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Abrogation in Islam: the Uniqueness of Duality

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Jamal Badawi, concludes his propagating claims in his e-mail to Robert Spencer, on February 14 2005, by declaring: “Those who erroneously claimed that all such definitive verses have all been ‘abrogated’ by what they called ‘the verse of the sword’ were mistaken and failed to give any definitive evidence of their claims.

There is no single verse in the Qur’an properly interpreted in its context and historical circumstances that ever allowed the Muslim to fight non-Muslims simply because they are non-Muslims…”

Well, even if Badawi ignores the 109 verses that call for violence of Jihad and slaughtering against the infidels and hundreds of verses that call for incitement and hatred against the other, he still deceives and misleads in his propagation. Contrary to his words, the mild verses that call for avoidance and against retaliation are all from the Meccan period and were all abrogated, nullified and rendered void when Muhammad became strong and victorious at Medina. Western politicians, members of the academia and the media are not only unaware and perhaps ignorant of this reality, just because they don’t learn, but at the same time disseminate, intentionally or unintentionally, the tidings of the Islamic propaganda.

When one opens the Qur’an, he sees at the top of the page in brackets the words Makki or Madani, meaning Sûrah from Meccan period or Medinan period. This differentiation is according to Islamic exegesis, since the Qur’an is organized neither chronologically nor topically but in order of the length of the Sûwar: from longest to shortest. The line of differentiation was in September 622, when Muhammad ran away from Mecca and went to Yathrib (later called Medina, or Madinat al-Nabī). This event was so significant in Muslim history that it is called Hijrah, meaning emigration, but also ‘separation,’ ‘breaking of relations.’

Most importantly, it marks the beginning of the Muslim Calendar. This is something to bear in mind concerning Islamic doctrine and teaching. Muhammad began his prophecy from year 610 in Mecca. The total majority, 90 Sûwar of the Qur’an, out of 114, are from Meccan period. Yet, Islamic exegetes preferred the Hijrah as the founding event of Islamic history. The reason is clear: at Mecca, after 12 years of preaching Muhammad had a total 80 believers and the Muslims were weak and persecuted. Only at Medina, Muhammad became the leader of a religion, a military hero who fought his enemies at the battleground and won over. The Medinan Sûwar, only 24 in number, reflect this reality, being much more belligerent and warmongering, and the Calendar emphasizes this reality: they are more important.

However, from Islamic perspective, it was essential to find out the exact chronology and the historical settings of the Qur’an Sûwar, as the order of their revelation is not known from reading the Qur’an. This problem was recognized by early Muslim scholars who devoted much attention to it. They have investigated this realm and developed it almost as a science called Asbāb al-Nuzûl, “the causes of descend,” the circumstances and reasons of revelation of the Qur’an’s Sûwar.

For the Muslims the Qur’an is miraculous (I’jāz) and has been revealed for all times and situations from the beginning of history to the end of the world. However, the many repetitions in the Qur’an, the arbitrary order, the mixture of styles and genres are indicative of human process in its creation. The Qur’an being collated piecemeal, still exacerbates the determination of the chronology of the verses and their orderly appearance. From here the principle of abrogation (al-Nāsikh wal-Mansûkh) has developed. The Arabic words ‘Nāsikh’ and ‘Mansûkh’ are derived from ‘n.s.kh.’, means ‘to abolish, to replace, to withdraw, to abrogate’. It appears four times in the Qur’an.

Arthur Jeffery explains: The Qur’an is unique among sacred scriptures in teaching a doctrine of abrogation according to which later pronouncements of the Prophet abrogate, i.e.: declare null and void, his earlier pronouncements. The importance of knowing which verses abrogate others has given rise to the Qur’anic science known as ‘Nāsikh wa-Mansûkh,’ i.e. the Abrogator and the Abrogated. So, rather than attempting to explain away the inconsistencies in passages giving regulations for the Muslim community, Qur’an scholars and jurists came to acknowledge the differences while arguing that the latest verse on any controversial subject abrogates all earlier verses that contradicted it.

