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Upstream Journal

magazine on human rights & social justice

  • 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

How we give A portrait of canada’s developmet aid now

Targeted, effective, accountable. These are the seemingly notable goals behind the dramatic reforms made in the last two years to the way Canada finances development assistance. The changes follow decades of calls from domestic and international think tanks to reform the old system, which gave a little slice of the pie to almost anyone who asked.

In the 1990s, Canada was operating in over 135 countries on a wide variety of issues, making it hard to gauge effectiveness or achieve large-scale results.
“All of the reforms are consistent with what the donor and NGO community have been telling CIDA for years – that it was too scattered and too top heavy,” says Stephen Baranyi, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa’s School of International Development and Global Studies. So why is that same donor and NGO community up in arms over the results? Continue Reading

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World Bank gives South Africa massive loan to burn coal: Says renewable energy is not a viable alternative

In April the World Bank approved a US$ 3.75 billion loan for the South African Electricity Supply Commissions (Eskom), to fund what will become the fourth largest coal-fired power plant in the world. The decision was not unanimous. The United States, the United Kingdom, Italy and the Netherlands abstained over environmental concerns, since coal is the world’s single largest contributor to carbon dioxide emissions.

The World Bank faces a difficult challenge: to meet the need for energy in low-income countries while simultaneously building the foundations of a low-carbon future as emissions increase and global warming becomes a reality. While many third world countries are left with little choice but to use coal for development – it is inexpensive compared to other energy sources – it remains the most environmentally destructive source of energy on the planet. Continue Reading

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GMO corn shipment stirs concern and anger in Kenya

Corn

Corn
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikyjpeg/

Kenyan civil society groups and small-scale farmers are outraged at the arrival of 40,000 tonnes of South African genetically modified (GMO) maize into Kenya through the Port of Mombassa earlier this year.

The Kenyan Biodiversity Coalition represents more than 65 civil society groups whose main objective is to ensure public awareness on issues concerning the environment, agriculture and biodiversity. It considers the entry of such a massive quantity of imported maize to be suspect, since Kenya had a bumper harvest this year, producing a surplus of maize.

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Journal

Tree Revolution

The global food crisis, and thinking beyond two dimensional farming

Farming in RWanda

Farming in Rwanda. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization says that global food security will be uncertain for the next two years if wheat and maize production do not rise substantially. Wheat and maize prices have shot past their 2009 highs, cereal stocks have declined by 7%, and food import costs could surpass one trillion US dollars this year. Photo courtesy of the World Agroforestry Centre.

75% of the world’s poor live in rural areas and are involved in farming. Proponents of agroforestry – an indigenous farming technique – believe it is an affordable way to improve food security for individual farmers without creating dependency on large corporations for farming inputs.

Now finding its way into more development strategists’ toolkits, agroforestry can increase crop yields and livestock health on farms sustainably and inexpensively. It could make it easier for impoverished farmers in the third world to improve their livelihoods, gain food security, health benefits and increased incomes.

Agroforestry involves deliberately incorporating trees and shrubs into fields of other “low or medium-storey” crops. Certain types of trees replenish soil, while others produce fruit or animal fodder (coarse food for livestock composed of entire plants). Continue Reading

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Evicted for profit:Tracing the human costs of the global land grab

Global fuel and food demand has set off a wave of land grabbing – large companies acquiring large areas of land – in the developing world to grow export crops. The Gulf States want food for their countries, while European and American companies want land for biofuel production.Farmers in Segou

More than half of the public land in Nairobi has been subject to land grabbing. Jack Makau, a representative from Slum/Shack Dwellers International, says that many people subject to land grabbing are forced into slums.
“Nairobi has about four million people, and more than half of them live in slums. We have about 180 slums, where people don’t own the land where they live in very poor living conditions. More than half of this land was originally public land that was allocated to private developers by the state.”

Olivier DeSchutter, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, says that the global food crisis, the financial crisis and global warming all contribute to the upsurge in land grabbing worldwide in an effort to produce more food.

“The demand for agricultural commodity has been rising significantly as a result of bio fuels production, as a result of demographic growths and as a result also of changing diets – people shifting to diets that are richer in animal proteins,” DeSchutter said in a telephone interview. “There is an increasing pressure on farmland to produce more so these organizations believe that developing large scale plantations can be one way to respond to this challenge.”

Development or exploitation?

The World Bank and its private sector branch, the International Financial Corporation (IFC), have played significant roles in facilitating the global land grab.
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Chinese authorities target HIV/AIDS activists

“The AIDS epidemic is very much concentrated among marginalized populations, and those are groups that are distrustful of the government generally, that have experienced discrimination by the government, and that are hard to reach. The best and most effective way to reach them is through peers, civil society groups.”

“The AIDS epidemic is very much concentrated among marginalized populations, and those are groups that are distrustful of the government generally, that have experienced discrimination by the government, and that are hard to reach. The best and most effective way to reach them is through peers, civil society groups.”
– Joe Amon, Human Rights Watch

Chinese HIV/AIDS activist Wan Yanhai has followed the spread of HIV/AIDS across his country since graduating from medical school in 1988. He was working with AIDS patients long before the government acknowledged China’s epidemic as a legitimate concern. He launched China’s first HIV/AIDS telephone hotline in 1992, while working as a public health official, to provide information and explain the risks of unprotected sex. Two years later, fired from his public health position, he founded China’s largest HIV/AIDS organization, the Beijing Aizhixing Institute.

Wan endured years of government harassment from the public security department, the state security department, the propaganda department and even the fire department. He was repeatedly detained, for days or weeks at a time.
The Beijing Aizhixing Institute has also been subjected to harassment. In 2006, the organization’s Blood Safety and Legal Human Rights Conference was banned. In 2008, at the time of the Beijing Olympics, Aizhixing staff faced constant police inquiry and had to carry identification with them at all times. At times the Institute has been unable to receive overseas remittances—a major source of its funding.

The difficulties intensified in 2010. In March, Wan received visits at work from the Taxation Bureau and the Commercial Bureau, claiming that his organization was unregistered. He was banned from lecturing at a university in Guangzhou and at all universities in the area. For two weeks he was continually watched by a police car parked outside his home.

Following dozens of phone calls and visits from government authorities in April, Wan finally fled to the United States with his wife and daughter. They left their home in Beijing, but complications arose with his daughter’s visa. They then hid for two weeks, first with friends in Guangzhou, then in Hong Kong, before catching a flight to Philadelphia in May.

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Displace: An artist responds as her community disappears below the waters of the Three Gorges Dam

Photo: Colour Lines was shot in Zhongxian County, the last place to be submerged. While Chen is depicted wearing an angelic dress, Wu Hung notes that in the video Chen doesn’t feel angelical at all. Rather it seems as though she is revisiting a historical environment to which she is intimately connected.

Photo: Colour Lines was shot in Zhongxian County, the last place to be submerged. While Chen is depicted wearing an angelic dress, Wu Hung notes that in the video Chen doesn’t feel angelical at all. Rather it seems as though she is revisiting a historical environment to which she is intimately connected.

Chen Qiulin watched as half of her hometown, the ancient city of Wanxian, was submerged in water by the creation of China’s Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest electricity-generating plant. She has memories of her childhood home in a large residential compound and of the old harbour she once played in with friends after school, both gone now. “It became a new city with very many high buildings. I hardly recognize it anymore,” she said.

For five years, Chen’s life was consumed by the drastic changes around her. Motivated to document the transformation of her surroundings, this contemporary artist created four videos corresponding with the four phases of construction. Rhapsody on Farewell (2002), River, River (2005), Color Lines (2006) and The Garden (2007) are part of Displacement: The Three Gorges Dam and Contemporary Chinese Art exhibition shown at the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago in 2009 and more recently at the Nasher Museum of Art in North Carolina. Continue Reading

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  • 2010 / Jul
  • By Derek MacCuish
  • 0
Journal

Efforts to make human rights matter in World Bank are moving forward, despite reluctance of governments

In the absence of a comprehensive human rights policy to protect the people affected by the World Bank’s development programs all over the world, two initiatives at the World Bank have taken rights protection into their own hands.

The division of the World Bank that supports private sector investment, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), is working toward implementing clearer standards of social protection for the people its initiatives involve. IFC representatives say that the impetus for such standards comes from its business clients who are pushing for it to ensure their investments succeed.

Beyond the IFC, there is no similar effort to develop human rights policies within the World Bank. A serious difficulty with a rights-based approach is that some countries, like China, strongly oppose it, according to Cal MacWilliam, Senior Advisor to the Executive Director representing Canada on the World Bank Board of Directors. Many countries already have a problem with the basic governance indicators and the accountability required by the World Bank, MacWilliam continued, and many have problems with gender equality.
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No healing for the child soldier

The psychological and social rehabilitation and recovery of former child soldiers remains inadequate, and their personal struggles continue years after the armed conflicts end.

“The night the soldiers came to our village, they rounded up just us kids and told us we had to go with them, that our country needs us. The girls were separated from the boys and sent to ‘safe places’ to care for the dead and the wounded. We were taken to a military base and given an M16, which became our pillow and nightly companion for the months and years to come.”

Tore Martinez Figueroa, now 31, told me about the day he found himself enrolled in the Armed Forces of El Salvador (FAES). “I was almost 14, studying in the city, and surfing most afternoons. We were very poor, and my father was often away working. I grew up mostly with my friends and ‘doña Ela,’ a lady who looked after me.”

The child soldiers in El Salvador

The Child Soldier as defined by the Cape Town Principles (established at a 1997 symposium by the NGO Working Group on the Convention on the Rights of the Child and UNICEF):
“A child soldier is any person under 18 years of age who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity, including but not limited to cooks, porters, messengers and anyone accompanying such groups, other than family members. The definition includes girls recruited for sexual purposes and for forced marriage. It does not, therefore, only refer to a child who is carrying or has carried arms.”
Photo: Gary Mark Smith. This photo was taken during a firefight in Chalatenango, El Salvador in 1982. The series of photos, “The Streets of the Cold War/ El Salvador,” is online at streetphoto.com.

Salvadoran law allows for compulsory military service at 18, but emergency directives during the war allowed voluntary enrollment from the age of 16. Civil war broke out in 1980 and lasted twelve years. Of 6 million people, 80,000 were killed and one million fled the country.

Now almost two decades later, Tore, like most of his compatriots, is trying to rebuild his life while still haunted by a not so distant past.

“Between hills and highways, mountains and towns, we kept running, looking for the guerrilla. As we ran, so did much blood from both sides. It was normal to see a kid get shot or die of hunger. Cutting heads was like cutting mangoes.”
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“Contre-développement” au Ladakh Contrer les effets du développement conventionnel

Helena Norberg-Hodge. Photos courtoisie d’ International Society for Ecology and Culture

Helena Norberg-Hodge. Photos courtoisie d’ International Society for Ecology and Culture

Imaginez un paysage fragile mais immense, au cœur de l’Himalaya, entre des steppes arides et une vallée ensoleillée. Une communauté y vit en réciprocité avec la nature, dans une autosuffisance complète qui lui apporte une joie profonde. Le calme d’une vie simple mais remplie s’entend. Le contentement et la fierté se lisent sur les visages. Imaginez maintenant qu’on fasse miroiter à ce peuple un rêve doré, de grandeur et de richesse. Qu’on lui promette plus de productivité et un plus grand bonheur, si seulement il abandonne tout ce qu’il connaît pour adopter ce qui est nouveau, moderne. Imaginez que ces gens finissent par croire à cette fable…

Anglaise d’origine mais Ladakhie d’adoption, intellectuelle, activiste et femme de terrain, Helena Norberg-Hodge est considérée comme une pionnière dans la critique du modèle de développement dominant, particulièrement en raison de la destruction des spécificités culturelles locales qu’il provoque. Elle est reconnue pour son travail au Ladakh, et pour avoir présenté l’expérience du Ladakh comme source d’inspiration, tant pour les pays du Sud que ceux du Nord.

Elle est arrivée au Ladakh pour la première fois en 1975, tout juste après que celui-ci ait ouvert ses portes au tourisme. En 1975, il était considéré comme ayant presque été coupé du monde moderne, tant la colonisation avait eu peu d’influence sur la région. Le mode de vie était resté le même: une économie de subsistance basée sur l’agriculture, la cueillette de fruits et légumes poussant bien dans la vallée (malgré un climat aride et des températures extrêmes) et l’élevage d’animaux. Continue Reading

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