International Women's Day, March 8, 2022 was a national holiday in many countries, including Russia, where flower sales normally double during the three or four days around 8 March. Though, perhaps, not this year. International Women's Day has become a date to celebrate how far women have come in society, politics and in economics. Political roots of the day usual manifest themselves in strikes and protests organized to raise awareness of continued inequality. Celebrations were no doubt marred this year as much by the coronavirus that led to virtual events including the one organized by the UN as well as the vision portrayed in the global media of the multitude of women and children that make up the approximately 4 million Ukrainian refugees fleeing the indiscriminate bombings of schools, churches and residential areas by the Russian army. So many of them succumbed to an untimely death. Many knowledgeable military leaders have labelled these atrocities as 'war crimes'. The irony is that Women’s Day in Russia was formalized in the wartime strike in 1917, when Russian women demanded "bread and peace”. Four days into the strike the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional government granted women the right to vote. https://www.unwomen.org/en/news-and-events/events/2022/02/international-womens-day-2022
Gender Equality, Peace, and Sustainable Development
The Annual UN event this year reminded the World that gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. There has been progress over the last decades: more girls are going to school, fewer girls are forced into early marriage, more women are serving in parliament and positions of leadership, and laws are being reformed to advance gender equality. Yet the results from UN Women Policy Brief written in 2020 are still relevant today. They revealed that despite the gains, many challenges remain: discriminatory laws and social norms are pervasive, women continue to be underrepresented at all levels of political leadership, and 1 in 5 women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 report experiencing physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner within a 12-month period. The coronavirus outbreak has exacerbated existing inequalities for women and girls across every sphere – from health and the economy, to security and social protection. The hope is that policies to combat the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic could reverse the limited progress made on gender equality and women’s rights.
A recent UN Report describes the situation around the regions of the World. A common feature is that women play a disproportionate role in responding to the virus, including as frontline healthcare workers and caregivers at home. Women’s unpaid care work has increased significantly as a result of school closures and the increased needs of older people. Women are also harder hit by the economic impacts of COVID-19, as they disproportionately work in insecure labour markets. Nearly 60 per cent of women work in the informal economy, which puts them at greater risk of falling into poverty. The pandemic has also led to a steep increase in violence against women and girls. With lockdown measures in place, many women are trapped at home with their abusers, struggling to access services that are suffering from cuts and restrictions. Emerging data show that, since the outbreak of the pandemic, violence against women and girls – and particularly domestic violence – has intensified.
A 2021 Study by UN Women, Measuring the shadow Pandemic Violence against Women in A COVID 19 World is based on surveys in 13 countries. It shows that almost one in two women (45%) reported that they or a woman they know experienced a form of violence during the Covid-19 pandemic. This includes non-physical abuse, with verbal abuse and the denial of basic resources being the most common. Despite concerns over coronavirus, marches took place around the world. In Mexico, women's groups turned metal fencing, erected to protect the National Palace, into an impromptu memorial for the victims of femicides. Meanwhile, women in Poland held protests across the country following the introduction of a near-total ban on abortion. In China, many women were given a half-day off work on 8 March, as advised by the State Council. In Italy, International Women's Day, or la Festa della Donna, is celebrated by the giving of mimosa blossoms. The origin of this tradition is unclear but it is believed to have started in Rome after World War II. In the US, the month of March is designated Women's History Month. A presidential proclamation issued every year honours the achievements of American women. https://data.unwomen.org/sites/default/files/documents/Publications/Measuring-shadow-pandemic.pdf
A UN Policy Brief 2020 shows that women are not only the hardest hit by this pandemic, but they are also the backbone of recovery in communities. Hence putting women and girls at the centre of economies will fundamentally drive better and more sustainable development outcomes for all, support a more rapid recovery, and place the world back on a footing to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Every COVID-19 response plan, or every recovery package and budgeting of resources, needs to address the gender impacts of this pandemic. It recommends (1) including women and women’s organizations in COVID-19 response planning and decision-making; (2) transforming the inequities of unpaid care work into a new, inclusive care economy that works for everyone; and (3) designing socio-economic plans with an intentional focus on the lives and futures of women and girls. The COVID-19 pandemic provides an opportunity for radical, positive action to redress long-standing inequalities in multiple areas of women’s lives, and building a more just and resilient world. https://www.un.org/sites/un2.un.org/files/policy_brief_on_covid_impact_on_women_9_april_2020.pdf
Among the targeted response to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on women and girls and to ensure that the long-term recovery benefits them, focused on five priorities:
- Mitigating gender-based violence, including domestic violence.
- Reducing social protection and economic stimulus packages to serve women and
- Supporting people and practice equal sharing of care work.
- Ensuring that women and girls lead and participate in COVID-19 response planning
- Including data and coordination mechanisms in gender perspectives.
Feminist Foreign Policy : New Directions for Breaking the Barrier
A novel recommendation has been put forward by Margot Wallstrom, Sweden’s former foreign minister who launched the idea, that a feminist policy rests on four “Rs”: Rights, Representation, Resources and Realism. Accordingly there are also more inclusive views that, for example, taking intersectional disadvantages into account. But the Swedish formulation provides lessons for breaking the barrier. It advocates for girls and women to have access to the same rights as boys and men; that they be represented at all levels of government; and that adequate resources be allocated to rectifying women and girls’ disadvantages. As a way of solving these problems, the UN SG António Guterres in his 2022 International Women's Day message advocated for more women environment ministers, business leaders and presidents and prime ministers. “They can push countries to address the climate crisis, develop green jobs and build a more just and sustainable world."
Even so, what is the realistic assessment of the likelihood of success when the likes of Putin aggressively pursues the evils of traditional values that trample gender-related rights leaving them shattered for generations to come. Ukraine has demonstrated that in the midst of conflict there is the possibility of transformative change . President Zelensky, the Ukrainian army and citizens including women and girls are waging a war ostensibly to defend democracy but can the expansion of authoritarian power hostile to feminism be defeated? A sanguine view is provided by Yasmine Ergas, a Ukrainian journalist in World View, March 9 , 2022 "Will Ukraine Bury Feminist Foreign Policy or Will it Reveal their Power" She argues that bringing feminist lenses to foreign policy could change the prosecution and effects of the conflict. https://www.passblue.com/2022/03/09/will-ukraine-bury-feminist-foreign-policies-or-will-it-reveal-their-power/?utm_source=PassBlue+List&utm_campaign=1ec41e2e12-RSS_PassBlue&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_4795f55662-1ec41e2e12-55057274
On a happy note - I invite you to listen to a delightful musical Tribute by the Trinidad and Tobago Women’s Police Band in celebration of International Women’s Day.
It is with deep regret that I learned of the death of Professor Emeritus Selwyn Ryan. I extend to his wife Jan, his children Michele and Kwame and other relatives my deepest sympathy at this time of their grief. It is my hope that they will be comforted by reflecting on the many good times they shared and the legacy of his outstanding scholarship and advocacy. Among them were his contributions to public discourse in his weekly columns in the Trinidad and Tobago Express over the decades and his contributions to several national, regional and international commissions and symposia. Indeed, his critical thinking will continue to resonate. He was truly an outstanding political historian who helped us to understand the reality of the Caribbean Region in the context of a changing world.
My association with Selwyn dates back to the mid 1970s, when he joined the staff of UWI, St. Augustine but specifically in the mid 1980s when he was appointed Director of the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) St Augustine while I was University Director for the Institute’s regional programme. Together with Prof. Joycelyn Massiah, Director of ISER Cave Hill, I believe we helped to sustain and even rebrand the Institute as a focal point of new directions in Caribbean economic and social policy research and the use of the new information and data collection technologies. The proliferation of studies, seminars and publications attest to the Institute’s critical role. Also, the ability of the Institute to attract endowments to support research for the Faculty of Social Sciences and for its outreach and partnerships with institutions and agencies regionally and globally are worthy of note.
Central to these feats were Selwyn’s abounding zeal and intellectual leadership. What better illustration than his prolific scholarship including 25 books; his contribution to the viability of the Caribbean Studies Association, of which he was President 1990-1991; his acclaim as a pollster through the St Augustine Research Associates (SARA); his nurturing of young scholars by his engagement in the classroom. In addition to his assuming the role of University Director of ISER in 1994, he oversaw its transition to The Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) in 1999 in a merger with the Consortium Graduate School in the Social Sciences established in 1985.
