openDemocracy is an independent global media platform publishing up to 60 articles a week and attracting over 8 million visits per year.
Through reporting and analysis of social and political issues, openDemocracy seeks to educate citizens to challenge power and encourage democratic debate across the world. With human rights as our central guiding focus, and open-mindedness as our method, we ask tough questions about freedom, justice and democracy.
openDemocracy aim to help those fighting for their rights gain the agency to make their case and to inspire action.
Brendan Montague - 10 September 2019
“I feel like I have fallen into a John le Carré novel,” she reflects. “I hate spy movies, but I’m now thinking we are living in one. I hate all these lies. These people are worse than spies: spies believe in their country and have a code of honour. With these people it’s always about self-interest”.
Jennifer Cobbe - 19 February 2019
MP's new 'fake news' report largely ignores other platforms like Google and YouTube, and surveillance capitalism itself – and risks sending regulation in the wrong direction
Yesterday morning, the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee published its long-awaited final report into disinformation and ‘fake news’. The report – which follows a long and at times dramatic investigation – is full of interesting and insightful details about political microtargeting (the targeting of political messaging to relatively small groups of people) and the spread of disinformation.
But the report’s myopic focus on one company – Facebook – means that it misses the bigger picture – including the internet’s dominant variety of capitalism.It is of course welcome that attention is being paid to these problems, and there is much in the Committee’s report that’s good. The report is undoubtedly right to find that Britain’s electoral laws are woefully inadequate for the age of the algorithm and are badly in need of reform. Its recommendation that inferences drawn from analysis of other data about people should be more clearly considered to be personal data likewise seems eminently sensible...See more
Christine Berry - 12 February 2019
Since the EU referendum the left has successfuly shifted the terms of the debate on regulation. Now we must have the courage to defend freedom of movement against the anti-immigration politics of Brexit.
Suzannah Weiss - 7 February 2019
This summer, I spoke with a therapist about my issues with workaholism and compulsive saving.
I was working 17 hours a day, making ten times the money I needed to survive, and depriving myself of doctors’ appointments, food, and other necessities out of fear of seeing the number in my bank account go down.“How do I stop?” I asked....See more
Aisha K. Gill - 6 February 2019
A landmark FGM conviction last week heralds a welcome change. But ending this practice requires both criminal and civil remedies.
The mother of a three-year-old girl became the first person in the UK to be found guilty of female genital mutilation (FGM) last week.
The jury heard that the mother used witchcraft to try preventing police, social workers and lawyers from investigating the case. The mother, who remains anonymous for legal reasons, awaits sentencing on 8 March.Until this, no successful FGM prosecutions had been made in the UK, although criminal justice agencies had been working to address this for several years...See more
Stephen McCloskey - 5 February 2019
Women’s unpaid work is worth $10 trillion annually. Amazon's Jeff Bezos’s personal wealth dwarves the health budget of most countries. These facts are linked – and a new report from Oxfam suggests answers.
David Zigmond - 1 February 2019
Early in this new year, on 7 January, the Prime Minister proudly announced a hopeful tonic for these troubled times: a Ten-Year Plan for our NHS, to transform it into a ‘world class service’. More money, better systems and state-of-the-art technology will all assure this, she said.
‘They were planning on stealing the election’: Explosive new tapes reveal Cambridge Analytica CEO’s boasts of voter suppression, manipulation and bribery
Paul Hilder - 28 January 2019
“I worked at Cambridge Analytica while they had Facebook datasets. I went to Russia one time while I worked for Cambridge. I visited Julian Assange while I worked for Cambridge. I once donated to WikiLeaks. I pitched the Trump campaign and wrote the first contract. All of these things make it look like I am at the centre of some big, crazy thing. I see that, and I can’t argue with that. The only thing that I’ve got going for me is that I didn’t do anything wrong. So they can search everything that they want!”
John Gittings - 28 January 2019
The League of Nations, inspired by centuries of thinking on peace and justice, was born a hundred years ago this February, and later came the UN. But the promised post-Cold War 'Peace Dividend' never arrived...
Guy Standing - 25 January 2019
Why the FT's economics editor is wrong to dismiss concerns about inequality.
