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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?

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

The Upstream Journal

Journal

Ethiopia’s Gibe III dam “the worst”

Local villagers protest construction of the dam. Photo courtesyInternational Rivers

Local villagers protest construction of the dam.
Photo courtesyInternational Rivers

“The Gibe III is the worst dam I have ever come across,” one World Bank consultant told Ikal Angelei, the chairperson of the Kenyan organization Friends of Lake Turkana, referring to the large hydroelectric project in Ethiopia.

Friends of Lake Turkana filed a complaint last year with the African Development Bank (AfDB), one of the primary financial contributors to the Gibe III dam, concerned that the social and environmental impact assessment of the project is “seriously flawed.” The group urged the AfDB to improve mitigation efforts and consultations with local indigenous people.

“It’s the responsibility of the AfDB management to consult the communities who will be negatively affected by the dam,” Angelei said.

The complaint was heard. A few months ago the Bank hired two consultants to meet with the indigenous communities. “We don’t know what will be the consequence of that. Will the African Development Bank take that as a sign that they don’t have the communities’ consent? Or does it mean that they consulted and will carry on with the project anyway?”

The Gibe I and Gibe II dams have already been built along the Omo river, but the Gibe III will be the largest. Hydroelectricity is one of the country’s few exploitable resources and the Ethiopian government’s hopes are high. It wants to outsource electricity to other countries through interconnected grid systems.

The dam is being built on Ethiopia’s Omo river, which flows south to Kenya’s Lake Turkana. According to the US NGO International Rivers, the Gibe III dam will negatively affect sources of food for an estimated 500,000 indigenous people because of disruptions to the river’s flood cycle. Continue Reading

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Journal

World in crisis: four global challenges four Canadian responses

Paul Martin

Paul Martin

Elizabeth May

Elizabeth May

George Stroumboulopoulos

George Stroumboulopoulos

William Watson

William Watson

Julia Pyper

Julia Pyper

I’m a young Canadian who wants to know what the world will look like in 20 years. I want to know the challenges I will face. And I want to know about the major issues in the world today, so I can imagine a better tomorrow.

As naturally curious and self-aware beings, humans have often questioned the future, and have been skeptical about its promise. Shortly after the horrific First World War, Yeats described the apocalypse he felt was close at hand in his poem “The Second Coming”: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned.”

Today, there is also a lot to be concerned about. The world is experiencing multiple global crises — a severe economic downturn, persistent global poverty, climate change, war and conflict, and resource depletion. It’s difficult not to be discouraged. Continue Reading

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Journal

LGTB in Kenya

Last year in Mombasa, Kenya’s most socially conservative city, a new lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) group was formed to provide psycho-social and health support to their often repressed community. It calls itself PEMA, which means “place of solace” in kiSwahili, the national language.
From HIV/AIDS awareness to feeding programmes, PEMA is determined to gain acceptance and tolerance for Kenya’s LGBT community. Through their monthly “gay parties,” they help the LGBT community network and, as Erica, a PEMA member, says, “let loose.”

In a society where homosexuality is punishable by a jail sentence (and informally by death or stoning), PEMA is making a daring move against the status quo. “Erica” has begun speaking on the radio about her experiences as a lesbian in Kenya. She does not dare reveal her identity, however. She described returning to her office after one radio show to find coworkers talking about the audacity of speaking out on a taboo subject. However, she believes that only by telling people publicly about homosexuality can she help dismantle the many barriers her community faces. Continue Reading

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Journal

The Better Aid Bill – Has it Changed Anything?

In an effort to ensure that Canada’s foreign aid will be well spent, the Official Development Assistance (ODA) Accountability Act was introduced to Parliament in May 2006. In 2008 it passed the third reading and became law, but John MacKay, the Liberal MP who introduced the bill, is not convinced it is being implemented effectively.
“The government has made it clear that it is going to pay lip service to this bill. This puts the government in confrontation with the unanimous will of parliament,” he said.