Beyond the world of academia, Selwyn reveled in the cultural expressions of the Caribbean. He played mass at Carnival with fervor; was a fanatic of steel band music and the annual panorama. He was indeed a raconteur with a cutting wit, whose company was a delight to share.
GOFAD is pleased to reproduce the review of Ryan Recalls by Professor Compton Bourne carried in its Blog November 11, 2019. This last of his 25 books is a fitting tribute which at the launch, his last public appearance, he referred to that book as his best work and on whose ideas he hoped young scholars would build. For all these reasons and more he will live on in our memories as the man in truly was: a treasured mentor, colleague and friend.
Ukraine 's Tragic Theatre: "End of Post -Cold War Era?"
Major summits across the globe continue to denounce the Russian invasion of Ukraine and to increasingly support Ukraine's sovereignty . These include the UN General Assembly; President Biden’s State of the Union address to the US Congress; the Emergency EU parliament and parliamentary sessions of the EU, Germany, UK; the consolidation of NATO’s unity including Finland and Sweden, and in partnership with the US focusing on deterrence and defense without conditions; and the Regional groups of the CARICOM Community and the African Union, among others. At the time of writing, there are planned meetings of the UN Foreign Affairs Council and the G7 with the likely announcements of additional sanctions against Russia as well as Belarus.
Ukraine’s display of strength of its nationalism and the defiant war leadership of its President Zelenksy are among the amazing features of the country’s resilience against Putin’s nuclear threat and intent to take control of all Ukraine. The preoccupation from the summits across the globe is finding the formula to stop Russia from further aggression and countering Putin’s insistence on the need to “denazify Ukraine” which is a illegitimate attempt to undermine the sovereign rights of a state with implications for the survival of democracy worldwide. Among the questions: Does Russia’s brutal assault now raging on Kyiv and Kherson signal the end of the post Cold War era? With widespread calls for investigations of war crimes by the International Court of Justice in The Hague materialize? What will it take to abate the indiscriminate bombing of civilians and aggression by the Russian state to create genocide?.
There has been a wide array of reports on 'the Ukraine tragic theatre'. This Blog has identified some that provide informed lessons learned from the history of wars and future prospects of reforms to global governance. Among them is an excellent analysis by Bruce Golding, former Prime Minister of Jamaica, now a resident scholar at UWI. He refers to the frightening parallels of mindsets between Hitler and Putin as well as between Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938 and Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. “Both were preceded by the bloodless invasion and annexation of adjoining territory — Austria by Hitler in 1938 and Crimea by Putin in 2014. Both were claimed to be justified in order to counter what was perceived to be a security threat — the “encirclement policy” by Britain, according to Hitler, and the presence of NATO forces in central and Eastern Europe, according to Putin” See Beyond Russia’s invasion of Ukraine -
Putin’s speeches prior to the invasion clearly help to place in perspective that the invasion of Ukraine constitutes the most serious challenge to global peace and security since Hitler’s campaign to conquer Europe in the late 1930s. In this regard, Golding’s conclusions are pertinent. Putin's obsession with Russia restoring the power and influence formerly held by the Soviet Union; he cares little about being branded a pariah; and has total disregard for international law. His haunting question is worth much consideration "Could this be a signal to other countries that seek to assert claims on other sovereign territory. China’s eyes on Taiwan and those of Venezuela on Guyana come quickly to mind.”
In the Atlantic, February 19, 2002, Tom McTague revealed the possibility that Putin’s next steps in Ukraine may be predicated on the assumption of slippage in America’s global leadership, especially after the debacle in Afghanistan. He graphically describes how the West today, is trapped between an old world that no longer exists and a new one that has yet to fully take shape. “This realization of how little has changed in terms of the fundamental anchor of European security applies to Europe’s “big three” as well. Each of these powers—Germany, France, and Britain—is playing a role coordinated by Washington. Germany as economic leverage, France as diplomatic lead, Britain as the intelligence and military hawk. "Although each might have minor quibbles with the American approach, they have all largely stuck to their script.” But there is a difference. In an extraordinary statement to the Special Session of the German Parliament, Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced a one time increase of 100 billion euros ($113 billion) for defense spending of more than 2 percent of Germany’s economic output annually on defense. See what the Ukraine Crisis reveals about American Power.
Putin’s miscalculation is evident in the thrust of Biden’s State of the union address and the sequence of more recent events in NATO , EU and most of the Global community. They have so clearly demonstrated USA’s pivotal role in Europe and a more global unified position on Ukraine through ‘careful and conciliatory diplomacy’. The biting and widespread nature of economic sanctions including coordinated fiscal policies, export controls and planned high tech takeaways for a post fossil future development are major signals for the reemergence of vibrant multilateralism that even includes Switzerland and Monaco. Putin’s isolation is like a self inflicting wound. But there are several ironies.
UN Security Council in need of Radical Change
One irony is the United Nations General Assembly rare emergency session to discuss Russia's invasion of Ukraine while members of the UN Security Council met to discuss the humanitarian effects of the crisis after Russia vetoed a resolution deploring its actions. This situation highlights once again that the veto power of the Security Council’s five permanent members—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States — is a major stumbling block to peace. It means in this case, the U.S. and its allies can impose sanctions only through a “coalition of the willing.” A Brookings op ed March 3 by Kendal Dervish and Jose Da Campo, aptly justifies the need to change the system: “the fact that an increasingly illegitimate and ineffective Security Council lies at the heart of today’s multilateral system is all the more unfortunate given the growing range of threats to peace and security. These include not only conventional acts of aggression of the sort the world is witnessing in Ukraine—and which could yet escalate to nuclear exchanges—but also other security threats posed by new technologies”. This means advocating radically for changing the way the Security Council operates, by adding a clause to Article 27 that would allow a large double majority—representing, for example, at least two-thirds of member countries and two-thirds of the world’s population—to override a veto.
The Possibility of a China-Russia Alliance
Another irony is, that by tacitly backing Putin, Xi has all but confirmed Western hawks’ greatest fears about an authoritarian arc stretching from St. Petersburg to Shanghai, harking back to the Sino-Soviet alliance of the 1950s. Stronger Beijing-Moscow ties, simply provide democratic rivals— US and Europe — a rallying point together with a consolidated and coordinated NATO. Foremost in Xi’s mind might be what the Ukraine crisis means for his desire to recapture Taiwan, the self-ruling island that broke from the mainland following China’s 1945-49 civil war, and whose unification he has repeatedly called “the great trend of history.”
Russia and the Pervasive pursuit of Domination
Ironically, one of the most philosophically poignant evaluation of the Russia-Ukraine issue was presented by Martin Kimani, the Kenyan Ambassador to the United Nations. He explicitly linked the colonial history of his own country to that of Ukraine in a speech to the Security Council on February 7. He drew a parallel between Africa and Ukraine locating deep historical, cultural and linguistic bonds of people across their borders that they had no role in drawing. “The Ukrainians as with many families, including my own, have been split across the Russia-Ukraine border. “These separations are largely accidents of history, one of the lasting effects of the collapse the Soviet Union. But this sense of kinship, cannot justify invasion: “We must complete our recovery from the embers of dead empires in a way that does not plunge us back into new forms of domination and oppression.”
Conclusion: Zelensky rising star in the Global Theatre
War in Ukraine escalated by the Russian leader in an unacceptable manner has led to an estimated one million of refugees from Ukraine escaping especially to Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, Moldova. But the people of Ukraine are showing that principles of freedom and democracy are worth fighting for and its national anthem “Ukraine has not yet Perished” is at the top of the charts in Europe and elsewhere. Putin is no doubt enraged by Ukraine’s affirmation of the liberal democratic project. Yet, of all the ironies is President Volodymyr Zelensky astutely honing his skills as an actor and comedian and communications savvy to galvanize the national Ukraine spirit and sway global audiences. With unprecedented grit and determination he has transformed the imagery of his leadership into an unlikely champion for Ukrainians and the World.
Edward and Auriol Greene Directors, GOFAD.