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Posts Tagged ‘human rights’

Wai Water?

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Pere Wihongi and the Just Focus team

In Aotearoa New Zealand it feels like there is water everywhere. It fills our lakes, courses down our rivers and streams, falls from the sky, and the sparkling Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea surrounds our islands.

sharplin-fallsMaybe it is exactly because we live in a country that has so much water that it is hard for us to fathom how fortunate we are. We take it for granted that water will always flow when we turn on a tap, or flush the toilet. But it is not like this for everyone, and when we look at the global picture we start to understand how precious water really is.

Water for LIFE

Water is a key component in determining the quality of our lives. We drink it, bathe in it, cook and clean with it, nourish our plants and crops, and feed our pets and livestock. Water is life.

There is always the same amount of water moving through the planet within the water cycle, it just goes round and round and round. We drink the same water that our great-great-great-grandparents drank! Only now, we have a problem. We have the same amount of water, but there are more and more people who need it.

The UN states that the basic requirement per person each day is 20 to 50 liters of water. New Zealanders are big water consumers; on average we use 663 litres a day. Compare this to an average of 5 litres used by Cambodians.

But it’s not just about how much water we need, but what sort of water we need.  It needs to be free from pollution and other contaminants for us to be healthy. Globally, water quality is declining due to our growing population and pollution from urbanisation, industry and agriculture. Right now 1.1 billion people do not have access to enough safe water and a third of the world’s people live without adequate sanitation (sewage, waste disposal etc).

In Pakistan, for example, almost 40 percent of the population receives water that runs through dirty pipelines, which can pollute the water. Research conducted by the Pakistan Medical Research Council shows that a large number of people with diseases in Pakistan suffer specific health problems because of the consumption of polluted water.

According to the World Health Organisation, 80 percent of sickness and disease in developing countries is a result of unsafe water and lack of sanitation.  Children especially are affected. Two million people die every year as a result of diarrhoea, and most of them are children under the age of five.

What is being done? worldwaterdaylogo

On March 22 the international community will mark World Water Day. This important day focuses our attention on the water issues and problems facing communities around the world. Each year there is a different theme and this year the focus is water quality, because in order for people and the planet to flourish we need clean, safe water.

What about the environment?

When people don’t have access to enough clean, safe water then it can severely affect their health. The impact on ecosystems without clean water supplies, or any water at all, is also huge. But how is this possible on a planet where the same amount of water is always circulating and renewing itself? What’s going wrong?

Between the impact of agriculture on our water ways, industry consuming and polluting water in its mass production of the machinery, transport and consumer items, and the impact of growing cities on our water supplies, you can take your pick of the environmental issues affecting our water.

The dead zones

Large areas of oxygen-low, life-destroying water, called dead zones, are appearing around the world. One of the world’s largest dead zones, off the coast of the United States, exists because of farms.

Fertilizers used in farming drain into the country’s streams and waterways. With 40 percent of US water systems flowing into the Mississippi River, this means that during the spring and summer months the ‘Mighty Mississippi’ carries, then dumps, equally mighty amounts of fertiliser straight into the sea in the Gulf of Mexico.

And fertiliser does in water exactly what it does on land – it prompts growth. A huge abundance of algae is the result. The problem is, when the algae dies, sinking to the ocean floor, the bacteria that makes it rot also consumes oxygen. What is left is an oxygen-deprived, sea floor wasteland. Any life there either leaves or dies, affecting a huge ecosystem and the livelihoods of thousands of people in the fishing industry.

water-dropBringing it back to little old Aotearoa New Zealand…

So what does water mean to people here in Aotearoa NZ?
“Ko au te awa, ko te awa ko au”
“I am the river, and the river is me”

Māori people use whakatauki, or proverbs, inherited from our ancestors as inspiration and guidance to help us to understand the world as they saw it. This whakatauki tells us that we should treat nature as we would like to be treated ourselves. Given water has been around for millions of years, this means it definitely deserves our respect!

Tangata Whenua (tangata – people, whenua – land) is the term commonly used to describe the Māori people of Aotearoa. Our whakapapa connections to Papatuanuku (Earth Mother) and Ranginui (Sky Father) imply that we are not just people of the land, but that we were born of the land.  Our connection to the land allows us guardianship or Kaitiakitanga over it, as was agreed to in the second article of the Treaty of Waitangi. This means that the world view of Māori in regards to the whenua and wai (water) is that of respect, identity and preservation for future generations.

