“Is Education a basic human right? Or is it only true if you’re not a pregnant girl from Sierra Leone?”

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Being a girl in Sierra Leone comes with enormous insecurity and risks. With one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the world, the most significant challenge facing girls is the barrier to education if they become pregnant (Folan, 2016). Education must be available to all, irrespective of race, gender, age or sex. It is an essential right for all humans, and it permits each individual to receive instruction and succeed socially. It is also a key contributor to the economic, social and cultural development. It enables the individuals to acquire a variety of knowledge and see the world around us a differently. Develops the individual’s personality and identity as well as their physical and intellectual capabilities. And most importantly it provides and enables an improved quality of life, offering the underprivileged a chance to escape from the harsh reality of poverty and struggle.

So is it fair not to provide this chance or the opportunity for a girl who has become pregnant, most likely been forced into this situation against her will or knowledge? Many of these girls become pregnant as a result of sexual violence or a lack of sex education. Don’t these girls deserve the opportunity to come out of this struggle and succeed in life? Build a future to be independent and even take care of their child without the need or support from anyone else. Having to stick by and be abused and judged by society and men.

Sierra Leone has failed significantly to protect these girls from sexual violence, and it has also failed them by getting rid of sexual health education from their school curriculums years ago. One of these unfortunate events to unfold on the children was when the minister of education for Science and technology released a statement which said that to ban all girls who are pregnant from the school setting with immediate effect! How on earth would anyone have a right to snatch away something as sacred as education? How can you expect your country to move forward when a vast majority of the children are getting turned away from getting a basic right still baffles me to this day? But by the looks of it, this doesn’t deter the government officials from passing these absurd laws. They even went to the extent of justifying their acts by stating that this policy was put forward to protect “innocent girls” from been influenced by the negative acts of the pregnant girls. Is this fair? Whatever happened to give a chance to correct a mistake they’ve made doesn’t seem to exist.

Amnesty International’s regional director for Central Africa stated that “The prohibition on visibly pregnant girls attending mainstream schools and taking exams is hopelessly misguided, and is doing nothing to address the root causes of Sierra Leone’s high teenage pregnancy rate, which surged during the devastating Ebola crisis, and remains high despite this ban”(Tine, 2016). What I personally think of this crisis is that, instead of excluding and humiliating these young girls from the education spectrum, they should rather increase the focus on reproductive and sexual health information’s in their schools. Prohibiting these girls from school will not change a thing unless the Government officials related to this issue isn’t going to tackle the root cause of this result, which is, addressing the high teenage pregnancy rate. Unless and until this root cause isn’t eliminated, the cycle of unwanted early pregnancy will only keep rising for generations to come.

There have also been reports on how some of these girls are put through degrading and humiliating treatments, such as being forced to take pregnancy tests and in-depth physical scanning to find any signs of pregnancy. This is not only wrong on so many counts but extremely traumatizing for these young girls who just wanted to only attend school to get a basic education to support their families. Reports state that some of these girls have felt being abandoned and not accepted by their own people. Not only are they feeling the full brunt of the unfair treatment of the government but their own communities and at times their own families abuse them. Where are they left to go? Who is going to accept them? That is where humanity should step in and find a solution for these innocent souls.

These visible actions on these children are a violation of rights which are enshrined in any international conventions and this would only mean the country would suffer in the long run. Education is a basic human right and for a society to step up and move forward they need to ensure that their girls are educated. This absurd ban would only mean more discrimination and violence. Long-term health effects can also be caused by the psychological trauma these young girls go through could mean their offspring could be susceptible to such effects too. Due to the increasing pressure from international organizations, the president of Sierra Leone put forward an alternative “bridging” education system. This would mean the pregnant girls could attend school but still won’t be able to give exams.

The future of education in Sierra Leone cannot be bright if they keep on neglecting these girls out of schooling. What are the chances one of these “neglected” girls end up bringing Sierra Leone into the world stage in Science? Or a breakthrough in medicine? A cure for cancer? So personally education is a right that everyone should get regardless of their background or struggles.

