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Training begins in Haiti

Interviewing applicants that work in radio, journalism, the theater, print, photography, communications and with social change organizations.

Interviewing applicants that work in radio, journalism, the theater, print, photography, communications and with social change organizations.

Our work begins in Haiti – thanks in great part to your support and encouragement. Starting tomorrow, Monday November 3, Haitians will be trained to produce 10 short films telling Haiti’s story since the 2010 earthquake.

On Friday evening CSFilm and our Haitian partners, Groupe Medialternatif, finalized the selection of the 10 participants! That is, after 5 intense hours of reviewing and debating the 19 that were interviewed, after 2.5 days of interviews, after reviewing the materials of all 74 applicants’ and weeks of outreach across the country! Ralph Thomassaint Joseph, CSFilm’s Haiti program coordinator, Gotson, head of Groupe Medialternatif, and assistants have made great efforts to gather a diverse group – in terms of gender, regional, media and community engagement backgrounds. We were blurry eyed and gleaming from the stifling heat but feeling very good as we called each successful candidate.

This weekend we have finalized the setup of the training site, which is generously being provided by REFRAKA, Network of Haitian Woman Community Radio Broadcasters.

And now, after two years of dreaming, fundraising and planning, the team and trainees will gather in the morning to begin the work of Haitians producing a new series of broadcast-quality documentary films. Their films will add Haitian perspectives and experience to the local and international conversation about what has and has not happened since the 7.0 earthquake – one of the world’s worst disasters.

 

 

 

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Afghanistan: Afghanistan’s first lady to focus on humanitarian assistance

 

Original article found on: Khaama Press

By KHAAMA PRESS – Fri Sep 26 2014, 12:22 pm

 

Afghanistans-first-lady

Afghanistan’s first lady Rula Ghani Ahmadzai will focus on humanitarian assistance after Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai takes office as the new president of Afghanistan.

Dr. Ashraf Ghani said his wife will start charitable works for women and children and internally displaced individuals who are in need of assistance.

Shukria Barekzai, a member of Dr. Ghani’s camp, said the decision by Afghanistan’s first lady is a good news for women and children who are in need of support and assistance.

Barekzai said Rula Ghani was involved in humanitarian assistance activities in the past as well but she will double her activities after her spouse takes office.

The presidential inauguration for the president-elect of the country is expected to be organized on coming Monday.
Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai was declared the president-elect by the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan earlier this week.

The announcement was made following the conclusion of an agreement between Dr. Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah for the formation of a national unity government.

Original article found on: Khaama Press

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On the Media: Mozambique Election: citizen journalists keep politicians on their toes

Original article from: The Guardian

Supporters cheer for the Renamo opposition candidate Afonso Dhlakama at rally in Maputo. Photograph: Antonio Silva/EPA

Supporters cheer for the Renamo opposition candidate Afonso Dhlakama at rally in Maputo. Photograph: Antonio Silva/EPA

As Mozambique prepares to go to the polls for Wednesday’s presidential election, the ruling party Frelimo faces its first real political challenge since the country gained its independence from Portugal in 1975.

President Armando Guebuza must step down after his maximum two terms in office, and the campaign mounted by Renamo – Frelimo’s long-standing political rival – has resulted in a race to succeed him that has become too tight to call.

It has also been a race fraught with irregularities, which are being increasingly exposed by a small army of citizen journalists across the country.

Here are a few snapshots from various election campaigns in Mozambique, all from the last two months:

  • In Macomia, in northern Cabo Delgado province, a government Toyota Land Cruiser – covered in posters of the ruling party, Frelimo – is used to distribute campaign material. This is illegal. Click! A reporter takes a picture and Instagrams it to the Centre for Public Integrity (CIP) in Maputo.
  • In Machava, Matola, near Maputo, a police station is plastered with Frelimo posters. Neighbours alert the election reporter. He checks, clicks, sends, and CIP posts it in its online election newsletter.
  • On 24 September 2014, in Chibuto, Gaza province, Frelimo supporters attack the caravan of the opposition Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM) presidential candidate Daviz Simango with stones and bottles while the police watch. Citizen reporters documented the hour-long battle and later checked if any arrests had been made. None were made.

These stories have been published on the CIP website faster than any other news outlet. Media pickup is immediate. The Constitutional Council and electoral authorities read it. In many ways, the electoral reporting project sets the media agenda.

Independent journalism

With 150 reporters, at least one in each of Mozambique’s 143 electoral districts, CIP’s on-the-ground coverage maps out flash points and trends. The reporting has exposed misuses of state bureaucracy and resources to promote the ruling party.

The project, led by CIP researcherJoseph Hanlon, started during the 2013 municipal elections, in collaboration with the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA).

From that day in 2013, it has proved its value. For example, long before the electoral commission received official complaints, correspondents across the country reported that many of the printers sent to polling stations were not working. In response, the commission quickly told the South African supplier to solve the problem.

A policeman guards election kits at a warehouse in Maputo. Photograph: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images

A policeman guards election kits at a warehouse in Maputo. Photograph: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images

And when the official vote count in Gurue in the north appeared suspiciously different from the parallel counting of the electoral observatory, the opposition complained, and the CIP’s election bulletin circulated both tallies. This boosted both the complaint’s credibility, and led the Constitutional Council to order a new poll, which the opposition party, MDM, eventually won.

Although many of the reporters work for local papers and community radio stations, and have some experience of collecting information, many lack formal journalistic training.

Mozambican media outlets, although lively, are often aligned to political parties or act a platform for the publisher’s views. Independent journalism, based on facts and research, not on opinion, is scarce. In 2013, CIP and EISA trained its reporters in electoral law and the basic rules of journalism – accuracy, confirmation, and facts.

Equipped with a user-friendly manual written by Hanlon, their reporters learned to spot irregularities, to identify sources (although CIP may protect their identity), check facts and ignore rumour.

Hanlon sums it up: “We hammer into the heads of all our journalists that allegations must be backed up. Perhaps the hardest for Mozambican journalists is the rule of information, not rhetoric. Let the facts speak for themselves. And don’t just report the problems, report normality and success.”

A Renamo supporter takes part in a motorcade campaign rally on 11 October 2014 in Maputo. Photograph: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images

A Renamo supporter takes part in a motorcade campaign rally on 11 October 2014 in Maputo. Photograph: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images

Encouraging free and fair elections

Back in Maputo, the CIP team scrutinises the information before publishing it, earning trust amongst its many readers.

In rural Mozambique, where there is little media presence, government employees and police chiefs often run their districts like fiefdoms. In 2013, for example, an administrator – on a whim and without a court order – instructed police to padlock the local community radio station because it had reported on local corruption. Assuming that “Maputo will never know and people here are docile”, the electoral reporting project is sending a message to local authorities they are being watched, and that the nation will know about irregularities. This year, reporters noted fewer government cars being used openly by Frelimo than in 2013.

The election in 2013 was tight. Renamo boycotted it, MDM received 40% of the total vote, won two cities in the first round (Beira and Quelimane) and two after flawed counts and new elections (Nampula and Gurue). In Maputo and Matola, usually Frelimo strongholds, MDM won over 42% of the vote.

However, 2014 is a different game: this year, Renamo is participating, which splits the opposition and could make results even more contested.

The CIPs reporting project is part of a broader effort by civil society to ensure free and fair elections, and disrupt the apathy creeping into the country’s voting population since the first democratic polls in 1994. Less than half of eligible voters voted in 2013.

Those that do should at least know their vote is not being tampered with, and that the election has been fair. In a country with few safeguards in place, active citizen reporting is proving to be one of the most effective ways to guarantee this.

Original article can be found on: The Guardian

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Afghanistan: Afghan Media Org Convenes High-Level Meeting on Access to Information

Original article found on: Internews

October 9th, 2014

Historically, the government of Afghanistan has been marked by a lack of transparency, with only a vague – and thus far unenforced – reference in its decade-old constitution to the guaranteed right to access to information.

That all might be changing soon: earlier this summer, Afghanistan’s Lower House of Parliament approved the country’s first-ever Access to Information Law. Now, Internews partner Nai is leading multi-stakeholder advocacy efforts to encourage the swift and responsible passage of the law by Afghanistan’s Upper House, and ultimately by Afghanistan’s new President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.

Having met with the Upper House of Parliament earlier this summer, last month, Nai convened media, civil society, and government leaders – including former President Karzai’s legal advisor and high-ranking officials from the Ministries of Information and Culture, Defense, Interior Affairs, and Commerce and Industry – for a roundtable discussion on the effective and fair implementation of the law.

Although spokespeople for the Ministry of Defense emphasized a need to keep information concerning national security and the wellbeing of Afghan troops confidential, the group agreed that government agencies should start preparing now to put systems in place to allow Afghan citizens to request and gain access to government-held information in a timely fashion. These mechanisms include establishing access to information committees in Kabul as well as in seven additional zones across the country, trainings for government workers, classifying and even digitizing data if possible, and setting up clear channels of communication and cooperation between government agencies.

Nai legal advisor Qasim Rahmani called on the National Assembly to hold a joint committee session to allow lawmakers to reconcile different existing drafts of the law. That way, he said, the government can prevent confusion and misinterpretation once the law goes into effect.

In numerous press releases, media briefings, and roundtable discussions leading up to Parliament’s vote on the law, Nai has repeatedly stressed how critical such a law will be for reducing corruption, protecting journalists, and building a more democratic Afghan society.

The law, said Executive Director Mujeeb Khalvatgar, will “allow Afghan journalists to work in a better and safer environment than they do now…it will lay the groundwork for journalists to produce more investigative reports.”

“The Access to Information Law is an important piece of legislation for all, but specifically for media outlets,” said Nasir Maimanagy, who attended the meeting representing Internews radio partner Salam Watandar. “This law will provide the strongest tool ever – access to information – for the media to monitor the activities of both the government and the private sector.”

Maimanagy noted that for all of the law’s promise, however, its proper enforcement is far from a done deal. “Implementation is a daunting task,” he said. “If not implemented properly, the hopes of media organizations will turn to dismay and frustration.”

Internews’ support for Nai is funded by the US Agency for International Development.

Original article found on: Internews

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Immigrant and Refugee Issues: Realities About Refugee Camps

Original article found on: IRIN

by Kristy Siegfried on October 7th, 2014

Photo: Jodi Hilton/IRIN UNHCR wants camps to be the exception rather than the norm

Photo: Jodi Hilton/IRIN
UNHCR wants camps to be the exception rather than the norm

JOHANNESBURG: For years, the images most commonly associated with refugees have been of sprawling, dusty camps populated by rows of tents sheltering thousands of men, women and children with little to occupy them besides queuing for aid handouts.

The reality is that only just over one third of the world’s 17 million refugees live in camps today. The rest choose to live in cities or communities where a more independent, if precarious, existence is possible.

The international humanitarian community has been slow to respond to this reality, but is now scrambling to catch up, especially in view of the crisis in Syria which has so far produced over three million refugees, the majority of whom are living in cities in neighbouring countries.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), in particular, has struggled to adapt its traditionally camp-based model to fulfil its mandate of ensuring that all refugees have access to protection and assistance, wherever they may live.

In 2009, it released a policy statement on refugee protection and solutions in urban areas which recognized urban areas as “a legitimate place for refugees to enjoy their rights”.

Now it has gone a significant step further with the release of an “Alternatives to Camps” policy which commits the agency to actively pursue alternatives to camps whenever possible. It is the first official recognition by UNHCR that camps should be a last resort rather than the default response to refugee influxes, and has been widely welcomed by the refugee rights community as representing a major, if overdue, shift in the agency’s approach.

Between the UNHCR’s establishment in the early 1950s and the installation of its current High Commissioner Antonio Guterres in 2005, “there was a widespread assumption within the humanitarian community that refugees belonged in camps,” according to Jeff Crisp, formerly the agency’s head of policy and evaluation, writing in a blog for advocacy group Refugees International, where he now serves as senior director for policy and advocacy.

Camps becoming harder to fund

Keeping refugees in camps has not only been logistically far more convenient for aid providers, but has often been the preference of host states who view camps as minimizing both the perceived security threat posed by refugees and their burden on local communities and economies. However, as refugee crises have become more protracted, with over six million refugees now living in exile for five or more years, camps have become increasingly difficult to fund.

“A lot of funding goes to new emergencies but within as little as 18 months, if the emergency is not continuing, there’s a falling away of donor support,” said Steven Corliss, director of UNHCR’s programme management and support division. As support diminishes programmes such as secondary education are the first casualties, but eventually even basic services come under pressure. Recently, the World Food Programme had to cut food rations for a third of all African refugees, the majority of them long-term refugees confined to camps.

