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    The idea of justice

    Amartya Sen. La idea de la justicia. Madrid: Taurus, 2010

    It is not very common for a Nobel Prizewinner in Economic Sciences to write about philosophy. This author has been challenging the predominant economic model for many years. While this model considers self-interest to be the essential factor in human motivation, Amartya Sen emphasizes the values of humanity. This economist showed that hunger is not a consequence of the lack of food, but instead of inequalities in its distribution mechanisms.He was the driving force behind the development of the Human Development Index at the United Nations. He was the creator of the concept of 'capability'. In other words, a government must be judged on the basis of the specific capabilities of its citizens. The fact that the citizens of a country have the constitutional right to vote means nothing if all the conditions for citizens to exercise their capability to vote are not met, including access to education and the means of transport to polling stations. Only when these barriers have been overcome is it possible to say that citizens can exercise their own personal choice.

    With this new book, Amartya Sen's contribution to one of the fields which contains the most interesting works by philosophers of our age is nothing less than a milestone in this discipline. The classic theory of justice (Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, Rawls) asked what form the most perfect possible institution should take, and reached the disappointing conclusion that "we will never be able to obtain (at) this ideal of justice, so there is nothing that can be done about it". Sen believes in placing the individual at the centre of his theories, and assumes that as social beings, we recognize that the injustices that surround us also affect us. He turns to the best of Adam Smith, Marx and Stuart Mill to ask how we should foster justice, how we can resolve the most flagrant injustices, how we can make the world a little more just, or to be precise, a little less unjust. It seems incredible that no author had ever succeeded in applying the theory of social choice to the benefit of other social sciences in such an effective way. Incredible, but true. And the practical consequences of this way of considering justice and injustice in order to improve the world are potentially infinite.

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    Women Building Peace: What they do. Why it matters

    Sanam Naraghi Anderlini. Women Building Peace: What they do. Why it matters. London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2007.

    What is women's part in the construction of peace? Why is it important? These are some of the questions which the author uses to examine women's contributions to the prevention and transformation of conflicts, mediation and peace negotiations, disarmament and demobilization processes and the reintegration of combatants, governance in post-conflict scenarios, transitional justice and reconciliation.

    Her work as a researcher, trainer and writer has brought her into contact with women in Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Nepal, Uganda, Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, South Africa, Colombia and Palestine, and is the basis for her consideration of the experience of building bridges between the grassroots work by these women and the political sphere and international institutions. This reflection leads to the conviction that the inclusion and empowerment of women in the prevention of conflicts and in peace processes is not an idealism in the midst of international realpolitik, but instead is a pragmatic option if the objective to be achieved is sustainable peace.

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    The humanitarian illusion: the charitable species revealed

    Jordi Raich. El espejismo humanitario: la especie solidaria al descubierto. Barcelona: Debate, 2004.

    Self-criticism is difficult, and is something that happens very infrequently… and it is necessary. That is precisely what Jordi Raich does in this book. In a sector not used to self-criticism, his reasons and reasonable arguments may be the best antidote to other criticisms occasionally heard of the sector as a whole, which are sometimes vague and generally unfair.

    As the author explains, using his own shocking experiences -with an ironic touch- aid workers share a world of epidemics, earthquakes, hunger and war with other groups, including victims, politicians, journalists, soldiers and other aid workers. They often find a way of improving it. However, the situation sometimes ends up being dangerously similar to other worlds, in which corruption, mediocrity, competitiveness, guilt complex and ineptitude create a situation that may be even worse than the one that they found when they arrived. The author sheds light on this shadowy area using his own personal experience. After over twenty years working in the non-profit making industry, he continues to believe that it is an essential and an inevitable way to make progress.

    In short, it is a unique work of testimony and reflection, written based on notes jotted down in villages and cities in seventeen countries in both hemispheres. It is necessary because it strengthens the sector and helps us to understand its contradictions and doubts, but also the motivations and virtues of the increasingly numerous and influential workers in our societies.

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    Iran: between the nuclear threat and the Western dream

    Tréan Claire. Irán: entre la amenaza nuclear y el sueño occidental. Paris: Éditions Robert Laffont, 2006.

    In this book, Tréan Claire, an expert in Middle Eastern affairs, gives us a perfect combination of the history and geopolitics of a region in the world that many people believe to be a threat to world peace. She does so by means of a series of reports and interviews, with testimony from Iranians from various social and political perspectives.

    Over sixteen short chapters, the author focuses on the region from within, while considering some taboos and clichés about the region in depth, such as the liberation of women, the political system, gender, political and social discrimination, and the attitudes and opinion of civil society on Iran's foreign policy towards the West and specifically towards countries like Great Britain and the United States. She also looks at questions relating to nuclear weapons and the other conflicts in the Middle East.

