Tag Archives | politics

The Politics of Water

 

The Problem:

Water scarcity is one of the most pressing humanitarian crises facing the world today.  Access to water resources has far-reaching political and social implications, especially in areas where water is scarce. Natural water basins do not comply with man-made political borders, and as a result the allocation of precious water resources becomes a point of negotiation in transnational treaties and agreements.   Adding to the politicization of water is the connection between water and energy production.  Water is needed for all types of energy production, and energy is needed for the extraction and dissemination of clean water (UNIDO, 2014).

Water also affects social and cultural issues, such as gender and income inequality.  Since women are traditionally the family members responsible for the retrieval of water, women end up spending many hours of their day collecting water (many times still from polluted or unclean sources) for their family’s survival rather than working outside the home or pursuing education.  When people must spend such a large portion of their time procuring basic resources such as water, their ability to better their situation through work or education becomes even more limited.  This means that the poorest people in the world remain poor, as long as they are struggling daily to obtain water.

Probably the most heart wrenching aspects of the global water crisis is its disproportionate effect on children.   Unicef reported in 2013 that over 2,000 children die every day from diarrheal diseases, an estimated 1,800 of which stem from issues of water and hygiene. Sanjay Wijesekera, global head of UNICEF’s water, sanitation and hygiene programme, puts these numbers into perspective, saying, “The numbers can be numbing, but they represent real lives, of real children. Every child is important. Every child has the right to health, the right to survive, the right to a future that is as good as we can make it” (UNICEF, 2013).

Solutions:

The UN’s Millennium Development Goals address the issue of clean water and sanitation. Target 7.C of the goals promises to, “Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation” (UN, 2013).  According to the UN website, this goal was met in 2010, five years ahead of schedule.  More than 2 billion people gained improved access to drinking water between 1990 and 2010.

How are these goals being met?  In addition to awareness campaigns such as World Water Day (which happens to be coming up on March 22nd!), there are countless organizations working to provide clean and accessible drinking water to the world’s poor and to manage and conserve freshwater resources.  Many organizations work to set up programs in water-scarce countries that provide financing to families and communities for setting up clean water and sanitation services.  Others directly provide wells, pumps, and latrines, as well as training for community members on maintaining the clean-water technology.  Organizations range from non-profits to institutional coalitions to for-profit companies that donate a portion of profits to the cause. These types of charities and organizations are making strides in bringing safe and clean water to world populations, but it is a massive undertaking and the effort will require cooperation across cultures and political borders.

Learn more about water! Check out the resources below:

Websites

FAO Legal Office – Water Treaties Database

UNESCO Water Links Worldwide

27 Water Crisis Orgs to Follow Right Now

World Water Day 2014

UN Millenium Development Goals

Selected Scholarly Articles (Accessed through UIUC E-Journals)

Ciampi, M. (2013). ‘Water divide’ in the global risk society. International Review Of Sociology, 23(1), 243-260.

Lall, U., Heikkila, T., Brown, C., & Siegfried, T. (2008). WATER IN THE 21ST CENTURY: DEFINING THE ELEMENTS OF GLOBAL CRISES AND POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS. Journal Of International Affairs, 61(2), 1-17.

Sivakumar, Bellie. (2011). Water Crisis: from conflict to cooperation, an overview. Hydrological Sciences Journal. 56(4), 531-552.

Trottier, J. (2008). Water crises: political construction or physical reality?. Contemporary Politics, 14(2), 197-214.

Latest Books at UIUC Library

Allan, J. A. (Eds.) (2013). Handbook of land and water grabs in Africa: foreign direct investment and food and water security. London : Routledge.

Chellaney, Brahma. (2013). Water, peace, and war :confronting the global water crisis. Lanham, Md. : Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Groenfeldt, David. (2013). Water ethics: a values approach to solving the water crisis. Abingdon : Earthscan from Routledge.

Hughes, Richard. (2013). Religion, law, and the present water crisis. New York : Peter Lang.

Thielbörger, Pierre.. (2013). The right(s) to water: the multi-level governance of a unique human right.  Berlin : Springer.

Additional Resources from UIUC

Multimedia: 

How to Ensure Sustainable Access to Water for Food in a World of Growing Scarcity

Problematizing Production Potential: Water Scarcity, Access, and Borders in the 21st Century Agricultural Economy

 

 

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The World Watches as Protests Escalate

In the past weeks, mass protests have been swelling in Venezuela, Ukraine, and Thailand, sparking discussions among world political leaders over the rights of protestors and the nature of political dissent.  The world is watching as three different countries in three very different parts of the world struggle with opposition between government and civilian groups, and as the protests escalate from peaceful demonstrations to bloody clashes that verge on all-out battle.  Here is the run-down on what’s happening in each of these three countries.

Venezuela

In Venezuela, at least 4 people were killed and many more injured as government forces pushed back against protestors in the capital city of Caracas on February 12th.  Anti-government protestors are part of a movement led by Leopoldo López, leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, who has long been a proponent of grass roots political reform in the country.  According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report for 2013-2014, Venezuela is the number three economy most damaged by violence.  The country currently has the highest inflation rate in the world, at 56.2%.  Protestors are calling for the ousting of President Nicolas Madura, who was elected after the death of Hugo Chavez in April, 2013.  Rallies have been held both in opposition to and in support of the Madura government.  The government has arrested many protesters and is holding them in custody, along with López, who turned himself in to the police on February 18th.

Ukraine

In the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, protesters took to the streets in November in response to President Viktor Yanukovych backing out of a trade deal with Europe in favor of closer ties with Russia.  Protests have spread to other cities in Ukraine, but Kiev remains the center of conflict.  Many demonstrators have been camping out in Independence Square in Kiev for months, determined to see the conflict through.  On February 18th, after parliament refused to pass a law limiting the president’s powers, protests surged and security forces took steps to quell them, resulting in violent clashes that left at least 25 dead and hundreds wounded.  Violence came from both sides of the struggle, with deaths and injuries on the side of the protesters as well as the security forces.  Protesters set fire to buildings, including the headquarters of the ruling Party of Regions.  The opposition headquarters, the Trade Union House, was also set afire and Independence Square resembled a battle scene on the morning of February 19th.

Although Yanukovych and opposition leaders sat down to a truce on February 19th, fresh fighting broke out in Independence Square on February 20th between protesters and police.  News outlets are reporting up to 100 deaths in these clashes.  The renewed uprising led to an extra-legal parliamentary takeover, after which Yanukovych fled the city.  Parliament set up an interim government and announced presidential elections in May.  Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko announced that he would be on the ballot for the May elections.  Ukraine’s new government announced on February 24th that Yanukovych would be tried for mass murder charges in connection with the deaths of protesters during clashes with police, but he remains on the run.  Meanwhile, the newly formed government of Ukraine is scrambling to avoid economic default, entreating the United States and European Union to pull together as much as $35 billion to get the country back on its feet.  The next weeks will be critical for the fresh leadership in Ukraine to avoid economic collapse and unite the differing opinions of a still-uncertain new government.

Thailand

In Bangkok, Thailand, protesters have been camped out since November calling for the removal of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and the implementation of an unelected “people’s council” to push through reforms.  On February 18th, after Yingluck expanded the powers of police to disband protesters, attempts to clear protesters from government buildings in Bangkok led to violent clashes between police and protesters.  Five people were killed during this standoff, as both police and protesters fired guns.  Witnesses claim that protesters threw a grenade at police, injuring several. Thai authorities estimate that 15,000 people are involved in the protests, and nearly 200 protesters have been arrested.

 

Stay informed on these important events! The following sources will get you up to speed:

General Reference Resources

CIA World Factbook - provides information on the history, people, government, economy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for 267 world entities.

EIU Country Intelligence: Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) Country Intelligence provides users with reports and analysis about political, business and economic issues by country, category and subject.

 

News Sources

Venezuela

In Venezuela, Protest Ranks Grow Broader – New York Times

Most neighbors silent as Venezuela reels – CNN

Mercosur condemns violence in Venezuela and calls for dialogue. – MercoPress

17-year-old dies during Venezuelan protests. – CNN

Venezuela’s Maduro Holds Mass Rally to Reject Violence as Protests Continue. - Venezuelanalysis.com

Ukraine

The Guardian – Ukraine

Ukraine crisis: Vitali Klitschko says he will run for presidency – The Independent

Ukraine wants runaway president to face international justice – Reuters

EU, U.S. Scramble to Pull Together Aid for Ukraine – The Wall Street Journal

Thailand

10 questions: What’s behind the protests in Thailand? - CNN

Thailand police and protesters clash fatally in Bangkok – BBC News

Thai protests end in violence and deaths – Al Jazeera

 

Scholarly Articles (Full text available through UIUC E-Journals)

Venezuela

Denis, R. (2012). The Birth of an “Other Politics” in Venezuela. South Atlantic Quarterly, 111(1), 81-93.

