Issues & Analysis
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Development: Don’t rush to Nepal to help. Learn from haiti and read this first

Guardian Newspaper, Monday 27 April 2015 , by 

You may want to help victims of the earthquake, but they don’t need unskilled volunteers or aid they can’t use. Here’s what you can do that won’t get in the way

As someone who has considered Nepal home for many years, the shock on hearing the news of the earthquake that has devastated the country was extreme. I felt pained at being away from home – cut off in rural Cambodia – at a time like this, impotent and powerless.

The quake has left thousands dead, many more injured and even more without shelter. What we also know from tracking events in natural disasters all over the world is that the situation only gets worse in the weeks following the event, as hospitals become overwhelmed, basic supplies become scarce and those living in temporary shelters succumb to exposure and disease. The example fresh in everyone’s minds is the 2010 earthquake in Haiti – a country in a similar economic condition to Nepal and which, despite an enormous influx of international aid, is still recovering from the disaster five years later.

Something that has been much discussed in the international aid community is the lack of coordinated response to the Haiti disaster. Ragtag brigades of well-intentioned do-gooders flooded the country: students, church congregations, individuals who had previously vacationed in the area, all clambering over one another looking for a way to make their mark and do good, but lacking either the skills or coordination to have an impact. Indeed, many ended up slowing down the aid efforts.

There were even reports of teams of doctors who arrived to help but were unable to feed themselves. This wave of unsolicited and poorly planned shipments of untrained people and donated goods was dubbed by some humanitarians “the second disaster”.

One of the biggest problems with relief work is that it is a free-for-all. Anyone who wants to, and who is privileged enough to afford a plane ticket, can pitch up. Unlike doctors or engineers, who need to train for years to gain qualifications that prove they probably know what they’re doing, no such qualification exists for aid workers.

What Nepal needs right now is not another untrained bystander, however much her heart is hurting. Nepal has one international airport for the entire country, which has itself sustained damage. That airport needs to be used for emergency supplies, immediate aid for the victims, and qualified, professional relief workers. My trip back to commiserate with loved ones can wait a few weeks.

Remember that it is not about you. It is not about your love for the country and its people. Your feelings of guilt and helplessness may be difficult to deal with, but you may not be what is needed right now. Do not rush to go there, at least for the next couple of weeks while the country is reeling. The exception to this is if you are a qualified professional with much-needed skills to offer. If you are, join up with an international relief agency that can place you in a position where you are needed most.

Do not donate stuff. Secondhand goods are difficult to distribute in a disaster area and are hardly ever what is actually needed. It is easier, and often in the long run cheaper, for organisations to procure goods themselves and distribute based on need. If you want to give away things you no longer need, sell them and donate the money to the relief fund. Or give them to a local charity shop, which can convert them into cash on your behalf.

Give money. More than your plane ticket or your collection of old T-shirts, what is most needed in Nepal right now is money. Donate what you can, to a reputable relief organisation, and do research to find out where your money will go. If you can, compare a few organisations with aid appeals and ensure that you agree with their approach.

In the short term, handouts are necessary. I have previously questioned this as a method of long-term development. However, in the immediate wake of such devastation, handouts are necessary to give victims the essentials for survival.

In the long term, rebuild sustainably. If in the coming months you want to contribute to the rebuilding efforts and the longer-term development of the country, consider sustainability as a factor. There will be many programmes to repair and rebuild destroyed houses. Nepal is an earthquake-prone country, so the buildings most likely to withstand another quake are not those that are cheapest, or those made by foreign volunteer labourers for “free”.

And if you do decide to go … Please look at the resources we have produced on the Learning Service website before you get on the plane. I am not against volunteering; I am imploring you to wait a while and think carefully about where to use your skills. Volunteering can have a wonderful impact on the world, when done mindfully. But it is not easy or automatically beneficial. Before signing up for a programme, spend time learning about Nepal and the complex nature of its recovery and development, and continue to be open to learning during your time there.

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Haiti: How Not to Report on an Earthquake

A police officer looking on as an excavator digs through rubble in search of bodies in Katmandu, Nepal, on April 27. Credit: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters
As of Tuesday morning, exactly three days have passed since a 7.8-magnitude earthquake shook Nepal, killing thousands and leaving millions in need of help. In disaster response, the end of the first 72 hours is often considered an inflection point: the unofficial moment when the most acute phase passes, the odds of finding trapped survivors plunge and the relief effort tends to really pick up steam.

Three days into a crisis, roads and airports are often reopening, and outside responders and journalists are arriving in droves. The decisions made at this time can determine the course of the response. A misstep now can have ramifications lasting years, even decades.

I know this because I lived through a moment of just this sort five years ago, in Haiti. I was in Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12, 2010, when a powerful quake rippled outward from an epicenter 15 miles from the capital. In 40 seconds, the shock waves, according to some estimates, literally decimated the population, killing 100,000 to 316,000 people in an overcrowded, overbuilt metropolitan area that was home to more than three million. Governments and aid groups mobilized cargo planes and ships, deploying thousands of soldiers, search-and-rescue teams and medical responders. I was the lone correspondent in the country’s lone full-time foreign news bureau when the quake hit, but I wasn’t on my own for long. By the 72-hour mark, hundreds of reporters — if not more — had joined me in town, beaming images and accounts of the destruction around the world.

Time seemed to stop during the earthquake, and only gradually picked up speed in the days that followed. The first night felt as if it would never end. Aftershocks roiled the ground. People were scouring the rubble for loved ones and neighbors, but the quake had hit in the late afternoon, and in a country with little infrastructure and electricity, it was impossible to continue the search once darkness fell. Nearly everyone who could be was outdoors that night, many of them singing and praying, waiting to see if help would come from outside.

It did, though slowly at first. A trickle of aid convoys arrived overland from the Dominican Republic the next morning. A United States military advance team landed at the damaged airport and took over its operations, setting up an emergency air-traffic-control system.

Then, on the third day, the skies filled with planes and the harbor with ships. Soon United Nations peacekeepers and American soldiers were scrambling to hand out food and water. My editors at The Associated Press made sure that my colleagues and I traded shifts covering the search-and-rescue efforts; they wanted to be certain we did not miss out on images of survivors being pulled from the rubble.

The old standby narratives of disaster coverage picked up from there. We watched for panic and desperation to turn to looting and violence. When aid groups began issuing warnings of impending post-disaster disease outbreaks, we repeated them.

Similar story lines are now emerging from Nepal (although, as of this writing, rumors of looting and violence have been confined mainly to social media). But in Haiti, as is often the case, those story lines turned out to be dead wrong. Most embarrassing for a journalist, they were wrong in ways that would have immediately been made clear had we taken the time to ask some basic questions.

Food and water, for example. When I was in Haiti two years later, to research the relief effort for a book, I was shocked to discover that no one could tell me with any precision if there was ever a food or water shortage in the first place. No one among the responders had even contacted the Coordination Nationale de la Sécurité Alimentaire — the Haitian government agency overseeing food security — to find out what might be needed. Indeed, earthquakes tend to inflict the worst damage on cities, not farms — especially in countries that already have limited infrastructure — and Haiti’s urban areas didn’t have any sewers or piped drinking water to begin with.

People indeed lost their homes and incomes, and markets closed. But theWorld Food Program had enough supplies in its Port-au-Prince warehouses — which survived the quake — to feed 300,000 people one full meal for three weeks. There was no acute food or malnutrition crisis after the quake; that much we know. But it seems very likely that the city could have avoided one even without the frenzied aid push.

Our focus on the organized rescue efforts was similarly misplaced. The constant media coverage and well-financed, specialized rescue teams created the impression in many viewers’ minds that large numbers of people were being saved by outside responders. In fact, according to a report by the French Defense Ministry’s Haiti mission, no more than 211 people were saved by all of the international search-and-rescue efforts combined, in a disaster in which hundreds of thousands were trapped.

This isn’t the responders’ fault; they worked as hard and as fast as they could. But disaster experts routinely note that a vast majority of rescues after an earthquake take place within the first 24 hours, and are almost always done by people from the area using their hands or simple tools. By contrast, the first American search-and-rescue team didn’t arrive in Haiti until nearly a full day after the disaster.

As for the notion of post-disaster disease outbreaks, epidemiologists have gone looking for evidence of epidemics resulting from calamities like earthquakes, and they have generally concluded that they don’t happen. (“The news industry is prone to emphasizing more dramatic and simplistic messages, and unjustified warnings will likely continue to be spread on the basis of an approximate assessment of risks,” the authors of a 2006 study wrote in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.) If you look closely, news reports tend to cite unspecified “fears” or “threats” of disease, often sourced to nongovernmental organizations like the Red Cross. But those sources are rarely asked to produce any actual evidence.

