The 2011 outlook: ideas and agents

David Hayes, 3 January 2011

Where are the sources of inspiration that can improve global and national
prospects in 2011? openDemocracy writers across the world offer their

The world's power-relations are in flux at the end of the century's first
decade. Many regional conflicts and tensions, from Afghanistan-Pakistan to
Israel-Palestine, Iran to the Caucasus, Somalia to the Ivory Coast, remain
full of dangers. At a national level, the dynamics of change - including
financial turbulence, unemployment, people flow, social inequality, culture
wars, and citizen-empowering technologies - are at once reshaping individual
lives, testing governing institutions, and pressing hard on existing models
and practices of democracy. The long-term threats of climate change and
resource constraint overhang all.

The need for ideas capable of making sense of this complex landscape, and
for agency that can address its problems and realise its potentials, is
clear. At this fluid moment, David Hayes asks openDemocracy authors to
suggest an idea, a writer/artist, and/or a public figure that could be a
source of inspiration in 2011.


Paul Rogers

If 2011 looks problematic, not least in the potential for conflict in south
Asia and the middle east, then prospects for the new decade are of even
greater concern. Little seems to have been learned from the financial crisis
as the system returns to business as usual. Meanwhile, the gap between the
richest 1.5 billion and the other 5.5 billion (the seventh billionth person
will be born this year) widens ever further.

These security and economic fractures are compounded by the evident
environmental constraints on human development, especially climate change.
The combination prefigures an even more fragile and turbulent world over the
decade, as the impacts of these interactions become increasingly obvious and
unavoidable. The core question then is: will there be the political will to
act in time to address them?

A positive sign is the amount and intensity of innovative work now underway
to highlight the responses demanded. The New Economics Foundation's Great
Transition project and Oxford Research Group's work on Sustainable
are just two of many examples.

This kind of work explores and points to creative possibilities for better
futures on the planet. In this it meets one of the most urgent needs of our
time: for prophecy, if prophecy is defined not in the traditional religious
sense of crying `woe' from the margins but as suggesting the possible. As
the necessity of change becomes clear in coming years, the work of
suggesting the possible will be an essential resource in helping societies
make the transitions required.

Paul Rogers is professor in the department of peace studies at Bradford
University, northern England. He is openDemocracy's international-security
editor, and has been writing a weekly column on global security since 26
September 2001; he also writes a monthly briefing for the Oxford Research
Group. His books include Why We're Losing the War on Terror (Polity, 2007),
and Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century (Pluto Press, 3rd
edition, 2010)

Also by Paul Rogers: `The toll of the world' (22 December 2010)


Natalia Leshchenko

Making sense of the world is a matter of intellectual taste and spiritual
inclination; surely, there will be many offerings in 2011 as always. The
idea that could keep the world at the best possible condition of peace and
harmony is responsibility.

As the institutions and mechanisms defining the world order are changing,
and their new shape is not yet clear, power becomes easy to obtain, often in
unsuspected quantities. An individual feedback can ruin a small business, a
document leak can endanger lives, a protest can bring havoc to a city, a
strike can paralyse a country. The opportunities for abuse of political
power are also higher, as autocrats crack down on internal dissent or
threaten neighbours without concern for international isolation or
reprimand. External checks on power are not always available or effective.

Hence whatever a person's values and pursuits are, it is paramount for all
to realise that our actions bear consequences - for people close and far,
for nature, for the country concerned, and for the world. Until the world's
emerging inner balance becomes clear, the best guidance to keep it safe and
growing is one's own sense of responsibility for it.

Natalia Leshchenko is an analyst of politics and business in east-central
Europe. She works at the Institute for State Ideologies (INSTID)

Also by Natalia Leshchenko: `Belarusians: in need of a nation' (8 December


Thomas de Waal

The area of the world I deal with, the Caucasus, is still poised on the
brink of conflict and faces a very uncertain 2011.

In this bleak environment I nominate as voices of inspiration courageous
Armenian and Azerbaijani bloggers. Two of them, Azerbaijani pro-democracy
activists Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli, won unwanted fame by going to jail
on trumped-up charges but were thankfully released in late 2010. And brave
bloggers such as Onnik Krikorian are overcoming intense nationalist
propaganda to establish contact with the other side of the Karabakh conflict
divide. It is still a small movement but it is an inspiring example of how
a few people are using the space the internet creates to stake out a
forward-looking agenda.

Now that I am based in Washington I see the United States from the inside
and that makes me much more sympathetic to Barack Obama. The American
political system has such a bias towards stasis that it is hard for even the
most determined president to accomplish anything. So we should give credit
to the real progress Obama has made on nuclear non-proliferation, the
`reset' with Russia and healthcare reform, while big disappointments, such
as lack of progress over Israel-Palestine and climate change should be seen
in the context of very powerful lobbies pushing back against change. Is he
inspiring? Less than we thought, maybe. Can he and will he get things done?
Yes, as much as is possible.

