Whenever I get into my weekly routine of writing this column, I always find it difficult to write about one thing. There is so much happening in the world that to dedicate an entire column to one issue when I have so much I want to say feels like I am being dishonest. So today I have decided to talk about the two issues: whether we can continue to trust “data” or news agencies in light of what’s happening in politics and how Africa is leading a movement against the international criminal court.
Thought number 1- Data on data?
In this day an age, there seems to be a very big focus on finding a numerical or statistical way of predicting or proving something. A lot of companies are being formed around the idea that developing this information, i.e. data, is a lucrative business, myself included. And honestly, it seems to be one. Look at the news, especially elections. When looking at the UK election, Brexit, the US elections and the thousands of polls by a lot companies. And then you look at data related to environmental degradation, immigration, development, happiness and much more coming from the United Nations, the World Health Organization and even private companies.
To be frank, sometimes it is really confusing because I cannot fathom how this data was calculated. How do you enumerate happiness? How do you put a number on that? I can understand putting a number on immigration, or hunger or famine but development I am very unclear about. Perhaps it is because I have not studied economics, but I don’t understand data that shows “that the world’s happiest countries are Switzerland, Iceland and Denmark”.
However, what do we do when the data is wrong? With the recent elections and votes, pollsters have not only been wrong they were absolutely wrong, not even close to the reality. Why? I think that it is because we are biased. Data research is sometimes focused towards proving something rather than trying to see what is happening. I think we suffer from unconscious, or conscious in some cases, bias towards wanting things to turn out a certain way.
So how do we decipher which data is credible, and which is not? Do have data on the credibility of the amount of data that is available online? I have a feeling that is going to be a brand new data business.
Thought number 2- Africa’s movement?
A few days ago breaking news emerged about the Russian Federation making a decision to exit the International Criminal Court, followed by President Rodrigo Duterte threatening that it will do the same. This comes as the Burundi, South Africa and The Gambia indicating their exit from this Court. In fact South Africa and Burundi have already submitted their letter to the United Nations Security Council listing their reasons for ending their membership to the Court. It is also important to remember that there is a task force at the African Union that is headed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and candidate for the Chairperson position of the African Union Commission, Madame Amina Mohamed.
In a few interviews, she has explained that the goal of the task force is to outline an continental exit to the ICC instead of a country by country basis. Despite that, the three African countries mentioned above have already taken unilateral steps, perhaps and indication that the task force at the African Union is moving too slow. What is happening right now, and it is not being reported as such, is that Africa is heading a movement that is propelling countries around the world to reevaluate their position on the international criminal court. African countries are often depicted as trend followers and not trend setters, it is very important underline what is currently happening. Nonetheless, as great as it is that we are spearheading a worldwide movement, we also have to be at the head of a worldwide solution. Pulling out of ICC is just the beginning, we now have to find a fair platform for citizens to present their grievances against their heads of state.
What issues are on your mind this week?