Monday, February 28, 2011

Crowdsourcing for Congressional Fairness


Blow the Whistle, a campaign to expose a senator who manipulated congressional rules to thwart the legislative process, combines crowdsourcing with traditional grassroots political activism. The joint effort of NPR program On the Mediaand the Government Accountability Project (GAP), Blow the Whistle is a response to a secret hold placed on The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act just hours before the 111th session of congress ended. The bill–which protected government employees who reported “illegality, waste and corruption”–had been back in the Senate awaiting reconciliation after passing in both the House and the Senate. Because the congressional session was about to end, the hold effectively killed the bill. It would have to be reintroduced and moved through the entire legislative process again in order to pass.

In an attempt to ferret out the anonymous senator, On the Media published the contact information for all 87 active US senators, and challenged listeners to contact representatives to ask point blank, “Did you kill this bill?” Listeners were to report back with any response they received, which the radio program then published. As of January 29th, On the Media confirmed that, thanks to emails from hundreds of participating listeners, 55 senators had publicly stated that they were not responsible for the secret hold.

Meanwhile, the Senate, perhaps motivated by the onslaught of calls and emails from constituents, took matters into its own hands. After reconvening in January, the Senate voted 92-4 in favor of reforming the rules for secret holds, making it harder to use them to sabotage the legislative process. Now, a senator must take credit for a hold on the Congressional Record within two days of placing it. If a hold goes unacknowledged, “the hold would then automatically be attributed to the party leader” or another senator suspected of placing the hold “at a colleagues’ request.”

Though Blow the Whistle continues, it may never catch the slippery senator. Nevertheless, the campaign did demonstrate how crowdsourcing could be successfully used in political activism. In what other way could crowdsourcing galvanize the public into political action? What made Blow the Whistle so successful at getting listeners to take action? What other activist campaigns have successfully employed crowdsourcing?

While British government cuts and restructures foreign Aid - Obama and Susan Rice have no plan what to do with American Foreign Aid

UK 'to end direct aid to 16 countries'

The UK is to stop direct aid to 16 countries, including Russia, China and Iraq, papers seen by the BBC suggest.

A draft copy of a government review of its £7.8bn overseas aid budget - to be published this week - also reveals assistance for India will be frozen.

But, overall, the international development budget will rise by a third in this parliament, it says.

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said spending would be a "good deal better focused".

The government's draft report states that aid spending is good for Britain's economy and safety.

Malaria deaths

It also outlines plans for greater transparency and accountability, with an emphasis on funding programmes that deliver greater results and which, specifically, help girls and women.

Resources will be concentrated on the 27 countries that account for three-quarters of the world's maternal mortality and malaria deaths, such as Ghana and Afghanistan.


  • Angola
  • Bosnia
  • Burundi
  • Cameroon
  • Cambodia
  • China
  • Gambia
  • Indonesia
  • Iraq
  • Kosovo
  • Lesotho
  • Moldova
  • Niger
  • Russia
  • Serbia
  • Vietnam
  • Source: Department for International Development document seen by BBC

By 2014, 30% of UK aid is expected to go to war-torn and unstable countries.

India is currently one of the biggest recipients of UK development aid, and there have been media campaigns in the UK suggesting an economy growing at nearly 10% a year simply does not need British assistance.

But others point out that nearly half a billion people in India are still desperately poor, and efforts to reduce global poverty will not progress without significant aid.

Mr Mitchell told BBC One's Politics Show: "The fact is that, if we want to reach our Millennium Development Goals, which we have set for 2015, we have to operate where poverty is greatest.

"We think that the international aid projects can be a good deal better focused."

Mr Mitchell said there were no plans at present to supply aid to Libya, as the country, while in political turmoil, was not facing a "humanitarian crisis".

But supplies would be available at "six hours' notice", if needed, he added.

While other departments saw their budgets cut in last autumn's spending review, the Department for International Development was spared.

However, Labour claims it has had to contribute to areas outside its remit, including picking up £2m of the bill for the Pope's visit to the UK last year.

Shadow international development secretary Harriet Harman said: "We don't either want to see them subsuming aid activities into military activities and neither do we want to see other government departments that are feeling the spending squeeze using the Department for International Development as the hole-in-the-wall like they did for getting money for the Pope's visit."

On Saturday, it emerged that the UK is threatening to switch funding away from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization - which focuses on longer-term projects, such as providing seeds and tools for agriculture - unless its performance improves.

Instead, more funding could go to the World Food Programme, which deals with emergency food aid around the globe.

Obama's Contribution climb to 27.14% for Financing peacekeeping at the United Nations

While decisions about establishing, maintaining or expanding a peacekeeping operation are taken by the Security Council, the financing of UN Peacekeeping operations is the collective responsibility of all UN Member States.

A female peacekeeper wearing a blue helmet standing in front of a UN airplane.

UN Photo/Marie Frechon

UNAMID holds a ceremony in Nyala, Sudan, to celebrate the arrival of five tactical helicopters from the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. Pictured is one of the long-awaited helicopters.

Every Member State is legally obligated to pay their respective share towards peacekeeping. This is in accordance with the provisions of Article 17 of the Charter of the United Nations.

The General Assembly apportions peacekeeping expenses based on a special scale of assessments under a complex formula that Member States themselves have established. This formula takes into account, among other things, the relative economic wealth of Member States, with the five permanent members of the Security Council required to pay a larger share because of their special responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.

The General Assembly reaffirmed these and other general principles underlying the financing of peacekeeping operations inresolution 55/235 PDF Document (23 December 2000)

More on how UN Peacekeeping is financed.

See the scale of assessments applicable to UN peacekeeping operations in the selected General Assembly documents.

How much does peacekeeping cost?

The budget for UN Peacekeeping operations for the fiscal year 1 July 2010-30 June 2011 is about $7.83 billion [A/C.5/65/15] PDF Document.

By way of comparison, this is less than half of one per cent of world military expenditures in 2009.

The estimated cost of all UN Peacekeeping operations from 1948 to June 2010 amounts to about $69 billion.

The top 10 providers of assessed contributions to United Nations Peacekeeping operations in 2011-2012 [A/64/220] PDF Document are:

  1. United States (27.14%)
  2. Japan (12.53%)
  3. United Kingdom (8.15%)
  4. Germany (8.02%)
  5. France (7.55%)
  6. Italy (5.00%)
  7. China (3.93%)
  8. Canada (3.21%)
  9. Spain (3.18%)
  10. Republic of Korea (2.26%)

Many countries have also voluntarily made additional resources available to support UN Peacekeeping efforts on a non-reimbursable basis in the form of transportation, supplies, personnel and financial contributions above and beyond their assessed share of peacekeeping costs.

Although the payment of peacekeeping assessments is mandatory, as of 31 January 2011, Member States owed approximately $3.72 billion in current and back peacekeeping dues.

Approved resources for peacekeeping operations in selected General Assembly documents.

How are resources budgeted?

Budgets of peacekeeping operations are based on the missions’ mandate from the Security Council. As such, they are strategic documents aligning resources to achieve the overall objectives of the operation.

Each peacekeeping operation has its own budget and account which includes operational costs such as transport and logistics and staff costs such as salaries.

The peacekeeping budget cycle runs from 1 July to 30 June. This cycle is rarely aligned with the Security Council mandate; however budgets are prepared for 12 months based on of the most current mandate of the operation.

The Secretary-General submits budget proposal to the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ). The ACABQ reviews the proposal and makes recommendations to the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee for its review and approval. Ultimately, the budget is endorsed by the General Assembly as a whole.

At the end of the financial cycle, each peacekeeping operation prepares and submits a performance report which shows the actual use of resources. This report is also considered and approved by the General Assembly.

More on the process of establishing peacekeeping operation budget.

How are peacekeepers compensated?

The UN has no military forces of its own, and Member States provide, on a voluntary basis, the military and police personnelrequired for each peacekeeping operation.

Peacekeeping soldiers are paid by their own Governments according to their own national rank and salary scale. Countries volunteering uniformed personnel to peacekeeping operations are reimbursed by the UN at a flat rate of a little over US$1,028 per soldier per month, as most recently approved by the General Assembly in 2002.

Police and other civilian personnel are paid from the peacekeeping budgets established for each operation.

The UN also reimburses Member States for providing equipment, personnel and support services to military or police contingents.