Thomas de Waal is a senior associate for the Caucasus at the Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) in Washington. His books include
The Caucasus: An Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2010)

Also by Thomas de Waal: `The lightness of history in the Caucasus' (4
November 2010)


Michele Wucker

Citizens of every country need to see their self-interest more broadly
instead of pitting themselves against other groups, nationalities,
religions, and classes. If people were to embrace this one idea in 2011,
we'd see a world of greater cooperation and prosperity instead of the
polarisation and malaise that affects so much of the world today. When your
neighbour is better off, it's more likely that you will be too.

We do not live in a zero-sum world. Yet if the xenophobes and hate-mongers
have their way, we'll be in a less than zero-sum world: everyone will be
worse off, not only the purported targets.

Concentrating wealth in the hands of the mega-rich while leaving less than
crumbs for the working class destabilises society and shrinks purchasing
power that could create more wealth for everyone. A country or community
that cracks down unfairly on immigrants and minorities is biting off its
nose to spite its face; it pulls the rug out from under families, economies,
and communities instead of supporting new communities and economies.
Demonising another religion instead of seeking dialogue puts precious energy
into destruction instead of building. An extremist political party that puts
up roadblocks, no matter what the issue, ends up destroying people's trust
in the political process instead of creating positive change.

The unintended consequences of division undermine the very goals that
politicians and leaders invoke to justify actions intended to punish the few
instead of to reward the whole. It's time to change that dynamic.

Michele Wucker is president of the World Policy Institute. She is the author
of Why the Cocks Fight: Dominicans, Haitians, and the Struggle for
Hispaniola (Hill & Wang, 2000) and Lockout: Why America Keeps Getting
Immigration Wrong When Our Prosperity Depends on Getting It Right (Public
Affairs, 2006). Her website is here

Also by Michele Wucker: `Don't get immigration wrong - again' (19 June 2006)


Ramin Jahanbegloo

Every decade has a particular characteristic. We associate the 1960s with
the civil-rights movement in America and the 1980s with the rise of Islamism
in the middle east. If the first decade of the 21st century was
characterised by the terrorist violence of 9/11 and the two bloody wars in
Afghanistan and Iraq, the upcoming decade will certainly bring with it the
sense that violent politics and old-style lobby-making power-brokers are no
longer sufficient to deal with urgent global challenges.

Virginia Woolf once wrote: `On or about December 1910, human character
changed.' It may be too optimistic and unrealistic to ascribe a similar
change to this moment a century later, when the discourse of violence is
endangering our world more than ever. But if there is a single spiritual
leader who can be followed as an example of Gandhian nonviolence and signal
such a change in human character, it is his holiness the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama has been a pioneer in peacemaking ever since his exile from
Tibet as a young man. His lifelong crusade for moral right through the
practice of nonviolence has made him one of the world's most beloved
political figures. Alongside Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, the
Dalai Lama's tenacious dedication to see a world of dialogue is a great
lesson of political responsibility in the nonviolent struggle against all
forms of tyranny, and for the democratisation of democracies around the

If nonviolence is the only battle worth waging in this second decade of the
century, the inspiration has to come from a nonviolent leader who stands up
for peace and human dignity. That is the Dalai Lama.

Ramin Jahanbegloo is professor in the Centre for Ethics at the University of
Toronto. He was previously Rajni Kothari professor of democracy at the
Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in Delhi. His twenty books
include India Revisited: Conversations on Contemporary India (Oxford
University Press, 2007). His website is here

Also by Ramin Jahanbegloo: `The modern Gandhi' (30 January


Anoush Ehteshami

I look forward to seeing the influence of Eric Hobsbawm and his work grow in
2011. Here is a visionary historian whose combination of meticulous research
and penetrating insight make him a master of the techniques for interpreting
the past - inasmuch as we can.

His appreciation of the processes of historical change is increasingly vital
to better understanding of the transition from the unipolar to a non-polar
world. In a 21st-century international system becoming dominated by an
orchestra of powers instead of a single conductor, Eric Hobsbawm is an
indispensable guide through the fog: a scholar whose work helps us to learn
the right lessons from, and thus how to avoid the mistakes of, the past.

Anoush Ehteshami is professor and director of the ESRC Centre for the
Advanced Study of the Arab world in the school of government and
international affairs at Durham University. His books include (with - with
Mahjoob Zweiri) Iran and the Rise of its Neoconservatives: The Politics of
Tehran's Silent Revolution (IB Tauris, 2007)

Also by Anoush Ehteshami: `Iran and the United States: back from the brink'
(28 March 2007)


Andrew Dobson

On the first day of January 1981, the English historian EP Thompson and the
scholar-activist Dan Smith published a brilliant, satirical anti-nuclear
pamphlet, Protest and Survive - a witty subversion of the absurd advice
(Protect and Survive) given by the state on how to respond in the event of
nuclear attack. Margaret Thatcher's government told British people to hide
under the kitchen table - but many thousands realised with EP Thompson and
Dan Smith that the best antidote to nuclear weapons was to protest against

Exactly thirty years on, it's protest we again need. In 2011 as in
1981 a
reactionary government in London is laying waste the public realm and those
who depend on it, and provoking widespread anger. In the early 1980s it was
the trade unions who led the resulting protests, while this time round it's
the students who - in response to a three-fold hike in tuition-fees - have
taken to the streets.

