what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Friday, February 25, 2011

catalysts to change

I’ve been remiss in making so little mention of the momentous events going on in the north of Afirca and in Yemen. Others more expert than I are covering the issues very well – I was particularly interested to see the discussion about the role played by outsiders in guiding the protestors. An 83 year old American citizen - Gene Sharp – has emerged from the shadows and seems to have played a role in various recent revolutions and his website has some useful guidance for citizen activists in autocratic regimes. Serbians also seem to have been active tutors
The Guardian’s development blog had a very useful post on the catalysing conditions -
Tertiary enrolment – school leavers going to higher education – in Egypt has risen from 14% to 28% since 1990, and in Tunisia from 8% to 34%. Egyptian high school graduates account for 42% of the workforce, but 80% of the unemployed. According to the global employment trends from the International Labour Organisation, Arab countries need to generate more than 50 million jobs in the next decade just to stabilise employment. These conditions have created a large body of disaffected youth, a boiling pot of frustration that is now spilling over at governments that have failed to provide employment opportunities. But the reasons for unrest aren't all economic. Increases in literacy and education, alongside urbanisation and the expansion of the media, have extended political consciousness and broadened demands for political participation. Despite national increases in living standards, the region's repressive, authoritarian regimes are often plagued by corruption and nepotism. Dani Rodrik, a development economist, points out that economic growth does not buy stability unless political institutions mature at the same time. This shows that widely used measures of development such as the MDGs and the HDI are, by themselves, insufficient to determine development priorities: much greater attention needs to be played to inequality, but not only inequality of income.
Middle Eastern countries have had, at least until recently, one of the most equal income distributions in the world. Egypt, for example, registered a Gini coefficient (a measure of inequality) of 32 in 2005, far lower than the 47 achieved by the US in the same year. This suggests that access to gainful employment and acute inequalities in political power also need to be considered. These issues are not unique to the Middle East. But the histories of countries such as Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria demonstrate that as societies transform and urbanise, aspirations grow and people expect more of their governments.
However, economic inequalities within, rather than between, countries are becoming more important as the proportion of middle-income countries grow: research from the Institute of Development Studies shows there is a new "bottom billion" of 960 million poor people – 72% of the world's poor – who live not in low, but in middle-income countries. This is a dramatic change from just two decades ago, when 93% of poor people lived in low-income countries.

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