GovernancePosted by Inger Lise Næss Tue, April 23, 2013 10:45:29by Jørn Holm-Hansen, Aadne Aasland, and Mikkel Berg-Nordlie
Next stop Tatarstan! NIBR’s Russia Team rounded off their recent field work in the city of Samara with a visit to Tatarstan, a constituent republic of the Russian Federation. While driving from Samara the three of us summed up (i.e. competed over) how many of Russia’s 83 constituent federation subjects we had visited. The total number turned out to be impressive (at least to ourselves). Nonetheless, Tatarstan was a long-awaited first for all of us, as a province of Russia well-known to be something apart. Tatarstan marked in red. A Rich Flora of Provinces
Russia is thought of as an extremely centralized country, but the ‘federal subjects’ (i.e. provinces) do have some autonomy. The Federation contains different kinds of subjects: most common is the oblast (region), others are called krays (territory) or autonomous okrugs (areas). The republics are–21 in number, ethnically defined and each named after a ‘titular nationality’ (in Tatarstan’s case, the Tatars). Fun for Social Scientists
Between these republics, regions etc. there are great differences in the political climate. Some are reform-minded, others less so. Individual federal subjects may be forerunners in certain policy fields, which opens up for learning across provinces, and much fun for comparative social scientists. More Self-Government than Most
Tatarstan was able to gain more autonomy than most other federal subjects in the early 1990s. It was here that the then president Boris Jeltsin pronounced the ill-famed sentence “take as much autonomy as you can swallow”.
Tatarstan signed a new bilateral treaty with Moscow in 2007 that, despite the Kremlin’s move towards more streamlining of province politics, gives Tatarstan keep considerable self-government. Compared to other federal subjects, Tatarstan has a greater say in decisions on economic, cultural and environmental issues. Russian and Tatarstyani flags on equal terms. Photo: Jørn Holm-Hansen
Oil, Autonomy and Authoritarianism
The treaty furthermore opens for joint management of the oil fields in the republic by Federal and republic authorities. Some authors claim that this relative independence has been negotiated through regime trust and provincial authoritarianism. The regime of Mintimer Shaimiev, Tatarstan president 1991–2010, were able to use its ability to control the ethnically diverse territory in negotiations with Moscow when politicians in Kremlin feared instability and an unravelling of the Russian Federation. Authoritarianism is today reflected for example in Tatarstan’s being listed among 22 federal subjects where the local media is considered ‘not free’ by Gorbachev’s Glasnost’ Defence Foundation.
Bilingualism and Religious Pluralism
We left the industrial city of Samara (1.2 million inhabitants) early in the morning. As soon as we crossed the “border” between the Samara oblast and the Republic of Tatarstan, things changed. Suddenly we found ourselves on bilingual territory – Russian and Tatar. Although most commercial boards were in Russian only, all other written information along the road was in the two languages. Tatar is a Turkic language written with Cyrillic script. Moreover, in the strikingly well-kept municipal centres along the road both Orthodox churches and a mosque were present. Ethnic Tatars are mainly Muslims, and they constitute half the population of Tatarstan. The area on which they live took on Islam as early as 922. Following the disintegration of Mongol rule in Russia (mid-1400s) a strong Khanate was established in Kazán, today the capital of Tatarstan. Three languages in use at Kazán railway station. Photo: Jørn Holm-HansenTatarstan becomes Russian
Ivan the Terrible conquered the Khanate in 1552. Gradually, Kazán developed into being one of the most important cities of Tsarist Russia. Russia’s third university after St. Petersburg and Moscow was established here (1804). Later both Leo Tolstoy and Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin) were students there, although both got expelled. Today, a Lenin statue in front of the university portrays a different Lenin than what we usually see – as a young student, with a full head of hair and lacking his iconic beard.
A Centre of Russian Islam
Kazán naturally became an important place for Russian Islam. Muslims in the Russian empire were granted more or less similar rights as Christians during Catherine the Great’s reign in the late 18th century. In fact, Tatar missionaries were called upon to proselytise Islam among the animist nomads on the newly conquered Kazakh steppes in the East. A Muslim renewal movement – jadidism – developed a stronghold in Kazán in the late 1800’s.
A Soviet Nationality Policy
After the 1917 Revolution the Bolsheviks let the more recently acquired fringes of the defunct Tsarist empire go – Finland, Poland, and the Baltic Sea provinces were given full sovereignty. The remainders of Russia were still multi-national, and several areas where minorities were concentrated were now allowed to blossom in accordance with Lenin’s theory of nationalism as a progressive phase in the development towards higher societal formations.
The concretization of this theory was the division of the territory into ethno-territorial units, an idea that for way ahead of its time. Compare for instance with Norwegian authorities’ treatment of the Sámi, or British policies towards the Irish at the same time.
The Tatars got their own republic within the Russian Federative Socialist Republic of Councils. Here, Tatar language was to be used together with Russian, and Tatar traditions were to be cultivated. A challenge persisted, however, in that most Tatars did not live on the territory of the Republic. Even today only 36 per cent of Russia’s Tatars live in Tatarstan.
One of the things that strike a visitor to Tatarstan today is the mix of Slavic and Turkic, Christian and Muslim. Having done research on ethnic issues in the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Baltics, the Balkans and the Circumpolar world – the ethnic mix encountered in this Volga republic made us automatically draw comparisons. The lack of tensions on the surface stands in stark contrast to, say, the Balkans with its post-war tendency for localities to become mono-ethnic, and the sometimes strikingly symbolically oversized religious buildings and monuments that revealing a low-key continued competition over who dominates where. The closest thing to religious symbol-pandering found in Tatarstan is the enormous Kul Sharif mosque looming over the Kremlin (citadel). This makes a powerful and very public statement of the importance of Islam in modern Tatarstan.
The mosque is, however, not the only building in Kazan that has such proportions. The city is chock full of new, flamboyant buildings that demonstrate the resources of the republic and local capital owners. Architectural Anti-Innovation
Tatarstan is Russia’s third strongest agricultural region, and the two year old Palace of the Agriculturists is an impressive edifice. It was built with the intention of being “exclusively monumental”. Therefore Ionic, Corinthian, Doric columns have been used, just to mention a few of the effects that have been loaded upon this edifice that has an ambition of reminding of la belle époque in far-away Paris. The festive exterior may be seen to stand in contrast to its mundane core function (offices of the Ministry of Agriculture). Despite being sceptical towards this kind of architectural anti-innovation, we had to admit the palace was beautiful. The Palace of the Agriculturists. Photo: Jørn Holm-HansenReconstructing a Favourite Past
Kazán’s Kremlin is impressive, and serves as the republic’s signature with its silhouette of onion domes and minarets. As noted above, though, the minarets are new – only since 2005. The idea was to remedy some of the harm that done in 1552 after Ivan the Terrible invaded the Khanate and had the old Kremlin mosque torn down. After that, the Kremlin developed into a symbol of Russian and Orthodox power. The Kul Sharif is aimed to reduce the “colonial” profile of the Kremlin. Not all were thrilled by the new building project, however – a debate arose on reconstruction versus conservation, or as some would have it Tatar against Russian (Nadir Kinissian wrote an interesting article on this in Europe-Asia Studies in 2012/5
). Kazán’s Kremlin. Photo: Jørn Holm-Hansen
Another argument was centred on the coming mosque’s style: no one knows what the old mosque actually looked like. In the end, the conservations succeeded in conserving the Blagoveshchenskii Cathedral inside the Kremlin, while the reconstructivists got a mosque. For outsiders the Kul Sharif looks like it has been parachuted in from Saudi Arabia (one of its main sponsors), while for certain Tatar activists it bears too much resemblance to Russian architecture.
Islam in Everyday Life
While the Kul Sharif is mainly used as a museum of Islam in the Volga region, Kazan has a lot of small mosques with bustling activity around prayer time, like the Nurullah mosque. Just like we have done in other Muslim countries we experienced the peaceful, egalitarian and friendly atmosphere of mosque life, although the smiling women waiting downstairs for a separate prayer might have some remarks on egalitarianism. We were welcomed, took off the shoes and entered the beautiful mosque. Inside, sitting on the carpet, a young man was (probably) reading the Quran on his iPhone, another guy was sleeping and a third man was praying. The idyllic mood was slightly shattered when we discovered a poster on the wall saying that the mosque would remain closed outside of praying hours, due to ‘the unfortunate security situation at present’. It turns out that Tatarstan’s chief mufti had been seriously injured and his deputy killed in a car bomb in 2012, allegedly related to their criticism of radical Islam. The Nurullah mosque in Kazán. Photo: Jørn Holm-Hansen
A Multicultural Capital – to a Certain Extent
The ethnic composition of Tatarstan was roughly 50/50 Tatar/non-Tatar all the way through the Soviet period and has remained so, with ethnic Russians making up the dominant non-Tatar ethnic group. Unlike the capitals of many other ethnically defined federal subjects, Kazan is a culturally mixed city. Today, Kazán has 1.2 million inhabitants, with a slight majority of ethnic Tatars. The Volga Federal Area, of which Tatarstan forms part, consists of 14 federal subjects, among them six ethnic republics. In most of these, the titular nationality has remained in the countryside with a massive Russian majority in the capitals. This phenomenon of Russian-cultured capitals is quite common throughout Russia’s minority areas, but Kazan is to a certain degree an exception. Still, here too the majority of billboards and day-to-day business life appears to be in the Russian language. Kazán’s clean, fast and beautifully decorated metro is tri-lingual – Russian, Tatar and English. Both the Russian and Tatar names of metro stations are displayed, demonstrating that at least in this corner of Russia the authorities have come to terms with a situation that is still unresolved in some Norwegian localities – cf. the strong resistance to the public display of traditional Sámi place names that sometimes come to the surface. The temple of all religions, Kazán. Photo: Jørn Holm-Hansen
Progress, Migrant Labour and Wage Dumping
The English element here has to do with the fact that Kazán is going to host the Universiade this summer, a huge international sports events for university students. Moreover Kazán (and Samara) are going to be host cities for the football World Cup in 2018. Kazán is preparing well to appear fresh and well-kept. The high standards of houses and streets around us are striking. Almost all other city districts we visited – including those in the outskirts – were well kept. None of us had ever seen such a well-kept city in Russia.
Discussing the city’s appearance with a local, we were told that Kazan could afford such standards because employers hardly paid salaries. Uzbek and Tajik labour migrants helped keeping salaries down. Being a trained engineer, he had to turn to taxi driving to keep a living for himself and his family. As such, the shining façade of Tatarstan, like that of most affluent countries, reveals some dark spots when you begin to look more closely at it.
Tatarstan is economically one of Russia’s most well to-do federation subjects, in fact the sixth strongest. Driving through Tatarstan’s countryside, we saw large areas with pump jacks drilling oil. Oil is a core industry and the Tatneft company a cornerstone power-holder. Russian helicopters and lorries tend to come from Tatarstan. From the car we also noticed enormous agricultural fields. At this time of the year they were stubble fields, but everything indicated well tilled land. Tatarstan is Russia’s third strongest agricultural region. The republic’s economy is hence rather well balanced.
GovernancePosted by Inger Lise Næss Wed, April 17, 2013 15:32:09by Einar Braathen
Of course Rio de Janeiro is exceptional. Exceptional for its citizens - the ‘cariocas’ - and visitors alike: the beaches, spectacular mountains (the Sugar Loaf, Christ the Redeemer), football, samba and carnival. However, there are also dark clouds such as an extremely high social inequality and, probably as a result of the inequality, alarmingly high levels of crime and violence. Surrounded by these mixed blessings, in what direction does Rio de Janeiro go?
In this letter I connect with one of the themes addressed by the Chance2Sustain project, namely mega-events and mega-projects (see Varrel and Kennedy, 2011
), and explain why I think the coming mega sports-events in Rio de Janeiro will be among the most contested ones in the history.
Rio de Janeiro’s successful bids for the Pan-American Games 2007, the FIFA World Cup 2014*, and the Summer Olympic Games 2016 have been attributed to a fundamental shift in the municipal leadership’s strategy during the 1990s. (*Although other cities will also host matches during the FIFA World Cup in 2014, the city of Rio de Janeiro plays a major role since the final match will take place in the renowned Maracanã stadium.)
In 1993 the mayor invited the business community to join the municipality in elaborating a strategic plan for the city. A key urban planner from Barcelona, Dr. Jordi Borja, was the main consultant. Inspired by the Olympic Games 1992 (in Barcelona) the mayor emphasized the big potential of large projects and mega-events, such as the Olympic Games, in branding Rio de Janeiro as a destination for tourists and foreign investors and transforming Rio de Janeiro into a ‘global city’. In 1996 the city sent its first bid to host the Olympic Games. The close cooperation between the municipality and private sector leaders to enhance an entrepreneurial city has been depicted, by David Harvey and others, as an international trend of transformation of urban governance. International sport events organized by Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) bring in multi-national corporate sponsors, for whom exclusive rights to the sport venues and other public spaces are demanded.Cable car over Complexo do Alemão, Rio de Janeiro. All photos from Einar Braathen's Rio documentary.Issues raised in Rio de Janeiro
The organization and execution of a mega sports-event require a complex logistics arrangement and broad political coalition. Huge urban development projects that imply in increasing public funding often face strong opposition. Therefore leaving a positive legacy is one of the recent concerns of the “Olympic system” as a way of legitimizing itself. However, building such a legacy involves facing an essential contradiction still to be discussed: how can one meet the demands of the city and its inhabitants while mega sports-events are increasingly aligned with large private interests and candidate cities themselves tend to be managed in terms of urban entrepreneurship? The sports geographer Gilmar Mascarenhas (2012) is one of many members of the academic and civil society in Rio de Janeiro raising these questions.
What we have observed is that certain contradictions and trends have been leading to a process whereby mega sports-events and so-called “emerging economies” grow closer. This is because such countries combine three crucial elements: availability of resources; an ambition to strengthen their image as an emerging power worldwide; and relative weakness of institutions which protect the environment and human rights. Even so, in order to abide by the “package” of interventions that mega-events require, they need to create extraordinary decision-making frameworks to enable candidature and the execution of projects.
Carlos Vainer, another well-known scholar in urban development in Rio, claims that this process has led to a ‘city of exception’, a new form of urban regime (Vainer, 2011
). He holds that in cities such as Rio de Janeiro, the contract has become more important than the law, and bargaining power has got more weight than the application of the majority’s decisions. Drawing on Giorgio Agamben’s theories of the state of exception, Vainer claims that “the law legalizes the disrespect for the law”. The state can unleash a legal civil war against whole categories of citizens, denying them their basic rights. The city government can do the same by making ad hoc decisions rather than developing binding plans (such as ‘master plans’), and by delegating special authorisation to private actors in urban development and service delivery. This can be observed in the municipal preparations for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro.
Bringing in the current political context
However, I have two main objections against this view. First, it does not take into account the recent changes in government policies at federal, state and municipal levels aiming at fulfilling basic socio-economic rights of the citizens. Pro-poor and social reform-oriented programmes initiated by the federal presidents Lula da Silva and Dilma Roussef have found strong partnerships locally, in Rio de Janeiro particularly since 2008-2009, when a centre-left coalition including Lula’s Workers’ Party (PT) took power. For the first time in Brazil’s history the federal government has invested heavily in large-scale programs for slum upgrading, social housing, and improved infra-structures in the cities. The main references are the Programme for Accelerated Growth (PAC) and the ‘Minha Casa Minha Vida’ (My House My Life) programme. The municipality of Rio de Janeiro has cooperated with these federal initiatives and has unleashed the ‘Morar Carioca’ programme. It aims at upgrading all the favelas of the city by 2020, a lasting ‘legacy’ from the sports mega-events of 2014 and 2016. Of the entire population of Rio de Janeiro, 22 percent lives in favelas, according to the 2010 national census. ‘Morar Carioca’ is arguably one of the most ambitious plans of its kind in contemporary Brazil.