The political class is palpably shocked at the widening of protest to take
in issues of cuts in public spending and corporate tax-evasion. The process
has already successfully challenged the government's twin assumptions - that
the cuts are necessary, and that "we are all in this together". It is
protest that makes alternatives visible in a way that no other form of
political action can. We need it to continue in 2011.

Andrew Dobson is professor of politics at Keele University. His books
include Citizenship and the Environment (Oxford University Press, 2003) and
Green Political Thought (Routledge, 4th edition, 2007). His website is here

Also by Andrew Dobson: `The fiction of climate change' (17
September 2010)


Kerry Brown

The 21st-century's first decade has been dominated by breathless news of
China's emergence and rise. This has not quite yet become old news. But in
2011 we will see a clash of two narratives about China, and I would like to
propose two figures to represent this.

The first is Xi Jinping, for whom the coming year will be the final one
before what is expected to be the start of his ascent to supreme leadership
in China in 2012. Xi's every word and act - even his silences (perhaps
particularly his silences) - will henceforth be watched and interpreted,
their nuances drawn for clues about who he is and what he stands for. For
Xi, this means a long year, far more laden with threat than many observers
can imagine; and even at the end, he will know that gaining the leadership
of the Chinese Communist Party in 2012 is but the prelude to an even greater
challenge: leading China as it becomes a middle-income country, a truly
global power, and a force which will shape the century.

The second figure is Liu Xiaobo, now a Nobel laureate though still in jail
in northeast China: a searing and (yes) powerful symbol of why the China
that Xi Jinping hopes to lead remains in so many ways a worry and a problem.
Liu has refused the option of exile, reportedly urged on him many times by
the authorities. His continuing imprisonment enforces silence upon him, but
this silence will weigh just as heavy as any utterance or shrug from Xi.

Liu Xiaobo's case - beyond anything he has ever written or said - raises
hard questions about official China's weakness and insecurity. This makes
him a test for Xi Jinping. If the new leader proves to have the courage and
the vision to release Liu, then we can look forward to a China ready for
radical political change - not perhaps towards a western model, but towards
something more suitable for a complex, evolving, developing country than the
brutal Stalinist repression that Liu's incarceration displays. Xi Jinping
and Liu Xiaobo are the two key Chinese figures of 2011.

Kerry Brown is an associate fellow on the Asia programme, Chatham House. His
books include Friends and Enemies: The Past, Present and Future of the
Communist Party of China (Anthem Press, 2009). His website is here

Also by Kerry Brown: `Liu Xiaobo and China's future' (12 October 2010)

Keith Kahn-Harris

I'd like to highlight the wider relevance of three ideas that have
and motivated me in a project I have just started to publicise.

Since mid-2009 my wife and I have been hosting and facilitating a series of
confidential dinner-parties to promote more civil dialogue in the
Anglo-Jewish community, particularly in reference to public debate about
Israel. We have hosted dinners with senior communal professionals, lay
leaders, journalists, rabbis and politicians. The process is predicated on
the growing divisions among Jews over the question of Israel and the
attendant anger and bitterness that bedevils discussion of the subject.

This project may be of parochial concern but it is based on ideas that do
have a larger relevance:

1) Civility There is increasing concern about the uncivil tone that
permeates much contemporary public discourse. The age of cacophonous new
media seems - from BBC comment-threads to Fox News and beyond - to have
lowered inhibitions as to what can be said. Civility is an old value whose
relevance needs to be reasserted

2) Intra-communal dialogue There are many initiatives designed to foster or
improve relations between different faith or ethnic communities; but there
is far too little awareness of the degree to which relations within
communities can be just as difficult. Intra-communal relations among a
variety of groups present a challenge that is barely acknowledged and needs
to be tackled

3) Mixing The power of hospitality and food to bring together parties locked
in mutual suspicion is striking. This combination (like civility) has
ancient roots and needs to be rediscovered.

Keith Kahn-Harris is honorary research fellow at the Centre for Religion and
Contemporary Society, Birkbeck College. His books include (with Ben Gidley)
Turbulent Times: The British Jewish Community Todayhere
(Continuum, 2010). His website is

Also by Keith Kahn-Harris: `In search of an Israeli left' (22 August 2010|)
- with Joel Schlait


Tarek Osman

A toxic blend of economic uncertainty, demographic trends, and concern over
relative political and economic decline is creating fear in the west. The
results are evident in elections and political trends during 2010 in both
Europe and the United States. What adds fuel to the fear is the rise of
militant Islamism bent on sharpening a confrontation between Islam and
historic Christendom; more generally, the refusal of a majority of Muslims
worldwide to embrace the west's liberal values further raises it.