According to a Hadīth: the Messenger of Allah abrogated some of his commands by others, just as the Qur’an abrogates some part of it with the other. Muhammad was accustomed to stating something to his followers with the claim that it was revealed to him from Allah, then later on he would change it and tells them that Allah had invalidated it. The Qur’an is confusing and there are revelations which might have been forgotten, changed or eliminated. There is no agreement even to which was the first Sûrah to be revealed to Muhammad (Sûrat al-A’laq, 96 or Sûrat al-Muddaththir, 74). One example of the jumbled chronology is that Sûwar 2:193 and 2:216, 2:217 were revealed just after Muhammad arrived in Medina, about six years before Sûwar 2:190–2:192 were revealed. Yet Sûrah 2:193 was inserted to follow 2:190-192.

What are the Qur’anic sources of abrogation?

When we cancel a message, or throw it into oblivion, we replace it with one better or one similar. Do you not know that Allah has power over all things? (Sûrat al-Baqarah, 2:106).

When we replace a message with another, and Allah knows best what he reveals, they say: you have made it up. Yet, most of them do not know (Sûrat al-Nahl, 16:101).

Allah abrogates or confirms whatsoever he will, for he has with him the Book of the Books (Sûrat al-Ra’d, 13:39).

If we pleased we could take away what we have revealed to you. Then you will not find anyone to plead for it with us (Sûrat Bani Isrā’īl, 17:86).

There is also references in the Hadīth:

“The Prophet said, ‘If I take an oath and later find something else better than that, then I do what is better and expiate my oath'” (Sahīh Bukhāri, 7:427).

“The Prophet said, ‘It is a bad thing that some of you say, ‘I have forgotten such-and-such verse of the Qur’an.’ For indeed, I have been caused to forget it. So you must keep on reciting the Qur’an because it escapes from the hearts of men faster than a runaway camel'” (Sahīh Bukhāri, 6:550).

The assertion of the scholar Ali Dashti is explains the problems:

“It must always be borne in mind that most of the Qur’anic laws and ordinances were formulated in response to random incidents and petitions from aggrieved persons. There are inconsistencies in them and in the reasons that there are abrogating and abrogated ordinances….

Muslim exegetes agreed that Muhammad was prepared to change his mind, vows, and rules according to the circumstances. Ahmad von Denffer, a German converted to Islam exegete, summarizes the issue that the knowledge of al-‘Nāsikh wal-Mansûkh bears important perspectives: It is concerned with the correct and exact application of the laws of Allah; it is one of the important pre-conditions for interpretation (Tafsīr) of the Qur’an and the application of the Islamic law (Sharī’ah); it sheds light on the historical development of the Islamic legal code; and it helps to understand the immediate meaning of the verses concerned.

According to the narration of Ibn `Abbas, one of the most acclaimed transmitter of the Qur’an and the Hadīth:

“Sometimes the revelation used to descend on the Prophet during the night and then he forgot it during daytime, thus Allah sent down this verse’ [2:106]. Such behavior led the infidels to say that Muhammad was preaching contradictory and opposite commands. He does not receive inspiration from Allah, for he changes his mind whenever he wishes. Thus, this verse was written… Muhammad used to order something and then change it the next day whenever he found it too difficult to be implemented. Lastly, Muhammad did not want to embarrass the men around him who memorized his sayings.”

Yusuf Ali said that Sûrat al-Baqarah, 2:106 means that Allah’s message from age to age is always the same, but its form may differ according to the needs and exigencies of time. There is nothing derogatory in this if we believe in progressive revelation. This does not mean that eternal principles change. As about Sûrat al-Nahl, 16:101 Yusuf Ali claims: “The doctrine of progressive revelation does not mean that Allah’s fundamental law changes. It is not fair to charge the Prophet with forgery because the message, as revealed to him, is different from that revealed before, when the core of the truth is the same, for it comes from Allah.”

Abd al-Majid Daryabadi, Pakistani exegete and Qur’an commentator, refers to Sûrat al-Baqarah, 2:106:

“There is nothing to be ashamed of in the doctrine of certain laws, temporary or local, being superseded or abrogated by certain other laws, permanent and universal, enacted by the same law-giver… Even divine laws may be subject to divine improvement…

However, today Islamic propagators, fearing the implications of abrogated verses on their propaganda and Da`wah, act to dismiss the doctrine all in all. In an Islamic internet site, one named A. Muhammed refutes the abrogation principle, by attacking the “corrupted interpretation the verses: 2:106 and 16:101.” To this day, he claims, Jews and Christians accuse Muhammad of fabricating the Qur’an, and the case is substituting one verse of the Qur’an with another. Muhammad Asad, a converted Jew, has the same attitude: “the ‘doctrine of abrogation’ has no basis in historical fact, and must be rejected.” The Ahamadiyah sect also joins this conception.  

