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Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
World of News These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

The World Press Freedom Index
Reporters Without Borders
Published every year since 2002 by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the World Press Freedom Index is an important advocacy tool based on the principle of emulation between states. Because it is well known, its influence over governments is growing. Many heads of state and government fear its annual publication. The Index is a point of reference that is quoted by media throughout the world and is used by diplomats and international entities such as the United Nations and the World Bank. The Index ranks 180 countries according to the level of freedom available to journalists. It is a snapshot of the media freedom situation based on an evaluation of pluralism, independence of the media, quality of legislative framework and safety of journalists in each country. It does not rank public policies even if governments obviously have a major impact on their country’s ranking. Nor is it an indicator of the quality of journalism in each country.

Non-Western Ideas for Democratic Renewal
Carnegie’s Rising Democracies Network
It is commonly asserted that Western liberal democracy is losing credibility and that the international community must be more open to tolerating, and even encouraging, non-Western political models in developing and rising powers. Calls for non-Western forms of democracy have been around for many years but are now becoming louder and more ubiquitous. This trend can be expected to deepen as an integral element of the emerging post-Western world order.  The desire of people outside the West to contribute new ideas to democratic regeneration and to feel stronger local ownership over democracy is healthy. More needs to be done to nurture a wider variation of democratic processes and practices. 

The emergence of roles in large-scale networks of communication
Oxford Internet Institute
Communication through social media mediates coordination and information diffusion across a range of social settings. However, online networks are large and complex, and their analysis requires new methods to summarize their structure and identify nodes holding relevant positions. We propose a method that generalizes the sociological theory of brokerage, originally devised on the basis of local transitivity and paths of length two, to make it applicable to larger, more complex structures. Our method makes use of the modular structure of networks to define brokerage at the local and global levels. We test the method with two different data sets. The findings show that our approach is better at capturing role differences than alternative approaches that only consider local or global network features.

Between Hype and Frustration: Social Media in Emergencies
Social Media for Good
Over the last few months I noticed an increasingly pessimistic tone when talking with NGO and UN staff about social media in the context of humanitarian or development work. In their 2016 World Development Report, the World Bank came to the conclusion that education and infrastructure are more important that social media (duh!), the Humanitarian Technologies Project found that social media did little to give people affected by Typhoon Haiyan a voice, a recent German study found that social media is too much of an echo chamber to facilitate discussions and Wael Ghonim, whose Facebook page helped trigger the uprising in Egypt, now says he overestimated the role of the internet in liberating a society. Given all that negativity, should non-profits defund social media budgets, close their Facebook pages and change how and where they spend their energy and money? No.

Can Better Data Lead to More Women in Environmental Leadership Positions?
New Security Beat
The saying goes, what hasn’t been counted doesn’t count. Our latest datasets for the Environment and Gender Information (EGI) platform are proving this true. It is well-established that the participation of women in conservation and resource management is an important determiner of sustainability, but when data is not segregated by sex, we see time and time again that women and gender issues remain sidelined. In the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s latest update to the EGI, we analyzed reports to the Ramsar and World Heritage Conventions, which govern wetlands and protected areas, respectively. Both conventions are a part of the United Nations and carry requirements to follow gender equality mandates under the human rights framework, including attention to the equal status and human rights of women.  The results were staggering: Of 553 national reports to Ramsar since 1999, a mere 16 percent included references to “gender” or “women.”

Secret aid worker: fixing the humanitarian and development divide
The Guardian
Somewhere, sometime, in a conflict, long forgotten, I heard for the first time about the need to “bridge the humanitarian and development gap”. Many times, since then, I have heard variations of this mantra. From Kofi Annan’s 1997 report Renewing the United Nations: a programme of reform, to the 2015 high-level panel on humanitarian financing, to aid-worker bars in Aceh, Erbil, Juba and Nairobi, but nowhere is this gap more obvious than at the country-level. I recently worked in a coordination role in a country where a conflict had broken out after years of relative peace. When I arrived, there were two separate assessments taking place; the common country assessment for development and the humanitarian needs overview. This two-track approach struck me as inefficient, nonsensical and contrary to everything I knew about problem-solving.

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