Selected General Assembly documents regulating the scale of assessments applicable to United Nations Peacekeeping operations
31 December 2009Implementation of General Assembly resolutions 55/235 and 55/236 - AddendumA/64/220/Add.1
23 September 2009Implementation of General Assembly resolution 55/235 and 55/236A/64/220*
6 July 2007Report of the Committee on ContributionsA/62/11(Supp)
27 December 2006Implementation of General Assembly resolutions 55/235 and 55/236A/61/139/Add.1
6 September 2006Implementation of General Assembly resolutions 55/235 and 55/236 - Corr.1A/61/139/Corr.1
13 July 2006Implementation of General Assembly resolutions 55/235 and 55/236A/61/139
27 June 2006Report of the Committee on ContributionsA/61/11
17 December 2003Implementation of General Assembly Resolutions 55/235 and 55/236 - AddendumA/58/157/Add.1
15 July 2003Implementation of General Assembly Resolutions 55/235 and 55/236A/58/157
1 March 2001Information on the implementation of General Assembly resolutions 55/235 and 55/236A/C.5/55/38
30 January 2001Scale of assessments for the apportionment of the expenses of United Nations Peacekeeping operationsA/RES/55/235
29 January 2001Voluntary movements in connection with the apportionment of the expenses of United Nations Peacekeeping OperationsA/RES/55/236
Selected General Assembly documents relating to the approved resources for UN Peacekeeping operations
7 February 2011Approved resources for peacekeeping operations for the period from 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2011A/C.5/65/15
13 July 2010Approved resources for peacekeeping operations for the period from 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2011A/C.5/64/19
22 January 2010Approved resources for peacekeeping operations for the period from 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2010A/C.5/64/15
4 August 2009Approved resources for peacekeeping operations for the period from 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2010A/C.5/63/26
1 May 2009Approved resources for peacekeeping operations for the period from 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009A/C.5/63/23
31 January 2008Approved resources for peacekeeping operations for the period from 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2008A/C.5/62/23
15 January 2007Approved resources for peacekeeping operations for the period from 1 July 2006 to 30 June 2007A/C.5/61/18

* All documents above are in PDF format.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

United Nations, UNDP, Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua the only places where Gaddafi's still a friend

MEXICO CITY—Most of the world's leaders have condemned Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi for unleashing a brutal repression that has killed hundreds of his fellow countrymen. But he is still being supported by Latin America's most autocratic leftist leaders, with whom he has longstanding ties.

Cuba's retired dictator Fidel Castro said this week it was too early to criticize Libya's government and warned of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization invasion of Libya he claimed was being orchestrated by U.S. "imperialism."

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, the former Sandinista revolutionary, has been telephoning Mr. Gadhafi to express his solidarity against Libyan rebels.

The ...


Italy drops Gaddafi


Helen Clark's slogans cannot change reality of the Organization, which remains corrupt and a tool for dictators.

@ @ - Fantastic words - but you haven't been able to prove them in reality. You've failed to institutionalize CHANGE.

UK Government defines open standards as royalty free

click here for this

New procurement guidance from the UK government has defined open standards as having "intellectual property made irrevocably available on a royalty free basis". The documentPDF, which has been published by the Cabinet Office, applies to all government departments and says that, when purchasing software, technology infrastructure, security or other goods and services, departments should "wherever possible deploy open standards".

Mark Taylor, CEO of Sirius IT, a UK open source integrator, who has previouslyled calls for more open source and free software use by government, told The H that the "Cabinet Office's new Policy statement is simply the best of any European Government to date, and a great step forward in levelling the playing field for Open Source software".

The guidance goes on to further define open standards as ones which result from an open, independent process and that are approved by a recognised standardisation organisation (the W3C and ISO are given as examples). The standards themselves must be thoroughly documented and publicly available at zero or low cost and have intellectual property "made irrevocably available on a royalty free basis". It is also required that they can be shared and implemented across a number of platforms and using different development approaches.

The guidelines are based on the view that "government assets should be interoperable and open for re-use". Any departments which wish to not implement open standards are required to present "clear business reasons why this is inappropriate".


Humans Are The Routers


Editor’s note: Guest authorShervin Pishevar is the founder of the OpenMesh Project, SGN and an active angel investor.

On January 7, 2010 I was ushered into a small private dinner with Secretary Hillary Clinton at the State Department along with the inventor of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google and a few others. We were there to talk about technology and 21st Century Diplomacy. As we mingled I noticed next to me the small table that Thomas Jefferson wrote the first drafts of the Declaration of Independence. I was inspired by the history around us as we discussed the unfolding history before us. I was sitting in front of Secretary Clinton and when she asked me a question I said, “Secretary Clinton, the last bastion of dictatorship is the router.” That night seeded some of the ideas that were core to Secretary Clinton’s important Internet Freedoms Speech on January 21, 2010.

