Former dictator Efrain Rios Montt’s conviction of genocide is a historic moment in a country still healing from a brutal, three-decade civil war and his trial offered Guatemala’s oppressed indigenous communities their first chance to be heard, human rights activists said.(...more)
Saturday, 11 May 2013
Friday, 29 March 2013
In Guatemala next month, the former dictator Efraín Rios Montt will become the first head of state ever tried on genocide charges in a domestic court. Not all such efforts to prosecute crimes against humanity have proceeded peacefully.
Still, the quest to bring war criminals and vicious leaders to justice in international or domestic courts is part of a global trend toward greater accountability for human rights violations.
But do trials help secure peace after war, civil conflict and repression? Does the threat of prosecution make dictators more reluctant to step down? Would it be better for democracy if survivors could forgive perpetrators and move on?(...more)
Saturday, 5 January 2013
In the wake of the tragic shooting deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last month, the National Rifle Association proposed that the best way to protect schoolchildren was to place a guard — a “good guy with a gun” — in every school, part of a so-called National School Shield Emergency Response Program.
Indeed, the N.R.A.’s solution to the expansion of gun violence in America has been generally to advocate for the more widespread deployment and carrying of guns.
I recently visited some Latin American countries that mesh with the N.R.A.’s vision of the promised land, where guards with guns grace every office lobby, storefront, A.T.M., restaurant and gas station. It has not made those countries safer or saner.
Despite the ubiquitous presence of “good guys” with guns, countries like Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia and Venezuela have some of the highest homicide rates in the world.(...more)
Thursday, 3 January 2013
January 1 was the anniversary of the public appearance of the EZLN, the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, in 1994. From early in the morning on December 31, 2012, thousands of families arrived carrying food, blankets and supplies in the town of “Caracol” de Oventic, located about 40 miles from San Cristóbal de las Casas, in the Mexican state of Chiapas. In Oventic, where the Zapatista Council of Good Governance is located, thousands celebrated 19 years of struggle and resistance during a political-cultural festival that lasted until dawn. Two days before, the EZLN published a communiqué explaining its next steps, following the recent massive mobilization on December 21.
What the Zapatistas achieved in Chiapas could only have been achieved with dignity, organization and discipline. On the day that the Mayans predicted the end of one calendar cycle and the beginning of another, at least 50,000 Mayan Zapatistas came out of their autonomous zones to march in silence in five Chiapas cities: Ocosingo, Palenque, Altamirano, Las Margaritas and San Cristóbal de las Casas.
This action was the largest nonviolent mobilization in the history of the Zapatista movement…(...more)
Friday, 7 December 2012
BOGOTA, Colombia — A week after The International Court of Justice ruled that tens of thousands of miles of Caribbean Sea that Colombia had traditionally plied now belong to Nicaragua, this Andean nation said it was withdrawing from a 1948 treaty that binds it to the United Nations’ body.(...more)
Wednesday, 5 December 2012
A growing outcry over corrupt governments forced several leaders from office last year, but as the dust has cleared it has become apparent that the levels of bribery, abuse of power and secret dealings are still very high in many countries. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2012 shows corruption continues to ravage societies around the world.
Two thirds of the 176 countries ranked in the 2012 index score below 50, on a scale from 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived to be very clean), showing that public institutions need to be more transparent, and powerful officials more accountable.
“Governments need to integrate anti-corruption actions into all public decision-making. Priorities include better rules on lobbying and political financing, making public spending and contracting more transparent and making public bodies more accountable to people,” said Huguette Labelle, the Chair of Transparency International.
“After a year of focus on corruption, we expect governments to take a tougher stance against the abuse of power. The Corruption Perceptions Index 2012 results demonstrate that societies continue to pay the high cost of corruption,” Labelle said.(...more)
Thursday, 27 September 2012
The labour strife in South Africa’s mines and the adoption of new disclosure rules for U.S. mining companies by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission have cast renewed light on a global industry that affects the Canadian economy.
