Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

The Brexit Dip and the Struggle for Certainty

In Democracy and the Market, Adam Przeworski argues that transitional countries experience a significant downturn in economic performance in the short term and then as democracy takes root, economic performance returns in ways that support the new democracy.

Watching events here in the UK since the EU referendum on 23 June, I couldn’t help feeling that the UK now looks very much like one of  Przeworski’s transitional countries and is experiencing precisely the same kind of economic downturn as a result of the vote to leave the EU.

The figure below represents this dynamic. The y-axis represents economic performance (E), which would have remained relatively constant over time (t) had there not been an EU referendum. On 23 June, however, there was a referendum, which saw an economic pick up in the run up to the vote (a signal from the markets that Remain was the likely outcome), and a subsequent slowdown once the result of Leave became official on the morning of the 24th.

Brexit DipWe now find ourselves in a significant ‘Brexit dip’ in economic performance (B). The pound against the dollar has dropped to levels not seen in thirty years (click HERE to track its value relative to other currencies), the FTSE 100 and, more importantly, the FTSE 250 have dropped precipitously, S & P dropped the UK from its AAA rating to an AA rating, while leaders of business surveyed by the Institute of Directors (IoD) are fairly pessimistic about the immediate future of the British economy. So much so, that many report a stall in investment, a freeze on hiring, and in some cases, redundancies.

In addition to the economic downturn, we have seen both main political parties in crisis, as the struggle for power ensues. The Prime Minister has resigned, the shadow cabinet and junior shadow ministers have resigned, and there are fresh calls for Jeremy Corbyn to step down as leader of the Labour Party. The Leave campaign leaders are scrambling around to clarify what they actually mean by Brexit, the Remain campaign leaders are looking at legal loopholes and procedures that might reverse the decision, or at least limit its most negative consequences, and the Scots are exploring their own independence given their overwhelming vote to Remain.

The figure also shows a number of dimensions and possible scenarios for what could happen next. The dark line labelled B1 denotes a Brexit dip and long term recovery, which may see the UK return to economic performance levels that are higher than those before the referendum. Line B2 is a less severe Brexit dip that could be achieved through continued assurances from Bank of England Governor Mark Carney and the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osbourne.  B3 is a more severe Brexit dip if such overtures fail to calm market nerves and the UK economy slips further into recession. A Breixt dip is  inevitable as many experts before the referendum pointed out, and any recovery carries risk and uncertainty with an eventual landing point that could vary substantially.

Both the depth and breadth of the Brexit dip rest on the ability of the UK political system to produce new leadership, trigger an Article 50 withdrawal from the EU, and establish an orderly timeline for how and under what conditions the UK will continue to work with the EU without being in the EU. Boris Johnson, the favourite for being the next Prime Minister signalled today that he would want the UK to continue its close cooperation with the EU, but did not spell out exactly what that might look like.

If Brexit really is going to happen (something the Scots are contesting), then it is incumbent on the new leadership to act quickly and decisively to bring certainty and confidence back to the UK economy. In seeking to prevent further disintegration, EU leaders will negotiate hard with the UK in setting conditions for access to the common market (e.g. national payments to the EU and free movement of labour). In preventing a total backlash from the Leave supporters, the new leadership in the UK will seek to maximise benefit from cooperation with the EU without having to incur too many costs.

One possible outcome for the future is the irony of the UK having to pay as much as it pays now and to accept only a minor reduction in migration, while at the same time having to give up its place at the EU table. The Leave campaign made a meal out of the crumbling castle of the EU and lambasted the Remain campaign’s insistence that the UK would be stronger in Europe, and yet the outcome of any Article 50 negotiations may well see the UK maintaining payments, accepting migrants, and losing influence. Meanwhile, one of the main societal group who voted for Leave will be very unlikely to see any real benefit from their vote.

References:

Adam Przeworski (1991) Democracy and the Market, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 

Reflections at 50

IMG_0148

Today is a remarkable day. I am 50 and very pleased with it as well. I have my health, three beautiful children and my lovely wife. I live in a civilised country with a deep history, a well-tended countryside, a great sense of humour, and a health system that works most of the time.

