Thursday, 29 March 2012

Learning Lessons From the Khmer Rouge

Filed under: Cambodia,News Watch Blog,Transitional Justice — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:45 PDT

PHNOM PENH – For four years, Wan Preung toiled in the fields under the Khmer Rouge, unable to speak his mind. But after the regime fell in 1979, there was still one sensitive subject the teacher could seldom broach with his students: the Khmer Rouge.

“It was difficult to teach the students about the Khmer Rouge, because we didn’t know this story clearly,” Preung says. “We didn’t have much information in our books.”

When students asked, Preung would tell them about his own experiences living under a regime responsible for the deaths of an estimated one-quarter of the population. But for years, Cambodian history textbooks contained only a brief mention of the Khmer Rouge. The country’s political future was still uncertain in the aftermath of the regime, and the facts of the Khmer Rouge rule were obscured by the politics of the era.

“We couldn’t talk much,” Preung says. “It was so political, so we didn’t want to say much about it.” Khmer Rouge was the name given to followers of the Communist Party, that was held responsible for mass killing of perceived opponents during its rule 1975-1979.

But more than three decades after the Khmer Rouge collapsed, the mood is changing.

In 2009, Cambodia approved its first ever textbook on Khmer Rouge history. It’s now a part of the school curriculum. Before instructors can teach their students about the past, however, Cambodia’s history teachers must learn it themselves.


The Tortuous Path to Justice in Cambodia

Filed under: Cambodia,Transitional Justice — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:44 PDT

HONG KONG — To watch the court proceedings, to hear the lawyers’ objections, to sit through the delays and the quibbles and the endless parsing of words, it’s enough to make a good number of Cambodians want to simply unshackle the prisoners and set them free. Game over.

But these prisoners — they’re just three arrogant old men now — had once been the most senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge, the ruthless Communist regime that killed 1.7 million Cambodians. The court’s raison d’etre now seems to spin less and less around the horrors the men perpetrated and how much prison time they should serve; more to the point is how they are being judged by the United Nations-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh…


Friday, 23 March 2012

Rwanda Gets Business Reformer Tag as Kagame Opponents Jailed

Filed under: Business, Human Rights, Environment,Human Rights,Rwanda — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 07:59 PDT

Rwandan President Paul Kagame has been criticized by the U.S. government and advocacy groups for cracking down on civil liberties and trampling on human rights. Investors are more focused on how his policies have fostered one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice in November criticized Rwanda’s “closed” political culture. Harassment of civil-society activists, opposition figures and journalists as well as the disappearance of some of them pose the “next developmental challenge” for the country, she said. Her comments echoed similar statements by Amnesty International, the London-based rights group, last week.


The Closing of the Gacaca Courts and the Implications for Access to Justice in Rwanda

Filed under: International Law: War,Rwanda,Transitional Justice — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 07:49 PDT

Rwanda’s traditional mechanism for resolving civil disputes; the Gacaca courts, will officially be closing on the 4th of May 2012. The Gacaca Courts have tried the bulk of Rwanda’s genocide related Rwanda’s traditional mechanism for resolving civil disputes; the Gacaca courts, will officially be closing on the 4th May 2012. The Gacaca Courts have tried the bulk of Rwanda’s genocide related cases. As of July 2012 the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR)’s main body is also closing and will no longer hear any cases except for appeals, which are to be completed by 2014. These developments raise questions about what avenues will remain open for ordinary Rwandans who have not yet had their cases heard.


Myanmar’s endless ethnic quagmire

Filed under: gender,Human Rights,Myanmar,Nonviolence,Religion and peacebuilding,Southeast Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 07:36 PDT

CHIANG MAI – A mass movement is spreading across Myanmar on a scale not seen since tens of thousands of Buddhist monks led anti-government demonstrations in 2007 and the massive nationwide pro-democracy uprising against the old military regime in 1988. This time the mobilizing force is a by-election contested by pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party to fill 48 seats in parliamentary bodies currently dominated by military aligned representatives.

Wherever Suu Kyi appears on the campaign trail thousands of people of all ages have shown up to listen to her speeches, or just to line the roads and cheer along the routes of her motorcade. Big screen televisions, expensive sound systems and other sophisticated paraphernalia at her rallies are clear indications of support from sections of the private business community, which until recently had links almost exclusively with the traditional military establishment.

Until a year ago many Western observers, including prominent European Union diplomats in Bangkok who cover Myanmar, asserted that Suu Kyi was a spent political force, that many young people didn’t even know who she was because she had spent years under house arrest. Instead they felt that a new “Third Force” was emerging, one that challenged the supposed uncompromising stands of both Suu Kyi and the NLD, and the military-dominated government.

The present mass movement shows clearly how wrong they were…


Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Syrian surgeon: Why I’m risking my life to treat protesters

More than 8,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising began a year ago, and many more injured . Fearing ill-treatment at official hospitals, demonstrators have sought help at underground clinics. One Damascus surgeon tells his story.


Friday, 16 March 2012

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights admits petition against Canada on missing Aboriginal women and girls in BC

Filed under: gender,Human Rights,Indigenous Peoples — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 08:05 PDT

OTTAWA – The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) and the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA) announced today that they have been granted a hearing by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the subject of the Disappearances and Murders of Aboriginal Women and Girls in British Columbia.

Jeannette Corbiere Lavell, President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, says “we are pleased to have this opportunity to discuss the human rights violations taking place in Canada with the members of the Inter-American Commission. One of the Rapporteurs for the Inter-American Commission investigated disappearances and murders in Ciudad Juarez. The Commission members are experts on the obligations of governments to protect women from violence.” (read more…)

Thursday, 15 March 2012

British churches call for non-violent global action on Syria

Filed under: Human Rights,Middle East,Nonviolence,Religion and peacebuilding — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 21:55 PDT

Three of Britain’s largest Christian Churches have urged the United Nations Security Council to condemn the Syrian regime’s brutality and to seek a solution without violence.

The Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church today (15 March) urged the UN to “unequivocally condemn Syria’s state-sanctioned attacks on its own people”. They said that the UN should demonstrate a united opposition to the Syrian regime.


Wednesday, 14 March 2012

UBC Vancouver film screening: Acting Together on the World Stage, Performance and the Creative Transformation of Conflict | 21 March

Filed under: Art of Peacework,Conferences, Events,Film, video, audio — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 10:40 PDT
Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Cynthia Cohen, innovative director of the film Acting Together and peacebuilding scholar/practitioner will be appearing at two Vancouver-area events. Both are free, but pre-registration is required. Details below.

UBC/Vancouver area: Peter Wall Institute event on March 21.
New Westminster area: Justice Institute of BC March 22 event.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Acting Together on the World Stage, Performance and the Creative Transformation of Conflict
Director Allison Lund. Producer Cynthia Cohen.
Commentators: Dr. Michelle LeBaron, UBC Faculty of Law; Professor Rena Sharon, UBC School of Music; and Professor Maureen Maloney, Public Policy, Simon Fraser University
Location: PWIAS Conference Rooms, UBC
Time: 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Discussion and a reception with refreshments to follow the film presentation.
To register, contact the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies at pwias.assistant[at]

Thursday, March 22, 2012
6:30-8:00 pm (6 pm registration)
JIBC New Westminster Campus
Fee: no cost, but registration is required

Acting Together: Join the Conversation – Free Community Event
Join us for the free screening of “Acting Together” an internationally acclaimed film, featuring artists, peace builders, and community leaders from every continent, whose rituals and theatrical works speak truth to power and support communities to mourn losses and build bridges of reconciliation.

Project Director Dr. Cynthia Cohen will lead a discussion after the screening. Registration is required for this free event. Email scsj[at], or call 604.528.5608 to secure your seat.

For more information about these special events, call 604.528.5608 (toll-free 1.888.799.0801), email scsj[at], or visit the event website

Dr. Cynthia Cohen is director of the program in Peacebuilding and the Arts at Brandeis University’s International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life. She is an internationally recognized educator, peacebuilding practitioner and researcher who focuses on the contributions of the arts to conflict transformation.

The educational documentary Acting Together on the World Stage highlights courageous and creative artists and peacebuilders working in conflict zones. It features theatrical works and rituals that reach beneath people’s defenses in respectful ways that support communities to configure new patterns of meaning and relationships. The documentary grows out of a five-year initiative of Theatre Without Borders, Brandeis University and filmmaker Allison Lund. Dynamic footage of performances, rituals, and candid interviews with artists and peacebuilders place case studies in their socio-political and cultural contexts. The documentary is designed for students, practitioners, educators, and policymakers in fields related to performance and to peace and conflict studies, and for others who believe—or who want to be convinced—that human communities have the creative capacities to transform conflict non-violently.

Brazil Slowing Forest Destruction Cuts Greenhouse Gas Burden

Filed under: Business, Human Rights, Environment,Environment,Latin America & Caribbean — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:19 PDT

As world political and business leaders ready for the Rio+20 U.N. sustainability conference in June, Brazil’s leaders are debating policy changes that could jeopardize the leadership it has earned from reducing Amazon deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions.

Since hosting the 1992 “Earth Summit,” which produced the first international agreement on forest protection, Brazil has risen from the ninth- to sixth-largest economy, ahead of the U.K. and just behind France. Deforestation in the Amazon last year fell to the lowest rate since government began monitoring the world’s biggest rainforest in 1988. The rate is down almost 80 percent in six years.

“A decade ago, almost everyone would have said efforts to get Brazil to stop cutting down the Amazon were a total failure,” said Doug Boucher, head of the Tropical Forest and Climate Initiative at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Thanks to a shift in political dynamics and rise of a strong environmental movement, it became a huge success story.”

Brazil is now in danger of backtracking because of a proposed overhaul to the country’s 1965 Forest Code, which requires farmers to keep as much as 80 percent of their land as forest, environmentalists say. Brazil’s House and Senate have each passed legislation that farmers and ranchers say is necessary to update current law and that activists call unacceptable.


Dept. of peace: Not just a pipe dream

Filed under: Disarmament,Human Rights,Nonviolence,Peaceworkers in the news — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:16 PDT

Canadians have a long attachment to peace and peacekeeping. So there is a good deal of interest in Bill C-373 that calls for Canada’s government to establish a federal department of peace.

The sponsors of this legislation, the Canadian Peace Initiative, decided to invite national comment and criticism of the bill by holding public meetings in major cities across the country before the legislation goes for second reading. Hamilton was picked as the first location to host such an event.


Monday, 12 March 2012

Q&A: Does #Kony2012 do more harm than good?

Filed under: Africa files,Media and Conflict — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 15:08 PDT

On Thursday March 8, internet users around the globe woke up to a rebel African leader named Joseph Kony pasted across their facebook walls, tilting the trends on Twitter and kicking up a virtual activist storm over an issue few had ever heard of: The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the strife of children in the jungles straddling east and central Africa.

Within hours, the online world was seemingly fit to burst at the seams with righteous indignation over Kony and his alleged war crimes, with users beating the war drums over the possibility of social media ushering in an international movement to bring Kony to justice.

The social media soiree and the fact that the campaign has brought attention to an otherwise obscure topic nothwithstanding, the organisation behind the campaign group “Invisible Children”, co-founded by Jason Russell, has since drawn severe criticism over the financial and ethical underpinning of its ambitions.

Al Jazeera’s Azad Essa spoke to Firoze Manji, the editor of Pambazuka News, a pan-African online news magazine, about the intrinsic value of the #Kony campaign exploding across the internet – and why it has drawn such scathing criticism.


Unarmed Civilian Peacekeeping: An Emerging Approach to Civilian Protection and Violence Prevention | USIP March 21, 2012

Filed under: Africa files,Conferences, Events,Disarmament,Latin America & Caribbean,Nonviolence,South Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 14:41 PDT
Wednesday, 21 March 2012

From South Sudan to Sri Lanka, Guatemala to Nepal, specially trained, unarmed civilians are protecting civilians under threat and preventing violence from escalating in areas of violent conflict. Working on the basis of strict nonpartisanship and at the invitation of local civil society, these peacekeepers apply field-tested strategies that create space for local actors to transform conflicts, protect human rights defenders and others made vulnerable by the conflict, as well as supporting local violence prevention mechanisms.

They bring on-the-ground realities of violent conflicts to national, regional and international attention. Their presence provides a bridge between peacekeeping and peacebuilding.

Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) and Peace Brigades International (PBI), two of the leaders in unarmed civilian protection, will present how peacekeeping works without guns, what lessons are being learned, and how this practice can now be brought to scale.
March 21, 2012 – 10:00 – 11:30am
U.S. Institute of Peace
2301 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20037

More at

Kony 2012: Director of video agrees with critics

Filed under: Africa files,Media and Conflict — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:31 PDT

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) says that he supports Kony 2012, the campaign to capture alleged Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony.

Louis Moreno Ocampo told the BBC Monday that the social media campaign by Invisible Children had “mobilized the world.” The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Kony in 2005.

Meanwhile, the director of a video sensation that calls for the arrest of Kony agreed on Friday with critics who have called the film oversimplified, saying it was deliberately made that way.


Kony 2012 Video Draws Criticism In Uganda

Filed under: Africa files,Books, reports, sites, blogs,Humanitarian work,Media and Conflict — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:30 PDT

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — The wildly successful viral video campaign to raise global awareness of a brutal Central Africa rebel leader is attracting criticism from Ugandans, some who said Friday that the 30-minute video misrepresents the complicated history of Africa’s longest-running conflict.

The campaign by the advocacy group Invisible Children to make militia leader Joseph Kony a household name has received enormous attention on YouTube and other Internet sites this week.

But critics here said the video glosses over a complicated history that made it possible for Kony to rise to the notoriety he has today. They also lamented that the video does not inform viewers that Kony originally was waging war against Uganda’s army, whose human rights record has been condemned as brutal by independent observers.

“There is no historical context. It’s more like a fashion thing,” said Timothy Kalyegira, a well-known social critic in Uganda who once published a newsletter called The Uganda Record.


Sunday, 11 March 2012

Discovering the Unexpected Power of Nonviolence: Interview with Erica Chenoweth

Filed under: Middle East,Nonviolence — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 08:37 PDT

In a groundbreaking effort to systematically study and compare success rates of violent and nonviolent social-change movements, Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan carefully researched 323 social-change campaigns from 1900 to 2006. Chenoweth and Stephan’s astonishing finding is that campaigns of nonviolent resistance are nearly twice as likely to succeed as violent uprisings.

In their book, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, the authors found that far greater numbers of people from more diverse parts of society joined nonviolent campaigns than violent ones. This greater level of participation translates into more people who can demonstrate for change, and withdraw their cooperation from an unjust regime


Saturday, 10 March 2012

International Peace and Development Training Centre (IPDTC) – PATRIR | Executive Leadership Programmes in London – April 2012

Filed under: Conferences, Events — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 12:08 PDT

Monday, 16 April 2012 to Saturday, 21 April 2012

International Peace and Development Training Centre (IPDTC) – PATRIR

Executive Leadership Programmes in London – April 2012

1. Improving Strategic Impact, Quality and Effectiveness in Peacebuilding & Peace Support Operations (April 16 – 18);

2. Designing & Implementing Effective Monitoring and Evaluation for Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation Programmes, UN Missions & Post-War Recovery & Rebuilding (19th – 21st of April, 2012)

These programmes are offered in London in cooperation with engi, the Secretariat of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Conflict Issues of the UK Parliament.
For more information or to apply visit or write to training[at]


1. Improving Strategic Impact, Quality and Effectiveness in Peacebuilding & Peace Support Operations
Executive Leadership Programme –
16th – 18th of April, 2012, London, UK
Fee: GBP 495 (includes course fee, preparation materials, certification)
Special discount: Early Payment, Multiple Participants, Two Courses Taken Together

Improving Strategic Impact is a three-day Executive Leadership Programme (ELP) designed for senior practitioners, peacebuilding experts, and heads of agencies working in peacebuilding and peace support operations. The course draws on best practices in programme and strategic planning and design. It is a highly practical, hands-on training to help organisations, agencies and governments improve the quality, impact and effectiveness of their programmes and operations.

