Archive for the ‘Democracy & Human Rights’ Category

24
Jun

A tragic split

Written on June 24, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Democracy & Human Rights, EU Expansion, Europe, Foreign Policy

HOW quickly the unthinkable became the irreversible. A year ago few people imagined that the legions of Britons who love to whinge about the European Union—silly regulations, bloated budgets and pompous bureaucrats—would actually vote to leave the club of countries that buy nearly half of Britain’s exports. Yet, by the early hours of June 24th, it was clear that voters had ignored the warnings of economists, allies and their own government and, after more than four decades in the EU, were about to step boldly into the unknown.

The tumbling of the pound to 30-year lows offered a taste of what is to come. As confidence plunges, Britain may well dip into recession. A permanently less vibrant economy means fewer jobs, lower tax receipts and, eventually, extra austerity. The result will also shake a fragile world economy. Scots, most of whom voted to Remain, may now be keener to break free of the United Kingdom, as they nearly did in 2014. Across the Channel, Eurosceptics such as the French National Front will see Britain’s flounce-out as encouragement. The EU, an institution that has helped keep the peace in Europe for half a century, has suffered a grievous blow.

Published in the Economist on June 24th, 2016
20
Jun

FGM

What is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)? Female genital mutilation or ablation involves the partial or total removal of the external sexual organs of women. FGM is a custom that is currently practiced in many countries in Africa and Asia. This brutal practice is to control female sexual desire and what is more, to get the total submission of women to the family and the husband (Fundacion Kirira).

FGM’s Prevalence: According to the World Health Organization, it is estimated that 200 million girls alive today have undergone FGM and there are 3 million girls at risk of undergoing the practice every year, with the majority of girls being cut before 15 years of age (2013).

On May 31, the International Relations Club had the honor of hosting a Female Gentile Mutilation (FGM) seminar at IE. The seminar featured Estrella Gimenez the President of Fundacion Kirira, which is an NGO in Spain that helps fight against FGM. In addition to Estrella’s presentation, we also had a MIR student Lula Tensaew tell her touching story about the daily struggles she faces having undergone this practice. Estrella started by sharing the story of how the foundation came about and in a sad tone Estrella said, “One summer in August, I went on a typical safari trip to Kenya and couldn’t help but realize that something was wrong”. The shocking reality was that August was the month of female mutilations in the Tharaka village and all the young girls were being mutilated. When someone in the village asked her why she had not been mutilated, with astonishment, Estrella realized that there was a deep underlying problem. Many girls were dropping out of school to undergo mutilation as early as 12 years of age to prepare them for marriage. Estrella started her NGO in 2002 and 14 years later, thanks to the Kirira Foundation, FGM has been reduced drastically from 90% to less than 5% of FGM cases in the village of Tharaka. Estrella and her team have truly been successful in saving many girls’ lives and they are true heroes.

MIR student Lula Tensaew, shared that when she was a young girl living in Eritrea she was mutilated at 2 years of age. She wanted to shed light on this horrible practice and also believes that by raising awareness, the lives of many girls could be saved. Throughout her life, she has dealt with many health issues due to FGM and emphasized that, “there are many women like me worldwide living with this pain in silence”. We thank Lula for sharing such a personal and deep story. She is truly worthy of our respect and admiration.

 

13
Jun

The Swedish Migration Agency in Malmo, the southern port city on the border with Denmark, occupies a square brick building at the far edge of town. On the day that I was there, Nov. 19, 2015, hundreds of refugees, who had been bused in from the train station, queued up outside in the chill to be registered, or sat inside waiting to be assigned a place for the night. Two rows of white tents had been set up in the parking lot to house those for whom no other shelter could be found. Hundreds of refugees had been put in hotels a short walk down the highway, and still more in an auditorium near the station.

When the refugee crisis began last summer, about 1,500 people were coming to Sweden every week seeking asylum. By August, the number had doubled. In September, it doubled again. In October, it hit 10,000 a week, and stayed there even as the weather grew colder. A nation of 9.5 million, Sweden expected to take as many as 190,000 refugees, or 2 percent of the population — double the per capita figure projected by Germany, which has taken the lead in absorbing the vast tide of people fleeing the wars in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere.

