Are freedom, social justice, democracy and human rights appealing outside the West?

bricsThe puzzle is probably as applicable to Europe as to the rest of the world. Looking at the way intelligence agencies have been spying over European citizens, or at the “legacy of poverty” that the austerity policies are leaving behind, we can legitimately wonder if freedom, social justice, democracy and human rights are at all appealing within the West itself and, specifically, in Europe. However, the question that I ask myself today is whether these values and norms are still attractive in developing countries, if they ever were.

A few days ago, I attended an event co-organised by Ipsos Mori and KCL International Development Institute, where they presented a research into public perceptions about growth and prosperity in emerging economies. The survey was conducted online and about 6000 people were interviewed in 11 countries: Brazil, Argentina, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, India, China, South Korea, Indonesia and Mexico. When asked about what country/region has the best economic ideas and offer better employment opportunities, the US and China led way ahead (28 and 26%) and the EU came third (16%). In fact, the EU only was first in 2 of the 11 countries: Turkey and South Korea. Interestingly enough, Brazilians, Russians and Indians all agree that China is leading the way among the BRICs. From the perspective of the emerging world, the Chinese model now seems at least as relevant as the American one, and the decline of Europe is just evident.
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Is Russia a human rights promoter in the Snowden case?

Edward SnowdenIt seems that the former NSA employee Edward Snowden remains in the transit zone of Moscow airport. At least, that´s what President Putin said a couple of days ago in a press conference in Finland. Putin claimed to be as surprised as any other, and argued that Snowden was just a “transit passenger” and therefore didn´t need a visa or any other document. The Russian President also said that, since Snowden “has not crossed” the Russian border and he “has not committed any crime” on Russian soil, there are no grounds for prosecution in Russia or for deportation to the US, with which Russia has no extradition treaty. Considering Snowden has reportedly applied for asylum from Ecuador, when the Russian Premier was asked about the similarities between his case and the one of Julian Assange, Putin responded with another question: “Just like Snowden, (Assange) considers himself a rights advocate and fights for sharing information. Ask yourself: should or should not people like these be extradited to be later put to jail?” Continue reading “Is Russia a human rights promoter in the Snowden case?”

How do Kagan, Obama and Romney know that America is not in decline?

At the State of the Union Address on 26 January, President Barack Obama assured that the United States is still the most influential nation on Earth:

Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn’t know what they’re talking about

America remains the one indispensable nation in world affairs – and as long as I’m President, I intend to keep it that way.

His words on America’s place in world affairs drew cheerful applause among enthusiastic legislators of both sides and both chambers of Congress.

 According to an article published in Foreign Policy, while drafting his speech President Obama was influenced by an article of the well-known conservative intellectual Robert Kagan published in The New Republic: “Not Fade Away: Against the Myth of American Decline”. Mitt Romney, the leading runner in the Republican race, who counts on Kagan as a political advisor on national security, has also insisted several times that this is not a “post-American century”.

But, how do Mr. Kagan, Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney know that America is not in the early stage of a historic decline? Kagan’s argument is based on two main points. Since we discussed not so long ago the possible implications of the fall of Western hegemony for the idea of human rights, we should now look with a critical eye to what makes Kagan, Obama and Romney be so dubious about our premise, namely, that the world as we know it is falling apart.

Continue reading “How do Kagan, Obama and Romney know that America is not in decline?”

The fall of Western hegemony: What does it mean for the idea of human rights?

According to Robert Gilpin’s ‘theory of hegemonic stability’ (2002), the characteristics of the world economy reflect the will and national interests of the hegemonic power. Immanuel Wallerstein (1983) defines hegemony in the interstate system as “that situation in which the ongoing rivalry between the so-called ‘great powers’ is so unbalanced that one power can largely impose its rules and its wishes (at the very least by effective veto power) in the economic, political, military, diplomatic, and even cultural arenas”. Since World War II, the United States has been the hegemonic power, and since the fall of the Soviet Union its hegemony has been overwhelming and undisputable. Compared to the US, in the second half of the 20th century the power of Western Europe has been, at best, of normative nature, based on the socialisation of ideas like democracy, rule of law and human rights, which some claim to be part of the so-called ‘European identity’. Continue reading “The fall of Western hegemony: What does it mean for the idea of human rights?”