Bangladesh: Police and Youth Unite for a Safer Community

by Md. Sariful Islam

 

 Meetings, lectures and open dialogues among the police and students at different faculties and departments of universities are regularly arranged and they play a significant role to change the negative, generalised perception about police.

 

Youth involvement in crime has become a painstaking problem for development in Bangladesh. The rate of youth involvement in various crimes is so alarming that it has become a burning topic in the country. Different statistics show that in Bangladesh the number of youth involved in anti-social activities appears to be on the rise. The outcome of such an increasing rate will surely be a prime threat to the social, economic and political arena that will pose a severe threat to sustainable growth of Bangladesh.

Mainly the youths who lack proper education, have less family control, feel estranged in love, and come under peer pressure, mental stress, unemployment, poverty and influence of alien culture through media, improper utilization of leisure time, political exploitation can easily fall down in vulnerable situation through involving themselves in crimes. Along with these factors, deviation from morality, norms and values create an unwholesome environment that shapes the youths’ criminal behavior. All these issues are continuously contributing to the increasing number of the juvenile delinquency. Nowadays, eve-teasing, sexual offences, drug addiction, mugging, theft, possession of illegal arms and explosives, some other law breaking behavior by the youths are very common scenario in the society.

In this regard, DMP-Youth Cooperation Series (DYCS) is a program undertaken by the Asia Foundation to increase cooperation between the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) and young people. The program’s goal is to strengthen public security in the Dhaka metropolitan area through greater cooperation between law enforcement and young people. To contribute to this goal, this program addresses two main objectives that are- improve perceptions of local law enforcement among Dhaka metropolitan university students and increase reporting of crime to local police in Dhaka.

DYCS program aims to bring the youths and police together on the same ground and creates an opportunity for both youth and police to introduce and understand each other to make bridge and reduce the gap among them. It has made a common platform for both the parties where police and youths sit together and talk about their distance and how the distance can be reduced. They also discuss on ways to help each other and learn about the laws and regulations regarding crime reporting and other issues.

Under this initiative, police and university students are partner in the design and implementation of joint action plans aimed at enhancing public security and police-citizen relations through increased collaborative activities and information-sharing across the two groups. This initiative has the potential to create a replicable model that impacts not only its target audience of university students, but also the adults and other young people that form part of their wider networks. Under this initiative, police and university students work collaboratively to have a better understanding and ameliorate the current youth-police relationship. Various initiatives under this program like workshops, seminars, lectures, trainings, contests, competitions, open discussions and campaigns are being arranged to bring the police officials and the students under the same umbrella to have a more concrete knowledge and understanding of the existing Police-Youth relationship. The active participation of the youths and police in different events of the program will spread the gained knowledge and expertise to other members of the youth organizations and police.

Volunteering in social work is always a ground for the volunteers to know each other closely and through different activities under DYCS program, the police and the youths are working hand in hand as volunteers and bringing them on the same ground that makes a space to understand each other. It also brings them more close to know everyone’s side through introducing themselves with each other, sharing views and understanding the youth-police nexus.

It is important to have a face to face orientation among the youths and police for sharing views, understanding the unknown aspects of both sides through question-answer session, collaborative plans to ameliorate the current situation. Considering the importance, DYCS prorgam provides the opportunity to the students to talk to the police and share their views and vice versa the police hear the voice of the youths. Thus meetings, lectures and open dialogues among the police and students at different faculties and departments of the universities are regularly arranged and it goes without saying that such meetings, lectures and dialogues play very significant role to change the negative generalized perception about police. It creates a cooperative atmosphere among the youths and police which is very significant for a sustainable and effective cooperation among them. We strongly believe such initiative will contribute to bring a positive change in our society.

The police benefit from the information that youths provide and the youths are better off with a police force that does not feel it needs to rely on heavy-handed tactics to gather information. Hence it is very important for youths to provide information to police and cooperate with the police to make a better community through creating a better network with police. DYCS program activities aim to increase communication and bridge the gap between youth and police, while simultaneously increasing the crime reporting among participating youth through an Android mobile app developed by DMP. Information shared by the youth on any crime-related issue can greatly benefit the police by making our community safer. The name of the app is “Dhaka Metropolitan Police: DMP” and can be searched through Play Store of Android phones. It provides the phone numbers of Officers In-Charge (OC) and Duty Officers of all 51 DMP police stations. Anyone can use the app to inform the police about any crime, including violence against women or other important information, such as accidents, fire etc.

There is no denying the fact that such an initiative will be a catalyst to make a strong collaboration among the youths and police that will help both the parties to make a better and peaceful society.

The DYCS program is also successful in developing a sense of responsibility and respect among participating police and youth and in creating awareness about the importance of youth-police cooperation to build a safe community.

(The author works for the Asia Foundation)

Can Regulation Incent Electrification?

by Owen Reynolds

One of the basic limitations to international development in the 21st Century has been a lack of energy—a lack of which can be disastrous for daily life and local economies. Surprisingly, however, some energy analysts speculate that it’s not a failure of technology or capitalism. That is to say that the lack of electricity is not due to a lack of supply, demand or the purchasing power to express that demand. Rather, the lack of a sturdy regulatory framework has stymied energy markets in developing nations across the world.

For example, Sub-Saharan Africa suffers a stark lack of energy infrastructure, even when compared to other regions of the developing world. While Northern Africa is relatively well connected, only about a quarter of Sub-Saharan Africans have connection to an electric grid—not to mention reliable service. In total, 1.5 billion people currently live with no electric service.

The immediate affects range from the inconvenient to the tragic. A lack of electric services and lights leaves students unable to study into the evening, especially across rural areas of the developing world. Without lights, people use firewood for light and cooking fuel, causing respiratory infections when used indoors. Worse yet, women in Sub-Saharan African nations walk hours a day for firewood and water—often alone and subjected to the dangers of rape and murder.

The social tragedy and economic inequity associated with a lack of electric connectivity and the end goal of connecting people to the grid are both clear. But the common assumption that such social maladies are the results of capitalism is flawed here. A respected regulator and energy policy analyst, Branko Terzic, believes that purchasing power frequently exists, but that no trade or development can be made if a market isn’t fostered and protected by a predictable regulatory framework. At a recent presentation for the U.S. Association for Energy Economics, he plainly stated that “regulation works”—both for developed and developing nations.

More competitive markets can find a balance between supply and demand. However, utilities like electric companies, water works and gas providers are huge entities. They naturally tend towards centralized management and monopoly power. It doesn’t make sense to have multiple electric utility wires, much less multiple water mains at every residence to facilitate competition. Rather, the tendency of the industry is to condense into companies which control entire regions.

In response to this obvious market perversion, government regulators have developed strict limitations to revenue recovery and fair treatment of customers. Regulators aim at harnessing the incentives of that monopoly power to serve customers through an artificial “competitive” environment. I like to think of it as making a bull into an ox—a much more docile and predictable economic motor.

Developed nations such as the United States and those in Western Europe have complex regulatory structures that create a stable market for the development of energy infrastructure. Investors know that they’re very likely to get a return comparable to other industries with similar risk. In fact, Government regulation ensure a utility company the opportunity to recover its cost of providing service, as long as they do, in fact, provide a useful service to customers. While that doesn’t necessarily guarantee the return investors expect, it provides the atmosphere to give them a strong fighting chance. In the United States, we take the years of trial and error, court cases and policymaking very much for granted.

Regulators’ strict treatment of utilities and encouragement for the recovery of revenue is known as the “regulatory compact.” Utilities are allowed to function for the benefit of customers and society with just enough return on investor equity to ensure the constant maintenance for these huge underground and overhead networks. After all, infrastructure—such as electricity, roads, gas lines, water and sewer pipes—is the backbone of any manufacturing or service-based economy.

In many developing countries, central governments often attempt to manage utilities directly to curb monopoly power. This well-intentioned alternative to regulated markets stymies the forces which encourage increased investment in infrastructure. In the United States, for instance, when the price of natural gas was regulated at production, there was no incentive to produce. In fact, until the Wellhead Decontrol Act, there were huge gas shortages in the Northeast for many winters throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

Many regulators and policymakers claim that these were due to the absence of a market. They contest that a regulated private utility paradigm works to the clear benefit of most parties—often with the concession that their stance is a form of self-preservation. Despite the irony, it’s a well-backed position.

The supply of energy and the electrification of wide swaths of humanity depends on the necessary investment to reach the 1.5 billion living off the grid. According to Terzic, whether locally-owned or investor-owned, the proper regulatory framework to create the compact has proven itself time after time. Government utilities, in the alternative, often fail to reach citizens to the extent needed.

There are clear indicators that the lack of demand and purchasing power is not the issue. According to Terzic, many families in developing countries spend money on lighting oil and time in collecting firewood in developing nations. The average family in sub-Saharan Africa unserved by electricity spends $7.50 per month on kerosene. Assume electricity could be delivered at $0.50/kWh (significantly higher than $0.13/kWh Americans paid on average this past June). Terzic points out that even this exaggerated price means that $7.50 would pay for a 40-watt bulb for about 12 hours a day. This is evidence that the purchasing power is already present. However, the market can’t seem to be reached without the grid.

Another case in point is the reach of cell phones. Cellular service is predominantly based on private investment. While telecommunications are often still regulated utilities, an unlimited amount of cellular service competitors can use the same tower. Electric utilities, as detailed above, require regulators to perform the functions of a market. Ideally, they offer both the carrot and the stick by encouraging investment with profit while deterring over-compensation with market reviews. Government-owned utilities, unless incredibly autonomous, do not have the same investment incentives.

If we want global citizens to be safer and more productive, we need to ensure that the electric grid reaches all families. As highlighted by Terzic’s message, the issue in most developing nations isn’t a lack of demand or purchasing power for electrification, but rather its supply. There needs to be a regulated investment incentive to expand lines into under-served areas.

The regulatory compact that government regulators develop with investor-and municipally-owned electric utilities better encourages the badly-needed development of infrastructure in developing countries than simple government-owned electric companies. It ensures investors enough return that the utility has money to build and—more importantly—expand infrastructure. Without the willingness to build these generators, substations and high-voltage electric power lines, not enough people will get the electricity they need. But with strengthened legal and regulatory infrastructure to encourage its development, the hope is that energy infrastructure can be incentivized almost anywhere.

Owen Reynolds is a Washington, DC-based energy economist.

A Woman’s Work: Women in the Middle East Choose Untraditional Roles

by Adam Pitt  

Mir and Hajar are graduates from the International Maritime College Oman (IMCO) in the Omani city of Sohar. Having become friends after enrolling on a four-year bachelor’s degree programme in marine engineering they are also blazing a new trail for women’s education in Oman, and the Middle East.

“Even in western countries there are not so many women engineers, so I feel privileged to have this opportunity. I enjoy the freedom it gives me and I want other women to follow in my footsteps,” says Mir, who like Hajar, is one of a hundreds of women to have graduate from the college earlier this year.

Having been ranked second in a poll on women’s rights in the Middle East in 2013, Oman is certainly no stranger to promoting the rights of its female population. It ratified the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women Treaty in 2006, though there are some remaining issues surrounding the adoption of the treaty and conformity with Islamic Law. However, while 29 percent of the Gulf state’s 1.3 million women are employed, securing a career in engineering is still far from straightforward.

According to an article published in the Times of Oman, there are no discriminatory provisions in the Oman Labour Law as pertaining to the employment of women. Nevertheless, there are restrictions in place to avoid ‘problems’ and ‘complications’ when it comes to hiring women in certain industries and locations. In the case of female engineers, it remains the responsibility of the prospective employer to convince the Ministry of Manpower of the necessity of appointing a female engineer. Only when the ministry is convinced, will it issue clearances, and even then there is no guarantee of appointment.

Despite these obstacles, Mir and Hajar have already secured placements in the industry – a testament to their fine standing within their cohort and the strong networks that the college has built over nine highly successful years. With students able to choose from courses in Marine Engineering, Process Operational Technology, Port Shipment and Transport Management, and Maritime Studies, they are also part of a generation of women who are slowly turning the tables in terms of tertiary education in the Gulf.

The same can be said of Oman, where female literacy rates are in line with the global average, and where school life expectancy for women is at least 11 years. Yet, while 28 percent enrolment in tertiary education is respectable for the Middle East, Mir and Hajar are still in the minority, although this is something Head of Maritime Department at IMCO, Patrick Wells, said is definitely changing.

“We have around 1,700 students at the moment and we fully expect that to grow to 2,000 when our new students join us in September. An increasing number of them will be young women who aspire to become leaders, and just like in other countries they are often among our best achievers,” he explains.

“Unlike Mir and Hajar, most of these women will choose to study process operational technology, port, shipping and transport management, or maritime studies. Regardless of what they study, our aim will be to nurture them and ensure they get the support they need to survive in a highly demanding industry.

“It can be quite a culture shock for some of our students, but our drop-out rate is very low,” he adds.

As the only education and training institute in the GCC region to offer diplomas, degree programmes, and short courses to both male and female students seeking to gain entry into maritime, shipping, port, transport, and petrochemical industries, IMCO receives fee paying and government sponsored students.

However, while both Mir and Hajar received government scholarships to study at the school, their lives before could not have been more different. Sitting side by side, Mir describes her long-held passion for horse riding in the nation’s capital and home to 1.2 million people, Muscat. Hajar on the other hand, says she likes spending time in her garden in the small village where her family raise their livestock.

“I am from a small village and enjoy relaxing in my garden. It was definitely hard to make the adjustment when I moved to the city and I feel like I only survived because of the support I received from my father. He believes in me and that makes me want to be successful,” says Hajar, who comes from Al Rustaq.

IMCO Head Mr. Wells says Hajar’s experience is not unique and puts it down to the change in education culture, from the national set-up to a more European style that benefits from the strong Dutch influence present in the region since Port of Rotterdam embarked on a joint venture with the adjacent SOHAR Port and Freezone in 2002. But, he says, this change is vital if graduates are to compete globally.

“Whether male or female, when I send someone to sea, they need to be able to do a job. If they can’t they put their own safety and that of their peers in jeopardy, and so we treat everyone equally. We are the only school in the Gulf to send our trainees to sea so they can gain sufficient experience, and each year we help 85 percent of our students to secure industry leading training programmes. This has been one of the keys to our success, and is why my inbox is full of new enquiries for our graduates,” he says.

Another key to the college’s success is its strict adherence to international maritime training standards, with the only difference between its graduates and those of the US, EU, and China, said to be the family ties to the industry often seen among new students. Nonetheless, the calibre of IMCO graduates has seen links established with the likes of Shell, Dubai Dry Docks, Salalah Port, and of course, SOHAR Port and Freezone. In turn, this has increased student interest, which has experienced 20 percent growth.

As Hajar’s case shows, access to the school is not reserved for the elite. In her own words she describes how her cousin had studied at the school and told her about its reputation within the industry. At which point she says that she was determined to go there – determination that inspired her father’s support.

“My cousin studied here and said that it is a great school, and that many women had graduated and gone on to work at sea. I knew I had to come here and am determined to be successful,” she says.

Meanwhile, word of the school’s reputation continues to spread unrestrained with students hailing from Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Kazakhstan, India, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Cameroon. This has led to a wide gulf in the financial status of those attending, but this adds diversity to IMCO’s unique learning experience, according to Mr. Wells. Given the prize at the end of the line, Mir and Hajar say they and their classmates are quite active in helping each other out when someone is in need.

For South African Mr. Wells, who joined the college in 2012 after fulfilling his own personal ambitions in the Navy, merchant marine, port industry, and education, his attention will soon turns to helping the next group of students and create the first generation of women seafarers to set sail from Oman.

IMCO is owned by the Government of Oman and the STC Group in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

GSDM October 2014 Edition Published!

Download your free copy here

Global South Development Magazine’s October 2014 issue has been published today. Our focus this time has been on South-South cooperation in international development. We look at different dimensions of South-South cooperation that range from trade, investment, development aid, infrastructure to humanitarian assistance. We also analyze a few problems underlying the practice and present a few exceptional examples of South-South cooperation picked from throughout the world.

In addition, this edition brings you other thought-provoking stories from around the world. Our Latin America Editor Diego Cupolo’s travel diary A Mud Road to Peru carries you to a fascinating trip to Ecuador, and our Special Correspondent for Global Humanitarian Affairs Debora Di Dio’s piece The Humanitarian Crisis in the Central African Republic gives you an overview of the fragile situation in the Sahel region. Our newly appointed Development Reporters Olufunmilayo Akande and Antony Luberto have made their first contribution by writing about disability in development agenda, and discussing alternative ways of planning and conducting local procurement strategy in developing countries.

GSDM’s guest contributor Helen Long’s compilation Ten Grassroots Environmental Justice Campaigns from Around the World and Prasiddha Khanal’s photo story on child labor in Nepal are certainly going to make you think. Finally, Prof. Anupama Saxena’s take on development and the tribal people of India calls for a rights-based approach to development and Diego Cupolo’s reporting on drones’ use in Latin America warns about the security threat imposed by the increased use of drones in Latin America. Happy reading!

BOLIVIA ELECTS MORALES FOR ANOTHER 5 YEARS: Is revolutionary change still on the agenda?

Claire Veale

 

On Sunday 12 Oct 2014, Bolivians voted to re-elect Evo Morales Ayma, Bolivia’s incumbent president, with an overwhelming 60%. Morales has indeed gained widespread popular support through his anti-imperialist and socialist policies, with even the World Bank forced to recognise the successes of his social programmes. His government has fallen short, however, of the revolutionary promises it was first elected on. That is why, it is important to ask, how far do Morales’ reforms truly go?

 

 

 

The Promises of a Grassroot Socialist Leader
His widespread popularity stems from his poor and indigenous background, and his symbolic role in the anti-imperialist and anti-neoliberal popular uprisings of the 2000s. Morales first became known for leading the coca farmer’s fight against the War on Drugs driven by the U.S.A. to criminalise the coca leaf, a sacred plant in Bolivia, legally used daily by hundreds of thousands of Bolivians. He then took an active part in the social revolutions that brought people to the streets in mass numbers to protest the privatisation of water in 2000 and call for the nationalisation of gas in 2003. The social movements were successful in bringing an end to the neo-liberal regimes that had been privatising and exploiting Bolivia’s natural resources since the 1980s, and in 2005, Evo Morales’ Movimiento Al Socialismo (MAS) party was elected by the support of these movements, on the promises of nationalisation.

Evo Morales got elected for another five years this week. Photo: Wikimedia

Nine years on, Morales’ government has, without a doubt, improved the lives of many Bolivians through the so-called “Proceso de Cambio” – Process of change. There have been great advances in poverty reduction schemes, with cash transfers to mothers, children and the elderly; education reforms that have radically lowered illiteracy rates and medical services, which are now widely available to all and have improved with the cooperation of Cuban medical aid. Infrastructure and industrialisation have also been developed, and an effort towards nationalising Bolivia’s key industries has been central to Morales’ campaign.

The new constitution of 2009 is another important achievement for the MAS, implementing new mechanisms of direct democracy and pushing for decentralisation, dispersing authority to regional, departmental and indigenous territories. The constitution also recognises Bolivia as a plurinational state, as well as acknowledging the rights of Mother Nature, a landmark for the advancement of indigenous rights and environmental legislation. In a country where no less than 30 years ago, indigenous populations were not allowed to enter certain spaces due to racial discrimination; it is not difficult to understand why Morales enjoys extensive support from Bolivia’s predominantly indigenous and low-income population.

All in the Discourse
However, it is nearly impossible to truly break from Latin America’s long history of colonial rule and today’s global neoliberalism, which has meant that the government’s policies have fallen short of the promised revolutionary change Evo was elected on. Indeed, many critics from the left have argued that Morales’ government has focused on superficial policy adjustments driven by populist discourse, without tackling the capitalist structures of exploitation. And to some extent, that seems to be true.

Morales has brought hope to many indigenous communities in Bolivia. Photo: Claire Veale

The nationalisation of the hydrocarbon industries was, arguably, a simple re-negotiation of contracts with foreign-owned petrol companies aiming to increase state royalties, rather than seizing assets for a full nationalisation. The choice of language in the government’s discourse is problematic when the Bolivian people, who have historically been fierce fighters for the ownership of their resources, are being dissuaded to demand nationalisation any further, as Morales falsely claims the industry is now in the hands of the state.

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- In 2005, Evo Morales’ party was elected on the promises of nationalisation

- There have been great advances in poverty reduction schemes, literacy rates and medical services have improved

- The 2009 constitution ensures direct democracy and decentralisation 

- However, his government has been accused of carrying out superficial policy adjustments driven by populist discourse

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It is not the only issue where the president’s discourse has not been quite in accordance with the reality on the ground. Indeed, Morales is known internationally for his powerful defence of Pachamama, Mother Earth, and claims to represent indigenous struggles for their rights and land worldwide. There is no doubt that Morales’ defense of the environment and his much needed criticisms on growth-driven capitalism are remarkable advances for societies worldwide. The Aymara tradition of Suma Qamaña or buen vivir; the need to live in harmony with nature without focusing on material gains, which has been widely promoted by Morales, reflects an inspiring alternative approach to development. Nevertheless, the discourse is far from the reality of his policies, and one only has to look at the government’s reliance on extractive industries to understand the contradictions.

Socialist redistribution of wealth vs. Pachamama 

Evo Morales, much like his South American allies in Venezuela and Ecuador, heavily relies on the extraction of gas, oil and minerals to fund his socialist policies of wealth redistribution, a strategy that can be contradictory to environmental policies and the promotion of indigenous rights. The government has been infamously repressive of the indigenous marches for the protection of the TIPNIS reserve which is under threat by the plans to build a highway linking Bolivian and Brazilian trade routes.

Recently, indigenous people in Bolivia have been protesting a mining law that would result in widespread contamination of drinking water and agriculture, resulting in the criminalisation of protests concerning this issue and the closing down of the headquarters of a leading critical indigenous movement, CONAMAQ. Indigenous critics, including Fernando Vargas, one of this year’s presidential candidates claim that Evo is no different from his predecessors in the destruction of the planet in pursuit of economic growth. This debate sheds a light on the ambiguous incompatibility of socialist and environmental goals.

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- Morales promotes the Aymara tradition of Suma Qamaña or buen vivir; the need to live in harmony with nature without focusing on material gains, but policies are not coherent to the idea

- Recently, indigenous people in Bolivia have been protesting a mining law that would result in widespread contamination of drinking water and agriculture

- Morales’ government has been accused of being intolerant to criticism, and banning factions of indigenous movements that helped him come to power

- Despite all odds, Evo Morales still represents the hope for radical change and his policies hold huge potential for Bolivians

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Criminalising Criticism 

Indigenous leader at a conference on mining laws, La Paz, Bolivia. Photo: Claire Veale

The government’s severe repression of the TIPNIS and the CONAMAQ movements illustrates a wider concern about the MAS’ difficult relationship with social movements and critics. Indigenous movements, that have been fighting for their rights for decades have been accused of working under the influence of imperialist and capitalist groups with the aim to destabilise the government and possibly stage a coup. However, these accusations not only diminish the tremendous work indigenous communities have achieved in their struggles for rights, by portraying them as simple victims of imperialist powers, but also create this unhelpful dualism for social movements: “you are either with us or against us”. Morales’ government, under the intellectual leadership of Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera, has periodically criminalised any form of criticism, dismantling social movements and accusing critics of working for the opposition. This reality is disappointing, considering it was radically critical social movements that enabled Morales to become president in the first place.

A New Term Brings New Hope 

Despite all his government’s fall-backs, Evo Morales still represents the hope for radical change and his policies hold huge potential for Bolivians. His government’s vision of socialist wealth redistribution and Bolivia’s efforts to join the continent’s anti-imperialist tendencies by encouraging regional cooperation is a truly positive step in the right direction.

However, as we have seen in Venezuela, the MAS must plan ahead in order to remain strong after Morales’ time comes to an end, to push forward with the Proceso de Cambio. One way to strengthen the government’s position in society would be to change tactics confronting social movements and criticism, recognising that indigenous and worker’s movements should be treated separately from real right-wing opposition efforts to dismantle the government’s policies. The current to conflictuous strategies will only weaken the MAS in the long turn, loosing credibility and support from the left. Enabling safe space for dialogue and cooperation between the government and social movements is essential to stabilise the infant process of de-colonialism and socialism the MAS is trying to establish.

(A graduate from SOAS (University of London) in Conflicts and International Development, Claire has worked in Bolivia on issues of human rights, energy policies and labour protection with CEDLA, a political research centre in La Paz.)

ICT Transforming Africa, a New Report Says

A report on education, training and development in Africa shows that the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) is beginning to have a significant impact on agriculture and may even be helping to make a reality of the African Union’s 2063 Vision of a “transformed continent”.

The eLearning Africa Report 2014, which interviewed people working in the agriculture and food industries throughout Africa, found a higher level of optimism about the future than in almost any other sector. It also established that the most common uses of ICTs in agriculture were for the acquisition of knowledge about better farming practices and markets. Survey respondents said that ICTs could most benefit farmers through “greater efficiency” (49 per cent ), “better sales” (27 per cent), bigger yields (12 per cent) and “better land management” (10 per cent).

The report’s editor, Dr Harold Elletson, argues,“African agriculture is changing. It is steadily becoming more efficient. Much of the change is happening at the level of the smallholder farmer and it is being driven by the increased use of ICTs, which are helping to boost yields, increase choice and improve living standards”.

“Our survey shows that people working in the agriculture and food sector realise how useful ICTs can be. They are bringing new solutions to a whole range of farming problems – for example, promoting more efficient irrigation methods or better livestock management and even encouraging the development of self-sustaining funding solutions. ICTs are making a massive contribution to growth inAfrican agriculture and, as this sector still employs nearly 70 per cent of the workforce, it is very significant in terms of making a reality of the African Union’s vision of a transformed continent,” He added.

A typical example of a successful ICT-related project in the agriculture sector is the mFarmer Initiative Fund, which started as a partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and now provides farmers in 11 sub-Saharan countries with information and advisory services via their mobile phones.

The eLearning Africa Report 2014’s findings chime with the conclusions of a recent World Bank report on ‘ICTs for Agriculture in Africa’, which said that “the strategic application of ICT to the agricultural industry, the largest agricultural sector in most African countries, offers the best opportunity for economic growth and poverty alleviation on the African continent.”

New Development Reporters Announced

Global South Development Magazine has announced the names of 7 new development reporters as part of its 2014-2015 development reporter program. The reporters will be reporting on different developmental issues from different parts of the world for a fixed period of two years. The newly appointed reporters that will join GSDM’s thriving global community are:

Anthony Luberto

Ibrash Pasha

Luana Moraes Amorin

Michael Vurens Van Es

Md. Sariful Islam

Simon Riley

Olufunmilayo Akande

 

Established in 2013, GSDM’s Development Reporter program offers a unique opportunity specially for young writers, researchers and journalists to write about developmental issues of their interest and network with like-minded professionals in their field. Successful candidates also receive a four week long online training on media, development and community participation.

Latinos in London: Pride, not Prejudice

 

For 20 years Maria Luisa has cleaned the house of one family. Every day she spends a good four to six hours in their home, dusting off their personal belongings, witnessing their day to day lives, and probably spending more time in the house than the stroppy teenage son; “but they never talk to me,” she sighs. “When I come in, they leave the room, or simply act as though I’m not there. How am I ever supposed to learn English if no-one speaks to me?”

Maria Luisa’s case exemplifies many of the problems facing the over 100,000-strong Latin American community in London today. Trapped in a cleaning job with no prospects of rising up in the job market due to international labour law, many Latin Americans qualified for far more sophisticated jobs wind up cleaning the same house for years on end. Snayra Vergara is an English speaking sociology professor in Colombia with years of experience in social work, teaching, and community projects; however, none of this seemed to matter as she applied for countless jobs in the UK suited to her CV, and was perpetually declined on the grounds that her references were not from the UK and therefore not valid. Six months in cleaning were more than enough for Snayra, who quit to volunteer at Carila Latin American Welfare Group, a non-profit organisation dedicated to protecting the rights of London’s Latin American community. Despite ensuing difficulty to make ends meet she at least felt dignified by the work she was doing – helping others in her situation understand British labour and immigration law. She is not alone in her problems; ‘No Longer Invisible’, the most comprehensive report on the London’s Latin community to date, states that only 17% of Latin Americans were in managerial or professional jobs in May 2011 despite the fact that over 30% held managerial jobs in Latin America.

Discrimination has been described by Latin Americans as a severe issue – over 70% feel it holds them back in their day to day lives. Colombian women in particular have expressed anger over the prejudices held towards them; “as soon as we say we are from Colombia, people immediately associate us with prostitutes, and do not respect us,” complains Alba. According to a BBC-cited British Social Survey asking 3000 people their opinion on how the country is run, 51% of Britons would like to see immigration reduce ‘a lot’, a figure that has risen 12% since 1991. An additional 24% would like to see immigration reduce ‘a little’. ‘No Longer Invisible’ reveals that 40% of Latin American workers undergo workplace abuse and exploitation and 11% are paid less than the national minimum wage – a proportion 10 times higher than the average rate for the British population.

The language barrier plays a significant part in issues of discrimination – immigrants are often accused of refusing to learn English, instead forming social circles of only other Latinos and cutting themselves off from British society. Learning English in England may seem a laughably easy task; however, there are more difficulties than meet the eye. Immigrants having difficulty with documentation due to bureaucracy and financial troubles are unable to access certain courses where proof of residence in the UK is required. Costs of courses at language schools are high, and organisations who offer courses for free are having their funds drastically cut. Even if they find a class which would suit their level and financial situation, they will most likely be unable to attend as they work antisocial hours to make ends meet. Understandably, Latin Americans will thus often retreat into the comfort of their native community and culture.

In the context of the economic crisis, resentment towards immigrants has risen for a variety of reasons. Most prominent is the fear that immigrants are stealing jobs and the worry that among the drastic cuts being made to welfare under the current government, immigrants are taking a chunk out of the already scarce amount available in benefits to the British population. However, a ‘Fullfact’ study demonstrates that only 6.6% of working-age non-UK nationals claimed a DWP working age benefit, compared to 16.6% of working-age UK nationals. Additionally, ‘No Longer Invisible’ states that only one in five Latin Americans have ever been to a general practitioner or claimed welfare benefits from the state. Those that do claim benefits will generally do so in the form of housing or council benefit and tax credits. Second generation Latin Americans are one of the most productive immigrant groups in the UK, boasting an 85% employment rate and refuting the notion that immigrants will come into Britain and sponge off of the welfare state.

In 2001, London housed around 2800 Latin Americans. Within 10 years, that figure quadrupled, and as of May 2011, 113,500 Latin Americans are estimated to live in the capital. Integration and discrimination problems or not, the Latin American community has become a staple part of London’s migrant population, and its needs must therefore be addressed. Carila Latin American Welfare Group, Latin American Women’s Rights Services, the Ibero-American Alliance, and Latin America House are but a few of London’s institutions dedicated to helping Latin Americans settle in the city, offering services ranging from translation and interpretation to signposting and legal advice. Trust for London is currently in the process of setting up an umbrella organisation to better coordinate the efforts of these institutions as each one is cutting down its services due to drastic cuts in funding. According to Cathy McIlwaine, Professor of Geography at Queen Mary (University of London) and an expert on Latin American migration to the UK, the aim of this organisation will not be to ask for specific sums of cash as much as to influence policy relating to Latin American immigrants and get them recognised as a significant portion of the migrant population. However, arguably just as important as the professional advice and advocacy work such organisations conduct is the emotional support they give to immigrants searching for a friendly face and a word of counsel. Saturday schools, cultural outings and informal get-togethers provide a welcome distraction from the stress of everyday life in a foreign country, and Roman Catholic churches are flooded with Latin Americans.

However, massive gaps in the support network remain. “The days of specific groups getting help from central government are over,” says Professor McIlwaine. Demand for labour migrants can be met by Europeans, meaning the central government has “no interest” in the Latin American community; instead, “support comes from local government.” Southwark recently became the first borough to recognise Latin Americans as an ethnic categorisation in forms; everywhere else, they are forced to tick the box saying “other”, despite the fact that the size of the community is comparable with recognised migrant groups such as Polish workers. This lack of formal recognition creates difficulties relating to documentation and acquiring legal status in the UK. Not enough has been done to clarify the ramifications of the recently enforced Welfare Reform Bill on the lives of the Latin American community, leaving them uncertain about what actions they should take to avoid financial troubles. As a result, Carila and other aforementioned organisations are forced to bear the burden, no easy feat when their own budgets are being slashed.

Few cities enjoy the international reputation of London, and few cities deserve it; its unique character, far-reaching history, and wealth of cultures outweigh many other places across the globe. Its migrant population plays an important part in this; from restaurants and clubs to bookstores and national festivals, London’s immigrant offer its native population all kinds of entertainment. The Latin American community not only provides the city with salsa, samba and delicious food; as proven above, it also contributes productively to the British economy. If other London boroughs would follow Southwark’s example and recognise Latin Americans as a significant part of the migrant population, more private donors would give to organisations like LAWRS and Carila, and gradually, the problems facing the community could be eradicated. The Latinos are in London to stay, and they need to be treated as such.

(Victoria von Waldersee is an undergraduate at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, majoring in Chinese and Development Studies. Her particular interests lie in social welfare, conflict resolution, and establishing coherence in the development world between organisations from different countries. Victoria can be reached at v.waldersee@hotmail.com) 

 

 

Syrian Refugee: ‘I don’t want to die’

In an effort to give a voice to the Syrian people, GSDM Latin America Editor and photographer Diego Cupolo wrote Seven Syrians: War Accounts From Syrian Refugees a non-fiction book by 8th House Publishing going to be released in January 2014. Seven Syrians presents the war as experienced through Syrian refugees living in Reyhanl, a Turkish town one mile north of the Syrian border that was bombed in May 2013 for hosting a burgeoning refugee population. The interviews were conducted between July and August 2013 and have been adapted as monologues to create seven flowing narratives. The following is an excerpt of a personal account from Seven Syrians that were gathered while Diego Cupolo volunteered at Al Salam school for Syrian refugees in Reyhanl. Global South Development Magazine’s December 2013 issue also featured the same story.

Shelter in the Caves 

Hussein haj Ahmad – 33 years old, English teacher, Idlib region

I went to the caves after the military post near my village was attacked by farmers. They weren’t part of a militia then, no organization whatsoever, but they were armed and they managed to kill more than a hundred government soldiers.

It was a surprise attack. Their first response after the military started shooting protesters in the streets. Some celebrated, but I didn’t. I knew the air raids would come shortly after and they did. Bombs landed on my village every single day for the next two months. It was the worst experience of my life.

I took cover in the caves, up there in the mountains, and saw the bombs fall on what used to be my home. All I could do was watch. Each bomb was strong enough to destroy twenty to twenty five houses.

Worse, each bomb produced a very high, horrible screeching sound when it exploded. I don’t know what they’re called officially, but we call them pressure bombs. They were one of the many gifts Bashar received from Russia.

Usually, the air raids started at one or two in the morning when everyone was sleeping. Many people died this way, mostly children. A midnight rocket.

I stayed in the caves a total of 45 days, just waiting for the bombs to stop falling. I had no choice. During the initial protests, I broke my leg in three places. I could barely walk. I was on crutches this entire period. For food, for water I was completely dependent on other people. Fortunately, I was not alone.

