- of Republican climate-change denialism. Think of the two phenomena together as the alliance from hell. So far there’s no evidence that a Washington whose key agencies are well stockedwith climate-change deniers is likely to be transformed any time soon.

    Now, meld those two future scenarios of mine: the fruitless pursuit of never-ending wars and the increasing extremity of the weather on a planet seemingly growing hotter by the year. (Sixteen of the 17 warmest years on record occurred in the twenty-first century and the 17th was 1998.) Try to conjure up such a world for a moment and you’ll realize that the potential damage could be enormous, even if the planet’s “lone superpower” continues to encourage the greatest threat facing us for only a brief period, even if Donald Trump doesn’t win reelection in 2020 or worse than him isn’t heading down the pike.

    The frying of our world

    There have been many imperial powers on Planet Earth. Any number of them committed massive acts of horror -- from the Mongol empire (whose warriors typically sacked Baghdad in 1258, putting its public libraries to the torch, reputedly turning the Tigris River black with ink and that city’s streets red with blood) to the Spanish empire (known for its grim treatment of the inhabitants of its “new world” possessions, not to speak of the Muslims, Jews, and other heretics in Spain itself) to the Nazis (no elaboration needed). In other words, there’s already competition enough for the imperial worst of the worst. And yet don’t imagine that the United States doesn’t have a shot at taking the number one spot for all eternity. (USA! USA!)

    Depending on how the politics of this country and this century play out, the phrase “fiddling while Rome burns” might have to be seriously readjusted. In the American version, you would substitute “fighting never-ending wars across the Greater Middle East, Africa, and possibly Asia” for “fiddling” and for “Rome,” you would insert “the planet.” Only “burns” would remain the same. For now, at least, you would also have to replace the Roman emperor Nero (who was probably playing a lyre, since no fiddles existed in his world) with Donald Trump, the Tweeter-in-Chief, as well as “his” generals and the whole crew of climate deniers now swarming Washington, one more eager than the next to release the full power of fossil fuels into an overburdened atmosphere.

    Sometimes it’s hard to believe that my own country, so eternally overpraised by its leaders in these years as the planet’s “indispensable” and “exceptional” nation with “the finest fighting force the world has ever known” might usher in the collapse of the very environment that nurtured humanity all these millennia. As the “lone superpower,” the last in a line-up of rival great powers extending back to the fifteenth century, what a mockery it threatens to make of the long-gone vision of history as a march of progress through time. What a mockery it threatens to make of the America of my own childhood, the one that so proudly put a man on the moon and imagined that there was no problem on Earth it couldn’t solve.

    Imagine the government of that same country, distracted by its hopeless wars and the terrorist groups they continue to generate, facing the possible frying of our world -- and not lifting a finger to deal with the situation. In a Washington where less is more for everything except the U.S. military (for which more is invariably less), the world has been turned upside down. It’s the definition of an empire of madness.

    Hold on a second! Somewhere, faintly, I think I hear a fiddle playing and maybe it’s my imagination, but do I smell smoke?

    This piece was originally published on TomDispatch.

    CC by NC 4.0
  4. Have women’s rights institutions been ignored again?

    The European Union’s announced €500 million for work to end violence against women and girls. This should strengthen, rather than bypass, existing women’s rights institutions.

    At a high-level women leaders' forum co-hosted by Germany, the African Union and UN Women, in June 2017. At a high-level women leaders' forum co-hosted by Germany, the African Union and UN Women, in June 2017. Photo: UN Women/Flickr. Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). Some rights reserved.If someone offered you half a billion euros to end violence against women and girls, you’d thank them. Especially if you were acutely aware of the many worthwhile strategies and organisations presently starved for support. Especially if you had seen the diverse and insidious forms of violence – from intimate partner violence to state-sponsored violence – that women have been courageously standing up against for decades.

    We join others in extending huge appreciation to the European Union for announcing this week a €500 million grant to the United Nations, to support work to end violence against women and girls. This pandemic destroys lives, communities and families in every country. It requires urgent and comprehensive action from everyone. 

    But the launch of this EU-UN partnership was also notable in its failure to mention one of the primary and most consistent sources of support for the work that it now wants to fund: The UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women.

    Funds and trust

    The Trust Fund was established in 1996 by a general assembly resolution. It is administered by the UN Women organisation on behalf of the UN system. It makes grants to NGOs and women’s rights groups, UN country teams and governments. Over the last 20 years, it has disbursed more than $125 million to initiatives in 139 countries and territories.

    The Trust Fund has a unique, collective decision-making process that engages UN organisations, experts in ending violence against women and girls, and civil society groups. Independent evaluations of the Trust Fund have found that it knows how to successfully identify and strengthen innovative initiatives for ending violence against women.

    However, regarding this week’s announcement, we understand that the EU and the UN intend to put this money into another “multi-partner trust fund”. A variety of new oversight, technical and other committees and structures would be created.

