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Posts Tagged ‘Peace and Conflict’

Changing the world one word at a time

Friday, April 24th, 2009

Global Bits - Issue 16 (24 Pages)

Global Education Centre

cover-art-issue-161This Global Bits offers readers a chance to look inside the heads of our future leaders – and to understand the issues and passions that drive them. Open to all 12-18 year olds, 10 young people were picked for this programme for the first time in 2008. In this issue these creative and savvy new authors relate history to global politics. They unravel subjects such as international guidelines for human rights the difference between actual and relative poverty, and just how democracy works.

Watch this space for our new group in 2009!

Download PDF 5.44MB

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

Public Action: Let the chalk talk

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

By Elliot Taylor

chalk protest against cluster bombsThe sun bore down on Civic Square at high noon on 20 February 2008 as members of the public, diplomatic representatives, and civil society activists joined forces on the warmed cobblestones, their frames outlined in chalk as a visual protest organised by the Aotearoa New Zealand Cluster Munition Coalition. Delegates rushed to apply sun block after rumours circulated of the depleted ozone layer looming above New Zealand. Placards in many languages were held high — Portuguese, Thai, French, Spanish, Sanskrit, and English. Indian and Pakistani stood side by side with one voice. With her equally powerful voice, Jody Williams, 1997 Nobel Peace Laureate, let loose from an invisible soapbox and the media loved every moment. In some respects, it was glorious advocacy. Public action as we wish it always is.

Yet what it represented is far less glorious.

“I think it’s disgusting the kind of damage that these cluster bombs do,” said 18-year-old Sam Oldham, after signing his name inside a chalk outline. “I’m definitely hoping that they’ll be banned.”

Lwindi Ellis, PR Director of Draft FCB, whose company dreamt up the public stunt, desires the same. “The more that I’ve learnt about cluster bombs, the more horrified I am that they still exist. I’m hoping that it will be a strong treaty in the end.”

Tania Mead, a 20-year-old student at Victoria University, found the visual aspect of the public stunt especially powerful. “I think this is a really important way of personifying your anger and your frustration that these kinds of weapons are still used with impunity. It’s a really great visual gesture in terms of trying to raise people’s awareness about what’s going on and how to prevent it.”

The simple message of this action needs to be emphasised: imagine Civic Square littered with victims of cluster munitions . Laura, Ian, Shamim, Becky, Elliot. They may have only been chalk outlines, but the names are real. cluster bomb survivors at protest in WellingtonImagine the victims of cluster munitions on the streets of your own capital. For some, that exercise may not be that tough. Still, the question remains, how close do the repercussions of deadly weapons have to get before empathy hits home? An ally? A neighbouring country? Our front doorstep?

The ever-effervescent Margaret Taylor of Amnesty International believes the buck stops here. “No exceptions. No outs. The sanest approach is to ensure that cluster munitions are banned full stop,” she stated firmly, with chalk in hand. “We need to stop seeing, 20 years after a war, people injured because of unexploded cluster munitions. And those victims, those survivors, need to be given recompense and a fresh start in life.”

Justin, a New Yorker residing in New Zealand, has seen first hand the effects of cluster munitions and landmines on civilians in South East Asia. For him the event was a timely reminder of these experiences abroad. “Everyone has a family member who’s either died or been maimed… It’s very traumatic. You feel horrible. It’s probably our responsibility. And if we can try to limit that for the future generations, then, well, that’s why we’re here.”

Phil Goff receieving a ban cluster bomb petition
On the evening following the public stunt, at a parliamentary reception, the delegation of cluster survivors dropped almost 3,000 petition signatures at the feet of New Zealand’s Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control, Phil Goff. Stunned at first, the Minister quickly recovered to thank the campaign for the ringing endorsement of support for his mission to establish the cluster ban treaty. He picked up one of the signed cluster bomb flyers and said, “If every one of these petitions was a vote for the cluster munitions treaty we’ll be on track to get a good result.” And the chalk echoes his call.

This article originally appeared in Cluster Ban News, Vol 1 Issue 4, 21 February 2008.