The water of our ancestors continues to nourish us, so how can we repay?

Global Action

Bringing the Dead Zone back to life
How do you bring a zone of 7700 square kilometres, (an area just bigger than the entire Northland Region), back from the dead? The environmental version of the FBI, the Environmental Protection Agency, has been running a project to restore and preserve the Gulf of Mexico for 22 years. And it might just be working: 2009’s dead zone was half the size of the decade’s average. That’s a great start.

Last year, a group of scientists and environmental groups also petitioned President Barack Obama. They want him to fully implement a gulf action plan that could reduce fertiliser runoff and restore the wetlands that filter the harmful fertilisers, before they contaminate the river and Gulf. So the dead zone might not be a lost case after all.

The Orangi Pilot Project
The Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) was started in the 1980s in the squatter area of Orangi, in Karachi, Pakistan. It was home to over 1 million people. Started by one man, Akhtar Hameed Khan, the OPP utilised the energy and innovative spirit of local residents to solve their own water and sanitation problems.

At the beginning the project focused on creating sewage and storm water systems, using local materials and labour. Almost 30 years later the project has grown to support the establishment of schools, health clinics, women’s work centres and a credit organisation to finance enterprise projects.

water-wellWhat can YOU do?!

•    Celebrate World Water Day at your school, church or at home.

•    Think about your own water use. There is more you can do than just turning off the tap while you brush your teeth! For heaps of ideas on ways to save water check out

•    Support an international campaign or organisation like Water Aid or The Oxfam Water for Survival Programme.

Learn more

We’re all going on a summer holiday…

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

Meredith Paterson

departures-boardScorching sand, ice-cream, cold waves, sizzling bbqs; these are the elements of the kiwi summer holiday. After a hard working year, we can’t wait to relax at the beach, holiday bach or our favourite camping spot. Some of us load up the caravan, strap the kayaks to the roof and head to the other side of the country. Others catch a cheap flight down to the South Island. Wherever we go, family, friends and relaxation are usually on the agenda.

We just LOVE our summer holidays! As a relatively isolated island nation overseas travel has also become important to many kiwis. In particular, the ‘Overseas experience’ (OE) has become a rite of passage for younger generations.  It is a way for us to experience the big wide world, meet new people and learn about other cultures.

But overseas travel isn’t just for young adventurers. Around the world, more and more people go on an overseas holiday every year. It is estimated that in 2010, tourists will take 1 billion trips abroad. However, not everyone gets to go on holiday and only a tiny percentage of the world’s population travels overseas. Most of these people come from rich, developed countries (the minority world).

Going on holiday puts us in a privileged minority, but we don’t even think much about it. After all, we deserve a break. We rarely consider the impact we have on people and places by being there.  But photographs and footprints are not the only remainders of our holidays. Our travels do have affects beyond ourselves.

Tourism and climate change

Climate change may well be the biggest threat the world will see. The impact of tourism and travel on this issue is coming to light. Air travel is recognised as the most polluting form of transport and accounts for 3-5% of carbon dioxide emissions released internationally per year. Sustainable Travel International calculates that even a relatively short flight, Auckland to Sydney, will release 2.06 tonnes of carbon dioxide for two people. Several strategies, including taxing airlines and getting airlines to buy ‘carbon credits’, have been suggested to reduce emissions.

wind-farmMany airlines are countering their pollution by offering carbon off-setting. Carbon off-sets seek to cancel out the carbon emissions from flights by donating money to environmentally focused organisations, who support renewable energy and reforestation projects. Air New Zealand offers customers the option to off-set their carbon emissions by purchasing Trust Power wind farm credits.

Critics argue that carbon off-setting is only prolonging climate change. “The only way to reduce emissions is not to create them,” argues Pamela Nowicka, author of The No-Nonsense Guide to Tourism. “We must use and develop non-harmful forms of transport”. Eco-tourism has become a popular guilt free alternative to mainstream travel. The International Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” In New Zealand guided walks around the Catlins and diving in the Poor Knights Islands are a couple of activities offered in the name of eco-tourism. Evidently, making your holiday environmentally friendly does not mean taking the fun out of it.