That afternoon, in the cafeteria in the back of the Migration Agency building, I met with Karima Abou-Gabal, an agency official responsible for the orderly flow of people into and out of Malmo. I asked where the new refugees would go. “As of now,” she said wearily, “we have no accommodation. We have nothing.” The private placement agencies with whom the migration agency contracts all over the country could not offer so much as a bed. In Malmo itself, the tents were full. So, too, the auditorium and hotels. Sweden had, at that very moment, reached the limits of its absorptive capacity. That evening, Mikael Ribbenvik, a senior migration official, said to me, “Today we had to regretfully inform 40 people that we could [not] find space for them in Sweden.” They could stay, but only if they found space on their own.

Nothing about this grim denouement was unforeseeable — or, for that matter, unforeseen. Vast numbers of asylum-seekers had been pouring into Sweden both because officials put no obstacles in their way and because the Swedes were far more generous to newcomers than were other European countries. A few weeks earlier, Sweden’s foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, had declared that if the rest of Europe continued to turn its back on the migrants, “in the long run our system will collapse.” The collapse came faster than she had imagined. Read more…

By James Traub, Feb. 10. 2016; www.foreignpolicy.com

30
May

The comparison was inflammatory, to say the least. Former Gov. William F. Weld of Massachusetts equated Donald J. Trump’s immigration plan with Kristallnacht, the night of horror in 1938 when rampaging Nazis smashed Jewish homes and businesses in Germany and killed scores of Jews.

But if it was a provocative analogy, it was not a lonely one. Mr. Trump’s campaign has engendered impassioned debate about the nature of his appeal and warnings from critics on the left and the right about the potential rise of fascism in the United States. More strident opponents have likened Mr. Trump to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

To supporters, such comparisons are deeply unfair smear tactics used to tar conservatives and scare voters. For a bipartisan establishment whose foundation has been shaken by Mr. Trump’s ascendance, these backers say, it is easier to delegitimize his support than to acknowledge widespread popular anger at the failure of both parties to confront the nation’s challenges.

But the discussion comes as questions are surfacing around the globe about a revival of fascism, generally defined as a governmental system that asserts complete power and emphasizes aggressive nationalism and often racism. In places like Russia and Turkey, leaders like Vladimir V. Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan employ strongman tactics. In Austria, a nationalist candidate came within three-tenths of a percentage point of becoming the first far-right head of state elected in Europe since World War II.

 

 

12
May

As the Philippines ushers in the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, the longtime mayor of Davao, the country is poised for dramatic changes from the leadership of Benigno Aquino III. Aquino’s tenure was generally stable, and he oversaw the longest sustained period of growth the country had enjoyed in decades. Aquino rhetorically touted the need to retain strong democratic institutions, and he also used typical political methods of trying to achieve policy successes: he consulted with advisors, unveiled policy platforms, and then tried to build support for them in the legislature and with the public. His persona was rarely controversial. Yet even as he tried to combat corruption and oversaw high growth, Aquino achieved only modest success in reducing income inequality, long one of the most significant problems in the country. Despite new cash transfer programs, inequality in the archipelago has grown in the past three years, according to Patricia Abinales of the University of Hawaii. Indeed, she notes, despite consistent growth rates of six percent or above during Aquino’s tenure:

“Job-generation has not caught up. Unemployment continues to hover between 6 and 6.6 per cent. The Philippine poverty rate remains one of the highest in Asia at 16.6 per cent, while income inequality has worsened in the last three years, though the remittances of overseas Filipino workers-which rose to a high of US$28.4 billion in 2014-mitigate this sad portrait.” Read more…

By Joshua Kurlantzick

May 11, 2016; This piece was originally published by Asia Unbound, a blog by the Council on Foreign Relations, and Forbes Asia. Follow the author on Twitter.

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