In mid-March, at the height of the pro-democracy protest movements in Bahrain, the government resorted to bringing in foreign troops, mainly from the UAE and Saudi Arabia, to violently subdue the protesters. The following three months saw the imposition of emergency law and widespread government attacks against Bahrain’s Shia population. While Bahrain’s Shia population represents a majority in numbers, they are given little political and economic power.
One month ago, the people of Turkey gave a third consecutive mandate to the incumbent government of the Justice and Development Party (AKP). The landslide electoral victory marked a new record in the history of the Turkish Republic: no party had ever won three elections in a row, whilst also increasing their percentage of the vote. Support for the AKP reached 49,8 per cent in the June 2011 general elections. Despite this, the AKP won fewer seats in the Turkish Grand National Assembly. Although Prime Minister Erdogan’s principal aim was to have 367 MPs to autonomously amend the constitution (or at least 330 MPs to avoid a compromise with the opposition and going directly through the popular referendum), Erdogan and the AKP missed both targets, gaining only 326.
Censorship of the internet in China has received worldwide attention. Hillary Clinton likened it to a new “information curtain”. Freedom House ranks China as the fourth least-free country in its report “Freedom on the Net 2011”. Reporters Without Borders called China an “Internet Enemy”. However, another phenomenon in Chinese cyberspace has attracted the attention of academics: online Chinese nationalism, and they are particularly interested in what role, if any, it plays in the political decision-making process in China.
Since November 2010, Wikileaks has been a prominent force in the media after it published thousands of diplomatic cables of the American State Department. The leaks reenergised important debates considering the conduct of orthodox diplomacy in the twenty first century, with the general public becoming increasingly engaged in the conduct of states at national and international levels. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange found support in a number of transparency and human rights activists who advocate for an increased level of openness in government. However, the release of these diplomatic cables was followed by allegations of rape that were levelled against him by two women in Sweden.
For decades a generation of Latin American thinkers criticized the unequal relationships between the region and developed countries - especially the US. Their preferred weapon was Dependency Theory, which focuses on the pattern of poor countries providing cheap labour and natural resources to rich ones, and receiving in exchange manufactured goods in a way that perpetuates the backwardness of Third World economies. In the last decade, the rise of another developing economy, China, has made the old theory resurface.
Mathieu Yamba, the Chairman of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, in late June announced the lifting of a ban which had formerly prevented the sale of diamonds mined in the Marange diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe. The Kimberley Process’ role is to certify the source of rough diamonds as being free from any conflict financed by the production of such diamonds and to ban diamonds that are not considered to be conflict-free. Yamba’s announcement followed a meeting of the Kimberley Process in Kinshasa, and it prompted civil society members and non-governmental participants to walk out in protest as it is still widely believed that Marange diamonds continue to be tainted by gross human rights violations and, as such, their sale should remain prohibited.
The cards have been reshuffled. On 13 June, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced his new government’s cabinet line-up after a five month long political tug-of-war which plunged the country into another period of notorious institutional dysfunction. Dominated by Hezbollah and its March 8 allies, Mikati’s cabinet has come under the magnifying glass of the international community as it prepares to meet its biggest challenge in the midst of regional turmoil: the formulation of a unified policy on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) which has been investigating the murder of the former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri since 2009.