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  • DemocracyLab Logo

    Democracy Lab: is a unique journalistic effort to cover the transition from authoritarianism to democracy the world over

    The current wave of revolution sweeping through the Arab world shows us, once again, that the transition from authoritarianism to democracy faces many political and economic challenges. In view of this, the award-winning magazine Foreign Policy together with the Legatum Institute, an independent, public-policy group based in London, have come together to foster a project to study the complexities involved in transitions from authoritarianism to democracy in an online "laboratory".

    From a multi-viewpoint which tackles the issue from a myriad of angles and includes diverse aspects that do not always make it into the headlines, Democracy Lab publishes a wide variety of materials including blogs, columns, expert interviews, case studies, profiles of key political and economic decision-makers, a weekly feature examining the numbers behind social change and a weekly news bulletin.

    The project, launched in January, includes contributions from reporters around the world, incorporating the voices from many nations and already boasts many remarkable contributions such as the first article published on the website, "The Drive for Dignity", in which philosopher Francis Fukuyama points out the following: "The desire for recognition is thus a two-edged sword. It underlies the anger that powers social mobilization and revolt against abusive government, but it often becomes attached to ascriptive identities that undermine the universality of rights. Now that three dictatorships have fallen in the Arab world, with a fourth and fifth possibly on their way, this is the struggle that will play itself out".


  • Cover of the publication

    The Road to Tahrir

    Assaf, Sherif (et al.), The Road to Tahrir. Front Line Images by Six Young Egyptian Photographers, Cairo and New York: The American University in Cairo Press, 2011

    There have been many media sources, artists and people in the Street who have wished to immortalise the Arab Spring so that it remains registered in our collective memory. This is the case of six young Egyptian photographers whose cameras were placed at the service of the revolution, which they accompanied around the clock to capture every possible detail of the events which transformed the lives of the Egyptian people.

    The Road to Tahrir is the result of this intense pursuit. The book is a spectacular visual record documenting the places where the revolution took place –Tahrir Square, evidently, but also the surrounding streets and areas-, their symbols and slogans and portraits of some of the revolutions key players, on occasion bearing the shocking reminders of violence on their faces.

    The book covers the period from January 25, 2011, the official date on which the Egyptian revolution began, through to the holding of the constitutional referendum on March 19. This visual record illustrates the fact that the Egyptian Arab Spring featured men, women and children, Muslims and Christians, young and old who came together to take control of their future.

    In short, using images, The Road to Tahrir narrates a historic moment that cannot be easily summarised in words, a moment that, for the book's authors promises the rise of "a different Egypt, brilliant, democratic and free – the Egypt that was and will be present in Tahrir Square" (p. 147).


  • Cover of the publication

    Tweets from Tahrir

    Nadia Idle and Alex Nunns. Tweets from Tahrir. Egypt's revolution as it unfolded, in the words of the people who made it. Doha: Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing, 2011.

    The transforming character of the new virtual social networks such as Twitter or Facebook acquires greater prominence in those countries where the mass media is controlled by the State. Such was the case in Egypt when the Arab Spring sneaked into the country by way of the messages or tweets of thousands of Egyptians frustrated with the lack of freedom and opportunities under the regime of Hosni Mubarak.

    The work of Nadie Idle and Alex Nunns brings together an important sample of these tweets reproduced verbatim and in chronological order. In this way, Tweets from Tahrir becomes a diary of the revolution which began on January 25, 2011 based on the eye-witness accounts of some of key players. The work reflects therefore the crucial role played by social networks and new technologies alike in mobilising the population and the spread of the Arab Spring in Egypt.

    Nevertheless, there is a certain degree of arrogance in the vague description by the West of the Egyptian revolution as the "Twitter Revolution". This label disregards the real causes of the uprising, the dramatic economic reality of the majority, the lack of opportunities for a young and educated population, the fossilization of authoritarian power structures and it also ignores the role played by sectors of the community without access to new technologies.

    In short, Tweets from Tahrir vindicates the important role played by the social media in spreading and broadcasting the revolution in Egypt without forgetting that it would never have taken place without the thousands of people who put their lives at risk to build a decent future.


  • Cover of the publication

    The Black Gold of Death

    Xavier Montanya, L'or negre de la mort, Barcelona, Icaria, 2011

    A delicate piece of work. A travel log through Africa, the real Africa. A first hand investigation, beyond the images that reach us through the media. A profound tale of meticulous prose that touches and moves the reader.

    The Niger Delta serves as an example. A time bomb. The most densely populated delta on the planet. An extreme and pragmatic case for understanding the problems of African countries, decolonised and seriously affected by human and ecological devastation caused (and which continues to be caused) by indiscriminate extraction of its natural resources.

    Destruction of the environment means the destruction of people's way of life, but also their souls, their philosophical understanding of the world and life itself. Water is associated with womankind, fertility, health, trade. Men identify with the warrior spirits of the forest. And then there is oil. The fuel that drives our industries. The blood of these people. Shed through new forms of global, private and public repression, in connection with the impunity of security forces, traffic of weapons and the influence of multinationals in the government. Shell. DynCopr Internacional. Halli Burton.

    Many sections of the book read like the script for a documentary. There is a narrator who allows the different characters to tell their story, intellectuals, politicians, and soldiers, through a series of carefully chosen snippets from interviews. A reading of these reveals to us that the former ports used for the slave trade are today used as oil ports. That for the vast majority of the inhabitants of these countries, having oil is a curse.

    As you incessantly flip page after page you begin to wonder how it will all end… how will the author manage to prevent the reader from ending up with a feeling of absolute desolation? The initiatives undertaken by civil society allow you to catch your breath. Communities organize themselves, there are local and international campaigns underway, environmental, human rights, solidarity... Wole Soyinka. Fela Kuti. Ogoniland. And, above all, Ken Saro-Wiwa, the martyred activist, philosopher, apostle of nonviolence who continues to inspire the struggle and who, in the West, lacks the attention and recognition he deserves. 

    In short, a collection of interwoven portraits of the reality of the Delta, Nigerian, African. Adorned with scathing accounts. The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against oblivion. There is no post Auschwitz period, we are still in Auschwitz – in an Auschwitz that covers the entire world today. "In his cold, piercing, but warm eyes, there is neither pity nor rage, but instead dignity and conviction"


  • Cover of the publication

    The men who killed me

    Anne- Marie de Brouwer & Sandra Hon Chu (ed.). The Men who Killed Me: Rwandan Survivors of Sexual Violence. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntryre, 2009.

    The book gathers the testimonials of sixteen women and one man who were victims of sexual violence during the Rwandan genocide, between April and July 1994. There are no exact data as regards the total amount of victims of the genocide, but about a million people were killed and an estimated 250.000 to 500.000 women and girls were raped and abused. 70% of the survivors were infected with HIV and they continue struggling for their lives in extreme poverty within communities who reject and stigmatize them because of the atrocities they endured. Furthermore, many of them have to live among the murderers of their relatives and friends.

    Their stories are so hard that makes it difficult to continue reading. The only way to get to the end of the book is to detach yourself from the stories, read them as if it was a distant fiction, a mere compilation of facts, because, if you read carefully and look at the faces of the protagonists, the brutality of the scenes will get etched in your memory forever.

    You can not avoid feeling great rage and impotence when reading this book. This is just another example of how, throughout the history of humanity, sexual violence has been used as a weapon of war. The book must be read. These women have survived hell and they have proved to be very brave telling their stories. Their testimonials must be heard. They deserve our attention.


  • Coordinadora Logo

    The NGDO Coordinator and other humanitarian movements in Lleida: combining synergies for social justice

    The NGDO Coordinator has its origins in the movement to promote the allocation of 0.7% of GDP to development aid organisations, which was of significant prominence in the city of Lleida in the nineties. This movement is an example of participative democracy for social movements that pave a new path, unlike the existing ones, and is the seed of elements for social transformation such as the NGDO Coordinator and other Humanitarian Movements in Lleida.

    The Coordinator brings together 37 organisations working in cooperation and providing humanitarian assistance for the poorest people and regions on the planet, and gives support to a further 20 organisations, thereby making this an umbrella organization working towards pooling synergies. The aim of the organization is to promote joint action based on the indissoluble elements of Peace, Human Rights and Cooperation aimed at affecting a change towards social justice.

    The Coordinator is organised in four different areas designed to tackle the task in a cross manner: Raise of Awareness and Education for Development, Communication and Coordination, and Support for organisations. With regard to the latter area, the Coordinator offers member organisations and stakeholders from the cooperation and development sector, a support framework in several different areas, including orientation, training, consultancy, dissemination, facilities, the Sac Solidari [Solidarity Trunk] (collection of materials and resources designed to target awareness raising and education for development).

    In short, the Coordinator promotes the joint work of NGDOs and Humanitarian Movements in Lleida, fostering the participation of other sectors of society organised to strengthen the social fabric of civic life in the city. In addition, it strives to secure guarantees of a more efficient, transparent and game-changing solidarity from public bodies and other organisations. With campaigns such as, "Som un ingredient més per cuinar un món diferent" [We are another ingredient for cooking up a different world], or "I qui rescata a la societat?" [And who's going to bailout our society?], they have managed to reach most of the province of Lleida, raising community awareness about the reality facing economically and socially impoverished people and communities. Therefore, the existence of this organisation is an indispensable element in ensuring that our society continues its efforts to fight poverty and promote peace and human rights. We take this opportunity to invite you to take a closer look and get to know the work of the Lleida NGDO Coordinator.

    Coordinadora d'ONGD i aMS de Lleida
    C/ Doctor Combelles 11, 25003 Lleida
    Tel. and fax 973 268 278 – Mobile 671 577 000