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Happy (5th) Birthday to us! openDemocracy greetings

About the authors
Isabel Hilton is the editor of chinadialogue.net, and was editor of openDemocracy from March 2005-July 2007. She is a journalist, broadcaster, writer and commentator.

This week openDemocracy celebrates its 5th birthday. From humble beginnings in a garage (where all the best start-ups are born), openDemocracy has grown to be one of the world's most respected sites for the quality of its material, the range and depth of its debate and the innovative thinking of its contributors. We would like to thank all our writers, readers and forum contributors for your part in building the openDemocracy community and your contribution to our shared achievement. "We" who work in the London office – and our close colleagues based in New York, Chicago, Delhi, Madrid and elsewhere – could not have done it without each and every one of "you".

The world has changed radically in the past five years, and in ways that make openDemocracy's distinct qualities of open-minded debate, rigour and intellectual curiosity ever more needed. 2005 saw an extraordinary growth in our readership; 2006 will see us introduce new features on our site which we hope will make your participation an even richer experience. We hope you will share our pride at how far we have come and we look forward to the continuing adventure.

Isabel Hilton
Editor, openDemocracy


Click on the names below for each author's happy birthday message


  • John Berger
  • Kalypso Nicolaïdis
  • Pierleone Ottolenghi
  • Tom Bentley
  • Steve Crawshaw
  • James Howarth
  • Deniz Kandiyoti
  • Edward Denison
  • Ivan Briscoe
  • Hazem Saghieh
  • Theo Veenkamp
  • Jim Lederman
  • Martin Rose
  • Sami Zubaida
  • Christopher Harvie
  • Murat Belge
  • Tariq Modood
  • Ivan Krastev
  • Lisa Appignanesi
  • Diego Hidalgo
  • Eóin Murray
  • Arthur Ituassu
  • David Held
  • Ken Worpole


  • John Berger

    openDemocracy yes
    Rogue Network yes
    Forbidden News yes
    Political Incorrectness yes
    Historical Perspective yes
    Pockets of Resistance yes
    Clarity without Clichés yes
    Five years of openDemocracy yes

    John Berger's most recent article
    "Wall and Bulldozer"


    Tom Bentley, Demos

    openDemocracy has pioneered a kind of global commons – showing that it is possible to forge conversations and exchange ideas which are not constrained by the existing patterns of national, commercial and institutional exchange. By being genuinely international, genuinely open, and by focusing on deep challenges to our future, openDemocracy is really helping to shape our future responses to those challenges.

    Tom Bentley's most recent article
    "Please, not again!"


    Deniz Kandiyoti, SOAS

    Happy birthday openDemocracy! I feel openDemocracy has developed into a resource we cannot do without. It is both up-to-the-minute and analytically sophisticated. It offers news, analysis, commentary and thematic debates – a wonderful range. Look forward to many more birthdays.

    Deniz Kandiyoti's most recent article
    " Andijan: prelude to a massacre"


    Hazem Saghieh, Lebanese journalist, Al-Hayat

    openDemocracy changed my morning habits. Now, after waking up and before starting my tour into daily newspapers, I seek its wide range of opinions. It is an excellent starter.

    Hazem Saghieh's most recent article
    "Iran's politics: constants and variables"


    Martin Rose, British Council

    openDemocracy has been excellent – an intellectual lifeline which I don't see nearly as often as I'd like. I hope I shall see more in the future – Happy Birthday!

    Martin Rose's most recent article
    "Translating difference: a debate about multiculturalism"


    Murat Belge, Turkey

    We often forget about the birthdays of our best friends – which openDemocracy is, for me. It is a strange mixture of "old" and "new". It is on the internet and so makes use of this most modern medium of communication, but on it openDemocracy tries to spread the serious, earnest intellectual effort and disciplined thinking which have become so "old-fashioned" in our day, again largely through the internet which can get along perfectly with all kinds of superficiality.

    Well, happy birthday.

    Murat Belge's most recent article
    "The trials of free speech in Turkey"


    Lisa Appignanesi, English PEN

    Five extraordinary years. A real achievement in the virtual world. Here's to the next five.

    Lisa Appignanesi's most recent article
    "The heart of Simone de Beauvoir"


    Arthur Ituassu, Brazil

    I would like to congratulate you and all openDemocracy's team for such a wonderful and very important work you people do.

    I am very proud to be part of it and very happy that countries such as mine and that some very important issues such as democracy, human rights, and culture can have such a splendorous global space to be debated; congratulation to you all.

    Arthur Ituassu's most recent article
    "The sum of all fears in Latin America"


    Kalypso Nicolaïdis, Oxford University

    Joyeux anniversaire to all of you! Please do continue to inspire all of us – openDemocracy is an irreplaceable intellectual butterfly effect!

    Kalypso Nicolaïdis's most recent article
    "Europe and beyond: struggles for recognition"


    Steve Crawshaw, Human Rights Watch

    If you are looking for proof that the internet has truly come of age, you do not have to look further than openDemocracy. The website's intelligent, thoughtful, original and incisive material is second to none. For anybody with a serious interest in international politics, human rights, or civil society in the 21st century, the openDemocracy website has become a must-read. In a world where there are too many reasons to feel depressed, the growing success of openDemocracy is a small reason for hope. Happy birthday – and many happy returns.

    Congratulations!

    Most recent Human Rights Watch article
    "Algeria's amnesia decree"


    Edward Denison, writer and photographer

    Congratulations to all of you at openDemocracy for working so hard to build a vital platform for critical and insightful reflection. Your achievements are all the more important in an age increasingly defined by insipid news broadcasting. Here's to the next fifty years!

    Edward Denison's most recent article
    "Restoring history in China"


    Theo Veenkamp, Dutch essayist and adviser

    I remember vividly my first meeting with the openDemocracy team in December 2002 which ultimately led to the large and impressive People Flow debate through most of the year 2003. I was struck by the great interest of the staff in our unorthodox approach, the electricity in the air and the range of opinions and emotions with respect to the topic of migration and integration. It seemed a dedicated, clever, rather chaotic and very open-minded group, not in any way the sort of believers in gospel-like solutions to which I am so allergic.

    That was and in my view still is the strength of openDemocracy. It is a privilege to belong to the contributors of a unique medium that has consistently grown in quality and authority. One never knows what the real impact is of articles and debate as produced by openDemocracy. One has to compete with so many demands for attention. That is why quality, depth and originality are so crucial. openDemocracy has managed to make a difference because it is so convincingly different. My congratulations with this enormous achievement and after a period of study and reflection I hope to remain participant in your inspiring journey.

    Theo Veenkamp's most recent article
    "Dutch sign on Europe's wall"


    Sami Zubaida, Birkbeck

    Happy 5th birthday to openDemocracy. Such a tremendous contribution to public discourse and enlightenment. Congratulations to the splendid team of its staff, and may it long prosper.

    Sami Zubaida's most recent article
    "Democracy, Iraq and the middle east"


    Tariq Modood, Bristol University

    Happy birthday!

    openDemocracy is a very useful, convenient and inexpensive way of getting good international current affairs analysis by leading public intellectuals and intelligent and engaged people from all over the world.

    It is a boon for academics, who work to different timelines to the newspapers and who newspapers think write in too difficult a way for their readers. openDemocracy therefore is one of the few ways for academics to join current-affairs debates. I have benefited myself in this way a number of times.

    In relation to my own contributions I have benefited from editorial advice and online-referencing from David Hayes, for which I am grateful, and from which I have glimpsed how hard working the openDemocracy team must be.

    Being topical and drawing on intellectual debates at the same time is demanding work, requiring varied skills. But you have achieved that in your first five years and in the process have increased understanding about the key events and processes around us as well between different intellectual-political positions. May you continue to flourish as a democratic forum!

    Tariq Modood's most recent article
    "The liberal dilemma: integration or vilification?"


    Diego Hidalgo, Fride

    My congratulations to openDemocracy for celebrating its 5th anniversary! I hope that among all its enthusiastic readers and subscribers we will help spread the circulation and readership much beyond the impressive numbers already attained.

    openDemocracy has been a great source of information, and has provided a deep and unbiased analysis of global, regional and national issues (or at least at least presenting divergent views).

    Do I have criticisms? As is the case with the institutions I have helped or launch over the years (Fride, the Club of Madrid, CITPax, Dara International, and others), it is important to remember the definition of open openDemocracy, and to realise that real democracy is in serious danger in the world.