    Our concern is that the proliferation of new ‘mechanisms’ diverts crucial resources to bureaucracy and processes rather than change. The Trust Fund already has decision-making mechanisms with broader representation and buy-in across the UN system and amongst NGO advocates and women’s rights experts in ending violence against women. Why put money into new mechanisms that lack such expertise, experience and worldwide relationships?

    “the proliferation of new ‘mechanisms’ diverts crucial resources to bureaucracy and processes rather than change”

    The creation of a ‘new’ mechanism could even make it harder for the Trust Fund to raise resources for its grant-making. This would threaten crucial support to innovative projects and to women’s rights organisations and NGOs working to end violence against women around the world. To our knowledge, there is no provision in this week’s commitment to ensure that the Trust Fund is sustained and strengthened. This must be remedied.

    The Trust Fund is not a perfect mechanism. It would need to be upgraded and enhanced to manage half a billion euros (its grant-making has totalled $10 to $20 million annually and it has focused on giving smaller grants). But building on its existing practice is far preferable to using a new structure and establishing committees that have no track record, no portfolio and no expertise.

    Grants and goals

    Over the last 15 years, European donors have been leaders in insisting on and supporting the international aid effectiveness agenda and pushing for efficiency, transparency and coherence across the UN system. The EU also supported women’s rights advocates’ calls for the creation of UN Women, in 2010.

    But UN Women has not received a €500 million grant, and it remains underfunded. Ignoring the existence of the Trust Fund appears to be a deliberate invisibilisation of decades of feminist work, and it stands in direct contradiction to the EU’s commitments to aid effectiveness and efficiency. At the same time, the new EU-UN initiative has yet to reach out to leading experts and organisations on ending violence against women and engage them on the best ways forward.

    “ignoring the existence of the Trust Fund appears to be a deliberate invisibilisation of decades of feminist work”

    At the UN, business as usual is the greatest obstacle to rebuilding the institution’s credibility. UN secretary general Antonio Guterres has made a point of asserting his ‘feminism’. At the launch of the new EU-UN initiative, he noted that violence against women is about exercise of power.

    Guterres must now use his power to reverse a predictable trend of under-resourcing UN Women, the Trust Fund and other organisations and programs for women’s rights. He should insist that the new European funding announced this week is managed by the Trust Fund to End Violence against Women.

    We urge EU and UN leadership to think carefully about the goal of this week’s generous gift. If they want truly groundbreaking impact, they must draw on the vibrancy, determination and expertise of women’s rights advocates and activists, organisations, funds and networks. The Trust Fund, despite its limitations, is the suitable body to manage these funds.

    The Trust Fund has already reached millions of people, and while improvements are needed, it is trusted by those who have received grants and benefited from their outcomes. The fund has spent 20 years building that trust. We hope the EU and the UN will honour that.

    International politics
    CC by NC 4.0
  5. Rising from the abyss - the Corbyn effect

    In an exclusive and edited extract from his new book The Corbyn Effect, Mark Perryman measures the scale of Labour’s 2017 recovery.

    In February 2017 Labour faced two by-elections. Losing one and with a much reduced majority in the other, the results seemed to leave Labour staring into the abyss.

    In the Guardian Jonathan Freedland (who admits he is one of the “people who warned Corbyn would be a disaster from the start”) advised:

    “Those who voted in good faith for Jeremy Corbyn need to ask themselves what they value more – the dreams they projected on to this one man or the immediate need to hold back a government wreaking intolerable damage on this country’s future.”

    Whilst we’re revisiting Corbyn’s critics and their unqualified certainty of the disastrous outcome awaiting Labour under his leadership, it is worth recalling the open letter from Jamie Reed MP, whose subsequent resignation triggered the by-election Labour lost:

    “At Prime Minister’s Questions today, an inexplicable development occurred whereby David Cameron spoke for the overwhelming majority of Labour MPs and Labour voters everywhere ‘it might be in my party’s interests for him (Jeremy Corbyn) to sit there, it is not in the national interest. I would say for heaven’s sake man, go!...The Labour Party stands for a moral purpose that you do not share. We exist to redistribute power, wealth and opportunity through parliamentary democracy. Your (Jeremy Corbyn) actions have repeatedly shown that you do not believe that.”

    Serving up humble pie to the Corbyn critics is of course no recipe for the unity Labour now craves if it is to turn a decent second into first place. But we need to understand why those who convinced themselves - and did their best to convince the rest of us - of Labour’s dismal electoral prospects under Corbyn, got it so wrong.

    Of course Jeremy has form as a serial backbench rebel himself. But he was ignored by most of the media with only rare appearances in the TV and radio studios, and no columnists or leader-writers to champion his case let alone his credentials as an alternative party leader. In contrast, Jamie, Tristram, Jess, Chuka, Dan and the rest enjoyed all these advantages.