Fast forward almost exactly one year later to January 25, 2011—a day that shall live in history in the company of dates like July 4, 1776. Egypt’s decision to block the entire Internet and mobile telecommunications network was one of the first salvos in a war of electronic munitions. In this new frontier humans are the routers and armed with new technologies they can never be blocked or silenced again.

I was staying up for days sharing and tweeting information as they happened. I had two close personal friends of mine in Egypt who were passing me information when they could. The day Egypt blocked the internet and mobile networks my mind went back to what I had said to Secretary Clinton. The only line of defense against government filtering and blocking their citizens from freely communicating and coordinating via communication networks was to create a new line of communications technologies that governments would find hard to block: Ad hoc wireless mesh networks. I called the idea OpenMesh and tweeted it.

Within hours through crowdsourced volunteer efforts the OpenMesh Project was alive complete with domain name, website and forum. One volunteer, Gary Jay Brooks, a tech entrepreneur from Michigan, stepped up to lead the effort as a volunteer Executive Director. Another company from Canada volunteered to donate their specs for a tiny mobile router, that could be hidden in a pocket, and would cost only $90 per unit for us to make. Another well known communications pioneer stepped up to donate some important patents in this space.

OpenMesh’s basic idea is that we could use some new techniques to create a secondary wireless Internet in countries like Libya, Syria, Iran, North Korea and other repressive regimes to allow citizens to communicate freely. By create mobile routers that connect together we could create a wireless network that mobile phones and personal computers can connect to. The first priority would be to have the people connect together and the second priority is for them to connect to the world. One the second front, we could use intermittent satellite internet connections so people in those nations could upload and download information with the rest of the world. Openmesh aims to be a clearinghouse for the best ideas out there to connect and get products out into the hands of people.

Open Mesh networking is a type of networking wherein each connected node in the network may act as an independent router or “smart” device, regardless of whether it has an Internet connection or not. Mesh networks are incredibly robust, with continuous connections that can reconfigure around broken or blocked paths by “hopping” from node to node until the destination is reached, such as another device on the network or connecting to an Internet back haul. When there is local Internet available, they can amplify the number of people who can connect to it. When there isn’t, mesh networks can allow people to communicate with each other in the event that other forms of electronic communication are broken down. Devices consist of most wifi enabled computers and run on existing Microsoft Windows, Apple OS X, and Linux systems along with iPhone and Android mobile devices. An open source mesh network further offers a scalable solution that retains low costs while avoiding path dependencies and vendor lock-in. Combined with open hardware, these networks facilitate long-term maintenance flexibility and improvements.

We will be establishing, building, maintaining, and distributing a common Open Source Mesh software/firmware that will allow citizens of the world to commonly communicate without telephone or cable companies. The raw product will free to download and free of charge. The technology will be released and maintained as Open Source GPL V2 project. This means that anyone can use or change the software. Our job as a community will be to maintain this project. We will help to build standards. We will help communities build mesh networks. We will lobby equipment manufactures to join the Open Mesh Project initiative. The idea all revolves around wireless technology that will allow us to connect and communicate with each other without telephone lines, cable, or fiber. We will build private networks that can span countries. We will empower the citizens of tomorrow. At the end of the day a grandmother might find this disk on the street, walk into the house, install a CD on her laptop and join the mesh cloud with 2 clicks. After joining the mesh she starts to see others in her network, clicks to call others in the mesh, joins group calls, or searches for friends online to dial. We as the community will facilitate the building, offering, and support for this project. We will all build 1 common mesh. We invite people to participate and to offer new innovations. Working together we can secure tomorrows communications needs.

Free communications is an essential human right. The 21st Century will be defined by the idea that no Government, no power shall ever block or filter the right of all men and women to communicate together again. It is my dream that within my lifetime that dictatorship shall be banished from this planet and unfiltered and true democracy shall flourish everywhere. It is time that our Faustian bargains with brutal dictators for short-term concerns end and a new covenant directly made with citizens everywhere seeking freedom will take its place. OpenMesh is a first step to help create a world where such a covenant can take hold in a world where brave people armed with new electronic tools can never be blocked or silenced ever again.

Photo credit: Joel Carillet/Getty Images.