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  • Author: Michelle Nicholasen
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Centerpiece
  • Institution: Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: From civil strife in Syria to the war in Yemen to US-Iran tensions, Shi'a groups are emerging as major players on the geopolitical landscape. The 200 million Shi'as around the world comprise 15–20 percent of all Muslims, yet little is understood about their culture, historical legacy, and political dynamics. Shi’as are the majority sect in Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Bahrain, and comprise substantial minority groups in Africa, South and Central Asia, and countries throughout the Middle East. Last fall, the Weatherhead Center launched the Project on Shi’ism and Global Affairs to support advanced research on the diverse manifestations of Shi’ism, and to encourage rigorous scholarship on the political dynamics of its role in the Middle East. The project supports scholarship that increases understanding of the intersection between religion and politics in Islam by engaging political scientists, historians, policy makers, religious leaders, and other specializations at the WCFIA. It was a busy first year, replete with talks on important events in Islamic history, the geopolitics of Iraq, the US-Iran confrontation, and more. The project launched the online platform Visions, which offers advanced commentary on all aspects of Shi’a thought, politics, and society. Additionally, project members have travelled to Baghdad and Erbil in Iraq for field work and academic conferences, as well as to the United Kingdom to present research and conduct outreach. Team members have also travelled to various cities across the United States to give presentations and interactive workshops—including to Muslim-American communities in Dearborn, Michigan (home to the largest Arab-American population in North America) and Orlando, Florida—on the topic of religious pluralism, youth activism, Islamic thought, and civil society. Directed by Payam Mohseni, lecturer at Harvard University, the project is funded in part by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. We asked Payam Mohseni and project chairs Melani Cammett and Ali Asani about the motivations behind the Project on Shi’ism and Global Affairs.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Civil War, Religion, Military Strategy, Political Activism, Domestic politics, Pluralism
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Kevin Appleby
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal on Migration and Human Security
  • Institution: Center for Migration Studies of New York
  • Abstract: The Global Compact on Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration (GCM) provides a blueprint for nations to manage migration flows through multilateral cooperation. Nations are best served by partnering with a wide range of societal actors to implement the objectives of the GCM. Such civil society actors may include non-profit organizations, faith-based groups, the private sector, trade unions, and academia, among other relevant stakeholders. Each of these actors brings unique strengths to the implementation of the GCM, filling gaps in the care and protection of migrants. They perform tasks that governments are unable or unwilling to undertake, especially in the area of irregular migration. A “whole-of-society” approach is the most effective method for managing migration humanely and in concert with the rule of law.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Migration, Non State Actors, Humanitarian Crisis, Non-profits
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Rodrigo Fagundes Cezar
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional (RBPI)
  • Institution: Brazilian Center for International Relations (CEBRI)
  • Abstract: This article uses the Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) method to examine the combinations of conditions that explain the length of World Trade Organization (WTO) disputes that invoke General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs’ (GATT) General Exceptions (Article XX). Using the Brazil-EC controversy over retreaded tires as an example, the work underscores the importance of the mobilization of civil society organizations such as NGOs and think tanks in association with power asymmetry and/or veto players. The article contributes to understanding the causal complexity and empirical heterogeneity of “exceptional” disputes (disputes in which a party invokes GATT’s General Exceptions).
  • Topic: Civil Society, World Trade Organization, Domestic politics, Trade Wars, Compliance
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Laleh Ispahani, Ryan Knight
  • Publication Date: 07-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of International Affairs
  • Institution: School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
  • Abstract: The US is experiencing an unprecedented erosion of democratic institutions and norms under the Trump administration. While constitutional checks and balances are holding for now, we are seeing the kinds of challenges that have presaged a shift toward authoritarianism in other countries. If not countered, this kind of “constitutional regression” can develop into something that looks like a more lasting authoritarian condition, with institutions that are so hollowed out as to be ineffective, and with impact that outlives the Trump administration. Since November 2016, American civil society’s reform sector has adjusted, adapted, and innovated to meet these challenges. To facilitate their success, the philanthropic sector must likewise adapt. The Open Society Foundations (OSF) are a global philanthropy whose mission is to foster open societies in place of authoritarian ones.[i] Our founder, George Soros, was born in Hungary and lived through the Nazi occupation of 1944 to 1945, which resulted in the murder of over 500,000 Hungarian Jews. In 1947, as Communists consolidated power in Hungary, Mr. Soros left for London where, ultimately, he studied philosophy with Karl Popper, author of The Open Society and Its Discontents, at The London School of Economics and Political Science. In 1956, he emigrated to the US, where he worked in the worlds of finance and investment. He has used the fortune he amassed to support philanthropy that reflects Popper’s philosophy—that no ideology is the final arbiter of truth, and societies can only flourish when they allow for democratic governance, freedom of expression, and respect for individual rights.[ii] Mr. Soros began his philanthropy in 1979, giving scholarships to black South Africans under apartheid who might lead their country out of closed and authoritarian conditions, and into ones governed by democratic principles, respect for the rule of law, protection of the rights of minorities, and civil and political liberties. In the 1980s, he applied the same principles to help promote the open exchange of ideas in Communist Hungary, and across Eastern and Central Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. While the Foundations started as an effort to help those in countries emerging from more closed or authoritarian conditions, in 1996, OSF launched its first US-based programs; as Mr. Soros wrote in 2006, “America was an essentially open society [but] even open societies are open to improvement.” Since then, OSF and leaders of civil society have worked to protect democratic society and its institutions in the US and in over 140 countries around the world. At OSF, our guiding principle is that the world is imperfect, but that what is imperfect can be improved. With that comes a commitment to examining our own role in the world, a constant questioning as to whether our philanthropy—what we fund, and how we fund it—is responsive to the most pressing issues facing the world as it really is, and not as we perceive it to be. Still, even though we have spent the last two decades supporting U.S.-based efforts to counter what we view as threats to the American democratic project (e.g. the influence of big, secret money on politics, restrictions on the right to vote, the criminalization of poverty, racial disparities in the criminal justice system, a bipartisan tendency toward government secrecy), to date, we viewed that work as part of a project to ensure that a largely sound framework was improved so that it lived up to its promise. As we reflect on conditions a year after President Donald Trump’s election, however, we think that the US is experiencing an unprecedented erosion and hollowing out of democratic institutions and norms, and could be derailed from this course of improvement. This prompts us to consider how OSF might work differently in order to allow our civil society grantee institutions to more assiduously protect against further decline. Together, these shifts in civil society and philanthropy could erect the bulwark needed to counter both the threat of constitutional regression and the more remote risk of a total constitutional breakdown. These reforms are significantly informed by rights organizations and foundations operating in other countries that are contending with threats to democratic government.
  • Topic: Civil Society, United Nations, Authoritarianism, Democracy
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Edyta Pietrzak
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Polish Political Science Yearbook
  • Institution: Polish Political Science Association (PPSA)
  • Abstract: The article presents the entitled fields in the framework of their mutual influence. The notion of the public sphere is valuable for understanding the role that civil society plays in transitional justice processes. However transitional justice often reduces the idea of civil society to NGOs and ignores the social movements and civil engagement in the public realm that can be perceived as integral to the creation of new cases for understanding justice in transition. This fact results in the lack of perception of the civil society place in transitional justice processes. Thus the presented paper is based on hermeneutics, critical discourse analysis and dialogue between various theoretical approaches.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Transitional Justice, Public Policy, NGOs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus