Issues & Analysis
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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

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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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Development: Only 40 percent of Ebola funds reached target countries

Original article found on: Thompson Reuters Foundation

By Kate Kelland

A fan holds an Equatorial Guinea flag with an anti-Ebola message written on it during the team's Group A soccer match against Burkina Faso at the African Cup of Nations in Bata January 21, 2015. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

A fan holds an Equatorial Guinea flag with an anti-Ebola message written on it during the team’s Group A soccer match against Burkina Faso at the African Cup of Nations in Bata January 21, 2015. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

LONDON, Feb 3 (Reuters) – Almost $2.9 billion was pledged by the end of 2014 in donations to fight West Africa’s Ebola epidemic, yet only around 40 percent had actually reached affected countries, researchers said on Tuesday.

A study by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs that tracked international donations showed barely $1.09 billion had reached the worst affected countries by the end of last year, they said.

“These delays … may have contributed to spread of the virus and could have increased the financial needs,” said Karen Grepin, a global health policy expert at New York University who led the study and published it in the BMJ British medical journal.

The West Africa Ebola epidemic, the worst in history, has killed more than 8,800 people since it began more than a year ago, decimating already weak health systems in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Its spread now appears to be slowing, especially in Liberia which now has just five cases.

Grepin analysed the level and speed of pledges made to fight Ebola and how they aligned with estimates of funds required to control the epidemic.

She found not only that more than half of funds pledged by international donors had not reached the target countries, but also that global agencies had failed to reliably estimate the amount of money needed.

While Guinea first informed the World Health Organization of a “rapidly evolving outbreak” of Ebola on March 23, 2014, the first major international appeal was not until August, when some $71 million was asked for.

By mid-September 2014, around six months after the epidemic started, the United Nations estimated $1 billion would be needed, only to raise that in November to an estimate of $1.5 billion.

“Clearly, international leaders have found it challenging to estimate the financial requirements to tackle this rapidly spreading outbreak,” Grepin said in a commentary about her findings. “The problem has not been the generosity of donors but that the resources have not been deployed rapidly enough.”

U.N. Ebola chief David Nabarro said last month a further $4 billion — equivalent to all aid committed so far — was needed by relief agencies and authorities in the worst affected countries to end the epidemic, with U.N. agencies alone needing $1 billion of that to fund their part in the fight. (Editing by Tom Heneghan)

Original article found on: Thompson Reuters Foundation

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Development: World has not woken up to water crisis caused by climate change – IPCC head

Original article found on: Thompson Reuters Foundation

By: Nita Bhalla, Feb 3 2015

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A farmer removes dried grass from his sugarcane field in Muzaffarnagar, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, which is on the verge of drought because the monsoon rains are several weeks late. Picture July 19, 2014. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee

 

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Water scarcity could lead to conflict between communities and nations as the world is still not fully aware of the water crisis many countries face as a result of climate change, the head of the U.N. panel of climate scientists warned on Tuesday.

The latest report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts a rise in global temperature of between 0.3 and 4.8 degrees Celsius (0.5 to 8.6 Fahrenheit) by the late 21st century.

Countries such as India are likely to be hit hard by global warming, which will bring more freak weather such as droughts that will lead to serious water shortages and affect agricultural output and food security.

“Unfortunately, the world has not really woken up to the reality of what we are going to face in terms of the crises as far as water is concerned,” IPCC Chair Rajendra Pachauri told participants at a conference on water security.

“If you look at agricultural products, if you look at animal protein – the demand for which is growing – that’s highly water intensive. At the same time, on the supply side, there are going to be several constraints. Firstly because there are going to be profound changes in the water cycle due to climate change.”

Development experts around the world have become increasingly concerned about water security in recent years.

More frequent floods and droughts caused by climate change, pollution of rivers and lakes, urbanisation, over-extraction of ground water and expanding populations mean that many nations such as India face serious water shortages.

In addition, the demand for more power by countries like India to fuel their economic growth has resulted in a need to harness more water for hydropower dams and nuclear plants.

The dry months of June and July, during which there are frequent power cuts and water shortages, offer a snapshot of the pending water crisis in India.

Hospitals in New Delhi cancelled surgery at one point in 2013 because they had no water to sterilise instruments, clean operating theatres or for staff to wash their hands. Upmarket shopping malls selling luxury brands were forced to switch off air conditioners and shut toilets.

Pachauri said it was necessary to bring in technology to help harness water more efficiently, particularly in agriculture where there is a lot of wastage.

“Naturally, this (water crisis) is also going to lead to tensions – probably some conflict between riparian groups and riparian states,” he said.

India, as both an upper and lower riparian nation, finds itself at the centre of water disputes with its eastern and western downstream neighbours – Bangladesh and Pakistan – which accuse New Delhi of monopolising water flows.

(Reporting by Nita Bhalla; Editing by Tim Pearce)

Original article found on: Thompson Reuters Foundation

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On the Media: Book Review – Media and Development by Martin Scott

Martin Scott’s Media and Development, published in 2014.

Martin Scott’s Media and Development, published in 2014.

Original article found on: The Source 

By: Ann Hendrix-Jenkins on Jan 28, 2015

We work in an era when technical specialties dig ever deeper into their own rabbit holes of complexity and nuance, while simultaneously calls resound for a next generation of global health and development based on integration, “silo-busting,” and cross-cutting approaches, including capacity development.

In his book Media and Development, Martin Scott, of the University of East Anglia, confronts this dichotomy head on by sketching out three separate media related “fields,” while considering their (at times uneasy) relationships within the one world of global development.

Through delineation and comparison, he highlights their unique conceptual and practical potentials, and then considers their sometimes symbiotic, sometime divergent natures. Overarching all, Scott notes how fast-moving trends in communication technologies that are opening up new frontiers within each.

The three fields:

Communication for Development (C4D). Inclusive of approaches known as behavior change communication, social and behavior change, and entertainment-education, C4D traditionally aims to foster pre-determined awareness, attitudes, and ultimately behaviors that have proven to contribute to better health or development. Well established and relatively well funded, this field boasts the ability to make credible links between donor investments and desired health outcomes.

Media Development. By focusing on the development of a sound in-country media sector, this relatively young development approach aims to support essential foundations for democracy, good governance, human rights, healthy markets, advocacy opportunities, and more.

Media Representations of Development. Characterized by the author as the portrayal of the “global South” and development efforts to Northern audiences, these take the form of humanitarian appeals, NGO fundraising efforts, news, documentaries, films, novels, reality TV, and more. Such efforts often attempt to show both causes and solutions (usually entailing Northern intervention) to global poverty, disease, inequity and more. Among global development practitioners, this wide-ranging set of ideas and formats doesn’t get much notice, and is not often analyzed as a whole, or for its effects on the other fields.

As a premise for considering the state of—and possible futures for—global health and development, the novel juxtaposition of these three fields provides fresh food for thought, including a range of capacity development implications. Foremost, Scott clearly presents the case for recognizing these perspectives as potentially powerful, he warns that too often proponents unfairly elevate them to “magic bullet” status. With that qualification, he explores the transformative role they might play in international development—if we both reimagine them and better position them within this larger context.

Beginning with C4D (but with application to all three) Scott reminds development practitioners to put aside the false assumption that the mere dissemination of information is sufficient to create change. Another idea to jettison: development as a linear process of modernization that eclipses the “traditional.” Media and technology-based approaches are extremely susceptible to these failed premises. [Editorial note: how many photos have we seen of indigenous laughing with amazement at their digital images, presumably shared with them by a foreigner.] Both assumptions are anathemas to true capacity development based on the “agency and distinctiveness of local populations.” (p.33) Conversely, media efforts—within any of the three fields in question—carefully designed and employed to foster agency and voice have incredible potential. For example, what Scott designates as “media hybrids”—e.g. media-based advocacy for policy change or to address inequities—have successfully challenged social or legal structures in many places. Regardless of the model employed, a key role for global development practitioners that becomes apparent throughout this book is that of facilitator, rather than technical expert, technologist, or content supplier.

Scott’s exploration makes wonderfully apparent an entrenched problem of development. Within global health, for example, we are firm in our rational, scientific self-assurance gained from successes based on established biomedical facts and proven using tools like randomized control trials. Too often, we have transferred that certainty to other areas that are not based on predictable physical realities, e.g. communication, policy, advocacy, governance, democracy, and finance. Given the intangible, highly context specific and variable nature of these focus areas, we must unpack our inherent biases (basically, that we know best), change our premises, and THEN imagine development solutions. If our media efforts are based on such biases, they will simply be a new version of the same old thing.

With regard to conceptualizing media development, Scott likens it to “nailing jelly to the wall.” But one thing is clear: again, simply digitizing the old formats is not the way forward. The tenets of classic journalism and freedom of expression hold strong, but as applied with an open mind to emerging models including citizen journalism, crowd-sourced content, and a voice for civil society within or alongside elite- and government-owned and controlled media. Ultimately a strong media can play the role of watchdog, set agendas, and serve as a civic forum. An enabling environment of laws, policies and regulations must be in place to foster a diverse media landscape. All of these—and more—jelly-like  parameters call for diverse and creative approaches to fostering a thriving “media sector.”

Next, Scott breaks humanitarian communication of Northern NGOs into three categories: shock effect appeals, deliberative positivism, and post-humanitarian communication. While the first two attempt to relay the “reality” of life in the global South in order to generate engagement, the third gains attention through NGO brand appeal and new forms of engagement including “clicktivism:” online activities such as sharing on Facebook, and signing online petitions. This shifts the emotional focus to the audience’s own selves, rather than on the people of the global South. While the author doesn’t take a stand on the approaches, Scott makes the case that perhaps the most problematic aspect of this whole “field” is the lack of understanding of causal links between it and mass stereotyping, foreign aid and political decisions, news coverage, and other important implications.

It’s exciting to see this “field” get fresh and serious consideration given extraordinary influence these media approaches must have on the fundamental beliefs and ideas of millions of people in the global North. Yet, a stronger critique is surely warranted, given the appalling nature of much of the content, which is often appears designed to simply fulfill short-term fundraising efforts, rather than promote nuanced understanding.

In sum, this book provides an accessible overview for students, and a timely stock-taking for experienced professionals trying to keep up with dizzying rates of change. Thus, this book speaks to any “career at the intersection between media and development.” (p. 195)

As the fields of media, communication and technology are at times thoughtlessly conflated, yet also actually converging at points, the implications are myriad. Scott portrays media within development, media about development, media as a delivery device, and media’s role in fostering change. A widening range of actors are involved, and he notes the potential value of incorporating a political economy perspective. While he cautions against undue influence of ICT4D technologists who rely on an “innocent, techno-fascinated worldview” (p.197), he also recognizes how “new media can promote interactivity, debate, decentralized networks and greater individual autonomy.” (p. 202) Then again, media can also have the opposite effect.

More than ever, design and implementation of development efforts must take into account the larger contexts: Scott cites the need “to speak of media’s role in social change, rather than development.” (p. 199) Scott recognizing that his wide-ranging exploration might raise more questions than provide answers. Nevertheless, any shortcuts that don’t include grappling with these ideas are likely to do just that—fall short.

While Scott’s book doesn’t focus on capacity development per se—that might call for a second volume—the one-step removed nature of capacity development fundamentally lends itself to taking the long and bird’s eye views to enable us to strategically support locally-conceptualized, locally-driven and locally-implemented employment of media formats and communication content to promote equitable global health and development through social change.

This book review was written by Ann Hendrix-Jenkins for LenCD. Ann has an MA in International Development from American University and 25 years of experience in international development and global health. Ann currently works at Futures Group as a Technical Director on Capacity Building. 
Contact Ann on Twitter @AnnHJenkins or by email AHendrix-Jenkins@futuresgroup.com
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Selections from “The Fruit of Our Labor” will air on the TV show, WORLDDOCS

Selections from “The Fruit of Our Labor” will air on the TV show, WORLDDOCS, broadcast on Fairfax Public Access (cable channel 10  in Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, and Stafford counties and the towns of Falls Church, Leesburg, and Fredericksburg in Virginia) on Monday, Feb. 2nd at 10 AM, Thursday, Feb. 5th at 1 AM, and Sunday, Feb. 8th at 8:30 PM. Thank you for allowing us to show it.

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WORLDDOCS airs on Fairfax Public Access (cable channel 10) in Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Stafford, and Spotsylvania counties in Virginia on

Mondays at 10:00 AM, Thursdays at 1:00 AM, and Sundays at 8:30 PM; on Montgomery Community Television (cable channel 19) in Montgomery and Prince

Georges counties in Maryland on Tuesdays at 9:00 PM and Thursdays at 11:00 PM (live-streamed at www.mymcmedia.org); and on DCTV (Comcast channels 95 & 96/RCN channels 10 & 11) in Washington, DC at various times (live-streamed at www.dctv.org).

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U.N. Rights Chief Says He’ll Shine a Light on Countries Big and Small

Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, the new United Nations high commissioner for human rights, is a member of the Jordanian royal family. CreditFabrice Coffrini/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
 GENEVA — IN a 20-year career at the United Nations, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein has had more than a few opportunities to witness the human capacity for cruelty, but nothing seared his memory quite like two scenes from the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

In one, he is traveling in a United Nations convoy when the car of a Bosnian Serb paramilitary fighter pulls alongside, and on its hood is the severed head of a Bosnian Muslim child adorned with a United Nations peacekeeper’s blue helmet.

That episode and the plight of two young girls shot by a sniper in Sarajevo have left him decades later, as the new United Nations high commissioner for human rights, still asking, “How can you comprehend this?”

“I mean there’s a degree of villainy that is so disturbing and so beyond our ability to process it mentally that it leaves you asking questions,” he said in a recent interview. “It leaves you with the feeling that you’ve got to try and do what you can at some stage to prevent this.”

A prince in Jordan’s reigning royal family, Mr. Zeid struck some human rights activists as an improbable choice for a job upholding the rights of the world’s downtrodden. It could be seen as an unusual outcome for someone who had started professional life as a policeman, with five years in Jordan’s desert police before joining the United Nations.

Yet those familiar with his career applauded the choice. “He had all the attributes we wanted,” Kenneth Roth, the Human Rights Watch executive director, remarked of the prince, who has agreed to drop his royal title in his new post. “He is a man of stature and principle with a long and demonstrated commitment to human rights.”

