International Right to Know Day – September 28

FOIA

In 2002 a group of organizations working in the area of free access to information met in Sofia, Bulgaria at the Freedom of Information litigation conference.  As a result of this meeting the International Freedom of Information Advocates Network was formed to promote the right of access to information for all people and underline the importance of transparency and openness on the part of governments.  The 28th of September is set aside each year to mark the progress made in promoting this “right to know”.

What constitutes transparency and openness in government?  This is an issue that affects all countries.  It includes the ability freely access and understand the publications and records of activities of government entities.  The U.S. Government Information Transparency Act of 2009 provides some additional background on the topic.  It states:

“Openness and accountability are deeply rooted in the U.S. Government, so much so that it is written into the Constitution that the Congress keep a record of its activities and make it available to the general public. To this end, the Congress has, over the years, enacted a number of laws requiring a variety of federal information to be made available to the public. Since its passage in 1966, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has been a cornerstone of these efforts. Additionally, there are numerous federal laws requiring the public disclosure of an array of federal information including, but not limited to, the Ethics in Government Act, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, and the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act.

While all of these open government laws improve transparency and accountability, the information and data they produce, whether it be because of format, venue, or sheer volume, is not always useful. As it currently stands, a variety of federal business and financial information is available to the public in a number of different formats and places. Although the Internet has greatly improved the accessibility of this information, accessibility alone does not promote accountability. In order to be an efficient and effective resource for both the general public and the federal government itself, federal business and financial information must be made available in a standard and useful way so that data is more easily manipulated, searched, and shared.  The Government Information Transparency Act directs OMB to adopt single data standards for the collection, analysis, and dissemination of federal business and financial information. H.R. 2392 is intended to improve the transparency, consistency, and usability of federal business and financial information.”

The United States government has a long standing Freedom of Information Act that provides a process for retrieving information that is not readily available for a variety of reasons.  Passed in 1966, the Act was one of the first to address the challenges of government transparency.  The FOIA website provides excellent information on how to make a request, statistics on the number of requests received and processed and more.  Mendel provides an excellent overview of the Act and how it is currently measuring up in comparison to other nations’ laws.  The challenges to federal employees in accommodating the law is discussed briefly by Rodgers and helps us understand some of the difficulties endemic to completing FOIA requests.  The University Library subscribes to the Digital National Security Archive, a database that provides access to many collections of previously classified documents.

In a related area today is also the first celebration of the International Day for the Universal Access to Information which underlines the importance of easy access to information for sustainable development.  You can read more about this celebration at the UNESCO site as well as the site for the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions.

For more information on this topic you might read –

Books:

Adshead, M. & Felle, T. (Eds.) (2015) Ireland and the Freedom of Information Act. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Hammitt, H. A. & Susman, T. M. (2004) Business uses of the Freedom of Information Act. Arlington, VA: Bureau of National Affairs.

Martin, G. Bray, R.S. & Kumar, M. (Eds.) (2015) Secrecy, law, and society. New York: Routledge.

Schudson, M. (2015) The rise of the right to know: politics and the culture of transparency, 1945-1975.  Cambridge:  Belknap Press.

Scholarly Articles:

Doshi, P., & Jefferson, T. (2016). Open data 5 years on: A case series of 12 freedom of information requests for regulatory data to the european medicines agency. Trials, 17(1) doi:10.1186/s13063-016-1194-7

Gunnlaugsdottir, J. (2016). Reasons for the poor provision of information by the government: Public opinion. Records Management Journal, 26(2), 185-205. doi:10.1108/RMJ-03-2015-0013

Liu, A. C. (2016). Two faces of transparency: The regulations of People’s republic of china on open government information. International Journal of Public Administration, 39(6), 492-503. doi:10.1080/01900692.2015.1018426

Mendel, T. (2016). The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act: How it Measures up Against International Standards and Other Laws. Communication Law & Policy21(4), 465-491. doi:10.1080/10811680.2016.1216685

Mohapatra, S. (2016). Right to information act, 2005 and privacy in public mental health sector in india. Asian Journal of Psychiatry, 19, 23. doi:10.1016/j.ajp.2015.11.011

Rodgers, M. A. (2016). Freedom of Information Act Requests Six Keys to Handling Them. Defense AT&L, 45(1), 50-52.

Vadlamannati, K. C., & Cooray, A. (2016). Transparency pays? evaluating the effects of the freedom of information laws on perceived government corruption. Journal of Development Studies, , 1-22. doi:10.1080/00220388.2016.1178385

Websites:

Ethics in Government Act

Digital National Security Archive

Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act

FOIA Improvement Act of 2016

United States FOIA Resources

Honest Leadership and Open Government Act

IFLA

UNESCO 

 

 

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International Literacy Day!


UNESCO Poster

 

“The world has changed since 1966 – but our determination to provide every woman and man with the skills, capacities, and opportunities to become everything they wish, in dignity and respect, remains as firm as ever. Literacy is a foundation to build a more sustainable future for all.”

-UNESCO Director-General

September 8th, 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of International Literacy Day.  Established by UNESCO in 1966, International Literacy Day reflects the desire to increase global literacy rates, promote literacy as a tool for peace and positive change, and empower individuals to achieve their dreams. This year, UNESCO celebrates under the theme “Reading the Past, Writing the Future”, honoring the progress made toward global literacy, acknowledging current challenges, and discussing solutions that can be enacted across cultures and regions.

Global literacy is incorporated into many national and intergovernmental peace-building programs, including UNESCO’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. With the key goal of wiping out poverty, the international community identified education and literacy as valuable tools in the fight against economic inequality.  The Agenda specifically states, “ensur[ing] inclusive and equitable quality education and promot[ing] lifelong learning opportunities for all” is essential for true sustainable development.  2016 is the first year for 2030 Agenda implementation.