Charith

Dubai Campus

References

  1. org. (2016). Sierra Leone: Continued pregnancy ban in schools and failure to protect rights is threatening teenage girls’ futures. [online] Available at: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/11/sierra-leone-continued-pregnancy-ban-in-schools-and-failure-to-protect-rights-is-threatening-teenage-girls-futures/ [Accessed 16 Dec. 2016].
  2. (2016). Expelled pregnant girls go back to school in Sierra Leone. [online] Available at: http://theirworld.org/news/expelled-pregnant-girls-go-back-to-school-in-sierra-leone [Accessed 16 Dec. 2016].
  3. (2016). In Sierra Leone, Pregnant Girls Don’t Have to Miss Out on Education. [online] Available at: http://www.voanews.com/a/sierra-leone-pregnant-girls-alternative-education/3207894.html [Accessed 16 Dec. 2016].
  4. (2016). Sierra Leone Banned Pregnant Girls From School And This Lawmaker Wants That To End. [online] Available at: https://www.buzzfeed.com/jinamoore/sierra-leone-banned-pregnant-girls-from-school-and-this-lawm?utm_term=.ukxkvnL0A6#.vsBZJdRqNy [Accessed 16 Dec. 2016].
  5. Folan, A. (2016). Shamed and blamed: Protecting the rights of pregnant girls in Sierra Leone – Concern. [online] Concern. Available at: http://www.concernusa.org/story/shamed-and-blamed-protecting-the-rights-of-pregnant-girls-in-sierra-leone/ [Accessed 16 Dec. 2016].
  6. International Business Times UK. (2016). Ebola has forced thousands of girls to have sex in return for food, money and school fees. [online] Available at: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/sierra-leone-ebola-crisis-sparks-teen-pregnancy-surge-girls-face-sexual-exploitation-1566470 [Accessed 16 Dec. 2016].

Neoliberalism is a legal system of blood money; even war becomes the pursuit of profit.

 

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War is a horrific disregard for human life, resources, and money. Unfortunately, it has been very apparent, that war is a necessary evil for the continued success of neoliberalism, used to generate profits, this can be seen since the birth of neoliberal ideology, when we track the history of creating demand, a key concept within neoliberal thinking, for example, in what is now termed as ‘Fordism’. In the 19920s large amounts of vehicles were being produced by Ford at the automobile factories in Michigan daily, but there wasn’t the demand as it was priced above what many could afford and as a result, America was plunged into an economic crisis also known as the Great Depression which main cause was overproduction. With masses of unsold items, companies were forced to let go of workers leading to a boom of unemployment, meaning people were spending even less which only worsened the crisis.

America was only able to push through the period of depression because of the Second World War because there was a great economic demand which made way for American industry to manufacture unlimited war equipment for Europe before 1942. Between the period of 1940 and 1945 sums of up to 185billion dollars was spent on military equipment, GNP therefore rose to 40% through selling arms to the British and Soviet armies, and US companies such as ford produced all kinds of Tanks, Planes and other war equipment for the likes of the Nazis (Dr. Jacques R. Pauwels), the trigger of the Great Depression was the lack of equilibrium between supply and demand and it was resolved through mass production of Military equipment.

To the average American, military spending meant higher wages than ever, almost full employment and with the second world war the grey gloom of the great depression had blown over, but the American people weren’t the ones who benefited the most because that award goes to the corporations who came to realise the profound profits that can be made from war. Around 2000 of the US largest firms benefited from profits of over 40% and were seldom taxed. Now, More than 50% of US Government Spending Goes to the Military (Lily Dane).

The war against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it. –George Orwell

A previous US marine corps major, General Smedley D. Butler wrote a famous retirement speech titled “war is racket” which he later turned into a small book which spoke of various operations during World War One where thanks to public funding they were able to gain great profits from essentially colossal human suffering, he concluded within his book that war has always been the easiest, oldest, horrific most profitable event, where profit is reckoned In the loss of life and dollars. General Smedley goes on to describe War specifically as a “racket” which he defines as something that ‘isn’t as it seems’ to most people, only a small elite group knows the true meaning of what war is really about, and it is existent for the benefit of few who make absolute fortunes (Lily Dane).

The military industrial complex now consists of thousands of companies ranging from medicine to technology to arms that make a pretty penny from the detriment of others (MIC).The complex is a strong triangle of steel consisting of legislators, the arms industry, armed forces and powerful corporations and elites who approve military spending, lobby to support bureaucracies as well as monitor the overall success of the industry (Samuel Weigley).

It is a major reason we are stuck in a perpetual war.

(Natasha Boyce Dubai Campus)

Bibliography 

Why America Needs War, Dr. Jacques R. Pauwels, 30th April 2003 http://www.globalresearch.ca/why-america-needs-war/5328631

Companies of the Military industrial complex, MIC, founded January 17th, 1963 http://www.militaryindustrialcomplex.com/companies.asp

Blood Money: These Companies and People Make Billions of Dollars from War, Lily Dane, 24th March 2015 http://www.globalresearch.ca/blood-money-these-companies-and-people-make-billions-of-dollars-from-war/5438657

10 companies profiting the most from war, Samuel Weigley, March 10th 2013 http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/03/10/10-companies-profiting-most-from-war/1970997/

Mass unemployment : why don’t we reduce the working time ?

     Since the 1970’s, Western countries are facing several economical difficulties with an increasing rate of jobless and a low economic growth. This situation has been dramatically accentuated by the financial crisis in 2008.
According to heterodox economists, it is a proof of the failure of the liberal school of economic thought, embodied by Milton Friedman, its Chicago boys and the set of pro-market reforms led by former United Kingdom Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and former President of the United States of America Ronald Reagan in the 1980’s. According to the heterodox school, those policies exacerbated the market failures. On the same side, the working time of industrialized countries has been halved since the XIXe century and mostly during the past 60 years, in accordance with datas of the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCDE).
According to heterodox, those two dynamics lead us to think that we need to struggle against the rate of jobless by sharing the working activities in the aim with reducing the working time.

35-hour reform defending by Former French ministry of labour Martine Aubry at the French Parliament in 1997
35-hour workweek, aka ‘Aubry law’, defended by former French ministry of labour Martine Aubry at the national Parliament in 1997.

     First of all, we may assert that the economic growth is less important than the increase of the labour productivity. In 1970, the annual economic growth of France was at 7 % and then declined at 1,6 % in 1980. During the same decade, the labour productivity gone up by 20 %. At the same time, the country knew a dramatic increase of the unemployment rate ; it rose from 2 % in 1970 to 8 % in 1980. Automation and new organization of work increased the productivity of french corporation by destroying jobs. According French historian Jacques Marseille, the increase of productivity destroyed more jobs than company relocations. Moreover, the digital innovation is expected to continue to boost the productivity, as we can observe it in the United States since the 1990’s. Therefore, it is important in accordance with heterodox though to promote awareness of an economic program based on a best sharing of the working time.

     It has been applied in France with the 35-hour workweek reforms adopted between 1998 and 2000 by French government led by socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. The 35 hours is just a legal standard limit ; an employee can work more but will be considered overtime and the employer will pay more taxes. Benefits of this measure are still controversial because the whole world knew a better economic growth at the same period with less jobless. But proponents of the 35-hour workweek argue that France recorded a drop in unemployment twice that of the reference of the european area. Indeed, between 1998 and 2002, 647 000 jobs have been created, while the rate of jobless declined from 11 % to 8 %. According to the French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), from 300 000 jobs to 350 000 jobs have been created during this period because of the reduction of working time while the rest was due to the economic recovery.

     Nowadays, some like leftist and former French Ministry of Justice Christiane Taubira ask to a better sharing of working time with the introduction of a 32-hour workweek reforms. Indeed, Netherlands has an unemployment rate of 5 % with an average number of hours worked of 29, while France has 10 % of unemployment for an average still of 37 hours worked despite the legal standard limit. According to the French economist Pierre Larrouturou, up to 4 millions jobs could be created in France with a 32-hour workweek, a reduction of 10 % of worked hours compared to the current legal standard. But the data is well above the current 3 millions jobless in the country. That is why he proposes to delete at the same time the employer’s contribution to the unemployment fund, which represent 10 % of the hourly cost. It would allow the employee to keep the same pay without increasing the cost of labour. However, this roadmap is specific to France and the possibility of an internationalisation of this process may be seriously asked.

     German communist party member Karl Kautsky suggested that an international organization should not be considered on the current policies of its member-States but need to be thought with the alternative and common policy that they can hypothetically lead together. At the beginning of the 1990’s, former French socialist president François Mitterrand campaigned for the Maastricht Treaty and argued that a ‘single socialist country in Europe’ is not sustainable and that the transition towards socialism should be achieved through a european united-front policy. General secretary of the French communist party George Marchais replied him that the european socialism will be suppressed by the empowerment of liberalism in a free-trade zone integrated in the globalization. Indeed the United Kingdom was strongly opposed to any expansion of the social policy in the treaty of Maastricht. Therefore, the protocol of social policy had to be annexed to the Treaty, with UK opt-out. And even if this social chapter allows a common legislation in some areas like working conditions and equality between men and women in labour market, those instruments are still not equal to the european social challenge because common polices are mainly based on a very capitalistic ideology.

     Finally, the French example is a relevant experimentation of the controversial issue of the sharing of the working time. It requires to get out of the neo-liberal though with a new paradigm shift. Of course, France has its own functional specificities and the roadmap to manage with the introduction of such reforms is depending on each country and its own legal and fiscal norms in force. Moreover, the European Union is maybe the larger entity able to lead such kind of policies. And significant developments demonstrated that the drop of the unemployment rate correlated with the share of labour activities in the aim with reducing the working time must not be overlooked.

By : Paul REÏSSI, M00602378, Exchange student

[Reference]
OECD data [Online] https://data.oecd.org/lprdty/gdp-per-hour-worked.htm.
AZSKENAZY, Philippe, BLOCH-LONDON, Catherine, ROGER, Muriel, ’La réduction du temps de travail 1997-2003’ : dynamique de constructions des lois « Aubry » et premières évaluations’, INSEE, 2003.
MARSEILLE, Jacques, ‘Empire colonial et capitalisme français’, Editions Albin Michel, 2005.
MEDA, Dominique, LARROUTUROU, Pierre, ‘Einstein avait raison, il faut sortir du temps de travail’, Editions de l’Atelier, 2016

shots anyone?

For most parents in the west, it would be inconceivable to raise children in the modern world without adequately protecting your child from infectious and deadly diseases through the use of vaccines. However, the devastating and heartbreaking reality for developing countries overseas is the spine-chilling statistic that around the world every 20 seconds a child dies from a disease preventable via immunisation (Savold,2016).

Low-income families across the developing world pray daily that primary killers such as diseases like Pneumonia, Diarrhoea, Malaria, Measles and HIV/AIDS  miraculously leave their child untouched.Unfortunately for most children living in poverty, even below the poverty line tragically do not make it past their infancy(World Health Organization). Not having access to routine immunisation and steady diets not only facilitates circumstances that allow pathogens to infect the child but to thrive; also raising the likeliness of a transmissible outbreak to other children especially amongst susceptible populations of deprived poverty (salvoed,2016).

Moderate successes such as the rescindment of smallpox and the elimination of poliomyelitis in most parts of the world played significant roles in developing of immunisation programs(Mahmoud,2004). However, according to results published by UNICEF, the rate of vulnerable children globally reaches to about 30 million children every year and similarly in countries such a Pakistan: Pneumonia claims the lives 92,000 children yearly(Morales,2015).

A writer by the name Adel Mahmoud strongly criticises that “annual immunisation programs needs approximately two decades of continuous application to reach their full impact. The outcome of immunisation programs that do not meet both of these criteria is at best marginal”

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.These alarming concerns are due to the systematic failure of immunisation programs struggling to overcome the process of storage and delivery in countries limited by scarce resources(World health Organisation).  Albeit Long distances in extreme conditions is not an uncommon challenge for transportation. However, the necessary development in vaccine formulation for longer lasting shelf lives carries an even greater obstacle with astronomical production costs and meagre funding.( Desai,  Kama,2014)

Regarding  Physical challenges such as political instability, conflict, economic uncertainty and stigmatism against vaccination in local communities also contributes to the strategic issues against closing the immunisation gap (Savold,2016).  Immunisation programs could infinitely benefit from utilising the benefits modern technologies( Desai,  Kama,2014).

If the International community can even dream of closing the gap it will require and significantly increased effort to expanding the immunisation program of the World Health Organization and other Non-governmental organisations such as UNICEF  and the United Nations. Requiring billions of dollars in funding over two decades, as well as beginning the systematic introduction of revolutionary and newer vaccines.where by the institutions and states can reach the highest levels of commitment to a standardised and permanent immunisation plan or face the continuous overwhelming reality of unnecessary high child mortality rates.

by Georgia Rebecca Mae Massey

M00517430

References

Fiffeild, A. (2016). Want to Close the Immunization Gap? Summon the Spirit of Jim Grant. [online] The Huffington Post. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/adam-fifield/want-to-close-the-immuniz_b_9420882.html [Accessed 12 Dec. 2016].

Mahmoud, A. (2016). The Global Vaccination Gap. [online] Available at: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/305/5681/147 [Accessed 11 Dec. 2016].

Morales, J. (2016). Pneumonia Claims 92,000 Children’s Lives in Pakistan Yearly – Health Aim. [online] Health Aim. Available at: http://www.healthaim.com/pneumonia-claims-92000-childrens-lives-pakistan-yearly/32205 [Accessed 11 Dec. 2016].

Savold, J. (2016). Closing the Immunization Gap: It’s Time to Reach the Fifth Child. [online] Team Vaccine. Available at: https://teamvaccine.com/2016/04/27/closing-the-immunization-gap-its-time-to-reach-the-fifth-child/ [Accessed 11 Dec. 2016].

Who.int. (2016). Cite a Website – Cite This For Me. [online] Available at: http://www.who.int/immunization/documents/general/WHO_Mission_VIsion_Immunization_Vaccines_2015_2030.pdf?ua=1 [Accessed 11 Dec. 2016].

How a Paris-based theme park gives substance to Keynes

     In 1987, Government led by Prime Minister Jacques Chirac signed the first French public-private partnership agreement with the Walt Disney Company also known as the ‘Agreement on the Creation and the Operation of Euro Disneyland in France’. Their purpose was to develop an Eastern area of Paris known as Marne-la-Vallée at a moment when the construction of La Défense Central Business District already boosted the West of the French capital. The crucial point of this topic was a public investment of 666 millions euros conceded by the Government to develop a plot of land populated by less than 5 000 inhabitants. In a few words, Jacques Chirac took a Keynesian approach by thinking that this public spending will boost the national income. So, we will use the fiscal multiplier theory developed by Keynes to explain the choice made by the French State.

     The public money wasn’t invest in the park itself. Indeed, the park, its mall and the hotels were financed by the Walt Disney Company. However, the Government was mainly in charge of public transportations to cover the 50 km separating Marne-la-Vallée from Paris. In some ways, this approach is not that far from the liberal though. Indeed, they think that the financement of transportation infrastructures, including road and train, should be borne by the State in the aim with supporting trade development. However, this agreement targeted specifically the activities of a private company. Those transportation services were a condition sine qua none for the implantation of the Walt Disney Company activities in France. So this seems to get much closer to a make-work deal, with temporary costs to support. But the Parliament still voted the budget to build an highway passing by Disneyland, to extend the train railway from Paris to the park and to open a High Speed Train Station in Marne-la-Vallée. At this time, the unemployment rate in France was above 10 % and opponents argued that this public money would have been use to finance the public unemployment insurance.