Is holidaying a human right?

st-clair-beach-1We take holidays for relaxation, pleasure, family time and new experiences. Some travel to ‘rediscover’ themselves or as religious pilgrimages. In minority world countries, like New Zealand, holidays are considered necessary for ‘the good life.’ But not everyone has the means to go on holiday.

The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights states in article 24 that “everyone has the right to rest and leisure… and periodic holidays with pay.” Article 13 also states that “everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and return to his country.” Unfortunately, these human rights along with others, are really only available to the minority of those who can afford it.

In developing countries (the majority world not only do most people miss out on the benefits of a holiday, but they often pay the price of other people’s holiday. Tourist developments can destroy natural environments, create waste and exhaust natural resources.  There have been many cases where the tourism industry undermines human rights. Prime beach front land has been snatched from locals who are forced to find new homes, locals working in hotels or resorts are commonly underpaid and forced labour has been used to make tourist areas presentable.

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) believe that travel and tourism “can help raise living standards and alleviate poverty in undeveloped areas.” This is a mighty claim. We can’t assume money paid by tourists stays in the country and benefits the locals. Pamela Nowicka claims that “from 50 to 95 percent of money spent by a tourist will leave the country it was spent in.” This is known as ‘leakage.’ Nowicka cites Thailand as an example saying it is “estimated that 70 percent of all money spent by tourists ended up leaving Thailand via foreign-owned tour operators, airlines, hotels, imported drinks and food and so on.”


But the WTTC are right. Travel and tourism can help fight against poverty. However, it is up to us to find out how our money can be used to best impact the local community and ensure our environmental damage is minimized.

Become an ethical tourist:

  • Fpoor_knights_island_1ind locally owned and run lodges, restaurants and activities whose profits stay in the   community.
  • Use the least damaging form of transport. It’s difficult to avoid flying if we want to go overseas. We can’t take a train under the Tasman Sea to visit our Aussie neighbours! But, we can take direct, longer flights, which are more fuel efficient. And we can use local transport, buses, trains and ferries when we are in country.
  • Next year, instead of loading up the caravan and crossing the Island to your regular beach, why not try something different? There are many cycle paths that allow you to explore a different side to the country. The Department of Conservation also offers well kept walk ways and informative signs throughout the country. A national park is never far away. Eco-tourism adventures are also widely advertised on the internet.

Being an ethical tourist does not have to mean spending more money. It just means doing your research, asking questions and caring about the impact of your holiday.


The No-nonsense Guide to Tourism Pamela Nowicka
The Ethical Travel Guide Polly Pattullo and Orely Minelli
(Both books available from Global Focus Aotearoa library)

NZ Youth to have a voice at the UN

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010


Save the Children NZ and Global Focus Aotearoa are presenting a youth report to the United Nations in July this year on young people’s perspectives of their rights in NZ.

Want to have your say? Go to the Article 12 website and participate in the survey Or, if you want to get more involved, maybe your class or youth group is interested in doing a digital story workshop? We have five slots left - two outside the greater Wellington Area for organisations and schools able to complete the story by the end of March. Just contact Sara at Global Focus Aoteaora.

Please pass it on – the more young New Zealanders that take part the stronger our voice at the UN!

Discuss - Rights of the Child

Thursday, November 26th, 2009


Kia Ora!

Over 2009 and 2010, Save the Children NZ is doing some research throughout Aotearoa NZ on the Conventions of the Rights of the Child and young people’s opinions about how well the NZ Government has followed this.

Visit our website to find out more: (you will need to create an account but this is just for your protection; the site is moderated so no one can bully or put down others).

We will be travelling the country, doing digital stories with groups of young people, surveys in some primary schools and an online survey with young people over 16. Most of the groups are with young people that often don’t get a voice (refugees, young mums, those that have been in the justice system etc) but we are also doing six with groups of interest).

If you are interested, email Dr Fi at If you are a young person over 16 and would like to take the survey then
Click Here to take the 2009-2010 UNCRC Survey

warm regards

Dr Fi

The Stolen Children - their stories

Friday, October 16th, 2009

Edited by Carmel Bird

childMarked by a cross drawn in ink at about the place where her navel would be, the child stands in the centre of the group of six tiny girls. Her companions look shyly, sadly, at the camera; but her eyes are downcast. She seems to be oblivious, or at least forgetful, of the photographer, concentrating on a ball that she cradles at shoulder level. This child, with her high-domed forehead and gently pouting upper lip, is an orphan among orphans, Australian children of mixed race.

