Monthly Archives: July 2013

Democratic dilemmas that should not be – some lessons from Egypt

The news headlines of recent days have brought to the fore some serious shortcomings related to the functioning of democracy and attitudes towards it. The questions raised are fundamental and answering them poses some real dilemmas even to staunch believers in democracy around the world.

Events unfolding in Egypt since last week are as dramatic for the country itself as they are for the future of democracy in the Arab and Muslim worlds, and beyond. A democratically elected President was deposed and replaced by the Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court, while opposition and religious leaders were clapping along. In this scheme, opposition leaders who lost to Mr. Morsi at the ballot box a year earlier were offered senior government positions in what is touted as a national unity government but is not. The main premise of the military-spearheaded “non coup” is that transitional arrangements will lead to a return to full legality and new elections through a dialogue of all political forces, while the country is rescued from economic disaster.

This may be more or less what the pro-Western and modernist elite, as well as millions of largely secular-leaning Egyptians may want to see. In their mistrust for the Muslim Brotherhood, which was there from the start of Mr. Morsi’s Presidency and was reinforced by some of his decisions and his rather poor performance, they are ready to twist the facts and participate in a process that denies democracy in the name of democracy. They claim the strength of numbers at Taxim Square and opinion polls, when they should know that in a democracy the only decisive poll is the ballot itself, which cannot happen every month of year. And they are directly or indirectly cheered on by outsiders, who preface their statements with words of sorrow for the rapture in the democratic order, but basically show understanding for the rationale put forward and are willing to give the new order a chance.

This is not good enough, though. If one sticks to principles things are very clear, and should be stated as such. Mr. Morsi has to be reinstated as the legitimate President of Egypt and the troops should retreat to their barracks. Those religious and political figures who are worried about the state of the country and the economy should discuss with the President possible solutions, including the formation of a national salvation government under him. And the good allies and friends abroad should encourage such developments with advice for moderation towards all sides.

Democracy has its limits and that should be openly said and accepted. Expedient majorities cannot legislate away individual or collective rights of smaller groups. Nor can oppositions focus on overthrowing those in the majority from day one of their term and with whatever means. In a democracy there is a legitimate and useful role for everybody, from government and opposition politicians to politically-neutral civil servants to the private sector and civil society. They can all contribute on the basis of their respective responsibilities that they should hold dear, and not only their rights, advancing their country in the process.

One can only hope that the next transition in Egypt, which should happen in the next few days, will be peaceful and that the settling of accounts will be limited to public debate and the ballot box without any further military interventions, arrests and killings. The opposite may bring chaos and even civil war to this largest and most influential of Arab countries, and may create a new pole of instability in a region already marred by old and new conflicts that transcend its narrow borders threatening the stability of the bigger world.

Georgios Kostakos

Brussels, 8 July 2013

“Finite Planet, Infinite Potential” — The Salzburg Statement on New Governance for Sustainability

I spent a good part of the past February to June period helping prepare a Salzburg Global Seminar (SGS) session entitled “A Climate for Change: New Thinking on Governance for Sustainability”. The seminar took place from 23 to 27 June 2013 in Salzburg, Austria, at the beautiful Schloss Leopoldskron. About 50 persons from 26 countries, with ages spanning 60 years and professions covering a wide range of sustainability-related fields, came together to consider some major global challenges of our times. From conceptualizing the interconnections between people, the environment and the economy, to rethinking economics, trade and finance, addressing climate change and the food-water-energy nexus, learning from local good practices and investing in knowledge sharing and education, engaging civil society and the private sector, and holding institutions and other actors accountable at all levels, this was a very rich exchange, with an impact on all those that participated and hopefully beyond.

I am reproducing below the Salzburg Statement issued at the end of the session under the title “Finite Planet, Infinite Potential”. It can also be found online at , where the session’s report will also be posted in the coming weeks. Happy reading and hopefully acting in response!

Georgios Kostakos

Brussels, 6 July 2013

Finite Planet, Infinite Potential

The Salzburg Statement on New Governance for Sustainability

We, citizens of many countries and of the world, share our one and only planet with more than seven billion others. We call for leadership, justice and imagination at all levels to find ways to preserve the Earth and enhance prosperity and wellbeing for all.

We face a daunting future. Unless we change course, we will condemn our children and grandchildren to an uninhabitable planet. We must act with urgency, inspired by individual and collective wisdom, to address critical challenges such as climate change, population growth and biodiversity loss. We have to support and sustain life, now and into the future.

We need innovative approaches to governance that reflect the complexity and interdependence of sustainability challenges and that safeguard human dignity, gender equity and the common good.

