Crowdfunding to provide bicycles and school supplies for children in Thakarwadi, India

Written by Sarah on . Posted in Uncategorized

As many of you know we are running a lot of activities in India, as part of our Education for Sustainability project.

You can see some of the best moments from the project so far on our flickr page.

We are currently fundraising for children in the community of Thakarwadi in Maharashtra state, India. Money raised will enable us to buy materials for school such as books, shoes, clothes and study materials to enable children to benefit from school, as well as bicycles so that the children can travel the 6km to school more easily. Our crowdfunding page can be found here

Please help us reach our goal by donating, if you are able to; or by spreading the word about this campaign to your friends, family and colleagues. We would be very grateful for any support.
 

Pobreza a pesar del crecimiento en la Republica Dominicana: la relación entre la igualdad y la sostenibilidad

Written by Sarah on . Posted in Uncategorized

For the English version of this post, please click here

A nivel nacional, las señales económicas para la República Dominicana parecen alentadoras. Es un país adinerado en relación a otros en la región y ha disfrutado de un crecimiento rápido; la tasa promedio anual de crecimiento durante los últimos 48 años ha sido un impresionante 5,4%. La economía se ha diversificado, librándose de una dependencia de la agricultura, hoy en día el país es una de las destinaciones turísticas más populares en el Caribe, tiene fuertes vínculos comerciales con los EEUU, se beneficia de los acuerdos comerciales y el PIB aumentó casi un 50% de 2000 a 2011.

Sin embargo, un informe del Banco Mundial dado a conocer a principios de este año subraya las características paradójicas de este crecimiento rápido: a pesar de estos avances, las cifras de pobreza no han disminuido tanto como lo previsto y los niveles de pobreza extrema siguen siendo altos. De hecho, según cifras de 2011, la tasa de pobreza se sitúa en torno al 40,4%, más que el nivel en 2000 de 32%, una tasa debida en parte a un incremento a raíz de la crisis bancaria de 2003-4; aunque el crecimiento se reanudó posteriormente, no se ha reducido en gran medida la pobreza.

Además, el informe del Banco Mundial señala que la sociedad dominicana sufre de mucha desigualdad, sobre todo en las zonas urbanas. El informe describe un país en el que los pobres siguen siendo pobres, atrapados con pocas oportunidades de escaparse. La sociedad dominicana es sumamente inequitativa aún en el contexto de la región latinoamericana, conocida por sus divisiones crudas entre rico y pobre; durante la década, mientras que un promedio de 41% de la población en Latinoamérica y el Caribe avanzó a un grupo de ingreso más alto, la cifra era un mero 2% en la Republica Dominicana. Y esto a pesar de que se juzga que una parte importante de la población definida como pobre tiene los medios de generar un ingreso más alto.

La desigualdad parece ser un tema importante hoy en día; líderes desde Barack Obama hasta el Papa se han pronunciado sobre el asunto y el movimiento 1% ha buscado destacar la locura de una elite rica y no responsable en los países occidentales. Además, los líderes mundiales y los medios empiezan a reconocer la relación entre la igualdad y la sostenibilidad. El año pasado, el secretario-general de las Naciones Unidas, Ban Ki-moon dijo que “Si las desigualdades siguen ampliándose, puede que el desarrollo no sea sostenible”, comentando que “la equidad surge como punto central en las discusiones sobre el programa de desarrollo post-2015”.

Es evidente la conexión entre la desigualdad de ingreso y el desarrollo social. Una polarización de rico y pobre que ofrece pocas oportunidades de movilidad económica suscita un círculo vicioso de pobreza. Y los efectos psicológicos de la pobreza deben de aumentarse no solo dada la presencia de una elite rica, sino también, en el caso de la Republica Dominicana, a causa de la llegada constante de extranjeros acaudalados que buscan disfrutar del esplendor turístico de la isla.

Lo que es quizás menos manifiesto, pero no menos importante, es el efecto que surte la desigualdad en el desarrollo sostenible. Un informe de 2013 subrayó las múltiples maneras en las que una sociedad inequitativa contribuye a la degradación ambiental, entre las cuales la posibilidad reducida para la acción colectiva y la capacidad de los ricos de ‘externalizar’ practicas destructivas al medio ambiente a zonas más pobres. Toby Quantrill and Richard Wilkinson discuten la idea de que la competencia, como resultado de la desigualdad, empuja a un nivel de consumo insostenible y aumenta la importancia social del dinero. Aunque se concentran en los países más económicamente ricos, sus conclusiones parecen ser aplicables en cierta medida a todos países y mantienen que una sociedad más desigual es una sociedad más egoísta, menos preocupada por la acción colectiva para el bien común.

