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New report: Arab world is democratic "black hole"

8 April 2005

The third Arab Human Development Report was released this week after three months delay, allegedly due to American and Egyptian objections to the report's criticism of the war in Iraq and the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank (download it here).

The report is on freedom and governance in the Arab world and is written by Arab scholars. It is certain to cause fury among Arab leaders too. It calls for immediate reform of "black hole" dictatorships, and comes down hard on US policies that tolerate authoritarian governments for the sake of regional stability. The UNDP has been nervous about publishing under its own name.

The World Bank says: "Despite much criticism of the US in the report, the authors backed international efforts to promote democracy in the region, describing them as potentially the most pragmatic way to sustain momentum for change."

One could only wish America's commitment to democracy extended so far as to accept criticism from the people who live with the results of it's policies. Sadly, it seems unlikely the region will speed towards democracy before the publication of the next and fourth report in 2006 on empowerment of Arab women.

(Thanks to Daniel Makar in Sweden for emailing me about the report)

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals


To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.


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