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A Polio Free World?

A polio vaccination team immunizes children in the Kamla Nehru Nagar slum in Patna. Source: Gates Foundation, FlickrIn January 2014 it was reported that India had become polio free, marking three years since its last reported case. This is a major success not only for India but also for global eradication efforts. The World Health Organisation (WHO) launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in 1988, when the poliovirus was endemic in 125 countries and when approximately 350,000 people were paralysed each year due to the disease. The Gates Foundation has been a key player in supporting the WHO initiative and in pushing forward global eradication efforts. Since GPEI began, it has saved about 10 million children from paralysis, and now there are only three countries where polio remains endemic: Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The success of GPEI is evident in these numbers, and the route to this success is interesting in relation to other global development efforts. But in the three remaining endemic countries, there is a political and social battle being fought through polio eradication efforts: Vaccination workers are being attacked by Islamic militants who oppose the Westernisation of their countries. 

By Kate O Donnell

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Football: more than just a game?

Ultra graffiti. by Aslan Media, FlickrWatching 11 people chasing a ball for 90 minutes might not seem like something of great political importance, but if you thought football was just fun and games then think again! Football fans are a political force to be reckoned with. They have been at the frontline of the revolutions during the Arab spring, as well as standing at the barricades in both Turkey and Ukraine.

by Lotta Herz

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Uganda: Is Love a Crime?

Global day of action against Ugandas anti-gay laws. The anti-gay bill criminalize those who ”promote” homosexuality, including HIV health practitioners, making the prevention of HIV even more difficult. Source: Adrian Resa Jones, flickr Monday 24th February 2014, the Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act, toughening already existing anti-gay laws in Uganda. This action has lead to a lot of criticism from Western countries. Barack Obama condemned the bill for being a step backward, while Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands were the first countries to cut aid to Uganda. Despite international reactions, Museveni is sticking to the new law, and states that it is needed to stop the spread of Western social imperialism. Consequently, the Western criticism seems to have the opposite effect than desired on the Ugandan authorities. In defiance of the West, Ugandan authorities have said President Museveni wanted "to demonstrate Uganda's independence in the face of Western pressure and provocation''.

by Tove Gustafsson

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Kremlin expresses concern for Russian minority in Skåne

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs building, housing the Ministry of CIS Affairs, Compatriots Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation Source: wikimedia commonsIn the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, based on the pretext of protecting the rights of Russian minorities in foreign countries, an important question in foreign affairs has become which other Russian populations may be a target for “protection”. Moscow has already expressed its dissatisfaction with the treatment of Russians by the Estonian government, and a recent Kremlin memorandum from the Ministry of CIS Affairs, Compatriots Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation (the authority tasked with supporting Russians abroad) reveals that allegations have also been directed against other nations where Russian minorities exist. The memorandum underlined the importance of “supporting countrymen abroad, and their right to protect their traditions, customs and way of life from the incursion of nationalists”. Alarmingly, the Swedish region of Skåne received a mention of its own in a brief passage of the full document, signed at a meeting where Russian politicians discussed the preservation of cultural and linguistic Russian minorities in Europe. Russia has previously been keen to market itself as a neighbour country to Sweden, and not a far off alien nation, by emphasising historical and cultural ties, ties which it may now regard as being under threat.

By April Fools

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Rwanda, Two Decades On: What Has the World Learned?

Rwandan Genocide Memorial. Source: UNAMID, FlickrJanuary 27th marked International Holocaust Day – a day to reflect upon the terrible lessons from the past so that previous atrocities can be remembered and, hopefully, never repeated. Naturally, on this most sombre of days many will think of the murder of millions of European Jews who were exterminated by the wickedness of the Third Reich’s ‘Endlösung der Judenfrage’ (final solution to the Jewish question). Unfortunately, we need not look as far back as the Nazi death camps of the 1940s to see an example of genocide in recent history. April 7th of this year will mark the twentieth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. With conflict raging in the Central African Republic (CAR)  as well as other global flashpoints, despotic regimes and geopolitically unstable nations are all raising the possibility of genocide today, what lessons have been learned two decades on to prevent the grim spectre of genocide returning?

by Alan Cartwright

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Chronic Clientelism, Brazilian Style

Brazilians protesting corruption. Source: Metrix Feet, FlickrWith the FIFA World Cup only a few months away, Brazil will soon be the center of world’s attention. The country has made some enormous investments in preparing for the event, yet these investments may not serve the Brazilian population itself. Last June people took to the streets with the trigger being an increase in public transportation fares. This is just the surface of all the issues that underlie the outcry. While a huge amount money is spent on the World Cup, the population has poor access to opportunities within education and healthcare. Brazilians are well familiar with the corruption that continues to prevail in their country and the unequal societal structure has led to clientelism gaining a strong foothold. A particular form of clientelist politics observed in Northeast Brazil gives insight into the complex political environment in the country.

By Ronja Hård

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The End of Japanese Pacifism?

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force sailors raise the Japanese flag on the helicopter destroyer JDS Hyuga. Source: Wikimedia CommonsThe East China sea has been filled with tension for some time now, mainly due to the Chinese-Japanese dispute over the Senkaku islands. The Senkaku Islands are a small group of uninhabited islands located northeast of Taiwan, that have been under Japanese control since 1972. China doesn't recognize this and have included the islands into Chinese territory, thereby altering the regional status quo. Japan is now seeking, under the leadership of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to change its long-term pacifist constitution, in order to be able to respond to these provocations. This would give Japan the right to use force as a means of settling international disputes.

By Kristoffer Johansson

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The Assurance of Insurance: America’s Hurdling to Healthcare

Tea Party rally to stop the 2010 health care reform bill in St. Paul, Minnesota. Photo by: Fibonacci Blue, Wikimedia commonsSometimes referred to with pejorative moniker ‘Obamacare’, President Barack Obama’s signature piece of legislation, the American Care Act has now been implemented to the point where it is seen to be a fact of American life henceforth. This was not a certainty, however. Obamacare has several times escaped catastrophe in many heated political battles in Washington D.C – surviving a mid-term election, parliamentary loss of life, legislative trickery, the unexpected switch of a single Supreme Court Justice, and culminating with the re-election of the President himself.

by Niklas Hjelm Smith

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Chile: Unanswered Questions, Missing Reconciliation

Supporters offering their condolence to Pinochet in 2006. Photo by Ryan Greenberg, FlickrSeptember 11th is a day full of history. Not only in the United States, but also in a country in South America: Chile. On the 11th of September 1973, a violent military coup, supported by the US government, brought down the democratically elected Marxist regime led by president Salvador Allende. Augusto Pinochet assumed power and became president of a military dictatorship. A period of horror and fear started for the Chilean people. During the dictatorship from 1973 until 1990, approximately 40,000 people became victims of the dictatorship, more than 3000 people died, another 3000 disappeared and thousands of people were imprisoned, tortured or had to leave the country. In 1990 there was a referendum in which the Chilean people voted against another eight-year term with Pinochet as president. Chile held free elections and returned to democracy.

By Christina Welpelo

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Bolivia’s Constitution: A Shift in Power

President Evo Morales has added 411 new articles in the constitution. Source: Sebastian Baryli, FlickrIn 2009, Bolivia held an election that would deeply change the country’s future. Not only did its outcome make the previous republic into a plurinational country recognizing the indigenous people's rights, but it also made the country drop its catholic attachments to become a secular state. As the first indigenous president of the country, Evo Morales is breaking new ground on how to open up for decentralized freedom, the cultivation of coca, and Amerindian traditions.

By Riccard Andersson

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