Brazil’s emergence cont’d

As a follow up to my last post on Brazil, here’s a fantastic documentary about the country’s rise in global affairs produced by Al Jazeera:


Brazil’s diplomatic emergence

Justice and economic diplomacy as an alternative to ideology and power politics

Amongst the key research questions I’m looking at right now is the question of how emerging powers in global affairs will impact the current architecture of global governance. In particular, are powerful states incented to become collaborating partners of existing international institutions or is there space for alternative institutional arrangements that would in effect split the world up into a bi (or multi)-polar governance order. Or, perhaps more likely, how will new emerging powers alter the architecture and culture of existing institutions?

Today’s announcement of a deal on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program brokered by Turkey and Brazil speaks to the ongoing evolution of these structures. For while Washington has spent the Read the rest of this entry »

Film review : Amreeka (2009)

I don’t do film reviews, this one, however, deserves one.

Part documentary, part tragic comedy, Amreeka follows the travails of a Palestinian mother and her teenage son as they travel from the battle-hardened streets of the Palestinian Territories to small-town America.

This isn’t just a film about the difficulties and intricacies of cultural adjustment and integration. Nor does it focus too much on the usual subtext of unrecognized experience and the taxi-driving doctors (or in this case burger-flipping bank employee).

It’s much more than that.

It digs into the subconscious of a mother who wants desperately a better, safer, and less-hassle filled life for her son. And subsequently taps the veins of the vast divide that separates Arab and Jew in Israel and Palestine; the insecurities, fears and bitterness of both painted through the interrogations at check points leading in and out of Bethlehem.

Once arrived in the US, the film jumps into the immigrant experience – one that is shaped by economic, social and cultural insecurities and that marks a generational tug-of-war between traditional and adopted values, between a desire to remain different and a desire to become the same.

Simultaneously, the film delves into the nascent racism and hostility stirred in the US by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the backlash against American Muslims and Arabs, and the subsequent challenges of multiculturalism in the world’s melting pot.  Perhaps purposeful, those who display an openness towards these newcomers are portrayed as societal outcasts – the divorced Principal, the blue-haired clerk, the beautiful and intelligent geek. A sad reminder perhaps of how limited our liberal attitudes towards those who don’t resemble us really is.

In doing so, the film quietly ponders several questions  that transcend geography and historical conflict related to belonging,  injustice and ultimately of our definitions of cultural and social identity.

This is a deep movie. Without a doubt the best movie I’ve seen this year, if not in ages.

Go see it (it also won a prizes at Cannes which testifies that critics far less naïve than I thought it worth seeing).

Ontario’s HST – Putting a price on the future

Much has been made of Dalton McGuinty’s Ontario Liberal government and their decision to introduce the harmonized sales tax (HST) in place of separate federal and provincial taxes. The move, according to the government, will lead to annual savings of up to $1.5 billion for Ontario businesses, savings that will not only lead to cheaper consumer prices down the road, but more important, a more competitive Ontario economy.

According to University of Calgary economist Jack Mintz, the implementation of the HST in Ontario and British Columbia will, thanks to the savings businesses will enjoy, lead to the creation of 591,000 net new jobs, increased capital investment of $47 billion, and increased annual incomes of up to 8.8 per cent, or $29.4 billion over the next ten years.

So given these distinct benefits of harmonization, why do a large majority (seventy four per cent to be exact) of Ontarians oppose its introduction? Read the rest of this entry »

Buffering China’s rise

Self-interest and the myth of cohesion.

There’s a propensity to describe the shift in global power and authority as one moving from North to South or West to East – and more specifically from the US to China.

This description fits neatly in the evolution of power since World War I, a war which marked the handoff of empiric supremacy from the UK to the US. In theory, we’re watching the next leg of the race, as the US hands the baton to China.

Yet in reality, today’s power shift is much more nuanced. China may be at the head of the class of new rising powers, but unlike the US’ post-war ascension as the only wealthy Nation around, China has company amongst developing countries. And that company means that China won’t have as easy as a time as the US did in creating a policy and governance environment that best suits its own needs.

For the US, self-interest after both wars meant the use of American dollars and American lending to stimulate the revival of European consumer markets and American industry at home.

For China, a purely self-serving agenda would do very much the same – Read the rest of this entry »