A few years ago, in a continent shaken by the effects of the global financial crisis and frightened by the nightmare of terrorism, several European leaders lamented the death of multiculturalism.
Author: Elisa Piras
In the past few years the ‘migration crisis’ has challenged the EU’s internal cohesion and has been instrumentally used by populist and nationalist movements to raise public concerns. At the same time, terrorist attacks have multiplied in Europe and some of them have been perpetrated by migrants of first or second generation claiming allegiance to Islamic fundamentalist groups.
About ten years ago Anna Politkovskaya, a well-known Russian journalist, writer and human rights’ activist, died in her apartment building in Moscow, shot four times in a lift. After a long and highly charged trial-and-retrial, we still do not know who the instigators of Politkovskaya’s assassination are, though six people have been convicted of the murder. In her books and articles (she was one of the best reporters of Novaya Gazeta), Politkovskaya reported on the situation in Chechnya during the Second Chechen War and on the deterioration of the quality of Russian democracy, especially as far as human rights protection, transparency and good governance were concerned. She defined contemporary Russia ‘a failing democracy’ and she admonished her fellow citizens about the concrete risks of ‘hurtling back into a Soviet abyss’, thanks to the ‘information vacuum’ that the Russian power system was able to produce. Her investigative works as well as her popularity in the West – she won several important awards from human rights and international journalism and her books were translated in several languages – were certainly worrisome for the Russian government as well as for several crucial state agencies. In Russia, however, her influence was quite limited beyond human rights activists’ circles, as Vladimir Putin noticed after her brutal assassination.
In his message on 2016 International Women’s Day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon summarised the UN’s efforts for gender equality with an evocative metaphor: “We have shattered so many glass ceilings we created a carpet of shards. Now we are sweeping away the assumptions and bias of the past so women can advance across new frontiers”. Ban Ki-moon has recently been recognised as a champion of the promotion of women’s rights. His main achievement in the field has been to prioritise the issue on the UN agenda. As a matter of fact, the UN further the promotion of gender equality worldwide, not only through the CEDAW treaty and related instruments, but also through the adoption of a gender-sensitive policy of recruitment and the constant monitoring of women’s rights enjoyment in a number of domains (e.g. health, education, labour). UN efforts towards gender equality and women’s empowerment have been continuous and lately they have shown a remarkable degree of adaptability and pragmatism that might be conducive to a less immediate and visible, but more long-lasting and widespread diffusion of emancipatory principles worldwide. Apparently, the recent UN change of strategy for promoting gender equality is challenging traditional conceptions of feminism; however, this does not mean it is incompatible with them. Moreover, if successful, this new strategy might represent a model of agency for advocates of global justice.