Literacy in a Technological Age

What role does technology play in literacy? Even though they increase our access to information, technological advances both help and hinder global literacy. With increased access, knowledge is always at our fingertips. This shift from print to digital eliminates geographic boundaries when attempting to access educational resources– that is, if we own the types of technology that can access it (phones, computers, tablets, etc.). Due to the increase in demand for digital materials, some basic literacy tools are only accessible electronically – thereby only accessible to those with enough monetary resources to purchase the technology that can access these digitized materials. The International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) identifies this trend in the information services realm – a trend that no doubt favors more economically developed regions. IFLA acknowledges that access to information has and will continue to have profound impact on developments in the information economy.  According to the IFLA Trend Report,  “An ever-expanding digital universe will bring a higher value to information literacy skills like basic reading and competence with digital tools. People who lack these skills will face barriers to inclusion in a growing range of areas. The nature of new online business models will heavily influence who can successfully own, profit from, share, or access information in the future.”  Working with other interested organizations and individuals, this organization moved for the inclusion of these concepts in UNESCO’s Agenda.

For more information on the topic of literacy:

Scholarly Articles

Boughton, B. & Durnan, D. 2014. “Cuba’s ‘Yes, I Can’ mass adult literacy campaign model in Timor-Leste and Aboriginal Australia: A comparative study.” International Review of Education 60, no. 4: 559-580.

Duncan, Lynne G., Sarah P. McGeown, Yvonne M. Griffiths, Susan E. Stothard, and Anna Dobai. 2016. “Adolescent reading skill and engagement with digital and traditional literacies as predictors of reading comprehension.” British Journal Of Psychology 107, no. 2: 209-238.

Hanemann, Ulrike. 2015. “Lifelong literacy: Some trends and issues in conceptualising and operationalising literacy from a lifelong learning perspective.” International Review Of Education / Internationale Zeitschrift Für Erziehungswissenschaft 61, no. 3: 295-326.

Sharma, Ravi, Arul-Raj Fantin, Navin Prabhu, Chong Guan, and Ambica Dattakumar. 2016. “Digital literacy and knowledge societies: A grounded theory investigation of sustainable development.” Telecommunications Policy 40, no. 7: 628-643.

Sharp, Laurie A. 2014. “Literacy in the Digital Age.” Language And Literacy Spectrum 24, 74-85.

Books:

De Abreu, Belinha S. & Yildiz, Melda N. (eds.). 2016. Global media literacy in a digital age: teaching beyond borders. New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Erstad, Ola & Sefton-Green, Julian (eds.). 2013. Identity, community, and learning lives in the digital age. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Rowsell, Jennifer. 2013. Working with multimodality: rethinking literacy in a digital age. London: Routledge.

Tyner, Kathleen R. 1998. Literacy in a digital world: teaching and learning in the age of information. Mahwah, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates.

Welsh, Teresa S. & Wright, Melissa S. 2010. Information literacy in the digital age: an evidence-based approach.  Oxford, U.K: Chandos.

Web:

UNESCO’s Sustainable Development Agenda: http://en.unesco.org/education2030-sdg4

The First Stop for Education Data: http://www.uis.unesco.org/Education/Pages/default.aspx

Incheon Declaration Education 2030: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002338/233813M.pdf

Riding the Waves or Caught in the Tide: Insights from the IFLA Trend Report: http://trends.ifla.org/insights-document

IFLA Trend Report 2016 Update: http://trends.ifla.org/files/trends/assets/trend-report-2016-update.pdf

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Global Fashion: A Window into Globalization

Bangalore Fashion Week 2014

Bangalore Fashion Week 2014

For centuries, textiles and clothing styles have been one of the most obvious and poignant indicators of cross-cultural interchange.  With the rapid rise of globalization over the past several decades, the spread of fashion across global cultures has mirrored the changes in economy, culture, and daily life that globalization has brought. By studying the history and current trends in the fashion business, we not only address a fascinating and exciting field, but we can gain a better understanding of the complicated linkages that connect cultures and people in the modern world.

An example of the tendency for fashion to signify larger global changes is the 1990’s trend of “Orientalism” in Western fashion. Throughout the late 1980’s and 1990’s, fashion borrowed stylistic influences from Asian traditions. Some scholars believe that this trend was a result of the “opening up” of China in the early 1980’s as well as Hong Kong’s separation from Great Britain in 1997. These events not only allowed for the easier diffusion of Chinese cultural traditions throughout the world, but also contributed to an “accelerated a sense of Chinese identity,” as well as a confidence in that identity (Paulicelli and Clark, 2008).

As countries and cultures seek to define their cultural identity within the globalized context of the information age, fashion weeks are being born around the globe. Kazakhstan started their first ever fashion week in 2014, which received much attention from the fashion and lifestyle blogging world (Koopmans, 2014). Iran and Azerbaijan will celebrate their first ever fashion weeks this year. The Mercedes Benz STYLO Asia Fashion Week hosts shows rotated between in countries of China, Korea, Japan, India, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.  These fashion weeks do not only serve to celebrate local fashion designers, they also attract international buyers and journalists that push forward the globalization of the fashion industry.

Despite being touted as a Western tradition, fashion weeks have played a role in reclaiming cultural identity through personal style. For example, this year India celebrates its 25th fashion show season that has spanned over the past 15 years. The unique and often non-western fashions of India are in many ways an anti-colonial statement, and these fashion weeks serve as a way to control their own narrative and representations in regards to fashion (Arora, 2014). Cultural appropriation has become a hot topic issue in the fashion industry, as models and celebrities have come under fire for donning bindis and Native American headdresses. Fashion communicates identity and power, and conflict around the political implications of fashion is nothing new. Marie Antoinette is one of the most well-known historical fashion plates, and scholars continue to study how her fashion influenced (and angered) citizens, reflected political alliances, and became internationally popular during Louis the XVI’s reign (Oatman-Stanford, 2015). Exploring the fashion trends of past and current cultures gives unique insight into globalization and the understandings held about globalization at the time.

