Preventing a Catastrophic COVID Crisis in America

COVID-19 is the most severe pandemic since 1918. Beyond the harrowing humanitarian costs, large-scale economic disruptions are underway that can lead to crisis and conflict. The epidemiological advice is clear: flatten the curve, whatever it takes. Any society presented with the choice between world war-levels of casualties and temporary disruptions of social and economic life should chose disruptions over deaths.

Yet, the economic costs are nothing to be scoffed at and can easily serve as breeding grounds for future unrest. Solidarity across political camps, income strata, and nations is required to navigate the terrible times ahead. In the country that will largely decide the fate of the global economy, the United States, this might prove particularly difficult. Locked into deep political polarization, Republicans might have to temporarily accept public spending and government intervention as the only viable options amid this colossal natural disaster.

Illustration: Indigo Trigg-Hauger/PRIO. Photo: Boston Public Library CC BY

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Korona og rettsstaten

Tirsdag 24. mars ble den nye koronaloven vedtatt av Stortinget. Dagen før arrangerte Juridisk fakultet og PRIO webinaret “Korona og rettsstaten: hva skal vi med fullmaktsloven”. Arrangementet gikk via Zoom og hadde 600 deltagere. En redigert versjon kan også sees på youtube. Webinaret – som i utgangspunktet skulle spisse kritikken mot lovforslaget – ble i stedet en midtveisevaluering med noen av Norges fremste jurister.

Vi spurte: Hva har skjedd? Hvordan bør loven vurderes? Hvor går vi nå?

Denne bloggen oppsummerer de viktigste diskusjonspunktene fra seminaret.

Illustrasjonsfoto: www.houstondwiattorney.net CC BY

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Philosophy and Ethics in the Age of Corona Virus

It has been interesting to see how many news outlets and broadcasters ask for angles and insights these days from what we can broadly call a philosophical perspective. As we face the COVID-19 pandemic, I am one of those to be asked, and I humbly try to contribute.

So, what is philosophy good for now?

Empty shelves at a store in Arizona, USA. Photo: Dagny Gromer via Flickr.

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Academics and Homeschooling: Initial Notes During COVID-19

I never thought I would have to think seriously about homeschooling. To me as an academic, feminist and parent with kids in the public-school system in Norway, that has always seemed very fringe and also enormously demanding. In any event, here we are, universities and schools in Norway are closed, and I am eating humble pie. I am in awe of anyone who can do this well! On top of that, household chores double when everyone is home and in addition two parents are supposed to work for 15 hours a day. While many academics work across many time zones and the absence of teaching and travelling might actually free up a bit of time, this is challenging.

Photo: Kristin Bergtora Sandvik

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Gender and Preventing Violent Extremism

“We cannot allow the invisibility of women in the area of peace and security to continue,” stated Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide in her opening of the session on “Gender and Preventing Violent Extremism” in Amman, Jordan. Women are often “invisible” in analyses of violent extremism, whether political or religious.

Inger Skjelsbæk and Pinar Tank. Photo: Indigo Trigg-Hauger/PRIO

This has begun, however, to change in the European context with the recent return of female foreign fighters who joined Daesh. It has highlighted the gaps in our understanding of gender and extremism. Do the activities of Daesh women as mothers’ wives, and homemakers within an ideological group with a willingness to use violence make them complicit? How do we understand the willingness of women and girls – often born and raised in Europe – to join a group whose gender views stand in stark contrast to the societies from which these women come? These questions remain unanswered and in the Norwegian case, will in time be decided by the courts.

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Making a Regional Peacemaker

On March 3 the PRIO-CSS Jordan seminar, “Preserving Spaces for Dialogue in the Middle East”, was situated by the shore of the Dead Sea. The view was both beautiful and thematically fitting, because while most people associate the Dead Sea with a rather exotic seaside tourist destination, and the Kingdom of Jordan with being a peaceful hub in a turbulent region, this exact location allowed us to reflect on the fact that this has not always been true. Peace, like war, is made, and we can learn several lessons from the past. Reflecting on the precise conference site, as the historian on the panel, I therefore asked that we take some steps back in time.

From left: Dr. Zaid Eyadat, Director, CSS, H.E. Reem Abu Hassan, Former Minister for Social Development in Jordan, Dr. Jørgen Jensehaugen. Photo: Indigo Trigg-Hauger/PRIO

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A Youth Perspective on Youth Participation and Inclusion in the Middle East

Can we improve democracy and promote peace by becoming better at including youth and create spaces for youth participation in political processes? Last week I had the great honor of representing Norwegian youth on a panel discussion about this very topic during a seminar hosted by PRIO during the royal state visit to Jordan. The panel included PRIO Director Henrik Urdal, a representative of the Jordanian Youth Parliament, and the Jordanian Minister for Youth. We all agreed that youth inclusion and participation is key to create a lasting peace and representative democracy, as long as it is done in a way that really takes youth and their opinions seriously.

Rode Margrete Hegstad on the panel in Jordan.

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PRIO Has the Leading Experts on Protests

How does a country’s security apparatus react to a protest movement?

And what happens in the aftermath of successful protests?

PRIO is conducting three major research projects about protest movements, securing its position as an international leader in this field.

Photo: Artemas Liu / Wikimedia Commons

In 2019, the world experienced a surge of non-violent protest movements. Such movements have spearheaded the removals of illegitimate heads of state. For example, a protest movement in Sudan removed Al-Bashir after 30 years in power, and in November, a protest movement in Bolivia succeeded in deposing Morales. What is still unclear about these “successful” protests is what will happen afterwards. Experiences from the Arab Spring, now almost 10 years ago, give grounds for somewhat restrained optimism.

Although a protest movement may overturn a regime, democratization is not the inevitable result. The Arab Spring illustrates how hopes of democracy in the wake of mass mobilization are not always satisfied. While Tunisia has made major steps towards democracy, Egypt has moved in the wrong direction.Read More

Improved Data to Assist in the Prevention and Management of Conflicts

Today, the Praia City Group on Governance Statistics is launching its Handbook on Governance Statistics. The Praia Handbook on Governance Statistics provides improved data that can assist in the prevention and management of conflicts.

What is the Handbook about?

There have been many attempts to advance governance statistics at different levels, e.g. UNDP’s efforts to support countries’ own governance assessments over the past decade and regional efforts such as the Governance, Peace and Security surveys that form part of the Strategy for the Harmonization of Statistics in Africa (SHaSA), a joint initiative by the African Union Commission, the African Development Bank, UNDP and the UN Economic Commission for Africa.

But the ‘Praia Handbook’ is the first attempt at “conceptualization, measurement methodology and dissemination of governance statistics” that is solidly anchored in the global work of United Nations Statistical Commission, the UN’s body that brings together National Statistical Offices (NSO) from across the globe.Read More

Boris Nemtsov Still Marches with the Russian Opposition

PRIO Director Henrik Urdal included Russian NGOs standing against the rise of autocracy, and personally Alexei Navalny, in his short-list of candidates for the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize. Last week, Russian opposition remembered Boris Nemtsov, murdered five years ago, by a march in downtown Moscow, which gathered some 25.000 people. This article reflects on the shifts in Russian society.

Boris Nemtsov at a protest march in 2014.

The Kremlin did not utter even one word to mark the fifth anniversary of the high-profile murder that happened right under the walls of the seat of power in Russia. Boris Nemtsov, a joyful and charismatic leader of the democratic opposition, was shot as he walked along a bridge connected to Red Square.Read More