World Congress Against the Death Penalty

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ARAB WORLD IN PROGRESS

Death-penalty

In the inaugural conference of the 5th Congress which took place in Madrid (12-15 July 2013), the Iraqi minister of Justice asserted:

«The death penalty (in Iraq) applies only for serious crimes, as acts of terrorism and violent crimes. »

But for Nasser Abood who tops the Iraq Coalition Against the Death Penalty, these arguments do not stand:

« After China and Iran, Iraq is the third country (in the area) to run the death penalty. The problem is that most people who are sentenced to death are innocent but have confessed under constraint of torture and violence. In addition there is discrimination in implementing the death penalty for religious reasons, while militias’ activities of those who govern the country, go unpunished. The Iraqi government applies capital punishment to adjust political accounts or on behalf of religious faith. It is easy to focus into others responsibility for acts of terrorism (…) who might be convicted at all costs. »

Nasser Abood points out that five people were executed although innocent. He feels very lonely and without political support:

«Unfortunately, the government does not support the abolition of the death penalty. »

At northeast, in the Iraqi Kurdistan, the situation seems different. In Erbil, Mustapha Chouaf, coordinator of the Coalition of Kurdistan against the death penalty, a moratorium on executions is real. The last execution took place three years ago:

«When we speak of Iraq we should actually speak of two distinct geographical entities: Iraqi Kurdistan and Iraq. In Iraqi Kurdistan the death penalty does not apply, not so in the rest of Iraq. For example, in Iraqi Kurdistan, there are people incarcerated over 18 years, but they are not executed. There is awareness that Kurdistan should stop executions permanently. In Iraq, where the number of executions of persons who committed terrorist attacks has multiplied, the number of these attacks has been increasing. Executions did not reduce violence. So the death penalty is useless. »

Mustapha Chouaf has proposed to parliament of Iraqi Kurdistan a project to commute death sentences to 20 years imprisonment penalties. Over time, he would like to apply the abolition to all crimes by law. In the region the reluctance to such proposal is important while politicians hide behind the arguments of public opinion pressure or religious arguments. And it is Jordan who wants to be an example –as explains Mohhammad Altaraune, Judge of the High Criminal Court in Amman, and who also leads the Arab Coalition Against the Death Penalty:

«The last execution took place three years ago, when death penalty was abolished for ten rules, and, in cooperation with Parliament and civil society, we hope to abolish it for verified crimes as well. There is no reluctance from community if people are aware of the importance of resisting to the death penalty. »

Except Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Yemen, with the largest number of death penalty executions in the region –not to talk of Syria at war–, the remaining states in the region spot a moratorium, but they remain very reluctant to take a conclusive step towards the death penalty abolition –including Egypt and Lebanon.

Business and Human Rights, a difficult bridal

After six years in office the UN Special Representative for Business and Human Rights, Professor John Ruggie, acknowledges that he has made ​​progress in his job since his appointment in 2005, but he has been mainly driven by many NGOs that accused for decades the companies’ manners in some countries, particularly international businesses. Carlos Lopez, a senior legal advisor to the International Commission of Jurists, an NGO based in Geneva, reports that national and international corporations – and the states from which they originate – are opposed to excessively restrictive obligations or texts.

These firms consider that these rules could affect their ability to compete against other companies from China, India or Russia, which have different standards. But precisely a hundred years ago, the International Labour Organisation was created to establish standards that everyone would agree to meet.

It goes now beyond the rights of workers. Some suggest e.g. a set of standards, such as the right to a healthy environment. But businesses and their respective states do not want to hear about it. They say we must leave the markets go without putting rules that may impede business operations. Otherwise, facing too many binding rules (eg. taxes), they are afraid they will make less profit. There’s the rub.

A country where standards should urgently be implemented is the Democratic Republic of Congo. Navanethem Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, has repeatedly criticized the serious violations of human rights in the region, breaches connected to the mining activities and the extraction of natural resources, which are often contracted with transnational industries.

Many armed groups control these areas and they do it for economic reasons. They want to make a lucrative profit because these regions are rich in minerals. It is very well described in the meddling report to the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights. It is precisely in these pockets controlled by armed groups that mining is organized. They manage resource exploitation in situations of terrible abuse that could be defined as international crimes. In addition, international companies and companies located in other countries buy these minerals and are therefore involved in transactions. So there are different levels of involvement of foreign companies. And the international community does little to change that.

Yet the situation in DRC is closely followed by the Security Council. It has established codes of conduct and asks corporations to pay particular attention to the fact that minerals mined in the DRC do not benefit armed groups and do not help fueling the conflict. Companies should have clearer objectives in terms of respect for human rights. It should set more rules to ensure that the entire chain, all activities in any way, do not violate human rights. And that in addition they do not contribute to ensure that others do so.

Last June John Ruggie’s mandate ended. The first Special Representative of the UN for Business and Human Rights has succeeded anyway adopting common principles. However, he did not want that these principles were binding. Thus, only the goodwill shall prevail. That is a bit thin in the competitive world of these often lawlessness areas where victims have often no remedy at law.

Do Reforms Inhibit or Support African Development?

THE AFRICAN GOVERNANCE CRISIS (4/4)

After the analysis of decades  of public sector reform in Africa with special focus on Ghana, one can draw the conclusion that the  external support during the 1980ies has been  vital,  but  to  some  degree  harmful  due  to  a  “faulty  diagnosis  and  prognosis” (1). The African public sector during that time cannot be described as too big, but as expanding. This growth was a direct result from the new-won independence and was therefore a necessary step of taking control.

In order to overcome the economic decline in the 1980ies African states were dependent on foreign investments. While the IMF, the World Bank and individual donors did provide the money, they also set unfitting goals and an unrealistic time schedules. Instead of strengthening the existing system of public administration, Western NPM methods of downsizing, retrenchment and cost cutting were introduced. As has been stated in the above, African states did not have an oversupply of qualified civil servants, but a demand for the latter. Instead of ensuring their loyalty and providing a better education for them, many positions were cut and the crucial increase of salaries was implemented with reluctance (2).

The results of these reforms of the public administration of the 1980ies in Ghana and other countries were modest to say the least. From a different point of view, one could even assert that they were modest from a short-term perspective, but fatal in a long-term perspective, because they focused on technicalities in order to save money – that actually weakened the civil service (1) and ignored the core aspects of successful public sectors. While it might make great sense to concentrate on cost-cutting and downsizing of the public administration in Western countries like the UK or  Germany – where  a  certain ethic belief may  be  attributed  to  the  public officials because of centuries of institutionalized rules and norms – African bureaucracies were nowhere near this point of development. If one observes the economic progress of Asian tiger states whose economies greatly strengthened during the past decades, one is also able to attribute this success to strong systems of public administration (3).

As there is no such history in African public management, it seems obvious that an emphasis has to be laid on the establishment of civil service ethics and accountability. One could conclude, that the reforms of the 1980ies in Africa skipped one step, because they  aimed  at  shrinking  something  that  wasn’t  even  stable  to  begin  with.  Only technicalities were at focus. Therefore, one is drawn to argue that reforms from this time period inhibited the development of committed reformers in Africa.

Of course, this statement must be handled with care, as one does not have the possibility of comparison with an African country that did not follow the NPM reforms at all. However, cutting costs at the wrong places led to the “unfolding challenges” (4) African countries encountered during the 1990ies and even in the new millennium. While techniques for more ethical behavior and accountability are decided on, their implementation must be coordinated among the African states. Instead of relying on external help, the more successful countries have to set an example and support  the weak links.

Dealing with these problems, the UN concludes:

“For poor, resource-constrained countries, the reform challenges are daunting, not because the countries do not know what to do, but because they lack the resources to initiate and sustain a comprehensive program of change.” (4)

Financial aid is thus still vital today. But instead of forcing these different systems to adapt Western ideals of public administration reforms, the support should be engaged on the  education  of  civil  servants,  hence  human  capacity  building  and  training.  In combination with a rise of public official salaries, the two core weaknesses identified in this work would be tackled. While the downsizing of the public sector has already taken place, one could attempt to stabilize this system now. Therefore, the current trend of African civil service reform can no longer in any way be attributed with an inhibition of the countries’ development.