Starting on May 15, 2015 the Rare Books and Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will host a summer exhibition on fashion plates entitled Poplin & Paper: Four Centuries of Fashion in Print. This exhibition, curated by Anna Chen, will explore the intersection of print and fashion.

Find more information about this topic with the resources below.

Web Resources

Encyclopedia of Fashion – Globalization

What It’s Like At Fashion Week in Kazakhstan

Iran holds first ever fashion week – AlMonitor

First Azerbaijan Fashion Week scheduled for May 2015

Mercedes Benz STYLO Asia Fashion Week

India: Lakmé Fashion Week

Fashion to Die For: Did an Addiction to Fads Lead Marie Antoinette to the Guillotine?

 

Scholarly Articles (Available through UIUC Online Journals and Databases): 

Arora, S. (2014). Globalized Frames of Indian Fashion. Global Studies Journal, 6(1), 37-43.

Moeran, B. (2008). Economic and cultural production as structural paradox: the case of international fashion magazine publishing. International Review Of Sociology, 18(2), 267-281

 

Books (Available through UIUC Libraries)

Eicher, J. 2008. The Visible Self: Global Perspectives of Dress, Culture, and Society (3rd eds.). New York: Fairchild Books

McCracken, A. (2014). The beauty trade: Youth, gender, and fashion globlization. New York, New York: Oxford University Press.

Paulicelli, Eugenia, and Clark, Hazel, eds.(2008). Fabric of Cultures : Fashion, Identity, Globalization. Florence, KY, USA: Routledge

Maynard, Margaret. (2004) Dress and globalisationManchester: Manchester University Press

 

 

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Europe Spurred to Action on Mediterranean Migration

Tunisian coast sign

A sign on the Tunisian coast. Credit Flickr user noborder network.

On Sunday, April 19th, a boat carrying as many as 950 people capsized in the Libyan waters south of Italy, focusing international attention on the problem of illegal immigration and human trafficking in the Mediterranean. An estimated 800 people drowned in this latest incident, where eyewitnesses stated that hundreds had been locked under the deck of the ship, with no chance of escape. But this shocking tragedy, while it may be the worst to date,  is only a fraction of the much larger death toll that has resulted from attempted migration across the Mediterranean, which has reached 1,727 so far in 2015.

The individuals risking their lives to reach Europe through the Mediterranean do so for many, valid, reasons. They flee their home countries to escape war, poverty, or political persecution that has erupted in many African and Middle-Eastern states since the Arab uprisings of 2011. This type of migration is known as “irregular migration,” which involves foreign nationals living in countries in which they do not have a legal status, or foreign nationals working illegally in a country in which they do have a legal status. But, sadly, due to the horrendous and dangerous conditions on many of the boats that carry these migrants, many of them never reach their destination. Migrants often pay large sums of money to owners of vessels to carry them across the sea. However, the vessels are often not equipped to carry the amount of people that are placed on board. This leads to dangerous conditions and wreckage, whereby thousands of migrants have lost their lives in the past several years.

In a special meeting of the European Council on April 23rd, the Council discussed this growing problem and action that could be taken to save lives in the Mediterranean. The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, urged the Council to take action.

“Saving the lives of innocent people is the number one priority. But saving lives is not just about rescuing people at sea. It is also about stopping the smugglers and addressing irregular migration,” the President urged.

At this special meeting the Council released a statement that included several key promises. The first is to strengthen the EU presence at sea, by tripling the financial support for search and rescue operations. The second objective is to pursue the traffickers themselves, through existing international legal channels.  Thirdly, the Council vowed to prevent illegal migration by working with the countries from which the migrants flee in attempts to solve some of the problems that lead to the illegal migration. And lastly, the Council agreed to strengthen cooperation within European Union member states to comply with the Common European Asylum System, which is based on the 1951 Geneva Convention on the protection of refugees, and attempts to maintain a common European policy on protecting those asylum seekers who are fleeing violence in their home countries.

The European Council’s action on this issue is hugely important to finding an end to the tragic loss of life that is happening in the Mediterranean. But the UN is also recognizing that the problem is a global issue of human rights, and is taking action of several fronts as well. The UN Refugee Agency has been assisting those who are rescued at sea or attempting to make the journey to pursue asylum status, but this often means taking the refugees to detention centers where conditions are very poor. In an April 19th press statement, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres stressed that finding a solution to the problem will involve not only helping those who are seeking asylum, but attempting to “address the root causes” of the migration that’s happening in the Mediterranean.

Find more information about this issue with the resources below.

Web Resources

OECD Factbook 2014: Economic, Environmental and Social Statistics: Migration and employment DOI:10.1787/factbook-2014-8-en

European Union – Clandestino – Database on Irregular Migration

UN Refugee Agency

CBS News – Death in the Mediterranean

Scholarly Articles (Available through UIUC Online Journals and Databases)

Battaini-Dragoni, Gabriella. 2002. “The Distinctive Role of the Council of Europe in Migration Management: The Case of the Euro-Mediterranean Region.”European Journal Of Migration & Law 4, no. 4: 1-497. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed April 30, 2015).

Mountz, A., & Loyd, J. M. (2014). Constructing the Mediterranean Region: Obscuring Violence in the Bordering of Europe’s Migration “Crises”. ACME: An International E-Journal For Critical Geographies, 13(2), 173-195.

Raeymaekers, T. (2014). Introduction Europe’s Bleeding Border and the Mediterranean as a Relational Space. ACME: An International E-Journal For Critical Geographies, 13(2), 163-172.

