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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

washingtonpost.comby Pamela Constable, Aug. 14, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Marianela Jarroud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

Original article can be read on Inter Press Service News Agency

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

Original article can be read online at Internews.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the original article online at Internews.

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

Original article can be found on ifex.

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

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

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

18 August 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Signed,

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

Read the original article online at ifex.

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