Can the EU survive the crisis?

The financial crisis, and the resulting sovereign debt problems of the poorer countries within the EU have raised questions about the survival of the Euro, and placed heavy demands on the political structure of the union itself.Olaf Cramme will discuss the dynamics of the increasing tension between deepening EU economic integration on the one hand, and questions of democracy, legitimacy and sovereignty on the other. He is Director of the London-based think tank Policy Network, and visiting fellow at the European Institute at LSE. His main research interests include the politics of European integration; and the legitimacy of EU policy-making, and he publishes widely on the future of the European Union and European social democracy. He is editor of Rescuing the European project: EU legitimacy, governance and security (Policy Network, 2009), and co-editor of Social Justice in the Global Age(Polity Press, 2009).

The Financialisation of Food: Commodity Markets And Human Hunger

World food prices grew strongly from 2003, but fell sharply after the 2008 onset of the global financial crisis. Since then, however, prices have rebounded and by mid-2011 reached even higher levels. The World Bank estimates more than 40 million people have been pushed into extreme poverty as a result, while political pressures have been felt not only in the ‘Arab Spring’ countries but also across sub-Saharan Africa and beyond. Alex Cobham is Chief Policy Adviser at Christian Aid, and was formerly a researcher and tutor in economics at the University of Oxford. Christian Aid works in more than 40 countries to support civil society organisations working against poverty, and at a global level seeks to challenge and change the structures and systems that cause and exacerbate poverty. Alex explores the role of commodity markets in distorting food prices. While short-termist financial ‘speculators’ are often blamed, it may be that large institutional investors like pension funds are inadvertently playing the key role.

Pakistan: A failing and dangerous state?

Looking at the world and war on terror, post the capture and killing of Bin Laden; what are the concerns about Pakistan itself and its relationship with its neighbours? Professor Lieven, from the Dept of War Studies at Kings College, has travelled extensively for research in Pakistan and other parts of the Muslim world. His recent publication Pakistan: A Hard Country Allen Lane 2011 looks its history, structures and regional differences

A Scramble for Resources? The contemporary geopolitics of the Arctic

As the ice melts and the untapped mineral resources of the region become more accessible, there is increasing international tension over political control of the Arctic and widespread anxiety over the environmental impact of exploitation of its resources.

Klaus Dodds is Professor of Geopolitics at Royal Holloway University of London and researches in the areas of geopolitics, media and the international governance of the Antarctic and Arctic. He is editor of The Geographical Journal. In 2005 he was awarded the Philip Leverhulme Prize for an outstanding contribution to human geography and critical geopolitics. He will look at the political and environmental issues in a region which has been widely considered as a potential flashpoint for international conflict, and a case study for the impact of climate change.

Khadafi, Fleet Street and Libya’s fluctuating relationship with the West

Professor Keeble will look at the numerous attempts by Western powers to assassinate Col. Khadafi over the last 40 years , and the way in which Fleet Street has both covered and marginalised Libya over this period. The talk will then raise issues about the history of overt and covert warfare, the sourcing of mainstream media reporting and the selective application of outrage in the dominant media. Richard Lance Keeble is Professor of Journalism at the University of Lincoln and Acting Head of the Lincoln School of Journalism. He has written and edited 20 books on a wide range of subjects and he is the joint editor of Ethical Space: The International Journal of Communication Ethics.

Indonesia and the promise of democracy in the Muslim world

With the wave of ‘revolutions’ sweeping North Africa and the Middle East and raising hopes of democratisation across these regions, many commentators have begun to turn to Indonesia, the world’s largest majority-Muslim democracy, for lessons as to what to expect in the months and years ahead. Indonesia, after all, experienced the non-violent overthrow of long-time president Suharto in 1998 and a shift to competitive elections in 1999, and now is widely regarded as a consolidated democracy which has succeeded to hold together a country famous for its ethnic, regional, and religious diversity. But Indonesia’s transition to democracy was also accompanied by a shifting pattern of religious violence, ranging from anti-Chinese riots to inter-religious pogroms to jihadi terrorist bombings, and, in recent years, violent persecution of ‘deviant’ Islamic sects. Against this backdrop, John Sidel of the London School of Economics, a specialist on Southeast Asia and on Islam in world politics, will speak about the lessons of Indonesia’s experience for other countries in the Muslim world undergoing democratisation today. 

