Monday, 11 February 2008

Archbishop of Canterbury clarifies, defends remarks on Shariah law

Filed under: Religion and peacebuilding — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 13:04 PDT

The Archbishop of Canterbury clarified his comments on Shariah law Monday, saying his points were taken out of context and he was not advocating parallel legal systems in Britain.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, seen in Cambridge, has drawn heavy criticism since he acknowledged the adoption of some parts of Shariah law alongside Britain’s legal system ‘seems unavoidable’ in certain circumstances…

Williams, who is the head of the Church of England and the symbolic head of the Anglican Church, said the lecture was part of a series focusing on Islam and British law and as such it had to ask whether adoption of parts of Sharia law would disrupt the law of the land and remove individual rights.

“I concluded that nothing should be recognized which had that effect,” he told the church’s governing body.

“We are not talking about parallel jurisdictions. And I tried to make clear that there could be no ‘blank cheques’ in this regard, in particular as regards some of the sensitive questions about the status and liberties of women. The law of the land still guarantees for all the basic components of human dignity…


Religion in World Affairs: Its Role in Conflict and Peace

Filed under: Books, reports, sites, blogs,Middle East,News Watch Blog,Religion and peacebuilding — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 13:04 PDT

In recent decades, religion has assumed unusual prominence in international affairs. A recent article in The Economist asserts that, if there ever was a global drift toward secularism, it has been halted and probably reversed.

In the article, Philip Jenkins, a noted scholar from Pennsylvania State University, predicts that when historians look back at this century they will see religion as “the prime animating and destructive force in human affairs, guiding attitudes to political liberty and obligation, concepts of nationhood and, of course, conflicts and wars.”

The article then cites statistics from a public opinion survey in Nigeria demonstrating that Nigerians believe religion to be more central to their identity than nationality. Nigerians are thus more likely to identify themselves first and foremost as Christians or Muslims rather than as Nigerians. The horrendous events of September 11, the conflagration in Iraq, and the aggressive assertiveness of quasi-theocratic Iran only confirm in the popular mind that religion lies behind much of contemporary international conflict.


Friday, 8 February 2008

University for Peace: Peace and Conflict Monitor

Filed under: News Watch Blog — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 11:26 PDT

This month’s issue addresses the tragic unrest currently unfolding in Kenya…


Canadian NGO Calls on UN to Take Action on Child Soldiers

Filed under: News Watch Blog — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 08:54 PDT

TORONTO – In response to the new United Nations report “Children in Armed Conflict”, Plan Canada urges the Security Council to do more than simply debate the issue when it meets in New York in a special session on February 12. Urgent action is needed to defuse a ticking time bomb of traumatized and alienated child soldiers, often kidnapped by armed groups and brainwashed to become brutal killers.

“These children face even more hardships when they return home,” said Rosemary McCarney, President and CEO Plan Canada. “Not only do they have to live with the stigma of what they’ve done, but they have to deal with
communities and even family members that are often terrified of them.”

The Secretary General’s report (published January 30) highlights conflicts in countries such as Uganda, Sudan, Colombia, Sri Lanka and Sierra Leone and others – all countries where Plan works.


Nonviolent Action: One Palestinian teen injured in weekly Bil’in protest

Filed under: Middle East — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 08:44 PDT

Accompanied by international and Israeli supporters, the villagers of Bil’in, located near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, have conducted their weekly protest against the illegal Israeli wall being built on village land.


Chatham House International Law Discussion Group: Private Military and Security Companies

Filed under: Books, reports, sites, blogs,News Watch Blog — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 08:42 PDT

A summary [pdf] of the Chatham House International Law discussion group meeting held on 22 January 2008.


REPORT: Negotiating in practice what is non-negotiable in principle: development policy and armed non-state actor

Filed under: Books, reports, sites, blogs,International Law: War,News Watch Blog — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 08:41 PDT

Negotiating in practice what is non-negotiable in principle: development policy and armed non-state actors:
Development perspectives of engaging with non-state armed actors

Authors: N. Stott
Publisher: Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik / German Development Institute (GDI), 2008
Full text of document (pdf)

Non-State Armed Actors (NSAA) are today the main feature of violent conflicts both within States and at the regional level. Humanitarian organisations have for some time developed strategies to engage armed groups on questions related to the respect for humanitarian principles. Little research, however, has been conducted to ascertain the opportunities for, and challenges of, engaging NSAA from a development perspective.