On the whole, it has been clear that the reforms of the NPM-wave during the 1980ies did   little   to   promote   sustainable   development   in   African   public   sectors   and consequently in the countries’ economies (1) (2). Despite these negative experiences and the sentiment of wasted money, external support is a sine qua non in Africa now. The necessary strategies can only be implemented after the application of sophisticated analyses and diagnoses and with the involvement of all stakeholders, especially the civil servants in regard to more ethical behavior (2).

Only by doing so, policies – such as the liberalization of markets, vital for a more successful participation in global trade – can be implemented.

In order to highlight the difficulties encountered by Ghana and other African states in establishing an efficient and sustainable civil service resulting in a stronger economic development, this paper concentrated on the introduced governance crisis (2). However, there are of course great inter-dependencies between the public administration and the central government of a country. The best governance system would only get so far without a stable, organized and constitutional government (4). It would be interesting to analyze these realities for African states, as it seems logical that weak governments are another trigger for underdevelopment.

On the whole, one can conclude that reforms of the 1980ies were not customized for African   developing countries and most probably inhibited a quicker economic development. The second  wave of reforms however, is much more focused on the involvement and training of civil servants, which is – as seen in the cases of Developed Countries and Tiger States – crucial for a stable public  administration and economic growth. If provided with the necessary financial aid, reform-committed African states like Ghana could indeed face an overcome of economic underdevelopment.

Related posts:
· The African Governance Crisis (1/4) · A sift inventory of Africa’s development problems
· The African Governance Crisis (2/4) · The Consequences of Reforms on the African Civil Service
· The African Governance Crisis (3/4) · Rehabilitating the African Civil Service
· Millennium Development Goals: Fragile states claim summit outcome off-target

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(1) Olowu, B. (1999). Redesigning African Civil Service Reforms. In: The Journal of Modern African Studies 37, 1 (1999). Cambridge University Press.
(2) Adamolekun, L. (2005). Re-Orienting Public Management in Africa: Selected Issues and Some Country Experiences. In: African Development Bank – Economic Research Paper Series No. 81.
(3) Evans, P. (1995). The State as Problem and Solution: Predation, Embedded Autonomy, and Structural Change. In: Politics and Society.
(4) United Nations. (2005). Public Administration and Development – Report of the Secretary General.

Rehabilitating the African Civil Service

THE AFRICAN GOVERNANCE CRISIS (3/4)

The customary  problems  of  public  sector  ineffectiveness  due  to  erroneous  reform movements – leading to a reduction instead of a reinforcement of the system – and the ongoing  danger  of  corrupt  public  officials,  give  reason  to  speculate  about  more successful policies for the reinvention of the African public administration. In order to do so, public service ministers came together in Stellenbosch, South Africa in 2003 to respond to “unfolding challenges” in African public administration (1).

In accordance with some reform approaches of the late 1990ies, the aim of new reforms is to switch to home-grown and demand driven methods directed at specific problems and challenges instead of the donor-pressured goals of broad downsizing and cost- cutting (1). While the UN observes that contemporary reform methods do still aim to improve business and customer satisfaction techniques –“a  carry-over from the early days  of  New  Public  Management”  (1),  intangible  reform  topics   such   as  the implementation of norms and values as well as public service ethics and accountability play a vital role.

Since African countries like Ghana do not possess the financial assets necessary for a much needed rise of public servant salaries, it seems crucial to at least stabilize the employees feeling of normative obligations. Despite negative experiences citizens have encountered with corrupt public officials so far, the latter must still be expected to have a  special  awareness  for  accountability  since  they  belong  to  the  directly  elected government of the country (2). Von Maravic argues that ethics in public management influence the quality of decisions made in public administration as well as the trust the citizen has in the system. (3). Hence, if one could ensure the ethical comportment of public officials, African (and more precisely Ghanaian public administration) could highly improve.

However, at this point another problem must be faced: the lack of resources. In this way, the UN states:

“In many countries, public administration remains weak largely owing to a shortage of human resources and to deficiencies in staff training and motivation.“ (4).

When speaking about the amelioration of African public services, one must be cautious not to attempt to apply the same public sector reform logic to all African countries. The differentiation of Adamolekun provides a possible classification of African states that has been mentioned before when referring to Ghana as a reform-committed country.

The above  table  or  a  similar  one  could  be  used  in  order  to  ensure  a  sustainable improvement  of  African  public  administration  systems.  In regard to this, the UN highlights the necessity of information sharing among reforming African states (4). Implementing the homegrown, but still NPM influenced methods of public sector reform in combination with the support of ethical and accountable changes in countries of the “virtuous circle” could be a first step (5). While the public service ministers all attempt to work on similar criteria they must accept countries like Botswana, Namibia or South Africa as a ‘primus inter pares’and a focal point of orientation. Moreover, it is obvious that foreign investments are still necessary; however one must not repeat the mistakes of the 1980ies and let donor schedules pressure the implementation of reforms.

Related posts:
· The African Governance Crisis (1/4) · A sift inventory of Africa’s development problems
· The African Governance Crisis (2/4) · The Consequences of Reforms on the African Civil Service
· Millennium Development Goals: Fragile states claim summit outcome off-target

______________

(1) African Press Organization. (2008). 6th Conference of African Ministers of Public Service Opening Remarks.
(2) Solinski, H.M. (1993). Ethic-conscious outlook behavior in public administration in Switzerland. Considerations and suggestions for the introduction of an ethics understanding based on the American experience. Reports and contributions of the Institute for Business Ethics at the University of St. Gallen.
(3) Von Maravic, P. (2009). Ethical challenges in administrative action. 5/4/2009.
(4) United Nations. (2005). Public Administration and Development – Report of the Secretary General.
(5) Adamolekun, L. (2005). Re-Orienting Public Management in Africa: Selected Issues and Some Country Experiences. In: African Development Bank – Economic Research Paper Series No. 81.

The Horn of Africa, a recurring scenario of drought and famine

Refugees from Somalia have to walk for days to reach Dadaab camp

The Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya are grappling with the arrival of thousands of people fleeing drought and fighting in neighboring Somalia. Many, especially children, fail to survive the long journey.

Some 2,000 people have been arriving every day in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camps from Somalia, Ethiopia and drought-stricken areas in Kenya. Many walk for weeks to get there. Young children, in particular, often don’t survive the long journey or succumb to exhaustion and severe malnutrition even after reaching the camps. The Dadaab camps are currently home to some 350,000 people.

Crop failure, droughts and floods are not the only causes of hunger. Corruption, mismanagement and bad governance are mainly to blame for catastrophes such as the current famine in the Horn of Africa.

Every day, between 1,000 and 2,000 refugees from Somalia come to the Dadaab refugee camps in northern Kenya. They are fleeing from hunger – and from a nation which isn’t a country at all. The situation is so chaotic in southern Somalia, that it’s even dangerous for aid workers to go there. Rebel groups are spreading fear and terror among the population, blocking desperately needed food aid and making any possible help from the outside world impossible.

Add to this the extreme drought. The result is that many who are already living at the poverty level and below are robbed of their last chance to survive. The food scarcity is causing prices to soar. Whoever can’t pay them starves. Millet is a very important foodstuff in Somalia and is twice as expensive as it was just a short time ago. The people don’t have any choices anymore.

Democracy can battle hunger

But there’s no government to blame for the catastrophe in Somalia. The country is a classic example of a failed state. There is neither a government nor an administration. In these cases, hunger crises are practically inevitable.

The Indian economist and Nobel Prize laureate Amartya Sen proved that acute famine hardly occurs anymore in democracies. However, chronic hunger can prevail under democratically elected governments, as well. This means many people remain undernourished, but they don’t die in large numbers as a result.

