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About Robin Wilson

Robin Wilson was formerly lead editor of the openSecurity section of openDemocracy. He advises the Council of Europe on the intercultural paradigm for the management of cultural diversity, on which it has been the global standard-setter in the last decade. He is heavily involved in debates across Europe on the future of progressive politics, including via the Good Society network convened by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. He is the author of Meeting the Challenge of Cultural Diversity in Europe: Moving Beyond the Crisis (Edward Elgar) and The Northern Ireland Experience of Conflict and Agreement: A Model for Export? (Manchester University Press).

Articles by Robin Wilson

This week’s front page editor


Francesc Badia i Dalmases is Editor and Director of democraciaAbierta.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

The populists: what is to be done?

It is all too easy to throw up one’s hands in despair at the advance of the populists. Easy, but wrong.

The left should think more carefully before defending the Good Friday Agreement

The fact that the ultra-conservative Brexiters are out to get the Belfast Agreement doesn’t mean progressives should abandon their critical faculties towards it.

Beyond shareholder value: why transforming the firm can fix Britain's economy

A company is a company is a company—isn’t it? Actually, no. And this really matters: for as long as the company is treated in UK politics as a black box, with the only focus on the operation and r...

‘Many seeds are brought here’: hands up for participation?

The World Forum for Democracy 2017 discusses whether participatory democracy could be an antidote to populism.

Is it time for England to emulate the Nordic civil society model?

Why civil society? In today’s complex and fast-changing societies, the state can neither be all-knowing nor all-powerful. There is thus a strong case for non-governmental organisations to provide...

Market fundamentalism has left Britain in the economic relegation zone - it's time for a rethink

Two fundamental errors block new thinking on the UK economy. The first is a failure to recognise, empirically, just how poor is the UK’s comparative, like-for-like performance. The second is an inab...

Brexit: a view from the other end of the telescope

Brexit is the incomprehension of a former imperial power, wistfully hoping to recreate a long-gone global sphere of influence. 

Towards dialogue in Northern Ireland

Can education, notions of deliberative democracy and intercultural integration come together to rescue our dysfunctional democracies?

Northern Ireland: what Einstein would have said

The latest crisis in Northern Ireland looks like déjà vu all over again. It’s not that the situation never changes but the remedy offered by London remains stubbornly the same.

This time, it’s different

Paul Mason’s Postcapitalism is a book for our times—and the decades ahead.

Ten theses on security in the 21st century

What have we learned from the openSecurity experience as the section goes into hiatus? A lot. But governments, police and military, surveillance agencies? Not so much.

After the demonstrations ...

The popular outpouring in France, taken with the climate marches in September with which it would not at first be bracketed, may be a harbinger of change.

Ulrich Beck - an appreciation

openSecurity editor Robin Wilson reflects on the work of German intellectual - and frequent openDemocracy contributor - Ulrich Beck, who sadly passed away on 1 January.

Bosnia: the “lost generation”

The international media can cast an unflinching spotlight on wars but when the war is over the spotlight is suddenly switched off—would that it were that simple for those, including children, left traumatised in its wake. Film review.

Adams: peacemaker or paramilitary?

The arrest of the decades-long leader of the 'republican movement' in Northern Ireland, Gerry Adams, has provoked international surprise. It shouldn’t—but it does provide a lesson in the perils of suborning the rule of law.

Sri Lanka inquiry: a Tamil asylum-seeker speaks

As an international inquiry on the bloodshed in Sri Lanka in 2009 looms, one Tamil asylum-seeker explains why it matters to him.

Mandela: explaining the magnetism

While the world stops for Nelson Mandela’s departure from it, his iconic status is unquestioned. Yet there is a more complicated underlying narrative to tell.

Who are the Northern Irish? The census and violence over a flag

Last week, Belfast City Council voted to flag the Union Jack only on designated days, sparking protest. What does this say about Northern Ireland today, and does it tally with the recent census results?

Challenging the populist right - European precedents

The European left should be the most committed and consistent advocate of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in order to prevent discrimination. But further than that, it should espouse a cosmopolitan politics to manage diversity in a progressive manner. And that politics is inconceivable unless the individual citizen is understood to represent its basic unit.

Why sectarian fight persists in Northern Ireland

This week has seen sectarian rioting between Catholics and Protestants in Belfast. Why does violence continue in Northern Ireland?

The Northern Ireland Assembly elections revealed the failures of devolution

The big story of the Northern Ireland Assembly elections was not the re-instating of the DUP and Sinn Fein, but the dramatic fall-off in turnout. Voter apathy reveals the failures of devolution in such vital areas as education, public service management and the control of paramilitary violence


The odd thing was that it turned out the man whose communist spectre frightened the 19th century world saved it in the 21st. Marx would have chortled at the irony. But he had seen it coming. He watched in England as the rapacious capitalists threatened to destroy their workforce—a mere ‘externality’ for each of them—through exploiting children and making adults work impossibly long hours. And he wrote in Capital volume I of how the labour movement had actually secured the long-term interest of capital by fighting successfully for the eight-hour day. Two centuries  on, the green industrial revolution had achieved the same outcome—this time with the ecological movement in the van in saving capital from itself. 
True, the more progressive capitalists could see the markets in green technologies and supported the case for regulation, so they didn’t fight to the death. And the demise of the Chinese dictatorship, when it could no longer keep cutting off the Hydra heads of internet-based civil society movements, was a key moment. Funnily enough, the US, with its rusting oil and car industries shrouding the one-time democratic ‘beacon on the hill’, was neither here nor there.

Karl Marx

Blair's flawed approach to peace in Northern Ireland

Tony Blair's effort in bringing about the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland is often heralded as his greatest achievement, but the approach he took to the peace process has left a mixed legacy.

Ireland's lost revolution

A new history of the Workers' Party inspires Robin Wilson to reflect on a movement that helped to change the face of modern Ireland

Northern Ireland: guns, words and publics

A spate of killings by extreme paramilitary groups highlight the social pressures and political tensions that surround Northern Ireland's post-1998 settlement, says Robin Wilson.

Northern Ireland could stymie "super-department"

Robin Wilson (Belfast, Policy Analyst): The suggestion that the various secretaries of state for the nations and regions should be wrapped up into one department has made sense ever since devolution was established in the initial years of ‘New’ Labour. But devolution to Scotland, Wales and (always shakily) Northern Ireland was, paradoxically, characterised by the patrician English trope of amateurish muddling through. And so the repeated case made by the Constitution Unit for a formal system of intergovernmental relations, as in Canada or Australia—and of which the unified department would have been one element, along with Lords reform to make the second chamber a voice for the nations and regions—fell on deaf Whitehall ears. Other departments in effect became ‘English’ departments, even when their actions had implications for devolved counterparts.

A decision to move belatedly towards having a single minister for the devolved jurisdictions at the cabinet table—a further step from the rather awkward job-sharing of recent years—would certainly be welcome, if media speculation is borne out. But a fly in the ointment remains Northern Ireland—and if such a move were premised on a belief that imminent devolution of policing and justice powers would slot in the last piece of the jigsaw of a settlement for the troubled region, this could turn out to be a mistaken assumption.

Ireland's blocked path to reconciliation

The controversy surrounding the murder of Denis Donaldson, a former senior Sinn Féin official who spied for Britain, underlines the need for political transparency and responsibility in Northern Ireland, says Robin Wilson of Democratic Dialogue.

Northern Ireland's peace by peace

Stephen Howe’s dissection of Ulster Loyalist culture suggests that a link between new institutions and changed ways of thinking is the route to a settled society, says Robin Wilson of Democratic Dialogue.

The end of the IRA

Five fearless, grieving sisters may break the back of Europe’s most successful terrorist movement, writes Robin Wilson in Northern Ireland
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