The person who made the cross has written underneath the picture: “I like the little girl in centre of group, but if taken by anyone else, any of the others would do, as long as they are strong”.

The orphanage was in Darwin, and the photograph of the children appeared in a newspaper in the 1930s, because the Minister for the Interior was appealing for people in Melbourne and Sydney to take the children in, to ‘rescue them from becoming outcasts’. This was part of a long-term government plan to assimilate Indigenous people into the dominant white community by removing the children from their families at as young an age as possible, preferably at birth, cutting them off from their own place, language, and customs, and thereby somehow bleaching aboriginality from Australian society.

17 stories are recorded here, most of them exactly as they were told to the Inquiry.

You can join our library and get books and DVDs out for Free!

Also in our library is the movie Rabbit Proof Fence which tells the story of three girls who escaped a religious reformatory in Australia in the 1930’s, hoping to walk 1500 miles back to their tribal home.

That’s not right!

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Cassandra Scott-Laffey


Human rights are everyone’s rights
Everyone in the world is entitled to rights that allow us to live happy and healthy lives, such as the rights to liberty, security, an education, freedom of opinion and a life free of discrimination, torture and slavery.

These rights can be found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR was approved in 1948 by the General Assembly of the United Nations with the intention of ensuring an acceptable quality of life for all people.

Even though, to someone like me, they seem like simple and logical ideas for how we should be allowed to live our lives, not everyone enjoys these rights, due to factors such as corrupt governments, war or poverty.

I don’t have to worry about these problems personally, but any of us could have been born into a different situation. I am grateful for the life I lead and the fact that I don’t have to fight for basic rights, and I want to help those that aren’t so lucky!

Millions of people throughout the world, many of them children, have their rights violated, or ignored, on a daily basis. Children are especially vulnerable, as they can’t always have their say, and don’t always have someone to speak for them. This is why 191 countries have adopted the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC). This document covers the particular rights that protect children while they are still dependent on others. Unfortunately, for many children around the world, their needs and rights still get overlooked. This could be because their rights aren’t always the first priority when a family is just trying to survive, or it could simply be because people are not educated about child rights. But none of these reasons should be considered acceptable.

You can change the world
While it may appear that we can’t stop human rights violations on our own, we can raise awareness of it so that together we can create change for a better future. One voice is small, but many voices saying the same thing together can change the world. Even buying a bar of fair trade chocolate can make a difference!


Wherever things aren’t right, just one person can be enough to make a difference. Here’s what you can do:

  • Buy fair trade whenever possible and keep an eye out in August for Trade Aid’s campaign on slave labour and the chocolate industry.
  • But don’t feel guilty about eating your favourite chocolate bar, even if it isn’t made with fair trade cocoa; you just have to make a stand. Write letters, send emails and put pressure on the manufacturer to help put an end to child slavery!
  • Support Stop the Traffik by joining the global movement of people from around the world who believe that people should not be bought and sold
  • Become a human rights champion in your community and join your local Amnesty International group or, if there isn’t one, start one


For more information read Cassie’s other article Right the wrongs with chocolate and visit the following websites:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
Trade Aid
Fair trade pros and cons
Fair trade
The International Cocoa Initiative

This article was originally published in Tearaway Magazine.

The people problem

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

By Josh Wrightpeople-prob-population-growth

Something’s missing amidst all the discussion of the most pressing environmental problems of the times: climate change the degradation of land due to agriculture, and water shortages. To date, almost all the comment in the media has been about the need for new technology to solve these problems and continue to accommodate the growing world population - and almost nothing has been said about the impact of human population growth. Yet stabilising the population at present levels might be an easier and more durable solution than developing and applying more technology, at increasing costs.

We tend to think this way because historically, population growth has been an easy path to economic growth. Many of us, particularly the younger generation, believe (or have been led to believe) that our technology has allowed us to break free from the resource constraints that limit the populations of every other species. Indeed, it’s almost as if we believe that in limiting our population we would be showing a loss of nerve as a species. But while a steadily growing population may have once contributed to improving quality of life for all of humanity, it is now leading to a high quality of life for a few and a low quality of life for many. While once population growth drove technology development, that rate of growth the resulting consumption may now be driving the need for new technology at a faster pace than it can be reliably developed and applied.

