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February 15 2014

December 20 2013

Unconditional Basic Income for All Europeans

A movement to give every citizen “unconditional basic income”—no work required—is gathering speed in Europe. 

For the last 11 months,  the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI)  has been spearheading a one-year campaign to gather a million signatures that support “Unconditional Basic Income (UBI)” for all Europeans.

The ECI wants everyone to have a basic, guaranteed wage, which is enough to cover day-to-day expenses.

If they collect one million signatures reaching the minimum requirement from at least 7 European Union (EU) member countries by January 14 2014, the European Commission will have to examine their initiative and arrange for a public hearing at the European Parliament.

In the short term, they want to do some “pilot-studies” and examine different models of UBI. In the long run, their objective is to offer to each person in the EU the unconditional right as an individual, to have their material needs met to ensure a life of dignity by the introduction of the UBI.

The Basic Income proposal is being presented by citizens from 15 EU member states (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, United Kingdom).

This Friday on GV Face I speak to activists gathering signatures and raising awareness about the need for Basic Income. 

Stanislas Jourdan | Main coordinator for European Citizens’ Initiative for Unconditional Basic Income in France

Martin Jordö | Main coordinator forEuropean Citizens’ Initiative for Unconditional Basic Income in Sweden

Carlos Arias| Global Voices Contributor in Spain

Anne-Béatrice Duparc | Switzerland

Barb Jacobson | UK

I asked them about developments in the campaign so far, how UBI would tackle inequality and how much such a scheme might cost.

For more information check out the Basic Income EU website, Facebook page and Twitter account.

Here's a link to our Google + event page for this episode of GV Face.  

September 07 2013

July 22 2013

Fukushima: No Place Like Home

No Time for Anger [de]’, a visualization journal by a team of Swiss media reporter and designers, illustrates Fukushima two years after the triple catastrophe of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami followed by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster on March 11, 2011. Fearing radiation, some residents sought evacuation to other areas in Japan, but the data visualization by the team shows the majority of people who fled actually stayed within the region of Fukushima:

We received data sets from the prefecture of Fukushima on the number of refugees and their current location for the years 2011 and 2012. We imagined that since this was a nuclear catastrophe people would flee from the region and wish to be as far away as possible. Yet, the numbers from the prefecture of Fukushima backed by researchers at the University of Gunma showed that the reality was quite different. The majority of people who fled actually stayed within the region of Fukushima.

February 22 2013

The Worst Companies of the Year

Here were the nominees for the Public Eye Awards, a contest listing the worst companies of the year, was published by the website Public Eye. Organized by the Berne Declaration and Pro Natura, since 2000, the awards is a counter-summit critique of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. To date, readers have ranked Goldman Sachs at the top of the list.  The reason for this is their actions in Greece :

A scam that amounted to half of Greece's debt, for exorbitant fees, a scam that led to the country's ruin.

February 18 2013

Videos from “One Billion Rising” Global Protests for Women's Rights

Foto vom Flashmob auf dem Waisenhausplatz in Bern, Schweiz

Photo of the flashmob on Waisenhausplatz in Bern, Switzerland

Every third woman falls victim to violence in her lifetime. On February 14, 2013 thousands of people all over the world protested against these daily acts of violence with dance-flashmobs, artistic events and other happenings. Under the motto “One Billion Rising” they protested on behalf of the one billion women in the world, who are beaten or raped during their lifetime, according to a UN study.

Also in countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh women took to the streets.

Photo of a flashmob on the Polyterrasse at the ETH in Zürich, Switzerland

Photo of a flashmob on the Polyterrasse at the ETH in Zürich, Switzerland

More than 13,000 organisations in 200 countries took part in this global protest. Below, we present some videos from February 14.

Flashmob in Bern, Switzerland:

The organisation “United Societies of Balkans” recorded a video of men and women from around the world, telling “One Billion Rising” why they were on the street on February 14:

NDTV reported from Mumbai, India:

The following dance was rehearsed and performed by girls of “New Light”, an NGO operating in the red light district of Calcutta, India:

Video from Khartoum, Sudan:

Stop-Motion-Film from São Paulo, Brazil:

Flashmob in Bali, Indonesia:

January 24 2013

Parallels Between Religious and Copyright Wars

Rick Falkvinge, the founder of Pirate Party, reinterprets the wars of religion that devastated Western Europe in the XVI and XVII centuries in terms of the current struggle to control information through overbearing legislation related to copyright and freedom of expression:

The religious wars were never about religion as such. They were about who held the power of interpretation, about who controlled the knowledge and culture available to the masses. It was a war of gatekeepers of information.

