Issues & Analysis
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ON AFGHANISTAN: What Can Be Done to Revive Afghanistan’s Economy?

Reviving the Afghan economy during a time of intensifying violent conflict, declining external financial aid, and ongoing political uncertainty and dysfunction will be extremely challenging. But the country cannot wait for these entrenched problems to be addressed. While keeping expectations modest, this report proposes some targeted, near-term measures to increase confidence and stimulate the economy. Rather than engaging in politics as usual and following conventional policy prescriptions that will not work in the short run, the Afghan government and international community need to focus limited available resources on efforts that will have the highest visibility and impact on the current situation.

Full Report: http://www.usip.org/publications/2016/02/09/what-can-be-done-revive-afghanistan-s-economy

Summary

  • Afghanistan’s National Unity Government (NUG) needs to operate more like the unified government of a country facing a national crisis.
  • Tens of billions of dollars in Afghan private capital is being held outside the country, but the money is unlikely to be repatriated and invested effectively in Afghanistan unless confidence in the future increases, the NUG becomes more effective, and prospects for reconciliation and reduced violence improve.
  • Near-term measures to increase confidence and stimulate the economy include (1) increasing overall demand (for example, by starting some sizable infrastructure projects, regularizing informal urban settlements, and implementing selected urban income-generation and job programs); (2) shifting demand away from imports toward domestic production (through targeting spending programs disproportionately at the urban poor, increasing local procurement, and imposing moderate import tariffs on agricultural cash crops); (3) promoting export value chain development for high-value cash crops; and (4) creating fiscal space (including limited government borrowing).
  • Corruption needs to be combated strategically and selectively; too broad an approach, let alone comprehensive, would divert attention from the most important corruption problems and squander limited political capital.
  • Economic reforms and development programs that are too broad could also divert attention and resources away from a priority agenda and be counterproductive in the short run; examples include quick privatization of numerous public enterprises; efforts to quickly reduce opium poppy cultivation; expensive, long-gestation, financially unviable railway investments; excessive tax concessions to promote private investment; and the thin spreading of limited resources across numerous, small rural projects.
  • If the Afghan government takes urgent actions to revive the economy—including through greater political effectiveness—the international community must respond proactively and flexibly by funding high-level expertise to support economic management and innovative programs, front loading aid to support priority initiatives, and restructuring project portfolios to shift funding toward activities that achieve faster results.

About the Report

Despite significant progress in raising government revenue, the Afghan economy in 2014–15 suffered from its lowest economic growth since 2001, and prospects for improvement in the short run appear weak. This report puts forward some innovative, near-term measures that, combined with greater government effectiveness and potential reductions in violent conflict, could help stimulate the economy. It also highlights what should not be done, such as spreading limited resources too thin in pursuit of an excessively broad policy or development agenda.

About the Author

William Byrd is a development economist and has been following the Afghan economy closely since 2001. He is currently a senior expert at the U.S. Institute of Peace. He has published numerous reports, articles, and papers on Afghanistan’s economy, public finances, governance, corruption, political economy dimensions, drug industry, extractives sector, and development challenges.

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ON THE MEDIA: Sundance rundown: This year’s standout documentaries

Child gangs in Afghanistan, prostitutes in Mexico and two moviemakers kidnapped by Kim Jong Il are festival highlights

Land of Enlightenment, Pieter-Jan De Pue
The armed group of children in “Land of the Enlightened,” who roam the mountains of northeastern Afghanistan.
Pieter-Jan De Pue

The Kochi tribe of northeastern Afghanistan inhabits some of the most rugged terrain in the world. The rocky hills of this region are gorgeous, but they’re barely arable, and the grassy plains below aren’t much better. Nearby, caverns that for 7,000 years have been mined for semiprecious lapis lazuli now contain something else: Soviet land mines. These explosives, dormant relics of the occupation, are carefully removed from the terrain above by child bandits and bartered to equally young miners for use in unearthing the gemstones. These gangs of armed Afghan preteen marauders, who often go on to steal those stones in dangerous ambushes, are at the center of “The Land of Enlightened,” one of the most stirring documentaries to screen at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, which runs through Sunday.

Sundance’s world documentary competition, in which “The Land of Enlightened” is entered, routinely launches the most talked-about nonfiction films every year from around the globe. Spanning subjects from hair metal bands in Japan to competitive tickling in Australia and political repression in Iran to settler expansionism in the West Bank, the selection provides a cross-section of films, most of which are dedicated to unusual or underreported stories in some of the world’s most troubled regions.

Among them is “The Lovers and the Despot,” which tells the bizarre story of the kidnapping by the North Korean government of South Korean movie star Choi Eun-hee and her husband, director Shin Sang-ok. They were abducted by Kim Jong Il’s agents in the late 1970s and forced into cinematic slavery of sorts by Kim, a noted cinephile, who charged them with improving North Korean cinema. They did so by making expensive propaganda films, which often had a nuance, style and attention to character previously not allowed in North Korean films. On one of many secret recordings made by Choi, Kim is heard complaining that North Korean films never play at Cannes.

Choi Eun-hee, Kim Jong-il

From left, director Shin Sang-ok, North Korean President Kim Jong Il and actress Choi Eun-hee in 1984.
Courtesy Hellflower Film Ltd.

With an aesthetic that evokes paranoiac thrillers from the 1970s — its interviews are dimly lit and interspersed with images of reel-to-reel tape recorders playing illicit audio in dark locations — the film’s style is immediately gripping. Directed by Robert Cannan and Ross Adam, “The Lovers and the Despot” is built largely around a single long interview with Choi, along with copious remarkable archival footage, including scenes of North Korean society and clips from the films she and Shin made during their South Korean heyday and in North Korean captivity. The movie works as an international thriller and a love story, with a fair amount of humor and irony; although Shin wasn’t pleased to be in captivity in North Korea, he made much of his best work for Kim, who lavished Shin with resources he was never able to access when working in the capitalist production systems of South Korea and the U.S. They escaped North Korea in 1986. He continued his career in Hollywood and is best-known in the U.S. for producing the “Little Ninja” series in the 1990s.

Perhaps the most viscerally affecting film in the competition is “Plaza de la Soledad,” a portrait of the sisterhood among a set of Mexico City prostitutes, many of whom would be collecting Social Security checks if only they lived 400 miles to the north. Carmen, 68, the linchpin of the group, prays to God that the women won’t be attacked by johns or the police. Dramatic accounts of violence — such as one woman’s description of how she became a prostitute shortly after being raped as an 8-year-old — are often staged like confessions and are interspersed throughout an otherwise warm and easygoing vérité film, in which director Maya Goded treats her subjects with great dignity. While she never portrays the women in the midst of their trade, she also never lets us forget real and present dangers that the prostitutes face, including disease and abusive johns who stalk La Merced, a district of Mexico City that is a tolerance zone for prostitution. There, cops look the other way, both from the trade and from the danger that workers face.

Goded zeros in on five women, ranging in age from late 40s to early 80s: Carmen, still very alluring in her late 60s, looks after many of the younger prostitutes, including Lupe, who suffers from the double whammy of being newly homeless and having a child to raise. Lety has a boyfriend in his 80s who helps support her daughter as she battles cancer. Esther and Ángeles, in a clandestine relationship for 14 years, share a love that they keep mostly private, guarding it from their sex work. Raquel, the oldest and frailest of them, yearns for someone to love in life, both in and out of her bed.

“Plaza de la Soledad” softens the blow of their harrowing stories with humor, leavening what can feel like series of grim tales of woe. Goded doesn’t provide false hope, and most of her subjects don’t seem to want it; they know their lot in life and have gained expertise from plying their trade on La Merced. The level of intimate access and candor exhibited in the documentary reflects the remarkable amount of trust between the director and her subjects. Goded, who was a photographer of much acclaim before she made the leap into cinema, has been focusing on La Merced’s forgotten citizens for 23 years, and many of the women in the film have appeared in her photography. The frankness with which the women speak about the sex trade — in one unnerving, oddly humorous discussion, a prostitute talks about controlling her orgasms only to allow herself release at the end of a long workday with someone she is really attracted to — are clearly the result of their relationships with Goded over a long time.