Over a billion people worldwide are starving. This leads to a high level of childhood mortality, physical and mental handicaps and hopeless poverty.

Ethiopia can’t battle the problem

The catastrophe currently raging in the Horn of Africa is not daily hunger, though, but rather a famine of biblical dimensions. There are people starving to death during their flight, children who often don’t survive the weeks-long march to the Kenyan refugee camps in Dadaab, or who die shortly after arriving because they are already too weakened to survive.

They come from Somalia or Ethiopia, where the government is also in a desperate battle against hunger.

Ethiopia has invested enormously in the agrarian sector in the past 10 years. Every year, the number of starving has sunk by one to one-and-a-half percent, but beginning at a very high level.

However, the measures aren’t enough. Ethiopia belongs to the poorest countries in the world. The rapid growth in population makes it difficult to expand the agricultural sector sufficiently and ensure food security. A devastating drought like the one right now cannot be thwarted by investments in rural development. Those people who have lost their land or animals due to the drought can only resort to fleeing.

Promises need to be fulfilled

In the long-term, consistent investments in agriculture and poverty reduction is the only thing which could prevent hunger catastrophes like this one. And these need to be investments that are transparent and sustainable – without the funds seeping away through corruption and nepotism. All that, without leaving Africa back in the hands of agribusiness or predatory countries that acquire African land for monocultures and speculation on cereals (China, South Korea); by facilitating and promoting the capitalization of small-scale agricultural projects, local and traditional (encouraging microfinance at all possible levels to generate self-sustaining economies that will fuel food self-sufficiency) — instead of capital investments seeking a return on investment in the short-term.

African Union’s so-called Maputo agreement is welcomed for sure. In 2003, African countries pledged to invest 10 percent of their entire budget into agriculture. Unfortunately, Kenya for example, where the drought is threatening hundreds of thousands of people, has not kept this promise. Additional funds or food reserves need to be put aside for acute crises like this one. Or the international donor community has to be asked for help. But this additional aid by the international community has flowed fairly sparsely – despite all the promises. And it is by far not enough to battle a catastrophe of this degree. UN agencies have a mandate by the governments to help these people, but not the necessary funds.

Many aid organizations are already warning of the next famine: in South Sudan, which has just become independent. The UN’s youngest member nation is marked by a shortage of funds, lacking government competence and growing corruption. The downward spiral continues to turn.

Related Posts: The Horn of Africa – An everlasting battleground

The Consequences of Reforms on the African Civil Service

THE AFRICAN GOVERNANCE CRISIS (2/4)

 “Since the late 1980s, many African countries have been reforming their civil services (…) Unfortunately, these reforms have not been very successful because of faulty diagnosis and prognosis. They have failed to tackle the major problems confronting African civil services.” (1)

Before the analysis of African public administration reforms can be undertaken, one must remember that the landscape of Africa’s civil service was not build from scratch. With its independence from British colonial rule, countries like Ghana inherited a system of public management that fulfilled tasks of “assuring the continuity of the state and maintaining law and order” (2). However, the civil service was doomed to re-orientate after independence in order to follow national interests instead of the ones of former colonial rulers. The African Development Bank thus asserts  that  an  enormous  expansion  of  the  civil  service took  place  until  the  grave economic decline at the  end of the 1970ies leading to a full-scale development crisis (2). This is when reforms of the civil services this paper aims to concentrate on were launched. Ghana shall be utilized as a hands-on example in this work, because it may be identified as a reform-committed country (2) that demonstrates strong efforts to rehabilitate its public service despite tremendous economic shortfalls. Therefore, a lack of commitment can be dismissed as a possible inhibiting factor to a successful development of Ghanaian public administration.

The goal of the following chapter is thus to properly understand why policies from the 1980ies aiming at the economic stabilization and development of African states such as Ghana have shown little success (1). One of these policies is the liberalization African markets (3). Taking this as the initial point of  this  work’s  analysis,  one  is  more  likely  to  comprehend  the  nature  of  reforms launched  during  the  1980ies.  The question whether the latter actually inhibited or actually reversed Ghanaian administrative, hence ultimately economic progress shall now be at focus.

NPM-Waves in Africa

Influenced by donor countries providing the necessary financial support for reforms (4), the ideal of New Public Management began gaining ground as a leitmotif for reforms in Ghana and other SSA countries. In general one can follow Bamidele Olowu in asserting that “African civil services [were] originally modeled on their metropolitan precursors.” (1). Although New  Public Management does not  translate  into  the  same  dogmatically  closed  catalogue  of  instruments  in  every country, in this work NPM shall be understood as a business interpretation of administrative action, hence a trend toward micro economic behavior in public management.

According to Peter Evans, this phase of reforms in developing countries may be seen as market-centered (5). After decades of viewing the state as the ultimate instrument of development, reforms in the 1980ies were initiated under the sentiment of negative experiences with the central government, hence a thrive for a reduction of the state.

As mentioned before, Ghana like many other African countries experienced a great expansion of the civil service sector after the 1960ies (1). After the global oil crisis, African economic decline and the ideal of a business-oriented reform wave  of  the  public  administration,   this   growth  of  the  state  was  to  be  ended (2). Donor countries provided African states with the necessary financial aid for the cutback of civil services (4). To make this more accessible, one must look at some exact data, in this case from Ghana.

The shrinking of the Ghanaian public administration was tackled through a myriad of reforms steps. The most important ones for the analysis in this paper are as follows. A grand movement of organizational restructuring led to a reorganization of government ministries eliminating four agencies during the reform efforts. Hence, seemingly unnecessary agencies were cut.  Another method, which was very well received by donor countries, was Ghanaian retrenchment. The core goal of this policy may be seen in the cutback of unneeded civil servants in order to shrink the countries’ public administration system. Therefore, Ghana reduced its civil servants from 131 089 in 1990 to 80 000 in 1995 (1).

Despite the reduction of civil servants, the payment of the latter was to be increased. Therefore Ghana foresaw decompressing wages and providing higher salaries for public managers. While information on the actual increase varies depending on the source, it is safe to say that actual salaries in Ghana did not rise significantly. Although still higher than for many African countries, the increase during the reforms in Ghana was modest (2).

These three aspects of Ghanaian public sector reform are sufficient for the following line of argumentation. However it shall be noted that Ghana was also at the forefront in regard to privatization and decentralization of public services (1). Due to its British past and organizational influence, reforms like the latter were faster implemented than in other African countries (1).

Evaluation of the NPM Reforms in Africa

The crucial part now lies in the evaluation of the New Public Management reforms and their effect on policy-making capabilities of the African civil service.

As mentioned above, the size of the Ghanaian public administration was decreased in regard to the number of agencies as well as the number of employees. Donor countries favored this approach due to  the conviction that a smaller public sector would work more  efficiently  as  for  instance  experienced  in  the  UK  (3). Moreover, the state’s involvement was seen as one of the core problems in developing countries after the 1970ies (5), thus the idea of a roll back of the state was widely popular (6).

However, the African civil service was never abnormally big in comparison to other regions (1).

      Figure 1: Government Employment as a Percentage of Population (various recent years)

Source: Olowu, 1999, p. 9.

As visible in the above chart, the central as well as the local government in sub-Saharan Africa is much smaller than the OECD average. While the observation that there was an enormous growth of the latter may very well be correct, this must be viewed as a post- colonial necessity. It seems rather logical that a growing economy must increase its public administration capacities. In regard to the number of public employees, the UN states that the African public administration “is significantly understaffed in professional and managerial areas, and perhaps overstaffed in semi-skilled and unskilled areas.” (4).

Therefore, one must conclude that a reduction of Ghana’s civil service at all levels was contra-intuitive and defeating the purpose of a more effective public administration.

The retrenchment in the civil service in general has proven to be more costly than expected in the beginning. More precisely, the research on the proper identification of cost saving possibilities mostly exceeded the actual ex-post cost saving (1).

