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Research on racism has mostly focused on territorial states and its politics, claims a recent call for papers just published by Gerhard Wolf in the forum of H-Soz-Kult. However, the phenomenon itself is clearly not bound to territorial borders.

A two day workshop at the University of Sussex titled “Everyday Racism in Transnational Perspective” attempts to widen the scientific angle of vision on the radical construction of race. Suggested topics of workshop contributions include, inter alia, racism and the marketplace, pop culture, religion, family or education.

The workshop takes place from October 31 to November 1, 2013. Deadline for applications is April 30.

Scholars engaged in this topic may also be interested in an older post about the Journal of Comparative Fascist Studies’ call for papers on fascism as a transnational concern – although the two phenomena are distinct.

(jiska)

The idea of international financial reporting standards as a single global financial reporting language has come to stay. There is no doubt that developing accounting standards can be a difficult and expensive exercise. The substantial cost associated with the development of international accounting standards seems to be borne by only a handful of actors where as other actors (users of the standards) are free riding.

Who pays and who free rides?

The International Accounting Standard Setter i.e the IFRS Foundation thrives as a non-profit private organization who’s business is to commit its rather limited resources solely to the development and promotion of the use of high quality global financial reporting standards. These resources largely come from the generosity of member countries, international organizations, international accountancy firms, accounting regulators, capital market regulators, multinational firms, transnational and national accounting standard setting bodies, international banks and in rare cases governments. Given these rather limited sources of financing and the lack of obligation on the part of these sponsors, it is hard to say how much funding the IASB actually needs to enable it develop credible global accounting standards. However, a quick look through the financial statements of the IFRS Foundation suggests that majority of its funding turns to come from accountancy practicing firms, national accounting regulatory authorities and accountancy bodies that share the dream of a single global accounting standard. These sources of funding got me thinking about the wide usage of the standards as to the number of user countries and the limited funding the IASB currently has.

As many as 120+ countries currently use IFRS globally. However, very few of these countries actually contribute financially to the development of these standards. What is even more surprising is the number of developing countries (especially countries from Africa, Asia and South America) that continue to use the standards without any financial contribution to the development of the standards. Take Africa for a test case. There are 57 countries in the continent and out of this number; about 21 countries currently use IFRS in one form or another either as full scale adopters or users of modified versions of the standards. Nevertheless, only two of these countries have contributed very small amounts to the overall development of the standards. In 2010, South Africa became the only African country to have contributed 45,112 British pounds sterling representing only 0.27% of the income of the IASB.  This example was followed by Nigeria in 2011 who contributed 62,445 British pounds sterling representing 0.30% of the annual income of the IASB. The table below indicates the sources of funding for the development of International Financial Reporting Standards.

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The one who pays the piper calls the tune!

I have often wondered how non-paying users of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) could have influence on the work of the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB). As more countries continue to apply IFRS without contributing to its development, their ability to influence the work of the IASB become weak. Neither can they communicate problems with specific standards nor can they determine the direction or pace of international accounting standards.  Accounting standards by their nature are public goods i.e. the consumption of which by one party can not diminish the consumption of another party of the same good.  Nevertheless, what constitutes how a public good is constructed is on the bases that a common contribution is made by consumers or potential consumers of the same good. But this contribution is only made by a cross-section of the consumers while the others only wait to enjoy the benefits. On this basis, economists define public goods to mean any good from whose enjoyment non-contributors cannot be excluded.  Like many other public goods, the problem of free riding exists where some others pay to finance its construction while others do not pay but enjoy its use as much as those who paid for its construction.

IFRS has come along with such economic problem. IFRSs on this basis have equally come to represent public goods which only a handful of financial contributors make commitments towards the development of the standards while others only apply the standards without any contribution. As many developing countries look to enhance their financial informational needs, they turn to embrace the idea of IFRS and adopt these standards in some cases without the knowledge of the IASB.

The price for free riding the use of these standards is that, actors that contribute the development of these standards turn to dictate the direction of the standards. Non-paying actors will have no influence on how these standards are designed. With little or no voice on the IASB standard setting process by non-paying members, this group of users of the standards stands the chance of applying standards not designed to meet their needs.

