Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Comparing Haiti and Chile: 9.0 on the Poverty Scale

Filed under: Humanitarian work — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 15:06 PDT

The earthquake that struck Chile early Saturday morning was 500 times more powerful than the one that ravaged Haiti less than seven weeks earlier. Yet the difference in death tolls and damage is even more striking: More than 200,000 Haitians perished in a matter of minutes, while the body count in Chile likely will not exceed 1,000.

Many people are wondering why.

Numerous scientists have been interviewed in recent days laboring to explain “subduction zones” and “tectonic plates.” But in a commentary for CNN, Dr. Colin Stark of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University demonstrated he grasps another, more significant reason for the shocking number of deaths in Haiti.

“Poverty is what ultimately kills most people during an earthquake,” he writes. “Poverty means that little or no evaluation is made of seismic risk in constructing buildings and no zoning takes place. It means that building codes are not written, and even if they do exist they are difficult, or impossible, to enforce … Haiti is a tragic illustration of this.”

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Military aid work in Afghanistan put charity staff at risk

Filed under: Humanitarian work,Middle East — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 10:49 PDT

UK soldiers in Afghanistan should not carry out humanitarian work as it puts aid staff at risk, a charity has said.

Save the Children said the UK’s policy of funding troops to work alongside aid workers threatened their impartiality.

The link-up on projects such as rebuilding schools blurred military and humanitarian objectives, it warned.

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The limits of free speech in Rwanda

Filed under: Rwanda — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 10:48 PDT

Sixteen years after genocide, Rwanda is facing a new test. President Paul Kagame, who is seeking re-election, is widely admired abroad. Among his fans are some of the world’s most famous do-gooders, from Bill Clinton and Tony Blair to Rev Rick Warren and Dr Paul Farmer. His enemies hope to use this election campaign to tarnish his image and show these admirers that he is no democrat.

Rwanda is more stable and prosperous than many would have predicted following the 1994 genocide. The reconciliation process has been at least partly successful. Yet beneath the surface, Rwandan society remains volatile. Hatreds are unexpressed, but no one believes they are gone.

Kagame’s government has passed laws against disseminating “genocide ideology”, meaning views that could inflame communal hatreds. People are supposed to describe themselves only as Rwandan, never as Hutu or Tutsi. Kagame claims these laws are necessary to keep Rwanda back from the abyss of violence.

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Rwanda’s blood-soaked history becomes a tool for repression

Filed under: Rwanda — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 10:48 PDT

Kigali — The symbolism was incendiary. In front of the mass graves where 250,000 genocide victims are buried, a Rwandan politician dared to speak of the Hutus who were killed in those same terrible months in 1994.

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Canada’s International Leadership must include Human Rights, says Amnesty International Canada

Filed under: Books, reports, sites, blogs,Human Rights,Indigenous Peoples — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 10:47 PDT

As the world focuses on the country this year there are unparalleled opportunities for Canada to be a human rights leader, says Amnesty International Canada. The Winter Olympics and Paralympics have captured the world’s attention. And Canada will be again on the world stage as the host to the world’s most powerful countries at the G8 and G20 meetings in June.

“A new vision for politics, economic, security and humanitarianism of global affairs can emerge with decisive leadership,” notes Alex Neve Secretary General of the English branch of Amnesty International Canada. “But to be that champion Canada must reverse the erosion of its own reputation for human rights leadership.”

In a document released today, Canada and Human Rights in 2010: Time to Return to Leadership, Amnesty International Canada outlines how the government should address human rights protection in a number of areas and champion this “new vision”.

Amnesty International welcomed the government’s announcement that the issue of maternal and child health will be a priority at the G8 Summit in June. It is critically important that the tragically high rates of maternal mortality around the world be addressed. Recent reports from Amnesty International have documented how many women die while giving birth in countries like Burkino Faso, Peru and Sierra Leone.

“The solutions to the tragedy of maternal mortality are not simply matters of health policy and economics”, says Beatrice Vaugrante, Director general of the francophone branch of Amnesty International Canada. “They are rooted in discrimination, inequality and violence against women and girls. That is why a human rights approach must be adopted by the G8 summit.”

At the June G20 Summit of the world’s leading economic powers, following the G8 meeting, Canada, should seek agreement to develop standards for business and human rights that are critical to closing the regulatory and accountability gaps within the global and national economies. It is a crucial time for action as countries struggle to recover from the dramatic downturn while one billion people worldwide still live in extreme poverty.

Amnesty International Canada, as part of a broad coalition of organizations, is calling on the government to ensure that poverty eradication, economic recovery for all and environmental justice is at the centre of the Summit agendas, grounded in human rights standards.

“International leadership at the Summits must be matched by efforts to arrest the erosion of human rights protection within Canada”, says Neve. “Canada is only credible internationally if it has a consistent approach nationally.”

The Amnesty International Canada human rights agenda highlights a number of areas where Canada has failed to take the lead. Commitment to the rights of Indigenous peoples has been weakened by the failure to support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. That position must be reversed. The discriminatory levels of funding for First Nations child protection agencies must be ended. And a comprehensive national action plan to address violence against Indigenous women is needed.

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