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Posts Tagged ‘justice’

Avaaz

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

avaazlogo_en

www.avaaz.org

What do they do?

Avaaz.org is a community of global citizens who take action on the major issues facing the world today. The aim of Avaaz.org is to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people shape global decisions. Avaaz.org members act for a more just and peaceful world and a globalisation with a human face.

How can I get involved?

Sign up! – Avaaz’s online community has grown to over 3.2 million members in just over one year. It represents people from all nations, backgrounds, and ages. The core of their model of organizing is their email list, operated in 13 languages. By signing up to receive their alerts, you are rapidly alerted to urgent global issues and opportunities to achieve change. Avaaz members respond by rapidly combining the small amounts of time or money they can give into a powerful collective force. In just hours they can send hundreds of thousands of messages to political leaders telling them to save a crucial summit on climate change , hold hundreds of rallies across the world calling for action to prevent a genocide, or donate hundreds of thousands of euros, dollars and yen to support nonviolent protest in Burma.

Mapuche, the people of life

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

By Gonzalo Garcés
Translated by AJ McDougall

Mapuche CeremonyThe Mapuche, are a people originally from the south of Latin America, whose name means “people or persons of the earth”, and whose worldview has been intimately connected to the natural environment. It is said that “Mapu à‘uke”, or Mother Nature, has given the Mapuche culture and society the knowledge they possess. This knowledge is transmitted through conversation in sacred places of the natural world linking Mapuche to the earth and to family.

SnakeEvery part of the natural world, including human beings and the dead, possess a spirit. Amongst them there are caring and guiding spirits of nature. For example, stones and serpents have an important role in the Mapuche way of life. Even now, the Mapuche ask permission to pass through certain places that are considered sacred. On such occasions, the Mapuche people take time to appreciate these places and ask for the protection of the earth and their families, as part of their attempts to overcome the unfortunate realities for their people.

The sacred places, such as the paliwe and the nguillatuwe, are spaces where the Mapuche pray, give thanks, and share with the spirits their desire to see them respected and to see the Mapuche culture survive.

The history of the Mapuche people is a history full of battles in defense of the earth. These battles have continued for more than 500 years, since the attempted takeover of the area by the Inka and the Spanish, and later the battles against the genocide attempts of Chilean and Argentinean governments at the end of the 19th Century. These attempts have not ceased, and Mapuche FarmlandChile and Argentina have increased their efforts to transform their culture into spitting images of Western society. Big business has also appeared on the scene. These businesses have claimed — and continue to claim — to those same governments that Mapuche land would be better utilised through the development of economic projects such as single-crop forestation. Yet they do so without planning nor providing for the harmful effects on both human and environmental health.

Historically a system of private property did not exist on “Mapuche territory”. There weren’t any fences nor were there extensive plantations of single-crop forestation like that which exists today, but instead the people were free to roam. They could take freely whatever was needed for the continued sustenance of Mapu à‘uke.

Mapuche DanceThe Chilean government has, throughout history, pushed through “social integration policies” which have attempted to destroy the unique customs of the Mapuche people, and in this way the Mapuche social organisation has been twisted and modified through the imposition of unknown and destructive social models. These politicians, who are not part of the Mapuche culture or way of life, do not understand or value the traditional lifestyles of the Mapuche people, instead imposing new lifestyles upon them.

This is but a brief snapshot of the relationship the Mapuche people have with the state and big business.

There currently exists a situation which is worrying. Seven Mapuche political prisoners are on a hunger strike that has recently reached 42 days. The strikers are our Mapuche peà±i (brothers) and lamgnen (sister). They are striking for: the freedom of all Mapuche political prisoners throughout various Chilean jails; demilitarisation and an end to the oppression of various roaming Mapuche communities so that they can exercise their political and territorial rights; and an end to the political-judicial conspiracies against Mapuche organisers and leaders.

Mapuche ManTo speak of Mapuche political prisoners, and to speak of their ethnic, political, and territorial demands, has been criminalised by the Chilean government, placing the interests of big business over and above those of the Mapuche communities involved. Because of these events, Chile has received international condemnation and many recommendations to end the criminalization of the Mapuche people. One such recommendation came from the UN’s Rodolfo Stavenhagen.

Mapuche men and women are not the violent people they are made out to be by the government through their utilisation of the media. The continued struggle of our Mapuche brothers and sisters tells us that they are not ready to renounce that which is most precious and beautiful to them: the earth, la mapu.

LEARN MORE & TAKE ACTION

You can find more information on how to support the Mapuche cause at:
http://aespo-arica.blogspot.com
www.mapuche.info

You can sign a petition to President Michelle Bachelet and the Chilean Government led by at
www.mapuche-nation.org

Gonzalo Garcés is from Chile and is an Oxfam International Youth Partner. He recently attended Kaleidescope in Sydney, check out Pip Bennett’s article on her experience at this event.