John Sidel is the Sir Patrick Gillam Professor of International and Comparative Politics at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is the author of Capital, Coercion, and Crime: Bossism in the Philippines (Stanford University Press, 1999), Riots, Pogroms, Jihad: Religious Violence in Indonesia (Cornell University Press, 2006), and The Islamist Threat in Southeast Asia: A Reassessment (East-West-Center, 2007). He is currently beginning work on a new book provisionally titled “The Rise and Fall of Islam in World Politics”.

A steady-state economy: Should we? Could we?

portrait_david_woodwardThere is growing evidence that ever-increasing economic growth in wealthy countries is neither environmentally sustainable nor socially beneficial, yet the pursuit of ever-escalating production and consumption remains the mantra of our age. A Steady State Economy, maintaining a stable level of production rather than maximising output, has been proposed as an alternative; but the external constraints to achieving this are formidable, and the knock-on effects for global poverty could be devastating. How can we square this circle? David Woodward is an independent writer and researcher on the global economy and development. He was head of the New Global Economy programme at nef (the new economics foundation) and previously worked as an economist for the Foreign Office, the World Health Organisation and Save the Children (UK).

Why we should document every casualty of conflict

On the 17th March the UN Security Council committed to employ ‘all necessary means’ to end violence against civilians in Libya: military action began shortly after. Conflicts around the world exact a heavy toll in human life, most of which is poorly documented. However without detailed knowledge of the individuals who have died, we cannot know the true costs of conflicts. We cannot assess the harm our own military actions may cause, nor indeed weigh up the success of intervention that intends to protect civilians. Recognition and memorial of these victims is also denied. Elizabeth Minor, Researcher on Oxford Research Group (ORG)’s Recording Casualties programme, will talk about the importance of casualty recording, the effect it can have and ORG’s work to promote it. This is gathering growing international support, including on lobbying on the lack of a casualty recording by parties to the intervention in Libya, the Together Afghanistan initiative and the Oslo Commitments on Armed Violence.

Algeria and the impact of the Jasmine Revolution

Algeria is the largest country in the Arab world and the civil conflict which ended in 2002 showed that the tension between the secular state and Islamic movements has the potential to end in extreme violence. Following the political upheavals in Tunisia and Egypt there is now growing pressure for political change and democratisation in Algeria.
Lakhdar Ghettas is a researcher at the LSE whose main research interest and expertise areas include democratisation and governance in North Africa and the geopolitics of energy security in the Mediterranean basin, as well as the geopolitics of the Sub-Saharan Sahel region. He will talk about the current situation in Algeria in the light of the upheavals in the Arab world and will also look at the geopolitical implications of change there.

Dangerous banks: can we tame them?

Banks were once kept on a tight leash, but almost four decades of neo-liberal free market ideology let them loose on the global economy. The financial crisis of 2008, which continues today, showed how banks can be a danger to society, to their own shareholders, and cause harm to the poorest in developed nations as well as the Global South. Only bank executives, it seems, are untroubled by the ensuing economic and social turmoil. Can banks be domesticated to serve society, protect the environment, spread prosperity and uphold social justice? Why is banking totally unlike other industries? Do the roots of instability and injustice lie deep in the very nature of modern money? Tony Greenham is a former investment banker turned social and environmental campaigner. He heads the Business and Finance Programme at nef (the new economics foundation), advises the board of grassroots movement the Transition Network, and also sits on the government’s Regional Growth Fund advisory panel.