The Global Urbanist – The City Effect: rapid urbanisation raises questions about how much urban government is enough

BY ALIA DHARSSI (FGJ ‘14) - As the world figures out how to handle climate change and extreme poverty, among other contemporary challenges, leading thinkers at the LSE Urban Age Conference in Delhi called for granting more decision-making power and resources to cities at the end of last year. Using case studies from all over the world, they argued that empowering local governments – which involves some amalgamation of granting them more money and power, bringing entire metropolitan regions under the control of a single governing body and giving citizens the chance to hold these governments accountable through elections and other means – improves the lives of city dwellers by giving them a say over urban planning. Proponents of stronger city governments contend that locals will push for policies that are good for the environment and good for democracy, including accessible public transport and local solutions to tackle flooding, extreme weather and other consequences of climate change. Read more

Corporate Knights – Fatal explosions, toxic spills and other commercial catastrophes in 2014

BY ALIA DHARSSI (FGJ ‘14) - An industrial project that could devastate the Great Barrier Reef, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, a Canadian mine and an American power plant are among the 10 most controversial projects of 2014, according to a report released this month by RepRisk, a business intelligence service. Read more

Global UrbanistGood managers and dedicated streets: what Indian cities can learn from Bogota

BY ALIA DHARSSI (FGJ ‘14)–Enrique Peñalosa, mayor of Bogotá from 1998 to 2001, is credited with bringing major changes to the Colombian capital, including the library system, parks, the bus rapid transit (BRT) system and improving hundreds of poor schools. He talks to Alia Dharssi at the LSE Urban Age conference in Delhi about how he got things done, rethinking urban planning and pedestrian-friendly cities. Read More

Global Urbanist–Cities are places where the powerless can shape history: the Right to the City in the 21st century

BY ALIA DHARSSI (FGJ ‘14)–An interview with sociologist Saskia Sassen at the London School of Economic’s Urban Age Conference in New Delhi on November 15th. She talks about the governance challenges facing the world’s cities today and the ways in which average people can voice their concerns in the face of big money. Read More

Vice – Canada’s Foreign Aid Strategy Should Prioritize Condoms

BY ALIA DHARSSI (FGJ ‘14) Canada has been doing some pretty incredible shit when it comes to women’s rights internationally. Just this past week, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird traveled to London to speak up for girls at a global summit on ending child marriage. And back in May, Prime Minister Harper was praised by likes of the president of the World Bank and the United Nations Secretary General when he hosted a summit for ending the preventable deaths of poor mothers and their babies in developing countries. Read more

Open Canada – Canada’s Selective Approach to Development

Ian Smillie has spent decades observing and critiquing international development and foreign aid. He’s the author of nine books on those topics including The Charity of Nations: Humanitarian Action in a Calculating World and Blood on the Stone: Greed, Corruption and War in the Global Diamond Trade. Smillie founded the Canadian NGO Inter Pares, currently consults on development for The McLeod Group, and is chairman of the Diamond Development Initiative. reporters Alia Dharssi (FGJ ‘14) and Rachel Browne (FGJ '14) spoke with Smillie on Canada’s role in development after a panel discussion at the Ottawa Forum on May 24, 2014. Read more

Open Canada – How the World Bank Got Over the Curse of Knowledge

Over the course of almost two decades working in international development, Canadian Aleem Walji, Director of the World Bank’s Innovation Labs and former Head of Global Development Initiatives at, has focused on increasing transparency and accountability in government, improving the delivery of basic services to the poor and fostering the growth of small and medium-size enterprises in developing countries. OpenCanada Reporter Alia Dharssi (FGJ ‘14) sat down with him to talk about how the World Bank promotes innovative solutions to tackling poverty and other development challenges. Read more

Vice – I Was Sniffed for Explosives by Guard Dogs at Prime Minister Harper’s Maternal and Child Health Summit

BY ALIA DHARSSI (FGJ ‘14) I don’t think I’ve ever had my things sniffed for explosives by a dog and certainly not twice in one day. Nor have I been escorted to the bathroom since childhood, but that’s exactly what happened last week to me and other journalists covering Prime Minister Harper’s maternal and child health summit in Toronto. Read more