Ghana is once again a perfect example for this miscalculation as the country actually encountered cumulative losses as a result from downsizing in the 1980ies. Although  Ghana  has  been  classified  as  a  committed  reformer,  the  former  head  of Ghanaian civil service, Robert Dodoo asserted his dissatisfaction in regard to the reform movement. According to him, the reason for the lack of improvement of the country’s development lay in the “donor time-tables, agendas and conditionalities” (7). While external support was necessary and vital for an improvement of the African  civil  service  the  provision  of  money  came  with  unreasonably  short-term expectancies.  It  does  not  seem  surprising  that  a country in  danger  of  loosing  all monetary  support  decides  to   hustle  through  a  reform  and  risk  less  successful implementation instead of the loss of crucial financial aid.

There are two core weaknesses to be identified after this ex-post evaluation of the first part of African civil service reforms: (1) the way reform was embarked upon, along with (2) the goal of the reform.

The first point has been made quite clear with the previous statements of Robert Dodoo. The pressure for success coming from donor countries was in no way beneficial for the improvement of the Ghanaian civil service. As one of many, Ghana had agreed to reduce the cost of the public sector and implement questionable structural adjustment programs: “This was an explicit condition for financial support from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.” (2). Although the size of the civil service was reduced, the results in cost saving were modest.

But why reduce the African public administration at all? As demonstrated with the graph, the African civil service was in no way bigger than ones from many other states. While it was indeed expanding after the colonial rulers granted independence, this was a vital step toward a functioning economy and a sustainable development of countries like Ghana. State and market building are mutually dependent; hence a strong state in combination with a functioning market could be seen as the more adequate policy for Africa at this delicate time (3).

The World Bank itself states that

‘An effective  state  is  vital  for the  provision  of the  goods and  services  – and  the  rules  and institutions – that allow markets to flourish and people to lead healthier, happier lives. Without sustainable development, both economic and social is impossible.’ (8)

The problem  of  the  1980ies  believe  that  effectiveness  would  be  achieved  through downsizing is  made clear in the above. However, it now becomes tangible that the effects of the 1980ies reforms may very well have resulted in lacking capabilities to implement crucial policies for the countries’ development, i.e. the liberalization of markets. If there are too few agencies and employees to oversee the realization of liberalization, this process is doomed to fail.

The third reform step that shall be evaluated here is the alteration of salaries in the civil service. While there was indeed some increase in the salaries of civil servants in Ghana, they are still stunningly low (1).  When being confronted with unattractive   employment   opportunities, the reaction of workers is universally comparable. High-qualified human capital either leaves the country in order to find better-paid jobs or the employee opens him – or herself to corruption. A report by the IMF shows a strong correlation between wages in public administration relative to wages in manufacturing: “It is estimated that government wages needed to be 2×8 (…) times higher to make corruption negligible.” (The Economist 1997, Reasons to be venal).

Corruption is another major weakness of African public administration and must be seen as another NPM-influenced repercussion (1). Peter Evans asserts in this regard that methods of personalism and plundering at the top levels of African civil service destroy all possibilities of rule-governed behavior in the lower levels of public administration (5). More precisely, in order to make a living less qualified officials go along the example set at the top.

Another fatal repercussion of corruption for these countries is not only the waste of financial  resources,  but  also  the  cancelation  of  international  aid  programs  as  a punishment (5). Weak public administration with corrupt officials therefore results in a vicious circle for the whole country.

After evaluating the three vital reforms in Ghana, the downsizing of the public sector as well as an insufficient rise of civil servant salaries, in the following, this paper aims at observing some of the latest reform movements. By doing so, the goal is to make a recommendation as to where the development of the Ghanaian and African civil service should be headed in order to guarantee more capable ways of implementing policies for an improvement of the countries’ development.

Related posts:
· The African Governance Crisis (1/4) · A sift inventory of Africa’s development problems
· The African Governance Crisis (3/4) · Rehabilitating the African Civil Service
· Millennium Development Goals: Fragile states claim summit outcome off-target

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(1) Olowu, B. (1999). Redesigning African Civil Service Reforms. In: The Journal of Modern African Studies 37, 1 (1999). Cambridge University Press.
(2) Adamolekun, L. (2005). Re-Orienting Public Management in Africa: Selected Issues and Some Country Experiences. In: African Development Bank – Economic Research Paper Series No. 81.
(3) Chaudhry, K. A. (1993). Myths of the Market and the Common History of Late Developers.
(4) United Nations. (2005). Public Administration and Development – Report of the
Secretary General, Sixtieth Session.
(5) Evans, P. (1995). The State as Problem and Solution: Predation, Embedded Autonomy, and Structural Change. In: Politics and Society.
(6) Goldsmith, M. J. & Page, E. C. (1998). Farewell to the British State? In: Public Sector Reform by Jan-Erik Lane. London: SAGE Publications.
(7) Dodoo, R. (1996). The Core Elements of Civil Service Reforms. In: African Journal of Public Administration and Management
(8) World Bank. (1997). World Development Report. New York: Oxford University Press

A sift inventory of Africa’s development problems

THE AFRICAN GOVERNANCE CRISIS (1/4)

Index of African Governance Human Development

Index of African Governance Human Development © European Statistical Laboratory

The underdevelopment of developing countries and the attempted overcome of the latter are at heart of international debates ever since development politics began gaining ground in world politics in the 1960ies. Today, African states receive special attention in regard to possibilities of an amelioration of their economic status quo.

Core problems  of  these  so-called  Least  Developed  Countries  (LDCs)  are  a  highly restricted  access  to  basic  human  needs  such  as  food,  water,  energy  resources  or medicine.  Moreover “social services and infrastructure have largely collapsed  owing  to  a  lack  of  resources  for  their  upkeep.”  (1). Although the Millennium Development Goal aiming at a worldwide reduction of extreme poverty by 50% is expected to be reached until 2015, this data must be considered with caution in regard to Africa. While countries such as India or China, who are also targeted by the UN agenda  do  indeed  face  an  incredible  improvement  of  public  wealth,  sub-Saharan countries are at risk of being left behind permanently. More precisely, the UN today expects goals such as the reduction of extreme poverty to be reached in Africa no sooner than in 150 years (1).  This vicious circle of underdevelopment is well highlighted in the Human Development Index. From the 1980ies until the end of the millennium 13 of 22 countries that suffered large setbacks were African (1). Among a great number of possible explanations for this economic disaster, one of the most plausible ones is the conviction that “governance and public administration  weaknesses,  [and]  the  failure  to  reflect  poverty  concerns  in  budget allocations…” (1) generate economic gaps. This analysis thus aims to demonstrate that so far weak governance institutions are one of the main causes for the above-depicted underdevelopment of some African countries.

But how exactly does the public administration system of sub-Saharan LDCs affect their (economic) development?

Many theories regarding the economic improvement of these poorest countries have been launched and abolished. Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has been at the receiving end of a myriad of developmental experiments ranging from modernization concepts to self-help and good governance approaches. The core train of thought driving these, mostly Western models of development, has been the ideal of market liberalization (2) as  a  motor  for development.  But  what  is  often  forgotten  when  dealing  with  the  approach  of  free markets is the vitality of  strong governance institutions. Kiren Chaudhry and Peter Evans acknowledge that market building and state building must go hand in hand (2)(3). More precisely, they hereby avert from the idea of a simple roll back of the state of New Public Management (NPM) reforms launched during the 1980ies (4).  The UN General Assembly corroborates: “With challenges of poverty and growing inequality (…) organized and constitutional Government becomes the only guarantee of personal and collective security.”  (1).

Although development aid or development strategies in general may have fallen into some disgrace during the last decades due to little trickle down effect and images of corrupt African leaders wasting  Western money for their personal pleasure,  increased  financial  aid  might  be a sine qua non at this crucial time of development of African governance institutions. A lack of financial resources leads to dramatic human capital flight in the African public administration (1). Further, NPM-like cuts in administrative resources in order to minimize the size of African public management could have led to a setback and to less development in the target countries.