There is violence after disasters, just as there is violence every day wherever humans live. But taking a hard look back puts the lie to the idea that societies somehow become less cohesive after a natural shock, at a moment when most people are busy trying to put their lives back in order. After Hurricane Sandy, in 2012, crime fell in nearly every category in New York City. (The murder rate in Nepal’s capital, Katmandu, when it was last measured nearly a decade ago, was higher than New York’s but comparable to Chicago’s in recent years.)

There is no way to know for sure if that was true in Port-au-Prince; crime statistics were unreliable before the quake and nonexistent after. The escape of prisoners from the city’s national penitentiary did lead to a series of murders over turf in the slum Cité Soleil, and there were reports of increased sexual violence in the months after the disaster. But there was no widespread civil unrest of the magnitude that would justify keeping 20,000 United States troops on call. Having been there at the time, I recognized the sentiment expressed by Donatella Lorch, a Katmandu-based writer, in The Times this week: “I am buoyed by the generous spirit of [Nepal’s] people. My son and I know that life here will get worse in the days and weeks ahead as fuel and water run low. But we also know we are in this together.”

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Afghanistan: Progress Reported on Women’s issues in Informal Afghan-Taliban Talks

nytimes.com, by Rod Nordland, 

KABUL, Afghanistan — Two days of informal talks between Afghan government and Taliban representatives produced a series of agreements that, while not binding, raised the prospect of advancement in Afghanistan’s long deadlocked peace process, judging from a summary of the talks released by the organizers on Monday.

Both sides agreed that the Taliban should open a political office in Doha,Qatar, which would serve as a place where future negotiations might take place; the government of Afghanistan had previously opposed that. Both agreed that the Constitution of Afghanistan was up for discussion; that had once been a so-called red line for the Afghan government.

The Taliban signaled that they might be willing to drop their demand that all foreign troops, such as the residual American and NATO force of 13,000 trainers and counterterrorism troops, would have to be withdrawn before peace talks could take place.

“In general, the peace process should be speeded up!” read a summary of the talks issued by the Pugwash Conferences, the international organization that hosted them in Qatar on Saturday and Sunday. “Some would welcome the possibility of talks between the Taliban and the government.”

The Taliban also joined with Afghan government figures in committing to education for women, which the Taliban had mostly stamped out during their years in power.

“The value of education for both men and women was underlined by everybody,” the Pugwash summary of the talks said. Pugwash, a Nobel Prize-winning organization that promotes world peace, has hosted several conferences involving indirect talks between the Afghan parties, known as “track two” talks.

This was the first one, however, in which the parties seemed willing to publicize their points of agreement.

While everyone involved emphasized that the talks were among individuals and represented their personal opinions, those present included leading figures from the Taliban ranks, as well as important government officials and allies.

In a separate statement, the Taliban denounced the American role in the country and demanded a withdrawal, but did not appear to make that a precondition for peace talks, as they often have in the past.

“Peace cannot be achieved just in talks and slogans,” the Taliban statement, posted on the group’s website, read. “There is a need for determination and good intentions.” They also appeared to dismiss a role for Pakistan in future talks, criticizing “peace talk offers that are usually made to neighboring countries.”

Pakistan has long allowed the Taliban’s senior leadership to take refuge on its side of the border and has been wary of peace overtures that its government does not control.

“Everybody agreed that foreign forces have to leave Afghanistan soon,” the summary of the talks said. But it added, “Some expressed concern that there should be an agreement among Afghan political forces before the departure of the foreign forces.”

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Afghanistan Reconstruction: Fact vs. Fantasy

John F. Sopko , Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction
Weill Cornell Medical College, New York City , May 5, 2015

Full Speech

Conclusion

For both humanitarian and national-security reasons, the U.S. mission to reconstruct Afghanistan is critical. And with $15 billion currently awaiting disbursement, with billions more to follow, there is both need to improve the effectiveness of the effort, and time to make a difference in the outcome.

We must not kid ourselves about Afghanistan. It will be a long struggle. Defeating a determined insurgency, improving health and education, altering attitudes toward women, reducing corruption, and building governmental competence are not casual, short-term undertakings. Impatience driven by temperament, election cycles, or fiscal-year budgeting can only impede progress.

We can also safely say that the struggle in Afghanistan won’t be shortened, much less won, by official happy talk and cheerleader-style press releases. Improving the likelihood of mission success requires, as a start, accurate, verifiable, and pertinent data-accompanied by a recognition that some key indicators require subjective evaluation by experienced and independent observers in the field. Let me emphasize the independence issue. Poor data and disregard of nonquantitative assessments that is biased by self-interest and turf protection can only lead to unrealistic judgments, unjustified hopes, and outright fantasies with no link to reality.

The 19th-century American humorist Josh Billings said, in the manner of Socrates, “I honestly believe it is better to know nothing than to know what ain’t so.”[28] SIGAR’s clinical examination of American reconstruction operations in Afghanistan has persuaded me that we know a lot more than nothing, but a lot less than we think. Budgeting, planning, oversight, course corrections, and decisions to adjust the targets, duration, and intensity of U.S. efforts there all require reliable information. At the moment, that is all too often a scarce commodity and, accordingly, our programs as we go forward may be based more upon fantasy than reality.

SIGAR will press on in the years ahead to carry out its assignment of pinning down facts; calling out fluff, felonies, and fantasies; and recommending improvements. We welcome your interest and support in that mission, as I welcome your comments and questions. Thank you.

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Afghanistan: Meet the Afghan Photographers Telling Their Country’s Stories

Original article found on: TIME

Laurence Butet-Roch on May 1, 2015

With the strengthening of Taliban’s hold on Afghanistan in the 1990s, came the end of a long photographic tradition. At the turn of the 20th century, the ruling royal family practiced photography as a hobby, and a serious one at that. Habibullah Khan, the Emir from 1901 to 1919, set up a studio in the palace while organizing competitions and exhibitions. Decades later, box cameras had made their way into the streets, popularizing the postcard-format family portrait. Yet, today, an entire generation is left without pictures of their youth, let alone a visual history of their nation.

“A country without photographs, is a country without identity,” says Najibullah Musafer, a photojournalist who took great risks to document his homeland despite the prohibition. After seeing b-roll from Afghanistan that challenged their perceptions of the war-torn region, Alexandria Bombach and Mo Scarpelli, two American filmmakers, felt it necessary to connect with storytellers from the area committed to sharing more nuanced accounts of their country. Their curiosity prompted the documentary Frame by Frame.

The cast is composed of photographers that distinguish themselves not only by the compelling nature of their work, but also by their enthralling personalities. Beside wholehearted and wise Musafer, considered the grandfather of modern photojournalism in the country, there’s the trailblazing, industrious and thoughtful Farzana Wahidy, her calm and astute husband Massoud Hossaini, winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 2012, and Wakil Kohsar, the soulful up-and-comer.

“At first, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be part of a movie,” says Wahidy. “At the time, I was trying to keep a low profile, mainly for security reasons and so that I could continue to do my work with as few hurdles as possible. But when I saw that they were going ahead with it, and with three men, I felt it was my duty to be in it.” The documentary makes clear how difficult it can be for her to gain access, especially given that photographing women, which she’s specialized in, remains highly taboo.

As the camera follows the quartet in their daily lives, and as they share stories from their past — the very stories that inform their gaze and shape their voice — a larger layered narrative emerges; that of a disrupted nation.

“Originally, we thought it would be a short film,” says Bombach. “But, as we were conducting the interviews, the complexity of what was happening, of what each photographer was going through, the heaviness of their past and how that affects how they shoot now, it became clear that it needed to be a feature length that would use human narratives to give a much better sense of what’s been going on in the past thirty years.”

Take Kohsar. As he shares memories from his childhood – fleeing Panjshir and seeking refuge in Iran – the plight of Afghan refugees under the Taliban regime comes to light. The footage of him working offers glimpses of issues such as the prevalence of drug addiction and of political disillusion. And, his struggle with an official who suggest that he takes a staged photograph of voters getting their election card – rather than allowing him in – is telling of a country where misinformation is widespread.

“I hope that an audience gets to see what it means to be a storyteller, to be seeking truth when people are putting barriers in front of you, to uphold your responsibility to your craft no matter what’s thrown your way and to seek beauty and justice through photography,” says Scarpelli, who was greatly inspired by how much humanity is bursting from each and every one of the protagonists’ images.

Frame by frame, these four photojournalists, as well as their colleagues, are building an indispensable visual history of these tumultuous times. “Afghanistan is in a very particular and uncertain place right now. Everyone is holding their breath,” says Scarpelli, echoing Hosseini’s worries, expressed in the documentary, that the world might forget Afghanistan again. Frame by frame, the movie reminds us why we should not.

Frame by Frame‘s international premieres is this week at Toronto’s Hot Docs film festival.

Laurence Butet-Roch is a freelance writer, photo editor and photographer based in Toronto, Canada. She is a member of the Boreal Collective.