In a dismissive and sarcastic review of a book Economics for the Many, edited by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, the Economics Editor of the Financial Times, Chris Giles, claimed that its messages were based on a false premise of growing inequality. According to him, ‘in fact UK wealth and income gaps have been stable for a generation’ (1). Earlier in 2018, in an article headed ‘Britain’s social ills cannot be blamed on rising inequality’, he elaborated on this claim, adding that ‘wealth inequality has also been stable for a decade’.This opinion would not merit particular comment were it not for the fact that the FT is the most reputable newspaper dealing with economic issues in the country and probably in the world. The opinion of the Economics Editor would be taken seriously by a lot of people, here and abroad. And we may anticipate that the topic of changes in inequality will figure prominently in any General Election that may come in 2019...See more
Al Aynsley-Green, Brian Fisher, and Michael Dixon - 24 January 2019
Inequality is a national disgrace that affects the health and wellbeing of us all, especially our children. Bolder action is needed to tackle it.
‘In the bleak mid-winter’ - never has the opening line in the much-loved Christmas carol seemed more appropriate than now as 2019 gets underway.
Bleak for the poverty, inequality, hopelessness and despair affecting too many people in this, one of the richest countries in the developed world. Why is this the case – and what’s to be done about it – are two questions that politicians need to answer.14 million people (22% of the population) live in the UK on incomes below the poverty line after housing costs, many trying to survive without income in the chaos of implementing Universal Benefits. Demands for food from the Trussell and other food banks is soaring, with many former middle-income families now seeking help...See more
Frances Judd QC - 24 January 2019
The legal aid cuts mean that most people struggling with family breakdowns must represent themselves in court. The impact on children and ordinary people is enormous.
In the UK we are lucky enough to have a fair and impartial judicial system. But judges can only do their jobs properly if they have the right evidence and if the cases are properly presented. They also need enough time to listen to people, and to make and record their decisions. Most barristers in the family courts will tell you that this is happening less and less.On April 1 2013, new rules in England and Wales abolished legal aid for private law family cases (cases which do not involve the local authority), save where an individual is able to produce evidence of domestic violence, or under the exceptional funding scheme. Domestic violence needs to be proved by hard evidence (such as a criminal conviction, civil injunction, or a letter from social services or a refuge) and exceptional funding is very, very difficult to obtain. The consequence of this is that the number of unrepresented parties (or litigants-in-person) going through the family courts has soared. Statistics reveal that by 2017 both parties were represented in only 20 per cent of these cases, and in 35 per cent nobody was...See more
Amy Hall - 24 January 2019
“We will not weaken environmental protections when we leave the EU,” said Environment Secretary Michael Gove in 2018, as the government promised the first Environment Bill in over 20 years.
This was the Bill to prove a Green Brexit was what we are headed for, and to get those of us who have been speculating otherwise to pipe down.
Finally, Gove managed to get out a draft Bill (or part of one) a few days before Christmas. These draft clauses on environmental principles and governance cover England and non devolved matters in the rest of the UK. They will be included in a broader Environment Bill to be set out in 2019 and include measures on air quality, nature conservation and waste and resource management...See more
Alain Supiot and sixteen fellow academics - 21 January 2019
Can European integration continue on its present course? Since 2005, and the failure of the Constitutional Treaty, Europe has been coming apart at the seams, yet nothing seems able to wake its leaders from their dogmatic slumber.
Nothing: neither the repeated electoral defeats, nor the economic rifts between Eurozone countries, nor the bailouts of irresponsible banks from the taxpayer’s pocket, nor the agony Greece had to endure, nor the inability to formulate a collective response to migration flows, nor Brexit, nor the feeble response to American diktats which fly in the face of signed treaties, nor the rise of nationalism and xenophobia – none of these have managed to force onto the agenda a European-wide democratic debate on the profound and troubling crisis the Union is facing, and how to resolve it.... See more
Koldo Casla - 18 January 2019
It is time to invest in a fair future.
In accordance with international human rights law, countries must take concrete steps to the maximum of their available resources to fulfil economic and social rights progressively. This includes the right to social security and the right to an adequate standard of living.
In case of serious economic difficulties, countries can slow down, halt and even reverse some of the progress, but those measures must be time-limited, objectively necessary and proportionate, adopted after meaningful engagement with those most affected by them. They cannot be discriminatory, and must mitigate inequalities and ensure that the rights of the most disadvantaged people are not disproportionately affected. These are the requirements of the human right principle of non-retrogression... See more
Anya Pearson - 18 January 2019
People shouldn’t be forced to choose between eating well, and eating in an environmentally conscious way.