This paper considers possible entry points for constructive engagement with NSAA from a development perspective.


REVIEW: The Mediator Magazine: great online resource for the dispute resolution professional

Filed under: Books, reports, sites, blogs,Dispute resolution and negotiation — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 08:40 PDT

The Mediator Magazine, published monthly, delivers news, profiles, columns, and polls dedicated to the art and practice of mediation. Although many of the articles focus on the work of mediators in the U.K., it holds a universal appeal, covering issues of concern to mediators regardless of where in the world they practice…

The Mediator Magazine is a flash-based site, so I’m not able to link directly to the articles cited here. You’ll need to visit the site yourself to access these and other articles. It’s just too bad this great online resource relies on flash and lacks an RSS feed or an email subscription service so that readers could be notified when new issues are published.


ABSTRACT: Cluster munitions: decades of failure, decades of civilian suffering

Filed under: Books, reports, sites, blogs,International Law: War,News Watch Blog — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 08:10 PDT

Abstract: Cluster munitions have been a persistent problem for decades. Although used in only a few dozen armed conflicts over the last 40 years, these weapons have killed or maimed tens of thousands of civilians in war-affected countries… Only now are governments beginning to take concerted action to address the human costs of these weapons.Many States are supporting proposals to prohibit some or all cluster munitions.


CHRONOLOGY-Kenya in crisis after disputed elections

Filed under: Africa files,News Watch Blog — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 07:44 PDT

Feb 8 (Reuters) – International mediators cannot afford to fail in Kenya, former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said on Friday.

Annan has been leading efforts to end violence sparked by a disputed election in Kenya. Here is a short chronology of events since the Dec. 27 presidential and parliamentary elections.

Click for full story including chronology

Biofuels are worsening global warming

Filed under: News Watch Blog — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 07:30 PDT

Converting native ecosystems for production of biofuel feed stocks is worsening the greenhouse gas emissions they are intended to mitigate, reports a pair of studies published in the journal Science. The studies follow a series of reports that have linked ethanol and biodiesel production to increased carbon dioxide emissions, destruction of biodiverse forest and savanna habitats, and air and water pollution.

Analyzing the lifecycle emissions from biofuels, the first study found that carbon released by converting rainforests, peatlands, savannas, or grasslands often far outweighs the carbon savings from biofuels. Conversion of peatland rainforests for oil palm plantations for example, incurs a “carbon debt” of 423 years in Indonesia and Malaysia, while the carbon emission from clearing Amazon rainforest for soybeans takes 319 years of renewable soy biodiesel before the land can begin to lower greenhouse gas levels and mitigate global warming.


Thursday, 7 February 2008

Canadian comedy strikes a chord around the world

Filed under: News Watch Blog,Religion and peacebuilding — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 21:34 PDT

It turns out that Little Mosque on the Prairie is more than just a cute Canadian sitcom.

The series, which received the Canada Award at the 2007 Gemini Awards in recognition of its reflection of Canada’s racial and cultural diversity, has struck a chord with viewers not only in the Great White North but around the world as well.

Currently available in more than 60 countries, CBC’s Little Mosque on the Prairie is being recognized for its unique spin on life. After winning the best television series and best writing prizes at the annual Roma Fiction Fest in Rome in July 2007, the series received the Search For Common Ground award in November, presented by a human rights organization of the same name.


Kenya artist paints peace messages in Nairobi slum

Filed under: Africa files,Art of Peacework,Peaceworkers in the news — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 21:30 PDT

NAIROBI – It’s a long, thick stroke. The white paint is still wet.

Solomon Muhandi dips his brush again into a small cup, his hands dotted with irregular white spots.

Finishing, Muhandi takes a step back: “Peace Wanted Alive” the sign reads, like hundreds of others the 31-year old has painted all over Kenya’s largest slum.

Messages like “Keep Peace” and “Kenya Needs Peace” decorate speed bumps and corrugated iron walls in the Kibera slum, scene of some of the most intense violence as police clashed with opposition protesters and rival tribes fought last month.

Like many Kenyans across east Africa’s largest economy, Muhandi says he is sick of violence that has killed 1,000 people since President Mwai Kibaki’s disputed Dec. 27 re-election.