Original article found on: TIME

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Hiati: Haiti’s Unsteady Land

Originally found on: Pulitzer Center

By: Jacob Kushner on December 4, 2014

Unstable land is what caused the January 2010 earthquake that killed some 300,000 people and displaced 1.5 million more in Haiti. Five years on, land conflict is what’s stalling Haiti’s progress.

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Lack of clarity around Haiti’s land laws is a major barrier to building — or rebuilding — Haiti. These barriers keep poor families from finding a place to live or farm, and they prevent wealthy ones from opening businesses that would employ the former. Acquiring land is too expensive for most Haitians, and often too complex, with multiple people claiming ownership and no system to sort that out. Ten percent of the land in Haiti is owned by the government, but the government isn’t entirely sure which ten percent. Only five percent of Haiti’s total land is accounted for in official registries, according to the United Nations, and many records were lost in the earthquake.

Today, critical investment projects such as industrial trade zones and tourist resorts remain stymied due to land disputes.Now, as Haiti turns to manufacturing and tourism to build the country’s economic future, Haitians themselves are caught in the middle. On the small island of Ile a Vache, a new airport threatens to displace hundreds of rightful landowners in the name of tourism. And in the country’s north, a free-trade zone that overtook 600 acres of fertile farmland has failed to attract more than a few companies to fill the space.

Five years after the earthquake, Haiti’s leaders have a vision. But with limited assistance by the US and other foreign donors allocated to fix Haiti’s underlying land catastrophe, will Haiti’s grand scheme fail and leave ordinary Haitians landless?

Originally found on: Pulitzer Center

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On the Media: Reframing the Message

Original article found on: DEEEP

Reframing the Message” is an EU-supported training and communication project implemented by three organizations in three European countries. The participating organizations are Wilde Ganzen from the Netherlands, Divoké Husy from Czech Republic and CISU – Civil Society in Development from Denmark. The three organizations’ joint application was approved by the EU in the autumn of 2012.

The project aims to strengthen the communication on development for the civil society organizations of these three countries so it reflects the structural causes of poverty in a balanced manner. The object is to produce reliable and respectful communication that will affect the citizen’s commitment to development cooperation.

“Reframing the Message” serves as best practice example on how to work ‘hands on’ with civil society organizations and their communication. It is a practical take on the various initiatives such as DEEEP4 that aims to challenge and change the existing paradigm on development.
During the two-years-project period we have found great inspiration from DARE Forum’s DEEEP project.

What paradigm was challenged? The old aid and charity paradigm which reproduces an unequal balance of power with a strong giver to a grateful receiver: the main storyline is roughly that the developing countries and their populations are perceived as poor dependent wretches with no ability to change their own way of life.

What new paradigm was developed? While civil society organisations have, through “Reframing the Message”, rejected the old paradigm, defining a new paradigm has proved more difficult.
However, a new European focus on the Global South as strong and independent communicators and storytellers has arisen. Organisations have started to listen to these voices and a new paradigm could potentially emerge from a global dialogue between citizens.

What did we learn? Across three participating countries we learned that we can address change from a practical point of view and start bottom-up with each CSO and their communication.

What is the next step? As the project expires in spring 2015, next step is not discussing what should be “reframed” but instead uniting across organizations and countries to engage citizens in global matters – like DEEEP4 works to do.

An overall objective and two specific objectives were formulated for the project:

  • Overall objective: To change the attitude towards development cooperation among the general public through a large number of small and medium sized development organisations and groups that stress the progress made in reaching the MDGs, while depicting the need for structural change.
  • Specific objective 1: Build the capacity of these organisations in order for them to better communicate ‘Best News’ and take stronger action.
  • Specific objective 2: To achieve synergy between the three project partners through exchange of ideas, best practices and joint methodologies.

Components in the project

During the two-years-project period “Reframing the Message” offered the following activities for the participating organisations and to a larger audience:

  • A variety of different trainings, workshops and presentations. On communication strategy, storytelling, social media, smartphone as a monitoring tool, efficient websites and press work – capacity building was a key component in the project.
  • Developing an online communication toolkit in Dutch and English to be used by civil society organisations and their partners in the Global South.
  • A sub-granting pool where organisations were allocated 2,000 euro to test their new skills and approach to communication and fundraising.
  • A competition on communication products and plans in connection with a counselling program with professional communication advisors.
  • Stakeholder meetings every year in each of the three countries.
  • Raising public debate on the subject.
  • Establishing a national network for development education.
  • National actions for the “World’s Best News” campaign.

What went well

All in all the project was a success. Both in matter of project planning across three countries but certainly also in matter of participants, debate and a possible new discourse. This is what we would highlight:

  • Engaging a large number of active citizens from a variety of civil society organizations.
  • Finding a practical and ‘hands on’ approach to telling stories about developing countries.
  • The three project countries working closely with the civil society organizations and developing the project in relation to their context in order to create deeper impact.
  • Starting a buzz and maintaining the discussion on development education amongst practitioners in the three countries.
  • Establishing and using the synergy between three organisations in three countries connecting and challenging each other – also in connection with other international initiatives as DEEEP4 and The Smart CSOs Lab.

Which challenges are still to be faced?

Although we did several attempts to get the larger organisations on board we found it difficult  connecting to the organisations dependent on private fundraising – especially regarding their fundraising campaigns where the hard-hitting argument seemed to be “but photos of starving children is what get people to donate money”. Future challenges will be:

  • Engaging the large international organisations in the discourse.
  • Identifying and developing synergy between fundraising and communication in a constructive way (instead pointing fingers at each other’s shortcomings).
  • Continually to cultivate and support the national and transnational networks initiated by Reframing the Message.

Original article found on: DEEEP

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Review of Owning our Future: Haitian Perspectives in Film at JP Forum

JP Forum

 jamaicaplainforum.org

Jamaica Plain Forum Haitian Perspectives in Film

By Hero Ashman

The US premier of Haitian Perspectives In Film took place at this week’s Jamaica Plain Forum. Six short documentaries made by six newly trained Haitian filmmakers were screened to an audience of more than 100 people. The screening was led by a local organization called Community Supported Film, which had run a five week intensive training course in Haiti in 2014 for Haitian storytellers. The aim of the project was to counteract the singular narrative of Haiti as a country permanently damaged by the 2010 earthquake, and to lift up local voices as they share their important stories. What struck me most about the movies was the capacity and creativity evident in the Haitians’ work – both those making the documentaries and those starring in them.

The dominant portrayal of people within disaster or war torn nations, especially those recovering from wars and natural disasters, is that they are in constant need of outside help. While it is important for an international community to offer help and assistance to countries in need, by purporting a narrative of foreigners coming in to help ‘re-build’, ‘re-construct’ and ‘re-develop’ we ignore the work that is already being done by Haitians, in Haiti, for other Haitians.

One documentary, created by Bichara Villason, filmed a group of construction workers re-building houses for people whose homes had been damaged by the quake. The project manager explained the communal process of identifying who to build for, constructing permanent (rather than temporary) houses and taking the steps to ensure people’s homes were protected by law. The title of this piece was “Owned or Occupied.” The ownership the community had over their work was contrasted with the work done by occupying NGOs: arriving from abroad, building temporary shelter and leaving. This type of work is not covered by mainstream media outside of Haiti because it doesn’t fit with the narrative of helplessness that accompanies many post-earthquake news reports.

For me, the documentaries clearly captured the connection between work and identity. This was demonstrated in the documentary “Threading the Needle”, which told the story of a woman who had started a curtain making business in order to provide for her family. Her work not only brought her a livelihood, but also the ability to reach out to other women in her community by teaching them sewing and business skills. The documentary successfully conveyed the feeling spoken by the woman, that hard work was needed and willingly given to get the country back on its feet. The importance of work was established for individual, community and national identity.

The documentaries were successful in expanding many stories we have of the world: the story of disaster relief, the story of community resilience, the story of who gets to tell the story.  They illustrated brilliantly that there is a huge diversity of work that people do. A community organizer, who was interviewed in the documentary “Ghetto Clean, Ghetto Green,” related the work him and his community were doing to improve life for children in his neighborhood with the Haitian system of Kombit. Kombit refers to a system of collective work undertaken to achieve a common goal; it is based on sharing rather than selling. It is clear that the work done by the Haitian filmmakers and the Haitians in the documentaries was not done merely to earn a living. The work they did utilized their energy, created change and brought them a livelihood based on more than having shelter and food, but included shaping and upholding a community identity.

I think it would benefit us all to remember that work within the home, volunteer work in communities, work with purposes other than profit, is not only crucial to our economy but it is constructive of the creative, generous and productive people we are. The documentaries really brought this point home to me.

You can pre-order the DVD of Haitian Perspectives In Film at CSFilm’s website and explore the site for more information on the films.

