Issues & Analysis
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On the Media, Afghanistan: Tech Rising – The Influence of Social Media and New Technologies in Afghanistan’s Democracy

Original article on: United States Institute of Peace

 

The U.S. Institute of Peace invites you to join a discussion on the evolving role of media and new technologies in Afghanistan’s democratic process. Experts from Afghanistan will discuss how new media and technology tools influenced the recent elections and how they can be used to promote better governance in the country.

Kabul Pilot Workshop-During Practice: Female trainer is directing the trainees about making social media account on facebook. Photo Credit: Flickr/Impassion Afghanistan

Since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, the use of social media and mobile technology has proliferated in Afghanistan and the impact on the democratic process has been astounding. There are now four telecom companies offering 3G services, boosting internet access through mobile broadband. In the most recent presidential election, all candidates used Facebook, and most had Ttwitter accounts. Social media allowed political candidates unprecedented access to young Afghans who make up 68%of the voting bloc. Mobile phone penetration is at 89% and allowed many observers to capture episodes of fraud, reducing corruption during the elections.

On Thursday October 16, USIP will host an event that will explore the evolving role of media, technology and data use in Afghanistan’s democratic process, particularly elections. Experts will discuss these topics and share important findings from a report summarizing community concerns in seven provinces around the 2014 elections and beyond.

Join the conversation on Twitter with #AFGNext.

 

Original article can be found at: United States Institute of Peace

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Afghanistan: Afghanistan – the largest refugee repatriation in the world

Original article on: Foreign Policy

The World Bank stated in a new report released on Monday, that 5.7 million refugees have returned to Afghanistan in the past decade (Pajhwok). According to the report, the return to Afghanistan is the largest refugee repatriation effort in the world. However, the report also notes that Afghanistan is the second-largest source country of refugees and that “large numbers remain forcibly displaced.”

Car bomb kills at least four in Helmand province

A car bomb killed at least four people on Wednesday when it exploded in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand district (Pajhwok, TOLO News). Omar Zowak, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said the incident occurred at 11:00 AM near the house of Abdullah Khan, a former district police chief; Khan was wounded in the blast. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Action commences on Kabul Bank investigation

Kabul police chief Lt. Gen. Muhammad Zahir Zahir announced on Tuesday that the city’s police have initiated arrests in the Kabul Bank investigation (Pajhwok). Zahir stated: “We have received a list of 19 individuals and two of them have already been arrested.” Sher Khan Farnoud, who was the founder and chairman of Kabul Bank, is reportedly among those accused.  Zahir’s statement follows newly inaugurated Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s direction last week to reopen the case. On Tuesday, Rahmatollah Nazari, Afghanistan’s deputy attorney general announced that the Attorney General’s office would reopen the case (TOLO News).

 

–David Sterman; October 8, 2014

Original article can be found at: Foreign Policy

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On the Media, Development: MDIF’s Impact Dashboard – A Case Study in Measuring MediaDev

Original article found on: The Source

Posted on September 30, 2014 by Mark Nelson

 

When it comes to measuring success or failure, media developers face many of the same challenges as the rest of the international development community.

Do you measure inputs, such as the amount of money that is invested in media development initiatives? Or do you track outcomes from projects—the number of people trained or the knowledge that they gained from training? Should we be looking at organizational performance of media enterprises, such as the increase in audience or reach, or their profit and loss accounts? Or should we be looking at broader impacts on society in terms of poverty reduction, improved governance or overall peace and economic growth that an independent media can help to achieve?

One creative attempt at answering thImpact dashboardese questions is the just-released Impact Dashboard 2014 from the Media Development Investment Fund. This document is a must-read for media developers because of the clear and graphic way that MDIF has tracked the results of its work.

MDIF is one of the most interesting and creative creatures of the media development field—an organization that makes loans and equity investments in, and offers technical support to promising media enterprises in developing countries. As such, it is already addressing one of the higher-level possible outcomes of media development, sustainable media enterprises. Compared with some of the early attempts at addressing problems in the media sector by simply training journalists, it is already yards ahead.

MDIF is also ahead in the results game. It looks at change at several levels, and it attempts to address the fundamental question of why high quality, independent media matters to developing societies. MDIF’s results framework measures its outputs, in terms of loans, equity investments and technical assistance; it looks at client outputs in terms of quality reporting and content production; and it suggests results at the societal level in terms of impact on reducing corruption and improving accountability.

MDIF’s solution to the results question mirrors closely the similar work carried out under the auspices of the Learning Network on Capacity Development , which is a network of development practitioners that has contributed to the last three global accords on aid effectiveness. LenCD has worked to build a stronger understanding of capacity development as more than just outputs—not just training and technical assistance—but a broader set of activities and focus on higher level results. These results can be tracked and measured at multiple levels. I have summarized one way of looking at these levels of capacity development outcomes in the diagram below.

MDIF’s Impact Dashboard is an important reminder about the importance of articulating the results of media development work. As the international community gears up for a new set of international development goals to replace the Millennium Development Goals that expire next year, initiatives such as this one can help us make the case that media development can be measured, that money spent on media development is well used, and that high quality independent media really matters for developing societies.

 

Original article can be read at: The Source

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Development: Seven Million Lives Saved – Under-5 Mortality Since the Launch of the Millennium Development Goals

Original article found on: Brookings

By John McArthur
September 2014

Over the past decade, the Millennium Development Goals (hereafter MDGs or “Goals”) have become a central framework in organizing global health efforts. Many developing countries have made significant progress toward the official targets, including Goal 4, which is to achieve a two-thirds reduction in under-5 mortality rates (U5MR) by 2015 compared to 1990. According to the United Nations’ latest estimates, the developing world’s 2013 aggregate U5MR had declined 40 percent since 2000, and 50 percent since 1990.