Books (Available through UIUC Libraries)

Lazaridis, Gabriella (2010). Security, insecurity, and migration in EuropeBurlington, VT : Ashgate.

Tapia, Stéphane de. (2008). The Euro-Mediterranean migration systemStrasbourg : Council of Europe Pub.

Kneebone, Susan,, Stevens, Dallal,Baldassar, Loretta. (Eds.) (2014). Refugee protection and the role of law :conflicting identitiesNew York, NY : Routledge, 2014.

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Land Mines and Explosive Remnants of War: A Global Burden

Created by Benjamin D. Hennig, Creative Commons conditions (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Saturday, April 4th was International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. Global Currents would like to take this opportunity to talk about the history of land mines and current issues and efforts surrounding mines and explosive hazards.

When wars end, often the death and destruction lingers for decades in the form of unexploded land mines and other types of explosives. The people living in affected areas must deal with the effects of these remnants of war, which still kill or injure around 11 people each day around the world, despite massive worldwide efforts since 1997 to eliminate them.  In addition to death and injury, the cost of medical care, resulting unemployment, and loss of usable land have detrimental effects on communities as well.

The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, also known as the Ottawa Treaty, was adopted by the UN in 1997, and currently has 162 signatories. 35 United Nations States are not-party to the treaty, including the United States, Russia, and China. Terms of the treaty for signatories includes destruction of land mine stockpiles (except for a small number for training purposes), clearing of all land mine areas within the country within ten years of signing, and assistance to persons affected by land mines. The Ottawa Treaty does not include any provisions for cluster munitions, however, which can pose many of the same civilian risks as land mines.  The Convention on Cluster Munitions , as a result, was adopted in 2008 and is currently signed by 116 countries. This convention is similar to the Ottawa Treaty in its obligations – destruction of stockpiles, clearing of areas, and assistance to victims.

The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) is the branch of the United Nations dedicated to addressing the problem of land mines and explosive hazards. The organization works in 40 countries and three territories on different aspects of mine action, depending on the area’s need. NGOs such as the The Marshal Legacy Institute, The Halo Trust, and the Landmine Relief Fund, cover a range of actions from demining efforts to public awareness to assistance for victims.

Despite the existence of these treaties and campaigns, land mines and cluster munitions remain a huge problem in many areas.  The International Campaign to Ban Land Mines produced the following major results on land mines and cluster munitions for 2013:

  • A global total of 3,308 casualties from land mines worldwide was reported, occurring in 52 states, 32 of which are state parties to the Ottawa Treaty. This number is a 24% decline from 2012’s 4,324.
  • In 2013, Syria had the highest number of cluster munition casualties for any nation, with around 1,000 casualties, 97% of which were civilians.
  • Casualties from cluster munition remnants occurred in nine states and one other area in 2013, including four state parties (Croatia, Iraq, Lao PDR, and Lebanon), five non-signatories (Cambodia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Vietnam), and Western Sahara.
  • Currently, only 11 states are identified as potential producers of antipersonnel land mines: China, Cuba, India, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, and Vietnam.
    • The United States was removed from this list because of a 2014 policy announcement that promised an end to the production and acquisition of antipersonnel mines.
  • “Sixteen countries continue to produce cluster munitions or reserve the right to produce in the future, but only three of these states are known to have used the weapon: Israel, Russia, and the United States.”

The latest reports show that progress is being made in eliminating the threat of land mines and cluster munitions to civilians, but policy and practice need to continue to move towards what ICBLM calls the “international norm against use – where use anywhere by anyone is considered abhorrent.” But integrally important to the effort to reduce the threat of these deadly devices is the raising of awareness around the globe. That is the goal of events such as International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, because the more people that see and are appalled by the statistics, the stronger the pressure will be on governments worldwide to fix the problem.

To find out more about land mine action, please consult the resources below!

Web Resources

UN Libraries Research Guide – Mine Action

The Collaborative ORDnance data repository (CORD) enables web-based search of landmine and other unexploded ordnance data to assist humanitarian demining and ordnance disposal operations.

Landmine & Cluster Monitor – Country Profiles

Cluster Munition Coalition

Scholarly Articles (Available through UIUC Online Journals and Databases)

ARCAND, J., RODELLA-BOITREAUD, A., & RIEGER, M. (2015). The Impact of Land Mines on Child Health: Evidence from Angola. Economic Development & Cultural Change, 63(2), 249-279.

Kirk, R. W. (2014). In Dogs We Trust? Intersubjectivity, Response-Able Relations, and the Making of Mine Detector Dogs. Journal Of The History Of The Behavioral Sciences, 50(1), 1-36.

Perez, J., Shortt, N., & Morton, J. (2012). Latin American Compliance with the Mine Ban Convention. International Journal Of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, 6(11), 89-100.

WILLIAMS J. STOP USING LAND MINES AND CLUSTER MUNITIONS. Foreign Policy [serial online]. January 2013;(198):1.

Books (Available at UIUC Libraries)

Borrie, John. (2009). Unacceptable harm: a history of how the treaty to ban cluster munitions was won. New York : United Nations.

Bryden, Alan. (2013). International law, politics and inhumane weapons: the effectiveness of global landmine regimesAbingdon, Oxon : Routledge.

Tyner, James A.. (2010).  Military legacies: a world made by warNew York : Routledge.

Williams, Jody, Goose, Stephen D.Wareham, Mary. (Eds.) (2008). Banning landmines :disarmament, citizen diplomacy, and human securityLanham : Rowman & Littlefield.

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Net Neutrality: What’s New in 2015?

netneutrality

Last year, Global Currents reported on the history and current rulings relating to net neutrality. In light of recent decisions from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on this issue, this post will bring you up to speed on what’s happening now.

Net neutrality is the idea that all content on the Internet be treated equally. In other words, under net neutrality legislation, Internet service providers (ISPs) will not be able to give preference to certain websites, or allow for Internet “fast lanes” to companies who pay more.