Oxfam campaigns against Cluster Bombs
Aotearoa New Zealand Stop Cluster Munition Coalition site
Wikipedia entry on Cluster bombs
Human Right Watch collection of documents on Cluster bombs
Heaps of info on http://www.stopclustermunitions.org/
Factsheet on cluster bombs on BBC news site

Cluster Bombs: A Weapon out of Control - Human Rights Watch video on YouTube
A short film documenting the lethal effects of the use of cluster munitions worldwide, with commentary, new statistics and analysis from military experts at Human Rights Watch. The footage shows how cluster munitions have endangered civilian populations from the Vietnam era through current conflicts in Iraq and Lebanon.
Watch a video report on how thousands of unexploded cluster munitions still cover the battlefields and are wounding many unintended victims (civilians) in Lebanon.


Write a letter (you can simply adapt the example one on the Cluster Munition coalition site) asking that the New Zealand Superannuation Fund stops investing in companies that produce cluster bombs such as weapons manufacturers Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.

Sign up for updates from Peace Movement Aotearoa at www.converge.org.nz/pma and receive CMC campaign bulletins by contacting laura@stopclustermunitions.org

Sign the petition on the Handicap International site calling for a ban on Cluster Bombs

Cluster munition survivor turned campaigner

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

An interview with Soraj Ghulam Habib
By Mava Moayyed

It’s difficult to envision the turmoil that Soraj Ghulam Habib experienced six years ago. To lose both legs is terrifying in itself, but the lasting implications of such an injury are far greater than the initial blow. Imagine absolute dependence on a hunk of metal with wheels. Imagine realising that this did not have to happen to you. At the tender age of ten years, Soraj experienced more grief than an average New Zealander would experience over their lifetime, but he has emerged strong and positive, “I never thought I face this kind of problem, but it happened and only God knows why. I am angry, but it is done and I’m always happy that I am alive,” he says.
Soraj Ghulam Habib
Now a sixteen-year-old teenager, Soraj radiates joy and passion. His presence at this conference is twofold—he serves as a reminder of the devastating effects of cluster munitions but even more importantly he is an ardent lobbyist and campaigner against the weapon. Dubbed a “wheelchair warrior” by the Wellington newspaper, Soraj says, “I feel I have a big role to play here because of the countries that are asking for transition periods and interoperability—I will lobby against them.”

Soraj’s desire to have cluster munitions banned with no leeway or margin for compromise comes from his firsthand experience of the social and economic effects of the weapon on his family and community. “I have bad feelings towards cluster munitions. In those areas where cluster munitions have been used, the community is affected greatly. There are people that have lost their lives forever. People who were injured have become disabled, but they have also lost all the dreams they had before,” he explains.

As a child, Soraj anticipated he would grow up to serve his community and work towards peace in Afghanistan. After surviving a cluster submunition explosion, Soraj felt that he had lost the ability to fulfil his dreams, “When I was lying in the bed in the hospital I thought I won’t be alive in the future because I lost a lot of blood from my legs and finger. I was so close to dying.” With his family faced with the challenge of a son in a wheel chair, Soraj felt guilty and angry that he could not do anything for them.

Soraj is, however, fulfilling his dreams. He is a key figure in the campaign against cluster munitions and has no intention of slowing down, “I have a lot of big plans for the next ten years. In Wellington, I am trying to lobby with the bad guys to convince them to ban cluster bombs When I go back to Afghanistan, I will campaign to convince my government and my country to dispose of these and other weapons.”

Soraj directs his last piece of advice to the leaders and government attending the conference, “I call on all to see my reality and ban the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of cluster munitions. It really harms the civilians and the communities that just want a peaceful life.
Do not destroy your child’s future. Do not destroy your communities’ future. Take a moment and really find the opportunity to stop the devastation.”

This article (and the photo) originally appeared in Cluster Ban News, Vol 1 Issue 3, 20 February 2008


Oxfam campaigns against Cluster Bombs
Aotearoa New Zealand Stop Cluster Munition Coalition site
Wikipedia entry on Cluster bombs
Human Right Watch collection of documents on Cluster bombs

Talk with Me: Happiness is Ubiquitous

Monday, November 12th, 2007

Talk With Me, a national writing competition for secondary school students, is run by the Petone Settlers Museum in association with the Department of Labour and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. It was first run in 2006 alongside a major exhibition Walk with Me: the Refugee Experience in New Zealand.