    But Labour’s crisis wasn’t ever as simple as just ‘their lot versus our lot’. It was best summed up by the prospect of ‘Pasokification’. Contributor to The Corbyn Effect James Doran describes the characteristics - the deep-seated unpopularity of austerity which were, pre-Corbyn, not being represented by any party’s electoral programme. The British Labour Party’s prospects were worsened by headlong and seemingly unstoppable decline of Scottish Labour, the break-up of any semblance of Labour Party unity, and Labour’s inability to transform its own outmoded organisational culture.

    The eventual success of Corbynism in 2017 can to some extent be judged by its ability to address each factor. The SNP failed to popularise its case for a second independence referendum, which shifted the political debate north of the border away from constitutional matters and sparked a Scottish Labour recovery. The election campaign everywhere focussed on Jeremy’s growing popular appeal. And the manifesto, welcomed by previous regular Corbyn critic Polly Toynbee as “a cornucopia of delights”, created a platform for the left populism Corbyn had long promised to deliver. For the duration of the election Jeremy was no longer lumbered with voluble dissent from his rebellious MPs. And the ground campaign of Labour on the proverbial doorstep at last provided the space for the huge influx of new members to become involved in the party they had joined.

    The magnitude of Corbyn’s achievement in avoiding ‘Pasokification’ has barely been noticed by a notoriously parochial English left and media commentators. Have they not noticed the headlong decline of those European social-democractic parties that have followed the favoured centrist route - not just PASOK in Greece, but Parti Socialiste in France, Partito Democratico in Italy, Partido Socialista in Spain, and the Dutch and Irish Labour parties? Adhering to the neo-liberal consensus and indistinguishable from their centre-right opponents, voters preferred the real thing while social democracy found itself outflanked on its left, its right and in some cases both. On the left, Syriza, Podemos, Mélenchon and others have rivalled the mainstream left for appeal and in some cases, the Dutch Green Left most spectacularly, have overtaken it.

    The difference in Britain was that in Britain this challenge, the alternative to neoliberalism, has come from within the party of social democracy - Corbynism as what Doran calls ‘the antidote to Pasokification’.

    John Harris is one of those writers who combines a healthy scepticism for what Corbyn might achieve with an acute sense of the depth of this crisis he inherited and – to some extent – of the Pasokification critique. Here’s Harris describing the context of Corbyn’s stunning win in the 2015 Labour Leadership election:

    “Centre-left politics all over Europe remains locked in deep crisis, sidelined by the dominance of the centre-right, and further unsettled by the rise of new populist and nationalist parties from both ends of the political spectrum. In the delirium of Corbynmania and the arrival of tens of thousands of new members, the cold reality of Labour’s predicament has been somewhat forgotten. At the last election (2015), it won its second-lowest share of the vote since 1983.”

    This was the wreckage from which Jeremy was expected to climb with party in tow. Nobody, not even most of his closest supporters, believed he could achieve that if the Tories set the trap of an early General Election. What in those circumstances could possibly go right?  A lot as it turned out, but not enough.

    Post-election John Harris wrote another measured piece this time outlining the complexity of the position now Labour found itself in:

    “In Scotland the party put on fewer than 10,000 votes. Despite the ‘dementia tax’ the Conservative lead among people over 70 was estimated to be 50 percentage points. And the syndrome whereby former Labour voters went first to UKIP and then the Tories was real and widespread – as evidenced by a handful of Labour losses in the Midlands, and other places where the Tory vote went up thanks to voters supposedly at the sharp end of austerity.”

    The fact that in the iconic former mining constituency of Bolsover Dennis Skinner suffered a 7.7% swing to the Tories is as good a benchmark of the latter, and vital, point we are likely to get.  For some critics these flaws in the 2017 success story reveal a more worrying proposition, that the advances made are there to be reversed because of Labour’s enduring ambivalence on Brexit. Academic Matt Bolton spells out the likely consequences in particularly stark terms:

    Corbyn’s success postpones once again the moment of reckoning at which the left finally recognises that the acceptance of Brexit and the end of free movement constitutes a fundamental, generational defeat, one for which gains in the House of Commons, however welcome, are scant recompense.”

    There are plenty, including those who enthusiastically back Jeremy, who share at least in part Matt’s reservations. However the contradictions of Brexit are yet to tear Labour apart. Some have warned of an ‘existential crisis’ as Labour sought to appeal to Labour leavers while keeping Labour remainers on board too. Labour in 2017 has mostly avoided that by shifting attention instead to the break with neoliberalism and an anti-austerity agenda. Labour’s response to the human tragedy of the Grenfell tower block fire further entrenched the popular reach of both Jeremy’s personal touch and the party’s values-led politics. Materialism and profit margins, as Grenfell so tragically illustrated, have their limits.