Another objection is that the ‘city of exception’ theory plays down the existing legal and institutional frameworks at the national level aiming at securing the citizens’ rights. There is a myriad of mechanisms to institutionalize citizens’ participation in public decision-making. One of them is the City Statute of 2001. It is a follow-up of the progressive 1988 Constitution and the result of social movements’ mobilization of social movements for urban reform. The City Statute recognizes the principle of the ‘right to the city’ – the right to adequate housing, access to affordable public transport, public and green spaces for all. Every city must develop a master plan (Plano Diretor) in a participatory and transparent way to ensure that the use and management of urban land observe these rights. Although Rio de Janeiro’s 2010 master plan has not satisfied the civil society actors who tried to be involved in the process, there are strong coordination bodies within the city’s civil society. The most important one is the People’s Committee for the World Cup and the Olympics (Comité Popular da Copa e das Olimpíadas), which is a continuation of a network established in 2005 to monitor the preparations for the Pan-American Games. The People’s Committee links established NGOs and social movements with favela communities that are threatened by evictions because of public works linked to the mega sports-events. These civic networks bode for an ‘insurgent citizenship’ (Miraftab and Wills, 2005
) that uses any available space of citizen participation in the formation of inclusive citizenship and just cities. It is worth noting that most leadership positions in the favelas are held by women. This is a consequence of their increasingly prominent role in public and political life, in addition to their greater bond with families and, therefore, with the struggle for housing. It was also interesting to observe that, in the mayoral elections in 2012, there was a candidate who opposed the ruling broad coalition and supported the critics of the mega sports-events. Although this candidate, Marcelo Freixo, was from the extreme left and had very limited financial means, he obtained 28% of the votes.
By way of a conclusion, and in terms of politics of urban development, it is an open question whether Rio becomes a city of negative or positive exception. However, I am convinced that the Olympic Games in 2016 will be increasingly contested, socially and politically. In that sense, Rio might establish itself as a city of exception in the history of mega sports-events.Battle units of the state police surveying a large favela area.References:
Miraftab, F. and S. Wills (2005). »Insurgency and Spaces of Active Citizenship The Story of Western Cape Anti-eviction Campaign in South Africa.« Journal of Planning Education and Research 25 (2): 200-217.
Mascarenhas, G. (2012). Globalização e políticas territoriais: os megaeventos esportivos na cidade do Rio de Janeiro. Globalização, políticas públicas e reestruturação territorial. S. M. M. Pacheco and M. S. Machado. Rio de Janeiro, Letras. 1:92-108.
Vainer, C. (2011). Cidade de Exceção: reflexões a partir do Rio de Janeiro. XIV Encontro Nacional da Anpur. Rio de Janeiro, Anpur.
Varrel, A. & Kennedy, L. (2011), Mega-Events and Megaprojects. Policy Brief No.3 (June 2011). Chance2Sustain.This text was first published at Chance2Sustain.
You can watch Einar Braathen’s documentary film (13 minutes) about Rio de Janeiro here: http://youtu.be/RxHI4jushGQ
GovernancePosted by Inger Lise Næss Fri, March 15, 2013 10:22:08by Guro Aandahl
In 2013, Norway celebrates the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote. The International Women’s Day was a great occasion for several events addressing questions about women’s voices and votes (or “stemmer”, the Norwegian word for both ‘voices’ and ‘votes’). The global average figures are bleak. Only 20% of persons elected to legislative bodies in the world are women. Merely 16.7% of ministerial posts in the world’s governments are held by women, and most of these are confined to the “soft” policy areas of family, children, education, and social policy. If we look at women’s power and voice in the economic sphere, the picture is even bleaker.
Pieces from the soundtrack of my childhood come back to me. Å-å-å-jenter...
They sang beautifully in 1975: “Why are girls so seldom listened to? … Oh girls, we must raise our voices to be heard”. I was born in 1973 and brought up in the spirit of left-wing solidarity, and a sense of duty to participate in every solidarity march and peace rally organized in Oslo (eight-of-March, May first, all other progressive protest occasions... I guess that’s how I got the soundtrack. Mind you, it was never a burden, but a great feeling of taking part in something that mattered). My clothes were bought in Kvinnefronten’s (the Women’s Front) Second-Hand Store in the local housing cooperative – until it was replaced by a tanning salon in 1987. A signal of changing times, – of the coming of individualism, neoliberalism, Samantha Fox's boobs, and a general backlash? Perhaps not. The change from radical thrift store to yuppie-era tanning salon in a suburb of Oslo is only superficially a signal of the demise of grassroots mobilization for gender equality. In 1986, Norway’s first female prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland appointed a government where 8 of 18 ministers were female.The second Brundtland government. Photo: NRK (Erik Thorberg / SCANPIX)
In 1987, the paid maternal leave after childbirth in Norway was raised from 18 to 20 weeks, the first expansion of maternal leave in a decade. I know even this sounds like Utopia to the majority of the women of the world. The point worth remembering is that while the masses marching the streets in the Women's Day parades of Oslo have gradually shrunk, important laws that improve the structural conditions for women's political and economic participation have been passed in the Parliament. The next six years, the length of parental leave more than doubled, and in 1993, 4 weeks were reserved for the father. 25 years later, we have 44 weeks of paid leave (54 if we choose 80% salary), of which 14 weeks are reserved for the father (as of July 1st 2013). A momentum had been created, norms had changed, and so had the economic conditions underlying them. One of the main demands of the Women's movement of the 1970s was free, high-quality kindergardens for all children. It took 30 years to get close to this: after the turn of the millennium we got maximum price and a massive expansion in kindergarden coverage, and we still have a way to go to secure the quality.
The policy changes would not have been possible without an increasing number of women in power. – There is fairly strong evidence that critical mass matters in Parliament, said Heba el-Kholy, Director of UNDP's Oslo Governance Centre
at an 8th of March breakfast seminar organised by FOKUS, The United Nations Association of Norway, and UNDP Oslo Governance Centre. Gender researcher Elisabeth Rogg from the Centre for Gender Research
at the University of Oslo, elaborated on March 4th some of the mechanisms of a critical mass: Our images of a 'politician' and person in power change. We change our conception of issues worthy of political attention and public policies. And the political rhetoric and legitimate debate language change. Gradually. Heba el-Kholy at the 8th of March seminar i Oslo. Photo: Terje Karlsen / The United Nations Association of Norway
However, political scientist and former diplomat and politician Helga Hernes reminded us that women’s rights and gender equality were fought through a “pincer movement strategy” in Norway. Policy changes from above would not have been possible without a strong and vocal women’s movement in civil society working both outside and within the party system.
Rogg and Hernes spoke at the debate "Women, quotas, and conventions
" organised by the students at Oslo University's Faculty of Law on March 4th, where also Anne Hellum, Professor and Director of the Institute for Women’s Law at University of Oslo spoke about UN’s CEDAW
as a powerful instrument for gender equality. The UN Convention on Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women is the legal expression of the globalization of the women’s movement.
The right to equal representation of women and men in structures of power and forums of decision-making is protected in CEDAW, and ratifying states (of which there are 180) are obliged to be proactive to ensure this. Women’s movements in countries all over the world are actively using CEDAW as an instrument to secure women’s rights to equal political representation. The general message at the events this Women’s Day was that quotas work. Quotas are among the most powerful instruments states have. But quotas work differently in different contexts. Vidar Helgesen, leader of IDEA and speaker at the breakfast event summed up lessons learnt (read full speech here
), and emphasised that electoral system matters: quotas work better in proportional systems than in majority systems. We must also acknowledge that political parties are the main gate keepers to women’s political participation and work for systemic changes within party structures of power.
A major debate is whether quotas should be enforced through constitutional amendments, or be adopted voluntarily by the political parties of a democratic system? Whether legal UN Conventions like CEDAW should stand above national law, is an important normative question, and continues to be a question of considerable disagreement. There is a tension here between the three main trends of the second half of the 20th century, highlighted by Hernes. The first is the move from the domination of a norm of national sovereignty to a norm of human rights. The second is the spread of democratization processes. And the third is the globalization and internationalization of women’s rights. Can instruments with the aim of securing individual human rights be in conflict with democracy and national sovereignty, and vice versa?
An empirical question is whether constitutional quotas are the most viable route to higher representation of women in politics. Norway, Iceland, Denmark, and South Africa are examples of countries with a voluntary approach to women's quotas where the political parties have adopted resolutions to secure equal representation of women on their electoral lists and party organs. In Norway most of the parties attempts to have every second man and women on the list. Finland has achieved a high representation of women without any quotas. India reserved 1/3 of all seats on local governments for women in 1993/4, and increased this to 50% from 2013, but has no quotas in Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies. A mere 10% of seats in legislative organs are therefore held by women. While a rough estimate says that 1 million women are elected representatives in local politics in India, the situation for India's women and girls is sad, with a declining sex ratio and high incidences of domestic violence and violence against women who enter the public sphere. This situation was discussed at a debate
organised by the student association “Indologisk
” at South Asia Area Studies at the University of Oslo, and the panelists provided ample examples of the importance of cultural and social forces as barriers to better living conditions for women and girls. But there are also gleams of hope, in Women's Centres organised by civil society, in political reservation and formal rights, in the mass mobilisations seen after the gruesome rape crime in Delhi in December 2012. Delhi protest. Source: Ceciliayu.com
Heba el-Kholy argued that political culture and democratic legitimacy of the regime matter as conditions for women’s political participation:
– The international community should perhaps think differently about pursuing the quota strategy in regimes that lack popular legitimacy, like in many of the Arab countries, she said, and continued, - we may have focused too much on the share of women in Parliament at the cost of focusing on the political and economic contexts they operate in.
NIBR has at present three international research projects in which several of these questions are pursued in South Asia and South Africa. South Africa and the southern state of Kerala in India are examples of states with a high degree of formal rights for women established and secured through the Constitution. Both states also have active women’s movements and fairly open civil-society spaces for activism and political mobilization. Yet in both countries, women’s political agency and entry into the decision-making sphere are severely constrained by patriarchal and traditional norms, and both societies are socially divided along lines of ethnicity, race, and class. In the project “Self-help or social transformation? The role of women in local governance
”, we are studying economically and/or socially marginalized women’s participation in the local public and political sphere. In South Africa, as elected representatives and in cooperatives and a vibrant community-based heritage organization in villages in Eastern Cape and in a township in Johannesburg. In Kerala, as members of the state-wide Kudumbashree Programme
in a slum of Trivandrum and in a coastal fishing village. The Kudumbashree is Kerala’s special take on the Indian programmes for alleviating poverty and empowering women through Self-Help Groups which mainly focus on micro-credit and micro-entrepreneurship. In the Kudumbashree the neighbourhood groups are federated upwards into Area and Community Development Societies directly linked to the local government. What special constraints and opportunities are posed by the Kudumbashree Programme to women from communities that are and have been at the margins of the famous Kerala model of development
NIBR is also partner to the UNWOMEN South Asia Regional Office’s Programme “Promoting Women’s Leadership and Governance in India and South Asia
”. We have three tasks under this programme: presenting a paper on a possible gender responsive governance index for the region, collaborating with the Royal University of Bhutan on a study of women’s participation in local politics in the country, and mapping of this topic in Nepal.
A new project
will examine the conditions for women’s effective political participation in local governance in Nepal, India, and Bhutan, including their ability to contribute to more and better services.
NIBR has also recently completed three reviews of women’s organisations in the South documenting how donor support makes a positive difference to women’s rights: the Southern and Eastern Africa Regional Centre for Women’s Law at the University of Zimbabwe (see the previous post
on nibrinternational and the full report here
), the Bangladeshi women’s organization, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad
(BMP), and FOKUS’ projects to combat violence against women. NIBR has furthermore carried out a study of Norway’s Funding for Women’s rights and gender equality for Norad’s Evaluation Department (forthcoming).
“We are many”, sang the Swedish feminists in the 1970s, another piece of my childhood soundtrack
that has stuck.
– We are half of everybody, half of all the people of city and the nation, … but if we all hide in our small cells, we cannot do anything. Blog author Guro Aandahl. Photo: NIBR
GovernancePosted by Inger Lise Næss Wed, February 27, 2013 14:45:15Women’s rights and the Law in Southern and Eastern Africa – a Norad evaluation done by NIBR
by Peris Sean Jones
The high profile brutal rape and murder of women recently in India and South Africa drove home all too familiar evidence of the deep seated nature of gender based violence and discrimination. Unravelling the causes is certainly complex. Not least, social and cultural norms tend to dictate what the roles of women and men are deemed to be and what constitutes (un)acceptable behaviour. Economic disparities also often provide or are used to provide additional policing of gender roles. Law enforcement that remains inadequate and decision-making processes that are gender biased is also part of the equation. Taken together, there is clearly a complex cluster of issues that sustain discriminatory attitudes and practices. An important entry point can be to identify those gaps in laws, policies and decision-making in the terrain of institutional discrimination that takes place.Master’s programme in Women’s Law
A case in point is the strong analytical skills provided to practitioners in a position to influence change who have graduated from the Master’s programme in Women’s Law at the Southern and Eastern Africa Regional Centre for Women’s Law at the University of Zimbabwe (‘the Centre’). Towards the end of 2012 Norad commissioned an evaluation of the Master’s course. The assignment was carried out by NIBR, and the independent evaluation was led by Dr. Peris Jones. The team was asked to assess the impact of the programme and its sustainability. The method of evaluation consisted of a survey that was sent to previous participants on the Master’s program, and also field work in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Kenya where interviews and group discussions took place.'The Centre'. Photo: P. JonesKey Findings
Some findings of the NIBR evaluation include the following:
• From 2003 to 2012, 195 candidates have graduated from the Master’s in Women's Law programme.
• The students come from 12 countries in Southern and Eastern Africa. 79 percent of the students are women.
• 80 percent of the respondents responded that their career had advanced after graduating. Graduates move on to jobs that are generally characterised by a higher level range of tasks, typically involving analysis, research, greater responsibility, such as for programme reporting, and/or, conceptualising projects, fundraising and other wise.
• The evaluation team concluded that the Centre for Women's Law has built up a solid and innovative Master’s through regional cooperation. And one with high levels of satisfaction of graduates.
• Key areas of graduate influence that reflect gender sensitivity include the provision of legal aid, police force reform, drafting legislative bills (particularly concerning gender ratios in Parliament and other public bodies) and court judgments (in labour, and other courts)- see below.
• A striking feature of the course is its methods for contesting gender roles and raising gender awareness at a personal level to encourage a necessary shift in outlook and attitudes with respect to the gendered nature of society and the role of the law.
Considering the proven limits of the law alone in addressing violations of women’s human rights in the region, the grounded methods used in tackling underlying norms through this programme is a very important outcome and one which is an innovation of the Centre. These findings are particularly significant in view of the Centre’s assumption that by strengthening this discipline a cadre of highly skilled women (and men) is established who through their respective employment and personal decision-making will improve the status of women. In other words, the assumption has more chance of being correct the stronger the graduate capacity built. Though there are clearly limits to what individuals can achieve within their respective institutional and work place settings, graduates tend to be present in key arenas. These include the police, in courts, legal aid, law making, international and local organisations, universities, public and private sectors - where influence may be exerted. ‘The course sharpened my focus and why things are the way they are. I utilise knowledge in my political life. One of the reasons to get elected is that so many gaps exist in the law and the legislature to fix things. Male lawyers are influential in Parliament across party lines. Male parliamentarians make a lot of noise and especially lawyers hold sway in Parliamentary politics. There were no female lawyers in Parliament. I was the first to be elected. I am encouraging more to join. Men can be converted. I have more patience with the counter arguments men have. I understand them better, whereas before I had no time for these, and now can get them on side. It is very important to work with them.’Jessie Majome, graduate, Deputy Minister for Women, and member, Parliamentary Select Committee on the Constitution (COPAC), Zimbabwe.Spaces for influence
A critical space for influencing policy making obviously concerns the constitutional and law making processes determining women-related issues. These spaces for graduate influence appear especially significant in Zimbabwe and also Kenya. The example from the quotation above is from the deputy minister for Women in Zimbabwe. She indicated several areas of influence specifically related to her training in women’s law. The course had given her new insight. If she had stayed in private practice law without the Masters, this perspective would not have been added, she claimed. As a member of the Select Committee in Parliament she claimed personally to have been central in drawing up 30 essential issues which were considered ‘musts’ for the new constitution and in which impact is identified. Amongst the most salient of these (similar to Kenya) is the clause concerning 50 percent female representation in elected entities (clause 2.9, ‘Gender balance’). Furthermore, proportional representation, whereby 60 women will be added, but which is currently being contested; Senate will also have Proportional system; and additional features, such as an equality clause, equal citizenship, the right to security of person; and especially, noteworthy in light of previous obstacles to legal protection – customary law will now not be subordinate to human rights. In addition, further clauses make provisions for social economic and cultural rights, amongst others. These achievements have been corroborated by key informants.
Also in the legal arena, an experienced labour court judge shared some insights into the impact of the course in her work:‘The impact of the course has been massive. I can now [she was a judge before and after the Masters] link my work to the course and come up with a proper judgement in which a woman speaks up. It helps to understand the background and context of clients. A legal mind would not normally see the link between the offence and the complaint. My observation is that the hierarchy are all men. One case involved a women who was a security guard. There was a work policy that woman do not do night shifts. But she was told to do so and she said that due to advances of a man, which she refused, she was charged with misconduct. But I saw that there were shadows [over this appearance of misconduct] of sexual harassment.’Mrs. Betty Chidziva (Labour Court Judge).
When one considers that this judge makes up to 20 judgements on average by the month’s ends –albeit on a diverse range of issues not always gender related- the impact is apparent for gender sensitive deliberations. A former magistrate who had many years experience and had since become a DPhil student following her Master’s degree at the Centre, corroborated the shift in approach that underpins such examples. When a magistrate, she shared how she would do things repetitively and in a mechanical fashion, and never asked why a women did a certain thing. She generally did not delve into factors that had shaped women’s experiences and preferred before the course to merely apply sentencing options. These ‘gaps’ were revealed following the course. Such influence is repeated across the different spaces influential for women’s rights. In addition, graduates have been involved in preparing matters for the African Human Rights Commission; participate in writing shadow reports to CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women); provide analysis of the implementation of Domestic Violence Act in the magistrates courts and traditional courts in Zimbabwe, amongst others.
Questioning programme assumptions
Perhaps one of the biggest assumptions is, however, that the cadre of predominantly middle income men and women graduates will interact differently with and in a manner more pro-active for the marginalised sectors of society. Though there is no guarantee, the findings do show the indirect impact of more beneficial interactions through the kinds of important legal and policy changes and decision-making documented. We also do not suggest these arenas can substitute for focus also upon ‘the everyday spaces’- such as the home, schools, the churches, where norms are constructed and governed. Indeed the report also found that though Centre staff are very active, nonetheless a more structured and strategic approach to outreach might generate greater synergies across these different spaces for ending discrimination against women. The Centre could also strategise better as a way to generate a greater profile, such as making more accessible the high quality Master’s dissertations; and to be a more proactive regional hub for women and the law. A more strategised approach to regional collaboration, especially with alumnae in countries further away from the Centre in Zimbabwe, would also improve its regional impact and through regional platforms.Dedication amidst instability
In addition, the achievements to date have also taken place against a backdrop of over a decade of severe political and economic unrest in Zimbabwe. The commitment of the Centre’s staff to students, and the dedication to strengthening women's law as an academic discipline, has made the Master’s programme highly effective. The team also stressed that the predictable and long term funding and support from the Embassy of Zimbabwe and the University of Oslo, has been important. The Women’s Law program is not only a resource for Zimbabwe but for the whole region.
Many may ask why there is a need for a special Master’s in women's law. Indeed, they may also ask why it is necessary to have a separate international human rights convention to combat discrimination against women. Sadly, women's rights and freedoms are still often denied; their rights are violated or often compromised as most shockingly profiled by those recent cases in India and South Africa. In order to be able to eliminate discrimination, one must be able to identify discrimination in real life contexts. To reiterate, much of the study in women’s law has focused on a grounded methodology to analyse and identify discrimination. One consistent message was that graduates clearly identified how the strong methodological approach they have learned has helped to identify and understand how gender discrimination comes about.
Though deeply embedded challenges clearly remain, having a strong cadre of women’s law graduates has contributed important momentum in tackling gender based discrimination. Download the complete report here
A related NIBR project: Self-help or social transformation? The role of women in local governance
Climate and EnvironmentPosted by Inger Lise Næss Tue, November 20, 2012 15:13:23What do you know about climate change, floods and the implications for urban governance in African cities?
by Trond Vedeld
I am just listening to Soulemane Gueye talking about various citizen neighbourhood groups in Saint Louis in Senegal and their capacity for engaging in flood risk management with the City Council and development agencies. Saint Louis is a coastal city situated at the mouth of the Senegal River and the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and extremely vulnerable to flood risks and sea level rise and related coastal erosion. One of this city’s assets in coping with floods is precisely its particular institutional history (former capital of the French West African colonial “empire”) and an evolution of civic associations (religious groups, youth groups, women groups, economic business groups) and local engagement in their dealing with the municipality and local state agencies.
Street life in Saint Louis
Soulemane is a PHd student from Gaston Berger University, and one among some 20 African and European researchers that have met for an important workshop at the University of Copenhagen on African cities and climate change. The workshop is organised in relation to a large-scale EU funded research and capacity building project CL
imate change and U
ulnerability in A
frica (CLUVA). Vist the CLUVA home page
for more information!
The project is closely involved with urban stakeholders and UNHABITAT and works in five cities in different locations in Africa; three coastal cities; Dar es Salaam, Saint-Louis and Doala; and two inland cities; Ouagadougou and Addis Ababa. Each of these cities are faced with many of the same climate change and flood risk issues, but their challenges in governing risks differ a lot according to locational factors, social vulnerability, political economy and governance. CLUVA involves 16 partners including urban researchers and planning experts from universitites in each of these cities.Addis Ababa
The integrated research approach of CLUVA involves research on climate scenarios, assessments of impacts, exposed areas, scoial vulnerability, adapatation strategies and governance looking towards what may constitute more climate resilient cities. CLUVA is in its third year of implementation and aims to develop methods and knowledge to be applied to these five African cities to manage climate risks, to reduce vulnerabilities and to improve their coping capacity and resilience towards climate changes.
The NIBR team on this EU project (Trond
, Jan Erling
) heads the work on extreme flood risks and city goverance, and have worked particularly with the cities of Dar es Salaam and Saint-Louis on multi-level governance and policy challenges in relation to city adaptation strategies and approaches for adaptation to future climate change variability and disaster risks.
The cities face very different challenges in this regard; the long term experience with flood risks with high impacts in Saint Louis seems to have created more local awareness over time and greater coordination capacity within the goveranance system for local level disaster response than what is observed in Dar es Salaam. In this regard, Saint Louis is faced with problems such as inadequate services for managing stormwater following heavy rainfall, waste water, solid waste and floods from the Senegal River. About 30% of the 200 000 inhabitants live in underserviced and unplanned informal settlements. In 2009, close to 80 000 were affected by floods.
In Dar es Salaam, which has a population of almost 5 million people, they have more recently experienced increasing problems with city-wide floods following major cloudbursts, and less awareness and capacity at different levels exists on flood risk management. In 2010, more than 40 people drowned in a flood event and throusands of houses were flooded. The share size of the city, with close to 80% of the people living in informal settlements; many of them exposed and vulnerable to floods, might be one reason why Dar es Salaam have not developed a systematic disaster risk mangement system at city level. Overall, Dar es Salaam represents a city with significant limitations in its governance system particularly with respect to public capacities to manage urbanization related to land management and control and development. Consequently, many of the low income settlements have emerged spontaneously on low-lying lands exposed to floods. From Dar es Salaam
While as researchers we utilize the cities as “case studies” for furthering governance theory related to multi-level governance and network theory, there are also policy relevant findings coming out of CLUVA. Some policy relevant findings include that the cities, in order to address multiple risk and drivers of climate extremes and related social vulnerability, need to work on more strategic integration of disaster risk management and climate change adaptation in urban planning, governance and sector work. In particular, there is a need to provide disaster risk management an institutional “home” at municipal levels, ensure coordination and command and control systems for early warning and disaster response, while also move towards addressing social and spatial inequalities through developing climate-proofed strategies and investments for stormwater management, water and sanitation, solid waste collection and green space management in low-income areas. For this to happen financially strapped city municipalities need to be provided greater powers and financial support from their respecgtive state governments. State governments also lack financial resources, hence, assistance from international donors from countries responsible for the climate issues, should also take the urban climate change agenda more seriously and open for greater support of urban citizens and their struggles. The government also needs to look for ways of engaging a wider set of stakeholders in their cities on this agenda, including private business and civil society actors at the local level.
Ethnicity and MigrationPosted by Inger Lise Næss Wed, October 31, 2012 15:44:01By Peris Sean Jones
The article Powering up the people? The politics of indigenous rights implementation: International Labour Organisation Convention 169 and hydroelectric power in Nepal
looks at the role of International Labour Organisation Convention 169 (ILO 169) in struggles for indigenous rights. Nepal is a particularly apposite example, where ILO 169 is currently being invoked and contested in a process of political and state restructuring. The article focuses upon one sector, namely, water resources pertaining to hydroelectric power (HEP) development, with data based upon interviews with key stakeholders at both capital and district and local level, and also visits to three HEP project sites.Ripuk within the Barun Valley, Nepal. Photo: Dhilung Kirat / Wiki Commons
Two main lessons are imparted primarily about rights-based approaches in general and indigenous rights more specifically. First, while ILO standards can be used to identify a country-level political and institutional vacuum and to promote procedural and substantive standards, implementation is hostage to entrenched political patronage and political culture. Second, rights-based approaches have their own effects particularly when claims are interpreted as absolute group rights, especially in highly diverse societies. An overall dilemma remains for Nepal: while significant political gains have emerged from indigenous rights movement mobilisation there is still a striking absence of (new) constitutional provisions, concrete institutional mechanisms, policy guidelines and delivery of tangible local benefits and with indications of high caste and other groups backlash.More on ILO 169 and Nepal here on the blog
Ethnicity and MigrationPosted by Inger Lise Næss Fri, October 05, 2012 10:31:45Ukraine is a divided country. Economically, ethnically, in terms of language and demography. But is Ukraine too divided to survive?by Mikkel Berg-Nordlie and Jørn Holm-Hansen
“Ukraine has not yet perished”, is the title of Ukraine’s national anthem. A somewhat sombre and defensive statement. Yet, you’ll agree it is fitting if you know some Ukrainian history.Photo: Trond Vedeld
From Unity to Division
The Medievial Kingdom of Rus
, the first “Russia”, was founded in and ruled from Kyiv, the contemporary capital of Ukraine. That power proved difficult to hold: Rus was constantly plagued by internal conflict and invading tribes. The Mongols dealt the final blow. Most of Rus fell under the Khan’s rule, but some regions instead came under Western influence. When Russia rose again, she was centered on Moscow, further north.
From Centre to Periphery
A tug of war now began between Muscovy and its Western neighbors - and the Ottomans and Crimean Tatars to the south. Who would control the old heartlands of Rus? The centre had been reduced to a periphery – a fact even reflected in the name now given to the area:
, meaning “the Frontier”.Russian and Polish-Lithuanian forces in battle (Painting by Jan Chryzostom Pasek. Source: Wikimedia Commons)The Patchwork State
Fast forward to modern times. Ukraine is now a sovereign state, centered on Kyiv. Yet, present-day Ukraine is a patchwork of regions carrying different historical legacies. In the east and south, Russian language dominates completely – and many people there have a Russian ethnic identity. The northwest is the core area of Ukrainian language and identity. On the southern Crimean Peninsula, the Tatars form a third group. In itself, this does not necessitate conflict – not at all. And yet, politics in Ukraine have come to revolve around the issues of identity and language.An East-West Political Split
The Party of Regions, which currently holds power in Ukraine, caters to the interests of Russian-speaking Ukrainians. The opposition, conversely, argues that Ukrainian should be the sole official language throughout Ukraine. Under the Party of Regions, several of Ukraine’s southern and eastern regions have been allowed to use Russian as a co-official language. This has infuriated the opposition.Opposition rally on Independence Day, carrying “the world’s biggest Ukrainian flag” (Photo: Mikkel Berg-Nordlie)Partisan Celebrations
The political split runs deep, as was evident on this year’s Independence Day celebrations in Kyiv: the Party of Regions and the opposition bloc arranged separate events. The opposition held their rally by the statue of the author and national icon Taras Shevchenko, whereas the Party of Regions organized a concert and political appeals by the statue of the old Cossack chief Bogdan Khmelnitskiy.The Party of Regions’ Independence Day concert and rally (Photo: Mikkel Berg-Nordlie)
Opposing Parties – To A Certain Extent
Differences aside, the outside observer can’t help but noticing some similarities. Commentators often tend to portray the Party of Regions and their followers as pro-Russian, and the opposition as anti-Russian. However, the similarities in symbolism on this day were striking: Ukrainian colors and ethnic traditional patterns were displayed prominently and proudly, and independence was celebrated as an unquestioned good. These were not rallies by one pro-independence party and one pro-Moscow party.
They do, however, differ when it comes to the role of Russian language and culture. Should the fact that large segments of the population use Russian in everyday conversation be reflected in schools and public administration? After all, 38.6% of the population speak Russian at home, and a further 17.1% use both Russian and Ukrainian in the domestic contexts
. A Battle For Hearts, Minds and Tongues
Outside observers tend to focus on whether or not the country should orient itself more towards Europe/NATO or Russia – and whether or not Ukraine will remain independent.
Arguably, leaders in both of the major political blocs have a vested interest in keeping Ukraine independent - at the end of the day. Fronts are stauncher when it comes to the fate of Russophone and ethnically Russian Ukrainians – and about the status of the Ukrainian language. The latter is, despite its official status, under fundamental pressure from Russian.Who Is The Minority?
Within Ukraine, Russian is technically a minority language – although not by much. Denying Russophone Ukrainans the right to communicate with the authorities in their mother tongue falls short of certain standards for minority rights. However, if we ‘scale up’, looking at the wider region, Ukrainian is the little brother to the Russian lingua franca
. Hence, from the perspective of Ukrainophones there is a pressing need to ensure their language’s survival in the long run. Norway’s historical experience must be a chilling example for the Ukrainophone crowd. Taras Schevchenko, the father of Ukrainian literature (Image: Wikimedia Commons). Ukrainian – A Future Minority Language?
When Norway gained independence from Denmark, a language debate broke out here too. On the one hand, proponents of Nynorsk
- a new written standard reflecting certain Norwegian dialects. On the other, those who wanted to continue using Danish (Bokmål
), which after four hundred years under Denmark had become the language of Norway’s cities and elite.
Both languages were made official. But today Nynorsk is a minority language mainly used in the southwest. The dominant position of Danish gave it a head start, and this fact has made it the language of choice for most Norwegians.
The cases are not completely equal. Firstly, the Ukrainian language is big enough to eat both versions of Norwegian whole – its existence is not as precarious as Nynorsk. Secondly, the success of Bokmål is also due to it having allowed more and more Norwegian traits to ‘seep into’ the written standard.
Still, the similarities are big enough that we may ask: faced with a very similar ‘big brother’, entrenched in the cities and economically dominant areas, will Ukrainian dwindle to become a minority language in the northwest?
Will Ukrainian share that fate, becoming a minority language in the northwest?
The Dominance of the East
The Russophone East is has most of the urban areas, and is both demographically and economically dominant in Ukraine. This is a continuing development which does not bode well for the future of Ukrainian. Also, it is a development that the suppression of Russophones will hardly do anything about.
Ukraine itself does not seem to be perishing. At least not from the language conflict, although the economic crisis is an altogether different matter. The Ukrainian language, in the long run, is a better subject for such a question. Its fundamental problem may, however, lie in the economic and demographic backwardness of the West, not in the fact that people speak Russian in the East and South. NIBR has had research projects in Ukraine for a long time, for example on the improvement of service delivery in local government.
This year, NIBR’s International Dept. decided to expand our competence by giving the entire department a crash course in understanding Ukraine. Our partners, The Kyiv National Economic University (KNEU), arranged a one-day conference on regional differences in their country.
From left to right: Larisa Leontiivna Antonyuk (KNEU), Vivica Williams (KNEU), Marit Haug (NIBR), Olena Ihorivna Tsyrkun (KNEU)
Photo: Mikkel Berg-Nordlie
Climate and EnvironmentPosted by Mikkel Berg-Nordlie Thu, May 10, 2012 14:15:34Rural Maharashtra, India, April 2012.
Reflections from a field visit
by Guro Aandahl
The village child-care centre ('anganwadi') is packed. Seated along two walls is our group, 7 researchers from Norway and New Delhi and two NGO workers from urban Maharashtra and New Delhi. I struggle with shifting my legs in and out of something resembling a lotus position, as I wonder what the farmers (assembled here from three neighbouring villages) might be thinking of us.Village meeting in Maharashtra. Photo: Guro Aandahl
We are researchers and development practitioners (from AFPRO
) on a brief visit to get a first and superficial introduction to how village communities in the drylands of Maharashtra suffer from, cope with, or adapt to drought and possible other damaging weather events. This is the beginning of the two-year research project “EVA” (Extreme Risks, Vulnerabilities and Community-Based Adaptation in India: a pilot study
) which will hopefully also contribute to improved strategies for how people in this region can adapt to the climate of the future, with a probable increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events like droughts, heavy and “untimely” rainfall, and heat waves. Which strategies can be adopted at the community level, and how can government policies increase local resilience and reduce vulnerability?Women cleaning drains before monsoon. Photo: Trond VedeldLiving in the Rainshadow
In Maharashtra, droughts are not a new phenomenon brought on by climate change. The drylands of Maharashtra lie in the rainshadow behind the Western Ghat mountain range. Rainfall has always been limited (600-800 mm/year in Jalna district where we are), and the monsoon is of erratic character. Every fourth year is a drought year, according to the farmers. But ninety years ago, the drylands of Maharashtra was a famine belt. Now, recurring droughts cause crop losses, but not famines. Social Connectedness Relieves Vulnerability
Historian Donald Attwood has shown how connections to markets and governmental systems for famine relief (in particular food-for-work programmes) have reduced the devastating effects of droughts over the last 90 years. Furthermore, irrigation systems and watershed development have improved dryland farming systems’ ability to withstand failing monsoons. The severe drought of 1970-1973 in Maharashtra had “almost no measurable demographic effects” (Attwood 2007:22), no increased mortality, no large-scale migration to other states. The Mahatma Gandhi Act: State Action for Employment During Drought
After this drought, the Government of Maharashtra designed an Employment Guarantee Scheme which provides employment for unemployed farmers and rural labourers when agricultural activities come to a halt due to drought. These lessons from Maharashtra have been upscaled to an all-India level through the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act
which was adopted by the Indian Parliament in 2005. India has responded to climatic challenges for centuries, and much is better now than in the past. To what extent will climate change and “global warming” require a radically new approach?Starving livestock. Photo: Trond VedeldClimate Change and Local Risk Variation
This winter, the IPCC published a special report
(known as “SREX”) on how to manage the risks of extreme events due to climate change. This comprehensive review of existing studies of climate change, extreme weather, and associated risks and vulnerabilities highlights the complexity and diversity of factors that shape human vulnerability to extremes. Why do extreme weather events become disasters for some communities and countries whereas weather of the same intensity can be less severe for others? What are some of the possible options for reducing the risks of and damages from climate extremes? No Regrets?
The SREX report identifies so-called “low-regrets options” that can reduce exposure and vulnerability: measures that will not be regretted even if the scenarios we now have for the future climate turn out to be too pessimistic. Examples are improved water-management practices and the introduction and implementation of poverty-reduction schemes. What can India learn from the international experiences? And what can we learn from the Indian experience? Drylands. Photo: Guro AandahlPushing the Problem Downstream?
One “low-regret” measure is watershed development programmes, i.e. measures to capture and store rainwater through structures like checkdams and earthen bunds, preservation and planting of trees, and diversification of farming systems. This is particularly useful in monsoon climates with low and erratic rainfall. Such programmes have been implemented in Indian villages since the late 1980s. The village we are now in is one of the more successful within watershed development in its district. The farmers tell us that this has significantly increased the water level in their open wells, which is the main source of water for agriculture and drinking.
We ask whether neighbouring villages have done the same, and with the same benefits. Accompanied by low laughter among the farmers, they tell us that no, in fact the watershed development of the “success village” has reduced the availability of water in the neighbouring villages located at a lower elevation
. Some new conflicts had been created as lower villages used to benefit from the run-off from the village we are now in.Checkdam. Photo:Trond VedeldIncreasing Yields...
We asked the farmers whether and how agricultural extension services are useful to them, that is, the agronomic advice given by experts from the Government’s Agricultural Department. The general answer was that they had benefitted much from this. For example, they had been advised to sow the monsoon crop right before the arrival of the monsoon, and not wait until the arrival of the first rains as they used to do. This increased the yields significantly. ...but also Risk
However, there was a downside: if the rain never comes, the investment in seeds, fertilizer, and labour is lost. With the earlier practice, farmers did not spend money on seeds and labour if the rain failed, hence the economic losses were less. So it seems that a practice that has increased prosperity in “normal” rainfall years might have increased vulnerability (or at least economic losses) in drought years. Has overall vulnerability then increased or decreased? Is the farming system more or less vulnerable to droughts? The SREX recommends poverty reduction schemes – can poverty reduction also make us more vulnerable?Farmers in the Indian countryside. Photo: Trond VedeldA Problem to Every Solution
Again I am reminded of a small article written in 1985 by one of the pioneers of development research, Paul Streeten, titled “A problem to every solution”. “Development economics and policies on it have not failed; their very success has created new problems,” he wrote, “Scientific confidence asserts that there is a solution to every problem, but experience teaches us that there is a problem to every solution, and often more than one.” Can this be the case also within the rapidly growing policy field of adaptation to climate change? Farmers and researchers by a well. Photo: Trond Vedeld.“Mobilising Metaphors” – Masking Real Antagonisms?
The proliferation of catchy terms like “Climate-Smart Agriculture”, “Community-Based Adaptation”, and “Community Participation” signal a commendable quest for solutions to an important problem. If decision-makers pledge their political support to the agendas accompanying the terms, they can also be instrumental in a public deliberation process whereby various citizen groups and social movements hold decision-makers accountable to their words. A village meeting outdoors. Photo: Guro Aandahl
The catch-phrases are useful as “mobilising metaphors” which are easy to
rally around, which is important, but this may also be precisely
because they mask the thoroughly political nature of rural development,
the differences of interests, values, and ideologies that are an
inherent part of human life.
However, if we want to understand why the policies and low-regrets adaptation options identified by planners, scientists, and scholars are often only partly recognisable after having been implemented in real-life settings, we’ll do well to also look for issues of differences in power, interests, perceptions, and knowledge. These thoughts race through my head as I observe our meeting and wait for the translation of the dialogue carried out in Marathi.Who Gets to Speak – And What Does It Mean?
There are around 40 farmers present in our village meeting room, white shirts and ‘Nehru caps’ dominate. On the doorstep looking into the room is a man with a big turban-like headwear often worn by men from livestock-herding communities. In the corner near the door are three women and a child. Neither the man in the turban nor the women speak during our meeting. (Later, we find out that one of the women was the elected head of the village council ('panchayat') in the previous five-year council term when this post was reserved for women.)
Of course, there is valuable information in what the farmers say in the meeting. But it is also interesting to observe such “community meetings” as a microcosm from which we can catch a glimpse of the social structures that shape patterns of vulnerability at the village level. Who speaks? Who is silent? Who is inside the room? And who are not even present? And does this matter for the prospects for Community-Based Adaptation to climate extremes in the future?Village Meeting: Inside and Outside. Photo: Guro Aandahl
HIV/AIDSPosted by Mikkel Berg-Nordlie Thu, April 19, 2012 20:10:35Siri Bjerkreim Hellevik of NIBR's Department of International Studies will publicly defend her PhD "Multisectoral coordination of HIV/AIDS programmes. A study of Tanzania" Apr 26, 2012 01:15 PM - 04:00 PM at the Domus Academica of the University of Oslo.Siri Bjerkreim Hellevik (Photo: www.nibr.no). The title of the trial lecture is
Discuss to what extent and how internal factors, and in particular political and economic conditions, can participate in explaining the challenges of coordination in the HIV/AIDS work in Tanzania.SummaryPoor coordination undermines efforts to tackle HIV/AIDS in Tanzania
Hellevik discusses in her dissertation efforts to improve coordination at the national and local levels in Tanzania, and at the global level by African countries and the three major HIV/AIDS programmes: World Bank Multi-country HIV/AIDS Programme for Africa (MAP); Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria; and US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR/Emergency Plan).
National ownership of the HIV/AIDS response in Tanzania is still low. There has been some progress in coordinating the global HIV/AIDS programmes. However, because the individual programmes' political priorities overlap in practice and because no one takes responsibility for the response as a whole, coordination continues to suffer. The major global health programmes have encouraged greater coordination over the past ten years as a means of getting national and local authorities to give political priority to HIV/AIDS, and engage with the illness a massive social problem. The programmes encourage better coordination because it increases efficiency and supports recipient country ownership of aid provided by the programmes.
National and local authorities in Tanzania, Hellevik notes, lack the capacity to coordinate the country's HIV/AIDS response. This is partly because it is not a political priority of the government, and partly because global programmes fund most of the country's HIV/AIDS effort. And since the work of the health sector is given priority, it makes it harder for the authorities to coordinate the HIV/AIDS response across and between involved sectors.
for the University of Oslo's presentation of the trial lecture.Siri Bjerkreim Hellevik has written several posts on the HIV/AIDS problematic at the NIBR International Blog. Click here for a list of all articles on this subject.
GovernancePosted by Mikkel Berg-Nordlie Thu, April 19, 2012 19:28:53A lunch seminar organised by the NIBR Strategic Institute Programme Challenges for Governance and Planning in Cities and Municipalities, the Chance2Sustain project and UIO/Department of Sociology and Human Geography (ISS)Time:
Tuesday 24 April 12:00 – 13.30Venue:
NIBR, Forskningsparken/CIENS, Gaustadallèen 21, Oslo
Researchers from South Africa, UK and Norway will present their recent research on cities in South Africa and address the following issues: a) Why is research on local urban politics important for understanding wider issues of urban governance?
b) Why is research on urban informality important in order to meet the planning/governance challenges of cities in South Africa?
c) Does urban research on/in the global South matter for urban researchers elsewhere?
• Claire Benit-Gbaffou
: Associate professor at the School of Architecture and Planning, Acting director: CUBES, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Research interests are African cities governance, urban politics, clientelism, local leadership.
• Sophie Oldfield
: Associate professor at the Department of Environmental and Geographical Sciences, University of Cape Town. Research interests are state restructuring, urban change and social movement politics.
• Glyn Williams
, senior lecturer Department of Town and Regional Planning, University of Sheffield, research interest are international development and interactions between development programmes, governance practices, and citizenship in the Global South.
• Marianne Milstein
, associate professor in human geography, UIO/ISS, coordinator for development studies, research interests are local democratization, civil society politics, urban governance and politics in South African cities.
• Berit Aasen
, senior researchers, NIBR, research interests are urban governance, informal settlement upgrading, participate in the EU funded project: http://www.chance2sustain.eu
The seminar will be in English.
Work and welfarePosted by Mikkel Berg-Nordlie Wed, March 28, 2012 15:01:49By Trine Myrvold and Aadne Aasland
A collaboration project between NIBR and the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS) was completed with a conference in Yuzhne, South Ukraine, on February 23rd. From the reserachers’ one-week training seminar in Odessa, in the summer of 2009. Researchers Aasland and Myrvold are nr. 4 and 5 from the right (back row). The Norwegian Model - In Ukraine
The project, which has been funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
, has involved 11 Ukrainian municipalities and KS’ local partner the Association of Ukrainian Cities (AUC
). The aim of the project was to develop efficiency networks in service delivery based on the Norwegian model. The efficiency network methodology involves mapping local services within selected service areas, comparing efficiency and quality in service delivery, and exchanging experiences in order to find good solutions to common challenges and to set targets for improvements.Recruiting, Educating And Supervising
NIBR’s role in the project was to recruit, educate and supervise young Ukrainian researchers in their work with the networks. The researchers have identified and collected indicators for local service delivery, carried out user surveys for the selected services, and analyzed the data collected. The results of these analyses have served as a common platform for the discussions that have taken place among the municipalities participating in the efficiency networks.The Value Of Including Local Citizens
The project in Ukraine started in 2009 and has included two networks: one on health services, and one on services in the housing sector. In Ukraine this has been a completely new way of working. All the municipalities that were part of the project, have been fully committed to the project, and have been very enthusiastic about the prospects of developing their services within the efficiency network framework. None of the municipalities had previously conducted surveys among the users of the services. At the conference they asserted that they found the methodology to be very useful and claimed they had learnt a lot from using it. They particularly valued the inclusion of local citizens in assessing the services provided to them.
The 11 project municipalities are located in the Mykolaiv (pictured) and Odessa districts in South Ukraine. (Photo: Tetiana Bochkarova) From Preparation To Implementation
During the conference the cities presented how they had benefitted from participating in the networks. They all now worked actively with implementing the development plans that they had prepared in the networks, based on the collected indicators, user surveys, as well as the exchange of experiences that had taken place among the municipalities in the networks. The Ukrainian researchers who have participated in the project have produced a number of publications in Ukrainian, Russian and English.The Project Continues
Through a new grant from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway, NIBR and KS will be able to continue and further develop the project during the next three years. The next phase will involve some new elements, such as a nation-wide local democracy survey.
More information about the project and links to many of the publications can be found here
Climate and EnvironmentPosted by Mikkel Berg-Nordlie Mon, January 30, 2012 18:01:32NIBR-researcher Trond Vedeld's recently published report Green economy and Rio+20. “Business-as-ususal” or a new paradigm? (NIBR Notat 2011:118) focuses on why so many developing countries are sceptical to the concept of "Green Economy".
by Trond Vedeld
Green economy - within the framework of sustainable development and
poverty reduction – has been chosen as main theme for the United Nations
Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2012. The conference is also known as "Rio+20" being a follow-up conference to the 'Earth Summit' of Rio de Janeiro in 1992.
Forester, Brazil (Image: Wikimedia Commons). What Is Green Economy?
Green economy is particularly concerned with the degradation of natural capital, rising ecological scarcity and environmental risks, and the need to internalize environmental costs in economic analysis and macroeconomic policy. Green economy assumes that global climate, environment and development challenges are mainly a consequence of failures in the economic system.
Green economy is accompanied by a set of economic policies and economic instruments that for low-income development countries would imply enhanced public and private investments in natural capital, including biodiversity, ecosystem services, agriculture and forestry, and low energy/low emission society.
Political Leadership Needed, Not Just Economic Analysis
The NIBR report, however, argues that the focus of the Rio+20 negotiations should be on sustainable development more so than on green economy - reflecting demands from developing countries.
These countries want to maintain a focus on issues of poverty reduction, equity, global political economy and injustice; issues they perceive better embraced by the concept of sustainable development. Global challenges are as much about transformation of the political system as about the need for economic system reforms, it is argued. Farm worker carrying maize, Zimbabwe (Image: Wikimedia commons).
Here, the developing countries find support in civil society and amongst critical scholars. Sustainable development is perceived as a more fruitful concept in that it places conditions for social, institutional and political transformation at the center of analysis and reform. Hence, it directs attention to political leadership, governance and the roles and responsibilities of elites for a crisis-ridden political economy.
Development strategies should thus be formulated through political and institutional analysis, and not be left to economic analysis alone, which tends to provide insufficient answers to environmental and economic crisis. Environmentalism vs. Political Sovereignty?
The NIBR-report provides an overview and critical assessment of the “Global Green New Deal” as an agenda for transition to a green economy. It shows that even if most countries have accepted green economy as a possible strategy for sustainable development, and important green investments are underway, many observers from developing countries argue that the agenda is not well adapted to their specific demands. Among others they perceive environmental issues and conditionalities that may threaten national sovereignty and control over own resources.Farmers returning home, Nepal (Image: Wikimedia Commons).Recommendations for Norway
In the concluding section, the report presents implications of the analysis for Norwegian development policy and the negotiations towards the Rio Conference in June 2012.
The report suggests placing the social dimensions at the centre of negotiations, while focusing on key global and national political economy issues, including the inability of political elites and political leaders to govern market failures and raise climate and environmental issues on the political agenda. Read more:Vedeld, Trond (2011): Green economy and Rio+20. “Business-as-ususal” or a new paradigm? (NIBR Notat 2011:118).
The publication is a re-worked version of a report produced for the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Summary in English here
GovernancePosted by Mikkel Berg-Nordlie Mon, December 05, 2011 13:58:46In the Eastern DR Congo province of South Kivu, civil society has a president. And the president is a woman. Many Western readers – accustomed to the textbook notion of civil society as a sprawling flowerbed of associational life located somewhere between the state, the market and the family – will perhaps find this to be an excessively bureaucratic way of organizing civil society. But there is a reason for everything, and civil society in South Kivu has developed in this particular way due to a difficult history of conflict and oppression.
by David Jordhus-Lier
(NIBR) and Ellen Vea Rosnes
After decades of colonialism and dictatorship, civil society in Zaïre was given some air to breathe in 1990, when Mobutu caved in to pressure from his American allies and signaled political reforms. The Eastern province of South Kivu soon developed relatively potent civil society organisations which were engaged in human rights issues. Their civil society and church leaders were often sent the 1500km to Kinshasa, in order to represent provincial and national civil society interests in the national political forum known as the Sovereign National Conference (1991-2002). The city of Bukavu soon became a center for associational life and activism in Eastern Congo, and new forums of representation allowed organisations to learn and build competence. La Société Civile is Born
Civil society organisations felt a need to stand united against foreign military presence, and to speak with one voice to humanitarian organisations and the international community. Hence, they formed a coordinated structure known as La Société Civile
(civil society). When in 1996 the Kivu provinces entered into what was to be a decade of war, occupations and refugee crises - it became necessary for La Societe Civile to organize in a more formal way to preserve civil society’s unity. Thus it came to be that La Société Civile has an elected president, a vice president and several office bearers. The organisations also wrote their own Charter of principles, such as non-involvement in party politics. The Cathedral in Bukavu. Church congreations are among the many types of organizations active in La Societe Civile. (Wikimedia Commons).
La Société Civile is not solely an urban phenomenon. Through our research, we have found that even remote villages across the conflict-ridden province have their own local civil society structures. Individuals who have legitimacy through their roles in churches and other local organisations are given the roles as formal representatives of La Société Civile. The various civil society organisations are organized in 10 different components, of which churches, human rights organisations and women’s organisations are amongst the most prominent drivers. Elodie Ntamuzinda’s Road to the Presidency
Elodie Ntamuzinda is the president of La Société Civile in South Kivu. Her background is from women’s organizations, and she started her career in this sector in 1999. In 2007 she became the coordinator of an NGO called Regard Rural Sans Frontière (RRSF/Sud-Kivu) through which she also was a part of La Société Civile. In 2009 she held the position as the representative of women`s organizations in La Société Civile. The previous representative had left the position to become active in party politics. Elodie Ntamuzinda (Photo: project researchers).
“As the representative for women organizations I made an effort to work with other women networks. They gave me more responsibilities, and in this position I was continuously challenged to do more”, she says.
Elodie is 35 years old and has 4 children. She is educated within management, and she did her studies after she got married and had children. Friends and colleagues have always challenged her to take more responsibilities, and they suggested Elodie for leading positions.
“We have to vote for Madame Elodie!”, Elodie refers to what women said when she was appointed to represent women`s organizations. She continues: “For me this was a surprise, as I still looked upon myself as a young lady. I felt my colleagues were more experienced. I was thankful for the confidence that was given to me by these women”. Likewise, people asked her to run for election as president of La Société Civile “It`s Madame Elodie who will lead La Société Civile of South Kivu! ». The First Female President
At first she was sceptical since it seemed like such a daunting task, but after having reflected for a couple of months she decided to run for elections. “ After a while I was convinced that I had to do it. I was not sure to have everybody`s support but when I came to the elections I appointed myself as a candidate. There were also male candidates, but it was me who was elected”.
In fact, Elodie is the first female president in history of La Société Civile in South Kivu, and it matters that she is a woman “Previous presidents of La Société Civile represented big organizations with a lot of resources. Some said that this was not a position for a woman due to her lack of resources, capacities etc. It had to be shown to them that women are present and capable of doing things. After all, we study side by side with men at the university. However some men still become lost in front of an “intellectual reflecting” woman”. Women in South Kivu (Wikimedia Commons).
“After the election, I solicited everybody`s support to stand together to raise our challenges. And now I am here”. This illustrates that civil society in Bukavu constitutes an opportunity for women to learn and build competence, not only within women-only structures, but it gives them an opportunity to lead side by side with men. La Société Civile is not solely an urban phenomenon. Through our research, we find that even remote villages across the conflict-ridden province have their own local civil society structures. Individuals who have legitimacy through their roles in churches and other local organisations are given the roles as formal representatives of La Société Civile. Knowing your enemy?
La Société Civile operates in an environment of armed conflict, insecurity and civilian suffering. During several periods during the last 15 years, people in the city of Bukavu experienced occupation by forces they have perceived to be infiltrated by Rwandese interests: during the First Congo War (1996), the Laurent Kabila’s AFDL started his quest to topple Mobutu Sese Seko in South Kivu, with Rwandese backing; two years later (1998), the Second Congo War started and Bukavu was yet again occupied by Rwandese forces through the rebel movement RCD; in 2004, Bukavu was attacked by the rebel group CNDP (the successor of RCD) under the command of general Laurent Nkunda.
South Kivu in Kongo. Rwanda and Burundi to the east. (Wikimedia Commons).
While Rwanda certainly has maintained a military, economical and political involvement in the area since 1994, they have not always intervened directly. For example, the ethnic group of Banyamulenge, living on the Itombwe plateau south in the province, has been closely linked to Rwandese forces since the 1990s, although they are Congolese nationals. In their opposition to Rwandese intrusion, La Société Civile in Bukavu has been accused of fuelling popular resentment against the Banyamulenge group. Speaking to representatives of churches and civil society organisations, however, these allegations are rejected as fundamentally unfair. On the contrary, they argue, civil society organisations in Bukavu have cooperated with Banyamulenge people and organisations ever since the 1990s.Voice of opposition, platform of power
A characteristic feature of this particular form of civil society set-up is that the strongest organisations have been using the platform of La Société Civile to engage in advocacy. Churches and church leaders hold a very high esteem and a symbolic legitimacy in Congolese society, and they represent some of the strongest voices speaking independently from state agencies and party politics. Catholic and Protestant church leaders tell us that they use La Société Civile to promote their messages.
In the past, they even used it as a vehicle to organize strikes and street marches, for example against what they perceived to be unfair taxation during rebel rule. It seems clear that prominent actors such as church leaders have been able to play a more activist role than they could have done without such a tightly coordinated civil society structures. That being said, the discipline exercised by the La Société Civile structure also bears the risk of streamlining free-thinking civil society voices.
La Société Civile in South Kivu reached its peak of engagement and mobilization during the difficult war period. One could perhaps assume that this formal structure was a temporary phenomenon which would be dissolved when conflict and crisis hopefully gives way to a peaceful period of reconstruction. However, La Société Civile still maintains its unity as a formal organization in 2011, and representatives we speak to say that they do not consider it to be an exceptional phenomenon, even though it was conceived during exceptional times. They do, however, concede that there is an increasing problem in political parties and the state apparatus using La Société Civile as a recruiting ground for elite politicians.
Individuals who enter national politics are viewed upon with skepticism by local civil society organisations, and several organisations admit that cooptation of their best leaders seems to be a problem on the riseCivil society in Eastern DR Congo remains an interesting contrast to our traditional understanding of the phenomenon, as it continues to stake out its course through the region’s troubled history.This blog is written as part of the ongoing research project Religious civil society networks in the Great Lakes region as partners in peace-building processes and in the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, funded by the Norwegan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The research institutions involved are the Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research, Centre for Intercultural Communication (SIK) in Stavanger, the Evangelical University in Africa (U.E.A) in Bukavu and Universite Officielle de Bukavu (UOB).Banks of Lake Tanganyika, South Kivu (Wikimedia Commons).
Work and welfarePosted by Mikkel Berg-Nordlie Tue, November 15, 2011 15:58:44
CALL FOR PAPERS - NOW OPENDissemination conference and academic workshop organised by the Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research (NIBR), the Department of Sociology and Human Geography (University of Oslo) and the Work Research Institute (AFI). Funded by the Welfare, Working Life and Migration (VAM) programme of the Research Council of Norway.
13-14 June 2012VENUE:
Helga Enghs hus, University of Oslo
Read more at the Hotel Worker Project
Ethnicity and MigrationPosted by Mikkel Berg-Nordlie Thu, September 08, 2011 12:28:16On July 22 Norway was hit by a terrorist attack against the Government and the Labor Party’s youth camp. While the perpetrator's actions are unprecedented in Norwegian history, the ideology that he sought to promote is one that has gained popularity over the past ten years. By Mikkel Berg-Nordlie
As the psychological shockwave of the attack spread throughout the Norwegian public, it was notable how commentators and politicians were encouraging the public to stay calm, rather than stooping to jingoism and promises of revenge. As we now know, the days that followed were to continue in this pattern. It was demonstrated, among other things through the massive ‘Rose Marches’ that were held throughout the country some days later, that it is possible to react against terrorism in a decent manner.
There were, however, some people in Norway who in those early hours displayed no such decency.
A Militant Minority’s Counter-Reaction
These were the ones who saw the assumed “Islamist terror attack” as a confirmation of long-held beliefs, and were not slow to target Norway’s Moslems and Leftists in the midst of the turmoil.
A local mayoral candidate for the right-wing Progress Party used the opportunity to call for people to vote for him instead of “naïve” left-wingers (NRK.no 01.08.2011
). On the Facebook wall of Per-Willy Amundsen, the party’s spokesman for immigration issues, certain of his supporters expressed hopes that “the dead are pro-immigration socialists” or “the Prime Minister himself” (Dagsavisen.no 22.07
). These statements caused an outrage among other people writing on the same FB wall, and Amundsen himself shut the debate down not long after.
In more extreme corners of the Internet, however, such sentiments were not censored. At the right-wing website Gates of Vienna, the widely read Norwegian blogger known as ‘Fjordman’ dismissed the government under attack as “the most dhimmi appeasing of all Western governments (…) suicidal and cowardly”, and the youth organization whose members were being massacred was brushed off as “an anti-Israeli, pro-Palestine crowd of young Socialists”. Dhimmi is a catchword in anti-Moslem circles, implying non-Moslems who are considered subservient to the Islamic ‘invaders’. Header and typical sidebar ads from ‘the Gates of Vienna’ (Screencap montage)
Others manifested their hate on the streets rather than on the Web. There were inhabitants of Oslo who experienced 22.7.11 as a difficult day to be a person of ‘Moslem appearance’ – that is to say, being dressed in traditional Moslem garb, or simply being a dark-skinned person. The newspaper Dagsavisen reported that several people experienced harassment, one man for example being forced out of a subway train by angry co-passengers (Dagsavisen.no 25.07.2011
As it were, the terrorist attack turned out to be connected not to Islamism, but to the mindset manifested precisely by this aggressive, xenophobic crowd. A Right-Wing Terrorists’ Text Compendium
In the perpetrator’s so-called manifesto, the impending massacres are referred to as its “marketing operation”, an idea both betraying a chilling disregard for human life and an extremely inflated self-image: the ideas promoted in this book did not need publicity – we have heard it all before.
In fact, the book is to a large degree copied from other people’s work – making it more of a text compendium than a ‘manifesto’. Several parts are cut-and-pasted from texts written by the above mentioned Fjordman – whom the terrorist identifies as his “favorite author”. Even the title of the ‘manifesto’ is a nod to an old blog post written by Fjordman - Native Revolt: A European Declaration of Independence
, in which the blogger accuses “Muslim states” of deliberately colonizing Europe with the aid of traitors who are trying to dismantle “European culture” by preaching “Multiculturalism”. Fjordman urges his readers to “take the appropriate measures to protect our own security and ensure our national survival”.
