Apartheid Did Not Die

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, Weekly news

A lot has been written and said about the Israel- Palestine conflict since ages. The current air strikes by Israeli forces on Gaza have dominated the headlines recently in media and it did get people’s attention especially after the World Cup fever was over. It is true that we are filtering realities on daily basis in our lives. Some realities go viral and Israel- Palestine conflict is one of them especially after Germany’s astounding victory in the World Cup. Just to mention the conflict started late 1940s in that part of the world is ongoing even as we breathe at this very moment.

In some places there are one sided stories highlighted in the media where the link between the victim and perpetrator has been blurred. In other places the hatred against one ethnic group over another strikingly stands out, from debates like to whom this land belongs to or who has been entitled this land by God. Undoubtedly the heart of the conflict here is a struggle for land, for the precious water, for the fertile soil and the valleys and hills of Palestine. This struggle overshadows the ordinary lives and how these lives have become a maze of control, checkpoints and road blocks. This bizarre struggle is like a cancer that is eating the lives of poor people.

It was sad to see on social media how some people started glorifying what Hitler did in Germany. Moreover when a debate was raised on humanitarian grounds many hushed the debate by saying that it is a religious issue and Muslims or for that matter Jews will take control of the land one day as it inherently belongs to them. These debates boggle my mind. This hatred deliberately induced by the propaganda machines of the powerful has blinded the people to see the real picture.

I remember once I got an opportunity to listen to a Christian Palestinian friend, Mike Haymour, who was from Bethlehem and he spoke about the plight of Palestinian people as any Muslim Palestinian would do. I still remember the anger and passion in his eyes. There was also one incidence in which during a UN meeting in Malta, an Israeli Jewish friend started to talk about her solidarity movement and she was not well received by the Arab world participants who discouraged her by saying that she should not be too bothered about the Palestinians as she herself is a Jew. That broke my heart and I still feel that we need to shake away this thought that glorifies divisions. Because I am a Muslim hence only I can feel for the other Muslims or I am a Christian hence only I can feel for the other Christians. Similarly there are a number of other religious and ethnic groups and if we start thinking like that we deliberately create divisions and mental borders.

We have been victims of these borders and boundaries all our lives. The divides what do they give us? Have these divides ever done any good in our lives? These walls which we have built have only stopped us from getting to know the other; the possibility of peaceful coexistence has been minimized by these mental barriers. We all want the occupation to end be it Muslims, Christians or Jews. Our ignorance should not stop us from distinguishing between the ordinary people and the games being played by the powers for more control.

So today I would like to share with you what my friend Sara Benninga has been doing in East Jerusalem. She inspires me and there are many like her around the world fighting for a cause not bothered about the distinctions and marching for just peace. Sara Benninga is one of the founders and main organizers of Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement. She can be seen every week walking back and forth with a bull horn in her hand and a determined look in her eyes, surrounded by Israelis and Palestinians of all stripes demanding justice for the Palestinians whose lives are constantly squeezed by Israeli settlement policies. Sara Benninga exhorts the marchers leading them in chants in Hebrew and Arabic, keeping everyone moving forward their eyes on the prize that is a shared future for all Israelis and Palestinians. Occasionally they go to other neighborhoods, other towns, other fronts and battles for genuine peace and true coexistence.

I have watched the ebb and flow of emotions surrounding Israel and the Jewish community over the years and today the only best way to support Israel is to encourage her governments and people to find a path to peace, trying to be a force for good in conflict. These are words however that are easy to say and presumably aren’t sometimes well received by even like minds like the example I gave earlier of a UN meeting. If Israeli and the Palestinian people are to ever achieve peace and security it will require action. Action that truly shakes up what’s gone before, action that tells the truth more powerfully that even our words can’t.

Sara Benninga and her fellow activists are continuing the legacy of Israeli activism that was pioneered by certain groups in the history and Rabbis for human rights. They have told the truth. Sheikh Jarrah movement is also telling the truth with their feet. They are telling the truth that Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Christians or Muslims need not fear or hate each other on the contrary they can march, work and build together towards a future in which everyone finds hope. Sara Benninga and many other activists are facing arrests and trials on the charge of illegal assembly and a libel suit for chanting slogans but they are not afraid by the vulgar threats of the forceful.

This is what Sara has to say:

coteret.comPhoto Source: coteret.com

“If you would have met me a few years ago and asked me what I think about the occupation, the most you would have gotten out of me would have probably been a few vague utterances, expressing a bit of shame and a bit of distress but mostly confusion and unawareness. There can be many reasons for this but one of the main ones is that the occupation had not touched upon me personally, at least not directly. It was so easy growing up in West Jerusalem without knowing of the injustice taking place a few hundred yards away in the Eastern part of the city.

A curtain of ignorance was and still is part of the methods of concealment in which I as a Jewish Israeli woman grew up. Like many of the young people who protest weekly in Sheikh Jarrah I was raised on democratic and egalitarian values. High school civics classes taught us that while Israel does not have a constitution, its declaration of independence is our bill of rights. We learned that the founders of Israel vowed that the Jewish state and I quote ‘ will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants, that it would be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel. That it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex. That it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture. Safeguard the holy places of all religions and will be faithful to the principles of the charter of United Nations.’

I ask you how would you react if your government treated the constitution as empty words? I have chosen to fight. I have chosen to fight against injustice in Sheikh Jarrah, to fight for the Israel that could have been, to fight for the Israel that still can be.