    It is therefore a fascinating book that provides an in-depth view of the country, its needs, concerns and shortcomings, which above and beyond the international political sphere and international relations, is what really most directly affects society, both in Iran and our own.

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    Beyond terror: the truth about the real threats to our world

    Chris Abbott; Paul Rogers; John Sloboda. Beyond terror: the truth about the real threats to our world. London: Rider, 2007.

    Four challenges threaten our world: climate change, competition for resources, the marginalization of the 'underdeveloped' global majority, and international militarization. These four challenges are interrelated, and the solution to them is easier than it appears: only the political will is lacking.

    Ending our dependence on oil would end the world's leading source of carbon dioxide emissions and reduce international tensions. The growing concern at the impact of radical Islamist terrorism is ironic considering figures that are really alarming like those for deaths from AIDS, malnutrition and pneumonia. The disproportion is horrifying. Not to mention the widening division between North and South, rich and poor, which will in turn deteriorate due to the effects of climate change if an urgent and coordinated response is not implemented in the next five to ten years.

    In this publication, the authors analyze each of the four challenges and question whether the international terrorism of recent years is really the biggest threat to world security, underlining the serious conceptual error behind the 'War against Terror' led by the USA after the 9/11 attacks. The alleged Terrorist Threat is nothing more than a policy of preventive war with the self-centered purpose of ensuring its petrol resources and its influence in the Persian Gulf – the 'control paradigm' – an attempt to distract us from the real threats that are really making the world a highly unstable place.

    Using the guideline of "curing the disease, not attacking the problem", the authors suggest a series of actions focused on change that will help mobilize the reader and increase political pressure.

    Beyond Terror is a study that will prove an easy read for all the worried citizens who are considering the world of politics and geostrategic relations for the first time.

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    Coalition for the International Criminal Court

    The Coalition of NGOs for the International Criminal Court (CICC) includes over two thousand organizations that are coordinated in supporting the work of the International Criminal Court (ICC). They came together in order to achieve a fair, effective and independent ICC. They have made a major contribution to each of the various phases involved in the process, ranging from the preparatory committee of the Conference of Rome (1996-1998) to the current Assemblies of the States Parties.

    The complete website of the Coalition – available in English, French, Spanish and Arabic - includes detailed information on the Coalition's campaigns, which are part of a strategy for public information and awareness-raising. The CICC is working to make the Court more effective in this area. Of particular interest are the publications and resources available providing information on all current news, listed by region and subject. It also includes academic reports and documents, audiovisual resources, draft legislation, debates, governmental and intergovernmental documents.

    In short, it is a crucial effort by the civil society -on an international scale- to make the work of the CICC have a positive effect on legal systems, and thereby to improve the protection of human rights everywhere.

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    History of peace and pacifism

    Francesc Lluís Cardona Castro. Historia de la paz y del pacifismo. Barcelona: ANUE, 2008.

    Francesc Lluís Cardona says that there have been many wars in history, but that there have also been many peaces and many pacifists. However, what does being a pacifist mean? Whether it is expressed through a political movement or as a specific ideology, pacifism is opposition to war and other forms of violence. It can be based on moral, religious or pragmatic principles. In any case, from a strictly rational perspective, pacifists are aware of the costs of war and violence and therefore believe in other ways of resolving conflicts.

    This essential work considers the historic development of pacifism from its origins, when it was linked to the essence of the great religions, to the major challenges of today, including the modern period, wars and the post-Cold War era, the formulation of human rights, the nuclear threat and the relations of peace with development and climate change. The final chapter of the book includes biographies of a series of inspiring characters, some of which are very well-known, such as Gandhi, and others less so, such as Raul Follereau, who dedicated his energies to dignifying the life of people who suffered from leprosy.

    Like the author says, it is an open list, and each reader can complete it according to his or her own opinion. Personally, I would have included Lazar Ludwik Zamenhof (1859-1917), the inventor of Esperanto, the universal second language designed to facilitate communication between peoples; Óscar Romero (1917-1980), the Archbishop of El Salvador, a defender of the oppressed and an enemy of (para)military violence; and Lluís Maria Xirinacs i Damians, (1932-2007), a Catalan theologist, philosopher, politician ... and pacifist, who showed us how to take non-violent action against Franco's dictatorship. They are all worthy of imitation, even in a small way, because as Francesc Lluís Cardona says, " we are all involved in the work of building a fairer and more caring world".