All posts filed under: Politics

Is international aid effective?

Although International aid rapidly increased from the 1980s onwards, its origins can be traced back to just after the Second World War, when the Marshall Plan (1947) was first introduced. A US initiative, comprising of $13 billion (around $130 billion today),the Marshall Plan aimed to improve Europe’s economic performance through boosting trade and the production of goods, and later was implemented in other parts of the developing world, due to its success in Europe, where GNP was at an all time high. This today has been the basis for all international aid, the aim of improving stability and increasing peace and prosperity in other nations to ensure security. However, international aid has sparked an ongoing debate with two antithetical positions towards it. On the one hand, many believe that foreign aid has led to more prosperous lives in LEDCs and has improve social welfare, whereas others disagree and believe it creates a dependency culture and creates a cycle of poverty. Thus, the issue of international aid has never been easy to resolve.

Was the Paris Agreement on Climate Change a success?

The Paris Climate Change Summit, also known as COP21, took place from November to December 2015. The deal unites nearly all the world’s nations in a single agreement on tackling climate change for the first time in history. The Paris Climate Change Summit is a successor to the Kyoto Protocol and the Copenhagen Conference and is currently being seen as the most appropriate response to date. However, to be able to assess whether Paris is a success or failure would depend upon what the aim was, for example, some view the Summit merely as a step in a longer process, whereas others may view the Summit as an agreement which should bring about radical change and solve the unprecedented levels of global warming the world is experiencing.

The War on Terror and Human Rights

The relationship between human rights and combatting terrorism is increasingly prominent, especially since the ‘war on terror’. Human rights are rights which people are entitled by virtue of being human. It could be argued that an infringement on human rights is acceptable as it is the lesser of two evils compared to terrorism. However, others may argue that an infringement is simply unacceptable and can never be justified. It is also argued to be counterproductive in terms of countering terrorism. There is often much debate regarding human rights and terrorism as it is often seen as a government’s responsibility to protect the right to life of citizens therefore suggesting that both human rights and combatting terrorism should complement one another, in reality however, this is not the case. This essay will explore the ways in which terrorism is combatted, for example through: military, state security and ideological approaches, and the ways in which they do and don’t undermine human rights.

Audio: Pressure Groups: Long Road to Change

A very good Radio 4 programme on the success and otherwise of modern and historical protest movements. This is very good for key contemporary pressure group examples. In an age when technology has made organising protest movements easier than ever before, journalist Zoe Williams asks why we aren’t seeing long-term results. She looks back on the global history of activism to discover the pre-conditions needed for concrete change. http://alevelpolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Seriously-20170411-LongRoadToChange.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSS

How important are backbenchers?

Backbenchers are Members of Parliament who do not have ministerial roles, be this in the Government or as part of the Shadow Cabinet. Their importance is highly debatable, with their potential for impact upon the legislative cycle being weighed up against the significant impact party politics, patronage and discipline has on mediating these powers. Ultimately, this essay shall conclude that backbenchers only have any real or significant importance beyond their constituency roles where they band together to produce certain outcomes, such as in backbench rebellions.

To what extent are Human rights protected in the modern world?

Human rights are rights to which people are entitled by virtue of being human, and it is thought to be universal, fundamental and indivisible. There has been increasing efforts within the international community to enforce more mechanisms and laws to ensure that human rights are protected around the world, this includes the International Criminal Court and UN Human Rights Council etc… There are also thousands of NGO’s around the world which now have a crucial role in protecting and promoting human rights, particularly through their use of the media. However, human rights can only be protected to an extent because these organisations and institutions are limited by their lack of authority to enforce action upon a state. Therefore, state sovereignty and national interest are fundamental within global politics, which impedes attempts to protect human rights.

Audio/Video : A Conversation With Ambassador Nikki Haley on Human Rights, Peace Keeping and the Security Council

Nikki Haley discusses the United States’ goals for its term as president of the UN Security Council in April. US Ambassador Haley outlines her plans to highlight human rights and to assess current UN peacekeeping missions. A very good insight into human rights and global governance under the Trump administration.   http://alevelpolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/A-Conversation-With-Nikki-Haley.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSS

To what extent has the power of the Prime Minister increased in recent years?

In the last 50 years of British politics, a series of Prime Ministers have been seen to utilise prime ministerial powers in as increasingly independent and arguably presidential way. However, have the powers of the Prime Minister actually increased, or have a number of recent Prime Ministers simply been more bold in harnessing the powers in place and more smart in managing and tackling the political environment of the United Kingdom? The latter currently seems far more tenable for reasons that will further be discussed.

To what extent has combatting terrorism undermined human rights?

The overt and unapologetic violation of human rights frameworks has been an integral element of the West’s ‘war on terror’ across the last 16 years. Rooted in the attack on American soil of September 11th 2001, American interventions across the Islamic world have aimed to eradicate the threat that terrorism supposedly poses to the Western world, with little regard for the rights of both civilians and combatants in the implicated states. Meanwhile, questionable domestic policy decisions have been driven by such an assumed threat, manifesting both in security measures and in legislation applied to citizens, often entailing the violation of civil liberties in one realm or another. To many, these are ‘necessary evils’ – former Vice President Dick Cheney proclaiming that in the war on terror, the USA ‘had to work sort of on the dark side’, using ‘any means at its disposal’ – there is, at the least, an acknowledgement of the harm measures could cause. However, a more ignorant view is that these violations of human rights have not occurred whatsoever. This essay …

Do the main UK political parties agree or disagree on policy and ideas?

The ‘main’ political parties can be defined as The Labour Party and The Conservative Party, who have been the only political parties to gain a majority for over a hundred years. Despite other smaller parties such as UKIP, the Green Party and The Liberal Democrats building in popularity they are none of them big enough to act as a real challenger to these two. Despite Labour and Conservative being very different by definition; Labour being left wing and Conservatives right wing, in more recent years, in the terms of Tony Blair and David Cameron they have been often more similar than different both settling on centrist views trying to please the whole population. However, since the appointment of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn this has drastically changed and with Corbyn especially being so notoriously left wing the two are arguably more different now than ever. Despite this there are still surprising similarities remaining between the two.

How far do the main political parties differ on policies and ideas?

Traditionally, political parties have been characterised by very different ideologies. The policies of the three main parties were underpinned by a coherent set of ideas and beliefs, which were particular to that party. Although the three main parties still have distinct ideological traditions, they have evolved since their conception and as a result of Thatcherism and ‘New Labour’  – the once distinct policy boundaries have become blurred. All three parties now subscribe to the Thatcher concept of a free market. In recent years the parties can be said to have moderated their traditional positions as part of an effort to appeal to as wide a range of voters as possible. All three parties are now essentially social democratic in nature and are more concerned with making piecemeal changes to current arrangements as opposed to imposing an ideological model. As a result, it can be seen that there are considerable similarities in policy and the differences are usually one of approach in achieving the goal – for example, in the 2010 election, in the economic policy, …

Seven Essays on American Decline

I set my A2 politics classes an essay on whether American power is in decline, to do in untimed conditions at home. Here is a selection of excellent essays with a brief comment from me as to why they were particularly good. Please note – these essays were set before we looked at IR theory and so I did not expect any references to realism or liberalism, however in their final drafts and in the exam this would be necessary. Please also note, I don’t expect them to write as much in the 45 minutes set for essay writing in the exam. 

Concepts: Superpowers and Great Powers

A superpower is a term given to a country that has unmatched influence in global affairs, and is significant in international relations. No other state can challenge its authority, due to its superiority in military and economic capabilities, meaning it can manipulate the international environment to its best interests. A country like America, whose superpower status has not been disputed since the end of the second world war, has the ability to project power on a global scale.

From the Millennium to Sustainable Development Goals: A New Paradigm

Approaches to development rely on a particular world view. Understanding development in terms of wealth can lead to different practices and different results as understanding development in terms of freedom. The UN has taken the ‘alternative’ view on development, focusing on human development, rather than focusing on national wealth. However, even within this one organisation, changes in their ‘world view’ can be seen, affecting their development programmes.

