Exploring Patterns of Human Rights Funding

Who are the main donors for the global human rights movement? What kind of causes is this funding devoted to? Does the allocated funding reflect the salience of various human rights causes? The Foundation Center and the International Human Rights Funders Group recently released a report Advancing Human Rights: The State of Global Foundation Grantmaking, outlining quantitative data about the scale of response to human rights violations. The reports finds that $1.2 billion in grants were given out for various human rights causes in 2010, with the following organizations being the main donors for human rights causes worldwide.


fundingareaThough this report is a good start for analyzing global funding patterns for human rights, a caveat is in order. First, the methodology followed to produce this report reflects a bias in favor of US and European donors because of the relatively easy accessibility of grants data for organizations based in these regions. More precisely, the report looks at funding practices of donors affiliated with the Foundation Center, Ariadne/European Human Rights Funders Network and the International Network of Women’s Funds. A number of organizations across Asia and Africa may not be affiliated with these centers, leading to their absence from the report.

Nevertheless, since most of the biggest donors are American and European and are accounted for in this report, this data helps us identify issues where the scope of the problem may not align with the scale of the response.  For instance, there is a startlingly low amount of funding given to address gender-based violence, with only $5.3 million directed to the issue of domestic violence and another $8.6 million to the issue of gender or identity-based violence in 2010. Combined, these account for only about 1 percent of all of the $1.2 billion in grants included in the study. However, non-alignment between the scope of the problem and scale of the funding is more than just an issue of donor preferences. In many countries such as Egypt, India and Russia, foreign donors are often regarded with suspicion, preventing the channeling of funds to donors’ intended targets. A next step thus should be to look at indigenous philanthropy, how its volume varies across regions due to intimidation from domestic authorities, and whether funding from local sources can increase the legitimacy of particular agendas and strategies.

For more on funding patterns of human rights debates, stay tuned for the debate on Open Global Rights over at OpenDemocracy.


Will the Gezi Protests Change Politics in Turkey?

Nearly a week ago, on 28th May, the first people gathered at Gezi Park, Istanbul, to protest the demolition of the park to accommodate a shopping mall and a replica of an Ottoman-era barracks. However, by Friday, the protest had already reached massive proportions – police used tear gas and water gas to disperse protestors, a number of people were taken in police custody and 3G was blocked in the area around the Taksim Square. By Saturday, access to Twitter and local internet was temporarily cut off, and protests had spread to other major cities such as Izmir and Ankara.

Gezi Protests

While an Istanbul Administrative court stayed the construction of the Ottoman-era Topçu Barracks on Friday, a number of other reasons probably exacerbated the protests – among them, the issue of naming of a third bridge over the Bosphorus after Yavuz Sultan Selim, an Ottoman ruler known for his massacre of the Anatolia Alevis, the controversial recent bill on the sale, consumption and advertising of alcohol, and most importantly, the excessive use of police force during the protests.

Despite the strong crackdown beginning Friday afternoon, protestors kept increasing in numbers, and by Saturday, a large chunk of protestors were chanting for Erdoğan to resign. What do these protests mean for Erdoğan’s support base?

Şule Kulu at Today’s Zaman, one of Turkey’s largest newspapers, argues that “Erdoğan has shot himself in the foot” due to the violent nature of the crackdown. She further argues that many of Erdoğan’s supporters united with those in the opposition due to their common ground in opposing the Taksim project and police brutality. However, Mustafa Aykol, a renowned Turkish journalist and author of Islam Without Extremes, is of the view that, “Erdoğan’s support base is still intact,” and not everybody agrees with the protestors. However, he argues that Erdoğan needs to acknowledge that, “the ballot box is not the only thing that counts in a truly participatory democracy,” which seems to be sorely lacking in Turkey.

Most importantly perhaps may be the lack of a credible opposition. Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been in power for the last 12 years, and  Erdoğan is the only prime minister in Turkish history to win three consecutive general elections and receive more votes each time. In the 2011 elections, the AKP secured almost double the number of votes than the opposition party,  the center-left Republican People’s Party (CHP), Turkey’s oldest political party established by Atatürk in 1923.

Further, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s CHP has not shown much initiative on two main issues facing Turkey: the peace process with the PKK and the civil war in Syria. With regard to the former, the party has refused to take any responsibility for the solution to the Kurdish question, when in fact, a recent poll shows that two-thirds of CHP voters back the Kurdish peace process. Earlier last month, when 30 deputies from the CHP’s reformist wing released a declaration supporting the peace process with the PKK, others from the party’s nationalist wing condemned this stance, a move which many might see as evidence of rift between the party and an inability to take a stance of pressing issues. The party’s Syrian policy has also been criticized because the CHP has yet to condemn Assad’s policy of targeting his own citizens. However, Kılıçdaroğlu’s decision on Saturday to cancel his party’s rally in Istanbul in order to keep the protest apolitical and not hijack the movement for political gains was appreciated by many.

It is still too early to speculate on the next general elections. But in the face of a democratic government acting in an undemocratic manner, and the dividends from AKP’s economic success (which propelled them to power in the first place) being distributed unequally across society, one thing is clear: even if a weakening of Erdoğan’s support base does take place, any significant electoral shifts are unlikely to occur in the 2014 elections in the absence of a credible and effective opposition.

For more on the Turkish protests, follow Suparna on Twitter.

Naming and Faming: Forbes’ Power Women

Forbes’ list of Most Powerful Women for this year is out and Angela Merkel has come out on top again, for the 7th time in the last 8 years. I was struck by the number of American women on the list simply by glancing at it. When I went through the entire list of 100 women, I realized that an astounding 58 were American. Does this mean that other countries are not producing ‘powerful women’?

Well, let’s look at how Forbes decides who is a powerful woman. According to the magazine, 250 candidates are picked each year, out of which 100 are picked across 7 fields – billionaires, business, lifestyle (entertainment and fashion), media, nonprofits and NGOs, politics and technology. Three variables are then used to decide one’s overall rank as well the rank within the category to which she belongs: money, media presence and impact. While money and media presence are calculated using fairly standard metrics (see here), ‘impact’ is measured by the “extent of their reach across industries, cultures and countries, numbers of spheres of influence and people they affect, and how actively they wield their power.” The extremely poor operationalization (if one can even call it that) of this third crucial variable ‘impact’ might be the reason why the list is so US-centric. Or maybe I have some idealistic conception of what ‘impact’ means in that it should affect the lives of people around the world, especially women, positively. Otherwise, I’d be hard pressed to believe that someone like Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue, or Jenna Lyons, Creative Director of J. Crew, is actually influencing a wide spectrum of society in any manner, let alone positive.

Missing Women, Missing Mechanisms

In 1990, Amartya Sen coined the term ‘missing women’ to denote the shortage of women contributing to the skewed sex ratios in Asia and Africa, where men outnumber women, in stark contrast to North America and Europe, where women outnumber men. Estimates of missing women were originally meant to represent some measure of the degree of gender discrimination. This discrimination was attributed to three main causes causes: sex-selective abortions, female infanticide, and the comparative neglect of female health and nutrition during childhood, which led to their deaths early in life.

In 2010, Anderson and Ray, used the Sen-Coale counterfactual, which compares birth and death ratios of men and women in developing countries to similar populations in developed countries, in order to examine the ratio of these missing women across both age and diseases levels. They found a wide variation in the pattern of these missing women between India and China.

“A large percentage of the missing women in China are located before birth and in infancy. We estimate that around 37–45% of the missing women in China are due to prenatal factors alone. But the numbers for India are more evenly distributed across the different age groups.”

In a more recent work in 2012, they further explore the unlikely distribution of missing women across India, and find that

“… a total of more than two million women in India are missing in a given year….First, the majority of missing women, in India die in adulthood. Our estimates demonstrate that roughly 12% of missing women are found at birth, 25% die in childhood, 18% at the reproductive ages, and 45% die at older ages.”

They also find a great deal of variation in the distribution of missing women by age group across the states: Punjab is the only state where the majority of missing women are found at birth, while Haryana and Rajasthan are the only two states where a majority of these missing women are either never born or die in childhood.

