Crisis in Kyrgyzstan & the struggle for the control of Central Asia

Civil tensions in Kyrgyzstan came to a head in April 2010, when President Bakiyev was toppled and an interim government was set up under the leadership of former Foreign Minister Roza Otunbayeva. Serious outbreaks of Kyrgyz Uzbek interethnic violence in June 2010 led to hundreds of deaths and estimates of over a million displaced persons. The humanitarian crisis in Kyrgyzstan threatens to de-stabilise Central Asia, a key geo-political region for security and energy and Kyrgyzstan also features in the US-Russian rivalry for control of Central Asia, as both powers have military air bases in the country.

Nick Megoran is a lecturer at Newcastle University who studies the political geographies and geopolitics of post-Cold War inter–state relations and has recently visited southern Kyrgyzstan. He will talk about the situation there and the wider geopolitical implications of the crisis for Central Asia and US Russia relations.

Saudi Arabia – What’s wrong with its relationship with the West

book_whitakerBrian Whitaker has done a variety of jobs at the Guardian including most recently 7 years as Middle East Editor. He is currently Editor of “Comment is Free” and is the author of the author of “Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East” (Saqi, 2006). Brian will focus on some of the less-discussed social and cultural aspects of the kingdom’s relationship with the the West and discuss the problems the Saudis have in trying to maintain their own very distinctive kind of “closed system” within the kingdom. The talk would also draw together and develop some of the themes from Brian’s latest book, “What’s Really Wrong with the Middle East”. (Saqi, 2009), including the influence of religion on international business and progressive international treaties.

Privatisation of public services: what’s wrong with it?

Privatisation of public services has been a core feature of the corporate globalisation agenda promoted and engineered by international financial institutions. It has been associated with job cuts and the growth of employment insecurity for public service workers, and with price increases for basic services. Promoted as the way to bring services to the billions suffering from state failure to provide decent education, health care and public utilities, privatisation has compounded that problem by shifting power from government agencies to international businesses. Brendan Martin founded Public World, an international network of consultants and researchers committed to working with partners to improve public governance and management. His book In the Public Interest? Privatization and Public Service Reform’ has appeared in six languages, and he has worked in more than 70 countries.

Sarah Palin : why is she so popular?

The US midterm elections saw the Republicans regain control of the House of Representatives and add to their numbers in the Senate. The Tea Party movement has pushed the party rightwards and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is widely tipped as a 2012 presidential candidate. Healthcare reform and the other measures pursued by the Obama administration over the last two years now appear to be under threat. Dr Edward Ashbee will discuss this phenomenon and look at how and why the Tea Party emerged, its impact on the Republican party, and the consequences of this for the Obama administration and the coming presidential election. Dr Ashbee is an associate professor at the International Center for Business and Politics at Copenhagen Business School, and has written extensively about US political processes, elections, interest groups, and public opinion. His books include The US Economy Today and The Bush Administration, Sex and the Moral Agenda and US Politics Today.