The Cafés Diplomatiques (Café Diplo)
Cumulative Archive of Cafe Topics for the year 2008
Monday January 21st January - UNDERSTANDING HAMAS with ZAKI CHEHAB
What is the real nature of Hamas? How 'Islamic' are they? What personalities lie beneath the black and green uniforms? Why did Israelencourage its development? Palestinian-born Zaki Chehab, a leading journalist, draws on his unique insider sources to offer completely new insights into this radical movement. Mr. Chehab has reported on the Middle East for local and Western media (The Guardian, Channel 4 News, BBC, The Newstatesman) for 25 years. He is London Bureau Chief for Al-Hayat and Political Editor of the Arabic TV Channel LBC, and the author of 'Iraq Ablaze' (2006) and 'Inside Hamas' (2007). Zaki addressed a Chatham House event on Hamas 2nd May 2007.
This talk has been re-scheduled from the original date, 26th November, when Zaki Chehab had to attend the Annapolis Conference at short notice.
Monday February 18th - A FILM EVENING WITH AL JAZEERA
The television network Al-Jazeera enjoys an unrivalled international reputation for controversial broadcasting, and its graphic documentaries and investigative reporting exert a profound influence both within and outside the Arab world. Leon Ferguson, Senior Producer at the channel’s English-language satellite service, Al-Jazeera English, will describe the network’s operations and objectives, and introduce a short film commissioned by the service. This documentary, ‘The Gaza Fixer’, tells the story of Raed Atharnneh, ‘fixer’ and bodyguard to Western journalists, whose extended family was decimated by an Israeli artillery barrage, making him one of Palestine’s newest icons of pain and suffering. The evening will end with Leon responding to questions from the floor.
Monday March 3rd - 'Venezuela under Chavez: dictatorship or model for radical democracy?' with Dr Julia Buxton
The Chavez administration has evolved from an initially moderate position advocating Blair’s model of ‘Third Way Socialism’, to the more radical agenda of ‘Twenty First Century Socialism’. Dr. Julia Buxton will discusses the drivers of this radicalisation, and critically explore the agenda, policies and ideology behind it. She will address the ‘dictatorship’ criticisms, and outline how the Chavez government believes that it is crafting a radical model of participatory democracy, and the initiatives intended to give this vision institutional form. Julia is a widely published expert on South American politics, and is currently Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for International Cooperation and Security at Bradford University.
Monday March 17th - ASSASSINATION – THE NOT SO SECRET WEAPON with RICHARD BELFIELD
Political assassinations have a profound effect, changing the course of history – though often not in ways the plotters imagine. Richard Belfield, an award-winning television producer, has investigated international intrigue and assassination. His book on assassination, 'Terminate with Extreme Prejudice’ was published in 2005. He will discuss the technology of modern assassination and focus on two recent cases, both of which define the way we are. The killing of Anwar Sadat in 1981 was the pivotal event in Al Qaeda’s formation. President Kennedy ordered the murder of President Diem of Vietnam, condemning the USA to a ten year war. Assassination used to be secret, but now the USA, Israel and Russia practise it openly.
MONDAY MARCH 31st
Is Asia the new African plunderer? with Charles Abugre
Direct investment in Africa by Asian economies has been increasing sharply in recent years, and unconditional loans and technical cooperation are also on offer, in particular from China. But will this trend further development and poverty reduction in African countries, or simply replace Western exploitation of Africa’s resources by a new regime of plunder? Charles Abugre will discuss this complex question in the light of his extensive experience as advisor to institutions in the UK, Africa and South-East Asia. A Ghanaian trained economist, he has written widely on Africa, and is currently Head of Global Advocacy and Policy at Christian Aid.
MONDAY APRIL 7th
'Bad days in Basra: A Turbulent time as Britain's Man in Southern Iraq' with Sir Hilary Synnott
Sir Hilary Synnott was Britain's most senior representative in Southern Iraq, trying to keep the region together as the rest of the country descended into murderous violence. Bearing witness to the chaotic fashion in which the coalition was run at the highest levels, Synnott's unique insider account is the most important primary source we have on how the South was lost. It is a devastating critique of CPA policies while providing controversial revelations about the real relationship between the two occupying powers, Britain and America. Sir Hilary Synnott was the British diplomat responsible for running Southern Iraq for the CPA, reporting directly to Paul Bremer. He is currently a Senior Fellow at the International Institute of Strategic Studies. His book 'Bad Days in Basra' will be published by I.B.Taurus in March 2008.
Monday April 21st - How we got back to the Cold War with Mark Mackinnon
Mark Mackinnon led the foreign press corps in reporting on the Western efforts to undermine Vladimir Putin and the new hardline Kremlin as Moscow reasserted its influence across the former Soviet Union. He will examine not only Russia's descent into authoritarianism under Putin, but the way that NATO and the West helped speed that process by treating the Kremlin as an adversary. Mark is currently the Middle East correspondent for Canada's national newspaper, the Globe and Mail. Prior to 2005 he was the paper's Moscow bureau chief. His book The New Cold War: Revolutions, Rigged Elections and Pipeline Politics in the Former Soviet Union was published by Carroll & Graf, in 2007
Monday May 12th 'Nuclear Weapons, Abolition Now' with Bruce Kent
Bruce Kent will talk about his belief that the threat caused by nuclear arms did not disappear with the end of the Cold War and that people's perceptions of nuclear arms have to be challenged, "to move to another common sense". In response to today's political climate he points out that "you cannot increase security by making other people feel insecure". Bruce Kent is perhaps the country's most prominent peace campaigner and first became involved in the peace movement in 1958, working with Pax Christi. He has been Chair of CND, President of Abolition 2000 UK and a member of Amnesty International. His tireless work has ensured his position as an internationally renowned speaker on issues centred on justice and peace.
Monday May 19th - SuperMedia: Saving Journalism So It Can Save The World with Charlie Beckett
The world needs a 'good' news media to explain the conflicts, threats and opportunities that globalisation offers. And yet quality journalism and international coverage is under threat from new media and commercial pressures. Charlie Beckett spent 20 years working around the world for news organisations such as the BBC and Channel 4 News before founding the LSE's media think-tank POLIS, of which he is now a Director, in 2006. In his new book, he argues that Networked Journalism, combining 'professional' journalism with public participation (blogging, wikis, crowd-sourcing, user generated content and the rest), can sustain the media business and offer huge social benefits. Is this another Internet fantasy, or the gateway to a new form of politics?
Monday 15th September
TIBET: THE COUNTRY, ITS REFUGEES AND THE GOVERNMENT IN EXILE with Geshe (Dr) Tashi Tsering
There has been widespread dismay over the recent brutal suppression of protesting Buddhist Monks in both Tibet and Burma, with many demonstrations, including the disruption of the progress of the Olympic torch. In a situation where news reporting is severely restricted, Geshe Tashi will offer insights into what is now happening inside Tibet, and will discuss the position of Tibetan refugees outside the country, and of the Dalai Lama's government in exile. Geshe Tashi was born in Purang, Tibet in 1958, and his parents escaped to India in 1959. He entered Sera Mey Monastic University in South India when he was 13 years old, and graduated with a Lharampa (the highest possible level) Geshe degree 16 years later. He has continued to study and to teach in a number of institutions, and came to Jamyang Buddhist Centre in London, where he is the resident Geshe, in 1994.
