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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

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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Journal

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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The Million Signatures Campaign: Iranian women face imprisonment for demanding their rights

Bahareh HedayatIn

Bahareh HedayatIn. In May she was sentenced by the Revolutionary Court to nine years in prison, on charges of “propaganda against the regime through interviews with foreign media, insulting the Leader and the President, and disrupting public order by participation in illegal gatherings.” Time was also added from a suspended sentence for activities at Amir Kabir University. in 2006. Photo: Raha Asgarizadeh

Mahboubeh Karami and Bahareh Hedayat are among the inmates of Iran’s notorious Evin prison for fighting for the abolition of laws discriminating against women.

Karami was arrested in March and placed in solitary confinement, even though the charges against her remain to be clarified and she has not been able to meet with her lawyer. She told her family she was to be charged with “participating in illegal protests and membership in the group Human Rights Activists in Iran.” She has been in touch with her family by phone, and her physical condition is reported to be worsening.

Hedayat, a student activist, was arrested in December 2009 during a gathering in front of Evin prison in solidarity with the families of recent political detainees.

Both are involved with the “Million Signatures Campaign,” which aims to show the Islamic Republic of Iran that both men and women want equal rights for Iranian women. Its original goal was to get signatures of support from one million Iranian nationals.

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eye on the World Bank and IMF:Experts assess compliance by Department of Finance with law requiring human rights in international aid

In 2008, the Canadian government passed the Official Development Assistance (ODA) Accountability Act in order to increase the effectiveness of Canadian aid money in developing countries.  The Act stipulates that through its ODA, Canada must contribute to poverty reduction, take into account the perspectives of the poor, and be consistent with international human rights issues.

10% of Canadian ODA is channeled to the World Bank by way of the Department of Finance. While the World Bank claims that it informally supports human rights, there is no operations policy that enforces them; the Bank claims that human rights is a political issue that falls beyond the scope of its mandate.

So, how does Department of Finance plan to uphold the Act with regards to human rights standards? Continue Reading

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Anti-Israel or anti-Semitic? Drawing the line between political criticism and prejudice in Canada

The creation of the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism (CPCCA) in 2009 sparked debate over the meaning and implications of the “new anti-Semitism.” Critics wonder where the line will be drawn between legitimate criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism. The coalition was formed to confront and combat anti-Semitism in Canada. According to the CPCCA “new anti-Semitism” is exemplified by individuals and governments who call for the destruction of the State of Israel and its inhabitants.

The Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) is among organizations that support the CPCCA. In its submission to the committee they wrote that “anti-Semitism may now no longer speak of a goal to make a country cleansed of Jews but instead it may aim for a world that is cleansed of a Jewish State.”

Independent Jewish Voices (IPV), on the other hand, regards the views endorsed by CPCCA and its supporters as problematic because they conflate anti-Semitism with anti-Israeli sentiment. Continue Reading

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