November 26 2012

A Traveling Exhibition to Expose Police Violence in Greece

A small team of Greeks in Zurich decided to expose Greek police brutality with a traveling photo exhibition in various European capitals. @Ypopto_mousi tweets a link to a poster in his blog, [el] which gives more information on his friends' effort to bring this project to life, as well as a police violence case summary.

(more…)

October 16 2012

Ada Lovelace Day: Celebrating Women's Genius

I want to challenge you. Yes, you, who are reading this article: mention five, just five names, of amazing women in science and technology you know, from five different countries in the world. The average person will likely fail to complete the challenge. Many will just mention some names they heard in recent news, like Marisa Mayer, the new CEO of Yahoo.

Ada Lovelace Day, celebrated every October 16, honors international women who are contributing with effort and little praise in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths - women whose skills are urgently needed for the future of the world.

Here we highlight some of these extraordinary women from all over the world.

For example: Brazilian molecular biologist and geneticist Mayana Zatz is heading the University of São Paulo's (USP) Human Genome Research Centre; Mexican Environmental Engineer Blanca Jiménez Cisneros is the Director of the Division of Water Sciences and Secretary of the International Hydrological Program from UNESCO; Sijue Wu, from China, was awarded with the Morningside Medal, considered the most prestigious award for Chinese experts in Mathematics. Wu is also the first female recipient in the medal's history.

'Introduce a girl to engineering' by Argonne Library

‘Introduce a girl to engineering' by Argonne Library (CC-BY-NC-SA)

Leading the list of women scientists is Fabiola Gianotti who is directing the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Switzerland, considered the world's biggest scientific experiment. Gianotti is followed by Sunita Williams, an Astronaut who holds the record for the longest space flight by a woman.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Seberry is well know as The Grandmother of cryptography and computer security in Australia. She is a globally recognized cryptographer, mathematician, and computer scientist who took part in the discovery of the foundations of what is computer security today.

All the women listed above are at the peak of their consolidated careers. They are role models and examples who are inspiring many girls around the world. A new generation of scientists, computer experts, and researchers are taking the first steps to lead science and technology all over the world.

In Cuba Martha Zoe, a specialist in natural medicine in Cuba using native herbs growing in the island, discovered how ‘anamu' pills help those who are sick with terminal diseases.

In Tunisia, Sarrah Ben M'Barek is engaged in similar research, discovering innovative uses of plants. She also advocates to teach children how fascinating science can be with a creative approach.

Meanwhile, Esther Duflo, from France, founded the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, a network of professors from all over the world who use Randomized Evaluations to answering questions about poverty alleviation.

Computer Scientist from Princeton University, Nadia Heninger, scanned the entire Internet and found hundreds of thousands of instances of insecure Internet connections.

While Linet Kwamboka, from Kenya, is a computer expert leading the Open Data Initiative and the Open Government Partnership at the Kenya ICT Board.

Ana Domb, from Costa Rica-Chile, is a researcher studying distribution systems and thinking about the intersection of culture and technology.

Erinn Clark, a self taught computer expert, is one of the bright minds behind Tor Project, updating the Tor Project code and by doing so, allowing hundreds of users to communicate privately and securely. She combines her coding activities with public advocacy.

Berglind Ósk Bergsdóttir, for her part, is an amazing developer of mobile apps from Iceland.

Twelve years ago, Chiaki Hayashi founded LoftWork, which comprises more than 7,000 creators, including web and graphic designers, illustrators, photographers and fine artists and is allowing hundreds of digital creators to work together, share their portfolios and build projects they would have never created in isolation.

Debbie Sterling is an engineer and the founder of GoldieBlox, a toy and book series starring Goldie, a girl inventor who loves to build, seeking to attract girls to mechanics and engineering.

Naeema Zarif in Lebanon is leading a sharing revolution, promoting open digital models.

Architect Joumana Al-Jabri, meanwhile, is using her technical skills to foster human rights with a variety of technology projects, including Visualizing Palestine.

In Costa Rica, Giannina Segnini is leading a team of scientist and journalists working in the most ambitious data driven journalism iniatiative in the region.

Kate Doyle, in the United States, is the director of the Evidence Project at the National Security Archive, and uses data science to uncover human rights abuses and hold criminals accountable of the most horrific crimes.

Models to follow, lives to inspire us, and names we must not forget to tackle stereotypes pushing women away from science. While some names mentioned above belong to very bright and famous senior experts, one must not forget the amazing women leading and forming communities such Mitchell Baker leading Mozilla, Cathy Casserly as CEO of Creative Commons, Kat Walsh as the Board Chair of Wikimedia, and all Global Voices Online female authors and editors, who make up a majority of our community. We should also remember those groups of women who are the custodians and guardians of traditional knowledge in all cultures.

Women have been at all times the keepers of culture, the depositories of knowledge and the seeds for the future. Lets honor all of them today.

May 07 2012

The Gunter Sachs appeal – life and legacy of the playboy art collector

Sotheby's to auction off trove of art treasures and memorabilia owned by the renowned playboy. Mark Brown, meets his son Rolf

Picture the scene. A ruggedly handsome, impeccably dressed man is enjoying a snack with his superstar wife, Brigitte Bardot, in St Tropez's Gorilla bar in the late spring of 1967. A pale, odd-looking white-haired man with a large entourage notices him and marches straight over, complaining that the Cannes film festival, of all places, has refused to screen his film because of its nudity. The man agrees to see the film, Chelsea Girls, and everyone bundles into speedboats and heads for the Carlton Hotel on La Croisette.

That chance meeting between the millionaire playboy Gunter Sachs and artist Andy Warhol had a profound effect on both men. For Sachs, a serious collector, it led to a sea change in his art buying; for Warhol it marked a vital first foothold in Europe.

Sachs became an assiduous collector of pop art and in 1972 opened a gallery in Hamburg. The Warhol exhibition he staged there was one of the first in Europe, although as Sachs's son Rolf recalls: "Nothing sold. My father was highly embarrassed, and he bought most of the exhibition himself – which was of course the best investment he ever made."

Rolf Sachs spoke to the Guardian ahead of a dazzling auction of artworks and objects that belonged to his late father. The Sachs family is selling following Gunter's death last year when, at 78, he turned a shotgun on himself.

Over two days, Sotheby's will sell a collection estimated to be worth more than £20m that includes art spanning surrealism, new realism and pop art, as well as furniture and personal objects. They shine an often fascinating light on a man who liked, perhaps more than anything, to enjoy himself.

"He had a great creativity for life, combined with a joie de vivre and an ability to live it," says Rolf. "He was interested in the zeitgeist."

Categorising Gunter Sachs is tricky. Sotheby's describes him in the catalogue as a "playboy, businessman, gallerist, museum director, art collector, film-maker, celebrity, photographer, astrologer, director and sportsman".

Certainly he was the man of a thousand stories. He created the Dracula Club, an exclusive private members' club in St Moritz; he was vice-president of the Cresta Run, an epic skeleton bob run also in St Moritz; he encouraged Salvador Dalí to shoot a gun in his penthouse and, of course, he married one of the most famous women in the world. He proposed to Bardot by dropping hundreds of roses on her villa from a helicopter before diving into the Mediterranean and emerging from the sea.

Something beautiful

Was it really like that? "I wasn't there," says Rolf, smiling. "It gets embellished every time, but so what? It has something beautiful about it. Stories should have a poetic, dreaming effect." The couple married in Vegas, honeymooned in Tahiti and divorced as friends in 1969, both of them having had affairs.

Born in Germany in 1932, Gunter Sachs inherited fortunes from his mother's side of the family – she was daughter of Wilhelm von Opel of the car-making dynasty – and his father, who owned Fichtel Sachs, one of Germany's largest automobile suppliers.

He located to France in 1958 which in itself was a brave move, says Rolf. "It took a special character to go and live in Paris in 1958 – which was 13 years after the war – as a German. It probably was quite difficult."

At the time, Sachs did not have huge amounts of disposable cash so he would spend his afternoons playing cards – at which he was extremely good. "He wasn't that wealthy then. Father would play ecarté with friends in the afternoon and he would invest his profits in art. At the time nobody was really buying art, people were building up their businesses, everything had been shattered."

Sachs began buying works by the likes of Yves Klein, Jean Fautrier, César and Arman, who are far better known today than they were at the time. "He bought it for the love of the art."

Sachs collected with passion and skill; he was an aesthete, says Rolf, who is a professional artist and designer himself partly as a result of his upbringing. "I was very much aware of the art in the house and as an eight-year-old I knew every painter, I knew every painting. I had a very strong relationship with all the art we had."

Sachs is mentioned in Warhol's memoirs as one of the young Europeans who went to New York and had the whole Studio 54 experience. "At the time you didn't think much of it, but it was fun. You don't appreciate those moments enough because you don't realise."