I was only supposed to come here for a year back in 1993 … oh well…

Turning 50 is a moment to pause and take stock. Five decades. Born into the Cold War at a time when an LED calculator created intense joy and curiosity, and now writing this short blog on a laptop connected to the Internet through eduroam wifi. And as I get older, the simpler my tastes become: a comfortable place to sit, really good coffee, and the fastest broadband in the world.

Despite my birth year, I was not a child of the 60s, but a child of the 70s. Long hair, bell-bottom jeans, blue suede Puma sneakers, a silk shirt with horses on it, a jean coat, and a beat up trombone. I loved our family home in Hemlock Hollow and when not outside running through the woods or swimming in the pond, I was in my room learning and practicing magic; a life-long pursuit that continues to fascinate and enchant me.

The Nixon resignation and our extraction from the Vietnam War were my earliest memories of a decade that saw some of the best rock music ever recorded (although I did not quite appreciate that at the time).

We huddled in my brother’s bedroom listening to Queen (an imported vinyl LP my dad brought back from Amsterdam), Bachman Turner Overdrive, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, the Moody Blues, the Doobie Brothers, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

All that changed in the late 1970s when I discovered punk and New Wave music from the UK. Gone were the self-indulgent dirges; replaced by quick tempo tunes with cockney accents, the ‘nutty’ sound, and political lyrics that spoke of a rebellious generation taking on the establishment.

My brother’s bedroom was replaced by my friend’s back room den with 100s of imported LPs from bands like the Angelic Upstarts, the Cure, U2, the Specials, Madness, the Selector, the Sex Pistols, Joe Jackson, and the Stranglers, which were complemented by surf punk from California like the Dead Kennedys, Agent Orange, and so many others. We learned to slam dance and survive the mosh pit. We wore vintage clothes, pointy shoes, and pork pie hats.

Throughout these years, I was also seduced by jazz, from traditional to hard bop, to jazz rock fusion. The house was full of great music from Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, Blood Sweat and Tears, the Modern Jazz Quartet and countless others. I had a long battle learning to play the trombone and a continuing passion to learn how to play jazz, as well as many stints with many different bands: concert band, big band, pit orchestras, marching band, blues bands, and small jazz combos.

The 1980s were a time of deep learning and reacting against Reagan’s America. High School (studies, band, and swimming) in Central Pennsylvania gave way to University life at Penn in the middle of the end of the Cold War. I read the New York Times daily and followed all the foreign policy stories from the Iran-Contra scandal to democratic transitions in Latin America, to the Falklands/Malvinas, to anti-apartheid protests around the world. I wrote my final year dissertation on US Foreign Policy in Chile during the Allende period, abandoned my plans to go to law school, and followed my dream to study Latin America.

Three years in the late 80s in Georgetown included intense study of Latin America, exposure to liberation theology, time in Brazil to hone my Portuguese and follow the first democratic presidential election since 1961, and a short stint at the World Bank before setting off west to pursue a PhD in political science.

The 1990s saw me for a short spell in Boulder, Colorado, where the long hair made a brief return and where I met an English Professor, who, over a glass of single malt invited me to come to the UK. With visions of ivy-covered halls and greens full of students debating philosophy, I landed at the University of Essex (cough); itself an intellectually stimulating place with a radical past. One project turned into another until I found myself traveling the world to over 39 countries working on human rights projects, teaching students from places that were forbidden in my youth like Tajikistan to people who were part of Reagan’s Evil Empire. The Cold War was over, but new forms of tyranny, oppression and conflict were upon us.

Y2K never happened, but 9/11 did, which like the Kennedy Assassination for the generation before me, has been etched on my mind since that fateful day. En route to an appointment in town, I heard an early news report about the attack, while later in the day I found myself standing very still in front of a TV in a clothing store In Colchester UK watching the towers come down; towers I visited as kid on a special trip to New York with my father to pick up my Dutch grandfather who had arrived at JFK airport.

The ‘noughties’ were spent teaching, writing, traveling, playing jazz and performing magic. My three real passions in life remain politics, magic and jazz. In their own way, these passions all share a subversive streak, where big disruptions come from those who foment new ideas (we can change history), question orthodoxy (why not flatten the fifth note in a diatonic scale?), and unsettle our sense of reality (is it deduction, deception, or something more?).

50 seemed a long way away as a kid, where I often yearned to be older, but as Ferris says, life moves pretty fast. I agree, but it also moves slow enough to savour the journey, and this journey thus far has been fantastic.

So, as I savour this particular day, happy birthday to me, and many thanks to all my friends and family who have made the journey thus far unforgettable.

In honour of this day, I share with you a new poem that I call The Pond. I hope you like it.

The Pond

Duckweed. 
Kelp carpet of the hollow’s waters.
Warm, spongy soft, pungent.
A fecund sprawl, a natural feast.
But not for us, at least.
 
Snappers float, the surface barely broken.
Eyeing prey with patient contemplation.
Noses out, dangling legs, tails but a token.
Hard rake at the ready.
Just in case we get too close.
Jaws clenched, set and steady.
 
The drain runs warm and constant.
Mesh snags unwanted detritus.
Muskrats poke their way,
like miners in a vein.
But once, up my arm,
a scurrying one came.
 
Foam floats made pink by the sun,
like crabs in a Chesapeake bucket.
Boards bolted on, rope and brick,
an anchor for our dock.
Jumping, splashing, flying.
Hours disappear, no need for a clock.
 
Sunfish caught with simple grass.
Tadpoles dance with excitement.
Fires in winter, while we skate.
Making the figure eight.
Puck, crack, chair, slide.
A bauble hat, mittens with fur inside. 
Warmth, security, a father’s embrace.
 
Plunge in summer. 
His arms hold tight; we struggle.
Spluttering, flailing, panicking.
Face down, bubbles out.
Sink or swim, you decide.
I swam.
 © 2016 Todd Landman all rights reserved.

Super Tuesday: Clinton and Trump lift off as rivals straggle behind

Todd Landman, University of Nottingham

The results of “Super Tuesday”, when a clutch of US states voted to choose the two parties’ nominees, have seriously ironed out both the Republican and Democratic primary campaigns. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton scored major gains, and their rivals are now fully on the ropes. It may be that the campaigns are finally stabilising after a truly wild start to the primaries.

Donald Trump has bounced back remarkably from his loss in Iowa. He went into Super Tuesday having won New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina; he’s also seen off experienced Republican candidates including onetime frontrunner Jeb Bush and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie – who has made the shocking move of endorsing Trump, to widespread disgust.

That left Trump with three principal rivals: Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and John Kasich. All three headed into Super Tuesday in hopes of a major turnaround. Instead, they got routed. While Cruz won his home state of Texas (as expected) and netted Oklahoma as well, other delegate-rich states on the Republican side were called for Trump as soon as the polls closed, including Virginia, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Georgia, Alabama, and Arkansas.

Meanwhile, Marco Rubio, who has made a show of being the Republican mainstream’s best hope of stopping Trump, walked away with only one win, in Minnesota.

It’s happening.
EPA/Ryan Stone

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, confirmed that she has fully hit her stride after a rocky start to the primaries. She effectively tied Bernie Sanders in Iowa and lost big to him in New Hampshire, but then beat him convincingly in Nevada before trouncing him by an astonishing 47% in South Carolina – where, crucially, she won 90% of the black vote. That didn’t bode well for Sanders, whose campaign has been a barnstorming attack on income inequality and the deep divisions in American society – and on Super Tuesday, Clinton ultimately followed it with a huge sweep.

Georgia and Virginia were called for her as soon as the first polls closed (and tiny American Samoa soon followed). The delegate-rich southern states then quickly began falling into her column by big margins, and then a win in the New England state of Massachusetts with 116 delegates. Sanders won his small home state of Vermont and picked up Oklahoma, Colorado and Minnesota, but Clinton’s strength was simply too great across the rest of the states. Sanders is now clearly far behind, with very few hopes of recovery.

So what now?

Ready for Hillary

Now that Trump’s macho populism has all but steamrolled Cruz’s evangelical conservatism and Rubio’s moderation, and with Sanders’ democratic socialism fading against Clinton’s pragmatic realism, this has fast started to become a contest between Trump and Clinton. And in that contest, the presidency is now Clinton’s to lose.

Liftoff.
EPA/Joe Skipper

This would be true whoever was running. The other contenders on both sides simply cannot match her appeal: Sanders is too narrowly leftist for the general electorate, while Cruz and perhaps even Rubio would be too far right.