Nosia Fogogo is a refugee from Burundi, Africa. She came to New Zealand in 2005 aged 16. She’s the overall winner of Talk With Me.

Happiness is Ubiquitous
By Nosia Fogogo

Nosia Fogogo

Unknown people, they came and took my grandfather. We did not know why or where they took him. Nor did we know what they were going to do with him. The people, their intentions and reasons were all unknown to us.

My family was known for their courage and it was also known they would be the first to get killed. They knew it too, that’s why they never tried to hide anything from me. They told me every single thing they thought I needed to know. My mother once said to my ears, “That which you need will always be what you want”. To this day, I walk around with it in my head. Her voice follows me, my shadow memory.

It’s true, I witnessed my family’s death. I know who murdered my parents, but what can I do about it? I’m now safe as a refugee in New Zealand with such freedom and peace. If I didn’t get a chance to escape, I would have been long gone. The people I saw kill my family would have killed me too. When I was hiding behind the big green tree I heard them saying that once they found me they would cut my head into four pieces and feed my heart to the dogs. They didn’t get their wish. God saved me.

I now stand safe and fearless with no one to feed my heart to those dogs. Because I was lucky enough to escape death and I now live to share my story.


I ran and ran
I cried and cried
If my day
Is to be running and crying
I would rather die in my sleep
Poor child
Happiness is no longer
Taken away
They are already at the green gate
We have no chance, no way to get out
We have no chance to save our lives
We have no time to breathe in and out
We have no way to run
Aren’t we dead?
Is this the end of happiness?
Is this our end?

They are at the front door; my parents have already decided I have to run. Both said We love you.’ I had no chance to say goodbye. I never got a chance to tell them what I felt. I now leave it all to God.

As soon as I closed the door behind me, they were inside the house asking for money and my father gave them all he had. My mother was crying. My heart started beating harder. My heart was not in its place. There was a gun on my father’s chest. There was a gun on my mother’s head. I could hear my mother crying. I wanted to scream, but didn’t. I was hiding, hiding to save myself and to tell this story.

I was hiding behind the big green tree. The tree planted by my father two years after getting married to my mother. Was it going to save my life? I heard gunshots from inside the house. I no longer could hear my mother crying. With my heart beating even faster, I wasn’t afraid of dying. So why was I still hiding? The men were screaming questions, and I heard my mother answer. They were asking for my brother and me. But he was overseas and mother lied about me. She told them I was sleeping over at a friend’s house. They were laughing, but my mother was crying. They were asking for her credit card and pin numbers, she gave them all they wanted. I heard her say, “Please, take all you want and leave me.” That “me” was her last word.

They walked out, all fifteen of them. Some had guns, others knives. They left one knife behind in our driveway. They burnt our cars. Inside, I saw blood everywhere. My father’s body was on the white couch, the couch soaked with his blood. I cried over my parents’ bodies. Blood all over me, my hands filled with blood. I looked at my mother’s body and cried out to her; “what am I going to do without you?” What was I to do? I didn’t know.

Running, stepping in the dark on the dead bodies of people I knew - my relatives, my friends and my neighbours. At the border, I washed the blood off my hands and said goodbye to my birth country. I made a promise:

I will speak
I will stand to make speeches
I will sing what I saw
I will cry out my anger
I will scurry to carry the flag of all refugees
I will swallow the soup to get the source of the sound of the past and
I will keep my promise for tomorrow

I am talking to you. I want you to hear what I am saying even though the gunshots are louder than my voice. I am calling your name. I need your hand on my shoulder. I once cried with no sound, if I let it all out now, could you wipe my tears? Tell me, why do I have all these heavy thoughts in my head? Do you want to hear it from my own mouth? It is true as white milk: I do not have to hide anything. I have lost myself and now I am trying to find my second self.

I am just a strong girl
Who came from a long way
Who has much to say and much to see
Who has lots to talk about the painful and powerful
I am not the history maker
But I am the storyteller
I will tell you what I think
You need to know
I will let you hear the voice of
The real refugee.