     Finally, Euro Disneyland opened in April 1992. In 20 years, it has creating directly and indirectly 55 000 jobs and the State gained 50 billions euro in accordance with datas of inter-ministerial commission on the development of Marne-la-Vallée. Those tax receipts are due to the value added tax from the resort and also from the corporate taxes. On average, the ratio for a public investment is 1 to 4 instead of 1 to 100 in this case, stressed former Euro Disney CEO Philipe Gas. This efficiency of the government spending is the basis of Keynesian theory ; the increase in national income is greater than the initial public amount of spending. Moreover, Disneyland has increased from one to two millions the number of foreign tourists in Paris. A year after the park opening, France took over from Spain the leadership on the tourism market. Government is now expecting to open an express railway service from Charles-de-Gaulle airport to Marne-la-Vallée in the aim aim with completing the multimodal hub in Disneyland before 2024.

     To conclude, the public-private partnership to develop Euro Disneyland gives substance to the existence of the multiplier effect proposed by Keynes. The evolution in French aggregate demand has caused a change in aggregate output. But Governments should be aware of qualitative data before those kind of financing. The debt that has left over Greece from Athens Olympic Games in 2004 is maybe one of the best example that the multiplier effect is based as much on quantity of money invested as the quality of the developing project and its integration in the economic structure.

By : Paul REÏSSI, M00602378, Exchange student

[Reference]
HEYER, Eric ‘Une revue récente de la littérature sur les multiplicateurs budgétaires : la taille compte’, Observatoire Français des conjonctures économiques, November 2012.
John Maynard Keynes ou l’économie du service au politique et du social’, Alternatives économiques n°220, December 2003.
ROFFAT, Sébastien, ‘Disney et la France : les 20 ans d’Euro Disneyland’, Éditions Questions Contemporaines, 2007.
Délégation interministérielle au projet Euro Disney, ‘Disneyland Paris : études de contribution économique et sociale’, Préfecture de Paris, March 2012.

Why the TAFTA is a threat for the European Union

     The TAFTA is not a smart opportunity for the European Union. The so-called Trans-Atlantic Free-Trade Agreement (TAFTA) is a free-trade deal in negotiation between the countries of the European Union and the United States of America ; its main goal is to emphasize business between the both parties by making their norms more uniform and deleting any tax fence between their intern markets, the two biggest in the world following their GEP’s ; in a few words, the agreement should build an gigantic single market. But this negotiation between Brussels and Washington may have deep consequences on the european common market and may extinguishe the european ideal for a long-term.

     First of all, the european idea is more than just a free-trade issue ; the construction is also about common policies and institutions, with technologic, diplomatic, security and even social and cultural sides. The common market is one of those ‘concrete actions’ according to Jean Monnet, one of the father of Europe, which allows the abstracted European idea to be continued.Europe and America have not at all the same view on the society. On the issue of norms, Europe is more in an avant-garde spirit than America on numerous issues, including organic farming, pollution from cars or even with fracking gaz ban. However, one of the key points of the agreement is the introduction of the standardization of norms ; here, the harmonization should be achieved by an alignement towards the lowest norms in force in both parties. But we noticed earlier the market deregulation is more important in the United States of America than in the European Union.

     Moreover, it may induce a positive supply shock for American corporations which already have the suitable economic structure. Those companies will be in a station of strength to compete with european industries which will need adapt their structures in accordance with the theory of the creative destruction conceived by American economist Joseph Schumpeter. And we can even discuss if it is a desirable option because an intensified production may causes dramatic environmental issues as it is already underway in some european States ; expansive farming caused pollution in Southern Spain and in Western France with, per example, non-potable water in Catalonia and the spreading of toxic algues in Bretagne.

     Finally, those points are just an overview of a more general issues. But it is enough to see how this agreement may change our production modes. The European Union is mainly based on the capacity of thesingle market to gives jobs and generates activities. Its fragilisation may have deep consequences on a project already unsettled by a lack of political consensus.

By : Paul REÏSSI, M00602378, Exchange student

[Reference] :
‘Les dynamiques du capitalisme selon Schumpeter’, Alternatives Economiques n°122, December 1994
‘About TTIP’, European Commission [Online] : http://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/in-focus/ttip/about-ttip/index_en.htm.
‘Lone Pine Resources Files Outrageous NAFTA Lawsuit against fracking ban’, Canadian Council, 2013
THEOBALD, Marie, ’Quels sont les enjeux du traité transatlantique sur l’agriculture française ?’, lefigaro.fr [Online] http://www.lefigaro.fr/economie/le-scan-eco/decryptage/2016/02/23/29002-20160223ARTFIG00001-quels-sont-les-enjeux-du-traite-transatlantique-sur-l-agriculture-francaise.php

Is the ecological transition a consistent approach to resolve the current economic crisis ?