Witnessing the ways in which my country disposes individuals of one ethnic affiliation and privileges those of another, seeing the blatant injustice and discrimination perpetrated by my own government opened my eyes to a reality I did not know and generated in me and many others a determination to create a different future. Difficult as it has been my Sheikh Jarrah experience is not one of despair or resentment. Alongside injustice I found new hope and purpose, the commitment of thousands of fellow Israelis to justice and equality and the renewed ability to bridge over ideological and national divides in favor of a shared vision restored my faith in the possibility of change. Since those days in 2009 these initial impressions have not faded but rather have been reinforced. In every town and village where our movement is active, whether it is Lod, Tayibe and Beit She yan or Silwan we encounter alongside dispossession and discrimination, willingness and enthusiasm and meaningful partnerships. In a small compound in Sheikh Jarrah 30 families face the threat of eviction. A disturbing alliance between Israeli custodian of absentees’ properties, a state agency and the American millionaire Irving Moskwitz allows Jews to reclaim properties they owned prior to 1948. We know that Jewish families who left the compound during the war received abandoned Palestinian properties in West Jerusalem as compensation for their loss. And yet they return today to claim back the land. The Palestinians living in the compound used to own property inside the green line but Israeli law doesn’t allow them to reclaim their houses or request compensation.

 Thus a young generation of Palestinians learns that the law is just a reflection of national and racial prejudices. They learn that the first time refugees can easily become refugees a second time and now it is all done under the auspices of Israeli law. While it is clear that this inequality before the law is morally and politically intolerable, we believe that mere condemnation is not enough. Together with a growing number of young Jewish Israelis I have come to the understanding that these times call for Jewish Palestinian cooperation and it is both our duty and our interest to work together with Palestinians.  We have chosen a path of non violent resistance to the occupation. This is the only way to build a tolerable future for all of us in Israel and Palestine, a future that recognizes the dignity of every human being but we discovered that Israel treats our peaceful Jewish Arab solidarity as a serious threat.   

We are committed to direct engagement, when and where injustice occurs. Solidarity believes in the transformative potential of Jewish Arab cooperation. We know for a fact that the artificial barriers between Arabs and Jews are surmountable. We uphold the moral permissibility of non violent civil disobedience in the proud tradition of the American Civil Rights movement. We believe that privilege corrupts and that systematic discrimination is incompatible with democracy. Our critics portray us as enemies of Jewish state but it is ironic that a country claiming to be a victim of a campaign of delegitimization shamelessly delegitimizes sections of its own citizenry. We reject the false dichotomy between security and democracy. We refuse to settle for anything less than a true end of occupation that is necessary but not a sufficient condition for realizing our goal of substantive equality and genuine democracy in Israel.

There is much work ahead of us and I am sure that together we can make it happen.

Listening to her makes me wonder where does that positivity and hope come from. In the backdrop of dead bodies piled up and bombs being dropped to kill terrorists in fact killing innocent civilians she still manages to keep her optimism intact not ready to give up yet.

As Sara mentioned the American civil disobedience movement carrying with it the moral permissibility of non violent civil disobedience, I also believe that the best strategy to end the bloody occupation is to target Israel with some kind of a global movement that did put an end to apartheid in South Africa.

The noted civil rights leader and a Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu compared Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to the apartheid regime that discriminated against blacks in South Africa. Tutu criticized the policies of Israelis towards Palestinians as humiliating.  To him the humiliation looks familiar to the black South Africans who were corralled and harassed by the security forces of the apartheid government. Tutu believes that in achieving democracy in South Africa people around the world have helped by using non violent means and similarly the international community needs to come together in trying to end Israel’s decades long occupation.  Tutu says, “It doesn’t matter where we worship or live. We are members of one family, the human family, God’s family.” The words uttered by Desmond Tutu explain the principles of Ubuntu which we need to learn today. A belief we need to adopt to the core that talks about the universal bond of sharing that unites the human kind.

It is not difficult to adopt the belief of humanity and love and compassion for the fellow beings. I remember once being told the story of Binti, the gorilla. The story was about how Binti saved a three years old boy who fell in her enclosure in the zoo. Binti not only held the boy in her arms but also protected him from the male gorilla from causing any harm to the boy.  Binti did go against her instincts and so can we.

 Here is a short introduction to the Israel-Palestine conflict from jewishvoices.org.        

Kick-starting India

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

More than 170 million Indian voters chose Narendra Modi as the country’s 15th prime minister in the world’s largest democratic election. Apparently people wanted to get rid of Congress considering the many scams and corruption scandals that worked against the Congress for example Commonwealth Games scam, telecom scam, discreet distribution of coal mines to cronies etc. It was also said that the Aam Aadmi party was very new in the political arena hence had few chances of victory. So it was BJP the Bhartya Janta Party that came on the front with a sweeping victory. The sentiments were mixed definitely. While some celebrated the success others were infuriated. I guess this is what democracy is all about. The only thing that concerned me was regarding a fair democratic election in place not backed by any agenda so to say. A genuine and transparent voting system in place, allowing people to question the propositions made by the participating parties and then deciding whom to vote for.

Reuters mukesh guptaIndia’s Election 2014 : Modi’s supporters rejoicing in the victory

Photo Source: Reuters/Mukesh Gupta

A lot of people were surprised to see the results where Congress was badly mauled. In the Northern Uttar Pradesh state alone BJP won more seats than the Congress won in the entire country. By dividing the electorate on religious lines and by making use of religious polarization along with communalism like in Eastern Uttar Pradesh and adjoining areas in Bihar and describing Azamgarh, a predominantly Muslim town, as den of terrorists it ran an election campaign that proved to be of its advantage.

So the elections are over now and the truth is that BJP is in power hence I would not like to waste my time debating who should have won. People have a right to choose what they think is best for them. As growth in India flagged, the Congress lost support ending their legacy. The leadership of Monmohan Sigh was lackluster. The Congress party needed to be more inclusive and hard working by not treating the party as a hereditary right of the Gandhis.

So should India’s minorities especially Muslims be afraid keeping in mind the 2002 Gujarat communal riots? The Hindu nationalists and BJP should ensure the safety and justice for the minorities considering them citizens of India who are not unequal. The sooner BJP realizes it the better it is for Narendra Modi’s longevity as the leader of India. Also keeping in mind the Gujarat model that focused on growth, this time BJP needs to have an outward thinking focusing on the inequality of access to economic and social opportunities, resources and justice as growth goes hand in hand with the well being of all.