"Plaza de la Soledad", Maya Goded

Filmmaker Maya Goded, right, shooting Lety in “Plaza de la Soledad.”
Monstro Films

The myths and rituals that these women indulge in, whether tarot or faith healing, act as a sort of protection from the cruelty of their world. Raquel, a spitfire who keeps keys in her bra to defend herself from cancer, dons a wig after being told by a mystic that it will keep at bay those who wish her ill. The film never belittles or critiques such beliefs, and that this is notable is not just a credit to Goded but also a reflection of how accustomed many viewers are to the exoticism that pervades so much documentary cinema made by Westerners about the so-called third world.

The same might be said of “The Land of Enlightened,” although one cannot be sure the extent to which these children are being exploited. First-time director Pieter-Jan De Pue also came to cinema by way of photography, and he spent seven years hauling 16-millimeter film canisters through the hills of Afghanistan while embedded with child gangs and American troops. He blends fiction and documentary in his depiction of the region, though he doesn’t own up to it in the film.

“The Land of Enlightened” runs right into the argument that has surrounded documentary aesthetics and authenticity since “Nanook of the North.” The film’s artistry is incredible; its ethics, less clear. Watching the children delicately remove a land mine from a barren landscape or rob a diamond merchant as he crosses the terrain, one first wonders how much De Pue has affected events with his mere presence. When the gangs roam the region’s plateaus, raiding deserted Russian outposts, one is encouraged to question how the footage was acquired. Although you’d never know it from watching the film, all the children are nonprofessional actors impersonating the kids De Pue met during his years in Afghanistan.

Unlike Errol Morris’ “The Thin Blue Line” or Joshua Oppenheimer’s “The Act of Killing,” “The Land of Enlightened” neglects to signal that what we are seeing is re-enacted. And as we watch the gang members gin up food, arms and opium however they can, it becomes increasingly difficult to suspend disbelief. De Pue juxtaposes the children’s exploits with glimpses of U.S. forces at rest and at war. In an ironic echo of the Afghan child bandits, adolescent American troops are seen shelling sites along a valley in glee and rage, profanity spewing and weapons blasting. In one of the film’s most memorable scenes, an American service member plays a melancholy guitar riff as a young Afghan freedom fighter relates, via a poetic voiceover, his hopes for Afghanistan once the Americans leave and his belief that the country will remain at war as long as outsiders seek to tame it.

Documentary filmmaking has undergone a revolution in the 27 years since Michael Moore’s “Roger and Me” took the Sundance Film Festival by storm. Since then, the number of people making documentary films has increased exponentially, and the reach of documentaries, mostly thanks to cable television and Internet streaming, has expanded even more. Sundance remains one of the few international brands that champion the intersection of artistry and journalism and push the form in ways meant to provoke. Here’s hoping the festival keeps at it.

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HAITI: For US in Haiti, black votes don’t matter

america.aljazeera.com, by Mark Weisbrot @Markweisbrot, 3 min read, original

Journalists are taught in school to avoid euphemisms. When someone dies, they write that she “died” instead of “passed away.” But one euphemism that has become a fixture in U.S. news reporting is “the international community.” This is generally a substitute for the U.S. government, with or without some input from some of its allies.

Perhaps this is nowhere more true than in Haiti, where Washington has long exercised a veto over the country’s most important decisions. But last week the “international community” suffered a rare defeat when Haitians rejected Washington’s plans for a deeply flawed presidential runoff election to take place on Sunday, Jan. 24.

How did this happen? Basically, Haitians managed to put Washington in the situation of having to maintain that a runoff election with only one candidate, businessman Jovenel Moïse, would be legitimate, or postpone the election. As late as last Thursday, just three days before the election, U.S. officials were insisting that they would go forward even if the second candidate, engineer Jude Célestin, refused to participate. But he stuck to his boycott, and they backed down.

Célestin was also the candidate who finished second in the first round of Haiti’s 2010 presidential elections. But the “international community” had a different choice, and brought in an “expert” mission under the auspices of the Organization of American States to examine the results. Without a recount or even a statistical test of a ballot sample, it reversed the first-round results, eliminating Célestin and putting musician and businessman Michel Martelly into the runoff. Martelly went on to win the election and become president. Approaching the end of his five-year term, he is supporting Moïse as his replacement.

In last week’s events, it was not just the work of one person that forced Washington to back down. There were serious street demonstrations, condemnations from human rights organizations, religious leaders, business groups and the refusal of seven other presidential candidates from the first round to accept another episode of illegitimate elections. They had plenty of arguments and evidence on their side. In the first round of the presidential election, held on Oct. 25, local observers found massive irregularities and evidence of fraud. More than 900,000 observer credentials were distributed to political party representatives — effectively allowing them to vote multiple times. International reporters witnessed these passes being sold on the black market. In an election where only about 1.6 million people (26 percent of the electorate) voted, the legitimacy of the vote became doubtful.

Today’s electoral turmoil shows how much continuity there is with Haiti’s awful history.

It was even tougher to accept the election results after a commission appointed by Martelly found that only 8 percent of tally sheets that they examined were free from irregularities. The opposition did not all have the same demands but they wanted a new electoral council to lead the process and some reforms to make sure that the second round would be credible. Many observers have also demanded a serious examination of the first-round ballots to see if there was any basis for accepting the results.

No date for new elections has yet been set, and it remainsto be seen what will happen when Martelly’s term expires on Feb. 7.

The current fight for legitimate elections in Haiti is another episode of a long struggle for democracy that goes back to the U.S.-backed dictatorships of François and Jean-Claude Duvalier (1957-1986) and the overthrow of the country’s first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in 1991 and again in 2004 (with decisive support from Washington). And even further back, it is rooted in Haiti’s many conflicts with “the international community” since the country’s founding in 1804 from a slave rebellion, including its occupation by U.S. Marines from 1915 to 1934.

Today’s electoral turmoil shows how much continuity there is with this awful history. In a sense, the country remains occupied today by United Nations troops who were brought in not to help with reconstruction after the 2010 earthquake — as many people mistakenly believe — but six years earlier, to “keep order” after the constitutional government was overthrown, its officials jailed or forced into exile, and thousands of supporters killed.

It would be remiss not to mention the institutional racism that allows for such continuity. This is most painfully obvious in the response of “the international community” to a problem that they themselves created just five years ago: the cholera epidemic that has killed nearly 10,000 Haitians and infected hundreds of thousands more. Cholera had not been present in Haiti until some UN troops — not “aid workers” as some people allegeddumped their human feces into the country’s water supply in 2010. Yet they refuse to come up with the money that would be necessary to provide clean water and resolve the problem, even though they have spent much more than this on maintaining their military presence in the country.

It is hard to see such twisted priorities as other than a statement that “Black lives don’t matter.” As with the elections, and USAID reconstruction funds of which only 1.6 percent went to Haitian organizations and companies, it seems that even in dealing with a deadly disease caused by these foreign governments’ own gross negligence, power and control over the country are the first priorities.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America’s editorial policy.

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ON THE MEDIA: The Fearful World of Network News in 2015

ipsnews.net, by Jim Lobe, 9 min read, original

Andrew Tyndall

– If your view of world events outside the U.S. was shaped in substantial part by watching the evening news shows on the three major U.S. networks last year, you’d probably want to stay home.

Terrorism and the bloody wars of the Middle East dominated the network news coverage of the world outside our borders last year, according to the latest annual summary of the authoritative Tyndall Report, which was released just last week. Domestically, it was pretty scary, too, with two of the year’s three top domestic stories featuring Donald Trump’s ugly presidential primary campaign and last month’s San Bernardino massacre, which was allegedly inspired by the Islamic State (ISIS or IS).

As in virtually every year since 9/11, Latin America, Africa, and East Asia (which includes China, Japan, and the Koreas) barely registered in the networks’ universe. Global warming—arguably the greatest existential threat facing our way of life—made only a cameo appearance in the guise of last month’s Paris climate summit, despite today’s New York Times headline: “2015 Was Hottest Year in Historical Record.” Unfortunately, the Paris summit coincided with the San Bernardino massacre, which received eight times the coverage.

As noted by Andrew Tyndall, the Report’s publisher, in an email exchange today,

This last year has been especially narrow in the range of international stories, in that few stories that are unrelated either to terrorism or to the Middle East (or both) have attracted attention. No Ebola. No Fukushima. The excitement around the new pope is starting to subside. No royal wedding. No Olympic Games. …Europe has received prominent coverage. However, the three biggest European stories (Charlie Hebdo, the refugee crisis, the Paris concert massacre) can be portrayed as spillovers from Mideast tensions. All three of these major European storylines fit neatly into fearful narratives made by domestic politicians.

Aside from the tragic death of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe, sub-Saharan Africa, the world’s largest continent with a population of a billion people, didn’t exist in the evening news universe

Tyndall has been tracking and cataloguing the evening news broadcasts of ABC, CBS, and NBC each weekday since 1988. That comes to roughly 22 minutes for each network per evening, or nearly 15,000 minutes a year for all three weekday evening shows combined. (The total this year was 14,574 minutes.) His findings are considered the most authoritative publicly available source on network news coverage.Although citizens increasingly rely on the Internet for national and international news, the network evening news remains the single biggest source, attracting a nightly audience of around 24 million viewers, according to the latest report by the Pew Research Center on Journalism and the Media. By comparison, the average primetime audience for all cable news channels combined is a mere 3.5 million. Thus, the news priorities reflected in the amount of attention the three networks devote to national and international trends and events exert a significant influence on how much of the U.S. citizenry sees the world. In other words, the nightly evening network news offers the closest thing we have to a collective national window on what is happening beyond our borders. Which is why it’s important.

The Highlights

Each year, Tyndall publishes a one-page summary of highlights, including the 20 stories to which the three networks devoted the most time in their coverage. The summary also notes more general findings. In 2015, for example, the three networks provided a combined total of 941 minutes to foreign policy coverage (not to be confused with coverage from overseas). Not only was that a mere 6.5% of total news coverage, it was slightly less than half of the annual average between 1988 and 2014. This could reflect the gravitational pull of the 2016 presidential campaign and/or the perception by network news gatekeepers that the public is increasingly uninterested in or fed up with foreign policy issues.

In any event, here are the top 20 and the combined number of minutes they received from the three networks. Together, they accounted for 3,422 minutes of the three networks’ coverage, or less than 25% of total evening news coverage.

Winter weather                                     377

Donald Trump campaign                     327

San Bernardino shootings                     237

Islamic State declared by ISIS             220

Terrorism in Paris: concert massacre   188

Refugees to the European Union         174

Police: lethal Baltimore arrest             174

Forest fires in western states                161

Boston Marathon bombing trial           160

NFL post-season: deflated balls           145

Pope Francis visits to Cuba and USA   142

Syria civil war                                       136

Iran nuclear program negotiations       132

Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris         132

New York prison escape                       131

Republican presidential debates           123

Hillary Clinton campaign                     121

AMC church massacre in Charleston   117

Germanwings jet crash in Alps              114

Iraq civil war/ISIS in Iraq                     113

Some of the top stories are obviously related to each other, although Tyndall is very careful about not double-counting stories. For example, Trump clearly factored heavily in the Republican presidential debates, but the minutes devoted to his contribution to that debate would not have been included in the category of the Trump campaign itself. The EU’s refugee crisis was obviously related to the wars in Syria and Iraq, not to mention IS.

Thus, among the 20 most-covered stories, the 2016 campaign garnered 571 minutes (Trump, Republican debate, Clinton). But terrorist acts or organizations claimed five of the top 20, at nearly 1,000 minutes (San Bernardino, the Islamic State, two Paris stories, the Boston Marathon trial), and that doesn’t count the civil wars in Syria and Iraq or the Charleston church massacre. Those, plus the Germanwings jet crash, alleged police brutality in Baltimore, the prison escape, and the huge refugee influx into Europe, make for a pretty scary world (not to mention the heavily fear-based Trump campaign itself or other fear-mongering Republicans).

Indeed, the only good news that featured in the top 20 last year was the Pope’s visit, the Iran nuclear agreement (albeit not for Bibi Netanyahu and his followers here), and deflated footballs if you care passionately about Tom Brady. Of course, as Tyndall suggests, by depicting such a frightening world, the networks are—presumably unconsciously—propagating a fundamentally far-right narrative that can only benefit Republicans during this year’s campaign.

A Closer Look at the Numbers

To help draw a more complete picture of the networks’ view of the world outside the United States, I asked Tyndall for the statistics on the top foreign stories of the year. They comprised 41 of the top 150 stories, including nine that appeared in the top 20 cited above. The results:

Islamic State in Middle East declared by ISIS 220
Paris terrorism: stadium, restaurant, concert attacks 188
European Union faces influx of refugees and migrants 174
Pope Francis I visits Cuba and United States 142
Syria politics: rebellion designated as civil war 136
Iran nuclear weapons program prevention talks 132
Paris magazine offices assassination: 12 dead 132
Germanwings 9525 crash in French Alps: 150 dead 114
Iraq: combat resumes after US troops pull out 113
Afghanistan’s Taliban regime aftermath, fighting 85
Nepal earthquake levels Kathmandu: Richter 7.8 70
Metrojet charter flight crash over Sinai Desert 59
Moslems in western nations recruited by terrorists 48
Malaysia Airlines 370 missing: Indian Ocean search 43
Cuba-US diplomacy: relations normalized 42
Air Asia 8501 crash over Java Sea kills 162 39
Zimbabwe nature preserve celebrity lion killed 37
Soccer: FIFA Women’s World Cup won by USA 33
Yemen civil war 32
British royals coverage 32
Global warming climate change: Paris Summit 30
High-speed train on-board attack foiled in Belgium 30
International Space Station mission in orbit 30
Libya: US diplomats assassinated in Benghazi 29
Belgium terrorism: surveillance in Brussels suburb 28
Ukraine civil war: secessionist fighting in east 28
Tunisia terrorism: beach resort shooting spree 26
El Nino current forms in Pacific Ocean 25
Syrian-American immigration: seek refugee status 25
CIA drone kills Americans in raid on Pakistan 25
Diesel engine pollution tests rigged by Volkswagen 24
Cargo ship SS El Faro founders off The Bahamas 23
Israel-Palestinian conflict 22
Cuba-US sanctions relaxed: more trade, travel 22
Syria refugees flee abroad to overcrowded camps 21
Greece politics: referendum on fiscal austerity 20
Hurricane Patricia forms in Pacific off Mexico 20
Syria archeology: antiquities looted, vandalized 20
Vietnam War remembered 20
Nazi Holocaust remembered 19

This is essentially the image that most Americans received from their most popular source of international news. Is it any wonder that so many foreigners are shocked by how little Americans know about their home countries or regions?