Jefferson, A. (2013). Venezuela’s Bolivarian Democracy: Participation, Politics, and Culture under Chávez. Latin Americanist57(3), 108-110.

Kingsbury, Donald. (2013). Between Multitude and Pueblo: Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution and the Government of Un-governability. New Political Science, 35(4), 567-585.

Nadeau, Richard; Bélanger, Éric; Didier, Thomas. (2013). The Chávez vote and the national economy in Venezuela. Electoral Studies, 32(3), pp. 482-488.

Ukraine

Antoaneta Dimitrova & Rilka Dragneva (2013) Shaping Convergence with the EU in Foreign Policy and State Aid in Post-Orange Ukraine: Weak External Incentives, Powerful VetoPlayers, Europe-Asia Studies, 65:4, 658-681.

Dimitrova A, Dragneva R. Shaping Convergence with the EU in Foreign Policy and State Aid in Post-Orange Ukraine: Weak External Incentives, Powerful Veto Players. Europe-Asia Studies [serial online]. June 2013;65(4):658-681.

Thailand

Paul Chambers (2013). Military “Shadows” in Thailand Since the 2006 Coup. Asian Affairs: An American Review, 40:2, 67-82.

Sinpeng, A., & Martinez Kuhonta, E. (2012). From the Street to the Ballot Box: The July 2011 Elections and the Rise of Social Movements in Thailand. Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal Of International & Strategic Affairs, 34(3), 389-415.

Taylor, J. (2012). Remembrance and Tragedy: Understanding Thailand’s “Red Shirt” Social Movement. SOJOURN: Journal Of Social Issues In Southeast Asia, 27(1), 120-152.

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World Leaders Talk Disarmament at UN Conference

Photo: U.S. Mission by Eric Bridiers

On January 21st, the UN Conference on Disarmament opened in Geneva.  With members from 65 countries including the world’s leading military powers, the conference is designed to create multilateral agreements on arms control and disarmament.  The conference, which began in 1979, has resulted in some of the most important treaties on non-proliferation, such as the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon opened the conference with a speech urging member states to overcome differences and move past the stalemate that the conference has experienced in recent years.  Speaking of the Syrian chemical weapons incident of 2013, and the unified voice that came from United Nations member states against such weapons, he encouraged the conference to use structured discussions and draw out new non-proliferation treaty frameworks.

While non-proliferation has become a strong point of rhetoric for many nations, the steps taken to reduce nuclear arms have fallen short of many expectations in recent years.  In a 2009 speech, President Obama vowed that the United States would “seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” (as cited in Karp, 2012).  Yet, in early January, the U.S. Defense Secretary announced a plan to upgrade the United States nuclear forces that will total $1 trillion in cost over the next 30 years. These discrepancies between ideology and practice are not limited to the United States.  Russia, China, and India are all taking huge steps to expand their nuclear defense programs as well (Wittner, 2014). The Conference on Disarmament could be an important forum for bringing these discrepancies to light and developing structured and open discussions about their meanings.  Hopefully, member states will heed the words of Secretary General Ki-Moon and overcome their differences to engage in these discussions.

You can learn more about non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament with the sources below!

News Sources

UN chief encourages Conference on Disarmament to live up to world’s expectations – UN News Centre

Interview with Angela Kane, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs

The Endless Arms Race: Despite Great Power Promises, New Nuclear Weapons Are On the Way – Huffington Post, Lawrence Wittner

 

Scholarly Articles

Doyle, J., & Streeper, C. (2012). Steps toward increased nuclear transparency. Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists, 68(2), 55-62.

Karp, R. (2012). Nuclear Disarmament: Should America Lead? Political Science Quarterly, 127(1), 47-71.

Lawrence Freedman (2013) Disarmament and Other Nuclear Norms, TheWashington Quarterly, 36:2, 93-108.

Tannenwald, N. (2013). Justice and fairness in the nuclear nonproliferation regime. Ethics & International Affairs, 27(3), 299.

Walker, P. F., & Hunt, J. R. (2011). The legacy of Reykjavik and the future of nuclear disarmament. Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists, 67(6), 63-72.

