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This week’s World Forum for Democracy 2017 editors

Georgios Kolliarakis

Georgios Kolliarakis political scientist, is a senior researcher at the University of Frankfurt.

Rosemary Belcher-2.jpg

Rosemary Bechler is openDemocracy’s Editor.

Introducing this week’s theme: Media, parties and populism.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

Economics, business and finance exist in a real world of relationships shaping our lives and branding our politics. If money makes the world go round, we enquire how?

Zimbabwe: speaking from where I feel safe

Many women in Zimbabwe face war in their homes daily and face war with the state when we try to overcome it. Often we find ourselves in combat when all we are actually trying to do is to crawl out of our own small room, says Betty Makoni.

Killing aid

Dambisa Moyo's anti-aid thesis is poorly argued, ignores the facts and is unrealistic in its recommendations. That is not to say all is right with the aid system argues the blogger on the Zambian Economist

What can be learnt from piracy

Daniele Archibugi comments on Leeson's view of the economic rationality of pirates.

Uzbek Migration: low pay, life sentence

  Today we start our collaboration with fergana.ru,  the best source of information on Central Asia, with the findings of an indepth survey on Uzbek migration.  Some 30% of Uzbeks are forced to become migrant workers, at home or abroad. What will happen when they start being laid off? Disaster looms.

Surgut without its gilding of “black” gold. Some anti-myths about the “oil Eldorado"

Most Russians believe that few towns can compete with Siberia's Surgut for the title of the Russian Eldorado. But Olga Myasnikova, a native of the city, paints a rather different picture of life in Surgut.

Parmalat: Italian capitalism goes sour

A great financial scandal is taking place. Italy’s food giant, and one of the world’s great companies, has collapsed in a cloud of fraud. An Italian financial journalist assesses the causes and global ramifications of “Enron alla parmigiana”.

The coming first world debt crisis

The reckless financial policies of leading western powers in the last two decades make it likely that the next seismic debt crisis will be in America, not Argentina. It can be avoided, says Ann Pettifor of the Real World Economic Outlook, only by serious efforts to bring regulation and balance to the international economy.

Marketing GM: the making of poverty

Marginal farmers in India find it difficult enough to ensure a modestly sustainable life on existing patterns of land ownership and seed availability. But when manipulative marketing strategies introduce GM seeds, cash dependency and debt, their poverty becomes a cruel trap.

The real American model

The US economic model that commands around a third of the world’s wealth fascinates and infuriates Europeans. But both reactions reveal ignorance of its most essential features. The keys to its success lie not in industry, but in those sectors providing social amenities to the middle class – health care, education, housing and pensions: systems of provision that have little to do with the free market.

Corporate super-predators

“Control fraud” is what happens when the person who controls a large company is a criminal. Enron was only the most conspicuous example of a pervasive phenomenon in corporate behaviour, says this white-collar criminologist. The participants in openDemocracy’s roundtable on corporate power and responsibility miss the point: as long as regulators fail to ask the right questions, we are condemned to suffer further crimes.

Getting it right in Africa

What does a real-life captain of industry have to say about corporate power and responsibility? Here, the Chairman of Anglo-American (and former Chairman of Royal Dutch/Shell) responds to openDemocracy‘s roundtable, focussing on the role of multinational corporations in Africa. He says that unless business, civil society and government team up to create sound systems of governance in developing societies, wealth will tear them apart.

Argentina: how politicians survive while people starve

Argentina's presidential election of April 2003 follows seventeen months of economic devastation and social turmoil in the fallen giant of Latin America. The collapse of the neo-liberal model has reduced millions to penury, yet the political class is impervious to civic protest, quiet desperation, and radical insurgency alike. As Peronists, ex-Radicals, and leftists compete for a tarnished prize, a former resident paints a vivid panorama of the "land without heroes". 

'Why this debate matters to me'

Participants in openDemocracy’s roundtable on corporate power and responsibility introduce themselves.

Masters of the universe?

What are the boundaries of corporate power and responsibility in the 21st century? In this key note roundtable discussion, leading activists, analysts and practitioners talk to Iain Ferguson and Caspar Henderson of openDemocracy.

Married to the mob

Ahead of the publication of openDemocracy’s keynote roundtable on Corporate Power & Responsibility, Deborah Doane reflects on the debate so far and concludes that our relationship with modern capitalism and big companies is like a rocky marriage. It needs constant attention and compromise, but can ultimately be beneficial if only we are ready to take responsibility for our own actions.

Talking about revolution: an interview with John Micklethwait

In the age of globalisation, companies are often associated with scandal (Enron), litigation (Microsoft), or overweening power (Wal-Mart). But in the wider historical perspective, the institution is both socially more transforming and politically less powerful than it often appears.

Corporate Timeline

What are the key events in the rise of modern corporations? Why do these institutions matter? Are they more powerful now than before, better behaved or worse? openDemocracy's corporate timeline explores the long, complex and controversial history of this engine of contemporary capitalism.

Business is the victim

‘Get your facts right’ says Diane Coyle to Friends of the Earth (FoE) – business is far from evil or unduly powerful. The bad behaviour of a few companies will be solved by better corporate governance rules. In the fifth of our introductory texts to the debate Corporations: Power and Responsibility, Diane Coyle argues that FoE’s push for heavy regulation on a sector already subject to rising tax burdens would be a spanner in the engine of global growth and prosperity.