But the Islamic world for its own part needs to feel anxious, for it faces
comparably greater threat of descent into social regress, economic
irrelevance and cultural corrosion.

In 2011 and over the next decade, the Islamic world faces a daunting but
unavoidable set of tasks: rediscovering its rich heritage; disentangling the
core of the `rational religion' from the myths and fables that had
accumulated for centuries; confronting the currently dominant nihilistic and
simplistic narratives; and constructing socio-political projects compatible
with the 21st century that can inspire and engage tens of millions of young
Muslims across the world.

No major political party or set of civic institutions (such as universities)
in the Muslim world today - not even Turkey's ruling AKP - has so far
planted the seeds of such a project; nor has a popular movement emerged to
herald or inspire the major changes needed. Yet the evolution of the modern
Muslim world will be one of humanity's major stories in the near future. It
is bound to happen.

Tarek Osman is an Egyptian writer. He is the author of Egypt on the Brink:
>From Nasser to Mubarak (Yale University Press, 2010).

Also by Tarek Osman: `Egypt's election: power, actors, and... 'change'" (26
November 2010)


Ă=98yvind Paasche

How are we to maintain human development and at the same time uphold an
ecological balance that does not do injustice to future generations? The
ready answer is through sustainability. But the concept has become outworn
and misused, to the extent that it no longer conveys much in the way of
meaning. Can it be relaunched in a way that makes it again relevant to 2011
and beyond?

The precedents are not encouraging. In 1987, the final report of the United
Nations's Brundtland commission received worldwide attention. It proposed
"long-term environmental strategies for achieving sustainable development to
the year 2000 and beyond' - and here we are. The UN heralded 2010 as the
"international year of biodiversity". The slogan `Biodiversity is Life.
Biodiversity is our Life' certainly was catchy - but what did it do beyond
raising (a little) awareness?

In 2009-10, two UN meetings on climate change - an issue intimately linked
to both sustainability and biodiversity - ended in either absolute failure
(Copenhagen's CoP15) or bizarre compromise (CancĂşn's CoP16). They tend to
suggest that the UN is not the best tool for handling such challenges. There
are simply too many actors trying to reach agreements at the same time, amid
a shift of responsibility from national governments to complex international

The raising of awareness is essential for issues of sustainable development,
biodiversity and climate change to be properly addressed. But creating
expectations that are never fulfilled can only be detrimental. An infusion
of life and meaning into the concept of sustainability can come now only
through action, via real-life examples that can pave the way for others - be
they individuals, cities or even nations.

Ă=98yvind Paasche is an adviser in the department of research management
at the
University of Bergen, Norway. He previously worked as a scientist
specialising in paleoclimates at the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research

Also by Ă=98yvind Paasche: `After climategate: forward to reality' (14 July


Emily Lau

The Chinese dissident intellectual and winner of the Nobel peace prize in
2010, =80¨Liu Xiaobo, will remain a source of inspiration for people all over
the world in=80¨ 2011. This is despite the power of the Chinese state
which saw
him sentenced on 25 December 2009 to eleven years' jail for subversion of
state authority, and which prevented him, his family and more than 100
invited guests from travelling to Oslo for the award ceremony on 10 December
2010. The empty chair on which Liu's presentation was placed has come to
symbolise Beijing's oppression and Liu's courageous resistance.

Liu's peaceful campaigning for human rights and democracy in China is
reflected too in the Charter 08 document he drafted, and which was signed by
dozens of Chinese writers and intellectuals in the year before his award.
Beijing's berserk reaction to his efforts highlights its sense of insecurity
and =80¨stubborn refusal to grant its people the basic human rights to which
they are entitled, as embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
and other documents.

The sacrifice of Liu Xiaobo and others will not be in vain. One fine day,
China=80¨will embrace democracy - and we will thank people like Liu for their

Emily Lau is is a member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council (Legco),
representing The Frontier political group. Her website is here

Also by Emily Lau: `Tiananmen, 1989-2009' (4 June 2009)


Godfrey Hodgson

Many individuals, some obscure, can have a decisive effect - for good or ill
- in 2011. Still, however diminished the prestige of the United States, the
single person who will have the greatest impact in the world in 2011 will
be, once again, the American president.

Barack Obama is politically wounded. The hopes he brought with him, already
dented, have been grounded with his Democratic Party's losses in the
mid-term elections. His choice of key coadjutors was ill-judged. He was
determined to diminish the stark ideological polarisation of America
politics by reaching out to the Republicans. They did not respond. He sought
to reach out to intransigent opponents abroad. There too he has been largely

His legislative record and his poll standing are both disappointing, but
respectable. He needs to negotiate tricky short-term decisions in domestic
politics, and with attenuated political resources. He will not have much
political capital to spare for even more vital long-term issues, like the
budget and unaffordable entitlement programmes.