Surrealist work

Sotheby's has described the sale as "among the most desirable single-owner collections ever to come to market", but it is only part of what was an extraordinary collection. Sachs collected surrealist work by the likes of Dalí, Yves Tanguy, René Magritte and Max Ernst. He owned important pieces from the new realism school including Klein, Jean Tinguely, Arman and Martial Raysse. And there were works that could be described as art informel, including pieces by his friend Fautrier whose studio in the early years of the war was a refuge for intellectuals and artists associated with the Resistance.

Sachs decorated his homes and hotel penthouse suites with the most fabulous art and furniture. He had Lichtensteins in his bathroom, a Warhol Campbell's Soup in his kitchen, a Mel Ramos Banana Split in the guest bedroom. He commissioned a table direct from the sculptor and designer Diego Giacometti and was a big fan of Allen Jones, a star of 1960s British pop art, and had a set of his furniture that used fetishistic female mannequins.

Jones once recalled staying in Sachs' St Moritz Palace Hotel penthouse. "It was the most ritzy place I had ever been in. One wall of the apartment seemed to be entirely glass, with a breathtaking view of the Alps. There were Lichtenstein panels around the bathroom, a flock of Lalanne sheep on the carpet and the set of my sculptures."

If he had stayed at another time he would have seen Warhol's 1974 portrait of Bardot taking pride of place in a kind of pop art concept apartment. One of the last Warhol's Sachs bought was in 1998 – Self-Portrait (Fright Wig) which Warhol produced in 1986, a year before his death – and it is being sold for between £2m-£3m.

Another talking point in his penthouse suite was a bulletproof glass panel which Sachs would cheerfully stand behind and ask guests – Dalí was one – to shoot.

Works in the sale include Les Feux de L'Enfer, a piece Klein made using an industrial blowtorch at a state-owned gas research facility near Paris; pieces by Max Ernst, Magritte and Dalí; and a thickly painted gold canvas by Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale (1961), estimated up to £900,000.

"There was never a thought of it being an investment," says Rolf. "In fact, he stopped collecting in the 1970s because he was disillusioned with the art market – it became so aggressive. It had a strong business component."

Not that he entirely lost his love for it. "He always wanted to find the new, and even at 72, he started collecting graffiti art. We have tons of it," says Rolf. "It shows a curious mind, a young mind, looking for what is the next thing and what is the next trend."

Speaking of his father's death, Rolf says: "It came as a big shock to us all, but as a family we are not bitter towards him … I admire the courage."

It has been suggested that he feared the onset of Alzheimer's: "Perhaps in his mind it was speculation. Whenever something like this happens, obviously, there is chemistry involved. Chemical imbalances, which do things to your mind."

The decision to sell the works was taken as a family, and Rolf stresses they are keeping the items that hold the most importance for them. "People have said, 'Oh my god, you're selling the collection,' but the real core of his collection is staying in the family." He adds that they want to do a museum exhibition at the Villa Stuck in Munich in October.

Fond memories

Rolf Sachs has many fond memories of growing up. He remembers Bardot as his step-mum – "she was very kind to me, very sweet. I have only the fondest memories of her." He remembers one of Sachs' girlfriends, the Swiss biscuit heiress and champion water-skier Marina Doria going back and forward, back and forward in front of the house, pulled by Riva, a speedboat that is also in the sale.

He remembers the parties his dad would organise. "He made some of the most spectacular parties. Everyone would dress up, there was always wonderful music. Once he did a party where he played as if there was a hold up and everyone was surrounded [laughing] and people were getting frightened.

"A lot of fun people surrounded him, people who were spirited, who were good laughs."

Rolf Sachs has taken on some of the responsibilities his father had such as being vice-president of the Cresta Run and on the day the Guardian talked to Rolf he was beaming with pride at a purchase he had made at auction that day: a vampire killing set from around 1900 which he can't wait to show fellow members of the the Dracula Club. It is meant to be the most select club in St Moritz but Rolf says it is full of fun-loving. "Father created it and it is a very nice group of friends. Every member loves being part of bloodlessness."

Gunter Sachs was also interested in astrology, publishing a bestselling book on the subject and creating the grandly titled Institute for the Empirical and Mathematical Examination of the Possible Truth of Astrology in Relation to Human Behaviour.

Two months ago Rolf floated 3,500 candles on the lake in St Moritz in the shape of Scorpio in memory of his father.

There are clearly things going into the sale tinged with regret but Rolf says the family tried to create a rounded sale that was also fun, so there are pieces of art estimated in the hundreds of pounds up to one of Warhol's Brigitte Bardot canvases, estimated at £3m to £4m.

