Kavita N Ramdas https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/3895/all cached version 08/02/2019 17:11:27 en Building a bridge to the future: towards a feminist UN https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/kavita-n-ramdas/building-bridge-to-future-towards-feminist-un <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What will it take for the world’s women to shift the UN away from its paradigm of patriarchy and gender inequality and implement the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/646040_0_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/646040_0_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>UN officials at a General Assembly Debate, UN New York. Photo: UN</span></span></span>It is August and&nbsp;it is hot everywhere, but it may be particularly sticky and uncomfortable in the halls of the United Nations as the institution faces its next general assembly meeting in September. That is because the UN is being grilled, and not for the first time in its history, by the women of the world, who want to know why the organization charged with implementing the <a href="http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/">Universal Declaration of Human Rights</a>&nbsp; (UDHR), seems to be so woefully stuck in its current paradigm of patriarchy and gender inequality. &nbsp;The most visible manifestation of this discomfort has taken place in the discussion about the choice of the next&nbsp;<a href="http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54522">UN Secretary General</a>&nbsp;and the loud calls for this next leader to be a woman. Ironically, the entire process of governance and decision making at the United Nations, which is supposed to uphold and work by the principles of the UDHR, is profoundly undemocratic and secretive,&nbsp;and remains frozen in its post World War II division between dominant powers and lesser nation states. Thus, while the UN Secretary General may not be from any one of the 5 nations representing the permanent members of the Security Council, their power and influence is barely veiled in the selection process and has already led to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/anne-marie-goetz/still-no-country-for-women-double-standards-choosing-next-UN-Secretary-General">elimination of all but the most non-controversial candidates.&nbsp;</a> </p> <p>This is not where we thought we would be in 2016. &nbsp;Over&nbsp;a decade&nbsp;ago when I was still leading the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.globalfundforwomen.org/">Global Fund for Women</a>&nbsp;feminists around the globe were pushing for something that is now called&nbsp;<a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en">UN Women</a>&nbsp;- a UN entity that would have the clout and influence to move a holistic and intersectional gender analysis through every single one of the UN's multi-faceted programs and agencies. &nbsp;An entity that would seen as central to the advancement of the UN mission and goals, be generously endowed with the means to make a difference, and be led by a feminist of power and influence whose mandate was to advance a women's rights agenda both within the UN and across the globe among all its member states. &nbsp;The Global Fund and other like minded foundations, invested in the process led by pioneers like&nbsp;<a href="http://womens-studies.rutgers.edu/faculty/core-faculty/66-the-faculty/core-faculty/117-charlotte-bunch">Charlotte Bunch</a>&nbsp;and were delighted when we found ourselves celebrating its launch in 2010 and welcoming its inaugural director - the remarkable&nbsp;<a href="http://www2.unwomen.org/~/media/commoncontent/unwomen-michellebachelet-formered-en%20pdf.pdf?v=1&amp;d=20141119T123931">Michele Bachelet, the former President of Chile.</a></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 15.18.54.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 15.18.54.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The "Step It Up" campaign for gender equality. Photo:UNWomen/Ryan Brown</span></span></span></p> <p>Yet, today, UN Women remains unable to fulfill its potential within the United Nations, severely constrained by funding limitations and a fiercely competitive, sometimes hostile and resolutely patriarchal environment where fiefdoms are carved out on the basis of funding or political power and where nations openly claim their stake on particular agencies of the UN. &nbsp;So, it is common knowledge that the United States exercises control over UNICEF as it is clear that France refuses to relinquish control over the arena of UN Peacekeeping Forces. &nbsp;Even the liberal Nordic governments whose values we feminists appreciate, cavalierly use their funding in support of women's rights or empowerment to exercise control and wrest critical positions of influence within entities like UN Women and UNFPA. The UN and its staff is notoriously protected from any regulations that could ensure even a modicum of public accountability with full diplomatic immunity, no ability to sue, and very little transparency in its internal matters. &nbsp;As one colleague mentioned recently: "there are three locked doors that you have to pass through before you can enter a meeting of the Fifth Committee - the Budget/Finance committee of the UN".