Abroad, he is frustrated at every turn. Any likelihood of middle-east peace
seems farther away than ever. Most urgent of all is the war in Afghanistan
and the consequent crisis in Pakistan. Obama thought it politically astute
to buy off conservative hostility by sending 100,000 more troops to war. By
upping the ante, he has trapped himself in a policy at odds with his own
wishes. Only a bold strategic retreat can save America's world leadership,
but that would cost him and the Democrats the White House. It is an
impossible choice.

Godfrey Hodgson is a journalist, formerly director of the Reuters'
Foundation Programme at Oxford University and foreign editor of the
Independent. His books include The Myth of American Exceptionalism (Yale
University Press, 2009)

Also by Godfrey Hodgson: `America's fiscal-political trap' (22 December


Diane Coyle

Resilience will become a key concept in 2011 - because the consequences of
its absence are starting to inflict real damage. In Britain, years of
underinvestment in infrastructure have propelled a remorseless drive for
efficiency in private and public sector alike, with consequences that are
now apparent - from the discomfort and delays affecting passengers at
Heathrow as a result of BAA's lack of investment in equipment and the
airlines' lack of spare capacity (because an empty seat is an unbearable
cost) to the suffering of householders in Northern Ireland deprived of water
for days because of the water authority's failures of management and
engineering capacity.

There are many other examples. This winter has already tested the supply of
gas almost to its limit. The electricity generation and distribution system
needs tens of billions of pounds in investment, as does the rail network,
and the mobile-telephone network to meet demand created by smartphones, and
the broadband network to extend fast cables across the country. The
withdrawal of the public sector from providing many services, as
spending-cuts bite, will reveal social fragilities. Many private-sector
companies that have spent a quarter- century delivering efficiencies and
dividends to shareholders are (as BP's experience perhaps shows) more
vulnerable than might be imagined. Systems and structures can seem fine for
years - and in the end, it takes only a breath of adversity to flatten them.
2011 will be the year when we start thinking about resilience.

Against an even larger canvas, the defining experience of the world in 2011
- the one to which art will have to respond - is the growth of megacities in
the emerging giants, the human experience of that shocking transition from
static rural poverty to dynamic urban squalor. I know too little about the
writers and artists whose experiences of these places, Koklata or Sao Paulo
or Guangzhou, will provide their raw material; but one who for me evokes the
anomie of this new urban life is the German photographer Michael Wolf.

Diane Coyle is an economist, head of the economic consulting firm
Enlightenment Economics, a trustee of the BBC and a visiting professor at
the University of Manchester. Her books include The Economics of Enough: How
to Run the Economy as If the Future Matters (Princeton University Press,
forthcoming 2011)

Also by Diane Coyle: `Economics, the soulful science' (21 February 2007)


Theo Hobson

My suggestion relates to the Anglican communion, that branch of Christianity
whose centre is Canterbury in England. It is that in 2011, the Episcopal
church (Anglicanism in the United States) should seek inspiration in the
American revolution.

In particular, that the Episcopal church should its stand its ground and
reject calls to sign up to the new Anglican covenant, which aims to create
more doctrinally unified communion; and indeed that it should respond to the
pressure with new vigour.

The official view is that the Episcopal church has brought the communion to
breaking-point by ordaining openly gay bishops, and that order can only be
restored if it promises to change course. Since the crisis began in 2003,
the church has defended its position, despite being told that the result of
its refusal to move will be that a newly tidied-up communion will reduce it
to second-class status.

This year, it seems that the threat will be carried out, and that the
Episcopal church will be treated as less than a full member of the club. It
ought to treat this ostracism as a huge opportunity: an opportunity to
articulate the liberal Christian vision that it has been pursuing. Instead
of allowing itself to be portrayed as the naughty little daughter of the
mother church, it should declare its theological identity with new
confidence, and criticise the evasions of the rest of the communion.

Here, it should say, is a model of how a sacramentally-rooted Christian
tradition can exist within the liberal state, free from the cultural
nostalgia of the English church, which clings so desperately to its
established status - and free from the reactionary moralism of the religious
The American Anglicans should imitate the confidence of their political
ancestors, and dare to believe that their rebellion is of universal

Theo Hobson is is a theologian and writer. His books include Milton's
Vision: The Birth of Christian Liberty (Continuum, 2008)

Also by Theo Hobson: `John Milton's vision' (9 December 2008)


Conor Gearty

The idea of social democracy should - and perhaps even could - return to
centre-stage in 2011. The end of the cold war may have finished off
traditional state socialism for a generation and surely the bankers' crisis
has now done the same for unregulated capitalism. True, there has been no
dramatic equivalent of the collapse of the Berlin wall to mark its end -
free-market capitalism is fighting long and hard to preserve its grip, and
will, no doubt, continue to do so. But the financial collapse has stripped
away the ideological camouflage in which excess has up to now managed to
hide itself, revealing for all to see the plunderers within. Protest and
resistance grows, whether it is to bald attacks on the poor and the workers,
large-scale corruption or tax-dodging government advisers.

