DOSSIER EGYPT: Enlightened Despots and the Road of No Return – II

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Picture: Demonstrators in Cairo's Tahrir Square on November 27, 2012 | Credit: Wikimedia CommonsBy Ismail Serageldin*

This is the second of a three-part series reflecting on the third anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution of January 25, 2011, launched by millions of people from a variety of socio-economic and religious backgrounds, demanding the overthrow of the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who had been at the helm of affairs since 1981.

ALEXANDRIA (IDN) - Whether or not those who control political power wanted it, they now find themselves at the helm of an increasingly autocratic and repressive regime. That paves the way to dictatorship. Dictators are sometimes claimed to be enlightened despots, but to me the emphasis has to be on the word despot. Despotism is the opposite of democracy, and it has never been compatible with respect of human rights. Soon the autocratic regime throws its net wider, captures more and more of the opposition that it can label as terrorists or terrorist-sympathizers. Soon all opposition is suspect.

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DOSSIER EGYPT: Historic Hours and Tumultuous Times - I

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Picture Ismail Serageldin, Credit: Library of AlexandriaBy Ismail Serageldin*

This is the first of a three-part series reflecting on the third anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution of January 25, 2011, launched by millions of people from a variety of socio-economic and religious backgrounds, demanding the overthrow of the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who had been at the helm of affairs since 1981.

ALEXANDRIA (IDN) - January 25 was the third anniversary of the Egyptian revolution. A milestone that calls for reflection on those three years of chaotic action, great moments, dashed dreams, big achievements, sacrifice and betrayal, and all the components of a human drama of the highest order. Tumultuous times, historic hours… greatness achieved, then lost, retrieved and lost again in the fog of uncertainty as the elusive dream of building our new republic on an inclusive society and a system of laws seems to be overtaken by an active war on terror.

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DEVELOPMENT: Wanted a Global Accord

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Credit: Peter Nijenhuis via flickrBy Antonia Sohns*

WASHINGTON (IDN) - In October, Christiana Figueres, the head of the United Nations body tasked with producing a global climate treaty gave an impassioned speech during which she stated that future generations are being condemned by the lack of a global agreement. Political action is required to rectify the existing prejudice of development in favor of current generations, with disregard for the future. Intergenerational justice may be improved and sustainable development enhanced, by investing in youth and in using financial incentives to deter unsustainable practices.

A recent study on Intergenerational Justice in Aging Societies by the Bertelsmann Foundation’s Sustainable Governance Indicators (SGI) project examines the ecological footprint of 29 OECD countries. It found that none of the surveyed countries are intergenerationally just, in that their impact on the planet exceeds the land’s capacity to sustain the activity. The ecological footprint calculates the rate of resource consumption and waste generation, and compares it to how rapidly nature can absorb waste and regenerate. Therefore, it provides a measurement of a nation’s development, and captures the pressure human societies put on their natural environment.

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DEVELOPMENT: OECD Urges Donors To Help Fragile States

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Credit: fragilestates.orgBy Richard Johnson

PARIS (IDN) - A new report finds that international donors are not doing enough to help fragile states increase their domestic revenue though they had pledged as far back as 2002 to make it a priority to help poor countries mobilise more internal revenues.

Subsequently, fragile states still collect less than 14% of their gross domestic product in taxes on average, well below the 20% UN benchmark viewed as the minimum needed to meet development goals and ameliorate poverty. Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Pakistan have tax collection rates below 10% of GDP, says the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in a report titled Fragile States 2014: Domestic Revenue Mobilisation.

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DEVELOPMENT: Balancing Water And Energy Needs

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Credit: Saudi GazetteBy Bernhard Schell

ABU DHABI (IDN) - Water is critical for producing power and the treatment and transport of water requires energy, mainly in the form of electricity. Even though the interdependency between water and energy is gaining wider recognition worldwide, water and energy planning often remain distinct. The tradeoffs involved in balancing one need against the other in this “energy-water nexus,” as it is called, are often not clearly identified or taken into account, complicating possible solutions, says Diego Rodriguez, a senior World Bank expert.

In 2013 alone, water shortages shut down thermal power plants in India, decreased energy production in power plants in the United States and threatened hydropower generation in many countries, including Sri Lanka, China and Brazil.