Climate Change people-prob-earth
Consider climate change. Ever since humans mastered fire over 400,000 years ago (our first big technological breakthrough), we have relied primarily on burning carbon-containing materials for our energy, a process that releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Before the Industrial Revolution 250 years ago, the natural ‘respiratory’ cycles (photosynthesis by most flora) could deal with the carbon emissions. But now our sheer numbers and per-capita consumption have overwhelmed the capacity of these cycles and started to destroy the natural environments in which they are based. This is a serious problem, with emissions accumulating rapidly and actually changing the climate.

Technological Advancements
One of the most favoured technological solutions to the problem of carbon emissions is clean coal (find out more here: people-prob-nuclear_power But clean coal, which involves the development of not one, but several new technologies, is at this stage a hope, not a reality. What if it doesn’t work, or works only one-third as well as we hoped? Nuclear energy is another technology paraded as a solution to the problem of accumulating carbon emissions. But again, there is a significant problem with the technology, which has remained unsolved for more than 50 years: what to do with the enormous amounts of waste that no natural nor man-made cycle can currently deal with in a meaningful time frame? In lieu of all this uncertainty, it could only be wise to at least simultaneously start stabilising human population, which we know we can do.

A key problem with using technology to overcome limited natural resources is that even when it works, it is never a permanent fix. The unforgiving increase in human numbers ultimately creates new problems, leading to yet another scramble to find a technological solution as quickly as possible. Take the solution to the problem of hunger for example: no sooner had the enhanced harvests achieved in the green revolution been made available to the hungry millions than we were told that we now urgently needed more advanced genetic engineering to help feed a new generation of hungry millions.

Another obvious problem is that technology alters the condition of the things to which it is applied, particularly processes in nature. Technology can turn something naturally occurring into something effectively human-made. For example, what begins as a free-flowing river ends up as a dammed, power-producing, flood-mitigating, controlled water channel. The loss of natural states and processes may not concern some. But to others, what remains of the natural world is now more valuable than the expanding number of humans for which these remnants may have be sacrificed if unlimited population growth (and as such, consumption of energy and food) continues.

What Lies Ahead?
people-prob-favelaIt is true that per capita consumption is an important contributor to the problem of limited resources. However, population growth is the primary contributor, because each birth sets into motion a lifetime of consumption at some level. In contrast, a birth foregone means a lifetime of consumption foregone, even at its most subsistent level.

There will never be a better time to think about the benefits of stabilising the human population than now! Society has dedicated its thoughts mostly to dealing with the nearly irreversible problems of climate change, peak oil and lack of clean water. A more stable population would make a lasting contribution to solving these, as well as similar environmental problems that are likely to arise. It seems irresponsible not to discuss the idea along with all the technological solutions being considered. As an economist might say, it’s time to look at the problems arising from limited natural resources from the demand side as well as the supply side.

Human Rights people-prob-one-child-policy
Of course, the stabilisation of human population is a contentious issue. The most obvious case study of population control is in China, and the one-child policy implemented there. The policy has attracted controversy and has garnered a negative reputation because of its perceived harmful side effects; that it serves to widen the gap between the rich and the poor, and rural and urban areas; that it can contribute to infanticide – particularly female, and that it is a fundamental breach of human rights But this policy, which was implemented in 1979, seems to have been effective. The Chinese government estimates that it has three to four hundred million fewer people in 2008, than it would have had otherwise. As a result of this huge number of reduced births, supporters of the policy argue that China’s health care service is of a higher quality, especially for women, and financial savings per-person have increased. Perhaps more importantly the slowing of population growth has eased the demand on the tight supply of resources, and lowered China’s ecological footprint – allowing for a better quality of life for the Chinese people.

There are now more than six billion of us. Is another billion of us going to make life better overall or worse? Isn’t it time to divert the resources that will go into managing the increasing quantity of human beings, into stabilising numbers and increasing our quality of life? Is there any problem that wouldn’t be easier to solve with fewer of us?


Population Connection
The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement
What Stops Population Growth, Hans Rosling

Global Countdown: Take action!

Monday, August 24th, 2009


By William Zhang

2008 has been a year of financial meltdowns, chaotic weather, a global food crisis and of course elections, both here and abroad. But we want to do something about the issues we are facing, so check out our ideas for taking action!