Five Lessons from the EU Referendum

Referendums in the UK are not be legally binding, but they might as well be David Cameron strongly supported the Remain camp during the EU debate, but even with a result as close as 52% leave to 48% remain, he accepted the decision made by the British electorate. To not do so would have almost certainly resulted in intra-party and wider calls for him to be removed as the Prime-Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party, especially with many of his own MPs, such as Boris Johnson, having campaigned against him. This also comes as on 22nd February 2016, Cameron addressed Parliament and said ‘For a Prime Minister to ignore the express will of the British people to leave the EU would be not just wrong, but undemocratic’.

Viewpoint – “We feel that our futures were risked by the choices of people – older, often geographically distant people”

91% of our school voted to stay in the EU in our internal referendum. As one might expect, a school fiercely proud of both its ethnic and cultural diversity, as well as its political engagement, is distraught. Almost none of us could vote, and 75% of the young people who could vote, voted to Remain. For the people we know and whose views we share, it’s hard to understand that this result really happened, and often in the name of our ‘future’.

New Patterns of Neocolonialism? Economic Relations between China and Africa

  Neocolonialism involves a country using political, economic or other resources in other countries to gain influence or control. It has commonly been understood as a relationship between the Western core and its Southern and Eastern counterparts. However, with the identity of the ‘core’ transforming as new emerging countries increase their share of global wealth, this pattern of neocolonialism might also be changing.

Audio: The Fusion of Civilisations not A Clash of Civilisations

The mood of much of the world is grim these days. Turmoil in the Middle East, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of refugees; random terrorist attacks across the globe; geopolitical tensions in eastern Europe and Asia; the end of the commodity supercycle; slowing growth in China; and economic stagnation in many countries—all have combined to feed a deep pessimism about the present and, worse, the future. Historians looking back on this age from the vantage point of later generations, however, are likely to be puzzled by the widespread contemporary feelings of gloom and doom. By most objective measures of human well-being, the past three decades have been the best in history. More and more people in more and more places are enjoying better lives than ever before. Nor is this an accident— because despite Samuel Huntington’s foreboding, what has occurred over recent generations is not a clash of civilizations but a fusion of civilizations. http://alevelpolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/pe_fore_010812_Article-12.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSS

Audio: Putin’s Foreign Policy

This is a very good audio article on Russian foreign policy and the world order. In the immediate post-9/11 era, the United States was riding high. But in more recent years, the order designed by Washington and its allies in the 1990s has come under severe strain. The many U.S. failures in the Middle East, the 2008 global nancial crisis and the subsequent recession, mount- ing economic and political crises in the EU, and the growing power of China made Russia even more reluctant to t itself into the Western-led international system. http://alevelpolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/pe_fore_010805_Article-5.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSS

Why global warming sharply divides political opinion

  Climate change through global warming has become one of the most prominent issues in global politics. While there has been growing agreement that climate change is happening and that it is anthropogenic or human-induced, there continues to be a major debate about how pressing or serious the problem of global warming is. However, although there have been a variety of global conferences and meetings and the environment has been placed highly on the agenda of politicians hoping to come to office, very little has been addressed and few pledges have materialised never mind achieved. Even the Paris Climate Change commitments seem to be recently unraveling. This is mostly due to the ‘great powers’ complacent attitude towards climate change and the perception that it is of lesser importance than domestic national interests and growth.

Is the US a Power in Decline?

It is universally accepted that following the Cold War, the USA experienced a ‘unipolar moment’,  establishing itself as a super power with global influence. Many referred to this as a global hegemony. The US had the strongest economy and unparalleled influence in global organisations. Francis Fukuyama even described this period as the ‘end of history’. However in recent years a number of factors, including the rise of China, military defeats and the loss of moral standing has led many to argue that the US will not maintain its position at the top.

Does Parliament still remain sovereign?

Parliament is seen as the sovereign body because it has absolute and unlimited legal authority, reflected in its ability to make, amend and repeal any laws it wishes. However, there are doubts about the accuracy and continuing relevance of parliamentary sovereignty to reasons such as the joining to the EU, devolution and the implantation of the Human Rights Act.

Is the UK constitution no longer fit for its purpose?