Narendra’s Modi echoing victory offers reasons to hope that his government will promote prosperity and development for all Indians. Legislating with majority should facilitate socio economic reforms that would prove beneficial in the longer run for the country. Modi faces higher expectations than his predecessor given the election campaign.

Termed as ‘Development Man’ during his mammoth election campaign Narendra Modi the chief of India’s ruling party plays a vital role in the fight against climate justice and trying to make the sustainable development goals a reality. Pushing a vision of prosperity with more electrified cities and wealthier citizens, his promise will undoubtedly have profound implications for the planet over the years to come.

AFPWomen going to vote during the democratic elections in India 2014

Photo Source: AFP

For the developing world like India there are three factors that lie at the heart of sustainability. That would be electricity generation, use of land in agriculture and deforestation and protection of water resources especially when it comes to agriculture. These three factors are intertwined making it challenging for the government to enact with other necessary reforms. The first customary address by the President Pranab Mukherjee struck an ambitious tone on sustainable development.

Looking at the BJP manifesto the importance is given on how much energy they are going to be able to produce, the focus in not on how. The manifesto promises to make the most of gas, oil, coal, ocean, wind, nuclear and hydel power, looking at the diverse supply of energy. Keeping in mind Modi’s pro-business attitude some are optimistic that he will be a force for good in contributing to India’s developing renewable market. Krishna Pallassana the executive director of Climate Group India stresses that Modi believes and has also publicly stated many times that he wants to embrace a clean energy model. Krishna Pallassana is expecting a huge boost to this sector with Modi as a prime minister. Modi’s tenure will overlap with the UN’s attempt in 2015 to sign a legally binding global climate deal and hence Modi has to familiarize himself with the international politics of climate change. There are many issues that need to be smoothed out between India and other big emitters such as US and EU and India’s stance at the talks so far has been less than pacifying. Adaptation and taking on mitigation actions should remain a priority for the new government equaling to those of developed countries. The developed countries are the largest per capita contributors to the grave problem of carbon emissions and until they make a dent in their emissions this issue will not be resolved. This opinion is shared by a large segment of Indian and surely Modi’s government will not differ from that no matter how testing it might seem. By raising awareness among the masses on the impact of climate change will save this grave issue from going into the back seat after elections. It is not an easy subject but more emphasis can be put on it to raise awareness among people.

Gail India Limited, India’s largest natural gas distributors, recently announced that it would purchase natural gas from American Henry Hub, this does indicate that the new government is serious about expanding India’s natural gas grid infrastructure and Nehru National Solar Mission. All the policies and agreements must incorporate the well being of the masses who are often neglected and sidelined in favor of making profits. The governments elected by the people with a hope to see a better future are and should be answerable to the public.

Trimming deforestation that has affected communities with regards to land use must be incorporated in drafting a national policy to reverse deforestation. Critics like Greenpeace India say that environmental considerations often take a back seat to economic development priorities. The Modi government has made it clear that this would not be the case this time. The new government has also stressed on prioritizing water. Water one of the most threatened resources is of particular concern to a country that relies on agriculture. The new government focuses on improving infrastructure of irrigation projects to tackle drought and flood.  The dispute over water rights among Indian states in previous years should be kept in mind and dealt with diligence.

If the priorities laid down by the new government remain true to the cause then it is to be commended as an indication of smart policy. The BJP’s election manifesto offers hints of methods to tackle climate change and deal with the issues regarding development. That includes efficient waste management practices, research and development of environmental sector and guidelines for green building. Reform will be challenging for the government to keeping in mind the lumbering bureaucracy. To achieve growth in order to reduce the ranks of India’s extremely poor in a way that preserves the environment and slows down the contribution to global greenhouse emissions will dominate the debates over India’s development plans for the coming years.

For any government an agenda that centers on development is indeed a boon for the planet. The question however is how we define development? Instead of a microscopic vision it should be about a telescopic vision that keeps in mind the well being of human species. In today’s globalized world the moves made by one country affects the other. We all are in it together and therefore an outward approach in needed that link the development agenda to a climate agenda. In the ailing economy where many issues are there to be dealt with, climate justice might not draw immediate attention.  It should however be considered of huge importance when designing policies as it is directly affecting us in many ways we don’t want to consider important.

Seeing the new government already beginning to make the link is a smart move. Trying to tap the opportunities in various areas of development has raised hopes of many. With the new regime in charge, the environmental minister has talked about project approvals beginning by the end of June. Modi seeking to press on a ferocious agenda of national development that looks great on paper by putting sustainability at the centre of thoughts and actions  has left experts wondering how much to expect from this new leader and his regime. Only time will tell whether the new regime is capable of delivering the promises it made. Ensuring growth while keeping an eye on the environment would prove to be an intelligent move. We have seen in the past and still experiencing that stubbornness and blinding oneself to grave issues threatening the human race has proved fatal. Instead of being a frog finding himself in a bowl of comfortably lukewarm water while actually sitting on a slow flame should be considered a red flag by the governments. With the benefit of hindsight it would be smart not to let the temperature in the bowl reach the boiling point because it would be too late to jump out.  It is better to prevent environmental disasters than wait till it’s too late.

Time will tell the efficiency and diligence of the new regime in India. With the hope to see the manifesto of the new government becoming a reality it would be fair on the masses to push for it, constantly reminding the government of the promises they made.

Europe’s Unwanted People

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

As we celebrate the UN Day of Diversity for Dialogue and Development I once again started following all the talks regarding diversity and inclusion. There is even a UN body known as UN Alliance of Civilizations promoting integration and peaceful coexistence. 21st Century is a century of peaceful coexistence and it is better to acknowledge this fact sooner than later.

The other day I was watching a very nice documentary Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey which was on evolution,  I don’t want to go into the detail of that documentary but one striking part was definitely when the scientist was explaining that we are all connected in the tree of life; the plants, animals, humans, everything therein. I was enamored by that fact. Indeed we all are connected and are affected by each other’s behaviors and actions.

Visiting various places and meeting people from diverse cultures and backgrounds always made me believe that we the human race are similar. There is a universal language which we all speak and that is the language of love.  Strangers helping you in finding the way in their own language which you hardly understand or a passerby stopping by seeing the troubled look on your face when you are stuck trying to explain to the taxi driver where you have to go, have been some experiences that made me believe in humanity. I felt at home when I was in Brazil and similarly in other places. I can’t deny the fact that I have a passport with a specific color but global citizenship is more than that, a phenomenon which makes you feel at home in the new places, finding it easy and fun to connect with new people. Sadly I do understand that everyone cannot relate with me. But I wish everyone have had a chance to experience this amazing feeling where you consider the globe, your home.

This approach to living known as global citizenship is not just limited to extensive world travel rather it is a philosophy that appreciates diversity, inculcates empathy and compassion for people from diverse ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds and as a result promotes peaceful coexistence. Coming from a country where religion has been politicized for many years, where many people are persecuted in the name of religion, I can relate to the religious divide. The intolerance which I get to see every day, reading bizarre news stories on blasphemy laws where many people have been targeted because they belong to a minority community makes me cringe. Pakistan is a diverse country where people belong to various ethnicities and religions. Instead of cherishing our diversity we end up being hateful, blindly following the political propaganda. It is interesting to see in Lahore a mosque that has a shrine in it’s precinct where Sikhs go for worship. For me it is not about religious tolerance, I don’t like that word as to me it suggests that you don’t like someone but have to tolerate him or her. I think it should be about religious harmony. And when I talk about harmony it should be practiced in the truest sense among various ethnicities, cultures, race, gender etc.

In many place across the globe the divisions are evident resulting in unrest around the world. Sometimes I don’t decipher why this has been going on for years, human beings do understand that they are here for a brief period so why to waste time and money in waging wars and creating unrest. We have so many other issues to deal with and if we channelize our resources and time into those productive inputs we can try to contribute positively to this world before leaving this pale blue dot.

The common heritage of humanity is cultural diversity.  Across time and space culture takes diverse forms. The uniqueness and plurality embodied in diversity makes up humankind. Cultural diversity is a source of inspiration, innovation and exchange thus necessary for humankind just like biodiversity is for nature. Hence for the benefit of present and future generations it should be recognized as the common heritage of humanity. In our increasingly diverse societies it is important to ensure harmonious interactions of varied groups with the willingness to live together.

When it comes to integration and rejoicing in our diversity there are many ethnic groups even today that struggle for inclusion, among these groups are the Roma people also known as Romanis. This ethnic group of Indian origin, originated almost 1000 years ago lives mostly in Europe and Americas. Roma are one of the Europe’s largest minority groups. Roma people occasionally in the news are the focus of prejudice and criticism. There are many stereotypes associated with them from allegations of criminal activities to age old one of children being stolen by the Roma people commonly known as Gypsies. France’s expulsion of Roma on the basis of how Roma are “a drain of resources” did receive international criticism. But this doesn’t stop the hate groups from labeling them as criminals and undeserving. The news coverage about how Roma people are unworthy is more common in mainland Europe. This disadvantaged and marginalized group has suffered for the past many years and is still being persecuted.

people-roma-community-walkPeople from Roma community expelled from their camp in France

Photo Source Google

Having a long history of living in Europe estimated to be living since 13 century, there are more than 10 million Roma living in Europe recognized as one of the European Union’s largest minority groups. During the inaugural World Romani Congress which was held in London in 1971, the term “Roma” was chosen and accepted across EU to describe diverse communities and tribes. There are four different types of Roma communities identified by European Commission.

Given the limited data collection on Roma people it is estimated that varied numbers of Roma populations live in nations across Europe. The most significant Roma populations live in Central and Eastern European states of Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria. Roma makes up between 7 to 10 percent of the total population in these countries. It is interesting to note that the estimates provided by non-governmental organizations active in this field vary from the “official” population estimates.

The multilayered and entrenched issues faced by Roma people do look like a description of communities living in the developing world. Poor living standards, low levels of literacy, unemployment, lack of health and education facilities and above all the discrimination are prevalent in the places where Roma people live. There are intricate communities of people classified as ‘Roma’ in the UK. According to the definition of Roma by the Council of Europe it includes travelers and gypsies. However in the UK the term Roma is mostly used for migrants coming from Central and Eastern Europe. Roma people have been migrating to UK for decades. The Roma people in UK are split between those living a nomadic life in caravans and the ones with poor and precarious housing which reflects the situation almost across Europe.

malmo-protests-against-racist-police-0Photo Source Google

The European Union is stepping up to resist the Roma being scapegoated as outsiders. The European Commission encouraged the development of National Roma Integration Strategies to consolidate the efforts of member states to improve the lives of Roma community. But there is still confusion on how to tackle this politically charged and complex issue. Unfortunately it is not an easy task made even more difficult by the arrival of newer members in the East like Romania. Right-wing politicians continue to demonize Roma despite the dark lessons of Nazi history. To wall off Roma communities some 400 mayors in Slovakia have created a movement by using safety and health regulations. Hence Roma people still occupy the position of a vulnerable minority.

The only solution to this problem that press for segregation of communities on the basis of ethnicity, race and religion etc is a more humanized approach. It requires us to differentiate between criminality of a few and an entire ethnic group whose future is tainted by the wrongs done by those few. It needs an approach where we look for a greater common good. An approach that instills in us the humanity needed to live together as a human family.

In Slovakia the segregation of Roma and non-Roma students is a common practice. During the early 1990s 7% of Roma students were taught in segregated classrooms or schools. To see communities being segregated even today make me lose hope in humanity. But it is rightly said that at the end of every tunnel there is light. In Slovakia, principal of Šarišské Michaľany junior-elementary school, Jaroslav Valastiak has been trying for gradual integration of classrooms. After a long legal battle it was decided that the segregation violates anti discrimination laws in the country and it was made mandatory for the school to integrate students. Roma minority do face marginalization and exclusion across Europe but some activists note that in Slovakia it is at its worst. For better reforms it is important that government bodies come together and take action. The first Roma-elected Member of Parliament in Slovakia, Peter Pollak called the situation in Šarišské Michaľany junior-elementary school complex drawing similarities between this and Supreme Court ruling of 1945 in US “Brown v. Board of Education” in which the court declared separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional.  This however seems like a scratch on the surface as Peter Pollak believes that though the court has taken a right decision, the government has practical challenges making it difficult to support integration efforts.

The Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (UNESCO) states that cultural diversity is one of the roots of development not just in terms of economic growth but also in terms of achieving a more satisfactory emotional, intellectual, spiritual and moral existence. It inspires genuine dialogue enabling communities to get to know and understand each other. It is important that all cultures get freedom to express and make themselves known. Here media also plays a vital role by acting responsibly in portraying the truth without taking sides and influencing the opinion of people by misrepresentation and miscommunication. Article 9 of Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity states that each country should have a cultural policy that incorporates international obligations. The implementation of that policy should be done by suitable support and regulations which it considers fit.

 kalderash-rom-maria-mercedes-chiciu-3-shows-off-her-belly-dancing-skills-as-her-grandmother-exspertiza-dumitru-sitting-looks-on-at-the-field-near-the-bistrita-monastery-where-thousands-of-mostly-kalderash-roma-have-gather

A Roma girl dancing in her traditional outfit

Photo Source Google

All these declarations, just like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stating that everyone is born equal, are full of hope. These declarations talk about well being of everyone. However the important task ahead now is making all these declarations a reality. It is important that the countries pay heed to the clauses and act on it ensuring freedom and well being for all. The resilient Romani people have survived the horrors inflicted by Hitler in postwar Europe but still face prejudice and exclusion. It is not just the Roma people but other minority groups too that are segregated and considered as an outcast in many places around the world. By helping and supporting the marginalized groups in fact strengthens the country. These segregated communities here Roma people who have been denied employment and are forced to live in settlements just because of their ethnicity should be considered an asset not a burden that adds a new color to the cultural diversity.

Roma people who suffer intolerable rates of poverty and unemployment need support. A change in the politics of fear will be a step forward that can bring change. There is a need for policy change regarding Roma people that consider them equal, many politicians have admitted that there is a dire need for better welfare programs but they fear voter backlash if they will speak up. However we can still be optimistic about the future of Roma people. Many international organizations, United Nations and European Commission are pressurizing the countries to end their exclusionary policies and give Roma people equal opportunities to participate in a better way. Moreover the European Romani have formed their own organizations like Roma National Congress that represents the interests of Roma people and press for change.

It is true that we are not born with hate, we are taught to hate. So if we are taught to hate we can also learn to love. Nelson Mandela was right when he said that not knowing that the apartheid did not die it just took a different size and color.

romove-khamoroPhoto Source Google

Earth Charter; A Glimmer of Hope

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, General Information, Green Economy, News, News & Updates, Take Action, Uncategorized, Weekly news

Originated in 1968 the idea of sustainable development to be incorporated in a charter by Maurice Strong and Mikhail Gorbachev led to a lot of organisations stepping forward and try to make it a reality. The charter was created by a global consultation process endorsed by various organisations, representing the hope of millions to work towards a sustainable future which focuses on the well- being of human family at large.

It comprised not only of global connectivity which we as a human race have been sharing for a long time rather it also obligated to keep in mind the future of mother earth along in it’s struggle for a better world for future generations.

faceofworld

Photo Source: Google

On this road to forming a sustainable global community Nektarina founded in 2009, wanted to carry this message forward. The message was simple which is to create a sustainable global community respecting nature, human rights, economic justice that promotes a culture of peace. The only hindrance now was making it a reality not letting the message get distorted on the way like the Chinese whisper.

Mustering up courage along with other organisations Nektarina wanted to implement the four basic principles of Earth Charter in all it’s projects since it’s inception. Enthusiastic to make a difference and ardent to make a positive contribution it developed projects that aimed at engaging people from all over the word, declaring responsibility to one another, the greater community of human existence and to future generations.

Projects like Nektarina Connect through Art, My Planet and Me and Nektarina Visual Essays invited people from all over the globe to participate using non formal, participatory methods like the medium of arts to express themselves focusing on caring for community with love, understanding and compassion. Young people, women and children participated wholeheartedly in all these projects. Using sustainable art that comprise the use of various mediums like photography, painting  etc to engage people, raise awareness, helping them to improve their lives and communities with a better understanding of living in a global community that disseminates the message of protecting the environment .

21st century is a century of peaceful coexistence. We must acknowledge the fact that we live in a pluralistic, diverse world. We stand at a moment in Earth’s history where we must choose our future. The future holds great perils and promises simultaneously as the world becomes increasingly interdependent. To move forward we must keep in mind that as a human family and earth community we must move forward with a common destiny. Bringing forth a sustainable global society that is founded on the values of universal human rights, respect for nature , economic security and justice and a culture of peace we must join together.

Keeping in mind the first principle of the charter that is respecting and caring for the community of life, Nektarina engaged various communities in all it’s projects focusing especially on the Roma rights.  The Roma people have been segregated since a long time and integrating them into the mainstream is a challenge in Europe. The campaigns and projects of Nektarina rejects the isolation of communities based on ethnicity, cast, creed and religion. Moving on with empathy, compassion and love to build just societies has been an essential objective of Nektarina. Projects like Connecting Through Art and Nektarina Web Magazine invites people encouraged everyone to voice their opinion. Connect through Art was a space especially for women from conflict areas to express themselves using art forms. Moreover the Visual Essay competition especially invited young people engaging them to learn more about issues relevant to their communities. To express their thoughts in creative visual styles invitations were sent to around 300 educational institutions from all over the world. Young people were asked to contribute on the issues of human rights, minorities, environment and integration.

Nektarina’s various educational campaigns centre on recycling, reducing carbon footprint and development of sustainable cities keeping in mind the ecological integrity principle of Earth Charter. The campaigns focused on protecting Earth ecological systems preventing harm as the best method to protect the environment.  To advance the study of ecological sustainability promoting open exchange and application of acquired knowledge Nektarina has dedicated a space for the publication of researches, articles, and other publications that stresses on the need to adopt patterns of production, utilization and reproduction that safeguards the ecological system.  All Nektarina’s publications including the web magazine are for everyone under creative commons licensing. The essential aspect behind these various projects and publications is to connect people from across the globe to share ideas, educating and inspiring them to work for a peaceful global community.

To promote social and economic justice strengthening democratic institutions and promoting a culture of peace and non-violence Nektarina came up with an initiative Education for Sustainability. The aim of this initiative is to make sustainability part of the educational institution’s curriculum. To inculcate in children the importance of a sustainable world that safeguards their future. Education plays a vital role in human development. Educating young people which will enable them to gain an understanding, knowledge, values and skills and address environmental and social changes issues. Education for sustainability is a step forward to include sustainable education in the “official” curriculum with the help of education ministries and departments, institutions and councils and boards relevant to the field of education around the world.

Children of today are our future, our hope for a better world. Letting them learn to think ecologically and developing a capacity to apply this understanding effectively to develop better communities is an essential measure in today’s age and time.  A true sustainable community is diverse, dynamic and continuously evolving. Starting off by educating children encourages us to dream and hope for thriving, sustainable human communities. We can learn this from the nature’s ecosystems which are sustainable communities of animals, microorganisms and plants. Education itself centres on environmental or sustainable education where students are taught that they are a part of natural world, now they should also be taught to protect the natural world.

In Pakistan the local education ministry at provincial level tried to incorporate value education which was related to sustainable education in the public schools. With limited resources they developed curriculum and trained the teachers to pass on the knowledge of how children can take small steps that will make a big difference. Those small steps starts from saving energy my switching of unwanted lights, closing the water taps while brushing, keeping a litter free environment to the importance of recycling to name a few.

A curriculum especially designed to impart knowledge on waste management, protecting the forests, looking after each other and thinking about a greater community, a global community will equip the children with a better understanding of the world. The project Education for Sustainability is in line with the fundamental principle of Earth Charter that talks about Integration of knowledge, values and skills needed for sustainable living into formal education. The importance of educating children to understand and act on the issues of sustainable world was seconded at Earth Summit. Keeping in mind that today’s students will be tomorrow’s leaders and decision makers helping them engage in debates , letting them acquire a better understanding of the world and global community will be a positive step for the future.

We live in a unique time in history where the technological advancements are prodigious. These advancements added both to the progress and recession of world communities. Keeping in mind this juxtaposition we need to work towards an impact that only contributes positively. Living in a globalized world where the distances are becoming less with each passing year, globalization is bringing people and cultures together. We have transcended the geographical and national boundaries in communication.  This definitely proves the point that we are at stage where the problems associated with the Earth are no longer affecting one region or group of people rather we all are affected equally by the problems that affects the marginalised groups more. This is an important time in history where we have to take each other with us on our struggle to build a better world.

The Earth Charter is based on intercultural dialogue fostering the need for unified responsibility. Nektarina has been acting on this principle of integration. Nektarina comprises  of a multicultural team from all over the world including Pakistan, Croatia, France, India, Fiji, Trinidad & Tobago, Spain and people working in Nektarina have travelled extensively getting to know various cultures, equipping themselves with a better understanding of the world communities. Nektarina in upholding the Earth Charter principle of mutual respect and understanding by giving equal opportunity to everyone involved in it’s mission.

The principles and values in the Earth Charter reflect the influence of a rich diversity. The vision of shared values in the Earth Charter is especially focused on environment.  However, the inclusion of ethical vision reflecting the realization that political, socio-economic and cultural challenges are interrelated. Nektarina is trying it’s best to take everything together keeping in mind all the principles. Nektarina recognizes the interconnections between human rights and protection of ecosystems promoting a culture of justice and peace. This holistic understanding is reflected through Nektarina’s various projects and campaigns that do constitute sustainable development in it’s core.

At the heart of the Earth Charter is a tenet of respect for life on the recognition that all beings are inter-reliant and all life forms have value irrespective of their worth to individuals. Beginning with an attitude of respect for others and finding expression in caring, preventing harm and promoting well-being these tenets inculcate a sense of ethical responsibility. Earth Charter encourages everyone to identify with the global community as well as their local communities and to be compassionate towards the entire human family.

The ethics of Earth Charter and Nektarina are grounded in a shared vision of widely shared responsibility for the planet Earth and it’s inhabitants. Nektarina does believe that human existence is about being more not having more. The shared values between Nektarina and Earth Charter do focus special attention on the environment.  The vision is inclusive realizing that all global challenges facing the world today are interrelated. Nektarina asserts that the spirit of human solidarity lies in the kinship with all life, mutual understanding and gratitude. Keeping in mind the Earth Charter principles Nektarina believes in the vision of a peaceful and just world celebrating life joyfully.

A Human Rights ‘Meltdown’

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, General Information, Green Economy, News, News & Updates, Take Action, Uncategorized, Weekly news

Human rights and climate change are inseparable. There are many studies available now that provide evidence that in an unstable climate, conflict and human rights violation will escalate. In a cooler and wetter world cool heads won’t prevail.

At first I could not decipher the link between human rights and climate change. Though the correlation is evident at times convincing many environmental scientists and researchers that there is a dire need to take action. It is essential that the need for action has to come from all stakeholders.

There are many today who will disagree. When researching through it I came across various studies trying to find a direct and indirect links, finding a connection, giving evidence every now and then to prove their point. It has also become a norm these days that if someone doesn’t have a specialization in a certain field most of the time they are not taken seriously.

Do I need to specialize in environmental sciences to know this simple truth? Can’t I make a choice by being rational and looking at the bigger picture? Because the truth is simple no matter how bitter it is or how much we try to run away from it. We have done enough harm to mother earth. She is dying, calling out for help, loud and clear. And in this situation looking away would just be another selfishness which comes naturally to us as human beings.

Fascinating as it is, in 1994 there was a study done in which it was discovered that two groups of police officers undergoing the exact same simulation training were more likely to draw their weapons if the room was uncomfortably warm. This doesn’t mean that there are cool heads in cooler regions. But sometimes heat fuels aggressive behavior in people. It is just to state the fact that in uncomfortable environmental situations there is a likelihood of a rise in violence. Now there are studies proving it but just to share my regular observation during our extremely hot summers in Pakistan, you get to see fights and people arguing more on the streets.

Drawing a connection doesn’t mean that climate change is solely responsible for human rights violations. Various factors interact with climate to produce chaos. Drought and flooding cripple an economy, especially one that is already weak or that is based on agriculture.

In a research done by University of California, Berkeley and University of Princeton the researchers found that personal violence was far more influenced by a leap in temperature. The researchers in the journal called Science stated that an unstable climate aggravates three types of violence namely personal, political or intergroup leading to institutional breakdown. Analysing 60 studies from a number of disciplines including archaeology, criminology, economics and psychology — the researchers have explored the correlation between weather and violence in various parts of the world from about 10,000 BCE to the present day. Reviewing the studies for a period of 18 months they were confident in drawing their conclusion. The researchers predicted in the study that people may face a threat as precarious as extreme weather and that is each other.

Seeing the current state of world affairs where most of the countries in the East and West are having a political turmoil it does sound accurate. We have been witnessing disparity and human rights violations leading to various social outburst across the globe, be it Egypt, Crimea, Turkey, US, Sudan to name a few. Taking an example of Egypt people came out on the streets demanding for their rights, pressing the governments the need for their well-being. They came out furious as if fed up with the current system. People have been protesting in other places too like Brazil and this phenomenon looks global now not confining to any one particular region or affecting any one particular tribe. The study reports that due to extreme climatic conditions violence in all three categories exacerbates regardless of geography or stability. A connection was seen between atypical climate and incidents including ethnic violence in Asia and Europe, spikes in domestic violence in India and Australia; assaults and murders increase in the United States and Tanzania; land invasions in Brazil; use of force in the Netherlands; rise of civil conflicts throughout the tropics; collapsed ancient empires; and in Middle-Ages Europe wars and displacements.

The researchers in their study also stated that they see the same pattern across the world. They stated that it is assumed that our modern society is largely independent of the environment because we are technologically advanced but it is quite the contrary. The climate play a vital role is sustaining peace and well-being across human societies.

In the research Prof Hsiang quoted that environmental conditions do change people’s perception of their own conditions and the use of violence or aggressive behaviour by people to change their situation and accomplish some goal. He also added that this doesn’t mean that climate is the only cause of conflict. There is not a single conflict that can be attributed to some specific climate event.

Well that does make sense being a student of conflict resolution and peacebuilding I also understand that there are various reasons triggering a conflict and have their roots in interpersonal and intergroup relations.  Looking at the dynamics of conflict which is a tricky subject to deal with no sane person can equate violence with climate. The need for this research is to highlight that climate is a critical factor and affect how things escalate even to the point of violence. We need to connect the dots and let our reasoning be based on solid foundations to avoid more damage.

The researchers found that while climate is not the sole or primary cause of violence, it undeniably intensifies existing social and interpersonal tension in all societies, regardless of wealth or geography. It was found out during the research that the amount of change from the local norm — in heat or rainfall boosts the risk of a riot, civil war or ethnic conflict. Things are changing and changing fast. Looking at the climate change models the research proves that by 2050 there will be a change in global climate conditions. The change in global climate conditions will escalate murders, rape, riots etc. Establishing a casual relationship between human conflict and climate through the collection of data the researchers were cautious about drawing a direct link. The individual researches or analysis on the same subject did not garner headlines before, people have been sceptical of an individual study.

But this collective research is opening a new window for discussion and action. It can be seen that the patterns drawn in the research are extremely general and are no exception. It should be considered as a rule of thumb. It will be an awakening call for the policy makers out there to take actions accordingly. Climate change does destabilise social institutions by testing the amount of stress they can endure. The social institutions mostly fail to deliver to the public when it comes to natural catastrophes, all these typhoons, earthquakes and floods are a clear indication of our misdoings. There is a red flag here, pretty much in the face. Instead of acting like onlookers waiting for our turn we need to collectively put an end to this.

In a state of vengeance and unlimited power while having our nuclear tests, where we are busy feeding the guns instead of the people, we forget what harm they will bring to the nations in the coming years. We still face the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after so many years.  What else do we need to know now? The past has been a good indicator of the turmoil which we can end up in but we don’t want to pay heed right now. In the race to have more there will be a time when we will lose ourselves.

The research also pointed out the fact that after disasters populations tend to suffer permanently. They usually don’t end up being stronger rather are more prone to catastrophes in the future. Populations end up struggling more and it also affects the performance of political organizations they tend to do very badly. There can be a rhetoric which most political organizations are capable of, that after disasters they tend to become stronger as a community or economically but there is hardly any evidence that proves it. After a natural disaster it has been seen that those areas become more vulnerable putting lives of millions in danger.

Copyright AlJazeera English   Photo Source: Aljazeera English

The research pressed the fact that human rights are, and will continue to be, interconnected to climate change. These most basic of human rights include the right to have a home, food and water. The research clearly indicates that whether there is a relationship between climate and conflict is not the question anymore. Now the question should be what is causing it. Moving to a second stage where more facts are known. It is important to investigate the cause of this connection. This study establishing a correlation between violence and climate change can also allow policymakers and researchers to examine what causes it and how to intervene and prevent it or at least make an effort to resist it. By figuring out what is causing the correlation between human rights violation and conflict would be a step forward. It will help is designing effective policies or institutions capable to manage and interrupt the connection between climate and conflict. In the face of greater violence, the research continues to examine how certain social and political institutions may help mitigate some of the impacts that lead to more conflict. It is important to find that out so that the future generations can be saved enabling to create a better planet.

The changes might seem to be moderate when it comes to climate but they have a sizable impact on the societies. There are many other researches that came up with global climate models that projected an increase in global temperatures. This is not a conspiracy theory against any government. It is a simple but an inconvenient truth.  This global warming and the rate by which it is increasing according to the researchers warming at a certain level could increase the risk of civil war in many countries by more than 50 percent.

This indication doesn’t come as a surprise to me. Dr. Kumi Naidoo, executive director at Greenpeace International argues the same point. Naidoo recently said that the struggles between catastrophies caused by climate change and human rights struggle should be seen as two sides of the same coin. This statement further augments the need not to see the two things separately.

In an interview, Human Rights Watch senior researcher Richard Pearshouse also stated that many of the most vulnerable in society will be affected by climate change. That vulnerable stratum includes and will affect the poor, ethnic and religious minorities, women and children. That should be enough for human rights organisations. It is clear with what he said that the marginalised will feel the impacts most deeply. He stated that there are many places where the amount of human suffering is caused by environmental degradation. He quoted the example of Hazaribagh, Bangladesh saying that as someone working in the areas of human rights and health, the climate change overlap is very evident. He added that the human suffering due to environmental degradation is very obvious in Bangladesh. It is indeed true that flooding and drought does affect the agricultural economies that are solely dependent on the crop. When looking at the bigger picture we see that we are draining the natural resources that can jeopardize the future of our planet. Hopefully the exhaustion of natural resources will let us stay at the point where we buy water to drink instead of not having water at all.

From the right to life to health, housing and education, climate change has a massive impact on a vast range of civil and political rights. When it comes to suffering on the ground it is the marginalised who are affected the most. There appears a discrimination which the international organizations and government bodies should keep in mind. The mitigations measures should incorporate the impact of climate change on the most marginalised. There are polar extremes everywhere in the world and the gap between haves and have not’s is ever increasing. Drawing a balance between climate change and the group of people affected most by it is crucial to the study.

Pearshouse said there are many example across the globe where clear links are found between the unofficial exercise of government power and environmental harm around the world whether it’s a government unwilling to enforce basic health and environmental safeguards in Bangladesh or state-sponsored repression of environmental defenders in Russia. This reinforces that climate injustice is not limited to one particular region. Even the most stable of the economies can’t get away with the natural disasters putting millions at risk.

The science can be a building block as it is. It’s time for us to start acting and that is the area where we are struggling to convince people of how real this all stated above is. Let’s challenge the old school always suggesting that the issues of climate justice are baseless. We have a very strong base here if we open our eyes and try to notice it. The message is loud and clear and we have seven billion people to whom we need to convey this message.

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Weekly News # 18: reRoute – Building Youth and Student Power for a New Economy

Written by admin on . Posted in General Information, Green Economy, News, Take Action, Upcoming Events, Weekly news

  (shared post) This summer join a diverse generation of students, practitioners, and organizers from across the US and Canada to share strategies, tools, and stories about the movement to build a more just and sustainable economy from the ground up in our communities and on our campuses. reRoute: Building Youth and Student Power for a New Economy will bring together activists in their teens, twenties, and thrities dedicated to systemic change, economic democracy, and environmental justice for three days, July 19-21 at New York University. Early registration is on a “pay-what-you-can-afford” basis through July 5 and some travel scholarships are available. Hostel accommodations available through NEI only until June 12th. You can learn more and register at www.neweconomicsinstitute/
reroute or by emailing cheyennaweber@neweconomicsinstitute.org. Programming is still being finalized but confirmed panels and workshops include: Pathways to a New Economy with David Wood, Institute for Responsible Investment; Maliha Safri, US Solidarity Economy Network; Alexa Bradley, On the Commons; Ed Whitfield, Fund for Democratic Communities, moderated by Atlee McFellin, Symcenter Making a Living in the New Economy with Elandria Williams, Highlander Center; Farah Tanis, Black Women’s Blueprint; Jessie Reilly, TimebanksNYC; Juliet Schor, Boston College, moderated by Joshua Stephens, NYC-based co-op developer Financing a New Economy with Deyanira del Rio, Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project; Steve Wong, the Working World; Lauren Ressler, Responsible Endowments Coalition, moderated by Kenneth Edusei, SolidarityNYC Teaching and Learning a New Economics with Renaud Girac, University of Quebec; Brian Kelly, US Society for Ecological Economics; Olivia Geiger, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, moderated by Keith Harrington, New School Fossil Fuel Divestment and Beyond – Responsible Endowments Coalition Possibilities For Participatory Budgeting – Participatory Budgeting Greensboro Food Justice and The New Economy – CoFED and Mariposa Food Co-op Building Political Power for a New Economy– SolidarityNYC/Philadelphia Co-op Alliance Can The Economics Curriculum Be Reformed?  Lessons From Activists In France and Quebec – PEPS / Horizons Economiques The Real Food Challenge: Uniting Students For A Just And Sustainable Food System – Real Food Challenge Mapping The New Economy – Shareable.net/Data Commons Cooperative/Solidarity NYC How To Start A Worker Co-op – WORC’N Non-hierarchical Staffing Structures – North American Students Of Cooperation Bringing Solidarity Home: creating alternative housing economies through cooperative living – NASCO Timebanks Coast To Coast – Timebanks NYC/Bay Area Community Exchange Democratic and Cooperative Leadership —AORTA Collective We’ll also be offering solidarity economy tours of Brooklyn on Friday.