The reforms of the civil sector in Africa so far have been mainly concerned with technicalities, such as the reduction of the size and the cost of the public sector (5).

However, this approach fails – as I shall argue later in more detail – to comprehend the crucial task of building lasting human and institutional aptitudes.

This contribution therefore aims to concentrate on the civil service sector of underdeveloped sub-Saharan countries. Questions such as: ‘What kind of reforms were implemented?’ must be answered before diving into the complex task of evaluating the latter and discussing a different approach to possible improvement in the civil service, hence in the countries’ development. Thus, in a first step, this paper will focus on some major reforms in reform-committed African countries such as Ghana and underline the weakness of the attempts to change the system of public management (6).

A second step will then be dedicated to suggestions of a new direction for the handling of the African public administration.

In a last step, this paper then aims to draw a conclusion and answer the initial question whether public sector reforms in Africa so far actually inhibit or support development.

Related posts:
· The African Governance Crisis (2/4) · The Consequences of Reforms on the African Civil Service
· The African Governance Crisis (3/4) · Rehabilitating the African Civil Service
· Millennium Development Goals: Fragile states claim summit outcome off-target

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(1) United Nations. (2005). Public Administration and Development – Report of the Secretary General. Sixtieth Session.
(2) Chaudhry, K. A. (1993). Myths of the Market and the Common History of Late Developers.
(3) Evans, P. (1995). The State as Problem and Solution: Predation, Embedded Autonomy, and Structural Change. In: Politics and Society.
(4) Goldsmith, M. J. & Page, E. C. (1998). Farewell to the British State? In: Public Sector Reform by Jan-Erik Lane. London: SAGE Publications.
(5) Olowu, B. (1999). Redesigning African Civil Service Reforms. In: The Journal of Modern African Studies 37, 1 (1999). Cambridge University Press.
(6) Adamolekun, L. (2005). Re-Orienting Public Management in Africa: Selected Issues and Some Country Experiences. In: African Development Bank – Economic Research Paper Series No. 81.

War of words

While we wait for history to judge the decision of the Security Council, words place themselves as judges.

The war in Libya is not virtual but very real. Then the outcome depends a lot on the war of words. Prudence dictates to wait for a positive outcome (with a free Libya at the end of the tunnel) or a disastrous issue instead (with a Muammar el-Qaddafi stronger and more upset than ever) for the decision of the UN Security Council to be judged in the light of history And while we wait for the history words place themselves as judgeswords used to judge what is happening in Libya.

The purpose of resolution 1973 of the Security Council was to protect the Libyan people against the tyrant, but as this reality bothers the tyrant he relieves all sorts of conceivable semantic tricks to transvesty reality and attempt to pass for a victim. Seeing is believing. Muammar el-Qaddafi vows to protect his people against the foreign invader when in fact it is about protecting the very people from the aggression of the tyrant. The crasser is the lie the more likely it is to pass through as true. And it would be a mistake to trifle with it because although the colonel’s propaganda is particularly rough and fallacious, his misinformation affects those whom such propaganda is flattering given their self-interest or ideological reasons. Such as in the case of some countries, headed by China (whom Muammar el-Qaddafi has promised concessions in the Libyan oil if they look the other way – thus allowing him to get out of trouble), as in the case of other regimes - Arab or not - who have no desire for the UN interfering in their affairs to ensure compliance or not with human rights in their respective countries.

But there is a category even more revolting: that of narrow-minded and dumb ideologists  for which any intervention involving Western countries is imperialist by nature. These zealous advocates suffer from true migraines because if, by any chance, Westerners were not a horde of unkind and greedy people, then the imposture  would not fit into their lowbrow straitjacket. It has to be particularly indigestible for them to witness how Western and Arab countries assume jointly undeniable risks to save Libyan rebels – including those who are shouting “Allahu Akbar “. The more if you believe upside down in the war of civilizations and that you deem the intervention hides, as usual, other unlawful and guilt-producing interests.

What then is the alternative to doing nothing?
Muammar el-Qaddafi counts on that unfortunately widespread – ominous approach. That’s why it is essential to avoid falling into the trap by describing this coalition as a typical western one and try on the contrary to associate the largest possible number of Arab countries. It was not easy to reach an agreement and this alliance will not last long, we know that. As soon as the first air strikes took place, the secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, started disassociating oneself. In fact, this former Mubarak minister, greeted by some Egyptians for his hostility to Israel and his support to the revolution, has just one thing in mind: to become the next president of Egypt. And in this case, Mr. Amr Moussa wanted to bet on all winning horses to seduce western countries by giving support to the resolution draft, but without having to accommodate and assume the consequences in the eyes of the Arab citizens in general and in Egyptians’  in particular. The dude in fact bet on Russian and Chinese veto power. But it was not so. Hence his current confusion and hardship, especially having regard to the Egyptian people sensitivity, whose solidarity with the suffering of the Libyan people is more than obvious. The opportunism of Mr. Amr Moussa is currently blamed by Egyptians: he wanted to flatter the people and adulate their demons. He got the wrong war and marched out of step as Libya’s events have nothing to do with the war in Iraq: rebels yell in Benghazi without blushing: “Merci la France, Thak U America” (which for sure would not last long, we know that): indeed, many who now criticize the military intervention would make a great fuss if the United Nations had been passive not facing the massacres of Muammar el-Qaddafi. If the UN would have done so, now Benghazi would have fallen into the hands of the tyrant, the people would have been crushed and probably the Arab spring would have come to an end.

While we wait for history to judge the decision of the Security Council words place themselves as judges.

The war in Libya is not virtual but very real. Then the outcome depends a lot on the war of words. Prudence dictates to wait for a positive outcome (with a free Libya at the end of the tunnel) or else a disastrous issue (with a Colonel Gaddafi stronger and more upset than ever) for the decision of the Security Council of UN to be judged in the light of history And while we wait for the history words set themselves up as judges, words used to judge what is happening in Libya.

The purpose of resolution 1973 of the Security Council was to protect the Libyan people against the tyrant, but as this reality bothers the tyrant he relieves all sorts of conceivable semantic tricks to transvesting reality and attempt to pass for a victim. Seeing is believing. Colonel Gaddafi vows to protect his people against the foreign invader when in fact it is about protecting the very people from the aggression of the tyrant. The crasser is the lie the more likely it is to pass through as true. And it would be a mistake to trifle with it because although the colonel’s propaganda is particularly rough and fallacious, his misinformation affects those whom such propaganda is flattering given their self-interest or ideological reasons. Such as in the case of some countries, headed by China (whom Gaddafi has promised concessions in the Libyan oil if they look the other way – thus allowing him to get out of trouble), as is the case of other regimes - Arab or otherwise - who have no desire for the UN interfering in their affairs to ensure compliance or not tof human rights in their respective countries.

But there is a category even more awful: the narrow-minded and dumb ideologues for which any intervention involving Western countries is imperialist by nature. They suffer from true migraines because the opposing would not fit into their intellectual straitjacket. It should be particularly indigestible for them seeing how Western and Arab countries assume jointly undeniable risks to save Libyan rebels – including those who are shouting Allahu Akbar “. Even more if one believes in the war of civilizations upside down and says that the intervention hides other unlawful interests.

