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Economists Shaohua Chen and Martin Ravallion have studied “The Impact of the Global Financial Crisis on the World’s Poorest”. Their analysis shows that the world poverty rate keeps declining despite the crisis:

“The same (post-crisis) growth projections imply that the aggregate $1.25 a day poverty rate will fall from 21% in the “pre-crisis” year of 2008 to 18% (1040 million people) in 2009; the pre-crisis growth rate for 2009 would have instead brought the poverty rate down to 17% (987 million). Using the $2 a day line, the poverty rate falls from 42% in 2008 to 39% (2,232 million) in 2009 under the lower expected growth rate, while the pre-crisis trajectory would have brought the poverty rate down to 38% (2,169 million).”

Dissidents and human rights activists from China, Tibet, Vietnam, Burma, North Korea, Indonesia, Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Cuba and Venezuela gathered in Geneva, Switzerland on March 8-9, 2010 for the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy.
Here you can watch videos of all the debates and speeches.

Yes, they can – and so can every country in the world! Watch Hans Rosling – the funniest statistician ever! – explain his optimism to an Indian audience:

Asia’s Rise – How and When

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” – George Orwell

Don’t miss this frightening documentary!

Listen to two great and independent minds, Christopher Hitchens and Russ Roberts, talk about why Orwells Anti-Totalitarianism still matters.

Watch Larry Diamond, co-director of the International Forum for Democratic Studies and founding co-editor of the Journal of Democracy, explain why he believes it can at the New York Democracy Forum:

Larry Diamond – “Can the Whole World Become Democratic?”

Watch economist Alex Tabarrok explain at the TED Talks why he believes that “the best is yet to come” for our planet, if we only get a few things right:

How Ideas Trump Crisis

“The “dismal science” truly shines in this optimistic talk, as economist Alex Tabarrok argues free trade and globalization are shaping our once-divided world into a community of idea-sharing more healthy, happy and prosperous than anyone’s predictions.”

That is the subtitle of a new book by Dambisa MoyoDead Aid, which I highly recommend. Moyo knows the facts – and she knows Africa.

Watch her discuss about how we can make poverty history with development expert William Easterly at the Templeton Foundation

A conversation between Dambisa Moyo and William Easterly

Paul Collier is Professor of Economics at Oxford University and Department Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies.

Watch him speak about his book “The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It”, in which he “outlines four traps that the poorest countries in the world can find themselves in: the trap of civil war, the trap of being landlocked, the trap of having abundant natural resouces, and the trap of having a bad government” and explains how they can escape these traps:

Foreign Policy Magazine – Paul Collier

Watch Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and co-editor of the Journal of Democracy, debate his book The Spirit of Democracy – The Struggle to Build Free Societies Throughout the World, which I very strongly recommend to anyone interested in the science of democracy and democracy movements, with some researchers from Freedom House at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs:

The Spirit of Democracy – Carnegie Council, New York

Watch Shikha Dalmia explain why the new rags-to-riches-movie Slumdog Millionaire is a brilliant metaphor for recent Indian history at Reason TV:

Slumdog Thousandaire

“In important ways, Slumdog tells the story of India itself—a poverty-stricken underdog with its own rags-to-riches tales.

Since the early 1990s, India has cut its poverty rate in half. About 300 million Indians—equivalent to the population of the entire United States—escaped the hunger and deprivation of extreme poverty thanks to pro-market reforms that increased economic activity.

Watch Swedish writer Johan Norberg, author of the classic study In Defense of Global Capitalism, travel around the globe and explain to you, why globalization is the only hope for the poor and why we don’t have enough of it:  

Globalisation is Good

“The world is an unequal and unjust place, in which some are born into wealth and some into hunger and misery. To explore why, in this controversial Channel Four documentary the young Swedish writer Johan Norberg takes the viewers on a journey to Taiwan, Vietnam, Kenya and Brussels to see the impact of globalisation, and the consequences of its absence. It makes the case that the problem in the world is not too much capitalism, globalisation and multinationals, but too little.”

Watch or listen to C. Fred Bergsten, Nicholas R. Lardy, Trevor Houser, Derek J. Mitchell and Charles Freeman debate their book, China’s Rise: Challenges and Opportunities, at the Peterson Institute:

China’s Rise – Book Forum

Watch Amartya Sen, winner of the Nobel Prize in economics and author of Development as Freedom, in which he shows how liberal democracy helps avoid famines and disasters, talk about his life and ideas to Harry Kreisler:

Conversations with History: Amartya Sen

Watch Muhammad Yunus, Nobel peace laureate, author of Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism, and  founder of Grameen Bank , explain his ideas at the Google NYC campus:

Authors@Google: Muhammad Yunus

“Economics professor Yunus claims he originally became involved in the poverty issue not as a policy-maker, scholar, or researcher, but because poverty was all around me. With these words he stopped teaching elegant theories and began lending small amounts of money, $40 or less, without collateral, to the poorest women in the world. Thirty-three years later, the Grameen Bank has helped seven million people live better lives building businesses to serve the poor. The bank is solidly profitable, with a 98.6% repayment rate. It inspired the micro-credit movement, which has helped 100 million of the poorest people in the world escape poverty and earned Yunus a Nobel Peace prize.”

Watch Philip Short talk about his book Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare, which is much more than just a great biography, at the University of California:

Philip Short – Pol Pot

“Towards the beginning of this massive biography, Short cautions readers against dismissing the terror of Pol Pot’s regime as the incomprehensible work of evil men. Instead, Short argues, the explanations for the Khmer Rouge regime, which resulted in the death of over one-fifth of Cambodia’s population, or 1.5 million people, are ‘rooted in history’.”

Watch Michael Ignatieff talk to Jung Chang and Jon Halliday about their biography, Mao – The Unknown Story, in which they prove that Mao’s communist regime killed over 70 000 000 people in peace times, more than any other regime in history:

Harvard University, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy: Mao – The Unknown Story

There is only one major point where I slightly disagree with the authors. They claim that Mao never really believed in marxist ideology. I doubt it. But I can’t tell. But even if that’s the case, most of his supporters definitely did believe in communism and the dynamic of the regime can only be explained by this simple fact. This is important to point out, because many communists reacted to the book by saying: ‘Well, maybe he killed 70 million people. But he never was a real communist anyway.’ Let’s not allow them to get away with this!

We can’t predict the future. But we can try. And if we try hard enough, we may be better prepared for it.

The National Intelligence Council’s report on “Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World” tries very hard to predict the major global trends for the next 15 – 20 years.  Watch Thomas Fingar, Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, discuss the report at the Atlantic Council.

It predicts the Economic Rise of the East and an unprecedented growth of the global middle class:

“Over the next several decades the number of people considered to be in the ‘global middle class’ is projected to swell from 440 million to 1.2 billion or from 7.6 percent of the world’s population to 16.1 percent.”

This is great news for many reasons. The further decline of hunger and poverty around the world is very likely to be accompanied by further liberalization and democratization in many countries. But, again, we can’t predict the future. So let’s try very hard to make it a better one!

Watch a panel on economic development and poverty reduction in India at Columbia University, featuring Arvin Panagariya, author of India: The Emerging Giant, Jagdish Bhagwati, author of In Defense of Globalization, and Tunku Varadarajan, Professor at the New York University Stern School of Business:

A Panel on India: The Emerging Giant

Watch David Bandurski, a scholar at Hong Kong University’s China Media Project, discuss his article “China’s Guerrilla War for the Web” for the Far Eastern Economic Review :

David Bandurski Interview

Do you care about the “Millenium Development Goals” and the global fight against poverty? Do you care about Darfur and the global fight against genocide? Then you should also care about this terrible fact:

Eric Reeves in The New Republic : Millennium Development Grotesquery

“Incredibly, the regime committing genocide in Darfur is now meant to be in charge of a critical U.N. poverty- and disease-eradication program.

The largest and most influential group of developing nations has added an ill-considered and wholly gratuitous burden to the challenges of the Millenium Development Goals: they have selected the Sudan government, which continues to perpetrate genocide in Darfur in front of the eyes of the world, to be their chair in the coming year. The “Group of 77,” as it’s known, made this extraordinary decision at the very moment the General Assembly and the U.N. Secretariat were highlighting a number of discouraging shortfalls in MDG progress. The Group of 77 now has 130 members (77 was the number at its inception in 1964), including virtually every African nation. Since it was the African countries’ turn to pick the chair of the organization, and since the selection of Sudan was supported by China, the outcome–however outrageous–is hardly surprising. Strong support from the member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference helped ensured Khartoum’s diplomatic victory. The selection of the National Islamic Front regime as chair is no mere symbolic exercise, though the symbolism of the choice is intensely dispiriting. For it comes at a time when the head of the regime faces a likely arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court—for crimes against humanity and for genocide in Darfur.”

