In 2003, the Palestinian village of Budrus mounted a 10-month-long nonviolent protest to stop a barrier being built across their olive groves. Did you hear about it? Didn’t think so. Brazilian filmmaker Julia Bacha asks why we only pay attention to violence in the Israel-Palestine conflict — and not to the nonviolent leaders who may one day bring peace.(...more)
Friday, 28 October 2011
PHNOM PENH – Twenty years ago this week Cambodia entered a brave new dawn. The four Cambodian factions that had fought a protracted civil war since the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979 came together with signatories from 18 countries in Paris to sign the Agreement on a Comprehensive Political Settlement of the Cambodia Conflict, otherwise known as the Paris Peace Agreement. It was a document that promised the Cambodian people peace, stability, democracy and human rights after decades of war and hardship.
On paper, the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) has followed through on some of the Paris Peace Agreement’s promise…
In the fields of democracy and human rights, however, its accomplishments are less clear. Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government has routinely flouted many of the covenants it has ratified; further entrenched a pervasive culture of corruption and impunity, allowed the wealth gap between the elite and vast majority of poverty-ridden Cambodians to widen alarmingly, and waged a sustained legislative and administrative campaign to control every aspect of the Cambodian people’s lives, showing scant regard for the rule of law, democratic institutions and human rights and freedoms.(...more)
External threats usually unite a quarrelling country. That is the rule of thumb, isn’t it? Joint efforts to help ease the suffering of victims in times of natural disaster also usually trigger the best in ourselves, doesn’t it? I used to believe such is the case. I am not so sure any more. If a threat to survival is a unifying force, then there is a chance that the mega flood can help heal and wash away the deep and destabilising political divisiveness. But as our country slides deeper and deeper under water, I have to admit this is only wishful thinking.(...more)
Pope Benedict XVI presided over his first inter-religious gathering Thursday in the Umbrian hilltop town of Assisi. But unlike the meeting called by his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, 25 years ago, there were no common prayers with Jews, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims.
Pope Benedict welcomed some 300 leaders representing a rainbow of faiths to Assisi, Italy, the birthplace of Saint Francis, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of a day-long prayer for peace called by Pope John Paul II in 1986 amid Cold War conflicts.
Leading the global interfaith meeting, the pope acknowledged that Christianity has in the past used force, but he said violence in God’s name has no place in today’s world.
Addressing religious representatives in a basilica in Assisi, the pope said that it is true that in the course of history, force has also been used in the name of the Christian faith. He added that “We acknowledge this with great shame.” He also said this was clearly an abuse of the Christian faith, one that contradicts its true nature.(...more)
Sunday, 23 October 2011
BANGKOK – Nearly 84 per cent of Bangkok residents were worried about news related to political conflicts in solving flooding, according to a poll released on Sunday.
Assumption University’s ABAC Poll conducted an opinion poll among 1,305 persons living in the capital between Oct 15-22 on the topic of lessons they learned from the country’s flood crisis.
About 81 per cent of respondents said that they wanted to see good cooperation between the Pheu Thai Party’s core leaders and Bangkok governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra from the Democrat Party in tackling the severe flooding.
As Thailand faces the country’s worst inundation in decades, 66.3 per cent of the respondents said that they learned more about how to brace for and handle the flood crisis, adding that the crisis brought unity in the nation and gave them lessons on impact of natural destruction.(...more)
Friday, 21 October 2011
The Guatemalan president, Alvaro Colom, has issued an official apology to the family of the former president Jacobo Arbenz, 57 years after a US-backed coup violently removed him from power.
Colom, who apologised under a settlement worked out with Arbenz’s family by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, said on Thursday the coup was a “crime [against] the Guatemalan society committed by the CIA and Guatemalans with bad intentions”.
Speaking during a ceremony at the former government headquarters, in the presence of Jacobo Arbenz Vilanova, the only surviving son of the former president, Colom said: “As head of state, as constitutional president of the republic and as the military’s commander in chief, I hereby wish to request the forgiveness of the Arbenz Vilanova family for this great crime.(...more)
Thursday, 20 October 2011
Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the first ever GeekGirlCon in Seattle, along with my proudly geeky 17-year old daughters. While I have some interest in online gaming (and an embarrassing addiction to Plants vs. Zombies), I haven’t spent as much time as most of the other geeks at this particular convention in role play games and cosplay (costume play that can be quite separate from role playing). As a consequence, I was fascinated by some of the panels on the topic, and intrigued by the games room where I had the chance to observe some interesting games in action. But mostly, I was blown away by some of the unbelievable costumes! (My daughters and I overheard an especially telling conversation in the food court – one intricately costumed consumer of fast food called over someone she saw walking past to admire his chain mail and to compare techniques they’d each used to create truly extraordinary chain mail by hand.)
Given that starting point, and the rapid approach of Halloween, I couldn’t help but speculate on just how one could have a really cool mediator costume too?(...more)
Myanmar, seeking to cautiously open up after decades of isolation under military rule, has taken steps to improve its human rights record but still has much to do, a U.N. investigator said on Thursday.
After holding the first election in 20 years last November, the Asian country’s generals nominally handed power in March to civilians, have loosened some media controls and started political dialogue with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, whose 15-year house arrest ended last year.