The above results show us that commonly considered explanations such as sex-selective abortion or female infanticide cannot explain the age distribution of these missing women. This is certainly true in India and may hold for other countries with similar distributions of missing women as well. It is not as if the woes of adult women are completely ignored (see Chen and Dreze (1992) and Kochar (1999) ), but contrary to conventional wisdom, it turns out that excess female mortality in adulthood is as serious of a problem as missing girls who are never born or die prematurely in childhood.

So what are some possible mechanisms for the existence of so many ‘missing women’ in adulthood? More importantly, is the number high due to differentiated access to healthcare leading to higher maternal mortality and other diseases or due to overt social basis of gender discrimination leading to dowry death and bride-burning? Bloch and Rao (2002) document how women who pay less dowry are more likely to be victims of marital violence. More research is needed to tease apart these mechanisms and understand the reasons behind the surprisingly large number of ‘missing women’ in adulthood. From a policy perspective, at time when new legislation against sexual violence is being debated in India, it is also important to have a broader conversation about the kinds of discrimination being faced by adult women in order to find the most effective ways to address it.

 Follow Suparna on Twitter here.

Assessing the Effect of Gender Quotas on Politics

Last week, Natalia Bueno drew our attention to gender quotas in politics, pointing out that while the number of women candidates in elections to the local and federal chambers in Brazil was increasing, the proportion of women actually getting elected was not witnessing a commensurate increase; in fact, it was mostly stable over time. Regardless of whether a quota is for a certain percentage of women that must contest elections, or for a certain percentage of women that must actually hold legislative seats, Natalia raises an important question at the end of her post – is such affirmative action even effective? Like Brazil, India has also been struggling to implement reforms that encourage representation of women in government. While a 1992 amendment to the Indian constitution made it mandatory for 33% of elected seats at the local level (village panchayats) to be filled with women, the bill for implementing this reform at the national level has still not been passed. In light of the debate on women’s issues that has been sparked off by the recent gang-rape in Delhi, a number of proposals are now back into consideration, including the Women’s Reservation Bill, which mandates that 33% of all seats in the lower house of the Parliament and in all state legislative assemblies be reserved for women. But does guaranteeing a certain number of elected seats for women yield their group any benefits?

Government Participation by Women (womenstats.org)

In terms of effectiveness of gender quotas and representation, what exactly are we aiming for? Observers draw a distinction between descriptive representation,  the similarity between the representative and the represented in terms of race/ethnicity/gender, symbolic representation, the subjective feeling of “fair” represented, and substantive representation. This third kind is particularly important as it implies that the legislators actually enact policy which reflects the concerns of the constituents.

Looking at the effects of descriptive representation, Barnes and Burchard, using the Afro-Barometer survey for 20 countries across sub-Saharan Africa, show that increased representation of women in the political sphere is positively related the political engagement of women at the mass level. Political engagement here is measured in a variety of ways – talking about politics, participating in demonstrations, interest in politics, contacting a member of Parliament and contacting a party leader. More importantly, they argue that true gender parity in representation is not even necessary to achieve a commensurate parity in political engagement – as the percentage of women in the legislature increases from 25 to 35%, the difference between male and female turnout in voting during elections virtually disappears.

However, such descriptive representation does not necessarily translate into symbolic or substantive representation. This is a concern in many developing countries such as India and Brazil, where women candidates may often be wives or relatives of male candidates in politics and, therefore, may do little to advance the interests of the constituents who they are supposed to represent.  Evidence of symbolic representation however, can also be found in some contexts. Iyer, Mani, Mishra and Topalova have found that increased representation of women in local councils in India has gradually contributed to an increased reporting of crime against women. In substantive terms, Chattopadhyay and Duflo using the reservation rule mentioned above, find that female leaders invest money in public goods considered more important to women than men, which in this case were drinking water and roads.

The above examples show us that the effectiveness of gender quotas is conditional on many factors and the kind of representation that we choose to focus on. Besides examining the effects of these gender quotas, it would also be interesting to analyze if exposure to power and the formal workings of politics builds capabilities for these female leaders. In other words, what are the effects of these quotas on its direct beneficiaries?