There’s obviously some good news in this list—including the normalization of relations with Cuba, the climate treaty in Paris, the International Space Station, the perennial British royals story (maybe that’s bad news, I don’t know), the US women’s victory in the World Cup. Again, this picture is pretty scary. But there are a few things worth noting (and I’m sure you will find many more):

  • The list contains absolutely nothing about China, including its economic troubles, its build-up in the South China Sea, its environmental or minority problems, its crackdown against outspoken dissidents and lawyers— or really the rest of East Asia.
  • A grand total of 22 minutes is devoted to the Israel-Palestine conflict despite the violence that has been going on since October and shows no sign of abating, not to mention the increasingly right-wing nature of the Israeli government or the clear disdain in which Obama and Netanyahu mutually hold themselves.
  • Aside from Cuba, there’s no real mention of anything related to Latin America. And normalization with Cuba—a historic development that effectively ended nearly 60 years of hostility—rated a grand total of 66 minutes on all three networks. By comparison, deflate gate and the NFL got 145 minutes, more than twice as much! At least, the Pope gave it some additional attention, albeit not much.
  • Aside from the tragic death of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe, sub-Saharan Africa, the world’s largest continent with a population of a billion people, didn’t exist in the evening news universe. Not even for acts of terrorism carried out by Boko Haram or any other group affiliated with al-Qaeda or IS! This, of course, upholds the long-enduring Victorian notion that the only good things about Africa are its animals.
  • Despite the increased threat posed by the Taliban, as well as the belatedly reported death of Mullah Omar and the decision by Obama to put off a final withdrawal, Afghanistan didn’t make the top 20, receiving a grand total of only one hour and 25 minutes in the evening news for all of 2015.
  • Yemen’s devastating war garnered a total of 32 minutes, ten minutes more than the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Tyndall on the News

I asked Andrew Tyndall to comment on some of these observations, and here are some excerpts of our emailed interview:

Lobe: Did you see any greater effort on the part of the newscasters in 2015 to link the weather or weather-related disasters to global warming than in previous years?

Tyndall: I see no evidence of it. First, because gradual, secular weather events (the drought in California, El Nino in the Pacific) received less coverage than extreme, sudden weather events (winter storms, tornadoes, wildfires, flash floods). Second, because the Paris Summit on Climate Change was undercovered, since it coincided with the San Bernardino office party massacre, which eclipsed it.

Lobe: East Asia appears to have been almost entirely ignored in 2015, despite tensions between China and its neighbors in the South and East China Seas? Was this different than or consistent with coverage of the last few years when these territorial claims became more salient? What do you think are the implications of the lack of coverage?

Tyndall: Yes, the military tensions over marine territorial rights have barely been mentioned. The driving force to make such tensions newsworthy is usually not an editorial decision by news executives, but a political decision by an administration in power. In other words, the news tends to follow the Pentagon, reacting to its initiatives, rather than alerting the public, so that it can understand the issues at stake in advance of a debate over such initiatives.

Over the past 25-or-so years of my database, it is a rule of thumb that Republican administrations tend to be more bellicose in addressing overseas disputes, which leads to newscasts being more active in following them. In other words, we can expect coverage of the South China Seas to escalate if and when the US Navy is dispatched to confront the Chinese military in those waters. Lack of coverage, therefore, is a reassuring sign that we are not gearing up for a war with the People’s Republic.

Lobe: And what do you make of the absence of Africa coverage except for the lion?

Tyndall: Yes, given that terrorism and Islamist insurgencies are popular themes for the newscasts to cover, I would have expected more attention paid to Boko Haram and al-Shabaab. I have no problem with the attention paid to Cedric the lion and the Minnesota dentist [who killed him]. A perfect summer sensation.

Lobe: And Latin America except for Cuba?

Tyndall: With reference to Spanish-speaking Latin America, one of the unfortunate consequences of the success of Univision in providing news to Hispanic-Americans is that the Anglophone newscasts act as though their coverage would be duplicative. Thus, the end of the civil war in Colombia was hardly mentioned. The crisis of legitimacy and narco-corruption of the Mexican government only broke through onto English-speaking airwaves through the figure of El Chapo.

One of the advantages to the publicity and promotion around the Olympic Games is that resources and personnel are on site to cover non-sporting-related issues that would normally be ignored. I anticipate that the Zika virus will be the first of several stories to come out of Brazil this year, to coincide with the Rio Olympic Games.

For Mexican-US immigration policy: see Trump, D.

Lobe: Yemen got only 32 minutes despite the fact that it’s in the most heavily covered foreign region, its depiction as a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and the presence (and apparent expansion) there of al-Qaeda and IS? Any comment?

Tyndall: Logistically, Yemen is a very difficult country to cover. Its undercoverage belongs in the same category as Boko Haram and al-Shabaab. The rumblings of a possible third intifada on the West Bank also received surprisingly little airtime. I ascribe the lack of interest in covering the proxy Iran-Saudi war to two factors. First (as with the South China Sea) is the Pentagon’s lack of enthusiasm for getting involved. Second, the true anxieties associated with turmoil in the region are associated with symptoms (the spread of terrorism and refugees) not underlying causes (struggles for sectarian and regional hegemony).

This piece was originally published in Jim Lobe’s blog on U.S. foreign policy Lobelog.com

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AFGHANISTAN; DEVELOPMENT: UN reduces Afghanistan appeal but urges other donors to do more

As hunger and malnutrition threaten millions of Afghans, UN in Kabul says US aid to the country is ‘small change’ compared with its military spending

theguardian.com, by Sune Engel Rasmussen, Jan. 27, 2016, original

A Lazeez food truck in Kabul, which caters to the wealthier residents of the city. For millions of other Afghans, food security and poor nutrition is the reality. Photograph: Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images

The UN has implored member states to keep humanitarian aid flowing to Afghanistan as the organisation seeks to limit its focus to life-saving assistance.

Although an estimated 8.1 million Afghans will need help this year – about one-third of the population, and 700,000 more than last year – the UN said on Wednesday it was lowering its request for funding inits humanitarian appeal from $405m (£283m) in 2015 to $393m this year.

The cut will primarily affect efforts to reduce food insecurity and malnutrition. Three million Afghans are malnourished. One million are in acute need of treatment. But the UN’s humanitarian aid will now only target malnutrition caused by displacement, not by poverty and general food shortages.

The UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Kabul, Mark Bowden, said the reason for the narrower focus is because malnutrition is mostly a development issue, not a humanitarian one.

“The problems of food insecurity have increased because poverty has increased,” Bowden said. “It’s not being dealt with as a development problem, and the humanitarian resources are not sufficient to deal with it.”

However, development agencies and the Afghan government are unlikely to be able to pick up the slack.

“I’ve been frustrated by the lack of response from both the international donor community and government on this. We’ve been talking about it for two years,” Bowden said. “We’ve been having meetings with USAid and others as to how to deal with it. It’s not being well prioritised.”

Humanitarian appeals are a balancing act between what is needed and what can realistically be achieved. Last year, the UN in Afghanistan received 70% of its request, one of the most successful UN appeals.

Humanitarian assistance makes up about 10% of the overall non-military assistance to Afghanistan, which also includes development and government assistance.

This year, donors are expected to renew commitments set out at the2012 Tokyo conference, where they pledged $4bn annually in assistance to Afghanistan.

The UK in particular, said Bowden, has pushed donor countries to boost aid. Last year, the UK gave the UN’s humanitarian appeal $16m, tripling 2012 levels and making the UK the third-largest national donor after Japan and the US. In total, the UK donated £25m in humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan last year, according to an embassy spokesperson in Kabul.

Diplomats in Kabul point out that for European countries, aid can be a way of reducing the inflow of migrants, of whom Afghans make up 21%.

“It is essential that the most vulnerable Afghans receive appropriate life-saving assistance, quickly. If their needs are not met, Afghans will choose to migrate out of their country as a last resort,” said the German ambassador to Kabul, Markus Potzel.

About half of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan – $141m – comes from the US, but the figure is dwarfed by the $4bn the US pays annually to the country’s security forces.