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120 at JP Forum Premiere of Owning our Future: Haitian Perspectives in Film

The JP Forum premiere of Owning our Future: Haitian Perspectives in Film was a great success with a packed house of 120 in attendance.

It was particularly exciting to have with us from Haiti, trainee, filmmaker and journalist, Robenson Sanon. Robenson really appreciated the audience’s interest in Haiti and thoughtful questions. This video contains an excerpt from his statement:

I was delighted that the relevance of the training was so clearly articulated by Robeson and in trainee Steeve Colin’s thank you note that I read at the end of the presentation. As Steeve writes:

[The training] gives people like me the chance to change the narrative about my community … And that is a power that I don’t take for granted … So thank you for the knowledge, thank you for the training, and thank you for trusting me with my community’s story.

Many thanks to JP Forum for hosting the event and to Tracy Bindel and Hero Ashman, from the Institute of Policy Research, for coordinating the evening. Hero wrote this insightful blog on the films and presentation:

JP Forum

 jamaicaplainforum.org

Jamaica Plain Forum Haitian Perspectives in Film

By Hero Ashman

The US premier of Haitian Perspectives In Film took place at this week’s Jamaica Plain Forum. Six short documentaries made by six newly trained Haitian filmmakers were screened to an audience of more than 100 people. The screening was led by a local organization called Community Supported Film, which had run a five week intensive training course in Haiti in 2014 for Haitian storytellers. The aim of the project was to counteract the singular narrative of Haiti as a country permanently damaged by the 2010 earthquake, and to lift up local voices as they share their important stories. What struck me most about the movies was the capacity and creativity evident in the Haitians’ work – both those making the documentaries and those starring in them.

The dominant portrayal of people within disaster or war torn nations, especially those recovering from wars and natural disasters, is that they are in constant need of outside help. While it is important for an international community to offer help and assistance to countries in need, by purporting a narrative of foreigners coming in to help ‘re-build’, ‘re-construct’ and ‘re-develop’ we ignore the work that is already being done by Haitians, in Haiti, for other Haitians.

One documentary, created by Bichara Villason, filmed a group of construction workers re-building houses for people whose homes had been damaged by the quake. The project manager explained the communal process of identifying who to build for, constructing permanent (rather than temporary) houses and taking the steps to ensure people’s homes were protected by law. The title of this piece was “Owned or Occupied.” The ownership the community had over their work was contrasted with the work done by occupying NGOs: arriving from abroad, building temporary shelter and leaving. This type of work is not covered by mainstream media outside of Haiti because it doesn’t fit with the narrative of helplessness that accompanies many post-earthquake news reports.

For me, the documentaries clearly captured the connection between work and identity. This was demonstrated in the documentary “Threading the Needle”, which told the story of a woman who had started a curtain making business in order to provide for her family. Her work not only brought her a livelihood, but also the ability to reach out to other women in her community by teaching them sewing and business skills. The documentary successfully conveyed the feeling spoken by the woman, that hard work was needed and willingly given to get the country back on its feet. The importance of work was established for individual, community and national identity.

The documentaries were successful in expanding many stories we have of the world: the story of disaster relief, the story of community resilience, the story of who gets to tell the story.  They illustrated brilliantly that there is a huge diversity of work that people do. A community organizer, who was interviewed in the documentary “Ghetto Clean, Ghetto Green,” related the work him and his community were doing to improve life for children in his neighborhood with the Haitian system of Kombit. Kombit refers to a system of collective work undertaken to achieve a common goal; it is based on sharing rather than selling. It is clear that the work done by the Haitian filmmakers and the Haitians in the documentaries was not done merely to earn a living. The work they did utilized their energy, created change and brought them a livelihood based on more than having shelter and food, but included shaping and upholding a community identity.

I think it would benefit us all to remember that work within the home, volunteer work in communities, work with purposes other than profit, is not only crucial to our economy but it is constructive of the creative, generous and productive people we are. The documentaries really brought this point home to me.

You can pre-order the DVD of Haitian Perspectives In Film at CSFilm’s website and explore the site for more information on the films.

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Development Issues: Development Aid Flows to Poorest Countries Still Falling

Original article found at: IPS News Agency

ROME, Apr 8 2015 (IPS) – Development aid flows were stable in 2014, after hitting an all-time high in 2013, but aid to the poorest countries continued to fall, according to new figures released on Apr. 8 by the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC).

Net official development assistance (ODA) from DAC members totalled 135.2 billion dollars, level with a record 135.1 billion dollars in 2013, though marking a 0.5 percent decline in real terms. Net ODA as a share of gross national income (GNI) was 0.29 percent, also on a par with 2013.

However, bilateral aid – which equates to roughly two-thirds of total ODA – to the least developed countries fell by 16 percent in real terms to 25 billion dollars, according to provisional DAC data.

The Development Assistance Committee (DAC) is made up mainly of European countries plus the European Union as a member in its own right, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea.

Five of the DAC’s 28 member countries – Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom – continued to exceed the United Nations target of keeping ODA at 0.7 percent of GNI, while 13 countries reported a rise in net ODA, with the biggest increases in Finland, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland.

On the other hand, 15 DAC members reported lower ODA, with the biggest declines in Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Poland, Portugal and Spain.

“ODA remains crucial for the poorest countries and we must reverse the trend of declining aid to the least developed countries. OECD ministers recently committed to provide more development assistance to the countries most in need. Now we must make sure we deliver on that commitment,” said DAC Chair Erik Solheim.

Reacting to the latest DAC figures for Europe, Oxfam said that “the leadership of a handful of countries is masking the failure of the majority of European governments to deliver on their overseas aid promises”, with aid stagnating, leaving millions of poor people at risk

“In times of ballooning challenges for the world’s poorest, it is striking that European overseas aid has stagnated”, said Hilary Jeune, Oxfam’s EU Policy Advisor.

“This picture would be worse if it were not for the leadership of a handful of countries such as the United Kingdom, Sweden, Luxembourg and Denmark, masking the poor performance of the majority. Wealthy countries, such as France and Austria, have failed to uphold their commitments to the world’s most vulnerable people.”

France has cut its aid budget for the fourth year in a row and Spain’s overseas aid spending is at its lowest level since 1989, said Oxfam. Germany and Finland have made some progress but they are still off track on reaching their commitments, while the Netherlands is no longer contributing 0.7 percent of its GNI.

“European governments first promised to deliver 0.7 percent of their national income to support poor countries when Richard Nixon was President of America and the Beatles were topping the charts,” added Jeune.

“In the 45 years since, only a handful of European Union countries have delivered on this promise. Yet with some one billion people still living in poverty and climate change posing huge new development challenges, the need for overseas aid is greater than ever before.”

Oxfam called on the global community to agree ambitious new development goals and a new deal for tackling climate change this year, including at the third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, in July.

“In Addis, EU Finance Ministers should demonstrate genuine leadership by being the first ones to re-commit to providing 0.7 percent of national income as overseas aid and outline how they will deliver on this promise, including setting a clear timetable.”

Oxfam said that they must also “put new money on the table from their budgets and from new sources like financial transaction taxes and the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme to help poor countries cope with the devastating impacts of climate change.”

Edited by Phil Harris

Original article found at: IPS News Agency

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On the Media: Ebola – media ‘overlooked Africa’s role in combating crisis’

Original article found on: The Guardian

By: Sam Jones on April 7, 2015

African Union says media downplayed Africans’ willingness and ability to deal with Ebola and focused instead on part played by international agencies

A Liberian health worker checks the temperature of students to curb the spread of Ebola in Caldwell, outside the capital Monrovia. Photograph: Ahmed Jallanzo/EPA

A Liberian health worker checks the temperature of students to curb the spread of Ebola in Caldwell, outside the capital Monrovia. Photograph: Ahmed Jallanzo/EPA

Africa’s efforts to tackle the Ebola crisis have been largely overlooked even though Africans have taken the lead in providing frontline staff and shown themselves “better placed to fight infectious diseases in their continent than outsiders”, according to the African Union (AU).

Dr Olawale Maiyegun, director of social affairs at the AU commission, said that despite the fact that Africans had proved both willing and able to deal with Ebola, the focus had been on the work of international agencies and those with the greatest media clout.

“Unfortunately, Africans do not have the international voice of CNN, BBC and France 24, therefore much of our work is overlooked in the western media,” he said. “Most of the assistance provided by the international community is in the areas of finance and infrastructure. In the most critical human resources for health, Africans – including the affected countries – have had to take the lead.”

His comments come six months after Nelson Mandela’s widow, Graça Machel, accused African leaders of failing to do enough to address the health crisis. “Ebola has exposed the extreme weaknesses of our institutions as governments; countries which are affected were found totally unprepared,” she told African business leaders in November last year. “It’s time Africa began to give real value to human life, in other words African human lives.”

Others have criticised the AU for waiting 10 months before holding an emergency summit on the outbreak.

However, Maiyegun argued that the AU and the Economic Community of West African States had reacted well to the crisis, with the AU deploying more than 835 African health workers to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea at the peak of the epidemic. “The success of African health workers – including the heroic health workers of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – shows one thing: African health workers are better placed to fight infectious diseases in their continent than outsiders,” he said.

Maiyegun said the AU’s response had been guided by the philosophy that it should not dictate how the the affected countries should run their fight against Ebola. “We put volunteers at the disposal of the governments of the affected countries,” he said. “They told us what to do and we have performed creditably.”

He added: “The people of the affected countries must be given credit for doing a good job. With so many actors in the field, it’s important that it’s not just those with the loudest voices who are credited in the press for bringing Ebola under control.”

Maiyegun said the recent report from the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières‎ (MSF) – which accused the governments of Guinea and Sierra Leone of obstructing the early response and contributing to the loss of life – had shown that everyone involved in managing the crisis needed to reflect on their actions.

“There is no doubt that MSF has played a very important role in the fight against the epidemic and they should be well acknowledged,” he said. “However, MSF also needs to have a comprehensive assessment of its involvement, particularly in its approach and its methods in the fight against Ebola.”

In January and February, lab workers in two Guinean medical centres – one of them run by MSF – put blood samples in the wrong test tubes. The mix-ups led to the release of at least four patients who later tested positive for Ebola, two of whom went on to die. Rather than “pointing accusing fingers at others”, said Maiyegun, the charity should be conducting an internal review.

MSF said it had taken the incident very seriously and worked with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Guinean ministry of health to make sure the situation was contained and lessons learned. “We are relieved that no one else contracted Ebola as a result of coming into contact with a patient who wrongly tested negative and have taken steps to make sure such an incident does not happen again,” said a spokeswoman.

She described the report as an “initial reflection on the past year”, adding: “With our teams still heavily involved in tackling the ongoing outbreak it is difficult to draw definitive conclusions; we do not yet have the necessary distance for a thorough critical review. More in-depth assessments – including of MSF’s own work – will certainly follow.”

Maiyegun counselled against premature talk of an end to the Ebola crisis, describing the race to halt new infections as a “bumpy road”. He said the hundreds of potential new cases discovered following Sierra Leone’s three-day lockdown last weekend underlined the need for continued vigilance.

Maiyegun declined to put a date on an end to the crisis – which has killed more than 10,300 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – pointing out that unpredictability was one of the hallmarks of previous Ebola outbreaks in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“One thing is certain,” he said. “We cannot completely declare one of the three affected countries free of Ebola if the outbreak persists in two other countries.”

According to the latest figures from the WHO, 79 new confirmed cases of Ebola were reported in the week to 22 March – the lowest weekly total in 2015. Guinea reported 45 new cases and Sierra Leone 33. Liberia, which had seen no new cases for three consecutive weeks, confirmed a new one on 20 March.

Original article found on: The Guardian

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Haiti: Five years after earthquake, Haiti’s journalists show resilience amid threats to freedom of the press

Original article found on: Journalism in the Americas 

By Shearon Roberts
01/27/2015

 Ayiti Kale Je news team, with the assistant director in 2013.

Ayiti Kale Je news team, with the assistant director in 2013.

Five years after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, the country’s journalists face threats, harassment, and silencing by government supporters and, on occasion, the president himself. While journalism had an urgent and imperative role in the aftermath of the earthquake, Haitian journalists have maintained a steady criticism of reconstruction efforts and, as a result, have been vilified by authorities.

Haiti’s media landscape had been divided before the earthquake along political lines. The disaster brought media factions together as news organizations faced limited resources, ongoing political-socio-economic crises and a strong adversary in the government of President Michel Martelly.

“The Haitian state does not want freedom of the press that is not in their interest,” said Liliane Pierre-Paul, president of the Association National de Médias Haïtiens (ANMH), Haiti’s largest media organization. “They do no wish to respect transparency. They do no want to have awareness among the population, and they do not approve of our reporting that denounces their behavior in government.”

Pierre-Paul participated in a series of research interviews I have conducted with Haitian journalists since 2013 to highlight how Haiti’s media workers have covered the country’s reconstruction.

As the 2015 anniversary of the earthquake approached, Haitian journalists clarified in follow-up interviews that celebrating reconstruction milestones was news of interest to external news agencies, mainly in the United States and for non-profit organizations operating in Haiti.

Haitians remained concerned with events on the ground, specifically, the political impasse between President Martelly and opposition within the Haitian Senate. The political crisis had less to do with what Martelly’s government had or had not achieved with regards to reconstruction after the earthquake.

Haitian news of the November to December 2014 protests, and January 2015 political crisis, had more to do with the government’s apparent failure to allow Haitians to participate in the democratic process, as Martelly’s administration had failed to organize local elections.

Martelly’s administration had sought to establish legitimacy with the Haitian people by touting reconstruction projects. Yet the president’s government remained fledgling – one that Martelly had assembled in a disruptive earthquake year, with low voter turnout in a disputed election that was decided by external, international observers.

“The word reconstruction is a very interesting word,” said Marcus Garcia, president of the Association des Médias Indépendants d’Haïti (AMIH). “The Haitian people do not think of a reconstruction. No one has asked them their opinion and that is the first question.”

Garcia’s AMIH, which was founded in opposition to the ANMH, joined forces with Pierre-Paul after the 2010 earthquake. Solidarity among Haitian news organizations after the earthquake reinforced the mission of Haitian journalism to advocate on behalf of the Haitian people who, as Haiti’s journalists argue, have been left off the bargaining table in a reconstruction directed by international players, such as the U.S.-led United Nations reconstruction effort in Haiti.

It is why the recent political upheavals have dominated Haitian headlines and more importantly Haitian airwaves, the primary source of news and political mobilization in a country with low French literacy and a strong tradition of Haitian Creole radio broadcasting advocacy journalism.

The re-unification of the ANMH and AMIH since the 2010 earthquake has been further bolstered by an alliance forged with Haiti’s leading alternative and community news media networks. Together, they , signed in 2011.

However, as Kathie Klarreich, a Knight International Journalism Fellow, found in her work with Haitian journalists, the implementation of such ethical standards is often a challenge in Haiti.

In interviews, Haitian journalists said that the economic constraints of rebuilding their homes and accumulating possessions after the earthquake remain a very real challenge. They have also mentioned their need to work multiple jobs and pointed out that many times, international donor and non-profit agencies pay triple their wages, presenting clear conflicts of interest.

The owners of news organizations are aware of such challenges, and have sought to provide additional revenue streams for key journalists who cover the Haitian state or report on foreign organizations in an attempt to reduce conflicts of interest and preserve journalistic integrity.

Haitian news organizations now face a strong competitor in non-governmental agencies who would like to hire journalists with talents, said Max Chauvet, the owner of Le Nouvelliste, Haiti’s oldest newspaper and current paper of record.

Chauvet, who preceded Pierre-Paul as head of the ANMH, said the presence of hundreds of radio stations, in addition to the newspaper, now must compete for the same share of reduced advertising revenue to support their enterprise and pay their journalists.

The millions of international aid that flows to non-governmental organizations mean that radio stations receive more advertisements from NGOs and that NGOs, in turn, seek out Haitian journalists as employees, Chauvet said.

Haitian news organizations are outnumbered 10 to 1 by NGOs who seek to communicate their agenda across the airwaves, in print and in broadcast ads that read like news articles.

“They have the means that we don’t have, so it is gonna be a tough fight. We can only influence the government,” Chauvet said.

Taking an aggressive tone on coverage of the Haitian government has resulted in a range of retaliation. Haitian journalists indicated they experienced obstruction to information, reports, and interviews. They have been barred from access to press conferences or officials if they report news that has been critical of the Martelly administration or painted the government in a negative light.

Journalists faced a common tactic, where official sources would take weeks or months to even return a call or request for information. Within the same time frame, a foreign journalist would receive an interview with the same Haitian official that a Haitian journalist had requested an interview with weeks before.

Because such barriers to reporting supported facts, the early work of Ayiti Kale Je or Haiti’s Grassroots Watch allowed vital investigative reporting to filter through mainstream media in Haiti.

Ayiti Kale Je emerged as a consortium of alternative and community news networks in August 2010, with collaboration from the faculty and students at the Faculté de Sciences Humaines, at the State University of Haiti. Co-founded by Jane Regan who taught at the university, the initiative produced more than 30 multimedia and multi-lingual investigative projects on the reconstruction with the goal of providing mainstream news organizations the material and jumpstart needed to critically cover the reconstruction.

The Ayiti Kale Je project was unique, because it provided fact-based investigative journalism disseminated by the mainstream media. Non-profit donors also offered funding and Ayiti Kale Je journalists were given the financial support to practice investigative journalism without threatening the news organization’s bottom line.