10. Drugs

Take Action:

9. Human Rights

Take Action:

8. Global Food Crisis

Take Action:

7. Healthcare

Take Action:

  • Don’t wait until you’re sick - be proactive and make healthy choices every day. Eat well, exercise and get plenty of sleep.
  • Support The Global Fund, which works for the prevention and treatment of AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, by buying (RED) products

oilfree_photo6. The Oil Crisis

Take Action

  • Leave the car at home whenever possible - walk, bike, catch the bus or take the train.
  • When buying a car, pay attention to its fuel economy rating Not only will it save you money, it’ll also help conserve the world’s finite oil supplies.
  • Read Life after Oil (another Just Write article) about preparing for the peak oil crisis.

5. Global Security

Take Action

  • Stay informed on the latest issues in global security. There’s a lot of hype out there, so if you want to go straight to the source, is one of the most trusted on the net.
  • Find out more about what you can do from the Global Security Institute, an organisation promoting security through the elimination of nuclear weapons.

4. Education

Take Action

  • Volunteer as a peer support worker at your school and help a fellow student get more out of their education.
  • Don’t take your education for granted - millions in the developing world aren’t as lucky. Make the most out of your school’s resources like libraries and computer labs…and (the most valuable resource of all) teachers!
  • Find out more about the UN’s Education for All programme and how you can support their goal of meeting the learning needs of all children, youth and adults by 2015.

3. Climate Change

Take Action

  • Go to or for loads of ideas on reducing your carbon footprint - from unplugging appliances to setting up community composting projects.
  • Support New Zealand businesses which have proper climate change policies, like Meridian Energy (or if you don’t pay the bills, ask your parents).
  • Put the pressure on businesses and the government to give climate change a higher priority - write letters, use parents’ networks and join lobby or environmental activist groups.

peace_trees2. Violence and Conflict

Take Action

  • Live by the principles of non-violence, followed by Te Whiti and Tohu, Ghandi and Martin Luther King. (Download this resource Parihaka and the gift of non violent resistance for more information.)
  • Help out the victims of violence and crime in New Zealand by donating to or volunteering for the Victim Support service.
  • Check out the Peace Foundation’s new youth website,, to find out how you can be an advocate for peace in your community.

1. The Economy

Take Action

  • Take money out of the equation. Bartering was the original form of trade, dating back to the Ancient Egyptians. Independence from money means that bartering systems prosper in difficult economic conditions. Try it for yourself, set up a class bartering system, or register with and share your time and skills with your whole community.
  • If you, or your parents, are forced to cut down on donations to charity, consider replacing them with a contribution of your time with volunteer work. Try or for current opportunities in your community.
  • Anchor down. Don’t spend beyond your means - maxed out credit cards are not the best idea in an economic downturn. But most importantly, think positive! The news may be full of gloomy stories about job cuts and lost savings, but don’t let that get to your head. Remember that “after the storm, the sun shines its brightest”.

This article was originally published in Tearaway Magazine.

Global countdown: Global meltdown?!

Monday, August 24th, 2009

By William Zhang

The year of 2008 was one of financial meltdowns, chaotic weather, a global food crisis, and of course, elections both here and abroad. If you get depressed easily, you might want to stop here. If you want to keep up and get ahead with the issues that will affect us most through 2009 though, read on. This is my Top 10 countdown for the issues of 2008 and 2009.

Just to show you I am not a complete pessimist the Top 10 list is followed by the actions you can take on each issue.

10. Drugs

Drugs continue to be a global problem. Annually the US alone spends $35 billion on its ‘War on Drugs’. 2009 will mark a century of international cooperation on drug control. In 1909 leaders from around the world met in Shanghai to discuss the drug problem of the time - the Chinese opium epidemic. In Aotearoa New Zealand, 2008 has been the Year of the Drug Bust. The aptly named Operation Viper saw the New Zealand Police make almost a hundred arrests, following numerous drug busts throughout September. The following month, a $28 million shipment of pseudoephedrine (a component of P), was intercepted by Customs - and that’s only the third largest drug bust in New Zealand history!

9. Human Rights

human_rights_chinaFor human rights campaigners around the world many milestones were made in 2008, such as the signing of an international treaty which bans the use of cluster bombs after years of campaigning by peace and disarmament groups. We also witnessed the spectacle (and sport) of the Beijing Olympics, which was accompanied by protests over China’s human rights record, raising some much needed awareness and generating media coverage around the world. 10 December 2008 marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a chance to celebrate achievements and focus on the upcoming challenges for 2009 and beyond.