Every year, Canadian mining operations generate billions of dollars of revenue overseas. In fact, Canadian companies are some of the most globally active. More than 1,000 Canadian exploration companies work in more than 100 countries, from Mongolia to Peru to Tanzania. Canada’s mining investments in Africa alone have grown from $2.8-billion in 2001 to $30-billion in 2012.
The taxes and royalties that Canadian companies pay to countries that play host to them have the potential to transform economies. As we’ve seen in resource-rich countries such as Botswana, Chile and Malaysia, natural resource revenues paid to governments can be invested in roads, health care and education as well as business development and social services, leading to massive reductions in poverty. What’s more, Canadian operations can spur local economic development by creating jobs and financing community projects.
Yet, too often, these revenues are either not collected or not transformed into tangible benefits, leaving countries with more violent conflict and weaker growth than expected. In many instances, environmental destruction and loss of livelihoods, coupled with inadequate compensation, have left regions worse off than before.
And communities’ expectations, sometimes driven by prospectors’ and developers’ false promises of prosperity, are often unmet.(...more)
Friday, 10 August 2012
People have long assumed that violence is necessary for political change. Rulers never cede power voluntarily, the argument goes, so progressives have no choice but to contemplate the use of force to bring about a better world, mindful of the trade-off between a small amount of violence now and acceptance of an unjust status quo indefinitely. Terrorists invoke this trade-off to justify what would otherwise be wanton murder. Even their most vociferous condemners concede that terrorism, though highly immoral, is often efficacious.
Of course, Mohandas Gandhi, and later Martin Luther King Jr., argued the opposite—that violence, in addition to being morally heinous, is tactically counterproductive. Violent movements attract thugs and firebrands who enjoy the mayhem. Violent tactics provide a pretext for retaliation by the enemy and alienate third parties who might otherwise support the movement.
So how effective is violence? Political scientists have recently tried tallying the successes and failures of violent and nonviolent movements. The evidence is piling up that Gandhi was right—at least on average. In separate analyses, Audrey Cronin and Max Abrahms have shown that terrorist movements almost always fizzle out without achieving any of their strategic aims. Just think of the failed independence movements in Puerto Rico, Ulster, Quebec, Basque Country, Kurdistan, and Tamil Eelam. The success rate of terrorist movements is, at best, in the single digits.(...more)
Monday, 16 July 2012
Spanish ex-magistrate Baltasar Garzon denied reports that he will mediate between the government and indigenous groups in southwestern Colombia, saying Monday that he only attended talks between the two groups “to listen” and give his “point of view.”
Local media reported Monday that Garzon, who worked in Spain’s central criminal court and recently met for two hours with indigenous leaders, would step in to resolve their disputes with the government in the southwestern Colombian department of Cauca, where they have been protesting the presence of security and guerrilla forces in the region.
“I’m no spokesman, nor am I a mediator for anyone,” the exmagistrate said. While the possibility of his posing as a mediator had been raised during the talks, “not much has come of it,” he said.(...more)
The ex-magistrate of Spain’s central criminal court and former adviser to the International Criminal Court, Baltasar Garzon, is willing to act as mediator between the government and indigenous groups in southwestern Colombia, who have been protesting security force and guerrilla presence in the region.(...more)
Wednesday, 14 March 2012
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.(...more)
Monday, 12 March 2012
Unarmed Civilian Peacekeeping: An Emerging Approach to Civilian Protection and Violence Prevention | USIP March 21, 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
Monday, 5 March 2012
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.(...more)
Thursday, 16 February 2012
For five years I lived and worked in the outskirts of San Salvador with an organization supporting marginalized families living with HIV/AIDS. Though the agonizing combination of poverty and HIV formed a part of my daily experience, AIDS was not the main epidemic that surrounded my life. The World Health Organization considers more than 10 homicides per 100,000 residents to be at epidemic levels. From 2004 to 2009, El Salvador ranked first in the world with 62 homicides per 100,000 residents. After five years in San Salvador, having a pistol pointed at your head during an assault on the public buses became a common experience.
