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Thursday:  November 20, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Monday
May072012

Vote 2012 Analysis: Now the real campaign begins (PERSPECTIVE)

(Video: OSCE election observer statement on Armenia's May 6 parliamentary elections)

By Naira Hayrumyan

May 6 saw general elections in several European nations, including France, Greece, Serbia, as well as their eastern neighbor - Armenia.

Experts usually make references to ideological differences between contestants in elections. In referring to the Armenia vote, most foreign media would call it a contest between the presidential party and the party of a billionaire former arm wrestling champ – the Republican Party of Armenia led by President Serzh Sargsyan and the Prosperous Armenia Party of Gagik Tsarukyan.

In France, people went to the polls in the presidential runoff to choose between the right-wing ideology, which is based on the support of those “who know how to make money”, and the socialist one, which stands for higher taxes for the rich and more money spent on the opening of new jobs. In France, the Socialists won (with their candidate Francois Hollande beating incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy), and the people of France, still experiencing the effects of the recent global economic crisis, decided that they needed social benefits more than the financial strengthening of Europe.

Greece was also making its difficult ideological choice: two major parties that have alternately ruled the country since 1974, have been in favor of austerity measures, including the sale of national wealth, if only to stay in the euro zone and to get loans to repay the debt. The Conservatives and the right-wing forces think they can sacrifice the future of the euro zone to preserve the national wealth and social guarantees. And in Greece, the latter ideology has prevailed.

In Serbia, the choice has been between the forces espousing concessions on national issues for the European future, and those who have a hard line on issues related to sovereignty, including on Kosovo. The pro-European party is enjoying a slim advantage, with President Boris Tadic still facing a tense runoff. 

And what have the political forces in Armenia been fighting for? What ideologies do the parties that entered the fray stand for? Perhaps, it is only clear that ARF Dashnaktsutyun is a nationalist and socialist party. It speaks of social reform, about promoting national issues. The other parties are quite amorphous.

For example, the ruling Republican Party of Armenia, which spent much of the past five years trying to grapple with the crisis, has been running on the platform of reforms. What it hasn’t said, however, is what kind of reforms it wants to press ahead with. Nor has the opposition Armenian National Congress elaborated in plain terms what kind of reforms it wants to implement. Sometimes it stresses social issues, stating that it is necessary to curb migration, resulting in a dwindling of the population, then it speaks of a liberal economy that is far from being social-oriented.

(PHOTO: Gagik Tsarukyan)The most obscure position is of the Prosperous Armenia Party, whose leader Tsarukyan, known for his charity projects, would state at campaign rallies that after the elections he will be doing “even more for the people than he has done before.”

An ideological struggle, when everyone could try this ideology on themselves and see what their lives would be like if one ideology or another prevails, would have entailed a real competition. But this time, the presidential party prevailed.

France and Greece, in fact, have changed their ideologies and the power along with it. In Armenia, the power remained, and this means that nothing will change in people’s lives. Do people going to the polls really want their life to stay unchanged?

Still before the parliamentary elections both the government and opposition were saying that they were preparing for the February 2013 presidential election. And from this point of view it is interesting what the list of presidential candidates will look like against the new backdrop of the alignment of forces in the National Assembly.

Still last year President Serzh Sargsyan publicly spoke about his plans to run for a second term in 2013. And the victory by his party, which is expected to gain some 70 seats in the National Assembly and an opportunity to form the government single-handedly, is likely to become a solid support for his reelection bid. The question is whether or not the first and second presidents of Armenia, Levon Ter-Petrosyan and Robert Kocharyan, mount any serious challenge to him.

The opposition Armenian National Congress led by Ter-Petrosyan has overcome the 7% hurdle for election blocs in the May 6 parliamentary elections and has got the right to form a faction in the next parliament. The result appears to be much more modest than expected by Ter-Petrosyan, whose bloc, however, has been speaking about large-scale violations during the Sunday polls.

(PHOTO: Serzh Sargsyan)But the real question here is whether Ter-Petrosyan will estimate his chances as good enough to try to join another presidential campaign against Sargsyan (the last time they had a rivalry in 2008 the opposition leader got some 21%, as against Sargsyan’s 52%, and the eventual street standoff resulted in deadly clashes).  As things stand now, Ter-Petrosyan hasn’t got any reassuring result percentage-wise.

As for Kocharyan, he had implied he would announce his decision on whether or not to return to active politics after the elections, after May 6. Prosperous Armenia and the ARF, both of which are believed to be loyal to Kocharyan, according to preliminary vote results, have about 36% of the vote. This appears to be a formative resource, and Kocharyan may just put everything on the line.

In this view, new alliances could already be in the offing, such as those that have already been formed once during the pre-election month. If the ANC also backs the candidate from the PAP (whether Kocharyan or former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian), then an alternative to Sargsyan is possible.

One way or another, May 7 marks not only the end of the grueling parliamentary campaign, but the start of perhaps a similarly strenuous presidential race.

---This commentary originally appeared in ArmeniaNow.

Friday
May042012

`Raising Resistance' - telling, exposing and thought provoking
 (FILM REVIEW) 

(Raising Resistance, trailer)

By Grace Philip

Synapsis:  RAISING RESISTANCE is about the fight of the small farmers of Paraguay, South America against the aggressively expanding production of genetic soy in their country. It describes the global impact that the use of most modern genetic engineering in the 21st century has on people, on nature and on our worldwide food supply - a parable about the suppression of life, about the diversity of plants and cultures, and about how resistance arises both in people and in nature.

Over the last ten years, Paraguay has changed dramatically due to the world’s increasing demand for soya. Approximately 80 per cent of the world’s animal feed is made of the crop, while our food is rich in it. The market for soya is set to grow further still with the implementation of bio fuel policies.

(PHOTO: Soya Beans, raw/Wikipedia)The land in Paraguay offers the perfect environment for opportunists wanting to make money from this aggressive, growing industry – cheap property, fertile soil and legislation means there is little to stop soya farmers forever expanding. This is why Paraguay has become the fourth largest exporter of soya, meaning that the world has become dependent on Paraguay to supply the demand for soya, while the economy of the Republic relies on continued investment in the industry. The major problem is that the local communities are resisting, and as `Raising Resistance' shows, they are not prepared to give up.

By weaving us through panoramic views of Paraguay’s soya growing zone and including interviews and scenes of the soya production process, `Raising Resistance' provides a balanced profile of the soya industry and how the small-scale farmers (campesinos) are horribly disadvantaged. The aggressive growth in the soya industry affects every aspect of life – their human rights, environment and society are all damaged and, as `Raising Resistance' shows, they are under-prioritized, sidelined and dismissed.

As part of the farming process, the soya producers spray herbicide on their land once a year (and sometimes more) and shockingly, they are not required to dispose of the agrochemical containers carefully. Instead, they are left in streams where the campesinos bathe. One child interviewed in `Raising Resistance' provides us with his account of how the poison in his bathing water has left him blind - Silvio Peralta has been left scarred by the soya industry, and `Raising Resistance' shows that he is not the only one.

The campesinos are not accepting the costs imposed on them and are standing up against their subordination. 'Raising Resistance' shows how they protest by setting up camps in the soya fields to stall production. The campesinos are committed and prepared to face trouble with the police – a determination that becomes clear at the end of the film. One of the final scenes shows the broadcast of a march in Asuncion, the capital, in which militant-looking police beat protesters to the sound of gunfire, whistles and chaos.

(PHOTO: A recent `Day of Action' against GMO chemical companies in Paraguay/RainForest Action Network) While the desperation of the campesinos is represented, we are also left appreciating a note of irony. The soya producers spray an indiscriminate herbicide on their land to protect their crop from strangling weeds - the soya being safe because it has been genetically modified to become transgenic soya, and is therefore immune to the herbicide. The wind carries these herbicides onto neighboring farms - these crops are not genetically modified to be resistant, leaving farmer, Juana Gonzales, with ‘rotten peanuts’ for her crop.

Ironically, the weeds in the soya fields are adapting and growing resistant to the herbicides that are designed to kill them. The evolved weeds spread across the field in the wind, strangling the transgenic soya plant.

`Raising Resistance' is telling, exposing and thought provoking – the creators, Bettina Borgfeld and David Bernet, force us to appreciate the effect such a powerful industry can have, while portraying the ironic parallels between the resistance growing among the campsinos and the weeds that are becoming resistant to the soya farmer’s herbicides. The film portrays this resistance against the injustice brought on by unchecked growth, both in the fields and in an industrial sense, making the title apt and the message strong.

`Raising Resistance' has been shown at film festivals in various locations around the world - the UK premiere being at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival of March this year – and is available online.

-- This review originally appeared at the ECOLOGIST

Thursday
May032012

100+ International NGO's and Human Rights Groups Ask US to Intervene in Escalating DRC Crisis (NEWS) 

(Video: Human Rights Watch)

(HN, 5/4/12) -- Fighting has resumed in eastern DRC in recent weeks between Government forces, and dissident groups thought to be led by renegade general Bosco Ntaganda; following a contested election in December which resulted in President Joseph Kabila's re-election.  Several electoral observation missions, including the Carter Center, questioned the credibility of vote.

Ntaganda recently  lead a mutiny in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to authorities; and Ntaganda was previously wanted by the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands for recruiting and using child soldiers in northeastern Congo. But since his arrest warrant was unsealed in 2008, Ntaganda was made a general in the Congolese army and by many accounts has continued to recruit children to fight, playing a role in ethnic massacres, killings, rape and torture - as he did during DR Congo's bloody five-year war.

(PHOTO: DRC President Joseph Kabila/ElMundo)In early April, President Joseph Kabila also called for his arrest, following the defections of up to 500 Congolese troops. Some 20,000 people have been displaced by the latest fighting, with about 5,000 crossing over into Rwanda says UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency.

Known locally as the "Terminator", Ntaganda was thought to be in charge of a large contingent based in the North Kivu provincial capital, Goma until last month.

The Letter:

The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State

United States Department of State, 2201 C St, NW, Washington, DC 20520

Dear Madam Secretary:

We, the 142 undersigned Congolese and international civil society and human rights organizations, call on the government of the United States to provide urgent diplomatic leadership and support to the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to arrest Bosco Ntaganda.

Ntaganda's brutal human rights abuses over many years have affected tens of thousands of Congolese citizens in eastern Congo. His position as a high-ranking officer in the Congolese army, together with his ability to continue to perpetrate abuses is the most flagrant case of Congo's destructive culture of impunity.

As you will know, Ntaganda is wanted on an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the war crime of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 and using them to actively participate in hostilities in 2002-2003 in Ituri district, northeastern Congo.

Despite the warrant, and the Congolese government's legal obligation to execute it as a state party to the ICC, Ntaganda was made a general in the Congolese army in 2009 and continues to be implicated in other grave violations of human rights, including unlawful killings, sexual violence, torture, and the recruitment of child soldiers. Until a few weeks ago, he lived openly in Goma, eastern Congo, without fear of arrest. He was considered by the Congolese government as necessary for the peace process.

Ntaganda's avoidance of arrest is emblematic of continued lawlessness in eastern Congo. The people of eastern Congo have long stood against impunity for the perpetrators of serious human rights violations. Their desire for justice burns strong, especially in the face of ongoing atrocities. Congolese and international human rights organizations have repeatedly denounced Ntaganda's promotion to general, his ongoing crimes, and the failure to arrest him. Congolese human rights activists have done so at great personal risk to themselves and their families.

We have new hope that justice might be done. In April, the situation changed dramatically when Ntaganda unsuccessfully sought to organize large-scale defections from the Congolese army. In the face of the crisis, Congolese President Joseph Kabila, at a public meeting in Goma, signaled a change in the government's stance toward Ntaganda.

He indicated he was considering arresting him and that indiscipline in the army would not be tolerated. Members of the international community, including the United States ambassador to Congo, as well as the Belgian foreign minister, the ambassador of the Netherlands to Congo and others, also publicly called for Ntaganda's arrest and his transfer to the ICC. These statements were very welcome.

(PHOTO: DRC child soldier/UNICEF)We now await concrete action to lawfully arrest Ntaganda in a manner that protects civilians from any potential fallout. Improved security for the population, based on the rule of law, begins with his arrest. It cannot wait any longer. Ntaganda remains at large, has recently separated from the army, and is reportedly at, or near, his ranch in Masisi territory, North Kivu, with a significant group of supporters. The failure to arrest Ntaganda is a source of anxiety and trauma for the population of eastern Congo who fear he could launch a new wave of violence and human rights abuses as he has done in the past. The recent violence in Masisi territory is a strong indication that this is already occurring and that Ntaganda is regrouping troops loyal to him. Lack of action to arrest Ntaganda could result in a further deterioration of the security situation and new attacks on civilians. This must be avoided.

On behalf of Congolese civil society and the thousands of victims of Ntaganda's crimes, we call on the government of the United States to:

:           Support the Congolese government to urgently plan and carry out a lawful arrest of Bosco Ntaganda, including providing support through the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo, MONUSCO, so that he can be brought to justice.

:           Press the government of Rwanda, which has backed Ntaganda in the past, to support the lawful arrest of Ntaganda by the Congolese government and not provide him with sanctuary.

:           Prioritize comprehensive security sector reform in Congo that includes a vetting mechanism to remove senior officers with a record of serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law and bring them to justice.

On March 14, our fight against impunity was given an important boost when the judges at the ICC in The Hague found Thomas Lubanga Dyilo guilty of war crimes committed in Congo. As Congolese human rights groups publicly said in the weeks that followed, it is now time for Lubanga's co-accused, Bosco Ntaganda, to also face justice.

We recognize the difficulties in bringing about the lawful arrest of Ntaganda, but we believe strongly that with the right political commitment they can be overcome. Please take all necessary and appropriate action to assist the Congolese government to make it happen.

Yours sincerely,

The undersigned organizations

CC: Thomas E. Donilon, National Security Advisor

Ambassador Susan E. Rice, Permanent Representative to the United Nations

Signatories:

International organizations

1. Amnesty International USA

2. Eastern Congo Initiative

3. The ENOUGH Project

4. European Network for Central Africa (EurAc)

5. Human Rights Watch

6. Humanity United

7. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

8. Jewish World Watch

9. Open Society Foundations

10. Sanela Diana Jenkins Human Rights Project

Congolese organizations

1. Action Communautaire pour le Développement Intégral et Intégré du Diocèse de Mbuji-Mayi (ACDIM), Kasai Oriental

2. Action des Chrétiens pour la Promotion de la Paix et le Développement (ACPD), North Kivu

3. Action Globale pour la Promotion Sociale et la Paix (AGPSP), North Kivu

4. Action Humanitaire pour le Développement Intégral (AHDI), North Kivu

5. Action Intégré pour le Développement de Ngandajika (AIDN), Kasai Oriental

6. Action Kivu, South Kivu

7. Action Paysanne contre la Faim (APCF), Kasai Oriental

8. Action pour la Paix et la Concorde (APC), South Kivu

9. Action pour la Promotion de la Participation Citoyenne (APPC), North Kivu

10. Action pour la Protection des Droits Humains et du Développement Communautaire (APDHUD), South Kivu

11. Action pour le Développement Communautaire de Lusambo (ADCL), Kasai Oriental

12. Action Sociale pour la Paix et le Développement (ASPD), North Kivu

13. Actions des Chrétiens pour l'Abolition de la Torture (ACAT/NK), North Kivu

14. Actions pour la Promotion Socio-économique des Ménages (APROSEM), North Kivu

15. Africa Justice Peace and Development (AJPD), North Kivu

16. Aide Kivu, South Kivu

17. Amical des Anciens du Séminaire (AMAS), Kasai Oriental

18. Amis de Nelson Mandela, Kinshasa

19. Application des Droits Humains dans le Pays des Grands Lacs (ADHOPGL), North Kivu

20. Arche d'Alliance, North Kivu

21. Assistance Judiciaires aux Vulnérables (AJV), Equateur

22. Association Africaine de Défense des Droits de l'Homme (ASADHO), national

23. Association Congolaise pour l'Accès à la Justice (ACAJ), Katanga

24. Association des Enfants et Jeunes Travailleurs (AEJT), South Kivu

25. Association des Volontaires du Congo (ASVOCO), North Kivu

26. Association des Volontaires pour le Développement Intégré du Kasaï (AVODIK), Kasai Oriental

27. Association pour le Développement Intégral au Congo (ADI), Orientale

28. Association pour le Développement de Kitamba-Mwenga (ADKI), South Kivu

29. Association pour le Développement des Initiatives Paysannes (ASSODIP), North Kivu

30. Association pour les Nations Unies de la RDC (ANU/RDC), South Kivu

31. Association Régionale de Développement Rural Intégré (ARDERI), Kasai Oriental

32. Bénévolat pour l'Enfance (BENENFANCE), North Kivu

33. Blessed Aid, North Kivu

34. Bons Samaritains des Grands Lacs (BOSAM GL/DDH), North Kivu

35. Bureau de Développement Communautaire (BDC), Kasai Oriental

36. Bureau Diocésain pour le Développement (BDD), Kasai Oriental

37. Campagne pour la Paix (CPP), North Kivu

38. Carrefour pour la Justice, Développement et les Droits Humains (CJDH), North Kivu

39. Caucus des Femmes Congolaises du South Kivu pour la Paix, South Kivu

40. Centre d'Appui et de Réhabilitation des Infrastructures pour le Développement (CARID), Kasai Oriental

41. Centre de Droits de l'Homme et du Droit Humanitaire (CDH), Katanga

42. Centre de Formation International en Droits Humains et Développement (CFIDH/D), North Kivu

43. Centre de Recherche sur l'Environnement, la Démocratie et les Droits de l'Homme (CREDDHO), North Kivu

44. Centre de Réhabilitation pour le Développement (CRDS), Kasai Oriental

45. Centre d'Etudes et de Formation Populaires pour les Droits de l'Homme (CEFOP/DH), Kasai Oriental

46. Centre Féminin pour la Formation et l'Information pour le Développement (CEFIDE), Kasai Oriental

47. Centre National d'Assistance aux Invalides du Congo (CNAICO), Kasai Oriental

48. Centre Olame, South Kivu

49. Civis Congo, North Kivu

50. Coalition Congolaise pour la Cour Pénale Internationale (CN-CPI/RDC) , national

51. Coalition Congolaise pour la Justice Transitionnelle (CCJT), national

52. Collectif des Organisations des Jeunes Solidaires du Congo-Kinshasa (COJESKI/RDC), national

53. Collectif des Organisations des Jeunes Solidaires du Congo-Kinshasa/NK (COJESKI/NK), North Kivu

54. Collectif des Organisations des Jeunes Solidaires du Congo-Kinshasa/SK (COJESKI/SK), South Kivu

55. Comité de Développement de Bilomba (CDB), Kasai Occidental

56. Comité de Suivi pour la Contribution des Communautés et des Églises à la Transformation Humaine (COSCET), Katanga

57. Comité des Observateurs des Droits de l'Homme (CODHO), Kinshasa

58. Congo en Images (CIM), Orientale

59. Congo Peace Network (CPN), North Kivu

60. Conseil Régional des Organisations Non Gouvernementales de Développement (CRONGD/KOR), Kasai Oriental

61. Construisons la Paix et le Développement Intégral (COPADI), North Kivu

62. Coordination de la Société Civile du Nord-Kivu

63. Dauphins Munzirwa-Kataliko, South Kivu

64. Défense et Assistance aux Femmes et Enfants Vulnérables (DAFEVA), North Kivu

65. Département des Femmes et Familles (DFF), Kasai Oriental

66. Diaconie et Développement Communautaire Intégral (DIDECOM), Kasai Oriental

67. Ditekema Esperance (DIES), Kasai Oriental

68. Encadrement des Femmes Indigènes et des Ménages Vulnérables (EFIM), North Kivu

69. Entente pour le Développement Intégré de Ngandajika (EDIGA), Kasai Oriental

70. Fédération des ONG Laïques à Vacation Economique du Congo (FOLECO/KOR), Kasai Oriental

71. Femmes Juristes pour les Droits de la Femme et de l'Enfant de Butembo, North Kivu

72. Femmes Solidaires pour la Paix et le Développement (FSPD), Kinshasa

73. Fondation AGAPE, South Kivu

74. Fondation Diocésaine (FONDI), Kasai Oriental

75. Fondation Point de Vue des Jeunes Africains pour le Développement (FPJAD), North Kivu

76. Fonds pour les Femmes Congolaise (FFC), national

77. Foyer de Développement pour l'Autopromotion des Pygmées et Indigènes Défavorisés (FDAPID/Hope Indigenous Peoples), North Kivu

78. Great Lakes Human Rights Program, North Kivu

79. Groupe d'Appui aux Exploitants des Ressources Naturelles (GAERN), Kasai Oriental

80. Groupe d'Assistance aux Marginalisés (GAM), South Kivu

81. Groupe d'Actions Non Violentes Évangéliques (GANVE), Katanga

82. Groupe des Associations de Défense des Droits de l'Homme et de la Paix (GADHOP), North Kivu

83. Groupe Justice et Libération, Orientale

84. Groupe Lotus, Orientale

85. Héritiers de la Justice, South Kivu

86. Initiative Congolaise pour la Justice et la Paix (ICJP), South Kivu

87. La Kasaïenne de l'Industrie (LKI), Kasai Oriental

88. Ligue des Jeunes des Grands Lacs (LJGL), North Kivu

89. Midimu ya Ba Mamu (MIDIBAM), Kasai Oriental

90. Mutuelle d'Assistance aux Déshérités du Nord-Kivu (MADNOKI), North Kivu

91. Observatoire Congolais des Droits de l'Homme (OCDH), Kinshasa

92. Observatoire de la Parité, South Kivu

93. Observatoire Gouvernance et Paix (OGP), South Kivu

94. Organisation des Femmes et Enfants Déshérités (OFED), Kasai Occidental

95. Organisation pour la Défense des Droits des Communautés Locale et Peuples Autochtones (ODECOLA/N), national

96. Ouvriers du Monde (ODM), South Kivu

97. Parlement des Jeunes de la RDC (PJRDC), North Kivu

98. Programme d'Appui aux Initiatives des Femmes en Situation Difficile (PAFSID), Kasai Oriental

99. Projet de Développement Agricole et d'Appui aux Initiatives à la Base (PRODAIB), Kasai Oriental

100. Promotion et Appui aux Initiatives Féminines (PAIF), North Kivu

101. Réseau ARDA, North Kivu

102. Réseau des Associations Intégrées pour le Développement Communautaire et Droits Humains (Réseau AIDH/DH), North Kivu

103. Réseau d'Initiatives Locales pour un Développement Durable (REID), North Kivu

104. Réseau National des Organisations Non Gouvernementales des Droits de l'Homme de la République démocratique du Congo (RENADHOC), national

105. Réseau pour la Réforme du Secteur de Sécurité et Justice, national

106. Réseau Provincial des Organisations Non Gouvernementales des Droits de l'Homme de la République démocratique du Congo (REPRODHOC/NK), North Kivu

107. Réseau Provincial des Organisations Non Gouvernementales des Droits de l'Homme de la République démocratique du Congo (REPRODHOC/SK), South Kivu

108. Réveil des Femmes pour le Développement Intégré (RFEDI), North Kivu

109. Réveil du Paysan (RDP), Kasai Oriental

110. Save Act Mines DRC (SAM/DRC), North Kivu

111. Service For Peace (SFP), Bas-Congo

112. Société Civile Noyau de Kadutu, South Kivu

113. Solidarité des Femmes Activistes pour la Défense des Droits Humains (SOFAD), South Kivu

114. Solidarité Action Sociale (SAS), South Kivu

115. Solidarité des Volontaires pour l'Humanité (SVH), South Kivu

116. Solidarité Féminine pour la Paix et le Développement Intégral (SOFEPADI), national

117. Solidarité pour la Défense des droits de l'Homme (SDDH), Orientale

118. Solidarité pour la Promotion Sociale et la Paix (SOPROP), North Kivu

119. SOS Africa, North Kivu

120. Strong Roots, South Kivu

121. Syndicat des Associations Féminines pour le Développement Intégral (SAFEDI), Kinshasa

122. Synergie des Femmes pour les Victimes de Violences Sexuelles (SFVS), North Kivu

123. Synergie Vie et Paix (SVP), North Kivu

124. Toges Noires, Kinshasa

125. Union des Comites pour le Développement (UCODE), North Kivu

126. Union des Femmes Musulmanes du Congo, North Kivu

127. Union des Jeunes Congolais pour le Changement (UJCC), South Kivu

128. Union pour le Développement Familial (UDF), Kasai Oriental

129. Unions d'Actions pour les Initiatives de Développement (UAID), North Kivu

130. Voie des Opprimés (VDO), Orientale

131. Voix des Sans Voix (VSV), Kinshasa

132. Wamama Wa Jamaa, North Kivu

 -- HUMNEWS

Wednesday
May022012

Morocco Rethinks Child Marriage After Girl Forced to Marry Rapist Commits Suicide (REPORT) 

(PHOTO: Child marriage is practice in many countries. Here in India, children advocate against it./Bikya Masr)By Abderrahim El Ouali

(Casablanca, MOROCCO) - The widespread practice of marrying minors continues to be one of the most incendiary legal and political issues in Morocco today, causing open confrontations between hard-line Islamists and moderates throughout the country.

Speaking on national television last month, Mohammed Abdenabawi, an official of the Ministry of Justice, declared that 30,000 minor girls are married every year – roughly 10 percent of the 300,000 marriages recorded every year in this country of 32 million inhabitants.

The phenomenon is widespread, the consequences for young women and girls severe, and the efforts of civil society sustained, though maintaining momentum against a tide of cultural and religious conservatism is challenging.

(PHOTO: A woman holding a photo of Amina Filali/WOMEN.COM)A campaign to gather one million signatures to forbid the marriage of minors is already in progress, sparked by the death of Amina Filali, a 15-year-old girl who committed suicide by taking rat poison in March after being forced to marry her rapist due to an interpretation of Moroccan law;  the rapist was allowed to avoid prosecution by marrying his victim.

Supposedly to protect family and female "honour", a court evoked legislation in the penal and family codes to force Filali to marry the man 10 years older than she who forced her, at knifepoint, to submit to him.

Both the court case and Filali’s suicide opened the floodgates to a deluge of public debate and activism around the issue, which had hitherto been a taboo topic in traditional Moroccan society.

Jamal Rhmani, a member of the opposition Socialist Union for Popular Forces and former Minister of Employment, told IPS, "The campaign has gathered more than 780,000 signatures up to now."

Despite being a member of the political opposition and one of the lead organizers of the campaign to ban marriage of minors, Rhmani sees his involvement in activism first and foremost from his perspective as the father of a 14-year-old daughter.

"Before being a politician, I am a father. We cannot be indifferent to what is happening around us," he explained.

Activists, rights groups and members of the opposition have been clamoring for the abolition of article 475 of the Moroccan penal code, which allows rapists to get off scott-free if they agree to marry their victims; as well as articles 20 and 21 of the family code, which allows the marriage of minor girls.

(PHOTO: In Yemen, 52% of girls are married before 18/SANA) But the root of the problem runs deep, and will require more systemic change than the abolition of one or two laws

"The culprit is archaic jurisprudence implemented by ignoramuses," Chakib Khettou, a citizen of Casablanca, told IPS, referring to the Muslim law allowing the marriage of girls older than nine years, according to traditional law.

Back in 2008, Sheik Mohamed El Maghrawi, a well-known Moroccan Muslim scholar, published a Fatwa reiterating families’ right to marry off their daughters over the age of nine. His position provoked a major scandal but the scholar suffered no consequences.

During a press conference in the city of Marrakesh last April, El Maghrawi even expressed his attachment to his position, "based on the Quran and the words of the Prophet" according to him.

However, opposition to this particular reading of Sharia’a law has become widespread.

Ahmed Faridi, a teacher who holds a licence degree in Sharia’a law, told to IPS, "Nothing in the Quran allows marrying a nine-year-old girl," he explained. Even if it turns out that the Prophet of Islam himself had married a minor girl, "he is in that case an exception and cannot be a rule," Faridi stressed.

Traditionalists won’t let go

Minister of Justice and Liberties, Mustapha Erramid, is not as moderate as some of the activists pushing for the marriage ban.

In a national televised address last March, the Minister said, "The marriage of minor girls is not forbidden by the law."

(PHOTO: Women protesting in Rabat after Filali died/MoroccoWorld)A lawyer by trade, Erramid is "tolerant" towards the amendment of article 475 of the penal code, but refused to speak about the amendment of articles 20 and 21 of the family code.

The Islamist Minister hinted that demonstrations similar to those held against the National Plan for Women’s Integration in Development, enacted under the socialist government of Abderrahmane Youssoufi in 1999, were not far off.

Back then, thousands of Islamists hailing from the ruling Justice and Development Party (PJD) took to the streets of Casablanca against Youssoufi’s plan to include women in political and economic development, which they judged as "incompatible" with Sharia’a because it forbade polygamy and fixed the minimum age of marriage for women at 18 years old.

Still, current members of parliament are not too worried that today’s activism will see such a vehement reaction by conservatives.

"A national debate on this subject is at present necessary to amend the penal code and the code of the family. A legislative initiative is already being taken by the socialist group in parliament to guarantee more protection to minor girls," Rhmani said.

The second chamber of parliament held a meeting on the subject last week. The president of the chamber, Mohamed Cheikh Biadilah, said the proposed amendments should be viewed in "the spirit of the new constitution", adopted during the turbulence of the Arab Spring, which "commits the State to guarantee the social and economic rights of the family" and "to protect minors (regardless) of their family or social position" and "forbids any shape of discrimination based on gender."

Biadilah also said, "The legislative power has the obligation to intervene every time it notices that a law has become incompatible with the development of the society."

"All the laws that go against the dignity of women must be amended or even abolished", said the president of the Chamber of Councilors in Moroccan parliament.

--This article originally appeared in InterPress Service

RELATED:  In India, 16 Year Old girl says no to child marriage

Tuesday
May012012

Sexual Abuse Keeps Girls Away From School in Papua New Guinea (REPORT) 

(PHOTO: Teenage girls in Papua New Guinea/WorldBank)By Catherine Wilson

(Goroka, Papua New Guinea) - Sexual harassment of school going girls may prevent Papua New Guinea from achieving the Millennium Development Goal of eliminating gender disparity in education by 2015.

Papua New Guinea’s new free education policy has dramatically increased school enrollment, and a gross enrollment rate of 80 percent is within reach by 2015. But the United Nations’ eight MDGs pertaining to girls’ education remain elusive.

While PNG’s constitution promotes equal participation by men and women in national development, political, cultural, social and infrastructural factors inhibit girls staying in the school system, reflecting a wider lack of women in the formal workforce, governance and decision-making roles.

The United Nations Development Program rates the nation at 153 out of 187 countries in gender equality. The education department reports the average educational attainment of girls is grade 10. On average boys complete high school, reaching grade 12.

However, the nation’s cultural and social diversity means there is geographical variance.

(PHOTO: Teenage girls in Papua New Guinea/MISSIONNET)“The state of school infrastructure, particularly in rural areas, is a significant hindrance to the achievement of equitable education outcomes,” said Arnold Kukari, leader of the universal basic education research program at the National Research Institute.

Betty Hinamunimo, field officer with CARE International, a nongovernmental organization that works in partnership with the education department, said factors impeding girls’ education included “distance and cultural and social barriers, such as the fear families have of sending girls to urban centers where their safety is not guaranteed.”

Girls in PNG are at high risk of domestic and sexual violence, sexual harassment in schools, commercial exploitation and HIV, which pose serious threats to their health and education.

Ume Wainetti at the Family Sexual Violence Action Center said, “When FSVAC conducted the study on violence against children in 2005, young girls in rural schools said they get harassed by teachers and by male students, especially when they are going to school or going home.”

Wainetti said many of the young girls interviewed by FSVAC, based in the capital of Port Moresby, were already mothers.

Cultural and social barriers to education include the burden placed on girls of family care, domestic responsibilities and customary marriage, which happens as early as 12 years old. The International Center for Research on Women estimates a third of girls in the developing world are married before 18 years old and have children before they reach 20.

The education department’s plan for decreasing the disparity stresses training staff in gender sensitization and sexual violence awareness.

Philip Afuti, president of the PNG teachers’ association, Eastern Highlands, and head teacher of North Goroka primary school, is committed to gender equality. Eighty percent of teachers are female, while the school has 630 male and 523 female students.

“We want to see the girls have an equal opportunity as boys in the education system,” Afuti declared. “They should be able to build this nation in partnership. We want to see that. PNG will only develop when both males and females are educated.”

This year, the national government rolled out a free and subsidized education policy, which has impacted female enrolment.

“We have increased the numbers of females enrolling,” Afuti verified. “Some who left a few years ago have also come back.”

But there are also inadequate mechanisms of support for school-going girls suffering from sexual abuse.

“If there are avenues for redress to such offences, these are not made known to students and parents,”  Wainetti said.

It is unfortunate that many teachers will not do anything about these abuses until the parents of the girl or boy turn up at the school to beat up the students who have been harassing their child,”  Wainetti said.

 -- This article originally appeared in The Jakarta Globe

Monday
Apr302012

NGO's Under Threat in Pakistan After Red Cross Official Beheaded (REPORT)

(PHOTO: British Red Cross worker Khalil Rasjed Dale killed in Pakistan/The Australian)

(HN, 4/30/2012) - A Yemen born, Scottish UK citizen and senior official of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Dr. Khalil Asjad Dale, 60 who had been kidnapped in January in southwestern Pakistan, was killed by his captors and his bullet-riddled body was beheaded and found in an orchard near Killi Umar, on a road leading to the airport in Quetta on Sunday.  Dr. Dale was engaged to be married to a nurse, Anne, in Australia.  He changed his name from Ken when he became a Muslim.

Dr. Dale had been taken by unidentified armed men from the Chaman Housing Complex in Quetta earlier this year.  Police said they received some tips about the presence of a dumped bag and when it was opened a body was found in it that was later identified as that of Dr. Dale.  

The body was “fresh” and had been slaughtered, said doctors at the Civil Hospital where his body was taken for autopsy.  A letter recovered from his pocket said: “This is the body of Dr. Khalil Asjad who had been kidnapped four months ago and was killed because our demands were not accepted.”  Demands that included a $30 million ransom.

The note further said "we (Taliban) claim responsibility for his murder. We will release video of this killing as the organization did not fulfill our demands despite repeated warnings."

(Video ICRC)

The ICRC has been active in Pakistan since 1947, providing humanitarian services in the field of healthcare, in particular physical rehabilitation.  Director-General Yves Daccord said, "We condemn in the strongest possible terms this barbaric act".  

Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, lies close to the Afghan border and for decades has hosted thousands of refugees from that country. The Red Cross operates clinics in the city.

"All of us at the ICRC and at the British Red Cross share the grief and outrage of Khalil's family and friends. We are devastated," Daccord said, adding that the aid worker - who had worked in Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq for the ICRC - was a "trusted and very experienced Red Cross staff member".

The ICRC had announced a reduction of its activities in Pakistan just days before Dale's abduction with the closure of three of its centers in the restive northwest. But after Dale's abduction, the organization vowed to continue its work in the troubled country.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said London had tried tirelessly to secure Dale's release. "This was a senseless and cruel act, targeting someone whose role was to help the people of Pakistan, and causing immeasurable pain to those who knew Dale," he said in a statement.

Pakistan also condemned "the barbaric act" and vowed "to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice".

Officials of the Balochistan government said they had already asked all foreigners working with NGO's and UN organizations to restrict their movements and not to go anywhere without informing the provincial home and tribal affairs department.

Much of Balochistan and the tribal regions close to Afghanistan are out of Pakistani government control, and make good places to keep hostages. Ransoms are often paid to secure their release, but such payments are rarely confirmed.

Abductions are `Common'

The parents of five kidnapped employees of the Balochistan Rural Support Programme (BRSP), a foreign NGO, were collecting donations by setting up a fund raising camp at the Bacha Khan Chowk to pay over Rs220 million as ransom to the captors for their release. "Please help us so that we can pay the ransom and secure the release of our children," said one banner at the fund raising camp.

Meanwhile, five persons were killed in separate incidents of violence in different localities of Balochistan on Sunday. Unknown armed men opened fire on a motorcycle carrying a man and his son near Hub city, killing them both. In a separate incident in Dast Goran area of Kalat two persons were killed in another firing attack.  Also, unknown men blew up a portion of the 16-inch diameter gas pipeline in the Pirkoh area of Dera Bugti district on Sunday. On Saturday night, unidentified men blew up a portion of the Quetta-Taftan railway track damaging a portion of the track passing through the Ahmadwal area of Noshki district. 

Last August, a 70-year-old an American contractor, and director in Pakistan for J.E. Austin Associates, Warren Weinstein, was kidnapped from his house in the Punjabi city of Lahore. Al-Qaeda claimed to be holding him and said in a video he would be released if the US stopped airstrikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.

(PHOTO: Swiss couple Olivier David Och & Daniela Widmer wave at the Qasim base in Rawalpindi, March 15, 2012/Telegraph)A Swiss couple Olivier David Och and Daniela Widmer  who were seized last year by the Pakistani Taliban were released in March. An Islamist extremist group said a ransom had been paid, but the Swiss and Pakistani government denied the claim.

Dr. Dale, of the Red Cross, had previously been awarded the MBE for his humanitarian work overseas by the British government.  "It's unbelievable what they've done to Ken," a friend and former colleague, Sheila Howat, said. "It's soul-destroying. For someone who has ... devoted their life to caring for others - it's just so wrong. Ken was an absolutely lovely person who saw good in everybody. He wanted to make the world a better place for people who had nothing."

---HUMNEWS, agencies

Friday
Apr272012

Hult Global Case Challenge 2011-Winners Announced (NEWS)

(PHOTO: Fmr US President Bill Clinton/HUMNEWS)(HN, 4/27/12) - Former US President Bill Clinton, whose organization the Clinton Global Initiative is partnered with the Hult Global Case Challenge, announced this year's winning student teams at last nights finals at the New York Public Library.  The winners are:

Energy: Team NYU Abu Dhabi to be partnered with SolarAid

Education: Team Carnegie Mellon to be partnered with One Laptop Per Child

Housing: Team Hult Business School, Boston campus to be partnered with Habitat For Humanity International

Stay tuned for a more comprehensive report on the ideas behind the students `step-change' innovations and for full follow-up coverage of the projects and NGO partners as they move forward.

----HUMNEWS

Thursday
Apr262012

Changing the World: One Business School Student, One NGO at a Time (REPORT)

(Video: The NYT's Nick Kristof, with Ahmad Ashkar-Hult GCC Chairman & Hult's Michelle Bergland announcing the 1st Hult Global Challenge at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting 2010/CGI)

(PHOTO: Ahmad Ashkar/Hult)

(HN, 4/26/12) - In 2009, former Hult Business School graduate Ahmad Ashkar who had, prior to business school been an investment banker, asked his fellow MBA students a simple question - "Will you accept this challenge?"

In the intervening three years thousands of his peers answered the call - as did the Clinton Global Initiative, luminaries such as Grameen Bank Founder Muhammad Yunus, Unilever Chair Michael Treschow, and NGO's of the likes of Water.org, One Laptop Per Child, Habitat for Humanity International and SolarAid to name a few. 

