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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

As Nigeria’s president Goodluck Jonathan celebrates his re-election, the rest of the region and the world are waiting to see how his victory will effect his country. This Monday, April 25, the World Affairs Council will host Ambassador John Campbell, author of Nigeria: Dancing on the Brink, for an exploration of Nigeria’s post-colonial history and an explanation of the events and conditions that have carried this complex, dynamic and troubled giant to the edge. Can Nigerians push back against corruption and use the nation’s oil wealth to stoke economic investment and growth, or will Nigeria continue to be a place of a wealthy minority and impoverished majority?

Register for the program here and read more about Jonathan’s win in today’s New York Times.

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After the controversial 2008 presidential election in Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe began a brutal terror campaign against his people which would later become known simply as, “The Fear.” Having entered the country in secret, journalist, author and native Zimbabwean Peter Godwin watched as Mugabe insisted on a runoff election and then launched a campaign against the opposition known as “Operation Let Us Finish Them Off.” Godwin chronicled the election aftermath in his new book, The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe, which he will discuss at the Council on April 28 at 6 PM.

Register for the program here. Listen to an interview with Godwin on NPR’s Fresh Air here.

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On April 20, we are pleased to host Stanford political scientist Francis Fukuyama for a discussion of the evolution of government. In his new book, The Origins of Political Order, he traces political history back to the beginning of man. He will join us to discuss why some societies have created stable liberal democracies, while others have failed to form legitimate and accountable institutions. Register for the program “From Tribes to Citizens: The Evolution of Government,” here.

For more about Fukuyama and his analysis of the history of human social structures, check out this recent article from The New York Times.

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Thanks to a decades-long focus on improving access to college, nearly seven in ten Americans today enroll in some form of postsecondary education within two years of leaving high school. That’s a record number, and it is impressive. But it also obscures another reality. Lurking in the shadows is a more sobering statistic: Not much more than half of college students—some 57 percent—earn a bachelor’s degree in six years.

In short, colleges are getting more people to start a race they cannot finish. In fact, college graduation rates are increasing in every developed country except for the United States, according to Grantmakers for Education (GfE). Individual success is hindered, as is the nation’s competitive global edge.

Over the past couple months the college dropout issue has been getting the increasing attention it deserves. Last month, President Obama called for the nation to regain the world lead in college completion by 2020. (The US currently ranks No. 12.) Philanthropy is stepping up, too. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation just launched a $12-million initiative with the National League of Cities to boost college graduation rates in four cities. The Intel Foundation, led by Shelly Esque and championed by Intel CEO Paul Otellini, has sponsored competitions to incent and reward achievement in science and math, thus encouraging dazzling stars in the next generation, not only to do well in high school, but to excel in college and in life. And the Lumina Foundation has announced a $14.8 million, four-year national effort to help adults with “some college”—even those decades removed from attending school— complete their degree.

Over the summer GfE released From Access to Success, a funders guide to improving college graduation rates, relating key themes from a spring meeting in Washington with prominent researchers, higher education leaders and officials from the US Department of Education. In addition to describing the reasons too many students don’t complete college, the short GfE guide offers ideas for funders. Among these: Convene K-12, higher education and private industry leaders to better define college- and career-readiness; help schools and districts strengthen the quality of student counseling and college preparation; and help build will among policymakers and the public to support adequate funding of community colleges, which are entry points for many into the larger, postsecondary system.

But in addition to dangling carrots, the guide also offers prodding with sticks. It calls on grantmakers to hinge institutional support on efforts at improving college retention, including better tracking and analyzing of data. According to the guide, basing funding on course and degree completion rather than mere enrollment will push schools to focus on true progress.

—Jane Wales

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On Thursday, October 7 the World Affairs Council and Global Philanthropy Forum hosted the 2010 Awards Dinner. The event celebrated technology and social innovation for the public good and honored individuals and organizations who are leaders in this field. The honorees were: John Hennessey, President of Stanford University; The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; and Paul Otellini, President and Chief Executive Officer of Intel Corporation. After receiving their awards, Hennessey and Otellini, along with Hewlett Foundation President Paul Brest, spoke in conversation with Jane Wales. Watch an excerpt of their conversation here:

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Of all the pressing issues confronting the developing world, cancer gets comparatively short shrift. And yet, a majority of new cancer diagnoses come from developing countries.

The fact that these countries are significantly less capable to care for the afflicted than, say, the United States, where cancer has been a leading health priority for many decades, means that cancer is “a time bomb waiting to explode,” says Princess Dina Mired of the King Hussein Cancer Foundation. At last month’s Clinton Global Initiative, Mired said that addressing cancer depends on a sophisticated medical infrastructure above and beyond traditional health care. Much of the world is ill-equipped to tackle the disease, and increasing numbers are dying because they can’t reach or afford adequate treatment. As such, it’s disturbing that cancer is not a part of any global health agenda, Mired asserted.

A special session on the topic at CGI offered a rare spotlight on this global issue, which has striking parallels to HIV/AIDS in the level of ignorance and stigma surrounding it. For example, widespread concern that the disease is contagious leads victims to refrain from publicly disclosing their status. In turn, a lack of visible cancer survivors leads people to think it’s always a deadly disease, or less common than it really is. And then there’s the omnipresent issue of gender discrimination and the need for funding to specifically advance women and girls, a major theme at CGI this year as it was last. When it comes to cancer, for example, some women in the developing world who get a diagnosis of breast cancer forego a mastectomy for fear of losing their husbands, according to Felicia Knaul of the Harvard Global Equity Initiative.

Paul Farmer of Partners In Health and the Harvard Medical School called for the creation of a Global Fund for Cancer, one focused on all areas of need, from prevention to diagnosis to care. But, a recent study from the Antwerp Institute of Tropical Medicine, as reported by VaccineNewsDaily, found that single disease campaigns in developing countries “interfered significantly with routine health care delivery.”

So, while cancer demands greater global attention and care, this work should be approached in such a way as to strengthen the general health infrastructure in developing countries, rather than compete with it for needed funds.

—Jane Wales

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Today’s episode of NPR’s Fresh Air featured an in-depth interview with CJ Chivers, who will speak at the Council next Tuesday, October 19. A war correspondent for The New York Times, Chivers is the author of The Gun, which chronicles the history of the AK-47, from its early use by Soviet conscripted forces to its spread across the world as the weapon of choice of small-arms dealers. Register for the program here. Listen to the entire Fresh Air interview here.

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