The Commonwealth: On the brink of irrelevance?

Today I gave the following speech during the opening plenary of the Commonwealth People’s Forum in Perth, Australia. The opening question is, I think, relevant to us all.

Where do we, civil society, find ourselves as we near the end of 2011?

The heady optimism of the 1990s following the fall of the Berlin wall and its promise of a global wave of democracy and freedom, and the growing power of citizen action symbolized by the protests at the WTO in Seattle were quickly followed by a decade of the “war on terror” used as an excuse by many governments around the world to restrict freedoms of information, expression, and assembly. Instead of the sweeping vision of the Earth Charter and the Millennium Declaration we settled, in the wake of 9/11, for the relatively minimalist, technocratic MDGs. Continue reading

People power for aid effectiveness

It is all too easy to get so mired in the minutiae of development jargon that one misses the big picture entirely. As many civil society organisations and networks negotiate, analyse and plan their way to the 4th High level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea, this post by Hans Zomer, Director of Dochas Ireland, and a CIVICUS member, reminds us what cooperation for effective development is, or should be, all about.

The Busan High Level Forum follows up on earlier summits on aid effectiveness, in particular the 2005 Paris Declaration and the 2008 Accra Agenda for Action, which were organised as aid donors realised that the current donor landscape is not conducive to delivering on the MDGs. Continue reading

Critical mass: defining an agenda for progressive action

Progressive activists have for decades lamented the disengagement of young people, the working and middle classes, philanthropists and the mainstream media from processes that pursue systemic change. Apathy, inertia, cynicism, myopia or simple, pragmatic self-interest appeared to outweigh the disenchantment, doubts, even anger, at rapidly growing inequity and unfettered market fundamentalism. Continue reading

Gender Equality: a core objective of development – World Bank Development Report 2012

Gender Equality has never been more relevant for development. This summarises the World Bank Development Report on Gender Equality and Development. The World Bank launched the World Development Report 2012 on Gender Equality and Development in Johannesburg on 10 October 2011. The report clearly shows how gender equality is necessary for sustainable development through research in different parts of the world. Although progress has been made over the last two decades to improve the lives of women and girls in terms of literacy, access to resources, life expectancy and maternal mortality many countries are still struggling to make significant progress on gender equality. Continue reading

South Africa fails an ethical test: Dalai Lama cancels planned visit

For the second time in two years the government of South Africa finds itself in an embarrassing position. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a national and global icon, celebrates his 80th birthday this week. Among the invited guests was his fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate, the Dalai Lama. Faced with the choice of either welcoming to its shores an individual who is synonymous with peace, spirituality, resilience and courage, or kowtowing to the demands of its largest trading partner, the government of South Africa delayed a decision on granting a visa, forcing the Dalai Lama to eventually cancel his visit. Continue reading