Today, the Hult GCC’s annual case competition is the world’s largest and most internationally acclaimed `solution finding' contest, utilizing a unique model of harvesting the vast opportunities of crowd sourcing; featuring thousands of students competing from over 100 countries for a $1 million prize and the chance to work with a prominent charity to solve a pressing global issue.  

Ahmad's own AHA moment came as nhe was getting ready to graduate from the Hult Business School 3 years ago. Prior to school he'd been working as an investment banker in Islamic banking at a prominent financial institution, when the global markets took a turn for the worst.

As a Palestinian-American, Ahmad was 11 when his family first made it to the US. He says he was "inspired by little bits and nuggets, pieces of information of how the world was coming together and what he saw as the possibility to make the world a better place through social investment, as a way to do business."

In 2009, as he was just finishing at Hult, Chuck Kane (now the former President and COO of One Laptop Per Child-OLPC), visited Ashkar's class for a talk about, "Innovation and social innovation. I had never heard you could make money by doing good," says Ahmad.   

"I  thought I would go back to Islamic banking after business school. But, after I asked a question in the class, Chuck Kane said to me, `If I had more people like you guys working on our business problems in the education space, we'd be allot more efficient in how we do things'."

At that point, Ahmad was the elected representative of the Hult Business School `Student Action Club' and had wanted to start a real estate focus - but he found no one would do it with him.

So he  turned `idea into opportunity' by partnering with Kane and OLPC in the early days offering, "Charles what if I was able to bring you our students to look at OLPC from a business perspective?" 

(Video VOAEnglishLearning)

"I had a vision where I could make money by doing good, but, I knew that meant we needed also to be first to market with innovative solutions that honestly, target more than a billion people. To any business, that's huge," says Ahmad.

Ashkar enlisted the support of Hult Business School management - the school's 5 global campuses were a perfect place to start - convincing school management that Hult could become a Hub for social innovation. The idea `caught on like wildfire'; within 60 days the project had 100 different business schools committed to participating and engaging their students in the challenge. 

(GRAPH: Bottom of the Pyramid Populations/Dexia)

"We developed a methodology of looking at the people at the bottom of the pyramid, the people we felt had no connection to the world as participants," he said.

In the first year the Hult GCC worked with OLPC on an education initiative - conducting the whole effort as a case challenge of its own; and without prize money. 

The second year, (2010) when deciding to continue with the project, Ashkar revealed something extraordinary to Hult's board.  He had empirical date from the competition to show the students who had entered were motivated by the mission of solving a global problem - even as the world economy continued to teeter. 

The point?  Future world business leaders can look at the world in a new way, and find innovative tools to withstand a crisis.  If this was possible, think of what the bright minds of the world could do together, with smarts and heart.  "Today's MBA's breed tomorrow's executives,"  says Ashkar.

"The Hult GCC is the fuel for the shift  we feel is required in the marketplace. And our students are the financial spark of our generation."

Now three years old, the revolution which Ashkar, Hult, and the globally-local collective which includes the Clinton Global Initiative, OLPC, Habitat for Humanity, SolarAid, Water.org, along with thousands of future business leaders who will go on to build the world which they want - is exponentially growing.  It's inspiration, and touch points number in the hundreds of thousands worldwide.

Ahmad says, "The lipstick items of the Hult Global Case Challenge - the million dollar prize - the well-known employers these students want to get in front of, these are draws. No doubt.  But I've seen it time and again, students get hooked. I started my career thinking I was going to be a big banker. But now I think I can be a social entrepreneur." 

(PHOTO: Wejingo) He goes on, "In fact, I'd like to stop using the phrase social entrepreneurship and get to a place where we just call it, entrepreneurship."

The message to business is, there are - big - opportunities at the bottom of the pyramid.  Ashkar advocates that business can benefit by realizing that the market can be maximized by focusing on new finance models, not maintaining `stale mindsets'.

For instance, winners from the first year, Carnegie Mellon, built a micro-commerce network that could turn the OLPC education device into a transactional platform for the children's parents; and use the laptop as a hotspot. (It's now being built into next edition OLPC devices.)

The second year of the competition the University of Cambridge Judge Business School worked to solve a Water.org challenge, and won with a new kind of water telecommunications subsidy project, working with mobile operators in Haiti, which turned a profit in the first year. The model is being considered for rollout in India next.

Unlike the previous two years, three NGO partners were selected in 2011 and announced at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in September, to benefit from Hult's GCC sourcing work; who then create their own case challenges for the students.

The demand to grow was heard from the students too. "In 2010 the contest became oversubscribed in the first ten days so making it three times as big seemed logical," says Ahmad.  This year the challenge had 5000 worldwide participants, many working in teams.

Then, the race is on with local level and regional presentations taking place in Boston, San Francisco, Shanghai, Dubai, London - and winners chosen there, make the trip to New York City. This week sees the top teams present at the finale at The New York Public Library and both President Clinton and Grameen Bank Founder Muhammed Yunus will keynote, with NGO judges in attendance.

"We're looking for replicable solutions," says Ashkar. "If we can do more pilots, and move solutions out to suit a multitude of markets on a broad scale, we can exponentially make positive, disruptive change happen."  

WHAT'S IN IT FOR NGO'S?

Case Study:    One Laptop Per Child

Mission:           "We aim to revolutionize the way to make education affordable for everyone by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop; designing hardware, content and software for collaborative, joyful, and self-empowered learning. Children are engaged in their own education, and learn, share, and create together. They become connected to each other, to the world and to a brighter future." 

Challenge:       Can OLPC get 10 million laptops to children in 5 years, drive the industry to make laptops more affordable, and improve education with its principles?

Rodrigo Arboleda HalabyFive Questions for Chairman, CEO  Rodrigo Arboleda Halaby

Why was it important for OLPC to partner with the Hult Global Case Challenge?       

OLPC was already up and running, but I always think, we can be better. You need to keep your eyes open and be disruptive. OLPC is all about finding a solution. a new kind of thinking. What Nicholas Negroponte proposed with OLPC was to reduce to one-tenth the cost of a laptop, making it more accessible to the global marketplace for people who can't afford a $1000 device. Ours was - about $100. And was a symbolic example of how we can use innovative technology to do it. With our work, we are saying, "those that want to prevent and do something about poverty, please raise your hands and work with us.  We want to bring the world into the 21st Century. "

Accomplishments already of OLPC:

Our `One-to-One' marketing campaign has been a win-win. The idea is `Give one, Get one'. Unfortunately, the IRS forbade us from going this route for more than 45 days if we were to preserve our non-profit status. Secondly, the shifting from instructionism - what we continue to do in the current educational system - into constructionism; this is at the hard core of our effort.

For many reasons, whether it's that people don't understand the technology, or they're unfamiliar with it - then, they discourage its implementation. We found we had to educate teachers too so they could understand why and how to use the technology and even the internet to their benefit in the educational setting; all to enhance a child's learning and growth.

We've created accessibility. Which helps to create better `social equality'. Not in-equality.

What we need now is to build our brand for greater impact for social good and shift our brand to include education and transformation. For creating software for kids, we are doing what IBM was doing 20 years ago: shift the emphasis from hardware into software and services. A complete ecosystem of learning-how-to-learn.

Biggest Challenges to reaching your goals there?

When Nicholas called me to help run OLPC, it was during the collapse of the economy 3 years ago. We had been students together at MIT in 1961; and lifelong friends. Throughout my career I've been in business development and suddenly, he felt a new business model was needed. I said you need to switch the cost model to a more sustainable one. Even charities and NGO's must be profitable to support themselves. It's outdated to be dependent totally on donations. We've done it by keeping our internal operating costs down so that most of our revenue goes towards our programs. But it's not enough to grow the program as fast as we'd like. There are lots of kids we could be impacting faster. We need to make the business happen, and we don't have many physical resources to do it. We need partners, and financial resources.

Private sector, public sector, and NGO collaboration is key. We need long-term dialogue, and government is very important to development. In Colombia we're creating a `trust' for social responsibility with local officials and community organizations as an example. This is a fantastic model.

How is the Hult Global Case Challenge Making a Difference for OLPC?

These kids have been working so hard at ideas for innovation and are a wonderful resource who are willing to work as brilliant advisors, for free! OLPC is about creating innovators of our own. We want to develop a global generation of young talent not constrained by any barriers. A generation of innovators, inventors, capable of generating patents. The Hult Global Case Challenge has almost been a learning laboratory for us, providing intellectual capital. All the business cases we have reviewed here have been fascinating and they break away from centuries of old ideas with refreshingly new and unconstrained ones.

Next Steps?

Our next steps will be to work with all of our students, winners and not winners, with emphasis on the winning team, at a meeting in May and sketch out details of the winning plan. 80% of our laptop sales have been in Latin America, but we are now embarking in large projects in Africa, India, Southeast Asia-Indonesia Thailand, the Philippines. The next 2-3 years we're focused on Africa: the most challenging and the most rewarding place, where we expect the most immense change. For instance, Rwanda is a delight - they want to become the Singapore of Africa by developing the brain of their children. South Africa - the power engine of Southern Africa, where we are commencing a large and important campaign. India is a continent in itself, I've been there 3 times in the last 6 months. In West Bengal there are 26 million children alone who could use our help.

The next Global Case challenge at Hult-is to create the true global brain trust of citizens. Even with our connectedness we still have disintegrated information and thought. We need to lead to action and social change, and develop intent in our culture. We must leave behind a platform of future growth for our children and grandchildren. By doing so, we can really help save the planet!

Case Study:    Habitat For Humanity

 

Mission:           "Through volunteer labor and donations of money and materials, Habitat builds and rehabilitates simple, decent houses alongside our homeowner partner families to provide  affordable housing to those who lack adequate shelter. "

Challenge:       Can HFHI find the right combination of partnerships, innovative business models, and scalable housing solutions to reach 50 million people (10 million homes) in ten years?

Jonathan ReckfordFive Questions for CEO Jonathan Reckford

Why was it important for HFHI to partner with the Hult Global Case Challenge? 

The heart of our reason to do this really centers around our desire to do more and be better as an organization. In many ways Habitat has been a movement. We work to give people a decent place to live, and we've been notable at doing this. But the way we look at it we'll still never build as many houses as we want to or serve as many people as need it.  Additionally, HFHI has a long and large student volunteer engagement program and we run a global collegiate spring program which young people love to work with. We embrace the chance to pilot new ideas with them. 

Accomplishments already of HFHI: 

We have to help people understand this better.  Housing is about more than physical construction, it's about stability, and what we really see working with families is that what we do, also serves the soul and builds healthy communities.

Biggest Challenges to reaching your goals? 

We have a very long waiting list of people wanting our homes.  Yet, so many times, housing is left out of the things that people need when it comes to poverty programs.  We almost saw housing written out of the 2015 Millennium Development Goals. We have to keep the link front and center.  Education is important, health is important, but decent housing is key to breaking the cycle of poverty as we see it.  Our biggest challenges to getting to where we want to go are land access, funding and access to finance.

Sadly the need is everywhere. 1.6 billion people around the world live in sub standard housing; a billion in urban slums with rapid growth across the world. In Latin America alone we have nearly a billion people living in slums where the population is expected to double over the next 20 years. 70% of urban housing in Sub Saharan Africa and the Caribbean is not in compliance with local regulations. We can't build decent housing fast enough.  We need better quality and more quantity.

How is the Hult Global Case Challenge Making a Difference for HFHI?

I'll be a judge at the finals in New York.  There are some really creative ideas we've seen already. And it's tough, housing is complicatedYou have to know many sectors about how to accomplish housing - zoning, building, culture, etc.  It involves complex social and business systems to get it done. Private, civil, governmental all has to work together. It takes bold idealism to think beyond all the hurdles and roadblocks to these changes.  It's truly a global set of teams, incredibly diverse people and minds that will make a new model work.

Next Steps?

After we choose the winning student teams in NY, we'll next meet with them in May to hash through the details of the program together.  We'll take all the best ideas we have and look at where they best align with our strategy and look for ways to pilot it out.  From the standpoint of where we want to go with our beneficiaries, we've been looking at ideas such as creating a housing microfinance fund, since access to funding for homeowners is scarce everywhere today. Geographically, HFHI works in 80 countries now across Southeast Asia, East Asia, Sub Saharan Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe and Eurasia; and we see our strategic plan going deeper into our countries and not wider to more countries at this time.

Case Study:    SolarAid 

 

Mission:           "Power to the people. Two of the biggest threats facing humanity today are climate change and global poverty.  SolarAid helps to combat both by bringing clean, renewable power to the poorest people in the world."

Challenge:       Can SunnyMoney get off-grid solar power and light to one million households in Africa by the end of 2013?

Steve AndrewsFive Questions for CEO Steve Andrews

Why was it important for SolarAid to partner with the Hult Global Case Challenge? 

SolarAid was initially established in 2006 and we're still at a very early stage in our model.  We haven't even begun to scratch the surface of where we can go and we have a huge amount to gain from the Hult students, it's been amazing. 