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AFRICA: Making Extractive Industries Truly Transformative

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Credit: AfDBBy Isabelle Ramdoo and San Bilal*

MAASTRICHT (IDN) - The sustained commodity boom of the last decade provided a new impetus to a number of African countries, after decades of economic turmoil. High growth rates, recorded in recent years, uncovered new opportunities to finally address long-standing socio-economic challenges that had hindered the continent’s economic performance for decades. From an economic perspective, to be truly transformative, these opportunities will have to be translated into employment creation, improved productivity and industrialisation, and governments will increasingly be put under pressure to deliver on concrete results.

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ASIA: Rising Interest in South Asian Regional Grouping

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Image Credit: SAARCBy Shastri Ramachandran*

NEW DELHI (IDN) - The South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is not a shining model of regional cooperation. It is seen as a talking shop – of a region that accounts for the largest population of the poor – with lofty goals, high-sounding resolutions, ringing declarations and little by way of achievement.

Hence, the increased international interest in SAARC – with more countries wanting to become observers, and observers aspiring to full membership – is surprising and flattering. Perhaps, this is because of South Asia’s rising geopolitical importance.

The eight-member body (comprising Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka), whose foreign ministers met in Maldives in February, has nine observers: China, Japan, South Korea, Myanmar, Australia, Iran, Mauritius, the European Union and the United States. There are others, such as Turkey, asking to be made observers. More observers might lead to a situation where they overwhelm the primary members; and influence the agenda.

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ASIA: Iran-UAE Three Islands’ Dispute Unresolved

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Map Credit: Iran TimesBy Bernard Schell

CAIRO (IDN) - The sigh of relief some two months ago that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Iran had reached an agreement on the three disputed islands near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, was rather short-lived. Only six days later, the report was denied by Iran. Now on March 10, the 22-nation Arab League has slammed Iran for refusal to accept the UAE’s sovereignty over the three islands in the strait between the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, through which about 20% of the world's petroleum, and about 35% of the petroleum traded by sea passes.

Quoting an unnamed high level UAE source, the U.S. Defense Journal reported on January 15 that the UAE and Iranian officials had engaged in secretive talks with the help of the Omani government over the previous six months, adding: “A deal has been reached and finalized on the Greater and Lesser Tunbs . . . For now, two of the three islands are to return to the UAE while the final agreement for Abu Musa is being ironed out.”

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ASIA: India-China Ties Need Fresh Initiatives

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Credit: saach.tvBy Shastri Ramachandaran*

NEW DELHI (IDN) - Although he was frustrated in sealing a long-term India-US strategic partnership – with the nuclear deal not gaining India a seat in the N-technology regimes — keeping that priority at the centre of foreign policy enabled Singh to upscale and deepen India-China relations like never before. 

This is no mean achievement considering that there is much wider support – among the public, media, policy-shaping elite, think tanks, industry and business, and powerful sections in the political, military and official establishment – for India embracing the US (and its interests) than engaging with China in India’s interests.

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THE LAST PAGE: Mysterious Disappearance

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Ernest CoreaBy Ernest Corea* in Washington D.C.

The disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 which took off from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing on March 8 and, up to the time of writing,  has not been seen nor heard from after a routine “good night” from the co-pilot to air traffic controllers brought Malaysia unexpectedly into the glare of public interest.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced on March 24 that MH 370 had crashed into the Indian Ocean, leaving no survivors. This premature (if realistic) assumption enraged family members of those traveling on MH370. (Najib’s advisers should remind him of the old saying: “Never assume. It makes an ass of you and me.”)

Some relatives of passengers on board MH370 reacting to Najib’s announcement “demanded” that the Malaysian Government should “tell the truth.” Others insisted that Malaysia should “produce” the missing aircraft and passengers.  Clearly, Najib’s “rush to judgment” was premature, coming as it did while the international search for the missing aircraft was continuing.

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FOURTH QUARTERLY 2013


THIRD QUARTERLY 2013


SECOND QUARTERLY 2013


FIRST QUARTERLY 2013


December 2012


August 2012


April-Mai 2012


February-March 2012


January 2012


Nov./December 2011


September/October 2011


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