     The Paris Agreement negotiated by 196 States during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December 2015, also known as the COP 21, highlighted the global issue on the climate changing. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), its consequences should have tragic effects before the end of the 21th century, including heavy drought, floods and others natural disasters which are subject to heavily impact the human life.
But some think that environmental issues cannot attract important politics interest because moving along a sustainable development path should compete business issues. Indeed, Marcus Cicero wrote that ‘the sinews of war are infinite money ‘. However, the whole world knows a crisis of the liberal system since 2008, with low economic growths and high rates of jobless. British teacher Rob Hopkins already suggested with his book ‘The Transition Handbook : From Oil Dependency to Local resilience’ that this crisis is an opportunity to save our society based on human work, according to modernisation theory. He introduced a set of rules in the aim with moving to the ecological transition. It is the process of transformation from our current production mode to an another which should be more respectful of the balance between human and nature. It is something more deeper than green-washing ; it suggests evolutions which should change our way to work, produce and consume.
What we are discussing here is the possibility of changing our economical structure through the ecological transition in the aim with preserving our human activities.

Closing ceremony of COP21

Left to right : Secretary executive of CCNUCC Christiana Figueres, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, and French president François Hollande.

     The main interest of the ecological transition is the underlying concept of the energy transition. Indeed, we should develop renewable energies, as solar, wind, geothermal and hydraulic powers, to defeat the oil dependency of developed and developing countries. According to American economist Joseph Schumpeter in ‘The theory of economic development’, our business cycles are based on an endogenous process.
In other words, it means that the economic growth is a consequence of the human activity itself by the modernisation of its economical structure caused by investment and research. Both are necessary to obtain an innovative cluster and we may assert that energy production is of the main potent economic force ; electricity and coal were an innovative cluster in the 19th century and caused the industrial revolution ; petrochemistry was an innovative cluster in the 20th century and caused the post-World War II economic expansion ; renewable energies may be the innovative cluster of the 21th century and generate a new cycle of economic growth.
According to a study published in 2013 by an economist of French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) Philippe Quirion, the energetic transition may create almost 700 000 jobs in France, mainly in building construction, transports and power industries. His study is essentially based on an hypothetical phase out of nuclear power before 2030. Philippe Quirion also explains that development of renewable energies in Germany has already created 390 000 jobs in Germany which has one of the lowest rate of jobless in Europe.

     Plus, the ecological transition suggests an empowerment of alternative production modes as the organic farming, the local stores and the fair trade. Indeed, the social side is an important part of the process and is based on reducing and optimizing our production and our consumption models. Moreover, it enables to rectify some inaccuracies of economical globalism without nationalist rhetoric.
Organic farming knows an important economic growth as the elasticity of demand for organic products ; it suppose an important potential of development. However, the most interesting point with the expansion of this market is that its consumption is mainly related to local stores and fair trades ; according to an european study published in 2013 by the French Public Agency for the Development and the Promoting of Organic Agriculture, also know as Agence Bio, the local distribution channel of organic food was improved by twenty per cent between 2011 and 2012 while the national distribution channel for organic food was only improved by two per cent.
Earlier this year, the European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan announced that Brussels will invest 113 millions euros in 2017 to promote organic farming. Some diplomats suggest that it is one of the suitable polices to lead in the aim with resolving the european overproduction crisis ; actually, the proponents of this announcement say that the organic production has less agricultural yield but keeps profits margins based on non-price competitiveness.

     To conclude, those two main ideas showed us how the ecological transition could be a serious alternative measure to the current economic crisis, by causing a new innovation cluster based on renewable energies and by changing classic production mode with more fair trade, local stores and organic agriculture. It may create more ethical jobs and an environmentally-responsible economic growth.

By : Paul REÏSSI, M00602378, Exchange student

[References]
Les dynamiques du capitalisme selon Schumpeter’, Alternatives Economiques n°122, December 1994
QUIRION, Philippe, ’L’effet net sur l’emploi de la transition énergétique en France’, Centre International de Recherche sur l’Environnement et le Développement, April 2013
Le bio dans l’Union européenne’, Agence Française pour le Développement et la Promotion de l’Agriculture Biologique, 2013.
HOPKINS, Rob, ‘The Transition Handbook : From Oil Dependency to Local resilience’, Cambridge Ltd., April 2014

Consumerism: the religion of the 21st century ?

 

Consumerism: The religion of the 21st century?