“I believe that this is a key moment in Myanmar history and there are real opportunities for positive and meaningful developments to improve the human rights situation and deepen the transition to democracy,” said Tomas Ojea Quintana.(...more)
On September 30, Myanmar’s President Thein Sein surprised many by stopping the construction of the $3.6 billion Myitsone hydroelectric project. In the midst of a transition towards democracy, the move can be seen as the final gambit to win the hearts and minds of his people, even though it has angered China. The project is a collaborative effort between Myanmar and the China Power Investment Corporation, a State-owned entity. An upset China has already called for talks over the decision.(...more)
Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners have been released and Gilad Shalit is home. How will this deal shape regional dynamics in the years to come? I’ve been studying “engagements with hostile non-state actors” for several years (another name for the subject is “talking to terrorists”), and like the many scholars and diplomats who have written on the subject, I have plumbed the yawning crevasse between rhetoric and practice. Western nations don’t talk to groups they’ve designated as terrorists, unless those groups have something they want. Historically, the U.S. and Israel almost always talk to their enemies.
What can we expect as strategic payoff from the Hamas-Israel prisoner exchange?(...more)
Gilad Schalit is home! Three days after Gilad was abducted in an attack inside Israel, on sovereign Israeli territory, I was contacted by a Professor “M.,” a professor of economics from a Gaza university, a member of Hamas whom I had met six months before at a conference in Cairo.
He was the first person from Hamas I had ever met, and I was the first Israeli he ever spoke to. We spent more than six hours in dialogue during that conference. For me, it was like a time warp – his words sounded like conversations I had with PLO people 25 years ago.(...more)
Structures of Peace is a new conceptual framework for understanding and describing the factors that create a peaceful society. Derived from an empirical and statistical analysis of the Global Peace Index. Over 300 country data sets were used to define the key economic, political and cultural determinants that foster the creation of a more peaceful society.(...more)
Cambodia’s Hidden Scars is an study of the trauma inflicted by the Khmer Rouge and its current manifestation in Cambodian society. It was published by the Documentation Center of Cambodia to promote healing some of the psychological damage brought on by the violence of the regime. Co-author Beth Van Schaack, a professor at Santa Clara University’s School of Law, specializes in transitional justice and international law and human rights. She spoke with VOA Khmer recently about the book and Cambodia’s efforts to come to grips with its past.(...more)
The overthrow of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi in Libya represents not only the end of a 42-year-old regime, but the end of an era of unprecedented repression and dictatorship in Libya. Military action was ultimately effective in helping rebels topple the regime. However, to ensure that they are entering a new era of justice, freedom and development, Libyans across the country must replace the militancy they unleashed against the Qaddafi regime with a new mechanism: forgiveness.(...more)
Wednesday, 19 October 2011
The release of political prisoners is delayed due to opposition from hardliners led by former junta strongman Than Shwe.
Burmese politics have always been a cat and mouse affair. Those in power seeking change have always had to tread lightly. And nothing has changed under the new political system. If anything, things have got worse, as the power is more diffuse than under the naked military rule of the past.
But the new regime must show its true colors soon. It is no use shouting to the world that things have changed if there are no concrete changes to support that call.(...more)
Sunday, 9 October 2011
A few months ago, I attended a huge demonstration in central London that had drawn people from all across the country to protest against the public-sector cuts imposed by the British government. Near Trafalgar Square, I saw a wee fellow, not quite four feet tall and dressed entirely in motorcycle leathers, berate a police officer: “How many working-class people have you oppressed today?” The cop smiled down at him and said nothing, but you could tell he was thinking: If you think I’m landed gentry, mate, you’re as mad as a box of frogs.
A little later, I stumbled across Nigella Lawson and her wealthy art collector husband, Charles Saatchi, who watched the crowds in Hyde Park from across the street, a bit like Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI getting the first quiver on their danger antennae. It was that kind of day…
I was thinking about all this while watching How to Start a Revolution, an inspirational new documentary about Gene Sharp, the 83-year-old American academic whose writings on non-violent political struggle have helped topple dictators around the world.(...more)
Saturday, 8 October 2011
Three women from Africa and the Middle East who symbolize nonviolent struggles to improve their nations and advance the role of women’s rights were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.
Sharing the award were Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa’s first democratically elected female head of state; her countrywoman Leymah Gbowee, a peace activist who challenged warlords; and Tawakul Karman, a Yemeni human rights leader seeking to overthrow an autocratic regime as part of the regionwide “Arab Spring” movement.(...more)
Friday, 7 October 2011
Desmond Tutu is a consummate actor and a clever poker player – skills that have helped a little to make him one of the most important figures in modern South African history.
Through his long career, he has had many opportunities to combine those skills in acts of political brinkmanship that have influenced, if not changed the course of that history.
Tutu summed up other players at the table, calculated the odds and acted up a storm in September 1989, when he joined other prominent clergy to defy the government’s state of emergency and lead 30 000 people on a peaceful march through the streets of Cape Town.(...more)
Wednesday, 5 October 2011
Some of the world’s foremost experts on the role of media in preventing mass atrocities will bring their latest insights to the upcoming conference, The Promise of Media in Halting Mass Atrocities: A Conference to Mark the 10th Anniversary of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). Concordia University’s Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) is organizing the conference, which takes place October 20 and 21 at the Mount Stephen Club (1440 Drummond St.)(...more)
Tuesday, 4 October 2011
Today (Oct. 4) Christians around the world celebrate the life of St. Francis of Assisi, one of the bright lights of the Church and one of the most venerated religious figures in history.
The life and witness of Francis is as relevant to the world we live in today as it was 900 years ago. He was one of the first critics of capitalism, one of the earliest Christian environmentalists, a sassy reformer of the Church and one of the classic conscientious objectors to war.(...more)