Check out the other two winners’ pieces: Kate Brooks’s ‘Kifah’ - struggle and Juliette Varuhas’s Never, Never .


Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006

Eva Lawrence, Just Focus Coordinator

angel wingsReligion and spirituality are a huge part of our world, and help form the culture and values of many millions of people within it. Religion is a really contentious issue… probably because it is so essential to so many people. The discussion board on the Just Focus website, which I regularly visit, has a thread on religion that has been going now for almost a year with heaps of comments and heated debate. I felt a bit ignorant about religion, so I thought I would do some exploring.

taj mahalReligion is a way for people to connect to a power greater than themselves, to try to make sense of the things that are difficult, or impossible to explain purely with logical reason. It offers solace in hard times, and an avenue to give thanks for the good stuff. It provides teachings on how to go about that difficult task of living right’, and gives comfort when we think about our own death, and that of our loved ones.

But despite all the peaceful behaviour taught, religion can be, and has been, used as an excuse for war and all sorts of human rights abuses. Religion is incredibly powerful because followers often believe that their own religion is the only “truth” and therefore they are sanctioned by their god to act in a particular way, even if this hurts other people.
Buddha statue
Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: “Religion is like a knife. When you use a knife for cutting up bread to prepare sandwiches, a knife is good. If you use the same knife to stick into somebody’s guts, a knife is bad. Religion in and of itself is not good or bad.”

Therefore, religion can be a power for good but also has the potential for evil — depending on how it is interpreted by humans at particular times and in particular circumstances. Perhaps one way to maximise the positive side to religion, and minimise the negative is to increase understanding of what different religions exist and what they are all about.
inside a mosque
World Snap Shot
So what does the world look like?

If the world contained 1000 people, it would include 315 Christians, 195 Muslims, 165 “non religious” people, 56 Buddhists, 135 Hindus, 59 Chinese Traditionalists (or folk religion), 2 Jews, and 49 other religious/spiritual believers.

Potato Religion
“Religion is like a potato restaurant — it’s the same food served different ways”.
This epiphany came from my wise friend Heather one day while we were eating fish and chips. I tend to agree. I don’t mean to discount the importance of each belief system, or to say they are all the same. What I mean is that basically the teaching intrinsic in all world religions is “be a good person”.
The rules’ of various religions usually include: don’t steal, don’t commit adultery and don’t murder anyone.

Religion in Aotearoa
In God-zone’/Aotearoa, the diversity in religious beliefs is increasing according to the 2001 census.

Over half the population affiliate with a Christian religion. While this is a lot, it is much less than even 50 years ago.
christian statue
From 1996 to 2001 there was about a 50% increase in the number of Buddhists and Hindus in NZ. The number of Muslims increased by around 75% and the number of people who identified with a form of spiritualism’ increased by around 60%. However as of 2001, each of these groups still made up less than 1% of the population. In this same census, almost 4 out of 10 people did not specify a religious affiliation. Do you?


When I started writing this piece I wanted to write an idiot’s guide to religion — a basic snapshot of what the major religions are about and what beliefs each have. But after doing a whole lot of reading, I realise I would have to simplify stuff so much it would be meaningless. So…you will have to do your own homework to become an expert!

  • Find out about other religions — the more understanding, the less confusion and fear.
    Adherents.com is a website with info on many different religions
  • Beliefnet is the largest spiritual web site. They are independent and not affiliated with any spiritual organization or movement. They say their only agenda is to help you meet your spiritual needs.
  • hannukahPeople of Faith - Here you can begin to explore the rich diversity of the world’s main faiths and religions from the viewpoint of individuals from each faith and religion. They’ve included details of some of the main features of each religion together with a ‘personal’ view of what is ‘believed’, what it means to ‘belong’, and how a person’s belief affects what they do and say
  • Global Issues magazine on religion
  • Just Change Magazine on religion

This article was originally published in Jet magazine in the Focus column.

Conflict and War

Thursday, October 9th, 2003

The pain and suffering of war continues and the world never seems to learn. But violent conflict can and must be stopped. Everybody needs to work together to achieve a just world peace.

Over 300,000 child soldiers are now involved in more than 30 conflicts worldwide.