“He’s someone who was seared by the experience of the U.N. in Bosnia,” said Nader Mousavizadeh, a close friend and former adviser to the former secretary general, Kofi Annan. “Zeid came out very much with a view that if the U.N. was to stand for anything, it would have to stand for the victims of aggression.”

He is also “an absolutely cool-blooded realist about what is politically possible,” added David Harland, a former United Nations colleague who now heads the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, a Geneva-based conflict mediation organization, attributing some of Mr. Zeid’s achievements to “charm, clarity and a sharp knife.”

The question among human rights experts was whether Mr. Zeid would use his office as a pulpit to publicly criticize the misdeeds of nations, as did his predecessor, Navi Pillay, a doughty South African jurist, or opt for the more traditional approach of discreet back-room conversations.

Mr. Zeid’s answer, four months into the job, seems to be pragmatic use of all available levers. By working diplomatic channels, he will make his first official country visit next week to the United States, which, according to Ms. Pillay’s staff, never even replied to her repeated requests for a visit. He believes negotiations are making headway on a visit to China, another prominent country that never found a convenient date to receive Ms. Pillay during her six years in the office.

Still, Mr. Zeid saw the controversy stirred up by Ms. Pillay as a “telling signal that this was an office on the rise,” and living up to a pledge given in his first statement on the job, his public comments have been unflinching: condemning the “meanspirited house of blood” of the Islamic State’s extremists; denouncing Sri Lanka’s outgoing government for obstructing the work of an inquiry into war crimes allegations and bluntly reminding the United States of its obligation under international law to prosecute all those responsible for C.I.A. torture, including the policy makers and higher-ups who gave the orders as well as those who carried out the interrogations.

LIKE his predecessors in the office, Mr. Zeid has taken criticism for his stands, including personal attacks. “If it’s anything it’s childish, it’s a cheap shot and it’s not acceptable,” he said. “‘Deal with the substance’ is the message I would like to focus on.”

He resists the efforts of some nations to hold his office to a narrow interpretation of its mandate. “I think they don’t necessarily understand how the international system has come about and how it exists,” he said. “If all of us stuck rigidly to mandates given us by governments, there would be no peace on this planet.”

It’s a view shaped by his years of experience of multilateral negotiations in the United Nations and a conviction that individuals, not governments, have played the key part in creating the international order. “Everything we see in agreements across the spectrum comes from the space between where your instructions end and you as a thinking negotiator invest your own thought,” he said.

Mr. Zeid’s record at the United Nations illustrates the point. He spent years pushing it to account for its missteps in the Balkans, specifically its failure to avert the slaughter of 8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica. “He was the one who absolutely didn’t let it go, who said we have to understand what happened and we have to understand what we can learn from this, that it doesn’t happen again,” recalled Mr. Harland, who worked with Mr. Zeid on the report that eventually was completed.

Later, Mr. Zeid led negotiations that would lead to creation of the International Criminal Court in 2002, and as president of the Assembly of States Parties — the court’s managing body — fended off the Bush administration’s effort to emasculate the fledgling court. “It’s not governments that brought this court about, it really was 60 individuals who decided they wanted this court,” he said. “I’m not sure if there had been 60 other individuals representing the same governments you would have had it.”

“I still look back and think it was the most intense, wonderful experience,” Mr. Zeid remarked. “One realized early on that this is what those who had established Nuremberg had aspired for,” he recalled, referring to the trials of Nazi war criminals after World War II. “This was going to be a permanent feature that would limit the excesses of humankind in war or peace, regarding the violence they visit on each other.”

THAT remains a work in progress, but in taking over the human rights portfolio, Mr. Zeid now has the task of holding countries to account across the full spectrum of economic and social rights.

Ending conflicts in Syria and Iraq, and the Israel-Palestinian conflict, stand out as human rights priorities, Mr. Zeid said, but so are the government failures that allow six million children under 5 years old to die of preventable diseases every year. “If ISIL killed six million people a year, you wouldn’t be able to talk about anything else,” he said, referring to the extremist Islamic State, “so why is it that we don’t look aggressively at the right to better health.”

One minor detail no one bothered to tell Mr. Zeid before he took up the job was that the office was running out of money. It depends on the voluntary contributions of member countries for 60 percent of its funding, and some see little merit in helping to bankroll a critic. So as one of his first actions, even before he could turn to the cause of defending rights, he had to cut 50 posts. “Not a great start. Mr. Popularity from Day 1,” he said.

This year he will find himself embroiled in budget battles, trying for a slice larger than the 3 percent, or $265 million, the United Nations now devotes to human rights and peacekeeping, despite their outsize role in the organization’s activities.

“It’s a trifle,” Mr. Zeid said. “You can hardly convince yourself that it’s a serious commitment by states, given the enormity of the task before us.”

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Development, On the Media: The Great Debate – Freedom of Information and Media in the UN’s New Global Development Goals

Original article found on: The Source
Posted on January 20, 2015Bill Orme
UN Representative, Global Forum for Media Development

This Monday, the UN General Assembly began its final phase of negotiations over the UN’s next set of global development goals, which will succeed the expiring Millennium Development Goals and guide international development priorities and aid funding for the next 15 years.  The debates will continue in weekly sessions every month through July, with the new “Sustainable Development Goals” to be adopted in September.

These new goals could provide an unexpected long-term global boost to public access to what should be public information, from official and private sources alike.

Or they may not – but we’ll know within a few months.

The ‘SDGs’ differ from the MDGs in that they are intended to be universal, applying to the developed North as well as to the South, with goals ranging from poverty eradication and disease prevention to gender equity and environmental protection.

They also differ notably from the MDGs in that they include – as currently drafted, despite objections from many UN member states   – several quite specific obligations intended to promote just and effective governance.

Among those proposals, to the surprise of many UN observers, is a commitment to public access to information, as one of the 169 proposed SDGs ‘targets,’ which still need to be backed up by agreed factual ‘indicators.’  Those yet-undetermined indicators could include legal guarantees and the actual observance of the right to “seek, receive and impart information and ideas, through any media and regardless of frontiers” – to cite the prescient but nonbinding language of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

World leaders and development experts advising the UN on the post-2015 goals have stressed the need for freedom of expression and independent media in monitoring and ultimately achieving these goals.  Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his official recommendations to the General Assembly on the post-2015 agenda last month, pointed to “press freedom, access to information and freedom of expression” as essential “enablers of sustainable development.”

Yet as debate gets underway this week, it remains uncertain whether any clear commitment to the public’s right to all relevant information – from governments or elsewhere – will be included in the 2015-2030 “Sustainable Development Goals” that the UN General Assembly will adopt in September.

In the 18 months of UN negotiations over the 17 proposed  “SDGs” that are now being debated, draft references to “independent media” and “freedom of expression” were deleted in response to objections from several influential UN members, including Security Council powers Russia and China. Yet surviving in the agreed final text, in the 16th of the 17 recommended goals, is a “target” requiring all countries to “ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.”

As UN diplomats convened for the post-2015 negotiations Monday, there was clearly growing resistance to any major redrafting or reduction of the painfully achieved compromise proposal for 17 goals, out of concern that any gains in precision or practicality would be outweighed by losses in substance and impact.

But the 169 aptly named ‘targets’ remain very much in the crosshairs, vulnerable to rewriting or elimination for a variety of practical and substantive reasons.  As an Austrian diplomat noted at the UN Friday, the current SDGs proposal would in effect obligate UN agencies to monitor 32,617 different data sets from 193 governments on 169 targets on an annual basis – a task that would be politically and technically daunting, if not impossible.

Technically, however, progress on access to information is not that hard to track, UN officials acknowledge. Moreover, many governments and civil society activists from North and South alike have strongly endorsed the proposed target on access to information, improving its chances of survival.

Leading international human rights groups, in a joint message to the UN Friday as civil society representatives met with UN officials in New York to discuss the post-2015 deliberations, stressed the need for “transparent monitoring and accountability mechanisms at the national level which are underpinned by a safe and free environment for civil society, and access to information.”

Also on Friday, the team of statisticians and economists advising the UN on indicators for the proposed SDGs released its penultimate draft report, with newly added recommendations for Target 10 of SDG 16.   The experts in the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network proposed that UNESCO monitor the adoption and implementation of legal guarantees of public access to information, as well as cases of journalists killed in the line of duty. Separately, under goals aimed at economic development, the report proposed indicators from the International Telecommunications Union on progress toward universal access to online information.

That’s a significant advance. The soberly phrased inputs of UN technocrats in this contentious area – showing that freedom of information and media is not only important but measurable, and in fact already measured by the UN in many ways – may overcome political and practical concerns in some wavering countries.  But diplomats stressed to NGO representatives at the UN Friday that transparency and accountability provisions in the SDGs remain vulnerable without sustained public support from civic activists in coming months – and more active coverage of the issue by the journalists whose interests an access-to-information commitment would help protect.

Original article found on: The Source
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Haiti: Haitians Worry World Bank-Assisted Mining Law Could Result in “Looting”

Original article found on: Inter Press Service News Agency

Written by Carey L. Biron

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The road to Baradares in north central Haiti. The aim of the new draft mining law appears to be a massive expansion of Haiti’s mining sector. Credit: Lee Cohen/cc by 2.0

The road to Baradares in north central Haiti. The aim of the new draft mining law appears to be a massive expansion of Haiti’s mining sector. Credit: Lee Cohen/cc by 2.0

WASHINGTON, Jan 13 2015 (IPS) – With Haiti’s Parliament having dissolved on Tuesday, civil society groups are worried that the Haitian president may move to unilaterally put in place a contentious revision to the country’s decades-old mining law.

Starting in 2013, that draft was written with technical assistance from the World Bank. Last week, a half-dozen Haitian groups filed a formal appeal with the bank’s complaints office, expressing concern that the legislation had been crafted without the public consultation often required under the Washington-based development funder’s own policies.

The aim of the new draft mining law appears to be a massive expansion of Haiti’s mining sector, paving the way for the entry of foreign companies already interested in the country’s significant gold and other deposits.

“Community leaders … are encouraging communities to think critically about ‘development’, and to not simply accept projects defined by outsiders,” Ellie Happel, an attorney in Port-au-Prince who has been involved in the complaint, told IPS.

txbx“These projects often fail. And, in the case with gold mining, residents learn that these projects may threaten their very way of life.”

Haiti’s extractives permitting process is currently extensive and bureaucratic. Yet the new revisions would bypass parliamentary oversight altogether, halting even a requirement that agreement terms be made public, according to a draft leaked in July.

Critics worry that this streamlining, coupled with the Haitian government’s weakness in ensuring oversight, could result in social and environmental problems, particularly damaging to a largely agrarian economy. Further, there is question as to whether exploitation of this lucrative minerals wealth would benefit the country’s vast impoverished population.

“The World Bank’s involvement in developing the Draft Mining Law lends the law credibility, which is likely to encourage investment in the Haitian mining sector,” the complaint, filed with the bank’s Inspection Panel on Wednesday, states.

“[T]his increased investment in the mining sector will result in … contamination of vital waterways, impacts on the agriculture sector, and involuntary displacement of communities. Complainants are also concerned about the exclusion of Haitian people from the law reform process, particularly when contrasted with the reported regular participation of the private sector in drafting the new law.”

An opaque process

The complaint comes five years after a devastating earthquake struck Haiti, and as political instability is threatening reconstruction and development progress made in that catastrophe’s aftermath. Elections have been repeatedly put off for more than two years, and by Tuesday so many members of Parliament are slated to have finished their terms that the body would lack a quorum.

On Sunday Haitian President Michel Martelly indicated that a deal might be near. But the leftist opposition was reportedly not part of this agreement, and has repeatedly warned that the president is planning to rule by decree.

The Inspection Panel complaint, filed by six civil society groups operating under the umbrella Kolektif Jistis Min (the Justice in Mining Collective), contextualises its concerns against this backdrop of instability. “[T]he Haitian government may be poised to adopt the Draft Mining Law by decree, outside the democratic process,” it states.

Even if the political crisis is dealt with soon, concerns with the legislation’s drafting process will remain.

The Justice in Mining Collective, which represents around 50,000 Haitians, drew up the complaint after the draft mining law was leaked in July. No formal copy of the legislation has been made public, nor has the French-language draft law been translated into Haitian Creole, the most commonly spoken language.

“The process has been very opaque, with a small group of experts from the World Bank and Haitian government officials drafting this law,” Sarah Singh, the director of strategic support with Accountability Counsel, a legal advocacy group that consulted on the complaint and is representing some Haitian communities, told IPS.

“They’ve had two meetings that, to my knowledge, were invite-only and held in French, at which the majority of attendees were private investors and some big NGOs. Yet the bank’s response to complaints of this lack of consultation has been to say this is the government’s responsibility.”

The Justice in Mining Collective is suggesting that this lack of consultation runs counter to social and environmental guidelines that undergird all World Bank investments. These policies would also call for a broad environmental assessment across the sector, something local civil society is now demanding – to be followed by a major public debate around the assessment’s findings and the potential role large-scale mining could play in Haiti’s development.

Yet the World Bank is not actually investing in the Haitian mining sector, and it is not clear that the institution’s technical assistance is required to conform to the safeguards policies. In a November letter, the bank noted that its engagement on the Haitian mining law has been confined to sharing international best practices.

Yet Singh says she and others believe the safeguards do still apply, particularly given the scope of the new legislation’s impact.

“This will change the entire legal regime,” she says. “The idea that bank could do that and not have the safeguards apply seems hugely problematic.”

A World Bank spokesperson did confirm to IPS that the Inspection Panel has received the Haitian complaint. If the panel registers the request, she said, the bank’s management would have around a month to submit a response, following which the bank’s board would decide whether the complaint should be investigated.

Parliamentary moratorium

Certainly sensitivities around the Haitian extractives sector have increased in recent years.

Minerals prospecting in Haiti has expanded significantly over the past half-decade, though no company has yet moved beyond exploration. In 2012, when the government approved its first full mining permit in years, the Parliament balked, issuing a non-binding moratorium on all extraction until a sector-wide assessment could take place.

Meanwhile, Haitians have been looking across the border at some of the mining-related problems experienced in the Dominican Republic, including water pollution. Civil society groups have also been reaching out to other countries in the Global South, trying to understand the experiences of other communities around large-scale extractives operations.

Current views are also being informed by decades of historical experience in Haiti, as well. Since the country’s independence in the early 19th century, several foreign companies have engaged many years of gold mining.

That was a “negative, even catastrophic, experience,” according to a statement from the Justice in Mining Collective released following the leak of the draft mining law in July.

“Mining exploitation has never contributed to the development of Haiti. To the contrary, the history of gold exploitation is one marked by blood and suffering since the beginning,” the statement warned.

“When we consider the importance of and the potential consequences of mineral exploitation, we note this change in the law as a sort of scandal that may facilitate further looting, without even the people aware of the consequences.”

The writer can be reached at cbiron@ips.org

Original article found on: Inter Press Service News Agency

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Development: European Citizens Call for Increased Aid to Developing World

Original article found on: Inter Press Service News Agency

Written by Thalif Deen

Edited by Kitty Stapp

In Tapoa, Burkina Faso, a region bordering Niger, the European Commission's humanitarian aid department (ECHO) funds the NGO ACF to provide health and nutrition care as well as food assistance including cash transfers for the poorest families. Credit: © EC/ECHO/Anouk Delafortrie/cc by 2.0

In Tapoa, Burkina Faso, a region bordering Niger, the European Commission’s humanitarian aid department (ECHO) funds the NGO ACF to provide health and nutrition care as well as food assistance including cash transfers for the poorest families. Credit: © EC/ECHO/Anouk Delafortrie/cc by 2.0

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 12 2015 (IPS) – An overwhelming majority of citizens in the 28-member European Union (EU) – which has been hamstrung by a spreading economic recession, a fall in oil prices and a decline of its common currency, the Euro – has expressed strong support for development cooperation and increased aid to developing nations.

A new Eurobarometer survey to mark the beginning of the ‘European Year for Development,’released Monday, shows a significant increase in the number of people in favour of increasing international development aid.

The survey reveals that most Europeans continue to “feel very positively about development and cooperation”.

Additionally, the survey also indicates that 67 percent of respondents across Europe think development aid should be increased – a higher percentage than in recent years, despite the current economic situation in Europe.

And 85 percent believe it is important to help people in developing countries.

“Almost half of respondents would personally be prepared to pay more for groceries or products from those countries, and nearly two thirds say tackling poverty in developing countries should be a main priority for the EU.”textbox

Presenting the results of the survey, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica said, “I feel very encouraged to see that, despite economic uncertainty across the EU, our citizens continue to show great support for a strong European role in development.

“The European Year will give us the chance to build on this and inform citizens of the challenges and events that lie ahead during this key year for development, helping us to engage in a debate with them,” he added.

Jens Martens, director of the Bonn-based Global Policy Forum-Europe, told IPS the Eurobarometer demonstrates that the overwhelming majority of EU citizens support global solidarity and strengthened international cooperation.

“This is good news. Now, EU governments must follow their citizens,” he said.

EU positions in the U.N.’s upcoming post-2015 development agenda and Financing for Development (FfD) negotiations will become the litmus test for their global solidarity, said Martens, who is also a member of the Coordinating Committee of Social Watch, a global network of several hundred non-governmental organisations (NGOs) campaigning for poverty eradication and social justice.

EU governments must translate the increased citizens support for development now into an increase of offical development assistance (ODA), but also in fair trade and investment rules and strengthened international tax cooperation under the umbrella of the United Nations, he declared.

According to the latest available statistics, only five countries – Norway (1.07 percent), Sweden (1.02), Luxembourg (1.00), Denmark (0.85), United Kingdom (0.72) and the Netherlands (0.67) – have reached the longstanding target of 0.7 of gross national income as ODA to the world’s poorer nations.

In an interview with IPS last November, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon singled out the importance of the upcoming International Conference on FfD in Ethiopia next July.

He said the ICFD will be “one of the most important conferences in shaping the U.N.’s 17 proposed sustainable development goals (SDGs)” which will be approved at a summit meeting of world leaders next September.

Ban cautioned world leaders of the urgent need for “a robust financial mechanism” to implement the SDGs – and such a mechanism, he said, should be put in place long before the adoption of these goals.

“It is difficult to depend on public funding alone,” he told IPS, stressing the need for financing from multiple sources – including public, private, domestic and international.

Speaking of financing for development, Ban said ODA, from the rich to the poor, is “is necessary but not sufficient.”

Meanwhile, the economic recession is taking place amidst the growing millions living in hunger (over 800 million), jobless (more than 200 million), water-starved (over 750 million) and in extreme poverty (more than one billion), according to the United Nations.

In a statement released Monday, the European Commission provided some of the results of the Eurobarometer on development: At 67 percent, the share of Europeans who agree on a significant increase in development aid has increased by six percentage points since 2013, and a level this high was last seen in 2010.

One in two Europeans sees a role for individuals in tackling poverty in developing countries (50 percent).

A third of EU citizens are personally active in tackling poverty (34 percent), mainly through giving money to charitable organisations (29 percent).

Most Europeans believe that Europe itself also benefits from giving aid to others: 69 percent say that tackling poverty in developing countries also has a positive influence on EU citizens.

Around three-quarters think it is in the EU’s interest (78 percent) and contributes to a more peaceful and equitable world (74 percent).

For Europeans, volunteering is the most effective way of helping to reduce poverty in developing countries (75 percent). But a large majority also believe that official aid from governments (66 percent) and donating to organisations (63 percent) have an impact.

The European Commission says 2015 promises to be “hugely significant for development, with a vast array of stakeholders involved in crucial decision-making in development, environmental and climate policies”.

2015 is the target date for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the year in which the ongoing global post-2015 debate will converge into a single framework for poverty eradication and sustainable development.

2015 is also the year that a new international climate agreement will be decided in Paris.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

Original article found on: Inter Press Service News Agency

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First three excerpts released of Haitian made films

Haitian Perspectives in Film

Five years ago, January 12th, 2010, Haiti was shattered by one of the world’s worst disasters.  A 7.0 earthquake killed upwards of 300,000 people, disrupted Haiti’s already fragile infrastructure, and left hundreds of thousands without families, friends and homes.

In 2015 CSFilm is releasing 10 new films in our series Haitian Perspectives in Film. During an intensive training provided by Community Supported Film, Haitian civil society leaders, journalists and artists, used their local knowledge to produce 10 short films that provide a unique opportunity to experience Haiti as it is lived by street vendors, business women, artists, farmers and more. We are releasing their stories a few at a time over the next months.

Here are excerpts from the first three:


Owned and Occupied by Bichara Villarson, 1:47; Haitians are building earthquake safe housing efficiently and cost effectively. One Haitian organization and community show us what is possible with a little money and a lot of community input, ownership and participation.


Rubble by Robenson Sanon, 2:02; Artists use the trash that fills roads and rivers after rain storms, and pickings from the earthquake rubble that still remains in huge sections of the city, to comment on the failed infrastructure and recovery efforts;


Konbit by Steeve Colin, 1:39; Urban activists bring the rural Haitian tradition of the Konbit, shared labor, to the country’s most dangerous ghetto. Neighborhoods and youth, divided by gangs and extreme neglect, create urban gardens and clean up the slum through a locally-led participatory approach.

These films help ensure that Haitian experience informs the international conversation about the urgency of locally owned and implemented economic and social development.

Please put these films to good use. Contact CSFilm or Groupe Medialteratif to organize a screening and discussion.

And please let our Haitian storytellers hear what you think about their films and their community’s story. Email us at info@csfilm.org.