This is the ideological milieu from which the terrorism sprang. It was an action based on the conviction that ‘the West’ is experiencing a genuine, although hidden, war – complete with aggressors (Moslems), traitors (the ‘Marxists’, the ‘Multiculturalists’, i.e. the political Left and Liberals), allies (Israel) and heroes (‘Us’ – the ‘Crusaders’ who would protect Christian Europe). Symbols and rhetoric related to the Crusades are often applied in militant anti-Moslem discourse (Image: Wikimedia Commons).
The belief that it is necessary to kill innocents for one’s political beliefs – what makes a terrorist - is rather unheard of in Norway. The discourse that the terrorist sought to promote through his actions, however, has become increasingly common during the last decade. Rather than being a fringe phenomenon on the darkest corners of the Internet; enemy-imaging of ‘alien cultures’ and accusations of the Left for ‘betraying our culture’ have gradually grown to become an expected part of the Norwegian public debate on minorities. This discursive position has even been allowed to take over certain newspapers’ web debates, establishing a discursive ‘bubble’ in which extreme xenophobes confirm each others’ attitudes and egg each other on. The Slippery Slope between Islamophobia and Racism
Notable in modern xenophobic discourse is the emphasis on culture rather than race. Speakers often uphold that they are not racist, but instead claim that the ‘others’ collectively possess certain cultural traits that are incompatible with ‘our’ way of life.
Culture-based xenophobia goes beyond merely stating that culture conflicts exist and are a source of social problems: it describes entire social groups as collective carriers of ‘harmful culture’, and assumes that the groups’ members have no intention of integrating into ‘our’ society, or even co-existing peacefully with ‘us’. On the contrary, conspiracy theories are often invoked that point towards the group’s eventual takeover and subjugation/assimilation of ‘us’.
The ‘counter-Jihadist’ movement, to which the terrorist belonged, is a good example of xenophobia based on culture (in this case religion) rather than race. Indeed, Western anti-Moslem activists often claim to loathe Nazism (with which they frequently compare Islam
) and display support for Israel; and among their quoted authors you may find people of non-European heritage such as the Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali
. Race is not identified as the problem, but the religion Islam - or “ideology” of Islam
as it is frequently called .
While islamophobia may distance itself from racism, these mindsets are not necessarily all that much different in effect: the ‘counter-Jihadist’ discourse collectively assigns as enemies all those who have any kind of identity-based or belief-based positive relationship to Islam. Arguably, the spirit of racism survives in the mere fact that people are judged based on the group to which they belong – it disregards all individual opinions and actions displayed by people of Moslem background, except the outright denouncing of Islam.
The aggressive reactions against assumed Moslems seen in the early hours of the terrorist attack also show the degree to which such culture-based xenophobia may form the basis for aggressive behavior against individuals precisely on the basis of their appearance – which completes the circle back to old-fashioned racism.
Another revealing example of the unclear boundaries between ‘counter-Jihadists’ and blatant racists was presented to us at Gates of Vienna on the day of the attack: when one reader ridiculed the fact that a man of “Arab” appearance was referred to on TV as a “Norwegian eyewitness”, the ideologue Fjordman answered In Oslo they do [look like Arabs]. Arabs, Kurds, Pakistanis, Somalis, you name it. Anything and everything is fine as long as they rape the natives and destroy the country, which they do
(cf. Øyvind Strømmen: Betraktningar
; VG.no 05.08.2011
) … Overtly race-based xenophobia is only demonstrated by fringe groups in contemporary Western Europe. It would appear, though, that the more popular culture-based xenophobia shares many of its basic traits
(Image: Wikimedia Commons ).‘Cultural Betrayal’ and War Rhetoric
The discourse of culture-based xenophobia has been particularly prevalent in the debate on Moslems, but is not exclusive to it. The same kind of discourse has been frequently represented also when the subject of immigration in general comes up: the framing of contemporary Norway as locked in clash between mutually incompatible cultures, where the Left has betrayed their own and hides the situation under the rhetorical cover of ‘multiculturalism’.
The following example is not taken from any blog-written manifesto published on a website for ‘true believers’, but from a reader’s letter in a major Norwegian daily, authored by the leader of the Progress Party’s Oslo section, Christian Tybring-Gjedde,What is wrong with Norwegian culture that makes the Labor Party want to replace it with multiculturalism? (…) Will we help the Labor Party replace Norwegian culture with ‘multiculture’? Never! Will we contribute to this cultural betrayal? Not even if warnings are put up saying ‘Shot will be the one who...’ Never!
(Andersen & Tybring-Gjedde in Aftenposten.no 27.08.2010
The phrase “Shot will be the one who…” invokes the efforts of the Quisling regime and Nazi occupation force to quell Norwegian resistance during WWII. Armed struggles of the past are often referred to in order to drive home the seriousness of the threat from ‘multiculturalism’ and immigration. While the Crusades are often the symbol of choice in international forums such as Gates of Vienna, Norwegian right-wing discourse often invokes World War Two, the most recent invasion in Norwegian history.
Another example of such war rhetoric, which also builds on comparisons between Nazism and Islam, can be found in this lecture by the same Tybring-Gjedde – given to ‘Friends of Document.no’, a group based around a right-wing online forum:Different governments have done their best to undermine our cultural heritage (…) You’re talking about the 1930s, but I think it’s worse today. Back then, you faced an ideology you could crush. You’ll find it harder to crush a religion. (…) It’s going to cost us something to deal with that problem. It is not a comforting thought, neither for our children nor grandchildren, the battle that may come in Europe. But we must be aware of it, and we cannot yield (…)
). Christian Tybring-Gjedde holding the lecture for ‘Friends of Document.no’ (Screencap from YouTube).Indigenous Politics and Ethnic Enemy-Imaging
Ethnic enemy imaging in Norway has not been limited to newly arrived peoples. In connection with conflicts over the indigenous rights of the northern Sámi minority, one has also on occassion seen some speakers apply the same discursive formula of ‘hostile group’ and ‘leftist traitors’ vs. ‘Us (real Norwegians)’. Such as this anonymous debater on the online forum of a major North Norwegian newspaper:The Sámi remind me of cuckoos, that kick out the eggs of other birds and put their false eggs in the nest (...) The Sámi together with Arild Hausberg [the Labor Party mayor of Tromsø, North Norway’s largest city] are now attempting to make us Norwegians so pissed off at the Sámi demands that we move southwards...
; cf. Galdu.org
Other debaters on the same forum accuse “the socialists” of discriminating against ethnic Norwegians by yielding to the “greedy” Sámi, or describe the implementation of bilingual Norwegian and Sámi road signs in Tromsø as a “dictatorship of the minority”. On the whole, web debates on Sámi issues are just as prone to degenerate into xenophobia as debates on Islam or immigration. For this reason, Norwegian Public Broadcasting’s websites in 2009 saw it as necessary to temporarily close the possibility for readers to comment on articles concerning the Sámi (NRK.no 18.10.2009
In one of the more extreme cases, a Socialist Left Party politician of Sámi ethnicity received an anonymous letter that referred to her as a “Lapp bitch”, claimed that her people were trying to turn the northernmost parts of Norway into a “Scandinavian Kosovo”, and stated that the Sámi should be sterilized (Finnmarken.no 03.03.2008
An activist in the anti-Sámi rights’ organization Ethnic Democratic Equality earlier in 2011 launched a conspiracy theory about a planned, hostile takeover: she stated that the Sámi had been plotting to take over northern Scandinavia since 1945, and had been in secret negotiations with the Government during the last decades. She stated that she feared an eventual “ethnic cleansing” of non-Sámi in the north (NRK.no 02.03.2011
). This is strikingly similar to the ‘Eurabia’ conspiracy theory, a favorite of the ‘counter-Jihadist’ movement, in which European authorities are accused of having “surrendered” to the Islamic world in 1974/75
, following which they have implemented ‘Arabification’ of Europe.A version of the ‘future flag of Eurabia’ invented by counter-Jihad activists.
In sum, the debate on Norway’s indigenous minority has been heavily contaminated by xenophobic discourse, complete with accusations against the Left and conspiracy theories, and occasionally sliding back into old-fashioned race-based xenophobia. The normalization of this discourse becomes apparent when we note that in the debate that followed the Ethnic Democratic Equality conspiracy theory , several politicians representing the Progress Party, which is one of Norway’s most popular parties, jumped on the bandwagon - most notably the above mentioned immigration spokesman P. W. Amundsen, who accused Sámi politicians of plotting an eventual secession from Norway (NRK.no 12.03.2011
). Differing between Criticism and Jingoism
What the statements cited here have in common is that which Stuart Kaufman (2001: 16) refers to as ethnically based hostility. Kaufman treats this as distinct from ‘mere’ nationalism (the desire for ethnically based sovereignty) or even chauvinism (the belief in one’s ethnic group’s superiority). Hostility implies that the other group is seen as an enemy, a threat. This kind of rhetoric confounds any attempt to solve conflicts through dialogue or compromise, its logical consequence in the final analysis being the victory of one of the parties.
Kaufman (2001: 34-6) argues that the increasing dominance of such discourse may lead to an ‘ethnic security dilemma’, in which inter-ethnic social trust erodes, the degree of fear and animosity reaching a level which may even cause the inter-group relationship to erupt into violence under certain conditions. Vetlesen (2005: 146, 150-2, 157-9, 168-75) also discusses how the notion that some form of “self-defense” is needed against the other group, serves as “ideological preparation” for committing – or at least accepting – atrocities against the group that ‘threatens’ you.
Unlike the cases studied by Kaufman and Vetlesen - the Balkans and Caucasus of the 1990s – Norway does not suffer under the kind of general social and economic upheaval that is associated with the growth of violent political movements. We have, on the contrary, been fortunate enough to not be burdened with major political parties that advocate or approve of the use of violence. Indeed, crossing that rhetorical barrier would have publicly discredited any politician or activist – also prior to 22.7.11. Nevertheless, the Norwegian debate on minorities have gradually accepted more and more extreme xenophobic discourse, and war metaphors have crept into our language, particularly when it comes to Islam.
It is clear that issues associated with the challenges of living in a multicultural society must be debated. There is nothing illegitimate about f.ex. worrying that immigrants are not being well enough socialized into important norms of Norwegian society, or criticizing the model for indigenous representation in Norway. Indeed, few subjects may be considered illegitimate to raise. But there is a chasm between adressing touchy issues in a down-to-earth matter, and using war rhetoric.
It seems a prudent question if it can be considered legitimate points of view that certain minority groups are collectively bent on harming the majority
, or that one half of the political spectrum is to be considered ‘traitors of the nation
The world has lauded Norway for our peaceful reaction to the terrorist attacks, for the way the public and our politicians have not answered the violence with calls for more violence. Statements and actions made by certain people in those few hours before the background and ideology of the perpetrator became known, and the knowledge that their rhetoric had grown to become rather common discursive currency, show us that things may have been very different.
We must hope that that if the terrorist’s ideology had been islamism; the majority, the commentators and the politicians would not have allowed the militant minority to set the agenda. We must hope that decency would have prevailed, even if the terrorist had not been a Christian Norwegian of non-immigrant background.
However, the degree to which culture-based xenophobic rhetoric had become normalized indicates that it would at the very least not have been difficult for such political actors to use the opportunity to push their agenda. 200.000 people took part in the Rose March in Oslo to commemorate the victims and protest against terrorism. Detail from the square between City Hall and the Nobel Peace Centre (pictured). (Image: Wikimedia Commons).A Crisis of Discourse
Organizations and individuals that do not promote violence as a political tool can never be held guilty for the violent actions of otherwise ideologically close groups and individuals. That statement is valid when it concerns socialists, islamists and conservatives alike.
It remains a fact, however, that culture-based xenophobic ideas are what fuelled the terrorist of 22.7.11. That fact has been realized by many people in Norway, which is why the country is now undergoing a certain crisis of discourse: issues related to minority groups have long held centre stage of the political debate, and now there is a certain uncertainty concerning how to continue that debate, since the status of a whole genre of language on the phenomenon has been weakened.
It is still an open question what will happen to the debate on immigration in the wake of the attacks.
Some people belonging to the ‘Islam-critical’ wing have stated that they will tone down their rhetoric. As a blogger associated with the right-wing forum Honestthinking.org has said, “we cannot anymore use words that have been abused by a terrorist to massacre teenagers” (Dagbladet.no 05.08.2011
). Fjordman has made his identity public and stated that he will seize his activity at least for a while (NRK.no 06.08.2011
However, according to sociologist Lars Erik Berntzen, other parts of the ‘counter-Jihad’ movement has not toned down the rhetoric (Aftenposten.no 07.09.11
); and other specialists on the right-wing movements of Norway such as journalist Øyvind Strømmen
and Kari Helene Partapuoli of the Norwegian Centre Against Racism
– state that the most extreme movements may in fact be experiencing growth in the wake of the attacks (Aftenposten.no 08.09.2011
).The Right Wing in Turmoil
The Progress Party became a target for particular criticism following the attacks, not just because of the similarity between certain of their politicians’ rhetoric to that of the terrorist, but also because the terrorist had in fact been the Vice Chairman of their party’s Oslo youth group for some time – although notably, he quit the party a few years ago, feeling that it was too moderate for his tastes.
Progress Party leader Siv Jensen, who has earlier frequently applied the term “creeping Islamization” about the situation in Norway, has now signaled the need for certain changes in the party’s rhetoric, and stated that she does not consider it even a remote danger that the country will be “taken over by Moslems” (Aftenposten.no 16.08.11
Other high-ranking party profiles have made it clear that they are in fact basically positive towards multiculturalism, but see the need for certain common values to be held sacrosanct in Norwegian society , an attitude summed up by Progress Party Member of Parliament Tor Lien:I don’t give a shit if people go to the Mosque or Church, if they eat
kebab, as long as there’s a consensus on basic, Liberal ideas like freedom of expression and democracy
As for the frequently cited Tybring-Gjedde, he now states that he has been too “categorical” in his earlier rhetoric, but underscores that he has not changed his mind about anything (BT.no 02.08
; Aftenposten.no 11.08.11
). Others, again, are adamant that they will not back down on their rhetoric at all - and some few individuals affiliated with the party has ‘blamed the victim’ by voicing the opinion that the Labor Party was ultimately responsible for the act of terrorism themselves, claiming that the ‘madness’ of the perpetrator was a consequence of Leftist immigration policy (DT.no 15.08.11
). Former party leader and mayor candidate in Oslo, Carl I. Hagen, upholds that despite recent events (and available statistics
) “almost all terrorists are Moslems ” (NRK.no 15.08)
. Siv Jensen (left) and C. I. Hagen (right). (Image: Wikimedia Commons a, b).Wither the Web Debates?
Norway’s first terrorist attack has also given the media reason to consider if they are facilitating the growth of hate-based discourse, and urged them to reconsider the possibility of commenting anonymously.
One of the more controversial online forums, that of the financial newssite HegnarOnline, has deactivated the possibility for anonymous commenting after someone started a thread in relation to the terror attacks called It is difficult not to be able to express one’s joy today
. The newspaper VG has made it compulsory for readers who want to comment on articles to log in through Facebook (E24 a
). The hope is that by removing anonymity, people will debate sensitive issues in a less militant tone.
It remains to be seen whether other newspapers will follow suit, and indeed whether de-anonymization of the debates will actually help much. One may find that what makes ethnic fears and hatred dominate on the forums is not anonymity, but rather the fact that there are few people who will bother to gainsay someone who debates out from simplistic name-calling – and hence, the forums are left to the xenophobes and conspiracy theorists. Or perhaps, that has changed too, in the wake of 22.7.11? Is the Discursive Change Short-Term of Long Term?
It is difficult to say how the events of July will change the Norwegian debate on minorities in the long run. As we speak, Norway is just coming down from a discursive state of high alert and political actors are still wary of being associated with the terrorist’s ideology.
When normalcy returns – to the extent that it will – will public debate gradually slide back into the track it had fallen prior to the terrorist attack? Will we again get a public debate in which it is seen as permissible to attack minorities as collectively involved in hostile takeovers, and the Left as willing traitors; where conspiracy theories are supported by prominent politicians and the agents of hate speech are allowed to dominate the forums of important newspapers? If so, we will have failed to take an important lesson from the tragedy that befell us.
Kaufmann, Stuart J. (2001): Modern Hatreds. The symbolic politics of ethnic war.
Ithaca/London: Cornell University Press
Vetlesen, Arne (2005): Evil and Human Agency. Understanding Collective Wrongdoing.
Cambridge University Press.
Climate and EnvironmentPosted by Mikkel Berg-Nordlie Thu, June 16, 2011 12:50:51Is the world getting dangerously warmer and wetter, or is there more “hot air” than global warming? And how may one best adapt to the climate changes currently observed – and the more extreme ones predicted for the future? Read NIBR’s impressions from field work and conference participation in the North Russian Arkhangelsk Region.
By Mikkel Berg-Nordlie
Arkhangelsk is located on 64 degrees north and home to 356.000 people. Having a vibrant cultural life and being far older than most major urban settlements in circumpolar Russia (founded in 1584), the city named after the Archangel Michael considers itself the Russian “capital of the North”.
Administratively, though, it is just the capital of 1.185.000 souls, the citizens of Arkhangelsk Region, a Russian province the size of Spain, with vast areas of pristine northern wilderness and riddled with waterways - the major one being the Northern Dvina, at the delta of which the city itself is situated. In a context of increasing global temperatures, what will be the future of regions like Arkhangelsk – Arctic areas characterized by flat marshland, tundra, and rivers of considerable size? The coat of arms of Arkhangelsk (Image: Wikimedia Commons)
On June 15-16, four researchers from NIBR participated in the conference Climate change and water management – meeting the challenges in the Barents Region
in Arkhangelsk, Russia. Aadne Aasland
, Jørn Holm-Hansen
, Martin Lund-Iversen
and Mikkel Berg-Nordlie attended the conference whilst also doing field work for the NIBR project Adaptation to Climate Change in the Russian North
.Climate change: Reaping the Whirlwind of Human Impact, or Harmless Natural Cycles?
While scientific data do indicate that Arkhangelsk is experiencing a general tendency of warming, some still feel that this is not yet sufficiently well proven. In the local research community there currently appears to be a substantial degree of doubt concerning the reasons behind climate changes, their nature, and their impacts.
Quite a few interviewees and presenters at the conference believed that we are presently only seeing temperature increases that are a part of natural, long-term cyclic climate changes - rather than an unprecedented result of human activities. Some also articulated disbelief that that our current temperature rise will have many negative effects for the region – on the contrary, many pointed to beneficial aspects of this development, such as the opening of waterways in the Arctic Ocean. As the ice cap melts, the Arctic Ocean may become a major transportation route between the continents (Image: Wikimedia Commons).
In Arkhangelsk, such ideas appear to be more mainstream than in certain countries of Western Europe. In Russia also, though, skeptics are being challenged by new data and new interpretations. Now, adaptation to climate change is on the authorities’ agenda, even though the academic debate around the phenomenon still seems to not have quite reached any consensus concerning what the phenomenon really is, and what needs to be done with it.Waiting for Winter on the Nenets Tundra
Medical specialists, however, seem to be particularly critical towards the notion that climate change, cyclic or manmade, is undramatic
for the northern population. They are alarmed about the increased water flow’s possibility for creating severe hygienic problems, the chance that a more unpredictable climate will increase stress levels in the population, the proven appearance in the north of harmful southern species such as the encephalitis-carrying tick, and not least what the climate changes may mean for people engaged in traditional economic activities – such as the northern indigenous population.
Dr. Leonid Zubov of the Arkhangelsk Medical University spends a lot of his time in the Nenets Autonomous Area, an entity that administratively falls under the jurisdiction of Arkhangelsk region. 7000 of the 41.000 inhabitants are indigenous Nenets, inhabiting an area particularly vulnerable to global warming due to permafrost.The Nenets, the largest indigenous group in Russia, constitute the aboriginal population in areas north of Arkhangelsk city (Image: Wikimedia Commons).
Zubov has observed first hand how winter now comes later to the region, delaying the migration of nomadic reindeer herders on their way back to more densely settled areas: some routes are too marshy to cross without snow, and the herders get stuck with their animals for protracted periods of time, waiting for the ground to become solid enough to cross. In the meantime, their livestock loses valuable meat because of scarce pastures, and the herders and their families get reduced access to the medical services only available to them in the periods when they live close to the towns – not only do they arrive later, but they need to leave earlier also, in order to get to their summer pastures before the snow melts and renders the terrain impossible to cross.
It would appear that the impacts of climate change are indeed already being felt in the most vulnerable corners of northern Russia. Assuming that climate changes are to a large extent manmade, the problems of the reindeer-herding Nenets appear to be an ultimate unjustice of sorts: those who have contributed the least to the flood, are swept up by it first. The Kanin Peninsula in Nenets Autonomous Area. The isthmus is too marshy to cross in summer, and poses a substantial obstacle to reindeer herders who spend the summer on the peninsula and the winter in the south (Image: Wikimedia Commons).Crisis-Prevention in the Face of Disbelief
Among the many presentations at the international conference held on the banks of the North Dvina (which will be published here
), was that of NIBR’s own Martin Lund-Iversen, who addressed the subject of climate change adaptation in Norway. Taking as a point of departure that no matter who is really to blame, global warming is indeed occurring and adaptation hence needed, Lund-Iversen described the specific problems of Norway – which turn out to be rather similar to the ones northern Russia may expect: more precipitation, more extreme rain events, permafrost melting, rising sea levels, larger floods, surface draining with extreme rain, and landslides.
Part of the Norwegian conundrum is how to best balance and clarify responsibilities between municipalities, central authorities and developers. While standards are on the way up and municipalities are increasingly aware of the problematic, it appears that the idea of climate change laissez-faire
is on the increase among Norwegian mayors, who are getting less
concerned. Lund-Iversen linked this to the global discourse of skepticism towards climate change, which we as mentioned also heard more than a few times in Arkhangelsk.Manmade or Not: Adaptation is Needed
During our stay in Arkhangelsk, our research team has learnt much about similarities and differences between mechanisms and discourses in several different countries’ and localities’ attempts to map out and adapt to climate change. We wish to thank the organizers of the conference, the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Barents Euro-Arctic Region’s Working Group on the Environment, for our opportunity to experience this interesting, well-organized and important event. We will carry this experience with us into new projects on climate change adaptation in northern areas, which seems set to become a hot topic in the future, as the politicians, administrators and academics of the world gradually warm to the idea. Arkhangelsk and the Northern Dvina in summer (image: Wikimedia Commons).
Ethnicity and MigrationPosted by Mikkel Berg-Nordlie Sat, June 11, 2011 14:32:08A NIBR Policy Brief by Peris Jones
Indigenous rights conflicts have become pivotal in democratic states'
accommodation of diverse population groups and economic development’s
ever-increasing propensity for sourcing natural resources. Since 1989
International Labour Convention 169 is one particular global instrument
used for mapping out indigenous rights standards and corresponding state
This brief argues that ILO 169 is very useful in identifying
gaps and promoting standards for indigenous rights implementation.
Ratification of human rights conventions (and treaties) can, however,
have both beneficial consequences and also those less intended
the impact of rights-based standards especially in highly diverse
societies, like Nepal, shows both obstacles to implementation and that
introducing them nonetheless has effects.Key Points
- Ratification of human rights treaties can have both intended and unintended effects
- Nepal’s ratification of International Labour Convention 169 (ILO 169) in 2007 was an important concession to the indigenous peoples’ movement demands for protection and promotion of indigenous rights
- ILO 169 is useful for identifying gaps in and promotion of procedural and substantive standards for indigenous rights
- Implementation, however, is hostage to political culture and a legacy of political party manipulation and centralised state bureaucracy
- Rights-based claims tend to proscribe a ‘rights holding identity’ that when group based can have unintended consequences in a highly diverse society such as Nepal
- There are indications of increased ‘ethnification’ surrounding Nepal’s (delayed) constitutional process, new federal regions and natural resource conflicts
- Several key actors have responsibilities: political parties- to reach consensus urgently; indigenous movement to be wary of pushing ‘maximalist’ claims, and donors and investors too
It has become common place for some time either to describe Nepal as at a political ‘cross-road’, encountering not one but even several transitions. Some observers highlight how since 1996 and championed by the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN-Maoists) initiated armed insurgency diverse indigenous groups, women, other minorities and marginalised regions demands’ became legitimised. The peace settlement of 2006 marked a fundamental shift from an emphasis upon state reforming to that of actual state restructuring. Delineating indigenous rights in particular has become integral to the ‘new’ Nepal’s political landscape. Maoist symbols in a Nepalese village (Wikimedia Commons)
One highly topical arena of contest concerns implementation of International Labour Organisation Convention 169 (‘ILO 169’). ILO 169 was one of the indigenous movement’s key demands voiced by the umbrella organisation, the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN). Since state ratification in 2007 struggles over its implementation represent a severe disjuncture in post-war transition. ILO 169 implementation is dependent upon political willingness, capacity and not least, perceived effects upon other non-indigenous groups. The role of ILO 169 in one specific sector, namely, hydro electric power, illustrates both the potential and associated problems in implementation.
ILO 169 is a wide ranging convention adopted by member states in Geneva in 1989 (to date only 22 states have ratified it) and intended to respect, protect and promote the rights of IPs. Some of the core principles to this end concern participation and consultation of indigenous peoples at all levels of interventions that affect them. Article 6(2) further provides that the aim of participation is to achieve “agreement or consent” (whereas the emphasis upon consent in the 2007 Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples can be more open as to providing a veto function).
ILO 169 is open to contested interpretations in a number of areas. Not least, concerning natural resources, while this is stated as a weak substantive right to ‘use, management and conservation’, when read alongside other articles it can be interpreted as promoting ownership by indigenous peoples. The language of natural resources can therefore be used strategically by indigenous groups to pursue a more ‘maximalist’ agenda (i.e. in calling for ownership of resources).Indigenous activists and people from the joint Norwegian-Nepalese research team. Damaul in Tanahun, Nepal (photo: Mikkel Berg-Nordlie)Indigenous Peoples’ Standards and Hydro-Electric Power
While a degree of legal ambiguity arises, ILO 169 does nonetheless spell out a range of standards that are useful in examining impacts upon indigenous peoples’ and implications of policies. Concerning the electricity and water resources in Nepal for example, ILO 169 can be used to detect a distinct lack of attention to indigenous standards in the legal and policy framework. Not only is there near total absence of a procedural (participatory) process and detail of benefit sharing; there is also no mention of indigenous peoples’ standards.
The implication is that the willingness and capacity of local government to accommodate indigenous peoples’ demands (and other minorities) can become very arbitrary. Given the historically limited role of indigenous groups in local governance decision-making more generally, this is of particular concern. Despite international discourse surrounding improving indigenous rights standards it is important to look at this in the context of specific country experiences.
Local experiences of hydro-electric projects
Three local projects were visited – at various stages of development. A dynamic common to all three was the emergence of so-called ‘distributional coalitions’ acting as the interface between communities and the company in question. Political parties were most prominent, however, which tended to capture coalitions along with local bureaucrats and excluding indigenous peoples’ organisations. In addition, there was great variability in participation and consultation. Even in the best case, indigenous communities were passive in view of decisions already taken by the company apparently following central government award of licences.
Communities mentioned that impacts of projects are differentiated depending upon one’s location in relation to it and also in terms of social status and ability to deal with impact. In this case, wealthier members of communities were deemed more versatile, unlike those - particularly indigenous members- dependent upon specific occupations and livelihoods related to natural resources (such as fishing in the river impacted by the project). Although some more recent government reforms have been made to include indigenous groups in local governance, this appears to be still hostage to political party representation rather than community membership per se. In general ILO 169 is not being implemented at local level or district level, nor are there guidelines or impetus provided from central state. Proposed site for the Arun III Dam (photo: Peris Jones).Creeping Ethnification
Another dynamic concerns the effects of pushing specifically ‘indigenous rights’. On one level one effect anticipated is the backlash of high caste bureaucrats and hierarchy more generally that seeks to preserve its advantages. Spokespeople from these groups were generally highly opposed to the issue of natural resource ownership for indigenous groups. These same respondents were also representatives, however, of the state and decried state interests. Claims on natural resources and ILO 169 more generally threatened the very fabric of the state, it was said. Several indigenous respondents described how this was a myth constructed by the privileged: the reality was of state bureaucrats who were involved in selling off, or themselves speculating with, Nepal’s ‘national interests’ such as rivers. Some respondents did draw attention to other groups – particularly other excluded non-indigenous minorities - who did feel threatened by talk of indigenous rights, regarding these as ‘zero-sum’ in undermining their own interests.
More generally, interviews in both local, district and the capital, revealed evidence of hardening ethnic identification of groups. High caste organisations are beginning to rally against indigenous claims. Furthermore, disputes over the drawing of new regional boundaries revealed differences between different groups classified as indigenous. Overall, it was striking that a more militant language was evident possibly also coinciding with another impending deadline for acceptance of a new constitution. The militancy can also be seen in relation to an emerging constitution that appears barren in both substantive and even procedural standards for indigenous groups. Buddhist
temple in Kathmandu. Nepal, dominated by Hindu high castes, have a
sizeable indigenous population, many of which are Buddhist (photo:
Nepal faces another particularly testing time with its latest acute disjuncture in the run up to deciding a new constitution. Although this mainly reflects heightened lobbying and gamesmanship in negotiations, in a volatile country prone to violence, these tensions need to be taken seriously and require urgent management: Policy implications
- Political parties need to (re)discover the urgency of prioritising political consensus and delivering the new constitution. This requires concessions on all sides.
- Greater inclusion of substantive and procedural standards in the energy sector, particularly concerning water resources and hydro-electric power, would assist all stakeholders. Clearer guidelines for promoting standards for community participation, consultation and benefit sharing, in particular, should be provided and promoted by government.
- Indigenous standards should be much better defined, detailed and followed in implementation.
- Investors and donors in sectors like hydro-electric power need to incorporate participatory standards, and especially, for affected indigenous communities. Tri-partite agreements between those affected, companies and government should be used to anchor standards in concrete institutional mechanisms.
- But indigenous groups also need to be wary of the knock-on effects of their maximalist strategies for other non-indigenous groups (whether high caste or not) on both resources, group autonomy and reconsider fixed term leadership positions in proposed new regions.
- Seeking a balance in approach requires addressing both specific indigenous historical injustices while creating a common citizenship for all marginalised citizens regardless of identity, which remains a particularly challenging issue for Nepal. Useful resources
Jones, P. S (2011) ‘Between Demos and Ethnos: The Nepal Constitution and Indigenous Rights’, International Journal of Minority and Group Rights, 18, 2 (with Langford, M.).Project Homepage:
‘Accommodating, or, Exacerbating Difference? The Politics of Implementation of International Labour Organisation Convention 169 and deeper democratisation in Nepal’
.Nepal in Focus at the NIBR International Blog:
Aasland, Aadne & Marit Haug: Class, caste or location? How do different people assess social change in Nepal?
