Vol-XCII : January 4, 2012

Dear Colleagues

Wish you all a peaceful and productive 2012. Here is another one for your perusal:

1. In numerous ‘old’ and new conflict zones, one of the main casualties is finding a ‘safe’ civic space for citizens to be themselves. Typically, the conflict forces people to be identified with one or the other ‘warring’ sides, even if they have no ‘sides’. This has been happening in Kashmir for decades. It has been happening in Northern Ireland and Cyprus too. Recent studies on conflict and governance in Cyprus have been looking at possible ways in which a ‘safe’ civil space can become ‘common ground’ for citizens to dialogue with each other. Identification, protection and advancement of such civil space may be a critical intervention in such conflict zones?

2. Around the world, many promises were made to be delivered before end of 2011. Eurozone leaders had promised to deliver a more fiscally integrated system for ‘euro’-countries. Once again, the promise was belied as national priorities and political interests were conflicting across such countries. It seems that internal power relations within the political leadership in Eurozone are once again coming in the way. Citizens around Europe—from Italy to Spain, Greece to Portugal—are demonstrating on the streets to protect their livelihoods and dignity. Instead of listening to citizens of their own countries, political leaders are busy listening to the advice of global bankers and fund managers—the very same folks who are a key source of the financial.

3. Likewise in India, the parliament failed to deliver a Lokpal legislation, despite sitting some extra days towards the end of the month. And now, the Hon’ble Prime Minister says that he is personally committed to it. The problem is quintessential political, not one of his personal intent. The political class as a whole is NOT interested in a strong independent Ombudsman against corruption. In a way, all political parties connived to ensure the confusion resulting in the denial of passage to this legislation. The Congress Party leadership is, ofcourse, most responsible for this chaos, since it is leading the government of the day. It is precisely the ‘drama’ by the political class in the parliament last week which further reinforces the criticality of a mass citizens’ movement, led by Anna Hazare. Even further and stronger protests by citizens are needed if any hopes for eradicating corruption from public life have to be realized in India.

4. Civil society discussions these days are beginning to confront the changing realities of new geo-political realities around the world. Some of these discussions have centred around the roles of ‘new’ economic powers—the middle income countries themselves. Some others have focused on the changing nature of citizens’ assertions in Europe and North America. The disconnect between these different strands of civil society conversations were deliberated upon in Oxford recently. The sense of those deliberations was the need for civil society to engage more directly in organizing and mobilizing the grassroots in different contexts; somehow, the basic organizing mandates of intermediary civil society organisations was getting lost sight of?

5. The British public and parliament are beginning to feel ’unease’ about continued ‘international aid’ to countries like India. In a recent visit to Delhi, the UK Minister responsible for international development made this amply clear. He went on to emphasise that he has negotiated a new ‘deal’ with Indian government whereby UK’s aid to India will create jobs in UK. Recall President Obama saying the same thing a couple of years ago while visiting India? For once, it is being openly acknowledged that future international cooperation is about economic development of the ‘giver’ country, not necessarily of the ‘recipient’ countries; atleast, clarity is emerging in 2012 on this, and many related fronts. Hope citizens of the world would be less prone to ‘seduction’ from their political leaders in 2012. ?

Best wishes again

Rajesh Tandon