Yet, to this group of deniers, Hibat-Allah Ibn Salamah (d. 1019), one of the Islamic scholars and abrogation founders, would have reacted by declaring: “these people have deviated from the truth, and by the virtue of their lies have turned away from Allah… All verses about forgiving the infidels are abrogated unanimously. Anyone who engages in the scientific study of the Qur’an without having mastered the doctrine of abrogation is ‘deficient’ (Naqis).

Muslim exegetes noticed that the number of verses that are considered to have been abrogated increased between the eighth and eleventh centuries (al-Zuhri: 42 abrogated verses, al-Nahhas: 138, Ibn Salama: 238, al-Farsi: 248). However, Suyuti confirmed only twenty abrogated verses which are acknowledged by all exegetes.

Andrew Rippin states that although the companions of Muhammad are reported to have discussed Naskh and even to have disagreed over the abrogation of verses, references are relatively infrequent. The number of verses that are considered to have been abrogated increased dramatically between the eighth and eleventh centuries. Whether there are more than 200 abrogation or only five, it is almost a consensus among classical and most important Muslim exegetes that it exists and had much influence on understanding the revelation of Qur’an.

The following list is taken from al-Tabari Qur’an commentary: a) 3:85 abrogates 2:62 and 5:69. b) 9:29 abrogates 2:109. c) 2:185 abrogates 2:184. d) 9:36 abrogates 2:217 and 45:14. e) 5:90 abrogates 2:219. The provision of this verse concerning alcoholic drinks and gambling has been abrogated by verse 5:90. f) 4:12 abrogates 2:240. g) 24:2 abrogates 4:15-16. The provision of this verse ordaining lashing for the unmarried and stoning to death for the married, when four witnesses testify to the crime.

Concerning types of abrogation, Ibn Salamah delineates four kinds:

a) Forty Three Sûwar that were not abrogated at all (neither Nāsikh nor Mansûkh): 1, 12, 36, 49, 55, 57, 61, 62, 66, 67, 68, 69, 71, 72, 77, 78, 79, 82, 83, 84, 85, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 104, 105, 106, 107,109, 108, 110, 112, 113, 114.

b) Six Sûwar that maintained the authority of the abrogator, but their original wording was not abrogated (with Nāsikh but no Mansûkh): 48, 59, 63, 64, 65, 87

c) Forty Sûwar in which their wording had been abrogated, but maintained their authority for applications (with Mansûkh but no Nāsikh): 6, 7 10, 11, 13, 15 16 17, 18, 20, 23, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 34, 35, 37, 38, 39, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 51, 53, 54, 60, 68, 70, 74, 75, 76, 77, 86, 80, 88, 109.

d) Twenty five Sûwar that have had both their authority for applications and their wording abrogated (with both Nāsikh and Mansûkh): 2, 3, 5, 8, 9, 14, 18, 19, 21, 22, 24, 25, 26, 33, 34, 40, 42, 51, 52, 56, 58, 73, 103, and 108.

Suyuti, makes the following typology: 25 Sûwar in which there are verses both abrogating and abrogated: 2,3,4,5,8,9,14,18,19,21,22,24,25,26,33,34,40,42,51,52,56,

58,73,108. That is, out of 114 Sûwar of the Qur’an, 71 Sûwar, comprising 62% have had verses changed or deleted.

The most important verse and the greatest abrogator (Nāsikh) of the Qur’an verses is Sûrat al-Barā’ah, 9:5, called “the verse of the sword.” It has cancelled and replaced in Toto 124 mild verses:

