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This week’s front page editor

Rosemary Bechler

Rosemary Bechler is the mainsite editor of openDemocracy.

Poetry of memory and exile: Choman Hardi

Choman Hardi is a young Kurdish poet in London who writes in English as well as her native Kurdish. Here are six of her poems

Giscard puts the EU on track

As the Convention on the Future of Europe concludes with confusion among analysts and a fever of disinterest from the peoples of the continent, this Brussels-watcher insists that its president, Giscard d’Estaing, steered a well-judged if tightly-controlled course to a balanced outcome.

Being a migrant the Polish way

Migration is process not event. For many Polish people in London, the decision to stay or return is not fixed but part of a collision of influences: work, love, chance, family, money. Bureaucracy may regulate their lives, and Poland’s entry to the European Union will simplify them, but the river of dreams between Suwalki and Streatham, Katowice to Kilburn finds its own course.

Woody's French Connection

French love-affair, God Bless Europa!, Hiroshima reminder.

Home from home? The journey to a better refugee policy

Some governments and analysts of migration propose ‘international transit centres’ and ‘protected zones’ close to refugees’ countries of origin, as a way to control and limit their movement as well as guaranteeing their basic rights. But research into the human rights environment in the regions immediately affected by refugees and asylum-seekers indicates that a consistent, holistic policy to protect people in movement would be a far more effective and humane solution to current problems.

Migration: the emergency exit

Migration is an issue not just of management but of politics. A migration approach based on humane values and leading to just outcomes requires sensitive political judgment as well as accurate information. The logic of the People Flow proposal is deficient in both respects – by eliding the crucial distinction between refugees and economic migrants, and by viewing migration as normal rather than as an ‘emergency exit’.

World Social Forum: the secret of fire

The World Social Forum in January 2003 represented a new stage in the unfolding project of the global justice and solidarity movement. An experienced observer of the WSF asks whether it can combine its multiple energies with the clarity needed to transcend old politics – while establishing its own forms of legitimate, transparent representation? Who governs the WSF and where is it going?

Making a new world - Part Four: From the US to West Papua

The global movement for change – decentred, multivocal, democratic – has a right to expect the same approach from those who seek to understand it. Paul Kingsnorth has travelled the world, to track the ways that diverse social, political and environmental struggles combine into the search for a world of fairness and freedom. Here, he talks to Caspar Henderson of openDemocracy about American consumer culture and the struggle for freedom in West Papua – seemingly disparate issues connected by the thread of global corporate power.

The Venezuelan road to!where?

Venezuela's tumultuous political experiment under Hugo Chávez has survived the April 2002 coup, two general strikes, United States opposition and Cuban friendship. Through it all, Chávez has sought to consolidate his rule by empowering his supporters on the streets. Are the "Bolivarian circles" weapons of a demagogue, or popular democracy in action? 

Sceptic on the cancer table

In the aftermath of a cancer operation, inveterate sceptic and openDemocracy columnist Dave Belden is treated by a healer. Might his sickness really have roots in his childhood? Can she address its cause at the level of ‘energy’? If so, what else might she heal? Is she a cheap gypsy or the real thing? What does he believe?

Iran: letter from a frightened man

This letter from Tehran tells of the arrest of a man who lived quietly by renting out copies of the world’s great cinema classics. This arrest is part of a wider purge of film journalists over recent months.

Your TV isn't watching you

David Burke is wrong to associate interactive TV with more power for corporations, politicians and advertisers. Legal and practical safeguards protect viewers’ rights, and people will continue to select and filter the material they encounter. The heart of the new technology is communication, diversity and choice – and, if anything, the empowerment of the viewer rather than the ‘monitors’.

Why Europe needs referenda

The European Union faces a legitimacy crisis. Elites and publics are moving in different directions. The way to respond is to allow all EU citizens to vote on matters affecting their future, even across national boundaries. The two Irish referenda on the Nice treaty, and those on accession, illustrate the potential of this form of direct democracy to reinvigorate public engagement.

The 'Axis of Anarchy'

If any continent deserves intervention, it is Africa. In the Democratic Republic of Congo and East Africa a devastating human crisis – failed states, ethnic violence, rampant disease and endemic insecurity – presents Bush and Blair with a moral as well as a political challenge.

The globalisation of migration control

As migration increases around the world, both international organisations and states seek tighter regulation and control over workers, asylum-seekers, and refugees. These forceful attempts to manage free movement in the interests of economic growth and social engineering inspire in response a radical defence of global social justice and equality – and an end to all restrictions on migration.

Open borders: a future for Europe, migrants, and the world economy

The controversy over People Flow reflects a major tension of globalisation: between the opening of national economies and restrictions in the world’s labour markets. Government attempts to fix labour movement in static patterns fail to register either migration’s fluid, dynamic aspect or its benign economic effects. The way forward for Europe is to integrate the continent within the evolving world labour market – and move towards free migration and open borders.

Jayson Blair for President!

He lied, he cheated, he fantasised – now he confesses. After two years of glorious columnar insouciance, Dominic Hilton bares his soul, sells his editors’, and shakes openDemocracy to its foundations. Can a publishing mega-deal be far behind?

Africa: rushing for the exit

Africa’s economic collapse and corruption mean that Europe’s efforts to stem immigration from the continent will remain futile until the underlying causes are addressed.

American Empire: history and future of an idea

The George W Bush administration's advocacy of pre-emption puts the notion of America as an empire at the centre of contemporary political debate. An understanding of this notion can be deepened if modern American power is viewed in the light of other imperial experiences, says Stephen Howe.

Global comparisons in policy-making: the view from the centre

The principle guiding successful governance is changing. Until recently, policy ideas evolved (and too often failed) within a vacuum of national experience and cultural superiority. Today, the global commons – a shared space of experience, knowledge, and experiment – is transforming the way political systems think and operate. One of the architects of the New Labour reform programme in Britain, writing in a personal capacity, maps a key transition.

A step in the wrong direction

The argument of Tony Klug for an international protectorate to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is flawed by unrealism. In particular, external forces would be incapable of the detailed military planning and enforcement necessary to ensure security in the contested territories. The way ahead, rather, starts from practical day-to-day cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces. This is the cumulative, difficult, but unavoidable route to an internal settlement.

Afghanistan and Iraq: regroupment or insurgency?

The ‘war on terror’ is in trouble in its two largest theatres of operation. Resistance to security forces is intensifying in the Afghan and Iraqi hinterlands, even reaching into Kabul and Baghdad themselves. In both countries, a long-term military campaign is in sight.

Kim, Colin, Football and Pizza

North Korea’s nukes, Mauritania’s mystery, Pizza politics


Iraq after the war is a place of fragments. Wendell Steavenson, who stayed in the country for three weeks after the fall of Saddam, portrays the chasms of fear, confusion and anger in the moment of "freedom".

A new way for British government?

In advance of a global summit of centre-left leaders in London, Geoff Mulgan has mapped a vital cultural shift in the inner life of British governance – from ‘we know best’ to ‘we learn best’. The openness and practicality of his argument make it both welcome and deceptively radical, says Anthony Barnett; but does it, like Tony Blair's 'Third Way' itself, also carry some Old Britain paternalism into the new media age?

The US and global democracy: the test case of Central Asia

From 19th century imperial rivalries to Soviet communism and now the ‘war on terror’, the states of Central Asia have been targets of manipulation in the great games of superpower politics. Today, the domestic impact of US strategic ambitions is increased repression and denial of human rights. America may secure short-term political influence, but the lasting achievement of its current policy will be radical disaffection among the region’s people.

GM and the intensification of farming

The argument over genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) needs to be seen in the context of wider agricultural policy. In itself, the technology is neutral and may even have possible benefits. But the use of GMOs by farmers tied to the distorting economics of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will only intensify the latter’s disastrous environmental impact. Rather than ban GMOs, it would be better to reform the CAP and tax agrochemicals.

The Convention: between football fans and the Holy Roman Empire?

One of the most outspoken dissidents on the European Convention, Austrian Green MEP Johannes Voggenhuber, here interviewed by openDemocracy’s Julian Kramer, reflects on the successes and failures of the seventeen-month process – from the Charter of Rights to Giscard’s “autocratic, autistic” style…

The Convention endgame: beyond bad bargains?

Two Brussels insiders review the logjam over proposals for how Europe shall be governed, and the bargains being sought behind closed doors over crucial questions of institutions and power-balance.

From Evian to Taliban

Problems in Pakistan, the silent voice of Europe, Swazi charm offensive.