Max Chauvet, the owner of Le Nouvelliste, pointed out that reports by Ayiti Kale Je provided the entry point for Le Nouvelliste’s journalists to conduct follow-up reporting based on these findings. On some occasions, Le Nouvelliste published the Ayiti Kale Je reports in full, and key radio stations aired broadcast versions of the dossier reports. On each occasion, news media owners would be harassed by the government for doing so. Ayiti Kale Je journalists were ignored at media events by government officials and in one instance had their equipment damaged by administration workers and supporters.

The Ayiti Kale Je project has since changed leadership. Regan, who no longer heads the project, said that unfortunately, no new investigative reports had been produced since January 2014. However, the Ayiti Kale Je project had accomplished a key objective within Haiti’s local journalism landscape, which was to provide fact-based reporting on Haiti’s reconstruction at a time when Haiti’s commercial media lacked the human and financial capital to conduct investigative journalism.

While Le Nouvelliste has the largest staff of journalists, Chauvet pointed out, investigative reporting in Haiti requires the collective support of radio stations, the primary news source for the average Haitian. Radio provided the critical mass needed for Ayiti Kale Je reports to be disseminated in full or in part to the general public. And as Chauvet and Pierre-Paul said, when Haitian media owners act as a unit, they are able to protect press liberties from government retaliation and hold the government accountable.

Both the ANMH and AMIH have jointly released statements on behalf of their membership to address state attempts to hike broadcast license fees for media organizations that air critical reports. Haitian media organizations have also condemned alleged threats on popular radio broadcasters who have either been insulted or denounced publicly by President Martelly, or have been the subject of alleged plots and death threats at the hands of Martelly supporters.

Five years after the disaster, debates and interviews that take place on popular weekend news-talk radio programs now end up on the Senate floor. Although investigative reports are no longer being produced by the media consortium, Haitian media’s critical assessment of the state of the country’s recovery has been documented in editorials, commercial radio news, analytical news reports, and essays.

Haitian journalists have stated in interviews that a lack of access to government data does not impede their ability to pose questions to officials in news reports. In some cases, journalists produce news reports that outline to readers in detail the degree of government obstruction encountered in providing answers to the public as the journalist attempted to cover an issue or event.

“My role on the radio is to denounce corruption in government, to denounce the fact that the real reconstruction itself has not begun,” said Jean Monard Metellus, a Haitian veteran journalist and host of Ranmase, the most listened to radio program in Haiti, aired on Saturdays on Radio Caraïbes FM Haïti.

Metellus reported in October 2013 that after a heated broadcast, he discovered that the nuts to the rear tires of his vehicle has been removed, nearly leading to a fatal accident. Other critics of the Martelly administration have found themselves in similar situations earlier in the year. Journalists have speculated that Martelly supporters are behind the spate of vehicle sabotage attacks.

Such attacks have served to intimidate Haiti’s most prominent journalists, currently covering the Haitian state and the earthquake’s aftermath. Journalistic retaliation in the current context is far less violent and overt than it was under the Duvalier dictatorship. However, the current tactics employed by the Haitian state and its supporters have served to dissuade journalists from critical, advocacy, and investigative journalism that could change the current conditions of ordinary Haitians or the existing political status quo.

“We (the media) are not the actors of a plan, it is not us who are the drivers of politics or the economy,” said Gotson Pierre, the executive director of Média Alternatif, one of Haiti’s leading alternative media organizations that comprised a part of the Ayiti Kale Je consortium’s initial work. “I think that our role is to see that the communication of information is not ignored and we have a responsibility to take this on.”

Shearon Roberts, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of Mass Communication at Xavier University of Louisiana. She has covered news in Haiti, the Caribbean and Latin America as a journalist. In 2013 and 2014 she conducted extensive research in Haiti with Haitian journalists and media owners on the impact of the 2010 earthquake disaster on Haitian media and journalism. All interviews were conducted in French and translated for use in this article.

Original article found on: Journalism in the Americas 

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On the Media: ZEKE Magazine – The Magazine of Global Awareness

ZekeGraphic

A great new magazine is launching very soon. ZEKE, published by the Social Documentary Network, will explore the world through photographs, ideas, and words, by leading documentary photographers from across the globe. The first issue will feature the best work from SDN from the previous year. ZEKE will combine photography with essays about the issues explored by the photographers.

The first issue has feature articles on Water/Scarity, Bangladesh Garment Industry, and Rio/Brazil, as well as interviews and other photography and content of interest to people interested in documentary.

Visit the ZEKE website for more information, and if inspired (which I hope you are) consider purchasing a print or digital copy.

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US Premiere of Haitian Perspectives in Film! Screening and discussion – April 7th, Boston

Haitian-made documentary films go beyond the earthquake devastation and relief efforts to provide unseen local perspectives on the capacity of Haitians and the challenges they face

When: Tuesday April 7th, 2015, 7-9pm

Where: Jamaica Plain Forum
First Church, 6 Eliot Street, Jamaica Plain, Boston, MA Directions and Parking Info

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In a climate where mainstream American media typically reports international news from an American perspective with a focus on disaster and crisis, can local stories help us to better understand foreign events, diverse cultures and people’s complex realities?

We think they can. The 10 brand new Haitian-made documentary films do just that. We invite you to join us at their Boston premiere to watch and discuss a selection of them! The event will be held at the Jamaica Plain Forum on Tuesday April 7th at 7pm. Admission is free.

The collection of ten remarkable short films, Haitian Perspectives in Film, was produced by Haitian men and women who participated in an intensive 5-week training conducted by CSFilm in 2014.

CSFilm founder and director Michael Sheridan will present a selection of these films and will discuss how stories told by Haitians themselves can augment our understanding of Haiti’s post-earthquake relief efforts and provide a chance for us to experience Haiti as it is lived by Haitian street vendors, business women, artists, and farmers.

Going beyond disaster reporting, these films will ensure the experiences and points of view of Haitians are included in the international conversation about what has and has not happened since the 7.0 earthquake 5 years ago. The films will also be used to increase dialogue and influence public policy internationally and in Haiti regarding effective foreign aid and sustainable development.

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Visit our Facebook event page for more information!

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Afghanistan: Thirty-Two Photos of the New Afghanistan

Original article found on: Global Voices

By: Aaquib Khan on March 3rd, 2015

Indian photo-journalist Aaquib Khan arrived in the rapidly changing Afghan capital Kabul in 2014. He shares some of his pictures and his insights with us in this post. 

Afghanistan is widely seen as a country torn between bullets and religious bullies, a no woman’s land, a pre-modern place where neither young nor old can have hope for a better future. The image in my mind was no different, until I landed in the country’s capital, Kabul last year.

Though much of the Kabul’s imagery conformed to my understanding of the country, there were many other moments that cameras rarely capture. Old and new, traditions and modernity, are locked in a struggle. Afghans, slowly and steadily, seem to be the winners.

Kabul is a place of hope, aspiration, warmth and hospitality, all of which shine through when Afghans saw my blue passport. ”Oh, you are Indian? I love Indian movies!”

Posters of Indian film stars decorate the country’s music shops. There is a mall named after Delhi’s famous Select City Walk. Alumni of Indian universities in the metropolises as well as small Indian towns bump into you on the fringes of crowded market places.

Afghanistan is far from monolithic. Walking beside burqa-clad women are schoolgirls strolling to school. Young women on their way to university, while CDs and DVDs of Bollywood and Hollywood movies can be heard playing in the background, a far cry from the blanket bans on entertainment of the Taliban period. In the land where the Taliban brought down the Buddhist statues of Bamiyan, mannequins in Kabul’s shop windows don extravagant bridal wears.

Then there are the competing mobile service provider advertisements, FM Radio stations, 24-hour TV Channels, numerous talk shows discussing women’s rights. There are hookah bars, where hookah and coffee is served. No women or alcohol, but plenty of young men dancing to loud music.

Vehicles honk past you and leave you in a trail of dust. Afghans complain of increasing pollution in Kabul. Security personnel man the streets, helicopters hover over pedestrians.

Amid the exuberance, there is apprehension: what will happen when the remnants of the US army finally withdraw? But young Afghans believe their country is gathering strength after decades of weakness and division.

They shout a slogan which translates as: “One Afghanistan. No Tajik, No Hazara, No Pashtun”.

Original article found on: Global Voices

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On the Media: Albert Maysles (1926-2015) Pushed Documentary Filmmaking Forward to the Very End

Original article found on: Slate

By: Charles Loxton

Two men who revolutionized documentary filmmaking: Al Maysles and D.A. Pennebaker. Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images

Two men who revolutionized documentary filmmaking: Al Maysles and D.A. Pennebaker. Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images

In the 1960s, siblings Albert and David Maysles helped pioneer the techniques of cinema verité in a form of documentary film that they liked to call “direct cinema.” Adapting new, portable 16mm cameras so that Albert could shoot picture while David recorded sound, the brothers placed themselves in the heart of the action—on location with Orson Welles in Madrid, on the primary campaign trail with JFK, at Idlewild Airport for the Beatles’ first touchdown in the U.S.

