Political unrest after a disputed presidential election in Kenya left some eleven hundred people dead and three hundred thousand other homeless. But the turmoil also inflicted damage on the country’s knowledge system—the universities and research institutes that generate economic progress and are a key to strengthening democracy against ethnic-based politics.
Conventional wisdom says that the issue of climate change is too complex and technical for ordinary people to grasp but a project called World Wide Views on Global Warming brought together four thousand citizens in thirty-eight countries who demonstrated a keen ability to debate the topic and make policy recommendations.
As Egyptians prepare to vote in the first presidential election since the end of Hosni Mubarak’s regime, the old aphorism comes to mind: “Every nation has the government it deserves.” Egypt seems to be getting the presidential election it deserves—one reflecting the social and institutional weaknesses that have plagued the country for too long. There is confusion, suspicion, polarization. Conspiracy theories abound. And there is the mounting anxiety over the economy and public security. Increasingly, it seems, nervous citizens are pining for the stability—or at least the predictability—of Mubarak’s three decades in power.
American research universities are the envy of the world, but they must adapt if they are to create kno wledge that responds to the ‘grand challenges’ of our epoch. Only an amalgamation of transdisciplinary, transinstitutional, and transnational frameworks has the potential to advance broader social and economic outcomes.
In the coming fifty years, choices will be made about what kinds of energy systems to build for the future, where to build them, and how to distribute their benefits, costs, and risks. These choices will help determine which countries and communities flourish and which deteriorate. The fight is on.
The Middle East is among the driest areas on Earth. Actually, it has plenty of water but much of it lies underground and unexplored. Go vernments in the region must undertake serious efforts to map ground water basins and aquifers and develop regulations for their use.
The Indian government launched an ambitious plan to expand atomic energy output seven-fold by the year 2022. But a surprising grassroots movement has sprung up to challenge the program. Rather than focusing on worries about cataclysmic accidents, it is emphasizing citizen rights and government accountability.
Meet the Predator, the unmanned attack aircraft that is defining warfare in the post-Cold War era. Initially deemed useless by the Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency, it has become America’s weapon of choice in the War on Terror. With the creation of a new military bureaucracy dependent on identifying and striking new enemies, will Predator missions ever end?
Washington’s policy of ‘authoritarian stability’ worked for thirty years in the Middle East. Strategic relations with Hosni Mubarak helped enable the U.S. to become the predominant power in the region. But domestic opposition groups used these ties as a cudgel in their struggle against dictatorship. With the fall of Mubarak, future U.S. cooperation with Egypt must overcome a legacy of mistrust.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has changed the political face of Turkey, with significant results to show for it—a booming domestic economy and enhanced international prestige. The jury is still out on whether he has the political will to address shortcomings on Kurdish rights, the Armenian genocide question, the future of Cyprus, and the rule of law, and thus elevate Turkey into a truly global player.
In the past eighty years, Turkish society has not become as secularized as Mustafa Kemal Atatürk envisioned. But rather than choosing a radical or violent path, Turkey’s Islamists have become champions of democracy. This is a lesson in how to be modern and Muslim at the same time.
After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Turkish Republic oriented itself toward Europe to catch up with ‘contemporary civilization.’ But in the last ten years, Turkey has sought to play a more active role in the Middle East. The dramatic policy shift now stands to yield substantial strategic, political, and economic dividends following the Arab Spring.
Turkey’s Justice and Development Party has targeted education reform as a priority—to stimulate economic growth as well as to promote conservative Islamic values. But, so far, the party has not cut loose from the authoritarian Republican legacy within the education system as much Turks had expected.
There is no doubt that social networking helped bring Egyptians to Tahrir Square for the country’s January 25 revolution. But, equally important, services like Facebook and Twitter also prepared the ground by providing a model of horizontal communication and democratic participation.
The effort to hold the former regime of President Hosni Mubarak to account is off to a poor start. But as the experiences of other nations in transition have shown, establishing a credible record of past abuses is essential to forming a democratic culture.
Turkey has adopted a pro-active foreign policy in support of democracy in the Middle East. Together with a democratic and economically strong Egypt, Turkey can help Arab countries forge an integrated regional order.
The pandemic is not out of the danger zone, but apocalyptic predictions about the collapse of armies, state crises, and a vicious interaction between HIV/AIDS and violent conflict — especially in Africa — have not come to pass. Careful analysis gives far less cause for pessimism than many imagined would be possible even half a decade ago.