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If we want to end hunger then we must empower women. If we want to feed the planet then we must fight gender discrimination.

It is hard getting elected to office. It is even harder if you are a woman. Despite the fact that half of the world’s population is female, the road to gender parity in politics is long. Around the globe, women seeking elected office face daunting challenges. They range from patriarchal biases and cultural stereotypes, to a lack of access to education, campaign funding and skills training. Moreover, the challenges that women face running for office do not disappear when they get elected.

Egypt has been a reliable American ally, the anchor of stability in the Middle East, and a regional economic hub for the better part of 40 years. During this period, Egypt has exercised responsible political influence, exhibited secular tolerance, and presented increasing commercial opportunities for U.S. companies. However, the turmoil over the past three years has muddied Egypt’s public personality and created unfortunate misperceptions about the nature of Egypt’s society and its government today.

Friday, 27 February 2015 00:00

Book Review: Vodka Politics

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Vodka Politics: Alcohol, Autocracy, and the Secret History of the Russian State, by Mark Lawrence Schrad.

Winston Churchill, former British Prime Minister, once commented, “Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” From the Tsarist to the Communist and post-Communist eras, understanding the riddle of Russian social, economic, and political history is a multifaceted, complex endeavor. Adding a new perspective to the discussion on the history of Russian statecraft, Mark Lawrence Schrad, in his book Vodka Politics: Alcohol, Autocracy, and the Secret History of the Russian State, addresses a prominent stereotype associated with Russian society: vodka induced inebriety. “Does that mean vodka is everything in Russia?” Schrad writes. “Certainly not…but it is a lot of things.” Far from offering a monocausal explanation of Russian history, Schrad presents “vodka politics as an alternative lens through which we can view and understand Russia’s complex political development.”

Thursday, 26 February 2015 15:33

In Defense of City Diplomacy

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Millennials understand that global peace and prosperity depends on building broad and deep relationships across sectors, cultures, and borders. The next generation of global leaders realizes that international affairs is no longer only under the purview of governments and countries—people and networks matter just as much. But the importance of citizen-led diplomacy is not a novelty. Sister Cities International was founded on this exact idea nearly sixty years ago—by an unlikely champion of the power of person-to-person connections to rebuild the world.

When our family first arrived to the American Embassy in Copenhagen in September of 1998, there was a small pamphlet that had been left as a welcoming gift for us. It was titled “In Denmark It Could Not Happen”.  This slim volume recounted the famous story of the Danish rescue of virtually the entire Jewish population of Denmark from under the very noses of their German occupiers.  It was a story with which we were deeply familiar.

Egypt’s transition to democracy has gone awry. It has been four years since Egyptians brought an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s oppressive regime, raising an outcry against tyranny that reverberated across the Arab world. At the time, the path to democracy appeared wide open. Egypt’s 2014 presidential elections were supposed to mark a successful conclusion to the Arab Revolution. Instead, the clouds of despotism have returned to darken the political horizon, and the country’s hard-won democratic gains are now in doubt.

Cambodian democracy is once again under assault. On January 9th, the leaders in Cambodia’s ruling party announced to opposition leaders of their proposal to limit campaign rallies. Political parties throughout the nation would be restricted to just two days of rallies during an election campaign. While this is a violation of the cardinal civil right to assembly, it’s sadly only the most recent attempt by Cambodia’s government to rollback the evolution of democracy in the Southeast Asian nation.

Arab youth is driving an evolution of the Middle East media market, which is poised to be one of the world’s fastest growing, with rapid digitization, growth in population size and consumer spending far above the global average. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) media sector is expected to grow annually by 7 per cent from 2014 to 2019, with the value of the end consumer media market rising to $21.5 billion in 2019 from $15.5 billion this year.

This year’s gathering of the World Economic Forum in Davos has naturally been pre-occupied with the state of the global economy, not to mention the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East. But whenever diplomats and government leaders get together, informal discussions take place about what might be called the housekeeping agenda of the international community. One of the most interesting this year concerns the selection of a replacement for Ban Ki-moon when he steps down as UN Secretary-General next year. Plenty of names are already being touted.

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