Tag Archives: talking shop

Palestinian Statehood: So what next?

UN General Assembly recognises Palestine.

In the early hours of this morning, it was announced that the United Nations General Assembly had voted to recognise Palestine as a “Non-Member State”, by a majority of 138 for to 9 against. Well, as majorities go, that’s pretty damn convincing.

So, what does it mean for Palestine?

Well, if you believe every word the antagonists (Israel, US, among others) tell you – then this will make no difference to the situation on the ground unless Palestine continue negotiations. Shifting any responsibility from Israel. However, if Israel and Hamas negative responses to the UN vote is an indicator, then the situation between the two nations remains very hostile. It all seems that Mahmoud Abbas is trying to push for a reasonable resolution, while everyone else insists on being unreasonable and unco-operative.

Maybe the vote shows just how much support Palestine has from the international community. The majority of nation states voted for status as a “non-member observer”, but none of those were the most powerful, who continue to take the side of Israel. And without a powerful country on their side, Palestine are still at a disadvantage.

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Is the UK’s democracy in decline?

Interesting – and slightly worrying – piece in The Guardian this evening about the sorry state of democracy in the UK. It’s illustrated with a photograph of Boris Johnson, but I’m sure that is nothing to do with the actual story!

Anyway a group called Democratic Audit has shared the findings of its report with the Guardian, and the conclusions paint a bleak picture. While devolution and Parliamentary select committees were welcomed (because the latter does a good job at holding the likes of Rupert Murdoch to account), it’s concerns were over how much parliament really represents us and how much power corporations hold over us.

Now, in the last few years Parliament has had enough scandal to turn most of the country away from politics. The expenses saga showed us that a lot of our so-called representatives are more concerned about lining their own pockets than their constituents. The state of the economy and the worries over cuts to services mean that the public see a government full of wealthy young men, out of touch with the majority of the population, who never have to worry about Workfare or the closure of their local libraries. The Phone Hacking scandal and the subsequent Leveson Inquiry showed us just how close big business, government and parts of the state really are. The question the report’s author asks is,

Britons could soon have to ask themselves “whether it’s really representative democracy any more?”

Is the government representative of the whole country, or just the interests of Murdoch and Eton Old Boys?

That said, there is a strong civil society opposition to the public spending cuts, like the local opposition to the closure of Friern Barnet Library and the UK Uncut group which plans sit-ins against corporations known to be guilty of tax evasion. The internet and twitter are full of active bloggers and politicos – though these might be the kind of people who aren’t ever going to be disillusioned by politics, no matter how many Eton Old Boys are thrown into government. Indeed, politics is becoming an interest for the minority, while most people look from the outside and see back-stabbers, expenses-fiddlers, careerists and out of touch rich boys arguing amongst themselves, whilst making sure they steer well clear.

The sad thing is, if we don’t reach out to the people alienated and fed up of politics, then the democratic deficit is only going to get bigger.

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Rio +20: Give us 20 more years to talk about it

So, the International Hot Air bandwagon returned to Rio for a twentieth anniversary talking shop about the environment. In the end the produced a document called The Future We Want which has been attacked by pretty much everyone with an interest in looking after the planet as not actually doing anything.

While politicians from Ban Ki-moon to Hilary Clinton patted themselves on the back and said, “isn’t this document wonderful” (well, not exactly in those words, but along those lines), environment activists such as Greenpeace and Tearfund said it didn’t actually set out what they are going to do.

Greenpeace were scathing in their criticism of the document;

“We didn’t get the Future We Want in Rio, because we do not have the leaders we need. The leaders of the most powerful countries supported business as usual, shamefully putting private profit before people and the planet.”

It’s like they want to be seen to be paying attention to the fact that the world’s finite resources aren’t going to last forever, but don’t actually want to do anything to change their lifestyles. It’s easy to see why Greenpeace have come to this conclusion – it takes ten pages for the document to start a bullet point with something other than a recognition or affirmation, and half-heartedly “encourage” countries to develop green policies. Yes, encourage green policies and job creation – while most of Europe imposes job cuts and austerity on the poor. I can’t really see any of them keeping to that point in the document.

Reading through the document, it’s obvious that the discussions were little more than an academic exercise for the delegates, rather than a serious attempt to actually formulate policies for sustainable development. And it makes me despair for the future that we actually want.

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