 

When discussing topics within global political economy it is almost unavoidable not to discuss the modern day phenomenon that is consumerism. As the title suggests consumerism has been described as the religion of the 21st century (Steven Miles), and it is integral that this topic be discussed further within the context of the global political economy and more widely the effect mass consumerism has on our earth’s resources. It appears that every aspect of contemporary life is dogged with consumerism and the need to accumulate more and more, through various media outlets such as advertising and clever marketing strategies the greatest fear being that “ It’s never enough”, or  “That I can never truly be happy until I have more than X or Y”. This entire phenomena is based entirely on the values of Capitalism (Espejo,2010) and to some extent, it preys on the perceived belief that humans are selfish and competitive and will always want more and that this is their natural inclination, this is the view projected by capitalism. (Cole,C,2010)

Consumerism has always existed throughout history in societies that are built on capitalist values; however it became truly a phenomenon as we know it following the industrial revolution which greatly expanded the economy and created surplus income for more citizens than ever before. They were referred to as the new ‘Middle class’ or as Veblen described them the new ‘Leisure class’ as now they had ‘Leisure’ money. (T, Veblen)  This naturally paved the way for the advent of consumerism as we know it, a channel to increase one’s satisfaction in life through the medium of accumulation of items because of surplus money. Money according to capitalism is the dictation of happiness and satisfaction. As a consumer our levels of satisfaction are measured by our ability to consume, in capitalism one is motivated to have a high income and capital for the sheer reason that capital allows you have the things you desire, simply put without capital you cannot consume and therefore you’ll remain dissatisfied, and your unhappiness will be exasperated by the amounts others around you appear to have.  The constant bombardment of advertising and marketing of products on the market only serves to reiterate this need to consume; it has become the West’s society’s essential urge. As the mass media has grown so too has the profit-based capitalist economy grown which owes a lot to media outlets which generate huge sales for capitalism, namely advertising. These include newspapers, TV adverts, Billboards constantly advertising the latest products, be it cars, make-up, and phones the list is endless, with this comes the compulsion to buy, buy and buy. (The problem with consumerism) Coupled with celebrity endorsements this strategy is highly effective, the consumer irrationally worships new products, thus reiterating the belief that consumerism is the religion of the 21st century.

This leads me on to my next point the constant desire to consume within our society never appears to identify the true need of these products, their durability for example which means we now more than ever live in ‘throw away society’. The understanding of why we feel need to keep consuming appears to be little more than it’s nice to have new products without giving much thought to the actual purpose of buying more and more.  Moreover little to no thought on a mass scale I hasten to add is given to the tremendously negative effect consumerism has on the environment.

Landfills across the globe are full with cheap discarded products that break easily as they are not long lasting. (Hetzel) There is also no incentive to fix items anymore seeing as it often far more costly now to repair items than it is to buy another one.  Over 220 billion cans, bottles and plastic cups are thrown away every year in the developed world, which only looks set to rise unless there are sustainability measures in place.

Is it really possible to unwire consumerism in our minds and change the whole mindset of our society? Yes is the short answer, in fact ultimately it is a necessity if we want to preserve our world for the future.  We need to learn to enjoy what we have and not continue to chase the impossible dream that consumerism promotes.  We need to address the situation thoughtfully with the rational usage of our resources and with consideration for our future we live in a very fast paced, touch- screen instantaneous society where everything appears centred on the ‘now’ but we need to think further ahead and what sort of a world we are leaving for the future generations, we owe it to them.  Our throw away mentality needs to completely diminish. We should instead focus on reusing, recycling and of course reducing what we have, its integral too that we understand that our small contribution does make a difference.

References:

  • Miles, Steven.Consumerism. 1st ed. London: Sage Publications, 1998. Print.
  • Espejo, Roman. Consumerism. 1st ed. Detroit, MI: Greenhaven Press, 2010. Print.
  • Cole, Celia. “Overconsumption Is Costing Us The Earth And Human Happiness”.the Guardian. N.p., 2016. Web. 16 Dec. 2010.
  • Veblen, Thorstein. The Theory Of The Leisure Class. 1st ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1973. Print.
  • “The Problem With Consumerism | Life Squared”. org.uk. N.p., 2016. Web. 16 Dec. 2016.
  • Hetzel, Alterra. “Batteries And Choosing The Greener Option – Carbonfund.Org”.org. N.p., 2016. Web. 16 Dec. 2012.

 

 

Helen O’Neill – M00437799

20 years and we’re still failing to protect women’s sexual and reproductive rights

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(Image available at: http://christianhegemony.org/the-impact-of-catholic-hospitals-on-womens-reproductive-rights)

Women all over the world should have their sexual and reproductive rights protected by governments. However, this is not the case for most countries, even though in 1994, 179 governments (including all of the EU member states) agreed to adopt the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) agreement at the International Conference on Population and development, in Cairo (Shalev, 1998). SRHR sought to empower people, especially women, by protecting their sexual and reproductive rights, in allowing them to decide freely of their bodies. Another important milestone for equality of women was the Beijing Platform for Action in 1995, a United Nations (UN) world conference that was held for the ‘empowerment and advancement of women’ (Tarr-Whelan, 2010). However, many governments have failed to keep their promise to tackle these issues, women in developing countries experience this the worst. In Nigeria 60% of girls are married before 15, and on average women there give birth 7 times in their life (United Nations Children’s Fund, (2014). This is worrying when inequality is strong in Nigeria and so is the struggle for survival. Over  20 percent women in Nigeria have stated that they want access to family planning but cannot get it (USAID, 2016). These women should have the right to choose when they want to have children and start a family, not be forced into marriages. This affects the global economy as women here lack access to necessities like food or medication, or shelter, and therefore risk getting ill, as do their children.