The ‘planetary health diet' was announced yesterday by an international commission established to prevent millions of deaths a year and avoid climate change. But for the 5 million people in the UK who are estimated to be malnourished or at risk of becoming so, the high cost of this earth-friendly diet will be out of this world.
The ‘planetary health diet’ is a welcome initiative to define a sustainable diet in the face of global environmental catastrophe and widespread lack of access to healthy food, and the ambition of the commission’s report is compelling. But with fresh berries, avocado, sourdough bread and fresh edamame served up on the planetary menu put together by the Guardian, the sample meals seem more like offerings from the latest book by Deliciously Ella instead of truly accessible, affordable food.... See more
Susann Scherbarth and Sean Sweeney - 17 January 2019
The private sector has proved it can’t lead the transition to a low-carbon economy. It's time for something new.
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten.” Is there any better explanation for our collective failure so far to prevent climate breakdown and social division? As another year passes with global greenhouse gas emissions still rising, it’s time to shake up what we’ve always done.
2018 was a thunderous year for the climate which gave us a glimpse of the new normal: record-breaking heat, a blazing Arctic, the northern hemisphere seemingly on fire. These, alongside a clanging alarm about the disastrous impacts of 1.5°C of global warming from the UN in October, contributed to growing public recognition that climate breakdown is very real and its effects serious... See more
Mary Fitzgerald - 17 January 2019
Forget the political melodrama. What matters most are the deep weaknesses in our democracy that Brexit has exposed – and which extend across Europe.
Ignore anyone who claims to know where Britain will be in a week’s time. The New York Times has produced a flowchart for the constitutional mess the country now finds itself in. Unsurprisingly, it’s mindbendingly complex. No one really knows where we go after Theresa May’s crushing defeat in Parliament.
The coming days will be filled with excited chatter, behind-the-scenes horse-trading and misleading smoke signals. But while commentators fixate on the tawdry political melodrama, it’s worth sitting back and reflecting on the far wider, systemic weaknesses that Brexit has exposed – and which extend across the European continent... See more
George Gosling - 11 January 2019
Bringing together prevention and cure, health and social care, is hardly a new – or strange – idea. So why hasn’t it happened?
The fanfare that surrounded the publication of the NHS Long-Term Plan made sure to highlight its promise that a shift away from hospital treatment will not only save the NHS “over £1 billion a year in new expenditure averted” but also save half-a-million lives. Which rather raises the question: if the locus of care is to be relocated away from the expensive hospital, then to where? There is one popular alternative that has had a difficult history, not least with the Conservative Party, over the past century.
In the aftermath of the First World War, Lloyd George was turning the attention of his government to post-war reconstruction and social reform. This included the creation in 1919 of a new government department – the Ministry of Health – under the direction of Christopher Addison, a GP turned Liberal MP and one of the Prime Minister’s closest allies. One of his first acts as Health Minister was to establish a committee under the chairmanship of Lord Dawson, formerly the King’s physician, to investigate the “schemes requisite for the systematised provision of such forms of medical and allied services as should… be available for the inhabitants of a given area”.... See more
Anthony Barnett - 03 January 2019
"Brexit is not about Brexit. Certainly not just about Europe. It poses matters both economic and democratic simultaneously as it demands an answer to the kind of country we are."
With his powerful combination of intimate knowledge of the UK, a foreigner’s overview, a passion for democracy and first-hand experience of Brussels realpolitik, Yanis Varoufakis has published a brilliant intervention in the Brexit debate. Calling on us to stop being negative and turn Brexit into a ‘Celebration of Democracy’, he proposes the country holds a three year People’s Debate that puts our own government into order before making a call on EU membership.
His argument has three parts. He sees an eightfold hydra-headed challenge to the status quo in Britain: eight different national, constitutional and economic issues exposed by the referendum over EU membership that combine to form the Brexit impasse. I’ll come back to these. Their clarity, brevity and completeness make them the authoritative starting point for any assessment of what should be done about Brexit.... See more
Umut Ozkirimli - 02 January 2019
“It is our duty to expose this moral agenda for what it is, not by 'deplatforming' them – only adding victimisation to their already lavish arsenal – but through reasoned argument.”
