Monday, December 25, 2006

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

International Journal of Transitional Justice

Call for Papers – Submission Deadline – February 1, 2007

The International Journal of Transitional Justice is now accepting submissions for its second issue to be published July 2007.

For further information see the journal’s website or contact the editorial team directly at

About the International Journal of Transitional Justice

The International Journal of Transitional Justice is a forthcoming Oxford University Press journal which will be launched in March 2007. It is intended to provide an analytical bridge between intellectual and practitioner, and facilitate sustained interaction across the range of disciplines encompassed by the topic of transitional justice.

IJTJ publishes high quality, refereed articles in the rapidly evolving field of transitional justice; that is the study of those strategies employed by states, civil society bodies and international institutions to deal with a legacy of human rights abuses and to effect social reconstruction in the wake of widespread violence.

The journal is envisioned as a central site from which to house and build upon the array of research and writing currently available in this field. The journal encourages analysis and study of current and innovative approaches to transitional justice and welcomes papers that explore such questions as the appropriateness of the reconciliation paradigm for transitional justice, the relationship of truth-seeking and legal justice to reconciliation, the choices and timing of transitional justice mechanisms and methods to evaluate their success. Topics covered will include (but are not limited to): truth commissions, universal jurisdiction, post-conflict social reconstruction, victim and perpetrator studies, international and domestic prosecutions, institutional transformation, vetting, memorialization, reparations and ex-combatant reintegration.

South based submissions are particularly encouraged as are practitioner pieces. In addition to traditional length articles, the journal will feature shorter pieces in the ‘Notes from the Field’ section. This section will house new research from the field, reflections from practice, responses to previous articles, and discussion pieces.

IJTJ is housed at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, Johannesburg, South Africa in partnership with the Human Rights Center, University of California, Berkeley. It will be published three times a year and will target an international readership including academics, research institutions, national and international policy makers, development professionals and civil society practitioners.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Ba Humbug to Christmas cynics

For 12 months now, I have been trying to think of something interesting to say about Christmas. This has proved no straightforward task. Currently, like at the end of most years, I feel exhausted and am struggling to say something out of the ordinary on any subject, let alone remember all the witty things I thought up about Christmas in March. On top of this, Christmas is much the same each year, making it almost impossible to say anything original about it.

One option would be to spend the rest of this article complaining about Christmas, cataloguing all the things that make the silly season excruciating.

But we are all familiar with the list, including overbearing family members, cold stringy turkey, uncontrollable shopping, incessant Christmas jingles and, of course, flatulence-inducing Brussels sprouts. But that would be too easy and the last thing I would want to be is one of those people who pretend that they hate Christmas but really love it because they can spend a few weeks rattling on about how much they hate it.

A second option would be to get serious about the subject and throw myself into the debate about whether Christmas is politically offensive to people from non-Christian faiths. Better still, I could become a campaigner for a secular world carrying out acts of sabotage on Christmas trees in shopping malls. Or, perhaps, I could swing to the other extreme and become a Christmas freak decorating the garden with a 30-ft model of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and other paraphernalia. Public responses to such actions would give me lots to write about. But, sadly, I have bigger fish to fry, not to mention a turkey to baste. Besides, I feel unmoved by the political-correctness discussion about Christmas, whether from pro-Christmas zealots or those who find it disconcerting. I am tired of people going out of their way to be offended.
Then again I could abandon any concern about the meaning of Christmas and throw myself headlong into the commercialism of it. Christmas would make the perfect time to write about new products on the market from Robosapiens to buying goats for friends that then get donated to poor people in Africa. I could even make a list of all the things I want from Father Christmas. But I don’t need anything more. So this year I will say what I don’t want. So what I don’t want for Christmas this year is any more bombs a-dropping, the subtlety of Robert Mugabe, Jacob Zuma’s legal bill, a voucher for a polonium-laced sushi bar in London, and poultry of any description in pear trees or any other foliage.

That said, I fear that complaining about Christmas, exploring its political significance or shopping myself silly will not move me any closer towards finding an attention-grabbing angle on Christmas. However, when I shared my woes with my wife, she reminded me of a simple fact: people like Christmas precisely because it is the same. Christmas provides continuity from one year to the next. It is a constant across one’s entire life. As WJ Cameron said, “There has been only one Christmas – the rest are anniversaries”.