The Beijing Platform for action required that women be given the ‘right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence’ (IPPF, 2015). But, women today still lack protection that guarantees their full participation in society and the economic sphere. Abortion is a highly contested legal, moral and a health issue worldwide, the legal regulation of abortion has an impact on women’s health when it is outlawed it leads to unsafe abortion which can result in deaths and morbidity. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that around 22 million women worldwide undergo unsafe abortions, and 5 million experience complications causing more than 47,000 deaths annually (World Health Organization, 2008). WHO has advised for the liberalisation of laws, since restrictions do not deter abortion but they lead to clandestine practices. Most European countries and Canada, US, Australia, permit abortion on demand. Latin America and the Middle East women struggle to receive an abortion, not only on demand but also when their life is at risk. Although it is not just developing countries, Italy was condemned for lack of access to safe abortion procedure in 2016 by the Security Council of Human Rights, therefore, forcing women to go to private facilities or abroad, or undergo unsafe abortions (McHugh, 2016). The lack of access to legal abortion services means undermining women’s human rights.

screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-15-55-14Reproductive rights mean the right to life, security and privacy. UN has tried to enforce human rights treaties to deal with the challenges that women face such as violence, high rates of maternal mortality, child marriage. But more measures need to be put in place to address reproductive human rights violations. Governments who want to increase the birth-rate in unpopulated territories have denied women access to contraception (Human Rights Watch, 2005). In most societies gender determines the division of labour and the allocation or rights and responsibilities. Gender inequality is evident in every aspect of social life, resources, employment, freedoms. When women are powerless, rights do not mean much if they do not have the economic means to exercise them. Women rights activists in Sudan have tried to protest laws being put in place to punish women for ‘moral’ issues, but have faced repression and abuse by the authorities (Human Rights Watch, 2016). (Image available at:https://uk.pinterest.com/brittneyjasmin/reproductive-choice-rights/)

Governments need to invest more in order to meet the agreements made in Cairo in 1994 and Beijing in 1995. We cannot have gender equality or empower women and girls, without sexual and reproductive health and rights. It is difficult when culture comes in the way of human rights, for example, most African family values do not agree that abortion needs to be legalised in order to reduce maternal mortality. But nonetheless, women are speaking out on political, social and economic issues, as discussed, despite the oppression that women are facing in Sudan, there has been a rise in protest, even though the government has responded violently to the protesters.

 

By Sandra Xheleshi

 

Bibliography

Human Rights Watch (2005) Decisions Denied: Women’s Access to Contraceptives and Abortion in Argentina, Human Rights Watch. Available at: https://www.hrw.org/report/2005/06/14/decisions-denied/womens-access-contraceptives-and-abortion-argentina (Accessed: 9 December 2016)

Human Rights Watch (2016) “Good Girls Don’t Protest” Repression and Abuse of Women Human Rights Defenders, Activists, and Protesters in Sudan. Human Rights Watch. Available at: https://www.hrw.org/report/2016/03/23/good-girls-dont-protest/repression-and-abuse-women-human-rights-defenders (Accessed: 10 December 2016)

IPPF (2016) No gender equality without sexual and reproductive health and rights says IPPF report, IPPF. Available at: http://www.ippf.org/news/no-gender-equality-without-sexual-and-reproductive-health-and-rights-says-ippf-report (Accessed: 7 December 2016).

McHugh, J. (2016) ‘Italian Abortion Law Update: Council Of Europe Slams Italy For Restricting Women’s Reproductive Rights’, IBT Times, 4 November. Available at: http://www.ibtimes.com/italian-abortion-law-update-council-europe-slams-italy-restricting-womens-2351734 (Accessed: 11 December 2016)

Shalev, C. (2000). Rights to Sexual and Reproductive Health: The ICPD and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Health and Human Rights, 4(2).

Tarr-Whelan, L., (2010) The Impact of the Beijing Platform for Action: 1995 to 2010. Human Rights, 36(3).

United Nations Children’s Fund (2014). Ending Child Marriage: Progress and prospects, UNICEF, New York. Available at: https://www.unicef.org/media/files/Child_Marriage_Report_7_17_LR..pdf (Accessed: 9 December 2016)/

USAID (2016) Family Planning and Reproductive Health in Nigeria. USAID. Available at: https://results.usaid.gov/nigeria/health/family-planning-and-reproductive-health#fy2015 (Accessed: 12 December 2016).

World Health Organization (2008) WHO: Preventing unsafe abortion. World Health Organization. Available at: http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/unsafe_abortion/magnitude/en/ (Accessed: 13 December 2016).