This Statement is addressed to leaders of governments and international organizations, business, religion, civil society, science, education and the media, and to individuals. Ten priority actions can transform life chances and opportunities for current and future generations throughout the world:

  1. Move beyond narrow short-term thinking and vested interests, especially in decisions concerning food, water and energy security.
  2. Encourage and reward social and technological innovation for a low-carbon economy that addresses the needs of all.
  3. Support and replicate, on a sound evidence basis, dynamic and inclusive initiatives by cities and local communities.
  4. Engage civil society, business, and sub-national authorities in decision-making and partnerships for action.
  5. Stop subsidies to polluters, put a price or tax on carbon, and ensure that markets value natural capital.
  6. Use economics, finance and trade systems in new ways that compound rather than discount future value, encourage sustainable lifestyles, and enhance global prosperity, equity and resilience.
  7. Integrate assessment of climate and disaster risks, and supply chain viability, in infrastructure and other investments.
  8. Agree on common goals and indicators to accelerate and measure progress.
  9. Invest in exchange of knowledge and best practices, and in education for sustainability at all levels.
  10. Embed the rule of law and accountability in all decision-making and implementation, nationally and internationally.

Together, women and men of all nations, races and creeds, we have the knowledge and means to avert the grave threats facing humanity. The global transformation required may not be fast, easy, simple or cheap – but it is perfectly possible. We offer two proposals for urgent consideration:

    • Establish innovative, independent and powerful representations for future generations to align today’s policies and actions with the long-term common good.
    • Convene open and inspiring exchanges at neutral fora, such as Salzburg Global Seminar, to build trust and confidence between high-level decision makers and stakeholder groups, and look for new thinking and breakthrough ideas.

Salzburg, June 2013


US Whistleblower Protection Programs


No comment — Let the official links speak for themselves…

And two US civil society organizations that take their roles seriously:

GAP Statement on the Espionage Charge Filed Against Edward Snowden

by Government Accountability Project on June 22, 2013 ( The Whistleblogger2013 )

Federal prosecutors have charged National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden with multiple felonies. The charges include espionage, although several prominent lawmakers have questioned the legality of the intelligence-gathering programs revealed by Snowden, and whistleblower protections should shield him from retaliation if his disclosures expose illegal actions. Snowden is the seventh whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act.

The Government Accountability Project (GAP), the nation’s leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization, which represents two of the whistleblowers charged with Espionage by this administration (NSA whistleblower Tom Drake and CIA/Torture whistleblower John Kiriakou) released the following statement regarding this latest development:

The Obama administration’s charge of espionage against Edward Snowden is not a surprise. This administration has continually sought to intimidate federal employees – particularly intelligence community workers – and suppress any attempt they might make to speak out against gross corruption, wrongdoing, and illegality.

In GAP’s view, Edward Snowden is a whistleblower. He disclosed information about a secret program that he reasonably believed to be illegal, and his actions alone brought about the long-overdue national debate about the proper balance between privacy and civil liberties, on the one hand, and national security on the other. Charging Snowden with espionage is yet another effort to retaliate against those who criticize the overreach of U.S. intelligence agencies under this administration. The charges send a clear message to potential whistleblowers: this is the treatment they can expect should they speak out about constitutional violations.

It is particularly noteworthy that Snowden spoke truthfully to the public about NSA surveillance after Director of National Intelligence James Clapper intentionally lied in his testimony before the U.S. Senate about these same activities. Clapper, however, has not even been admonished for his purposeful, deliberate deception of both the Senate and the public.

It must be emphasized that the channels internal to intelligence agencies for whistleblowers are neither effective nor confidential. Their gross inadequacy is best illustrated by what befell GAP clients and NSA whistleblowers Tom Drake, William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe, all of whom suffered retaliation after they reported internally serious misconduct at the NSA. Like these three men, Snowden will face serious consequences for exposing the wrongdoing and crimes of others. At the same time, those who stretched their interpretation of laws to invade the private lives of Americans, while lying to the Congress and the public about their actions, will simply continue working.

GAP released a statement on Snowden and the NSA surveillance that can be found here. Media calls regarding this statement can be directed toward GAP President Louis Clark at 202.441.0333, or GAP Communications Director Dylan Blaylock at 202.236.3733

Dylan Blaylock is Communications Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation’s leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.

National Whistleblower Center Issues Statement in Support of NSA Whistleblower
Washington, D.C. June 10, 2013. The National Whistleblower Center issued the following statement in support of NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden:

Statement of Stephen M. Kohn, Executive Director of the National Whistleblower Center

“Edward Snowden should not be prosecuted. Instead, the White House must keep the promise made by President Obama, during his 2008 election campaign, when he pledged to support legislation that would fully protect all government whistleblowers, including those in sensitive national security positions.”

“Until Congress enacts a law, setting forth reasonable procedures by which civil servants can disclose national security violations to the American people, the government should not prosecute these whistleblowers. Congress and the President must do their jobs, and stop destroying the lives of civil servants who try to report misconduct”

There is significant historical precedent for the protection of whistleblowers demonstrating that such protections were strongly supported by the Founding Fathers. Mr. Kohn previously discussed this precedent in his New York TimesOp-Ed, The Whistleblowers of 1777. Mr. Kohn is also the author of The Whistleblower’s Handbook: A Step by Step Guide to Doing What’s Right and Protecting Yourself  (Lyons Press, 2011).



Mary Jane Wilmoth

(202) 342-1902