Water, water, everywhere

Jordan, Palestine, and Israel struggle to reap benefits from a groundbreaking water agreement, writes Nikita Malik. openDemocracy focuses on debate over international politics and culture, offering news and opinion articles from established academics, journalists, and policymakers covering current issues in world affairs.

The scarcity of water resources and the relative power of countries that share them has long been a hotly contested topic. In a paper published in 2008, Mark Zeitoun and Naho Mirumachi argue that these ‘transboundary water interactions’ are inherently political processes, determined by broader political conflicts. Nowhere are these processes and conflicts more visible than the Dead Sea to Red Sea project, signed off by Palestine, Israel, and Jordan earlier this week. Whether this cooperative agreement sustains or transforms the conflict it is intended to resolve is a matter not only of opinion, but also, time.

Yaakov Garb, an Israeli environmental and social studies expert at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, stated to the New York Times that he suspects the project is “wrapped up in ‘Saving the Dead Sea’ clothing” in order to attract international financing. Others argue that Red-to-Dead is more concerned with providing freshwater to a desperate region, and less to do with reversing receding water levels in the Dead Sea. It is this demand for fresh water that has caused evaporation of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea in the first place: waters that flow into the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee are diverted for consumption. This has caused the amount of water that flows freely to Jordan to decrease over time: A 2011 report by the Indian-based think tank Strategic Foresight Group (SFG) states that even as consumption levels increase rapidly, the annual discharge of Jordan River decreased to 200 cubic metres in 2011, compared to 1,300 cubic metres in 1960. Conversely, the aggressive adoption of desalination plants, coupled with profitable waste-water reuse policies, has meant that per capita usage of fresh water has steadily declined in Israel: approximately 80% of all waste water is recycled in the nation, more than double the rate of any other country in the world.

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The Daily Star

Refugees stretch Jordan to its limits

The Daily Star is a pan-Middle East English language newspaper edited in Beirut.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 27, 2013, on page 7.

The Daily Star represented the International Herald Tribune  in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Yemen, Iraq, and the GCC. The paper also produces a local edition in Kuwait.

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The Cairo Review of Global Affairs

As the Syrian refugees increasingly strain the Jordanian economy, the old patronage systems that ensured tribal loyalty to Jordan’s monarchy in the past are negatively affected writes Nikita Malik on the Cairo Review. The Cairo Review of Global Affairs is a quarterly journal of the School of Global Affairs and Public Policy (GAPP) at American University in Cairo. Its primary aim is to be a focal point for policymakers, officials, academics, experts, journalists, students and others in the Middle East region who follow global affairs. It is also intended to be a platform that gives perspectives from the region a greater voice in international policy conversations and debates.

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AlHurra TV appearance

Nikita Malik was live on AlHurra TV-MBN on the 25th of September 2013 discussing the role of the Middle East in UN week. Alhurra is a United States-based Arabic-language satellite TV channel funded by the U.S. Congress.

The Cost of Syrian Refugees

How Syrian refugees are impacting Jordan’s domestic balance of power, by Nikita Malik on Sada.

Sada is an online journal rooted in the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The journal seeks to foster and enrich debate about key political, economic, and social issues in the Arab world and provides a venue for new and established voices to deliver reflective analysis on these issues.

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Nikita Malik interviewed by HuffPost Live

Nikita Malik was interviewed by HuffPost Live on King Abdullah’s piece by Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic on March 9th, 2013. The Huffington Post is a Pulitzer prize winning media enterprise. In 2012, the channel was ranked as the most popular political site in the United States. Since January 2013, Malik has been writing a series of articles for the group, including her opinions on Middle Eastern politics.

Love is a Losing Game

Nikita Malik writes on the economic investment of love. Read the article on her blog at the Huffington Post, originally poublished on the 25th of February, 2013.


The difficulty of being happy

I have many goals in life, and the primary one is to be ‘happy.’

Unfortunately, I suffer from the sporadic panic attack – it’s  correlated with my workload and lingers even when the task is completed. I battle  with mood swings, the nagging feeling of depression, and a general sense that I am not entirely in control of myself. I was hoping I would get a better grip of these sensations over time. I haven’t.

It’s interesting that we don’t have schools or degrees about the science of happiness- or how to be happier. The philosopher Epictetus once said  ‘Men are disturbed not by events but by their opinions about them’, laying foundation for the Greeks’ theory that our emotions follow our beliefs about the world. ‘The soul’, as the philosopher and Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote, ‘becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts’. Presumably, if you change your thoughts, you change your whole experience of the world…

If only it was that easy to ‘think ourselves happy’.

The philosophers of ancient Greece shared this cognitive approach to the thoughts. Socrates, the Stoics, the Epicureans, the Sceptics, the Cynics, and even the great Plato and Aristotle, all believed that philosophy is a form of therapy that can make people happier and more fulfilled, by teaching them how to examine and change their beliefs.

In my enthusiasm to teach myself to ‘think happy’, I read Paul Jenner’s book, ‘How to be Happier: Teach Yourself’, three weeks ago. It’s more fluff than substance, but at the very least puts forth steps from the stream of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that are different from everyone’s usual rhetoric (‘you should exercise more’, ‘do yoga’, ‘have a hobby’, yadda yadda yadda…)

Step one is for us  to become conscious of our habitual thoughts, and how they create our reality. We can do this by engaging in a dialogue with a friend, or by tracking our beliefs in a journal. Following this is step two, whereby we need to create new habits.

Yes, it sounds like a session with a therapist to me too.

Interestingly though, the ancient Greeks had many techniques for creating new habits. They made maxims to be repeated till they stuck, like Marcus Aurelius’ phrase: ‘life itself is but what you deem it’.  But Plato and Aristotle believed that, to heal ourselves, it is not sufficient to change our own individual beliefs. We need to change our whole society, and infuse its culture with wiser values. Today,  governments are warming up to Aristotle’s idea that citizens should be taught the art of living well.

I’d like to live well, and I would love a class to teach me how to do it. Till these ‘schools of happiness’ become a part of our society, however, we’ll have to do the research on our own  – and hope that life is the best teacher.

Child’s Play: A Systematic Review of Pester Power in India

I presented the following paper at the Judge Business School (JBS) Winter Doctoral Conference, at the University of Cambridge, on December 2012.

Feel free to contact me for further information….


Children in middle-class India take important decisions at home, contributing substantially to household budget contours. The increasing ‘overload’ of advertising targeted to children has been heavily criticized in child-marketing literature, given the assumption that children possess limited abilities to use cognitive defences against persuasion attempts (Brucks, Armstrong, and Goldberg 1988). Due to restricted capabilities, children misunderstand advertisement claims (Ross et al. 1981) and, as a result, make poor judgments regarding consumption of products and services (Armstrong and Brucks 1988). Advertising is perceived as a major source of parent-child conflict (Grossbart and Crosby 1984) because of ‘pester power’ which leads to escalating ‘life-dissatisfaction’ on the part of children.

Debate in the literature revolves around the age at which young children can distinguish television advertisements from programmes, when they can remember and want what they see, and when they are able to understand that the advertiser’s motive is to sell a product. Resolution of the debate has been hampered by methodological difficulties and paradigms which fail to fully capture and explain children’s responses to advertisements.

This paper will explore different marketing frameworks by creating a ‘direct-linkage model’ to critically examine the hypothesized relationship between increased (and more effective) advertising to children, their purchase requests (growth of “pester power”) and the sense of materialism and life-dissatisfaction that may result from this. It will also analyse the potential role of socialization (in nuclear families) and external agents (by unregulated international firms in the Indian market) in making children more susceptible to advertising effects and, consequently, a more profitable market by advocating a ‘socialization-agent model’. The two elements are not mutually exclusive: clearly if the former is true, important public policy changes must be considered regarding the latter.

By conducting a systematic review of existing sources in this field, the researcher’s initial analysis indicates that urban Indian children possess more advanced cognitive skills than suggested under the assumptions of the ‘direct-linkage’ model. Further review with respect to the role of Indian children in the formal economy unveils a rather tenuous link between materialism and unhappiness.

Culture-contingent market differences, coupled with changes within household units, imply that Indian children possess higher degrees of ‘cultural cool’ than their Western counterparts, at given levels of income. Whilst this may increase their ‘pester power’ and make them a profitable segment for marketers, a relatively saturated market will make it harder to ‘trick’ Indian children into buying their products. The importance of future study in this area is stressed.