2:62; 2:83; 2:109; 2:139; 2:190; 2:191; 2:192; 2:217; 2:256; 3:20; 3:28; 4:15; 4: 16; 4: 63; 4:80; 4:81; 4:84; 4:90; 4:91; 5:2; 5:13; 5:99; 5:102; 6:66; 6:70; 6:91; 6:104; 6:106; 6:107; 6:108; 6:112; 6:135; 6:137; 6:158; 7:183; 7:199; 8:61; 8:73; 10:20; 10:41; 10:46; 10:99; 10:102; 10:108; 10:109; 11:12; 11:121; 11:122; 13:40; 15:3; 15:85; 15:89; 15:94; 16:82; 16:106; 16:125; 16:127; 17:54; 19:39; 19:75; 19: 84; 20:130; 20:136; 22:68; 23:54; 23:96; 24:54; 27:92; 28:55; 29:46; 29:50; 30:60; 32:30; 33:48; 34:25; 35:23; 36:76; 37:174; 37:175; 37:178; 37:179; 38:70; 38:88; 39:3; 39:15; 39:39; 39:40; 40:12; 41:34; 42:6; 42:6; 42:15; 42:48; 43:14; 43:83; 43:98; 44:59; 45:14; 46:35; 47:4; 50:29; 50:39; 50:45; 52: 48; 53:29; 53:39; 54:6; 58:8; 58:9; 58:11; 60:8; 60:9; 68:44; 68:48; 70:42; 73:10; 74:11; 76:8; 76:24; 86:17; 88:22; 88:23; 88:24; 93:22; 95:8; 109:6.

According to Ibn Kathir in his commentary to 9:5, Abu Bakr al-Siddiq used this and other verses as a proof for fighting those who refrained from paying the Zakāt. These verses allowed fighting all the peoples unless and until they embrace Islam and implement its rulings and obligations.

“It is recorded that Ibn `Umar said that the Messenger of Allah said, I have been commanded to fight the people until they testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. This honorable Ayah was called the Ayat al-Sayf [the verse of the Sword], about which al-Dahhak bin Muzahim said, ‘It abrogated every agreement of peace between the Prophet and any idolater, every treaty, and every term. Ibn `Abbas commented: ‘No idolater had any more treaty or promise of safety ever since Surah Barā’ah was revealed.

This is the reason why the issue of abrogation has become a serious matter in contemporary political debate conducted by the Muslim propagators, concerning jihadi terrorism and the homicide bombings phenomenon. They clearly sense that their propaganda war towards the free world as if Islam is peaceful and compassionate is shaky and slippery, and for that they deny any traces of the abrogation doctrine. Conquering the world, Dār al-Islām against Dār al-Harb, and the perpetuated war against the infidels, all these are not only slogans, but religious duty to be accomplished according to the power Muslims can master.

Therefore, since abrogation was legitimate and had been practiced in the Qur’an and Hadīth, there is no need to argue with the false fraudulent Islamic propaganda concerning Jihad being spiritual and Islam being peace-loving. Jihad means terrorism, aggressiveness and violence implemented against all infidels. The contemporary horrendous policy toward all the minorities in the Middle East reflects this reality. The crimes against humanity such as genocide, ethnic cleansing and mass-slaughtering perpetrated against Muslims and non-Muslims is pervasive.

Surah 9 is most important concerning the issues of abrogation and the policy of Jihad against all infidels. It is the only Sûrah without the Bismillāh (“in the name of Allah, most benevolent, ever-merciful”) opening, probably for its military Jihadi and violent character. For that, some Muslim exegetes call it “the Ultimatum,” al-Barā’ah. It was revealed after the conquest of Mecca in January 630. al-Suyuti listed Sûrah 9 second to the last, while Bukhari claimed that “The last Sûrah that was revealed to Muhammad by Allah was Sûrat al-Barā’ah [9].” Consequently, since this Sûrah contains the largest amount of violent passages, it abrogates all the relevant Qur’an passages from earlier periods.

Bukhari, in the chapter headed “‘The statement of Allah” related to Sûrat al-Barā’ah, 9:5, claims:

“Narrated Ibn ‘Umar: Allah’s Apostle said: I have been ordered to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Mohammad is Allah’s apostle, and offer the prayers perfectly and give obligatory charity. If they perform all that, then they save their lives and property from me, and then their reckoning will be done by Allah.”

“Paradise is under the blades of the swords… Our Prophet told us about the message of our Lord ‘… whoever amongst us is killed, will go to Paradise.’ ‘Umar asked the prophet, ‘Is it not true that pure men who are killed will go to Paradise and their enemies will go to Hell-fire? The Prophet said, ‘Yes’.”

