Do We All Now Live in Fragile States?

Guinea-Bissau is a small country in West Africa, which rarely catches the eye of the global media. But it is a classic ‘fragile state’, presenting many of the problems of state fragility that so bedevils development. It is a coup-prone country. According to the New York Times, “In the last three years alone, there have been at least six political assassinations, including of the president and the army chief of staff in 2009, and three attempted coups”.

Despite its small size, and apparent insignificance, the troubles in Guinea-Bissau do not end at its borders. As with most fragile states neighbours and the rest of world pay a price. In the case of Guinea-Bissau, it is one of Africa’s most notorious narco-states. It is estimated that at least 50 tons of cocaine is shipped through Guinea-Bissau each year from Latin America to Europe, and that the military-led government is the main beneficiary.

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Black Friday: How to Resist the Orgy of Consumerism?

Although the key to urban sustainability lies in the magic formula of living smaller, living closer and driving less, it’s also important to reflect on the impact caused by our lifestyles.

Christmas hasn’t even begun and we’re already feeling the aftershocks of the US shopping bonanza. This sad occasion, ominously dubbed ‘Black Friday’, is held every year in the USA on the day after Thanksgiving.

Now, amid the avalanche of consumers and virtual riots, its influence is being felt outside the western world. Developing countries are rapidly becoming new markets for this consumerist orgy, and Colombia is no exception. In a country overwhelmed by poverty and inequality, Black Friday has now firmly set up stall.

Gone are the days when the opportunistic few escaped to empty out the malls of Miami, only to fight the airline counter workers to push through their excess baggage. Now, you can buy online ad nauseum (and schedule shipments through local companies), or simply go to several of the local chain stores that have learned so well how to copy this promotion of promotions.

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Pink Slippers and Platinum: Governance Failure and the Decline of Innovation and Entrepreneurship in South Africa

South Africa’s national defence force was once perhaps highly rated; recently it is facing ridicule and concern. Ridicule, as a Lieutenant-Colonel was seen sporting pink slippers with her official uniform in public. According to the UK’s Guardian Newspaper, “It is not an image of top guns defending African skies that is likely to deter would-be foreign invaders”. Concern, as an officer borrowed an air force plane for personal use to visit a friend in neighbouring Botswana.

South Africa’s platinum mines were also once highly rated. Until the Marikana Massacre of 16 August 2012 when the South African Police killed 34 striking workers, apparently shooting many in the back, interfering with evidence after the shootings, and charging the mine workers (the victims) with the deaths of their fellows. While it is the police, and not the mines that are now facing an inquiry, the context of South African mining remains problematic, despite a decade of the longest commodity boom in recent history.

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