But progress toward the Goals is not the same as progress because of the Goals. Nor can the mere setting of targets be considered the full scope of what might be called the “MDG agenda.” The broader agenda includes policy, organizational, and advocacy efforts to mobilize targeted resources in the practical pursuit of goals. It also includes the consolidation of common global reference points across diverse public, private, and non-profit actors, which might in turn have prompted incremental efforts toward results. As Manning (2009) has pointed out, “it is intrinsically difficult to distinguish the impact of the MDG framework itself from the strands of thinking that helped to create it.”

Although causal pathways are difficult to discern in aggregate, one highly correlated trend since the launch of the MDGs is a significant expansion in global health budgets. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (2014) estimates that total development assistance for health nearly tripled, from U.S. $10.9 billion in 2000 to more than $30 billion in each of 2011, 2012 and 2013 (all in constant $2011). These resources have helped to launch and expand important new international institutions, including the GAVI Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the U.S. presidential initiatives for both AIDS and malaria, all of which have helped to expand dramatically the country-level coverage of preventive and therapeutic health interventions.

Skeptics tend to question the MDGs based on four categories of critiques. One focuses on shortfalls in results. Many countries are not on course to achieve individual Goals, either because policy efforts or resources are inadequate. A second criticizes the establishment of political targets considered too ambitious to begin with. A third asserts that the developing world was making advances prior to the establishment of the MDGs, so the Goals should not be given credit for progress that would have been made in any case. A fourth argues that global aggregates might reflect success, but these are driven by results in the most populous developing countries, China and India, which made progress independently of the MDGs.

With these questions in mind, and as the international community considers the next generation of intergovernmental targets beyond the 2015 deadline, it is an appropriate juncture to examine the overarching “macro” hypothesis that the establishment of the MDGs and related efforts to support their achievement have been associated with accelerated progress on intended development outcomes. This paper does so with specific focus on MDG 4 for reducing under-5 mortality. The analysis focuses only on discerning long-term variations in outcomes that coincide with the establishment of the Goals. This is distinct from an investigation of “micro” hypotheses regarding how the MDGs might have been linked to variations in U5MR outcomes within countries.

The results are striking. They show that the period since the establishment of the MDGs has seen unprecedented rates of progress among the poorest countries, even when they are not on a path to achieve the formal MDG targets. As of the end of 2013, at least 7.5 million more children’s lives have been saved compared to the trajectory of progress as of 2001. The majority of these lives have been saved in sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, the period since the turn of the millennium appears to show convergent rates of progress across developing regions. At a minimum, the period from 2002 to 2012 was the first to show a clear break in the previous long-run trend whereby countries with higher U5MR saw systematically slower rates of U5MR decline.

The paper is divided into ten sections. Following this introduction, the second section describes the core hypotheses used to test MDG performance. The third section describes the data used in the analysis. The fourth section describes key methodological assumptions, including the definition of pre-MDG reference periods and the distinction between On Track versus Off Track countries at the outset of the MDG period. The fifth section describes the results for the three key tests of MDG performance, including variations by region and country income group. Section 6 then considers whether U5MR reduction trends have been subject to deeper structural shifts. Section 7 presents longer-term regression results evaluating trends over more than five decades. The results suggest a structural change in global trends since the onset of the MDGs, so Section 8 estimates the number of children’s lives saved that could be plausibly linked to the MDGs. Section 9 considers future implications for new targets to 2030. A final section concludes.

Full paper can be found or downloaded here.

Original article can be read at: Brookings

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Afghanistan, Development: Less is More – International Intervention and the Limits of Afghan Growth

Original article found on: Heinrich Boll Stiftung

By Philipp Munch on September 17th, 2014

Construction workers at a roadside in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo: Neelab Hakim. Creative Commons LizenzvertragThis image is licensed under Creative Commons License.

Construction workers at a roadside in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo: Neelab Hakim. Creative Commons LizenzvertragThis image is licensed under Creative Commons License. 

Development projects and construction work around military bases make up an overwhelmingly large part of Afghanistan’s economy. With foreign troops withdrawing and declining aid, the country is looking for its future economic path.

Based on the financial scope, Afghanistan has clearly topped the list of recipient countries of international aid for many years now.[1] Since 2001, donors have been able to improve medical facilities and levels of education by a very considerable degree – to name but some of the most important accomplishments.[2] However, external funds make up an overwhelmingly large part of Afghanistan’s economic performance with little sign of self-sustained economic development.[3]

In addition, greater scrutiny reveals that those sectors of the Afghan economy that have been newly created or strengthened are tailored towards serving the conditions created by the international intervention. Above all, it is the construction and retail industries that have profited from the numerous development projects and military bases, with retail benefiting from the logistic needs of the intervention forces and the comparatively high spending power of those Afghans they employ. Afghanistan’s domestic agricultural production, on the other hand, has contracted.[4]

As a consequence it is to be expected that the sectors in question will collapse once the intervening forces have withdrawn. However, considerable parts of the population have become used to such standards of living. On top of that, the funds thus generated do prop up a political system that, until now, has prevented a relapse into large-scale civil war. Still, it is more than likely that the exceptionally high external subsidies will decrease in the long run, posing the question of how to achieve self-sustained economic development. As a first step I would like to sketch out the main reasons why this has failed to materialise until now – in spite of the unprecedented amount of spending. As a second step, and based on this, I would like to present a few possible attempts at a solution.