Whitewashing, or the habit of casting white actors for minority roles, might have a long pedigree in Hollywood (some outlandish examples include John Wayne playing the role of Genghis Khan in 1956 or Laurence Olivier performing as Othello in blackface in 1965), but the use of the term is by no means limited to American mainstream movie-making.
Tracing its origins to the early eighteenth century, the Oxford English Dictionary defines whitewashing as the “attempt to free from blame; to provide with a semblance of honesty, respectability, rectitude, etc.” In addition to this more familiar meaning, the term also refers to the practice of covering “(the face, etc.) with make-up or a similar substance intended to make the skin look lighter.” One of the quotations OED has chosen to exemplify this particular meaning is quite revealing: “‘Why do you whitewash your face like that?’ he queried. ‘It’s just talcum powder,’ I muttered abashedly.”... See more
Britain is the world centre for private military contractors – and it's almost impossible to find out what they're up to
Iain Overton, Laura Bruun, and Elisa Benevilli - 20 December 2018
Welcome to the murky world of mercenaries and floating armouries...
Yesterday, an American man was convicted for killing unarmed civilians whilst on patrol in Iraq. But he wasn’t a member of the US Army. When the incident took place, he was working for the company Blackwater. Last month, the Taliban carried out a lethal suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan. But the compound they targeted wasn’t controlled by the army of any nation. It was run by G4S. According to the Islamist group, the British company constituted an ‘important base of occupying forces’, from which attacks against the Taliban were planned and mobilised.
G4S, one of the UK’s biggest private military companies, provides pivotal ‘operational support’ to Britain’s military in Afghanistan and such incidents bring back into focus the extent that private military and security companies are present – and sometimes directly involved – in combat.... See more
Joanna Dobbin - 20 December 2018
The Royal College of Physicians have today joined with other Royal Colleges to call on the government to suspend upfront charging of overseas visitors within the NHS, calling them a "concerning barrier to care".
The Royal College of Physicians have today joined with other Royal Colleges to call on the government to suspend NHS upfront charging of overseas visitors. The medical leaders say in a statement issued today that the government policy, introduced in 2015 and 2017 regulations, is a "concerning barrier to care" that is "likely to lead to poorer patient outcomes and contribute to already low morale in our profession." The Colleges raise concerns about the impact on public and individual health, and point particularly to the "detrimental impact" on expectant and new mothers and "cases of children having been denied treatment for various life-threatening conditions".... See more
Roland Clark - 20 December 2018
Recent successful efforts to repel fascist groups draw on a long history of antifascist mobilisation in Liverpool.
A peaceful but surprisingly large group of people from a range of backgrounds crowded around the entrance to Moorefields train station in Liverpool last month. Warmly dressed against the cold and carrying European and antifascist flags, they were there to stage a counter-demonstration against a planned march of the Northwest Frontline Patriots (NFP). A far-right group whose activism revolves around support for EDL-founder Tommy Robinson, pro-Brexit efforts, and claims that migrants are sexually assaulting British children, the NFP had intended to stage a demonstration in support of a strong Brexit. The handful of NFP activists found their way out of the train station blocked by counter-demonstrators and went home early. One group of UKIP supporters who had intended to join them cancelled their plans when news of the counter-protest spread. The antifascist crowd included Liverpool’s mayor, Joe Anderson, and groups such as Hope not Hate, Merseyside Together, and Unite Against Fascism.... See more
Rosie Carter - 20 December 2018
Proposals for short term visas, separating families, and income caps will worsen rather than assuage public concerns, say Hope not Hate.
With 100 days to go until Brexit, today’s much-delayed proposal for immigration after Brexit indicates the chaos that lies ahead, with many members of the Government up all night arguing the detail of yesterday’s release.
The immigration white paper is critical, given that immigration was a key driver behind the decision to leave the EU. But with many of the details now announced, it presents yet another case of the Government cutting off the country’s nose to spite our collective face.
This post-Brexit migration system is not “taking back control”. It is attempting to control the immigration debate. Forcing an unworkable control agenda will in fact increase, not reduce, public concerns about immigration.... See more
Asif Mohammed - 19 December 2018
A People’s Vote with a Tory Government in occupation would also be a People’s Vote of the right, by the right, and for the right.
Over the last few weeks Britain has found itself in a high stakes political drama. Political intrigue, threats and plots have become the watchwords of Westminster as small clusters of MPs scheme in the narrow corridors of power.
The Conservative European Research Group set the pulses of political commentators alight with Jacob Rees-Mogg appearing before an impromptu press conference last week in scenes reminiscent of Mnangagwu’s Zimbabwean ‘not-a-coup’. Meanwhile, millions of working people have watched on in despair – knowing full well that despite the lofty rhetoric of our political class, they remain as out of touch as they were at the time of the Brexit vote.... See more
Rachel Marangozov - 18 December 2018
Her story – of survival, of wanting a better life, and of the need for human contact – is as old as the story of mankind itself.
‘I wish that people wouldn’t judge me when they don’t know me’. This is what Sara tells me when I ask her what her future hopes are.
Sara (not her real name) is seeking asylum in the UK. Like most in her shoes, she has fled her country to seek safety here but has been left destitute while her asylum claim is being processed. With no recourse to public funds, Sara desperately wants to work and contribute to this country but the UK asylum system will only let her work if her claim takes longer than 12 months to process (a waiting period longer than that of any other European country, the USA or Canada). This system benefits nobody: while people like Sara are pushed into destitution, the UK economy loses an estimated £42 million in lost contributions from asylum seekers who want to work, but cannot.... See more
Philip Jones - 16 December 2018
What these stories highlight is a more general social truth: to be a tenant is to be precarious, at continual risk of rent rise, legal disputes and being evicted.
In an era of rogue landlords and slum housing, renter unions provide much needed protection and solidarity for tenants.
The current government presides over a private rental market that forces tenants to endure illegal evictions, squalid conditions and harassment at the hands of unlawful landlords. A recent investigation by The Guardian and ITV found that landlords who have been convicted of previous offenses and have failed to pass the basic tests required by housing legislation are continuing to take rents from private property.
The consequences of leaving the rental market largely unregulated are devastating and far reaching. A study by the university of York published in October found that as many as 1 in 3 rental properties at the bottom end of the market are not fit for purpose. More disturbing still, it revealed that 250,000 families in England are raising infants in substandard rental properties. Slum tenure has become an everyday feature of housing in austerity Britain, a grim consequence of failed welfare reforms, insecure employment and a lack of affordable housing - a social ill that the conservative government have neither a solution to nor any interest in tackling.... See more
Mickey Keller - 15 December 2018
Amber Rudd’s rejection of the UN inquiry into poverty in the UK reveals what’s wrong with the discussion around austerity and human rights.
Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd has used her first appearance following her return to frontline politics last week to attack a UN inquiry into poverty in the UK for its “extraordinary political nature”. The inquiry headed by the UN’s rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Professor Philip Alston, was intended to assess the impact of austerity on the UK’s ability to meet its international human rights commitments. Alston ended his two-week fact finding mission by accusing the government of inflicting “great misery” on its people with “punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous” policies.
This is not the first time the government’s record on poverty and human rights has been criticised by the UN. As Aoife Nolan observes in the London Review of Books, seven of the eight UN envoys that have visited the UK since 2010 have raised concerns. For his part, Alston told a press conference that Britain was in breach of four UN human rights agreements. Unlike civil and political rights, these social and economic rights (which include the right to food, shelter and healthcare) cannot be enforced in UK courts and have historically occupied a second-class status.... See more
Nik Williams - 14 December 2018
We asked Scottish writers how online surveillance has impacted on their work. The answers we got were shocking
We know what censorship looks like: writers being murdered, attacked or imprisoned; TV and radio stations being shut down; the only newspapers parrot the state; journalists lost in the bureaucratic labyrinth to secure a license or permit; government agencies approving which novels, plays and poetry collections can be published; books being banned or burned or the extreme regulation of access to printing materials or presses. All of these damage free expression, but they leave a fingerprint, something visible that can be measured, but what about self-censorship? This leaves no such mark.
When writers self-censor, there is no record, they just stop writing or avoid certain topics and these decisions are lost to time. Without being able to record and document isolated cases the way we can with explicit government censorship, the only thing we can do is identify potential drivers to self-censorship.... See more