We left off our last post on the issue when the FCC was opening a four-month window for public input before passing further legislation. At this time, the United States Court of Appeals ruling on Verizon vs. FCC held that previous rules pertaining to net neutrality produced by the FCC were not valid, because ISPs were not common carriers. This meant that ISPs fell outside of the realm of authority for the FCC, under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C.).  This is one of the important things that has changed in the past year.

In November of 2014, President Obama released a statement on net neutrality. Obama urged the FCC to reclassify the Internet as a utility, which would make it a common carrier and allow the commission to regulate ISPs.  He stated, “For almost a century, our law has recognized that companies who connect you to the world have special obligations not to exploit the monopoly they enjoy over access into and out of your home or business. It is common sense that the same philosophy should guide any service that is based on the transmission of information — whether a phone call or a packet of data.”

On February 26th, 2015, the FCC followed this advice and voted to reclassify the Internet as a common carrier. Along with this decision came the FCC’s new Open Internet Rules, which were released to the public on March 12th. The three rules are:

  • No blocking – ISPs cannot block any lawful content from consumers.
  • No throttling – ISPs cannot control the Internet speed for any content or services, regardless of the applications or devices being used.
  • No paid prioritization – ISPs cannot provide faster Internet service in exchange for payment. This means there cannot be any “fast lanes” of Internet content.

But, the FCC’s latest decision is not the end-all solution for net neutrality. The debate rages on as ISPs like Verizon and AT&T, and many (mostly Republican) lawmakers argue that the ruling places too much regulation on Internet service and will stifle innovation. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has been called to several meetings with lawmakers since the ruling, being forced to explain and defend the commission’s position.  The conversation on this issue is definitely not over, and it remains to be seen what will become of the FCC’s latest ruling.

The sources below will help you brush up on the net neutrality issue!

Web Resources

FCC.gov – Open Internet

What is net neutrality and what does it mean for me? – USA Today

How Net Neutrality Works (Video) – New York Times

The Open Internet: A Case for Net Neutrality

Government Docs

The FCC Rulings:

The Communications Act of 1934:

Verizon vs. FCC

Additional places to search for U.S. legislation:

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Chai Wai Series: The Future of the European Union: A Shared Vision?

Please join the International and Area Studies Library for the following event:

Slide1

The event will include members of the Chicago Consular Corps in a conversation related to issues affecting the future of the European Union.  In anticipation of this event, explore some of the important background information about the European Union, then join us for “Tea or something” on March 12, from 2:30-4:00 p.m. at the International and Area Studies Library, Room 321 Main Library to engage in the conversation.  The discussion is sponsored by the European Union Center, the Center for Global Studies and the University Library.

Origins of the EU

The European Union traces its roots to the aftermath of World War II, when the countries of Europe were seeking solidarity to protect against further discord and war. The economic fallout from the war was immense, and this was also a motivating factor in creating organizations to unite the countries of Europe. In 1949, the Council of Europe was created when ten states ( Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom) signed the Treaty of London. With the aim “to achieve a greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are their common heritage and facilitating their economic and social progress” (Statute of the Council of Europe), the Council became the first pan-European organization. The Council of Europe now includes every European country except for Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Vatican City.

The Three Communities

In 1950, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands founded the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), which merged the coal and steel sectors of member countries, ensuring that none could create weapons of war to use against the others. In 1957, these same six countries signed the Treaties of Rome, which created the European Economic Community (EEC) and European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom).  The purpose of the EEC was to merge the economic markets of member countries, and Euratom merged the atomic energy industries of member countries.  In 1967 ECSC, EEC, and Euratom joined to become European Communities. In 1973 Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom (with Gibraltar) joined the European Communities. These countries were followed by Greece (in 1981), and Spain and Portugal (in 1987).

By Kolja21 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

The EU is Created

In 1993, the Treaty of Maastricht officially created the European Union, which consists of three pillars: “the European Communities, common foreign and security policy and police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters” (Europa). The EU currently includes 28 countries. One goal of the Treaty of Maastricht was the creation of a common currency within the European Union. In 1999, the Euro became this common currency and the European Central Bank  was launched.

Financial Crisis

In September of 2008, the global financial crisis hit Europe and the rest of the world. Specifically, the financial recession affected the European Union by inciting what is known as the Eurozone Debt Crisis, wherein some member states were unable to repay or refinance government debts. This led some countries (Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain) to receive bailouts from the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission, and the European Central Bank. Some countries, such as Greece, are still suffering economic decline and possible default. The causes and effects of the Eurozone crisis are complex and still being debated today.

What’s Next?

Join the Chai Wai discussion on March 12 to explore some of the current issues facing the European Union. Check out the resources below to study up before the event!

Web Resources

Europa – Official Website of the European Union

Eur-Lex Access to European Law

European Press Room – Europa

European Union – News – Guardian

Euro Debt Crisis Explained – Economics Help

Scholarly Articles (Available through UIUC Online Journals and Databases)

Demosthenes Ioannou, Patrick Leblond & Arne Niemann (2015) European integration and the crisis: practice and theory. Journal of European Public Policy, 22:2, 155-176.

Deutschmann, Christoph. (2014). The future of the European Union: A ‘Hayekian’ regime? European Journal of Social Theory, 17(3), 343–358.

Francis Cheneval, Sandra Lavenex & Frank Schimmelfennig (2015) Demoi-cracy in the European Union: principles, institutions, policies. Journal of European Public Policy, 22:1, 1-18.

Grecu, Silviu Petru; Margarit, Diana. (2014). The instability of the European Union? A quantitative approach. Eastern Journal of European Studies, 5(1), 21-37.

HUIDUMAC-PETRESCU, C., & POPA, A. C. (2014). WHAT WAS NOT RESOLVED BY THE ANTI-CRISIS STRATEGIES IN THE EUROPEAN UNION. Hyperion International Journal Of Econophysics & New Economy, 7(2), 369-377.

Books (Available at UIUC Library)

Toemmel, Ingeborg. (2014). The European Union: what it is and how it works. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire ; New York, NY : Palgrave Macmillan.

Baimbridge, Mark,Whyman, Philip. (2015). Crisis in the eurozone: causes, dilemmas and solutions. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire ; New York, NY : Palgrave Macmillan.

Champeau, Serge. (Eds.) (2015). The future of Europe :democracy, legitimacy and justice after the Euro crisis. London ; New York : Rowman & Littlefield International.

Chang, Michele,, Menz, Georg, Smith, Mitchell P.. (Eds.) (2015). Redefining European economic governanceLondon ; New York : Routledge.

Kelemen, R. Daniel,, Menon, Anand,Slapin, Jonathan B.. (Eds.) (2015). The European Union: integration and enlargement. Abingdon, Oxon, UK ; New York, NY : Routledge.

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Conflict Mineral Regulation in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The Center for Global Studies is hosting the following event:

Disclosure Based Certification of Conflict-Free Minerals:

Update from the Democratic Republic of Congo

a talk by

Dr. Richard B. Robinson

Extractive Industries Technical Advisor

USAID, Kinshasa, DRC

Friday, January 30, 12:00 pm

GSLIS 131

Tantalum, Tin, Tungsten, and Gold. Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com – CC-BY-SA-3.0

What are conflict minerals?

Conflict minerals include tin, tantalum, tungsten, (known as 3T) and gold which are mined under conditions of armed conflict. The mining of these materials at mines controlled by militant groups is usually associated with human rights violations because those doing the mining are either forced to work at gunpoint or are persuaded to work to protect families and loved ones. The mining of these minerals plays a major role in funding militant groups engaged in armed conflict.  In fact, the accessibility of conflict minerals to militant groups has been statistically linked to longer and more deadly conflicts¹.   Currently the country most affected by the mining and sale of conflict minerals is the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where there have been an estimated 5.4 million deaths in civil conflicts to date.  Prior to 2010, it was estimated that conflict minerals provided $185 million per year to armed groups.

The Legislation

As part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act (Section 1502), the United States Securities and Exchange Commission now requires companies using any of the four minerals designated as conflict minerals to perform a “country of origin” inquiry on the materials. They must then report to the SEC their determination that the materials are either “DRC Conflict Free,” “Not Been Found to Be DRC Conflict Free,” or “DRC Conflict Undeterminable.” The law does not ban the purchase or user of products from DRC, but requires companies to report and publicly state their use of such products.

The Effects

The 2010 legislation has significantly impacted the mining economy of the DRC. A June 2014 report by the Enough Project, based on five months of field research in DRC, produced several findings, including the following. 1) Two thirds of the DRC’s mineral mines are free of the presence of armed groups. This is even more meaningful when compared to a 2010 (pre-Dodd-Frank) study by the UN Group of Experts, which found that in the Kivu province of the DRC, military groups controlled almost every single mineral mine. 2) Because the majority of companies buying minerals will only purchase “certified conflict-free” minerals, the price of non-certified minerals has shrunk by 30 to 60 percent. 3) Many electronics companies are investing in conflict-free mines, which has created up to 15 new certified conflict-free mines since 2011.

However, there are critics of the law who believe that, while something needed to be done to keep conflict minerals out of the hands of militant groups, the 2010 legislation was flawed. Reporting for the Washington Post in December of 2014, Sudarsan Raghavan discussed how the law has negatively affected many miners who relied upon mineral mines for their livelihood. Others, such as business law scholar Henry Lowenstein (citation below), criticize the legislation for delegating the enforcement of the law to the SEC, which was overwhelmed with regulatory tasks after the 2008 financial crisis and which had no prior experience in regulating natural resource imports and exports.

Come and Learn More!

Richard Robinson’s lecture on Friday will discuss the context of the Dodd-Frank conflict materials provision, as well as the effects of the legislation on international economic and development policy. Join us to learn more about this important issue.

Learn more on your own with the following resources:

Web Resources

Conflict Minerals 101 (Video) – Enough Project

Conflict Minerals – Global Witness

Sec.gov – Conflict Minerals Fact Sheet

Conflict Minerals Infographic – Sourceintelligence.com

Effects of Dodd-Frank Investigative Report – Enough Project

 

Books (Available through UIUC Libraries)

Bøås, Morten. (2015). The politics of conflict economies :miners, merchants and warriors in the African borderland. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, NY : Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Boulden, Jane. (Eds.) (2013). Responding to conflict in Africa: the United Nations and regional organizations. New York, NY : Palgrave Macmillan.

Gilpin, Raymond.Downie, Richard. (2009). Conflict-business dynamics in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Washington, D.C. : U.S. Institute of Peace.

(2013). The unintended consequences of Dodd-Frank’s conflict minerals provision: hearing before the Subcommittee on Monetary Policy and Trade of the Committee on Financial Services, U.S. House of Representatives, One Hundred Thirteenth Congress, first session, May 21, 2013. Washington : U.S. Government Printing Office.

 

Scholarly Articles (Available through UIUC Online Journals and Databases)

Carter, R. A. (2012). Conflict Mineral Regulations Cause Corporate Concerns. Engineering & Mining Journal (00958948), 213(9), 136-140.

Lowenstien, H. (2014). DODD-FRANK’S CONFLICT MINERALS RULE: THE TIN EAR OF GOVERNMENT-BUSINESS REGULATION. Southern Law Journal, 24(2), 189-219.

Nanda, V. P. (2014). CONFLICT MINERALS AND INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS: UNITED STATES AND INTERNATIONAL RESPONSES. ILSA Journal Of International & Comparative Law, 20(2), 285-304.

Veale, E. (2013). IS THERE BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS-FREE DEVICE?: EXAMINING LEGISLATIVE APPROACHES TO THE CONFLICT MINERALS PROBLEM IN THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO. Cardozo Journal Of International & Comparative Law, 21(2), 503-544.

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Charlie Hebdo: Freedom of expression, freedom to offend, and freedom from violence

Hannover rally in support of the victims of the 2015 Charlie Hebdo shooting‎. Credit: Bert Ungerer, CCBY2.0

The violence in Paris between January 7th and 9th, where attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo’s offices and subsequent sieges led to the deaths of 17 victims, has sparked a worldwide outcry of support for freedom of expression. The magazine was targeted by Islamist extremists because of its depictions of the prophet Muhammad.

On Sunday, January 11th, powerful pictures hit the international press of world leaders (Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, French President Francois Hollande, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merke, European Council President Donald Tusk, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) standing arm in arm in Paris during demonstrations where an estimated 1.5 million people marched to show solidarity with the victims.

The phrase “Je Suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) went massively viral, showing up on Twitter, Facebook, on signs at rallies all over the world, and even displayed by Hollywood celebrities at last Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards. Cartoonists the world over have shown their support for the victims of the attacks with countless drawings and cartoons expressing sorrow, hope, and renewed commitment to the right of artists and journalists to express themselves without fear of violence.

Some journalists and commentators have used this tragedy as an opportunity to discuss the larger issues of censorship and press freedom, and as always, this is an extremely complicated topic. Millions of people worldwide are proclaiming the right to freedom of speech, but what if that speech is offensive to certain religions or ethnic groups? Salman Rushdie famously stated, “What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.”

But some see a distinction between the freedom of expression and the “freedom to offend.” Some people have responded with a counter-slogan, “Je ne suis pas Charlie” (I am not Charlie). Roxanne Gay, in a piece written for The Guardian, stated, “Murder is not an acceptable consequence for anything. Yet it is also an exercise of freedom of expression to express offense at the way satire like Charlie Hebdo’s characterises something you hold dear – like your faith, your personhood, your gender, your sexuality, your race or ethnicity.”

Others have had more extreme reactions to the “Je Suis Charlie” demonstrations. Beginning on January 19th, counter-protests broke out in several predominantly Muslim countries.  While many of the counter-protests remained peaceful, several turned violent. In Niger, CNN is reporting that 10 people were killed during protests and several churches and homes were burned. In Pakistan, Algeria, and Jordan, protesters reportedly have clashed with police forces as well, although no injuries or deaths have occurred.

So, while the horrific events in Paris brought millions of people together to support free speech, they also revived a worldwide debate about what that freedom means. While some uphold that freedom of expression must include the freedom to offend, others disagree, feeling the need to defend their faith from speech and actions that they find offensive. These varying viewpoints will, hopefully, lead to respectful debate with the common belief that violence is not an acceptable response to artistic expression, no matter the content in question.


 

Want to learn more about this complicated issue? The UIUC Department of French and Italian and  the School of Literatures, Cultures, and Linguistics and the European Union Center are hosting the following event:

Are We Charlie? – France, Europe, and the World after 1-11

A forum with brief remarks by special guests Nancy Blake (French & Italian and Comparative & World Literature), Maimouna Barro (Center for African Studies), Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi (History), Jean-Philippe Mathy (FRIT and CWL), and Yasemin Yildiz (Germanic Languages and Literatures).

Wednesday, January 21, at 4 p.m.
160 English Building


The resources below will help you with further research on these topics.

 

Books (Available through UIUC Libraries)
Amos, Merris., Harrison, Jackie,Woods, Lorna. (Eds.) (2012). Freedom of expression and the mediaLeiden ; M. Nijhoff Pub.
Grenda, Christopher S. (2014). Profane: Sacrilegious Expression in a Multicultural AgeBerkeley : University of California Press.
Hare, Ivan.Weinstein, James. (Eds.) (2009). Extreme speech and democracy. Oxford : Oxford University Press.
Radsch, Courtney C.. (Eds.) (2014). World trends in freedom of expression and media development. Paris : United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

 

Scholarly Articles (Available through UIUC Online Journals and Databases)
DANCHIN, P. G. (2011). DEFAMING MUHAMMAD: DIGNITY, HARM, AND INCITEMENT TO RELIGIOUS HATRED. Duke Forum For Law & Social Change (DFLSC),2(1), 5-38.
Kyi, A. S. S. (2012). Word Power. Index on Censorship, 41(1), 28-31.
Pomerance, B. P. (2013). WHAT ARE WE SAYING? VIOLENCE, VULGARITY, LIES . . . AND THE IMPORTANCE OF 21ST CENTURY FREE SPEECH. Albany Law Review, 76(1), 753-756.
Veit Bader (2014). Free Speech or Non-discrimination as Trump? Reflections on
Contextualised Reasonable Balancing and Its Limits, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 40:2,
320-338.

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International Relations Spotlight: United States and Iran

1024px-Barack_Obama_on_the_telephone_with_Hassan_Rouhani

President Obama speaks with Iranian President Rouhani

In late November, negotiations between the group of world powers known as P5+1 (United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France, and Germany) and Iran regarding limitations to Iran’s nuclear capabilities failed to produce an agreement by the deadline of November 24th. As a result, the interim agreement known as the “Joint Plan of Action” was extended until July of 2015.  This means that talks will continue in the coming months to attempt to reach a more final solution, but Iran will be held to the terms of the interim deal in the meantime.

So, what exactly would this nuclear deal contain, and how would its completion affect relations between Iran and the United States? Let’s start by breaking down a very brief history of U.S.-Iran relations over the past several decades. (For a more in-depth timeline, check out this one from the New York Times.)

The first important event in modern U.S.-Iran relations was the 1953 overthrow of Mohammad Mossadeq, Iran’s democratically-elected Prime Minister. Recently declassified government documents show that the CIA and the UK’s MI6 were behind this coup, with the justification that the Mossadeq was leaning towards a Soviet alliance.  After this coup, the Iranian shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, with support of the United States, was installed as monarch with broad powers. In the time between the 1953 coup and the Islamic Revolution of 1979, when the shah was overthrown, the United States and Iran signed several important nuclear agreements.  The 1957 agreement allowed the U.S. to lease enriched uranium to Iran for peaceful uses. In 1968, Iran signed onto the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.  Finally, in 1975, President Ford published a directive which allowed the United States to share nuclear materials and technology with Iran, even allowing Iran to use an American-built processing plant to extract plutonium.
Iran_nuclear_illustrationGood relations between the two countries came to an end, however, with the 1979 Islamic Revolution, after which Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini became the leader of the new Islamic Republic. The U.S. State Department evacuated 1,350 Americans from the country, as Khomeini publicly declared, “I beg God to cut off the the hands of all evil foreigners and their helpers.”  Tensions rose between the two countries as a group of students supported by Khomeini seized the U.S. Embassy and took 52 Americans hostage.  The hostages were held in captivity for almost a year and a half. Finally, on January 20, 1981, the U.S. agreed to unfreeze Iranian assets and property and promised not to interfere militarily or politically with Iran in exchange for the release of the hostages.

For the next three decades, relations between the U.S. and Iran remained bumpy at best. Beginning in the mid-1980’s, the U.S. became involved in what is known as the “Tanker War,” the portion of the Iraq-Iran War that took place in the waters of the Persian Gulf. The U.S. became involved in the struggle to protect oil shipments through the area, and between 1987-1988, U.S. attacks resulted in the destruction of much of Iran’s navy as well as some Iranian oil platforms. During one of the skirmishes in the region, the U.S. naval vessel Vincennes accidentally shot down an Iranian civilian passenger plane, killing all 290 passengers. Throughout the Gulf War and into the late 1990’s, there seemed to be no inclination on the part of either country’s leaders towards diplomacy.

In 1997, reformist Mohammad Khatami was elected Iranian president, bringing in more than 70% of the votes.  Khatami reached out to the United States in an interview with CNN, calling for a “dialogue with the world.” However, no contact was made between U.S. and Iranian leaders during Khatami’s presidency. In 2002, the U.S. learned about a covert Iranian nuclear program, which led to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and eventually a temporary agreement for Iran to stop all uranium production.  However, after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a conservative known for his strong anti-western rhetoric, was elected Iranian president in 2005, nuclear negotiations stalled and Iran continued its nuclear enrichment activities. Ahmadinejad’s presidency brought tumultuous times within Iran and with Iran-U.S. relations.

Hassan_Rouhani_in_Bishkek

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

In 2013, Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, made a phone call to President Obama while at a UN forum in New York.  This phone call was the first direct conversation between leaders of the two countries in over 30 years.  The leaders both later expressed via social media that the two countries were ready to reach a deal concerning Iran’s nuclear program.  This led to the “Joint Plan of Action,” the short term nuclear agreement that is now in effect.

All of the P5+1 powers, the IAEA Board of Governors and the UN Security Council are in agreement that Iran should not be allowed to develop the capabilities for nuclear weapons.1 These international actors also believe that Iran was, in the recent past, actively working to develop these capabilities, which mainly hinge upon enriched uranium and ballistic missile production,2 and that’s the basic push behind the nuclear agreement. Iran denies these accusations, however, even claiming that the IAEA forged documents that prove that the country’s nuclear program has “possible military dimensions.”  These tensions are surely affecting the negotiations toward a nuclear agreement, but the completion of this agreement would be an important step in smoothing the turbulent relations that the United States and Iran have shared over the past 70 years.

Check out the sources below to learn more about this topic!

Web Resources

BBC News: US and Iran – A Brief Guide

US and Iran meet in bid to reach nuclear deal – Al Jazeera

Timeline of US/Iran Relations

Articles (Available through UIUC Online Journals and Databases)

Attacking Iran’s Nuclear Project. (2012). World Affairs, 175(1), 25-38.

Ezeozue, C. (2013). THE UNITED STATES AND IRAN NUCLEAR PROGRAMME: A CRITICAL ANALYSIS. Journal Of Global Intelligence & Policy, 6(10), 114-123.

GOLDMAN, Z. K., & RAPP-HOOPER, M. (2013). Conceptualizing Containment: The Iranian Threat and the Future of Gulf Security. Political Science Quarterly (Wiley-Blackwell), 128(4).

Hildreth, Steven A. (2012). Iran’s Ballistic Missile and Space Launch Programs. CRS Report for Congress, Congressional Research Service.

Porter, Gareth. (2014). How U.S. Intelligence Got Iran Wrong. Middle East Policy, 21(3), 95-103.

Books (Available through UIUC Libraries)

Cordesman, Anthony H., Gold, Bryan. Coughlin-Schulte, Chloe. (2014). Iran: sanctions, energy, arms control, and regime change : a report of the CSISWashington, D.C. : Center for Strategic & International Studies.

Hobbs, Christopher,Moran, Matthew. (2014). Exploring regional responses to a nuclear Iran: nuclear dominoesBasingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan.

Krause, Joachim. (Eds.) (2012). Iran’s nuclear programme: strategic implicationsLondon : Routledge.

Maleki, Abbas.Tirman, John. (2014). U.S.-Iran Misperceptions: A Dialogue. London : Bloomsbury Publishing

Price-Smith, Andrew T.. (Eds.) (2015). Rising threats, enduring challenges: readings in U.S. foreign policyNew York : Oxford University Press.

 

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