The Act lays out three criteria for ODA: that it contribute to poverty reduction, take into account the perspectives of the poor, and be consistent with Canada’s human rights obligations. Continue Reading

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Journal

State-sponsored homophobia in Africa: fueling the HIV/AIDS epidemic

The names and images of gay and lesbian people interviewed cannot be disclosed because of fear of violence. This image is of Mpho Thaele, 19, an orphan who sells her body on the streets of Maseru, Lesotho.  Photo © Eva-Lotta Jansson/UN-OCHA IRIN and Red Cross

The names and images of gay and lesbian people interviewed cannot be disclosed because of fear of violence. This image is of Mpho Thaele, 19, an orphan who sells her body on the streets of Maseru, Lesotho. Photo © Eva-Lotta Jansson/UN-OCHA IRIN and Red Cross

 

“Gug” – short for “GayUganda” – maintains an internet blog where he writes about his life, giving personal anecdotes along with scathing commentaries about Uganda’s homophobic leadership. But he keeps his identity secret.
“Being with the man I love, I risk a life sentence, to make sure that the morals of the country are not destroyed by my “immorality,”

In Uganda, “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” is a crime punishable by life imprisonment. Authorities in many African nations would prefer to deny the existence of people like gug. Of 53 African countries, 38 have repressive government policies and sodomy laws that legitimize and encourage social discrimination, including unequal access to medical treatment.

This condemnation drives behavior underground, away from prevention and treatment services, thus increasing the risk of HIV transmission. It is fueling the epidemic on a continent that is already home to over 60 percent of those living with HIV/AIDS. Continue Reading

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Journal

Moving Out of Poverty: Success from the Bottom Up

 Deepa Narayan, Lant Pritchett & Soumya Kapoor. 428 pages. A co-publication of the World Bank and Pelgrave MacMillan, 2009.

movingpoverty
Moving Out of Poverty is an engaging read and will be of interest to the academic, the development practitioner, the policy maker and indeed anyone who has an interest in the poverty eradication and economic development effort. The book’s observations and findings are based on first hand narratives and life stories as told by more than 60,000 people, from 500 communities across 21 regions in 15 countries – a truly massive undertaking. It provides an inside look at the lives of the poor, the near poor and even the not so poor. It identifies, from their varied perspectives, the challenges, constraints and obstacles to moving out of poverty and the sometimes more challenging task of staying out of poverty. It effectively consolidates these stories into discussions around the determinants of poverty and what is important at the individual and household level in the fight to reduce poverty.
Regardless of one’s experience in economics, development, sociology or other social science, the book is certain to change one’s views about the nature of poverty. By starting at the ground floor, in talking to thousands and thousands of people, a level of clarity and insight into the condition of poverty is achieved that has rarely been attained elsewhere. And the authors emphasize that poverty is a condition. Throughout the book, the poor themselves are clear in describing poverty as a condition that they temporarily find themselves in; it is not perceived as permanent, or something that defines them. One is not a “poor person”, one is simply presently experiencing poverty. Continue Reading

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Journal

Notes from the corridors

World Bank President Robert Zoellick and IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn speak with NGOs.  The reception hall featured a display of mannequins in fashion from around the world.  Photo: World Bank

World Bank President Robert Zoellick and IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn speak with NGOs. The reception hall featured a display of mannequins in fashion from around the world. Photo: World Bank

Wednesday

I arrive in Washington at noon, depressed as I consider the financial crisis and what it will mean for people in impoverished countries. It’s time for the main policy meetings of the World Bank and IMF, and NGOs like me take part in some of the dozens of meetings that are planned.

I take the metro from the airport to the guesthouse to drop off my bag, and within an hour I’m at my first session, on gender and income. It’s not a hopeful start. Money from production goes increasingly to corporate profit, and less to wages, and the financial bailouts are reinforcing inequalities. Continue Reading

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Oppression or opportunity? Tourism project in Honduras sparks conflict

“We don’t want outsiders to come and exploit us or remove us from our ancestral lands.

“We don’t want outsiders to come and exploit us or remove us from our ancestral lands.
We want to develop an eco-tourism industry which is ours and which will sustain our Garifuna cosmovision and respect the natural environment.”
Photos by
James Rodriguez

 

Garifuna people have lived in Tela Bay, on the north coast of Honduras, for more than 200 years. The community has high levels of poverty and unemployment and relies on fishing and land cultivation. It suffers from the lack of economic prospects, discrimination, migration and lack of government support. Basic infrastructure and sanitary conditions are poor.

UNESCO has identified Garifuna culture as an “outstanding but endangered heritage.” There are only 11,000 Garifuna people, descended from African and Amerindian origins, living in ten communities along the coast of Belize, Honduras and Nicaragua. Their language is largely undocumented and not formally taught except in one village.

Now Tela Bay is changing. The Los Micos Beach and Golf Resort has begun construction in the area, supported by the Honduran Ministry of Tourism and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which is funding the project.

“With funding and training, we expect the Garifuna people to have opportunities to develop new businesses, to become entrepreneurs and profit from the arrival of tourism,” Ricardo Martinez, the Honduras Minister of Tourism, said in an interview for this article.

Even so, the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH), whose stated aim is to protect the Garifuna’s culture and territory, fears that the resort will lead to the destruction of these local communities. OFRANEH points to recent episodes of violence as examples of repression Garifuna communities face. Continue Reading

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Journal

Landgrabbing and forced evictions “Development that impoverishes”?

Confrontation at Dey Krahorm community

Confrontation at Dey Krahrom community. Photos by Geneviève King Ruel

Cambodia is a post-conflict country struggling to get back on its feet since 1993. Badly afflicted by endemic corruption, a judicial system dominated by money and politics, and the absence of rule of law, the issue of forced evictions, or landgrabbing as it is commonly called, affects tens of thousands of Cambodians every year.
For some, June 6th 2006 (6-6-6) was believed to announce the apocalypse. And although humanity did not indeed come to an end that morning, the world did collapse for more than a thousand families of the Sambok Chap community, in Phnom Penh. Their houses were destroyed, and the villagers crowded into trucks and relocated to Andung, almost 30 kilometres outsides the capital.

This was the start of the largest displacement of people since the Khmer Rouge, in the north-western end of the city around Boeung Kak lake.

Sambok Chap residents previously enjoyed a life in the city, running small businesses and shops close to adequate resources and local markets. Now, more than three years since the eviction, most of them live in deplorable conditions, without access to clean water and sanitation.
Continue Reading

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Journal

The Dalits of Bangladesh

The term "Dalit" is a Sanskrit word that means “those who have been broken and ground down deliberately by those above them in the social hierarchy." Dalits live at risk of discrimination, dehumanization, violence, and enslavement through human trafficking every day. Dalits constitute the largest number of people categorized as victims of modern-day slavery. - Dalit Freedom Network

The term “Dalit” is a Sanskrit word that means “those who have been broken and ground down deliberately by those above them in the social hierarchy.” Dalits live at risk of discrimination, dehumanization, violence, and enslavement through human trafficking every day. Dalits constitute the largest number of people categorized as victims of modern-day slavery. – Dalit Freedom Network

The lowest of the Hindu castes, these “untouchables” fight for a voice

The Pongue Sweeper Colony, a dense network of one-room shanty houses built from scavenged bamboo, wood, and corrugated metal, sits on what is essentially an oversized ditch between the Dhaka Orthopedic Hospital and the World Bank in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The ground in the slum is wet and stagnant, the homes built on bamboo poles two or three feet off the ground. Often, more than one family lives in a single house, without electricity or sanitation. They share latrines dug into the earth and get their drinking water from a small pipe that winds its way through the reeking debris.

Most of the one hundred and ten families there are “sweepers” – cleaners of the city’s roads and sewer systems. They are Dalits, the lowest of the Hindu castes, for centuries “untouchable.”

N. Sree Ramu, the twenty-eight year old Joint Secretary of the Bangladesh Dalits Human Rights (BDHR) organization, lives here with his wife and three year old daughter. While showing me around he told me that his family and most of the others in the colony have been there since the government of Bangladesh plowed over their old shanty houses and relocated them from another part of the city in 1993 – their fourth relocation since 1979. Continue Reading

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