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Haiti: Then and Now

Original photo essay and article found on: Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Sparkling white walls, palm trees, and a gazebo paint a serene mask on the hospital in Gressier, an oceanfront town 22 kilometers south of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.

“At first look you see it’s beautiful,” said Vaudrise Paul, a 31-year-old midwife in charge of the maternity ward. “But if you come in, you see it’s so small, there’s no equipment, there’s no staff.”

The hospital is five years old, built after the powerful earthquake that rocked Haiti on January 12, 2010. In the aftermath, charities and nonprofits rushed to Haiti’s aid in an expensive and broadly disappointing relief effort. I went to Gressier in May at the suggestion of Dr. Reynold Grand Pierre, Director of Family Health at the Ministry of Health. I was exploring new programs to improve maternal care; Pierre had spoken with such vitriol about the broken, disjointed system of healthcare that both depended on and was destroyed by the global charity sector. He told me Gressier was an understaffed mess, but when I arrived it felt serene and perfect, cooled with sea breezes from the beach down the road.

As I entered the verdant grounds, I wondered if the minister had been sending me on a goose chase to undermine my reporting. I shouldn’t have doubted though.

In the aftermath of the earthquake there have been countless picturesque projects on this gorgeous Caribbean island — shells of schools with no teachers, gleaming new hospitals with no staff. Many charities have come and gone, and even those that stay largely have short-term contracts. My motorcycle driver, Junior, told me his wife had birthed each of her three children since the earthquake in a different clinic — following a word-of-mouth network about ever-shifting programs and projects to find affordable options for her deliveries. The strings of these myriad distinct programs do not knit into a safety net for Haiti, and mothers are left to advocate for themselves.

Allyn Gaestel is a recent Pulitzer Center grantee. Read her full story here.

Original photo essay and article found on: Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

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Haiti: Who Owns What in Haiti?

The island of La Tortue, off the northern coast of Haiti, has become best known as a place where Haitians facing hard times set sail for lot bo dlo—the other side of the water. When President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was first ousted, in 1991, the U.S. Coast Guard intercepted and repatriated some eighteen hundred “boat people” who had fled Haiti’s north coast en route to South Florida. Recently, though, one British-American company has been working to bring large numbers of people in the other direction, from South Florida to La Tortue. In July, Carnival Corporation, the cruise-ship company, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Haitian government, which would allow a port to be opened on the island’s Pointe-Ouest beach, to serve as a stopover for its Caribbean ships. Haitian officials claimed that the development would create two thousand jobs, and would represent a major step forward in a plan for tourism to propel the nation’s economy. Five years after an earthquake caused an estimated $8.1 to $13.9 billion in damage—more than the country’s G.D.P. at the time—Haiti remains plagued by chronic underemployment and poverty.

The port deal is now at risk, however, because the ground onto which Carnival’s passengers would disembark may not have been the government’s to offer. In 1970, François (Papa Doc) Duvalier, Haiti’s President at the time, agreed to lease much of La Tortue to a Texas businessman named Don Pierson, with the aim of creating a free port; Pierson’s son, Grey, now holds the lease. The contract gave Don Pierson’s company a ninety-nine-year lease, and specified that he would develop the island’s infrastructure for tourism. Though Pierson soon began signing deals to that end, including one with Gulf Oil, for three hundred million dollars, the development project never got off the ground.

Occasionally, Grey Pierson says, Haitian officials would “rediscover” the project, and, in 1998, two years after his father’s death, a delegation came to Dallas to see him. As he tells it, he put up the Haitians at the Loews Anatole and held a meeting with them at the offices of the Texas Rangers’ ballpark. He told them that his father had procured four hundred million dollars in commitments to La Tortue. Leslie Voltaire, an architect and urban planner who was serving as the adviser on infrastructure and urban planning to René Préval, Haiti’s President at the time, was present at the meeting; Voltaire recalls that Pierson wanted the four hundred million dollars in compensation. (Pierson denies that.) The discussions went no further.

“I think that Carnival didn’t know that,” Voltaire told me, referring to the 1970 deal with Pierson. “If Carnival sees that there is that land issue, they won’t come.” Carnival confirmed to the Miami Heraldthat it did not learn of the dispute over ownership until several months after signing the agreement. (The newspaper further reported that yet another entity, Hotel Mont Joli SA, holds a lease on Pointe-Ouest.) Pierson, for his part, says that he has not been contacted by Carnival or Haitian government officials regarding the matter.

Similar uncertainty over land ownership has played out across Haiti as the country attempts to attract foreign investment in tourism, mining, manufacturing, and agriculture—often without clear knowledge of who, precisely, owns what. The country’s present difficulties with land ownership are a function not only of its twentieth-century dictators but of Haiti’s history as a former slave colony. After achieving independence, in 1804, former slaves discovered that the land they had taken from their owners would not be theirs to keep. The country’s revolutionary leaders, Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Toussaint Louverture, thought it best for land to be held in large swathes, by the state. “Having survived the brutality of the slave system and then the violence of the revolution, the ex-slaves strongly believed that the land should be theirs; land ownership would give freedom its full and true meaning,” the historian Laurent Dubois writes in “Haiti: The Aftershocks of History.” But the early debates over who would control Haitian territory “revolved only around the question of which group of elites would profit from Haiti’s new order—not what that order would look like.”

“Now there is a fight between the Haitian bourgeoisie and peasants who want to control the land,” the Haitian sociologist Bernard Etheart told me. The tension played out over the past two centuries with governments often bequeathing parcels of land to various groups, only sometimes to take them back later, subsequent disputes over territory, and little regard for formal title throughout. Peasants in rural Haiti generally worked the land under an informal system of tenancy, in which they established de-facto ownership over small plots of land, then joined their plots with their neighbors’, usually members of their extended families, and farmed the land collectively. The land would typically remain under the name of just one family member—but no records of these arrangements were provided to the state.

Many people have sometimes claimed to own the same parcel of land, while other plots of land had no identifiable owner. Cases in which title could be established are rare (though Etheart traced one going back to Spanish colonial times). A 1997 study, conducted by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and Haiti’s agriculture ministry, estimated that ninety-five per cent of all land sales in rural Haiti had been conducted without going through legal formalities.

In the wake of the massive earthquake that struck on January 12, 2010, resolving long-standing land-ownership issues has been a low priority for Haiti’s leaders, even as they regard tourism, mining, and other industries affected by questions of title as crucial to the island’s economic development. France is helping to fund Haiti’s land-management office, but the Haitian government hasn’t allocated the resources it would take to create a national cadastre (a survey of the country’s land). Joab Thelot, a coordinator for the National Office of the Cadastre, says that it wouldn’t take much—just three million dollars a year—to pay the salaries of trained surveyors and buy the vehicles they would need to get around. In recent years, though, Haiti’s parliament has allocated his office just a third that amount.

Indications from Haitian officials regarding how they will handle the uncertainty over ownership have raised further concerns. In addition to the Carnival case, in August, 2013, President Michel Martelly’s government, which had come to power two years earlier, announced a major investment on the small island of Île-à-Vache, aimed at turning it into a tourist destination. A few months earlier, the government had published a decree meant to establish that state-owned land on the island could be used only for tourism and public utilities. The announcement may have been intended to avoid the kind of embarrassment that the government later experienced with Carnival. The hundreds of people who had been farming and living on Île-à-Vache for generations responded by staging protests, which haven’t halted construction.