“I hate to say it but, for the US, humanitarian assistance really is small change,” Bowden said.

Related: Impunity in conflict has cast a dark shadow over humanitarian work in 2015 | Clár Ní Chonghaile

With the Taliban taking over territory across the country, civilian hardship is likely to worsen. The number of Afghans in need of assistance is expected to rise from 7.4 million in 2015 to 8.1 million in 2016, according to the UN. Mass displacement caused by armed conflict, the expulsion of undocumented Afghans from Pakistan and natural disasters, is a major driver.

“With it being El Niño year, the likelihood of more flooding is quite considerable. It’s certainly not going to be any better than last year,” Bowden said. “And, depending on how you see conflict developing, possibly worse.”

Pockets of Islamic State fighters, primarily in the country’s east, also present challenges. Isis seems less accepting of international agencies and immunisation campaigns than the Taliban, with whom the UN negotiates access to affected areas. After the Octoberearthquake in north-east Afghanistan, the Taliban offered a unilateral ceasefire to allow delivery of aid.

Although Afghanistan is still one of the most dangerous countries in which to be an aid worker, Bowden said “there is a great respect for international humanitarian law across the board”.

“Though there is a risk of some of that eroding, basically we’ve been able to work with all parties to get assistance through.”

Crucially, attacks on health facilities are becoming rarer, he said, “with the glaring exception of Kunduz”, where a US gunshipattacked a Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in October, killing at least 42 staff and patients.

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ON THE MEDIA: Herzog and Oppenheimer draw lines regarding documentary filmmaking

parkrecord.comScott Iwasaki, Jan. 26, 2016, original

Filmmakers Werner Herzog, left, and Joshua Oppenheimer talked about their craft as documentarians during a Cinema CafŽ TimesTalk at the Filmmaker’s Lodge panel at the Sundance Film Festival on Monday. (Stephen Speckman/Sundance Institute)

Although both forms of communication attempts to reveal the truth of an issue, there is a difference between documentary filmmaking and journalism, and that was what Werner Herzog and Joshua Oppenheimer discussed at the Sundance Film Festival’s Filmmaker’s Lodge Monday morning.”You see too many documentaries where you see all of this investigative reporting that is finding out that this guy is bad and not only did he expose himself to a woman, but that he also has a bad political agenda,” Herzog told the audience. “It goes on and on ad nauseam, but it’s just journalism.”

Oppenheimer concurred and said he and Herzog are aware that documentary films must divorce themselves from journalism.

“Yes, most documentary films are an extension of journalism, so do them and declare them journalism,” he said. “I think it’s a pity that nonfiction cinema and documentary filmmaking in the United States in particular, is colonized by this. It may be perhaps because of the mainstream media’s failure to deeply investigate, what we, as nonfiction filmmakers, care about in the world.”

Sundance Film Festival veteran Herzog’s new film, “Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World,” which looks at the perils and possibilities of life connected to a vast network, premiered Saturday.

Oppenheimer directed the 2012 film “Act of Killing” and the 2014 follow up, “Look of Silence” which examines the horrors and effects of the Indonesian Massacre of 1965 and 1966, where government officials and the military conducted mass killing of suspected communists, Chinese nationals and left-wing sympathizers.

This year’s festival was his first.The award-winning documentary filmmakers’ panel was part of the Sundance Film Festival’s Cinema Café TimesTalk program, moderated by Kathleen Lingo of the New York Times.

During the hour-long presentation, Herzog and Oppenheimer, who are good friends, showed mutual respect for each other’s works.

“Throughout your nonfiction films, you make up stories with your voiceovers,” Oppenheimer told Herzog.

Documentary filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer, center makes a statement while New York Time’s Kathleen Lingo, left, and Werner Herzog, right, look on during a Cinema CafŽ TimeTalk panel at the Sundance Film Festival’s Filmmaker Lodge on Monday. (Stephen Speckman/Sundance Institute)

“Sometimes they are outlandish and sometimes fictional, but as viewers we know that you are taking us to a hidden truth.”Herzog said his narrations are a guide for his viewers.

“I want to take the audiences just under the arm and take them with me into pure poetry, fantasy and illumination,” he said.

He then told the audience that Oppenheimer’s films are just as powerful, especially when he crafts a scene with little or no dialog to emphasize a statement.

“These moments are of silent contemplation and the notion of memory that has been wiped out and silenced,” Herzog said. “[That’s when] you know this is a film that has unprecedented depth and that’s what brings me close to Joshua and his films.”

Lingo said both the filmmakers’ recent works appear to come from two different realities, but also reflect the current state of humanity and asked if there was anything for the human race to be hopeful for.

“I think I’m more hopeful,” Oppenheimer said to Herzog, lightening the mood. “So you go first and we’ll end on an ‘up.'”

Herzog said his films aren’t made from the notion of being hopeful or not.

“I find it odd that people are striving for happiness, as if it’s the primary goal in life and I find that silly,” he said. “Americans take it seriously because it’s even in their Constitution, ‘the pursuit of happiness.’ But that doesn’t touch me. It doesn’t interest me.

“You find these people stepping on the bus with the frozen rictus of a smile to show how happy they are,” he said. “It’s just awful.”

Lingo then asked about the pursuit of justice.

“That’s something else, something more meaningful,” Herzog answered. “Of course, being part of something meaningful like striving for justice or equal rights for humanity is a much more dignified goal than just personal happiness.”

Oppenheimer jumped in and said that people have tricked themselves into thinking everything in the world is OK as it should be.

“What [Werner and I] share is our profound disgust with pretense, denial, facade and the collective lies that naturalize and makes everything unjust and terrible, small and debased around us feel inevitable,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is make visible the fantasies, lies, delusions and self deceptions that constitute immoral imagination, which allows us to feel everything is fine, when it is really catastrophic.”

When those things are exposed, the audience may be taken aback.

“In that moment everything looks strange because a world that is depicted as a world of delusions, lies and fantasies, looks strange and we try to resist it,” Oppenheimer said. “But I think if there is any power to my films or Werner’s films, it’s because, in fact, it’s not the shock of [seeing] anything new, but the shock of recognition.”

Getting to the objective heart of the subject is a documentary filmmaker’s goal, Herzog said.

“It’s always an illumination of what we are at our best and our worst, and your approach is one from deep compassion,” he said. “You go into the deepest spot of human suffering and human pathos and I walk away from [Joshua’s] films illuminated. That’s what you do not have in cinema nowadays.”

Oppenheimer said that’s what he feels Herzog tries to do, even though the elder filmmaker tries to hide behind a state of anger.

“That openness you bring to everyone you film, even if you are ridiculing their delusions, is never from a place of sarcasm, but from a tragic sense of, ‘ we’re in this together and this is the wrong path,'” Oppenheimer told Herzog. “I think that is hopeful. It’s the opposite of cynicism.”

With all that is going on in the world, it is understandable why nonfiction filmmakers have taken on the job that Oppenheimer says journalists aren’t doing.

“It’s a pity, because this is a colonization of our art form by something else,” he said. “I think that we have to distinguish between journalism that pretends to understand, but really condemns, and confuses that with comprehension.

“You can’t divorce great filmmaking, even fiction, from empathy, and from the sense we need to strive to understand how we as human beings create these monstrous conditions and the inseparability of the violence, fear and silence which is seismically rocking the United States right now in our inner cities and the criminalization of huge swaths of our fellow countrymen,” he said. “You can’t divorce that from trying to understand how we in an everyday way, lie to ourselves to justify that. We can’t do that, with out understanding, empathizing and opening our hearts.”

The Sundance Film Festival will run through Jan. 31 in various venues in Park City. For more information, visit www.sundance.org .

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HAITI: Haiti Since the Earthquake

newyorker.com, by Jon Lee Anderson, original

Is the struggling country’s flamboyant President a savior or a rogue?

A few months ago, a crowd of curious onlookers gathered on a newly built highway overpass in downtown Port-au-Prince. It was a humid afternoon, too hot to linger outside, but Haiti’s President, Michel Martelly, was scheduled to appear, and any appearance by Martelly was bound to be entertaining. Before being elected President, in 2011, Martelly was Sweet Micky, an extroverted singer of the ebullient dance music called konpa. A popular and bawdy showman, he appears in one typical video clip in a night club, dancing for the camera in a red bra and a yellow sarong. At one point, he feigns masturbating a giant phallus, then hoists an imaginary breast and licks it.

At the overpass, jeeploads of riot police fanned out, and workmen set up a red carpet and a lectern with the Presidential seal on it. Martelly was coming to inaugurate the Delmas Viaduct, a four-lane bridge over a deep gully at the base of Delmas, a densely populated hillside neighborhood. As the crowd grew, a rara band, a squad of dreadlocked teen-agers, showed up to blow horns and beat drums. Martelly, who is fifty-four, arrived in a pink-and-white checked shirt worn untucked over black jeans. His shaved head gleaming, he cut a casually hip figure amid an entourage of plainclothes bodyguards and officials in suits. At the microphone, he spoke in guttural Creole, a French patois that is Haiti’s primary language. “This viaduct proves once again that together we can achieve great and beautiful things,” he said. “More than a dream, more than a project, this viaduct is now one of the symbols of Port-au-Prince.”

Martelly’s Presidency has been predicated on rebuilding. He took office a year after the January, 2010, earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince, killing perhaps two hundred thousand people and leaving millions homeless. The disaster drew the world’s attention to Haiti’s long struggle—and, to some extent, offered a chance for a fresh start. In a survey of American voters, more than half reported donating to help repair the country; Bill Clinton, whose family foundation is deeply involved in Haiti, announced the hope that it could “build back better.” But Delmas, like much of Port-au-Prince, has been at best partly repaired. Even as the new overpass was unveiled, tens of thousands of residents were still displaced. As Martelly finishes his term in office, Haiti remains the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Some sixty per cent of its ten million citizens live in poverty. Nearly half are illiterate, and only one in four has access to a toilet.

Read the full New Yorker Article

 

 

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ON THE MEDIA: Syrian activists promote filmmaking, reading to ease daily suffering

al-monitor.com – Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East
Author: As-Safir (Lebanon) Posted January 18, 2016, original

Children walk beside a painted wall inside Jarmaq school in Yarmouk camp April 14, 2015. The text on the wall reads in Arabic "It's my right to learn." Picture taken April 14, 2015. REUTERS/Moayad Zaghmout - RTR4XFMX

Children walk beside a painted wall inside Jarmaq school in Yarmouk camp April 14, 2015. The text on the wall reads in Arabic “It’s my right to learn.” Picture taken April 14, 2015. REUTERS/Moayad Zaghmout – RTR4XFMX

Despite the cruelty of the war in Syria, community-based initiatives emerged from the pain from which society is suffering. As international initiatives crowd to resolve the intractable crisis, Syrian youth keep their initiatives on the local level without getting into politics and its ramifications. They focus on the people’s concerns and needs.

International news agencies and newspapers rush in with their cameras to capture scenes of the war in Syria to report on the daily news and events. However, Peace Lens is an initiative not related to the world of news, but based on documentary filmmaking.

The initiative’s team believes documentary filmmaking conveys the reality as it is through the camera lens and turns this reality into a series of pictures and scenes, to encourage the viewers to agree with a particular opinion or do a certain thing.

Documentaries are the most important tools nowadays, not only for their ability to influence the current situation. They can be used in the future as a deterrent for future generations, preventing them from entering into conflicts after seeing the amount of suffering resulting from the current conflict in the country.

The initiative’s team quotes Mikhail Kirkorov, a professor at the Petersburg State University of Film and Television, who said, “Syria is now the most important theater in the world for the documentary industry.”

Bashar al-Majdalawi, an official in the initiative, explained the project’s objective and work process: “The initiative was presented to the United Nations Development Programme. It is a cultural art project that brings together a group of people interested in filmmaking. They are taught how to shoot documentary films to convey social problems.” He added, “It is called Peace Lens because we wanted to link between documentaries and peace in light of our current situation.”

Majdalawi said, “A lot of things must be highlighted. We selected 10 young people, from different [social] categories, from the 40 people who applied for the course, according to UN standards and those of the project’s organizer. They were gathered in one place to brainstorm for a comprehensive idea for all the people in Syria to highlight peace.”

“At the end of the workshop, the film is shot and marketed — whether at festivals or special screenings — or posted on social networking sites, in order to make viewers think of solutions for the problems we are facing. We only put the problem in the spotlight, we do not give solutions,” he said.

Majdalawi added, “Such work could help the people we put in the spotlight in getting the support they need from organizations and institutions that care about them.”

Peace Lens organized two workshops for four months in two provinces, where a group of interested and talented people are trained for documentary filmmaking: writing texts, shooting and editing. After the workshop is done, two documentary films are made on cases of peace in the two provinces. The next phase would be to have a big screening for the documentaries in order to sell them. The proceeds of that money would be used to support families affected by the conflict.

The Book Initiative

It may be strange, and even undesirable under the shelling and the need for safety, to hold a book by Lebanese novelist Amin Maalouf and offer it to a family affected by the war.

The Book Initiative was launched by a team dubbed “A drop of Ink” in Damascus. The person in charge of the group, Youssef Sabbagh, said, “I first thought of how to encourage people to read.”

He added, “The idea is based on the establishment of a study with the various books, while focusing on those that are interesting for the youth and children. This is because this age category is important in building a better country, since they are the ones who engage in violent acts. Reading builds a human being that is balanced, honest and less violent — a person that has a weak culture of violence and higher prospects.”

On the importance of the initiative, Sabbagh explained, “One of the advantages is that online reading is prevailing, which is not wrong. The problem is that we do not know whether the sources are reliable. We tend to acquire a part of a certain idea without being aware from which book it comes. The initiative is a contribution to prove that the Syrian mind is the product of a well-established ancient civilization and is capable under the most difficult circumstances to move away from the culture of revenge.”

On the implementation of the initiative, Sabbagh said, “This study is placed in cafes, schools, cinemas, universities, centers and shelters. They consist of medium-sized studies that can be manufactured by local carpenters and includes diverse books. The idea was discussed at more than one level. Some have supported it and others considered that it is not the right time to read. I finally made the suggestion to the United Nations Organization for Refugees, which kept the door open for initiatives. A team of four members was made, and this is how ‘A Drop of Ink’ was formed.”

Sabbagh explained, “Work is currently underway in two parts. First is placing in specific places, where anyone can read a book without any fees. Second is about not contenting oneself with reading. In the care center in Dweil’a in Damascus, a library was established, composed of a variety of books for children and adolescents. We focus on the youth, because we have the ability to continue working with them until they get older. The next plan is to establish a library in shelters, as they accommodate affected families.”

On the idea that it is not the right time for reading, Sabbagh said, “Nothing justifies abstaining from reading. Education at home and schools is intrinsic. Reading builds [the youth] psychologically. We are not calling for giving reading a priority over the daily needs such as eating and drinking. But could it be possible to not have time to read?”

Read More: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/culture/2016/01/syria-local-initiatives-documentary-films-books-reading.html

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Film10of10: Take 5 min to experience the impact of donated goods and US subsidized imports on Haitians

Last day of CSFilm’s commemoration of the 6th anniversary of the Haiti earthquake.  Take a break today or over the weekend to learn from and share Haitian perspectives.

Today, A multi-generational cobbler’s livelihood is put at risk when donated and imported shoes flood the market after the 2010 earthquake and the subsequent lifting of trade barriers.

Director and Videographer: Jenipher W. Charles
Sound: Bichara Villarson, Interviewer: Jessy Kernizan, Editor: Evens Louis

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Jenipher Charles is passionate about photography and videography and takes pride in being one of the few camerawomen in Haiti. She worked as a multimedia director at a local organization and now serves as a reporter at Groupe Mèdialternatif. She has produced several reports on women’s rights.

 

Watch another of the 10 short films: Owning Our Future – Haitian Perspectives in Film, and thanks for your support!

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Film 9, Day 9 of 10: Commemorating Haiti’s Earthquake Through Haitian-Made Films

CSFilm commemorates the 6th anniversary of the Haiti earthquake by sharing Haitian voices and visions. Take less than 10 minutes a day to watch a Haitian-made film. Learn from and share Haitian perspectives.

Today, an entrepreneurial Haitian woman, damaged physically, psychologically and economically by the 2010 earthquake, restores her family and her pride by starting her own interior decorating business:

Threading the Needle, (File Zegwi)– 6:01

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Director and Sound: Sylvestre Fils Dorcilus
Videographer: Christien Sylvaince, Editor: Evens Louis

Sylvestre Fils Dorcilus worked as a print journalist for Groupe Medialternatif. He currently works for a marketing company.

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Film 8, Day 8 of 10: Understand Haiti from the Perspective of Haitian Street Vendors

CSFilm commemorates the 6th anniversary of the Haiti earthquake by sharing Haitian voices and visions. Take less than 10 minutes a day to watch a Haitian-made film. Learn from and share Haitian perspectives.

Today, a Haitian street vendor shows us why most people are dependent on their children for old age security:

Banking on My Child, (Envesti nan Timoun) – 8:38

Director and Videographer: Jean Wilson Therrier
Sound and Production Assistants: Steeve Colin and Marie Jessy Kernizan, Editor: Jude Stanley Roy

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The proliferation of street sellers is one indicator of the dire straits of the formal economy and employment opportunities in Haiti.  As millions are left without access to basic government or banking services, they come up with all kinds of survival techniques.  To combat their exploitation by loan sharks they created the “Sol”, a uniquely Haitian revolving loan scheme.  It allows some to reach for something beyond subsistence, but for most it simply helps them to pay the loan sharks and avoid injury.

Jean Wilson Therrier has a degree in social work and has taken a particular interest in land rights which has led him to hold a number of leadership positions in land collectives. He has also worked for the Red Cross’s department of disaster management.

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Film 7, Day 7 of 10 – MLK commemoration: Haitian Ghetto Activism, Citi Soleil Konbit

CSFilm commemorates the 6th anniversary of the Haiti earthquake by sharing Haitian voices and visions. Take less than 10 minutes a day to watch a Haitian-made film. Learn from and share Haitian perspectives.

Today, in memory of Martin Luther King, an inspiring story of Haitian activists fighting for economic and social equality and taking their Citi Soleil ghetto back from gangs and guns:

Ghetto Green, Ghetto Clean, (Geto pwòp, Geto vèt) –  7:57
Director and Videographer: Steeve Colin
Additional Videography: Ralph Thomassaint Joseph, Sound: Wilson Therrier,
Production Assist: Jude Stanley Roy and Evens Louis, Editor: Yrvelt Lamour

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Urban activists bring the rural Haitian tradition of the Konbit, shared labor, to the country’s most notorious ghetto. Neighborhoods and young people, divided by gangs and extreme neglect, create urban gardens and clean up the slum through a locally-led initiative.

Steeve Colin’s passion is participatory community development. In the Cite Soleil ghetto he works as a social engineer, specializing in project development, implementation and communications. He uses photography, and now filmmaking, to document the positive and negative impact of development projects in his community.

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Film 6, Day 6 of 10: Sunday Soiree with Haitian Craft and Generosity

CSFilm commemorates the 6th anniversary of the Haiti earthquake by sharing Haitian voices and visions. Take less than 10 minutes a day to watch a Haitian-made film. Learn from and share Haitian perspectives.

Today, immerse yourself in the beauty and precision of Haitian craft and the generosity of the Haitian spirit:

Crafting the Next Generation, (Fòme Jenerasyon k ap Vini an) – 7:23
Director & Videographer: Christien Sylvaince
Sound: Sylvestre Fils Dorcilus, Production Assist: Robenson Sanon, Editor: Mysuel Thimotee

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A skilled craftsman passes down a local art-form by teaching low-income youth the traditional techniques of sculpting recycled metal in Croix-des-Bouquets, the center of the Haitian metalwork movement.

Christien Sylvaince began his career as a student of computer science, but turned his focus to explore radio and photography before settling on film. He trained as a commercial and fiction-film cinematographer at Ciné Institute, but has taken a particular interest in documentary filmmaking.  Christien works as a filmmaker in Jacmel.

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Film 5 and Day 5 of 10: Take a break this weekend and understand Haiti from the Haitian perspective

CSFilm commemorates the 6th anniversary of the Haiti earthquake by sharing Haitian voices and visions. Take less than 10 minutes a day to watch a Haitian-made film. Learn from and share Haitian perspectives.

Today, Haitian dairy farmers prove their worth to community and country:

Milking Local Capacity, (Pwodiksyon Lèt pou yon Kominote Djanm) -5:59

Director & Videographer: Jéthro-Claudel Pierre Jeanty
Sound: Christien Sylvaince, Steeve Colin, Production Assist: Robenson Sanon, Editor: Mysuel Thimothée

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JethroHaitian farmers are fighting the government’s allowance of cheap imported food by collaborating to rebuild their production capacity and, thereby, their country’s food security and sovereignty.

Jéthro-Claudel Pierre Jeanty lives in Ouanaminthe and has worked as a teacher of Creole and social sciences, and as a director and reporter for two radio stations.  Since taking the CSFilm training he is working as a regional reporter for Groupe Mèdialternatif concentrating on border issues.  Jethro is also pursuing a degree in law.

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Day 4, Film 4: Taking the Foreign out of ‘Foreign Correspondent’. Watch one Haitian-made film a day for ten days.

CSFilm commemorates the 6th anniversary of the Haiti earthquake by sharing Haitian voices and visions. Take less than 10 minutes a day to watch a Haitian-made film. Learn from and share Haitian perspectives.

Today, Haitian female filmmaker Muselene Carilus brings us the story of a Haitian business woman, mentor, mother and auto-mechanic:

Shifting Gears, (Chanje Vitès) – 5:33
Director & Videographer: Muselène Carilus
Sound & Production Assist: Bichara Villarson, Editor: Jude Stanley Roy

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In an industry dominated by men, a mother and wife excels in auto repair, breaking common perceptions of the role of women in Haitian society.

Muselène Carilus graduated with a degree in social communications and continues to learn through seminars and trainings.  She has served as a cultural commentator, host and reporter at a number of radio stations.  Currently Muselène works as the Head of Communication for Plate-forme des Organisations Haïtiennes des Droits Humains (POHDH), a leading Haitian human rights group.

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Haitian-made films, Day 3 of 10, commemorating Haiti earthquake through Haitian eyes and ears

We are commemorating the Haiti earthquake of 6 years ago by drawing attention to the voices and actions of Haitians. Take less than 10 minutes a day for the next 8 days to watch a Haitian-made film. Learn from and share Haitian perspectives.

Today, take 6 minutes to experience the work and world of a charismatic and internationally recognized Haitian artist and social activist:
Out of the Rubble, (Soti nan Dekonm) – 6:39
Director & Videographer: Robenson Sanon
Sound & Production Assist: Junior Casséus, Luxon Dorcéus, Editing: Yrvelt Lamour

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Artists use the trash that fills roads and rivers after rain storms, as well as pickings from the earthquake rubble that still remains in huge sections of the city, to comment on the hopes and challenges facing their ghetto and country.