Monday 29th September :
versus/and FUEL with Malcolm Shepherd
The production of biofuels from agriculture to replace fossil fuels was originally widely applauded, but concerns over the displacement of food production, doubts about carbon savings, and dismay over deforestation land use have now changed public opinion, and in July the UK government announced a reduction in its biofuel targets. Has the picture been over simplified, and misinformed by powerful interests, including those who don't want to lose their lucrative market share in liquid fuels? Malcolm Shepherd is Managing Director of Biofuel Matters Ltd, a company that provides specialist consultancy services on biofuel issues, and he has spoken widely on his investigations into the issues and facts surrounding the "food versus fuel" debate. He will seek to give an insight into the current complex situation, suggesting that if properly produced, the use of food crops for biofuels can actually improve food security, stabilise food prices and reduce poverty. (BBC radio programme “Our food, our future” 28th July)
Monday 13th October :
THE CREDIT CRUNCH AND THE FINANCIAL MARKETS with Ann Pettifor
We are all affected by the so-called ‘credit crunch’ triggered last year by the bursting of the US housing bubble, but most of us have little understanding of the workings of the unregulated financial markets that are the root cause of the crisis. Ann Pettifor will explain how this volatile speculative sector has come to dominate and destabilise the real economy, and discuss its effect on governments, corporations, households and individuals, and its impact on the environment. Ann helped to design and led the world-wide campaign Jubilee 2000 for the relief of poor-country debt, and has contributed widely to international debates on global finance. She is executive director of Advocacy International, and her prophetic book ‘The Coming First World Debt Crisis’ was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2006.
Monday October 27th :
THE GEOPOLITICS OF PIPING NATURAL GAS TO EUROPE – NABUCCO, SOUTH STREAM OR THE TRANS-CASPIAN? with Professor R. Kandiyoti
Already a net energy importer, Europe needs more natural gas in the coming decades. The increasingly tense relationship with Russia raises the spectre of energy dependency and political pressure, Gazprom having proved a willing tool for rewarding or punishing behaviour as directed by the Russian State. Would Iran prove a less menacing supplier? Could Caspian gas be conveyed to Europe in the face of Russian opposition? Would Iraq plug the gap? Or Egypt? Europe needs answers, soon. Professor Kandiyoti holds the Chair of Industrial Chemistry at Imperial College London. He has worked in the general area of fuels and energy and has authored over 300 publications including a recent book on the geopolitics of oil and gas pipelines: 'Pipelines: Flowing Oil and Crude Politics'.
Monday November 10th
FILM EVENT - The Great African Scandal - introduced by Deborah Burton & Nigel Varndell
Academic and theologian Dr Robert Beckford travelled to Ghana with Christian Aid's support, to find out why a country rich in natural resources is still trapped in poverty. His journey, documented by Channel 4, looks at rice production, cocoa farming and gold mining, and exposes the scandal behind some of the products on sale in our high streets. It reveals how unfair economic trade policies – driven both by IMF/World Bank programmes and multinational practices – are locking farmers into a life of poverty. Deborah Burton, Special Initiatives Campaigner at Christian Aid, and Nigel Varndell their Inter-faith manager, will introduce the film and take part in the Q&A.
Monday November 24th
Turkey at the crossroads with Professor Sevket Pamuk
Turkey straddles the continents of Europe and Asia, and controls the entrance to the Black Sea, a position that gives it enormous geo-political importance. In recent years it has set its sight firmly on EU membership, but its progress towards accession has been fraught with difficulties. Internal friction between secularists, led by a strong military faction, and an administration perceived to be rooted in Islamist values, remains a source of instability. Sevket Pamuk held the Chair of Economics and Economic History at Bogaziçi University in Istanbul during the 1990s and is now Professor of Contemporary Turkish Studies at the London School of Economics. He will discuss the critical role ofTurkey in the 21st century and its relationship with Europe. He has authored several books on the Ottoman Empire.
Monday December 8th
Sport - Globalisation’s Hidden Persuader with Andrew Jennings
General Electric’s engines power the jets that bomb civilians in Iraq. The company also funds the International Olympic Committee and its Games, and uses its NBC network to frame the story. Sticky Cola drinks and burgers are endorsed by the IOC and athletes. Jennings discusses how the big brands have captured sport to use as a battering ram into our minds, just as Rupert Murdoch predicted. Gramsci couldn’t have put it better. Jennings, a working journalist, was banned by the IOC for 6 years after he revealed that their president was a lifelong Franco fascist. He is currently banned by FIFA because he discloses the rampant bribery, contract kickbacks and World Cup ticket rackets run by the leadership. The sponsors don’t seem to care. Why should that be?