&nbsp; </p><p>What could change this reality? What opportunities do feminist activists, scholars, economists, funders see to put some serious cracks in a structure that is outdated, inadequate for today's complex challenges, and fails to represent both the voices of the non-western, so-called developing world as well as 50% of its population - girls and women. These were the questions that a small yet determinedly diverse and passionate group began to tackle this past week. &nbsp;Thanks to the convening efforts of the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.icrw.org/">International Center for Research on Women</a>&nbsp;(ICRW)&nbsp;we began to drill down on a series of specific challenges, but also acknowledge the spaces where change has been made, barriers have been removed, and the status quo has been challenged. Voices from groups like&nbsp;<a href="https://www.justassociates.org/">JASS</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://wedo.org/">WEDO</a>, and the&nbsp;<a href="https://awdf.org/">African Women's Development Fund&nbsp;</a>(ADWF) urged us to think about an approach that put women's movements and women's rights defenders front and center and to strategize about how to leverage the growing impatience and anti-colonial sentiments from many nations in the developing world with a more feminist agenda for the United Nations. We reiterated the power of working class women with organizations like&nbsp;<a href="https://www.solidaritycenter.org/">Solidarity Center</a>&nbsp;reminding us that alternative governance structures were possible such as within the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/lang--en/">International Labor Organization</a>&nbsp;(ILO) where tripartite agreements ensured space for workers voices as distinct from nation states. We challenged ourselves to find allies in this cause within the UN system itself and among&nbsp;<a href="https://www.fordfoundation.org/">leaders in philanthropy</a>&nbsp;who have called for dismantling the structures that perpetuate inequality globally. We explored the opportunities to create safe spaces for whistleblowers, to ensure more transparent processes, and to expand the space for civil society within the UN, which still primarily serves the interests of governments and not peoples. </p> <p>Many of us come from the world of activism and know something about turning up the heat when it is needed. &nbsp;But we hope first to lean a little harder on the well- intentioned and caring people within the institution that needs to be remade for the 21st century. &nbsp;We decided that we are going to focus our energies on building&nbsp;a bridge to a shared future - a feminist future. &nbsp;We will be reaching out to many of our networks and potential allies both within and outside the United Nations - we have only one&nbsp;planet&nbsp;and only one transnational governance structure - it needs to be the very best it can be. </p><p>Getting there may feel almost as hard as crossing the bridge in Selma, Alabama, but just like those champions of equality, "we are on our way to justice and we shall not be moved." </p><p><strong><em>Kavita Ramdas will be speaking at the forthcoming AWID Forum</em></strong> <strong><a href="http://www.forum.awid.org/forum16/">Feminist Futures: Building Collective Power for Rights and Justice</a></strong>, <strong><em>8-11 September, Bahia&nbsp; Brazil</em>.</strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/still-no-country-for-women-double-standards-choosing-next-UN-Secretary-General">Still no country for women? 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After three years leading the Ford Foundation’s operations in South Asia, she is currently Senior Advisor to the President on Global Strategy. She has been a board member at Princeton University, Mount Holyoke College, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and currently serves on the Rockefeller Brothers Fund Board of Trustees.</p><div class="field field-au-shortbio"> <div class="field-label">One-Line Biography:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Kavita N Ramdas is &lt;a href=&quot;http://www.globalfundforwomen.org/cms/about-gfw/staff/kavita-n.-ramdas.html &quot;&gt;president &lt;/a&gt;and chief executive officer at the &lt;a href=&quot;/www.globalfundforwomen.org&quot;&gt;Global Fund for Women&lt;/a&gt; </div> </div> </div> Kavita N Ramdas Fri, 26 Mar 2010 13:16:17 +0000 Kavita N Ramdas 52933 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Philanthrocapitalism in denial https://www.opendemocracy.net/article/globalisation/philanthrocapitalism_in_denial <p> The application of business principles to the world of civil society and social change has fashion, wealth, power and celebrity behind it. But where is the evidence that &quot;philanthrocapitalism&quot; works, and are there better ways to achieve urgently needed global social progress? </p> <p> <span class="pullquote_new"><strong>Kavita N Ramdas</strong> is <a href="http://www.globalfundforwomen.org/cms/about-gfw/staff/kavita-n.