Open Canada – Using the Internet to Save Lives in Iran

Canadian human rights activist Maryam Nayeb Yazdi saves lives in Iran from her desk in Toronto, where she is at the centre of an international network of activists that work to improve human rights and stop executions in Iran. Though born in Iran, she spent most of her childhood in Canada. She first became concerned about the human rights situation in Iran in 2007 when she saw an interview on Persian satellite TV with a young human rights activist who had escaped Iran after being jailed, tortured and placed in solitary confinement by the Iranian authorities. In 2009, after the Iranian government violently suppressed protests in the aftermath of the Iranian presidential election, she founded Persian2English, a blog that documents human rights violations in Iran for an international audience. Today, she works to draw attention to a range of human rights issues in Iran, including executions, which, she says, take place in public squares each year to instill fear among the population. OpenCanada reporter Alia Dharssi (FGJ ‘14) sat down with Yazdi – who awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal by the Governor General in 2013 – to talk about her efforts to halt executions and about how she makes human rights issues go viral. Read more

Vice – Canadians Are Doing Very Cool Shit to Save the Lives of Moms and Babies Around the World

BY RACHEL BROWNE AND ALIA DHARSSI (FGJ ‘14) Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s three-day global summit on maternal and newborn health, which kicked off yesterday in Toronto, is bringing together major players in the field of international development—from the Aga Khan to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon—to figure out how to save more mothers, babies, and children in poor countries. Read more

Open Canada – Pushing for Change in the Garment Industry

When Bangladeshi activist Kalpona Akter started working in a factory at the age of 12, she worked long hours for little pay out of desperation to feed her family. She never had a chance to go to school as a child and only started to learn English after becoming a union organizer as a teenager. Now, as the Executive Director of the Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity, she is one of the country’s most prominent human rights activists. She has spoken to audiences around the world, including Walmart’s shareholders, about upholding the rights of Bangladeshi garment workers. reporter Alia Dharssi (FGJ ‘14) sat down with her in Ottawa in mid-May after she spoke at a conference on Canada’s role in global equality and cooperation.

Thomson Reuters Foundation – US oil firm prosecutions show need for transparency - activists

BY ALIA DHARSSI (FGJ ‘14) Oil and gas companies with major US operations have been the subject of at least 30 prosecutions related to bribes paid to foreign governments under the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) since 2007, underscoring the urgent need for transparency regulations to tackle corruption in developing countries, activists and researchers say. Read more

Thomson Reuters Foundation – Sugar’s sticky trail: Coke and Pepsi work to clean up their supply chains

BY ALIA DHARSSI (FGJ ‘14) Selling cans of cola that don’t contain sugar grown on land forcibly taken from poor communities is proving to be a challenge for Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Under pressure from activists and consumers, the soda giants are struggling to clean up their act as they launch new policies to source sugar untainted by human rights concerns. Read more

Thomson Reuters Foundation – Big oil firms accused of cheating on royalties lead fight to limit US disclosure rules

BY ALIA DHARSSI AND ASHLEY RENDERS (FGJ ‘14) Oil companies have paid $3 billion over the past 15 years to resolve a range of charges including that they regularly cheated the U.S. government and Native American communities out of royalties on oil and gas leases, raising concerns they use similar techniques to rob citizens in poor countries of resource wealth. Read more

Thomson Reuters Foundation – Some NGOs in Nepal do more harm than good say experts

BY RACHEL BROWNE AND ALIA DHARSSI (FGJ ‘14) When anti-trafficking group Next Generation Nepal received a tip that children were being abused in an orphanage on the outskirts of Kathmandu, its staff went undercover to investigate. They discovered 18 children living in a small room. The toilet was covered in excrement. The food in the kitchen was crawling with insects. One boy was so ill that he could barely walk. Read more

National Post – New seeds of conflict: 20 years post-genocide, there are fears than Rwandan schools ferment hate

BY ALIA DHARSSI (FGJ ‘14) When the Rwandan genocide came to an end in July 1994, the country’s schools were in a shambles. Three thousand teachers had been killed or forced to flee and two-thirds of the 1,836 schools were damaged (many had been sites of massacres). The Ministry of Education itself was a scene of devastation, hit by shells and trashed by looters, who broke windows, doors and furniture. Meanwhile, more than one million children had been orphaned. Read more