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Global Civil Society, Communicative Power and Democracy

Global Civil Society 2007/8 launched 10 October at LSE

Recent events in Burma reflect the growth of spaces for dissent and other autonomous activity in illiberal regimes as a result of globalisation. This is one of the key findings of the seventh edition of the Global Civil Society Yearbook, launched Wednesday 10 October at LSE.

In its focus on the relationships between civil society activity across the political spectrum, communications and democratic change, Global Civil Society 2007-08 explores how activists and organisations are exploiting the effects of globalisation to create or expand spaces for debate and discussion, often using new forms of communications, even in closed regimes such as Burma, Iran and China.

In addition to a focus on the civil society activity in illiberal regimes, this edition of the Yearbook examines the effectiveness of democracy promotion efforts by donor organisations and NGOs in transition countries, and how best to reinvigorate democracy in established democratic societies so that citizens can have a greater say in decisions that affect their lives.

These issues will be discussed at a panel debate on Wednesday 10 October| at LSE by Mary Kaldor, professor of global governance at LSE, Nick Couldry, professor of media and communications at Goldsmiths, Q-News contributing editor Abdul-Rehman Malik, and James Deane, head of policy development at the BBC World Service Trust. Isabel Hilton, editor of chinadialogue.net will chair the discussion.

In illiberal regimes, Yearbook authors Denisa Kostovicova and Mary Kaldor argue that globalisation is leading to 'involuntary pluralisation' - the result of global political, economic and cultural/media forces that undermines the state's authority and ability to exercise control. 'Nowadays even in the most authoritarian regimes, spaces have opened up for dissent because of globalisation. In this Yearbook through email and blogging we were able to gather information and contact critical thinkers from countries like Burma and Zimbabwe that would have been impossible in an earlier period,' says Professor Kaldor.

This is what our Burmese correspondent told the Global Civil Society Yearbook earlier this year: 'There are Internet café owners who are asked by military intelligence to monitor the users and inform the officials if they try to look at the banned sites. But many Internet users are still reading banned sites with the help of proxy software and sites. Internet connection starting installation fee is about US$ 2,000. But in cafes, hourly usage costs only US$ 0.6. While I am trying to send this letter to you, I am using a proxy web to use gmail illegally in a café and sometimes we need to spend one hour to send a letter.'

Based on such correspondence, it is clear that activists, thinkers and émigrés are keen to further maximise the opportunity provided by the Internet not just to publicise their plight, but to reconnect with global civil society and other progressive forces who could support their home-grown efforts. As the Burmese correspondent said: 'We welcome all cooperation and assistance from outside...we would love to connect with the civil society in our country with global mainstream civil society movements.' And in China, a correspondent emphasized, 'Globalisation is our only hope for democratisation.'


Contact Fiona Holland, at f.c.holland@lse.ac.uk| or Jess Winterstein, LSE Press Office, on 020 7107 5025, j.winterstein@lse.ac.uk|


The panel discussion Global Civil Society, Communicative Power and Democracy|, takes place Wednesday 10 October 2007, 6.30-8pm in the Old Theatre, Old Building, LSE, Houghton Street, WC2A 2AE.

This debate will be followed by a reception and opening of 'Voices of Global Civil Society', an exhibition of political cartoons, comic strips and graphic novels. This exhibition runs 10 October-29 November 2007 in the Atrium, Old Building, Houghton Street, London, WC2A 2AE. Opening hours are Mon-Fri 10-6pm, Saturday 10-5pm. Entry is free.

Global Civil Society 2007-08 is the seventh Yearbook in a series that has become the standard work on the topic, recommended reading on university courses in many countries, and a reference point in policy debates. The Global Civil Society Yearbook is a collaboration between LSE's Centre for the Study of Global Governance, UCLA's Center for Civil Society and the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. It will be published by Sage Publications on 10 October. For more information: Global Governance|

9 October 2007