Refugee Crisis: Syria’s Religious Minorities Must Not Be Overlooked

khatereh egdamianBy Kat Eghdamian

As hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees continue to flee their homeland, there is a tendency to view all Syrian refugees as a homogeneous entity. They are not. Many stories are being told, but many more remain untold – and that’s particularly true when it comes to refugees’ religious identity.

As in any crisis, numbers matter. According to the United Nations, more than 7m Syrians are internally displaced; another 4m have fled to neighbouring countries, while more than 348,000 have made the arduous journey further abroad as far as Europe and Australasia.

These numbers are staggering, but they don’t help us understand why the refugees are fleeing in the first place. And some have very different experiences than others.

Among the millions of refugees, there are Christian, Druze, Ismaili and other Muslim and non-Muslim minority religious people and families fleeing Syria, and persecution is following them.

Despite lofty humanitarian ideals of religious neutrality, these people are suffering extreme persecution including religious and ethnic cleansing. And that raises the question of whether they need a specific humanitarian response. Continue reading

Will the SDGs Advance Progress for Disadvantaged Children?

By Paul Dornan

Paul-DornanThe end of the week sees the meeting to agree the Sustainable Development Goals. Don’t expect too many surprises; the document to be signed off has already been published. There are 17 proposed goals, with 169 targets. The good news is the impressive scope; the bad news is the impressive scope. The proposed goals cover new and important areas, and adopt new approaches, but the sheer number risks people picking and choosing between myriad targets. Pinning accountability for delivery, including through the development of national plans, is going to be the challenge.

So watch out for press coverage, and an overheated blogosphere over the next few days.  Over the next few months, and indeed years, many discussions will flesh out what the SDGs will really mean in practice. With that implementation question in mind, a couple of reflections. Continue reading

Income and Multidimensional Poverty – Fighting poverty in all its dimensions

By Sabina Alkire

The way we define poverty has changed. At the Sustainable Development Summit on 25-27 September 2015, the UN will formally adopt a new sustainable development agenda that will include a goal to end poverty in all its forms everywhere. The new goals officially recognise that poverty is more than a lack of money. This is a significant turning point that brings us closer to understanding the true extent of poverty – and a crucial step towards fighting it.

With 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) finalised, attention will now turn to how they will be measured, and how to use new measures to improve governance.  And fortunately governments have some experience on how this can be done.

Continue reading

Beyond Political Violence in Burundi: An Economy in Crisis

Jean-Benoit FalisseBy Jean-Benoit Falisse

Burundi may have slipped from the world’s attention, but the crisis that erupted last May when President Nkurunziza announced that he would seek a third term is far from being resolved. Most commentators have, rightfully, discussed the political aspects of the crisis, including whether Mr Nkurunziza’s third mandate is constitutional, the lack of coherence of the political opposition, the political violence and assassinations, and the mounting tensions with Rwanda. Often overlooked, however, is the economy, which is central to understanding both the backdrop to, and developments in, the most severe crisis Burundi has experienced since the end of the 1993-2005 civil war. While acknowledging the crucial political dimension of the crisis, in this short piece I focus on the economic situation and its consequences. Continue reading

Book Review: ‘Patronage as Politics in South Asia’ by Anastasia Piliavsky (ed)

Sociology of citizenshipBy Asha Amirali

In March, Uday Chandra of the Max Planck Institute reviewed ‘Patronage in Politics in South Asia’ for this blog. Here, ODID DPhil student Asha Amirali responds with her own analysis of the book’s arguments.

It is true, as Anastasia Piliavsky points out in her superb introduction, that patronage has long been treated as a distasteful element of developing societies. Personalised exchange between social unequals has been viewed as either a perversion of liberalism’s central tenets of equality and freedom of choice or as a screen concealing exploitation. Quid pro quo electoral exchanges, in which votes are bartered for particular services rendered, are considered ‘bad’ democratic practice. And of course, the use of public power for private gain is unequivocally condemned as corruption. Continue reading

Not All Child Migration is Trafficking and Not All Child Work is Slavery

BJo-Boydeny Jo Boyden

This week, the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced during his visit to South East Asia that new measures, enshrined in the Modern Slavery Act, will come in to force to curb the growth of human trafficking and slavery. This has, of course, thrown the whole issue of modern-day slavery and trafficking back into the media limelight.

Away from that limelight however, there are other discussions that attempt to go beyond the headlines. Open Democracy’s Beyond Slavery is one such effort.
Gina Crivello and I recently posted a blog there on child migration and schooling.

This week on the same Beyond Slavery blog, Mike Dottridge, the former director of Anti-Slavery International has written an uncomfortable but important truth: in the outrage caused by the continued existence of child trafficking and slavery throughout the world today, these practices are all too readily inflated to cover all forms of child migration and work. In this way, a legitimate cause for concern is all too readily translated into inappropriate responses. Continue reading

Seeing Poverty Up Close

By Sabina Alkire

Poverty measures reported at the national level provide only a sketch of the reality poor people face. Multidimensional poverty estimations released on 22 June 2015 by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), University of Oxford fly low to show what poverty is like in different regions of countries. They also reveal how people are poor – the multiple disadvantages that affect their lives.

A fuller picture of poverty across over 100 developing countries can be used in many ways – to assign resources where they will have impact, to analyse the nexus of poverty and environmental hazards, to design policies that are tailored to the specific shape poverty takes in a region, to coordinate integrated programmes across sectors and levels of government, to monitor and evaluate progress, and to share information with the private sector and civil society actors.

Continue reading

Moving Beyond Movements: Exploring Paths of Everyday Citizenship in Urban South Africa

Sociology of citizenshipBy Sarah-Jane Cooper-Knock

In the rich literature that has emerged on social movements in post-apartheid South Africa, there have been many analyses that explore the degree to which particular social movements cooperate with the state or adopt a more antagonistic stance. Some break this picture down further, exploring the degree to which movements are able to cultivate or capitalise upon unique relationships with specific state actors or departments. Those kinds of accounts remind us that the state is, in reality, a collection of individuals and institutions that are often heterogeneous and fragmented, if not in active conflict with each other. This work has helped us to gain a more nuanced understanding of South Africa’s political landscape and the nature of statehood and citizenship within it. Continue reading

Military Madness in the Med

By Jeff CrispJeff Crisp

According to the United Nations, some 60,000 people, many of them from war-torn and poorly governed countries such as Eritrea, Somalia and Syria, have travelled across the Mediterranean Sea since the beginning of 2015 in an attempt to reach safety in Europe. Around 1,800 of them have drowned while making the voyage, while those who have survived remain exhausted and traumatized by the arduous journeys they have taken from their countries of origin.

Panicked by these events, the European Union (EU) has introduced what it describes as a ‘new migration agenda’. But the plan set out in that document contains elements that are unethical, impracticable and of questionable legality. Continue reading

Tough Boys and Docile Girls? Questioning the Use of Corporal Punishment in Schools

By Virginia Morrow Ginny cropped_low-res

Globally, corporal punishment is widely used in schools despite international concern about the effects on children and the implications for their capacity to benefit from school.  And yet it persists. Changing social policies send clear messages about practices that are not acceptable, but the eradication of corporal punishment in schools globally is proving difficult, and India is no exception.

Violence against girls is now high on the Indian political agenda, after the horrific fatal gang rape of a female student in Delhi in 2012 led to widespread demonstrations demanding an end to sexual violence against girls and women. However,  more ‘normal’ forms of violence may go unnoticed or unquestioned, and limited academic attention has focussed on the gender differences in the way punishment is meted out to boys and girls at home, school and society at large. Continue reading