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The Upstream Journal

A magazine on social justice since 1975

  • The critical voice of South Sudan: An interview with Mading Ngor

    The critical voice of South Sudan: An interview with Mading Ngor

  • Can we create a framework to help businesses prioritize human rights?

    Can we create a framework to help businesses prioritize human rights?

  • More than 109,000 children work in Cote d'Ivoire's cocoa industry...

    More than 109,000 children work in Cote d'Ivoire's cocoa industry...

The Upstream Journal

Journal

Second class in Hong Kong

Domestic Helpers

Roxanne Solas one of 250,000 foreign domestic helpers living in Hong Kong. Photo: Jillian Kestler-D’Amours.

 

Roxanne Sonas had hopes of a bed during her stay with the family that employed her, but she slept on the floor. Her employer promised her that a bed would arrive when they changed apartments.

“On the day we moved in, they had IKEA deliver a cabinet,” the 33-year-old Filipino domestic helper said, her eyes filling with tears. “It was horrible.”

Sonas slept on top of the cabinet, without a pillow or blanket, in the living room of her employer’s home in Hong Kong’s trendy Causeway Bay neighborhood for five months, while she worked up to 22 hours a day, six days a week. Continue Reading

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Journal

Financial Vultures

vulture on a sign

In 1979, Romania loaned Zambia $15 million to put toward agricultural machinery and vehicles. By the 1990s due to widespread poverty and devastating health conditions, Zambia was unable to repay its external debt and started to negotiate for debt cancellation.

During this negotiation, in 1999, a company named Donegal International bought up Zambia’s debt, then valued at $30 million, for $3.3 million. Donegal then sued Zambia for the full amount of the debt, plus interest – a total of $55 million.

Donegal has been called a “vulture fund,” which designates a company that buys up “bad” debt at a discount and then sues for the full amount plus interest. These funds carry out most of their activities through legal action in national courts and usually win.

Donegal International was started in 1997 with the sole purpose of holding and managing the debt purchased by Romania and owned by Zambia. Companies like Donegal International are often set up to pursue a single debt and then are shut down as soon as they win their lawsuit. This technique allows them to be as secretive about their actions as possible, often going unnoticed due to their lack of publicity. Continue Reading

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Journal

Canada Opposes Indegenous Rights Declaration

bc chiefs left

Indigenous peoples have the right to the full enjoyment, as a collective or as individuals, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms as recognized in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights law. (UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Article 1.)

In June 2006, Canada was one of only two countries on the UN’s Humans Rights Council to vote against the adoption of a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The declaration was also opposed by Canada, along with the United States, Australia and New Zealand, on Sept. 13, 2007 when it passed the UN General Assembly 143-4.
After years of Canadian participation in working groups creating the draft document, the votes were a dramatic reversal that stunned the international community and disappointed native groups in Canada.

The reasons for the government’s opposition to the convention were provided by the head of Canada’s delegation to the UN Human Rights Council, Ambassador Paul Meyer, in a letter to the President of the Council on the eve of the 2006 vote. Reflecting the Harper government’s concern that obligations under the agreement are too restrictive of government policy, the main objections are that: Continue Reading

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Journal

Finding Justice in Uganda Local Reconciliation or International Court

woman-on-mat

Walking along the road between Sudan and Uganda, near the Atiak IDP camp, I met this woman relaxing in the shade. She waved me over and whipped off the colorful cloth she had around her hair to reveal a full head of white. I had my camera, and we laughed over the pictures for a while. Most people don’t speak English that far north, so we ended up communicating by gestures and the few Lwo words I knew.

In Northern Uganda, people are divided over how they should seek justice for the actions of the Lord’s Revolutionary Army in the long civil war. The International Criminal Court, an attempt to establish an international norm that will dissuade future perpetrators, is considered slow and difficult. The alternative, mato oput, is a local cultural process first used by the Acholi people of the region to settle disputes between families. It consists of symbolic actions performed between perpetrator and victim followed by material compensation and clan reconciliation. Continue Reading

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Murder Ignored-Seeking justice after 2002 Hindu-Muslim violence in Gujarat

India Communal Riots-Symbol

A gathering of radical Hindus in 2002 turned into a riot at Babri Masjid, Ayodhya, setting off sectarian violence that killed more than 2,000 people in the weeks following.

Gopal Menonc’s film “Hey Ram” chronicles twelve days of anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat, India, in 2002. Years later, these crimes remain unpunished, perpetuating what is being called the “Muslim Indian genocide.”

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Sudan’s Female Genital Mutilation

 

How an age-old practice can be turned around by educating local women

Female Genitale Mutilation:circumciser with mutilated girl.

Female Genitale Mutilation:circumciser with mutilated girl.

I was born in Khartoum, Sudan, and lived there until the age of nine. I was born into a modern family – my father received his education in Europe – so my sisters and I escaped a terrible ritual that many other girls have to endure. Female genital mutilation (FGM), a practice that no one dares to question or defy, remains a taboo subject even though all Sudanese people acknowledge its existence.

I remember going with my mother to celebrate a big event for one of my friends. We were seven years old. I recall being surprised that she spent the whole evening lying in bed covered with crisp white sheets and did not seem to enjoy the festivity at all. I asked my mother what was wrong with my friend but I did not get an answer. It seemed that this was something that only grown ups could talk about, so I forgot about my friend’s behaviour and enjoyed the rest of the evening. Later on, I realized that I had been to a khitan party. In Sudan Khitan is a common word for FGM. Continue Reading

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