    Any existential crisis, for the moment at least, is on the Tory side. The coalition from hell with the DUP can only further alienate whatever remains of Cameron’s liberal Conservative support. And at any sign of hard Brexit being softened, hardline eurosceptic Tory support will also lose faith and the resurrection of UKIP - or something like it - to split the right’s vote could become a serious proposition.

    Perhaps the current situation of complexity and volatility is best summed up by the idea of a ‘Permanent Election.’  A neat turn of phrase on Trotsky’s thesis of a Permanent Revolution.  To the doorsteps!

     The Corbyn Effect is edited by Mark Perryman with a foreword by Paul Mason, and published by Lawrence & Wishart.  An essential post-election read, The Corbyn Effect makes sense of Jeremy Corbyn and the fundamental shift in our system of ideas 2017 has made possible. Available now from L&W here.

    Normal 0 false false false EN-GB JA X-NONE
    CC by NC 4.0
  6. We just want to stop pleading

    A call to the people of Spain, because the Catalan independence referendum on October 1 is about rather more than that. Español

    lead September 20, 2017. Flowers and a banner reading ' I want to vote' on the floor as Spanish Guardia Civil police officers stand guard close to Catalan Governance Ministry in Barcelona. Jordi Boixareu/Press Association. All rights reserved.

    When the Spanish Government overturned the Catalan Statute of Autonomy in 2010, even after it had been approved by an ample majority of voters in a referendum that had actually been permitted by the state, I said nothing because I wasn’t Catalan; when the Catalans then asked the state to engage in talks on federalism and the state refused, I said nothing because I wasn’t Catalan; when they asked for a new referendum and were told “we will never even talk about this”, I said nothing because I wasn’t Catalan; when the state denied Catalans any possibility for being listened to, sabotaged their security and taxes, undermined their schools and administration in order to use these as arguments to cover up their own corruption and play the victim, I said nothing because I wasn’t Catalan; when the state throttled their freedom of expression, intercepted their mail and shut down their economy, when uniformed men entered their political organizations and their media, when it confiscated publications, closed websites and arrested mayors, I said nothing because I didn’t read this press and hadn’t voted for those mayors. I even believed they deserved it for complaining so much and hoped they’d be silenced.

    So when they broke my community’s rules of coexistence, violated my right to control my administration, betrayed my security and used me as cannon fodder I responded but, by then, irrationality had pervaded everything. They only had to say “that’s illegal” and everyone kowtowed.

    The official media has harped on and on, hammering into people’s heads, all around Spain, the notion that what large numbers of Catalans are asking for is illegal and evil. Prime Minister Rajoy has even said that “what is illegal is antidemocratic”, conveniently forgetting that it used to be precisely the opposite: it’s the power of the people that turns the illegal into the democratic. And if this isn’t so, go and tell the women whose right to vote was denied until very recently, go and tell homosexuals, divorcees, conscientious objectors and other people whose way of life was, for one reason or another, prohibited not so long ago.

    They’ve instilled the idea that a good part of Catalonia’s population deserves to be crushed, bloodily if necessary, that it deserves police searches, arrests, and outrageous situations such as might be expected of Turkey, or China, or some despicable dictatorship.

    They deserve it”: people speak as if these things, these grotesque scenes, were not part and parcel of this Spain which they so fervently desire to see united.

    I understand. It may look as if Catalonia’s trying to wreck something sacred, namely Unity, something which all the maxims declare is the only recipe for Strength. “Unity is strength”, they say, and may anyone who speaks out against unity burn in hell.

    But if we think back a bit, the myth of Unity is truly a horror story.

    History aside, one only has to remember how many lives were destroyed by the indissoluble union of marriage. We now think of this as barbaric.

    It’s not union that makes strength and, still less, forced union.

    I’ve spent many years of my life saying that democracy is anything but unity. Unity is coexistence with differences among separate, free, consenting adult individuals, which is to say among people who are autonomous and responsible for themselves.

    Catalonia’s not going anywhere.

    Catalonia’s only fighting for its rights in its own way.

    It just wants to stop pleading.

    It’s truly unsustainable that there’s no way of having a referendum in Spain. I’m not just referring to this one. I mean any referendum. The law decrees that it’s the government that decides whether there can be a referendum or not. And, naturally, the government of Spain always says no. If this isn’t so, go and tell the PAH (Platform for People Affected by Mortgages) which collected one and a half million signatures in a popular legislative initiative (ILP) to change Spain’s foreclosure law and, though an ILP only needs 500,000 signatures in order to be put before parliament, the Government refused to discuss the issue.

    The bottom line is that, according to Spanish law, any referendum is illegal.

    But perhaps it might be more accurate to say that certain approaches to governance in Spain are barbaric. 

    The point is not that Catalans can’t have a referendum because the Constitution doesn’t give them this power. It’s that no Spanish people can have a referendum. Not about independence and not about any other matter. Negotiated or not negotiated. Full stop.