    The world and the superpower's definition of "promoting democracy" has been based on elections, majority rule and respect for human rights. These are important elements of the concept, but other equally essential ones have been neglected: the most important being education in democratic values and principles, the protection of minorities from the majority, and the provision of checks and balances and a rule of law which ensures a level "playing-field" with rules that will enable the minorities of today to have a chance to become majorities in future elections. Because of this neglect, well-meaning efforts have resulted in illiberal democracies with governments which will abolish the democratic system once they have attained power.

    I want to praise openDemocracy for its coverage of the Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security organised by the Club of Madrid in March 2005, and for its follow-up on it with the Madrid11 page. I wish it the success it deserves in the future.

    Diego Hidalgo's most recent article
    "Why the Spanish government lost"


    David Held, LSE

    Happy birthday and many congratulations on your stunning achievement. openDemocracy is consistently one of the most informed, insightful and controversial places to visit on national and global affairs. You have helped lift the quality of public dialogue and taken steps to creating a transnational public sphere. I even take this as a sign that cosmopolitan aspirations are not Utopian!

    I look forward to the next five years.

    David Held's most recent article
    "Building bridges: a reply to Anne-Marie Slaughter & Thomas N Hale"


    Pierleone Ottolenghi, Italy

    openDemocracy is freedom of thought and of expression which are the epitome of democracy. Its global view with its contradictions, horrors and to a lesser extent its beauties is a great enrichment for us readers. Continue, continue and continue. God bless you all.

    A most happy birthday.

    Pierleone Ottolenghi's most recent article
    "Dear Mr Bush…"


    James Howarth, analyst and translator

    In the last five years openDemocracy has grown to become an indispensable intellectual resource for those wanting informed, enlightened perspectives on all the major current international issues. Its combination of critical independence and commitment to practical policy alternatives will ensure it remains a point of reference for readers across the political spectrum.

    James Howarth's most recent article
    "Al-Qaida, globalisation and Islam: a response to Faisal Devji"


    Ivan Briscoe, El Pais

    On a personal note, I'd like to thank you for all the help and interest you have shown in faraway countries that usually get a footnote in the British press: you have been heroic.

    And as for the birthday tribute...

    Wishing you the best on your 5th birthday. It takes a huge amount of guts, determination and intelligence to encompass the world's debates without being run for an owner's profits or prejudices: you deserve many, many congratulations.

    I wish there were more places like yours in the world, but since there aren't, keep up the fight!

    And now – pop those corks!

    Ivan Briscoe's most recent article
    "Fending off the iron fist: crime and the left in Latin America"


    Jim Lederman, Israeli journalist

    As a passionate democrat, writing for openDemocracy has been a godsend. I make my living by providing proprietary analyses (some based on years of research) to banks, governments and corporate clients. However, I have always felt guilty that this material never reached the public, whom I believe, should always be the source of authority in political and social matters. Writing for openDemocracy gives me an opportunity to add information I have gathered and the insights I have gained to the public pool.

    In our world, knowledge is power. Special interests which can pay for knowledge will therefore always be at an advantage over those who cannot.

    Since newspapers only rarely provide the length necessary to explain complex issues, and since journals have become increasingly reliant on sponsors who demand an ideological slant to the material published, there are fewer and fewer outlets to which the public can turn for unbiased, non-ideological material in depth. openDemocracy is one of the few outlets that now fills this essential role. Even when an article is published that I believe is laden with preconceptions and ideological bias, it is soon countered by other voices that bring a different perspective. I know. I am also an avid reader.

    As a writer, I have found the editors to be the fairest and most open-minded to new, and even unconventional ideas whom I have ever had the pleasure to deal with in my forty years of work as a journalist and analyst.

    Jim Lederman's most recent article
    "What Israel's election means"


    Christopher Harvie, University of Tübingen

    Here's a birthday card, in the form of a tale.

    Once upon a time I used to review for the Independent, having followed Boyd Tonkin there from the New Statesman. I did stuff on Scotland and political culture. I still pride myself on an article on Sir James Goldsmith's qualifications to be the archetypal John Buchan villain which came out just as Goldenballs was trying in 1997 to smash his way into the British political system. There was no writ, surprisingly enough.