All photos are from www.mapuche-nation.org

What we can do for peace

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006

Compiled by Youth at the Disarmament and Security Centre, Otautahi, Christchurch, NZ

lotus flowerDespite all the negative issues there are also increasingly positive steps that people the world over that are beginning to take to make changes for Peace, to live in harmony with the Earth and amongst all peoples.

  • Believe in your power to create change.
  • We are all vital links in the interconnected web of life, what we do today can make a positive difference.
  • Understand that dominant worldviews don’t always enable other people’s voices and stories to be heard. History books may be biased according to whoever wrote them.
  • Challenge yourself and others to support peace and justice and to hold these concepts at the centre of all local, national and international decision—making processes.
  • Think about the sort of world you would like your children’s children’s children to live in and work towards that!
  • Brainstorm ideas for positive change. Just as all destructive acts are acts of war, all creative acts are acts of peace.
  • Take time out to enjoy yourself, your community and your environment.

doves

TAKE ACTION!

  • Find out more information on peace issues. Knowledge is power!
  • Share what you learn with friends and family.
  • Respect differences, honour diversity, learn more about another culture in your community.
  • Storytelling. Our world is made up of stories- not just atoms! Learn other people’s stories and those of your family.
  • Use the media. Write an article for a community or school newspaper. Get TV or radio interviews.
  • Find out angles that may be missing from mainstream media by consulting alternative media sources.
  • Learn more about the South Pacific Nuclear-Free zone. Push for a world without nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants.
  • Start your own group.
  • Consume less. Support conservation campaigns. Recycle, reuse and repair.
  • Practice solving conflict peacefully in your own life.
  • Avoid buying products from multinational companies.
  • Get involved in your local community. Become a volunteer.
  • Hold a stall or information display at a festival or in a public place.
  • Screen-print information or posters and distribute around friends, the community and the city.
  • Print patches or T- shirts, or wear ones others have made.
  • Write letters to decision makers.
  • Design and paint posters, banners or placards.
  • Take part in a Non-violent Direct Action (it is important to know your rights and take precaution to ensure your safety and the safety of others, remember that you are promoting peace so act PEACEFULLY)
  • Create and/or participate in Street Theatre.

people peace sign
LEARN MORE

  • Check out current events online at: www.indymedia.com or www.guerillanews.com
  • Find out about local groups who work for peace and justice. Support groups that campaign for Peace nationally and internationally.
  • Check out Greenpeace and Amnesty International
  • Check out www.getactive.org.nz This site contains all you need to know about setting up and managing your own social or environmental campaigns.
  • Go to the Disarmament and Security Centre . It has heaps of good resources for learning about the history of NZ’s peace movement, and its anti-nuclear movement.
  • Use your consumer power to make wise decisions when buying things (buy products made in your own country, products that have minimal or no packaging, think about who made it and how they were treated, think about the impacts to communities and the environment that may incur from making the product, using the product and discarding the product). Check out adbusters
  • Grow food, help out at a local community garden. Find out what foods in Genetically Modified and what are healthier options.
  • Understand economic globalisation and its impact on people and the environment.
  • Visit the Peace Foundation Aotearoa NZ. The Peace Foundation is a 30-year old NGO that works through on Education, Action and Research.

Change doesn’t lie in the hands of governments but in ours.

The Future of Food - Review

Wednesday, September 13th, 2006

By Lena Stahlschmidtfutureoffood_photo

The information that the film presents is so interesting and terrifying that I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. Although the format is what some may call a little dry’ the movie had my full attention the entire time. This is the type of film that you’d expect to see in class; educational, informative and no Hollywood action scenes’.

The movie presents food in the 21st century: the way we grow it, the way we mess with it and the current corruption, deceit, and dangers that exist. It also gives an even dimmer outlook of our planet’s future related to food. The movie looks at the many aspects of genetic engineering ranging from the cellular make-up to its global impact. The main focus is on the lack of studies, precautions, and knowledge about the effects of GE and the role that the American government and agriculture companies played in the development of GE food.

It is a documentation of corruption, deceit, money, and power that has lead to our generation being the guinea pig in the fight for the global control over food. The issues raised in this movie are crucial to the sustainability of our planet and existence.

Stars: 4 ****

Find out more.
Learn more about where New Zealand stands in genetic engineering Here is what another Just Focus members had to say.

Take Action!!!

Food Altert.

The Campaign

Greens

Pacific Youth Hold Fast: We can’t ignore colonisation

Friday, August 11th, 2006

Omar Hamed

kanaky t-shirtNgā iwi e, Ngā iwi e
O people, O people
Kia Kotahi ra, Te Moana-nui-a-kiwa
Join together as one the Pacific Ocean.
Ngā iwi e, Ngā iwi e
O people, o people
Kia Kotahi ra, Te Moana-nui-a-kiwa
Join together as one, the Pacific Ocean

Kia mau ra, kia mau ra
Hold fast, hold fast
Ki te mana motuhake me te aroha.
To self-determination and to love.
Kia mau ra, kia mau ra
Hold fast, hold fast
Ki te mana motuhake me te aroha.
To self-determination and to love.

Ngā iwi e. The song of the Pacific. Originally a Kanaky song from New Caledonia, it was translated into Maori in the 1970s and entered New Zealand by way of Greenpeace, who sung it on board the Rainbow Warrior while protesting French nuclear testing at Muroroa in French Polynesia. It is as Pacific as the wide blue ocean in which we all live.

new caledonian sign at PYFOn the last night of the inaugural Pacific Youth Festival held in Tahiti between 17 and 22 July, it was revived as ninety New Caledonians cheered the end of the festival and sung for a new day in the fight for self-determination in the Pacific. They sang for freedom, their banner bearing the words “Delegation of New Caledonia” (a reminder to the festival of their refusal to march under the French flag). The song, echoing in the outdoor stadium as the sun went down over the harbour of Pape’ete, and the warm Pacific wind stirred the Kanaky flags they carried in their hands and wore around their necks.

I was lucky enough to be there in the stadium with them. Part of the 17-person delegation from Aotearoa who had travelled across the ocean to be part of the festival, I had joined with the more than 1000 youth from across the Pacific to discuss the important issues of the region. Sustainable Development. Globalisation. Active citizenship. Peace. Health. Education. Equality. Cultural diversity. Good governance. An array of problems and challenges was presented to us in six days of workshops and conferences designed to educate, empower and engage Pacific youth.

1400 Pacific youth gathered together to share, experience and learn. There were anti-corruption activists from Papua New Guinea, democracy advocates from the Solomon Islands, human rights workers from New Caledonia, sustainable farmers from Tonga, HIV/AIDS educators from the Kiribati Islands, indigenous intellectual property lawyers from Australia, women’s group organisers from Fiji, sports coaches from Vanuatu, community artists from the Norfolk islands and the list goes on. Too many to meet in a week, let alone to list here.

By the time I left Tahiti, the festival had become a backdrop to something much more serious. Behind the dancers on the cultural stage and the palm trees and the workshops and conferences was being played out an event that may well shape the future of French Polynesia’s future. Looking back on it now it seems bizarre, how Charmaine Clark, (Ngati Kahungunu), a researcher from the Tairawhiti Polytechnic in Gisborne and I got caught up in the middle of the struggle for self-determination in Tahiti.
new caledonia sign with flags
It began on Monday morning at the opening ceremony when Oscar Temaru, leader of Tahiti’s biggest independence political party and French Polynesia’s coalition government, asked the festival “to consider the issue of independence and more specifically ‘the freedom of the Maohi [Tahitian] people’”. He also said to the Festival in English, “Do you know that in our local Assembly it is prohibited to speak our language, the language of our land? Here [at the festival] we will speak our mother tongue. This is only one example of the colonial system that still exists in our land. We want to get rid of colonialism, racism and all these wrongs that exist everywhere in the world.” At that point, the French High Commissioner Office’s secretary-general walked out of the festival. The first shot of a new battle in an old war had been fired.

To explain; French Polynesia is an “overseas country” of France. It exists as a sort of autonomous colony, caught in the limbo of a people who want decolonisation and France which is desperate to hold onto its old colonial outposts in the Pacific. France still controls the immigration, foreign affairs and funds much of the social services in French Polynesia, and many in French Polynesia fear that the economy would collapse without French support. However, there is a tension between those who feel that it’s time for the nation to become independent and those who want the islands to remain connected with France. Oscar Temaru is the fiery independence leader who, when asked by a reporter “Most people call this place French Polynesia. What do you call it?” replied, “This is French-occupied Polynesia. That is the truth. This country has been occupied.” He has been involved in the struggle for self-determination for a long time and is an old friend of Jean-Marie Tjibaou, a Kanaky independence fighter assasinated in 1988 by the French and whose son, Pascal, was also attending the festival.
new caledonians on bus
Then, on Monday afternoon, I went with Charmaine, the Aotearoa Junior Delegate’, to watch her and the other Pacific Junior Delegates’ begin drafting the Pacific Youth Charter. It was a shambles. The French Polynesian Junior Delegate’ had appointed himself the chair of the drafting committee and next to him was the delegate from France. Yes, you read correctly: France was part of the festival. Three or four young people from a Paris youth NGO had come to the festival to represent the multimillion-dollar stake that France had in the festival, but it seemed to me, in the Tahitian cultural centre, watching the French delegate dominate proceedings that something was truly wrong for them to be able to put themselves on the drafting committee for the PACIFIC Youth charter.

On Wednesday the plot thickened, when Oscar Temaru invited the delegates for cocktails at parliament. The French and French Polynesian delegates (by the way the French Polynesian delegate seemed to have colonial outposts in his head) strongly argued that the delegates not go to the cocktails because it would cut into the drafting time for the charter. After a vote, which was eleven votes to ten in favour of not going (the deciding vote being the French), Charmaine and five other delegates walked out of the drafting committee, stating that it was rude to ignore an invitation by the President when they had not ignored a invitation the previous night by the French High Commissioner. At the party Charmaine invited Temaru to a forum that she and I had hastily organised the day before and scheduled for Saturday morning. It was to be a forum on “Decolonisation with Justice”, the very topic that Temaru had wanted discussed at the Forum. Although Temaru was to be outside the country, he promised to send his representative.

On Thursday it was voted that the French delegate could not have voting powers in the committee, causing him to walk out stating that it was “disrespectful” for Pacific youth to refuse the old colonial nations a say in their, (our) future. The youth of the Pacific had struck a blow against the empire it seemed. omar and char's decolonisation discussionOn Saturday morning Charmaine and I prepared the hall for the around one hundred youth and interested observers, including two members of the French Polynesian Assembly, who came to discuss colonisation and decolonisation. It turned into a very successful forum and we were able to put colonisation back on the agenda of the festival. Samoans came to talk about their dark past at the hands of colonial New Zealand; Kanaky, Maohi, Cook Islanders, Palauans came to discuss their islands’ experiences; Australians came to vent their frustration that there was only one aboriginal in their delegation, Papua New Guineans remembered their brothers and sisters in West Papua, who the government had warned them not to talk about at the Youth Festival. The pain of the Pacific peoples flowed through the room, the hurt, frustration and anger at last beginning to be discussed in an open way instead of being swept under the rug.

That night Charmaine and I met with the deputy of Temaru’s political party, Jean-Michel Carlson, and his wife to talk about the forum and the way the festival was unfolding. Jean-Michel informed us that the festival was part of a pro-French agenda initiated when Temaru was temporarily out of office after the more pro-French opposition party contested elections. No wonder France was allowed to take part in drafting the charter and why indigenous issues and colonisation were avoided. The whole festival had been initiated as a way of legitimising the French presence in the Pacific.
some of NZ delegation
Regardless of this, the Pacific Youth Festival was an important step forward for addressing issues in the Pacific region and facilitating dialogue between Polynesian, Micronesian, Melanesian and colonial settler cultures. However, I would definitely be critical of aspects of the festival such as the large Pacific Plan delegation, which held workshops on its development program (a plan that most Pacific NGOs say, “ignores the real needs of the region.”see link) Workshops on indigenous cultural protection, disabled peoples rights, gender equality, over fishing and poverty highlighted the inspiring work being undertaken by Pacific youth. Being with Maohi and learning about life in French Polynesia was a real experience. For instance, learning about the new golf course that was being created against local people’s wishes on the island of Mo’orea seemed to be an analogy of the whole Pacific situation with tourism: white people monopolising land and resources so they could indulge in recreation, while being served by a new underclass of workers forced to work in the tourism industry because all other industry is underdeveloped.
omar and friends
By the time I got on the plane home to New Zealand I was feeling much more like a citizen of the Pacific Ocean than ever before. The festival had made me realise how dependant Pacific peoples are on activists and campaigners in the “big brother” nations of Aotearoa and Australia to protest and lobby for increased foreign aid, fair trade rules, action on climate change and protection from the nuclear arms and colonial armies of the world’s superpowers. Whether it’s colonisation in West Papua, nuclear testing in Muroroa, unfair trade rules at the World Trade Organisation or greenhouse gases from the industrial nations, Pacific issues are Aotearoa’s issues and that to ignore our brothers and sisters in the Pacific is to deny the true fact of human existence: the fact that ultimately we’re all in this one together.

LEARN MORE

Get clued up on West Papua!
Check out these excellent websites on the Pacifics hidden conflict:
AUT journalists are investigating the conflict.
Peace Movement Aotearoa’s Resource Page
Indonesian Human Rights Campaign
Free West Papua!
Information on Papua

Get clued up on the Pacific!
Read the Oceania Indymedia Site
Check out the Pacific Concerns Resource Centre
Check out Dev-Zone’s Resource pages on the Pacific

TAKE ACTION:

  • Challenge Stereotypes about Pacific Islanders!
  • Don’t let people make racist comments about Pacific Islanders (or anyone!) challenge the way people perceive each other!

Photos by Elise Broadbent, Hana Solomon and Lyndon Burford.

sunset over moorea

¡Ya basta! Enough is enough!

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

Grace Leung

Zapatista beginnings
On the 1 January 1994, two things happened that shook Mexican society and resounded around the world. zapatista wall muralThe North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into effect, devastating small producers and workers with policies that allow cheaper, heavily subsidised US and Canadian goods to flood into the Mexican market. On the same day, 3000 members of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) seized six towns and hundreds of ranches in the Southern state of Chiapas, Mexico as an action of resistance against the imposition of neoliberal policies that favour already powerful multinational corporations. For two weeks, the state of Chiapas resounded with the chant “’¡Ya Basta! Enough is enough!” as the people called for an end to five centuries of indigenous repression and exploitation and of the encroaching globalisation of corporate hegemony and cultural homogenisation. The Mexican army responded with bombs and bullets, killing at least 145 indigenous people. Mexican civil society responded with massive demonstrations across the country calling for an end to the military repression, and a ceasefire was called on the 12th of January.

From the ceasefire to now
Peace talks began in February 1994 and continued until February 1996 when an agreement, called the San Andrés Accords, was signed by the Zapatistas and the Mexican government, outlining a program of indigenous autonomy, land reform and cultural rights. In December of that same year, newly elected president, Ernesto Zedillo, officially turned his back on the San Andres Accords. The Zapatistas, and sympathising communities, have since endured continual persecution from the Mexican military and paramilitaries and have been singled out as a threat from multinational corporations such as the Chase Manhattan Bank.
This has resulted in tragedies such as the Acteal massacre of December 1997, where 45 Zapatista sympathising civilians in the community of Acteal, mostly women and children, were gunned down in a church by paramilitaries with the aid of the Mexican military. Despite this, the Zapatistas refuse to tolerate any more oppression, be it physical, economic or cultural. The resistance continues and grows until this day.

What do the Zapatistas stand for?
The Zapatista movement is rooted in the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), an uprising for land reform, communal land rights for the indigenous and freedom from imperialist repression. Named after one of Mexico’s great revolutionaries, Emiliano Zapata, the movement strives to break through the neoliberal mode of profit over people and a government seeped in corruption, to create a space for justice, equitable public participation and respect for Mother Earth. zapatista meetingIndeed, the leaders of the movement famously mask their faces with balaclavas or bandanas to symbolise their anonymity and equality with the suffering indigenous, peasants and workers. The movement has organised countless consultations and meetings at community, national and international levels, but always prioritising the voice of the people. As a result, they have established strong, autonomous communities with health clinics, schools and cooperatives producing various goods as deemed suitable for the communities by the communities. A dynamic form of government, (el Buen Gobierno, the good government) modelled on traditional indigenous frameworks, has been established, where leaders are seen as servants of the people and extensive community involvement occurs.

Do people support the Zapatista movement?
The rebellious dignity of the Zapatistas, coupled with their savvy use of the media, has inspired civil society worldwide and international solidarity has been proliferating over the years. In 2001, a Zapatista caravan, lead by the charismatic spokesperson Subcomandante Marcos, completed a three week long March from Chiapas to the capital, Mexico City to demand that the government honours the San Andrés Accords. As they marched into the city plaza, they were greeted with 250,000 supporters from a colourful cross-section of Mexican and international society.


Are they winning?

Despite the strength and successes of the Zapatista movement, many communities still suffer from extreme poverty, exacerbated by the fact that many of them are situated in remote mountainous regions. Access to potable water and medicine remains a leading cause of illness and fatalities in the communities, especially for children and women. To epitomise the gravity of the situation, Subcomandante Ramona, one of the EZLN’s most loved leaders and a beacon of equality for women in the movement, died of a curable kidney condition whilst en route to a health clinic from an isolated mountain community.

Problems facing the Zapatistas

While the movement is steeled by its uncompromising principles and integrity, it is hindered by a lack of resources and infrastructure. Currently there are only a handful of facilities in Chiapas that train young indigenous people vocational skills to bring valuable skills back to their communities. There has also been support from international solidarity groups. However, since the Zapatistas are autonomous, external aid is accepted only from non-governmental sources. In spite of the death of Ramona and the continuing poverty of communities, the movement has been growing stronger in spirit, especially in recent months.

candle lit shrine

“The Other Campaign”
As a response to the opaque processes and mudslinging of the looming Mexican presidential elections, the Zapatistas have launched “The Other Campaign”. The comandancia are currently touring Mexico to educate and empower civilians about the alternatives for the corrupt government that serves the insatiable capitalist machine that is currently in power. Although primarily an indigenous rights movement, the Zapatistas embrace all peoples fighting towards democracy, justice and liberty. They are part of a global wave of people standing up against a system that values profit over people and nature and striving for a global citizenry of dignity, democracy, freedom and justice.

TAKE ACTION!

  • Learn more about the Zapatistas from www.ezln.org.mx, indymedia or from a range of publications at the Freedom Shop on Cuba Mall (I recommend the book “Our Word is Our Weapon, by Subcomdante Marcos)
  • Support international solidarity programs
  • Visit Chiapas and work with some of the communities. Organisations like Chiapas Peace House (www.chiapaspeacehouse.org) act as centres to support and delegate overseas volunteers in Chiapas.
  • Learn more about the state of indigenous peoples and their rights in your area.
  • Learn more about the negative impacts of corporate globalisation and the effect of multilateral free trade agreements like NAFTA

Beyond fair trade - brewing hope

Friday, April 7th, 2006

Grace Leung
hand holding green coffee beans
The Fair Trade movement has been growing significantly over the years and many more cafes and shops now sell fair trade coffee. However, a campus group at The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, called “Brewing Hope” works to take a step beyond fair trade by creating relationships between consumers and the communities which grow and harvest their coffee. Brewing Hope buys coffee directly from the autonomous, Zapatista-affiliated coffee cooperative Yachil in Chiapas, Mexico. Taking Fair Trade a step further, Brewing Hope organizes exchanges programs. It brings coffee farmers and cooperative members from Chiapas to Ann Arbor to teach communities about their struggles for autonomy and freedom. Conversely, Brewing Hope brings delegates from Ann Arbor to Chiapas to learn about the stories behind their daily cup of joe.

In July 2005, I was one of 12-person delegation to visit San Cristobal de las Casas and nearby communities in Chiapas.

Our visit included meeting with local and international social and economic justice groups ranging from Chiapas Peace House (an organization that supports overseas volunteers) to CEDICI (a research and advocacy group that investigates into the Mexican military’s oppression of autonomous communities). We visited a vocational training school for indigenous youth so we could see how the next generation acquires skills to bring back to their communities, so that they may be autonomous and independent of government agencies.
4 mexican coffee farmers
We were also fortunate enough to stay the night in Chixilon with a community affiliated with Las Abejas, a non-violent group with similar principles to the Zapatistas. In accordance with the community’s needs, we brought with us medical supplies and other provisions to improve their water storage system. We also visited Acteal, a community who lost 45 members to an attack by paramilitaries, with the aid of the Mexican military, in 1997. It is highly likely that the attack was a response to the community’s quest for autonomy and independence from a corrupt government. We were all deeply inspired by the determination for true justice, and rebellious dignity of the people that we met at Acteal.

One particular woman at Acteal, who had introduced us to the women’s handicraft cooperative, recounted the murder of her brother and father in the 1997 massacre. Speaking only her native tongue of Tzetzal at the time, the event provoked her to learn Spanish, make contacts in nearby cities and organize a women’s handicrafts cooperative to revive and bring economic independence to her community.

Despite the benefits of Fair Trade, many potentials remain to be fulfilled. Indeed, despite getting the certified fair trade price of US$1.26 per pound of unroasted coffee beans, the community that we visited must still walk up to 2 hours to the nearest source of marginally potable water in the dry season. Moreover, with the global price of coffee rising, Fair Trade prices are beginning to be less lucrative for farmers, many of whom are tempted to avoid the processes of fair trade and cooperative participation and selling to middlemen (locally called coyotes) instead. Although in the short term, this means less work for the farmers, it leads to the loss of their Fair Trade certification and leaves them vulnerable to the price fluctuations determined by the coyotes.

Because of the recovering prices of conventional coffee on the international market, the next few years will be testing for the Fair Trade communities to continue to comply with the Fair Trade regulations. Many communities also face labour shortages due to the migration of young people to urban areas in search of waged labour. These were some of the concerns that the community shared with us that consumers usually give limited thought

The delegation provided a valuable opportunity for a reciprocal interaction between consumers and coffee growers, the complexities of which go far beyond a cup of coffee. Visits like ours are a small but significant way of showing solidarity with people struggling for justice and freedom. Perhaps this is a future direction for the Fair Trade movement, one in which the consumer looks beyond the latte in their hands and indeed, all goods, creating a new global economy which brings consumers and producers together in the fight for justice and sustainability.

TAKE ACTION!

Read more about Brewing Hope

Find out which cafes near you use fair trade coffee

Learn more about Fair Trade from Trade Aid and the Fair Trade Assosciation of Australia and New Zealand

Beautiful pain in Haiti

Friday, March 24th, 2006

Geoff Cooper

Haiti
geoff cooper with a haitian boy

  • World’s poorest western country
  • 9,000 UN troops
  • 10 kidnappings everyday
  • Life expectancy at birth = 49 years

It was a full on trip to a country that few of my family wanted me to visit! The current political situation is “highly unstable” - to put it nicely. A two-week trip to a town called Petit-trou, a mere 7 hours (90km) from the capital city of Port-au-Prince, on roads that few of us would recognize as such.

The first question that I was asked on my arrival back in NZ was “were you surprised at the level of poverty?”

Now for those who are not aware, the poverty in Haiti is among the worst in the world (it is, in fact, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere). The poverty is BAD, of that there is no doubt. But having worked in the area of poverty reduction and education, this was one of the few areas that surprised me very little. In short I knew what to expect. And I was so glad that I did not get caught up in the poverty of Haiti, because it would have been easy to miss what is so very rich about Haiti . . . Community!

I have always believed that is more than a word . . . it is a concept, a way of life, a process of connectedness between the people whom you live beside.

The way the Haitians made each one of us feel like family was the heart of Haiti. Connecting with people in spite of the barrier of language and culture. Connecting because you see hope in one another, connecting because you understand that this is what humanity is about! This is what Haiti is so very rich in. If anything, it should make us question the word ‘poverty’ and why we associate it with a financial situation, rather than a communal one (who would be the third world if community was our measurement of development?)
view of buildings in haiti
My one fear from my trip to Haiti is that I got more out of it than the very people who I was suppose to be there to help. It is sad to see such vibrant people melting away in the face of our global world. Effectively being lost among our headlines of celebrity. The truth is they have so much to teach us about fulfillment, about what life is all about. This country makes me question the values that I hold so highly in my life, yet unconsciously refuse to extend to other parts of the world. The country and these people ask heavy questions of my convictions.

There is one last point I wish to make, surrounding the currently sexy topic of International Development. Haiti has taught me the important lesson of what international development is actually about. Let me first say what it is not.

International development is not about turning Lusaka into New York and Petit-trou will never be Taranaki . . . nor should it be! Our goal cannot be to reform these countries into our cultures so that they become bustling centers of economic activity. Our goal is to give these people options! Where they can make choices that agree with their values and their culture; and I imagine that would be one hell of a place to live in. They have the community, and the hope and the stamina . . . all we need to give them is a fair system in which to work. Jefferson called it justice.

The following poem was written by my good friend Leah Millis, an up and coming photographer (as you can tell) who was part of the medical team to Haiti- her words are much more real than anything I could convey about this situation.

woman in haiti with poem

Banking with minutes

Monday, November 14th, 2005

Omar Hamedclock

A young minor offender being sentenced by his peers, an American insurance company being paid for in time, a peer tutoring system that rewards students with recycled computers and Glasgow residents paying for tarot card readings by doing gardening. Four very different applications of one simple idea. Time as currency.

Across 12 countries, over 500 Time Banks are working towards what many see as the “Third Economy”. From Ghana to Japan there are now community organisations structured not around money but around time. It’s not charity, it’s community; it does not value dollars, it values time. Time Banks trade hours of voluntary work, work done for the community and for individuals. It does not create an economy, it creates a society.

It works simply, you give up one hour of your time to voluntary work and you gain one time dollar. You can spend that tax free dollar on local services and other people’s time volunteered by other participating individuals and organisations. And it does not matter if you are a corporate lawyer doing community legal work or a sixteen year old tutoring your neighbour’s children, everyone’s hour is worth the same. A computer system calculates how many time dollars you have and sends you an account based on your earnings and spending.

In London you can spend that time dollar on drama classes or gaining IT skills. There are no longer recipients of charity or what the creator of this system, American Civil Rights Lawyer, Edgar Cahn, calls “the throw away people”.

Time Banks are based on four principles; Assets, that every human being is one, Redefining Work, no more taking women’s, children’s, or volunteers’ work for granted, Reciprocity, replacing one way acts with two way ones, and Social Capital, what British PM Tony Blair calls the “magic ingredient”, the work done that benefits the community and through ongoing investments of which we can turn social breakdown into social cohesion.

Surprisingly, Time Banks have been incredibly successful. In London alone there are 31 Time Banks that have clocked up over 28 000 hours in voluntary work. In Chicago refurbished computers were given out to 4800 students, in up to 50 problem schools, who did one hundred hours of peer tutoring and whose parents also did eight hours of community work. Academic results went up, bullying went down.

The crime ridden and notoriously poverty stricken housing development Benning Terrace in Washington DC now clocks up enough hours to buy four tons of food per month at the local food bank.

Law firm Holland and Knight billed the Shaw community in Washington for $230 000 in time dollars after they closed crack houses, made frozen government money available for a local playground, cleaned up local police corruption and kept the neighbourhood school open. The community repaid this by helping with the local clean up, school tutoring, a night escort service for elderly and by phoning in license plate numbers of drug dealers’ cars.

The benefit to the community does not end with the deed. With each payment and repayment bonds within the community strengthen and those people who have been told that they have no value; the unemployed, immigrants, the young and the elderly discover that they can in fact be an asset to the community. One participant of the scheme said it was “impossible not to make friends”.

In the UK, participation in Time Banks by those earning less than ’£10 000 is double that of the same demographic group participating in traditional volunteer work. Time Banks are redefining the responsible democratic citizen. A Californian law firm receives payment for legal advice by clients turning up to demonstrate outside the workplaces of bad employers.

Time as money schemes have the potential to revitalise the public sector by turning it from resource-stretched to resource-rich. With the expansion of the Time Bank scheme long waiting lists of mental health patients will be a thing of the past.

British doctors are already referring patients with long term depression to local Time Banks. What about New Zealand’s over stretched parole service and high rates of reoffending? In San Diego ex-prisoners pay for aftercare services in time dollars earned by being part of a support group.

In Washington D.C. volunteer youth jurors on a special Youth Court jury are paid in time dollars for their work. The youth offenders go before the court and are given community service sentences, Lifeskills training, they must make an apology to the victims and become a youth juror themselves.

The Youth Court is helping break down the cycle of reoffending which many justice systems encourage. In this way youth suddenly become responsible for participating in their community and finding alternatives to crime. One youth who was sentenced at the Youth Court later became a volunteer juror, helping other youth like himself.

What of Auckland’s growing traffic problem caused by low rates of public transport use? Plans have already been made in London for a “Tutor Commuter” program. You will be able to learn French on the Underground or teach English to new immigrants on the bus on your way to work.

In the 21st century Time Banks will have their day. Cahn’s goal, “To create a society where decency and caring are rewarded automatically” is becoming a reality in London, Washington and many other cities. How long before New Zealand joins this global movement? It is only a matter of time.

LEARN MORE

Time Dollar USA

Time Banks UK

Hunger, poverty and the real agenda of the IMF and world bank

Tuesday, October 18th, 2005

Cameron Walker

Created out of the Bretton Woods Conference of 1944 the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) claim to have the noble aims of helping third world nations to finance the building of infrastructure and to bridge balance of payments difficulties. However, many claim both institutions help ruin the economies of Third World nations through forced structural adjustment programmes, which are a condition to any loans or aid from them. Many also claim that the policies of both institutions directly benefit powerful multi-national corporations.

IMF logoThe draconian terms of the structural adjustment programmes often include the elimination of tariffs on imports, the forced privatisation of state owned assets, the removal of subsidies to local producers, the reduction of crop diversity and the forced export of crops to a small number of foreign buyers. These policies often lead to much poverty and injustice.

In 1999 the Bolivian city of Cochabamba privatised its public water supply under the intense pressure of the World Bank. The citizens of Cochabamba then as a result faced water bill price hikes of $20 a month. In a nation where the minimum wage is under $100 a month this was absolutely disastrous. What is even more shocking is that after privatisation the citizens of Cochabamba ended up paying more a month for water than people who live in the wealthiest suburbs of Washington D.C.

The policies of the World Bank and IMF are largely blamed for causing Malawi’s 2002 famine. The strings which were attached to an IMF loan package to Malawi included the privatisation of the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation, removal of agricultural subsidies to small farmers and the deregulation of price controls on staple foods such as maize. Between October 2001 and March 2002 the price of maize increased by 400 percent as a result of these policies. In 2002 Malawi spent 20 percent of its national budget on debt repayment to Western creditors. This is more than Malawi spent on health, education and agriculture combined.

The foreign debt of many Third World nations will literally take hundreds of years to pay off. Indonesia’s foreign debt for example is $262 billion. This is 170 percent of Indonesia’s gross domestic product. Every day poor nations pay $100 million to Western creditors in debt repayment, mainly to institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank. Since the 1980’s the policies of these institutions have led to developing nations paying out five times as much capital to rich industrialised nations as they have received in aid.

Decisions at the World Bank and the IMF are made by a vote of the board of executive directors, which represent member states. The voting process does not reflect proper democracy because voting power is determined by the amount a member state contributes to the institutions. This means the U.S.A has roughly 17 percent of the vote and has a dominant voice on policy and at times has exercised the power of veto. The World’s seven largest industrialised nations have 45 percent of the vote at the World Bank and IMF. As a result of this the policies of the World Bank and IMF often directly benefit industries based in Western industrialised nations. The company which bought Cochabamba’s water supply after it was privatised was Aguas del Tunari, part of International Water Limited, a British based company half owned by the American engineering giant, Bechtel. U.S. treasury officials have estimated that for every $1 the United States contributes to International development banks, U.S. exporters win more than U.S. $2 in bank financed procurement contracts.

It would seem to be common sense for poor nations to be encouraged to be self sufficient in food production; common sense seems to be contrary to World Bank and IMF policy. Some poor nations have had to endure having their crop diversity limited and then being forced to export the few crops produced to Western Nations. In the early 1990’s the famous investigative journalist John Pilger pointed out that forty percent of arable land in Senegal is used for growing peanuts for Western margarine and in Ghana fifty percent of arable land is used for growing cocoa for export to make Western chocolate bars. Both of these nations suffer malnutrition yet export most of their crops; a scene reminiscent of Ireland under British Imperialism during the potato famine of the 1840’s.

It is easy to come to the conclusion that the World Bank and IMF’s true agenda is very different than the one they sell to the public. They claim to help poor nations but really aid multinational corporations at the expense of Third World nations. These two institutions need to be greatly reformed to be any use in helping tackle one of the greatest problems of the early 21st Century, poverty.

References

Burgo, Ezequiel and Stewart, Heather ( 29/10/2002) The Guardian

Pilger, John (1994) Distant Voices London: Vintage

Pilger, John (2002) The New Rulers Of The World London: Verso

LEARN MORE

World Bank/IMF Factsheet