An overabundance of aid money

One of the main reasons Afghanistan lacks economic development certainly are its much cited “rentier state” features. The country’s most senior political actors are doing their best to skim off international funds and redistribute them to their camp followers via patronage networks. Funds provided by the donors are thus being turned into “rents” that subsidise parts of the population without ever being invested in profit-making businesses.[5] Although it is often claimed, this practice is not questionable per se, as these funds, however much misappropriated from the donors’ perspective, do still serve their purpose, that is, they create political stability that is much greater than anything witnessed during the 1990s.

Even when viewed from a micro-level perspective, it becomes obvious that the concern of the established political actors to keep the international subsidies alive is crucial in preventing the outbreak of widespread violence.[6] Clearly questionable however is the increased hoarding of international resources by some political actors who do not redistribute them to their clientele. Funds that are being invested in secure Dubai or transferred into Swiss bank accounts will not profit the country.[7]

Nevertheless, the many donors, too, will have to be investigated as possible culprits for the lack of economic development. The deluge of funds, unparalleled in the country’s history, has meant that Afghanistan’s currency is overvalued, something not apt to facilitate exports. As the donor countries’ organisations vie with each other for the most qualified sections of the labour force they are willing to pay inflated salaries. The most able Afghans are thus employed by foreign state and non-state organisations, a phenomenon only too familiar from other countries.[8]

Efforts to build up an effective Afghan administration are thus being hampered. On top of that, competition between international actors and their efforts to spend all budgeted funds within the respective fiscal year creates an overabundance of aid money. Accordingly, this has fostered a recipient mentality among Afghans, that is, a mindset that views international aid as the norm and any efforts to become autonomous or to preserve the achievements made as superfluous. The frequent donation of grain, moreover, has the effect that local agricultural produce is rarely profitable.

Counterproductive reforms

An equally decisive factor is the faulty sequence of developmental steps undertaken in Afghanistan. While it makes basic economic sense to build more roads, this also facilitates the influx of imported goods into a country without a domestic industry able to compete on international markets and lacking tariffs to protect it. Internationally sponsored education initiatives that have proliferated since 2001 are certainly well intentioned, yet without adequate jobs for graduates this will only fuel discontent.

Precisely this is what happened with Afghan education initiatives after World War II. Up until the 1970s government-affiliated client networks were able to absorb graduates, yet the rising national debt signalled the end of this system. Almost all the leading proponents of Jihadi organisations that began their uprising in 1975 or 1978-79 respectively belonged to this group of thwarted social climbers.[9] A similar dilemma arises from the fact that, since 2001, improved humanitarian conditions have enabled Afghan families to raise more children. Today the average age in Afghanistan is circa 15. Not least because this will exacerbate the problem of subdividing inherited estates, an issue already familiar from before the war, it is currently completely up in the air what employment opportunities there may be for the younger generation.[10] The consequence of such developments is instability, a situation hardly conducive to economic growth.

It can be argued, moreover, that many of the economic reforms favoured by the intervening powers since 2001, have been counterproductive. Mostly, they where based on neoliberal assumptions and other economic theories prevailing in the West, which view economic activity in ahistorical ways and without considering the actual power structures. This led to the expectation that a market with very few barriers would, by force of nature, create growth for all.[11] For Afghanistan the result has been that the overvalued currency along with a deluge of cheap imports has relegated formerly self-employed craftsmen into the ranks of day labourers.[12] Domestically the absence of a state monopoly on legitimate violence[13] and of a separation of powers between politics and economics, which gave rise to an unbridled market, have resulted in a few actors gaining economic monopolies.[14]

The dilemma of the donors

Solutions for the main obstacles identified in this paper have to be sought, above all, on part of the donors. They are faced with a dilemma: On the one hand, they will have to reduce their funding considerably, on the other, as seen with the fall of the Najibullah regime in 1992, this may in no case be allowed to occur too rapidly. Historically, whenever one group of the Afghan populace has been dropped from the patronage network, the result has been conflict – and the same may be expected to happen again. Instead, aid funds should be cut gradually and slowly – and this process will have to go hand in hand with boosting Afghanistan’s economic performance.

In order to make such developments viable the country should be allowed to close its markets against imports. A reduction in aid will reduce the overvaluation of the Afghan currency, thus cutting labour costs. In addition, the international community should agree on measures to stop the flight of capital from Afghanistan – although this phenomenon is closely linked to the country’s “system of rents.” Consequently, this may only be effected through external supervisory measures that will erode Afghanistan’s sovereignty even further. According to international law such an intervention would be dubious as well as difficult to implement – and it would likely turn out to be counterproductive as it would further undermine Afghanistan’s already weak statehood.

The lack of co-ordination between development projects as well as the excessive amount of money poured into the country are both generated by the donors’ interest-driven policies, that is, the donors are unwilling to subject their measures to any kind of central authority and they are defending their sizable budgets, no matter whether they are helping the country or not. Thus, the lack of co-ordination between donors is not a question better fine-tuning, it is an expression of the actual power structure. As a consequence, it is anything but realistic to expect changes in the near future.

Read the original article on  Heinrich Boll Stiftung.

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Development: Uncivil societies – Illiberal governments are blocking activists from receiving foreign cash

Original article found on: The Economist

Sep 13th 2014

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THE International Committee of the Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières, Human Rights Watch, Transparency International: to most people these and thousands of other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) sound like outfits whose work should be welcomed and encouraged. But that is not how it looks to plenty of governments. In the last few years, around 20 countries have planned or passed laws restricting the freedom of NGOs to raise funds abroad (see article). Some echo the language of Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, and now require foreign-funded NGOs to register as “foreign agents”—a phrase that since the cold war has carried the connotation of espionage and treachery.

Many of the new laws grant officials wide discretion in applying them. Russian NGOs face surprise inspections seeking evidence of foreign influence; Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, is “auditing” groups that receive foreign money as part of his self-declared mission to turn his country into an “illiberal state”. Egypt plans to force NGOs to seek permission from a government panel before they can get money from abroad.