  • In the last decade 103 armed conflicts worldwide have cumulatively taken the lives of nearly 100 million people in 40 countries.
  • Nine out of 10 fatalities during these wars were innocent civilians, half of them children.
  • In 1998 alone, armed conflicts resulted in 31 million refugees and displaced persons.
  • Over one million mines have been planted in Somalia while in Cambodia there are two mines for every child and one person in every 236 is an amputee.
  • Torture occurs in more than 100 countries and is part of government policy in at least 40.
  • Reports following 1994 genocide in Rwanda revealed that nearly every female over the age of 12 who survived was raped.
  • Compulsory military service exists in 94 nations, and in about half of them conscientious objectors can be imprisoned, fined or have their service doubled.
  • One tenth of the world’s military budget is enough to eradicate poverty worldwide.
  • Costa Rica is the only country in the world without an army.

What causes conflict?

RESOURCES — An estimated 50 percent of wars are resource-related. Resources include: territory, mineral deposits, fertile land, good water, ports and cities.

IDENTITY — Conflicting values, cultures, ideas or religions can create explosive situations.

POLITICS — Struggles can occur between different classes, groups, countries or leaders over power, resources, recognition or political control.

INEQUALITY — The widening gap in incomes and the failure of governments to be fair and just has created bitterness and anger among the world’s poor.

HISTORICALConflict is often motivated by previous events and a sense of injustice or revenge.

Children and young people are particularly at risk from war and conflict.
An a vacuum of suffering and pain, safety, stability, peace and education are an unimaginable luxury.
Some children are forcibly abducted and used as soldiers, porters, sex slaves or mine clearers. Over 300,000 child soldiers are now involved in more than 30 conflicts worldwide.

In the last ten years:

  • One million children have been orphaned or separated from their families
  • Two million have died as a direct result of armed conflict
  • Six million have been permanently disabled or seriously injured
  • Twenty million children have become refugees


This article was written as part of Global Focus a collaborative project of Tearaway Magazine and the Global Education Centre. It was first published in Tearaway magazine and is reprinted here with their permission

Photo: OxfamCAA

Reducing conflict and building peace

Thursday, October 9th, 2003

The Global Focus Youth Advisory Team: Amanda Edwards, Amina Lafraie, Erin Young, Lisa Woods, Yadana Saw & Paul Zoubkov

Everybody needs to work together to achieve peace.

Realise that you can do plenty!

  • While keeping an open mind, be sceptical of mainstream media.
  • Find out more about peace and conflict (if you can, use the internet!).
  • Talk to your friends and whanau about issues.
  • Organise an event or a campaign to raise awareness of war and the importance of peace building. It might be a concert, a public talk or a demonstration.
  • Shop sensibly — support fair trade companies that are not linked to war and conflict
  • Lobby the government and your local members of parliament. If you’re 18 you can vote or stand in elections.
  • Volunteer with an organisation like Amnesty International, support campaigns like Ban Landmines’, or join a global networks of concerned and active young people like takingitglobal.org.
  • Think about your own attitudes and practice principles of peace in your own life.
  • Remember, that journey of a thousand miles begins with a small step!


Wire Tap

    A Case Study: From small beginnings

    Despite their country’s hefty military budget and compulsory military service, five young men in Paraguay decided to act and set up the Military Objection Movement.

    Within a few years over 25,000 fellow military objectors had flocked to their cause. By advocating for basic human rights and adequate spending on health, education and housing they have forced a number of positive changes in their country.

    What’s happening in New Zealand?
    NZAIDNgaHoe Tuputupu-mai-tawhiti

    NZAID is a government organisation committed to helping reduce conflict among our Pacific Island neighbours.

    It does this by promoting and strengthening the ability of Pacific Islands to govern themselves.
    Approximately 40 percent of NZAID’s assistance in the Pacific supports programmes in governance. Examples of current work include:

    • Funding projects to promote peace-building and conflict prevention
    • Allocation of aid funding for humanitarian and conflict resolution
    • Funding for domestic violence programmes, local police and support for women’s refuges
    • The development of legal and court systems.

    This article was written as part of Global Focus a collaborative project of Tearaway Magazine and the Global Education Centre. It was first published in Tearaway magazine and is reprinted here with their permission