New Internationalist Issue 279

[image, unknown] New Internationalist Issue 280

The material that follows ha s been provided by New Internationalist

...or part of the solution?

Dictators on the run

Dictatorships do not fall of their own accord. People put their lives on the line to organize against them secretly. In the early 1980s, for example, most of Latin America was ruled by military dictatorship. Now virtually the whole of the continent has embraced democratic rule of a kind - a tribute to the quality and courage of people's resistance in the darkest years.

Percentage of the world's population living under multi-party rule and one-party or military systems 2

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Trade-union membership declined during the right-wing ascendancy in countries like Britain during the 1980s. But it is now surging in international terms as civil societies become stronger in newly democratic countries, particularly in Africa and Eastern Europe.

Greening the mind

Public perception of the world's environmental problems has soared over the last decade - and so has their willingness to do something about them. An international opinion survey in 1993 found a majority willing to pay higher prices to protect the environment in 11 of the 17 countries surveyed. Broadly speaking, the higher the country's income, the more willing people were to pay the price for a cleaner world - though in Japan there is clearly a lot of campaigning still to be done.

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Direct action

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Greenpeace membership, worldwide 6

Direct action has had much to do with the broad shift in public opinion about the environment. Greenpeace has pioneered international direct action on environmental issues. Its international membership is down on its post-Rainbow Warrier, pre-recession peak in 1990 but is still three times what is was ten years ago.

Civil Strength

Civil society around the world is becoming stronger. One token of this is the mushrooming number of non-governmental organizations or NGOs - especially in developing countries.

  • Between 1991 and 1996 the number of consumer groups belonging to Consumers International grew from 181 to 211. In 1991 there was only one African consumer group, in Mauritius; now there are 21 groups in 14 countries. 7

  • The NGO Forum at the decadal UN Women's Conference had 5,000 delegates at Mexico City in 1975, 13,000 at Nairobi in 1985 and 40,000 at Beijing in 1995.

  • Women activists worldwide presented a petition to the UN World Conference on Human Rights in 1993 which carried 500,000 signatures from 124 countries 9.

  • One Indian state, Tamil Nadu, has 25,000 registered grass-roots organizations. 9.

  • The Phillipines has 18,000 registered NGOs, of which at least two-thirds are people's organizations such as co-operatives. 9

1. World Resources 1994-95
2. The State of the World Atlas, Michael Kidron and Ronald Segal, Penguin, 1995.
3. 1985 figure World Human Rights Guide, Charles Humana. 1995 figure NI's own estimate.
4. Defined as membership of a union affiliated to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions.
5. Gallup International Survey, quoted in The State of the Environment Atlas, Joni Seager, Penguin 1995.
6. Greenpeace International.
7. Consumers International.
8. Putting Gender on the Agenda, UNIFEM
9. Human Development Report 1993, UNDP.

©Copyright: New Internationalist 1996

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