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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

Jamaica – Skyrocketing debt, poverty and even more austerity

Waving Jamaican Flag (Photograph by- John D. Mcdonald)

Waving Jamican Flag (Photograph by- John D. Mcdonald)

With public debt at 143% of GDP, Jamaica is one of the most highly indebted countries in the world. Jamaica has the third highest debt-to-GDP ratio, after Japan and Greece. Decades of low growth and high debt have led to persistently high poverty and unemployment as well as the departure of many Jamaicans for better opportunities abroad.

The IMF recently approved a 4-year loan agreement with Jamaica under which Jamaica will receive up to US$ 932 million. This will unlock additional funding from the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank of around $510 million each. Canada has promised to contribute to program financing by supplying technical and bilateral assistance. The IMF agreement aims to put Jamaica’s public debt on the path to dropping to 96% of GDP by the end of March 2020. Continue Reading

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The neglected diseases of poverty

The last week of April is World Immunization Week, promoting vaccines as powerful tools for protecting people against some of the most deadly diseases. However, there are no effective vaccines for many of what are called “Neglected Tropical Diseases” – NTDs. And where there are few vaccines and treatments available, people remain trapped in a cycle of poverty and disease.

NTDs include seventeen parasitic, bacterial and viral infections that infect more than a billion people across the world. They include diseases such as leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, leishmaniasis, Chagas disease, dengue and sleeping sickness.

Despite the name ‘tropical’ the NTDs thrive far beyond the tropics and represent a great health burden worldwide. These preventable “diseases of poverty” primarily affect the world’s poorest people and can cause severe lifelong disabilities such as blindness, deformities, and debilitation. However, the devastating impact of these diseases is often overshadowed by the “big three” – HIV, tuberculosis and malaria – leaving them neglected in discussions of global health, investment, and research.

"Velayuthan pillai (Age 69), a tailor. Elephantiasis turned his life into misery by taking away both his legs. Having lost his legs and job, he returned back to his home town and joined as a guard for a temple for the pay of (Rupess 800) 17.60$ per month. With the help of this little income he's struggling to make both ends in life along with his wife." Photo by Rajvinoth Jothineelakandan.

“Velayuthan pillai (Age 69), a tailor. Elephantiasis turned his life into misery by taking away both his legs. Having lost his legs and job, he returned back to his home town and joined as a guard for a temple for the pay of (Rupess 800) 17.60$ per month. With the help of this little income he’s struggling to make both ends in life along with his wife.” Photo by Rajvinoth Jothineelakandan.

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Journal

International Day of Peasants’ Struggles

Did you know that two thirds of the world’s people get their food supply from small-scale farmers? Did you know that small-scale farmers use only 30% of the world arable land? Or that women produce 70% of the food on earth?
April 17th - Day of Peasant's Struggles. Source: La Via Campesina.

April 17th – Day of Peasant’s Struggles. Source: La Via Campesina

April 17th – Day of Peasant’s Struggles. Source: La Via Campesina.

La Via Campesina, also known as the Peasants’ Movement, stands for 200 million farmers globally, including small and medium-size farmers, indigenous people, women farmers, landless workers, migrants and agricultural workers. It represents 164 organizations from 73 countries, according to its website.

Women produce 70% of the food on earth, but they are severely marginalized, making gender equality an important issue when talking about the rights of small-scale farmers.

More than two thirds of the world’s people are dependent for their food on small-scale farmers, who use only 30% of the world arable land, according to the article written by World Development Movement’s policy officer, Christine Haigh. However, most small-scale farmers struggle to establish their rights to use and manage land, water, seeds, livestock and biodiversity.
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The critical voice of South Sudan: Mading Ngor

Mading Ngor was one of the “Lost Boys” of Sudan who fled the infamous massacres of Darfur. He left his village in 1991, when his father was killed. He eventually arrived at a Kenyan refugee camp in 1995, where he remained until he got a visa for Canada in 2001. He went to high school in New Westminster, B.C., studied journalism at Edmonton’s Grant MacEwan University, and then earned his BA in Professional Communication at Royal Roads University in Victoria, when he co-founded a news website, New Sudan Vision. After a brief period working as a freelancer for the Calgary Herald in 2011, Mading returned to South Sudan and became a radio journalist on a popular morning show called Wake Up Juba! Today, he is an international correspondent with Reuters and The Huffington Post, as well as a production assistant with the BBC.

Growing up during the civil war and fleeing Sudan

You were born in Bor, the capital of Jonglei state in 1983. What was your childhood like?

A critical voice in a new country

A critical voice in a new country

My people are cattle rearing, so life around me when I was young was all about cattle because that’s the Dinka tradition. Even my name Mading is the name of a bull and most of the Dinka names are all about cattle. So I used to take care of the cattle, used to swim by a nearby lake and go hunting with my dog. To me it was a normal childhood. But that all changed when the massacre in 1991 happened in my village and changed my life irretrievably. Continue Reading

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HudBay Minerals Inc. being taken to court in Ontario for operations in Guatemala

Angelica Choc.

Angelica Choc.

For the first time a lawsuit against a Canadian mining company over alleged human rights abuses abroad will be heard in a Canadian court. After opposing it for more than a year, HudBay Minerals Inc. has agreed to have the case heard by a Canadian court. But the company says that the charges should be thrown out, arguing that it cannot be tried in court here for the actions in Guatemala of its former foreign subsidiary at the time.

In what could potentially be a landmark ruling for Canadian corporate accountability, members of the Mayan Q’eqchi community of Lote Ocho have brought three lawsuits against HudBay Minerals Inc. in the superior court of Ontario.

The charges against Hudbay

One: In September 2010, Angelica Choc, widow of Q’eqchi’ community leader and teacher Adolfo Ich Chaman, filed a claim against HudBay Minerals and its subsidiaries HMI Nickel Inc. and Compania Guatemalteca de Niquel (CGN) for their responsibility in the death of her husband at the hands of security personnel employed at the Fenix mining project on September 27 2009, during a protest over the land occupation. She says that several people saw Adolfo Ich Chaman dragged away to a building on the mine site, where he was attacked with machetes and shot.

Hudbay denies security personnel were responsible. “Based on internal investigations and eye witness reports, HudBay and CGN are confident that CGN personnel were not involved in his death.” Continue Reading

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  • 2014 / Mar
  • By Olivia Zeydler
  • 0
Journal

Business and Human Rights

business_zeydler

Monitoring the actions of corporations to ensure their accountability is a challenge. They work all over the world, under several jurisdictions, have power in the market economy, and operate on a large-scale, impacting the environment and the lives of many people.

Initiatives such as the UN Global Compact and the use of corporate social responsibility reports are ways that corporations voluntarily report on their impacts. But critics argue that these are insufficient, because they are nonbinding.

To create a more effective framework to help businesses prioritize human rights, in 2005 UN Secretary General Kofi Annan appointed John Ruggie of Harvard University. The result was the the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, approved unanimously by the Human Rights Council in 2011.
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Cocoa industry and child labour

“There’s something that is really unsavory and horrible about companies, and the people that run those companies, being able to be so wealthy at the top of the supply chain. But at the bottom you see a level of exploitation that is almost unmatched. Still, the chocolate industry is transforming, and a good portion of that transformation is due to consumer pressure.” – Sean Rudolph, Campaigns Director, International Labour Rights Forum

A boy drying cocoa beans.

A boy drying cocoa beans.

70% of the cocoa exported worldwide comes from West Africa, primarily from Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire. More than 109,000 children in Cote d’Ivoire’s cocoa industry work in what the US Department of State calls one of the worst forms of child labour. 10,000 are estimated to be victims of human trafficking or enslavement.
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African countries take a hit in federal budget says Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Excerpts from the CCPA’s Alternative Federal Budget 2013:

“Despite sometimes marginal increases in wealth, income is concentrated among a more wealthy minority and many people live precariously on the margins of poverty. Globalization and free trade may have brought with it growth in some parts of the world, but it certainly has not been equitable neither between countries and regions, nor within them.

Against this backdrop, Budget 2012 delivered a punishing message to the world’s poor. Between FY2011–12 and FY2014–15, Canadian aid is set to decrease by 7.6%, from $5 billion in 2011 to $4.66 billion in 2014–15.

Between 2011–12 and 2012–13 alone, it is estimated that Canada’s ODA will drop by almost $320 million, assuming no additional supplementary estimates in 2012–13. This is equivalent to the Canadian International. Continue Reading

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Journal

Farmer suicides

241,679 farmers in India committed suicide between 1995 and 2009*

framer with plow BW
Dr. Raju Das, an associate professor at York University, has done extensive research on economic development policy, agrarian change, and poverty in India. Here is some of what he had to say:

Dr Das BW

Dr. Raju Das

In 1991, the Indian government scaled back support of small-scale farmers and increased investment in infrastructure serving large agribusiness. Farmers saw decreased input subsidies, privatization of government industries, and an increase in foreign investment encouraged by tax incentives. Opening up markets to inexpensive foreign goods eroded the competitiveness of India’s crops. Forced to sell at lower prices and denied subsidies by the government, the wages of India’s farmers began to plummet.

Open markets have also given international corporations the platform to push genetically modified (GM) seeds with higher crop yield potentials, but the seeds are sold to farmers at a cost two to ten times higher than traditional seeds.

Irrigation is required for these higher yields, but the government has failed to provide irrigation facilities in any adequate way. Seventy percent of farmland still depends on monsoon rainfall, so when drought comes farmers suffer. Continue Reading

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“Letters to politicians” Do they make much difference?

If you have hopes for change that go far beyond the borders of your riding, you may question the usefulness – or the point at all – of writing to your local MP.

With issues that tend to be global in focus, such as international human rights, World Bank reform, and corporate social responsibility, it is important to know how citizens can engage. I asked five experienced Canadians with varied perspectives for advice on how much change you can affect with a letter:

    Francis Scarpaleggia, Liberal MP
    Mark Eyking, Liberal MP, Party Critic for CIDA
    Hélène Laverdière, NDP MP, Opposition Critic for International Cooperation, the Americas and Consular Affairs,
    Warren Allmand, former Liberal MP,
    Alain Roy, Director of Campaigns and Activism for Amnesty International Canada

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