Photo: IRIN In the top six refugee-hosting countries in the world, the majority of refugees are already living outside camps

Photo: IRIN
In the top six refugee-hosting countries in the world, the majority of refugees are already living outside camps

UNHCR’s new policy acknowledges that camps remain a necessary feature of the humanitarian landscape, particularly in the context of emergencies and where host governments insist on them, but adds that “they nevertheless represent a compromise that limits the rights and freedoms of refugees and too often remain after the emergency phase and the essential reasons for their existence have passed.”

“Camps should be the exception and, to the extent possible, a temporary measure,” states the policy.

Corliss of UNHCR explained that the policy was the result of an internal discussion and “a conviction that this is the right and most humane approach…

“The idea is to give people a meaningful choice and the opportunity to live a more dignified life,” he told IRIN.

Sonia Ben Ali, founding director of Urban Refugees, an NGO, described the new policy as “a milestone” and welcomed its rights-based approach. “It plays a very strong role in showing how UNHCR recognizes that camps are not the proper conditions for refugees to live in,” she told IRIN.

Getting host states on board could be tricky

She added that the success of the policy would depend to a large extent on how effective advocacy efforts will be, particularly in convincing host governments that alternatives to camps are not only better for refugees, but can also produce better outcomes for local economies and host communities.

“We need to address the [security and economic] concerns of host states, and for this we really need an evidence base,” she said.

Corliss agreed that there was a need to gather more evidence that alternatives to the camps’ approaches could benefit host communities, for example by allowing aid agencies to invest more in local infrastructure instead of funding parallel service delivery systems in camps.

“Refugees come with assets; they have a lot of human potential that can help stimulate the economy. It’s very important to document that so we can advocate for it.”

Researchers from Oxford University’s Humanitarian Innovation Project have begun this task with a recent study from Uganda showing that the majority of refugees who gained permission to live and work outside designated refugee settlements, found ways to sustain themselves without aid.

However, not everyone is confident that even evidence-based advocacy efforts will be enough to overcome resistance from host states that often has less to do with real concerns about refugees over-burdening local communities than with what Lucy Hovil, a senior researcher at the International Refugee Rights Initiative, referred to in a recent article as “realpolitik”.

In Kenya, for example, the dominant narrative that Somali refugees represent a security threat, has seen thousands of Somalis living in Nairobi pushed back to camps in the past six months.

Michael Kagan, co-director of the Immigration Clinic at Nevada University’s William S. Boyd School of Law, described the alternatives to camps’ policy as encouraging but “still aspirational”.

“The missing link is to explain how host governments can be persuaded to let refugees have more autonomy,” he said. “What is still not clear is how UNHCR will react when host governments refuse to abandon camps. Will UNHCR cooperate? Will they refuse? How hard will UNHCR push? Will UNHCR fall back on platitudes rather than standards? This, we don’t know.”

Change needed in livelihoods support

Corliss of UNHCR acknowledged that “creating an enabling environment in terms of law and policy” would be essential to the new policy’s success, but also pointed to the need for a “fundamental transformation in the way we do livelihoods programming”. Whereas in the past, livelihoods support has been used “as a kind of occupational therapy, to keep people busy in camps”, Corliss said UNHCR was moving towards “a much more hard-headed, market-oriented approach” that would help refugees acquire the appropriate skills to enter a host country’s job market or to start a small business.

Corliss added that bringing refugees to the point where they can achieve sustainable livelihoods requires “comprehensive support over a period of time”.

In recent years, UNHCR and other aid agencies have been experimenting with various ways of delivering that support to refugees dispersed throughout urban areas. “Cash-based interventions will be very important,” said Corliss, and have the added benefit of stimulating local economies. UNHCR is already making use of cash-based interventions in 94 operations around the world. In the longer term, however, there will be a need to work with development partners to strengthen local infrastructure such as public health systems.

“This is a policy that’s extremely ambitious and is going to have to be progressively implemented,” he told IRIN.

Guidance to help field staff operationalize the policy is still being developed and UNHCR will need buy-in from partners, including international NGOs, other UN agencies and donors, but most importantly host governments.

Kagan pointed out that outside camps, what refugees needed even more than aid was rights – “the right to work, the right to send your kids to school. These are the things refugees need in cities,” said Kagan. “They have to have rights to be able to rebuild their lives in dignity. And that requires government buy-in.”

Original article found on: IRIN

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