Tras la reciente crisis financiera, se han cuestionado las perspectivas hacia el crecimiento económico. Mientras que se ha identificado tradicionalemente al crecimiento como señal de una sociedad floreciente, y se lo ha considerado necesario para el progreso, los comentaristas han comenzado a preguntar si el crecimiento permanente es sostenible. Cuando no va acompañado de un aumento importante en la calidad de vida para la población de un país, habrá que preguntar nuestra obsesión con el crecimiento y considerar si es sano o deseado.

Entonces ¿por qué la Republica es un país con tanta desigualdad? Los juicios de grupos tales como Christian Aid o Social Watch atribuyen la situación a un nivel bajo de gastos públicos sociales y un acceso inadecuado a los servicios básicos, además de un sistema de impuestos ineficaz. El consenso general es que existe una relación importante entre un gasto social reducido y la desigualdad. Así que un gasto publico más alto y dirigido parecería una manera de comenzar a abordar el problema. El informe del Banco Mundial apela también a más acceso al mercado laboral para los pobres y más demanda para su trabajo, además de “política fiscal equitativa, eficaz y sostenible”.

Cualquiera que sea la manera para lograrla, parece esencial una reducción de la brecha entre rico y pobre en la Republica Dominicana, no solo para mejorar la calidad de vida inmediata de su población, sino también para promulgar la sostenibilidad a largo plazo. Y la coyuntura de este país es un indicio de los problemas de desigualdad a escala nacional en otros países y de los desafíos globales representados por la diferencia entre ricos y pobres.  

Fuentes / vínculos para más información

1. Informe del Banco Mundial (2014): Cuando la Prosperidad no es Compartida Los Vínculos Débiles entre el Crecimiento y la Equidad en la República Dominicana

2. Introducción por Christian Aid a la República Dominicana

3. Informe de Christian Aid (2012): The Scandal of Inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean

4. Evaluación de UNICEF (2011): Global Inequality: Beyond the bottom billion

5. Informe de Social Watch (2012): Inequality is the biggest obstacle

6. Artículo del Christian Science Monitor Article (2012): The beach: sun, sand, and inequality in the Dominican Republic

7. Informe de la ONU sobre el progreso hacia las ODM en la República Dominicana (2013)

8. Artículo del Independent por Toby Quantrill y Richard Wilkinson (2009): How global and societal inequality heats the planet

9. Éloi Laurent (2013): Inequality as pollution, pollution as inequality

10. Resumen del país por el PNUD

11. Reportaje del Centro de Noticias de la ONU (2013)

12. Guardian Poverty Matters Blog (2011): Global inequality: tackling the elite 1% problem

13. Guardian poverty Matters Blog (2014): Mind the gap: why UN development goals must tackle economic inequality

Poverty despite growth in the Dominican Republic: the links between equality and sustainability

Written by Sarah on . Posted in Uncategorized

Para la versión española de este artículo, pulse aquí.

At a national level, economic signs for the Dominican Republic seem highly promising. It is a relatively wealthy country compared to others in the region and has enjoyed rapid economic growth; its average annual growth rate for the past 48 years has been an impressive 5.4%. The economy has diversified, escaping a dependence on agriculture, the country is now one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean, it has strong trade links with the US, benefits from Trade Agreements and its GDP rose nearly 50% from 2000 to 2011.  

However, a World Bank report released earlier this year highlights the paradoxical nature of this rapid growth: despite these advances, poverty has not fallen as much as expected and extreme poverty levels remain high. In fact, 2011 figures put poverty levels at around 40.4%, higher than the 2000 level of 32%, due in part to an increase as a result of the 2003-4 banking crisis: although growth resumed healthily following the crisis, poverty has not been greatly reduced.  

Moreover, the World Bank report points out that Dominican society suffers from much inequality, particularly in urban areas. The report paints a picture of a country in which the poor remain poor, trapped in their situation with little chance of escaping. Dominican society is highly unequal even in the context of the Latin American region, well-known for its gaping divisions; whilst over the decade an average of 41% of the overall population in Latin America and the Caribbean moved up to a higher income group, this figure was a mere 2% in the Dominican Republic. And this despite the fact that a significant proportion of the population defined as poor is judged to have the means to generate higher income.  

Inequality seems to be very much a focus topic of current times; leaders from Barack Obama to the Pope have commented on the subject and the 1% movement has aimed to highlight the absurdity of a rich and unaccountable elite in Western countries. Moreover, world leaders and media commentators, are recognising the links between equality and sustainability. Last year, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that “If inequalities continue to widen, development may not be sustainable”, commenting that “equity is emerging as a central plank in discussions on the post-2015 development agenda.”  