The constitution is a set of rules by which a country is run, it establishes the distribution of power within a political system, relationships between political institutions, the limits of government jurisdiction and the rights of citizens. However, these functions have been criticised and it could now be said that the UK constitution specifically is no longer fit for its purpose.

To what extent are Human Rights globally accepted?

The concept of human right including principles such as freedom of expression and the freedom of religion became a popular concept, adopted by many nations following the end of the Second World War in 1945. Today, the principles of Human Rights are promoted by many non-governmental organisations who survey abuses of Human Rights globally; many states also act on the international stage in a way to promote the ideas of Human Rights, an approach often criticised by Realist thinkers. However to say Human Rights are globally accepted is wrong as many non-westerners see Human Rights simply as a form of western imperialism and argue organisations such as the International Criminal Court are flawed. Therefore Human Rights is accepted as a fundamental doctrine primarily in western nations.

Evaluating different measurements of poverty.

In attempting to assess the policies, namely the neoliberal policies of the last thirty years on the poor, three different ways of measuring poverty have been put forward, all with their own merits and disadvantages The first way of measuring it is the absolute income approach. The World Bank currently measures poverty in terms of people living on less than $1.90 a day. This approach has shown poverty to decrease from 50% of the world’s population in 1980 to 10% today. Peter Edwards criticizes the $1.90 figure for being too low, himself proposing $7.60. That to shows poverty to have gone down from 73% in 1980 to 60% today (as a % of world population). These absolute income approaches all show poverty to have gone in % of people down since 1980, and so are deemed inadequate by critical theorists who insist poverty is more than just how much someone is making. The next way of measuring poverty is the relative approach. Those advocating this approach insist that poverty is relative- Adam Smith himself saying …

Criticisms of Humanitarian intervention

Since its intellectual ascendancy in the 1990’s, the concept of humanitarian intervention, that is, military intervention to protect human rights, has been criticized for a number of different reasons by a number of different theorists of international relations. The realist school of thinking holds that states should only act in their own self-interest, and that excessive and prolonged interventions overseas for “humanitarian” purposes only causes to weaken you as a state. Running as a realist in his 2000 election campaign, George W Bush alleged that President Bill Clinton was engaging in “social work” in areas such as the Balkans between 1995-1999 and Haiti, as well as the failed US troop deployment in Somalia and Rwanda, all of which were billed as humanitarian interventions. This caused imperial overstretch and a vulnerability at home to a possible attack. Additionally the various deployments cost billions of dollars, which should have been spent on decaying US infrastructure. Clinton’s troop deployment, Bush alleged, was not in the US national interest and so should not have been done. Such realist criticisms …

AUDIO: The Once and Future Superpower Why China Won’t Overtake the United States

After two and a half decades, is the United States’ run as the world’s sole superpower coming to an end? Many say yes, seeing a rising China ready to catch up to or even surpass the United States in the near future. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/system/files/audio/articles/2016/pe_fore_010809_article_9_brooks.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSS

To what extent has the powers of the Prime Minister grown in recent years?

In recent years, it has been noticed that various Prime ministers have attempted to reduce the amount of formal powers they have, largely due to public and political pressure. Whilst formal powers derived from the Prime Minister’s prerogative have decreased, there has been a growth in prime ministers exercising their use of informal powers that give the PM undefined authority. This was particularly the case in the Blair years when he was accused of manipulating government through the use of informal powers to suit his own interests. However, these powers are subject to the limitations that appear in government at any one time, with each prime minister facing different challenges, such as growing  back bench activism, in Cameron’s case, or decreasing popularity in the case of Brown. 

Europe and the Return of Geopolitics (Audio)

The Ukraine crisis marked the return of geopolitics in Europe. Can the EU, which has been originally designed to prevent geopolitics inside its borders, act as decisive foreign policy actor outside of them? How to cope in particular with the severe and manifold crisis in its neighbourhoods? http://media.rawvoice.com/lse_publiclecturesandevents/p/richmedia.lse.ac.uk/publiclecturesandevents/20160322_1830_europeAndTheReturnOfGeopolitics.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSS