Issues & Analysis
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Haiti: Wikileaks Reveals Obama Administration’s Role in Stifling Haitian Minimum Wage

alternet.org, by Rod Bastanmehr, January 16, 2014

American corporations like Hanes and Levi Strauss prefer to pay Haitians slave wages to sew their clothes.

Strike another one for Wikileaks. The ever-controversial leaker of the world’s best-kept secrets has published a wire on The Nation that reveals the Obama Administration fought to keep the Haitian minimum wage to 31 cents an hour.

According to the published wire (which came to light thanks in large part to the Haiti Liberte, a newspaper based in Port-au-Prince and New York City), Haiti passed a law in 2012 raising its minimum wage to 61 cents an hour. America corporations like Hanes and Levi Strauss vociferously objected, claiming such an increase would irreparably harm their business and profitability. According to the leaked U.S. Embassy cable, keeping these garment workers at “slave wages,” was better for the two companies The corporations in question allegedly stated that they would only fork over a seven-cent-an-hour increase, eventually going so far as to involve the U.S. State Department.

Soon, the U.S. Ambassador put pressure on Michel Martelly, the president of Haiti, to find a middle ground, resulting in a $3-a-day minimum wage for all textile companies. To put it in perspective, the United States’s minimum wage—already considered extremely low—works out to roughly to $58 a day.

Haiti has about 25,000 garment workers, who are somehow getting by on these abysmal wages. According to Business Insider, if each garment worker was paid just $2 more a day, it would cost their given corporate employers $50,000 per working day, or $12.5 million a year. Hanes, the garment company best known for their t-shirts, had roughly 3,200 Haitians working in their factory. An increase of $2 a day would cost the company a mere $1.6 million a year—for a company that had $4.3 billion in sales last year alone.

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Afghanistan: Kabul cafe is a front line in a war over culture and social mores in Afghanistan

washingtonpost.comby Pamela Constable, Aug. 14, 2014

 In one curtained room, half a dozen young men and women huddle on cushions, smoking hookahs and chatting. In the next, a troubadour strums a guitar and sings protest songs for a party of high school soccer players. In a cubicle between, customers take turns kneeling to say their prayers.

Welcome to Kabul’s Art Cafe and Restaurant, the latest front line in a seesawing urban culture war between a post-Taliban, Internet-savvy generation that wants to push the limits of democratic freedom and a deeply conservative Muslim establishment that is determined to preserve its traditions — especially the segregation of the sexes.

The Art Cafe is one of a cluster of hip hangouts that have opened in a busy commercial section of west Kabul in the past year, attracting a mix of students, artists, journalists and other young sophisticates. Police have kept a watchful eye for alcohol and other infractions, but until last week, there had been no serious confrontations.

Then, at 4 p.m. on Aug. 9, a squad of police burst into the cafe with guns drawn and started grabbing and shoving people. According to the co-owner and several witnesses, they shouted sexual insults at some of the women and hustled some of the men off to police headquarters, where their long hair was cut off — a punishment once meted out by the Taliban religious police.

“We asked them why they were doing this, and they said they had orders to round up the rabble around the city,” said Hassan Fazili, a partner in the cafe. “I’m an artist and a filmmaker, and we have an open atmosphere here, but we are doing nothing wrong. We do not allow alcohol or weapons. We are all Muslims. And we are definitely not rabble.”

Duniya Sadeqi, 29, an actress, said she had gone to the cafe that day to meet a friend who was making a documentary. During the raid, she said, the police punched and cursed her. “They said, ‘You are a whore, or you would not be in such places,’ ” she recounted Wednesday, dressed in a pink head scarf and long black dress. “I was very scared.”

But if the city police were trying to enforce an obsolescing moral code, their superiors at the Interior Ministry were apparently embarrassed by the incident. After complaints from civic groups, Afghan news outlets reported that some of the officers involved were arrested, and Wednesday, a delegation of ministry officials visited the cafe to work things out.

“It was all a misunderstanding,” said one official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, as he left the premises surrounded by half a dozen police guards. Repeated efforts to reach officials and spokesmen for the Kabul police were unsuccessful.

The misunderstanding, though, runs much deeper than ham-handed police vigilantism. The collapse of the Taliban in 2001 and the advent of Western ideas, aid and technology have opened an isolated Islamic society to the modern world. The impact has been especially pronounced in the capital and other large cities, with colleges and jobs for those who learn English and computer skills.

Conflict has been inevitable, often between parents and grown children who seek to marry for love, try to date or simply want to spend time in a mixed-gender environment — all of which are strictly prohibited by Afghan social and religious codes. Muslim clerics often warn of the dangers of Western influence on the young.

“We are extremely concerned about the spread and infiltration of foreign culture in our society,” said Enayatullah Balegh, a member of the national council of Muslim clergy. “There is a big distinction between Islamic culture and others in the way we dress and interact with each other. Islam favors modern development and science but not immoral and corrupt behavior.”

In rural areas, families and tribal elders have continued to keep a tight rein on the behavior of the young, especially in conservative southern regions. In several recent high-profile cases, strong local support forhonor killings, and other punishments against girls who elope or are raped, suggests that rigid traditional mores are reasserting themselves as Western troops, civilians and influence start to withdraw.

But in large northern cities such as Kabul, Herat and Mazar-e Sharif, many young people have found sanctuaries such as the Art Cafe where they can talk, flirt and express themselves freely about politics and social change as well as love.

On Wednesday, Naser Royan, 27, held a young audience spellbound as he sang a series of original folk songs to an urgent guitar rhythm. One ballad beckoned listeners to visit the “reality” of Afghan life occurring under city bridges where opium addicts gather. Another was about a girl in Italy who was killed protesting against injustice.

In the hookah room next door, young men and women sat close and laughed with a carefree intimacy that would have shocked many older Afghans. Yet they all described themselves as observant Muslims, and most of them periodically left the room to pray.

“We come here because there is a new level of freedom. We all want change, but only within the Islamic framework,” said a 21-year-old law school student who gave her name as Attiyah and who was texting on her iPhone between puffs on a tall glass pipe.

But there is another dimension to this trend that highlights the differences between ethnic and religious groups in Afghanistan. In Kabul, places such as the Art Cafe are confined mostly to the city’s western district, a redoubt of its Shiite Muslim and ethnic Hazara minority; both Herat and Mazar-e Sharif have large Shiite populations.

The Hazaras, often regarded as inferior by other Afghans, tend to be more liberal and worldly than the Sunni-majority Tajiks and Pashtuns, in part because many were exiled and educated in Iran during Afghanistan’s years of conflict. Some of the cafe customers said they were born in Iran and came back with their families after the fall of the Taliban; many attend Shiite colleges in the city.

During a decade of Western-backed democracy, this group has been able to flex increasing political and cultural muscle, but activists worry that these gains could be lost as the protective international presence here diminishes.

“Some authorities think if democracy grows, society will escape the bound of our religion,” said Salman Dostzada, a political activist who protested against the cafe raid. “Our society has begun to liberalize in these years, but the cost is already too high.”

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Development: A Life Reserve for Sustainable Development in Chile’s Patagonia

By Marianela Jarroud

The original article can be found on Inter Press Service News Agency.

COYHAIQUE, Chile, Aug 19 2014 (IPS) – The people of Patagonia in southern Chile are working to make the Aysén region a “life reserve”. Neighbouring Argentina, across the border, is a historic ally in this remote wilderness area which is struggling to achieve sustainable development and boost growth by making use of its natural assets.

“The Aysén Life Reserve mega citizen initiative emerged as a theoretical proposal to have a special region with a special development model, one based on inclusive sustainable development, with and for the people of the region,” activist Peter Hartmann, the creator of the concept and of the coalition that is pushing the project forward, told IPS.

“Many people say we want to chain off the region, but our aim is to use its good qualities, versus the megaprojects of the globalised world, which want to destroy them,” he said.

The southern region of Aysén is one of the least populated – and least densely populated – areas in Chile, with 105,000 inhabitants. This chilly wilderness area of vast biodiversity, swift-flowing rivers, lakes and glaciers also offers fertile land and marine resources that are exploited by large fishing companies.

A stand at the crafts fair in the city of Coyhaique. The production of locally-made ecological crafts from Patagonia is part of the development alternative promoted by the Aysén Life Reserve project. Credit: Marianela Jarraud/IPS

A stand at the crafts fair in the city of Coyhaique. The production of locally-made ecological crafts from Patagonia is part of the development alternative promoted by the Aysén Life Reserve project. Credit: Marianela Jarraud/IPS

“We are tiny and insignificant in this enormous territory,” Claudia Torres, a designer and communicator who was born and raised in Aysén, told IPS with visible pride.

Patagonia covers a total extension of approximately 800,000 sq km at the southern tip of the Americas, 75 percent of which is in Argentina and the rest in Aysén and the southernmost Chilean region of Magallanes.

Patagonia is made up of diverse ecosystems and is home to numerous species of flora and fauna, including birds, reptiles and amphibians that have not yet been identified. It is also the last refuge of the highly endangered huemul or south Andean deer.

Although it is in the middle of a stunning wilderness area, Coyhaique, the capital of Aysén, 1,629 km south of Santiago, is paradoxically the most polluted city in Chile, because in this region where temperatures are often below zero, local inhabitants heat their homes and cook with firewood, much of which is wet, green or mossy, because it is cheaper than dry wood.

It is one of the poorest and most vulnerable regions of the country, where 9.9 percent of the population lives in poverty and 4.2 percent in extreme poverty.

But these figures fail to reflect the poverty conditions suffered by families in the region, the regional government’s secretary of social development, Eduardo Montti, told IPS.

“We are lagging in terms of being able to ensure basic living standards and essential services for the community and to make it possible for the different actors to develop in equal conditions as the rest of the country,” he said.

But, he added, in May the government of socialist President Michelle Bachelet established a plan for remote or impoverished areas which recognises the disparities with respect to the rest of the country, thus helping to more clearly identify the most urgent needs.

He said that in this region it is important “to move ahead in tourism enterprises, strengthen small local economies, share and participate in the development of our local customs, and help make them known to the world.”

Torres, an active participant in the Citizen Coalition for the Aysén Life Reserve, said the region is “one of the few that still have the chance to come up with a different kind of development.”

This is one of the few areas in the world that has largely kept its original wilderness intact. Much of the territory is under different forms of protection, including the Laguna San Rafael National Park, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve that contains a coastal lagoon and glaciers. The region as a whole is also seeking world heritage site status.

“The model we are building is aimed at strengthening economic development on a local scale, in a democratic fashion, and not with models imposed on us – development that is cooperative and economically and environmentally sustainable in time, under the premise that we are all just passing through this life and that you have to give back what you take,” Torres said.

She added that the project “is a dream and we are working to achieve it. Because people here understand that life itself is part of what makes it special to live here. For example, in this region you can still drink water from a river or a lake, because you know you won’t have problems.”

In her view, cities become dependent on, and vulnerable to, supplies from outside, and “the more independent you are, the better chances you have of surviving.”

“We don’t see this as a life reserve exclusive to Patagonians, but for the whole country. For example, I don’t have problems with the region sharing water with areas that suffer from drought.” But water for crops, drinking, or living – not for big industry, she clarified.

Chile’s Patagonians have a powerful ally in this endeavour: the Argentine side of Patagonia is fighting against the use of watersheds shared with Chile, by mining corporations.

“There is a common element in this big fight: water,” Torres said.

The two sides of the Andes share a long history of close ties and traditions which makes Patagonia one single territory, of great value because of its biodiversity – but highly vulnerable as well.

“We don’t feel like Chile, we feel like Patagonia…Chilean and Argentine,” Torres said.

From the start, the Aysén Life Reserve has shown that it is more than just an idea on paper. Hartmann pointed out that three community-based sustainable tourism enterprises have been established, financed by the Fondo de las Américas (FONDAM).

“We trained the communities in how to take care of their own territory, and in community-based tourism. That gave rise to a successful school for tourism guides,” he said proudly.

“Artisanal fishers from Puerto Aysén have also been making an effort to make their work more sustainable; there are exemplary garbage collection projects, and many crafts are being produced using local products, which is super sustainable,” he added.

Then there is “Sabores de Aysén” (Tastes of Aysén), a stamp that certifies quality products and services reflecting the region’s identity and care for nature. There is also a solar energy cooperative with a steadily growing number of members.

The Life Reserve project, Hartmann said, has two dimensions: awareness-raising and citizen participation. An Aysén Reserva de Vida label was created for sustainable products or processes, to make them more attractive to local consumers and visitors.

The idea of making the region a “Life Reserve” is cross-cutting and has managed to win the involvement of varied segments of society – a positive thing in a region that was highly polarised after 10 years of struggle against theHidroAysén hydroelectric project, which would have built large dams on wilderness rivers but was finally cancelled by the government in June.

The local population was also divided by the mass protests over the region’s isolation and high local prices of fuel and food that broke out in 2012, under the government of rightwing President Sebastián Piñera (2010-2014).

“There is greater awareness, and that is a step forward,” Torres said. “That means there is growing appreciation for what this region has to offer.”

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

Original article can be read on Inter Press Service News Agency

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On the Media: Conference Emphasizes the Important Role Public Broadcasting Plays in a Democracy

Original article can be read online at Internews.

Kyrgyzstan is the first and only country in the Central Asian region to establish a public service broadcaster, a publically-funded TV and radio company whose broadcasting serves the public interest, aiming to provide a sense of national community while fulfilling the programming needs of a broad range of constituencies.

Internews with the support of USAID has been working with OTRK, the country’s former state-owned broadcaster, since 2012 to help it transition fully into the public service broadcasting model. In a testament to how far OTRK has come since then, its news programs overtook those of the Russian channel ORT as the most-watched newscasts in Kyrgyzstan in 2013.

Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE’s Representative on Freedom of the Media, emphasized the important role public broadcasting plays in a country like Kyrgyzstan. “A democratic state cannot exist without public broadcasting,” said Mijatovic at an international conference on best practices in public broadcasting that the OSCE and Internews convened in Bishkek on May 22-23. “It has a positive influence on the citizens and democracy of the state because it is objective and comes from authentic sources of information.”

The conference brought together more than 70 experts and media representatives from all over Central Asia and Europe to discuss various models of public service broadcasting, the influence of media freedoms on the democratic development of Kyrgyzstan, and how public broadcasters perform an important role in that process.

In addition to OTRK’s director, representatives from public broadcasting companies in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Moldova, and Mongolia also presented best practices and lessons learned from their experiences transitioning state-controlled broadcasters into public media companies. Topics of discussion ranged from network financing and management to program production and editorial independence. Attendees came from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, including government officials, media professionals, academics, and NGO representatives.

The conference showcased OTRK as a model for the region of how a state-run media outlet can reinvent itself into a social platform tailored for the country’s citizens. It also demonstrated the potential that public broadcasting holds for facilitating positive change in society. As Natalia Nikitenko, a member of the Kyrgyz Parliament, stated about this effort, “The establishment of the public service broadcaster in Kyrgyzstan was a progressive step for our country. Everyone has the right to access public information and the expectations on further development of the PSB are quite high.”

The changes OTRK has made so far have helped the broadcaster communicate more closely with and receive feedback from its audience, allowing the station to better tailor its programming to meet audience preferences. Audience surveys, town hall meetings, and focus groups have all been used to gather these preferences. OTRK is also learning from the experiences of colleagues from public broadcasters in other countries (including Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania, Georgia, and Moldova) in order to strengthen the overall quality of their programming and reporting.

Read the original article online at Internews.

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On the media: Lyon Declaration: Help make access to information a UN development priority

Original article can be found on ifex.

The International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) has been lobbying the United Nations to include access to information in the official Agenda for the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Just this week at the 80th Annual World Library and Information Congress in Lyon, France, IFLA released the following official statement outlining why access to information is essential to the healthy, sustainable development of any society.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, members of the United Nations High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability, met in New York in May 2013 to discuss the Post-2015 Development Agenda

British Prime Minister David Cameron and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, members of the United Nations High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability, met in New York in May 2013 to discuss the Post-2015 Development Agenda Photo Credit: REUTERS/Richard Drew/Pool

18 August 2014

IFEX members and partners urge the United Nations High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability to include Access to Information in the Agenda for the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals

The Lyon Declaration on Access to Information and Development of August 2014 was written in English. The wording of the English version shall prevail.

The United Nations is negotiating a new development agenda to succeed the Millennium Development Goals. The agenda will guide all countries on approaches to improving people’s lives, and outline a new set of goals to be reached during the period 2016-2030.

We, the undersigned, believe that increasing access to information and knowledge across society, assisted by the availability of information and communications technologies (ICTs), supports sustainable development and improves people’s lives.

We therefore call upon the Member States of the United Nations to make an international commitment to use the post-2015 development agenda to ensure that everyone has access to, and is able to understand, use and share the information that is necessary to promote sustainable development and democratic societies.

Principles
Sustainable development seeks to ensure the long-term socio-economic prosperity and well-being of people everywhere. The ability of governments, parliamentarians, local authorities, local communities, civil society, the private sector and individuals to make informed decisions is essential to achieving it.
In this context, a right to information would be transformational. Access to information supports development by empowering people, especially marginalised people and those living in poverty, to:
• Exercise their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
• Be economically active, productive and innovative.
• Learn and apply new skills.
• Enrich cultural identity and expression.
• Take part in decision-making and participate in an active and engaged civil society.
• Create community-based solutions to development challenges.
• Ensure accountability, transparency, good governance, participation and empowerment.
• Measure progress on public and private commitments on sustainable development.

Declaration
In accordance with the findings of the High Level Panel on the Post–2015 Development Agenda, the post-2015 consultations of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Open Working Group Focus Area Report, all of which identified the crucial role of access to information in supporting development, we, the undersigned, recognise that:

1. Poverty is multidimensional, and progress in eradicating poverty is linked to ensuring sustainable development across a variety of areas.

2. Sustainable development must take place in a human-rights based framework, where:
a) Inequality is reduced by the empowerment, education and inclusion of marginalized groups, including women, indigenous peoples, minorities, migrants, refugees, persons with disabilities, older persons, children and youth.
b) Gender equality, along with full social, economic and political engagement, can be significantly enhanced by empowering women and girls through equitable access to education.
c) Dignity and autonomy can be strengthened by ensuring access to employment and decent jobs for all.
d) Equitable access to information, freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly, and privacy are promoted, protected and respected as being central to an individual’s independence.
e) Public participation of all is ensured to allow them to take ownership of change needed to improve their lives.

3. Increased access to information and knowledge, underpinned by universal literacy, is an essential pillar of sustainable development. Greater availability of quality information and data and the involvement of communities in its creation will provide a fuller, more transparent allocation of resources.

4. Information intermediaries such as libraries, archives, civil society organisations (CSOs), community leaders and the media have the skills and resources to help governments, institutions and individuals communicate, organize, structure and understand data that is critical to development. They can do this by:

a) Providing information on basic rights and entitlements, public services, environment, health, education, work opportunities, and public expenditure that supports local communities and people to guide their own development.
b) Identifying and focusing attention on relevant and pressing needs and problems within a population.
c) Connecting stakeholders across regional, cultural and other barriers to facilitate communication and the exchange of development solutions that could be scaled for greater impact.
d) Preserving and ensuring ongoing access to cultural heritage, government records and information by the public, through the stewardship of national libraries and archives and other public heritage institutions.
e) Providing public forums and space for wider civil society participation and engagement in decision-making.
f) Offering training and skills to help people access and understand the information and services most helpful to them.

5. Improved ICT infrastructure can be used to expand communications, speed up the delivery of services and provide access to crucial information particularly in remote communities. Libraries and other information intermediaries can use ICTs to bridge the gap between national policy and local implementation to ensure that the benefits of development reach all communities.

6. We, the undersigned, therefore call on Member States of the United Nations to acknowledge that access to information, and the skills to use it effectively, are required for sustainable development, and ensure that this is recognised in the post-2015 development agenda by:
a) Acknowledging the public’s right to access information and data, while respecting the right to individual privacy.
b) Recognising the important role of local authorities, information intermediaries and infrastructure such as ICTs and an open Internet as a means of implementation.
c) Adopting policy, standards and legislation to ensure the continued funding, integrity, preservation and provision of information by governments, and access by people.
d) Developing targets and indicators that enable measurement of the impact of access to information and data and reporting on progress during each year of the goals in a Development and Access to Information (DA2I) report.

Signed,

ActiveWatch – Media Monitoring Agency
Adil Soz – International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
Afghanistan Journalists Center
Africa Freedom of Information Centre
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
ARTICLE 19
Association of Caribbean Media Workers
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Bytes for All
Cambodian Center for Human Rights
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
Committee to Protect Journalists
Derechos Digitales
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Foro de Periodismo Argentino
Freedom Forum
Freedom House
Hungarian Civil Liberties Union
Index on Censorship
Initiative for Freedom of Expression – Turkey
Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information
Institute of Mass Information
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
Media Foundation for West Africa
Media Watch
Observatorio Latinoamericano para la Libertad de Expresión – OLA
Pacific Islands News Association
Pakistan Press Foundation
PEN International
Privacy International
Public Association “Journalists”
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters – AMARC
Access√
Agenda21 for culture
Andaluza de Bibliotecarios
Association for Progressive Communications
Association of Libraries of Czech Universities (ALCU)
Association of European Research Libraries (LIBER)
Association of Librarians of France (ABF)
Beyond Access
Bibliothecarii Medicinae Fenniae (BMF)
Bibliotheques sans frontieres
Brazilian Institute of Information in Science and Technology – IBICT
Brill
Brunei Darussalam Library Association
CENL
CIVICUS
Collegium Artium
Communia International Association on the Public Domain
Conference of Southeast Asia Librarians (CONSAL)
Development Initiatives
Ecole nationale supérieure des sciences de l’information et des bibliothèques (ENSSIB)
Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL)
European Association of Science Editors (EASE)
European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Associations (EBLIDA)
Federación Española de Asociaciones de Archiveros Bibliotecarios, Arqueólogos, Museólogos y Documentalistas (ANABAD-Aragón)
FrontlineSMS
Global Integrity
Global Partners Digital
Holy Spirit University of Kaslik
INDEX MURCIA
Indonesian Library Association
International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP)
International Federation of Journalists – Asia-Pacific
International Records Management Trust
Internet and Democracy Project
Internews
IP Justice
IREX – Civil Society, Education and Media Development
Kenya Human Rights Commission
Narva Central Library (Estonia)
Open Knowledge Foundation
Partnerships in Health Information (PHI)
Public Knowledge
Restless Development
SPARC
SPARC Europe
Standing Conference of Eastern, Central and Southern African Library and Information Associations (SCECSAL)
Te Rōpū Whakahau (National Association for Māori in Libraries and Information, New Zealand)
University of South Africa Library
Victoria University of Wellington Library
Vietnamese Library Association
Webster University
WorldPulse

Read the original article online at ifex.

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On the Media: Report: Journalism training in the Digital Era

by Rosemary D’Amour on The Source
CIMA’s latest report, Journalism Training in the Digital Era: Views from the Field, remarks upon the digital revolution for media development. Practitioners are hard pressed to find a request for proposal that doesn’t incorporate some new media elements–and as author Bill Ristow reports, “media developers now need to think like new media entrepreneurs.”

But what does this mean for journalism training, ofttimes the staple of many media development interventions?

Bill Ristow at a journalism training

Bill Ristow at a journalism training

Ristow, a journalism trainer himself, interviewed thirteen journalism trainers from across the media development field—academics, implementers, and journalists, each spreading that same message that context is key.

“The mix has to be there,” says Jerome Aumente, former professor at Rutgers University and a journalism trainer over the past two decades, interviewed for the report. “What you must do is line it up with the realities of the country you’re in and calibrate it to make it match up. There’s no point in teaching higher-end technology to a region that is still basically newspaper focused.”

Ultimately, Ristow’s recommendation is one that can be applied to the media development field as a whole: While we can’t discount the benefits brought on by technological development, we should be careful not to be swept up in them.

Read the full report and see the recommendations from the experts.

Read the original article online at The Source.

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Development, Haiti: For Disenfranchised Haitian Islanders, Tourism Signals a Paradise Lost

Homes like these in the village of Madam Bernard, Ile à Vache, Haiti, might be removed to make way for tourist development or islanders removed from other areas might be relocated here. Credit: Judith Scherr/IPS

Homes like these in the village of Madam Bernard, Ile à Vache, Haiti, might be removed to make way for tourist development or islanders removed from other areas might be relocated here. Credit: Judith Scherr/IPS

ILE À VACHE, Haiti, Aug 8 2014 (IPS) – Calm waters lap the shore beneath stately coconut palms. Mango trees display their bounty alongside mangrove forests. Goats graze peacefully on hillsides.

Ile à Vache is “the Caribbean’s last treasure island,” says Haiti’s Ministry of Tourism. Just 10.5 km off Haiti’s southwest coast, the 13 by 3.2 km haven is, the ministry continues, “unpaved, unplugged, unspoiled and unlike anywhere else,” and “singular for its complete absence of roads and cars.”

“After three successive demonstrations, they sent police to terrorise the people of Ile à Vache.” — Alexis Kenold

 

These words were written, however, before mangroves were cleared for an international airport, coconut palms were bulldozed for a road, a bay was dredged for yachts and some 40 police officers came with weapons and three all-terrain vehicles to quell protests.

Islanders, estimated at between 14,000 and 20,000, are angry at their exclusion from the government decision-making process that has opened the island for investment in an international airport, hotels, villas, a golf course, and an underwater museum — investments that place residents’ futures in limbo.

“The project came to the island by surprise,” Alexis Kenold, a 40-year-old father of five, told IPS. “The government hadn’t talked to us about it. They want to kick us out in favour of those who would profit from tourist development.”

On May 10, 2013, President Michel Martelly decreed that the island was a “public utility,” zoned for tourism.

“The decree says that no inhabitant of the island owns his land and that the state can do whatever it wants with it,” said Kenold, a member of Konbit Peyizan Ilavach, Farmers Organization of Ile à Vache, formed to oppose the project.

Minister of Tourism Stephanie Villedrouin Balmir, who declined an interview for this story, has said that no more than five percent of the islanders will be displaced, that they will be relocated, not removed from the island, and that they will be compensated for their losses.

But involuntary relocation is unacceptable to the islanders, who have held several large demonstrations since December demanding retraction of the decree.

The government reacted to the protests by beefing up police forces and throwing KOPI Vice President Jean Matulnes Lamy into the National Penitentiary, Kenold said. Officials say Lamy is detained on charges unrelated to the protests, but activists say his imprisonment is political.

“After three successive demonstrations, they sent police to terrorise the people of Ile à Vache,”
Kenold said, charging that when he was away from home police ransacked his house and took money he’d saved for his children’s school fees.

He said they’ve harassed and beat others, and now islanders live in fear of the police. Before the demonstrations, there were just three or four police on the peaceful island, he said.

A spate of planned investment projects on Ile à Vache, Haiti has placed residents’ future in limbo. Credit: Judith Scherr/IPS

Islanders say they don’t oppose tourism – they might benefit by getting electricity, potable water and government services. But they don’t want to be moved from their five-room homes with spacious yards for trees, gardens and animals, to crowd into two rooms up against neighbours.

And they worry about the island’s fragile ecology.

“The forest is the lungs of the island,” Kenold said. “It’s like they want to sacrifice the heart and the lungs of the island to put in an international airport.”

There’s concern as well for the waters surrounding the island. They “began dredging a pristine bay known as Madam Bernard without an assessment of the environmental impact on marine ecosystems,” Jessica Hsu of the NGO Other Worlds and radio host Jean Claudy Aristil said in a joint presentation at a July Innovators in Coastal Tourism symposium in Grenada.

The project has already impacted some islanders economically. School director Dracen Jean Louienel told IPS that people had used the mangroves that were cut down for the airport to produce charcoal.

“That was how people made their living,” he said, “This destroyed their livelihood.” And building the road removed coconut trees on which other families depended, he said.

Louienel said, moreover, promises of work have not been fulfilled. “People signed up to work on the road, but few were hired,” Louienel said.

Some islanders, however, have profited from the project and support it. Standing in the clearing where the airport is to be built, Gilbert Joseph called the project “a wonderful thing.” Joseph works as a security guard there at night and sells beverages to the construction workers during the day.

Clausel Ilmo, whose son is working as a translator for the Dominican road-building company, also likes the project. He pointed out that where it once took hours to walk to distant parts of the island, one now can go quickly on the road by motorbike.

Father Guy Carter Guerrier, a Catholic priest, did not join the militant protests. Still, he has concerns. “To me, developing the island could be a beautiful project,” he said. “The problem is, the government didn’t include the people here. They even passed over the church. They left everybody out.”

Up the hill from Guerrier’s church, Sr. Flora Blanchette, a French-Canadian Franciscan nun who’s run an orphanage on the island since 1981, shared her hopes and concerns.

New roads can help people access health care, schools and food, she said, but the fruit trees that nourish the children should be protected.

“What I’m hoping is that they bring the essentials for people living on the island,” she said, “that they truly bring development for all the social classes to benefit.”

In Costa Rica, the whole population has benefited from tourism, Elizabeth Becker, author of “Overbooked: the Global Business of Travel and Tourism” told IPS by phone. There, locals have input into development, she said.

Implemented correctly, Haiti could greatly benefit from the booming tourism market, she added.

However, “bottom-up tourism is the best way to do ecotourism,” Becker said. “People should not be losing their property rights in order to have tourism. People should instead have … a voice in what kind of tourism they want.”

Cambodia’s tourist development provides a cautionary tale, she said. The government took away people’s property rights and parks protections and did not consult locals before installing hotels and airports.

In Cambodia, “all that great money that supposedly comes from tourism doesn’t land in local hands,” she said. “It either lands with the elite or with foreigners.”

Haiti’s Ministry of Tourism emphasises environmentalism. The Ile à Vache “project objective is to develop sustainable tourism based on the practices of ecotourism,” an online ministry slideshow says. But islanders say the government hasn’t demonstrated care for the environment.

Documents also say the government will undertake a “social improvements programme.” It has recently dug new wells, built a community centre, installed outdoor solar lights, and distributed rice and fishing equipment.

But Kenold says it was only “after the population rose up, that they came with a few grains of rice to appease the anger of the people.”

“I’m not against tourist development, but it’s the way they’re going about it,” Kenold said, adding that people are open to dialogue with government officials, but only after the decree is retracted, Lamy is released from prison and police are removed from the island.

“After lifting the decree that would disposes the inhabitants,” he said, “they can come with their projects and we will come with ours.”

Edited by: Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at judithscherr@gmail.com

Related IPS Articles

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On the Media: In Mexico City, journalists strive to become agents of change

by Steven Youngblood, director, Center for Global Peace Journalism

Despite the challenges, journalists can be agents of change.

This important and encouraging message was the most critical take-away from the symposium, “Journalism for Change”, held last week in Mexico City. Sponsored by the NGO Ashoka, the symposium gathered influential Mexican and Latin American journalists as well as other interested parties like the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), Poynter Institute, Corresponsal de Paz (Peace Correspondent), and the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University.

One intriguing and unique example of journalism for change was presented by Molly Swenson of ryot.org. Ryot.org is a website that links news to action—it’s “what’s going on in the news and what you can do about it,” according to the site. For example, at the end of a story about the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, readers can learn more, donate now, or get involved (by joining Swirl, an organization committed to cross-racial dialogue). Swenson told a roundtable discussion that Ryot doesn’t pretend to be objective, and that, in fact, it’s okay to not be objective as long as that bias is known up-front to the readers.

Another journalist for change at the symposium was Pablo Espinosa, director of the Columbian magazine Innovacion Social. Espinosa describes his magazine as taking an alternative viewpoint to most of the Colombian press that eschews sensationalism and offers more analysis and solutions-based reporting.
Of course, the practice of change journalism, and peace journalism, faces many obstacles both in Colombia and Mexico. Javier Garza, a newspaper editor and representative of ICFJ, told a symposium roundtable about the obstacles to responsible journalism posed by both economics and by violence in Mexico. He said the Mexican public suffers from “sensationalism fatigue” because of the onslaught of reporting about drug killings. One related, and chilling, scenario was discussed: Can murders become so commonplace that they cease to qualify as news?
A professor from Universidad Iberoamericano (UI) in Mexico City presented survey data that underscored the challenges that Garza introduced. In a UI survey of Mexican journalists, 50% reported having been threatened by criminals or politicians, 60% reported earning less than 10,000 pesos ($760) per month; and 40% said they work for at least two different media outlets in an attempt to make ends meet. The good news is that despite these problems, a majority of Mexican journalists see themselves as agents of change.
The symposium concluded on an optimistic note, as several break-out group participants pledged to unite to disseminate change-oriented stories and to continue to exchange ideas about how to leverage media for positive change.
This article can be read on the Peace and Collaborative Development Network.
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Putting My Chikungunya Virus in Haitian Perspective

chikungunya

The Aedes mosquito infected me with the Chikungunya virus during my visit to Haiti in May. I arrived the week it became an epidemic and it managed to get me despite dousing myself with DEET day and night. Two and a half months later, I am still hobbling around with joint pain. But let’s put my pain in perspective…

In Haiti it is estimated that at least 150,000 people have been affected since the first cases were identified in April. The virus has been moving across the Caribbean since 2013. This viral infection causes a high fever, rash, and headache that typically last a week. It is most notorious for its joint and muscle pain, that may last for months or years, and strikes the hands and feet with particular vengeance. In fact the word “Chikungunya” means twisted or bent over in the local Tanzanian language where the illness originated in the 1950s. There is no treatment for the infection.

The best help is painkillers, regular ol’ 600-800mg of Ibuprofen twice a day provides a great deal of relief during the fever, and some relief for the ongoing joint pain. I’ve gone through bottles of it. In Haiti when the outbreak started there was little pain medication available and none at a price affordable to the vast number of rural poor in need.

By the end of May, when the illness became epidemic, the Haitian government said they had 400,000 doses of pain medication for free which would be made available to rural health clinics. That amount would treat about 7,000 patients for 30 days, far less than needed for the 150,000 cases. I cannot imagine dealing with Chikungunya without medication, or having to cope with it in the extremely cramped, hot and humid conditions that typify most Haitian living conditions.

I also don’t have to deal with it without good shoes. For many, the lingering pain is most severe in the feet, ankles, wrists and hands. I hobble the worst when not wearing shoes and avoid curbs and sills as any lumps accentuate the pain. Try and imagine dealing with that pain in flip-flops – the world’s most ubiquitous footwear – and while trying to till a field or do any other kind of physical labor. All of this is to remind us how good most of us have it if we weren’t born Haitian. Haiti is at the bottom of the World Bank’s rankings of health indicators due to its poor sanitation systems, nutrition, and health services. Only 43 percent of the population receives recommended immunizations and most rural areas have no access to health care.

Because Haiti is near the bottom of most economic and social development indicators, we will work with Haitians to explore these painful realities during our documentary training, production and education campaign this fall.

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Check Out Michael Sheridan on TEDx! – Why Local Perspectives are Necessary for a Balanced Information Diet

Conn College Logo“We all have to demand an improvement in our news diet. A balanced diet that’s less self-centric, that includes more local perspectives, will really help us be better informed, and therefore, more effective citizens.”    

On April 13, Michael Sheridan, an alumnus of Connecticut College, spoke at this year’s TEDxConnecticutCollege conference about Community Supported Film’s experience bringing local perspectives from Afghanistan to the U.S. through documentary filmmaking. Michael’s talk, entitled “Transforming News and Views through Local Perspectives,” compares U.S. mainstream media coverage of Afghanistan with local Afghan stories to show the unbalanced state of the Western news diet. By highlighting this imbalance, Michael demonstrates a need for both perspectives in order to create sustainable solutions for ourselves and for Afghans. Watch Michael’s TEDx talk here and/or read the highlights below:

It becomes clear that news stories have the capacity to both help and harm people once you ask who is telling the story, why they are telling it, and how it influences the general public. In the case of mainstream media coverage of Afghanistan, which focuses on “war-centric” stories and stories that are most relatable to Americans, the Afghan perspective is lost, subsequently harming the Afghan people.

In his talk, Michael compares photos and videos from The New York Times and Frontline with videos produced through Community Supported Film’s trainings in Afghanistan to show the way in which the mainstream media’s perception of Afghan issues does not accurately reflect the daily problems that the Afghan people are facing. Instead of focusing on warfare and violence, the locally produced videos emphasize issues with water, illiteracy, and drug addiction. Michael states that more Afghans are killed by water issues than insurgents and that 87% of Afghans believe that men and women should have equal access to education. Those are shocking statistics for those who only see Afghans in Western media portrayed as violent and discriminatory towards women.

TEDx: On the Shoulders of Giants

“American reporters…and the American news industry [in general] are telling the story of our news in Afghanistan and not necessarily the news from Afghanistan.”

Through his TEDx talk, Michael Sheridan proves that telling the news from Afghanistan can only be accomplished through a balanced information diet of both mainstream and local perspectives, thereby highlighting the importance of the Community Supported Film mission.

 

TEDx events are locally organized gatherings held in the same format as the well-known TED talks. These events bring leading thinkers and doers together to share what they are most passionate about.

The theme of this year’s Connecticut College TEDx event was “On the Shoulders of Giants,” which highlighted the power of collaboration and the insights gained from a historical perspective.

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Haiti, Development: Reconstruction or Haiti’s Latest Disaster? Tourism Development on Île-à-Vache Island

The following is adapted from a presentation by Jessica Hsu of Other Worlds and Jean Claudy Aristil of Radio VKM Les Cayes at the Executive Symposium for Innovators in Coastal Tourism conference in St. Georges, Grenada held from July 8 – July 11, 2014.

A large-scale tourism project planned for the Haitian island of Île-à-Vache targets “the well-heeled tourist from traditional markets…creating a place of exquisite peace and well-being,” as described in the government of Haiti’sexecutive plan. The project aims to attract four character types: “the Explorers, the Lovers, the Rejuvenators and the Homecomers.” The corporations behind the project intend to build 1,500 hotels and bungalows along the island’s beaches, an international airport, a golf course, island farms, and tourist “villages” with cafes, shops, and night clubs.

The government touts the project as “community hand-in-hand”, with “equitable distribution of benefits for all.” It says the tourism will be “mothering [to] nature” and is for the “general good.”

The community sees it very differently. A grassroots group, Collective for Île-à-Vache (KOPI), was formed in December 2013 and immediately began organizing multiple peaceful protests, strengthening the voices of the local community, and connecting with allies.

Community members have been mobilizing because they understand the multiple challenges ahead if the project continues as planned. Problems will likely include displacement of people from their land, forced migration to the overcrowded capital in search of work, loss of food production in a hungry nation, further economic impoverishment, and environmental and cultural degradation.

The administration has been making empty promises and telling lies to the inhabitants of the island, while systematically violating their rights and using violence to repress and intimidate those who have been peacefully protesting.

Special police forces, such as the Motorized Intervention Brigade (BIM) and the Intervention and Order Maintenance Corps (CIMO), have a permanent presence on the island now. Preceding the inception of the tourism project, there were only three police officers. In the last two weeks, a SWAT team has been introduced to the island. [The team was described in one account as more than 50 special police forces dressed in black with masks.]

Vice-president of KOPI, Police officer Jean Mathelnus Lamy, was arrested on February 21st.  He was moved to the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince on Februray 25, where he remains without official charges.

The “peace and well-being” envisioned for the tourists have not extended to the local population. On the contrary, there is a sense of fear around what is impending. It began when the government issued an official decree on May 10, 2013 making all of the offshore islands zones of tourism development and public utility. The proposed plans for the project were created by three Canadian companies: Resonance, 360 VOX, and IBI/DAA. They have little understanding or attachment to community needs.

Since then, the situation has gotten much worse. In August 2013, groundbreaking for the international airport flattened an old-growth forest, which was considered community land. Truxton began dredging a pristine bay known as Madam Bernard without an assessment of the environmental impact on marine ecosystems. Abaka Bay, which is one of the two luxury hotels on the island, illuminated the issue of waste management when a recent human rights delegation spotted the resort’s current method of waste disposal behind the resort. The expansion of Abaka Bay is part of phase I of the project.

Construction on a new road began in late 2013, without any notice, damaging a number of homes and taking out up to 18 coconut trees, which were a critical part of one household’s livelihood. No compensation was offered for the losses, though that is required by the Haitian Constitution. The company working on the road and airport is the Dominican Company Ingeneria Estrella. [The delegation] spoke to one elderly woman whose home is near the airport and has been marked for demolition, as she understands, by the Office of Land Registry (DGI). She stated about the Estrella workers, “They come in and out of my yard without notice and they enter without even a greeting.”

The collective KOPI has been organizing with other grassroots and human right organizations from Port-au-Prince. The group’s demands are (1) transparency and communication about the project, (2) retraction of the May 10, 2013 decree stating that the island is for tourism development and public utility, and (3) release of KOPI’s vice-president, Jean Mathelnus Lamy, who remains in the National Penitentiary, and (4) removal of the special police forces from the island. KOPI consists of 11 steering members and seven additional members in each of the 26 localities on the island.

Largely, the island community is not opposed to tourism. They are in favor of development which is respectful of their needs, which does not exploit nor threaten to take away their land; a project in which their participation is central and integral. However, they strongly oppose the current iteration of the project which is systematically violating their rights.

Last week, Prime Minister Lamothe visited the island again with a government delegation consisting of the Minister of Justice and a delegate from the Ministry of the Promotion of the Peasantry. Multiple communications were issued during this visit from the Ministry of Communication and Martelly-friendly outlets, including Haiti Libre, show what appears to be the prime minister talking to a supportive population about social programs and distributing food.

The untold story in these communications by Prime Minister Lamothe and Minister of Tourism Stephanie Balmir Villedrouin is that the population was told each household would receive 10,000 gourdes, or about US$220, during the visit to help boost microenterprise. When the delegation arrived, no money was distributed, but rather sacks of rice and crackers. Close inspection of the picture of Lamothe speaking, which was circulated by Haiti Libre and the Minister of Communications, shows the audience actually standing in a line for this hand out.

While the population protested the visit with burning tires and blockades, there were few people taking to the streets because of SWAT presence which accompanied the delegation. Warrants were issued for the arrest of KOPI leaders. Many of them have left their homes and gone into hiding unable to continue with their daily livelihood activities.

Villedrouin continues to say publicly the tourism development project is for the community, while the lies, intimidation, and repression continue. The population’s claims were verified in a report issued on April 2, 2014 [by eight Haitian human rights groups which visited the area] to investigate the tensions.

Similar recent foreign investment schemes in Haiti, like new free trade zones, have not brought the much- touted government line of better incomes. Residents of Île-à-Vache are concerned that they will have no power to enforce even the daily minimum wage of $5.11, as has happened with new sweatshops. Further, Haiti’s tourism industry – when it was flourishing in the 80’s – created a collision of wealth and extreme poverty which promoted other informal economies, such as the sex industry which was illuminated in the film Heading South.

Under the platform “Haiti is Open for Business”, the Martelly/Lamothe Administration continues to entice foreign investments with images of stability and security, building of infrastructure financed by PetroCaribe, and incentive policies such as a 15-year exemption from local taxes and duties exonerations on the import of equipment, goods and materials.

Tourism is one of the development pillars of the government in reconstruction/rebuilding following the 2010 earthquake. Tourism is supported by the Bill Clinton, UN Special Envoy to Haiti, who speaks of “Building Back Better.” The other economic pillars include mining, free-trade zones, and monocropping for export, all of which are direct affronts to the livelihoods of the rural peasantry and to food and land sovereignty.

The situation on Île-à-Vache is indicative of all the woes of Caribbean tourism and the model for what is to occur across Haiti. The government continues on its path to implement development to shape what it is calling “an emerging country by 2030.” In reality, these modes of development are further displacing and increasing urban migration; detaching and alienating the peasantry from the land with few alternatives.

Villedrouin does not speak about displacements, but rather “relocation,” when addressing residents of the island, while reporting to Reuters that only five percent of the population will be displaced. Lamothe promises there will be no displacements.

Simultaneously, there are still displacement camps in Port-au-Prince more than four years after the quake. There is no relocation plan for the residents of these camps, and in some areas of Port-au-Prince there is still rubble remaining. If this is the precedent for what happens to those who are displaced in Haiti, then the inhabitants of Île-à-Vache should be concerned about their futures.

Will many farmers and fishers from the island end up in the shantytowns of Haiti, as have hundreds of thousands of displaced farmers before them? Those who were living in hillside shantytowns had the highest mortality rate from the earthquake. Île-à-Vache’s population continues to be unsettled, uncertain of its future.

And so the Île-à-Vache community sings in protest:

Caller:

Nou gen kasav (We have cassava)

Nou gen kafe (We have coffee).

Group Response:

Nou pa bezwen pwoje sa (We do not need this project).

 

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3 Innovations In Participative Journalism That Will Change The Media Industry

AshokaAshoka , Contributor

High Quality, Reliable and Cost-Effective International Reporting

Seasoned foreign correspondent Cristi Hegranes has watched as media companies have closed their foreign bureaus to save operating costs, thus limiting journalists’ access to diverse stories and sources and creating a narrow focus on high-profile cases of war and poverty. In response, she founded the Global Press Institute (GPI) to demonstrate how affordable, high quality, and diverse news can be produced by enabling communities to tell their own stories.

Hegranes is challenging the notion that only university-educated, professional journalists, who are connected to major publications, can produce quality content. GPI provides a rigorous six-month training, and then employs those who complete this training to write for the Global Press Journal. GPI has already syndicated stories to more than 25 major media outlets around the globe.

Is this model a standard that media companies can begin to adopt globally?

Access to Information

Sascha Meinrath believes the media can no longer operate effectively in a world where large portions of the population are disadvantaged by poor Internet access. “It’s a business model that just doesn’t work,” he said.

As director of X-Lab and the founder of the Open Technology Institute, Meinrath is tackling the issue of access by developing a mesh-wireless network that allows multiple communication paths to a single network, allowing users to directly connect with each other.

This network does not require a centrally located transmitter; it allows users to overcome both physical and technological obstacles. This solution is critical where there are barriers to freedom of the press, or where Internet access is controlled and monitored.

“The more inclusive we are, the more benefits accrue to everyone that is in that system,” Meinrath said. Could this be a solution for media outlets struggling to provide objective and balanced content in an oppressive regime? Will it lead to more open and transparent content sharing? Meinrath is optimistic.

Many new media platforms are being launched with financial backing from Silicon Valley’s top investors, but there are many more startup and alternative media platforms that are still struggling to get the funds to launch or sustain themselves in media markets that are highly controlled or regulated . Sasa Vucinic, a journalist and editor in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, recognized that any figure of authority or institution with power can set and skew the content agenda by creating a dependency on funding. This inhibits objective reporting and sharing of accurate information. In response, Vucinic co-founded the Media Development Loan Fund (MDLF)—a social investment fund that offers affordable financing to independent media outlets.

When a media venture is selected for support, it is guided through a process of management and connected to a network of other media outlets. Throughout this process, the fund ensures that all aspects of the media outlet are well managed and aligned with strategic goals. At the same time, the ultimate goal is to eliminate dependence on MDLF’s network for financial sustainability.

Herganes, Meinrath, and Vucinic have all developed their empathy skills so they can understand the needs of the new and emerging marketplaces in a rapidly changing world. They are seeing power shift from siloed tactics and strategies to collaborative and networked solutions. The old model of top-down information produced by elites has thwarted citizens who want to be actively engaged and connected to a global community, and who want to make sense of the change that is engulfing them.

It’s clear that no single innovation will ensure the future success of the media industry. It will take creative, flexible, inclusive and empathic problem-solvers who are working collaboratively to add value to a changing media environment. At the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum on June 30- July 2 and at the Ashoka Globalizer, these 3 leading social entrepreneurs and manyother promising media innovations proved that there are those who are beginning to tackle these problems.

This post was written by Laxmi Parthasarathy (@laxmisarathy), a media development professional and currently Global Media Partnerships Manager at Ashoka.

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Broadcasting African Documentaries to Africa

SouthAfrica.Info, 22 July 2014

South Africa’s Durban International Film Festival initiated a world first on Monday as it began broadcasting a full week of African documentary films to television audiences across sub-Saharan Africa.

The AfriDocs Film Week connects the largest film festival in Africa to TV viewers in 49 African countries through a “film festival on your screen” featuring documentary films from the DRC, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

The week-long film event is a project of AfriDocs, the first weekly prime-time documentary strand broadcasting across the continent. AfriDocs broadcasts top African documentaries to 49 countries every Tuesday night by satellite on ED (DStv channel 190) and GOtv (channel 65), and terrestrially to an additional 100 cities in eight countries.

AfriDocs is an initiative of Cape Town-based documentary production and distribution company Steps in partnership with the Bertha Foundation.

“So many documentary films have been shot in Africa, but very few have been seen by African audiences,” AfriDocs executive producer Don Edkins said in a statement on the weekend. “This heralds a new era of distribution for the continent.”

Films by African filmmakers Sani Elhadj Magori, Licinio Azevedo, Rehad Desai, Judy Kibinge, Andrey Samoute Diarra, Annalet Steenkamp and Mandy Jacobson – together with filmmakers Mika Karismäki, Thierry Michel, Roger Ross Williams, Abby Ginzberg and Göran Olsson, among others – will be seen for the first time by a wide audience as a result of this collaboration.

Seven of the films screening at the Durban International Film Festival, which is currently under way, will also be part of the programme, including the award-winning Miners Shot DownConcerning ViolenceI AfrikanerThe Irresistible Rise of Moïse Katumbi and Soft Vengeance.

These documentaries tell a wide range of stories, including films about African artists such as singer Miriam Makeba and Malian photographer Malik Sibidé, films about political leaders Patrice Lumumba and Liberian President Sirleaf Johnson, and films dealing with revolutionaries, farmers, gangsters, musicians and evangelists.

Rebecca Lichtenfeld, director of social impact media at Bertha Philanthropies, said the Bertha Foundation was proud to partner with Steps in bringing great documentary films to audiences across Africa. “Connecting documentary film to African audiences is something we have been hoping to do for some time now, and this is an ideal platform for that,” she said.

For the full programme schedule and synopses of the films, visit www.afridocs.net or www.facebook.com/AfriDocs.

SAinfo reporter

Read more: http://www.southafrica.info/news/afridocs-220714.htm#.U8-_9vmICQp#ixzz38IiHkuIb

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Afghanistan, Media: Oral Stories Project – Afghan Women’s Writing Project

I Just Keep Delivering

Illiterate Afghan Women Get in a Word on Pregnancy & Childbirth

Afghanistan has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world, according to the World Health Organization, whose statistics show one in 11 Afghan women die of causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Who’s to blame? In a mix of poverty and cultural tradition, girls marry and give birth too young. Family planning is rare. Access to doctors and public health facilities is minimal at best, and non-existent in rural areas.

Don’t miss these ten interviews with illiterate Afghan women by writers of the Afghan Women’s Writing Project.  Ten short pieces that enable western readers to hear the womens’ first-hand thoughts on family planning and pregnancy. Read all of them and share with your friends!

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Boston Globe Article: Haitians telling the story of Haiti

bostonglobe.com

Haitians telling the story of Haiti

by Loren King , June 7, 2014

Multimedia journalist Ralph Thomassaint Joseph (second from left) will assist with local training of young Haitian filmmakers as Community Supported Film’s Haiti project coordinator.

As the Oscar-nominated documentary “The Square” proved, it’s the people with a stake in political and social upheaval who can most effectively tell their own stories. Boston documentary filmmaker Michael Sheridan believes that, too, which is why in 2010 he founded Community Supported Film to train grass-roots documentary filmmakers across the globe.

CSF’s first effort was the “Afghan Project,” resulting in 10 short films that were compiled into “The Fruit of Our Labor: Afghan Perspectives in Film.” It was shown to political leaders, students, and communities across the United States and in Afghanistan.

Now, Sheridan and CSF have launched “Haitian Perspectives in Film,”which will train and mentor 10 Haitian directors who hope to influence the way their country is portrayed in documentaries.

Sheridan, a Boston native who cofounded Oxfam America’s documentary production unit in the 1990s and who has taught documentary filmmaking at Northeastern University, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and the former Boston Film and Video Foundation, says he’s been “frustrated by the tenor of the conversation” in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Aware that January 2015 will be the fifth anniversary and anticipating intense media coverage, he wants Haitians to be able to present films that offer their own perspective “from the inside,” he says.

CSF has partnered with award-winning Haitian journalist Ralph Thomassaint Joseph, who will oversee local training of young filmmakers who will produce 10 short films. These films will focus on the economic and social development challenges Haitians have faced since the 2010 earthquake, says Sheridan, who recently returned from a trip to Haiti and plans to go back in the fall.

For more information about CSF projects, go to csfilm.org.

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Michael Sheridan to present at NAMAC conference, Philadelphia

NAMAC – the National Association of Media Arts has kindly invited Community Supported Film to be on the panel, Rural, Regional, and Indigenous Media Projects, at its National Conference, August 6-8, in Philly.   Also on the panel are Ada Smith, Appalshop; Lora Taub-Pervizpour, HYPE Youth Media, and Sean McLaughlin, Access Humboldt!

If you’re in the area, or are still scheduling your summer holiday plans, come on down!

We would like to maximize the impact of our trip and therefore are looking for invitations to present our work at other venues, orgs, homes etc…  This could be in the Philly area or on route between Boston and Philly!  We’ll be headed that way on or before August 6 and returning on or after the 9th.   Find out more about organizing an event here.

We can present the films and work of our Afghan trainees and/or delve in to the subject of our Tedx talk – Transforming News and Views through Local Perspectives – why locally sourced reporting is essential for our healthy information diet.

Please let us know if you can host an event or can suggest others that we should be in touch with.

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Development: Measuring the Strengths and Weaknesses of Foreign Aid

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks during a tour of the damage from Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban, the Philippines.

In 2012, 149 countries around the world received more than $125 billion of Official Development Assistance (ODA). Keeping track of those disbursements is no small feat. Measuring theeffectiveness of the aid requires even greater legwork.

Fortunately, data on ODA—unlike data on aid from many philanthropic organizations around the world—is systematically collected and monitored by the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC). This allows researchers to not only measure aid effectiveness from DAC countries and agencies, but to also monitor improvement over time and develop best practices for improving impact.

In total, 31 DAC member countries and agencies reported on their aid disbursements in 2012.In their latest report, Brookings’s Homi Kharas and Nancy Birdsall of the Center for Global Development look at that data to analyze the quality of ODA from those 31 DAC member countries and agencies based on four main elements: (1) maximizing efficiency, (2) fostering institutions, (3) reducing burden, and (4) transparency and learning.

The new report is the third edition of the Quality Official Development Assistance (QuODA) assessment. For the first time, it also examines non-DAC donors that have reported data about their ODA.

What’s Improved—and What Hasn’t

When it comes to improvements in the quality of foreign aid from 2008 to 2012, Kharas and Birdsall find that the results are mixed. While some progress has been made with ODA, many elements haven’t improved. Here are a few takeaways from the study’s examination of ODA based on the four main elements:

Maximizing Efficiency: Few Improvements Have Been Made

Few donors have shifted their aid allocations to poor countries. Of course, given that developing countries themselves have been growing rapidly, donors would automatically be giving more funds to less poor countries. But that simply reinforces the need for more active management of strategic country allocations.

In the same vein, donors have not shifted resources toward better governed economies, but have actually done the opposite. Long lags between donor allocations and shifts in country governance rankings caused donors to see the governance of the recipient countries deteriorate on average. Exceptions include Portugal, Norway, and EU institutions, which seem to have taken governance most seriously.

Fostering Institutions: A Bright Spot in Aid Quality Improvements

Donors have made progress on giving countries a greater say in their own development. The share of aid going to countries that recipient country respondents identified in polls as their primary concern has doubled, with Sweden, the UK, Ireland, Luxembourg, and EU and UN institutions recording the largest percentage increases.

The “missing aid” between what donors reported and what governments said they received has almost disappeared. UN agencies, Australia, New Zealand and Spain saw extraordinary improvements. But Italy had an issue: recipients reported receipt of less than 85 percent of what Italy reported giving.

Reducing Burden: More Work Is Needed

Some countries, like India, have encouraged very small donors to exit. The burden of sustaining the relationship is simply not worth the amounts of aid involved.

With more donors, however, the significance of each donor-partner relationship (scored to reflect the relative concentration of aid), is diminishing. For example, the U.S., Sweden, and France have seen sharp decreases in the significance of their aid relationships.

Transparency and Learning: Substantial Progress Has Been Made

Many donors are members of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), with the U.S., Canada, and several large multilateral agencies having joined since 2008.

Donors have also become far more meticulous in the way they record their activities, with very good compliance on major categories.

Ranking Donor Countries and Agencies

This year’s report ranks each of the 31 members of the DAC according to the four elements outlined above. Kharas and Birdsall’s analysis uncovers no clear winner in terms of who is providing the most effective ODA and almost no correlation across the rankings of the four categories.

Here are a few of the many interesting takeaways from the rankings:

Most donors have strengths and weaknesses. Out of the 31 donors and major agencies assessed, 22 have a top 10 ranking in at least one quality dimension, while twenty-two of the donors and major agencies also have a ranking in the bottom 10 in at least one dimension.

Italy and Greece have small aid programs, but they are strong supporters of global public goods, as well as contributing a high share of their aid to multilateral agencies.By doing this, they significantly reduce the burden on recipients of having to deal with multiple small aid programs.

Canada provides the greatest detail in its description of aid activities, bringing transparency to its program and allowing others to avoid waste by identifying where there may be overlap with Canadian activities.

The UN agencies continue to use parallel project implementation units, far more than other donors.

Both Australia and New Zealand have long provided significant amounts of aid to small neighboring island economies. These economies, however, still appear to have a far worse than normal framework for monitoring and evaluating their development activities.

Ireland ranks in the top four in every category.

Here’s a full table of weak spots and strong spots for individual donor countries and agencies:

Who Else Reports on Official Development Assistance?

Systematic reporting by these 31 DAC member countries and agencies allows researchers to analyze, over time, improvements to the quality of international development assistance. This speaks to the benefits of aid transparency. With more data, we can learn more and improve impact.

The good news is that some non-DAC donors are starting to report on their aid activities to the OECD. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has become the first non-governmental agency to do so. The Gates Foundation disbursed $2.13 billion in 2012, making it the 15th largest donor agency in the world. Kharas and Birdsall write that “the addition of non-state actors like the Gates Foundation…represents a significant step towards the overall goal of improving the transparency and comprehensiveness of aid activities around the world.”

  • Alison Burke, Alexandria Icenhower and Delaney Parrish, Office of Communications

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Afghanistan: Afghan war inflicting devastating toll on civilians – U.N.

Source: Reuters – Wed, 9 Jul 2014 08:23 GMT, Author: Reuters

People look at a cracked side window of a bus which was damaged at bomb blasts in Kabul June 6, 2014. AbREUTERS/Ahmad Masood

  
Afghans receive food charity during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in Jalalabad city July 8, 2014. REUTERS/Parwiz
By Maria Golovnina

KABUL, July 9 (Reuters) – Afghanistan’s war is inflicting an increasingly devastating toll on the civilian population, with the number of casualties rising by almost a quarter in the first half of this year, the United Nations said in a report on Wednesday.

U.S.-led forces are gradually withdrawing from military bases scattered across Afghanistan after 12 years of war against Taliban insurgents, contributing to deteriorating security, with civilians bearing the brunt of the violence.

The U.N. report comes out as a political crisis unfolds in Afghanistan, threatening civil unrest on top of the insurgency as supporters of the two presidential candidates go head-to-head over the result of a presidential run-off.

Preliminary results announced on Monday gave Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank official, 56.44 percent in the run-off on June 14, but his rival Abdullah Abdullah immediately rejected the outcome, saying the vote had been marred by widespread fraud.

Abdullah’s supporters rallied in Kabul on Tuesday, demanding he form a parallel government. Washington responded forcefully, warning it would withdraw financial and security support from Afghanistan if anyone tried to take power illegally.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said ground combat was the leading cause of conflict-related deaths and injuries to Afghan civilians, with child casualties more than doubling in the first six months of 2014.

It said two-thirds more women were killed and wounded in ground combat compared with the same period of 2013.

“The nature of the conflict in Afghanistan is changing in 2014 with an escalation of ground engagements in civilian-populated areas,” said U.N. Special Representative for the Secretary-General in Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, Jan Kubis.

“The impact on civilians, including the most vulnerable Afghans, is proving to be devastating.”

It said that from Jan. 1 to June 30 it documented 4,853 civilian casualties, up 24 percent from the same period in 2013. The death toll included 1,564 civilian deaths, up 17 percent, and 3,289 injuries, up 28 percent.

Total child casualties jumped 34 percent to 1,071, including 295 killed and 776 injured, while total women casualties increased 24 percent to 440, it said.

The period has seen more fighting in densely populated areas as foreign forces pull out from most regions, with injuries caused by mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire jumping dramatically in the first half of this year.

The rise in casualties comes despite repeated promises by the Taliban leadership not to target civilians. Yet, the report said the Taliban carried out 69 attacks deliberately targeting civilians, including tribal elders and government officials.

“In 2014, the fight is increasingly taking place in communities, public places and near the homes of ordinary Afghans, with death and injury to women and children in a continued disturbing upward spiral,” said Director of Human Rights for UNAMA Georgette Gagnon.

“More efforts are needed to protect civilians from the harms of conflict and to ensure accountability for those deliberately and indiscriminately killing them.” (Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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Afghanistan: 36 Years of Turmoil in Review

Thomson Reuters Foundation, Updated: Tue, 20 May 2014

IN DETAIL

Afghanistan has experienced more than three decades of conflict, and fighting is still raging in much of the country.

The country is the source of nearly a quarter of the world’s refugees and, although millions have returned home since 2002, about 2.5 million are still living as refugees, most of them in Pakistan or Iran. Another 620,000 people are displaced within Afghanistan.

U.S.-led troops ousted the Taliban in 2001 after they refused to hand over Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader behind the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington.

But violence has surged since 2006, with the Taliban fighting a guerrilla war in the south and east and carrying out high-profile suicide and car bombings across the country.

The Taliban regrouped with the help of safe havens across the border in Pakistan and money from drug lords.

Billions of dollars have been poured into rebuilding the country since 2001, but corruption and the lack of security have hampered development and been a source of frustration to many Afghans.

Aid agencies struggle to access most of the country, especially rural areas where the needs are greatest.

Although nominally women have recovered many of the rights lost under the Taliban, a combination of tribalism, poverty and conflict make the exercising of those rights a significant challenge.

SOVIET INVASION

At the crossroads of regions and empires, Afghanistan has been subject to periodic intense foreign interest for centuries.

In more recent history, a Soviet-backed communist government seized power in 1978, sparking a number of uprisings around the country as it tried to impose radical social reforms. Deteriorating security and a coup by another communist faction precipitated the Soviet invasion at the end of 1979.

Villages were bombed and thousands of civilians arrested and tortured during the occupation.

Religious fighters, or mujahideen – covertly funded by the United States and Saudi Arabia – formed the backbone of the resistance to the occupation.

The Afghan jihad, or holy war, became a cause for Muslim warriors from around the Islamic world. The future al Qaeda leader bin Laden was among them.

The Soviets withdrew in 1989, leaving behind the communist government of President Mohammad Najibullah. Stricken by defections, Najibullah’s government collapsed in 1992, and he eventually took sanctuary at a U.N. compound in Kabul, where he was hanged by Taliban forces four years later.

A mujahideen government was established in April 1992, but it was riven with factional rivalry, and the country disintegrated into civil war during which at least 40,000 people were killed in Kabul alone.

THE TALIBAN

The power vacuum allowed the Taliban, a militant student movement that grew out of hardline religious schools in Pakistan, to take the southern city of Kandahar in 1994 and Kabul in 1996.

The regime, which adhered to a strict interpretation of Islam, barred women from most activities outside the home and ruled they must wear a head-to-foot burqa in public and be accompanied by a male relative. Many women still wear the burqa.

Bin Laden and al Qaeda relocated to Afghanistan in the mid-1990s after being forced to leave Sudan. They based themselves around Kandahar.

The Taliban provoked international condemnation, particularly over their treatment of women. Only three countries – Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – recognised them as the legitimate government.

In 1999, the United Nations imposed sanctions to force the Taliban to turn over bin Laden, who was wanted in connection with the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in the Kenyan capital Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania.

THE NORTHERN ALLIANCE

Throughout the Taliban’s rule, fighting continued between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance. The Alliance was made up of ethnic Tajik-dominated groups who had united to fight the Taliban.

Two days before al Qaeda launched its Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S., a leading member of the Northern Alliance, Ahmad Shah Massoud, was killed by suicide bombers posing as journalists. Al Qaeda members were believed to have carried out the assassination to curry favour with the Taliban.

The United States launched bombing raids on Afghanistan in October 2001 after the Taliban refused to hand over bin Laden.

With U.S. help, the Northern Alliance took the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, then Kabul. The rest of the country swiftly followed.

It is believed bin Laden fled to Pakistan when U.S. and Afghan forces captured his main base in the Tora Bora mountains of eastern Afghanistan in late 2001. Many other al Qaeda militants also fled to Pakistan.

2001 AND BEYOND

At the end of 2001, members of the opposition and international organisations gathered in Germany and drew up the Bonn Agreement, which provided a political roadmap for Afghanistan and a timetable for reconstruction.

Hamid Karzai, an ethnic Pashtun born to the Popalzai clan – a sub-group of the royal Durrani tribe – was chosen to head an Interim Authority. He was later installed as president and won an outright majority in the first presidential election in 2004. Parliamentary elections were held the following year.

Presidential elections in 2009 – a key milestone for peace – were plagued by violence, widespread fraud and low turnout. Karzai won, after his main challenger Abdullah Abdullah pulled out saying a planned runoff vote was not going to be free and fair.

Parliamentary elections in 2010 were calmer.

Presidential elections were held in April 2014, the same year all foreign combat troops are due to leave the country. The Taliban stepped up attacks ahead of the polls and threatened to disrupt the elections. But, on the day, there were fewer attacks than feared, and less fraud than in 2009.

A run-off vote between two candidates – Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani – will be held in June. Under the constitution, Karzai was not allowed to stand in 2014.

Tribal leaders in Kandahar – the birthplace of the Taliban insurgency – say the insurgency has been stoked by the growing wealth and power of Karzai’s family during his 12 years in office.

The government’s authority remains fragile and violence has soared. Militants have crossed the border from Pakistan to join the ranks of the Taliban fighters, who are staging increasingly sophisticated attacks, including multiple roadside bombings and complex ambushes.

Taliban numbers swelled from 7,000 in 2006 to roughly 25,000 in 2009, according to a 2009 U.S. intelligence assessment. More recent estimates vary from between 20,000 and 35,000.

U.S. President Barack Obama decided to send additional troops to Afghanistan in 2009, boosting the total number of foreign troops to about 150,000. Most of the new U.S. troops headed south to the heart of the Taliban insurgency, where British, Canadian and Dutch soldiers did not have enough strength to keep hold of ground they captured.

NATO leaders began transferring responsibility for security to Afghans in 2011. The Afghan army took command of all military and security operations in June 2013.

Foreign troops work with the Afghan National Army, which was about 183,000 strong in June 2013. The Afghan national police force numbered about 150,000.

More than 13,000 Afghan soldiers and police officers have been killed in the past 13 years, according to Afghan government statistics. Although there is no year-by-year breakdown in the figures, most are likely to have been killed in the past three years when Afghan forces grew in number.

Since 2009, when the United Nations established an electronic database to record civilian casualties, more than 14,000 civilians have been killed in the conflict.

The high number of civilian casualties angered Karzai and weakened public support for the continued presence of foreign troops.

Relations between Kabul and Washington were also strained over a string of incidents involving U.S. forces in 2012, including the massacre of Afghan villagers for which a U.S. soldier was jailed for life in 2013, and the inadvertent burning of copies of the Koran.

Some of the most daring, complex attacks in Afghanistan have been blamed on a militant group called the Haqqani network, which operates in both Pakistan and Afghanistan and is allied with the Taliban.

The Haqqani network fought the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, with support from Pakistani, Saudi and U.S. officials. The Haqqanis view part of southeast Afghanistan known as “Loya Paktia” as their rightful homeland.

Since early 2011, the U.S. government has been seeking to hold peace talks with the Taliban, but it is unclear whether the militants are cohesive enough to agree on a joint diplomatic approach to the talks.

In May 2011, bin Laden was killed by U.S. special forces in northwestern Pakistan. By then, al Qaeda’s influence on the Taliban had greatly diminished.

NATO plans to keep a small military training and support mission in Afghanistan after the end of 2014, which the Taliban says is an encroachment on the country’s independence.

Western officials say that the exit of most foreign troops will remove one of the Taliban’s main recruiting tools.

GOING HOME

Millions of Afghans fled to neighbouring countries during the years of conflict, and the Taliban’s fall triggered one of the largest and swiftest refugee repatriations in the world.

Since 2002, Afghans have been streaming home, mostly from Iran and Pakistan. More than 5.7 million Afghans have returned to their country, according to the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR). Another 2.5 million refugees and many undocumented Afghans were still in Pakistan and Iran in 2013, and further afield.

Pakistan and Iran have said they want the remaining Afghans on their soil to go home.

The number of people displaced inside Afghanistan is about 620,000, according to UNHCR. However, this is a conservative estimate because it is impossible to access and collect information in many areas.

The majority have fled their homes because of clashes between NATO-led troops and Taliban-led insurgent groups in the south, southeast and west of the country, IDMC said. Natural disasters and local conflicts, such as land disputes, have also displaced people.

Rural areas are increasingly insecure, forcing many returning Afghans to migrate to towns and cities.

Many also face the risk of landmines and unexploded ordnance left behind from years of war. Hundreds of civilians are killed or injured each year, most of them children, according to Landmine Monitor. Many of the mines are near roads, health facilities, camps for the displaced, airports, bridges and irrigation systems, U.N. Mine Action Service says.

The contamination poses a formidable challenge to the country’s social and economic reconstruction.

RECONSTRUCTION HURDLES

Billions of aid dollars have poured into Afghanistan to help rebuild the shattered infrastructure and economy. Afghanistan depends on aid for most of its spending.

International donors provided $35 billion in aid to Afghanistan between 2001 and 2010.

And, in 2012, major donors pledged another $16 billion in development aid through 2015, in an attempt to prevent it from deteriorating further when foreign troops leave in 2014, but demanded reforms to fight widespread corruption. The aid was tied to a new monitoring process to help prevent money from being diverted by corrupt officials or mismanaged.

While strides have been made in improving access to education and health care, less than a third of the population of 33 million is literate and the average person earns only about a $1,000 a year, according to the U.N. Development Programme.

Much of the donor money went back to donor countries, the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief and Development (ACBAR) alliance of aid agencies said in a March 2008 report. An estimated 40 percent of the $15 billion spent in aid between 2001 and 2008 was returned to donors in corporate profits and consultant salaries, the report said.

And whereas spending on aid by all donors between 2001 and 2008 amounted to about $7 million a day, the U.S. military spent some $100 million a day fighting Taliban insurgents, ACBAR said.

The United Nations launched a $4 billion development plan in October 2009, to run from 2010 to 2013. This U.N. Development Assistance Framework covered governance, peace, agriculture, food security, health, education, water and sanitation.

Afghans rank insecurity, corruption and unemployment as their top concerns, according to a 2013 survey by the Asia Foundation.

CORRUPTION

Reconstruction efforts have been dogged by allegations of corruption and waste on the part of the government, aid agencies and contractors.

Public sector corruption is rife and Afghanistan, along with Somalia and North Korea, are considered to be the most corrupt countries in the world in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.

Government officials and international aid workers have been accused of stealing money or taking bribes. Some companies that won contracts to rebuild the country have been accused of delivering shoddy roads, hospitals and schools or even nothing at all.

Corruption and cronyism are among the main gripes of ordinary Afghans.

Many also complain that parliament, which is supposed to voice their grievances and keep the government in check, is made up mainly of ex-warlords and powerbrokers who use their position to serve their own interests.

Karzai has accused the international community of helping to fuel corruption and has asked foreign donors to stop awarding massive reconstruction projects to contractors linked to senior officials in his government.

Donors spend most aid money outside state channels to avoid it being siphoned off by corrupt officials. But they have done so without telling the Afghan government how and where the funds were being spent. Critics say this undermines the government’s authority, and complicates planning and coordination between donors and provinces.

In July 2012, donors agreed to channel more through the Afghan government, if the government made progress in fighting corruption and improving governance.

That same month Karzai issued a decree to begin implementing the reforms. He ordered all ministries to take steps to cut down on nepotism and corruption, and directed the Supreme Court to accelerate investigations already under way. In September, he dismissed five governors and changed leading positions in nearly a third of the country’s provinces.

Real and suspected waste and misspending turned parts of the Afghan population against aid workers, with their relatively large salaries and expensive cars, according to local independent watchdog Integrity Watch Afghanistan.

HUMANITARIAN CRISIS

Civilians have borne the brunt of years of conflict and underdevelopment. Thousands are killed every year and millions have been displaced. An estimated 36 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line, and nearly 60 percent is chronically malnourished.

The Taliban insurgency has forced many schools and health clinics to close.

Natural disasters also affect tens of thousands of people every year, including earthquakes, frequent floods and  drought.

Humanitarian needs increased in 2013, mainly because of the worsening conflict, and U.N. experts say the needs are likely to rise even furtheras a result of the withdrawal of foreign troops in 2014.

At the same time access to the most vulnerable has fallen because of a rising number of attacks on aid workers and offices.

Aid agencies rely on air services to reach people in remote or insecure areas. More than 160 organisations use the U.N. Humanitarian Air Service, which has two airplanes and a helicopter, to transport aid workers and supplies.

Some Afghan non-governmental organisations and movements, including the Afghan Red Crescent Society, have greater access than international NGOs.

There are reports of growing numbers of people displaced and some 5.4 million people have extremely limited access to health care. The number of civilians wounded rose 77 percent in 2013 compared with 2012, most of them in the south.

Aid agencies are particularly concerned about people in the country’s Hilmand, Kunar, Badghis, Nangarhar and Ghor provinces, where the needs are greatest and access is limited.

Some aid has been channelled through Provincial Reconstruction Teams run by foreign troops, and many aid agencies have used armed convoys to move around. As a result, aid workers are seen by the Taliban and other armed groups as being an extension of NATO forces and therefore seen as legitimate targets. Scores of aid workers have been wounded, kidnapped or killed.

Violence is not the only threat to life. Children die of easily preventable diseases, and malnutrition. Afghanistan is one of three “polio endemic” countries with most cases in the turbulent south, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

Tuberculosis is another major public health challenge. Experts say women in particular suffer high rates because they tend to spend most of their time indoors and have less access to medical care than men do.

The results of the Afghanistan Mortality Survey 2010, released in 2011, raised major questions among health experts about the reliability of data both past and present for maternal and infant death rates, and average life expectancy.

For example, the survey concluded that average life expectancy is about 60 years, compared with previous estimates of 49 years.

The survey was carried out by the Afghan government and U.N. World Health Organization.

DRUGS

Afghanistan produces 74 percent of the world’s opium, the United Nations says. The Taliban, which banned cultivation during their rule, are now exploiting the trade to fund their insurgency. The majority of poppy fields are in the country’s south and southwest where the Taliban are most active.

One of the main tools in combating the narcotics trade involves fostering alternative livelihoods. The idea is to wean farmers away from poppy cultivation by offering them fertilisers and seeds for legal crops.

For many years, the United States focused its efforts on destroying poppy fields. This infuriated farmers who said they would be destitute without their crops. Many farmers depend on loans provided by drug traders as a down payment for the subsequent drug harvest.

Former U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke and other experts have said that attempts to destroy crops penalise the farmers and have no impact on the Taliban’s earnings from the trade – rather it helps them recruit.

With the withdrawal of U.S. troops, counternarcotics operations are increasingly in the hands of Afghan authorities.

Drug addiction does not just affect those beyond Afghanistan’s borders – there are more than one million addicts in the country, according to UNODC. Drug use is high among refugees returning from Iran and Pakistan.

WOMEN

During the Taliban years, the regime prohibited women from attending universities and shut girls’ schools in Kabul and other cities, although primary schooling did go on in many other areas of the country. Earning a living was also very difficult, a tragedy in a country with tens of thousands of war widows – in Kabul alone there are estimated to be up to 50,000.

Today, women have the right to vote and are elected to parliament. Millions of girls go to school and women are allowed to work outside the home. Several women ran in the 2014 presidential elections, despite death threats and assassination attempts.

Other female leaders have been killed. In Laghman province, the local director of women’s affairs, Naija Sediqi, was assassinated in December 2012. She had been in the role for five months, following the assassination of her female predecessor Hanifa Safi. Although their murders were attributed to the Taliban, women’s groups have complained that there were no thorough investigations carried out.

The daily life of many women is still dominated by the threat of violence and backbreaking toil, and women generally are kept from public roles especially in rural areas in what is one of the most conservative countries in the world.

Many girls are married off as children or young teenagers, and the vast majority never learn to read or write.

Human Rights Watch says violence against women and girls remains rampant, including domestic violence, sexual violence, and forced marriage.

In many cases, women who are raped are charged with immorality and imprisoned. Women can also be jailed for running away from their husband.

In May 2013, Afghanistan’s parliament failed to ratify a bill banning underage and forced marriage, domestic violence, rape and forced prostitution.

LINKS

The Feinstein International Center has published several in-depth reports on aid in Afghanistan.

The Afghan Human Rights Research and Advocacy Consortium (HRRAC) produces useful reports on Afghans’ views.

The Afghanistan Mortality Survey (2010) showed improvements in maternal and infant death rates, as well as average life expectancy. But the gains are so great that experts are questioning its accuracy.

The think tank International Crisis Group has lots of information about Afghanistan’s conflict past and present.

UNICEF has plenty of facts and figures on children in Afghanistan. Save the Children also has some useful background.

Another good site is Pajhwok Afghan News, the country’s largest local news service. The news is broad-based and some of the reporters benefit from a wealth of local contacts, although inaccuracies sometimes pop up. Note that you have to pay to access some of the material. The service runs stories in Dari, English and Pashto.

The Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), an international journalism organisation, carries well-written features on the country.

iCasualties is an independent site which keeps track of foreign troop casualties in the country, breaking it down by province and nationality.

The International Security Assistance Force site has details of foreign troop numbers and contributions.

Afghanistan Online says it is the biggest and most visited Afghan website.

For Afghan feminism, consult the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, which was founded in 1977 by women intellectuals. The organisation supports women’s rights and education.

UNHCR’s Afghanistan page has useful statistics on refugees and the internally displaced. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centrealso has good background.

The Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief alliance of aid agencies has useful reports on aid in Afghanistan.

Both ACBAR and Human Rights Watch have raised grave concerns about the impact of the conflict on civilians.

For information on demining see the Landmine Monitor report on Afghanistan.

TIMELINE

A chronology of events since the end of the Soviet occupation. It does not include many of the attacks on civilians that have happened since 2001 and have been blamed on both the United States and Taliban.

1989 – Last Soviet soldier leaves under 1988 agreement. Moscow-installed Najibullah government remains in place in Kabul

1992 – Communist government collapses. Mujahideen groups set up a government which is riven by factionalism. Country disintegrates into civil war

1994 – Battles reduce much of Kabul to rubble. Mullah Mohammed Omar, a Muslim cleric, sets up Taliban movement of Islamic students, who take up arms, capture Kandahar and advance on Kabul

1996 – Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who fought with mujahideen groups against Soviet occupation, returns to Afghanistan. Taliban take Kabul, hang former President Mohammad Najibullah and set up Islamic state

1997 – Afghanistan renamed Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Taliban impose their version of Islam. But ethnic Uzbek factional chief Abdul Rashid Dostum retains control in five northern provinces

1998 – Taliban take northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, massacring at least 2,000 mainly ethnic Hazara civilians, according to Human Rights Watch. Bamiyan, a Hazara stronghold in the centre of the country, follows. Taliban later destroy colossal stone Buddhas of Bamiyan

Northern Alliance, made up of non-Pashtun mujahideen militias, fights back against Taliban

U.S. forces bomb suspected al Qaeda bases in southeast in reprisal for bombings of U.S. embassies in east Africa

1999 – United Nations imposes sanctions to force Taliban to turn over bin Laden

2001

Sep – Al Qaeda-linked suicide bombers assassinate military head of Northern Alliance, Ahmad Shah Masood

Sep 11 – Al Qaeda suicide plane hijackers attack New York and Washington, killing thousands

Oct – U.S. begins bombing Afghanistan to root out bin Laden and his Taliban protectors

Nov – Northern Alliance forces enter Kabul as Taliban leaders flee

Dec – Afghan groups sign deal in Bonn on an interim government headed by Hamid Karzai, a leader from the biggest ethnic group, the Pashtun

First members of multinational peacekeeping force arrive

Interim authority takes power. Bonn plan says an emergency Loya Jirga, or grand assembly, must be held in six months

2002

Jun – Emergency Loya Jirga agrees on a transitional authority. Karzai sworn in as its head

2003

Nov – French UNHCR worker Bettina Goislard shot dead by suspected Taliban militants in Ghazni town, leading to suspension of many aid missions in south and east

2004

Jan – Rival factions at the Loya Jirga agree on a constitution, paving way for first free elections

Oct – Presidential elections. Karzai sworn in on Dec 7. Parliamentary vote is put off amid security concerns and logistical problems

2005

Sep – Elections held for a lower house of parliament, the Wolesi Jirga, and provincial councils. Former commanders of military factions, three ex-Taliban officials and women activists win seats

Dec – Parliament sits for first time

2006

Jan – International conference in London promises Afghanistan economic and military support in return for pledges to fight corruption and drugs trade

Aug – Suicide bomber rams his car into a NATO convoy in Kandahar killing 21 civilians in the worst suicide attack to date

Oct – NATO assumes responsibility for security across the whole of the country after taking command in the east from a U.S.-led coalition force

2007 – Taliban step up suicide attacks throughout the country

Jan – Karzai says he’s open to talks with Taliban

Feb – Taliban threaten a spring offensive of thousands of suicide bombers as U.S. doubles its combat troops and takes over command of NATO force from Britain

Mar – NATO and Afghan forces launch Operation Achilles, targeting Taliban and allied drug lords in Helmand

Nov – More than 70 people, mostly schoolboys are killed, in a suicide bombing in the northern town of Baghlan. The dead include six members of parliament

Dec – Afghanistan expels two senior EU and UN envoys after accusing them of making contact with the Taliban

2008

Feb – A suspected suicide bombing kills more than 100 people in Kandahar in the most deadly attack since the ousting of Taliban.

Jun – Donors pledge around $20 bln in aid at Paris conference

Sep – Karzai offers peace talks and asks Saudi Arabia to help with negotiations. Taliban however refuse to negotiate

Dec – Afghanistan and Pakistan decide to form joint strategy to fight militants in their border regions

2009

Feb – U.N. says 2,100 civilians killed in 2008 – a 40 percent rise on 2007

U.S. President Barack Obama announces he plans to send another 17,000 U.S. troops. Karzai says Afghanistan turning a new page in relations with United States

May – U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates replaces commander of U.S. forces with Gen Stanley McChrystal, saying the battle against the Taliban needs “new thinking”

July – U.S. army launches major offensive against Taliban in Helmand province

Taliban call on Afghans to boycott presidential and provincial elections

Aug – Elections marred by widespread Taliban attacks, low turnout and claims of serious fraud

Oct – Electoral Complaints Commission declares tens of thousands of votes invalid and calls for a run-off election

Nov – Run-off presidential vote cancelled after Karzai’s remaining challenger Abdullah Abdullah pulls out saying the vote cannot be free and fair. Karzai declared president for a second term

Dec – Obama decides to raise troop numbers to 100,000 and says will begin withdrawing forces by 2011

2010

Feb – Taliban reject Karzai’s invitation to a peace council

NATO-led forces launch Operation Moshtarak to try and secure Helmand province

Karzai takes control of the U.N.-backed Electoral Complaints Commission, which helped expose massive fraud in October presidential election

Jul – International agreement to transfer control of security from foreign to Afghan forces by 2014. General David Petraeus takes command of U.S. forces

Aug – Independent Election Commission says over 900 polling centres will be closed due to security fears during Sep. parliamentary elections

United States says Karzai ban on all foreign private security firms may affect aid and development work

United Nations says civilian casualties up by 31 percent since 2009, with Taliban responsible for 76 percent of deaths

Unidentified gunmen kill 10 aid workers, including 8 foreigners, in Badakshshan province

Sep – Parliamentary elections pass off relatively smoothly despite a Taliban threat to disrupt the poll

Nov – NATO agrees plan to hand control of security to Afghan forces by 2014-end

Dec – Final election results announced

2011

Mar – The number of civilians killed by fighting rose 15 percent in 2010, compared with 2009, United Nations says. A total of 2,777 civilians were killed during 2010, 75 percent of them by Taliban

Apr – Violent protests break out against Koran burning in a U.S. church. At least seven foreign U.N. workers are killed when protesters storm the U.N. compound in Mazar-e Sharif

May – Bin Laden shot dead by U.S. special forces near Pakistan’s main military academy in the northwestern garrison town of Abbottabad

Taliban launch “spring offensive”

Jun – U.S. President Obama announces 10,000 U.S. troops to leave during 2011, and another 23,000 by Sep. 2012

U.S. says it is participating in Afghan Peace Council talks with Taliban

268 civilians reported killed in May, highest monthly toll since 2007

Jul – Senior government officials assassinated, including Karzai’s half-brother who was governor of Kandahar

ISAF forces hand over security of seven regions to Afghan troops

United Nations says 1,462 civilians killed by conflict during first half of 2011, a rise of 15 percent from the same period in 2010 and the highest since 2001

General John Allen replaces General David Petraeus as head of ISAF, U.S. forces

Sep – Militants carry out major attack on U.S. embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul, killing 27 people. Officials blame Taliban-linked Haqqani Network, and U.S. top military commander accuses Pakistan of backing attack

Human Rights Watch report says Afghan militias and police are committing serious abuses

Oct – India and Afghanistan sign strategic partnership

Bomb near U.N. housing and assault on NGO offices in Kandahar kill at least five people

U.N. report is released, detailing torture of detainees by Afghan security officials

Karzai says the government is to abandon peace talks with Taliban and focus on dialogue with Pakistan

Nov – Hundreds of political elite attending a loya jirga traditional assembly endorse Karzai’s bid to negotiate a 10-year military partnership with the United States

Dec – Pakistani Sunni militants Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claim responsibility for attacks on Shia holy day Ashura, killing more than 80 people and injuring at least 100

Pakistan boycotts Bonn conference on Afghanistan

2012

Jan – A leaked NATO report says the Taliban, with Pakistan support, is poised to retake control after NATO withdrawal

Taliban said had opened an office in Qatar as part of confidence building measures agreed on with U.S. and German govts

Feb – Reports of NATO troops burning copies of Koran trigger violent country-wide protests

NATO, UK and France recall civilian staff from ministries after two senior U.S. military officers killed in Afghan Interior Ministry. Taliban claim responsibility

United Nations says the civilian death toll rose in 2011 to 3,021

Mar – U.S. soldier Robert Bales shoots 17 villagers including 9 children in Kandahar’s Panjawi district.

Taliban break off prisoner exchange talks with U.S.

Apr – U.S. and Afghanistan agree a strategic partnership deal

Taliban launches a multi-city “spring offensive” in Kabul, Nangahar, Logar and Paktika provinces

Pakistan, Afghanistan and United States discuss reviving peace talks

May – NATO summit says 2014 withdrawal of troops “irreversible”

ISAF announces al-Qaeda second-in-command killed in Kunar province

Arsala Rahmani, a former Taliban minister and key member of the High Peace Council, is killed in Kabul. The Taliban deny responsibility

Jul – Tokyo donor conference pledges $16 billion in aid, and promises to channel more aid through the Afghan government if Afghanistan does more to tackle corruption

Aug – U.S. military discipline six soldiers for inadvertently burning copies of the Koran in February

2013

Mar – Two former Kabul Bank chiefs are jailed for a massive fraud that nearly led to the collapse of the entire Afghan banking system in 2010

Jun – NATO forces hand over command of all military and security operations to Afghan army

Aug – Robert Bales is jailed for life for massacring unarmed villagers in March 2012

2014

Jan – A Taliban suicide attack on a restaurant in Kabul’s diplomatic quarter kills 21 people, including the IMF country head. It is the worst attack on foreign civilians since 2001

Feb – The number of Taliban attacks rises with the start of the presidential election campaign

Apr – Presidential election

0

Haitian Perspectives In Film-Fundraising Campaign

Haiti Fundraiser Update:

$1,700 to go: Despite the great generosity of so many we still have $1,700 to go to reach our $27,750 goal. If you haven’t had a chance to give yet, please contribute what you can so that we can learn from Haitians about their experience since the earthquake in 2010. www.csfilm.org/support

Challenge Grants: The great news is that 58 of you helped us meet both the $2,500 and $7,500 challenge grants. Thanks so much!

Haitian Partners: We have nearly finalized an agreement with our Haitian partners.   With that partnership in place and the near completion of our fundraising, we look forward to moving ahead with the training, production and education work this fall.

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TAX DEDUCTIBLE DONATION

Make a Secure Donation NowPlease click this button for a tax deductible donation.  92% of it goes toward CSFilm’s work. (5% goes to our fiscal sponsor, The Center for Independent Documentary, and 3% to PayPal).

If you write a check made out to The Center for Independent Documentary and mail it to CSFilm’s address below, your donation is tax-deductible and 95% of it goes toward the work of CSFilm (5% goes to our fiscal sponsor).


NON-TAX DEDUCTIBLE DONATION

If you write a check made out to Community Supported Film and mail it to the address below, 100% of your contribution will be used for CSFilm’s work. If you click the donate button below, 97% of your contribution will go to CSFilm (with 3% going to PayPal) – but neither of these options are tax deductible.


Community Supported Film
31 Lenox Street
Boston, MA 02118, USA



ABOUT THE PROJECT: Haitian Perspectives in Film

We are launching a new project to train local storytellers in social issue documentary filmmaking, this time in Haiti. Your donation will support the training of Haitians to produce 10 short films. From a uniquely local perspective, their films will address the economic and social development challenges they have faced since the 2010 earthquake. The films will be released as a compilation in time for the 5th anniversary of the earthquake in January 2015.

This project will:

  1. Empower Haitian storytellers to use their unique experience since the 2010 earthquake to make documentary films that hold the Haitian government and the international community accountable to good governance and equitable economic development;
  2. Produce 10 Haitian-made, high quality short films that present Haitian issues, needs, and capacity from the local perspective. The intimate lived-reality stories produced by the Haitian storytellers will serve to counter the mainstream media’s focus on disasters, conflicts and crises which leave core-causes and long-term development issues unaddressed or misunderstood;
  3. Use these films to influence opinion and policy regarding effective aid and sustainable development in Haiti and internationally.

Our minimum goal for this campaign is $27,750. With your support, we will be able to proceed with the training and the trainee’s production of 10 short films. The total budget for the training, editing, production and duplication of the trainees’ films and initial distribution is $80,310. Please give generously and help spread the word to your networks about this campaign. Your support will help with:

  1. Training: A 5-week intensive training of 10 Haitians will be conducted by CSFilm in Haiti during which time the films will be produced. In addition to producing 10 high-quality short films, the training equips the storytellers with employable skills. All of our Afghan trainees received commissions or employment after the training.
  2. Distribution: The development of the public engagement campaign which, in collaboration with Haitian and international partner organizations, will use the films through the press, broadcast and online and public screenings to engage the public and decision makers in dialogue and actions around effective aid and disaster response.
  3. The screening and dialogue strategy will expand on the model used during CSFilm’s Afghanistan project. The Afghan-made films were the centerpiece of congressional briefings in collaboration with organizations such as the American Friends Service Committee and were shown to legislators, congressional committees and government departments.

Here is a sample of some of the project costs:

  • Transportation and living stipends for each Haitian Trainee: $50/week
  • Haitian Translator: $100/day
  • Haitian Assistant Trainers and Coordinator: $250/day
  • One round-trip ticket to Haiti (and back): $500
  • Cost to train one Haitian storyteller during the 5-week program and for them to produce one film: $5,000
  • 2 month screening and dialogue tour to Haitian villages, towns, and cities: $10,000

Thank you for believing in our mission! We hope you will consider donation to Haitian Perspectives in Film and we look forward to keeping you updated throughout the project.

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