Development, underdevelopment, progress... and regress

Generosity, Politics, Economy and Disasters

Like most weekends, my last Saturday was spent talking to family and friends in Australia. Our conversations focused mainly on Halyan, a category 5 typhoon that hit the Philippines badly on November 2013 causing deaths, injuries and destructions. One of these friends was still saying goodbye to her guests when I called. They had a birthday party and instead of gifts, she requested cash donation for the typhoon victims. The A$1,000 she collected will be used to buy nails, lumber and other basic construction materials for three families whose houses were destroyed. When there’s a disaster, no effort or help is insignificant.

Overall, the global community has been kind to the Halyan victims and there are reports of many Governments that pledged to send cash: e.g. the USA US$20 plus massive military rescue operations; Australia A$10M; Japan A$10M; European Union about E13M; UK £6M – just to name a few. As well, there are international, national and local NGOs; banks; companies and individuals whose generosity hasn’t made headlines. On the contrary, China – the second largest economy in the world – has attracted world’s attention due to its original pledge of $200,000 (which was increased to $2M after global criticisms – i.e. “peanuts” compared to a Swedish furniture chain’s offer of $2.7M through its charitable foundation). Meanwhile the Canadian Government matches every dollar donated by its citizens to the Halyan victims.

Is giving aid or helping others (during disaster or not) culturally- and nationally-driven?

Innovation and Luxembourg, Suffering a Brain Drain!?

Ten years ago, when I started going to the Bibliothèque Nationale de Luxembourg (BNL - the National Library of Luxembourg), the “poverty” of the library (e.g., infrastructure, resources, services, etc.) of the world's richest (if not mistaken) country shocked me. The BNL was so underdeveloped, when compared to many public and private libraries in the USA. More surprisingly, many libraries I had visited in Brussels, Paris, and other cities were not so nice, either.

(Just note that some BNL librarians appear to be cold and distant at first. But, when they get to know you, they can be friendly, very helpful, and even sweet.)

Over the last ten years, the BNL has improved dramatically, and has become one of the best/favorite libraries I know in the region so far. Although I still miss some aspects of American libraries – for example, specialized librarians (e.g., law librarians) and more conducive, competitive, extremely intense, and intellectually stimulating atmospheres for studying, I am OK with the BNL. Hope that it keeps improving in coming years.

However, talent management in Luxembourg concerns me/us greatly.

It is obvious that Luxembourg has an advantage in attracting people because of competitive salaries, benefits, etc. But, it may not be so good at retaining their top talents in some sectors (though, of course, there are really talented people in Luxembourg, but some of friends have been disenchanted. They have moved to other companies and countries with better opportunities).

There seems to be something dysfunctional: something does not ignite, but undermine the passion of people.

Dr. Beat Richner - giving the medecine of the richest to the poorest

If you are going to visit Cambodia soon, please check out the concerts performed by Dr. Beat Richner. Dr.




なさけない気分になったら、地道に生きる人たちから勇気をもらう。今回は、カンボジアで働くスイス人の小児科医・Beat Richnerさん。カンボジアやスイスでは、尊敬されている有名人物だ。「セロ弾きのゴーシュ」でなくて、セロ弾きのお医者さん。彼は海外からやってきた旅行者のためにチェロを弾いて医療活動の資金をつのり、無料でカンボジアの子どもたちを治療している。(あまりお金のない)若い旅行者からは血液を、中年からはお金を寄付してもらう。


プノンペンの病院 Kantha Bopha I and II
シェムリアプの病院  Jayavarman VII

Tragedy and Development

I had a happy, fulfilling university life living in a dormitory which was situated between a scenic mountain and an enticing sea with clear water above a blue sky. I have positive memories during this period except one afternoon. During the break between Chemistry and Biology classes, a fellow student told me that a farmer who was living nearby had committed suicide because there was nothing he could do to prevent the expansion of our educational institution to his land. I was saddened by this story, particularly thinking of his wife and children, so I mentioned it to whoever wanted to listen and one of them was our campus gardener. Though he couldn't confirm this incident, he revealed distressing stories of farmers who became lowly-paid construction workers and women who abandoned their role as mother and wife to be merchants and professional cooks for students and staff.