Accomplishments already of SolarAid: 

We realized that in Africa alone, where there are 1 billion people; 650 million people are not connected to the electric grid.  Most of them use kerosene lamps - neither healthy or safe - to light their lives. Also, it's expensive; in Kenya for example people spend $75 a year buying kerosene oil.  We felt we could catalyze the market and help bring light to people's lives by really embracing the opportunity of the market as a business, so that as we did this for social good, we could be sustainable for ourselves. That's the only way.  So, we decided the greatest value we could offer were small portable solar lights, a most mobile idea which helps not just home life, but business life for thousands in Africa.

90% of what we do is executed through SunnyMoney. SolarAid runs SunnyMoney in Africa; we are a retailer of solar energy, and solar energy devices at deeply discounted rates.  We sell lights from a whole array of companies.  We have three levels of solar lights: an entry level study light, which retails for $8 US; then a range of lights $20-$40 which light up a room and often have the ability to charge a cell phone (which some people use to make money as their own business), and a slate of higher end models between $50-$100 which can light a whole home. By putting one light all day in the sun, you will get three nights of light.

Our customers have become active participants and using this model empowers them. They have demands of us about our service and our sales; it totally vests them with us and we work together.  

Biggest Challenges to reaching your goals? 

We set ourselves  a goal of getting solar power and light to one million households by the end of 2013. Though in order to achieve that we need some real breakthroughs in our thinking. We have to keep going beyond the status quo to create bigger, better, bolder, faster, and cheaper - business - solutions so that we can do the most good.  Hard obstacles include capital costs, issues of scaling, lack of credit for buyers, a low level of trust in the community, as well as the cost of advertising being ery difficult and access to the media is very challenging.  The needs for such services are across the board geographically. We only work in Africa now but we're focused on growth in West Africa primarily; Nigeria is important to us.

How is the Hult Global Case Challenge Making a Difference for SolarAid?

I was a regional judge in Dubai and I fielded allot of questions from the teams. These students are fearless. Some of the stuff they've come up with or the contacts they are reaching out to on their own to make their plan case are incredible.  They are motivated by the `doing' and the difference they can make. I really believe these students can bring us a radical `step change' solution that will totally deliver a million sales next year and leverage the other sectors in what we're doing.

Next Steps?

We'll meet again with the students in May and hope to work with them going forward.  Our goal as a business over time is to become a Pan African brand and a successful company with a huge social dimension that is able to have a wider catalytic impact on the market for solar lights.  We want to engage large companies in building our supply chain as a value chain.  We have many more lights to sell!

Every time we sell a light it sits out in the community building a brand that we hope others will see and strive to move their life forward towards with solar. To that end, lights on credit is a program we're working on, and we've also been contacted by potential opportunities in Asia and South America, but that's down the road. We do want to be in 40 countries in Africa by the end of this decade and feel certain we can make an evolutionary change.

--- HUMNEWS

***HUMNEWS WILL LIVE TWEET TONIGHT'S HULT GCC FINAL'S @HUMNEWS***

***LIVE LINK TO TODAY'S FINAL's AT 5PM EST HERE ***

Tuesday
Apr242012

Learning From the Sahel - Scenarios USA, The Reel Deal (FEATURE) 

(HN, April 24, 2012) - Maura Minsky's life changed in 1998 after a friend returned from a trip to Africa. 

Having worked for years at ABC News she'd been confronted with the stark reality of how many voices were missing from the media, and she decided to do something about it.  She left to work for the SHOAH Foundation, saving the voices of the Holocaust which were being lost to time.   

Meanwhile, her friend Kristen Joiner, visited Africa on her own sabbatical. There, she learned about a bold and fearless film project called `Scenarios From The Sahel'(referring to the West African mid-continent swath of desert stretching across the north of the African continent between the Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea); currently experiencing another avoidable famine as coups and crisis continue.

Upon return, Maura's friend - and ultimately co-founder of `Scenarios USA' - Kristen Joiner, reported she had seen the project and wanted to replicate the model in the US.  `Would she do it?'  "Yes", of course. 

(VIDEO: A young woman is looking for a man to have a serious relationship, but not just any guy. Idea: Salimata Sy, aged 11 (Senegal) / Directed by: Kidi Bebey (Cameroon)/SCENARIOS FROM AFRICA film.)

"Our first call was to Doug Liman the director of `Go' - we made a cold call to him and then Kodak gave us short ends (of film) and the ball was in motion," says Maura. 

What Joiner had seen take place in Africa, was replicable.  Not just as a film project, but as an active contribution to the self development of young people at a critical time in their lives, supporting and enhancing the education system.

"For us then" she says, "it was about giving marginalized young people a chance to do something school didn't originally offer."

Minsky and Joiner just started making phone calls and found teachers willing to bring this idea into their classrooms.

The history of the Scenarios project is a story of global partnership.

At its heart, `Scenarios' is a project of community mobilization, education and media process.  Launched in 1997 by the UK charity Global Dialogues `Scenarios from the Sahel'  was revolutionary - and drew its inspiration from a film project entitled "3,000 Scenarios Against a Virus", carried out in France between 1992 and 1994 by producers CRIPS and partners including Médecins du Monde, UNFPA, DFID and Comic Relief.

When the first efforts began in Africa, the topics of the stories and films were focused on HIV/AIDS - through the lens of young people.

(PHOTO: The Sahel covers parts Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Algeria, Niger, northern Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Sudan (including Darfur & the southern part of Sudan), & Eritrea.)In the first `Scenarios' competition students from Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso, up to age of 24 contributed ideas for short films. Ministries of Education were involved in organizing the contests through schools, as were community-based NGO'S, along with internationally acclaimed directors.  

13,000 young people, most between the ages of 15 and 19 across the Sahel entered; including 5,300 girls (an unexpectedly high rate of 41% of participants) - it was a huge success.  

Today,  more than 145,000 young people from 47 African countries have taken part in the contests. Over 1,500 local and international partner organizations are involved and select the winners.  Thirty-five short fiction films are currently available from the effort; and in February 1998, `African Scenarios' aired during television coverage of the South Africa World Cup.

THE REAL DEAL

Off to the races, in 1999, with support from `Scenarios from the Sahel', Minsky and Joiner started `Scenarios USA' in 2 high school classrooms: one in New York City and one in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas, focused on AIDS as a topic (as had been the case in the Sahel). Those stories became `Scenarios USA’s' first films.

Since then, Scenarios' has grown from from two classrooms of 50 students to over 100,000 students in its first decade bringing its holistic REAL DEAL program based on the components of Education, Films, Youth and Leadership Engagement to transform curriculum, and indeed the lives of young people by exploring issues of gender, race, and class in relation to themselves.  Young people discover their talents, strengths and develop skills and relationships - to access a world of opportunities in the process.

Students have responded with an outpouring of their stories - dramatic, comic, and sometimes tragic. Those stories have gone on to engage award-winning screenwriters and movie directors who have collaborated with the young writers to produce a growing library.

(Video: `Don't Dance With Death', based on the Mexican myth, Devil in the Dance Hall. A night at a dance club turns serious for four chicas when an unwanted image appears.)

"We’ve been told that for teenagers to learn, you must talk to them.  But at Scenarios USA, we do something just as important as talking. We ask, Who are you?  Who do you want to be?  Then, we listen.  It's a conversation," says Maura.  

The curriculum is standards-based, multi-disciplinary for grades 6-12; and uses youth-written films and professional development to help teachers create safe and supportive learning environments, fostering critical thinking and engaging students around topics that resonate with them, and spark meaningful dialogue, writing, and advocacy.

"We ask them a single question about an issue relevant to their lives in each film contest," says Minsky. "We learn from the kids and the teachers too."  

The Process? The students start with diaries, which then turn into stories. This work becomes part of curriculum for school and teachers throughout the process. Then, `Scenarios' invites 1000 people from around the country to review and select submitted stories, and rank  them. From there the semifinalists are chosen - and sent to 16 people - half young people, half thought leaders.

(Video: The world though Samantha's eyes. A teenage girl tries to make sense of the world around her when she finds out her best friend is pregnant.)

Teachers have told the `Scenarios'' team that they are able to get students to participate who never did before - turning the education experience into a `facilitating classroom instead of a solo classroom'.  Teachers become trusted advisors and students are able to explore their own personal narratives.

STORIES

The REAL DEAL films are seen by an estimated 15 - 20 million students a year in classrooms with lesson plans in all 50 US states. They've aired on Showtime, BET, mun2, MTV, Oxygen, Telemundo, ABC's World News Tonight, NYC Media’s Channel 25, The Today Show, NPR’s On the Media as well in outlets such as The New York Times, USAToday and about.com.  Films have won numerous awards, including The Paul Robeson Award for Excellence in Independent Filmmaking twice, as well as two Emmys.

This year the contest had 5000 young people participate nationally in the competition, and 500 who submitted. stories.  The question, "What's the real deal about gender, power and relationships?"

Since 1999 Scenarios USA has received 13000 story submissions, producing 22 films in its library. Two new films set to be announced tonight as the 2012 Winners are featured at the organizations REAL DEAL Awards Gala in NY.  Awardees, Roxanne Lasker-Hall from Cleveland and her film  “Speechless” and Luis Hernandez from New York City for his film “Timmy Two Chins” will share the stage with luminaries.

 

(Video: `Scenarios USA' team announcing the winning scripts!  Cleveland - "Speechless" by Roxanne Lasker-Hall/ New York City - "Timmy Two Chins" by Luis Hernandez)

The short films will be shot in May and September along with a professional film director.

IMPACT

`Scenarios USA' youth producers speak at national events, give interviews to major media outlets, are elected to student government, apply and get accepted to college, launch their own blogs, become writers and filmmakers, and become activists in their communities.

"Using media to teach students kids can relate to the kids on screen. They look like them, sound like them, they talk about characters on screen.  The stories then and the films after are very authentic and relatable," Maura says, "Young people sharing life with young people, and with us."

"In the last 4 or 5 years we've seen children talk about violence in the home, bullies are all over the front pages of newspapers. We must include young people in the conversation."

--- HUMNEWS

Monday
Apr232012

Ocean Piracy - A Global Report (NEWS) 

(Video NATOCommunity)

(HN, 4/23/12) - The number of worldwide attacks in January to March dipped to 102, down from 142 cases in the same period in 2011, the International Chamber of Commerce's (ICC), International Maritime Bureau's (IMB) Piracy Reporting Center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia  said the latest global piracy report.  

However, the IMB cites 102 “incidents of piracy and armed robbery” for the first quarter of 2012, “with dangerously increasing numbers in West African waters.”

According to figures released, “11 vessels were reported hijacked worldwide, with 212 crew members taken hostage and four crew killed. A further 45 vessels were boarded, with 32 attempted attacks and 14 vessels fired upon – the latter all attributed to either Somali or Nigerian pirates.” 

(MAP: Horn of Africa piracy incidents. The map is adapted from IMB data )The 10 reports received from Nigeria in Q1 2012, equaled “the same number reported in Nigeria for the whole of last year. A further attack in neighboring Benin has also been attributed to Nigerian pirates. The reports include the hijackings of one product and one chemical tanker, between which 42 crewmembers were taken hostage.”

“Nigerian piracy is increasing in incidence and extending in range. At least six of the 11 reported incidents in Nigeria occurred at distances greater than 70 nautical miles from the coast, which suggests that fishing vessels are being used as mother ships to attack shipping further afield,” said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of the IMB Piracy Reporting Center

In addition, the report noted that “two crew members were killed when armed pirates boarded their bulk carrier 110 nautical miles off Lagos, Nigeria. Attacks in Nigerian coastal waters have further resulted in at least three crew kidnapped from their anchored vessel.”

Despite the growing number of incidents in West Africa, Somalia continues to dominate figures “with 43 attacks, including the hijacking of nine vessels and the taking hostage of 144 crew. Somali pirates were also responsible for the hijacking of a Panamax bulk carrier at the end of March.”

The report also indicated that while the number of 2012 incidents and hijackings are “less than reports for the same period in 2011 (97 incidents, 16 hijackings), it is unlikely that the threat of Somali piracy will diminish in the short to medium term unless further actions are taken.”

Multiple navies - including a large US presence - patrol the Gulf of Aden and the wider Indian Ocean, and many private ships now carry armed guards.

The European Union Naval Force recently said it would expand its mission to include Somalia's coast and waterways - hunting for pirates inside the country for the first time, making its battle against piracy more proactive.

As of March 31, 2012, suspected Somali pirates still held 15 vessels with 253 crew members as hostages, with an additional 49 crew members being held hostage on land.

Africa isn’t the only area of the world’s oceans where piracy is a threat. The report pointed to a “noticeable increase in the number of armed robbery attacks in the Indonesian archipelago, up from five in the first quarter of 2011 to 18 in 2012."

The latest attacks may also be viewed on the IMB Live Piracy Map .  

---HUMNEWS

Friday
Apr202012

UGANDA - Two Views on Joseph Kony (PERSPECTIVE) 

"MY UGANDA" by Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi

(Video PM Office, Uganda)

(HN, April 20, 2012) - Last Saturday April 14th,  the Prime Minister of Uganda Amama Mbabazi posted a video on YouTube entitled “Visible Uganda” aimed at what he says is correcting the inaccurate portrayal of Uganda resulting from the “Kony 2012” video by the Invisible Children Organization which over 100 million people worldwide have viewed and portrays Uganda as unsafe due to the activity of Joseph Kony's Lord’s Resistance Army.

The video recognizes that in the past Uganda did suffer atrocities as a result of LRA activity. Similar atrocities are very much a reality in neighboring countries tho, says the Prime Minister.  Further he goes on, "The government is determined, having suffered the ravages of Kony in Uganda not to let any other country or communities suffer the same”.

The video points out that Uganda is now a "thriving peaceful country" where the Peace, Recovery and Development Programme implemented by the Government has greatly assisted in the last 6 years of lasting peace, rejuvenation and rebirth of the Northern Region of the country where the LRA was most active.

(PHOTO: Prime Minister of Uganda, Amama Mbaba)“My Uganda is a country endowed with great resources and captivating natural beauty,” Mbabasi says. “My Uganda is a country that is poised to take off. We have registered success after success in the last 25 years and we are determined to build on this success to bring about in the next few years a new and prosperous nation.”

He invites people not only in Uganda but across the world to share their Ugandan experiences and he ends by saying, “That is my Uganda. Please tell us about your country”

--Source, Uganda Prime Ministers Office

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Kony 2012 & Cover the Night - promoting international justice starts here at home

(Video Kony 2012)

By Noelle Jouglet

Over the last several weeks, our organization Invisible Children, has seen what is possible when you have the right idea at the right time…and have spent nine years unwittingly laying a foundation for it. 

Our idea was to make Uganda's Joseph Kony, the notorious head of the Lord's Resistance Army famous - not as a celebrity - but as an international war criminal who has committed mass atrocities with impunity for 26 years. 

We made a 29-minute documentary about what he had done and what policy experts and region leaders told us needed to happen if Kony was to be apprehended and his crimes permanently stopped.

(PHOTO: Joseph Kony/NNDB)We set an ambitious goal aiming to get 500,000 people to view the film before the end of 2012. Instead, it vastly exceeded our expectations. The film swept the globe and surged past 100 million views in a matter of days. 

But beyond the exposure for Invisible Children, and much more importantly, the global reaction to our film started real conversations about international justice, development work, Joseph

Kony, and whether there was any action—like a tweet—that was too small.   

In the weeks since the film’s release we’ve been amazed by the responses from middle schoolers who are bringing up Joseph Kony in their social studies classes and equally amazed that US Senators and Representatives are putting partisan politics aside for the sake of a conflict in one of the remotest parts of Central Africa

Between the House and Senate, 107 Members of Congress have signed onto bipartisan resolutions that call for robust U.S. support for regional efforts to protect communities and help bring Joseph Kony to justice.

Many have expressed surprise at Invisible Children’s apparent overnight success. 

But that is hardly the case. We have actually produced 12 documentaries and met more than three million people face-to-face during our 13 tours around the country where our representatives show our films at high schools and colleges and answer questions about the conflict. 

When Invisible Children launches a new campaign, it’s not just the forty people in our San Diego office launching it, it's the millions we have met on the road.   

There were many celebrities that shared KONY 2012 in the first hours and days after its release through social networks and other means. We are so grateful that they used their influence to share the story, but I do not believe that those celebrities would have heard about the film if our core supporters hadn’t rallied around the campaign in their own local communities and shared it in such great numbers using their personal networks.

(PHOTO: Joseph Kony, center, in white/Guardian)The original goal of Cover the Night, as introduced in the KONY 2012 film, was to make Joseph Kony famous. That happened in a matter of days thanks to millions of people around the world who shared the KONY 2012 films. The event has expanded into a global day of action that actually started earlier this week with daily “missions” to engage our national and international leaders.

Tonight, Friday, April 20, 2012, we are earning the right to be heard globally by serving locally.

Everyone who wants to participate is encouraged to form a small team with friends, colleagues, or neighbors. Each team should volunteer in their own communities for a few hours (picking up trash, washing cars for free, donating blood, etc.) and then spend the evening promoting justice for Joseph Kony in creative ways (posters in the windows, sidewalk chalk, painting a mural, etc.)

What I’ve learned in the seven years that I’ve worked for Invisible Children is that a personal, human interaction is more valuable than a digital one. 

Every time. 

Cover the Night in its simplest form is an event that acts out that truth. We’re taking the anonymous conversation about a viral video into the streets where the relationships are formed and the future is forged.

We always tell our supporters, “You are more powerful than you think you are.” When they begin to believe that about themselves, amazing things start to happen. We’ve seen students wake up to their own power and begin organizing school-wide screenings of Invisible Children documentaries or donate $12 each month to our scholarship program. Other students call their senators and lead local lobby meetings. 

(PHOTO: Labuje camp, Uganda 2005 where 14,000+IDP's lived due to LRA activity/Wikipedia)There are thousands of these students out there–some of whom have grown up and become teachers or filmmakers in their own rights. They are the ones who will be leading the way tonight.  They may be young, but they can earn the right to be heard online and around the globe by acting offline in their own communities.

We know that these stories will be rolling in for weeks and Invisible Children will do its best to share those stories and amplify the life change that will come as a result of trying to promote justice for Lord's Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony, a man whom many people had never heard of just six weeks ago. 

But rather than wait to hear the reports of life change, we encourage you to go out into your community tonight with your family or friends and experience it for yourself.

-- Noelle Jouglet is the Director of Communications at Invisible Children. Her editorial originally appeared on FOXNEWS.COM

Thursday
Apr192012

Preventing Full-Scale War between Sudan and South Sudan (PERSPECTIVE) 

(Video AlJazeera)

Brussels - Sudan and South Sudan are teetering on the brink of all-out war from which neither would benefit. Increasingly angry rhetoric, support for each other's rebels, poor command and control, and brinkmanship, risk escalating limited and contained conflict into a full-scale confrontation between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Army (SPLA).

Diplomatic pressure to cease hostilities and return to negotiations must be exerted on both governments by the region and the United Nations (UN) Security Council, as well as such partners as the US, China and key Gulf states. The immediate priority needs to be a ceasefire and security deal between North and South, as well as in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. But equally important, for the longer-term, are solutions to unresolved post-referendum issues, unimplemented provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) (that ended the civil war in 2005), and domestic reforms in both countries.

(PHOTO: Sudan's President Omar Al-Bashir/Wikipedia) The most recent fighting between the SAF and SPLA arose amid a murky mix of armed actors and interests in the contested borderlands, including a variety of northern opposition forces and proxy militias. The exact cause is vigorously disputed, but the flare-up is the predictable outcome of negative trends: conflicts in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile; lack of agreement on transitional economic and financial arrangements between the two countries; Khartoum's seizure of Southern oil; South Sudan's decision to stop oil production; and sporadic cross-border attacks and bombings.

It occurs amid mutual recriminations: of Khartoum arming Southern rebels and the SPLA providing material support to its former brothers-in-arms now fighting for the Sudanese Peoples' Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, as well as political support to members of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) seeking to topple President Bashir.

In part to prevent the resupply of the SPLM-N, the SAF has also bombed refugee camps and towns in South Sudan and recently attacked Bentiu, the capital of Unity State. Complicating matters are divergent views within the capitals and hardliners seemingly working to undermine negotiated settlements, as demonstrated by the scuttling of the much anticipated North-South presidential summit on 3 April.

The end result is that, following renewed clashes, the SPLA has taken control of the disputed Heglig oil fields and stopped about half of Sudan's 115,000 barrels-per-day oil output. This has dealt a further blow to Khartoum's economy, already reeling from separation and the additional fall in revenue that resulted from Juba's decision in January to stop exporting oil through Sudan's pipelines. The beleaguered Khartoum regime, which is under pressure on political, economic, and multiple military fronts and increasingly concerned about the prospects of an Arab Spring uprising, cannot afford to sustain such losses.

RISKY STRATEGIES 

A game of "chicken" appears to be underway, in which both sides embark on risky strategies in the hope that the other will blink first. If neither does, the outcome will be disastrous for both.

(PHOTO: South Sudan President Salva Kiir/Wikipedia)Some suspect that President Kiir's tactics are intended to provoke a popular uprising in the North -- that he is gambling the attack on Heglig may be the proverbial straw that breaks the back of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP). However, little thought seems to have been given to the consequences if President Bashir is removed from power. Unlike Egypt, Sudan lacks a single, legitimate institution that could manage a peaceful transfer of power.

Bashir, who became president following a 1989 military coup, and his close associates have fragmented the security services and rely on personal loyalty and increasingly expensive patronage to retain control. He and security hardliners continue to pursue divide and rule tactics to prevent the emergence of a unified counterweight to NCP dominance of the centre. Bashir's fall could trigger a wild scramble by multiple armed actors for control of Khartoum and other parts of the country that would be hard, if not impossible, to restrain.

Kiir and the SPLM are also dangerously exposed. With South Sudan's decision to stop oil production, 98 per cent of its governmental revenue has disappeared. Reserves and other stop-gap measures can only tide Juba over for some months, after which the SPLM would have to impose draconian budget cuts, including on the SPLA, which is a fractious force that includes many former foes. Khartoum has a long history of supporting its enemy's enemies. At relatively little cost it could continue to support Juba's opponents and compound domestic instability for a government already plagued by weak institutions, limited reach and increasingly untenable financial circumstances.

Khartoum and Juba need to exercise restraint and consider carefully the consequences of their actions. The decision to abandon negotiations and resort to increasingly bellicose posturing can only hurt both. Each government, with its own domestic challenges, may reap short-term political benefit from externalizing its problems, but there is no military solution, and both sides would suffer from all-out war. The destruction of oil infrastructure would have long-term economic consequences. Stability is necessary in both the North and the South for either to develop and prosper and, in turn, enjoy long-term stability.

(PHOTO: South Sudanese refugees at a camp in Unity State/UNHCR)DECADES OF MISTRUST

Decades of mutual distrust prevent either side from making good-will gestures and pursuing win-win negotiations. In such a febrile environment, the UN Security Council must reassert itself to preserve international peace and security. It should mobilize all possible leverage to bring the parties back to negotiations and agreement on the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM), as well as encourage implementation of the border monitoring tasks outlined for the UN Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA) in Resolution 2024 (2011), particularly near Heglig and Jau.

The parties and UNISFA must operationalize the JBVMM to investigate and verify claims either side is undermining peace or violating existing and future agreements, including for the necessary withdrawal of SPLA forces from the Heglig area and cessation of SAF bombing of South Sudanese territory. The monitoring mechanism needs to be flexible with high mobility. Lessons should be drawn from previous monitoring missions in Sudan, during which building confidence among Sudanese parties and supporting mutually-agreed arrangements were at least as important as verifying and reporting on legal obligations.

UNIMPLEMENTED CPA PROVISIONS, POST REFERENDUM ISSUES

Fundamentally, the current conflict is rooted in the CPA's unimplemented provisions, such as the status of Abyei, the cancelled popular consultations in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile and disputed borders, as well as unresolved issues stemming from separation. While they have acknowledged their interdependence, the two countries must still reach detailed agreements on many divisive issues, such as the joint exploitation of oil, transitional financial arrangements, citizenship, security and trade. The time for posturing and brinkmanship is past; they must return to the table promptly and sustain the focus and commitment necessary to hammer out and implement deals. Otherwise, if these critical issues are allowed to fester, they will undermine any ceasefire or limited peace deal.

Absent the democratic transformation long overdue in Khartoum, Sudan remains unstable as power, resources and development continue to be overly concentrated in the centre. A "new South" has emerged in Abyei, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile that - along with Darfur, the East and other marginal areas - chafes under NCP domination. Because of historic ties, and despite South Sudan's separation, the North's centre-periphery wars continue to draw in Juba.

The call by the North's opposition parties for a national dialogue in the context of a wider constitutional review conference suggests a way forward. Such a conference should be seen as a more extensive national consultative process, to accommodate the stymied popular consultations in the transitional areas and the Darfur people-to-people dialogue.

Those latter two processes, if run separately, will not lead to political stability and lasting peace in the whole country.

A NEW UNIFIED INTERNATIONAL STRATEGY

With developments increasingly appearing to be spiraling out of control, a new strategy is needed to avert an even bigger crisis. As Crisis Group noted in its September 26, 2011 Conflict Alert, any solution must be comprehensive. The international community must focus not only on North-South issues or the situation in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, but also require the NCP to agree to an immediate, inclusive, national reform process. The first priority needs to be for a security deal that stops both the fighting between the North and the South, as well as Khartoum and the SRF, but for this to hold it must also be clearly linked to binding commitments to discuss and implement political reforms.

(PHOTO: Taken March 28, 2012 shows destruction in Sudan's southern oil centre of Heglig after South Sudanese troops & government forces clashed along the border, sparking international alarm/AFP)The UN - the Security Council - should exert pressure on the two presidents to meet and negotiate an immediate ceasefire. This should be based on the June 29, 2011 Agreement on Border Security and the Joint Political and Security Mechanism, as well as the February 10, 2012 Memorandum of Understanding on Non-Aggression and Cooperation. They also need to reach common ground on a security deal for Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile based on the June 24, 2011 Framework Agreement, to be monitored by an enhanced JBVMM.