But to gel, such reaction needs a coherent critique and an alternative
vision. The late Tony Judt provides both in his last book, Ill Fares the
Land. Short enough to reach today's readers, and clear enough to be
understood, it explains how, far from being inevitable, injustice and
unfairness are merely products of the way we organise ourselves - and being
merely this they can be changed.

Tony Judt shows there is a way - but is there a will?

Perhaps it falls to marginalised Britain, that empire turned bit-player on
the world stage, to remind the democracies of the world what can be done.
True, the country has (since May 2010) a government savagely intent on
restoring the power of money. The leading element in the coalition, the
Conservatives (or "Tories") do what Tories always do - try their best to
shift wealth from poor to rich. The junior partner, the Liberal Democrats
(Lib Dems), are showing that protest-populism in opposition translates in
government all too easily into craven obeisance to raw capitalism.

But the Labour Party, now in opposition after thirteen years in government,
seems to be recovering its social-democratic soul. The authoritarianism of
the late Tony Blair years is gone, as is platitudinous talk of fairness
designed to obscure surrender to the status quo. Labour may be about to risk
talking seriously about justice, and what it really means to have a society
which is striving genuinely to find itself moving in the direction of
greater equality. So crass is the government's assault on its own people
that Labour may be back in power sooner than it expects. Not just the
British but the world should be watching its leader, Ed Miliband.

Conor Gearty is professor at the Centre for the Study of Human Rights at the
London School of Economics. His books include Civil Liberties (Oxford
University Press, 2008) and the current collaborative projectThe Rights'
Future. His website is here

Also by Conor Gearty: `Israel, Gaza, and international law' (21 January


Krzysztof Bobinski

I would suggest that in 2011 we remember Liu Xiaobo, the imprisoned Nobel
peace-prize winner, both for himself and as a symbol of all those
individuals who have been and are being incarcerated by rulers unable to
cope emotionally with opposition in a democratic social climate.

There seem to be more of the kind of leader-jailer who feels that locking
people up is a solution to anything. Vladimir Putin, whose hostage Mikhail
Khodorkovsky is to spend another thirteen-and-a-half years in prison, is but
one example; Alexander Lukashenka, who had Belarus's opposition leaders
detained after they dared to contest what turned out to be a fraudulent
election, is another.

China's political elite, driven to frenzied denunciation and a global
campaign by Liu Xiaobo's award, was happily unsuccessful in its attempt to
get the world to recognise its right to lock people up for expressing their
views. But this very reaction was revealing. We often hear that certain
countries are "not ready for democracy" - a catch-all phrase by which
apologists (often living in free societies) seek to excuse tyrannical
behaviour. But then, strangely, there are always people in prison in those
countries who are "ready for democracy" - and, somehow, they are the ones
who are incarcerated.

I doubt if Liu Xiaobo or Mikhail Khodorkovsky or Uladzimer Nyaklyaeu have
answers to all the questions you pose for 2011. But as we search for answers
can we allow ourselves to forget their fate?

Krzysztof Bobinski is the president of Unia & Polska, a pro-European
think-tank in Warsaw. He was the Warsaw correspondent of the Financial Times
(1976-2000) and later published Unia & Polska magazine

Also by Krzysztof Bobinski: `Poland's second KatyĹ=84: out of the ashes' (13
April 2010)


Manjushree Thapa

It is customary for me, as a citizen of Nepal, to be outraged by India's
imperiousness towards its small neighbours - until I remember this is really
no different from the way the Indian state treats its own citizens.

There is, of course, an `India good' as well as an =80=9CIndia bad'. The
country's vast infrastructure of democracy, from the centre down to the
grassroots, is truly impressive. This is something that India's small
neighbours such as Nepal can get behind, for democracy is what we aspire to
in our own countries. But India good is often brought down by India bad: the
insecurities of the aggrieved Hindu majority, the triumphalism of corporate
capitalism, the utter disregard for universal standards of human rights....

Arundhati Roy speaks for India good. Whether she be writing about the
injustices surrounding development in the Narmada valley, or about the
radicalisation of India's tribal people in the Maoist heartland, or about
the atrocities committed by the Indian state in Kashmir, Roy has done more
than any single citizen of India to expose the country's failures to live up
to its claims to being the world's largest democracy.