Comunicación y Enfoque de Capacidades/Communication and Capability Approach

La actual sociedad del conocimiento plantea nuevos retos para el desarrollo humano por el cambio que ha supuesto las nuevas formas en las que la gente se comunica, participa y distribuye la información La presente investigación analiza el papel de la comunicación en la eliminación de las privaciones que limitan la libertad de las personas para lograr lo que valoran en la vida; de su relación con los pilares fundamentales del enfoque de capacidades –equidad, eficiencia, empoderamiento y libertad-; de su dimensión como capacidad y su función en el empoderamiento individual y colectivo.

The knowledge society raises new challenges for human development due to the change brought about by the new forms in which people communicate, participate and distribute information. The present research analyzes the role of communication in the elimination of the deprivations that limit people’s liberty to obtain what they value in life; its relation to the fundamental pillars of the capability approach –equity, efficiency, empowerment, and liberty-; and its dimension as a capability and its role in individual and collective empowerment.

Et si on parlait d'un nouvel Indice de Développement Humain (IDH)

Depuis sa création en 1990, l'Indice de Développement Humain (IDH) a pour but de fournir un outil fiable et simple pour aider à l'évaluation et à l'orientation des politiques nationales. Cet outil a aussi été appelé à examiner d'autres aspects que les mesures « sacrées » telles que le produit national brut. Le modèle de l'IDH « classique » intègre des mesures de la santé, de l'éducation et de l'économie. Cette conception est le résultat de débats impliquant un très petit nombre de spécialistes; de ce fait, cet outil a produit des données principalement consommées et utilisables par d'autres spécialistes (par exemple des universitaires, des concepteurs de politiques et des décideurs). Et, compte tenu du contexte de cette époque, c'était très bien ainsi.

Au cours des vingt dernières années, de nombreux aspects de notre monde a changé, avec une part croissante soumise à la mondialisation. Le développement des technologies d'information et de communication a accéléré ce phénomène. Le moment est probablement venu de repenser l'IDH, d'une part, pour l'élargir à de nouvelles dimensions et, d'autre part, pour le rendre plus participatif. L'infrastructure des TIC est maintenant en mesure de soutenir un débat plus axé sur les gens, plus démocratique et sensible aux contextes, tout en favorisant le développement d'un ensemble d'indices de développement humain thématiques qui ne remplaceraient pas l'IDH « classique » mais plutôt le compléteraient. Cet indice de développement ne sera donc plus la seule affaire des spécialistes, mais bien le fruit d'une collaboration transparente, un produit conçu par les gens pour les gens et qui, par conséquent, se rapprochera de leurs valeurs, de leurs préoccupations, et sera plus accessible à tous.

Let's talk about a new Human Development Index (HDI)

Since its creation in 1990, the Human Development Index (HDI) has aimed to provide a reliable and simple tool to help in the evaluation and orientation of national policies. This tool was also expected to consider other aspects than the 'sacred' measures known as gross domestic product. The “classic” HDI was designed to encompass measures of health, education, and economics. This design resulted from debates of a very few specialists, so this tool has produced data mainly consumed and usable by other specialists (e.g. academics, policy-makers, and decision-makers). And, considering the context of that period, it was fine.

Within the past twenty years, many aspects of our world have changed, with an ever growing part subject to globalization. The development of information and communications technology has accelerated this phenomenon. The time has probably come to rethink HDI, first, to broaden it to new dimensions, and second, to make it more participative. The ICT infrastructure is now able to support a more people-centric, democratic, and context-aware debate promoting the development of a set of thematic HDIs that would not replace but instead complete the “classic” HDI. The development index would no longer be an affair for the specialists, but rather a transparent collaborative construct designed by the people for the people, and therefore, closer to their values, their concerns, and more accessible by everyone.

Kitano Takeshi’s Elementary Schools and Japanese Schools in Benin

About three months ago, I wrote a blog article on the children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic in Malawi and the importance of education as a critical instrument for social and economic development (or human development).  Admittedly, what I wrote may be too crazy or too utopian to be realized.