Great Power Confrontation: India and China, 50 Years On

After a series of smashing victories in the border war with India, Chinese troops swept down from the towering Himalayas and were poised at the edge of the fertile plains of Assam, whose jute and tea plantations account for one-fourth of India’s export trade. Then, with Assam lying defenseless before her conquering army, Red China suddenly called a halt to the fighting.

Radio Peking announced that, “on its own initiative,” Red China was ordering a cease-fire on all fronts….

–       Time Magazine Cover, October 1962

Fifty years after India and China had a month-long confrontation that ended in a humiliating defeat for India, the two great powers still continue to have friction over the northeastern border, the subject of 14 fruitless talks between the two nations. The McMahon Line, the initial cause of the disagreement, was demarcated by British officials in 1914 in order to settle the issue of Tibetan suzerainty. As the map below shows, India claims a part of the northern frontier for its Ladakh. In the eastern part, China claims a huge chunk of one of India’s states, Arunachal Pradesh. The dissatisfaction with these boundaries as well as the Chinese refusal to recognize Tibetan sovereignty resulted in a war that has led to one of the most militarized borders in contemporary times.

Source: The Economist

What does this underlying friction mean for Indian security and defense policy? By looking at Indian efforts towards both internal and external balancing, we might be able to gauge whether India visualizes China as a threat or not. In terms of internal balancing, the graph below shows us the steadily increasing value of Indian defense spending. The biggest jumps  have been in the last two years, with an 11% and 17% increase in the defense budget in 2011 and 2012. One of the main targets of these expenditures has been the development of the Agni-V missile. The missile has a range of more than 5,000 km (3,100 miles), potentially bringing targets in China within range. The development of such long-range missiles was clearly carried out with China in mind, as with its previous level of capability, India already possessed the capability to hit Pakistan, its traditional rival. There have also been growing fears in India over the strength of the Chinese navy. The most powerful signal of recent Chinese naval expansion has been the purchase of an aircraft carrier which they have recently begun testing at sea. Because Indian power and trade is reliant on open access to the seas, it is vital that India try and keep up with the Chinese buildup, at least to a certain extent. To that end, India has set out on its own naval expansion program.

Indian military spending. Data from SIPRI.

Interpreting such developments in terms of an offensive posture, however, might be misleading.  In August 2009, India’s former Chief of Naval Staff declared “In military terms, both conventionally and unconventionally, we can neither have the capability nor the intention to match China force for force…” Pointing out that India’s expenditure on defense has been hovering around a low two-three percent of the GDP in recent years, Mehta said that the strategy to deal with China on the military front would be to introduce modern technology and create a “reliable stand-off deterrent.” Such increasing armaments programs are counter-intuitive from the perspective of deterrence theory, as both India and China already possess nuclear weapons. These efforts then, should not just be interpreted in terms of preparation for explicit military engagement, but rather in terms of containing China’s sphere of influence in the region.

This broader Indian security policy can be understood by looking at efforts involving other nations in military exercises and informal security arrangements. In 2011, India started conducting naval exercises with Japan after a five-year hiatus of not involving any country except the U.S. in such exercises. Indeed, in terms of external balancing, it is not only India who might seek out the U.S., who might very well need India to counter-balance a rising regional hegemon.

Developments in this region do not just have huge implications for India, but for the U.S. as well. Robert Kaplan predicts that the Indian Ocean will replace the Mediterranean as the central arena of global energy flows, container traffic, and politics in this century. Though necessary, systematizing an alliance with India however, will not be the easiest choice for the United States. The Indian government is plagued with uncertainty – this was visible in the stalling that took place in implementing the nuclear deal with the United States. As Narang and Staniland point out, “The combination of tight electoral competition, pervasive patronage, and coalition politics has led to minimal political incentives for ambitious (Indian)politicians to invest in strategic assessment, policy debates, or the other mechanisms of strategic optimization that are supposed to bolster strategic preparation in a democratic polity.” While it is too early to claim that India has gotten to the point of seeing China as an immediate and direct threat to its national interest, it certainly seems that India is hedging its bets, even if it is just in terms of threat preparation via internal balancing.

