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The conference “Access and Allocation in the Anthropocene” addresses questions of equity, justice, and fairness in environmental governance as well as transformative pathways towards sustainability. The call for papers draws on the analytical concepts of access and allocation, architecture, agency, adaptiveness, and accountability which structure the Earth System Governance Project (ESG). This scientific network is one of the co-organizers next to the University of East Anglia and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

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After reaching between 10 and 13 percent in German national polls in mid-2012 (see “Around the German Pirate Party Convention 2012“), the actual election results of 2.2 percent for the Pirate Party – only 0.2 percent more than in 2009 – smashed all hopes of entering the German Bundestag. The plenty of explanations for the party’s demise, which was as quickly as its rise, include the following:

Election poster of the German Pirate Party 2013: "

Election poster of the German Pirate Party 2013; translation: “Sorry, we had also thought it would be easier – but this does not mean that we give up”

  • Public internal conflicts: as is often the case in new parties, initial success attracts a lot of different constituencies, all bringing in their own and often conflicting ideas and opinions. In finalizing positions, this diversity naturally leads to conflicts with some of the members leaving the party again. However, in the case of the Pirate Party, the self-imposed radical transparency put all of these conflicts out in the public for anyone to see – in all its nastiness.
  • Change in media narratives: in the beginning, the media framed awkward statements or lack of political positions as “interesting”, “fresh” or “authentic” (see, for example, an article in the quality daily Sueddeutsche in November 2011). As some prominent members such as Marina Weisband stepped down and the party began to drop in the polls, this narrative turned 180 degrees. Authentic and honest admittance of nescience suddenly became incompetent ignorance. As was the case in overly positive reporting before, narrative and change in polls fed on each other.
  • New protest party Alternative for Germany (AfD): part of the explantion of the Pirate Party’s success was their ability to collect protest votes (see also “German Pirates’ Winning Streak: More than Protest“). In this regard, the newly founded and Euro-critical AfD did a much better job this Sunday and nearly reached the five percent election threshold.
  • Failure to deliver on promise of ‘liquid democracy‘: in addition to calls for copyright reform and government transparency, one of the core promises of the Pirate Party in Germany was to improve democratic participation with the help of new technological means. However, the party could not agree to implement a “permanent general assembly” with the help of its voting and discussion tool “liquid feedback“, thereby substantially undermining the credibility of calls for implementing similar tools elsewhere.
  • Missed opportunity of the NSA scandal: even though the leaks by Edward Snowden directly addressed core issues of the Pirate Party movement such as privacy and anti-surveillance, the German Pirates were not able to capitalize on it. Different to the anti-ACTA protests (see “ACTA as a Case of Strategic Ambiguity“), where a clear goal (‘Stop ratification of ACTA!’) and a clear addressee (the European Parliament) helped to mobilize, the Pirate Party did not manage to identify an enemy or suggest measures.

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It’s good to see microfinance researchers seriously studying alternatives to microloans or other microfinancial services. Very poor people need assets and a helping hand more than a loan, so why not hand out a cow or some other income-generating assets, offer training, and provide basic healthcare? That’s what an 18-month “Ultra-Poor Programme” run by SKS Microfinance in India did. But the randomised impact evaluation performed by Jonathan Morduch of New York University, Shamika Ravi of the Indian School of Business and Jonathan Bauchet of Purdue University on this programme turned up a “null” result, similar to those of randomised studies of microfinance.

Perhaps it is surprising to see SKS Microfinance (India’s largest microlender before 2010, and now perhaps most notorious microlender) giving non-repayable one-off kickstarts to ultra-poor households. But the intention of the programme was not purely altruistic; it was to “graduate” households into microfinance, by giving them assets to start a business.

In the programme in Andhra Pradesh evaluated by Morduch/Ravi/Bauchet, people who got a free asset and training to become microentrepreneurs were found to be no better off later than those who didn’t. They also didn’t manage to reduce their debts or increase their savings any more than others. Why? The authors believe it is

explained in large part by substitution with other economic activities. […] During the study period, wages in agricultural labor were rising steadily in the region, so that households in the control group were able to improve their economic conditions in parallel with households in the treatment group. (35)

The opportunities outside the self-employment programme offered similarly improving incomes as the opportunities offered by the programme itself. To what conclusion should this lead us about the concept of entrepreneurial self-lift out of poverty? Overall, the take-home message from the authors is eminently logical:

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The Book

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