Insisting that NGOs are open about where their money comes from and how they spend it is reasonable—especially in the many countries where they receive favourable tax treatment. And proper oversight helps ensure that NGOs are neither fraudulent nor ineffectual. But today’s crackdown is about weakening NGOs, not making them more transparent or effective. It is being undertaken by leaders who, if they accept democracy at all, want it to amount to nothing more than a tame vote every few years. Foreign donations are an easy target for autocrats whose worst nightmare is a flourishing civil society. NGOs’ activities in the “colour” revolutions a decade ago in the former Soviet Union and, more recently, the Arab spring, have sharpened autocrats’ hostility to them.

It is hardly surprising that leaders like Mr Putin want to curb those who seek to promote democracy, but these laws reach far beyond free speech and human rights. NGOs also suffer if they criticise poor public services, stand up for reviled minorities or disclose facts that the powerful want to hide. Mr Orban has targeted a group that publicises discrimination against Roma and another that runs a hotline for battered women. Among those Mr Putin has dubbed foreign agents are a group of women seeking information about Russian servicemen injured and killed while covertly deployed in Ukraine.

Don’t give them cover

Persuading autocrats who have decided that NGOs pose an existential threat to ease up will be a struggle. But donor countries can help stem the illiberal tide.

Initiatives such as the Open Government Partnership, launched in 2011, which supports governments keen to increase transparency and cut corruption, should help to stop the trend spreading. Trade deals offer some bargaining power: many of the governments seeking to block foreign donations are falling over themselves to attract foreign investment, including by providing legal protection for inbound capital. In future it should be made clear that these extend to funds flowing not just to businesses but to non-profits too.

Rich-country governments also need to avoid building barriers themselves. Heavy-handed enforcement of laws aimed at stopping money-laundering and the funding of terrorism has made it harder to send money to NGOs doing good work in some of the countries where civil society is under attack. A bank that knows a single slip could make it liable to draconian penalties may decide simply to close accounts rather than carry out costly checks or risk an expensive misjudgment.

At last year’s UN General Assembly Barack Obama drew on his own experience as a community organiser to praise NGOs for “making governments more effective and holding leaders like me to account”. He should speak more forcefully at this year’s meeting, which will be held later this month. Most important, though, is for rich democracies to practise what they preach. A recent kerfuffle about foreign governments giving grants to think-tanks in Washington, which sparked talk of illegal meddling in America’s sovereign affairs, offered unhelpful cover for the autocrats who are cracking down on NGOs and activists. They would be delighted to be able to point out that the West does it too.

Correction: An earlier version of this article described Viktor Orban as Hungary’s president instead of its prime minister. This was changed on September 15th.

Original article found on: The Economist

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Michael Sheridan to present The Messenger is the Message at Oxfam America

Michael Sheridan, Filmmaker and Educator to Present:

The Messenger is the Message: The impact of local perspective storytelling on education, advocacy and effective development

Oxfam America – Presentation, Wednesday, September 24, 2014 12:00-1:30pm

Michael Sheridan, director of Community Supported Film and former co-founder of Oxfam’s Documentary Production Unit, will speak about his work to put Afghans, Haitians and Indonesians in charge of the storytelling about their community’s economic and social development issues.

Michael went to Afghanistan in 2009 to make a documentary on effective development from the perspective of Afghan villagers. To match the message to the method, he trained Afghan women and men in lived-reality documentary filmmaking. The intensive 5-week training resulted in a compilation of ten short films that provide a unique view of Afghans’ daily efforts to address their challenging social and economic conditions.

As Robin Young, host of NPR’s Here and Now, reported, “Michael put cameras in the hands of Afghans and gave them training to make films about their lives. The result is an unprecedented intimate look at Afghan life with exchanges no outsider has been privy to before.” From Michael’s work in Afghanistan, he developed Community Supported Film an organization dedicated to strengthening documentary storytelling from the local perspective.

Michael will talk about the process, show a selection of the films made by the Afghan trainees and talk about CSFilm’s upcoming projects in Haiti and Boston. You can learn more about the films and the work at www.csfilm.org.

 

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Haiti, Development: Haitian Tourism Project Leads to Environmental Damage and Community Depression

Original article found on: Peace and Collaborative Development Network

Posted by: Deepa Panchang on Septemeber 15th, 2014
By Other Worlds and the Solidarity and Resistance Collective for the Population of Île-à-Vache

“Destination Île-à-Vache” is a government-driven tourist project planned for a small island off the northern coast of Haiti, Île-à-Vache. Plans include an international airport, golf courses,1,500 hotel bungalows, agri-tourism, and “tourist villages” which will include boutiques, restaurants and even a night club. Groundbreaking on the project occurred in August, 2013, without the inclusion or participation of the community.

Once the construction on the road began in late 2013, the community began to peacefully protest and formed a local group in December, 2013 called KOPI (Collective for Île-à-Vache). In response, the government has coerced, repressed, and intimidated the population. A leader of the resistance movement has been a political prisoner – imprisoned without charge or trial – since February 24. The details of some of these acts are included in the declaration below.

The declaration, signed by members of grassroots Haitian organizations, was circulated to local press at the end of August 2014.

Representatives from the Collective and KOPI (of Île-à-Vache) and family members of imprisoned Lamy speak to the press. Photo by: Jessica Hsu

Representatives from the Collective and KOPI (of Île-à-Vache) and family members of imprisoned Lamy speak to the press. Photo by: Jessica Hsu

[Declaration] denouncing the government conspiracy to intimidate and stifle the voice of the people of Île-à-Vache regarding the Tourism Development Plan

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

We, the signatory organizations of this [declaration], explicitly denounce the Martelly/Lamothe government’s maneuvers to repress the population of Île-à-Vache and grant investors free reign on the island.