8. Global Food Crisis

Millions of people in some of the world’s poorest nations face starvation in 2009 and beyond, due to skyrocketing crop prices and food shortages. Last year, over 25 000 farmers committed suicide in India alone, disillusioned by the debts they had been driven into by grain shortages and soaring costs. 2008 was the International Year of the Potato, but while the world celebrates the virtues of this staple food, the issue of hunger in developing countries remains as significant as ever.

7. Healthcare

global-healthcare1Globally over a billion people are still living without access to basic healthcare, with huge numbers dying from preventable diseases, such as tuberculosis and malaria. Locally too, the healthcare system was stretched to its limit in 2008, with red - and even purple - alerts flying everywhere, indicating shortages of hospital bed space. And let’s not forget the many overworked doctors and nurses around the country. 2009 may see further challenges, with many governments struggling to maintain expenditure on healthcare given the global economic slowdown and falls in GDP.

6. The Oil Crisis

In July, the price of petrol was thrust above $2 a litre, reaching new all time highs. While the price may have come down significantly since then, once economic growth takes off again when the world emerges from the economic slump, petrol prices are likely to soar once more - look out for new highs by 2010. In the long-term future, the peak oil crisis is coming. We’ll start to experience oilcost-photoa decline in the availability of cheap and easily accessible oil sources, with some predictions picking petrol prices to surpass $10 a litre within a decade. (And to think we were complaining when it hit $1 a litre back in April 2000!)

5. Global Security

Both Iran and North Korea are carefully nurturing their nuclear programmes going into 2009. In the case of Iran, retaliatory action from other countries, such as the US or Israel, threatens to throw the Middle East into further turmoil. The picture looks a little brighter for North Korea though, with agreements made to dismantle their central nuclear complex in return for financial aid from the US. Meanwhile, terrorism continues to remain a risk to global security as we head into 2009, with the prospect of biological weaponry being used against civilian targets a very real threat according to US National Intelligence Agency.

4. Education

Millions of children worldwide don’t even have access to the most basic forms of education. Over a billion people will enter 2009 unable to even read a book or sign their name. In 2009 progress will be made towards addressing this issue, with US$ 4.5billion pledged to support Education For All, a UN programme with the goal of meeting the learning needs of all children, youth and adults by 2015. In Aotearoa New Zealand, over 20% of students leave secondary school without any formal qualifications. While the solution to this is debated, the merits of NCEA continue to draw harsh criticism for not being challenging enough; with over 10% of New Zealand schools opting to offer Cambridge or IB instead - the list is growing steadily going into 2009.

cyclonenargis3. Climate Change

The Aotearoa New Zealand winter was full of extremes, with the coolest May since 1992, followed by higher than average temperatures in June and July, and of course the ‘weather bombs’ of August. Globally, Australia was hit by record droughts in early 2008, and South-East Asia was hit by record storms later in the year. This trend may turn out to be a title page for what’s to come in future years, with many scientists claiming climate change is responsible for this extreme weather and that things are likely to get worse. But its not just weather we have to worry about. A recent report found that the impact on ecosystems of climate change is already very severe, with falls in krill population caused by rising sea temperatures even being attributed to cannibalism among polar bears in the Arctic - nasty!

2. Violence and Conflict

According to the 2008 Global Peace Index, a system used to rank countries by their levels of conflict, Iraq is the least peaceful country, with the most internal conflict. Most of this can be attributed to US-led occupation of the region, with much of the violence being targeted at coalition forces. Meanwhile, Iceland took out the top spot as the most peaceful country. Aotearoa New Zealand was ranked fourth most peaceful, down two places from last year. 2008 saw violent crime in New Zealand rise, despite the overall crime rate going down. What seemed to be an endless string of senseless murders throughout the year left the country shaken and demanding action. Yet, this violence may be a dramatic symptom of deeper social issues, such as poverty, education and unemployment. If so, such issues will have to be addressed in 2009 before the issue of violent crime can be tackled successfully.

