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Experiments, expectations and explanations (Nov 12-18)

On openDemocracy last week the unfolding tale of Iceland’s innovative constitutional experiment is deconstructed by Thorhildur Thorleifsdottir, Kristinn Már Ársælsson looks at the lessons learned, arguing for randomly selected citizen assemblies, and we have an inside view from a former member of the Constitutional Council.

14 December 2012


OurBeeb already has over three thousand signatures to its petition calling on the BBC Trust to appoint the next Director General in a more open manner. Anthony Barnett explains why this matters, while elsewhere lamenting their lack of interest in Britain’s Justice and Security Bill.

Magdy Aziz Tobia explores whether the newly chosen pope of Egypt’s Coptic Christians will integrate the Christian community into the shifting public sphere under the country’s new Islamic leadership, while Paul Rogers continues his analysis of developments in Mali. The course of Syria’s revolution since its idealistic early days has been a painful learning curve for many activists, argues Malik Al-Abdeh; and Nima Sharif raises the possibility of regime change in the upcoming Presidential elections in Iran. Munir Atalla tells us about a Jordanian feminist pioneer. Kagbe Rachel’s piece runs in English and French on the state of educational decline in Chad.

Fyodor Krashenninikov and Leonid Volkov, founders of the Coordination council of the Russian opposition, analyse the recent online elections of the council. We hear from Tatarstan where supposedly free education has morphed into parents having to buy all kinds of necessities, and how parents are fighting back.

Rahila Gupta navigates between the contested claims of secularism and modernity in the face of Orientalism, building the argument that anti-fundamentalist positions need not be construed as ‘from the west’. The Australian Prime Minister’s recent redrawing of the boundaries of misogyny has the politicians rushing to mend the breach. Alex McAnarney asks whether female-friendly spaces are an effective way of combating femicide in Central America. Marion Bowman raises the question of how to tackle the over-representation of men in politics in order to strengthen democracy.  

In Europe, Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement in Italy has a refreshing approach, shifts in the traditional landscape of Finnish politics are decoded, and we get a tour of what to expect in the Czech citizens’ first Presidential elections.

Back in Britain, Michael Bartlet juxtaposes the ritual of Remembrance Sunday with the public’s silence over a new generation of nuclear weapons. Paediatrician Ingrid Wolfe looks at the recent move by the UK to redefine the definition of child poverty, former Home Secretary David Blunkett puts on the table ways to change the modes and routes of political process, and we can read about the complex mechanics of transferring foreign aid to local NGOs.

openDemocracy – an experiment in itself – will continue to scrutinize the world for you in the week to come.


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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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