Biting Off More Than You Can Chew: Turkey, Syria and the PKK

As the conflict in Syria worsens, an increasing number of Syrians have been heading to Turkey. The UN Refugee Agency warned on Tuesday that the number of refugees in Turkey could increase up to 200,000. Currently, around 80,000 Syrians are already registered in Turkey across nine refugee camps, with Turkey building facilities for six more camps in order to increase their capacity to accommodate refugees. This burgeoning refugee crisis is stoking tensions in Turkey, both on a local as well as a national level.

At the local level, observers have noted increased tensions in the Hatay district of Turkey, where about a million Alawis reside (Alawis are ethnically Arab and are related to the Alawi-dominated Syrian state). While some have cautioned that this in no way means that the Alawis in Turkey are directly supporting the Assad regime in Syria, the conflict has nonetheless turned their presence into a sensitive subject. As evidence, some Turkish media outlets have commented that Syrians in Turkey are being given priority over Turks in public hospitals in the district and are putting a strain on various other public services as well.

At the national level, the refugee crisis has highlighted the increasing inability of the government to deal with the Kurdish “issue.” Aliza Marcus argues in The National Interest that “the real fear isn’t that Syria will be divided. It’s that Kurds are uniting.” About a third of the PKK members are drawn from Kurds residing in Syria and organizational links are said to exist between the PKK in Turkey and the Democratic Union Party (PYD), an offshoot of the  PKK in Syria. These ties date back to the early 1980s, from when Abdullah Öcalan, the founding member of the PKK, built up the organization from Damascus once he was forced to flee Turkey.

Intensifying PKK attacks started this July when the PKK took over a large amount of territory in the town of Şemdinli, a district in southeastern Turkey bordering Northern Iraq. Şemdinli then witnessed a two-week showdown between Turkish military and the PKK, with the Turkish government claiming that it killed 150 PKK terrorists in the two weeks. On August 13th, the PKK kidnapped Hüseyin Aygün, a deputy for Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). Its most recent public attack (allegedly) was in Gaziantep, a city 30 miles from the Syrian border, where a car bomb killed 9 civilians while injuring 70 others.

The Turkish government’s problems extend beyond the worsening situation in Syria and the refugee problem, however.  Last year, it had tried to strike an agreement with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Northern Iraq to import a large amount of oil and natural gas, in exchange for exporting refined petroleum products to the region . While on the face of it, the deal increases the country’s energy and economic security, it was also seen as fulfilling certain strategic goals. Gonul Tol writing in The National Interest argues:

From the Turkish perspective, closer ties to the KRG serve Turkey’s strategic interests in Syria. Turkey would like to use the clout of Barzani (the current President of Iraqi Kurdistan) with the Syrian Kurds to sideline the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the PKK offshoot in Syria, and to gain some influence with the Syrian Kurds in a post-Assad scenario.

However, in April of this year, the Iraqi government declared that the export of oil to Turkey was illegitimate and that the oil and natural gas reserves were the property of all Iraqis and should therefore be federally managed, instead of by the KRG alone. In May, Iraq awarded Pakistan Petroleum the right to explore for gas, officially snubbing Turkey, who is also harboring Iraq’s fugitive former Vice-President.

So what do all these events mean for Ankara? In terms of posing a threat to Turkey, the number of Kurds in Syria are too dispersed and fragmented as compared to their kin in Iraq and Turkey. The issue is most salient nationally as it highlights the inability of the ruling AKP to deal with the issue. Writing in the Hurriyet Daily Newsanalyst Semih Idiz laments:

What makes it sadder is that the situation in terms of Kurdish cultural rights is much better than it was a decade ago, and the government has the strongest mandate from the electorate any government has had over the past four to five decades. Given this situation, the government was in a position to take bold steps aimed at solving the Kurdish problem.

Instead of moving in that direction, however, it has moved in the traditional direction of considering the Kurdish problem as one that is not political in nature but a simple question of security and terrorism……The prospects for solving the Kurdish problem soon, therefore, do not appear good, which unfortunately points to more bloodshed and increased ethnic estrangement.