Along with contemporaries D.A. Pennebaker, Ricky Leacock, Robert Drew, and Frederick Wiseman, the Maysles brothers liberated documentary from the presentational format of the newsreel and the talking head. They crafted compelling narratives by capturing real-life drama enacted by real people, from Bible salesmen (in 1969’s Salesman) to the Beales (in 1975’s Grey Gardens) to the world’s greatest rock ’n’ roll band.

Direct cinema’s influence on nonfiction filmmaking was so extensive that the style is now virtually indistinguishable from the form itself. But it’s worth remembering that the movement would not have been possible without the technical innovations that made motion picture cameras lightweight enough to be handled deftly by, say, a diminutive psychology teacher from Brookline, Mass., which is what Albert Maysles was when he made his first film.

David Maysles died in 1987, but Albert continued shooting and making movies pretty much until yesterday, when he, too, passed away. I worked in production with Albert at Maysles Films for three years at the turn of the millennium, a time when his passion for the possibilities of nonfiction filmmaking was reignited by another technological revolution: that of the digital camera.

Throughout his career, Albert remained a bit of a techie. Always adapting his gear for the field, he once glued a small circular mirror to an elbowed metal rod, which he then secured with electrician’s tape to the bottom of his old Bach Auricon so he could see what was going on behind him while he was rolling.

I took a look and told him that it didn’t work—the image in the mirror was blurry. He grinned broadly as he replied that he had found a reflective lens that matched his eyeglasses prescription. I’m still not sure if he was having me on.

Early in 2000, Albert got his hands on Sony’s PD150, a very lightweight, truly handheld DV camera capable of recording high-quality picture and sound in a digital format. Yes, he beamed like a kid with a new toy, but he also spoke with the conviction of a visionary when he said that such cameras would usher in a new wave of documentary film by granting shooters unprecedented freedom, access, and opportunity.

Albert Maysles with Morgan Spurlock at Sundance. Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images

Albert Maysles with Morgan Spurlock at Sundance. Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images

It’s difficult to convey how ludicrous this sounded back then, before we all carried phones that take substantially better pictures than Al’s PD150. For every day’s shooting, we incurred tens of thousands of dollars of film stock and processing fees. We did so because video just looked cheesy. How could a movie have an impact if it had all the visual appeal of the local weather report? If you wanted to make an enduring, serious picture, you had to shoot in film, and you had to find a way to finance it. And before just about everybody else, Albert knew all that was about to change.

Within a year, he was in Rome with his PD150 shooting Martin Scorcese and his crew on the set of Gangs of New York, one part of a series commissioned by the Independent Film Channel titled With the Filmmaker.* It was, I believe, one of the very first programs shot in digital video format to be aired on a serious cable channel.
Before citizen journalists, before YouTube, Albert was giddy over the prospect of more cameras in more hands recording more unexpected moments. Albert’s camerawork features in some of American cinema’s most iconic documentaries because he always kept this eye for action. He understood the documentary cinematographer’s art to be primarily that of the storyteller, and he always believed that what he captured was related, not inconsequentially, to the truth.

*Correction, May 7, 2015: This article originally misstated that Albert Maysles was in Rome shooting Wes Anderson on the set of The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. He was shooting Martin Scorcese on the set of Gangs of New York.

Original article found on: Slate

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Afghanistan: Teach Men that Education is not a Threat

Original article found on: Skoll World Forum

By: SAKENA YACOOBIFounder & CEO, Afghan Institute of Learning

December 26, 2014

AIL_Mixed_Class_633x444

Many in the international development community focus on the education of women and girls, sometimes to the exclusion of educating men. While I believe it is vital to educate women and girls, I also believe it is a mistake to leave men out of the process.

My father was a successful businessman, well respected in the community. Though he was illiterate, he insisted that his children attend school. As the eldest child, I began learning to read at a local mosque. Soon, I was attending school.

I loved learning. After high school, I had the opportunity to attend a university in the United States, and my father was my biggest supporter. Though he was not what most people would think of as “educated”, he was knowledgeable, wise, very open-minded, and a just and honest man; because of this he was often chosen to mediate disputes.

After completing my studies in the U.S., I returned to work with my people in the Pakistan refugee camps. I found my people struggling with a lack of education, knowledge, wisdom and open-mindedness. Years of war had devastated our culture and torn apart the education and health systems, leaving people unable to adequately care for themselves and their families. The only thing they knew was survival and war.

Helping Afghans improve their lives through education

Working with refugee camp leaders, we began to train teachers and establish schools for boys and girls. I founded the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) and began supporting secret home schools for girls inside Afghanistan. Once the Taliban fell, we were able to operate openly and began working closely with communities to establish Learning Centers for women and older girls.

Our goal is to help Afghans improve their lives. In our schools and centers, students not only study the established curriculum, they also learn critical thinking skills, open-mindedness, wisdom and ethics – all qualities that my father, an “uneducated” man, had in abundance.

My father’s insistence on education forever changed the course of my life, and so I believe that a well-rounded education is the best way to improve people’s lives and to make lasting change for everyone – women, girls, men, boys, young, old. Educated, wise women help their families financially and raise educated, wise children. Educated, wise men do not abuse women or children and recognize the worth and value of women and children.

Boys demand education too

Let me tell you a story. One day in early 2002, I went with my female staff to visit one of our Women’s Learning Centers in rural Kabul. Suddenly a group of teenage boys with weapons appeared, blocking the road.

Our driver stopped the car and asked what they wanted. Pointing to me, they said, “We want to talk to her.” Although my heart was pounding, I opened the door, got out of the car and asked them what they wanted. Their leader said, “Every day we watch your car come and visit your centers for women and girls. They are learning to read. What about us? We have been fighting and living in caves since we were little boys. Now we are too old for school, but we want to study. What can you do for us?”
At the time, we only had funding for females, and I had no idea where to find funding for boys education, but I said, “Give me a week.” They said, “We will be waiting.”

I went back to my room, praying and wondering what to do. Suddenly my phone rang. It was a donor who was very supportive of our work. Listening to my voice, she asked, “What is wrong?” I told her. She said, “Start your center for boys. I will find the funds.”

And she did. Those boys went to school, studied hard and also learned about human rights, cleanliness, manners and ethics. Their parents were so happy! Soon they were able to transition into regular school.
All graduated from high school. Many went on to university or to study computers. Then and now, they have made sure that AIL has no security concerns in their communities. Today their daughters are going to school.

Open minds will make lasting change

There are those in Afghanistan who do not want women and girls to be educated. If we are to make lasting change, we need to open the minds of all who are still ignorant. They need to see that an educated girl or boy is not a threat to their culture, but is someone who will help to improve the whole community.

The women who come to our centers feel the same way. Men and boys need to be educated, not ignored. They need to be included in workshops and seminars with women and girls so that they can listen and exchange ideas and know that education is not a threat to them but is something that improves the lives of everyone.

Original article found on: Skoll World Forum

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On the Media, Afghanistan: Reporting open data in Afghanistan

Original article found on: Journalism.co.uk

By: Catalina Albeanu; February 18, 2015

Credit: By Jorge Franganillo on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Credit: By Jorge Franganillo on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

“A lone man data journalist is not very tenable anywhere, let alone in some developing countries and conflict environments.”

So says data journalism adviser Eva Constantaras, who has been running data journalism workshops for local media in countries such as Afghanistan, as part of her work with the NGO Internews.

One project developed after Internews’ workshops is an investigation into Afghanistan’s drug trade by Rohullah Armaan Darwish, an investigative reporter at PAYK.

The first story in the series, looking at the country’s opium eradication programme, was published last week.

Constantaras told Journalism.co.uk part of Internews’ aim is helping media outlets in developing countries make the most of open data movements and platforms that are being set up, and also prepare for digital conversion.

She said the combination of low data literacy and an independent media landscape that’s not fully established yet means citizens in countries like Afghanistan are not demanding data driven stories from news outlets.

The workshops in Afghanistan were set up with the aim of getting journalists “more engaged in the accountability and transparency process,” and to showcase tools they can use to tell stories with data.

Internews works with journalists who want to explore subjects in-depth and who usually have a history in feature writing or investigations, said Constantaras.

She added that the best data journalists aren’t necessarily those who “are very good at math”.

“Really they might have never heard of data journalism but they’re already looking for the tools for actual quantifiable information about a sector or about a subject,” she explained.

Constantaras highlighted the language barrier as one of the main challenges journalists in Afghanistan face when working with data. There is a “crazy level of linguistic isolation,” she said.

