News / Africa

Scholars, Leaders Discuss Retooling Federalism for 21st Century

Scholars and world leaders gathered this week in Ethiopia to examine how a centuries-old Western political system is evolving to suit the needs of modern-day multi-ethnic nations.  Our correspondent in Addis Ababa has more from the site of the Fifth International Conference on Federalism.

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi opened the four-day conference by extolling the virtues of his government's ethnic-federalism policy.  He said allowing the country's multitude of ethnic groups wide latitude in governing their own affairs has contributed to unity in diversity.

Federalism is most often associated with Western countries such as the United States, Canada and Switzerland, where different groups govern themselves while existing as a single nation.  But scholars and leaders at this conference are discussing other federal models for achieving the same goals.

Lecturer Johanne Poirier teaches comparative federalism at the University of Ottawa in Canada.

"Comparative federalism for a long time has centered on the same models, and it tended to be Western and Nordic models for all sorts of reasons, and occasionally you would hear about Nigeria and South Africa," said Poirier. "But in this conference the center of gravity is here.  We are not really hearing much about the United States, we are not really hearing much about Canada."

Nigerian scholar Said Adejumobi, who is with the conference co-host, the United Nations Economic Commission on Africa, says there are many forms of federalism.   He likens the expansion of the concept to the World Cup  tournament being hosted in new and different parts of the world.

"I think now we're just expanding the scope, just like we are doing with football, allowing the coverage to go global, moving to Qatar and Russia, with FIFA World cup, leaving the traditional center of gravity," said Adejumobi. "The basic principle of federalism has not changed, whether you are talking about the United States, or Canada or Nigeria.  It is a formula for managing difference."

The president of conference sponsor the Forum of Federations, George Anderson , says many modern nations experimenting with federalism are far more diverse than early thinkers on the concept imagined.

"If you look at traditional Western federations, some of them have more than one language, but none of them have the range of diversity that you find in Nigeria, Ethiopia or India," said Anderson. "So what you are finding now in the debate in any cases in former colonial countries as democratization proceeds, is how do you deal with this deep diversity."

Several heads of state and government were on hand for Monday's opening conference session.  Rwanda's President Paul Kagame and Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir addressed the gathering, along with Prime Minister Meles.

Organizers say 25 federal countries represent 40 percent of the world's population.  Among them are some of the world's most complex democracies, including Brazil, India, Germany and Mexico.   

You May Like

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Video One Year After Massacre, Iraq’s Yazidis a Broken People

Minority community still recovering from devastating assault by IS militants which spurred massive outrage More

‘Malvertisements’ Undermine Internet Trust

Hackers increasingly prey on users' trust of major websites to delivery malicious software More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs