Inter Press ServiceDemocracy – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 11 Dec 2018 20:07:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Undermining Human Rights of Women Trapped In Sex Tradehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/undermining-human-rights-women-trapped-sex-trade/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=undermining-human-rights-women-trapped-sex-trade http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/undermining-human-rights-women-trapped-sex-trade/#respond Tue, 11 Dec 2018 13:16:35 +0000 Jessica Neuwirth http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159163 Jessica Neuwirth is founder of Donor Direct Action, an international organization which partners with women’s groups working to end commercial sexual exploitation on the front lines around the world.

The post Undermining Human Rights of Women Trapped In Sex Trade appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Jessica Neuwirth is founder of Donor Direct Action, an international organization which partners with women’s groups working to end commercial sexual exploitation on the front lines around the world.

By Jessica Neuwirth
NEW YORK, Dec 11 2018 (IPS)

Seventy years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was signed in the Palais de Chaillot in Paris. Following two devastating world wars the United Nations General Assembly set out a brand new vision of human rights that the world could agree on going forward. It is still the benchmark by which most modern-day human rights organisations live.

Mickey Meji, South African sex trade survivor. Credit: wowwoman.com

The first line of the Declaration states in a clear and compelling way that all human beings are born free and equal. In practice, freedom and equality are the foundation from which every other fundamental human right is derived.

The Universal Declaration also recognizes that nobody should be held in slavery or servitude. This includes the many million women and girls who are caught in the devastating sex trade.

Despite the clarity of this issue in the minds of women’s rights advocates and survivors of prostitution some United Nations agencies – including UNAIDS and UNDP, as well as some high profile human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International – have ignored this basic tenet and have instead called for the decriminalization of pimping, brothel-owning and patronizing prostitution.

Over the last twenty years the evidence against decriminalizing all aspects of the sex trade has become much clearer. The Netherlands, Germany and New Zealand removed sanctions on the purchase of sex and either decriminalized or legalized pimping and brothel-keeping.

As a result, Germany has been compared to a “giant teutonic brothel” by The Economist while Amsterdam has been backtracking from its failed experiment to protect prostituted persons.

Meanwhile, the growing evidence on what does work points to the Nordic or Equality model, pioneered by Sweden in 1999 and followed by Iceland, Norway, Canada, Northern Ireland, France and the Republic of Ireland.

Israel and others are also looking at this policy approach. It is no coincidence that many of these countries rank highest in terms of gender equality.

While the groups listed above support the right of men to buy sex, they have inexplicably ignored evidence of the Equality model’s success.

We all support the decriminalization of prostituted persons, but it is hard to justify the decriminalization of those who willfully and systematically exploit them.

The fact that gender and other structural inequalities are at the root of prostitution appears to have also been conveniently ignored. When such respected groups officially condone the purchase of sex and the horrifying human rights violations experienced by women trapped in prostitution they create an inexcusable veil of legitimacy, behind which those forced into the sex trade by poverty become collateral damage for maintaining the “rights” of men to buy sex.

Unfortunately, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty, both male-led organizations, have in effect disowned the UDHR as it relates to the modern day subjugation of women.

As the South African sex trade survivor Mickey has said, prostitution is not only the embodiment of sexism and violence against women and girls, it is also a deep reflection of racism, poverty and other inequalities: “it is no coincidence that the majority of individuals in prostitution in South Africa are poor black women.”

Let’s be very clear about it: prostitution preys on the vulnerable – mostly women – and continues to exist because men who freely choose to buy sex want to enact their privilege in a dominant and abusive way. I have not heard any counter-argument from Amnesty or Human Rights Watch that negates this basic concept.

We can never achieve any form of equality in society as long as this extreme abuse of power by one human being over another is legitimized as a “commercial transaction”. These organizations should re-read Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

The post Undermining Human Rights of Women Trapped In Sex Trade appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Jessica Neuwirth is founder of Donor Direct Action, an international organization which partners with women’s groups working to end commercial sexual exploitation on the front lines around the world.

The post Undermining Human Rights of Women Trapped In Sex Trade appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/undermining-human-rights-women-trapped-sex-trade/feed/ 0
70 Years since the Universal Declaration on Human Rights – Hope Against Hopehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/70-years-since-universal-declaration-human-rights-hope-hope/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=70-years-since-universal-declaration-human-rights-hope-hope http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/70-years-since-universal-declaration-human-rights-hope-hope/#respond Mon, 10 Dec 2018 09:41:01 +0000 Prince Al Hassan bin Talal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159109 “Save the Children estimates that 84,701 children under five have died in Yemen from untreated cases of severe acute malnutrition between April 2015 and October 2018.” “The grim analysis of United Nations data comes as intense fighting has again erupted in Yemen’s strategic port city of Hodeidah.” Meanwhile, the UN considers Yemen the world’s biggest […]

The post 70 Years since the Universal Declaration on Human Rights – Hope Against Hope appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
By HRH Prince Al Hassan bin Talal of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
GENEVA, Dec 10 2018 (IPS)

“Save the Children estimates that 84,701 children under five have died in Yemen from untreated cases of severe acute malnutrition between April 2015 and October 2018.”

“The grim analysis of United Nations data comes as intense fighting has again erupted in Yemen’s strategic port city of Hodeidah.”

Meanwhile, the UN considers Yemen the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis and warns that without an end to the fighting, the country, in which more than half the population is already at risk of famine, faces the worst famine in decades.

Such have been the headlines day after day since the start of the war in Yemen in 2015. The tragedy is that statistics, coupled with the sensationalism of news, swiftly lose their impact. We become inured to the human catastrophe unfolding before our eyes as we turn the pages of our newspapers or flick channels on our television sets in search of something less distressing (OR less demanding).

This year sees the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, proclaimed in Paris by the United Nations General Assembly on the 10th December 1948. Following the unmitigated horrors of the Second World War, it was a milestone in the history of human rights. Yet, seventy years on, the river of human history continues to be poisoned by injustice, starvation, displacement, fear, instability, uncertainties and politicised sectarian and ethnic divisions.

Today it seems we are moving further away from the concept of Universal rights, in favour of my rights, even if at the expense of yours (although the other may be you yourself), with a callous disregard for the Declaration’s two key ethical considerations: a commitment to the inherent dignity of every human being and a commitment to non-discrimination.

The schisms in the world today have become so numerous, the inequities so stark, that a universal respect for human dignity is something that must be brought back to the consciousness of the international community.

Recognition of religion and individual cultural identities are a crucial part of the mix. Unlike citizenship – the legal membership of a sovereign state or nation, identity encompasses the totality of how one construes oneself, including those dimensions that express continuity with past ancestry and future aspirations, and implies affinity with certain groups and the recognition of common ties. In brief, it demands the recognition of the totality of the self, of one’s human dignity, irrespective of background, ethnicity or financial clout. A call to be empowered to fulfil one’s potential, without kowtowing to a social construct or relinquishing any part of one’s heritage.

We need to be proactive in addressing the growing global hunger for human dignity for it goes to the very heart of human identity and the polarity / plurality divide, and without it, all the protections of the various legal human rights mechanisms become meaningless.

We have gone from a world of symmetries and political and military blocs, to a situation of fearful asymmetries and violent, armed non-state actors.

The polarity of hatred among people is corrosive, not only in the Mashreq/Levant, but across the globe. The retrenchment into smaller and smaller identities is one of the most striking paradoxes of globalisation. Binary fallacies lead nations to dead ends; to zero sum games.

Cross border themes of today, water, energy and human dignity, must be discussed at a regional level, as a creative common, rather than country by country. The neglect of these themes has meant that the West Asia area has become a breeding ground for rogue and extremist actors. The complex dynamics among the three greatest forces shaping our planet – man, nature, technology – require a whole new outlook. Yet there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

In drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, its proponents [OR the drafting committee] sought to underpin a shared ideal, a common standard for all peoples and all nations, a code of conduct of rights and responsibilities if you will.

I should like to pay tribute to my late mother-in-law, the Begum Shaista Ikramullah. When she, the first Muslim Indian (as she then was) woman to gain a PhD from the University of London, working in 1948 with Eleanor Roosevelt on the Declaration of Human Rights and Convention Against Genocide, declared:

It is imperative that there be an accepted code of civilized behaviour.

Adding later:

The ideas emphasized in the [Declaration] are far from being realized, but there is a goal which those who believe in the freedom of the human spirit can try to reach.

To date we have fallen far short. Nonetheless the UDHR, not only provided the first step towards the creation of the International Bill of Human Rights (completed 1966, came into effect 1976), but gave rise to numerous conventions and international agreements which should give us cause for hope. I would like to mention but a few.

Of personal interest is the 1948 Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide which was worked on and signed by the late Begum Ikramullah. She strongly supported the work of Professor Raphael Lemkin who lost 24 members of his family in the Holocaust. Raphael Lemkin defined genocide as “a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves“.

Some years later, the Helsinki Final Act (1975) “provided a basis for creating conditions favourable to peace in Europe and made human rights a common value to be respected by all nations in a world which was divided into East and West camps in that period”. It gave rise to the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly, a non-governmental organisation of people in Europe, dedicated to the promotion of fundamental rights and freedoms, peace, democracy and pluralism and to our own Middle East Citizens’ Assembly.

More recently I had the honour to serve on the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor, whose fundamental purpose was to empower those living in poverty through increased protections and rights – thereby addressing simultaneously, exclusion, loss of dignity, and the link between poverty and lack of access to the law.

The basic premise of its report (published in 2008) was that the law should work for everyone, and included as a key underpinning, state/governmental investment in the conditions of labour.

Despite these positive steps, the three main challenges identified by the Independent Commission on International Humanitarian Issues (ICIHI): man against man, man against nature and man-made disasters, summarised in the title of our report: Winning the Human Race? continue to prevail (OR there is much much more to be done.)

In a world where nearly one person is forcibly displaced every two seconds as a result of conflict or persecution, and where 85% of the worlds’ displaced are being hosted by developing countries, ill-equipped to do so, of which Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, Jordan and Lebanon are in the forefront and in which 15% of all mankind live in areas somewhat euphemistically described as ‘fragile states’, the moral lobby that is still strong across the world must act in cohesion. Together we must ensure that equal citizenship rights and human dignity are at the forefront of all development efforts. Further that the shift towards viewing human dignity as an individual, and not collective attribute, is realised.

This means placing human welfare firmly and definitively, at the centre of national and international policy-making.

We continue to hear of a security order or an economic order, neither of which have succeeded in creating a Universal order from which all of humanity benefits. In the face of this disharmonious logic, it is time for an humanitarian order based on the moral and ethical participation of the peoples of the world, as well as an intimate understanding of human nature.

We have, in the reports mentioned above and in other projects, a well-honed tool box of critical issues and agendas which should form the multi-stakeholder platform of our commitment to the universal ideals we all cherish. As with the UDHR, these reports are a clarion call to action – it is up to us to ensure they also represent a continuation of imaginative thinking for a universally beneficial creative process.

It is time to take off the blinkers of thinking only of ourselves – of our tribe and of our nation against all others – and consider how much can be achieved by drawing on the whole pool of our talents and resources to address common concerns on the basis of our shared humanity. We need an inclusive approach to meeting challenges, one that accounts for both the natural and the human environment. Only thus can we attain the desired organic unity between man and nature and the ethics of universal responsibility. This may sound idealistic; it is, but whether we are talking about water scarcity, food security, poverty, education, the ability for everyone to fulfil their potential, we need to focus on human dignity both in its ontological dimension by virtue of our very humanity and in its operative dimension as enhanced by our self-accomplishment.

We were not put on this earth to go forth and multiply, desecrate and destroy, but to bring life as well as hope for future generations.

The post 70 Years since the Universal Declaration on Human Rights – Hope Against Hope appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/70-years-since-universal-declaration-human-rights-hope-hope/feed/ 0
Central America: Eradicating Gender Violence is Vital to State Securityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/central-america-eradicating-gender-violence-vital-state-security/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=central-america-eradicating-gender-violence-vital-state-security http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/central-america-eradicating-gender-violence-vital-state-security/#respond Thu, 06 Dec 2018 08:08:55 +0000 Richard Barathe http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159067 Richard Barathe is Director, UNDP Regional Center for Latin America and the Caribbean

The post Central America: Eradicating Gender Violence is Vital to State Security appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Credit: Caroline Trutmann / UNDP

By Richard Barathe
PANAMA CITY, Panama, Dec 6 2018 (IPS)

María is a 35-year old Salvadoran woman with three young children. Growing up, María knew her mother but never met her father. When María was six, she started working at the Central Market of San Salvador and at the age of 12 she was raped and became pregnant for the first time.

Later, María was expelled from her home once her mother got married for a second time, “My stepfather did not want to take care of me, even less with a son”, she told the researcher for “Resilient Youth, The Opportunity for Central America”, a study developed by the Regional Project Infosegura, a UN Development Programme-USAID joint initiative.

María lived in many different places until she met the father of her second daughter- who was killed years later. After his passing, María had a third child with a third partner whom she soon separated from, due to domestic violence. Currently, María’s teenage son lives with her father, uncle, and grandmother since she simply could not take care of him while also working full time.

Richard Barathe

Women all across El Salvador, women just like María have a life expectancy of around 75 years. It is safe to say that about half of María’s life has been deeply marked by the violence that women experience in Northern Countries of Central America, a region that for the past two decades has seen chronic violence despite Central America not having a regional war in decades.

When speaking of violence in the Northern Countries of Central America, it is assumed to be a problem concerning young men, since “only” 11 percent of the victims of violent deaths are women. However, the story of María is more common than is realized.

María is just another example of how women of this region live surrounded by a violence that affects them differently and specifically just because they are women.

This violence is not necessarily lethal, and victims often survive, but these women continue to be subjected to the same cycle of violence throughout their whole lives, impacting families and communities through generations, affecting their economy and sustainability, and distorting their capacities for development.

Data shows that in María’s home country, 93 percent of the victims of sexual crimes are women. Over two in every five the victims are under the age of 18. We also know that domestic violence is present throughout the adulthood of a woman and that a woman between 12 and 50 years old is at high risk of “disappearing”.

Over 3,500 women have been killed between the years 2010-2017, while nearly 2,700 were reported as Enforced Disappearances around the same period (201-2016) with 43 percent of them being minors.

We know this because the Salvadoran State has made progress in the management of information on citizen security with a focus on gender and has oriented public policies to guarantee evidence-based analysis.

Migration is a phenomenon that also characterizes this region, and data indicates that violence against women is an important factor to be considered. Our initiative also analyzed returnees data: migrants detained in transit who were sent back to their place of origin.

We know that 26 percent of these ‘returnees’ are women and 30 percent of all women say they have migrated due to violence, compared to only 18 percent of men who say violence is the main reason for leaving their country.

Every November, national, regional, and global actors campaign to eradicate violence against women. It is crucial to recognize violence against women as an essential element of citizen security: tackling it is a key step to build more cohesive and peaceful societies.

Addressing general societal violence with a special focus on violence against women must be at the foundation of comprehensive public policies on citizen security, that aim to eradicate all types of violence. Understanding everyday violence that women experience in their homes and streets is a security problem for communities and nations.

No nation will be safe unless women can live safely and develop their full potentials.

In this spirit, the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals provide a holistic model for a comprehensive approach to ensure that women have a life free from all types of violence. All of society thrives with firm steps towards development when no one is left behind.

At UNDP, we are systematizing good practices and success stories of the work in Central America within the framework of the UNDP-USAID Infosegura Regional Project, which is dedicated to the development of capacities for the formulation of public policies based on evidence and with a gender approach. We are, thus, establishing standards, methodologies and scalable processes.

An essential part of the process has been to build trust and coordinate our work with national institutions producing and analyzing data, leveraging new technologies, national experts and innovation.

This coordination has resulted in regional accomplishments in information management with a gender focus, such as specialized surveys and standardized reports on acts of violence against women.

In El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras, understanding the context of María’s story as accurately as possible will allow us to efficiently eradicate violence against women as well as all other types of violence. If countries are to achieve the 2030 Agenda, boosting gains in the economic, social and environmental realms, this can only be done if we ensure that no “Marías” are left behind.

The post Central America: Eradicating Gender Violence is Vital to State Security appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Richard Barathe is Director, UNDP Regional Center for Latin America and the Caribbean

The post Central America: Eradicating Gender Violence is Vital to State Security appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/central-america-eradicating-gender-violence-vital-state-security/feed/ 0
Mothers of Drug War Victims Demand Justice in the Philippineshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/mothers-of-drug-war-victims-demand-justice-in-the-philippines/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mothers-of-drug-war-victims-demand-justice-in-the-philippines http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/mothers-of-drug-war-victims-demand-justice-in-the-philippines/#respond Tue, 04 Dec 2018 13:12:27 +0000 Yonna Waltersson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159016 Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs has claimed tens of thousand of lives. Lorena Villanueva and Emy Pagaduan lost their sons. Now they are demanding that the President of the Philippines be held responsible for the killings. A basketball bounces. The heat feels almost physical against the skin. Young men dribble the ball playfully on […]

The post Mothers of Drug War Victims Demand Justice in the Philippines appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
The post Mothers of Drug War Victims Demand Justice in the Philippines appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/mothers-of-drug-war-victims-demand-justice-in-the-philippines/feed/ 0
Sri Lanka’s civil resistance awakens, like the phoenix from the asheshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/sri-lankas-civil-resistance-awakens-like-phoenix-ashes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sri-lankas-civil-resistance-awakens-like-phoenix-ashes http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/sri-lankas-civil-resistance-awakens-like-phoenix-ashes/#respond Sun, 02 Dec 2018 19:55:35 +0000 Kishali Pinto http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159054 Despite the undeniable shock caused to Sri Lanka’s democratic system on October 26th 2018 as a result of President Maithripala Sirisena’s swearing in of a new Prime Minister lacking a majority in the House, several unmistakable positive factors have emerged since then. Those ‘legal experts’ who led the President up the garden path in persuading […]

The post Sri Lanka’s civil resistance awakens, like the phoenix from the ashes appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
By Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena
Dec 2 2018 (The Sunday Times - Sri Lanka)

Despite the undeniable shock caused to Sri Lanka’s democratic system on October 26th 2018 as a result of President Maithripala Sirisena’s swearing in of a new Prime Minister lacking a majority in the House, several unmistakable positive factors have emerged since then.

Those ‘legal experts’ who led the President up the garden path in persuading him to discard constitutional prudence should hang their deviously plotting heads in shame. Assuming they feel shame in which case, (as that colourful colloquialism sharply puts it), pigs may fly. Of course, it is very much an open secret as to who these reprobates are, including those who played fast and loose with the country’s judicial system for years. But the President is yet to name them or for that matter, yet to explain himself to the people as to why he did not seek the advice of the Attorney General or an opinion from the Supreme Court prior to bringing the nation to the brink of the edge.

Showing great endurance
True, the damage is considerable. This political tomfoolery has tarnished the country’s reputation, lost preciously needed financial resources at year end when that is needed the most, imperiled the nation’s long praised manner in which peaceful transfer of power took place through the exercise of the franchise and cast a pall of uncertainty over what is in store for us with the dawning of 2019.

Yet institutional strength and civil rebellion has risen like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes, some from most unlikely quarters at that. Institutions and individuals who could have crumbled under the pressure, quite unexpectedly, did not. Judges carried out their constitutional and statutory duties from the Supreme Court to the Magistrate’s Court with great endurance even as unprecedented pressure was brought to bear on them. This is far different to the day when one ex-Chief Justice was so brazen as to apologise for decisions handed down absolving politicians of grand corruption and another Chief Justice was more in the residence of the executive than in court.

Painfully accustomed to the edifice of an independent judiciary crumbling, bit by agonising bit, citizens have responded to the judicial fortitude now being illustrated with a measure of quiet relief. Reprimanded in some quarters for going to court along with others in seeking clarity on the gazette issued by the President dissolving Parliament, member of the Elections Commission Prof Ratnajeevan Hoole replied with force that he had not taken sides in the dispute between two political parties but that he would always take the side of the law.

Duty of the Elections Commission
In fact, those critics who question this perfectly proper seeking of judicial relief on his part would do well to remember the judicial caution administered by the Supreme Court to an Elections Commissioner that the Constitution assures him independence ‘so that he may fearlessly insist on due compliance with the law in regard to all aspects of elections – even, if necessary, by instituting appropriate legal proceedings in order to obtain judicial orders’ (Karunathilaka v Dayananda Dissanayake, 1999).

In that case, the Court found that Emergency Regulations issued on the basis of ‘national security’ having the effect of cancelling the date of the poll for Provincial Councils fixed by the Elections Commissioner at the time were not authorised by law or a valid exercise of power as there was no known threat to national security, public order, etc. The acquiescence of the Elections Commissioner in this action by the executive found little favour with the Court, Justice MDH Fernando going so far as to say that ‘the material available to this Court indicates that he made no effort to ascertain the legal position, or to have recourse to legal remedies.‘

That said, politicians engaging in several hasty utterances on the ongoing case before the Supreme Court and media reporting the same must also be far more cautious. In a case eerily similar to this, in which a provincial correspondent of the ‘Divaina’ had reported an opposition parliamentarian (when the presidential election petition was being heard), saying that ‘the petition had already been proved and if the petitioner did not win her case, it would be the end of justice” was found to have committed contempt. The argument that there was no intention to prejudice the outcome of the case and that the speech in question was solely political was not accepted (Re Garumunige Tilakaratne, 1991).

Eclectic range of resistance
Meanwhile, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and the police of the Sri Lanka Parliament bore with exemplar dignity, all the vulgar abuse and objects hurled at their heads by chillie-water throwing pro-Rajapaksa parliamentarians who disgraced the House. Amusingly, after weeks of President Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Pohottuwa party (SLPP) maligning the Speaker through slavishly adoring electronic media channels, the Speaker was cajoled by the SLFP to meet the President and thereafter (presidentially) ‘appreciated’ for those efforts.

Institutional strength was manifested elsewhere as well. Undeterred by political threats, officers of the Criminal Investigation Department proceeded stoically with investigations into killings and disappearances during the Rajapaksa decade resulting in the netting of a high- worth Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). Thus the range of resistance was eclectic. Quiet relief is occasioned. These are incremental steps to rejuvenation of the democratic process that must be rightly noted.

Notably moreover, separating themselves from the messiness of one political crook calling out another political crook, Sri Lankan citizens told the political establishment off in no no uncertain terms. It is a safe bet that none, least of all those who precipitated this chaos, would have bargained for this robust reaction. As Sri Lankan women marched through heavy, lashing rains before the Presidential Secretariat this week demanding that the President reconsider his actions, it was a powerfully visual symbol of anger in the face of political chicanery. As young artistes refused to accept awards from two ‘Ministers’ when they came to the stage at a national event with the national clad ‘worthies’ at a loss as to how to react and only able to grin foolishly in the face of this palpable insult, this was civil resistance in its most evocative form.

The link between the Constitution and democracy
In the final analysis and to put the matter simply, the link between the Constitution and democracy are the citizens. No politician can be expected not to ‘tinker’ with the constitutional text. Some do it with flair and aplomb as what happened in 1972 (yes, even by the so-called great socialist brains of the day who pulverised the Public Service Commission and the Judicial Service Commission) and in 1978 when the task of ‘constitutionally engineering’ a monolithic Executive Presidency was accomplished.

Others do it far more clumsily and with an appalling lack of foresight as what happened in 2015. But ultimately the protector of the Constitution is the people. And during the last month, we saw the hesitant beginnings of that process.

That by itself, should not be taken lightly.

This story was originally published by The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka

The post Sri Lanka’s civil resistance awakens, like the phoenix from the ashes appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/sri-lankas-civil-resistance-awakens-like-phoenix-ashes/feed/ 0
Legal Weapons Have Failed to Curb Femicides in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/legal-weapons-failed-curb-femicides-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=legal-weapons-failed-curb-femicides-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/legal-weapons-failed-curb-femicides-latin-america/#respond Sat, 01 Dec 2018 03:00:08 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158975 This article is part of IPS coverage of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, which began on Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

The post Legal Weapons Have Failed to Curb Femicides in Latin America appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Susana Gómez, who was left blind by a beating from her then husband, says in a park in the city of La Plata, Argentina that she did not find support from the authorities to free herself from domestic violence, but a social organisation saved her from joining the list of femicides in Latin America - gender-based murders of women, which numbered 2,795 in 2017 in the region. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Susana Gómez, who was left blind by a beating from her then husband, says in a park in the city of La Plata, Argentina that she did not find support from the authorities to free herself from domestic violence, but a social organisation saved her from joining the list of femicides in Latin America - gender-based murders of women, which numbered 2,795 in 2017 in the region. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
LA PLATA, Argentina, Dec 1 2018 (IPS)

Left blind by a beating from her ex-husband, Susana Gómez barely managed to avoid joining the list of nearly 2,800 femicides committed annually in Latin America, but her case shows why public policies and laws are far from curtailing gender-based violence in the region.

“I filed many legal complaints (13 in criminal courts and five in civil courts) and the justice system never paid any attention to me,” Gómez told IPS in an interview in a square in her neighborhood in Lisandro Olmos, a suburb of La Plata, capital of the province of Buenos Aires.

Although they already existed in Argentina in 2011, when the brutal attack against her took place, the specialised women’s police stations were not enough to protect her from her attacker.

Her life was saved by La Casa María Pueblo, a non-governmental organisation that, like others in Latin America, uses its own resources to make up for the shortcomings of the state in order to protect and provide legal advice to the victims of domestic violence.

Gómez, her four children and her mother, who were also threatened by her ex-husband, were given shelter by the NGO.

“We had nothing. We went there with the clothes on our back and our identity documents and nothing else because we were going here and there and everyone closed the door on us: The police didn’t do anything, nor did the prosecutor’s office,” said Gómez, who is now 34 years old.

“Without organisations like this one I wouldn’t be here to tell the tale, the case wouldn’t have made it to trial. Without legal backing, a shelter where you can hide, psychological treatment, I couldn’t have faced this, because it’s not easy,” she said.

In April 2014, a court in La Plata sentenced her ex-husband, Carlos Goncharuk, to eight years in prison. Gómez is now suing the government of the province of Buenos Aires for reparations.

“No one is going to give me my eyesight back, but I want the justice system, the State to be more aware, to prevent a before and an after,” said Gómez, who once again is worried because her ex will be released next year.

Lawyer Darío Witt, the founder of the NGO, said Gómez was not left blind by an accident or illness but by the repeated beatings at the hands of her then-husband. The last time, he banged her head against the kitchen wall.

“The aim of the reparations is not simply economic. What we want to try to show in the case of Susana and other victims is that the State, that the authorities in general, whether provincial, municipal or national and in different countries, have a high level of responsibility in this. The state is not innocent in these questions,” Witt told IPS.

“When I went blind and realised that I would no longer see my children, I said ‘enough’,” Gómez said.

Alarming statistics

According to the Gender Equality Observatory (OIG) of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), at least 2,795 women were murdered in 2017 for gender-based reasons in 23 countries in the region, crimes classified in several countries as femicides.

The list of femicides released this month by OIG is led by Brazil (1,133 victims registered in 2017), in absolute figures, but in relative terms, the rate of gender crimes per 100,000 women, El Salvador reaches a level unparalleled in the region, with 10.2 femicides per 100,000 women.

Charts showing absolute numbers of femicides by country in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the rate of gender-based murders per 100,000 women. Credit: ECLAC Gender Equality Observatory

Charts showing absolute numbers of femicides by country in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the rate of gender-based murders per 100,000 women. Credit: ECLAC Gender Equality Observatory

Honduras (in 2016) recorded 5.8 femicides per 100,000 women, and Guatemala, the Dominican Republic and Bolivia also recorded high rates in 2017, equal to or greater than two cases per 100,000 women.

The OIG details that gender-based killings account for the majority of murders of women in the region, where femicides are mainly committed by partners or ex-partners of the victim, with the exception of El Salvador and Honduras.

“Femicides are the most extreme expression of violence against women. Neither the classification of the crime nor its statistical visibility have been sufficient to eradicate this scourge that alarms and horrifies us every day,” said ECLAC Executive Secretary Alicia Bárcena as she released the new OIG figures.

Ana Silvia Monzón, a Guatemalan sociologist with the Gender and Feminism Studies Programme at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (Flacso), pointed out that her country has had a Law against Femicide and other Forms of Violence against Women since 2008 and a year later a Law against Sexual Violence, Exploitation and Trafficking in Persons.

“Both are important instruments because they help make visible a serious problem in Guatemala, and they are a tool for victims to begin the path to justice,” she told IPS from Guatemala City.

However, despite these laws that provided for the creation of a model of comprehensive care for victims and specialised courts, “the necessary resources are not allocated to institutions, agencies and programmes that should promote such prevention, much less specialised care for victims who report the violence,” she said.

In addition, “prejudices and biased gender practices persist among those who enforce the law” and “little has been done to introduce educational content or programmes that contribute to changing the social imaginary that assumes violence against women as normal,” and especially against indigenous women, she said.

#NiUnaMenos, #NiUnaMás

In the region, “significant progress has been made, which is the expression of a women’s movement that has managed to draw attention to gender-based violence as a social problem, but not enough progress has been made,” Monzón said.

Five-year-old Olivia holds up a sign with the slogan against femicide, #NiUnaMenos (Not One Woman Less), which has spread throughout Latin America in mass mobilisations against gender violence. Olivia participated in a neighborhood activity in the Argentine city of La Plata on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, celebrated Nov. 25. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Five-year-old Olivia holds up a sign with the slogan against femicide, #NiUnaMenos (Not One Woman Less), which has spread throughout Latin America in mass mobilisations against gender violence. Olivia participated in a neighborhood activity in the Argentine city of La Plata on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, celebrated Nov. 25. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

According to U.N. Women, a total of 18 Latin American and Caribbean nations have modified their laws to punish sexist crimes against women such as femicide or gender-based aggravated homicide.

But as Gómez and other social activists in her neighborhood conclude, much more must be done.

The meeting with the victim took place on Nov. 25, during an informal social gathering in the Juan Manuel de Rosas square, organized by the group Nuevo Encuentro.

The activity was held on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which launched the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence. This year’s slogan is #HearMeToo, which calls for victims to be heard as part of the solution to what experts call a “silent genocide.”

María Eugenia Cruz, a neighborhood organiser for Nuevo Encuentro, said that despite the new legal frameworks and mass demonstrations and mobilisations such as #NiUnaMenos against machista violence and feminicide, which have spread throughout Argentina and other countries in the region, “there is still a need to talk about what is happening to women.”

“In more narrow-minded places like this neighbourhood, it seems like gender violence is something people are ashamed of talking about, the women feel guilty. Making the problem visible is part of thinking about what tools the State can provide,” she told IPS.

“Or to see what those tools are,” said Olivia, her five-year-old daughter who was playing nearby, and who proudly held a sign that read: “Ni Una Menos,” (Not One Woman Less) the slogan that has brought Latin American women together, as well as #NiUnaMás (Not One More Woman).

She exemplifies a new generation of Latin American girls who, thanks to massive mobilisations and growing social awareness, are beginning to speak out early and promote cultural change.

“Today women are becoming aware, starting during the dating stage, of the signs of a violent man. He doesn’t like your friends, he doesn’t like the way you dress. Now there’s more information available, and that’s important,” said Gómez, who is a volunteer on a hot-line for victims of violence.

“Now they call you, they ask you for advice, and that’s good. In the past, who could you call? Besides the fear, if they promise to conceal your identity, that prompts you to say: I’m going to file a complaint and I have a group of people who are going to help me,” said the survivor of domestic abuse.

The post Legal Weapons Have Failed to Curb Femicides in Latin America appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of IPS coverage of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, which began on Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

The post Legal Weapons Have Failed to Curb Femicides in Latin America appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/legal-weapons-failed-curb-femicides-latin-america/feed/ 0
President-Elect’s Security Plan Disappoints Civil Society in Mexicohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/president-elects-security-plan-disappoints-civil-society-mexico/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=president-elects-security-plan-disappoints-civil-society-mexico http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/president-elects-security-plan-disappoints-civil-society-mexico/#respond Wed, 28 Nov 2018 07:41:50 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158911 “Setback” and “disillusionment” were the terms used by Yolanda Morán, a mother whose son was the victim of forced disappearance, to describe the security plan outlined by Mexican president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who takes office on Dec. 1. “We are not convinced, because we believed it when he said in the campaign that he […]

The post President-Elect’s Security Plan Disappoints Civil Society in Mexico appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
The post President-Elect’s Security Plan Disappoints Civil Society in Mexico appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/president-elects-security-plan-disappoints-civil-society-mexico/feed/ 0
Inequality undermines democracyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/inequality-undermines-democracy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=inequality-undermines-democracy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/inequality-undermines-democracy/#comments Wed, 21 Nov 2018 15:31:16 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158785 Economic inequality – involving both income and wealth concentration – has risen in nearly all world regions since the 1980s. Gross economic inequalities moderated for much of the 20th century, especially after World War Two until the 1970s, but has now reached levels never before seen in human history. No more inclusive prosperity The World […]

The post Inequality undermines democracy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Inequality out in the open. Credit: A.D. McKenzie/IPS

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 21 2018 (IPS)

Economic inequality – involving both income and wealth concentration – has risen in nearly all world regions since the 1980s. Gross economic inequalities moderated for much of the 20th century, especially after World War Two until the 1970s, but has now reached levels never before seen in human history.

No more inclusive prosperity
The World Inequality Report 2018 found that the richest 1% of humanity captured 27% of world income between 1980 and 2016. By contrast, the bottom half got only 12%. In Europe, the top one percent got 18%, while the bottom half got 14%.

OXFAM’s Reward Work, Not Wealth reported that 82% of the wealth created in 2016 went to the richest 1% of the world population, while the 3.7 billion people in the poorer half of humanity got next to nothing.

2016 saw the biggest increase in billionaires in history, with a new one every two days. Billionaire wealth increased by $762 billion between March 2016 and March 2017, with OXFAM noting, “This huge increase could have ended global extreme poverty seven times over”.

The latest World Inequality Report warns, “if rising inequality is not properly monitored and addressed, it can lead to various sorts of political, economic, and social catastrophes”.

The Global State of Democracy 2017: Exploring Democracy’s Resilience had anticipated this concern: “Inequality undermines democratic resilience. Inequality increases political polarization disrupts social cohesion and undermines trust in and support for democracy”.

Growing inequality undermining progress
Alexis de Tocqueville believed that democracies with severe economic inequality are unstable as it is difficult for democratic institutions to function properly in societies sharply divided by income and wealth, especially if little is done to redress the situation, or if it worsens.

De Tocqueville also maintained that there cannot be real political equality without some measure of economic equality. Poor citizens would not enjoy the same access to political and policy influence as the wealthy enjoy much more influence.

For Amartya Sen, the poor’s ‘substantive freedom’ or ‘capability’ to pursue goals and objectives is circumscribed. Those with more power not only block progressive redistribution, but also shape rules and policy to their own advantage.

For Robert Putnam, economic inequality also impacts civic norms, such as ‘trust’, critical for political legitimacy. Growing inequality exacerbates the sense of unfairness about a status quo run by and for wealthy plutocrats.

For Joseph Stiglitz, rising inequality weakens social cohesion. Declining trust increases apathy and acrimony, in turn discouraging civic participation. Economic inequality thus worsens ‘political anomie’, eroding community bonds besides contributing to anti-social behaviour.

Meaningful democracy needs active citizens’ participation in community affairs, typically greatest among the ‘middle class’. Growing economic polarization has hollowed out the middle class, reducing civic engagement, exacerbating the ‘democratic deficit’.

Exclusion and deprivation exacerbate alienation, causing greater abandonment of prevailing social norms. Meanwhile, the privileged indignantly see others as undeserving of ‘social transfers’.

Populism threatens multilateralism
Thus, de Tocqueville was concerned that growing inequality would gradually erode the ‘quality’ of democracy, even in high-income societies. The rise of ‘plutocratic populism’ has contributed to the latest identity politics in the US and Europe.

Public discourses and the media have blamed the ‘other’ – immigrants and the culturally different – for growing social ills. Thus, plutocrats often succeed in satisfying ‘their people’ with privileges and ‘rights’ in contemporary modes of ‘divide and rule’.

With the media, they often obscure plutocracy’s rule, sometimes even justifying its worst features, e.g., legitimizing high executive remuneration as ‘just rewards’ as tycoons secure generous tax breaks and investment incentives, at the expense of social spending and public services for all.

In today’s ‘winner-take-all’ economy, those on top successfully lobby for and secure lower taxes. Nonetheless, they indignantly denounce budget deficits as irresponsible and inflationary, threatening the value of all financial assets.

America divided
In the United States, the income share of the top 1% is now at its highest level since the Gilded Age, on the eve of the Great Depression. Meanwhile, the bottom half of Americans has captured only 3% of total growth since 1980. Disparities are reaching levels never before seen in the modern period.

Thus, around 2013, the top 0.01%, or 14,000 American families, owned 22.2% of US wealth, while the bottom 90% – over 133 million families – owned a meagre 4%! The richest 1% tripled their share of US income within a generation, with 95% of income gains since the 2008-2009 financial crisis going to the top 1%!

Meanwhile, legislative and other reforms as well as judicial appointments have stacked the legal system even more heavily against those with little power or influence. A recent survey found more than 70% of low-income American households had been involved in civil legal disputes in the previous year, such as eviction and employment law cases, with more than 80% lacking effective legal representation.

Lack of attention to those down and out has worsened the sense of abandonment and exclusion. Many Americans, especially in depressed regions, have become disillusioned and alienated, but also more susceptible to chauvinist politicians promising protection against ‘the other’, imports and immigrants.

The post Inequality undermines democracy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/inequality-undermines-democracy/feed/ 2
‘In Bangladesh, democracy was not allowed to take root’http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/bangladesh-democracy-not-allowed-take-root/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bangladesh-democracy-not-allowed-take-root http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/bangladesh-democracy-not-allowed-take-root/#respond Wed, 21 Nov 2018 07:17:38 +0000 Eresh Omar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158801 Sultana Kamal, lawyer and human rights activist, member of CPD board of trustees, former Executive Director of Ain o Salish Kendra, and former advisor to the caretaker government of Bangladesh, talks to Eresh Omar Jamal of The Daily Star about the upcoming national elections and the state of human rights in Bangladesh. In a report […]

The post ‘In Bangladesh, democracy was not allowed to take root’ appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
By Eresh Omar Jamal
Nov 21 2018 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Sultana Kamal, lawyer and human rights activist, member of CPD board of trustees, former Executive Director of Ain o Salish Kendra, and former advisor to the caretaker government of Bangladesh, talks to Eresh Omar Jamal of The Daily Star about the upcoming national elections and the state of human rights in Bangladesh.

Sultana Kamal. Photo: Anisur Rahman

In a report released on October 19, Human Rights Watch (HRW) expressed concern over the government taking a number of steps ahead of the national elections which it believes will have “a chilling effect on speech”. What are your thoughts on their assessment?

In your question you have not spelled out what exactly are the steps taken by the government ahead of the national elections that the HRW is fearing will have a chilling effect on people’s freedom of expression. I presume they are referring to the random, arbitrary arrests of social activists as well as the members and supporters of the opposition political parties and implicating them in anti-State cases. They have been very random as many of the accused in such cases are known to have died already. These cases have been termed as “ghost cases”.

Police excess in controlling meetings and rallies of the opposition could also be an example here. In our current political culture where there is every reason to believe that police actions normally are manifestations of the wish of the ruling party, the Human Rights Watch quite justifiably sees these as steps taken by the government to have serious effect on people’s freedom of expression.

In addition to the above, the other concern the Human Rights Watch may have in mind over which we could not agree with them more, obviously relates to the passing of the Digital Security Act (DSA). This Act, as had been promised by the government, was supposed to replace the previously passed ICT Act, Section 57 of which was notoriously misused by the government and its supporters to stop dissent and shun any criticism against them. It is worrying to note that even after passing the DSA, the cases filed under Section 57 of the ICT Act remain in force.

Coming back to the DSA, Bangladesh now has this regressive Act giving police unlimited power, as illustrated in a write up of the Sampadak Parishad, “to enter premises, search offices, bodily search persons, seize computers, computer networks, servers, and everything related to the digital platforms.” Aided by this Act the police on the ground can arrest anybody even on suspicion without warrant—not requiring to seek approval of any authorities. It’s worth remembering that the responsible ministers of the government under the pressure of concerned citizens and journalists sat with the Sampadak Parishad with a view to review the Act but unfortunately did nothing to bring the desired changes. This kind of dependence of the government on police is most unbecoming of a democracy.

This attitude of the government of demonstrating its will to not allow people to speak their minds without fear sends serious signals to everyone concerned. It has a far-reaching effect in curbing people’s freedom of expression and other civil liberties, eventually negatively influencing them in freely exercising their right to vote during the elections. In a weak democracy like Bangladesh where political parties are not sure of their power base, all parties in power across the border unfortunately tend to follow the same strategy of silencing the people’s voice by taking such actions.

It may not be out of context to note here that the dialogues that were held in the meantime among the opposing political alliances ended without any conclusive decision. This happened, in my opinion, due to the lack of political will of the main parties to use the opportunity to seriously dedicate their focus and everything else towards holding a free and fair election. From what we gather from the media, the parties were more determined in re-asserting what they have been saying to each other in their public speeches rather than discussing ways to meet the election challenges posed in front of them.

Over the last months, we have seen a number of police cases being filed against leaders and activists belonging to opposition political parties. Some of them were filed against individuals who were abroad at the time they are said to have committed a crime, or who had earlier passed away. What effect can this have on voter confidence?

Well, people mainly depend on the police for safety and security on the day of polling. It is the police that is entrusted with the sacred duty of ensuring an atmosphere for the voters to feel confident that the election is being held in a free and fair environment where they can cast their votes without the fear of their votes being rigged or manipulated—physically or technically. It is therefore important that they find people with integrity around them for the desired protection.

Police actions, as described in your question, certainly have a negative impact in the confidence level of voters which manifests in the fear and anxiety expressed by them in relation to the election time. This is particularly true of the religious and ethnic minorities, women and supporters of the opposition parties who, without exception, become victims of violence and have their rights violated in the pre, during as well as post-election periods. In the past, we have seen these people not being given timely or proper protection by the police.

In your view, have the different political parties been emphasising enough on human rights in their appeal to voters?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. Not only in their appeals to voters, in general even, as it seems from the discourses of the different political parties, human rights are placed quite low in their list of priorities. In their appeal to voters the emphasis of the different political parties is on development which, to many, lacks reflection of human rights values to a considerable extent.

As I said earlier, the aim of the political parties is to win the elections at any cost. Unfortunately, our elections with very few exceptions have been characterised by dependence on money, muscle and manipulation. In such an atmosphere, human rights is not given a fair chance.

Only recently in one of the TV talk-shows, a very high-ranking police officer when asked to comment on remarks made by human rights activists about escalation of human rights violation in the country, responded by saying that he finds these comments “irritating and ridiculous”. Such statements coming from a high-ranking police officer clearly demonstrate the degree of apathy and disrespect officers and politicians have towards human rights. Promotion and protection of human rights evidently are placed in subordination to all other priorities of the power centric political culture that the political parties have embraced so dearly.

Rights violations have taken place under every regime. Even though we’ve seen the party in power change, why is it that we don’t see any meaningful improvement in the government upholding the basic rights of citizens?

It all depends on the state of democracy in a society whether the State will seriously dedicate itself to upholding the basic rights of the citizens. In Bangladesh, historically, because of repeated interference by undemocratic forces in political processes, democracy was not allowed to take root in society.

Hence we are confronted with socio-political and cultural conditions that permit the State to undermine the norms of human rights without having to answer for the lapses. This was originally facilitated by the rehabilitation of the anti-liberation forces accused of war crimes in every sphere of our life. They were not simply allowed to return to the country but were rehabilitated with power and opportunities to infiltrate into our political, social and economic fabric, and to mould our culture to embrace the character of intolerance towards the “others”. The fundamental principle of respect for equal rights and dignity of all somehow ceased to bear much value to the power centric political forces. Which is why we do not see any meaningful improvement in the government upholding the basic rights of citizens.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

The post ‘In Bangladesh, democracy was not allowed to take root’ appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/bangladesh-democracy-not-allowed-take-root/feed/ 0
Trump’s Anti-Media Rhetoric Resonates Worldwidehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/trumps-anti-media-rhetoric-resonates-worldwide/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trumps-anti-media-rhetoric-resonates-worldwide http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/trumps-anti-media-rhetoric-resonates-worldwide/#comments Wed, 14 Nov 2018 07:44:05 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158659 A former French president once remarked: Never pick a fight with a little kid or the press. The kid will throw the last stone at you and the press will have the last word. But that obviously does not apply to a teflon-coated Donald Trump because nothing apparently sticks on him – even as he […]

The post Trump’s Anti-Media Rhetoric Resonates Worldwide appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Donald J. Trump. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 14 2018 (IPS)

A former French president once remarked: Never pick a fight with a little kid or the press. The kid will throw the last stone at you and the press will have the last word.

But that obviously does not apply to a teflon-coated Donald Trump because nothing apparently sticks on him – even as he survives a barrage of criticisms from the mainstream media while he continues to utter falsehoods and mouth blatant lies.

As the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan never said: Trump may be entitled to his own opinions but not to his own facts.

The leader of the free world, according to some critics, is fast emulating the authoritarian lifestyle of a tin pot third world dictator.

At a highly confrontational press conference last week, Trump lashed out at Jim Acosta, the chief White House correspondent for Cable News Network (CNN) for his sharp questioning of the US president– specifically on Trump’s deliberate mischaracterizations of the Central American migrant caravan.

As a result, the White House, in an unprecedented move, suspended Acosta’s press credentials while also threatening to blacklist other reporters —including Peter Alexander of National Broadcasting Company (NBC), April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks and Yamiche Alcindor of Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)– “if they did not treat the White House with respect”.

Trump’s decision is a violation of the basic right of journalists to cover the government. He characterized one reporter as “very nasty” and dismissed another reporter for asking “a stupid question”.

But Trump’s authoritarian tactics and his hostility towards the mainstream media—dismissing negative stories as “fake news” – are increasingly influencing other right wing and dictatorial leaders, including in the Philippines, Hungary, Egypt, Myanmar, Turkey, China, Poland and Syria, who are following in his footsteps.

Barbara Crossette, a former New York Times UN Bureau Chief, told IPS “it isn’t only authoritarian regimes that may be taking heart from Trump — in fact it may be the other way around.”

She said Trump admires their strong-man behavior. And more democracies are also putting journalists and intellectuals in many fields into harm’s way, she added.

Maria Ressa is right now under extreme pressure and legal threats in the Philippines, and in India, which prides itself on its democratic credentials, journalists and academics have been threatened, assaulted and in some cases killed by extreme Hindu nationalist mobs spawned in a way very similar to Trump’s unleashing of white supremacists.

Among the victims killed in India was Gauri Lankesh, an internationally known journalist who had been critical of the Hindu nationalists, said Crossette, who was a former New York Times chief correspondent for South and Southeast Asia.

CNN, which has filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration for the suspension of Acosta’s press credentials, said “if left unchallenged, the actions of the White House would create a dangerous chilling effect for any journalist who covers elected officials.”

In a statement released November 13, CNN demanded the return of Acosta’s credentials arguing that “the wrongful revocation of these credentials violates CNN and Acosta’s First Amendment rights of freedom of the press, and their Fifth Amendment rights to due process.”

Zeke Johnson, senior director of programs at Amnesty International USA, told IPS Trump’s contempt for the press and his decision to bar certain reporters from the White House not only is an affront to the right to free speech, and anathema to good governance, but also sends a dangerous signal to other leaders.

“We have seen governments around the world try to silence journalists just for reporting on uncomfortable truths or expressing a difference of opinion from the ruling power,” he pointed out.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have been imprisoned in Myanmar for nearly a year for exposing crimes against humanity against the Rohingya.

Johnson said President Erdogan of Turkey has a history of shutting down outlets and imprisoning journalists. Trump’s actions are especially galling coming so recently after the horrifying disappearance and murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“While Khashoggi’s case may be an extreme example of the dangers reporters face, Trump’s insistence that reporters show him deference or face consequences only emboldens those who see a free press as a threat to authoritarian rule.”

Courtney Radsch, Advocacy Director at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said journalists should be able to do their job without fear that a tough series of questions will provoke retaliation.

“The White House should immediately reinstate Jim Acosta’s press pass, and refrain from punishing reporters by revoking their access–that’s not how a free press works.”

“In the current climate, we hope President Trump will stop insulting and denigrating reporters and media outlets, it’s making journalists feel unsafe,” added Radsch.

Meanwhile, in a New York Times piece last week, Megan Specia pointed out how Trump’s words have justified aggressive and undemocratic actions by several political leaders worldwide.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly invoked “fake news” to denounce his critics. So has Poland’s right wing government.

Responding to an Amnesty International report on thousands of deaths in Syrian prisons, President Bashar al-Assad was quoted as saying: “You can forge anything these days. We are living in a fake news era.”

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

The post Trump’s Anti-Media Rhetoric Resonates Worldwide appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/trumps-anti-media-rhetoric-resonates-worldwide/feed/ 1
The promise of democracy :The people shall rulehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/promise-democracy-people-shall-rule/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=promise-democracy-people-shall-rule http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/promise-democracy-people-shall-rule/#respond Wed, 14 Nov 2018 06:45:00 +0000 Editor sunday http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158795 The promise of democracy is that the people shall rule. Not the executive, not the legislature, not the judiciary. But democracy is an ideal, not a practical reality, and it depends on institutions to make it function. When those institutions are compromised or nullified, the democratic promise is at risk of being broken. We are […]

The post The promise of democracy :The people shall rule appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
By Editor, Sunday Times, Sri Lanka
Nov 14 2018 (The Sunday Times - Sri Lanka)

The promise of democracy is that the people shall rule. Not the executive, not the legislature, not the judiciary. But democracy is an ideal, not a practical reality, and it depends on institutions to make it function. When those institutions are compromised or nullified, the democratic promise is at risk of being broken.

We are witnessing such a moment now. It is exposing just how rickety the institutions of that democracy may be. At the very least, it is showing the world the flexible limits of Parliamentary democracy.

But the actual problem is no satire. It’s pretty sure if cared, what one does; the “chaotic” management style that defenders still praise on the punditry pageants. There may be things in favour of chaos, but as a manner of governing, it is proving to be a dumpster fire.

Everyone is acting as if none of this matters. But then the question; what is this doing to the structural bulwarks of liberal democracy? Revered democratic institutions?

A huge part of the problem is routine ignorance. The Constitution is “the one thing that we’re all experts about, which is amazing because none of us have read it.” Now all of us want the Judges to read it for us.

History teaches us stark lessons about the fragility of liberal-democratic politics. There is no fool-proof guarantee against the stepwise anti-democratic subversion of political life.

This is no ordinary situation. There’s not much mental profit in arguing about the definition or applicability of terms such as “fascist” or “dictator.” This has been true over and over again, in fact, and likely more often than citizens have been right to trust the institutions of the state.

Angry discourse is the rule of the day, the self-justifying ritual of insulting dismissal that everywhere passes for moral righteousness. Here’s a note from everyone’s psychiatrist: Being pissed off doesn’t make you more right. The anger in discourse is the resort of last resort. Have an argument; make an argument – of course. Raising your voice adds no validity to your points and might even act to undercut them.

But let me make the point that many of us have been urging for decades. Civility, not unruliness, is the radical option in democratic politics. People say, “No change without rage.” I say, “No lasting change without respect and a willingness not to say all the things you could say.”

That engaging with the people here are like “an abusive relationship.” Of course it is. That kind of shadow discourse isn’t democracy or useful free speech. It’s just making everything easier for the people who have power. In this discourse the obvious casualty is the “Truth.”

The Truth, the essential unit of social cohesion whose merits were debated from ancient Athens to modern Twitter and Facebook, has been found dead. The quality of agreeing on a set of known facts was at least as old as human language, and had been assumed at one time to be immortal.

Truth achieved its first celebrity as a subject of debate among Greek philosophers. Perhaps, as a fundamental element of political debate, “Truth” in this land, in fact, died long ago. It flew out of the supreme forum of collective debating and disappeared once the terror of uneducated and undisciplined invaded the Parliament; the august assemble, spreading lawlessness and unruliness, disrupting its peace, cordiality and logical debate. It may be even suggested to keep a framed copy of the past debates on its wall, with the phrase “We hold these truths to be self-evident” surrounded by exclamation marks for the future generations to read.

Truth began to suffer, as reality was twisted in its name. Truth really became incensed when it learned that politicians and political propagandists had borrowed its name for their media circuses. If that’s “Truth,” what the golden ideal of democratic societies is?

Truth suffers when its essential nature called into doubt by academics and philosophers, professors, professionals and the so called learned. “Truth” was reported to have put its foot through a television when it heard somebody say, “It is what the masses want. Still, Truth can hold out in hope; that “you can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time” said Abraham Lincoln.

When Reason and Tolerance dropped by, Truth would begin to read from Origins of Totalitarianism: “Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow.”

The great blossoming of technology at the beginning of this seemed, at first, to be Truth’s salvation. Academics spread knowledge; oppressed peoples found each other and joined forces. Truth risked taking a break for five minutes to watch a video about an otter eating clams. When it looked up its optimism was crushed, for there on Twitter was an astrophysicist trying to convince a user that climate change was real. The artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm that drive those social-media giants are designed not to provide people with informed debate or thoughtful answers, but rather to maximize engagement time – and that has dark results.

Truth’s malaise grew worse in the past few years, as the country’s politicians and leaders, who spewed lies around the country as a way of proving their power. As accustomed, the politicians paying lip service. By the time that scholars, and concerned citizens noticed that Truth was ready for hospice care, it was already too late.

Ailing Truth is only occasionally seen at public events, pulling an oxygen tank. Truth had become especially discouraged, though, and wandered away distracted by the arguments about constitutional issues. There is speculation that Truth unhooked its own oxygen tank, rather than listening any more to the politicians arguing over its relevance in the present discourse.

Alas, “Truth,” has been found dead. Truth is believed to have died of neglect. Many of Truth’s friends knew that it had struggled in recent years, but few of them had gone round to check on its health. “I’ve been super busy putting out fires of my own,” “Reason” said. “I just didn’t realize how bad things were.”

Knowing its end is near; Truth had asked friends if they might erect some small memorial in its memory, perhaps on the banks of Diyawnna Oya, overlooking the Parliament building which it cherished so much.

RAJA WICKRAMASINGHE

This story was originally published by The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka

The post The promise of democracy :The people shall rule appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/promise-democracy-people-shall-rule/feed/ 0
Editorial Changes at Cumhuriyet: the Loss of a Major Independent Voice in Turkey?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/editorial-changes-cumhuriyet-loss-major-independent-voice-turkey/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=editorial-changes-cumhuriyet-loss-major-independent-voice-turkey http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/editorial-changes-cumhuriyet-loss-major-independent-voice-turkey/#comments Thu, 01 Nov 2018 22:02:55 +0000 Christopher Shand http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158484 Censorship, controversial judicial proceedings and imprisonment: such is the current risk run by independently-thinking journalists in Turkey. Reporters Without Borders ranks Turkey 157th out of 180 countries in its World Press Freedom Index, describing the country as the ‘biggest jail for journalists in the world’. The authorities have raided and closed many media outlets, censored […]

The post Editorial Changes at Cumhuriyet: the Loss of a Major Independent Voice in Turkey? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Cumhuriyet's headquarters dressed up for Victory Day, which commemorates Turkish victory against Greek forces at the Battle of Dumlupınar (August 26-30, 1922).

Cumhuriyet's headquarters dressed up for Victory Day, which commemorates Turkish victory against Greek forces at the Battle of Dumlupınar (August 26-30, 1922). Credit: Christopher Shand

By Christopher Shand
ISTANBUL, Nov 1 2018 (IPS)

Censorship, controversial judicial proceedings and imprisonment: such is the current risk run by independently-thinking journalists in Turkey.

Reporters Without Borders ranks Turkey 157th out of 180 countries in its World Press Freedom Index, describing the country as the ‘biggest jail for journalists in the world’. The authorities have raided and closed many media outlets, censored social networks and the internet, even ignoring decisions of the Constitutional Court after a state of emergency was established post the failed military coup in July 2016.

Cumhuriyet has been Turkey’s oldest and much trusted newspaper for almost a century. This editorial change may lead to a shift in the reporting of issues such as human rights, gender equality, secularism and protection of the environment.

One of the latest changes believed to be part of this transition happens to be the change in leadership of the independent newspaper Cumhuriyet. On September 7, 2018, following the meeting of the new board, former editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu resigned along with several other journalists who questioned its impartiality.

Several sources confirmed that the new administration was elected with the help of public authorities and that they started turning a blind eye on events critical of current government. They have already been scrutinized for underreporting on issues related to the Kurdish people or past prison massacres.

Cumhuriyet has been Turkey’s oldest and much trusted newspaper for almost a century. This editorial change may lead to a shift in the reporting of issues such as human rights, gender equality, secularism and protection of the environment.

These issues have been fearlessly reported by Murat Sabuncu and his editorial board during recent times. In 2015 Cumhuriyet was awarded the Freedom of the Press Prize by Reporters Without Borders in recognition of its defence of liberal values in the face of Turkish Government pressure. The year after, the newspaper received the Right Livelihood Award for its ‘commitment to freedom of expression in the face of oppression, censorship, imprisonment and death threats’.

In October 2016, four months after the coup and following a denunciation from members of the current board, Mr Sabuncu, along with other colleagues, was detained and imprisoned without charges. He was then convicted of collusion with terrorists and sentenced to seven and a half years in prison. Mr Sabuncu and colleagues were released in March this year, pending the result of their appeal to the Turkish Supreme Court.

This is the last interview of Mr Sabuncu as editor-in-chief.

Murat Sabuncu in Cumhuriyet’s headquarters, in front of Atatürk’s portrait. The newspaper defends the secularism and democracy Turkey first president stood for.

Murat Sabuncu in Cumhuriyet's headquarters, in front of Atatürk's portrait. The newspaper defends the secularism and democracy Turkey's first president stood for.

Murat Sabuncu in Cumhuriyet’s headquarters, in front of Atatürk’s portrait. The newspaper defends the secularism and democracy Turkey’s first president stood for. Credit: Christopher Shand

Interviewer

As a part of the government’s reaction to the 2016 ’coup d’état’ the media in Turkey have suffered from shut-downs and the arrest of journalists. What exactly are the accusations that the government has made against the media? And what is the nature of the evidence to support those accusations?

Each and every time its democracy was interrupted, Turkish intellectuals have paid the price, with journalists taking first place. This process was at work during past military coups, and it is now taking place under the current AKP government, which has increased its pressure in recent years. Lately, several journalists have been arrested, charged and convicted for being members of a terrorist organization or of helping organizations associated with terror. Evidence varies from case to case, but they all have in common their involvement in the communication of “news stories, articles or social media posts”. As a journalist, I am appalled and saddened that accurate reporting of “news” should be considered as constituting a “crime”.

Furthermore, the charges were shown to be unfounded. As a whole, our newspaper was incriminated for having “supported every terrorist organization in Turkey”. Everything private, our belongings, our houses, our bank accounts (our own but also those of our partners or ex-partners over the previous 30 years) were controlled. Of course, the authorities found nothing that was incriminating.

To give you an example, one of the charges levelled against our columnist Hakan Kara and cartoonist Musa Kart was that of having telephoned the ETS Tour agency to book holidays. It turned out that this company was under investigation for links with the Gülenist organization, former allies of the government and now held responsible for the coup attempt. As a consequence, the telephone call was used to incriminate the two journalists.

Are there any aspects of the process that distinguish the case of Cumhuriyet from that of other press outlets?

When I appeared for the first time in court after nine months of imprisonment, I began my plea as follows: « What an interesting and tragic coincidence it is that today is Press Freedom Day in my country. As the editor-in-chief of a century-old newspaper, I am pained to have to be defending journalism and newscasting on such a day, but not for my personal imprisonment. »

After that plea, I remained imprisoned for another nine months. In April of this year, I was sentenced to 7½ years in prison. If the Supreme Court approves the sentence, I will spend three more years in prison. However, there are many journalists who were tortured, imprisoned or assassinated at different periods in Cumhuriyet’s history.

Perhaps what distinguishes Cumhuriyet from other news outlets in Turkey is our determination to tell only the truth, no matter how difficult the circumstances.  Now we are paying the price for doing that, just as we have in each previous, non-democratic era.

Do the authorities want to make an example of you in order to intimidate any independent investigation media?

Without false modesty, Cumhuriyet is potentially Turkey’s most influential newspaper. Foreign and domestic ambassadors, politicians or journalists regard it as the most neutral and enlightened medium outlet here. They read it to be informed on what is really happening. As it always defends democracy and freedom, it is de facto perceived as an opponent to any party violating these values.

Consequently, it is logical that an anti-democratic and illiberal authority will want to stifle such a journal.  As happened for example with Hürriyet, another newspaper which was financially sanctioned for a while, then bought by a mogul close to the president such that its reporting is now aligned with that of government opinion.

However, there are still many independent media in Turkey. Although less influent, some like Evrensel and Birgun remain important. But with the current economic crisis, Cumhuriyet ends up by being the only one able to cover certain stories, like the 700th gathering of the ‘Saturday mothers’, families of people who forcibly disappeared after the military coup in 1980.

Some would say that Cumhuriyet keeps strong links with political parties, threatening its neutrality?

Ahmet Şık, with whom I shared my prison cell, one of our main investigative journalists, has just joined the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which is left-wing and pro-minority. As long as he worked for Cumhuriyet, he did so as a journalist, and exclusively as a journalist. As soon as he announced his decision to engage himself politically, we immediately stopped his collaboration with us just as we had done with another of our correspondents in Ankara right after he joined the CHP, Turkey’s main opposition party.

No doubt they won’t be the only journalists to engage themselves politically in Cumhuriyet’s history, as can happen with any other media organisations. But I refute the accusation of Cumhuriyet as possessing any political affiliation.

Going back to the trials that lasted from July 2017 to April 2018, on what basis have you lodged your appeal?

We describe what news reports we conveyed. We argue the case that journalism should not be considered as a criminal activity. We state that the charges are an attempt to intimidate journalism through us.

Is there any distinction between the basis of your appeal and that of your colleagues?

I have not read the appeals of others. But I have always said the same thing since the first day. We do not want freedom and the delivery of rights just for ourselves. We demand that everyone be judged independently, on a level where the principles are dominant, not the people. There are still journalists, lawyers, deputies, and rights advocates in prisons. We were lucky to be from Cumhuriyet newspaper. But many people, unknown and unmentioned, are still in prison only for their opinions. We want everyone to benefit from our country’s laws.

What elements do you consider might influence the outcome of your appeal(s)?

On September 9th, it is six months since I left prison. Since then, I have been working at the newspaper every day, weekends included. Neither the sentence I was given nor the court’s upcoming decision crosses my mind. I do my job. I do it with love. The appeal is not my problem. It is the problem of my country. I will bow to the will of my readers and of democracy, not to that of a few powerful men. I won’t leave the country out of fear but will remain among my fellow citizens.

Are we to be a country that believes in the rule of law, or are we going to create traitors in each era, to exploit them for political ends? Those who sentenced us know very well that we are only newsmen, people engaged in journalism for 30 to 60 years in this land. In any case, History will make its own judgement.

What do you see as being the key points that describe the current state of your journal/the media in general within Turkey?

Ninety-five per cent of the media in Turkey is under government control. There are 2-3 newspapers, including Cumhuriyet, 4-5 news websites and a few TV channels that continue to resist. The price of resistance is to either lose one’s freedom or go bankrupt because advertisers fear the government. But news is a necessity. True and accurate news is indispensable for any real democracy. So, the media will sooner or later create a model in which it can breathe more easily.

I needed to cross a strong security barrier to enter your building. Is that related?

It is. Defying the authorities can create many enemies. But we especially had to adopt strict security precautions after we published the Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons in 2015.

What are your hopes and fears for the future of the Press within Turkey over the immediate future?

I have no fears, but I do have a great amount of hope, because there is a majority of young people believing in democracy for my country. There can be no room for fear if my country is to see happier days, when no one is alienated and the rule of law is respected. Hope and struggle are needed.

How do you consider that the current economic difficulties in Turkey might influence the situation of the press?

The Turkish press must buy its paper from abroad. Now both paper prices have increased, and the lira has lost value. An already difficult economic sustainability has become even more difficult. The news websites and TV channels lose commercial support if they are not close to the government. The economic crisis will make conditions even more challenging.

Beyond the current economic crisis, Cumhuriyet itself is suffering from an advertisers’ embargo for fear of potential government retaliation. We have almost no advertising revenue right now and our sales have dropped to approximately 40,000 copies/day, although 1.3 million persons still check-out our web pages every day.

Do you consider that the current situation of the Press will change now that the ‘state of emergency’ is being terminated?

Turkey is in a perpetual state of emergency. Nothing has changed in terms of freedom. But this is not limited to my country. The whole world is going through a crisis because of the actions of autocratic leaders such as Trump, Putin, Orban… But are others so innocent? What about the European leaders negotiating over the lot of immigrants, each of whom is a human life? Only the people and those who strive to uphold freedom will change the world for better. Don’t expect this to come through the politicians.

Do you see the current situation as being a systemic illness in the state of Turkey or the result of individual political decisions?

Both are true. Democracy has never functioned fully in Turkey. Every political period and government conducted its own witch-hunt. Now we’re going through such a time. But it is also a fact that the most recent years are among the most oppressive that Turkish democracy has had to withstand.

What factors do you think influenced most the outcome of the recent elections within Turkey, resulting in the confirmation of the current government?

It resulted from several weaknesses within the opposition. Another point was a lack of strategy from the opposition CHP, the social-democratic party’s most brilliant candidate trying unsuccessfully to imitate Erdogan’s style and populism. Why would Turkish people have chosen another party with similar rhetoric and style?

Do you believe that the current government could improve the position of the press within Turkey and even the country as a whole within the current political set-up

I have enough experience to know that it is wrong to expect change from the government alone. The public must embrace freedom by engaging in civil society organizations, by entering politics, and expressing more of their democratic demands. The situation of the opposition parties is taking the country to an even more difficult stage. We will see new political entities and leaders in the upcoming period.

What do you consider that the Right Livelihood Award might have/has done to change the situation of yourself and press colleagues in your predicament?

When we found out that we’d received the award, we were still at liberty. We felt so proud. We set up a delegation, which included me, to receive the award. Then we were arrested and unable to travel. Orhan Erinc, the president of the Cumhuriyet foundation, was also under a travel ban and so he couldn’t make it either. While in prison, I read the message he sent through Zeynep Oral in the newspaper. Somewhere he said:

The editorial principles, set out by our founder and first lead author Yunus Nadi in Cumhuriyet’s first issue published on May 7, 1924, are found in the preamble to the Official Deed of the Foundation: “Cumhuriyet is an independent newspaper; it is the defender of nothing but the Republic, of democracy in the scientific and broad sense. It will fight every force that tries to overthrow the Republic and the notion and principles of democracy. It will endeavour for the embracing by society of the principle of secularism along the path of ‘Enlightenment’ ushered in by Ataturk’s revolution and principles. Cumhuriyet, which adopts the “Declaration of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms” as the universal constitution of democracy, deems by way of basic principle that its goals may only be attained within the independence and integrity of the Republic of Turkey established by Atatürk.” 

We will continue our struggle to keep those principles alive. The award gave us strength to do so.

 

This article was originally written for the Right Livelihood Award Foundation

Established in 1980, the Right Livelihood Award Foundation honours and supports courageous people and organisations offering visionary and exemplary solutions to the root causes of global problems. Up to the moment, there are 174 Laureates from 70 countries. Do you know the next recipient? Anyone can propose a candidate!

The post Editorial Changes at Cumhuriyet: the Loss of a Major Independent Voice in Turkey? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/editorial-changes-cumhuriyet-loss-major-independent-voice-turkey/feed/ 1
Brazilians Decide on a Shift to the Right at Any Costhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/brazilians-decided-shift-right-cost/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brazilians-decided-shift-right-cost http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/brazilians-decided-shift-right-cost/#respond Mon, 29 Oct 2018 23:27:39 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158429 Voters in Brazil ignored threats to democracy and opted for radical political change, with a shift to the extreme right, with ties to the military, as is always the case in this South American country. Jair Bolsonaro, a 63-year-old former army captain, was elected as Brazil’s 42nd president with 55.13 percent of the vote in […]

The post Brazilians Decide on a Shift to the Right at Any Cost appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Supporters of president-elect Jair Bolsonaro celebrate his triumph in the early hours of Oct. 29, in front of the former captain's residence on the west side of Rio de Janeiro. The far-right candidate garnered 55.13 percent of the vote and will begin his four-year presidency on Jan. 1, 2019. Credit: Fernando Frazão/Agencia Brasil

Supporters of president-elect Jair Bolsonaro celebrate his triumph in the early hours of Oct. 29, in front of the former captain's residence on the west side of Rio de Janeiro. The far-right candidate garnered 55.13 percent of the vote and will begin his four-year presidency on Jan. 1, 2019. Credit: Fernando Frazão/Agencia Brasil

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Oct 29 2018 (IPS)

Voters in Brazil ignored threats to democracy and opted for radical political change, with a shift to the extreme right, with ties to the military, as is always the case in this South American country.

Jair Bolsonaro, a 63-year-old former army captain, was elected as Brazil’s 42nd president with 55.13 percent of the vote in Sunday’s runoff election, heading up a group of retired generals, such as his vice president, Hamilton Mourão, and others earmarked as future cabinet ministers. He takes office on Jan. 1.

His triumph caused an unexpected political earthquake, decimating traditional parties and leaders.

The Bolsonaro effect prompted a broad renovation of parliament, with the election of many new legislators with military, police, and religious ties, and right-wing activists.

His formerly minuscule Social Liberal Party (PSL) is now the second largest force in the Chamber of Deputies, with 52 representatives. The country’s most populous and wealthiest states, São Paulo, Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro, elected PSL allies as governors, two of whom had no political experience.

Brazil thus forms part of a global rise of the right, which in some countries has led to the election of authoritarian governments, such as in the Philippines, Turkey, Hungary and Poland, or even the United States under Donald Trump.

Bolsonaro’s chances of taking his place in the right-wing wave only became clear on the eve of the first round of elections, on Oct. 7.

Little was expected of the candidate of such a tiny party, which did not even have a share of the national air time that the electoral system awards to the main parties. His political career consists of 27 years as an obscure congressman, known only for his diatribes and outspoken prejudices against women, blacks, indigenous people, sexual minorities and the poor.

But since the previous presidential elections in 2014, Bolsonaro had traveled this vast country and used the Internet to prepare his candidacy.

Early this year, polls awarded him about 10 percent of the voting intention, which almost doubled in August, when the election campaign officially began.

That growth did not worry his possible opponents, who preferred him as the easiest adversary to defeat in a second round, if no candidate obtained an absolute majority in the first. The idea was that he would come up against heavy resistance to an extreme right-wing candidate who has shown anti-democratic tendencies.

Fernando Haddad, the candidate of the leftist Workers Party, promised his supporters, after his defeat in the Oct. 28 elections, that as an opposition leader he would fight for civil, political and social rights in the face of Brazil's future extreme right-wing government. Credit: Paulo Pinto/Public Photos

Fernando Haddad, the candidate of the leftist Workers Party, promised his supporters, after his defeat in the Oct. 28 elections, that as an opposition leader he would fight for civil, political and social rights in the face of Brazil’s future extreme right-wing government. Credit: Paulo Pinto/Public Photos

But this was no ordinary election. The poll favorite was former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011), whom the leftist Workers’ Party (PT) insisted on running, even though he had been in prison on corruption charges since April, and was only replaced on Sept. 11 by Fernando Haddad, a former minister of education and former mayor of São Paulo.

Five days earlier, Bolsonaro had been stabbed in the stomach by a lone assailant during a campaign rally in Juiz de Fora, 180 km from Rio de Janeiro.

The attack may have been decisive to his triumph, by giving him a great deal of publicity and turning him into a victim, observers say. It also allowed him to avoid debates with other candidates, which could have revealed his weaknesses and contradictions.

But two surgeries, 23 days in a hospital and then being confined to his home, due to a temporary colostomy, prevented him from participating in election rallies. So the social media-savvy candidate focused on the Internet and social networks, which turned out to be his strongest weapon.

The massive use of WhatsApp to attack Haddad aroused suspicions that businessmen were financing “fake news” websites, thus violating electoral laws, as reported by the newspaper Folha de São Paulo on Oct. 18. The electoral justice system has launched an investigation.

The recently concluded campaign in Brazil triggered a debate about the role of this free instant messaging network and “fake news” in influencing the elections.

The social networks were decisive for Bolsonaro, who started from scratch, with practically no party, no financial resources, and no support from the traditional media. The mobilisation of followers was “spontaneous,” according to the candidate.

Brazil, the largest and most populous country in Latin America, with 208 million people, is one of the five countries in the world with the most social media users, with 120 million people using WhatsApp and 125 million using Facebook.

But these tools were only successful because the former army captain managed to personify the demands of the population, despite – or because of – his right-wing radicalism.

He presented himself as the most determined enemy of corruption and of the PT, whose governments from 2003 to 2016 are blamed for the systemic corruption in politics and the errors that caused the country’s worst economic recession, between 2014 and 2016.

As a military and religious man, recently converted to an evangelical church, he swore to wage an all-out fight against crime, a pressing concern for Brazilians, and said he would come to the rescue of the conventional family, which, according to his fiery, and often intemperate, speeches, has been under attack by feminism and other movements.

He seduced business with his neoliberal positions, represented by economist Paulo Guedes, presented as a future minister.

The promise to reduce the size of the state and cut environmental taxes, among other measures, brought him the support of the agro-export sector, especially cattle ranchers and soybean producers.

The economic crisis combined with high crimes rates, added to a wave of conservatism in the habits and customs of this plural and open society, galvanised support for Bolsonaro, while offsetting worries about his authoritarian stances or his inexperience in government administration.

Bolsonaro said he would govern for all, defending “the constitution, democracy and freedom…It is not the promise of a party, but an oath of a man to God,” he said while celebrating his victory, announced three hours after the close of the polls.

His speech did little to reassures the opposition, which will be led by the PT, still the largest party, with 56 deputies and four state governors.

A week earlier he said that in his government “the red criminals will be swept from our homeland,” referring to PT leaders. He threatened to jail his rival, Haddad.

In the past he defended the torturers of the military dictatorship and denied that the 1964-1985 military regime was a dictatorship.

His brutal statements are downplayed by his followers as “boastfulness” and even praise his declarations as frank and forthright.

The problem is not the statements themselves, but the fact that they reveal his continued fidelity to the training he received at the Military Academy in the 1970s, in the middle of the dictatorship

He considers the period when generals were presidents “democratic”, since they maintained parliament and the courts, although with restrictions and subject to controls and purges..

Bolsonaro’s victory, with 57.8 million votes, also has the symbolic effect of the absolution of the military dictatorship via elections, to the detriment of democratic convictions.

The post Brazilians Decide on a Shift to the Right at Any Cost appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/brazilians-decided-shift-right-cost/feed/ 0
Trump and Bolsonaro: Alarming Similaritieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/trump-and-bolsonaro-alarming-similarities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trump-and-bolsonaro-alarming-similarities http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/trump-and-bolsonaro-alarming-similarities/#respond Sat, 27 Oct 2018 11:13:59 +0000 Brent Millikan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158388 The author of this opinion piece is Brent Millikan, Geographer and Director of International Rivers - Brazil

The post Trump and Bolsonaro: Alarming Similarities appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Demonstration in São Paulo to protest against presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro. Credit: Rovena Rosa/Fotos Públicas

Demonstration in São Paulo to protest against presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro. Credit: Rovena Rosa/Fotos Públicas

By Brent Millikan
BRASILIA, Oct 27 2018 (IPS)

Observing recent political developments in the United States and Brazil, there are clearly similarities between the phenomena of ‘Trumpism’ and ‘Bolsonarism’ that do not seem to be a mere coincidence.

In both cases, far-right politicians have opportunistically exploited, for electoral purposes, frustrated expectations of millions of people in situations of increasing social and economic vulnerability.

In the US, the ‘American dream’ has become increasingly elusive for the majority of the population, largely as a reflection of perverse effects of increasingly globalized capitalism, coupled with neoliberal policies promoted by both Democratic and Republican administrations.

Despite important advances during the Obama administration, Hillary Clinton’s campaign clearly suffered from a legacy of neoliberal policies – such as NAFTA, launched during her husband’s administration – that aggravated social and economic inequalities.

To make matters worse, as a candidate, she paid relatively little attention to the electorate in places such as Michigan that have suffered the effects of deindustrialization, with worsening unemployment and low wages.  Of course, the Clintons’ ties to Wall Street did not help to counter the perception of being part of the Washington establishment. All of this facilitated the maneuvers of a right-wing populist billionaire characterizing himself as a champion of workers ‘forgotten’ by the Democratic party.

In Brazil, a serious economic crisis and mega corruption scandals revealed by the Lava Jato investigations, involving traditional political parties like the PMDB, PSDB and PT, led to a generalized revolt with the political class among voters, including the poor, not only hurting the candidacy of Fernando Haddad, but others with a center-left profile who had ties in the past with the PT, such as Ciro Gomes and Marina Silva.

As in the United States, an extreme right-wing candidacy in Brazil knew how to exploit political space associated with growing inequalities and errors committed by traditional social democratic parties.

A common tactic used by Trump and Bolsonaro is to propagate nostalgia for an idealized past that the ‘hero’ candidate promises to bring back miraculously.

Some bet that once sworn in, Trump could adopt a kind of moderate pragmatism .... What has happened over the past two years is just the opposite. The Trump administration has launched a widespread and systematic attack on democratic institutions in the United State. Based on experience with Trump, whom Bolsonaro sees as an 'excellent president' ... it's hard to find grounds for optimism ... other than capacity of resistance of the Brazilian people. Better not to fall off the cliff

The Trump campaign adopted as a slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ disregarding ‘details’ of American history, such as the genocide of indigenous peoples, slavery and long periods of discrimination against women, blacks, and migrants. On the other hand, the mythic Bolsonaro evokes nostalgia for the years of Brazil’s bloody military dictatorship during 1964-1985, including apologies for the use of torture.

A common pillar of the strategies of Trump and Bolsonaro has been to incite fear, anger and hatred, with apologies to violence, transforming certain individuals and groups into enemies that are declared guilty of all ills afflicting society.

For Trump and his followers, favorite targets have included, among others, populations of new migrants – characterizing Mexicans as ‘rapists’ and Muslims as ‘terrorists’ – blacks and, of course, Democratic opponents, especially leaders such as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. (Meanwhile, Trump has surfed a positive economic wave, initiated during the Obama administration, giving all credit to himself).

For Bolsonaro, the long list of public enemies includes –  in addition to the Workers’ Party and supposed ‘communists’ –  indigenous peoples, quilombolas (descendants of African slaves), the LGBT movement, environmentalists, a national landless farmers’ movement (MST), human rights defenders and activists in general, as well as environmental agencies such as IBAMA and ICMBio..  Another characteristic of both Trump and Bolsonaro is extreme misogynism, encouraging disrespect and outright violence against women.

Another striking resemblance between Trump and Bolsonaro is the antagonism directed at vehicles of the mainstream press that demonstrate critical and independent positions, such as the CNN, The New York Times and Folha de São Paulo.

Accusations of ‘fake news’ appear when stories are released that reveal inconvenient truths, contradicting narrow political interests. Meanwhile, distorted and false information, appealing to fear, prejudice and rage against adversaries are disseminated en masse via social media, such as Facebook and whatsapp.

A direct result of the attacks on the press and the incitement to hatred of ‘enemies’ is the escalation of violence that rapidly spins out of control, as demonstrated by the violence around the neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville, Virginia last year, and the serie of pipe bombs sent this week to several of Trump’s favorite targets : CNN, the Clinton and Obama families, former President Joe Biden, Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, actor Robert De Niro, and billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros, among others.

In Brazil, serious acts of violence by Bolsonaro followers have begun to appear, such as the murder of capoeira master Moa do Katendê, stabbed to death in Bahia by a partisan of the reformed captain. Meanwhile, there are growing threats to the Brazilian press, as in the case of Folha de São Paulo.

Following the publication of a story about how entrepreneurs linked to Bolsonarism contracted services for the mass dissemination via social media of false news about Haddad’s candidacy, the Folha made a formal request for police protection for its journalists.

Another similarity between the two politicians is the courtship of conservative evangelical churches with moralistic discourses on issues such as the prohibition of abortion and gay marriage, while signalling economic advantages to churches and their leaders (almost always white men).

Many of the tactics adopted by Trumpism and Bolsonarism – which seem inspired by the playbook of Joseph Goebbels, propaganda minister of the Nazis between 1933 and 1945 – are better understood when one considers the economic interests to which they are linked.

In Trump’s case, the influence of the oil and coal industries stands out. In the case of the Bolsonario, the overarching influence of the conversative agribusiness lobby, known as ruralistas, blatantly clear. In both cases, one finds the private interests of powerful groups associated with the private appropriation of territories, open public spaces, for the extensive exploitation of natural resources (logging, cattle ranching, land speculation, mechanized soybeans and mining), disregarding social and environmental damage borne by local populations (indigenous peoples, quilombolas and family farmers) and society in general.

Trump’s and Bolsonaro’s marketeers have invested heavily in creating the image of a “new” politician. This contrasts with archaic models of developmentalism promoted in practice, based on predatory exploitation of natural resources, lacking technological innovation and value added, such as the large-scale export of soybeans.

Ignored are challenges associated with climate change, reaching the UN sustainable development goals for 2030, as well as opportunities that Brazil possesses, with its enormous cultural and biological diversity, and its creative potential to generate income with quality jobs, associated with a new economy in the 21st century –  based on technological innovation, respect for cultural diversity and environmental sustainability.

When Trump was able to win the US presidential election in 2016 (losing to Hillary Clinton in the popular vote, but narrowly gaining in the archaic voting college), many questioned to what extent the far right rhetoric of the campaign would be put into practice. Some bet that once sworn in, Trump could adopt a kind of moderate pragmatism. What has happened over the past two years is just the opposite.

In practice, Trump’s administration has been charcaterized by a widespread and systematic attack on democratic institutions, including social security, health and public education programs. The treatment of migrants (including Brazilians) includes characteristics of cruelty, as in the case of detention and separation of young children from their parents.

Unashamedly, the Trump administration is attempting to dismantle the Obama’s clean energy program, while creating incentives to the coal and oil industry without a minimum of environmental safeguards. In addition, it has sought to systematically dismantle policies for the protection of water and air quality, historical achievements dating back to the 1970s.

The Trump government is determined to eliminate as much as possible natural heritage and environmental protection areas, such as the Bear Ears National Monument in Utah State (created by Obama and reduced by 85%) to facilitate exploitation of oil exploitation and fracking. His nominee to chair the EPA, Scott Pruitt, took office with the explicit mission of undermining the functioning of this vital institution. Moreover, Trump’s announcement of abandoning the Paris Agreement constitutes a risk of planetary dimensions.

Unscrupulously, Trump has used the machinery of government to favor his private interests, such as real estate deals, undermining US foreign policy in cases such as Russia and Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, with the full endorsement of the president, the Republican party has stepped up efforts to undermine voting rights, especially of the poor and Afro-AmericAN citizens, while redrawing voting districts (‘gerrymandering’) to consolidate political power.

Fortunately, there are important examples of resistance in the US from democratic institutions, citizen action (with women playing a fundamental role), and state and local governments.  Many are confident that the Democrats, including many progressive candidates, will be able to take back the House of Representatives in the November 6th mid-term election. However, there is a persistent sense that of democracy’s fragility, and its need for constant vigilance.

Returning to Bolsonaro, many in Brazil are wondering what will happen if he wins the run-off election on October 28th, as predicted by public opinion polls.  To what extent will Bolsonaro respect the Federal Constitution and democratic institutions? Will he attempt to criminalize social movements to the point of treating them as terrorists, as promised?

To what extent will he continue to incite prejudice and hatred against blacks, women, indigenous peoples and other ‘enemies’? Will he pursue his plans to dismantle Brazil’s progressive environmental policies, including a proposal to merge the ministries of the environment and agriculture, under the leadership of the ruralista bloc? Will he go ahead with his announcement to pull Brazil out of the Paris Agreement, following the example of Trump, that could bring disastrous political, economic and environmental consequences for Brazil, while damaging global efforts to address the climate crisis?

Looking at the case of Trump, whom Bolsonaro considers an “excellent president,” it’s  difficult to find much room for optimism in relation to such questions, other than the resilience of the Brazilian people.  Better not to fall off the cliff. Hopefully, the experience of Trumpism in the USA will help serve as a warning call to Brazilians of current dangers to their young democracy, and the need for the country to find its own path with wisdom, solidarity and joy, before it is too late.

The post Trump and Bolsonaro: Alarming Similarities appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

The author of this opinion piece is Brent Millikan, Geographer and Director of International Rivers - Brazil

The post Trump and Bolsonaro: Alarming Similarities appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/trump-and-bolsonaro-alarming-similarities/feed/ 0
An Ounce of Democracyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/an-ounce-of-democracy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=an-ounce-of-democracy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/an-ounce-of-democracy/#comments Thu, 25 Oct 2018 05:42:36 +0000 Abdoulaye Mar Dieye http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158362 Abdoulaye Mar Dieye is UN Assistant Secretary General and Director of UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support

The post An Ounce of Democracy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Libya, General National Congress Elections - Voting Day, 7 July 2012 - An elated voter casts her ballot. Credit: UNDP Photo

By Abdoulaye Mar Dieye
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 25 2018 (IPS)

As the old adage goes: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Nowhere is this more appropriate than when it comes to conflict. Violent conflict causes not only human suffering and destruction but robs entire societies of development and growth.

By some estimates, a country that suffers a four-year civil war loses nearly 20% of its GDP per capita. Syria has lost 19-36% of its productive capacity by 2016 due to conflict, its economy producing 20-38 billion USD less in value each year.

What is more, secondary effects of conflicts have no borders, affecting economies all over the world. For example, it is estimated that the conflict in Somalia and piracy attacks in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean led to an increase in shipping costs of about 10%.

Moreover, because conflict tends to disproportionally affect low- and middle-income countries it compounds the challenge of development – once conflict starts, development slows down or ends. Ending conflict not only ends human suffering — a worthy goal in and of itself – but leads to significant economic benefits as well.

Preventing conflict from starting, on the other hand, would magnify those benefits immeasurably. Even after the end of conflict, countries need years, if not decades, to recover. Along with rebuilding shattered societies and infrastructure, countries have to rebuild confidence in their economic systems and attract investment.

The UN Secretary-General recognized this immense potential in his “Peacebuilding and sustaining peace” report, where he called for “prevention of conflict and addressing its root causes”.

It is also the key conclusion of the “Pathway for Peace”, a joint UN and World Bank study, and has been identified by the European Union (EU) in the “Pre-emptive Peace” section of the EU’s Global Strategy, which states that the EU will “redouble our efforts on prevention, [and] monitoring root causes” of conflict.

We do not have the blueprint for preventing conflict. We do, however, have years of experience in attempting to do so, and one of the key lessons we learned is a clear and firm link between strong democratic foundations and resilience.

Countries with institutions such as inclusive and empowered parliaments, free media and robust civil society sector are less likely to experience conflict, and even if they do, they tend to recover much quicker.

We also know that an essential building block of a strong democratic system is inclusive and transparent elections, giving citizens a voice and making leaders accountable to their people. At the same time, elections can also be a trigger (although seldom the cause) of conflict, often serving as a catalyst for long-simmering grievances.

Prevention of electoral conflict was a topic of a recent high-level conference in Brussels, organized by the EC-UNDP Joint Task Force on Electoral Assistance (JTF) and attended by over 200 practitioners from over 60 countries and is a focus of a joint EU-UNDP study and toolkit on “Sustaining Peace through Elections”.

While the study found that there is “no blueprint for preventing electoral violence”, it clearly identified a common thread – support to strong democratic institutions and social values is an essential component of any conflict-prevention strategy.

Building democratic institutions and reinforcing social values capable of withstanding potential shocks of electoral violence requires sustained support, well before and well after the elections. Attempts to address electoral conflict in the weeks or even months leading up to an election is, in most cases, too little, too late.

To change this paradigm, we need to rethink the way we offer electoral assistance. Acknowledging that no single political or technical solution is sufficient, the conference presented to participants a “Democracy Strengthening” approach.

Such strategy attempts to view assistance through a wide-angle lens, to include all the stakeholders in a comprehensive, long-term vision from the very start of our involvement.

Too often, we initiate our assistance driven by short-term focus on an electoral event or a single electoral cycle, only to keep extending and adding on project after project, without a comprehensive strategy.

Instead, we should embrace a long-term view from the start and design our assistance with a goal of not simply holding a better election or having a more competent parliament, but to develop strong, empowered and independent democratic institutions.

To capture this broader timeframe and increase coordination between communities of practice and institutions more effectively, the JTF will propose the development of “Democracy Strengthening” approaches in future electoral programmes. Ultimately, our goal is to build social and institutional resilience to prevent conflict from starting in the first place.

The post An Ounce of Democracy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Abdoulaye Mar Dieye is UN Assistant Secretary General and Director of UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support

The post An Ounce of Democracy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/an-ounce-of-democracy/feed/ 2
Women as Liberia’s Guardians of Peacehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/women-liberias-guardians-peace/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-liberias-guardians-peace http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/women-liberias-guardians-peace/#respond Fri, 19 Oct 2018 09:54:18 +0000 Franck Kuwonu Africa Renewal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158265 Not long ago, images of child soldiers and the nation of Liberia were wedded in the minds of the international community. The country was struggling to end a horrific civil war, but military efforts were going nowhere. Then the mothers, grandmothers and sisters of Liberia stepped forward and formed the Women of Liberia Mass Action […]

The post Women as Liberia’s Guardians of Peace appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Liberian women at an empowerment and leadership conference in Monrovia, Liberia. Credit: UNMIL Photo/Christopher Herwig

By Franck Kuwonu, Africa Renewal
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 19 2018 (IPS)

Not long ago, images of child soldiers and the nation of Liberia were wedded in the minds of the international community. The country was struggling to end a horrific civil war, but military efforts were going nowhere.

Then the mothers, grandmothers and sisters of Liberia stepped forward and formed the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace campaign.

They pressured Liberian men to pursue peace or lose physical intimacy with their wives. Wearing all-white clothing, the women of Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, gathered at the fish market in the thousands, sitting, praying and singing. Their images were seen around the world.

“The women of Liberia say peace is our goal, peace is what matters, peace is what we need,” was their clear message, stamped on a billboard in the downtown fish market.

“The world once remembered Liberia for child soldiers,” said Leymah Gbowee, a leader of the peace group for which she won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2011. “They now know our country for the women in white.”

Their efforts, which continued until the nation’s first elections, were successful.

“We felt like the men in our society were really not taking a stand,” recalls Gbowee, who now heads the Women, Peace and Security Program at Columbia University in New York.

“They were either fighters or they were very silent and accepting all of the violence that was being thrown at us as a nation.… So we decided, ‘We’ll do this to propel the silent men into action.’”

The women demanded a meeting with then-president Charles Taylor and got him to agree to attend peace talks with the other leaders of the warring factions brokered by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a subregional grouping.

The women perfected the art of “corridor lobbying,” waiting for negotiators as they entered and exited meeting rooms during breaks. Their action paved the way for negotiations taking place in Ghana, where a delegation of about 200 Liberian women staged a sit-in at the presidential palace and applied pressure for a resolution.

Dressed in white, the women blocked every entry and exit point, including windows, stopping negotiators from leaving the talks without a resolution. Their action, as well as the pressures mounted by ECOWAS leaders, led to the signing of the 2003 Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

“They would confront then-president [Charles] Taylor, insisting that he must give peace a chance; they travelled all the way to Ghana to confront the leaders of the warring factions as they were negotiating peace, urging them to sign a ceasefire agreement. Although the men of Liberia also played a role, the women were consistent and in the forefront.”

Liberian women’s political activism continued in the aftermath of the Accra peace accord through the period leading to 2005 elections, which brought Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to the presidency.

Observers note that through civic education and a voter registration drive carried out by women, Liberians had their voices heard and their votes counted.

Close to 80% of the Liberian women who flooded the polls during the country’s first postwar presidential election voted to usher a woman into power for the first time on a continent that for centuries had been the world’s most patriarchal. Ms. Sirleaf’s election was hailed as historic. “We have shattered the glass ceiling theory,” the then president-elect was quoted as saying.

Addressing jubilant supporters celebrating her victory a few days earlier, she’d urged women to “seize the moment to become active in civil and political affairs.”

President Sirleaf became the first democratically elected president in Africa. All in all, Liberian women have been a force against violence in the country, and their actions contributed to the ending of hostilities after a 14-year civil war. Subsequently there was a shift in focus to peacebuilding.

The women’s continued advocacy, with clear messages to the public, has led to their being considered community watchdogs, while they have also developed the concept of “peace huts,” where women receive leadership and entrepreneurship training.

Additional reporting by Catherine Onekalit in Liberia.

The post Women as Liberia’s Guardians of Peace appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/women-liberias-guardians-peace/feed/ 0
Cyber Attacks Growing Problem in Developing Nationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/cyber-attacks-growing-problem-developing-nations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cyber-attacks-growing-problem-developing-nations http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/cyber-attacks-growing-problem-developing-nations/#respond Mon, 08 Oct 2018 14:00:30 +0000 Silvia Baur-Yazbeck http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158038 Few experiences undermine a digital financial services (DFS) customer’s finances and trust in DFS like becoming the victim of a cybercrime. This is especially true of low-income customers, who are least able to rebound from the losses, and of the newly banked, whose trust in financial services may be fragile. Unfortunately, cybercrime is a growing […]

The post Cyber Attacks Growing Problem in Developing Nations appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Credit: Dinh Manh Tai, 2012 CGAP Photo Contest

By Silvia Baur-Yazbeck
WASHINGTON DC, Oct 8 2018 (IPS)

Few experiences undermine a digital financial services (DFS) customer’s finances and trust in DFS like becoming the victim of a cybercrime. This is especially true of low-income customers, who are least able to rebound from the losses, and of the newly banked, whose trust in financial services may be fragile.

Unfortunately, cybercrime is a growing problem in developing countries, where customers often conduct financial transactions over unsecure mobile phones and transmission lines that are not designed to protect communications.

In Africa, the number of successful attacks against the financial sector doubled in 2017, with the biggest losses hitting the mobile financial services sector. DFS providers must adopt stronger cybersecurity measures to protect themselves and their customers. But which threats pose the greatest risk today?

In 2017, CGAP surveyed 11 DFS providers operating in Africa to understand how they perceive and mitigate cyber risks. We learned that all of them have been affected by cybersecurity incidents and are at various stages of implementing cybersecurity measures in their organizations.

While they are still most concerned about better-known types of fraud in DFS, such as malicious employees and agents, they are seeing themselves confronted with four types of risks emerging in cyberspace.

Social engineering

In a social engineering attack, the criminal tricks the victim into revealing sensitive information or downloading malware, which opens the doors to physical locations, systems or networks. The idea is to exploit a vulnerable person rather than a vulnerable system. DFS providers from Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia told us that fraudsters had duped their employees into sharing their user login details and then accessed corporate information systems.

Most DFS providers consider careless or unaware employees to be a major factor in their organization’s cyber risk exposure. But DFS customers are a vulnerability, too. The newly banked are more likely to fall victim to this type of scheme because of their limited experience with digital fraud.

Providers can guard against social engineering through regular awareness and education campaigns. It is also important to appropriately manage user access rights, introduce system log monitoring processes and require two individuals for completing sensitive transactions (i.e., maker-checker controls).

Data breaches

Using malware or social engineering, hackers can gain access to valuable information, such as credit card numbers, customer personal identification numbers, login credentials and government-issued identifiers. Weak patch management, legacy systems and poor system log monitoring were cited as the main reasons why DFS providers’ systems are susceptible to hacking attacks.

In addition to financial losses that can result from a data breach, providers’ reputation and customers’ trust are at risk. In 2017, thieves breached a DFS provider’s systems in Kenya and stole hundreds of customers’ identities. The fraudsters accessed sensitive customer information, such as account types and last transactions, which allowed them to pass as legitimate customers and apply for loans in the victim’s name.

To protect against data breaches, DFS providers need to regularly update their systems and software, patch their systems, use strong encryption for data at rest and in transit and implement 24/7 system log monitoring.

Outages & denial of service attacks

DFS providers sometimes experience system outages during routine system upgrades or patches. Earlier this year, an upgrade gone awry left DFS users in Zimbabwe without access to their digital money for two days. Systems unavailability can also be the result of a cyberattack.

For example, in 2017, M-Shwari customers in Kenya were left without access to their savings and loan products for five days. And, after the outage, several found inconsistencies in their account balances. The most frequent form of attacks that cause system unavailability are denial-of-service attacks.

In a denial-of-service attack, cyber criminals overwhelm a server by flooding it with simultaneous access requests, depriving legitimate users of access to the system. In most cases, the objective is to harm the business. Yet, in some cases, cyber criminals have launched denial-of-service attacks to distract attention from an attempt to gain access to the system.

Effective countermeasures include continuous network traffic monitoring to identify and detect attacks while allowing legitimate traffic to reach its destination, a solid and tested incident response plan that allows for quick reaction in an emergency and strong change management processes and disaster recovery planning.

Third-party threats

DFS providers rely on third parties for a range of services, such as mobile network, information technology and data storage solutions. Sometimes, these providers misuse their system rights to access confidential customer information that they can sell or use for social engineering.

Also, a third party that handles sensitive information may not have appropriate safeguards against cyberattacks, putting at risk the confidentiality and integrity of the DFS provider’s customer data.

To address third-party threats, DFS providers should implement due diligence reviews of current and potential partners, including reviews of their security policies and practices.

Impact on low-income customers

If physical money used to be kept safe in bank vaults, what is protecting money now that it is digital? This is a financial inclusion question because the answer is especially important for low-income customers. In developed countries, it is usually the financial services provider that is legally responsible for bearing the cost of fraud. In developing countries, it is often the customer.

The experience of fraud and rumors of fraud experienced by others causes mistrust in DFS, especially among lower-income consumers. The DFS providers we spoke with in Africa recognize their need to invest more in cybersecurity for both themselves and their customers. They acknowledge that better safeguards are needed to mitigate threats and be better prepared to respond to incidents.

Failure to take the relevant steps could deter people from entering the formal financial system and significantly harm consumers and markets.

The post Cyber Attacks Growing Problem in Developing Nations appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/cyber-attacks-growing-problem-developing-nations/feed/ 0
Poised to Become Digital-First Economies, ASEAN Countries Still Face Core Challengeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/poised-become-digital-first-economies-asean-countries-still-face-core-challenges/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=poised-become-digital-first-economies-asean-countries-still-face-core-challenges http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/poised-become-digital-first-economies-asean-countries-still-face-core-challenges/#respond Fri, 05 Oct 2018 09:32:11 +0000 Jia Feng http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158000 Jia Feng is Communications Officer, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Communications Department

The post Poised to Become Digital-First Economies, ASEAN Countries Still Face Core Challenges appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Jia Feng is Communications Officer, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Communications Department

By Jia Feng
WASHINGTON DC, Oct 5 2018 (IPS)

Homegrown Ride-Hailing APPS, intelligent traffic systems, advanced construction techniques, automated energy-consumption management all propel the innovation wave washing over the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Indonesia’s vibrant digital ecosystem, for example, boasts more than 1,700 start-ups—among the world’s largest clusters of new firms. GO-JEK, to name one, evolved from a ride-hailing app to a platform for mobile payments and other digital services. In Singapore, Sea, the most valuable start-up in the region—worth several billion dollars—began as an online gaming company and branched out into mobile money and shopping.

ASEAN is young (more than half of its 643 million people are under 30) and has an economy of $2.8 trillion. Its 10 members are moving toward greater economic integration. The region should be at the tip of the digital spear. But it’s not that simple.

The Internet has reached most people in Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, and Singapore, but more than 70 percent of Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao P.D.R., and Myanmar remains offline and can’t fully participate in the digital economy. High-speed broadband is even more scarce. ASEAN trails China, Japan, and Korea, largely due to high costs. Singapore is the sole exception.

Growing the digital economy depend on five key priorities: (1) Internet connectivity must be universal and affordable. (2) The business climate must encourage competition, which spurs innovation. (3) Education systems must adapt workers’ skills to new demands for a digital future. (4) Stronger safety nets are needed to protect those displaced by automation. (5) ASEAN nations should seek to improve financial inclusion through technology and adapt their regulatory frameworks to manage the risks associated with fintech.

As a regional bloc, ASEAN is the fifth largest economy in the world, and with hundreds of millions of young people eager to join the digital revolution, there’s no better time to close the digital divide. The future of the region depends on it.

The post Poised to Become Digital-First Economies, ASEAN Countries Still Face Core Challenges appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Jia Feng is Communications Officer, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Communications Department

The post Poised to Become Digital-First Economies, ASEAN Countries Still Face Core Challenges appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/poised-become-digital-first-economies-asean-countries-still-face-core-challenges/feed/ 0
Maldives Envoy tells UN About Peaceful Transfer of Powerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/maldives-envoy-tells-un-peaceful-transfer-power/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=maldives-envoy-tells-un-peaceful-transfer-power http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/maldives-envoy-tells-un-peaceful-transfer-power/#respond Wed, 03 Oct 2018 15:47:23 +0000 Arul Louis http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157956 Maldives is currently going through a peaceful transfer of power to opposition leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who was elected president last month, the nation’s Permanent Representative Ali Naseer Mohamed assured the UN General Assembly (UNGA). Speaking at the high-level General Debate of the UNGA Oct 1, he said that September 23, the day the presidential […]

The post Maldives Envoy tells UN About Peaceful Transfer of Power appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

A view of the ravaged village of Vilufushi, on the southeastern Kolhumadulu Atoll, where 17 have died and 28 are still missing after the tsunami swept across their island. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Arul Louis
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 3 2018 (IPS)

Maldives is currently going through a peaceful transfer of power to opposition leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who was elected president last month, the nation’s Permanent Representative Ali Naseer Mohamed assured the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

Speaking at the high-level General Debate of the UNGA Oct 1, he said that September 23, the day the presidential election took place, was an “extraordinary day for the country and it “was a moment that makes every Maldivian proud of how far we have come and the excellent progress the country has achieved.”

“Following the election, the Maldives is currently going through the process of transfer of power from one elected government to the other,” he said.

On Saturday, September 29, the country’s Election Commission declared Maldivian Democratic Party candidate Solih the winner of the presidential election, overruling the defeated President Abdulla Yameen’s efforts to delay the announcement of the results.

“The accelerated process of democracy in the Maldives is going in tandem with faster growth in social and economic development,” Mohamed said.

The elections came after a tumultuous period during which Yameen had imposed a state of emergency earlier this year and had arrested former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, as well as Supreme Court Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Judge Ali Hameed and charged them with treason.

Solih was also arrested along with scores of opposition leaders.

Maldives Foreign Minister Mohamed Asim was scheduled to address UNGA last Saturday, September 29, but after the president’s defeat he did not show up and Mohamed, who spoke in his stead, was the last speaker at the concluding session of the high-level General Debate.

Without naming any countries, Mohamed said “the principle of international law that governs the friendly relations and cooperation among states are being challenged at a fundamental level.”

“There is therefore a need for countries big and small to return to the right side of law,” he said.

During the country’s turmoil, the tug of war over the Maldives between the Asian giants, India and China came to the fore. As New Delhi insisted on Maldives adhering to democracy, Yameen began a drift towards Beijing and also reached out to Islamabad.

Unlike last year’s speech by Mohamed at the General Debate, Soli’s address this year hardly gave any importance to climate change, which the archipelago nation has presented to the world as a mortal danger to its very existence because of rising sea levels.

He mentioned in the passing that the UN should be the place where the “combined power of many ideas, many solutions, and many voices thrive to address challenges of climate change, ocean degradation, poverty, exclusion, and discrimination.”

Another mention of climate change came when he spoke of the construction of a bridge connecting the capital with its airport and the suburb of Hulhumalé and said it helped “better adaptation to climate change.”

The Maldivian envoy also gave a lot of importance to the value of the UN as “the engine room of multilateralism” and its role in helping the smaller nations.

“For the small islands developing States, such as the Maldives, the United Nations will always remain the indispensable partner in building our national resilience. We see the UN as the key in determining our place, and our voice, in the global discourse,” he said.

“Ensuring the relevance of the UN, must mean ensuring that everyone, from the biggest to the smallest, play their part,” he added. “It must mean, offering everyone a place, in finding shared solutions for our shared future.”

Mohamed spoke proudly of the nation’s strides in development and in ending poverty.

“From the humble beginning, as one of the poorest countries in the world at independence in 1965, to an upper middle-income country today, is a success story by any measure,” he said.

The per capita gross domestic product shot up from $1,470 in 1980 to $19,120 last, the International Monetary Fund data show, putting it firmly in the middle income countries category.

In per capita terms, Maldives is the richest nation in South Asia.

Mohamed gave his country’s scorecard: “The Maldives has one of the highest human development indicators in our region, with nearly universal literacy rates, universal immunization, and the lowest infant-mortality, and maternal-mortality rates. The country has eradicated diseases, such as polio, measles, malaria, and lymphatic filariasis, although various types of non-communicable diseases, are emerging as new challenges.”

He praised Yameen for what he said was the progress recorded by the Indian Ocean archipelago nation during the last five years under his rule.

He made an appeal for support to small island developing states like his for capacity building, through transfer of technology, and access to finance in order to achieve the UN’s sustainable development goals.

“The United Nations can assume a greater level of leadership in fostering such support,” he said.

The post Maldives Envoy tells UN About Peaceful Transfer of Power appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/maldives-envoy-tells-un-peaceful-transfer-power/feed/ 0
The Growing Need for Democracy in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/growing-need-democracy-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=growing-need-democracy-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/growing-need-democracy-africa/#respond Wed, 03 Oct 2018 11:19:01 +0000 Rev Gabriel Odima http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157938 Rev. Gabriel Odima is President & Director of Political Affairs- Africa Center for Peace & Democracy

The post The Growing Need for Democracy in Africa appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Rev. Gabriel Odima is President & Director of Political Affairs- Africa Center for Peace & Democracy

By Rev. Gabriel Odima
MINNESOTA, USA, Oct 3 2018 (IPS)

Many scholars argue that democracy is not the answer to Africa’s problems. To certain degree, I agree with such statements that democracy alone cannot guarantee African nations’ happiness, prosperity, health, peace and stability. In fact, modern democracies also suffer greatly from many defects.

Uganda Police Force manhandle a journalist covering a demonstration in Kampala, Uganda. Courtesy: Wambi Michael

But in spite of the flaws, we must never lose sight of the benefits that make democracy more desirable than undemocratic regimes. The direct benefit of democracy is that it helps to prevent government from violating the rights of their people like the case of Uganda.

After observing the political development in Uganda for the last 33 years, I have come to the conclusion that human rights abuses, the lack of political freedom, corruption, poor leadership, greed and thirsty for power are the leading pillars of President Museveni ‘s rule in Uganda.

On becoming President in 1986, Museveni confirmed the massacres and the decapitations dramatically in two ways. The first was the exhibition of the male child soldiers. Museveni claimed that these soldiers found the children abandoned in villages and adopted them. The lie could not hide how only male children who were made child soldiers were found in villages allegedly abandoned by their inhabitants.

The second mocking order by Museveni that the remains of the dead be collected and exhibited on roadsides. In the collection, Museveni’s soldiers took journalists to scattered graves where only skulls were unearthed.

No one who had not participated in the burial of these skulls could have known of the sites of the graves. Despite this glaring evidence, the propaganda was that all the remains and skulls were of civilians killed by government troops of the late former President Milton Obote.

The message of the propaganda war that there had been no war in Luwero lunched by Museveni, in which his and government combatants died and were buried in Luwero, and that his army never killed anybody during that war and none of his men were killed or even died of other causes and was buried in Luwero.

This insult to human intelligence, knowledge and experience of war, any war, is still being preached 35 years later. The devastating war which Uganda’s present regime launched in February 1981 was not inevitable nor was it necessary. What many people in Uganda and the International community did not realize is that this kind of war was launched with one objective: to remove from Africa’s body politic the power of the citizen’s freedom of assembly and association.

This removal creates conflicts and suffering to millions of Africans whose lives are under constant fear. From Uganda, the same war spread to Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

By turning a blind eye not only to the deepening of dictatorship in Uganda, to the extent of even rejecting its very existence but also by ignoring the very extensive gruesome and widespread massacres and devastation committed in the process, governments, media, and human rights organizations in developed countries have cleansed, rewarded, and licensed Museveni to entrench the dictatorship in Uganda.

The International community should emphasize respect of territorial integrity of each nation. No country in Africa should have the power to invade another country for selfish interests. A civilized nation cannot engage in political assassinations and massive human rights violations.

The international community needs to come to terms with reality and help address the crucial crisis facing Uganda today.

1. The International community should encourage President Museveni to step down at the end of his current term in office.

2. Open up political space and call for Uganda national conference to deliberate on the political future of Uganda.

3. Formation of a transitional government to review the current constitution of Uganda and prepare for free and fair elections in Uganda.

The post The Growing Need for Democracy in Africa appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Rev. Gabriel Odima is President & Director of Political Affairs- Africa Center for Peace & Democracy

The post The Growing Need for Democracy in Africa appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/growing-need-democracy-africa/feed/ 0