To encourage reforms in Khartoum, a united international community, particularly the African Union (AU), Arab League and UN, should put pressure on the NCP to accept a free and unhindered national dialogue aimed at creating a national stabilization program that includes defined principles for establishing an inclusive constitutional arrangement accepted by all. A national reform agenda should include a program that accommodates all the people of Sudan and supports inclusive governance.

The NCP must make genuine efforts to end impunity in Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile and allow humanitarian agencies unhindered access, as well as support the efforts of the AU-UN Hybrid Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) and UNISFA to protect civilians.

If the NCP commits seriously to such a national reform agenda, regional actors and the wider international community should offer assistance.

Major players like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the Arab League, China, the US, EU and AU must recognize that reform is necessary for stability and requires their support. If the NCP accepts an inclusive reform process, for example, the U.S. should provide incentives under its normalization package to bolster that process. These could include easing debts, lifting economic sanctions and removing Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Meanwhile, North-South relations may also be improved by greater domestic stability in South Sudan.  Building institutions, extending service delivery, bolstering economic growth, and calming inter-communal tensions are among the priorities, and will be served in part by advancing promised political reforms. This includes an opening of political space inside and outside the SPLM, and an inclusive constitution-making process, that should be supported by partners and donors.

--- Editorial originally published by the International Crisis Group, HERE.

Wednesday
Apr182012

Islamic States Announce Own Media Channel (REPORT) 

(PHOTO: Opening ceremony of the Information Minsiters meeting of the OIC, Gabon/IINA)(HN, April 18, 2012) - Today, Information Ministers of the member States of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) started the 9th Islamic Conference of Information Ministers (ICIM); a three-day meeting in the capital of Gabon, Libreville hosted by President Ali Bongo Ondimba.

The group is focusing its attention on  "Information Technologies in the service of peace and development” at the Conference Palace in Democracy City and is being attended by a group of ministers and delegates representing 57 member countries.

Morocco who is Chair of the 9th session, and other member representatives, made speeches in which they stressed the importance of the meeting being held during a time characterized by "a multitude of challenges in the world in general, and in the Muslim Ummah world in particular.  

Speakers urged broadcasters to counter stereotypes about Islam and Muslims in the Western media and asked that the adoption by the Seventh Islamic Conference of Culture Ministers held in Algeria in December of a resolution to create a new Islam media channel, be implemented as soon as possible.

Already the organization has been working on a comprehensive plan to combat prejudice against Islam and Muslim communities with a view to developing campaigns to foster respect for cultural and religious pluralism and diversity, while raising awareness of the positive contributions of Muslims to promote tolerance and understanding.

The OIC Secretary General Ekmelddin Ihsanoglu said, "We are keen to have an OIC outlet to present to the world the true picture of both the Islamic civilization and religion."

The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) is also taking part in the conference and Dr. El Mahjoub Bensaid, presented how the organization can support the new OIC media efforts by offering training to journalists.

Concern by the Ministers centered on information programs which would support, in particular, the Palestinian cause and the issues of the sovereignty of Jerusalem, (Jerusalem is known in Arabic as Al-Quds) and Al Aqsa mosque, as well as highlighting the role of the African continent in Islam. A high priority for the group is in restructuring the process of the International Islamic News Agency (IINA) and the Islamic Broadcasting Union (IBU), opening of OIC media offices in member countries and activating cooperation between the OIC and the Global Digital Solidarity Fund. The group is entertaining proposals for the establishment of an OIC Muslim journalists union, and the launching of an Islamic TV satellite channel to be called "OIC".

Malaysia is among 10 countries which have been selected to study the proposed establishment of an Islamic television station that will act as an important platform for highlighting Islamic issues and which will discuss Muslim issues globally, countering coverage that discredits Islam.

Besides Malaysia, the committee will be represented by Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Gabon, Senegal, Nigeria, Morocco and Mauritania.

The first meeting of the committee is scheduled to take place at the OIC headquarters in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the middle of June.

The Gabon resolution says negative news in some Western media has resulted in stigmatized stereotyping, racial discrimination and victimization directed against Muslims. Stressing that the Islamic faith is based on the core values of peace, tolerance, moderation and peaceful co-habitation with all other religions and beliefs, the OIC labeled the emergence of Islamophobia as a “contemporary form of racism and xenophobia motivated by unfounded fear, mistrust and hatred of Muslims and Islam which manifests itself through intolerance and hostility in adverse public discourse.”

“As such, Islamophobia is an affront to the human rights and dignity of Muslims,” the resolution claimed.

THE PLAN

The Gabon conference has short, medium and long term goals for putting in place an action plan to fight Islamophobia it said.  It is asking member states to create funding for media campaigns, and discourage using expressions such as “Islamic” fascists or “Islamic” extremists for criminal terrorists. The OIC underlines the importance of developing Muslim's own narrative on daily issues such as the environment, climate change, social justice, development, poverty, etc.

For the medium term, the resolution asks member states to implement media literacy programs in schools to combat misperceptions, prejudices and hate speech. It aims to utilize success stories in the Muslim world “as a means to show that the interests of Muslims are similar to the rest of the world when it comes to democracy, good governance and human rights.” The resolution even plans to create awards for excellence in unbiased journalism, reporting, photography and publishing.

According to the long term goals of the OIC media resolution, professional media people in member states are called to “develop, articulate and implement voluntary codes of conduct.” It sets up scholarship programs for Westerners to study in the Muslim world and encourage reporter-exchange programs between the Muslim world and the West in order to disseminate this information throughout media outlets.

--- HUMNEWS

Monday
Apr162012

Nigeria: World Bank Presidency - US vs the World? (PERSPECTIVE) 

By Yemi Ajayi

(PHOTO: Dr. Jim Yong Kim, new World Bank President/Dartmouth College) *Since this article posted on Monday, the World Bank board voted to confirm Jim Yong Kim as the next World Bank President. He will start his tenure on June 30 when Robert Zoellick steps down from this same post.

The race for the World Bank presidency will enter the homestretch Monday when the bank's 25-member executive board votes on who succeeds its outgoing president, Robert Zoellick.

It is a defining race for the Bretton Woods institution (comprising the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund) founded in 1944. It is also a race that has assumed the character of a clash between an arcane tradition and the quest for change in the way the international finance institution with the official goal of fighting poverty picks its president.

In the race for the World Bank presidency were initially three candidates: Nigeria's Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former Colombian Minister of Finance, Jose Antonio Ocampo and a public health expert and president of Dartmouth College in the United States, Jim Yong Kim. The number was reduced to two last Friday with Ocampo's withdrawal for the post.

However, the candidates are merely instruments in a proxy war between Washington and its European allies, which has traditionally produced the president and the rest of the world that is clamouring for a paradigm shift in how the leadership of the World Bank emerges.

The clamour has pitted the rest of the world against the US, which is out to defend its tradition of producing the World Bank president since foundation.

(PHOTO: Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria/NigeriaMailOnline)For US President Barack Obama, he cannot afford to fail where his predecessors had succeeded. Losing out in the jostling for the post, especially in a crucial election year, is to hand the Republicans the ammunition to make a bid at undoing his attempt to renew his tenancy at the White House.

Withdrawing from the race last Friday, Ocampo, in a letter to the World Bank, said he was doing so because "it is clear that this is becoming no longer a competition on the merits of the candidates, but a political exercise."

"For me, as an economist and as a Colombian, it has been a great honour to participate in this first open competition for the presidency of the World Bank... to facilitate the desired unity of the emerging and developing economies around a candidate, today (last Friday) I am retiring from the race to support the minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who I wish the best of luck in this final stage."

If it were going to be a straight fight based on merit on a level playing field for the candidates, Okonjo-Iweala could start preparing her handover notes for her successor in Nigeria and return to the organization where she was managing director before her call to national duty last year.

Even though she was reluctant to join the race some weeks ago, her candidacy has gathered rave endorsements from the media at home and abroad, 35 former World Bank economists and managers, Africa and other developing nations since she threw her traditional headgear into the ring.

She is the official candidate of Africa and its allies who have canvassed the argument that someone with high-flying credentials and requisite experience like hers is better placed to make the World Bank deliver on its goals of helping developing nations to improve on their peoples' wellbeing.

Since March when Obama picked him as the US candidate for the post, Kim has come under global scrutiny. Despite his credentials and achievements, especially in public health, including his stint as a director of HIV/AIDS at the World Health Organization, he is considered as one who lacks the "appropriate finance and economic credentials" to lead the World Bank.

(PHOTO: Jose Antonio Ocampo of Colombia/Columbia Univ) In contrast, Okonjo-Iweala has institutional knowledge, hands-on experience in development economics and public finance and has proven to be reform minded. In her first appointment as Nigeria's Minister of Finance, she superintended over the country's historical debt relief, an exercise that earned her global accolades; spearheaded the reform of the public sector in Nigeria leading to greater transparency and the monetization policy of the federal government; and championed the creation of the Excess Crude Account that largely provided a buffer for Nigeria during the global economic crisis between 2008 and 2009.

Notwithstanding his diminished credentials, Kim, by some quixotic arrangement, is most likely to succeed Zoellick who bows out on June 30 after a five-year term during which the bank provided over $247 billion to help developing countries boost growth and overcome poverty. His being the US candidate, which some analysts have described as a "wrong call," guarantees him victory under the weighted voting system that Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are calling for a review.

Under the voting system, the US, which is the bank's largest shareholder, Europe and Japan control 54 per cent of the votes. The trio has formed an alliance which ensures that the bloc votes are delivered to the US' candidate. Europe is under obligation to back the US as repayment for its support in always ensuring that the headship of the International Monetary Fund, is held by the continent under an informal pact.

According to reports at the weekend, so far, US, Russia, Canada and Japan are lining up behind Kim alongside Spain, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia and South Korea. This follows a move last Friday by the US members on the World Bank executive board to block the board from transparently assessing the outcome of the interviews of the three candidates, which took place earlier last week.

With Ocampo's withdrawal for Okonjo-Iweala, his backers - Brazil and Argentina - may team up with the three African constituencies to vote for the Nigerian minister.

However, the straw poll held by the bank's board last Friday before Ocampo's withdrawal, showed that Kim was guaranteed 36 per cent of the votes, Okonjo-Iweala about five per cent and six per cent for Ocampo. The votes reflect the voting rights of the countries or regions backing each of the candidates.

The undecided were the European Union with 29.2 per cent; India, 4.6 per cent; China, 3.4 per cent; Switzerland, 3.0 per cent; Saudi Arabia, 2.4 per cent; and Asia, 9.5 per cent bloc votes.

Monday's decision by the bank's executive board was some three weeks ago clearly encapsulated for the members by the Financial Times. The newspaper in an editorial on March 27, in which it endorsed the candidacy of Okonjo-Iweala, said: "In this less than ideal world, Mr. Kim's appointment seems inevitable. But if the Bank's shareholders wanted the best president, they would opt for Ms. Okonjo-Iweala."

Will the board heed the voice of reason as the World Bank, for the first time in its 68 years of existence, chooses between candidates?

Well, if the Nigerian minister loses, as that fact cannot be discounted, given the high stakes politics, she can take solace in the immortal word of American journalist and writer, Damon Runyon, "The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong...."

--- This editorial originally appeared in AllAfrica HERE

Friday
Apr132012

48 Hours in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia (FEATURE)

(Video Get Up and Go Films)

With this weekend's Summit of the Americas taking place in Cartagena, Colombia - a series of international summit meetings bringing together the leaders of countries in North America, Central America, South America and the Caribbean, though no representative from Cuba has participated and this year, due to the situation with  the Communist island nation, President Rafael Correa of Ecuador has said he will not attend in protest - a look at the city where the summit is taking place was tempting.

HISTORY

A declared UNESCO World Heritage site since 1984, Cartagena de Indias is South America's best preserved walled city, now a large Caribbean beach resort city on the northern coast of Colombia in the Caribbean Coast Region and capital of Bolívar Department.  The city had a population of 892,545 as of the 2005 census, making it the fifth-largest city in Colombia.  Activity and development of the Cartagena region is dated back to 4000 B.C. around Cartagena Bay by varying cultures of indigenous peoples.

(PHOTO: Cartagena, Colombia Panorama/Wikipedia) The Spanish colonial city was founded on June 1, 1533 and named after Cartagena, Spain. Cartagena served a key role in the development of the region during the Spanish eras; and was a center of political and economic activity due to the presence of royalty and wealthy viceroys.

The Walled City

The walls aren’t just a photogenic artifact—they’re the reason Cartagena de Indias is still standing. Founded in 1533, the town was sacked repeatedly during its first 100 years, including a 1585 raid by Sir Francis Drake, known in these parts as `El Pirata Drake'. But then the cartageneros built the walls and finished the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, one of the largest fortresses in the Spanish empire (which I explored one tranquil, sultry afternoon, amazed that it was constructed with coral mined from the reefs).

(PHOTO: Cartagena walls/Flickr) By the early 1700’s Cartagena was impregnable: in 1741 it held off 186 British warships, the biggest fleet assembled prior to World War II, and in 1811 the city earned the nickname `La Heróica', when Simón Bolívar made it the headquarters for his campaign to liberate Colombia and Venezuela from Spain. It was also excessively wealthy, thanks to a combustive economy of gold, sugar, and slavery.