2. Designing & Implementing Effective Monitoring and Evaluation for Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation Programmes, UN Missions & Post-War Recovery & Rebuilding
Executive Leadership Programme

19th – 21st of April, 2012, London, UK
Fee: GBP 495 (includes course fee, preparation materials, certification)
Special discount: Early Payment, Multiple Participants, Two Courses Taken Together

This is a three-day Executive Leadership Programme designed for senior practitioners, monitoring & evaluation units, field staff, and heads of agencies working in peacebuilding and peace support operations. The programme has been designed to assist organisations, agencies and missions in the field to see how to develop appropriate monitoring & evaluation systems and processes customized for their exact needs and contexts, and to be able to evaluate and design for achieving actual impact through their programmes.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Chamber Music as a Metaphorical Model of Negotiated Peaceful Dialogue

Filed under: Art of Peacework,Conferences, Events,Dispute resolution and negotiation — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:57 PDT
Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Chamber Music as a Metaphorical Model of Negotiated Peaceful Dialogue

Please come to this interdisciplinary presentation. Admission is free and community members are very welcome!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM
Where: Vancouver School of Theology Chapel
Chamber Music as a Metaphorical Model of Negotiated Peaceful Dialogue

When musicians perform a string quartet, it may appear that they are reading a pre-set dialogue in the mysterious language of pitched sound. In fact, however, notation of Western classical music is consummately imprecise. Performance involves an intense negotiation through which conflictual beliefs somehow reconcile into beautiful co-created soundscapes. Thousands of collective decisions are achieved through democratic process and real-time non-verbal debate. How they accomplish the task may have ramifications across many fields of collaboration. Speakers include: Prof. Rena Sharon, School of Music, 2011 Wall Distinguished Scholar in Residence; Prof. David Gillham, Violin and Chamber Music; Prof. Maxwell Cameron, Political Science, Director of the Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions and Wall Distinguished Scholar in Residence; Prof. Michelle LeBaron, Law, Director of the Dispute Resolution Program and CRANE project.


Listen to the women of Honduras

This weekend thousands of mining industry people from across Canada and around the globe are in Toronto for one of the world’s premiere mining investment conferences. Two speakers at the conference are from Honduras — the minister of the environment and natural resources, and the director of the mines ministry of Honduras — who will talk about “developing a new mining act for Honduras.”

Up until recently, this small fact would not necessarily have caught my attention. But a few weeks ago I led a delegation of prominent women from Canada and the U.S. — lawyers, women’s rights experts, journalists and artists — to Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico. There we heard testimonies from more than 200 women affected first-hand by the increasing levels of violence in the region.

In Honduras what we found is that the 2009 coup d’état and the subsequent crackdown on women opposing it have greatly fuelled a climate of already shocking levels of violence against women.

We expected to hear some tough things in Honduras — after all, the UN is now calling this tiny country the “murder capital of the world.” But the situation was worse than we had imagined, even for those of us, including myself, who have long track records of working in Central America. Last year, in the first six months, 195 women were murdered — most were under 30 years old. It was hard to find a woman who had not been beaten, or beaten and raped. Sadly, the very people who are supposed to be protecting women in Honduras pose the greatest threat to them, namely state security forces. And increasingly, private security firms being hired by mining companies, mega projects and the business elite in Honduras are also behind the extreme violence against women.


Sunday, 4 March 2012

US must seize opportunity to support Palestinian non-violence

Filed under: Middle East,Nonviolence — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:30 PDT

WASHINGTON, DC – Khader Adnan spent 66 days on hunger strike, a symbolic, self-denying act of non-violent resistance to Israel’s practice of “administrative detention” or imprisonment without charge. His story quickly became well known and began to inspire other Palestinian political prisoners to follow his non-violent lead.

But Adnan’s is merely the latest episode in a growing wave of Palestinian non-violent resistance. While Palestinian non-violence has been a historic part of the struggle for Palestinian rights, armed struggle has been a component of resistance that often dominated the headlines.

Today things are changing significantly. More than ever, polling data shows, Palestinians are supporting non-violent resistance. A series of polls of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza which included a question on non-violence reveals an undeniable trend in the past 18 months. In June of 2010, for example 51 per cent of Palestinians polled responded that non-violent resistance was a preferred alternative to stalled negotiations. In the most recent poll conducted at the end of 2011, that number jumped to over 61 per cent.

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