Robenson Sanon holds a certificate in natural disaster and HIV/AIDS response from the University of San Diego. He earned a degree in Spanish and taught for a few years before starting to work as a journalist for a number of news agencies. Currently he is a reporter and host at Radio/TV Magik 9.

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Day 2, Film 2 – 10 days commemorating 6th anniversary of the Haiti earthquake

We are recognizing the tragedy of the Haiti earthquake 6 years ago this month by drawing attention to the voices and actions of Haitians. Take less than 10 minutes each of the next 9 days to watch a Haitian made film to learn about Haiti from the Haitian perspective.

Today, take 8 minutes to watch Jessy Kernizan’s remarkable story about the determination of one of the many disabled people in Haiti:
Brave the World, (Bouske Lavi)
Director & Videographer: Marie Jessy Kernizan,
Sound: Jean Wilson Therrier, Editor: Mysuel Thimotee,

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Jessy

Dieula Marie Denise Souffrant breaks out of the shadows, where most Haitians keep their disabled family members, and not only makes a life for herself but leads the way for others.

Marie Jessy Kernizan is trained in theater and dance performance. She has worked on both national and international productions, including in Switzerland and with the renowned Haitian Palto Vanyan company. Palto Vanyan performed educational and political comedy skits in the camps after the 2010 earthquake.

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Haiti Earthquake Anniversary – Watch One Film a Day for the Next Ten: Learn from and Share Haitian Perspectives

In remembrance of all who were lost and who responded to the earthquake that struck Haiti six years ago this month, CSFilm encourages you to watch, learn from and share a Haitian-made film.  The ten short films in Owning Our Future provide an opportunity to understand Haiti from a uniquely local perspective.  Take a short five to ten minutes each day for the next ten to watch and reflect on one film.

We begin with the film in the collection that visualizes Haitians rebuilding post-earthquake. This film is unique in that it is one of only three in the collection that directly address the earthquake.  While Haiti and the earthquake are remembered at this time of year, Haitians resist being defined by the earthquake.  The journalists and artists who participated in the training and filmmaking where adamant that the collection not focus solely on the earthquake.  The stories that they selected emphasize that there are many pressing issues that have nothing to do with an earthquake.

Owned and Occupied (Chèmèt, Chèmètrès) – 8:27
Director & Videographer: Bichara Villarson
Sound: Muselène Carilus, Editor: Evens Louis

Host a Screening                                                                                                                              Buy the DVD

Bichara0448CroppedSmallAfter the 2010 earthquake a farmer’s organization helps its members rebuild their homes. Rather than spend money and time on temporary shelters they work with the farmers and the “Konbit,” a Haitian-shared labor system, to rebuild permanent homes at a fraction of the cost that international organizations are spending on their three-phase system of “relief, relieve and rebuild.”

Bichara Villarson has been involved with media since 1995, when he began his career as a community radio journalist and host. He was the founding member of the Haitian Creole Troupe, and also worked as a press attaché with the Apotheoses School of Dance. Bichara lives in Les Cayes working as a radio and video journalist.


In relation to the importance of locally-directed and implemented aid highlighted in this film, have a read of this brief commentary by Catherine Parrill, Founder, Creative Exchanges Initiative: Getting Rid of Helping that Hurts


Owning Our Future – Endorsements:

Community Supported Film’s innovative work and creative storytelling allows Haitians to reveal their own reality.” Serge JC Pierre-Louis, President, DuSable Heritage Association, Chicago

“At the heart of it, artists can only really talk from their own experience, so if you want a story about sumthin’ that sumthin’ has got to tell the story itself. And, that’s just what these Haitian storytellers have done – beautifully and powerfully.” Dawn Kramer and Stephen Buck, Artists

“Through these films, Community Supported Film is facilitating a powerful way for citizens – who are not necessarily professional journalists or filmmakers – to use film to narrate their lives in ways that Western media rarely shares.” Lisa Ulrich, Regional Director, Let’s Get Ready

“The sensitivity of the filmmakers and the courage and determination of the Haitians came through very strongly.” Jack Cole, Co-Founder and former Executive Director, LEAP

 

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ON DEVELOPMENT: Getting Rid of Helping that Hurts

By Catherine Parrill, Founder, Creative Exchanges Initiative, Jan 9, 2016

Twenty-five years ago I went to Haiti to work in a school. It was a short trip. But in only ten days two things happened that would alter my life. I fell in love with Haiti and its people. And I knew intuitively, though I couldn’t put it to words, that we were doing something wrong. Our project had built a school and clinic and we were ramping up to add an agriculture program. What could be wrong with that?

Yet, as I became more involved, I became evermore certain that in spite of our good intentions, and in spite of the positive effects that our work was having in some ways, we were also perpetuating poverty and oppression. Armed with curriculum I’d created from models such as Paolo Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, I packed up and moved to Haiti in 1996, to train teachers. More about that another time. For now, suffice it to say that over the course of the next two years, I learned first-hand about how our efforts were feeding corruption, fostering inequality, and perpetuating poverty.

Well-intentioned donors don’t like hearing this. They want to help, not hurt. In the last few years, since misuse of earthquake relief funds has become more common knowledge, I’m getting a different question. One that keeps me awake at night.

People have now begun to ask me whether they should entirely stop donating to development or charitable works.

Absolutely not! 

With nearly 800 million people on this earth lacking sufficient food to lead a healthy, active life, we can’t stop. Instead, we have to do more. But we have to change what we’re doing. Turn the old model upside down and work from the inside out. I’ll be sharing more about that in future posts here.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t already done so, check out The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz, founder of Acumen. She first went to Rawanda a couple of years before I first went to Haiti. She learned from the inside out. And she is turning the world of philanthropic works upside down. You can check out her Ted Talk here.

Are you involved in development or charitable work abroad? Is it working like you want it to? I’d love to hear.

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DVDs Available: Owning Our Future-Haitian Perspectives in Film

OOF-HPF DVD CoverOwning Our Future-Haitian Perspectives in Film DVDs are in and they look and sound great! Please support the work of Community Supported Film and our Haitian Filmmakers by buying a copy.

Help Us Out:  Request that your town and/or institution’s library purchase a DVD at the institutional rate!

Please organize screenings and discussions of these important films to raise awareness about Haiti, economic aid and development and how our assistance can help or hurt.

Owning Our Future-Haitian Perspectives in Film is a collection of ten Haitian-made films that provide a unique opportunity to experience Haiti as it is lived by street vendors, business women, artists, farmers and more. Their stories, focusing on the economic and social development challenges faced by Haitians, nourish an understanding of Haiti that goes beyond its man-made and natural disasters.

In the fall of 2014, Community Supported Film in collaboration with Groupe Medialternatif conducted an intensive 5-week documentary filmmaking training. Ten Haitians were selected from 83 applicants. They came with a variety of storytelling backgrounds but little or no experience with filmmaking. Each student produced a documentary short. The results are gathered in this collection.

Watch excerpts online.  Share links with friends.

Endorsements:

“Community Supported Film’s innovative work and creative storytelling allows Haitians to reveal their own reality.” Serge JC Pierre-Louis, President, DuSable Heritage Association, Chicago

“At the heart of it, artists can only really talk from their own experience, so if you want a story about sumthin’ that sumthin’ has got to tell the story itself. And, that’s just what these Haitian storytellers have done – beautifully and powerfully.” Dawn Kramer and Stephen Buck, Artists

“Through these films, Community Supported Film is facilitating a powerful way for citizens – who are not necessarily professional journalists or filmmakers – to use film to narrate their lives in ways that Western media rarely shares.” Lisa Ulrich, Regional Director, Let’s Get Ready

“The sensitivity of the filmmakers and the courage and determination of the Haitians came through very strongly.” Jack Cole, Co-Founder and former Executive Director, LEAP

 

 

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