MAE SOT, Thailand – In a country where talk of a ceasefire brings representatives from 11 different armed ethnic groups to the table, Myanmar’s chief peace negotiator, Railway Minister Aung Min, is experimenting with an unusual solution to decades of separatist struggles.(...more)
Friday, 31 August 2012
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
National budget priorities still tend to reflect the old paradigms. Massive military spending and new investments in modernizing nuclear weapons have left the world over-armed — and peace under-funded.
Last year, global military spending reportedly exceeded $1.7 trillion – more than $4.6 billion a day, which alone is almost twice the UN’s budget for an entire year.(...more)
The Gaza Strip will not be “a liveable place” by 2020 unless action is taken to improve basic services in the territory, according to a UN report.(...more)
Saturday, 25 August 2012
Belfast, NI – While the Northern Ireland peace process should rightfully be considered a success, that doesn’t mean that the country does not suffer from many of the same problems as other, less successful, postwar countries.(...more)
Increased competition is evident in the South China Sea between China on the one hand, and the United States, the Philippines and Vietnam on the other. This competition makes the development of effective regimes for managing the sea and its resources more difficult.
Earlier this month, the US State Department issued a comprehensive statement on the US position in the South China Sea. Unsurprisingly, China responded shortly afterwards with a robust statement strongly condemning the US position.
This exchange is yet another demonstration of the game of “tit for tat” in the South China Sea – one player replies to another player’s action and the other player responds in turn. Unless the players demonstrate some common interest and mutual understanding, the game can spiral out of control, leading to a “lose-lose” outcome.(...more)
On July 20, 2012, foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) called for “the early conclusion of a Regional Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.” The statement that the Cambodian foreign minister, as chairman of the July 9 ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, issued on behalf of his colleagues invoked past ASEAN agreements pertaining to the rule of international law, self-restraint, the non-use of force, and the peaceful resolution of disputes. Based entirely on an Indonesian draft cleared with all ASEAN member-states, the statement laid down what were the positions of ASEAN, claimants and non-claimants alike, on the South China Sea and their interests in it.(...more)
Friday, 24 August 2012
Saeed Amireh, an activist who has helped put his occupied West Bank village of Nilin on the solidarity radar, turned 20 last September on a plane taking him to Sweden for a European speaking tour. It was Amireh’s first trip outside of Palestine…(...more)
As of this moment, Myanmar has many things to change and many issues to handle, issues that are so interconnected that it is hard to figure out where to start. In this sudden transition, with a lot of stakeholders coming into view and factions formed among these stakeholders, it is hard to say who has the power to bring about change and who has shedded the ways of the old regime to take on the reformist view. The lines of division are many and the threshold of trust, very low.
Whenever I think up of an issue important to Myanmar people, the chances of it being dealt with depends on the political will of the stakeholders in the political process, cooperation among these stakeholders which requires a minimum level of trust, and the capacity of the people in power to bring forth change.(...more)
Senegal is putting Habre, former dictator of Chad, on trial for human rights abuse through the order of the The International Court of Justice.
“The holding of these proceedings will show that Africa can try Africa”. Earnestly the justice will be sought as Habre is seen as a symbol of impunity. His previous lawyer argued and successfully influenced the Senegalese authorities not to extradite him. The cooperation of the African Union (AU) and Senegal ought to be celebrated.(...more)
Something remarkable happened in Myanmar this week. For the first time in 48 years, newspapers and magazines were allowed to go to print without first having a censor approve and edit their articles.(...more)
Tuesday, 21 August 2012
CHIANG MAI, Burma/MYANMAR: Two ethnic groups in Myanmar recently became the first rebel fighters to sign a “deed commitment” with Swiss-based rights group Geneva Call, pledging to eliminate underage soldiers and protect children in armed conflict.
As signatories the Karenni National Progressive Party/Karenni Army (KNPP/KA) and the New Mon State Party/Mon National Liberation Army (NMSP/MNLA) must ensure that children aged under 18 are not recruited into or used by their armed forces. They are also required to meet obligations related to the well-being and rights of children affected by armed conflict, such as education and assistance for children in areas under their control.(...more)
YANGON, Myanmar — Since President Thein Sein took office in March last year, more than 650 political detainees have been freed, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), a group that collects information on prisoners. The releases were a key factor in the U.S. decision last month to lift some investment and financial sanctions as Myanmar’s leaders begin to implement reforms after decades of often-brutal military rule.
But the United States, other Western governments, human rights groups and the opposition continue to demand an amnesty for all political detainees remaining in the country. The question is: How many, exactly, are there?(...more)
If democracy would be poorer without journalism, then journalism must have some effect. Can we measure those effects in some way? While most news organizations already watch the numbers that translate into money (such as audience size and pageviews), the profession is just beginning to consider metrics for the real value of its work.
That’s why the recent announcement of a Knight-Mozilla Fellowship at The New York Times on “finding the right metric for news” is an exciting moment. A major newsroom is publicly asking the question: How do we measure the impact of our work? Not the economic value, but the democratic value.(...more)
Wednesday, 15 August 2012
University of Victoria, Canada | Celebrating the 5th Anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Download the September 13 Victoria Event Poster (pdf)
Series: FIRST NATIONS’ RIGHTS: THE GAP BETWEEN LAW AND PRACTICE
Indigenous Rights in the UN System
Celebrating the 5th Anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Thursday, Sept. 13, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Room 159, Fraser Building
University of Victoria (3800 Finnerty Rd, Victoria, BC)
Admission is free. Seating is limited.
To mark the 5th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Indigenous Peoples, Kenneth Deer will discuss (via videotape) the development of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and its 25-year passage through the UN system. Deer’s talk will be followed by an address by Robert Morales on recent Canadian developments & issues relating to the UNDRIP.
Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group, Vancouver Island
Faculty of Law, University of Victoria
Social Justice Studies, University of Victoria
With two superpowers emphatically vetoing three UNSC resolutions on three different occasions, the world could not be more divided about the Syrian crisis. World leaders are nonetheless united in their rhetoric supporting peaceful protest. The Syrian crisis, however, has revealed troubling contradictions in the position taken by key countries. For example, Saudi Arabia committed itself to arming the Syrian opposition at the same time when its security forces are killing and imprisoning peaceful protesters within its own borders. Turkey, too, is involved in providing support to armed Syrian groups while continuing its ruthless campaign against what it calls “Kurdish terrorists.” The US administration is providing “non-lethal” support to armed Syrian opposition that includes the same groups that the US troops fought in Iraq. Iran, after praising the Arab Spring for bringing down long serving authoritarians, failed to tell its Syrian friend that 42 years of Assad rule is not acceptable. These contradictions either suggest that the virtue of armed rebellion is in the eyes of the beholder or that non-violent resistance could co-exist with armed rebellion. Both propositions are problematic.
Trigger-happy groups have always argued that they can change corrupt regimes quickly and efficiently. The evidence is in Afghanistan and Somalia. Non-violent uprisings have changed regimes without firing a single bullet and destroying the fabric of society. The evidence is in Tunisia and Egypt. The first and most important casualty of the militarization of the Syrian uprising is the non-violent movement. A report published by the Coordinating Committees for Democratic Change testifies to this.(...more)
NEW YORK – A series of attacks against journalists in Syria over the past two weeks have included the killing of at least three journalists and the kidnapping of several others, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Pro-government media have borne the brunt of the recent attacks.
“We call on all sides in Syria to remember that journalists covering conflict are civilians and attacks against them constitute a serious violation of international humanitarian law,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “Journalists have already paid a heavy price in Syria and are risking their lives daily to cover the news. They must be protected.”(...more)
Mid-July saw ASEAN sink to unprecedented depths when leaders failed to issue a joint communiqué at its latest Ministerial Meeting in Cambodia because of disagreement over reference to the South China Sea dispute with China. Unsurprisingly, the Indonesian foreign minister called this latest roadblock to “ASEAN consensus” “utterly irresponsible”.
ASEAN consensus focuses on agreement among the governments of member states instead of consensus with the population. It routinely avoids and even suppresses public participation in key debates and initiatives relevant to the public interest. Nowhere is this more evident than the process of drafting an ASEAN human rights declaration.
The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) is tasked with drafting the declaration, but has done this largely behind tightly closed doors. Limited consultations with civil society organizations have been held in some member states, and at no point was a draft published, leaving the public and human rights groups in the dark. There has only been one formal consultation at the regional level, but participation has been heavily restricted and the draft declaration was not published.(...more)
Monday, 13 August 2012
When we think of “resistance,” what mostly comes to mind is guerrilla warfare: Vietnamese closing in on the besieged French at Dien Bien Phu; Angolans ambushing Portuguese troops outside of Luanda; Salvadorans waging a war of attrition against their military oligarchy. But resistance doesn’t always involve roadside bombs or military operations. Sometimes it is sprayed on a Teheran wall, or rapped in a hip-hop song in Gaza. It can be a poem in Medellin, Colombia – arguably one of the most dangerous cities in the world – or come from a guitar shaped like an AK-47. In short, there are few boundaries or strictures when it comes to the imagination and creativity that people bring to the act of defiance.
That art can be powerful stuff is the central message that Brazilian filmmaker Iara Lee brings to her award-winning documentary Cultures of Resistance. Her previous films include “Synthetic Pleasures,” about the impact of technology on mass culture, and “Modulations,” on the evolution of electronic music. Her most recent film is “The Suffering Grasses,” about the civil war in Syria.(...more)
GENEVA, Switzerland: In another blow to the Assad regime, Syria’s top representative at the UN Human Rights Council said Monday he had defected because he no longer felt able in that position to do anything for the Syrian people.
“Basically, when I felt I could not help my people any more I had to move on,” Danny Al-Baaj, the first Syrian diplomat in Switzerland to abandon Bashar Assad’s regime, told AFP.
“When I was involved in any negotiations (on Syria) my concern was to protect the country not the government,” he added.
Al-Baaj’s move comes a week after Syria’s Prime Minister Riyad Hijab defected along with other top officials and military commanders.(...more)
When people think of genocide in Africa, neighbouring Rwanda usually comes to mind after the slaughter of some 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus in 100 days in 1994.
But over the years Burundi, which has a similar ethnic make-up and tensions, has also faced killings by both Tutsi and Hutus, driving a wedge into the fabric of the nation…
… Burundi is now coping with ethnicity far better than its better-known neighbour.(...more)