The auction will be held at Sotheby's on 22 and 23 May. Highlights go on show in London from 18-22 May and in New York from 5-9 May.


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April 12 2012

Cezanne masterpiece recovered by Serbian police

Three suspects arrested after discovery of painting thought to be Boy in a Red Waistcoat, stolen at gunpoint in 2008 in Zurich

Police in Serbia believe they have recovered an impressionist masterpiece by Paul Cezanne worth at least £68m that was stolen at gunpoint in one of the world's biggest art heists four years ago, a police official has said.

"We believe the painting is Cezanne's Boy in a Red Waistcoat and three suspects were detained in connection with that," said a police official.

"Experts in Serbia and abroad are trying to ascertain whether the painting is an original. This painting is worth tens of millions of euros," the official added.

The canvas was one of four paintings stolen from a Swiss art gallery in 2008 by a trio of masked robbers who burst in just before closing time and told staff to lay on the floor.

The paintings were reportedly worth over £100m at the time and the heist was the biggest art theft in Swiss history and one of the largest in the world. The painting was stolen in 2008 from the Emil Georg Bührle gallery in Zurich, a private collection founded by a second world war arms dealer and entrepreneur.

Two of the stolen canvasses, one by Claude Monet and the other by Vincent van Gogh, were recovered days later abandoned in a car, but the other two – the Cezanne and a painting by Edgar Degas, have been missing for the last four years.

Cezanne's Boy in a Red Waistcoat is thought to have been painted around 1888 and depicts a boy in traditional Italian dress – a red waistcoat, a blue handkerchief and a blue belt. Three other versions of the painting are in museums in the United States.

Last October, Serbian police recovered two paintings by Pablo Picasso stolen in 2008 from a gallery in the Swiss town of Pfäffikon, near Zurich.

The police official said law enforcement agencies from several countries had co-operated in the investigation that led to the apparent recovery of the Cezanne masterpiece.

Serbia's state prosecutor is expected to issue a statement or give a press briefing on the case later on Thursday.


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March 16 2012

Switzerland: Greetings from the “Greeks” of the French Cantons

Switzerland is often held up as an example of successful coexistence, as this curious multilingual, multicultural country manages to maintain a national identity which unites its citizens and normally makes them proud. Despite this, it is not unusual for German-speaking Swiss (germanophones) and French-speaking Swiss (francophones) to poke fun at each other.

The differences which characterise inhabitants on each side of the French-German language border, jokingly called the Röstigraben, are often felt in politics and particularly during voting. It also happens that from time to time dubious jokes are made at the neighbours' expense.

The latest provocation comes from an article published on March 1, 2012 by the Swiss German newspaper Weltwoche [fr]. In it the author pokes fun at the French-speaking Swiss, considered the “Greeks of Switzerland”, layabouts, and lovers of alcohol and good food. In the accompanying photo an unshaven office worker poses with his feet on his desk, a glass of wine in his hand and a discarded piece of lingerie peeking out between files.

The photo from "Weltwoche" which has cut French-speaking Swiss to the quick - from Facebook group Welschwoching

French-speaking Swiss have not been slow to respond, with Genevese politician Antonio Hodgers setting the tone. As reported in 20min.ch [fr], he has been photographed in the same pose and contradicts these allegations, saying [fr]:

A l’adresse des Weltwocho-udécistes, nous précisons que l’évolution du PIB romand est supérieure à la moyenne suisse depuis des années, que l’Arc lémanique est l’une des régions économiques les plus dynamiques et que des cantons comme Genève et Vaud sont des contributeurs nets à la péréquation inter-cantonale. Tout cela en glandant… pas mal, non ? »

For the benefit of the Weltwoche-Swiss People's Party fanatics, let me state that growth of the Swiss French GDP is greater than the Swiss average has been for years, that the Lake Geneva area is one of the most dynamic economic regions and that cantons such as Geneva and Vaud are clear contributors to the intercantonal equalization of funds. All that while loafing around….not bad, eh?

This was all that was needed to create a bandwagon effect. On Facebook, the group Welschwoching [fr] published photos of Swiss French internet users taking up the pose, feet on desk, with bottles scattered around, to pay tribute to the lifestyle of which Weltwoche accuses them. Many pictures and comments can also be seen on Twitter. The Twitter account @welschwoching, created for this new cause, brought a serious matter to people's attention with this tweet concerning aperitifs at exactly 5pm :

Screen printers Graphein [fr] have already prepared a special T-shirt bearing the slogan Tuschur rigol, shamè travaï (”Toujours rigole, jamais travaille”, French for “Always having fun, never working”, as pronounced with a German accent).

But, several days later, the administrators of the Weschwoching Facebook group complained of numerous attacks against them, and of people sending particulars to Facebook for “copyright infringements”, which seemed to result in some photos being taken down [fr]. However, national unity has perhaps not been completely jeopardised as these Swiss Germans show solidarity with their French-speaking neighbours in the following video [fr]:

 

 

February 10 2012

Marseille's Cité Radieuse damaged by fire

Authorities assess damage to architect Le Corbusier's Radiant City, a landmark of modernist architecture

One of France's most important landmarks of modernist architecture, La Cité Radieuse housing estate in Marseille, built by the architect Le Corbusier, has been damaged by fire.

Fire services fought for over 12 hours to put out a blaze that began on Thursday afternoon in a first floor flat in the nine-storey concrete complex which is protected by special heritage status in France.

The fire was brought under control at around 7am on Friday morning as authorities began to assess the damage to what is deemed a monument to postwar communal housing. Three apartments had been gutted and many others seriously damaged.

Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, the Swiss-born architect better known as Le Corbusier, built what was hailed as the vertical village between 1947 and 1951.

The building was inspired by travel, and was designed to look like a giant steamboat anchored in a park. Affectionately known as "la maison du fada" (the crackpot's house), around 1,600 people live in its 334 famously sound-proofed duplex apartments with functional 1950s interior design in a grid of modernist lines of exposed unsurfaced concrete.

Envisaged as social housing, the building was quickly sold by the state. Some residents have lived there since its inauguration, while many recent inhabitants of the now sought-after apartments are middle-class teachers and architects.

All residents were evacuated late on Thursday night as fire services struggled to keep the blaze under control and five people were treated in hospital. It was not clear how the fire started.


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October 04 2011

02mydafsoup-01

May 18 2011

World: FIFA Election – House of Knaves or Knights?

The last few months football fans (soccer fans for those in the US) have been treated to some really interesting times. The latest is the FIFA Election that comes at a time when one of the most powerful non-governmental bodies which scares even nations’ leaders (ask president Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria) and is almost a law unto itself; suddenly has started looking vulnerable.

Thanks in part to revelations by Britain’s Lord Richard Triesman as captured by NottheFootyShow here:

Lord Triesman, the former FA and England 2018 World Cup bid Chairman has come out guns blazing in the Culture, Media and Sport Committee at the House of Commons in London. His accusations into the corruption surrounding the World Cup Hosting rights will not surprise many, but it is sure to make the upcoming FIFA elections all the more interesting

FIFA Logo - (Source: www.fifa.com)

The blogger continues:

Triesman gave evidence of “improper and unethical behaviour,” by serial FIFA bad boy Vice President Jack Warner who reportedly put his hand out for money to build an education centre in Trinidad, with cash to go through him, and money to buy Haiti World Cup TV rights, also to go through him. Mr Warner comes out badly in two books on corruption in FIFA – “How they stole the game” and “Foul” – and funding for similar ventures have not seen the facilities intended built

And in total disregards of the claims and seeking to support the incumbent candidate, FIFA’s VP Jack Warner (from Trinidad & Tobago) is quoted in BajanSunOnline.com saying:

An election is not a popularity contest and as the world still grapples with shifting economic realities we must ensure that our sport is in a position to withstand any uncertainty.”…. “One must examine all that is proposed; how do you expand football? How do you continue to touch the lives of those who have been denied the opportunity to witness the beauty and simplicity of this game?

TheBigLead makes fun of Sepp Blatter and his mission of ‘saving FIFA and ultimately the universe’:

Sepp Blatter is running for reelection as FIFA’s president. He sent an open letter to fans spelling out his simple, direct case for his candidacy. He believes failure to reelect him will create a “tectonic movement” that will cause FIFA to “be sucked into a black hole.” Said chasm will precipitate “irreversible damage” destroying the organization and, possibly, soccer itself. Apparently, Blatter hires his PR flacks in North Korea.

TheBigLead quotes from some of the correspondence Mr. Blatter shared with the football associations as he sought to get their direction in way of voting:

Is the situation really that dramatic?” you ask. The answer is yes, in theory it is. I am confident I will be able to win the elections with a clear majority of two-thirds of the votes. South America, North America, Europe, Oceania and a considerable part of Africa and Asia will continue to support my ideas. However it is still worth considering what the alternative would be: no one.

Caughtoffside.com (what an appropriate name!) questions Sepp Blatter's ability to run FIFA:

Would you buy a used car from this man, let alone want him running the football’s most world governing body?

Responding to Blatter's solution to FIFA's controversial voting process, Caughtoffside says:

Sepp Blatter is basically admitting that FIFA needs change and that he will definitely look into fixing the problem the moment he is re-elected, which is of course incredibly convenient as previously he said no change was needed. Anyone believe what he is saying?

The reigning FIFA president has stated his desire to adopt an IOC style system for deciding on hosts of major tournaments but what is to stop Blatter from changing his mind once he was once again re-elected? FIFA needs change but it’s pretty much a closed shop and no one stands much of a chance of executing real change in the hugely corrupt body.

Arunava writes about Mohammed bin Hammam, the only other candidate challenging Sepp Blatter, and his recent visit to India:

Current FIFA president Joseph S. Blatter from Switzerland will be facing competition from Qatari Mohammed bin Hamman, the president of the Asian Football Confederation. The 61 year old Mohammed bin Hamman in his capacity as AFC president was in New Delhi last week to update himself on the latest in Indian football as well as speak to the heads of the South Asian Football Federation which represents the eight nations of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Caughoffside explains why it would be very difficult for Mohammed Bin Hammam to win:

I would imagine that the biggest obstacle to Mohamed Bin Hammam’s election hopes is his insistence that he will throw the doors open and make FIFA a more transparent place and whilst we the onlookers would love such an act to occur, those ensconced in the regime are not likely to be quite so keen. Therefore it would take something of a miracle for anyone but Sepp Blatter to win the presidential race.

The expression “Turkey’s voting for Christmas” has never been quite so relevant.

JohninParis is not optimistic about Blatter's promise to create a ‘clean reorganised FIFA’:

Sepp Blatter wants to oversee the promised reorganisation of FIFA, which of course he did not have time to do during the last 12 years. In previous articles (see this blog dated May 1) it was suggested that a real debate between these two candidates should take place on television and that both candidates should clearly state what they wanted to achieve as President. This simple and practical idea was not taken up.  One can only infer that during the coming years nothing important will change;  things will simply go on as before!

Whichever way, let’s see how the run-up to the election unfolds and what happens next. Wishing all the candidates all the best in their endeavours.

April 21 2011

August 30 2010

Western Europe: A journey through tech for transparency projects

By Sylwia Presley

The Technology for Transparency Network focuses largely on countries outside of North America and Western Europe. However, many of the trends in the use of technology to promote transparency and accountability, particularly with respect to open government movements, are piloted in western countries before being adapted in developing countries. We are not formally documenting these cases as part of our research, but we hope that by sharing several examples we can highlight the “state of the art” work in the technology for transparency space. Let’s start with a tour of Western Europe:

UK: A successful example of open government

They Work For You

Our first stop is the United Kingdom, where They Work for You is enabling citizens to access data about their representatives to the UK Parliament, Scottish Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Welsh Assembly. They Work for You was originally developed by a group of volunteers. With the support of UK Citizens Online Democracy and MySociety it has expanded to allow others to use its data via an open API. Based on a simple post code search, I was able to find my local MP and read his bio, recent speeches and appearances, and also — more importantly — his expenses, sponsorships, and additional income.

Another site supported by MySociety, FixMyStreet, is a model of active civic engagement at the local level. The site allows anyone to report local problems — graffiti, potholes, broken street lights — to be addressed by local councils. By providing statistical information on how many reported issues have been resolved, the site administrators make it possible to judge the effectiveness of local authorities. If we add WriteToThem and HearFromThem to the mix (sites providing direct communication with representatives), we create an impressive picture of technological solutions for transparency in this country.

France: Citizens as watchers

Étude sur le redécoupage électoral

Traveling south to France, we come across Regards Citoyens. This site, which is accessible on Facebook, Twitter and Identi.ca, is an umbrella of several transparency solutions. NosDéputés.fr is an online monitoring system of parliamentary activities. It presents 642 parliament members, profiling their activities from last 12 months (here is an example). I personally like the usage of tag cloud featuring words currently used by the National Assembly and graphs of current parliamentary activities on their main site. A separate part of the site is dedicated to site users and their activities related to monitoring the representatives. Another project, originally called Simplifions la loi 2.0, is currently a subpage of Nosdeputes.fr. It documents current parliamentary work. Étude sur le redécoupage électoral is a site providing great insights into the proposed changes of the constituency limits, looking also at the impact of those on future elections.

