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Philippines 2016 at the Institute of Asia and Pacific Studies

Written by Pauline Eadie and Francis Domingo.

Thirty years ago in February 1986 the Philippines saw a bloodless revolution that ousted President Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda Marcos from Malacañang Palace. This revolution was known as the EDSA Revolution and the non-violent tactics of the masses became known as ‘People Power’. These events are embedded in the political psyche of the Philippines. The Philippines has a vibrant civil society and elections are a time of celebration but also violence. The stakes are high as political office at all levels equates to power and control over a chaotic and deeply unequal society. Philippine politics runs on a bicameral system, an arrangement that is hardly surprising given its history as an American tutelage (and a Spanish colony before that). Philippine politics also tends to lack ideology (notwithstanding leftwing or feminist parties such as Bayan Muna or Gabriela respectively) and politicians frequently defect to other parties for personal gain as opposed to ideological commitment.     Continue reading Philippines 2016 at the Institute of Asia and Pacific Studies

Working into poverty?

Written by Lucia Pradella.

Unemployment has reached unprecedented heights in Western Europe — wages are declining and attacks on organized labour are intensifying. Nearly a quarter of Western Europe’s population, about 92 million people, was at risk of poverty and social exclusion in 2013. That’s nearly 8.5 million more people than before the crisis. The number of working poor — employed workers in households with an annual income below the poverty threshold — is growing, and austerity is going to make things much worse in the future.

Critics of austerity argue that it is absurd and counterproductive, but European leaders disagree. During the latest round of negotiations with Greece Angela Merkel argued: “This is not about several billion Euros—this is fundamentally about how the EU can stay competitive in the world.” There is some truth in this. What Merkel does not mention is that workers in Europe, in Europe’s South in particular, increasingly compete with workers in the Global South. Continue reading Working into poverty?

The cost of caste in India’s universities

Written by Diego Maiorano.

Last week I was supposed to give a couple of lectures at the University of Hyderabad, India. However, the students there – some of whom are on ‘indefinite’ hunger strike – had locked most university buildings and were not in the mood to let normal academic activity to be restored.

A few days before, on 17 January 2016, Rohith Vemula, a Ph.D. student, had hanged himself to the ceiling of one of his friends’ room, sparking off the students’ protest. In India, between 2007 and 2013, 25 students ended their lives on campus; 23 of them were Dalits (former untouchable castes) like Rohith himself. Indeed, his caste identity – which relegated him at the very bottom of India’s social order – is what brought him to kill himself. “The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity”, Rohith wrote in a very poetic suicide note. A few weeks before, in a letter to the Vice Chancellor, Prof. P. Appa Rao, Rohith had suggested to equip all Dalits students’ rooms with “a nice rope” and to provide them with poison “at the time of admission itself”. Continue reading The cost of caste in India’s universities

On Disasters and the Yolanda/Haiyan Experience

Written by Jan Robert R Go.

Since 2000, natural disasters, it seems, have become a commonplace in the Philippines more than ever—not simply in terms of numbers, but also in terms of magnitude. Many studies and reports, both national and international, have already highlighted the geographical exposure of the Philippines, which makes it a disaster-prone country. A recent report of Harvard Humanitarian Initiative Resilient Communities Program notes the frequent calamities in the Philippines due to typhoons and floodings, as well as volcanic activities and earthquakes. Meanwhile the Deutsche Welle news agency has called the Philippines ‘a country prone to natural disasters’.

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and the Belgian-based Centre on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) identified the Philippines as the fourth most disaster-prone country in the world with 274 natural disasters recorded from 1995 to 2015. In 2014 alone, Typhoons Rammasun (locally named Glenda) and Hagupit (locally named Ruby) displaced around 2.99 million and 1.82 million people, respectively. Given these figures and situation, it becomes imperative that the Philippine government, including the local levels, must have disaster prevention, preparation, mitigation, and response mechanisms. Continue reading On Disasters and the Yolanda/Haiyan Experience

Breaking Boundaries

Written by Matthew Francis.

On the final afternoon of last year’s Rethinking Modern British Studies conference a small group gathered in a corner of the University of Birmingham’s Arts Building to sing the Political History Blues. The panel – subtitled Whatever Happened To Political History? – explored the ‘strange dearth’ of political history, and concluded that political historians had ‘drawn back from the methodological barricades’.

The panellists had a point. If Rethinking Modern British Studies was, in many respects, an indication of the present vitality of contemporary British history, historians working on aspects of what might be thought of as conventional politics – that is, on high politics, on political parties, on think-tanks, and so forth – were notable for the relatively small part of the programme they occupied. The headline acts of the conference were for the most part working in the fields of social or cultural history; political history was present at the conference, but was confined to rather smaller stages. Political historians, it seemed, had not been doing very much ‘rethinking’. Continue reading Breaking Boundaries

What next for devolution in the UK? The Return of a ‘Dual Polity’

Written by Simon Toubeau.

Although Scottish voters decided to remain part of the UK in September 2014, the question of Scotland’s constitutional future remains an important concern for the Conservative government. Its efforts to deal with this matter have resulted in the ratification of The Scotland Bill in November 2015, which drew on the work of the Smith Commission.

The bill promises to offer an ‘enduring settlement’ that anchors Scotland firmly in the UK. But, in reality, it is another instance of reform that heralds the return of a ‘dual polity’. Continue reading What next for devolution in the UK? The Return of a ‘Dual Polity’

Europe wades into debate over Poland’s constitutional crisis

Written by Fernando Casal Bértoa and Simona Guerra.

Poland’s prime minister Beata Szydło recently found herself summoned to the European Parliament in Strasbourg to defend her government over accusations that its commitment to democratic values is on the slide.

This was an unprecedented meeting. The parliament had called a debate under the auspices of a law introduced in March 2014, giving it the right to question a national government if it thinks a systemic threat to democracy is about to take place in a European country.

In Poland’s case, concerns were raised over government plans to limit the power of the national constitutional court, and change the way the media is governed and civil servants hired. Continue reading Europe wades into debate over Poland’s constitutional crisis

The two Talibans and how they operate

Written by Michael Semple.

The attack on students of the Bacha Khan university in Charsadda, northern Pakistan, played out according to what has become a disturbingly familiar pattern in the region.

It was what is described by armed Islamist groups there as a “fidayeen attack”. Fighters of the Pakistani Taliban, TTP, were equipped to blow themselves up, but first shot all those they encountered until they were cornered and shot by security forces.

In the run-up to the attack, TTP recruits had received commando-style training and been designated fidayeen, or fighters who are prepared to give up their lives for God. An experienced TTP commander, referred to as an “ustad”, or professor, directed covert surveillance of the university. The ustad then devised an operational plan, including delivering the men and weapons to Charsadda without detection. It is now standard practice for the TTP commander to direct the operation by phone, staying across the border beyond the reach of Pakistani security forces. Continue reading The two Talibans and how they operate

The Enduring Lessons of the 1991 Gulf War

Written by Louise Kettle.

Twenty five years ago saw the beginning of Operation Desert Storm; an intervention in the Middle East to remove Iraqi occupying forces from annexed Kuwait. The operation was a US-led coalition of the largest international deployment of troops since the Second World War.

Unlike the US-led coalition twelve years later into Iraq, the operation was completed with permission and political and economic support from Arab countries. Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Syria also contributed militarily to the effort. Continue reading The Enduring Lessons of the 1991 Gulf War

Five years on, the spirit of Tahrir Square has been all but crushed

Written by Lucia Ardovini.

Five years ago, the chant “El‑sha’ab, yureed, isqat el‑musheer!” (“the people want the fall of the regime!“) resounded through the streets of Cairo, marking the start of a popular uprising that saw one of the region’s longest-standing dictators deposed in just 18 days.

The so-called Egyptian revolution of 2011, part of the wider trend of the Arab Springs or Arab Awakening, was seen by many as being as significant as the fall of the Berlin Wall because of its potential implications for both the country and the region. However, five years on, it seems as if little has changed in Egypt – and the country’s proud revolutionary spirit has been almost completely wiped out.

Continue reading Five years on, the spirit of Tahrir Square has been all but crushed