So I guess those of us who celebrate Christmas are stuck in an unending tinsel-laced time loop, for better or for worse.

To deal with this, I have decided, drawing on the immortal words of Monty Python, that, although we might all be individuals, I am not. So bring out the reindeer, sleighs bells, mistletoe, carol singers, babies in mangers, donkeys, lowing cattle, school nativity plays, credit cards, wise men with weird gifts, Christmas pudding with hazardous coins in it, terrified turkeys and, of course, as many Santas with polyester beards a person can find, because, if you cannot beat them, join them.

This article by Brandon Hamber was published on Polity and in the Engineering News on 15 December 2006 as part of the column "Look South". Copyright Brandon Hamber.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Stern warning about environmental disaster

If you are feeling upbeat about life, I have the medicine: read a copy of the Stern Report. The report, commissioned by the UK government and written by Sir Nicholas Stern, former chief economist at the World Bank, focuses on the potential impact of climate change. It is gloomy reading. In short, we are destroying the planet and dramatic climate change is on the way. Stern concludes that “the scientific evidence is now overwhelming: climate change is a serious global threat, and it demands an urgent global response”.

A small increase of 2 oC when living in the freezing northern hemisphere might seem like a blessing, but it is no laughing matter. According to Stern, carbon emissions have already pushed up global temperatures by half a degree. If no action is taken, there is a 75% chance that global temperatures will rise by between 2 oC and 3 oC over the next 50 years. There is a 50% chance they could rise 5 oC.

Nicholas Stern
Credit CIAT / CC BY-SA
This might be great for sunbathing in some parts of the world, but in others the consequences will be dire. Climate change will affect access to water, food production, health and the environment, with hundreds of millions of people suffering hunger, water shortages and coastal flooding. Poorer countries will disproportionally feel these effects. By the middle of the century, 200-million people may become permanently displaced owing to rising sea levels, floods and droughts. Melting glaciers could increase the risk of flood to small islands and cities like Tokyo, New York, Cairo and London. Around 15% to 40% of species will potentially face extinction after only 2 oC of warming, not to mention ocean acidification, which will destroy marine ecosystems and many fish stocks, and so the report goes on. Stern also weighs up the economic impact. He notes that extreme weather could reduce global GDP by up to 1%. A 2 oC to 3 oC rise in temperatures could reduce global economic output by 3%, and a 5 oC temperature rise could mean up to 10% of global output being lost. The worse-case scenario is a 20% fall in global consumption for every person.

Of course, scientists have known all this for some time, but, typically, humans only take notice of something when it bashes down their own door. Even when this happens, we spend much time thinking of someone else to blame. Rich countries like to argue that it is poor, developing countries that are poisoning the atmosphere with their drive toward development and less sophisticated technologies. Developing countries, in turn, argue that it is the industrialised countries that are to blame, with their mass consumption and production. And you and I do little because we suffer from the delusion that our own consumption of fuels or recycling of waste is a drop in the proverbially acidifying ocean. So the cycle continues.

Stern is unequivocal that all are at fault and all have a role to play in averting catastrophe. Consumer demand for heavily polluting goods and services must be curtailed, global energy supply needs to be more efficient and reduced, deforestation reversed, and cleaner energy and transport technology promoted. These might sound like grand ideas beyond individual reach and the responsibility of governments, but charity, or, in this case, saving the planet, starts at home. So here comes the lecture: ditch the petrol-guzzling car and try walking somewhere, for a change, splash out a few extra bucks on energy-efficient appliances, recycle your waste, turn off lights and do not leave electrical appliances on standby, shower instead of bath and, while you're at it, get one of those little wind-up chargers for your cellphone and get winding. Being an ecowarrior is no longer the preserve of a few nutters on the fringe; it is a necessity.

*To download the Stern Report click here.

This article by Brandon Hamber was published on Polity and in the Engineering News on 6 December 2006 as part of the column "Look South". Copyright Brandon Hamber.