Fellows on our part-time PhD programme (GPAC2) work for governments and international bodies around the world. Their day jobs land them at the centre of events in geopolitical hotspots, meaning they are often better informed than even the best connected journalists. In this new series, we speak with alumni and fellows about historic events, hot topics and how their PhD research helped them in their careers. This time we asked PhD alumnus Joe Abah about his new role in the Nigerian Government.
Welcome to our monthly internal press review, featuring the latest publications by UNU-MERIT and its School of Governance: from working papers to policy reports to entire books.
Our May output includes four working papers, four journal articles, two policy briefs, one book, a report chapter, and a comparison paper. These cover much of the globe: from Brazil and Ecuador, through South Africa, Sudan and Tanzania, to Afghanistan and Bangladesh — on topics such as managing technological change, responding to economic crises, building resilience to natural disasters, and upgrading social protection schemes.
During a recent trip to Greece, I found the situation there not exactly as they would have us believe. Over the last five years, Western media have been selling us the idea of a failed state, speaking of Athens as a dangerous city with constant outbreaks of crime and disorder. They make sweeping generalizations about the Greeks being corrupt and lazy people, who want only to free-ride off social services provided by the state. I even heard journalists blame the entire euro crisis on Greece, saying that kicking them out of the Eurozone would be a magic solution to the EU’s problems.
All this scaremongering obscures the actual situation of a proud people. The financial crisis afflicting this country has causes far beyond the rate of taxes paid (or not paid) by Greek citizens. First, the aftershocks of the US crisis in 2008 are still being felt not only in Greece but all across the old continent; some say it was the watershed in Wall Street that helped spark the Greek crunch. Second, many experts (including Spanish professor Jose Manuel Serrano) say that Greece’s political and economic suffocation is due to systematic control attempts by foreign governments.
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.