As Martelly pushes ahead with his development agenda, he has given few indications that he intends to address the pervasive issues relating to land ownership and insecurity that have undermined development in Haiti for two hundred years. On Tuesday, the day after the fifth anniversary of the earthquake, a deal to set terms for new elections fell apart and the country’s parliament dissolved, leaving Martelly to rule by decree. The latest bout of political turmoil makes it even less likely that Haiti will be able to address the basic conflicts over land that threaten to inhibit the island’s economic development.

Original article found on: Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

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Haiti: Five Years after Haiti’s Earthquake, International Community Still Must Act to Address Urgent Needs, CEPR Co-Director Says

Original article found on: Center for Economic and Policy Research

January 12, 2015

Cholera Eradication, Housing, Sanitation and Safe Water Remain Underfunded

Washington, D.C.- Five years after Haiti’s devastating earthquake killed some 217,300 and displaced 1.5 million people, the international community still needs to act to address ongoing urgent needs, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said today. While the international community pledged over $10 billion for relief and reconstruction following the quake, much of that assistanceultimately went to agencies and contractors from the donor countries themselves, while Haitian organizations and the Haitian government were largely sidelined. Hundreds of people continue to die from cholera each year in Haiti as water and sanitation remain sub-standard, while fewer than 10,000 new houses have been built to house the hundreds of thousands who lost their homes in the earthquake.

“This is a shameful milepost for the international community, as so many urgent needs in Haiti remain a full five years later,” Weisbrot said. “Countries such as the United States, France and Canada share a particular burden for these failures, since these countries have trampled upon Haitian sovereignty and sidelined Haitian institutions throughout the country’s history.”

In October 2010, Haiti was hit with a second disaster when a cholera epidemic began downriver from a base for United Nations troops. Over 8,774 [PDF] people have died from the disease since – hundreds of them last year, and more than 700,000 have been infected. The U.N. has refused to take responsibility, leading to lawsuits on behalf of cholera victims and their families, and the U.N.’s cholera eradication plan remains woefully underfunded.

“The ongoing cholera epidemic is a humanitarian disaster directly caused by the international community,” Weisbrot said. “By the U.N., whose troops caused the outbreak through reckless behavior, and by the U.S. government, which had previously deliberately held up millions in loans to upgrade Haiti’s water and sanitation infrastructure.”

The ongoing lack of adequate housing – and the tens of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) who remain in settlement camps – marks another area where the international response has failed to address urgent needs.

“The post-quake housing story is one of scandal, profiteering and tragedy,” CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston, who wrote about the housing response in detail for the Boston Review, explained. “Certain contractors got tens of millions for housing that they didn’t deliver, while authorities have still been able to claim success by pointing to how fewer people remain in IDP camps. But many of these people were forcibly evicted from the camps, often with no place to go. The displacement crisis continues; it is just hidden now.”

Housing contracting by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is an example of the lack of transparency that has dogged the response effort, with subcontractors often unknown and therefore unaccountable. The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee and cosponsored by 34 other legislators, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama last year, is meant to foster greater transparency in U.S. government contracting in Haiti through regular progress reports to Congress.

Weisbrot and Johnston noted several other key challenges for Haiti that could be aided by a more effective international response, including high poverty, high unemployment [PDF], the lack of jobs offering a living wage, and Haiti’s struggling agricultural sector, which could be supported were food aid funds used to purchase harvests from Haitian farmers rather than undercutting the sector through exporting lower-cost U.S. grains.

Original article found on: Center for Economic and Policy Research

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On the Media, Afghanistan: Violence, threats and insecurity – The challenges of reporting in Afghanistan

Original article found on: IFEX
By Alexandra Theodorakidis
5 December 2014
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
This statement was originally published on cjfe.org on 1 December 2014.

 

Violence against journalists in Afghanistan has been steadily increasing in 2014 with the withdrawal of foreign troops and a decrease in international aid. Five journalists were killed in the first four months of 2014. As control over Afghanistan’s national security transfers from international to Afghan forces and peace talks continue with the Taliban, there has been some uncertainty as to what will happen to the media and free expression in the country, especially as it underwent presidential elections.

CJFE’s 2014 Tara Singh Hayer Award winner Kathy Gannon was one journalist caught in the crossfire. She and her longtime friend and work partner, photographer Anja Niedringhaus, were covering the run-up to the elections in April 2014 when an Afghan police officer suddenly opened fire into the back of their vehicle. Niedringhaus was killed instantly, while Gannon was severely injured.

The latest upsurge in violence against journalists follows a short period of opening and development in the media. Pre-9/11 Afghanistan under Taliban rule had restricted access to independent media, both local and international. There was one Taliban-controlled radio station, used for state announcements and religious proclamations. Things began to change after the US invasion of Afghanistan that saw control lifted from the Taliban and transferred to an ostensibly more democratic system. In 2014, there are “175 FM radio stations, 75 TV channels, four news agencies, and hundreds of publications, including seven daily newspapers, Internet cafés in major cities and mobile phones in the hands of about half the population of 29 million people.”

While Afghan journalists have made great strides in establishing media outlets and providing Afghans with comprehensive coverage of local and national events in recent years, there are still many challenges being faced by local and foreign journalists alike, namely, harassment, threats and lack of support from government authorities.

Afghanistan currently ranks sixth on the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) Global Impunity Index. According to CPJ, fatalities are higher among foreign journalists than local journalists. Many Afghan journalists have been specifically targeted, kidnapped or intimidated by the Taliban, local warlords and on occasion by Afghan government or security officials. The situation is particularly bad if they are associated with Western media, which is being increasingly smeared by the Taliban and similar armed groups. Nai, a non-profit organization supporting open media in Afghanistan, reports 52 incidents of violence against journalists so far this year.

British-Swedish journalist Nils Horner was killed in March 2014, targeted while reporting on a suicide bombing that had occurred earlier in the year in Kabul. A Taliban-splinter group claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that Horner was not a journalist but a spy working for MI6. However, there is no concrete evidence that this group actually carried out the murder. Cilla Benkö, the director general of Horner’s employer Swedish Radio, said that Afghan authorities have not been very active in seeking the actual perpetrators of this crime, likely because Horner was a foreign correspondent.

Journalists not only face threats and attacks from terrorists but also intransigence from government officials who are uncooperative and withhold access to information. Authorities have been known to make threats in order to deter journalists from pursuing a story. The situation is even worse for women who are still largely underrepresented in the Afghan media.

According to a female journalist who heads a radio station in Balkh province, being a female journalist is particularly challenging. They face sexual harassment and threats from officials, strangers and sometimes even family members. Cultural constraints on women in Afghanistan often restrict them to work inside the office, instead of venturing out to do field work. In many places in Afghanistan, the idea of women undertaking public roles and working is considered taboo. Additionally, there is pressure on women working in the media from family elders to quit their jobs in order to avoid wider repercussions for the entire family, or because they view the career as unseemly. Lack of training and resources for women in the media is also a serious issue.

In September 2014, Palwasha Tokhi Meranzai, a female Afghan journalist, was killed inside her home by an unknown assailant. She had received a death threat relating to her reporting about a month before her murder; despite evidence that the motive was tied to her profession, Afghan security services persist in treating it as a robbery.

