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In brief

by Wolf Dagmar

In brief

In spite of repression, opponents of the coup have repeatedly been protesting in Bangkok.

In spite of repression, opponents of the coup have repeatedly been protesting in Bangkok.

Generals grab power in Bangkok / Open Knowledge Festival in Berlin to promote new ways of using internet / US President Barack Obama announces measures to slow down climate change / Abdel Fattah al-Sisi wins Egypt's presidential elections / ILO World of Work Report 2014 emphasises social protection / Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences startes new master’s course on social protection

Military coup in Thailand

Generals grabbed power in Bangkok in May. The country’s constitution is no longer in force. As D+C/E+Z went to print in early June, the junta was transferring top bureaucrats to new jobs and re-organising the police force. According to observers, these measures served to minimise the influence of the leaders of the previous government. Earlier in May, the Supreme Court had ruled that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra could not stay in office because of corruption issues. She is the sister of Thaksin Shinawatra, a billionaire and previous prime minister. He lives in exile after the military toppled him in 2006. Yingluck, however, won free elections in 2011.

The Thaksins are supported by poor rural people and resented by the elites in Bangkok. Anti-Yingluck protests have been paralysing public life in the capital for many months. The opposition demanded that Yingluck’s cabinet be displaced by a technocratic one which should then enact "reforms" before the next elections. Yingluck, however, won elections she had called in February, but since the opposition boycotted them, that did not end the country’s political stalemate (see D+C/E+Z 2014/03, p. 131).

The military junta has restricted the freedoms of expressions and assembly. Curfews have been imposed. The military leaders say there will be elections after reforms in about 16 months. While supporters of both, the previous government and the opposition, have been arrested, observers believe that the military wants to ensure that the Thaksin family will never play a role in Thailand’s politics again. In spite of repression, opponents of the coup have repeatedly been protesting in Bangkok. (dem)


Open up

People deserve access to information on matters of public relevance, including government action. The Open Knowledge Festival in Berlin in mid-July will contribute to sharing innovative approaches internationally.

Development is supposed to be many things at once: sustainable, equitable and participatory for instance. The World Bank, the UN Development Programme and other international players want to add another qualification: openness. The governments of Sweden and Britain are among the pioneers of open data in regard to development cooperation.

The Open Knowledge Foundation, which is based on an international network of non-governmental organisations, private-sector companies and government officials, has coined the term “open development”. The idea is to make data, knowledge and software available to the public and to use such information for development purposes. The foundation will organise the Open Knowledge Festival in Berlin from 15 to 17 July, convening more than 2000 people from all around the world. Tickets are available at the Festival’s website.

The festival’s three main topics are knowledge, society and tools:

  • In the knowledge stream, organisations and activists will present new ideas on improving people’s knowledge. Related issues include the freedom of the press, web-based journalism in developing countries, citizens’ monitoring of state authorities and open access to scientific knowledge.
  • The society stream will consider different levels of openness in different societies, assessing best practices in terms of making national budgets or elections transparent. Another relevant topic is how to reach people who are not data savvy and do not have access to the internet. Online censorship and repression will be on the agenda too (please note article on p. 224 f.).
  • Finally, the tools stream is about digital devices and software that serve to spread information widely.

The Open Knowledge Festival will not focus exclusively on global development. Many of the issues are highly relevant, particularly in regard to good governance. Some sessions, moreover, will directly tackle matters of great developmental relevance, regarding land rights or the monitoring of financial flows for instance. The technical advisory group of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), which includes partners from civil society, the private sector and governments, will share insights on making development cooperation more transparent in line with the IATI open data standard. The previous Open Knowledge Festival took place in Helsinki in 2012. Videos of development-related sessions are still available at http://2012.okfestival.org/ (Claudia Schwegmann)

Open Knowledge Festival 2014:

New momentum in climate talks

US President Barack Obama announced in early June that his Environmental Protection Agency will order power stations to reduce carbon emissions to 30 % below the level of 2005 by 2030. This is the most far-reaching climate-protection measure taken by any US administration so far. The policy is controversial, but it does not need approval from Congress.

The new approach matters internationally because multi­lateral climate talks have been obstructed by Washington’s non-cooperation for two decades. "The fact that Washington is moving will put pressure on other countries," comments Süddeutsche Zeitung, a leading German daily paper.

The Financial Times, moreover, reports that the USA and China have lately been making promising progress in bilateral climate talks. If the world’s two biggest economies agree on policy, success will be more likely when world leaders gather to negotiate a new global climate treaty in Paris next year. (dem)


No wave of enthusiasm

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi won a 96 % majority in Egypt’s presidential election in late May. None­theless, he was not carried into office by great popular enthu­siasm. Voter turnout was a mere 48 % even after the government had kept polling stations open for a third day and granted its employees an extra holiday so they would find it easier to cast their ballots. The Economist, a London-based magazine, stated that the election was "supposed to provide civilian camouflage for a military dictatorship", but ultimately failed to provide "the former general with the stamp of legitimacy he was hoping for". Al-Sisi became defence minister – and probably the de-facto chief of government – when the military toppled President Mohamed Mursi last summer. (dem)


ILO emphasises social protection

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), some 840 million people around the world must live with wages that limit their families’ purchasing power to less than two dollars per head and day. The number of people in "vulnerable employment" is estimated to be 1.5 billion. These workers do not have contracts. They neither enjoy labour rights nor are they protected by safety-measures at work. The figures were recently published in the ILO’s annual World of Work Report.

The Report notes some progress in recent years however. In those developing countries and emerging markets, where investments were made in high quality jobs, living standards have been rising for instance. To create broad-based prosperity, the ILO argues, it is essential to create diversified, highly-productive capacities, enact and enforce labour laws and provide social-security net. (dem)

World of Work Report 2014: Developing with Jobs.


New master’s course: social ­protection

The Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences is intro­ducing a new master’s course on the analysis and design of social-protection systems. The goal is to enable students from various countries to assess matters and design protection schemes in light of the national needs and capacities, says Professor Esther Schüring, who heads the programme. "Our students will be given an in-depth overview of social-­protection systems across the world and their underlying mechanisms, and we will provide the best preparation for leadership positions in this sector," she says. The three-semester programme is unique. It combines face-to-face and distance-­learning phases. The accumulated expertise will not only benefit future students, moreover. "We are planning to make individual modules accessible to professionals," says Schüring. The application deadline for non-EU citizens is 30 June and 31 August for EU citizens. (dem)