    Not just for Catalonia

    So what Catalonia is asking for is not just for Catalonia. It’s because the centralism of the powers-that-be in Madrid, and of all the parties that egg them on with the chumminess of parliamentary rituals, ignores the peoples of Spain, using them merely as raw material to extract what they can, regarding them as colonies and even, as we have seen lately with certain questions of security, as cannon fodder (note: the Government excluded the Catalan police from Europol and the Catalan police are not receiving all the information about jihadi terrorists in Catalonian territory). Once more all this is about covering up their own privileges, abuse, and corruption, or simply protecting the patronage networks of each and every party.

    The enemies aren’t the Catalans who want independence. The enemies are a government and political parties implacable and bull-headed that asphyxiate and trample all over the rest of us.

    This is why I’ll be one more person voting in and defending the ballot on 1 October. It won’t just be for Catalonia but also for the organised, non-delegated voice that people everywhere should have; I have fought for this all my life.

    The defence of unity as ideology terrifies me. Old and new parties are founded on the fallacy of ideological unity. They are very unlikely to be the ones who will get us out of this mess if there is no solidarity among people from one end of the country to the other.

    For years I have been advocating a new kind of politics, one that’s not based on faith and ideology but on people coming together strategically and temporarily to solve the problems they share. People can’t really be together in the name of unity. This can only happen when, respecting the freedom of each and every person, they have interests in common. The peoples of Spain have blood ties and their prosperity and democracy are naturally united. An independent Catalonia isn’t going anywhere, but will only gain the manoeuverability which it has for so long been denied.

    The central government thinks in terms of subordination. It can’t envisage free people who are able to advance by themselves. I could give a thousand examples but the clearest one is the fact that we are prevented from communicating. There is no Mediterranean corridor and no Atlantic corridor (the roads connections in the circumference of the country, everything must go through Madrid.) This is a preposterous situation which can only be explained by archaic centralism with imperialist predilections.

    The freedom Catalonia is asking for isn’t a Catalan question.

    It’s about the freedom deserved by all of Spain’s people.

    That’s why I’m going to vote on 1 October, and I’m going to vote Yes.

    I ask, I hope and it’s my fervent desire that, on October 1, the people of Spain won’t revel in state repression, but that they’ll proactively prevent that repression from being executed in their name; that they’ll feel proud of the courage, optimism and the peaceful, orderly vision of the future of their fellow citizens who are carrying out their duty to change the unjust, inflexible laws which are trapping us all.


    The Spanish original of this article was first published in Público

    Country or region: 
    Civil society
    Democracy and government
    International politics
    CC by NC 4.0
  7. Catalonia: recognition and dignity

    On October 2, it will be necessary to find a way out that does not imply the total defeat of the other and that enables us to recognize Spain’s national diversity. Español

    Members of the Catalan National Assembly, distribute information through the streets of Barcelona asking for the vote in the referendum of independence of Catalonia on October 1. September 17, 2017. NurPhoto/Press Association. All rights reserved.A reader not familiar with the ins and outs of Spanish and Catalan politics over the last ten years would be surprised at the unusual events happening these days in Catalonia. There is talk of "attacking democracy" and of a "serious breach of constitutional legality", political leaders are being arrested for wanting to organize a referendum, while the police surrounds political parties’ headquarters and searches printing houses and newspapers. All this is happening in Spain, forty years after the recovery of democracy following Franco’s forty-year-long dictatorship, in a country where citizens enjoy by no means negligible levels of economic development and social welfare, the economic and institutional structure of which is fully embedded in the European and global fabric.

    How did we get here? Let us spare the details. At the risk of being too schematic, we could say that there is a deficit in Spanish democracy regarding the recognition of its national plurality, and also a widespread perception in Catalan society that the Spanish political system has not been treating them with adequate dignity.

    The political regime established in 1978, which has allowed a fully legal and legitimate functioning of Spanish democracy for several decades, has been losing steam. The stern refusal to reform it  – for fear of the economic and political elites represented by the two major parties, the People’s Party (PP) and the Socialist Party (PSOE) – has ended up sounding its death knell.

    In the agreement that was reached back then, the existence of an internal national plurality was accepted only in part, but in practice a standardized decentralized system was set up, within the unitary and homogeneous framework of Spain’s singular sovereignty.

    There has been some talk that the Spanish system of "Autonomous Communities" is a very decentralized one if you examine the matters which the autonomous governments can decide on. But in that decentralization there is no symbolic, political recognition of the Catalans’, the Basques’ and the Galician’s’ diverse sense of belonging – of the places where language, culture and historical tradition maintain a continuing belongingness.

    When three crises coincided in time – the economic one (2007), the political one (the indignados, 2011) and the territorial one (large mobilizations in Catalonia in 2012 after the Constitutional Court’s ruling which overturned what the Catalans had decided in a referendum), the contradictions, cross grievances, and demands for change in the distribution of funding between Autonomous Communities sharpened – and thus provided a favourable ground for the escalation the most salient and complicated stage of which we are now witnessing.