The links between income inequality and social development are clear. A polarisation between rich and poor which offers little chance of economic mobility creates a vicious cycle of poverty. And the psychological effects of deprivation must be heightened not only by the presence of a rich elite, but also in the case of the Dominican Republic by the constant influx of wealthy foreigners eager to enjoy the touristic splendours of the island.  

What is perhaps less evident, but no less important, is the effect that such inequality has on sustainable development. A 2013 paper highlighted the multiple ways in which an unequal society contributes to environmental degradation; among these were the reduced capacity for collective action and the ability of the rich to ‘outsource’ environmentally harmful practices to poorer areas. Toby Quantrill and Richard Wilkinson discuss the notion that competition stemming from inequality drives an unsustainable level of consumption and increases the social importance of money. Although focusing on economically rich countries, their conclusions seem to be applicable at least in some measure to all countries around the world and they maintain that a more unequal society is a more selfish society, less concerned with collective action for the common good.  

In the wake of the recent financial crisis, perspectives on economic growth have been questioned. Whilst growth seems to have been traditionally identified as a marker of a flourishing society, and seen as necessary for progress, commentators have begun to question whether permanent growth is really sustainable. Surely when it is unaccompanied by a significant increase in quality of life for a country’s population, we must question our obsession with growth and consider whether it is really healthy or desirable.  

So what makes the Dominican Republic such an apparently unequal country? Assessments from groups such as Christian Aid and Social Watch attribute the situation to low social spending by the government, inadequate access to basic services, as well as an inefficient tax system. There is a general consensus that low social spending and inequality are very much linked. It would thus seem that increased and targeted social spending by the government would go some of the way to challenging the situation. The World Bank report also calls for increased access to labour markets for the poor and more demand for their labour, as well as “equitable, efficient and sustainable fiscal policy”.  

However it is achieved, a reduction of the gap between rich and poor in the Dominican Republic seems essential, not only to improve the more immediate quality of life of its population, but also to promote long-term sustainability. And the issues demonstrated by this country are indicative not only of the problems of inequality on a national scale in other countries, but also of global challenges presented by the gap between rich and poor.

Sources / Links for further information:

1. World Bank Report (2014): When Prosperity is not Shared: The Weak Links between Growth and Equity in the Dominican Republic.

2. Christian Aid’s Introduction to the Dominican Republic

3. Christian Aid Report (2012): The Scandal of Inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean

4. UNICEF Review (2011): Global Inequality: Beyond the bottom billion

5. Social Watch Report (2012): Inequality is the biggest obstacle

6. The Christian Science Monitor Article (2012): The beach: sun, sand, and inequality in the Dominican Republic

7. UN report on MDG progress in the Dominican Republic (2013) (in Spanish)

8. Independent article by Toby Quantrill and Richard Wilkinson (2009): How global and societal inequality heats the planet

9. Éloi Laurent (2013): Inequality as pollution, pollution as inequality

10. UNDP Country Summary

11. UN News Centre Report (2013)

12. Guardian Poverty Matters Blog (2011): Global inequality: tackling the elite 1% problem

13. Guardian poverty Matters Blog (2014): Mind the gap: why UN development goals must tackle economic inequality

República Dominicana

Written by Sarah on . Posted in Uncategorized

Este artículo quiere dar una breve introducción a la Republica Dominicana, uno de los países en los cuales se concentra el proyecto Educación para la Sostenibilidad.  

For the English version of this post, please click here  

Parece ser un país poco conocido para muchas personas, a pesar de ser una de las destinaciones turísticas más populares en el Caribe[5]. Ubicada en las Antillas Mayores, ocupa la isla La Española, junto con Haití, más allá se encuentran Jamaica y Cuba. La Republica Dominicana forma la parte mayor y oriental y allí viven unos 10 millones de personas[3], entre los cuales 2 millones viven en la capital Santo Domingo[3].  

El país se independizó de España en 1821, pero posteriormente fue anexado por el presidente del país vecino Haití. Declaró su independencia otra vez en 1844, antes de ser ocupada brevemente otra vez por los españoles. Durante el siglo XX, los Estados Unidos ocuparon el país dos veces, la primera de esas siendo de 1916 a 1924 (después de tomar el control de la agencia de aduana en 1905) y la segunda durante los años 60. El periodo entre las dos ocupaciones comprende la dictadura de Rafael Trujillo, durante la cual se vivió la masacre de inmigrantes haitianos y el control absolutista de Trujillo[5].  

Aunque hoy en día la República Dominica es completamente independiente, mantiene fuertes vínculos con los EEUU. El país es el socio principal de la RD[4] y muchos dominicanos han emigrado allí desde los años 1960[5]. Las remesas de los EEUU contribuyen de manera importante a la economía; la RD depende en gran medida de estas y del sector de servicios[1], sobre todo el turismo. Tal orientación señala un cambio en la economía: se ha transformado durante los años recientes, teniendo hasta hasta finales del siglo XX una economía basada en la agricultura , exportando productos como el azúcar y el café[5].  

Durante las últimas décadas, se han visto un crecimiento económico y un proceso de urbanización vertiginosos[1] y hoy en día la economía tiene una de las tasas de crecimiento más altas en la región[2]. Sin embargo, sufre de una distribución de riqueza inequitativa; en torno a un tercio de la población vive en pobreza[2], y el 10% más rica recibe el 40% de los ingresos del país[4].  

La Republica Dominicana ha sufrido varios desastres relacionados con el tiempo severo. El hecho de ser una isla pequeña aumenta su vulnerabilidad a amenazas tales como el incremento en el nivel del mar. De hecho, el Índice Global de Riesgo la sitúa en el lugar 8 entre los países más afectados por sucesos de tiempo extremo durante los últimos años.[9]  

Hoy en día, se dice que cientos de miles de haitianos residen en el país sin permiso[4] y en varias ocasiones, se han realizado deportaciones masivas[4]. Se ha criticado al país por su decisión de negar la ciudadanía dominicana a las personas nacidas de inmigrantes haitianos ilegales (nacidas después de 1928)[8]. A pesar de esto, los dos países mantienen vínculos comerciales importantes y la RD dio auxilio a Haití después del terremoto devastador de 2010; el succeso no afectó a la DR tanto como a su vecino [8].  

Junto con India, Trinidad y Tobago y las Islas Fiji, forma parte de la segunda fase de E4S, siguiendo el éxito del proyecto en varios países a través de Europa central y oriental y Asia oriental.  
 


Fuentes / vínculos para más información:
1. Resumen para la Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo
http://www.do.undp.org/content/dominican_republic/es/home/countryinfo/
2. Resumen para el proyecto PEI de las Naciones Unidas (en inglés)
http://www.unpei.org/what-we-do/pei-countries/dominican-republic
3. Datos del CIA (en inglés)
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/dr.html
4. BBC: Reseña del País (en inglés)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/country_profiles/1216926.stm
5. Entrada en la enciclopedia británica (en inglés)
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/168728/Dominican-Republic
6. Resumen en el sitio del Banco Mundial
http://www.bancomundial.org/es/country/dominicanrepublic/overview
7. La Embajada de la Republica Dominicana en los EEUU
http://www.domrep.org/gen_info.html#1
8. Un artículo de The Guardian sobre la situación entre la RD y Haití (en inglés)
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/07/dominican-republic-haiti-long-history-conflict
9. Programa de Naciones Unidas para el Medio Ambiente (en inglés)
http://www.unep.org/ccac/Media/PressReleases/TheDominicanRepublicStory/tabid/133393/Default.aspx

The Dominican Republic

Written by Sarah on . Posted in Uncategorized

This post aims to give a brief introduction to the Dominican Republic, one of the countries on which Education 4 Sustainability is now focusing its attention.

Para leer la versión española de este artículo, pulse aquí.

It is a seemingly little-known country to many, despite being one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean[5]. Situated in the Greater Antilles, it occupies the island of Hispaniola jointly with Haiti, beyond which lie Jamaica and Cuba. The Dominican Republic makes up the larger, Eastern section and is home to some 10 million people[3], 2 million of whom reside in the capital Santo Domingo[3], the first Spanish colony in the region[4].

The country became independent in 1821, but was then annexed by the president of neighbouring Haiti. It declared independence once again in 1844, before being occupied again briefly by the Spaniards. During the 20th Century, it saw itself occupied twice by the United States, the first time from 1916-24, after the US took control of its customs agency in 1905 and secondly during the 1960s. The period between these two occupations included the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, which saw the massacre of Haitian immigrants and Trujillo’s absolutist control[5].

Although the Dominican Republic is now fully independent, it maintains strong ties to the US; they form the Dominican Republic’s main trade partner[4] and many Dominicans have emigrated there since the 1960s[5]. Remittance money from the US contributes significantly to the economy; the country is heavily dependent on this and services[1], in particular tourism. This economic orientation marks a change from what was, until the late 20th Century, a country based on agricultural production, exporting products such as sugar and coffee[5].

Recent decades have also seen rapid economic growth and urbanisation[1] and the economy remains one of the fastest growing in the region[2]. However, the country suffers from a highly unequal distribution of wealth; around a third of its population live in poverty[2] and the richest 10% have 40% of the country’s income[4].

The Dominican Republic has also suffered periodically from extreme weather events, although it was not hit as hard as neighbouring Haiti by the 2010 earthquake. Its vulnerability to threats such as sea level rise is increased by its island position and in fact it was placed 8th in the Global Risk Index’s list of countries most affected by extreme weather events in recent years[9].