 

Books at UIUC Libraries

Chalmers, Malcolm. (2012). Less is better: nuclear restraint at low numbers. London : Rusi.

Jasper, Ursula. (2014). The politics of nuclear non-proliferation: a pragmatist framework for analysis. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon : Routledge.

Kutchesfahani, Sara Z. (2014). Politics and the bomb: the role of experts in the creation of cooperative nuclear non-proliferation agreements. New York, NY : Routledge.

Warren, Aiden. (2014). The Obama administration’s nuclear weapon strategy: the promises of Prague. Abingdon, Oxon : Routledge.

 

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NSA Leaks Bring Surveillance, Privacy, Digital Security to the Forefront

The recent public discovery of massive NSA surveillance of U.S. citizens as well as foreign citizens and even foreign leaders has opened up a conversation about human rights, the “surveillance industrial complex,” (Gates, 2012) and the implications of the new age of surveillance on international relations.  In late October, the news that the NSA had been monitoring the personal cell phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel since 2002 sent shockwaves through the international community and prompted many governments to demand new rules for international intelligence gathering.  But the latest leaks from NSA documents released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show that the U.S. is not the only government with large-scale surveillance programs.  Reuters reported on November 2nd that “[s]py agencies across Western Europe are working together on mass surveillance of Internet and phone traffic comparable to programmes run by their U.S. counterpart” (Shirbon, 2013).

Clearly, international political leaders have much to discuss about how digital security and surveillance will be governed in the future. A new study by the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs concludes that the surveillance activities that have been undertaken by the NSA, GCHQ, and other European intelligence agencies violate several European Union laws. The study recommends that the full nature of these intelligence programs be exposed for analysis and asserts that “A ‘professional code for the transnational management of data’ within the EU should be set up, including guidelines on how this code would apply to EU partners” The study also argues that “[l]arge-scale EU surveillance programmes also compromise the security and fundamental human rights of citizens and residents in the Union, in particular those related to privacy and effective legal protection” (Bigo et al, 2013).  Undoubtedly, European and U.S. policymakers will be discussing and debating these surveillance activities in the months and years to come, and the stakes will only rise as technology advances and as more of our lives take place and become documented in the digital realm.

Want to learn more about this topic? The sources below will get your started!

Scholarly Articles

Bigo, Didier, Carrera, Sergio, Hernanz, Nicholas, Jeandesboz, Julien, Parkin,Joanna, Ragazzi, Francesco, and Scherrer,   Amandine. (2013). Mass Surveillance of Personal Data by EU Member States and its Compatibility with EU Law. (Report No. 61) Brussels : The Centre for European Policy Studies.

Ball, K.S and D. Murakami Wood. (2013). Editorial. Political Economies of Surveillance. Surveillance & Society 11(1/2): 1-3.

Richards, N. M. (2013). THE DANGERS OF SURVEILLANCE. Harvard Law Review, 126(7), 1934-1965.

Books from the UIUC Library

Assange, Julian., Appelbaum, Jacob, Müller-Maguhn, AndyZimmermann, Jérémi. (2012). Cypherpunks: freedom and the future of the internet. New York : OR Books.

Ball, K.S. and Snider, L. (eds). (2013). The Surveillance Industrial Complex: Towards a Political Economy of Surveillance. London, New York: Routledge.

Gates, K. 2012. The Globalization of Homeland Security, in K.S. Ball, D.H. Haggerty and D. Lyon (eds.) The Routledge Handbook of Surveillance Studies. London / New York: Routledge, 292-300.

Johnson, Emily M.Rodriguez, Michael J. (Eds.) (2012). Legalities of GPS and cell phone surveillance. New York : Novinka.

Luppicini, Rocci. (Eds.) (2013) Moral, ethical, and social dilemmas in the age of technology theories and practice. Hershey, Pa. : IGI Global.

Pimple, Kenneth D.. (Eds.) (2013). Emerging pervasive information and communication technologies (PICT) :ethical challenges, opportunities and safeguard. Dordrecht : Springer.

Rosen, David,Santesso, Aaron. (2013). The watchman in pieces: surveillance, literature, and liberal personhood. New Haven : Yale University Press.

Trottier, Daniel. (2012). Social media as surveillance: rethinking visibility in a converging world. Surrey,  England:  Ashgate.

News Coverage of NSA Leaks

Reuters

The Guardian

The Huffington Post

Al Jazeera

 

 

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