We want to remind everyone that on May 10, 2013, the Martelly/Lamothe government issued a decree that Île-à-Vache was to be designated for tourism development and public utility, effectively pitting the population of Île-à-Vache against the government in a David-Goliath scenario. Since then, the islanders have watched politicians and businessmen land at Île-à-Vache with police escorts, to implement the first phases of the project in people’s own fields and yards all over the island.

On December 27, 2013, the population stood up and demanded a thorough explanation of the tourism development plan. The powers that be responded with lies of all sorts, repression, persecution, threats, and arrests of resistance leaders, among whom Jean Mathulnès Lamy has been sitting in prison since February, 2014. It does not take a genius to be suspicious of such “development” that takes place under repression, arbitrary arrests, intimidation, militarization, and threats. Since the government seems to envision displacing the whole island’s population under the May 10, 2013 decree, who will this development really serve?

Prime Minister Lamothe visited Île-à-Vache from June 27-30, 2014 under the pretext of supervising the advancement of various tourism projects. But the real objective of the visit was to continue the flow of lies, propaganda, and support for the machine of repression on Île-à-Vache. To prepare for this visit, the state promised households 10,000 gourdes (approximately US$220) each to help finance microbusiness [if they came to] Lamothe’s public meeting. People did receive something for coming out, but it was far from the 10,000 gourdes they were promised. When people arrived, they received bags of rice, cans of oil, and candy from the hands of Lamothe and his people. After the visit there appeared 20 motorcycles without plaques, cell phones which allowed for the state to maintain surveillance on the population, more police and military personnel, three new police cars, and three new judges. The government commissioner was replaced.

On top of that, police visited members of the Peasant Organizing Collective of Île-à-Vache (KOPI) at their homes, with arrest warrants in hand. Most importantly, the inhabitants of Île-à-Vache no longer feel safe because of a number of members of the Haitian National Police, specifically the UDMO [the Department Unit for the Maintenance of Order], who are circulating the island heavily armed, and intimidating the populace. This has continued despite the numerous human rights violations that organizations have already documented on the island.

Moreover, on August 14-15, 2014, while most people were celebrating [at the annual patron saint celebration] on Gelée Beach, the government created a phantom organization called MPDI [Farmers’ Movement for the Development of Île-à-Vache] whose head is a former director of KOPI that the government has since bought off. The government then promised the organization $1.5 million gourdes [about US$34,000] to fund its activities. Lots of talk, little action.

What is really happening on this island? It’s just one of the many programs happening all over that is touted with empty promises like Ti Manman Cherie [Dear Mother, a component of the national assistance program “Ede Pep”, or Aid the People, established by the Martelly-Lamothe Administration], streetlamps, new jobs, handouts of money, etc from the Minister Against Extreme Poverty, Roseanne Auguste. All this is being shoved down the throats of the people. The only positive thing that has happened has been the construction of a police station and housing for Dominican workers.

Île-à-Vache was once a region covered in beautiful vegetation. These projects are blindly destroying a huge number of natural resources that the island’s inhabitants depended on to live. The projects are laying waste to the environment. No serious study was conducted prior to the demolition and clear-cutting of the forests, and now officials are realizing that the spot they envisioned for the airport is not appropriate. They have since chosen a new location to tear up in the heart of the island, according to the testimony of many of the inhabitants. This is a clear violation of articles 253 and 254 of the Constitution of Haiti. [Article 253: Since the environment is the natural framework of the life of the people, any practices that might disturb the ecological balance are strictly forbidden. Article 254: The state shall organize the enhancement of natural sites to ensure their protection and make them accessible to all.] This situation will continue to create tensions on the island.

In light of all these facts, the Collective for Solidarity with the Île-à-Vache Peasants’ Struggle supports all forms of grassroots mobilization and community organization and reminds the population to stay vigilant. We, the signatory organizations of this [declaration], demand that the government cease all forms of propaganda, intimidation, repression, and violation of human rights on Île-à-Vache.

At the same time, the Collective reminds the government of the demands of the people:

– Retract the [May 10, 2013] decree that is being used as a justification to confiscate peasant lands on Île-à-Vache;

– Unconditionally release Jean Mathulnès Lamy, a native of the island unjustly held by the state for the past seven months for his involvement in peaceful protests (a right he retains) concerning the tourism development plan. [A well-respected leader and president of KOPI, Lamy was arrested and has been detained at the National Penitentiary without seeing a judge. The initial reason given for his arrest was his role in organizing a protest on the island on February 7, 2014.]

– Recall all UDMO and other police forces that have been recently stationed on the island.

On behalf of the Collective:[Solidarity and Resistance Collective for the Population of Île-à-Vache]

Nixon Boumba, Popular Democratic Movement (Mouvman Demokratik Popilè – MODEP):

Jackson Doliscar, Force for Reflection and Action on Housing (Fòs Refleksyon ak Aksyon sou Koze Kay – FRAKKA):

Jules Esaie Gelin, Neighborhood Association of Solino (Asosiyasyon Vwazen Solino – AVS)

Samia Salomon, Group for the Development of the South (Gwoup Api pou Develop Sid – GADES)

Celine Lajoie, Progressive Youth of Les Cayes (Jèn Pwogresis Okay – JPO)

Olrich Jean Pierre, Popular Collective to Revitalize Haiti (Konbit Popilè Pou Remanbre Ayiti -KOPRA)

Translated by Nathan A. Wendte

 

Original article found on: Peace and Collaborative Development Network

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Afghanistan, Development: Challenges around aid access in Afghanistan

By John James

Original article can be read at: IRIN

Photo: John James/IRIN Reaching the needy is a challenge

Photo: John James/IRIN
Reaching the needy is a challenge

DUBAI/JALALABAD, 9 September 2014 (IRIN) – Few issues get more attention nowadays in Afghanistan’s aid circles than insecurity-engendered restrictions on humanitarian access.