The growing power of big business

Business is bigger and ‘badder’ than ever, say two Friends of the Earth (FoE) campaigners, in the opening round of our debate, Corporations: Power and Responsibility. Corporations, FoE argues, evade the flimsy systems of regulation currently in place. The only way to stop them from being destructive is to create a legally binding set of global rules that will force them to care about the consequences of their actions. (Economist Diane Coyle responds next week)

Farewell Agnelli - Figure of Another Age

When Giovanni Agnelli died this year he was still Honorary Chairman of the Fiat group. His extraordinary influence marked the growth of post-war Italy, and is essential to understanding the country now. But is his life achievement a model for future businessmen or a glorious memory of an unviable past?

In Swell Oil we trust

Are transparency and honesty, rather than the fashionable notion of corporate social responsibility, the best ways to business success? Sir Luke Very-Moody, Chairman of the Swell Oil Company thinks so. In the draft of a speech exclusively leaked to John Kay, Sir Luke celebrates the first gush of oil production in the African country of Couldbericha by reasserting the need for business to follow its own values and leave moral standards to be written by the people it serves.

Loot: in search of the East India Company

Concerns about corporate power and responsibility are as old as the corporation itself. In this account of the East India Company, the world's first transnational corporation, Nick Robins argues that an unholy alliance between British government, military and commerce held India in slavery, reversed the flow of trade and cultural influence forever between the East and West and then sunk almost without trace under the weight of colonial guilt.

'The names have been changed to protect the guilty'

We were in the South Kensington basement of London’s Institut Francais for a conversation between Matt Beaumont, author of e (not ecstasy, but e-mail), and French writer Frederic Beigbeder. The latter’s book, first published under the title 99 francs (subsequently republished as 14.99 euros) was a huge success in France. It hit UK bookshelves as £9.99.

Psychos in suits: corporate CEOs in need of (an) asylum

Corporate America is mired in scandal, and chief executive officers (CEOs) are in the line of fire. But if the problem lies deeper than just a few rotten apples, so the solution requires a new business model that creates an ethical foundation for CEO behaviour. Behind the headlines, it’s already happening.

Inequality and happiness: are Europeans and Americans different?

Europeans dislike inequality whereas in the US, only rich leftists do. So argue three economists for whom happiness can not only be experienced, but measured.

Let's vote now!

The absence of a clear decision on Britain’s membership of the Eurozone is paralysing the country’s European policy. The logic is clear: the government should hold a referendum immediately on the principle of joining the European Monetary Union.

Making companies behave

Corporate social responsibility is an attractive meeting-point for ethical businesses and green campaigners alike, especially in the age of globalisation. But where the bottom line is still profit, and the short-term flexibility often needed to achieve it, can the goal of sustainability become integral to business behaviour?

Inequality of world incomes: what should be done?

The evidence strongly suggests that global income inequality has risen in the last twenty years. The standards of measuring this change, and the reasons for it, are contested – but the trend is clear. The ‘champagne glass’ effect implies that advocacy of globalisation is not enough: international organisations need to move beyond integration into the world economy as the primary goal of policy.

A Turkish carpet odyssey

Working over many years with the villagers of Anatolia to revive traditional skills and produce carpets for western connoisseurs has been an education in life as well as a business venture. In serving to regenerate a community, it has also invited the westerner to reflect on the limits of his outlook. Now, post-11 September, the challenge to our consciousness is even sharper.

Making, and respecting, the rules

Maria Livanos Cattaui organised the annual Davos meeting for nineteen years. Now, as the head of the International Chamber of Commerce, she is one of the foremost advocates of globalisation. In a vigorous interview with openDemocracy, she sets out her distinctive, rules-based vision of the process, one that includes a strong role for government.

Globalisation - the view from Bhutan

If globalisation creates insecurity and shaming disparities of wealth, it will not work. For prosperity to be truly shared, says Bhutan’s foreign minister, the world needs an ethic of solidarity and sharing rather than profit.

The life and death of Railtrack

The British government has dismayed private investors by seizing control of the company set up in 1996 to own Britain’s railway tracks and property. Can the proposed hybrid model of a non-profit making private company open up a genuine ‘third way’ beyond state control and the market?

Towards a partnership of equals: European-US relations

The long-term trends in transatlantic relations are towards equality. After 11 September, will they be set back by an intensification of the unilateralism of Bush’s first year? Or will current, necessary coalition-building become the harbinger of a progressive renewal?

'Everyone is Creative': artists as new economy pioneers?

The flexible, multi-task lives of creative people in the modern city are celebrated by media and political cheerleaders as evidence of the liberating potential of the new cultural economy. But they are also part of a remorseless polarisation which glamourises its young meteors, and disciplines the rest. Can a generation of post-individualists find freedom in equity?

Another way of doing world business?

International businesses operating in Europe are seeking to become more "European", argues the communications specialist whose mordant reflection on Washington appeared in openDemocracy 1. But a corporate US-style monoculture doesn’t fit a plural continent. Instead, Europe is tending toward a different business model - one that turns its diversity into a strength.
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