1. The Economy

tillCrises in the financial markets have dominated the news, election campaigns, and conversation since September. Aotearoa New Zealand is in a gloomy recession going into 2009, and many economists believe that the world’s going to join us soon. The underlying issues to the economic crisis are yet to be untangled though, so 2009 is looking to be a year which will be financially difficult for people throughout the world, including many New Zealanders. Sure, could have lower interest rates, but troublesome things may also be ahead - job cuts for example. This issue is also likely to have spill-over effects into several other areas. For instance, the climate change issue will likely take a back seat in the face of economic uncertainty. Likewise, those in poverty will be hit especially hard, as the willingness of governments and individuals to contribute financial aid and support may diminish.

2009 is going to be a rollercoaster of a year
The year of 2008 may have looked pretty gloomy, but there is still hope for the future. The United States has a new President and New Zealand has a new government. Will 2009 see Obama’s vision of “change we can believe in”, or the new government’s promise for a “brighter future” realised? Let’s hope so.


William has lots of ideas for ways to take action Check them out here.

This article was originally published in Tearaway Magazine.

The 2009 Human Rights Film Festival

Monday, June 8th, 2009

hrffposterThe Human Rights Film Festival is in its fifth year of supporting and raising awareness about various human rights causes around the world. The theme this year is freedom, which is demonstrated in each of the eleven feature films and five short films on show. The Festival gives people the opportunity to watch films that give insight into the lives and work of do-gooders, philanthropists and other exceptional human beings, and show how communities facing huge problems are able to pull together and work for a better future.

Festivals such as this one are really important because, in the increasingly global society that we live in, it is important to better understand what is happening in countries and communities around the world, that are now closer and more interconnected than ever before. The films shown provide a way for people in relatively liberated countries, like New Zealand, to learn about the lives of others and become motivated to support human rights movements. Watching films is something that can be enjoyed by all, so the Human Rights Film Festival offers a great opportunity to bring the attention of ALL New Zealanders to the real issues facing our world.

Flying on one engine, directed by Joshua Z. Weinstein

Review by Meredith Paterson

child_surgeryFlying on One Engine portrays a complex character, Dr Sharadkumar Dicksheet. At age 78, Dr Dicksheet’s main purpose in life is to perform free facial surgery on India’s poorest. Every year he holds massive plastic surgery ‘camps’ where up to 700 children are treated for cleft lip and other facial deformities. This work has earned him eight nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Dr Dicksheet has improved the lives of thousands, yet his own life hangs by a fragile thread. He has survived cancer of the larynx, two heart attacks and is partially paralyzed from a car accident. At any moment an aneurysm could burst resulting in instant death. Yet, he stubbornly continues operating, performing 76 operations in twelve hours with no breaks. It is little wonder that in India he is revered as a god.

Filmmaker Joshua Z. Weinstein spent two years filming the doctor in his New York apartment and at his Indian plastic surgery camps. The film successfully shows all aspects of Dr Dicksheet’s personality; his determination to keep operating and expand the camps, his bitterness of the Nobel committee’s ignorance of his charitable work, even his extreme stubbornness and crass remarks. Above all, we see the courage shown by a mortal man who knows his time is running out. On the film’s website Weinstein states, “I knew that on a certain level Flying on One Engine would have to be a film not only about one man, but gracefully accepting your own mortality.”

In Flying on One Engine, the director presents many conflicting issues. Money is the main problem. Here is a man with celebrity status, who is worshipped as a God, who has had streets named after him and yet lives off a social security benefit in Brooklyn. He prefers India, but must live in the USA to get crucial surgical materials on which he used to spend $50 000 every year. Charitable work is costly. Thankfully the camps now have sponsors.

Dr Dicksheet’s health is another paradox in the film. He can hardly walk three flyingononeenginesteps on his own, is without a larynx and breaths out of a tube in his neck. With every meal he must take a bowl full of pills. The title of the film is based on his own seriocomic description of his state, “I’m a four-engine plane running on one engine. If that goes, we crash.” Dr Dicksheet refuses to slow down to prolong his own life. If anything, the camps are more ambitious than ever.

The film also touches on the issue of religion. Dr Dicksheet’s nurse insists that he is a living God. He himself considers his yearly trips to India as pilgrimages. He says “the operating theatre is my temple and I see god in my patients.” It is not that he is a living God, but that his strength of mind overcomes his bodily limitations.

We must not assume Dr Dicksheet is a saint. The film presents a complex man who at times is not very likable. However, the film is a clear and honest statement of his determination. The message for us is to stop letting limitations stand in our way.

Next page - Review of Journalists and Kicking It, and some ideas for taking action.