TRAVELLING IN CARTAGENA - A HIDDEN RETREAT

Take a dash of faded colonial grandeur, then add a dose of sultry nightlife and an influx of cosmopolitan travelers seeking the next great Caribbean hot spot.

The first time I went to Cartagena, back in 2003, I was taken straight from the airport to Restaurante la Vitrola, a convivial spot with potted palms and a dapper six-man Cuban band stationed by the door. It’s the Caribbean city’s unofficial clubhouse, a place where dignitaries and journalists trade off-the-record jokes and women in expensive sandals pick at complicated salads.

This was a few years ago, and it was one of those times when the host has already taken care of the ordering: there was carpaccio de mero—grouper sliced paper-thin and dressed with lime and olive oil; and then there were grilled langostinos. At some point, after the band had struck up a rumba and waiters had brought us coconut flan and a bottle of aged rum with a wine bucket stuffed with chilled bottles of Coca-Cola, I thought about my friends in New York, the ones who thought traveling in Colombia meant bouncing around in armored SUV’s, and that this was a country best summed up by Pablo Escobar and Romancing the Stone.

Not that they knew anything about Cartagena de Indias, a walled city of 18th-century mansions and suffocatingly hot afternoons. It’s one of the most important ports in the history of the New World, and one of the prettiest cities anywhere: Imagine Havana with a fraction of the population, or San Juan unmolested by modernity, or New Orleans without the sophomores on spring break.

(PHOTO: Open-air stalls on Calle Primera de Badilla/David Nicolas).Every season the crowd grows a little bigger and a little more glamorous, and from December to March finding a table at of-the-moment restaurants like 8-18, Palma, or La Vitrola can be tricky. But the busiest time is New Year’s Eve, when rooms are booked months in advance and a famous Colombian pop star holds a concert on the city walls next to the Hotel Charleston Cartagena, a 300-year-old convent turned luxe hotel also known as the Santa Teresa. On that night, everyone drags their tables into the streets, transforming the entire city into a sinuous all-night dinner party.

The architecture of Cartagena is the lasting relic of historic colonial prosperity, and if you stay in one of the chic smaller hotels, such as the stylish but private Hotel Agua or the exquisite Casa Pestagua, you’ll sleep under a frescoed ceiling and eat your breakfast in a lush, columned courtyard.

If there’s a turning point in the story of modern Cartagena, it’s 1995, when Sofitel opened the Santa Clara, a 121-room luxury hotel in the shell of a 17th-century convent. To my mind, the hotel is uneven: the older part is grand enough to host a head of state, but most rooms are undistinguished (if comfortable), as if they’d been plucked from a Florida resort. Building the Sofitel in the old city was a bold move for a town whose colonial center had been largely abandoned for crisp apartment towers in the nearby Bocagrande neighborhood, a curling finger of land with a skyline comparable to that of Panama City. Residents are still moving to Bocagrande, but over the past 15 years a cadre of taste-making Colombians has returned to the city inside the walls.

Like author Gabriel García Márquez, the city's most famous resident. He set Love in the Time of Cholera in a fictionalized Cartagena (the movie version, starring Javier Bardem, was filmed on location here), and his house, Casa del Escritor, is the work of Rogelio Salmona, Colombia’s greatest architect. It’s all cubes and arches, Louis Kahn with palm trees and a view to the sea. There’s a guard posted by the house, but like a character from one of Gabo’s books, he’s too skinny for his pants, and while tourists snap pictures in front of the rust-colored walls he rocks on his feet and daydreams.

Casa del Escritor is in San Diego, the quietest of the old city’s four quarters. It’s also where I found the best arepas in town: on the advice of a friend in Bogotá, I went to the Plaza de San Diego after dark, where a family-run stand with a cult following sets up on the corner closest to the Escuela de Bellas Artes, yet another converted convent.

(PHOTO: Overlooking Cartagena/David Nicolas) Most visitors tour the neighborhood in one of the horse-drawn carriages that clop-clop past the bright-colored walls and overgrown balconies. But I prefer to explore the narrow streets on foot at dusk, after the day’s heat has faded. This offers a surprisingly intimate view of domestic life: the clatter of families eating dinner, children on a threadbare antique settee watching TV with the volume on too high. Then there are the houses that have been tastefully renovated and give glimpses of exposed beams and wall-size art through ornate window grates.

This is the private Cartagena of houseguests and weeklong parties, and my entrée to that world came courtesy of Chiqui de Echavarria, a legendary hostess whose home is a jasmine-scented pile by way of World of Interiors: instead of doing the expected thing and revamping a colonial mansion, she joined seven houses into a leafy labyrinth of landscaped terraces and half-ruined walls. It took three tours for me to get my bearings. There’s a dance floor on the roof, and the former cistern is a swimming pool. We spent the evening outside in the almost-too-humid night air, sitting under a brick vault 30 feet tall, enjoying a meal of lobsters bought off the boat that morning.

The busy Centro district revolves around the Plaza de Bolívar, an overgrown public square where teenage couples kiss and palenqueras - women who sell fruit from enameled tubs balanced on their heads  - amble past old men playing chess on rickety card tables.

Cartagena was a stronghold of the Inquisition, and one side of the square is dominated by the imposing Baroque façade of the Palacio de la Inquisición. It’s now a museum, with historical dioramas and crude 18th-century portraits of governors and generals upstairs; the first floor displays torture devices that illustrate how a little wrought iron might shape one’s faith.

In recent years, the streets around the Plaza de Bolívar have seen a handful of exquisite 400-year-old houses turned into intimate hotels.

(PHOTO: Chef Juan Felipe Camacho at 8-18 restaurant, on Calle Gastelbondo/David Nicolas).They call themselves bed-and-breakfasts, but there’s nothing frumpy about the 20-foot-high ceilings and tastefully minimal furnishings. At the newest, Casa Pestagua, the stately upstairs rooms are furnished with 19th-century antiques that smell like beeswax. Then there’s the quiet and understated La Merced Hotel Boutique, across from the Teatro Heredia Adolfo Mejía, one of the city’s architectural gems, which has recently been restored to its original off-white. But a clear favorite is Agua, whose rooms are filled with dark antiques and soft white bedding. Here, you spend most of your time outdoors, either in sitting rooms that open onto the courtyard, or on the rooftop terrace, where the pool has a view of the cathedral tower. Each of the six bedrooms is decorated with art and Colombian furnishings from the collection of the owners; one has a painting by Botero. Like the others, Agua hides behind a heavy wooden door marked with a sign discreet enough to miss amid the crush of university students and fruit carts.

Of all the city’s grand hotels, my preference is the Santa Teresa, the more diminutive rival of the Santa Clara. Every afternoon, the plaza in front of the persimmon-colored building is colonized by chairs, and a makeshift bar serves drinks with the languid pace of an Italian café - a friend took me to a table and proudly said, “This is where I had a conversation with Carlos Fuentes that lasted all day.”

Dinner starts late in Cartagena, and after a morning spent exploring and napping I fell into the habit of taking a dip in the Santa Teresa’s rooftop pool, then nursing a glass of limonada de coco (lime juice and coconut milk whipped up in a blender) while watching the sun set over the unmatched vista of the colonial skyline of church domes and bell towers.

The city’s stylish restaurants have a few things in common: good tropical-weather cocktails (white sangrias, caipirinhas), sophisticated Caribbean cuisine (fish grilled to a perfect rare, crowned by crispy plantains), and full reservation lists. If you want something more affordable, there’s Restaurante Casa de Socorro, a cheerful place in the working-class quarter of Getsemaní is on the friendly edge of the Getsemaní district, an area that’s barely been touched by Cartagena’s renaissance, where the streets are empty and forbidding at night. So, of course, it’s where you find the best bars and clubs.

At Quiebra Canto, dancing couples spill out onto the balcony and salsa music lasts late into the night. A half-bottle of a Colombian rum like Tres Esquinas costs around $15 (though you might splurge on a superior Cuban label), and you’ll get looked at funny if you order anything less.

(PHOTO: Salsa band Cuba Swing performs at La Vitrola, in Cartagena, on Colombia's Caribbean coast/David Nicolas)Farther along the unwelcoming Calle de la Media Luna is Café Havana, a bright and friendly place where the walls are covered with black-and-white photos of the greats of Cuban music, like Celia Cruz and Ibrahim Ferrer, and the bar is the size of a bowling lane bent into a U.  On the weekends, when it fills to a critical mass, Café Havana turns from a tavern into a dance hall.

It was just the latest beautiful moment in the history of this heartbreaking city.

Guide to Cartagena

When to Go - The city is at its best from December through April, when daily temperatures range from the mid 70’s to the high 80’s and the humid days give way to breezy nights. Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter are especially busy, and hotels book up months in advance.

Where to stay - Top among the city’s many new downtown properties is the 24-suite Anandá Hotel Boutique (doubles from $395), a quiet retreat in a restored Spanish-colonial building with carved-wood balconies and three breezy roof terraces. Tcherassi Hotel & Spa (doubles from $355), owned by Colombian fashion designer Silvia Tcherassi. Each of the seven rooms reflects her uniquely modern sensibility.” Casa Pestagua, this intimate and luxurious hotel opened in 2007; some upstairs rooms have antiques original to the building. doubles from $356. El Marqués Hotel Boutique, the most reasonably priced of the small hotels. doubles from $205.

Hotel Agua, great value. A favorite of the fashion set. doubles from $388. Hotel Charleston Cartagena, known as the Santa Teresa, this former convent has more character than its larger competitor across town. doubles from $350. La Heróica, an agency offering Cartagena’s best rental options, including stately mansions and one-bedroom apartments. houses from $700, apartments from $400. La Merced Hotel Boutique, on a quiet corner by the city walls. doubles from $323. Sofitel Cartagena Santa Clara, Cartagena’s first luxury hotel is in a peaceful part of town with a view of the sea, but most of the rooms are boxy and bland. doubles from $350.

Venture off the coast to the Islas de Rosario - a chain of 27 mostly uninhabited islands that are home to the country's largest coral reef. With their mangrove-dotted white-sand beaches, they're also known as paradise for in-the-know Colombians. Stay at the tropical-chic San Pedro de Majagua Hotel (57-5/664-6070; doubles from $290), on Isla Grande. There, you'll find 17 white-on-white rooms with nautical accents (wooden oars, stripped lamps) and panoramic Caribbean views, and a restaurant that serves regional dishes such as fresh-caught snapper, grilled whole and served with coconut rice. Of note: the hotel organizes snorkeling and diving excursions in 45 different locations where you can spot butterfly fish, stone bass, sea turtles, and about 1,300 other tropical species. 

Where to Eat - Restaurante DonJuan (dinner for two $100), chef Juan Felipe Camacho—who apprenticed at Spain’s Michelin-starred Arzak—dishes up Spanish-inflected Caribbean fare (think grilled shrimp with pico de gallo). 8-18, the sophisticated Caribbean fare draws a chic crowd. dinner for two $75.  Palma, as urbane as 8-18 but more subdued. dinner for two $60. Restaurante Casa de Socorro, traditional Caribbean cazuelas—spicy seafood stews—are served without fuss at a restaurant that deserves its reputation for having the most authentic food in town. dinner for two $25. Restaurante La Vitrola, Cartagena’s see-and-be-seen power spot; the atmospheric setting makes up for less-than-dazzling food. dinner for two $81. Vera,  (57-5/664-4445; dinner for two $100), does an excellent penne arrabbiata with fresh mozzarella.

Where to Go Out - The bars by the Portal de los Dulces are always rowdy, and most nights out include a drink at one of the sidewalk tables set up at the Baluarte Santo Domingo fortress by Café del Mar, but skip the tourist traps on the Plaza de Santo Domingo. Housed in a 17th-century monastery, El Coro bar (cocktails for two $24), at Hotel Sofitel Santa Clara, lures locals and guests alike with pitch-perfect mojitos and the prospect of glimpsing writer and occasional barfly Gabriel García Márquez. Quiebra Canto - A lively bar with music on Fridays, a short taxi ride from the central city. Parque Centenario; 57-5/664-1372; drinks for two $7.

What to Do - Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas - this 300-year-old man-made mountain of coral and brick is one of the most formidable Spanish forts in the Americas. Bring a penlight to navigate the dimly lit passageways. 17 Pie del Cerro; 57-5/666-4790Catedral de Cartagena - the tropical-fruit–colored façade hides a marble interior that offers a cooling respite from the hot city streets. Plaza de Bolívar; no phone. Iglesia de San Pedro - claver moldering but imposing, the church contains the relics of the 17th-century Jesuit who baptized thousands of slaves. Plaza San Pedro Claver; 57-5/664-7256Isla Barú, off Colombia’s Caribbean coast, and stay at the eco-friendly Hotel Agua (doubles from $560).

Shop - Bill Gates and Spanish King Juan Carlos I are devotees of Ego, the pint-size workshop where tailor Edgar Gómez Estévez has been creating his white linen guayabera shirts for 35 years.  Galería Cano, “For inspiration I head to this jewelry and art boutique, where they reproduce gold and emerald pre-Columbian pieces.” Teatro Adolfo Mejía “The theater was built in 1911 to celebrate 100 years of Colombian independence. It’s an architectural treasure.” 

--- A version of this article by Oliver Schwaner-Albright appeared in HERE in Travel & Leisure

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