Syria: The most costly revolution of the Arab Spring?

rana_kabbaniThe 42-year Assad rule in Syria has sparked huge opposition within the country and mounting pressure from the international community to reform or step down. On the first anniversary of Syria’s Revolution, will change come to Syria without civil war? What are the prospects for the creation of a democratic political system there?

The Syrian writer and broadcaster Rana Kabbani has written on Syria for the Guardian; is the author of ‘Imperial Fictions’ and ‘Letter to Christendom’, and has been a BBC contributor for more than two decades. She will be looking at the current situation in Syria in the context of the wider Arab spring and the internal problems and geopolitical issues that will face the country when the revolution is successful.

Whose fault is famine? Starvation in the face of plenty

david_nallyToday, an estimated 10 million people are facing starvation across a vast swathe of Africa including Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, and in some areas a child is dying every 6 minutes. Yet hunger is not a natural disaster; it is a human-induced problem that demands political solutions. Fewer than 170 years ago, a similarly terrible famine occurred within the British Isles, then an integral part of the United Kingdom and thus a constituent of the most economically advanced region in the world. From an Irish population of about 9 million, 1 million perished and a further 2 million emigrated in what became known as An Gorta Mór or The Great Hunger. Cambridge lecturer Dr David Nally, whose book Human Encumbrances: Political Violence and the Great Irish Famine was published this year by the University of Notre Dame Press, will discuss the historical causes of famine, with a particular focus on the similarities between the Irish famine and those of the present day.

The energy challenge for UK and Europe

douglas_parrEurope and UK face challenges in delivering for the needs of its citizens in a secure and sustainable way. This will explore the challenges facing the UK as part of a European energy system and the routes that we can take to deliver on all fronts. Dr Douglas Parr is Chief Scientist and Policy Director at Greenpeace UK. Currently working on climate change policy in the power, heat and transport sectors, he has previously worked on a number of issues including GM crops, chemicals policy, green refrigeration, marine conservation and bioenergy. He obtained a D.Phil in Atmospheric Chemistry from Oxford University in 1991.

The Face of Putin’s Russia

The March 2012 elections in Russia seem likely to return Vladimir Putin to power for a third presidential term, despite rising levels of discontent and the ruling party’s dwindling popularity. What is the nature of the system over which Putin has presided, and how has it dealt with the challenges facing this vast multi-ethnic state in the wake of the traumas of the 1990s and in face of the global downturn since 2008? Tony Wood is Deputy Editor of theNew Left Review, contributes regularly to Le Monde Diplomatique, and has written extensively about Russia. He will look at the current situation there in the light of the forthcoming elections, and at Russia’s relationships with the outside world.

Exploitation, Debt & Aid in Egypt and Tunisia: What Direction for the Revolutions?

adam_haniehIn the wake of the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, international financial institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, in partnership with the Gulf Arab States, have rushed to offer loans and investment packages to the new transitional regimes. The possible conditionalities attached to these aid packages have provoked widespread concern from the region’s political movements, and need to be seen in the context of ongoing struggles to achieve the social and economic demands that underpinned the uprisings. Dr. Adam Hanieh will examine the logic of financial aid in the Middle East, locating the discussion within the political economy of the uprisings and the neoliberal transformation of the region over the past two decades. Dr. Hanieh is a Lecturer in Development Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), and is author of the recently publishedCapitalism and Class in the Gulf Arab States(Palgrave-MacMillan 2011).

23 January 2012