But, we humans sometimes think alike.  By chance, I learned about a Japanese guy who has already put the similar ideas into practice.  That is Mr. Takeshi Kitano (Beat Takeshi)!  What?! Is he an activist beside being a filmmaker and a comedian?

According to these Youtube, Takeshi Kitano used to have a TV show called “This is what is strange about the Japanese people.”  A hundred foreigners living in Japan were invited to voice their observations about weird and negative aspects of Nihon.  One of the guests was Mr. Zomahoun Idossou Rufin (known as Zomahon), from the Republic of Benin in West Africa.

Alternative solution to the challenges faced by Malawian children

While doing grocery shopping yesterday, I picked up the DVD and watched it last night. The film was "I am because we are," the documentary film directed by Nathan Rissman and produced and narrated by Madonna.

Asking myself "how can we help and protect the children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic in Malawi?" I immediately thought of Dr. Sugata Mitra's Hole-in-the-Wall initiative, the acclaimed approach to help impoverished children learn, using computers and the Internet.

Fair trade movement and no-stinky merino-wool T-shirts

Last weekend my partner and I went to A.S. Adventure in Luxembourg to buy some items on sale. I like that store where we can find nice outdoor products and I also enjoy meeting our sales-guy. Despite his wild punk appearance, he speaks gently and can always give us some excellent advice (in different languages, depending on the customer). He is a real pro! You know, business is about attractiveness and his main attraction is his competence. Last time he gave us a free lecture for about 30 minutes on merino wool shirts made by Icebreaker. He said he adores New Zealand, nature, and merino sheep. Although we did not receive any funding from Icebreaker for this blog, I am “keen to share it with you” (as they put it.)

Ageing of Population and Some Specific Socio-Demographic Problems of Rural Population in Romania

Hay transport

by Dr. Agnes Nemenyi at the University Babes-Bolyai, Department of Sociology

Paper presented for the First ISA Forum Barcelona, 5-9 September 2008


In 2004, in a conference about ageing ( Ageing Societies and Ageing Sociology ) the author of this paper presented some data about the Census of 2002, and in that time a general conclusion was the different age structure of urban and rural areas in Romania, where residence is an important factor of differentiation by age of the population : the old age groups had a 10 % higher representation in rural area. The urban population was higher in the active part, the rural population was overrepresented in the young and elder segment. These tendencies were continuing in the last period ( one third of the old age group was still active in the rural area ). In 2007 , 45 % of the population was living in rural areas, and 29,4 % of the actives were in agriculture.

La Rose au secours de l'Afghanistan: une initiative économique originale et prometteuse

Comme me le disait un ami américain, le Pr. Antony Rausch dans un taxi en Angleterre, lorsqu'on établit un topo de la situation (économique, politique, etc.) d'une région ou même d'un pays, il est essentiel de se montrer clairvoyant et réaliste dans la sélection des paramètres "utiles" et contrôlables ayant une influence sur ladite situation.

Rose as a new cash crop: development initiative in Afghanistan

This is a story about a country still suffering from a series of wars, drugs, and poverty: Afghanistan. This is a story of a young French man who loves flowers and fell in love with this country.

"Imagine Afghanistan as a big garden full of roses instead of poppies."

Shrinking Sado by Peter Matanle

This presentation titled "Shrinking Sado: Education, Employment and the Decline of Japan’s Regions" was presented by Dr. Peter Matanle of the University of Sheffield at the British Association for Japanese Studies Annual Conference that took place on 11-12 April 2008 in Manchester, United Kingdom.

Sado was once famous for the biggest gold and silver mine in Japan.

Booming times are long gone. A rural prefecture, Shimane, also used to have the thriving Japanese silver mining industry in Iwami-Ginzan. Today these rural areas depended on natural resource extraction have failed to attract people and businesses and have succumbed to depopulation and demographic aging.

Click here to see Peter's presentation.

Shrinking_Sado : Education, Employment and the Decline of Japan’s Regions presented at the British Association for Japanese Studies Annual Conference, at Manchester, UK, on the 11-12 April 2008 by Dr Peter Matanle, University of Sheffield

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