What then is the alternative to doing nothing?
And the colonel Qaddafi counts on that unfortunately widespread – ominous approach. That’s why it is essential to avoid falling into the trap by describing this coalition as western one and try on the contrary to associate the largest possible number of Arab countries. It was not easy to reach an agreement and this alliance will not last long, we know that. As soon as the first air strikes took place, the secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, started disassociating oneself. In fact, this former Mubarak minister, greeted by some Egyptians for his hostility to Israel and his support to the revolution, has just one thing in mind: to become the next president of Egypt. And in this case, Mr. Amr Moussa wanted to bet on all winning horses to seduce western countries by giving support to the resolution draft, but without having to accommodate and assume the consequences in the eyes of the Arab citizen in general and Egyptians in particular. The dude in fact bet on Russian and Chinese veto power. But it was not so. Hence his current confusion and hardship, especially having regard to the Egyptian people sensitivity, whose solidarity with the suffering of the Libyan people is more than obvious. The opportunism of Mr. Amr Moussa is currently blamed by Egyptians: he wanted to flatter the people and adulate their demons. He got the wrong war and marched out of step as Libya’s events have nothing to do with the war in Iraq: rebels yell in Benghazi without blushing: “Merci la France, Merci l’Amérique “ (which not last long, we know that): indeed, many who now criticize the military intervention would make a great fuss if the United Nations had been passive not facing the massacres of Gaddafi. At present Benghazi would have fallen into the hands of the tyrant, the people would have been crushed and probably the Arab spring would have come to an end.

Libya, the international community and the responsibility to protect

The situation in Libya requires the international community to get involved early. In such cases, the problem of sovereignty must give way to the responsibility to protect. The international community cannot accept that the government of Muammar el-Qaddafi keeps on insisting that these are facts that relate only to Libyan domestic policy, then to be managed in terms of domestic policy.

The international community’s response must be fast, firm and effective. The history of Rwanda in 1994, Srebrenica and Darfur does not allow us to be very optimistic about the effectiveness of the international community when responding to emergency situations. But we must try it. A special meeting on Libya took place at the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Friday February 25. The next day, the Security Council of United Nations met in New York in this regard. This last resort has ultimately a role and in particular the International Criminal Court – once the ICC is entitled to act at the request of the executive organ of the UN.

The fact that the Security Council of United Nations recognizes that the Libyan issue is of its concern, portends a significant point. At most if the Council just requested the ICC to take hand in the matter. Libya is not a State Party to the Rome Statute (1). Conversely, the Security Council can always promote preliminary investigations: in the case of Darfur, the Council established an investigation committee headed by Italian jurist Antonio Cassese (2). The work of the commission allowed the ICC to be aware and to have jurisdiction on the atrocities committed in the Darfur region.

Such a committee would be useful in elucidating the events in Libya and would be a quick reaction faster to materialize in situ. Its presence and implementation would largely stem the state of violence and abuses that run on the ground at the moment. There are precedents.

So, can the UN act effectively? What can be done?

Both much and little. Because the United Nations are States. The ones that might be fully involved and committed. There has been progress lately, yet the UN machine still remains slow-moving today. The Security Council meets permanently and the Human Rights Council can be in session urgently. Obviously a watchdog having a streamlined executive resolving power would be more effective, but the reality of the current international relations does not allow a real quick response in dealing with such concerns.

Since Monday 28 February, the Human Rights Council shall be meeting for 3 weeks. Surely Libya shall be at the center of the debate. Last Friday, during the Council special session, while the Libyan seat remained empty in the morning, the second secretary at the Libyan embassy in the UN announced in the afternoon, amidst loud applause, that from that moment the Libyan delegation in Geneva represented « the free people of Libya. »

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(1)  The treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC). Adopted in Rome on July 17, 1998, and that 139 countries have now ratified.

(2) Antonio Cassese was the first President of the International Criminal Court for the Former Yugoslavia. He is Professor of International Law at the University of Florence and Editor in Chief of the Journal of International Criminal Justice

Related Posts:

· The ‘Responsibility to Protect’ in the spotlight

Slavery still exists in our globalized world

Discrimination is a pivotal part of slavery practices because it allows people to disengage their humanity and justify or tolerate the violation of other people’s human rights.

Despite living in an age capable of achieving great technological dreams, the same old slavery (the buying and abduction of persons for private use) remains unchanged in some countries. While the most prestigious organization fighting against this evil scourge, Anti-Slavery International, was born at the time of ancient slavery, when the boats were traveling packed with human flesh. The NGO goes on fighting … The latest news could not be more pessimistic. One of the greatest abolitionist fighters, the Mauritanian Biram Dah Ould Abeid, is being tried along with five other activists from the organization he’s heading, the Initiative de Résurgence du Mouvement Abolitionniste en Mauritanie.

Prosecution inquires for a million ouguiya (2,700 euros, in a country where 25% of the population lives with less than one euro a day) and three years in prison, on grounds of a demonstration where he allegedly assaulted a police officer. At the time of arrest demonstrators were engaged against slavery of two Haratin girls, ethnicity that has suffered for centuries. In fact, slavery in Mauritania is hereditary (100% of actual slaves come from former slaves) and although it is prohibited since 2007, activists put it at over 20% of the population. Fatimata Mbaye lawyer, human rights icon, president of the Association Mauritanienne des Droits de l’Homme and three times imprisoned, speaks of systematic practice. And this is how this friendly Islamic Republic, theoretical ground of the struggle against jihadist phenomenon operating in the area, allows its white castes continue enslaving black Africans, as they have done for centuries. In this regard, the trial of Biram is highly significant. Biram’s public message is clear: the Government is more interested in prosecuting the anti-slavery than suing those pro-slavery.

But Mauritania is not the only case and Anti-Slavery is blunt: there are millions of slaves in the world. Sudan takes the cake, along with Emirates, Pakistan, Haiti and Mauritania itself – but in the form of unpaid work— the practice extends to many other countries.

Consequently, Biram’s trial is a tragedy. However, I express my frustration. Who cares in our well-off countries? Mauritania is so far from our mental map that it does not awaken  any inner gloom. Yet, these harsh facts should really break us if we were citizens of this world, and not just residents in our small inner planet.

Convention against Enforced Disappearances comes finally into force

On 23rd December 2010, almost four years after its adoption by the General Assembly of the United Nations, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance eventually reached the 20th ratification by Iraq which was necessary for its entry into force. Later on Brazil also ratified this treaty, which the Convention enters into force with 21 member states.

“This is an historical date”, said Mary Aileen D. Bacalso Chair of the Asian Federation Against Disappearances (AFAD) and focal person of the ICAED (1), which gathers associations of families of the disappeared together with human rights NGOs.

“The Convention represents by itself an achievement of associations of relatives of disappeared people and NGOs from all over the world. Its adoption was first requested by families of victims of disappeared people from Latin America, back in the eighties. It took more than 30 years to the international community to adopt this legal tool, which fills an immense and intolerable gap: the lack of an international treaty to prevent and suppress enforced disappearance. Contrary to what many people think, enforced disappearance is not a practice of the past nor is it limited to a few regions of the world. All the continents have experienced or are experiencing this criminal practice. People are disappearing in many parts of the world. In such light, the Convention will be an effective tool for the international community in its struggle against this scourge”.

Everyone remembers the mothers of Plaza de Mayo whose we’re still hearing about today. In the late 70′s they paraded on the main square in Buenos Aires at the worst moment of the Argentine dictatorship, when thousands of people disappeared. They brandished pictures of their sons, their daughters by asking “¿Dónde están?” (“Where are they?”)

It is these and other organizations of families of the disappeared who rally together in support of this convention to stop these practices. Olivier de Frouville (2), member of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances:

This is the culmination of a long and arduous process that began in the late ’70s with the action of the families of the disappeared in Latin America next to United Nations to first identify the practice of enforced disappearances as such and achieve (…) bannishing them.

For several months, 19 states had already ratified the convention. All was needed was one more country to sign so the treaty comes into force. Iraq was the 20th country that ratified this international treaty and consequently it allowed the instrument coming into force December 23, 2010. Besides, according to Olivier Frouville:

There are undoubtedly pressures, but also the interest of the new Iraqi regime (…) to shed light on violations of human rights that took place during the former regime (of Saddam Hussein).

Iraq is indeed one of the countries where it was found the highest number of disappearances. The Committee on Enforced Disappearances has identified that country as a one with the largest number of cases reported and demonstrated.

Neither China nor Russia nor the United States have ratified the Convention. In contrast, many Latin American countries have done so. Some African countries like Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mali and Nigeria, as well. Very few Asian and very few European countries. It’s a shame. Especially since the disappearances involve European countries: they have affected them in the past, especially through the colonial wars, and they still affect them through practices related to the fight against terrorism, particularly secret detentions and extraordinary renditions that are practiced by the United States with the complicity of a number of European countries.

The Convention provides for the right not to be subjected to enforced disappearance as well as the right for the relatives of the disappeared persons to know the truth. The Convention contains several provisions concerning prevention, investigation and sanctioning of this crime, as well as the rights of victims and their relatives and the wrongful removal of children born during their captivity. The Convention further sets forth the obligation of international cooperation, both in the suppression of the practice and in dealing with humanitarian aspects related to the crime. The Convention establishes a Committee on Enforced Disappearances, which will be charged with important and innovative functions of monitoring and protection at the international level.

Enforced disappearance is considered a continuing crime. Families of victims can now use this convention to require that light be shed on the fate of their missing.

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(1) International coalition against Enforced Disappearances

(2) Olivier de Frouville is professor of law at the University of Montpellier 1 and member of the Academy of European Law of Human Rights.

Aung San Suu Kyi faces her destiny

Freed at present, the Burmese opponent seems to be bound hand and foot. According to the international press, it is far too early to declare victory.

Aung San Suu Kyi even released and celebrated by activists of her party, remains the bete noire of the military regime in Burma. (Soe Than Win / AFP)

Aung San Suu Kyi, released Saturday after seven years under house arrest in a minute-by-minute operation described by the Guardian, has come back to work Monday morning at her party’s headquarters, the National League for Democracy (NLD officially dissolved by the junta). Sunday, Burmese dissident had held her first political speech since 2003. Burma’s Nobel peace laureate (1991) has called on the opposition to merge, telling her supporters that she would take time to listen to her fellow citizens before deciding on a strategy. Because we know that for the past fifteen years, her leeway against the military junta in power is narrow actually.

“So what is her political future?” seems wondering the Bangkok Post in its editorial: If she wants to launch a protest movement and “challenge her enemies in the new government, she needs to urgently consolidate the opposition forces. Now that the new political landscape in which Burma becomes a little more civilianised is providing the rightful context for Mrs Suu Kyi to play a role, she must take this opportunity to work with numerous factions in the opposition and the ethnic minorities. But it will not be an easy task.”  Because of her long years under house arrest, Mrs Suu Kyi has little experience political dealings: “She has never directly participated in politics and has been idolised as the icon of democracy and the face of Burma’s struggle against dictatorship. Her angelic image has sustained the anti-military junta movements inside and outside Burma.” But this isolation “has come at a heavy price. It has made her more “divine”, thus separating her from the political reality.”

Her party singularly lacks of activists who can make the link between pro-democracy personalities and the electorate base. Thus, she is exposed to a threat: “she will be locked in a subtle, yet intensifying, competition among opposition forces. The continued fragmentation of the opposition would in turn strengthen the power interests of the new regime.” For the exile journal The Irrawaddy, these personalities may even try to sabotage her return to politics [...]. The battle that awaits opponent is complex: “how to rebuild and reinvent herself in the new Burmese political environment?”

Besides, Libération asks: “Freedom, so what?”, pointing that Mrs Aung San Suu Kyi “will have to learn again to know her country” where, as “female symbol” in the words of La Repubblica. “Daughter of the hero of independence, General Aung San, [she] is the bête noire of the military junta,” brings Radio Canada. And it will not probably be enough that the Lady of Rangoon calls Burma’s generals for dialogue “, writes Le Devoir in Montreal. “Behind this joy oh so legitimate,” says L’Express, emerge “power relations which remain very tense.”

This “icon of freedom can do nothing against the junta. Her freedom is a sham. Her release is a [marketing] operation. By maintaining the suspense until the last minute, the Burmese junta has made a huge publicity for the event, ensuring the headlines of international media.” (Slate). Anyway, the military do not think much of the international opinion, even if they may have calculated that her release overshadow the electoral masquerade. In addition, Mrs. Suu Kyi is weak enough to be kept away from public life.

Same analysis backed by Eurotopics: “The main concern of the generals who have ruled the country for 50 years is an end to the unpleasant foreign sanctions.”And above all, “the junta wants to test whether the opposition is strong and whether it can manage to divide it into those who play along with the new parliament’s game and those who could potentially be isolated. But this game of poker is an unequal contest, for the generals can imprison the freshly released dissident whenever they want.”

If The New York Times called it junta’s latest “ruse” and FrankFurter Allgemeine “a gift in exchange for her political abstinence”, El País says she has “hands cut off,” that is to say, she is literally muzzled in a context where it is still far “from the darkness to the light.” Even so, if the opponent said on Sunday (Le Soir, in Brussels), “she would be willing to meet General Than Shwe, the junta’s strongman,” we know well that he “royally hates her [...] and is similarly reluctant to pronounce her name.”

Dialogue is not looking promising…. The New Light of Myanmar, the dictatorship official press organ, indeed barely mentions the events of the weekend.

Related Posts:
· A Shout to Nothing
· The Burmese Junta Steps Back from Aung San Suu Kyi’s Unconditional Release

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Lament for a woman and frivolity of the chorus of nations

“They’ll kill me for being a woman in a country that can do what it wants with women” (Sakineh Ashtiani)

We knew they were going to kill her. When the government of Iran announced it had halted the stoning, the Nobel Prize Shirin Ebadi said: “I do not trust them. They’ll execute her.” And so it was; the Iranian regime confirmed she wouldn’t be stoned, just  hanged. Given that Sakineh Ashtiani was asking not to be stoned in front of their children, the ruling is a step forward.

Of course the regime has assembled a legal corpus to sustain the conviction, but the chronicle of tragedy gives us a measure of the devious perversity of this tyranny. Sakineh is an Iranian Azeri of Azerbaijan hardly speaking Persian. When sentenced to death, she did not even understand the Arabic word used by the Iranian penal code for stoning: Rajam. Her jailers told her she had been sentenced to die under the rocks. Throughout the process, her lawyer was persecuted, harassed and  prevented from being with Sakineh and finally, after many risks for his family, he was able to flee from Iran. Five hours on foot through the mountains and the rest on horseback, to get Turkey, where Amnesty International helped him to obtain asylum in Norway.

In an interview with Bernard-Henry Levy, Sakineh’s lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei defined her as follows: “she’s just a woman, a simple woman, just a woman.” The court that sentenced her to death found no evidence at all, but three out of the five members were radical clerics that condemned her, through their “intimate conviction”, as an adulteress. As Sakineh said: “they will kill me for being a woman in a country that believes it can do what it wants with women.” After an international campaign to save her life, the system charged her with murder (and forced her to confess). Everything else is well known. Gallows will be her fate.

In the prison in Tabriz, two more women await stoning. Azar Baghri is 24 years old, 10 of which in prison. Married at 14, she was accused of adultery and since then she’s waiting to be stoned. For fun, her jailers have done two stoning shams. Maryam Ghobaranzadeh, 25, dreams only to be hanged instead of stoned. She was 6 months pregnant and forced to abort … In Iran women are considered sexually mature at the age of 9 and can therefore be married and adulterous. Nobody knows how many have been stoned to death without having been made it public. The courageous Iranian dissidence speaks of many.

I know this article will not have any effect, just a shout. But it serves at least as a reminder that not everyone is accomplice to the silence which Iran is covering its crimes. This silence is resounding in Europe, not in vain we are not interested in unprofitable victims: Iran does not fit into the phobias of political correctness. Nor its victims. Many countries, organizations or individuals are accomplices to the barbarism that characterizes the government in that country — a country of ancient culture, now led by a pack of male fanatics. The same government of macho fanatics who criticized the U.S. during the 9th session of the UPR in Geneva on 5 November!