Hundreds of thousands more have fled their homes.

But a number of Kenyans have taken it upon themselves to daub graffiti on buildings and decorate parks with peace messages.


Students challenge Cuban regime in rare video

Filed under: News Watch Blog — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 21:27 PDT

WASHINGTON — In a rare glimpse of public discontent in Cuba, a new video circulating on the Internet shows university students making barbed remarks to a top government official and questioning why they were barred from foreign travel and local hotels, among other hardships.


At-Tuwani Reflection: Why can’t you bring us our donkey?

Filed under: Middle East — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 21:19 PDT

When I saw Heba* talking to the Ma’on settlement guard, I went running towards her with my video camera poised. In at-Tuwani, extremist Israeli settlers have attacked Palestinian children walking to school, as well as Palestinian adults working on their own land. But as I hurried towards Heba, I realized this 7-year-old was about to teach me a lesson in nonviolent resistance.

* not her real name.


Wednesday, 6 February 2008

HD Centre launches new website built on research

Filed under: Books, reports, sites, blogs,News Watch Blog — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 15:58 PDT

The Swiss based mediation organisation, the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD Centre), launched a new website.

The web site, aimed at mediators, government officials, funders, armed groups and others directly involved in peace processes provides a comprehensive overview of the work and focus of the organisation in its attempts to mediate between warring parties and support the wider community of mediators.

The site is available at


Reflections from the World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland

Filed under: Human Rights,News Watch Blog — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 15:49 PDT

The World Economic Forum took place in the last week of January. The number of NGO participants has reduced recently as there are more paying delegates from the business sector. This year, even the World Social Forum did not hold one global meeting, instead opting for a global day of mobilisation on 26 January.

I travelled to Zurich, Switzerland where I was privileged to join with the World Social Forum Human Rights and Human Dignity Caucus. Some twenty human rights activists from different parts of the world arrived at Davos and participated in a press conference calling on the World Economic Forum to focus more on human rights and the environment. The theme of this year’s WEF was The Power of Collaborative Innovation.

There, of course, remain diverse views on the value of civil society organisations participating in the World Economic Forum. Some hold the view that the WEF is part of the problem and could never be part of the solution. Others take the view that while the WEF has a legitimacy deficit, the world’s economy is far too important to leave to business people alone. There is no doubt in my mind that the combined pressure of the World Social Forum and the efforts of trade unionists, NGOs and religious leaders participating in the WEF has succeeded in persuading its leadership to focus on issues important to us, such as climate change and poverty.

However, simply getting an issue such as climate change onto the agenda does not mean that the issues are dealt with in the way that civil society would like.


UN official praises churches’ work for reconciliation in Burundi

Filed under: Africa files,Religion and peacebuilding — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 15:44 PDT

A senior United Nations official in Burundi has pledged the support of the global body to the peace work of churches and other civic and religious bodies, paying a tribute to their efforts to stabilise the country after more than 10 years of war – writes Fredrick Nzwili.

“We will be happy to see how we can support you. Churches and other religious groups with their capacities for peace building, have a very important role to play,” Youssef Mahmoud, the UN secretary general’s special representative for Burundi told a team from the World Council of Churches, the All Africa Conference of Churches and the Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa recently.


Israeli and Palestinian groups deplore tightening of Gaza blockade

Filed under: Human Rights,International Law: War,Middle East,Religion and peacebuilding — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 15:41 PDT

There are fears that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is set to worsen after a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court, supported by church and civil rights groups (both Palestinian and Israeli), failed to stop the government from stepping up its blockade of fuel supplies and power into the territory…

Many Israeli organisations argue the blockade policy not only inflicts indefensible suffering on Palestinians but also does not fulfil its stated aim of providing greater security for Israelis.


Baghdad security walls curb violence, at a cost

Filed under: Middle East — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 15:35 PDT

BAGHDAD – To some Iraqis they are the reason it is safe to shop. To others they are like big jails.

Nothing symbolises the year-long security offensive in Baghdad more vividly than the thousands of tonnes of concrete walls that have been erected around dozens of markets, public places and even entire neighbourhoods.

But as violence has fallen in the capital, some Iraqis have begun debating whether the 12-foot (3.5-metre) high walls should come down. Does the inconvenience and ugliness of the grey barriers outweigh the protection and peace of mind they provide?

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