(solomon)

Image_affiche_INTERNORM_Mars_2013

Last week, I attended a very interesting conference organized by Jean-Christophe Graz, Christoph Hauert, Marc Audetat and Danielle Büschi at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. At this conference, the prospects and limits of participation of civil society in international standardization were not only assessed by leading academics working in the field but also by members of various NGOs, including consumer and environmental organizations operating at the national and transnational level. The conference was part of a research programme at the University of Lausanne called “Living together under uncertainty” which has the aim to reinforce the relationship between academic knowledge and civil society. The INTERNORM project is trully transdisciplinary in the sense that Helga Nowotny understands the term: bringing together different types of knowledge from academics and practitioners for democratic problem-solving in the global sphere. The conference was one of the rare moments where academics and pratictioners engaged in really productive intellectual inquiry into how problems of standard-setting are framed, organized and managed in various national and transnational arenas. It also turned out to be a very cross-fertilizing event between the French and English-speaking communities in this field. Discussions revealed the many still persisting obstacles created by technical standard-setting organizations which make it difficult for civil society actors to participate on an equal footing. Yet, discussions also pointed to the strategic capacity of transnational and European NGOs to coordinate effectively across borders and to set their priorities in ways to enhance their leverage and influence. The presentations of the conferences are available on the INTERNORM project website.

(sigrid)

Yesterday was the first International Day of Happiness as proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in July 2012. The idea to introduce such a day derived from a meeting titled “Happiness and Well-being: Defining a New Economic Paradigm”. The meeting had been convened by the Government of Bhutan and is one of many initiatives questioning economic growth and the GDP as leading indicator for political success (e.g. summarized in a MPIfG working paper, in German). During the debates on alternatives, Bhutan gained a lot of prominence for its decade-old practice of focusing on citizens’ happiness instead.

The resolution which introduces the Day of Happiness also tells us that “the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal”. Furthermore, the UN General Assembly recognizes

“the relevance of happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world and the importance of their recognition in public policy objectives”

And

the need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and the well-being of all peoples

The new economic paradigm which the world was supposed to reflect on yesterday is still one of economic growth, one might say – but in addition, there is an International Day of Happiness.

(jiska)

Sidney Paget: Sherlock Holmes

Sidney Paget: Sherlock Holmes

Dave Itzkoff hit the nail on its head with the following opener to his New York Times article on the heirs to Sherlock Holmes in 2010:

“For a 123-year-old detective, Sherlock Holmes is a surprisingly reliable earner.”

In a more recent guest post at the 1709 blog, Miri Frankel reports about a new legal battle with regard to the copyright expiration date of some works of Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the fictional character Sherlock Holmes:

In February Leslie Klinger, a Los Angeles attorney, filed a lawsuit against the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle — the creator and author of a series of fictional works featuring legendary investigator and crime-solver Sherlock Holmes. Mr Klinger is the author of numerous books and articles relating to the “Canon of Sherlock Holmes” […] For years, the Conan Doyle Estate has demanded and collected licensing fees from authors who created works drawing from or based on the Sherlock Holmes character or other elements from the world of Sherlock Holmes. […] But Mr Klinger’s view, and the view of other, sympathetic authors who have created new stories based on elements from the public domain works of Sir Conan Doyle, is that these licensing fees are not necessary, and the Conan Doyle Estate should not be allowed to threaten them with lawsuits to extract licensing fees.  The Complaint asserts that only new, original elements first published in the stories that remain under copyright protection are still protectable; copyright no longer protects, however, any elements that had already been published in earlier Sherlock Holmes works, so all such elements are now in the public domain.

Interestingly, Klinger makes his arguments not only in court but has also launched a website entitled “Free Sherlock!“, where he is even asking for donations “to offset legal fees and expenses of the litigation.” Read the rest of this entry »

The pope is a transnational actor ex officio. He fills the highest position in the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church which makes him: head of a state, head of an NGO-like organization, head of a huge religious organization, and spiritual leader of a transnational community.

However, the current discourses on the election of a new pope reveal that the affair has more layers than the universal doctrine of the church suggests. Discussions on ‘papapile’ cardinals included strong national allocations. Furthermore, focusing on internal challenges of the organization belittled the external relevance of the decision and the pope’s role as an advocate. With this blog, I want to shed light on those different dimensions of papacy and the Roman Catholic Church against the backdrop of the recent election of Franciscus I.

What the pope is and what he is not

Of course, the pope is the absolute head of a state. Since the Lateran Treaty in 1929, the Vatican is a sovereign state accepted in the international community. The pope is part of political struggles. However, he is no usual head of state. As a non-member permanent observer state since 1964, the Vatican representative has no right to vote at the United Nations (although all other rights of full membership were granted in 2004).

Analytically, the Roman Catholic Church is maybe best described as a unique hybrid on the world stage with state and non-governmental characteristics.

The Church today regards Vatican City as part of the infrastructure for carrying out its true mission. In the language of international relations, the Church understands itself as an NGO, and it additionally employs the benefits of sovereign status in the service of its advocacy interest. (Ferrari 2006: 40)

Read the rest of this entry »

Two summer schools will address problems of transnational research with a long term perspective:

The CENDARI Summer School “Historical Sources & Transnational Approaches to European History”, 22 -26 July 2013, in Florence, Italy, and the 3rd Doctoral Summer School “Between International, Transnational and Global History: Information Technologies at Borders, 19th-21st C.”, 23-25 September 2013, in Pleumeur-Bodou, France.

In Florence,

Sessions will apply the concept of ‘transnational moments’ to examine ways in which historical research is complicated by the nature of material records of the past. The Summer School will provide a context for the various collections-level challenges to transnational history, such as how to identify sources that have become ‘hidden’ or lost through accidents of history. (source)

Participants will have the chance to learn about the project CENDARI (Collaborative European Digital Archive Infrastructure) which is a collaboration of computer experts and historians integrating digital archives to facilitate science.

The summer school in Pleumeur-Bodou, on the other hand, attempts to overcome methodological nationalism in the study of the globalization of communications. Both summer schools offer opportunities to present one’s own research.

Deadlines for applications:
CENDARI Summer School, Florence: April 15, 2013
Doctoral Summer School, Pleumeur-Bodou: April 26, 2013

(jiska)

Suddenly, out of the blue, a debate about microfinance and child labour has erupted. Why?

Underage work caused by microloans is an uncomfortable topic for the microfinance sector, given the moral panic easily associated with child labour. It’s nearly impossible for the industry to publicly make dismissive or nuanced statements on the issue. David Roodman (self-styled “impertinent inquirer“) has now stepped up to the plate, publishing a thought-provoking short essay on his blog which critiques recent moves towards – or rather: rumours of some consideration being given to the idea of – enshrining policies against child labour in the microfinance sector’s transnational self-certification schemes.

Yes indeed, what are we going to do about it?

Photo: Children’s Bureau Centennial, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Roodman assumes Hugh Sinclair (self-styled “microfinance heretic“) to be a driving force behind this. While I have my doubts about it being that simple, I do think that, while not a driving force, Sinclair could be a contributing factor.

Which, incidentally, brings me to my hypothesis about the actual issue of child labour. Is microfinance a driving force? Hell no. Could it be a countributing factor? Logically yes. Consider these two very simplified causal chains:

Read the rest of this entry »

Today GovernanceXBorders co-editor Phil Mader contributes a guest post on microfinance and European austerity politics over at TheCurrentMoment.

 

The Andhra Pradesh crisis has been something of a turning point in public assessment of microfinance, with a suicide wave caused by widespread overindebtedness badly tarnishing the sector’s image in India as well as abroad. Some Indian politicians are now beginning to identify the idea of alleviating poverty with microfinance as “crap“.

Crilex

Source: M‐CRIL Microfinance Review 2012 (vii)

Microfinance in India remains in protracted decline since 2010 (see graph), although talk of “green shoots” and catharsis after “near-death experience” has been around for some time. The industry’s stance for the past two years has been to deny responsibility for any wrongdoings, downplay its role in precipitating the dozens of suicides, and claim that the AP government’s October 2010 legislation was a surprising and unjust crackdown on healthy practices. I have claimed otherwise.

Yet, fairly surprisingly, my new paper investigating the causes of the crisis, and a recent interview with SKS Microfinance senior managers come to some similar conclusions about the causes. In particular, both versions see the unregulated hyper-competitive market as a significant cause of the tragedy which led to microfinanciers’ troubles. How can this be?

Read the rest of this entry »

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
March 2013
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