Don’t miss the informative essay by Richard Dust on Darfur in the same issue of The New Republic :

The Truth Will Not Set You Free

“Everything we know about Darfur, and everything we’re not doing about it”

And watch Hillel Neuer from UN Watch confront the regime and its supporters at the UN:

Denying Darfur

“Sudan and its friends — Syria, Saudi Arabia, China — deny the atrocities in Darfur, and attack the members of the mission on Darfur as headed by Jody Williams. UN Watch confronts Sudan and its allies.”

Watch this shocking documentary on the still dire situation of the so called “Untouchables” – or “Dalits” as they wish to be called – and their desperate struggle against the caste system, India’s traditional form of apartheid:

International Dalit Solidarity NetworkI’m dalit, How are you ?

John Lee, author of Will China Fail?The Limits and Contradictions of Market Socialism, argues in The Australian that the tainted milk scandal is part of a much bigger problem for Chinese civil society:

Deadly hand of officials in China

“While China has been decentralising and officials have multiplied, it is not building institutions that encourage public accountability. It’s hard to build rule of law when the party controls the courts, tribunals and law enforcement. It’s hard to have transparency when the party controls the media. It’s hard to make local officials accountable when Beijing relies on them to maintain the CCP’s hold on power in far-flung places.
Moreover, if you think China is well on its way to becoming a private-enterprise, free market economy, think again. The state remains a significant player in the Chinese economy. State businesses receive more than 70per cent of the country’s capital. The state owns more than 60per cent of the country’s fixed assets.”

Why did Beijing try to tell the Nobel Committee whom not to give this year’s Nobel Peace Price to?

Here’s the official explanation:

“‘Everyone knows what kind of person Hu Jia is, he is a criminal that was convicted and sentenced to prison by the state judiciary of inciting the subversion of state power,’ foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said. ‘If they award the peace prize to such a person, it would be rude interference in China’s internal affairs as well as our independent judiciary.'”

So, who is this “criminal”, who is so dangerously subverting state power?

Read about him and his wife Zeng Jinyan on the Hujia & Jinyan’s Spirit Blog or in The Independent: Hu Jia: China’s enemy within

And don’t miss their movie Prisoners in Freedom City:

Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4

Aung Din spent more than four years in a Burmese prison cell. For the Far Eastern Economic Review he writes about how The U.N. Has Failed Burma.

Good news first: The regime in Burma has released the country’s longest-serving political prisoner. U Win Tin has spent 19 years behind bars. With him at least six more prominent democracy fighters were also set free. It looks like even this regime, one of the very worst, is responding to international and inside pressure.

But, as Benjamin Zawacki, Amnesty International ‘s Myanmar researcher, has pointed out: “While the release of U Win Tin and his fellow prisoners is certainly the best news to come out of Myanmar for a long time, unfortunately they don’t even represent one percent of the political prisoners there. These seven people should never have been imprisoned in the first place, and there are many, many more who should also be released.”

The Irrawaddy ‘s Kyaw Zwa Moe is afraid that this is just another Evil Game.

Win Tin has vowed: “I will keep fighting until the emergence of democracy in this country.” The international community should join him in his fight.

Freedom House has a special report on the DPRK gulag system, “the kwan-li-so political penal labor encampments where as many as 200,000 persons, including both suspected wrong-doers and wrong-thinkers, and up to three generations of their family members, are imprisoned without trial and subjected to forced labor under extremely severe conditions.”

Concentrations of Inhumanity – by David Hawk, FH

The report deals with: “Enforced Disappearance, Deportation and Arbitrary Imprisonment, Enslavement and Forced Labor, Murder, Torture, Rape and Enforced Prostitution”.

And it concludes: “The phenomena of repression associated with the political prison camp system of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea are clear and massive crimes against humanity as now defined in law.”

Well, it is still too early to tell. Despite its great economic successes, Singapore is still being ranked Partly Free by Freedom House. But there are some signs of hope. Hugo Restall writes in the Far Eastern Economic Review on how “Pressure Builds on Singapore’s System”.