    How is one to explain the People’s Party position of sternly refusing to open up any political dialogue? It is obvious that, faced with the Catalan question, it has been in Mr Rajoy’s and the PP’s interest to position themselves as guarantors of institutional stability, national unity and a constitutional legality which does not admit any change whatsoever. On the basis of this position, Mr Rajoy has managed to turn the PP and the government into the axis of the defence of institutional legality, leaving little breathing space to other parties, namely the Citizens’ and the Socialist Party. For Rajoy, the matter is not political but simply legal.

    Only Podemos has positioned itself differently, accepting the plurinationality of the Spanish state and proposing that a constituent process be opened to address the serious problem that has been gestated.

    From the perspective of Catalan sovereignists, the repeated refusal to consider the possibility of resolving the conflict through a referendum similar to those held in Quebec or Scotland, led to a Catalan parliamentary election in 2014 that was presented as a plebiscite. Its outcome, however, did not help to clarify the situation. Since then, the need to hold a referendum has been repeated incessantly, but this has not found any echo in either Mr. Rajoy’s government or the parliamentary majority in Spanish institutions. Mr. Rajoy has insisted on the idea that there is no democracy outside legality, refusing to accept the view that a democracy is stronger the more dissent it is able to contain, and has offered no alternative to the Catalan sovereignists’ proposal other than they should abide by the established order.


    At present, there is nothing to suggest that the referendum on October 1 can be held with a minimum of guarantees, since the constant interference of the Spanish government, constitutional justice and subsequent police activity have made it impossible. But this course of action of the Spanish government and judiciary has placed the issue in a cognitive framework and in an axis of conflict that is no longer that of "centralism versus pro-independence", but rather "authoritarianism versus democracy". And this can lead to a mobilization in Catalonia in favour of democracy far beyond the pro-independence support base.

    On October 2, the problem will still be there. From the point of view of the Catalan sovereignists, the achievement will be that the problem will now be inescapable, that it will stay at the centre of the Spanish political scene and thus will necessarily have to be addressed.

    From the point of view of Mr Rajoy, the PP and its allies, they will not be able to continue to deny the problem and to respond to it only with legality and repression.

    This is a scenario in which it will be necessary to look for a way out which will not imply the total defeat of the other – a scenario in which it will be essential to have the capacity to recognize Spain’s national diversity and to treat with due dignity those who seek to deepen the democratic quality of the Spanish political system.

    Country or region: 
    Civil society
    Democracy and government
    International politics
    CC by NC 4.0
  8. Call for submissions: Listening to Libya - Intervention and its aftermath

    NAWA seeks to provide a deeper look into Libya by inviting Libyan writers, and readers to submit their thoughts, articles and pitches but also their reading recommendations to us.

    Explosive Remnants of War in post revolution Libya. Picture by United Nations Development Programme / Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) Some rights reserved. During the month of September, North Africa West Asia (NAWA) is calling for submissions and pitches on Libya.

    Since the beginning of the Libyan uprising and especially with the military intervention that led to the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has become a ghost haunting any discussion of internationalism in Syria, and as primary evidence of western conspiracies for regime change. While much is discussed about Syria, very little has been heard from Libyans and Libya outside of the simplified dichotomy that we see in mainstream media. While indeed part of the story of Syria is located in Libya, the latter’s story is crucial to be told for its own sake.  

    NAWA seeks to provide a deeper look into Libya by inviting Libyan writers, and readers to submit their thoughts, articles and pitches but also their reading recommendations to us. Though many foreigners have studied and written on Libya, we aim to bolster the voice and experience of Libyans for this series.

    Our focus will be on the call for and the aftermath of intervention. How has the Libyan uprising altered internationalism and what is happening in Libya in the aftermath of the intervention?

    You can submit your pitches or texts (50 to 100 words) and / or reading suggestions to

    Country or region: 
    CC by NC 4.0
  9. Job: openDemocracy project editor - part time lead editorial / communications role for Civil Society Futures

    Civil Society Futures is the independent inquiry into how English civil society can flourish in a fast changing world. We're looking for someone to take on the role of facilitating our online debate.

    Civil Society Futures is the independent inquiry into how English civil society can flourish in a fast changing world. We are talking with people across the country about how their community groups, charities, social movements, trade unions, social enterprises and all forms of collective action beyond the market and state can thrive through the next decade and beyond. 

    Our approach is participative and based on dialogue. We are looking for someone with journalistic skills to facilitate the online element of that conversation. The role will involved commissioning, editing, writing, publishing, and use of social media to generate discussion.

    This is a 2 day a week contract for a freelance, self-employed editor from October 2017 - December 2018 at a day rate of up to £137.50. The role requires working closely with people in the openDemocracy and Forum for the Future offices in London. Ability to work from these on a regular basis would be an advantage but we would be willing to consider applications from outside London.

    The role includes:

    - commissioning, editing and publishing essays, articles, podcasts, and films about different elements of the future of civil society on our online hub

    - building online engagement with the inquiry through Twitter, Facebook, and other social media.

    - ensuring the voices of marginalised and oppressed groups are central to the inquiry.

    - stimulating broader discussion and conversation both online and off about the future of civil society in England.

    - promoting key elements of the inquiry, such as our events and our call for contributions, across social media and to specific groups.

    - planning and organisation of coverage, including mapping out publishing as it relates to events, such as those held by partners, proactively identifying interesting opportunities to run social media campaigns (eg around significant political events or inquiry moments).

    - keeping partners briefed on plans and progress: actively communicating and engaging with the broader team about the work being done across the inquiry, and developing ideas for how to communicate it.

    - managing and supporting the project co-ordinator in their comms work.

    - working with the openDemocracyUK editor and the project co-ordinator and manager in expanding the conversation beyond our own hub and into other media.

    - being aware of, utilising and promoting the project’s design principles in every aspect of your work.

    Person spec:

    The right person will meet most of the following criteria:

    - ability to take a strategic overview of the inquiry’s commissioning and communications needs.

    - ability to edit writing to make it flow elegantly and ensure that ideas are as clearly presented as possible.

    - ability to build a presence on social media, with experience of working on Facebook and Twitter in a professional capacity.

    - an interest in the future of civil society in England and how it needs to adapt in order to secure change in a fast changing world.

    - experience of being structurally oppressed, and struggling against it with others (such as through racism or sexism)

    - ability to work collaboratively with a range of people from different organisations and multiple disciplines with different working styles and different opinions.

    - ability to support people to communicate their ideas even when you're not sure you agree with their ideas.

    - ability to be adaptable, flexible and experimental - able to work iteratively and respond to what's emerging in the civil society space

    - ability to curate and make sense of what's happening on other platforms and in other spaces to inform a responsive commissioning approach.

    - enthusiastic about the Inquiry, proactive, and able to generate and deliver ideas.

    You can read an outline of the project here and check out the online hub here.

    All applicants will receive fair and equal treatment irrespective of age, gender, sexuality, marital or parental status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin or religious belief. As members of ethnic minority groups are currently under-represented we would encourage applications from members of these groups. Flexible working arrangements will also be considered. Appointment will be based on merit alone.

    To apply, please click here to submit your CV and a cover letter (of no more than two pages each) which details how you meet the criteria in the person specification plus 500 words on what you consider to be the biggest opportunities for civil society in England. The deadline for applications is 10am on 2 October 2017.

    CC by NC 4.0
  10. Call for participants: Tunisia, Middle East Forum

    يبحث موقع openDemocracy عن مشاركين لمنتدى الشرق الأوسط لتونس.

    openDemocracy is looking for participants for the Middle East Forum for Tunisia.

    The Middle East Forum is a project that encourages emerging young voices to express themselves, exchange views and be heard. The project provides participants with a series of workshops to develop writing skills, media presence, and digital security as well as a free discussion space where they have the capacity to debate constructively. Participants in the forum host speakers, acquire skills, share knowledge, and give feedback to one another.

    We are currently looking for 7 participants in or from Tunisia to join the project. If you are interested in participating in this project and developing your journalistic skills read the information below and send in your application.


    We expect that each participant will have the opportunity to achieve the following benefits:

    • - Career-related experience
    • - Practical and increased practice-based knowledge of journalistic writing, debate, social media
    • - Training which enhances digital security and the handling of human rights issues
    • - Increased knowledge and experience on how to create an online journalistic presence

    Participants will be expected to:

    • - Adhere to policies, procedures, and rules governing professional behavior;
    • - maintain a punctual and reliable working relationship, abiding by the scheduled sessions and number of articles agreed to;
    • - communicate regularly with the facilitator, particularly in situations where the participant may need to adjust the terms of the working relationship (e.g., to reschedule a meeting/session);
    • - respect the opinions expressed and confidentiality of the group;
    • - take the initiative to volunteer for tasks or projects that the participant finds interesting.


    In addition to these general expectations, the participant will also be required to meet the following requirements during the program:

    • - Meet a minimum commitment of 12 sessions;
    • - develop a working relationship with the facilitator, such that he or she can adequately serve as a mentor;
    • - actively engage in debate, with a focus on the topics and how the discussions unfold;
    • - actively take notes during each session, to be shared amongst the group;
    • - actively engage and participate in developing an online space for debate;
    • - actively produce a minimum of one article per month, based on the discussions that take place;
    • - understand how to and actively promote your work;
    • - evaluate and monitor your own success in terms of reach;
    • - upon completion of the program, reflect upon and write about your experience during the program.

    Who can apply?

    You can apply for the position if you fall under any of the following:

    • Between the age of 21 - 30;
    • Are an aspiring journalist or blogger;
    • Possess knowledge in the specific region of the program;
    • Have an excellent command of Arabic and/or English.

    How to apply?

    • - Send in a sample piece of 1000-1500 words in Arabic or English of something that interests you - a conversation that took place that struck a chord, an observation from your surroundings, a cultural event, an interesting initiative, your point of view on the politics of the region or why you would like to take part in this program.
    • - Your resume.

    Deadline for applicaiton: September 15th.

    منتدى الشرق الأوسط هو مشروع يشجّع الأجيال الصاعدة الشابّة على التعبير عن نفسها وتبادل الآراء وإيصال صوتها. يقدّم المشروع للمشاركين سلسلة من ورش العمل لتطوير مهاراتهم في الكتابة والحضور الإعلامي والأمن الرقمي كما يوفّر المشروع فضاء للمناقشات يمنح المشاركين فرصة التحاور بطريقة بنّاءة. يستضيف المشاركون في المنتدى متحدثين ويكتسبون مهارات ويتشاركون المعلومات ويعبّرون عن رأيهم بعمل زملائهم.

    نبحث عن 7 مشتركين من تونس للانضمام إلى المشروع. إذا كنت مهتماً بالمشاركة في المشروع وبتطوير مهاراتك الصحفية، تابع القراءة وأرسل طلبك.


    سيحظى كلّ مشترك بفرصة اكتساب الأمور التالية: 

    -       خبرة مهنية

    -       معرفة عملية بالكتابة الصحفية والمناظرات ووسائل التواصل الاجتماعي

    -       تدريب يعزّز الإلمام بالأمن الرقمي والتطرّق إلى قضايا حقوق الإنسان

    -       إلمام إضافي وخبرة في كيفية تعزيز الحضور الصحفي على الإنترنت

    يُتوّقع من المشتركين:

    -       احترام السياسات والإجراءات والقواعد الملائمة للسلوك المحترف

    -       المحافظة على علاقة عمل دقيقة وموثوقة والالتزام بالجلسات المعيّنة وبعدد المقالات المتفق عليه

    -       التواصل بانتظام مع الميسّر، وتحديداً في المواقف التي يحتاج فيها المشترك إلى تعديل شروط علاقة العمل (مثلاً، تغيير موعد الحصة/الاجتماع)

    -       احترام السرية والآراء المعبّر عنها ضمن المجموعة

    -       أخذ المبادرة للتطوّع لمهمات أو مشاريع يجدها المشترك مثيرة للاهتمام


    بالإضافة إلى المتطلبات العامة، يجب أن يلتزم المشترك بالتالي خلال البرنامج:

    -       الالتزام بحدّ أدنى من الحصص يساوي 12حصة

    -       تطوير علاقة عمل مع الميسّر للعب دور المرشد بشكل صحيح

    -       المشاركة بالمناظرات بنشاط والتركيز على المواضيع وكيفية تبلور النقاش

    -       تدوين الملاحظات فعلياً خلال كلّ حصة وتشاركها مع المجموعة

    -       الانخراط في تطوير فضاء إلكتروني للمناظرات والمشاركة فيه

    -       كتابة مقال واحد على الأقلّ في الشهر، استناداً إلى المناقشات التي حصلت

    -       فهم كيفية تحسين عملك وتطبيق ذلك

    -       تقييم ومراقبة نجاحك استناداً إلى اتساع نطاق تأثيرك

    -       التفكير في تجربتك والكتابة عنها لدى إتمام البرنامج

    مَن المرشّحون لهذا التدريب؟

    يمكنك التقدّم بطلب إذا:

    -       كنت بين سنّ 21 و30؛

    -       كنت تطمح لتصبح صحفياً أو مدوّناً؛

    -       لديك إطّلاع واسع على المنطقة المحددة للبرنامج؛

    -       تتكلّم وتكتب العربية و/أو الإنكليزية بطلاقة.

    كيف يمكن التقدّم للتدريب؟

    أرسِل نصّاً من  1000 – 1500 كلمة باللغة الإنكليزية أو العربية عن موضوع يهمّك، مثلاً حوار أثّر فيك أو مراقبتك لمحيطك أو حدث ثقافي أو مبادرة مثيرة للاهتمام أو وجهة نظرك حول سياسات المنطقة أو سبب اهتمامك بالمشاركة في البرنامج بالاضافة الى سيرتك.

    الرجاء إرسال جميع الطلبات والمستندات المرتبطة بها إلى موقع والموعد النهائي للتقديم هو 15 سبتمبر.

    Country or region: 
    CC by NC 4.0
If you like the information I provide, please donate to help ensure this site and podcast will continue. Thank You!
This Week
This Month

Your IP:
Server Time: 2017-09-22 07:35:42