Muhsin Khan, the translator of Sahīh Bukhāri, into English, claims that Allah revealed Sûrat al- Barā’ah in order to discard all obligations, and commanded the Muslims to fight against all the pagans as well as against the People of the Scriptures, if they do not embrace Islam, till they pay the Jizyah with willing submission and feel subdued [9:29]. The Muslims were not permitted to abandon the fighting against them and to reconcile with them and to suspend hostilities against them while they are strong and have the ability to fight against them.

For Ibn Kathir it is clear: as Jihad involves death and the killing of men: “Allah draws our attention to the fact that unbelief, polytheism of the infidels and their avoidance of Allah’s path (Fitnah) are far worse than killing.” Here is the permission to kill all infidels and the license of free violence and terrorism for the Muslims through all generations. Jihad is the right way, and it is permissible for the believers just because the others are infidels.

Ibn Hazm deals in detail in the Qur’an wherein there appears to be conflict and/or contradiction. Through every Sûrah, he points out verses which have been canceled and the verses which replace it. He notes that there are 114 versus that call for tolerance and patience which have been canceled and replaced by Sûrat al-Taubah, 9:5. Islam is unanimous about fighting the infidels and forcing them to Islam, or submitting them to Islamic governance, or being killed.

The contemporary Islamic al-Azhar influential scholar, Sa’id Ramadan al-Buti, says in his well-known research:

“The verse (9:5) does not leave any room in the mind to conjecture about what is called defensive war. This verse asserts that holy war which is demanded in Islamic law is not a defensive war, because it could legitimately be an offensive war. That is the apex and most honorable of all Holy wars. Its goal is the exaltation of the word of Allah, the construction of Islamic society and establishment of Allah’s kingdom on Earth regardless the means. It is legal to carry on an offensive Holy War.”

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New Social Compact

Gender and Climate Change: Where are we and what next?

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credit: UN photo

Climate change affects women more profoundly than men. Often, women bear the brunt of extreme weather events because they lack economic, political and legal power, especially in developing countries.

Because of cultural barriers and their lower economic status, women often have fewer assets to fall back on than men. They are largely absent from decision-making because of unequal participation in leadership roles – further compounding their vulnerability. So when it comes to coping with climate change, women usually have fewer adaptive strategies than men.

The women who live in poor rural communities use natural resources in a different way than men because they possess fewer assets.  It is women, for example, who are responsible for collecting firewood, fetching water, growing food – or foraging for it – making them more vulnerable to the climatic changes that affect these resources.  So the international community must pay attention to gender dynamics when it develops climate change policies and puts them into action.

International recognition – where are we now?

International frameworks are beginning to incorporate a gender dimension into action on climate change. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) emphasises gender balance and increased participation of women in its processes and in national delegations. It also calls for the development of gender responsive climate policies at all levels.

Gender is also getting more attention at climate change conferences.  In 2014, at COP20 in Lima, a Programme of Action on Gender was established ‘to advance implementation of gender-responsive climate policies’. The Paris Agreement of 2015 acknowledged the importance gender equality and empowerment of women in climate action. In 2017, COP23 established a Gender Action Plan.  So there is forward momentum.

And with developing countries calling for more money to address climate change, there is also an increasing emphasis on gender-responsive budgeting. The Green Climate Fund – the largest international fund for countering climate change – is shifting towards a more gender-sensitive approach and recently developed a Gender Policy and Action Plan.

The Commonwealth, gender and climate change

The Commonwealth has a long history of championing small states, women and young people.  In 2015, the Commonwealth Summit introduced a Women’s Forum to amplify the voice of women and raise key gender issues to leaders. Gender and climate change issues gained further momentum at the 2018 Summit in London, when heads of government committed to accelerating action to achieve targets under the Paris Agreement and the Women’s Forum called for the Commonwealth to take gender into account in addressing climate change.

Gender and climate change is one of four gender priorities of the Commonwealth.  That means the Commonwealth is shaping its work to reflect gender considerations.  However, more can be done to build on synergies and collaborate with partners to increase support to small and vulnerable states.

What next?

The urgency of climate change requires more progress at a greater pace. Increasing the participation and engagement of women in addressing it is a first and critical step.  I look forward to seeing progress and will follow discussions on the Gender Action Plan at COP24 in Poland later this week.  Even more important will be the first report on its implementation in 2019 because – as they say – the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Sharing experiences and learning from what is already happening is important in understanding gaps and challenges and in developing better responses and strategies, so I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this topic. Are there challenges and lessons learned that you feel are important and that can shape the agenda moving forward, especially in the Commonwealth?

The Commonwealth

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Young Voices Program: Global Space for Youth Empowerment

Rattana Lao

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Young people matter. Not just because they can be powerful constituencies to recruit or consumers to develop. They matter in their own right and their growth is fundamental for the future stability and civilized success of societies, countries, and the world.

Unfortunately, a space for them to be themselves – to express and explore their own thoughts and to learn to articulate their own voices – is limited, especially on a global scale. Within the limited spaces available, most are politicized if not outright commercialized. Too often, youth have been used as vehicles for narcissistic adults, power-hungry politicians, and greedy conglomerates. In other words, around the globe grownups have maximized, exploited, and manipulated the power and potential of the young, all supposedly in the name of ‘youth.’

With seventeen years of experience in educational and youth empowerment projects in Thailand and Asia, I have witnessed how these exploitations take place. Politicians talk about the importance of education, but only in terms of gaining votes for themselves. Political transactions are not bad in and of themselves, if the votes can bring about better schooling, equal opportunities, and gender equity, just to name some rightful benefits. More often than not, however, these talks on education are shallow rhetoric that cease to impact reality after the votes have been dropped into the ballot boxes.

The commitment to education is there, don’t get me wrong. Countries spend billions of dollars on it. But the commitment for youth excellence, for the articulation of original youth analysis, is lacking. More space is needed for youth to express themselves, their concerns for their society, and debate the ideas openly and civilly. Elite schools have done this for centuries – bringing the best and brightest minds together in a room to debate and articulate their thoughts. But with the internet, online spaces have become critical in creating opportunity for youth dialogues and learning spaces. But now the online arena also carries with it dangers: we need to create spaces that provide enlarged, engaged, and equitable venues for youth to participate in the important issues of the day, without fear of retaliation, retribution, or politicization. More youth need to get involved in expressing their ideas on issues that matter to them, to truly become globally-engaged citizens now. This is not so much about a virtual ‘safe space’ as it is a declaration of creating virtual engaged spaces. These are too few and far between in today’s world.

Thus, increasing quality online courses make quality learning fairer and more accessible to youth worldwide. This is why we propose the creation of an online platform on Modern Diplomacy, one of the most vibrant e-magazines in Europe, with massive followers far beyond it. This MD platform believes in the freedom of expression and sharing of ideas. It will allow youth – students across the world in all types of institutions – to not just share their ideas but have opportunities to engage with their own readers, creating a vibrant dialogue and budding global youth network.

Professor Anis Bajrektarevic, professor of Law from the University of Vienna and Chairman of Modern Diplomacy, put it bluntly by saying we are in a crisis of the “cognitive:” namely, there is a dearth of “cognition.” In some circles, the talk already flows about the existence of a “cognitive war:”

“To address this issue, we need to rethink our global intellectual flow, create information pathways for youth to create their own narratives beyond traditional convention so they can articulate themselves, learn to become self-assured, and explore their boundaries and limitations”.

With this new MD platform project, youth can write about current affairs, contest theories, or share their own original creative trajectories. They can learn from each other by being engaged and reading new ideas not as a form of competition but as a spur for new intellectual growth. In addition, they can get feedback to improve their writing from a team of international, experienced, and well-articulated youth editors. Aditi Aryal, one of the editors for the MD Young Voices program, is an experienced and highly-regarded international writer. Growing up in Nepal and India, she has extensive experience in writing, addressing social taboos, and gender restriction in the South Asian context:

“Modern Diplomacy is a huge platform that permits the expression of unfettered ideas and opinions. It has always been a vibrant platform that allows writers to express freely without having to face backlash, judgment, or censorship. As I began my writing journey with Modern Diplomacy, I grew not only as a writer but also as a thinker. It has always supported my quest for expression of ideas without obstructions. I have found in Modern Diplomacy a secure space that has nurtured me, my writing, expression, and thoughts. There could not have been a more conducive platform for this growth that I have seen in myself”.