Since early 2013, press freedom organizations have noted a decrease in the number of women currently working as journalists in Afghanistan due to the culture of fear created by religious militants such as the Taliban and related organizations. Shaffiqa Habibi, director of the Afghan Women Journalist Union, told CPJ in 2013 that she estimated that 300 of the 2,300 professional female journalists had stopped working out of fear for their personal safety.

While there is a great deal of uncertainty about the future of a free press in Afghanistan and the safety of journalists working in the country, many are taking steps to ensure they will be safe in their work. In August, 20 female journalists in the northern province of Jawjzan formed the first union of female journalists in Afghanistan. The union aims to promote women’s rights in the region and provide training and support specifically geared to women in the field. Similar unions have been established in other provinces across the country.

There is also evidence that the current Afghan government might be softening towards journalists; a New York Times correspondent, expelled from Afghanistan earlier in 2014 over a story he wrote on the presidential elections, was recently allowed to re-enter the country. Matthew Rosenberg was told to leave Afghanistan by the administration of former President Hamid Karzai after he penned an article stating that a group of government officials had formed an interim government in the hopes of seizing power during the election’s stalemate.

On October 5, Mohammad Daoud Sultanzai, an adviser to newly elected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, said in a statement that if a journalist has a credible source for a story, they should be allowed to write it, as per the law. Although there has been a spike in violence over the last year towards journalists working in Afghanistan, there remains cause for optimism that the country can continue to develop a strong independent press. If the current government continues its commitment to protecting the rights of journalists and freedom of the media, Afghans may be able to avoid returning to the oppression and censorship they experienced under Taliban rule.

Alexandra Theodorakidis is a former CJFE intern and current freelance journalist based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter @AlexandraTheo.

Original article found on: IFEX

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On the Media: UN Secretary General Calls for Media in Post-2015

Original article found on: The Source

Posted on December 8, 2014Rosemary D’Amour

 

The campaign for media and access to information’s inclusion in the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals gained a new advocate last week in UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who reaffirmed their importance in a synthesis report for the SDGs.

The report, noting the evolving information needs of communities and the necessity of supporting institutions for inclusive societies, cites access to information and media as integral to the post-2015 development agenda, a topic which CIMA has been following closely over the last  year.

“Press freedom and access to information, freedom of expression, assembly and association are enablers of sustainable development.” ~Synthesis Report of the Secretary General on the Post-2015 Agenda

Ban’s report is welcome support for what has been a lengthy challenge for press freedom and freedom of information advocates, including the Global Forum for Media Development and Article 19, who have spearheaded initiatives to get these issues on the table at United Nations Open Working Group sessions.

“The Secretary General’s report today echoed civil society calls for post-2015 commitments to freedom of information and media both as crucial rights-based ends in themselves and as practical necessities for monitoring progress towards all the proposed new goals,” GFMD said in a press release last week.

However, the process is not over yet. The road to final adoption of the SDGs faces significant roadblocks from authoritarian countries opposed to media’s inclusion on the indicators. On another front, the SDGs have come under criticism of late for the 17 goals and 169 targets proposed, which some member states feel would be challenging to implement by 2030. Ban’s synthesis report, which highlights the necessity of these goals, comes as a strong recommendation for their adoption.

The Global Forum for Media Development has launched a campaign to keep media and freedom of information as part of the post-2015 process. We recommend you join the coalition and take a look at their resources, including the video below.

Original article found on: The Source

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Press Coverage: “Handing Over the Camera”

Connecticut College Magazine, By Josh Anusewicz, Fall 2014

A full PDF version of the original Connecticut College Magazine article can be found here.

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Since being struck by a devastating earthquake in 2010, the Caribbean nation of Haiti has been portrayed by the domestic media as a land of struggle and poverty, where help from the outside is the Haitian people’s only hope.But documentary filmmaker Michael Sheridan ’89 knows there is another story. Haitians are starting their own initiatives to recover, and Sheridan wants them to tell their stories in their own unique way. To do that, he is turning the typical documentary style on its head.Sheridan, the founder and director of Community Supported Film (CSFilm), is training Haitian storytellers in the production of 10 short films that will focus on the causes of and solutions to the economic and social development challenges Haiti has faced since the earthquake.

Handing Over the Camera quote

“We want to bring the Haitian perspective into the conversation about these humanitarian issues,” he says. The project will bring together CSFilm, Haitian media organizations, and Haitian and international NGOs, and the finished product is expected to be broadcast by Haitian and international outlets.

Sheridan founded CSFilm in 2010 and completed a similar film project in Afghanistan that same year. “The Fruit of Our Labor: Afghan Perspectives in Film” was awarded

 the $10,000 Promotions Prize at the International Short Film Festival in Switzerland and has been discussed in forums across the United States, from town halls to the halls of Congress.

Sheridan says he came up with the idea for CSFilm to fuse his interests in teaching and filmmaking, while also helping local people take control of the stories being told about their economic and social development challenges. “I realized that if we really wanted to understand the plight of others or help them, we needed to understand the problems and solutions from their perspectives,” he says.

His passion for advocacy was developed during his college years — or, perhaps more accurately, between college years. Having grown up working in the theater, Sheridan took a sabbatical from college after his junior year to embark on a two-year independent study of the theater of other cultures. The two-year trip turned into a seven-year journey through Europe, during which he found himself deeply immersed in social and political movements.

After returning to Connecticut College to complete his senior year in 1989, Sheridan took a job at the international development organization Oxfam America in Boston. It was there that he partnered with a colleague on a documentary about poverty in Guatemala and began to focus on filmmaking. His work has appeared on PBS, ABC, TLC and Discovery Channel.

In 2013, Sheridan took part in TEDxConnecticutCollege, where he discussed media consumption and its impact on how we see situations faced by others. “We all have to demand an improvement in our news diet — a balanced diet that is less self-centered, that includes local perspectives, and would help us be better informed,” Sheridan told students.

 

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Development, Haiti: Art, an economic stake in the country’s development

Original article found on: Haiti Libre 

11/30/14

 

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As part of the implementation of the Strategic Plan for the Development of Haiti (PSDH) developed by the Government, the Council for Economic and Social Development (CDES), an agency of the Primature, recently completed a three-day workshop on the theme “The world of arts and trades through the credit system”, which took place around three fundamental axes: the valuation of arts, trades and occupations according to the various trades; accompanying mechanisms for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and the financial system and its adaptation to new economic challenges.

The Office of the Deputy Minister (Marie Carmèle Rose Anne Auguste) responsible for human rights and the fight against extreme poverty is involved in this project together with other government ministries and public agencies.

In her speech, the Minister Auguste highlighted the importance of arts and culture in the development of the country “The arts should be the engine of our economic development. Our culture, the talent of our artists and our craftsmen is our greatest wealth,” appealing to investment in the arts the Minister added “Our artists of sensitive neighborhoods need sustained coaching, good tools to work, adequate environment that enables them to work in peace.”

The Minister Delegate believes essential to build of integration centers in disadvantaged neighborhoods that will be, according to her “places of high culture where will will meet and will will commune all social strata of the Nation.”

At the end of the forum, a series of recommendations was formulated concerning inter alias : the development of a social credit system to finance the activities of artistic creation, the supervision of artists and craftsmen, a strong training in marketing management and customer service and the creation of tens of Community integration Centers, across the country.

 

Original article found on: Haiti Libre 

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