-ramdas.html">president</a> and chief executive officer at the <a href="http://www.globalfundforwomen.org/">Global Fund for Women</a></span> </p> <p> In thinking about this question, I found the arguments that Michael Edwards makes in his <strong>openDemocracy</strong> article &quot;<a href="/article/globalisation/visions_reflections/philanthrocapitalism_after_the_goldrush">Philanthrocapitalism: after the goldrush</a>&quot; (19 March 2008) to be strong and persuasive. They echo growing concerns that I have had about the direction philanthropy is taking in the United States. </p> <p> The &quot;new venture philanthropy&#39; or &quot;capitalist philanthropy&quot; should be seen as part of the pattern that saw a triumphant western capitalism choosing to assume its undisputed place as &quot;number one&quot; in the world after the fall of the Soviet Union and the demise of socialism or communism as a feasible alternative economic system. Despite many good intentions, this version of philanthropy is all too often beset by a hubristic assumption of its ability to resolve the world&#39;s most deep-rooted problems. </p> <p> In this it becomes enmeshed in two contradictions. The first is that the more unequal and unfair the world gets, the more its people are being invited to celebrate a cherished few who both embody and benefit from this condition - and who have chosen to use some of their almost unfathomable wealth to address &quot;specific&quot; problems with &quot;measurable&quot; outcomes. This reveals that something is missing in their efforts, as in much of the discussion of the new mega-philanthropy: namely, any deeper questioning about what ails a global economic system that produces endemic inequality, crushing poverty, and food insecurity - all of which damage the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people. The new philanthropy avoids exploring what is wrong at this systemic level - where a single individual&#39;s net worth can become larger than the combined GDPs of some of the world&#39;s poorest nations. </p> <p> <span class="pullquote_new"> Also in <strong>openDemocracy&#39;s </strong>debate on philanthrocapitalism:<br /> <br /> Michael Edwards, &quot;<a href="/article/globalisation/visions_reflections/philanthrocapitalism_after_the_goldrush">Philanthrocapitalism: after the goldrush</a>&quot; (19 March 2008)<br /> <br /> Gara LaMarche, &quot;<a href="/article/philanthropy_for_social_change_a_response_to_michael_edwards">Philanthropy for social change</a>&quot; (9 April 2008) <br /> <br /> Geoff Mulgan, &quot;<a href="/article/globalisation/philanthrocapitalism/power_inequality_democracy">The new philanthropy: power, inequality, democracy</a>&quot; (10 April 2008)<br /> <br /> Simon Zadek, &quot;<a href="/article/globalisation/philanthrocapitalism/civil_society_and_capitalism_a_new_landscape">Civil society and capitalism: a new landscape</a>&quot; (14 April 2008)<br /> <br /> Stewart J Paperin, &quot;<a href="/article/globalisation/philanthropy_s_business_benefit">Philanthropy&#39;s business benefit</a>&quot; (16 April 2008)<br /> <br /> Mark Surman, &quot;<a href="/article/globalisation/philanthropy_on_the_commons">Philanthropy on the commons</a>&quot; (18 April 2007)<br /> <br /> Colin Greer, &quot;<a href="/article/globalisation/philanthropy_as_solidarity">Philanthropy as solidarity</a>&quot; (21 April 2008)<br /> <br /> Karen Weisblatt, &quot;<a href="/article/individual_giving_collective_action">Individual giving, collective action</a>&quot; (23 April 2008)<br /> <br /> Michael Edwards&#39;s essay draws on his book - <a href="http://www.justanotheremperor.org/"><em>Just A</em><em>n</em><em>other Emperor: the Myths and Realities of Philanthrocapitalism</em></a> (Demos/Young Foundation, March 2008)</span> </p> <p> The second contradiction is that even as the downsides of so-called &quot;development&quot; in the global north become ever clearer (among them unsustainable consumption patterns and lifestyle-related health problems), philanthrocapitalism seeks to bring the wonders of this model of development to those who have no access to it. But as societies and people around the world become more interdependent - a fact that global climate change above all is making clear - it is ever more necessary to question the assumptions that underlie this view that &quot;we&quot; know what is best for &quot;you&quot;. </p> <p> <strong>The wrong fix</strong> </p> <p> It is vital to examine the actual effects of this form of &quot;development&quot;. As <a href="http://www.southendpress.org/authors/17">Vandana Shiva</a> has written: &quot;Development deprives the very people it professes to help of their traditional land and means of sustenance, forcing them to survive in an increasingly eroded natural world. The reality is that people do not die for lack of income. They die for lack of access to the wealth of the commons.&quot; </p> <p> Some striking examples internationally include: </p> <p> * the combination of &quot;free-market&quot; policies and the removal of government subsidies is putting intense pressure on Indian small farmers and peasants, causing them to lose the equivalent of $26 billion dollars annually, and leading to over 5,000 farmer <a href="http://www.hindu.com/2007/11/12/stories/2007111257790100.htm">suicides</a> in 2007 alone </p> <p> * water, an essential resource for life, is now a $400-billion dollar industry controlled mainly by western corporations, who now profit by selling a resource to the poor that was once free </p> <p> * the approximately $50 billion dollars of &quot;aid&quot; (including private philanthropy) trickling from global north to global south is but a tenth of the $500 billion dollars being sucked <em>out</em> of the global south each year in the form of interest payments on loans and other unjust mechanisms imposed by international financial agencies, including the World Bank and the IMF </p> <p> These realities notwithstanding, there is little if any evidence that &quot;philanthrocapitalism&quot; is interested in looking at such structural realities, or examining the root causes of current economic or political inequality and injustice. On some level, it might be absurd to expect it to do so. Indeed, many activists and economic analysts - including Nobel laureates <a href="http://www.oup.com/uk/catalogue/?ci=9780198297581">Amartya Sen</a> and <a href="/arts/stiglitz_3953.jsp">Joseph Stiglitz</a> - argue that the developing world&#39;s most pressing problems could be effectively solved by changing the terms of political and economic power within the current system. Again, Vandana Shiva makes a valid point, that &quot;it may not be about how much wealthy nations and individuals can give, so much as how much less they can take.