“In almost every district where security has been handed over from ISAF [NATO-led International Security Assistance Force] to Afghan security forces we’ve seen an increase in attacks,” Omar Hamid, head of Asia Analysis at IHS Country Risk, told IRIN. “The writ of the government to provide security to aid agencies is reduced and there’s a risk that the situation will only get worse as the political instability increases.”

Disputed elections and the imminent pull-out of ISAF forces is compounding an already difficult situation for aid workers.

“In terms of fragmentation [of the country], it’s getting increasingly similar to the 1980s and 90s,” said Arne Strand, from Norway’s CMI development research institute, the author of a recent Chatham House briefing paper on innovative aid delivery.

“More serious NGOs will probably remain: they have the knowledge and dedication of staff. But monitoring capacity will need a boost in the current environment. These direct links are vital, and a kind of control on your own staff – you need to have those kinds of control mechanisms.”

The evidence in this year’s Humanitarian Needs Overview is that areas with the greatest need often have the fewest humanitarian actors. With the overall aid package to Afghanistan anticipated to drop, this year’s tightly-focused humanitarian appeal for US$406 million (currently 56 percent funded) attempts to shift work towards the areas of greatest need.

Nuristan

The eastern province of Nuristan on the border with Pakistan is a case in point. State control is limited and there are few aid workers despite needs judged “high level” in nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), and health, by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The infrastructure is poor with four separate valleys lacking direct road connections between them. Those roads that are usable can be blocked by snow for long periods in winter. International aid sometimes has to be delivered by donkey. Humanitarian convoys have been attacked, and the government’s disaster management authority, ANDMA, is “reportedly non-existent” on the ground, according to the OCHA overview.

The only international NGO with a stable presence in the area is the International Medical Corps (IMC), while the Afghan Red Crescent is the main local actor.

To face the future security challenges, analysts suggest a range of measures, from negotiating with a broader set of stakeholders, to using cash-transfer schemes, remote management, third-party monitoring, and having a greater tolerance for risk, allied with risk mitigation measures.

Talking to anti-government forces

With the withdrawal of international forces, more of the fighting is now between Afghans themselves. Security analysts predict that this will mean more intense combat, more casualties, and less access for humanitarians. Potential power vacuums after withdrawal may also increase criminality.

The mid-year Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict report from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan showed a 24 percent rise in civilian casualties on the same period last year.

“This year has been one of the worst since the conflict started: It’s definitely not getting better, and that’s obviously a concern,” said Alexander Buchmann, head of mission for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Afghanistan. “Access is not improving for patients needing to get to health centres or for aid actors to get to those needing help. What is clear is that things are not getting better and at best things have stabilized at a very high intensity of violence.”

Where local power holders are anti-government actors, humanitarians find themselves in a difficult position – do they negotiate and risk the ire of the state? Discussions and even agreements with such groups can inadvertently mean giving them legitimacy.

“We need to be thinking ahead and talking to the other side,” one international aid worker, who asked not to be named, told IRIN in the eastern town of Jalalabad.

While large humanitarian organizations may have the potential to reach out to key leaders, that is not something that is possible for all, especially with shifting leadership structures. “It’s not realistic for [a] small organization to go to Quetta [in Pakistan, an important base for the Taliban leadership],” said a protection specialist in Kabul. “Anyway, lower level commanders are not necessarily in contact with the overall leadership. Showing a letter from [Taliban leader] Mullah Omar might not even go down too well with these guys.”

Anti-government forces are not necessarily opposed to humanitarian interventions, especially in particular sectors like health.

“We talk to all parties to the conflict and try to guarantee safe access for patients,” said MSF’s Buchmann. “There’s a general acceptance of the idea, but it varies on the ground in the application.” MSF has long-standing projects in places like Helmand, but Buchmann says the key challenge is getting out of provincial centres to address needs in distant districts.

Many provinces contain a shifting scene of local warlords, commanders and tribal alliances. Nuristan itself has 7-8 separate armed groups with different agendas. This is where the knowledge of local NGOs can be particularly useful. Muslim NGOs are also seen as a possible way to gain greater acceptance for humanitarian work.

But aid workers stress that it is not just about educating people on humanitarian principles; you need to also show that you can deliver. “Services buy access”, one aid worker told IRIN in Jalalabad.

Working with communities

Communities and their leaders have long been a favoured route for gaining access.

“People ask us how we manage to work in areas that are not nominally under government control,” said Nigel Jenkins, former country head at the International Rescue Committee (IRC), which has run programmes in the country since 1988. “The simple answer is through community acceptance. In this country, people very much work on trust, on memory, on history and it takes a long time to build up a relationship with a community.”

IMC’s Country Director in Afghanistan, Giorgio Trombatore, recommends hiring community-based staff with outstanding reputations and avoiding unnecessary branding. “The local community or shura must be involved or consulted at every stage of the humanitarian work being done in the area, bridging the role between NGO/humanitarian organizations and non-state actors to prevent any potential misunderstandings or misbeliefs about what is being done,” he said. “All the amendments or potential changes in the given set programmes must be thoroughly discussed and conveyed within the community.”

The flip side of building strong community relations though is that this may lead humanitarians to work where they have relations rather than where the needs are greatest. It is clear that building community understanding and support takes time.

The European Commission’s aid body ECHO is involved in a number of projects to boost access, something that can be difficult for NGOs to dedicate resources to under normal short-term project funding.

“Access is something that is difficult to measure – not like counting shelters constructed or hygiene kits distributed,” said Danielle Moylan, protection and advocacy manager at the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). “It’s an extremely long-term project, but rolling out projects is proof that access works.”

“This year has been one of the worst since the conflict started: It’s definitely not getting better, and that’s obviously a concern” NRC have been working in Kandahar for 18 months – setting up, just as many agencies were leaving. This week they start a new push to work on rural projects in Faryab Province.

“Recruiting people from villages in Faryab where we want to work, is a big element of gaining acceptance. We also empower all our 500-plus national staff so everyone knows what we stand for. That has an incredible benefit for community liaison,” said Moylan.

Some groups, like the International Committee of the Red Cross, have long worked with armed groups and also wider community leaders to spread the word about international humanitarian law and protection issues. These are long-term efforts, which, when successful, build acceptance of aid work.

New methods

Technological developments do potentially open up some new avenues for aid workers to manage a lack of aid access.

As US troops pull-out, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is reportedly looking for bids on a five-year monitoring contract, potentially worth up to $170 million, to keep an eye on aid projects after the drawdown using a range of tools including smartphones and GPS technology.

Mobile phones are increasingly widespread in Afghanistan, with network coverage increasing as well. In 2010 USAID estimated 61 percent of the population had access to a mobile phone. Communication, photographs and even GPS are all possible on relatively cheap devices.

The World Food Programme’s Beneficiary Feedback Desk, allows beneficiaries to call into a hotline to report issues with aid delivery.

Nevertheless aid workers or their partners could also face the risk of appearing to be spies as they carry out their monitoring work. And technology rarely provides a complete solution. Network coverage is still patchy, and mobile phones are largely in the hands of men, and also under shifting ownership.

“You need to have a combination of solutions – mobile phones won’t solve everything but it can provide a record,” Strand told IRIN. “It’s a kind of add-on to the documentation, and also a way to set-up complaint mechanisms. But you still need physical visits. You need to sit and drink tea.”

The idea of remote management of projects is seen negatively by many in the humanitarian community. According to a January 2014 report by the Afghanistan Public Policy Research Organisation (APPRO), “most [international NGOs] recognize that remote management cannot be a permanent substitute for ongoing onsite management because the quality of the work would very likely suffer.” Corruption is seen as a significant risk when working without an on-the-ground presence.

An older technology, radio, is seen by many as the most useful channel for communication with communities, and NRC have a long-running project supporting a popular radio drama that explains humanitarian work.

Approach to risk

Greater risks around humanitarian access mean risk assessments become far more important, according to the Chatham House briefing.

This is something underlined by the head of OCHA in Afghanistan, Aidan O’Leary, who writes that “Humanitarian agencies need to build a culture of ‘how to stay’ as opposed to ‘when to leave’, allowing actors to take acceptable risks when these are warranted and using creative approaches to reduce risk.”

The setting up of the Common Humanitarian Fund this year has helped encourage humanitarian actors to move into key areas where access can be difficult – funding frontline healthcare, evacuating civilians, and providing basic health and nutrition services in contested areas. A humanitarian risk management unit was also established this year to better identify risks and put in place mitigating measures.

The humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan, Mark Bowden, says he believes progress is being made on access, pointing to the absence of attacks on health centres during the presidential election, despite the controversial use of several as voting centres.

“It’s a tangible aspect of what I think is better recognition. We still don’t have anything like free and open access from either side. But there’s a feeling that we’re moving forward on this issue, and that legitimate humanitarian actors are being recognised,” he said.

For long-term actors in Afghanistan, the concern is that the easiest response to access problems will be to abandon difficult zones for the relative safety of urban programming and informal slums.

There is no magic bullet that fits all agencies. Instead, humanitarian actors need to each develop their own access strategies in line with their operations and dynamics, says ECHO’s Luc Verna. Support from NRC helps actors to share strategies and learn from others.

“Access is also about having flexibility without putting staff at risk; acting where possible, withdrawing when you need to,” said Verna. “It’s about not putting staff at risk simply to go where no one else is.”

By John James

Original article can be read at: IRIN

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Development: Concern over World Bank proposals to roll back safeguards for indigenous people

Original article from: IRIN

Photo: Dana MacLean/IRIN Indonesia's Dayak people remain unrecognized as indigenous, and now might lose the World Bank's backing

Photo: Dana MacLean/IRIN
Indonesia’s Dayak people remain unrecognized as indigenous, and now might lose the World Bank’s backing

BANGKOK, 3 September 2014 (IRIN) – Activists warn of a harmful regression in the World Bank’s safeguard policies, claiming that proposed changes being considered this autumn could weaken the rights of indigenous people, and others in danger of displacement and abuse as a result of Bank-funded development projects.

“This [version of the safeguards] will be dangerous backsliding into their bad legacy of treatment against indigenous people if it is approved,” said Joan Carling, secretary-general of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), a network that operates in 14 Asian countries.

According to the World Bank, “the proposed Environmental and Social Framework builds on the decades-old safeguard policies and aims to consolidate them into a more modern, unified framework that is more efficient and effective to apply and implement.”

However, campaigners say the current draft dilutes the protective promise of the safeguards and fails to include indigenous rights considerations in projects funded by the World Bank by obtaining “free, prior, and informed consent” for development interventions. The proposed changes, including an “opt out” policy, could leave development decisions solely at the discretion of governments.

“In order for grievance mechanisms to work, environmental and social standards need to be clear and prescriptive,” said Kristen Genovese, a senior attorney with the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), a Washington-based watchdog.

Other adjustments suggest a broader attempt to roll-back responsbilities: “The elimination of clear, predictable rules also appears to be a clear attempt by the Bank to avoid accountability for the negative impacts of projects that it funds,” BIC said.

With more than US$50 billion in development aid at risk of being funnelled into projects that could forcibly evict, displace, or fail to adequately compensate communities for resource losses, pressure is mounting on the Bank as board meetings begin on 3 September.

Loophole

The pending amendments retain the requirement for project-affected peoples’ “free, prior and informed consent” to relocate; proper compensation; labour rights of workers; and non-discriminatory development. However, the draft includes options for the Bank’s non-compliance, which leaves it for governments to decide how to proceed with projects – including by ignoring indigenous people.

“Allowing [governments] not to recognize groups [as indigenous] is incredibly problematic particularly when we know the history of government violating indigenous peoples’ rights,” said Jessica Evans, senior researcher on international financial institutions at Human Rights Watch’s (HRW).

According to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Persons (UNDRIP), indigenous people are those who maintain historical continuity with pre-colonial groups, have strong relationships with natural resources and land as the basis of their cultural and physical survival, and self-identify themselves as indigenous as part of their belief systems which differ from the dominant society.

While UNDRIP has been adopted by 143 countries, domestic implementation has been limited. The draft safeguards give governments a loophole to escape recognition of indigenous persons when it comes to Bank-funded development interventions status if it causes conflict or goes against the constitution of the country.

According to a 30 July statement from the Bank about the proposed safeguards draft, indigenous status can be opted out of “in exceptional circumstances when there are risks of exacerbating ethnic tension or civil strife or where the identification of Indigenous Peoples is inconsistent with the constitution of the country…”

“Setting the standard is something an institution as powerful and influential as the World Bank should be considering as mandatory, rather than optional.” As the draft safeguards go under review by the Bank’s board, activists warn that without major reform to the draft, consultations with indigenous groups when designing and implementing development projects have little meaning.

“If they provide the opt out option for recognizing indigenous groups, indigenous people will suffer adverse impacts,” warned AIPP’s Carling, adding that government refusal to acknowledge the indigenous status of many ethnic minorities can be a contributing factor to statelessness, poverty and forced relocation.

A history of abuses

A root concern about the proposed safeguards is that they shift the onus for environmental and social responsibility away from the Bank and onto borrowing governments, which means funds could go to states already notorious for land grabs, corruption and human rights violations.

In recent years researchers have documented cases of forced evictions in poor communities as a part of World Bank-funded projects.

For example, in East Badia, a community in Lagos, Nigeria, Amnesty International reported that 9,000 people had their homes razed to make way for luxury apartments. In Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital, up to 135,000 families will be relocated in the next three years to make way for urban development, the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), a Sri Lankan NGO, argues.

In East Badia, community protests against the razing of homes met all of the requirements to trigger the safeguards for a full World Bank investigation. However, the Bank’s eight-member board instead decided to institute a pilot project for resettlement which compensated communities one-third below the market rate for informal housing in Lagos.

“The compensation was so low it did not enable them to live anywhere else except another slum or precarious accommodation which will put them in danger of being forcibly evicted again,” said Alessandra Masci, Amnesty International’s senior analyst for business and human rights, and lead advocate for the report on Lagos.

The Bank’s pilot, implemented in November 2013, was in line with the new direction of the bank (and the draft safeguards currently under consideration), in which vague language creates flexibility in decision-making for the Bank and the borrower government – leaving the poor to fend for themselves, analysts say.

“Banks and panels are standing back and leaving communities completely alone to deal with entities much more powerful than them,” explained Masci.

In the case of Sri Lanka, the government, armed with US$213 million of World Bank loans, will forcibly relocate an estimated 300,000 people under the Metro Colombo Urban Development Project (MCUDP), according to CPA.

A commitment to ending poverty?

Critics warn that without airtight safeguards for vulnerable people, the rights of indigenous groups will continue to be violated by development projects, and undermine the very target the Bank has set for itself: to end poverty.

While indigenous people comprise 5 percent of the global population, they make up 15 percent of all people living beneath national poverty lines globally, according to the UN.

“In order for grievance mechanisms to work, environmental and social standards need to be clear and prescriptive,” said Kristen Genovese, a senior attorney with the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), a Washington-based watchdog.

Some fear that growing competition in international lending – with the emergence of Chinese and Japanese development banks, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and the BRICS bank – may stoke a fear of losing clients and trigger a race-to-the-bottom panic. Experts argue that the World Bank should see its safeguards as an opportunity to assert its position as a global leader.

“Competition is good. It means more finance for development,” said HRW’s Evans. “The Bank could show other lenders best practices and be a model development bank.”

Sophie Chao, a project officer with the Forest People’s Programme (FPP), a Netherlands-based indigenous and environmental rights organization, said: “Setting the standard is something an institution as powerful and influential as the World Bank should be considering as mandatory, rather than optional.”

Carling asked: “If their main target is to address poverty – if not for the poor, who is development really for then?”

 

Read the original article online at: IRIN

 

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Afghanistan: Kabul Program Highlighted in AWWP Documentary

Read the original post on the AWWP Summer 2014 Newsletter.

Kabul Program Highlighted in AWWP Documentary, Alex Footman Films AWWP Workshop in Kabul

Documentary filmmaker Alex Footman completed a short film highlighting the work of the Afghan Women’s Writing Project in Kabul. Footman, along with his production assistant, Ellie Kealey, has done several projects in Afghanistan, using his filmmaking expertise to connect people to one another by sharing the wealth of stories he finds in his travels.

The documentary will be available on Vimeo through August. After that, it will be available for use at AWWP events. To access the video now, visit AWWP’s Vimeo Page — let us know what you think!

To learn more about AWWP check out their website here: http://awwproject.org/

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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

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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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