    But my Independent days were numbered. One of my pieces got part-reprinted in the Guardian as the rudest review the author had so far seen that year. It was on Norman Davies's The Isles and I don't take back a word. I agreed with Davies's line – that the United Kingdom would fall apart – but his scholarship was howler-ridden. Boyd told me that my reviews tended to be followed by Sarah and Emma from the PR departments of Metrolit tripping round to the Indy saying "who is this guy with an agenda, and why is he doing this to us?" And shortly afterwards review offers ceased. Simon Schama was just about to broadcast and publish his dire millennial A History of Britain for the BBC, and I longed to get my fangs into that, but no way.

    In 2000 Peter Lord published the first of his three massive volumes Imaging the Nation on the visual history of Wales. Lord is a brilliant art historian who, although a Devon man, has taught himself Welsh and immersed himself in the country's history. I suggested this to Boyd but a terse one-line reply implied that Wales could go and boil its national head. London wasn't interested. We have not corresponded since. But an extensive and well-illustrated piece on Lord's work and its significance for the multinational culture of the UK appeared in 2003 in openDemocracy. Many thanks.

    This episode bears out my fear that in our "culture industry" means a situation in which culture in its awkward, Arnoldian, critical sense, isn't privileged but processed. The criteria of best-sellerdom win out, to the advantage of the big centralised institutions. In this instance openDemocracy gave handsome help to the little battalions.

    Perhaps we need more provincial openDemocracies, given the fragile economics of the few quality dailies outside London, and the very ambiguous rise of the commentator. I remain noteworthy, outside my books, only in still being on his legs at 61, when the tsunami of early retirement has borne all my contemporaries off. Yet I have my well-developed links to aspects of transport, history, cultures (especially regional ones) which would otherwise not get mentioned in Metrolit. openDemocracy has given me (and them) a voice … with pictures, and conversations.

    Christopher Harvie's most recent article
    "Gordon Brown's Britain"


    Ivan Krastev, Centre for Liberal Strategies, Sofia

    Among democracy’s many enemies the one that scares me is the radical provincialism of the liberal intellectuals. Reading openDemocracy is my secret weapon to resist this enemy.

    Ivan Krastev’s most recent article
    The end of the ‘freedom century’


    Eóin Murray, Irish journalist and human rights activist

    I have a deep affection for openDemocracy as being the first place where I was given the opportunity to write about issues I cared about. Being published on openDemocracy gave me the confidence to continue trying to get published elsewhere – after all if it was good enough for the people who were publishing Paul Rogers, Scilla Elworthy, Mary Kaldor and some of the other finest intellectuals of our age – well then it was probably good enough for someone else!

    When a traditionalist like myself writes a piece for the internet it has a more abstract feel to it then being published in hard copy – in a newspaper or magazine – I feel that "actually, no one reads these things". Then I am suprised by how many people who I know – but didn't know read openDemocracy – would send me notes or comments on the pieces. Some of them would then follow up would questions about how to get their own pieces published with you.

    This is illustrative of the wide reach and high degree of credibility which I feel you have developed in a very short space of time. That means that when I read other pieces on openDemocracy (something I was doing long before I wrote for you and am doing long since the most recent piece) I am willing to engage with them as being trustworthy, reasoned and credible – a credit I can not give to most newspapers or magazines – even the ones I read every day or every week.

    I could go on with plaudits for I feel that you deserve many. And while there are many criticisms I don't think on your birthday you deserve them – let them, rather, be part of an ongoing dialogue with writers and readers through the discussion forums, the open space already provided for such debate.

    All in all it is hard to believe that you are only around for five years – it seems like longer.

    Well done – I look forward to the next five, and the next five...

    Eóin Murray's most recent article
    "After Hamas: a time for politics"


    Ken Worpole

    Dear Friends,

    The creation of openDemocracy and the sustaining of it for five years has been a miracle of hard work, vision and commitment by so many people. It dignifies the possibility of worldwide communications between people of goodwill in many different countries, cultures and points of view.

    openDemocracy makes the likelihood of an informed and educated democracy even more possible, even if it seems to go against the grain of rising political and religious fundamentalisms. It remains a window into a more cooperative and self-respecting world.

    Ken Worpole's most recent article
    "Ian Hamilton Finlay's world"

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