Trump, meanwhile, polls well among disaffected low income white Americans, which works well for that particular rump of the Republican Party, but much to the disappointment of its elite, who have so far been unable to stop the Trump machine – even as they desperately remind everyone that he’s simply too much of a risk, particularly on matters of national security and foreign policy.

Clinton, by contrast, polls especially well among middle-aged and older women, the poor, and middle class Americans, as well as minority communities. This is a winning coalition, one made up of many of the same groups that favoured President Obama in 2008 and 2012. These demographics have continued to swell their ranks, and in the absence of a major event (say, an utterly damning revelation in the drip feed of Clinton’s state department emails), the odds are ever in Clinton’s favour.

Even leaving aside the toxic, chaotic nature of the campaign so far, the prospect of a Trump presidency – or even a Republican one – seems very remote indeed.

The Conversation

Todd Landman, Professor of Political Science, Pro Vice Chancellor of the Social Sciences, University of Nottingham

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Rights Track – Why podcasts are a great way to raise awareness about human rights

the-rights-track-twitter-cover

 

‘Podcasts embody what is arguably the essential promise of the Internet: a means for surprising, revealing, and above all ennobling encounters with people, things, and ideas we didn’t know.’

Jonah Weiner, blog for Slate ‘Toward a critical theory of podcasting’.

~

For the last 25 years I have been working on human rights problems. I have applied theories and methods from the discipline of political science to empirical analyses that have involved single countries, small groups of countries, and all the countries in the world. This work has been underpinned by a commitment to making the best inferences possible with the evidence that has been collected.

I have published widely on how and why comparative methods can and should be applied to the study of human rights. I have examined empirical relationships between the struggle for citizenship rights in authoritarian Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Spain; between the international law of human rights and the protection of human rights; and between different forms of inequality and the violation of certain sets of human rights. My work is now focussed on the ways in which human rights are framed and how that framing affects our readiness to find culpability of alleged perpetrators.

Throughout my pursuit of this research I have had the opportunity to travel to 38 different countries to participate in conferences, workshops, seminars, and training activities where I have worked with a wide range of local, national, and international stakeholders from governments, international non-governmental organisations, inter-governmental organisations, academic institutions, and private sector companies. This work has led to my involvement in a wide network of individuals who are dedicated to producing sound evidence on human rights.

They apply empirical theories and methods to well crafted research questions at different levels of analysis with the intent of making the world a better place. They measure and compare human rights practice; they interview individuals and groups about human rights experiences; they test hypotheses about important relationships between human rights and other explanatory factors; and they try to make their findings relevant and salient to policy makers and practitioners working in the human rights and broader international community.

The research and policy outputs of this work often comes in the form of the written word: articles, books, and reports that set out the aims and objectives of the research, the specification of the research questions, the review and articulation of the relevant theories and literature, the specification of hypotheses, the presentation of data, methods and analysis, and a discussion of the implications of these findings for the advance of human rights. These outputs are a vital part of the pool of knowledge that is being created by human rights scholars and practitioners; however, as a means of communication, they can still remain quite limited in their ability to reach key audiences.

Nuffield-logo

To address this limitation, I am joined by a great team to bring you an exciting new venture we call The Rights Track. With generous funding from the Nuffield Foundation, The Rights Track will provide a free web resource with podcasts from leading empirical human rights researchers drawn from my own networks and those of others with a view to sharing motivations, findings, and implications of this research for a wider community of interested people. Podcasts are an excellent medium of communication, which capture the human element of knowledge creation, since we can hear scholars and practitioners in their own words talk about why they do what they do, what they do, and why what they do really matters for the world. I enjoyed making my own podcast series and this project is a natural extension of that work.

Podcasts can be downloaded, saved for later, and revisited while you are at home, on the move, and traveling abroad. And as a form of communication, podcasts are now more popular than ever. Last year, Apple said subscriptions of podcasts through iTunes reached 1 billion. RawVoice, which tracks 20,000 shows, said the number of unique monthly podcast listeners has tripled to 75 million from 25 million five years ago so, in that respect it’s clearly a fantastic platform for reaching a wide and diverse audience. I am thus really pleased to post this blog on international podcast day!