&quot; </p> <p> The new philanthropy is nowhere near asking this question. It seems motivated by technological solutions, the same &quot;fix-the-problem&quot; mentality that allowed these business people to succeed as hedge-fund managers, capital- market investors, or software-developers. <em>This</em> &quot;philanthropy&quot; is designed to yield measurable and fairly quick solutions. A symptom of this may be found in the kind of skills that new foundations are seeking. I am struck by how few social scientists are employed at the new &quot;mega-philanthropies&quot;. Instead, the people required are management consultants, business people, and scientists, who must demonstrate their &quot;expertise&quot; on specific issues - climate change, agricultural productivity, soil quality, or infectious disease. The nuance and inherent humility of the social sciences - willing to be perplexed and to struggle with multifaceted aspects of a problem - has no cachet in the realms of &quot;technocracy&quot;. </p> <p> <strong>The seeds of change</strong> </p> <p> Even the complex issue of &quot;gender&quot; has been neatly broken down into specifics - ending maternal mortality, educating girls, increasing the incomes of women. On the board of the <a href="http://www.globalfundforwomen.org/cms/">Global Fund for Women</a> (GWF), activists from around the world have become wary of the term &quot;invest in women&quot;, because they see the language of economic profit appropriating a much richer and multihued landscape relating to women&#39;s status and position in their families and communities. </p> <p> The GWF and similar organisations have worked for years to explain that women&#39;s rights live in the murky and unclear intersections between economic inequalities, discriminatory traditional and cultural practices, political and personal lack of power, and violence - in the home, in intimate relationships, and on the streets and battlefields. For this reason, the Global Fund for Women has sought to support women&#39;s own articulations of their struggle for justice and equality by working at various levels and within all the structures where women and girls are systematically disempowered. Yet, as we seek to raise funds from new sources, we find ourselves struggling for ways to &quot;sell&quot; our model - even as we hope it can become one that the philanthrocapitalists will emulate! </p> <p> Many of us working in this field are increasingly concerned by our instinctive tendency to &quot;follow the money&quot;. Yet, as Michael Edwards correctly points out, those of us who have been social-justice advocates and activists before we became &quot;professional non-profit leaders&quot; know all too well that it is social movements and their ability to hold both governments and the private sector accountable, that are truly going to change our world (Colin Greer of the New World Foundation echoes this argument in his own article, &quot;<a href="/article/globalisation/philanthropy_as_solidarity">Philanthropy as solidarity</a>&quot; [21 April 2008]). So, even as we seek to figure out how to raise next year&#39;s budget and which new foundations we will pursue, we simultaneously fill our strategic plans with pledges and commitments to be engaged in movement-building. </p> <p> <strong>A new dialogue</strong> </p> <p> This means a permanent effort to engage in shared debate and discussion and learning, while struggling with the wisdom contained in <a href="http://www.alp.org/about/audre">Audrey Lorde</a>&#39;s words: &quot;you cannot use the master&#39;s tools to dismantle the master&#39;s house&quot;. What I would like to see is a new cross-sector partnership emerging, connecting those of us who work in philanthropy with those in the social-benefit sector, in the private sector, and in government. Such a partnership would need to begin with a shared sense that the tools we have been using are simply not enough; and then to demonstrate a collective willingness to unpack what in our efforts has and has not worked under the rubric of &quot;globalisation&quot; and &quot;economic growth&quot; over the past twenty years. </p> <p> In this effort, the new philanthropists could benefit from listening to and learning from those on the ground who are working in some of the most exciting social-justice movements around the globe. The proposition that business does not, after all, have all the answers, and that the social-benefit sector, particularly people&#39;s movements, have much knowledge and substance to share, would be an excellent starting-point for a dialogue (Karen Weisblatt&#39;s article, &quot;<a href="/article/individual_giving_collective_action">Individual giving, collective action</a>&quot; [23 April 2008], would also be on the reading-list). From there, we can begin also to re-engage the state and governments, in a conversation based on mutual respect and a genuine willingness to learn from one another. </p> <p> Naïve? Optimistic? Perhaps, but I suspect it may the only real choice we have left to ensure our shared future as citizens of the earth. </p> Globalisation Philanthropy Kavita N Ramdas Creative Commons normal Fri, 25 Apr 2008 13:15:57 +0000 Kavita N Ramdas 36341 at https://www.opendemocracy.net