“I’m not talking about they can’t code in Python. [With] most tools, the menus are in English. Even if the data is about Afghanistan, the data is still in English.”

Even if the data is about Afghanistan, the data is still in English
Eva Constantaras, Internews
She explained that even in the case of survey data where the questions were asked in the local language, the results are often translated into English before publication.

As most Afghani journalists do not speak English, she said, tools highlighted during the workshops include Infogram and Excel, whose menus are available in local languages, while Google Translate features heavily in their work.

Most data scraping programmes are also designed to work in English, she added.

While investigative or data-driven stories are published from Afghanistan, they are more likely to appear in English, targeted at an international audience.

But stories such as the drug trade investigative series address angles that would interest an Afghan audience, said Constantaras.

They are also designed to present a story in an accessible format – usually in print or on the radio, she explained.

She added that quality data-driven stories increase a media outlet’s credibility and reputation.

“Open data is a really new concept in Afghanistan. Can we channel that through trusted information channels, so through radio and some print [outlets] in Kabul, and have people access that information and make better decisions and be more aware of what the government is doing?”

While the workshops run by Internews cover tools like Infogram, which enables users to embed interactive graphics into online stories, Constantaras said reporters often save their data visualisations as static images to be published in print.

“That’s how people are consuming their news,” she said.

“[But] we also want them also to know how to make interactive data visualisations. It will just make them more competitive when digital conversion does happen.”

Original article found on: Journalism.co.uk

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On the Media: Muslim Women In South Thailand Empowered To Develop Their Own Citizen News Reports

Original article found on: Emergency Journalism

By Angelique Reid for UNDP Thailand, November 19 2014

Published on January 30th, 2015 | by EJC

Published on January 30th, 2015 | by EJC

Songkhla, Thailand – Thirty-four Muslim women from Southern Thailand, used their new found skills in broadcasting journalism to direct and edit their own news reports on issues pertinent to their lives. The women’s first-ever citizen news reports were developed over a three-day media communications training held in Songkhla province, in collaboration with Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS), Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, and supported by UNDP in Thailand.

The Muslim women aged between 30 and 60 years old attended the training organised by Thai PBS, to give citizens especially those who are marginalised, the opportunity to have their voices heard and to share their ideas and viewpoints about their communities.

Understanding the basics of broadcast journalism

The women, who are members of the Association of Muslim Women in Songkhla and Yala provinces, worked with a team of four from Thai PBS’ Civic Media Network Department to learn the basics of broadcasting journalism. With an agenda packed with theoretical and practical sessions, they learnt how to write their own scripts, take their own pictures and present their stories in styles and dialects most comfortable to them. Using video cameras and editing equipment supplied by Thai PBS, the women learnt about directing, story-telling, teamwork and how to think creatively about issues. Working in small groups of four, the participants ventured out into a number of communities in Songkhla province and met with residents. The women then set about interviewing a variety of people, with an aim to produce their own stories that covered everything from the environment, cultural issues and problems in the communities.

Effective practical training

“What I learnt from the media communications training, is that reporting is not about assuming; it’s about investigating the facts,” said Umaporn Sahimsa, a participant from Songkhla province. “The more I learnt, the more I became interested in all aspects of the training – I thoroughly enjoyed it. I think the training is very important, although I’m old, it will benefit my community [Thepha District] because it has become a historical area for tourism and I would like to produce a short film about it,” she added.

Nareerat Samoh, who also produced a citizen news report, said it was the first time she had ever encountered this type of practical training. “We learnt about the importance of good communications because if you don’t communicate effectively, it can have negative connotations. Good communication helps to build mutual understanding among the people,” said Nareerat enthusiastically. “I will apply what I’ve learnt in the training to raise awareness about the development activities taking place in my community and to highlight the issues of concern,’ she said.

Overseeing the training, UNDP Thailand consultant, Walaitat Worakul described the Muslim women as ‘enthusiastic with an unwavering willingness to learn’. “The communication training was designed, not only to teach media production techniques, but to also empower the Muslim women to communicate the issues they saw in the communities through a ‘civic journalist lens’.  The eight short documentaries produced by the women reflected the issues in the communities from eight different angles. Yet, all of them are equally important. The skills and the confidence they have gained will be invaluable and stand them in good stead in the future,” said Ms. Worakul.

Empowering local communities

Thai PBS Manager, Acharawadee Buaklee, who manages the civic media network department and organised the training said, “Citizen journalists play an important role in news gathering and news reporting at Thai PBS. Citizen journalism is an effective way to empower local communities. It provides them with space they cannot find in other mainstream media. Through citizen news reports, ordinary citizens hold local authorities accountable and air grievances on issues that were previously ignored. Several of their reports have been picked up by mainstream media and become national issues. At the end of this training, the women have produced high quality citizen news reports that we will definitely be airing,” said Acharawadee.

Reflecting on the success of the training, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Luc Stevens said, “The training has been a great exercise in empowering Muslim women to have their voices heard. They have created informative documentaries about a variety of issues in local communities for all to see. It was also great to see such excellent cooperation between UNDP Thailand, Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, and Thai PBS in making this happen.”

Thai PBS conducts training and workshops for citizens in various regions of Thailand to train them on the basics of broadcasting journalism, in collaboration with both local and international organizations. Thai PBS provides a three-minute daily time slot at the end of the evening news cast for the Citizen News Reports, where the reports produced by the members of the Association of Muslim Women of Songkhla and Yala provinces will be aired.

This citizen news report was produced by a group of participants who were involved in the media communications training. This video was on aired on Thai PBS on 11 November 2014, and tells the story about the Kao-Seng community and their efforts to prevent coastal erosion in taking place in Songkhla province.

Original article found on: Emergency Journalism

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Immigration: Thousands of stateless in Dominican Republic risk deportation

Original article found on: The Thomson Reuters Foundation

By: Thomson Reuters Foundation

Hundreds of Dominicans of Haitian origin protest to reclaim their right to their Dominican nationality and to denounce their situation after a 2013 verdict by the Constitutional Tribunal outside the National Congress in Santo Domingo, March 12, 2014. REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas

Hundreds of Dominicans of Haitian origin protest to reclaim their right to their Dominican nationality and to denounce their situation after a 2013 verdict by the Constitutional Tribunal outside the National Congress in Santo Domingo, March 12, 2014. REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas

BOGOTA, Feb 1 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Tens of thousands of Dominican-born people of Haitian descent are stateless and at risk of being deported if they fail to meet a Sunday deadline to register for residency in the Dominican Republic, Amnesty has warned.

For decades the Dominican Republic recognised the children of Haitian migrants born in the country as Dominican citizens irrespective of the migration status of their parents.

But a 2013 court ruling, along with previous changes to nationality laws, have denied children of Haitian migrants their birth certificates, identity documents, and stripped them of their nationality, Amnesty and the United Nations say.

This means up to 200,000 people are in legal limbo and stateless – not recognised as a citizen by any country – and denied the basic rights most people take for granted.

In recent weeks, long queues of stateless people, the vast majority of Haitian descent, have formed at immigration offices in the capital Santo Domingo waiting to apply for residency permits before the Feb. 1 deadline.

“At the stroke of midnight the hopes of tens of thousands of vulnerable people will be scuppered as this deadline expires. This could leave thousands at risk of possible expulsion from the country,” Erika Guevara, Americas director at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

“Even if these people are able to stay in the Dominican Republic after the deadline expires, their futures are woefully uncertain.”

The Dominican government has said changes to the nationality laws aim to tackle illegal migration from neighouring Haiti.

Since the late 1890s, hundreds of thousands of Haitians have crossed into the more prosperous Dominican Republic to escape political violence or seek a better life.

Many ended up working on low pay as sugar cane cutters, settling in impoverished, isolated communities known as bateyes.

Under pressure from the United Nations and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Dominican government introduced a further law in May 2014 to allow people born to undocumented foreign parents to apply for residence permits – a first step to citizenship.

Amnesty said interior ministry figures showed less than 5 percent of an estimated 110,000 people entitled to do so have applied for residency.

Rights groups have criticised the government over a lack of awareness raising campaigns about the new law and delays in setting up offices to process citizenship claims.

The government did not immediately respond to phone calls, but in a newspaper interview the country’s chief immigration officer Jose Ricardo Taveras defended the government’s efforts to resolve the legal limbo facing undocumented people.

The El Caribe news site quoted him as saying that more than 20 offices had been set up to deal with claims and the government had launched a big publicity drive.

Juan Alberto Antuan, a young man of Haitian descent born in the Dominican Republic, is among those still awaiting identity documents.

“We are extremely worried because the authorities continue to deny the existence of statelessness, but it’s our reality,” Antuan told Amnesty. “Discrimination exists in this country, I can’t work and I can’t access vital services.”

Original article found on: The Thomson Reuters Foundation

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