I will host the podcasts and engage with this group of human rights analysts in ways that tease out answers to these key questions on motivation, analysis, and impact of their work. My efforts are joined by former BBC journalist and founder of Research Podcasts Christine Garrington who will produce the podcasts, and web designer Paul Groves who will build the platform for the project and support the hosting of all the content in the most accessible formats possible. The podcasts will start being made available to the public on International Human Rights Day on 10 December 2015.

The project is currently working on developing the web resource (CLICK HERE) and inviting leading analysts to participate. It has its first guests lined up who I will interview this autumn in preparation for our launch in December. I am really excited to bring this new and important resource to the public domain! I hope you join me and tune in!

You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Periscope.

IPD-Round-400

Moving on from Essex

After 22 years at the University of Essex, I have decided to move on to pastures anew. I am excited to have been appointed the new Pro Vice Chancellor for Social Sciences at the University of Nottingham from 1 September 2015.

This opportunity would not have been possible without the many and incredible opportunities that I have had at the University of Essex. I came to Essex to work as a senior research officer on a project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council on the comparative analysis of social movements and citizenship rights in Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Spain.

Armed with a large duffle bag, a trombone, and a few magic tricks, I arrived at Heathrow in September 1993 and began a journey that I never dreamed would have been possible. I was originally invited to stay in the UK for one year and what transpired was a full academic and professional career, family life, and an adventure that has seen me travel to over 35 countries around the world working on development, democracy and human rights.

The original project yielded a book with Oxford University Press and a journal article in the British Journal of Political Science, a comparative textbook with Routledge (three editions, a Spanish edition, and a 4th edition on the way), and a career path that has focused on the measurement and analysis of human rights. Since these early years at Essex I have continued to publish books, articles, and reports, as well as engage in a wide range of international consultancy projects and commissioned research.

The intellectual environment at Essex combines attention to the rigorous analysis of the social and political world with larger normative concerns over the good life and human well being. Before becoming the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at Essex in August 2013, I worked for years in the internationally renowned Human Rights Centre, directed the Centre for Democratic Governance, and directed the Institute for Democracy and Conflict Resolution.

I had incredible mentors and colleagues who helped me develop my thinking and writing in ways that allowed me to produce scholarly and practical work that addresses real world problems that continue to confront the world today. From advanced statistical analysis to the finer points of international law, colleagues at Essex have been generous with their time and sharing of their spirit for advancing cutting edge research that really matters.

In addition to the fantastic research pursuits at Essex, I have also had the opportunity and privilege to teach and work with so many students who have gone on to successful careers in academia, government, IGOs, NGOs and private corporations. The alumni community is huge and globally dispersed in ways that never cease to amaze me. I arrive in a country and there always seems to be an Essex graduate there doing something amazing. I have taught ex Soviet military officers, activists from Chiapas, government officials from Thailand, and NGO staff from Mongolia, among many others too numerous to count.

Since August 2013 when I took up my role as the Executive Dean, I have witnessed and taken part in an extraordinary transformation of Essex. Embracing the vision and values set out by our founding Vice Chancellor Albert Sloman, our new Strategic Plan crafts a new direction for the University that combines growth with excellence in research and education. Our colleagues are working at a level that it is hugely impressive with superb REF 2014 results that have placed us in the top 20 in the UK for research intensity (4th in the UK for the social sciences), a growing number of Fellows of the Higher Education Academy, great student satisfaction and the construction of fabulous new buildings for our staff and students. Essex is really going places, and I have been proud to have contributed to its recent success and renewed vigour.

Without this latter experience of working with academic and professional services in the Faculty and the wider university community, I could not have developed the knowledge and skills to take on the role at Nottingham. Partnership working and drawing down expertise from the academic staff and professional services lets us plan and grow for the future in ways that should be a model for other universities in these challenging times of change.

Essex also gave me the space to be The Academic Magician with many opportunities to share my approach to magic, which sees it as an apt performance medium to engage our minds in life’s fundamental questions. The pinnacle of my magic at Essex came in this academic year, our 50th year, with my celebratory show Then and Now, which I performed for over 450 people in the wonderful Lakeside Theatre in the autumn term of 2014. From its radical past to its amazing future, the University and its departments provided the perfect substance for an engaging evening of coincidence, synchronicity, mind reading and inexplicable predictions, all couched in my own transatlantic mirthful sense of irreverence.

I now join a university that has a remarkable number of fundamentals in place, campuses in the UK, China and Malaysia, and an array of intellectual capacities that are aligned with my own interests. The schools in the faculty include politics and international relations, sociology and social policy, geography, law (with a human rights law centre), economics, Chinese studies, education, and business. I have made the UK my home and I am excited to move to the heart of England to work at a truly global university, whose aspirations are exciting and motivating.

I would like to extend a very warm and heartfelt THANK YOU to all at Essex and to all who have passed through Essex with whom I have engaged in some way. It has been truly life changing.

Keep on challenging convention…

Brazil torture report is no surprise to me

Brazil torture report adds to global shame and highlights need for accountability

By Todd Landman, University of Essex

As the world digests the findings of a report on the way the US has treated detainees suspected of terrorism, Brazil has owned up to similar abuses of its own citizens.

The Brazilian Truth Commission has confirmed that 400 people were tortured in secret detention centres under the military regime that was in power between 1964 and 1985. More than 200 of them were never seen again after their detention. However, the commission adds that these are just the cases that can be proved – the actual total is likely to be higher.

The fact that these two reports have been published practically in the same week should offer cause for reflection around the world.

Both provide gruelling and gruesome detail about what a state does as it attempts to counter a terror threat. They confirm that coercion and repression have been tools of statecraft for a very long time.

The emergence of democracy and the development of international human rights law is predicated on the philosophical, legal and moral constraints that states ought to place on themselves when it comes to human dignity. The authoritarian regimes of Latin America might be dismissed as illegitimate – but have Britain or the United States behaved any better?

Owning up

Brazil’s military regime remained in power for 21 years and it took a further 20 years for a truth commission, established by the president, Dilma Rousseff, to reveal what had been going on at the time. The findings were announced by a tearful Rousseff, who was herself a victim of torture under the regime.

The Senate Report on the CIA programme of enhanced interrogation in the post-9/11 era includes details of secret detention centres, cruel and inhuman treatment, extraordinary rendition and waterboarding.

It tells of 119 detainees and 49 people subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques”, more than 20 of whom yielded no actionable intelligence.

Protesters in the US.
JBrazito, CC BY

While the debate about whether torture even works as a method for extracting information still rages, the key point is that torture is utterly unacceptable. It is what lawyers call a non-derogable right – one that cannot be violated even if a state faces an existential threat.

The War on Terror, as articulated by the Bush administration, was justified by references to perceived threats that ranged from the imminent to the existential. The atrocities of 9/11 fall very close to the category of existential threat. But even under circumstances as severe as these, torture is still prohibited.

The military regime came to power in Brazil with a mission to reorganise Brazilian society to defend it from communist subversion – which it framed as a terrorist threat. Those who were detained were part of the organised left, popular groups – and those who were merely associated through networks of family and friends, but were unrelated to political opposition. Mere suspicion could lead to years of detention and torture.

All in it together

Many of the military personnel implicated in the atrocities of Brazilian regime received training in counter-subversion techniques in the School of the Americas at Fort Benning in Georgia, in Panama, and – as the Brazilian report reveals – in the UK.

The use of extraordinary rendition is also common to both. The system used by the US to circumnavigate human rights law has its roots in Brazil and its alliance with other authoritarian states in the 1970s.

Back then, there was a network of mobility for terror suspects in the region, known as The Condor Operation. Just like in the post-9/11 rendition network set up by the US, the Condor Operation facilitated the movement of suspected subversives between secret detention centres for enhanced interrogation.

Moral high ground

Democracies – including the US and the UK – have laid a historic claim to being based on a set of fundamental rights and rule of law that separates authoritarian regimes. These are claims grounded in the ideals articulated in the Magna Carta of 1215, the Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, the Declaration of Independence and the US Bill of Rights.

Democratic states also supposedly stand for the principle of accountability – where wrongs committed in the name of the state can be challenged by ordinary citizens, civil society groups and other states which adhere to the same principles.

The two reports published this week show that through vigilance, patience and meticulous efforts at documentation and analysis, the long tail of human rights accountability can come back to haunt those with the hubris to think that these principles simply do not apply to them.

We have seen this before. The 1998 detention and subsequent ruling on the accountability of Augusto Pinochet of Chile, the domestic trial of General Efrain Rios Montt of Guatemala, and the reopening of the 1989 case of the murdered Jesuits in El Salvador are all cases in which principles of human rights and universal jurisdiction seek accountability for gross human rights violations committed in the name of the state.

The promise of human rights in this sense is not some ideal nirvana dreamt up by enlightened philosophers, but a tool to hold individuals and states to account for their actions. Human rights instruments provide incremental and methodical ways to constrain us from the worst forms of our own behaviour.

This sentiment was captured in dramatic fashion by the US senator and former Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, in his support for the Senate report and in his dissent from the Republican response to the report.

A victim of torture himself when a prisoner of war in Vietnam, McCain argued passionately that: “the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies, our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights.”

Processes of truth telling such as these comprise a broad acceptance of what has happened, which can then be followed by retribution (prosecution and punishment), reparation (payments to those directly affected), or a longer process of reconciliation. The release of these two reports represents the first stage in this process.

Once the reality of what has happened sinks in, the more difficult steps begin.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Some of the World I have seen…

Todd Landman’s Travel Map

The past 21 years at the University of Essex have allowed me to explore the world in ways that were never imaginable when growing up in the United States. Work in the Department of Government, Human Rights Centre, and the Institute for Democracy and Conflict Resolution has sent me to over 35 countries for keynote speeches, capacity building, workshops, seminars, conferences, and some down time. I am very grateful for all these opportunities and for all the wonderful people I have met. This nice web-based piece of software allowed me to map my journeys and take stock of the parts of the world I have seen. I am also aware of the remarkable changes in the politics of these places that has allowed such engagement, and the nearly 140 countries that are represented on our University campuses. I take heart from this level of mobility and engagement; an increasing degree of connectedness can only be good for enhancing mutual understanding, shared experience, and dampening down of the kind of intolerances that lead to convict. As I catalogue in my recent TedX talk, the world has seen a secular decline in conflict and military coups, and a gradual improvement in the protection of civil and political rights.

Todd Landman has been to: Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Mexico, Mongolia, Mozambique, Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Vatican. Get your own travel map from Matador Network.

The Conversation: Ferguson and Beyond

There’s no escaping the data: African Americans face injustice at every turn

My new article from The Conversation under creative commons licence.

By Todd Landman, University of Essex

Following the decision by a grand jury not to indict St Louis police officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting teenager Michael Brown, it has been suggested that the incident is far from a special case. I agree entirely. Ferguson is completely consistent with longer term trends in data about crime and the criminal justice system in the United States.

A variety of studies show that there continues to be disproportionate maltreatment of African Americans at different points within the criminal justice system, including stop and search, arrest, conviction, sentencing, and killing.

This disproportionality occurs over and above the long-term trends in black crime rates. Arrest rates are higher, conviction rates are higher, custodial sentences are made more often and for longer durations, and confrontation with the police results in a higher rate of killing.

Arguments that African Americans commit more crimes miss the point. Even when they do commit more crimes, their treatment by the justice system is markedly worse than for other groups in society who also commit crimes.

A recent study from The Sentencing Project provides a number of disturbing findings that support this view.

The study showed that white Americans have a much stronger “punitive mindset” and are more likely to favour the death penalty. On top of that, they overestimate the amount of crime that is actually committed by non-whites. The study also shows clear evidence of the unequal enforcement of laws and a media bias that leads to greater coverage of crimes against white victims.

Behind the numbers

This tells a story of systemic problems in American society and the criminal justice system. These problems serve as inconvenient truths in a country founded on principles of equality, the protection of fundamental rights, and the rule of law.

Those who recognise this statistical portrait of America see within the data a story of endemic racism and discrimination, where the underlying patterns suggest intention to treat black Americans differently than others (the study also shows a similar set of findings for Hispanic Americans).

Data of course cannot show intentionality but the kinds of patterns that are observed could not be produced by mere chance alone. Michael Brown and Darren Wilson were not brought together by random chance which then resulted in a coincidental outcome of Brown’s death. There are systemic and individual factors at play, which make the Brown case much like other cases that produce the kind of data analysed by The Sentencing Project.

Ferguson is in the eye of this storm but this happens all over the US.

Those who do not embrace the data or agree with the statistical portrait of America prefer to blame the victim and focus on the the personal drivers and motivations for criminal behaviour. They then claim the outcome of confrontation with the police is unfortunate but not surprising. On this view, it is Brown who is wrong. It is Brown who was the criminal and it was Brown who should not have not behaved like Hulk Hogan or a demon.

What is to be done?

In the despair over the grand jury decision, protesters have called for a judicial response. It was welcome news then that Attorney General Eric Holder and the President Barack Obama have ordered the Department of Justice to continue to investigate the case. But wider reform is also needed, including education, social welfare, police training and re-balancing of what is perceived as an unjust and unfair system.

I have seen similar patterns of abuse in many countries outside the US, and I have seen attempts at judicial reform to redress the worst forms of abuse.

Brazil, for example, has had notorious problems with police brutality, where patterns of abuse have shown remarkably disproportionate use of force. A new study shows that reforms aimed at increasing levels of career satisfaction, greater diversity within the ranks, and community-based policing have reduced the propensity to use excessive force. Capacity building and training programmes can also have a positive impact.

Such reform efforts are not without their problems, but I do hope that Brown’s death and the movement it has sparked provide a renewed opportunity for the US government to tackle inconvenient truths in a way that paves a better future for all.

The Conversation

Todd Landman receives funding from the Economic and Social Research Council, Innovate UK, the European Commission and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.. He is affiliated with American Political Science Association, Political Studies Association, and the Royal Society of Arts.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

TEDxESSEX

Yesterday 21 October 2014, the University of Essex was host to an independently organised TED event, known as TEDx. The theme of the day was ‘Promise through research’. In following the TEDx guidelines, the format was for our speakers to present an accessible talk on a key theme from their own research that addresses the question of promise or offers promise on some issue.We also had a selection of pre-recorded TED talks that fit our chosen theme.

Todd Landman, Neli Demireva, Pam Cox

Todd Landman, Neli Demireva, Pam Cox
TEDxEssex 21 October 2014

Scheduled across four clusters, we had talks on human rights, multiculturalism, a working women’s charter, technology and the regulation of war, modelling complex and big data, public faces and new technology, the breakdown of authoritarian regimes, solutions for dyslexia, feeding the world, brain drain, moral disagreements and citizenship, and equality in the world. It was fantastic to see Essex colleagues participating with a live audience of Essex students and a live streamed audience across the internet.

The cross cutting themes of humanity, opportunity, constraints on authoritarianism, liberation, struggle, and promise were all on display with timely examples and provocative claims based on firm research and analysis. The University of Essex will in due course will be releasing some of the talks on line as per the TED guidelines and practice. An excellent day featuring amazing individuals.

The full video recording for the talk is here:

 

Academic Magic comes to life!

Yesterday I had the honour and privilege of performing my show Then and Now as part of the alumni weekend and launch of the 50th Anniversary of the University of Essex.

I performed twice yesterday for a total audience of 400 people in the magnificent Lakeside Theatre. The show was designed around the idea of highlights of our academic strengths over the last 50 years, including politics, mathematics, memories, history, literature, human rights, and philosophy. The show covered a wide terrain of ideas reminiscent of times at university, as well as enduring themes and concepts that have importance in our everyday lives.

then-now-stage-set

The audiences comprised Essex alumni from the last 50 years, staff and colleagues (current and past) and current students. We had wonderful interactions, laughter, surprises, uncanny demonstrations of mind reading and precognition, and downright magic which will be hard to repeat. The atmosphere was electric and filled with what has become known as The Essex Spirit.

photo 2

By combining academic thinking with magical performance I have sought to challenge convention, create a platform for metaphysical plurality and bring edutainment into the lives of the Essex community. It was superb to learn of people’s experiences at Essex, the subjects they studied, their friends and their favourite professors and lecturers.

IMG_2042

I have been at Essex since 1993 and it has been a wonderful foundation and steady firmament for an academic career that has taken me all over the world. The University was founded as an experiment with ‘fierce’ architecture filled with open squares, tall towers, and a research mindset that provides an extraordinary educational experience for all our students.

IMG_2043

We continue to expand and improve the University (with the highest recruitment to date) while strengthening our commitment to excellence in eduction and excellence in research.

I am grateful for our newfound confidence and the popularity of our offer to students. Celebrating our history through magic gave me a great opportunity to reflect on my time at Essex (42% of its history as I mused last night) and look forward to a very bright future indeed!

I know it will be bright, I am a mentalist after all!