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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

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

The Upstream Journal

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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Journal

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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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.
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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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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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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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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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