Italy: Civil society’s struggle against corruption

In Italy, Openpolis is the site to check out. With a community of more than 13,000 members and various content management options (tagging, graphing, etc.), it allows users to find their local representatives, ‘adopt’ them, follow their activities and contribute to an online database by uploading updates on the chosen representative. Openpolis’ sub-site Open Parlamento is a great real-time monitor of parliament activities, including this impressive visualisation on voting sessions and this profile of Silvio Berlusconi.

Openpolis

Openpolis is a product of Depp and Memefarmers. Depp is an association dedicated to e-democracy and open civic participation with an impressive range of experiences in the field of transparency. Depp developed a technology called politicaldesk, which enables the real-time tracking of parliament activities. They were also the authors of Voi Siete Qui, a platform that publishes the results of a questionnaire conducted with representatives of most of the participating parties in Italy’s 2008 elections. The questionnaire consisted of questions related to 25 major issues chosen by Depp’s community of users. It was sent to all parties, most of which responded (the parties that did not cooperate are clearly identified). The results are available as visualization of distances between various parties on different topics prepared based on a multidimentional scaling algorithm. The site also allows new users to find out their own score on the chosen issues by filling out the questionnaire online.

Another Depp project, Eworkshop Senato Ragazzi, targets students at secondary schools, who are given a chance to actively learn about work of parliament by suggesting, rating and commenting on bills proposed by others. This e-learning community consists of students, teachers, and parliament representatives and is incorporated into larger platform, Senato Ragazzi. Economia Partecipata is a showcase of how local authorities (in this case in the Lazio region) can provide their citizens with channels for increasing both transparency and active dialogue and civic engagement.

Switzerland: Exploring e-democracy

Smartvote

Navigating over to Switzerland, I was advised to check out the activities of Politools – Political Research Network, which brings together specialists from social sciences, political sciences, geography, history, information technology and art history to work on various project dedicated to transparency. The first of these is Smartvote, established in 2002 and still running today. The website allows citizens to find the candidates whose views most closely align with theirs based on a publicly available analysis of responses candidates have provided on 30-70 questions. The site was used for the first time during the 2003 elections. Another platform, ParlaRating (active since 1997), is using a multidimentional scaling method to rate political positions of various representatives on a scale from -10 to 10.

Convergence and differences

While studying the projects above I was trying to compare various aspects of their approach to what I have seen so far in Central and Eastern Europe. Recently I was conducting interview with a representative of Polish website Mam Prawo Wiedziec (“I have the right to know”). Their work is very similar to projects I have found in Western Europe from many points of view. They also use questionnaires to gain information about candidates in local, regional and national elections. They post profiles of politicians on their website and educate citizens on their rights. They focus on raising awareness around elections, aiming to convince citizens to vote for people who actually represent their views. They also mention a lack of proper political education (for which the Italian e-learning solution is a perfect answer). Other projects we have looked at in our first phase of research were also very close to those goals. I am more confident today in stating that most of the transparency projects throughout Europe might have a lot in common.

Now, if the goals and ways of work are more or less similar, I wonder where they differ? It would be interesting to see how projects in Western Europe are funded, for example. I have seen MySociety mentioned as a sponsor in the UK, and I know their work in Central and Eastern Europe is tremendous. I have seen Transparency International mentioned in connection with the French platform, and I know this organization is heavily involved in work in Hungary and in Poland. It is good to see those international organizations having impact in various regions of Europe and helping to keep many of those valuable projects sustainable.

Grassroots transparency movements as a regional (and global) trend

As the final question to the readers and hopefully something to initiate further discussion I would like to mention the civic engagement itself. During a recent conversation with Polish transparency organization Watchdog, I heard something interesting - it seems that elections are what generate increased activity of various groups in Poland that are interested in transparency issues. It is also noticeable that the number of those short-term, spontaneous groups and projects is increasing. Organizations like Watchdog and Stowarzyszenie 61 (the organization managing Mam Prawo Wiedziec) find it fascinating and comforting that more and more civic actions are born during the times of elections, as this proves that the society’s involvement in public matters grows from one year to another. Despite my assumption that this might not be the case in Western Europe in seemingly more developed democracies, I see now clearly that grassroots transparency movements are present and growing all across Europe.

June 29 2010

February 21 2010

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December 10 2009

Video: Pitch Your Cause to the World for Davos

There is time until January 4th, 2010 to send in your video pitch for your cause if you want a chance to participate in the World economic Forum at Davos in Switzerland. Read all instructions and Conditions to participate on the Davos YouTube Channel or on their site.

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