In India, Roy can be a polarising figure. India's conservatives and
ultra-nationalists naturally despise her, but even among liberals and
leftists there are misgivings: with her fame she can overshadow lesser-known
activists. Indeed, it is important for outsiders to realise that there are
vibrant home-grown civil-society movements around each of the causes Roy
takes up. She points to these movements and to the activists who have
dedicated their lives to them.

With India's growing prominence on the world stage - as witnessed by its
desire to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council - it is
increasingly vital, and not just to the small neighbours, for India good to
win out over India bad. A vital part of this struggle is the efforts of
Arundhati Roy - and India's civil society - to keep the Indian state honest.

Manjushree Thapa is a novelist, translator and writer. Her books include
Forget Kathmandu: An Elegy for Democracy (Penguin, 2005) and Seasons of
Flight (Penguin, 2010)

Also by Manjushree Thapa: `Nepal: Maosts' lock, India's door' (9 June 2010)


Patrice de Beer

An icon for 2011 is a tall, elegant and soft-spoken 93-year-old gentleman
called Stéphane Hessel. The very antithesis of the `bling' world of France's
super-rich jet-set moneymakers, he has become the figurehead of those who
loathe the inequality, iniquity and social violence nurtured by the world's
savage financial crisis.

This venerable figure has had a distinguished career. He is the scion of a
German Jewish family that emigrated to France in the 1920s who became a hero
of the French resistance and a diplomat, co-authored the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, and became a fiery defender of illegal
immigrants and stateless Palestinians.

The vehicle of his current renown is a twenty-page pamphlet that sold over
500,000 copies in the last weeks of 2010 and still tops the best-seller
lists: Indignez-vous! (Be indignant!) - an inspiring polemic that speaks to
the millions of French people (mostly young) who wish to channel their anger
in a constructive way.

Stéphane Hessel, although a socialist at heart, offers not a political
platform based on personal ambitions but an unpretentious ethics of protest.
In a world where `indifference is the worst of behaviours'
he sees
`indignation' as the key to social and political involvement. If citizens
cease to be indignant in the face of others' sufferings - including
immigrants persecuted by police and workers made redundant as a result of
corporate greed - the result is a society in moral danger of losing its

True, nothing is simple. `(The) reasons for indignation might seem
obvious today, or the world too complex. It is not always easy to
distinguish between the different groups ruling us. We are not anymore
facing a tiny elite whose goals are crystal-clear.' But Stéphane Hessel is
an optimist who uses his past experience to show that a more responsible
society is still possible.

Patrice de Beer is former London and Washington correspondent for Le Monde

Also by Patrice de Beer: `France's pension reform: the bitter pill' (27
October 2010)


Julia Buxton

The idea that counter-narcotics strategies are damaging and
counterproductive should continue to inspire activism for reform of
international drug control in 2011. For over a century, the flawed ideology
of prohibition has determined punitive and militarised approaches to the
ever expanding, complex and transnational illicit drug economy. This has
caused immense social, economic and political harm, whose impacts fall
disproportionately on the most vulnerable sectors of society and the world's
poorest countries.

In persisting with the notion that a `drug-free world' is obtainable, the
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the United States (the
country that gave the world prohibition) are responsible for policies and
programmes that exacerbate insecurity, poverty, conflict and environmental
degradation. All evidence points to a record of miserable failure.

At the most basic level, more people are now consuming a greater diversity
of purer and cheaper drugs that at any point in the last century of drug
control. And while the drug-control regime has shown itself incapable of
preventing illicit drug markets, it has proved equally ineffective at
regulating access to essential medical drugs such as opioids.

The eclectic international movement for reform of national and international
drug laws has gone from strength to strength in recent years. This is
underlined by the growth and increased interconnectedness of grassroots,
academic and official lobbies for change. There are powerful vested
interests in sustaining the status quo; but despite ongoing efforts to
discredit drug-policy reform arguments, pressure for rational,
evidence-based approaches will and should continue to build.

Julia Buxton is senior research fellow in the department of peace studies,
Bradford University and a contributor to Film Exchange on Alcohol and Drugs
(Fead). Her books include (as editor) The Politics of Narcotic Drugs
(Routledge, 2010)

Also by Julia Buxton: `Hugo Chávez: tides of victory'
(20 February 2009)


Ivan Briscoe

Thanks to Julian Assange and his documentary multitudes, we stand at the
threshold of a curious time: the post-secret age. It will be intriguing to
find out how power and the status of the powerful are re-engineered to
harmonise with the inevitability of openness. Britain's David Cameron has
adopted one possible approach: all apparently bad things are the outcome of
mistaken public expectations. Adjust these, and we will come to see that
what is done to us, the ruled, bears the imprint of natural law and pure
reason, computed and executed by (in London's case) a couple of likeable

Down in Latin America, supposedly the home of the breast-beating populist
and the hidden executioner, the response to post-secrecy is much more
innovative. A decade or so ago, the Argentine government wallowed in utter
mystery; its scandals were (known and unknown) unknowns, crudely estimated
in magnitude through the accumulation of bodies and bank-accounts. Now the
government ejects twitter-messages and facebook-updates at astounding rates.
Ministers seem to have the digital addiction of pale-faced hackers.

Expect 2011 to widen and intensify the rage for compulsive communication
across Latin America and the developing world, substituting the clandestine
plot and mafia network for the rush to justification. Maybe it won't be pure
democracy, but it will be something profoundly new: open closure,
transparent concentration of power, at worst user-friendly despotism.
Meanwhile, Europe and the United States will ache and groan, fussing at the
ethics of the developing world as they obsess over the global economic
pecking-order and their own unaccountable and unsustainable places within

A guide for this era? A holy trinity, fused into one: the globalised satire
of Douglas Coupland, the trenchant humanism of Martha Nussbaum, and the
sheer oddity of Antanas Mockus, the failed Colombian presidential candidate
and radical pedagogue of the public spirit.

Ivan Briscoe is a fellow of the Conflict Research Unit at the Clingendael
Institute in The Hague. He has previously worked as a senior researcher at
the Fride institute in Madrid, as editor of the English-language edition of
El Pais, and as a reporter for the UNESCO Courier and the Buenos Aires

Also by Ivan Briscoe: `Tomás Eloy MartĂ-nez and the Argentine dream" (9 June


Temtsel Hao

The discussion of China's global rise, already a dominating topic for many
years, will continue in 2011. The zeal and fear that surround the subject -
rational or irrational, justified or unjustified - will intensify on both

In this febrile atmosphere there are cool-headed and rational voices who
especially deserve to be listened to. The notable thing is that they are
often the ones most excoriated as dangerous extremists by China's
government. The Dalai Lama, who advocates a middle-way approach to solving
the intractable Tibet dilemma, is one; Liu Xiaobo, who advocates and has
practiced dialogue to advance democracy and human rights in China, is
another. Both men's emphasis on compromise and coexistence sets them apart
from the ideological, do-or-die style favoured by some Chinese dissidents.

The day that Liu Xiaobo was (in his absence) awarded the Nobel peace prize,
10 December 2010, also marked the end of the fifteen-year jail term served
by a Chinese Mongolian intellectual and prisoner of conscience called Hada.
In the event Hada's incarceration has been extended into 2011. Again, a
voice of reason who (in this case) highlights China's ethnic tensions and
disharmony is treated as an enemy of the state.

The very people who offer China an opening to the future are imprisoned or
exiled. I hope that 2011 will see Chinese authorities learning to develop
more enlightened attitudes to such dissenting voices, as well as becoming
more responsive to public opinion and grievance. If they do not, the
distrust and fear in much of the world in the face of China's growing power
and influence will only increase.

Temtsel Hao is a journalist with the BBC World Service, based in London

Also by Temtsel Hao: `Mao Zedong in video-history's gaze' (7 October 2010)


Kerem Oktem

The achievement of Julian Assange and Wikileaks has been to make obsolete
the boundaries between history, political science and journalism. The
publication of many thousands of classified United States diplomatic cables
dismays many in officialdom but also performs a public service by revealing
some of the less savoury workings of a receding superpower: cynical power
politics, grave disregard for human rights, ignorance of the subtleties of
complex political systems, and the gap between its benign discourse and its
behind-the-scenes manipulation and intimidation.

Wikileaks's actions have opened a new space of possibilities for a
transparent global community, in which deceit will rebound to haunt its
perpetrators. Yet even leaving aside the criticisms and allegations that
surround Assange and his project, there is a downside.

For the cascade of leaks is also an important reminder of how the web is
currently messing up the media. `Citizen journalism' (of which Wikileaks is
a subcategory) has shifted power away from professional journalists and
newspaper corporations to literally everybody with a mobile-phone camera and
a computer, thereby multiplying the sources of audio and video content; but
it has also weakened the power of editors, who can put raw material into
political, sociological and historical context and so turn it into news.

The creation of new opportunities for transparency thus also makes the
verification and explanation of material more problematic. It would not be
surprising, then, if some websites start to disseminate faked documents
under the umbrella of Wikileaks. The global, open, transparent electronic
space is probably more open to manipulation than the established regimes of
control and fine-tuning between news outlets and government agencies.

We all need to develop tools to deal with this new world of user-generated
content. We must also hope that the US and other governments will not
succeed in disrupting Assange's project and reverse citizens' ability to
learn more about how the powerful of the world act behind their backs. If
Wikileaks is not the dawn of global democracy, it may be a step towards a
world where secrecy becomes more ephemeral and the political cost of
official hypocrisy is raised. And this would certainly be a good thing.

Kerem Oktem is research fellow of the European Studies Centre at Oxford
University. His books include Angry Nation: Turkey since 1989 (Zed Books,

Also by Kerem Oktem: `Turkey and Israel: ends and beginnings' (10 December


From: A. Papazian

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