Today hundreds of thousands of Haitians are said to be residing illegally in the country[4] and on several occasions mass deportations have been carried out[4]. The country has recently been criticised for its decision to deny Dominican citizenship to children of illegal Haitian immigrants born after 1928[8]. Despite this, the two countries maintain significant trade links and the DR provided relief to Haiti after the devastating earthquake[8].

Along with India, Trinidad & Tobago and Fiji, the Dominican Republic falls under the second wave of E4S, following on from the project’s success in many countries across Central and Eastern Europe and Eastern Asia.

  Sources / Links for further information:
  1. UN Development Programme summary (in Spanish)
  http://www.do.undp.org/content/dominican_republic/es/home/countryinfo
  2. UN PEI
  http://www.unpei.org/what-we-do/pei-countries/dominican-republic
  3. CIA World Factbook
  https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/dr.html
  4. BBC Country Profile
  http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/country_profiles/1216926.stm
  5. Entry in the Encyclopaedia Britannica
  http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/168728/Dominican-Republic
  6. World Bank overview (in Spanish)
  http://www.bancomundial.org/es/country/dominicanrepublic/overview
  7. Embassy of the Dominican Republic in the US
  http://www.domrep.org/gen_info.html#1
  8. Article from the guardian on situation between DR and Haiti
  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/07/dominican-republic-haiti-long-history-conflict
  9. UN Environment Programme
  http://www.unep.org/ccac/Media/PressReleases/TheDominicanRepublicStory/tabid/133393/Default.aspx

“No One Chooses to be a Refugee”

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, Books & Magazine, E-Magazine, General Information, Green Economy, News, News & Updates, Publications, Take Action, Uncategorized

587266-afghanrefugeesafp-1375815158-401-640x480Afghan Refugees

Photo Source : Google

World Refugee Day is marked each year on the 20 June as forced displacements globally reaches dramatic magnitude. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in a special message for the day said that the number of refugees has reached an alarming number with more than 45 million internally displaced people and refugees, making it highest in nearly 20 years.

Every year conflict tears apart the lives of thousands of families who have to leave homes forcibly by the chaos of conflict and war.  How would it feel if today I am asked to leave home along with my family? I cannot even think of a place I can go to. What are the things I would keep and what would be the things I would leave back? These few basic questions make me understand and empathize with all those millions of refugees scattered around the globe still fighting for their right to inclusion.

Established in the late 2000 by the UN General Assembly, World Refugee day aims to highlight the plight and suffering of world’s forcibly displaced. The UN body particularly working in that area is UNHCR that stands for United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees also known as UN Refugee Agency. A lot of people will already know about it considering that the Special Envoy for UNHCR is the famous Angeline Jolie. She was in Jordan for this year’s World Refugee Day to draw attention to the millions of Syrian refugees suffering because of a civil war in the country with no political resolution in sight. Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees expressed the need for the war in Syria to be stopped, asking those with political responsibilities to come together and take action. Sadly it seems that nobody is willing to take action be it Syria, Afghanistan, Palestine, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and the list goes on.

These forcibly uprooted communities by persecution and conflict include 16 million refugees outside their countries and the remaining 26 million others are internally displaced. The global displacement statistics mentioned here were compiled at the end of 2008 by UNHCR and since then these figures are increasing with the insatiability of power hungry people all over the globe.

A noticeable and worrisome situation is the long term displacement leaving refugees in exile for more than five years.  This leaves the communities living in limbo with no future ahead of them. What worsen this already massive displacement problem is the global economic crisis, climate change, growing xenophobia and North and South disparities.

Developing nations host some 80 percent of the world’s internally displaced people and refugees, making them in need for more international support as some countries can least afford the burden. Some major refugee hosting nations in the year 2008 according to UNHCR include Pakistan, Syria, Iran, Germany, Jordan, Chad, Tanzania and Kenya. The countries of origin for the refugees include Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Columbia and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Most of the countries included in the list are the developing nations. With various other ills plaguing the developing nations the refugee problem is not looked after properly leaving many in need for help and support. How easy it is to go to war and how difficult it is to face the aftermath. The ones who take decisions are not the ones affected by these conflicts. They have their safe abodes to go to anyway. The ones affected by the decisions of this war prone populace are asking for help as they need to be protected in the long term. It is not about providing them with the basic short term shelter facilities. It is about giving them their basic rights and looking after their needs in the long term. There is a need to look for sustainable solutions to this problem. If I am the one to make decisions, I would definitely think twice before going to war, no matter the difficulty of situation, through dialogue looking for solutions is the best answer in my mind so far. Some may disagree by saying that some parties don’t believe in dialogue and the use of arms and weapons becomes inevitable. There is always a room for bringing the two or more conflicting parties together at the dialogue table provided that everyone agrees on the fact that war leads to destruction and is not a solution. The undercover political agendas should also be kept in mind here when dealing with such crucial issues.

In a report by UNHCR released in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, it was disclosed that by the end of 2013 Pakistan continued to host the largest number of refugees in the world. Pakistan has hosted the world’s largest refugee population for nearly three decades mostly from Afghanistan with the help of international community. This developing nation facing power crisis, where a lot of money is allocated on the defense budget does need to focus on other issues like health, housing and education of not only the citizens but also the refugee population. If we see the various reports presenting innumerable data it clearly shows that many in Pakistan roughly 46 percent of the rural population is living below the poverty line. This is a striking figure and does make one question whether Pakistan is capable of hosting millions of refugees or not?

The reasons for conflicts that force people to leave their homes might be many but the end is nearly the same for every refugee. The refugee issue should not just be confined to a single day where rallies and events are being held around the world talking about and promoting the rights of refugees. It should be about working on minimizing the reasons for going to war and forcing people into exile. The report by UNHCR for the year 2013 clearly states that number of refugees, internally displaced people (IDPs) and asylum seekers worldwide in the post World War II era has exceeded 50 million people.

Besides looking after the refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan is grappling with the issue of internally displaces people (IDPs) from the tribal areas where military operations are being carried out to wipe out the terrorists. Last week a military operation known as Zarb-e-Azb was launched after a dramatic attack on Karachi’s airport and failed dialogue attempts to negotiate a peace deal with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a militant organization.

internally-displaced-peoples-idp-pakistan-war-imperialism-terrorism-taliban-us1IDPs from tribal areas in Pakistan

Photo Source: Pulsemedia.org

How militant organizations including TTP were born in Pakistan is not a secret anymore and hence I won’t go into that. What I know for a fact is that this has caused unrest in the country and has defamed the country to a great extend. My only question is, if this is Pakistan’s war then why somebody else is paying the bills?

I remember being asked a lot of questions, coming from Pakistan, after Malala was hit by a bullet. People asked me how the situation was like in my country for girls/women. It was indeed a tragic incident in the history and there are many Malalas out there still crying for help, not known to the world. Well it is the same country that had the woman Prime Minister. The country has also produced many successful women pilots, scientists, politicians, educationists, thinkers, musicians, writers and so on. It is the politics coupled with egotism that incite all the problems leaving us with nothing but despair, tragedy and a loss of hope.

The militants whoever they are led to a lot of people being displaced in the country. When this military operation was launched just a week ago I read many articles talking about eradicating the evil and people showing support to the military. To me it was a show where the killers and the ones being killed were living beings. I somehow think that it was not the solution as killing some will result in giving birth to more who spread hate and animosity. It is an endless cycle. That thought was excruciating. Sometimes I feel the need of a superhero/heroine to fix the world of all the wrong doings. Maybe that superhero/heroine is in each one of us, asleep. Buddha was right when he said that we don’t need more successful people in this world rather we need healers, peace builders and lovers of all kinds.

During this extended insurgency in the tribal areas thousands of innocent people have been killed in bombings and gun attacks. I read that during the military operation started a week ago the Cobra gunship helicopters pounded three militant hideouts, killing 12 suspected terrorist and the number of civilians fleeing that area passed 200,000. For these few mad people many suffered.

The current fighting in the North Waziristan triggered a huge exodus of civilians into nearby cities like Peshawar, Kohat and Bannu and also across the border into Afghanistan. The Disaster Management Authority of Federally Administered Tribal Areas also reported that around 157,000 people arrived in Bannu from North Waziristan, where the military operation is being held. Thousands of women and children were also seen travelling by foot.

I don’t know yet where the number would go by the end of the military operation in the tribal areas. I also don’t know the plight of all those children who opened their eyes to war. Pakistan is just one country and many places around the world face similar circumstances albeit the different reasons of conflict. I understand that the international organizations must be doing their best to provide assistance to the refugees and IDPs spread across the globe. It is not just about dispatching relief items and providing short term shelter. When we try to look at it through the lens of sustainable solutions the refugee issue is more complicated than it looks on the surface. I call out to all the important people including the decision makers to look for political resolutions to stop this. Undoubtedly prevention is better than cure.

The international community that felt obligated to spend hundreds of billions to aid the crippling financial system should also feel the same need to rescue the most vulnerable people on earth, the refugees and IDPs. The amount spent on financial bailouts is way more and only a fraction of that is needed besides finding solutions for these millions forced to flee their homes. It might be difficult but it is not impossible. The suffering of the world’s uprooted people and their exile can be brought to an end with the necessary political will from the international community besides humanitarian support.

Syrian children try to stay warm near an open fire in front of tPhoto Source: Valentina Petrova/AP

Beyond Samba and Soccer

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, Books & Magazine, E-Magazine, General Information, Green Economy, News, News & Updates, Publications, Take Action, Uncategorized

With the soccer fever at its peak, Brazil the 5th largest country in the world and the largest in South America hosting the mega event, is experiencing disapproval for spending so much money on the sports extravaganza sidelining major priorities like health, education and housing for the Brazilian people.

BRAZIL-WORLDCUP-05-05-2014-03-05-58-454Photo Source: Google

My fascination for this country is not new. It was the first country I traveled to when I was 18 years old. Experiencing the rich culture, the diversity it has to offer, the beats of samba and bossa nova, the magnificent beaches unfolding secrets of the country, Brazil did come a long way after years of colonization and military dictatorships.

Luckily I had an opportunity to visit Brazil again after six long years and to be honest I was welcomed just as before. I felt as if I have returned to a place I knew so well whether it was sitting on Copacabana beach sipping the guarana, going for strolls in Rio or exploring Rio Grand du Sul. Having known little Portuguese I did manage to communicate with the locals and this is what I loved the most about that place. To me Brazil is the many loving people I came across during my visits, listening to their stories and seeing their smiles and resilience made me learn a lot from them.

To be honest seeing the protests on television made me feel terrible. I agree polar extremes exists everywhere but why the insane expenditures on a sporting event. All these governments talk about austerity at some point so why not in sports. Seeing the football nation not happy with “futebol” (football in Portuguese) this time was sad. Football is the religion of Brazilian people and you can see them playing everywhere, in the streets and on the beaches people from various segments of society come together to play. Brazil has won five FIFA World Cup titles hence becoming the most successful national team in the history of World Cup. Interestingly it is the only country that has taken part in all FIFA World Cups since 1930 scoring the most goals and with most wins in the history of competition. The favelas have produced some amazing soccer players and that is the spirit of sports. It brings nations and people together rejoicing in the victory and feeling sad about the defeat. But for the World Cup 2014 in Brazil it is more than that, there is revulsion and discontent seen in many people.

Brazil Confed Cup ProtestsPeople protesting against the World Cup

Photo Source: Google

For the World Cup, Brazil has spared no expenses. For the month long competition there will be 64 matches held in 12 cities across Brazil. The cost incurred on refurbishing old stadiums and building new ones has cost 3.6 billion dollars. After the World Cup several of the new stadiums will be seldom used. If we look at the South Africa World Cup debacle, stadiums that cost a fortune are not being used as people can’t afford it. The displaced persons in South Africa are still struggling for housing. Countries when thinking about hosting such mega sports events should take into consideration their social and economic well being not giving in to corruption along with many organizations and multi nationals associated with it.

This World Cup is undoubtedly extremely costly for Brazil costing 62 million dollars on each match. Moreover displacing the poor, the Brazilian government is holding this event at the cost of unemployed, underemployed and neglected citizens.

EPAPhoto Source: Google

When talking about sustainable development the situation mentioned above does not convey the message of Rio+20 UN Earth Summit. Ironic as it is the country hosting the UN Earth Summit, gathering various UN bodies to talk about Millennium Development and Sustainable Development Goals for the world did resign when it came to staging a short term show which was less about joy and more about profits favoring just a few. The nexus is clear; a portion of the billions spent on cosmetic projects could have cured the ills plaguing the country. Sadly the millions of tourists pouring billions of dollars into the nation’s economy and giving a blank check to the country’s Sports Minister will not benefit the communities that gave us Romario, Pele and Rivaldo nor will it help in improving the quality of life of millions of poor and working class of Brazil.

Now the question is when will the governments start thinking about the millions of poor people in the country and not just give importance to a few billionaires? The Brazilian government could have taken provisions that not only benefited the few billionaires but also the many homeless living in the streets, largely young protesters , coming from working class backgrounds instead of hiding them and their demands from the world’s gaze. Brazil doesn’t need to market itself to the world with a misleading image, thanks to the media these days. A country that promises fun and sun, carnival and sun kissed smiles personifying this beautiful South American nation cannot be hidden from the world anyway.

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Photos Source: cartoon movement.com

I remember reading about the London Olympics in the year 1948 known as the real austerity Games. The government during that time was determined to do the Games on the cheap. Well despite the austerity and so called raggedness it was considered a success and did make profit too. Looking at the economic backdrop from that period we can spot similarities, a world economy in trouble, why certain measures can’t be taken that benefit the larger community especially the segments that suffer the most because of the excessive spending?

Besides the protesting youth the heroes of yesterday like Romaria and Rivaldo coming from humble beginnings to hoist the World Cup in 1994 and 2002 respectively also criticize the government’s exorbitant expenditures. For Romario serving as a congressman in Rio de Janeiro and a World Cup dissenter, the C.B.F (Brazilian soccer federation) is a “disgrace”. According to him corruption in football be it C.B.F or FIFA is the reason for all evil. Yes for all those people coming out in the streets with loud demonstrations, the World Cup is about donning the canary yellow outfit and cheering for their country rejoicing in the much loved game, for them it is not about multimillion dollar stadiums or being sidelined by the social, economic and political injustices.

While trying to get the views of my friends, most of them were just excited about the game, enjoying the reverie like myself. I have also put a facebook profile picture donning the yellow Brazilian T-Shirt. It is not that they are not for sports or for that matter soccer, the reason why most are unhappy is very clear.

“The overall Brazilians could never afford a FIFA ticket; small bars who would transmit the games have to pay absurd fees to FIFA, making it impossible to be done. In a nutshell, this is it. This world cup is not for us, at all, just for some rich alienated foreigners. The nations may be coming together, but at the cost of our blood and homes. If this is the price, I really rather to keep them apart and our children alive.”

 Leticia Zenevich

“They could organize a real world cup, as will be done with the European championship soon. In several countries in stadiums that already exist, so that millions don’t have to be spent on stadiums as in Manaus, that is going to host, how many, 4 games?”

Rodolfo Pedro Sello

“A short term revenue generation /immediate job creating action through a FIFA World Cup vs a long term sustainable development through investment in health n education. You tell me what should be priority and a much more solid option?”

Taimur K Bandey

“General discourse has two general tendencies, these days: 1) Elitist and fewer representatives 2) Non-elitist and more representatives. You are right but for “bigger” picture you need to study about contemporary economic models, of how trillions are spent on defense and when it comes to giving shelter, governments cant find a penny, about how billions are spent in festivals and when it comes to improving social conditions of under-privileged, we can’t find a penny and so forth. It was not event specific. If a World Cup had to happen in Brazil, it should have catered for local sensitivities and address them instead of putting a superficial exhibit of billions lost in entertainment (for the privileged)”

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi

 The protests clearly demonstrate that this World Cup is not going to be a feast of national unity, putting on a temporary great show setting aside the grievances of many people. Sad to see that instead of becoming a feel good moment of national pride this event was commercially and politically exploited to a great extent.

So who should be held accountable? Definitely the ruling government blinded by the money pouring in for their personal good and these big corporations. FIFA, the Federation Internationale de Football Association, is a non governmental organization founded in 1904. FIFA is responsible for administering the World Cup and other international competitions of international football. The organization located in Switzerland is marred with allegations and accusations of corruption and money laundering. FIFA is also criticized for its lack of accountability and transparency. Seeing the grievances of general public of hosting nations the accountability of FIFA matters when it comes to the business of football and governance of sports. Effective governance of such institutions is important and a matter of general public interest. It is interesting that the wealthy nations preach and talk about democracy, good governance, accountability and transparency but when it comes to practising these ideals we look for backroom deals.

 Just to avoid similar sentiments in the future it is important to pay heed to where the problem lies and try to find a solution. It is not just about World Cup, when it comes to Olympics we see similar behavior filtering out the realities of life. The life of under privileged, we don’t consider important. Yes they are important only during the time of elections, when we beg for their votes, making false promises.

 Time and again FIFA demonstrated that it has no fiscal, hierarchical, supervisory and public reputational accountability. Efforts to reform FIFA from within or as a consequence of public pressure, media and watchdog organizations can result in a positive change.  Moreover as FIFA doesn’t fall under the relevant jurisdiction for corruption policing, accountability needs to be indirectly applied by national and international governments such as European Union or European Council. There should also be a legal accountability through regulation and enforcement of legislation on FIFA’s marketing partners. International Olympic Committee does set a precedent by showing the importance of multiple mechanisms of accountability working in harmony.

 FIFA and the member organizations and confederations do have the ability to be an actual force in change.  FIFA deals with more countries than the United Nations and interestingly these countries are more responsive to FIFA’s policy change than UN. With transparent and good governance in sports things might not look bleak as it look today.

Brazilian-artist-BoneA graffiti artist in Brazil

Photo Source: Google

As FIFA continues to make more money it is time that the demands of the protesters in the streets should be heard too. FIFA needs to be careful in this matter to avoid their legacy being tarnished.  With the growing criticism all the people involved in this show can’t hide anymore behind the false do good publicity stunts.

We are not against sports, we never were. We are against the use of sports as a cudgel of putting an over the top, pompous show. Use of sports as a neoliberal Trojan horse is what we are against. We definitely don’t want capitalism to seep into the things we love including “futebol”. Count everyone in your celebration next time as everyone living on this planet wants to enjoy life.

 world-cup-2014-brazil-soccer-footballPhoto Source: Google