The Power of Culture

The issue: Anti-terrorism and the vulnerability of democracy

Separatist actions in Papoea scores success

The Indonesian province of Irian Jaya has taken a step in the direction of autonomy. The Indonesian parliament has given the former Dutch colony the right to have its own flag and national anthem. The province has also been given the province permission to keep 70 per cent of the profits from its own raw materials such as oil. Irian Jaya was previously called Papoea.

Concern over the patent rights to medicines

The American Department of Health wants the German pharmaceutical company Bayer to give up its patent rights to ciproflaxin. This is an antibiotic that combats anthrax. This rare disease has been spread recently in the US via anonymous letters. In the case of a large-scale infection, the Health Department is afraid that sufficient ciproflaxin will not be available and wants other pharmaceutical companies to be able to manufacture the antibiotic.
Humanitarian organisations are watching this issue with considerable interest. The patent rights to medicines have made items such as aid inhibitors unaffordable for developing countries. The US has been the one who fiercely defended the maintenance of these rights. They have argued that this is the only way to continue paying for the development of new medicines.
The British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline is the first company that recently granted a free license to a South-African company for the production of three aids medicines.

Competition for Chinese state TV

The American company AOL-Time Warner may start broadcasting TV programs in China together with media-tycoon Rupert Murdoch. Up to now this market, which is worth billions, has been closed to foreign media companies. Both companies have said that they will start broadcasting the English language channel of the Chinese state TV in the US. There is speculation about the manner in which the companies succeeded in getting access to the lucrative advertising market. Supposedly, both giants have toned down any news that was too critical of Chinese human rights policy.

Dutch version of Indymedia

In 1999, American activists in the anti-globalist movement started their own web site: Independent Media Center. Two years later there are some 75 local 'Indys'. There is also a Dutch web site now. In principle, anyone can place his uncensored story on the site using text, image and sound. The founders hope that will contribute to the diversity of the critique on society.

More information:

Stop light man DDR saved

The German action committee 'Rettet die Ampelmännchen' has succeeded in keeping the stop lights from the DDR as part of the cityscape. After unification the charming East German stoplight figure was replaced by the formless stoplights from West Germany. In part because of this, the 'Ampelmännchen' became a symbol of West-German suppression. In some places in the former East Germany the little guy is being returned to his proper place.
Take a look at the stop light man: Rettet die Ampelmännchen Ost

VS Naipaul wins the Nobel prize

The 94th Nobel price for the Literature has been awarded to Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul (1932). Naipaul was born in Trinidad out of Indian parents, and lives in England. His travel logs and novels won him recognition because of the keenness with which the author succeeded in portraying societies and cultures throughout the entire world.

Al Jazeera breaks CNN's monopoly

Only the Arabic news broadcaster Al Jazeera is still welcome in the Taliban controlled areas in Afghanistan. The rest of the foreign press has been evicted. This includes CNN, which was the single most important supplier of images during the Gulf War. Now CNN is dependent on Al Jazeera for images of this part of the world. The broadcaster, constructed on the western model, was founded in 1996 in Katar. In contrast to many other Arabic media companies, Al Jazeera operates largely independently.

The fraternal aspect of soccer

The Swedish parliament member Lars Gustafsson has nominated soccer for the Nobel peace Prize. According to the politician the game has brought people in contact with one another in a harmonious way. The match between France and Algeria that was played in France in October, could have been an example of such a cultural reconciliation, but ended in fiasco. The two national teams had not played against each other since Algeria's independence in 1962. Unfortunately the match had to be stopped prematurely due to problems. Undoubtedly this confirms Gustafssons' critics who claim that rather than creating cross-border harmony, in fact soccer rouses nationalistic feelings. Moreover, the Nobel Peace Prize went to Kofi Annan.

Turkish constitution modified

The Turkish parliament has modified its constitution on 34 points in the hopes of becoming a member of the European Union. The Kurdish language is no longer forbidden, and citizens are free to express their opinions. However, critics contend that there is a gap between the constitution and daily legal practice. Only if the latter is modernised will the changes in the law have any real meaning.

Dutch politics can reject women

The United Nations Committee for the Prevention of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw) has criticised the Netherlands. The National Reformed Party (Staatkundig Gereformeerde Party or SGP) prohibits women from becoming full-fledge party members. This is in conflict with the United Nations Treaty regarding Women. The Dutch State Secretary for Emancipation Cases, Verstand, does not want to plead for a change in the law that would force the SGP to admit women. She fears that this would cause the party to be banned.
More information: Cedaw
Cedaw on The Netherlands, see 34

Rural entertainment in India

The Indian Minister of Health, Thakur, believes that his compatriots have sex when they have no other form of entertainment. That is why he is going to help pay for TVs for the Indian rural population. He hopes that this measure will bring down the country's high birth rate.

Sources: Het Financieele Dagblad, NRC Handelsblad, het Parool, Trouw, de Volkskrant, Onze wereld,, UN, Cedaw

World Cinema Tour

World Cinema Tour ‘goes Latin’

Between 5 October and 30 December the Rotterdam International Film Festival will present the fall edition of the 'World Cinema Tour' in 21 film theatres.
The festival includes three beautiful Latin-American films that were made in part through support from the Hubert Bals Fund: Perfume de violetas (The Scent of Violets) about girls in Mexico City, Domésticas (Domestics) about Brazilian housekeepers addiction to soap-opera and La fé del volcán about life in an Argentinean metropolis.

You can find more exhibitions, cultural events and gatherings in 'World in action', the schedule on the International Collaboration web site.


november 2001