Another leading editor is Selene Sandoval, graduate student at Teachers College- Columbia University. Being a first-generation student of color to attend college in her family, Selene brings a passion for education, equity, and social empowerment. An experienced writer and tutor, she can help train and inspire other young writers to express and articulate themselves:

“My current belief for youth is that we have a voice stronger than we might realize. That is why it is essential for students around the world to research and be involved in issues that are affecting our generation, whether it be education, politics, or social issues. Students have historically been at the forefront of radical shifts in society by expressing their opinions on such issues like civil rights. Not only is it a way to express your opinion on current events and news around the world, but it is a way to grow as a writer. Writing as a basic skill is fundamental because it is part of every field. The more we are able to effectively communicate our ideas through writing, the more we are able to develop our professional careers. Modern Diplomacy can be the platform where you express your interests in a way that may be palatable for other youth to read and understand.”

‘Young Voices’ as a platform requires space where the communication and interaction of minds and ideas flow freely without judgment. By learning and engaging dissimilar perspectives and engaging in healthy debates and discussions, across all analytical disciplines and geographical locations, we welcome any age group to be participants! We at Modern Diplomacy seek to provide young people a constructive and cohesive community to build around them, based on the freedom of expression, intense analysis, and rigorous, rational thought.

Articles selected will be published on Modern Diplomacy online and the best articles will be published in our geopolitical Ebook series.

Articles can be submitted for reviews at mdyv[at]moderndiplomacy.eu

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The need for speed on modern slavery

Dr. James Cockayne

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Three years ago, world leaders committed to take effective measures to end modern slavery by 2030. By the best estimates, there are around 40.3 million people in modern slavery. Reaching that goal would mean 9,127 people being removed from or prevented from falling into modern slavery each and every day between now and 31 December 2030.

How close are we to meeting that proposed rate of change? Until now, the short answer has been: we don’t really know. There has been no centralized place to access information on the rate of change towards this goal.

That changed on Sunday, the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. Delta 8.7 – a project of the Centre for Policy Research at United Nations University – began publishing country data dashboards measuring the change towards this goal.

These dashboards bring together the best available data on modern slavery, forced labour, human trafficking and child labour for each country. They also provide contextual information, including details of what each country is doing to bring these numbers down, and links to relevant legislation, national action plans and social protection arrangements. Over the coming months, more of these dashboards will be steadily rolled out.

So what do these dashboards tell us?

First, the dashboards suggest we are nowhere near the rate of change needed to meet the goal of ending modern slavery by 2030.

Even the countries that are performing best, with double-digit reductions in child labour, are not achieving the sustained reductions needed to meet the 2030 targets. Until we have more complete country coverage it will be too early to draw conclusions on a ‘global’ reduction rate, but the signs from the first set of dashboards are that a steep increase in reduction rates is needed.

Second, they show that we need to rapidly improve our ability to measure these reduction rates.

Most of the countries covered have reliable data only for child labour. Our ability to measure reduction of modern slavery, forced labour and human trafficking is much weaker. That stands to reason: countries have invested more, over a longer period, in measuring child labour. Only recently have they begun to invest in efforts to measure modern slavery and forced labour with the same scientific rigor.

There are promising signs on this front, though. In October national statisticians from around the world agreed a new method for measuring forced labour, which should make better data available in the next few years. The UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime has also been working with countries to strengthen measurement of human trafficking.

Third, the country dashboards suggest that there may be lessons from the effort against child labour for the fight against adult forms of modern slavery, forced labour and human trafficking. Some of the reductions in child labour identified in the dashboards are impressive – for example, child labour decreased 59% between 2002 and 2015 in Brazil, while in Argentina it decreased 31% in just one year between 2011 and 2012. Figuring out ‘what worked’ in the fight against child labour may be instructive as we seek to identify ‘what works’ in the fight against modern slavery – and scale it up.

Generating this type of knowledge can take time. Starting in February 2019, the project will work with partners to accelerate the knowledge-generation process on ‘Code 8.7’, by bringing artificial intelligence and machine learning into the equation. Computational science offers a way to accelerate the process of understanding what works to end modern slavery.

Ultimately, however, it will be up to world leaders to learn these lessons – whether generated by artificial intelligence or the old-fashioned human kind. Unless world leaders accelerate their own learning and efforts, chances are, we will not come close to meeting their lofty goal.

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