Jones, Peris: When the lights go down: Struggles over Hydro-Electric Power in Nepal.
Work and welfarePosted by Mikkel Berg-Nordlie Fri, May 27, 2011 16:35:31
by Aadne Aasland and Marit Haug
Nepal has undergone profound political, social and economic change over the past decades. NIBR has now been present in Nepal for six years and has analyzed developments not only as seen from Kathmandu but in many different parts of the country.
In an article recently published by the Journal of Asian and African Studies we have used data from a large household survey conducted in collaboration with Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies (CNAS) to assess how ordinary people perceive the changes that have taken place in their country. Particular attention was paid to possible differences in the assessments made by people of various castes and ethnic groups, religions and geographic locations. These are all characteristics that are politically salient and commonly referred to in the debates about the crafting of a new constitution, for example as regards to the geographic delimitation of the new federal states, and the division of political power.
A Truly Developing Country
According to the Human Development Index Nepal ranks 138 out of 169 countries with comparable data. Despite this modest rank, the country has undergone significant economic and social improvements over the past decades. Between 1980 and 2010 Nepal's HDI rose by 2.4% annually. Educational opportunities have increased, especially for women, and the health situation has improved considerably. Politically, Nepal has gone from being a country ruled by an authoritarian king, to becoming a fragile, but pluralist democracy with many political parties competing for power in competitive elections.
The household survey (2007-8), which was conducted as part of a larger project on social exclusion and inclusion in Nepal obtained representative data about close to 2,900 households (more than 18,500 individuals) in four districts of the country (Banke, Dhanusa, Sindhupalchowk and Surkhet). In the survey the respondents were, among others, asked to compare different time periods, and whether they had experienced progress or deterioration across a set of indicators. Most people have experienced improvements across these different life domains, whether it is household facilities, income, access to services (including health services), and experience of discrimination. A substantial proportion report a feeling of status quo, while very few have experienced a deterioration of the situation. The figure below shows the level of improvements households have experienced for their general economic condition, a picture which is quite representative of other life domains as well.
How do you rate the general economic condition of your household today compared to 20-25 years ago?
Different Groups – Different Perceptions Of Progress?
The article studies whether responses to the seven questions are evenly distributed across the different population groups, according to caste, ethnicity, religion, geographic location as well as a number of social characteristics (sex, age, educational level, occupation, etc.). An index was constructed and multivariate analysis applied. Through factor analysis we were able to show that perception of social change could largely be ascribed to two separate dimensions: socio-economic change and socio-cultural change, each with specific features and differences in terms of population groups having experienced them.
Socio-Economic Change: Geography More Important Than Caste
Regarding socio-economic change, geographical differences are marked and do not seem to follow the Hill/Terai divide. Rather, centre-periphery differences seem more relevant: the more central districts display more social improvements. Interestingly, however, people living in rural districts give a more positive assessment of change than people living in cities.
While we found marked differences between caste, ethnic and religious groups in bivariate analysis, these effects disappear when controlling for other variables in the model. This is a very important finding; to the extent that there are differences between representatives of groups in assessing improvements of their socio-economic conditions, such differences are more a function of their score on other variables (notably socio-economic resources) than a result of which group they belong to.
As could have been expected, present socio-economic resources of the household are closely associated with perceived socio-economic change. It is noteworthy that the most decisive type of resources is the level of amenities and household consumer goods, while food avail¬ability and household income have somewhat smaller effects. Having outstanding loans or debts gives a negative effect on perception of socio-economic change.
Socio-Cultural Change: More Mixed Findings
As regards socio-cultural change, findings differ somewhat: Firstly, much less of the differences observed when it comes to socio-cultural change can be ascribed to the background characteristics of the respondents than was the case with perceptions of socio-economic change. The largest effect is found for whether the respondents observe a traditional way of living (resulting in a less favourable assessment of change). A sense of being excluded from the national mainstream has a negative effect on assessment of socio-cultural change, while civil society and political participation have positive effects. Ethnicity, caste and religion do not have effects on the perception of socio-cultural changes after controlling for other variables. With one exception (Surkhet) the same is the case with geography.
Class Beats Caste?
The article ends with a discussion of the finding, highlighting improvements across group characteristics and stressing the fact that poverty, human resources and region explain more of the variation than ethnicity, caste or religious belonging. While Dalits and Muslims are somewhat less positive in their evaluation of past change than other groups, our multivariate analysis shows that this cannot be explained by their group but rather by a set of other background characteristics, most notably their lower socio-economic status.
To the extent that social mobility has taken place among traditionally disadvantaged groups, Dalits and Muslims perceive social change in a very similar way to other castes and religious groups, and representatives of other groups with the same background characteristics are no more positive in their assessments of change than are Dalits and Muslims. Our findings lend support to those who argue that social mobility cuts across ethnic, caste and religious divides. However, one cannot conclude that ethnicity, caste and religion are irrelevant, because there may well be barriers in society, including discrimination and cultural traditions, that make social mobility less accessible for some groups than others.
Little Trust In Politicians, But Great Expectations
People in Nepal ascribe the positive change to personal agency rather than efforts of govern¬ment, political parties, non-governmental organizations or international donors. This should not, of course, be seen as a sign that political agency is unimportant. The majority of Nepalese people believe that the future will continue to bring progress both in terms of socio-economic improve-ments and socio-cultural integration. The challenge for policy-makers and those with political influence is then to provide opportunities for personal agency and social mobility, in particular among those people who have reaped fewer of the benefits of previous change, regardless of their group belonging and geographic location.
For an electronic copy of the article, please contact the authors (use links in beginning of post).
Picture: Aadne Aasland.
Ethnicity and MigrationPosted by Mikkel Berg-Nordlie Fri, May 06, 2011 17:13:15The Russia in Pan-Sámi Politics Project's ECPR workshop in St. Gallen has now been
successfully held, drawing participants from three continents and
shedding light on a large set of cases.
We wish to thank our partners in arranging the workshop, Jo Saglie
of the Institute for Social Research
and Ann Sullivan
of the University of Auckland
for a fruitful cooperation; the ECPR
for giving us the chance to arrange this event; and last but in no way least the researchers who participated in the workshop.
To read Saglie's report from the conference, click here
.St. Gallen, Switzerland (Image: Wikimedia Commons).
Work and welfarePosted by Mikkel Berg-Nordlie Wed, April 27, 2011 14:05:12Democratic transitions often disappoint in efforts to get popular material issues and interests on the political agenda. What, then, can poor, marginalised and even criminalised groups do to get their interests heard?
by Peris Jones
A recent report written by Peris Jones, finds that when a human rights and democracy intervention in South Africa conceived socio-economic rights as a bridge straddling everyday struggles for material needs and demands for better governance, interesting differences were made to democracy and development.‘Drivers’ for democratisation
There is consensus among scholars that interventions concerning democracy and human rights promotion can only succeed where there are significant forces pulling toward democratisation in the countries targeted for support. An overarching challenge for external interventions is how well different donors are able to identify and utilise these internal ‘drivers’ for democratisation within a society. An important and objective consideration is under which conditions and stages of democratic consolidation different types of interventions, such as support for elections, political parties, support for parliaments, media, support for judicial and legal development, litigation, courts, access to justice, support for women’s political participation, civil society, social movements etc., prove to be most effective. House of Parliament, Cape TownSouth Africa’s context
There has been remarkable political and social progress since 1994 and the ending of formal apartheid. Peaceful transition, successive free and fair elections, democratic and economic stability, a constitution recognised as the most progressive in the world, and large increases in social spending budgets have all been noteworthy achievements. Democratisation, however, has generally failed to live up to expectations that were aroused at initial stages of transition processes in South Africa, as in other countries. Often reforms have been accompanied by rising levels of insecurity and inequality. The country is blighted by high levels of unemployment, crime, and also racially (and increasingly class) -skewed material deprivation. It is well documented that on specific issues, such as HIV/AIDS, crime, Zimbabwe, and Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) mainly benefiting a growing black middle class, that the Thabo Mbeki era (ending in 2008) witnessed increasing centralisation and intolerance to criticism. Thabo MbekiBottom-up issues
It also became abundantly clear that getting broad based but politically marginalised issues and basic everyday rights (such as addressing the problems in local service delivery rather than BEE) on to the national development agenda in South Africa is still a terrain of fundamental political contestation. South Africa currently has the highest rate of protests in the world, in the order of 11,000 a year. While there is a relatively strong and inclusive electoral system, there is dominance by one party, the African National Congress, and an opposition largely racialised, although this may be changing. There is also a Parliament weak in oversight functions in relation to the executive, but with a robust judiciary system and justiciable socio-economic rights (i.e. these rights can be invoked in a court). In addition, there is a vibrant civil society (including trade unions) undergoing its own transformations, especially with the mushrooming of new social movements. Engagement with civil society
When aggregated, these economic and other issues, such as the manipulation of state institutions by Mbeki used against Jacob Zuma, tended to increasingly alienate grass roots participation and produced lower levels of civil society engagement. The reinvigoration of democracy that followed the ousting of Mbeki by the ANC’s internal democratic procedure reflects faith in President Zuma to encourage greater levels of engagement between government and the public. However, the neo-liberal economic model remains largely identical the same, with jobless economic growth but with evidence of an ever increasing overlap between party and state institutions (not least in use of public office to gain contracts and tenders for private gain).Jacob ZumaVoice and accountabilityHow, then, in such a context can democracy be strengthened whilst also confronting material needs more directly?
The approach taken by the South Africa Programme at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights
(henceforth ‘the Programme’) was to identify socio-economic rights as particularly significant drivers in strengthening South Africa’s democratic and development transition. A strategic decision was taken in 2006 to focus mainly upon the considerable endeavours in recent years to find innovative ways and means of translating these constitutionally enshrined socio-economic rights into meaningful policy change and implementation.
A rights-based approach is ultimately concerned with supporting claims of the rights-holder, providing voice especially for those excluded groups and for the accountability of the duty bearer, namely, the state (and also, at times, private actors). A range of approaches were encouraged in the Programme: legal aid, research, capacity building and training, but also engagement with the state, at times concerning partnership, at others, more open challenges. While other donor approaches use similar methods, the South Africa Programme’s focus on socio-economic rights, litigation and social mobilisation perhaps distinguishes it. Human Rights impact
Increasing attention has been given in recent years to assessing the results of human rights interventions and what to measure. While a fuller account is provided in the report, what is important is to discern between both direct and indirect benefits at the level of the individual, communities and broader structural changes in some areas of decision-making and policy. Some of these are highlighted as particularly important for democracy and human rights strengthening.Direct and Indirect Beneficiaries
Legal advice, for example, can be provided as a direct benefit. In the case of the Programme free legal advice was provided to over five thousand people, particularly women, people living with AIDS, and those threatened by eviction. When thousands of households are successfully defended against specific eviction threats and hundreds of domestic and other workers were compensated for unfair work dismissals due to paralegal interventions, these represent improved direct access to justice and socio-economic rights.
Less direct but nonetheless broader effects can be achieved through legal challenges and policy reforms. These can have implications for huge numbers, thousands, if not millions in some cases. The Communal Land Rights Act, for example, if implemented would have given considerable powers to unelected chiefs in rural areas potentially impacting land tenure of millions of citizens. After research and mobilisation, litigation led to the Act being declared unconstitutional. Other litigation brought by the shack dwellers movement Abahlali
with the support of Programme partners, led to the KwaZulu Natal Slums Act being declared unconstitutional for removing municipal discretion over whether to evict.
This victory stopped the planned replication of the legislation in other provinces and represents a successful defence of the pro-poor eviction standards in South African law, particularly for informal settlements. Other court victories in inner-city Johannesburg also protected some of the most vulnerable from eviction. Lobbying, advocacy and submissions and opinions fed into the new Sexual Offences Bill which finally entered into law in December 2007. Abahlali protest in JohannesburgSocial Activism
Social activism is increasingly overlapping with use of litigation as part of social campaigning in South Africa. The Programme itself has managed to a certain extent to support new forms of social activism, in order to build alliances and common platforms - for example in building a social activist ‘Platform against Evictions’ to bring together movements, organisations and groups concerned with urban and rural evictions. And litigation has provided a site for mobilisation on different campaigns from communal land tenure through to evictions and water rights campaigns.
Instilling democratic norms and processes
One of the biggest overall achievements is these various activities have challenged and tested institutional and legal structures. Challenging policy and legislation in strategic sites has particularly helped to animate human rights and make them mean something for the grassroots in South Africa. Justice has been brought both closer to many South Africans and to instil democratic norms (such as participation and meaningful engagement) and the rule of law. Groups criminalised or having their concerns consistently disregarded by policy makers reflected upon how their direct engagement in court cases enabled them to have their voices heard. Some partners have improved the process dimensions of democracy in innovative and direct ways.
The Poor People's Alliance protests outside the Constitutional Court in May 2009.
Challenges: Policy making, sustainability and representation
Litigation sometimes risks becoming too technical, costly, long winded, and focused on legal principles often abstract to the pressing needs of the majority. There is also a danger that policy-making and actual implementation can be conflated with a narrower focus upon ‘law making’. The Programme showed, however, that when social activism is allied to litigation and other approaches then a powerful tool can be created. A broader challenge for NGOs more generally is to maximise the potential of litigation by using it as merely one method within a broader social campaign.
There is the overall challenge, also to create better connections between human rights NGOs, grass roots communities and social campaigns. In terms of sustainability, the closer an organisation is to the ground, i.e. community or grass roots based, the harder it appears to be to attract funding. While community and grass roots organisations do approach the bigger more urban based NGOs for support, such linkages should be better strategised by the bigger actors in order to strengthen their effectiveness, legitimacy and representativeness. Conclusion
South Africa has travelled a considerable distance in post-apartheid transition- but we should not expect the road to be straight and flat but one rather more bumpy and prone to detours. Expansion of housing and services, for example, can be slow and simply fails to keep up with the rapid pace of increasing needs. On these and other issues government often shies away from public engagement. In such a context the valuable contribution that the Programme made was the aggregate impact in implementing socio-economic rights which helped to keep democratic space open.
The latter has been entirely necessary in South Africa’s stage of democratic transition but is by no means sufficient. Sometimes human rights organisations do need reminding that legal approaches should not substitute political processes (often grassroots in nature) and certainly better linkages should be made between the two spheres. Striking an appropriate balance, however, is challenging but can also create a positive tension between democracy and human rights. The difference made: socio-economic rights have contributed to democratising development, while also therefore developing democracy.
This is an edited and amended out-take from the fuller report, see ‘The South Africa Programme: Final Report 2005-2009
’, main author Peris Jones, on behalf of the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights.
For related publications on democratisation, human rights impact and South Africa see:
Jones, Peris and Kristian Stokke (eds. 2005) Democratising Development: The Politics of Socio-Economic Rights in South Africa
(Martinus Nijhoff; Leiden)
Langford, Malcolm et al (eds.) Symbols or Substance: The role and impact of Socio-economic Rights strategies in South Africa (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2011), which is a broader discussion of human rights impact in South Africa, and includes a chapter by Peris Jones discussing one local project intervention.
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