By the way, what about Teresa Lewis, the woman mentally retarded who was put to death last October in Virginia? Isn’t there as well a deafening silence? (See the article by Anna North Is Teresa Lewis’s Execution A Gender Issue?)

The very problem is that there is no real respect for women, neither in our western latitudes, nor in many Arab countries where women have their rights, their freedom, their dignity, violated –just for being women.

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U.S. faces criticism from HR abusers at Universal Periodic Review

The detention center at Guantanamo, the death penalty or the non-ratification of treaties deserved strong criticism to the United States on Friday in Geneva at the UPR 9th session (1st to 12th November 2010). For the first time, the U.S. administration backed its record on human rights at the UN.

The UPR is a Council’s major innovation. The Human Rights Council was born in 2006 from the ashes of the Commission on Human Rights – which was criticized for its inability to enforce the fundamental values of the UN. The Council allows the systematic and regular review of the situation on Human Rights in all 192 UN member countries in order to avoid the accusation of selectivity.

Friday 5 November, The United States upheld its record on human rights before the UNHRC – under intense criticism, particularly concerning the detention center at Guantanamo, the death penalty or the non-ratification of treaties.

Opening the meeting, Esther Brimmer, the U.S. Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs, assured that the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) – that the United States faces for the first time before its peers – “represents a milestone in our long commitment to promote human rights.”

Another senior official of the substantial U.S. delegation in Geneva, Michael H. Posner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, focused on ongoing improving health systems and education.

“We’re not satisfied with the status quo. We will continue to improve our laws,” he said.

Being the first country to confront the U.S., Cuba requested the end of “the blockade against Cuba,” which it described as a “crime of genocide”– and the release of five Cuban activists in US custody considered “prisoners of war” by Havana.

Venezuela went further, calling on Washington to ratify the UN conventions even now unsigned, to close the U.S. base at Guantanamo, to abolish the death penalty and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, among others.

Iran condemned the U.S. and expressed its deep concern over the “extensive and systematic violation [of human rights] by the U.S. government at both national and international levels.”

China expressed concern over “gaps” in U.S. law preventing full protection of human rights and the failure of the U.S. to ratify all human rights treaties. It expressly condemned the tendency toward “excessive use of force” by U.S. law enforcement and widespread discrimination against minorities and immigrants.

Russia congratulated the Obama Administration for efforts taken to eliminate “some of the most odious violations of human rights which were committed in the war on terrorism” and bring those responsible for torture in secret detention centers and Guantanamo to justice and pay compensation to the victims. It also demanded that the U.S. prohibit the death penalty.

Several countries have denounced the conditions of migrants in the United States, including Brazil, which has appealed  “to consider alternatives” to their detention.

The audacity of some of the aforementioned countries in accusing the U.S. of human rights violations is stunning. While the U.S. is not perfect, it is as respectful and observant of human rights as any state sitting on the HRC and far superior to these countries that perpetrate serious, widespread violations of human rights daily. But to hear comments during the UPR, one would think that the U.S. was the worst human rights abuser on the planet.

Related Posts:
· Universal Periodic Review, A Lukewarm Success
· The United States and the Human Rights Council

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France follows a xenophobic logic against Illegal Roma

President Sarkozy has ordered a concentrated effort on illegal camps, calling them a source of trafficking and prostitution.

President Sarkozy has ordered the expulsion of illegal Roma and itinerant immigrants and the dismantlement of their camps in a move that has been labeled by human rights groups as xenophobic and criticized both by his political opponents and even in his own party.

In a meeting late July. Sarkozy ordered the eviction of Roma, with generational roots in Romania and Bulgaria, who had committed public-order offenses and said that illegal camps would be taken down. Legislation would be introduced before the end of the year to facilitate the process “for reasons of public order.”

As a result, Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said over the next three months he would use decrees to dismantle about 300 illegal camps, of which 200 belong to Roma. These camps are the source of “illicit trafficking, children exploited for begging, prostitution or delinquency,” he said.

Those in France illegally or who have committed public-order offenses will be sent “almost immediately” back to their countries of origin without the possibility of returning, The use of digital fingerprinting technology to ensure this end will be deployed.

He said the government was not stigmatizing the Roma, also referred to as Gypsies, but rather responding to concerns about public safety.

The move follows several recent incidents that have alarmed the population about public security.

In July, there was rioting in a suburb of Grenoble, in southeastern France, after the death of a local man as he fled the police, allegedly after holding up a casino. There was also violence in the small town of Saint-Aignan, in the Loire Valley, after Roma attacked a police station following an incident in which a gendarme shot and killed a traveler who had driven through a checkpoint. As interior minister under President Jacques Chirac,. Sarkozy had a reputation for talking and acting tough against delinquency. In 2005, as he sought to counter an explosion of youth violence in the suburbs, Mr. Sarkozy fueled anger by referring to the culture of “racaille,” a derogatory term variously translated into English as “scum,” “thugs,” “rabble,” “scoundrels,” “lowlife” and “riffraff.”

President N. Sarkozy

The IFHR (International Federation of Human Rights), said the steps would “reinforce negative repressive measures.” The government is “mixing up the situation of the European Roma with the travelers who have French nationality” and, “as a result of a few cases, developing the idea that there is an ethnic solution to the problem of delinquency.”

Amnesty International estimates that there are 400,000 itinerants or travelers with French nationality, and 20,000 Roma, in the country. They are mainly more recent immigrants with roots in Central and Eastern Europe.

The crackdown on travelers is not in itself new. Since last year, a number of camps have been dismantled. In October 2009, 200 to 300 Roma were expelled by riot police officers from their camp north of Paris on the orders of a judge. The interior minister, said 9,875 Romanian and Bulgarian Roma were expelled from France last year.

Communes with more than 5,000 inhabitants are obliged by law to set aside areas for travelers. According to Amnesty International, fewer than half of them actually do so. As a result, many travelers set up illegal camps, usually on top dirty or waste land on the suburbs of towns. Such camps are a common sight in small towns in the Paris region and beyond.

According to advocacy groups, many legitimate travelers already suffered discrimination before this latest crackdown, for example regularly having to present themselves at police stations, facing steps to deny them their voting rights and having difficultly educating their children.

Compounding the sense of discrimination, representatives of French Roma said that they were not invited to the presidential meeting in July.

Throughout Europe, Roma were persecuted by the Nazis during World War II, with many rounded up and sent to concentration camps. 200,000 were killed in this way; some estimates are many times higher.

Romania has an estimated one million Roma, the most of any other European country.

Bulgaria and Romania joined the European Union in 2007, ensuring free movement of people. But citizens from Bulgaria and Romania are subject to transitional provisions in France, requiring them to obtain a permit in order to work in certain professions.

Roma Camps Dismantled

More than 40 illegal Roma camps around the country have been dismantled in the past two weeks, Interior Minister Hortefeux said Thursday 12th. He said that 700 residents of the camps would be returned to Bulgaria and Romania. His announcement coincided with the expulsion of Roma, also known as Gypsies, from a camp in Choisy-le-Roi, outside Paris.

UN Body Raises Rights Issues

A United Nations human rights body strongly criticized France this week, denouncing what it deemed a marked growth in racism and xenophobia. Meeting with French representatives on last week, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, based in Geneva, expressed particular concern over a government-led “debate on the national identity,” Sarkozy’s proposal to withdraw citizenship from certain foreign-born criminals, and a recent decision to dismantle 300 unauthorized Roma encampments. “It’s time you made your dreams of equality and fraternity a reality,” said the committee’s vice chairman, Pierre-Richard Prosper, Le Monde reported. On Thursday, Pierre Lellouche, French minister for European affairs, said the government’s actions were meant to guarantee the “first of human rights, which is the right to safety.”

Other related posts: The Debate on French National Identity, an off-topic nationalist manipulation.