Every day after sunset as I returned to the small house I shared with my wife and her family, I went through the same apprehensive routine: Walk quickly through the streets; look constantly over your shoulder to see if you are being followed; sit near the front of a bus next to an elderly lady if possible (they always inspire shelter); don´t look at anyone, don´t talk to anyone; don´t trust anyone.
A year later, I find myself living in a quiet Mayan town in the highlands of western Guatemala. Every day after sunset as I return to the small room that I share with my wife, I go through the same life-enhancing routine: Walk calmly through the streets; stop to chat with the local woman selling tortillas on the corner; pause in dark alley to contemplate the stars and the moonlight silhouetting the surrounding mountains; find a pick up soccer game in the park to join in on; look at everyone; talk to everyone; trust everyone.
The difference between these two daily routines—one marked by fear and violence, the other by trust and tranquility—has made me constantly question how violence evolves, how it becomes entrenched in the daily lives of communities, and most importantly, what is a real, effective response to this violence.(...more)
Tuesday, 31 January 2012
As both corporations and NGOs face increased public scrutiny, partnerships between them are supposed to represent a “win–win” for both sides, providing enhanced legitimacy to corporations and increased revenue and/or influence to NGOs. Ideally, if both sides become more accountable for their actions and face greater public scrutiny, their overall impact on society should improve over time. In particular, one could expect that if increased collaboration across the for-profit/nonprofit divide can be shown to yield such positive results, civil society could play a heightened role in shaping business practices and could thereby at least partially compensate for diminished governmental capacities in advancing human rights and environmental protection.
Yet, counter to the claims that increased accountability demands will improve business practices and strengthen the voice of NGOs, we argue here that such pressures—especially when translated into partnerships between corporations and nonprofits—actually increase the likelihood of co-optation and compromise the independence of NGOs.(...more)
Thursday, 26 January 2012
Violence and intimidation continue in El Salvador against environmental activists and human rights defenders who have publicly opposed metallic mining. The latest round of threats targetted a Salvadoran Catholic priest, Father Neftalí Ruiz, and a community radio station, Radio Victoria.(...more)
Saturday, 7 January 2012
Bolivian President Evo Morales brought forward Law 214 at the Government Palace on Friday, which declares 2012 the year of nonviolence against children and adolescents, and promotes policies to strengthen the rights of those age brackets.(...more)
Thursday, 29 December 2011
What conflict situations are most at risk of deteriorating further in 2012? When Foreign Policy asked the International Crisis Group to evaluate which manmade disasters could explode in the coming year, we put our heads together and came up with 10 crisis areas that warrant particular concern.(...more)
Tuesday, 27 December 2011
In 1994, Manuel Cepeda, a Senator of the Patriotic Union Party in Colombia, was executed by paramilitaries under the command of the state. Since then his son, Iván Cepeda, devotes himself to the fight against impunity by working with the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE). The lawsuit filed by the Foundation goes to the Inter-American justice system, has led the current Santos administration to admit the State’s responsibility in this crime. Since 2010 Cepeda has been a deputy in the Congress of the Republic for the Alternative Democratic Pole.(...more)
Tuesday, 20 December 2011
Don’t miss out on your opportunity to join the ranks of Peace Brigades International and provide the protective accompaniment to human rights defenders in Guatemala that need your help!
Volunteer with the Guatemala Project
Next Training Date: May 2012
Deadline for applications: February 9, 2012
PBI policy relating to anti age discrimination for field volunteers: Age is not a barrier to working on projects. However, the need for mature and experienced volunteers is critical because the organization needs to present an experienced face in our interactions with high level authorities in the countries where we maintain field projects and because volunteers need to be able to assess responsibly risk and security questions in areas of crisis or conflict. Therefore volunteers are often over the age of 25. …more