Looking to Macron to Save the Day

Official campaigning for the European Parliamentary elections started on Monday, 13 May 2019 for elections throughout the European Union (including the UK) to take place on 23 to 26 May 2019. These elections happen every five years for a European Parliament that has become increasingly significant in determining the direction of the European Union. The unusual dynamics in this particular election cycle include the Brexit turmoil, the rising strength and signs of unity among the anti-European populist parties of the extreme right, and the possibility that the two main political alignments that have dominated the EU through their strength in the European Parliament might have become so weakened that they will no longer be the major players. That is why this particular election cycle is more important than ever in saving the day for progressivism and European-wide collaboration for democratic values and fundamental human rights.  And the key for that happens to be the potential for the elections to produce a very different, centrally-driven alignment of political interests, something that fits very well with the strategy being pursued by President Emmanuel Macron.  Continue reading “Looking to Macron to Save the Day”

“Laicité” and Islam

French “laicité” has been around for over 100 years – or more. The current legal framework, dating from 1905, was inspired by a reaction to the Alfred Dreyfus affair that exposed the prevalence of anti-Semitism in the French military, Catholic Church and conservative political elites of the late nineteenth century. In this reflection, I share my thoughts about applying the idea of “absorptive” immigration (as opposed to “integrative” immigration) to the challenges of applying “laicité” today, involving a significantly more diverse population than existed back in 1905. Continue reading ““Laicité” and Islam”

Complications of Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism in Europe and the US

Anti-Semitism seems so ridiculous that no one could rationally or even emotionally be attracted to it. And yet it has been described as “the longest hatred” stretching back, as the Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism has pointed out, to long before the Christian era. Moses and the Sea of Galilee come to mind. Romans drove them out of Israel but also saw Jesus as a political threat. Why is it so entrenched? And what can we do about it? As an American living in France, I have been surprised that the phenomenon of anti-Semitism is so strong in France, and it has led me to learn more about the circumstances both here and throughout Europe. Continue reading “Complications of Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism in Europe and the US”

The Future of Work and the ILO Centenary

The “future of work” as a means of achieving and maintaining sustainable livelihoods for all is being called into question these days. Technological change is typically identified as the main culprit, but there are plenty of other candidates to blame – globalization, climate change, demographic trends, human migration, and yes, even trade liberalization, just to name the more obvious ones. In this year 2019 of the 100th anniversary of the International Labour Organization (ILO), it is timely to reflect on what this means for the future of work – but also for the prospects of the ILO as the social pillar of our global architecture. The ILO, after all, was established in 1919 to mobilize the world’s capacity for sustainable livelihoods through a just and fair social order in the world of work. One hundred years later, the ILO is using this occasion to redefine its mission, including in the form of a “Centenary Declaration” on the future of work. Continue reading “The Future of Work and the ILO Centenary”

Changing Perspectives on Migration

The new year has started with a lot of political turmoil driven by a disintegration of stability in longstanding democracies – government shutdown in the US, defeat of a Brexit plan in the UK, week after week of the “Gilets Jaunes” in France, plus the vulnerability to terrorist attacks in so many places around the world (Afghanistan, Syria, Colombia, Kenya).  One could go on and on about the upsurge in populism as well as the fragility of democracies generally.  But none of this is new. It is just that they all seem to have an underlying and rather unsettled concern about or even a direct role in immigration flows. This might not be the only factor, but it is pretty amazing that it continues to appear in one way or another as a factor in almost all of these instances of political turmoil.  Certainly, the media coverage of these tumultuous events has frequently dwelt on the anti-immigrant platforms of radical groups and their growing electoral strength. So what can be the response to this turmoil? Continue reading “Changing Perspectives on Migration”

Lessons from the Gilets Jaunes on Climate Change and Migration

How to link the personal impact of the phenomenon of the “Gilets Jaunes” to the global developments on climate change and migration?  This has been in the forefront of my mind these past few weeks. The Gilets Jaunes movement is a very domestically French phenomenon, while my interests in both climate change and migration are very much at the global level. Both of these issues have gained momentum through significant global gatherings to move in new directions – the one in Katowice, Poland and the other in Marrakech, Morocco – both of them held in December. But the phenomenon of thousands of yellow-vested protesters has brought to the forefront in my thinking the localized nature of the global debates on these two very issues and how dependent we all are on enabling a genuine inclusiveness at both local and global levels. Continue reading “Lessons from the Gilets Jaunes on Climate Change and Migration”

Reminiscenses on Civil Rights and George H.W. Bush

On 21 November 1991, the US Congress passed the most comprehensive civil rights legislation since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Surprisingly, President George H.W. Bush did not veto the bill, even though he had vetoed a previous bill with similar provisions in 1990. Timing seems to have been a factor. Clarence Thomas had just gone through a very controversial confirmation process in the US Senate, driven primarily by the sexual harassment charges brought against him by Anita Hill. But it may also have been that enough moderate Republicans had shifted to support the 1991 bill, such that it had become “veto-proof” (a 67-vote majority protecting the over-ride authority of two-thirds plus one). As a participant in the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, however, I do have a few words to say about how it came about, triggered by reflections upon the passing of George H.W. Bush. Continue reading “Reminiscenses on Civil Rights and George H.W. Bush”

The French Impact on the Internet Governance Forum

The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is an annual event that has enabled participants from many different sectors to mobilize or at least maintain a modicum of a global consensus for a free global Internet ever since its inception in 2006. To me, the IGF serves as an excellent example of the kind of multi-stakeholder engagement that I believe needs to be promoted across the “globalizing” world. Although the IGF has gone through a number of “ups” and “downs” over the years, the 13th IGF, which met in Paris from 12 to 14 November 2018, is definitely one of the “ups”.  In fact, the French sponsorship of this latest IGF has stimulated a revived hope for the IGF and its commitment to a globally open and free Internet. Continue reading “The French Impact on the Internet Governance Forum”

Reflections on Gender and Digital Literacy

As someone who is gradually acquiring a minimum level of digital literacy – and inspired to move up a notch or two – I attended two events recently to learn more about the latest insights on the interplay between gender and digital literacy. One was a gathering of professional women in Lyon, while the other was a global forum on the Internet in Paris.  The first was more focused on gender questions pertaining to digital literacy in business, while the second covered a wider array of subjects, including a broader view on gender itself, having to do with both access and literacy. Even though they were quite different events, it is useful to compare the different approaches to gender questions in the digital world at these two events while also highlighting some of the commonalities Continue reading “Reflections on Gender and Digital Literacy”

Distinguishing Absorption from Integration

 

The significance of immigration as a lightening rod kind of issue is permeating analyses of global politics today but also domestic and regional politics. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary commemorations of the end of World War I,  and because there are concerns about the parallel to what happened in Europe and the US after World War I, it is timely to compare the similarities and differences between Europe and the United States in the handling of this issue. Earlier in the year, one sensed a degree of optimism about the prospects of consensus – for the US, it was an unusual and bizarre dialogue  in January on possible legislation, and for the EU, it was a promising reform proposal in June from the  “Macron/Merkel” duo. Alas, neither reform initiative was successful, and the optimism has become more subdued. It is still there, but recent events in the US and Europe (and elsewhere) would suggest that we have more doom to endure before we reach the end of this downward cycle – even if the mid-term elections in the US might cheer us up in the interim. Continue reading “Distinguishing Absorption from Integration”