There were many families in those caves, large groups of people I had never known before. As the time passed, we all became good friends, we all relied on each other.

It was a new experience for me because I was used to living alone. I would come home from work alone, watch TV alone and then go to sleep alone. There, in the caves, we did everything together. We took care of each other. Many had it worse than I did.

One older woman, she was blind. She was always terrified. She would hear the helicopters hovering above, but she couldn’t see them and she had no idea if they could see her. Imagine.

In the day time, we would take her outside to get some fresh air, you know, to let her breath. We all tried to get out for air whenever possible and every time we went out we took the old blind lady with us. We’d sit her down on a good rock so she could relax, but she never relaxed.

The minute she heard the sound of helicopters or an explosion in a distance she’d start yelling, “Take me to the cave! Please take me to the cave! I don’t want to die! Please! I don’t want to die!” She’d swing her walking stick through the air as she yelled. “Take me to the cave!”

That’s just one of the people I was with. There were many. Mostly women, children and the elderly. Men stayed in the village to fight Bashar’s army. I was injured, so I couldn’t fight, but even if I was healthy I would have stayed away. I don’t want to die. I’m still waiting to marry, you know, this is very important for Syrian men. After university we are supposed to get married and start a family. I’m still waiting for this to happen.

It could’ve happened. There were some younger women in the cave. Sometimes they would talk to me. They told me not to worry so much, that I would find a wife after the war, but it’s not easy. The war doesn’t look like it will end anytime soon and I’m only sitting here, waiting, getting older. I still hope for a family of my own some day.

The fear I have is an abnormal kind of fear. I fear the rockets and the bombs more than others because there is so much I haven’t accomplished in life. Up there in the mountains, in the caves without food, it’s just suffering … just fearing … just thinking about the future … just crying sometimes.

There are questions, so many questions that you start asking yourself. Where can I go? What can I do? Will this war ever end? How long can I keep living like this? Should I keep living?

We all asked ourselves these questions in the caves. None of us knew whether we would make it to the next day or not, whether we would endure the next battle. All Syrians are terrified about the future. We have no idea what will happen to us and this is an unsettling thought.

My house was hit by a rocket. I have no place to go back to. The Syrian Army bombed our village to punish us. They said we allowed those farmers to attack the military post so everyone must pay the price, even the children. There is no place for civilians in Syria, only armed rebels and Bashar’s army. I had to leave.

As soon as my leg got better, I crossed the Turkish border to see what I could find in Reyhanl. Many Syrians were going there so I thought maybe I could find a job or start a new life while I wait for the war to end. This has also been difficult. Local landlords take advantage of refugees. They see us like money. They charge us Istanbul prices to rent apartments in a little farming town.

Employers also take advantage of us. They pay us less than Turks. Much less. I was being offered 20 Turkish Lira for 15 hours of work before I got a teaching job at a private school.

I’m just barely self-sufficient now, but still, nothing is easy. You know there was a terrorist attack here? I was having a tea in the town center when the first bomb went off. It couldn’t have been more than 25 meters away from where I was sitting. I ran as fast as I could. I went so fast I lost my sandals and ran barefoot over broken glass. My feet were a bloody mess. I still have some scars. See?

The locals blamed us for the attack. They said Syrians brought the war across the border. Angry mobs destroyed every car with Syrian license plates. We received threats. Our neighbors told us to move to another town. I didn’t leave my house for 10 days. I didn’t eat and lost two kilos during that time.

Now Reyhanl is more or less back to normal. I work, I eat, I sleep, but I’m still looking for a way out of here. People say it’s easy to reach Europe from Istanbul. First, I need to save up money. Then there’s the paperwork. Always paperwork and I don’t understand Turkish.

I just want to live without war again. I’m so tired of migrating. Of moving, changing apartments, being without friends. Being without family. I want to start a family. No one can understand our suffering.

Related: Global South Development Magazine’s December 2013 issue: Syria’s Sickness- Beyond Chemical Weapons & Failed Diplomacy 

Global South Development Magazine December 2013 edition published!

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Download your free copy here

14 Dec, 2013, HELSINKI, Global South Development Magazine’s December 2013 issue has been published today. This edition focuses on the protracted conflict in Syria and its consequences on ordinary civilians.

In this edition of GSDM, our Latin America editor Diego Cupolo takes you to the refugee camps of Turkey-Syria border and with the help of two thought-provoking stories; he portrays a different image of war- war as a distorter of human dreams, normalcy and everyday course of life.

We hope you enjoy reading through other stories too. Jenna Ke’s piece on a Cambodian NGO’s effort to support development through tourism is fascinating; so is Aparna Patankar’s op-ed Why Keep Spending in Education. GSDM’s South Asia editor Khalid Hussain offers strong arguments on institutional incapacity in Pakistan in his piece Tragic Disasters and Confusing Troubles, whereas, our West Africa editor Edvin Arnby Machata talks about historical and theoretical issues surrounding consensus in development. Hriday Sarma, on the other hand, sees world politics through the prism of hydrocarbon energy and Tithe Farhana, as usual, focuses her reporting on climate change and maternal health in Bangladesh.

Finally, We wish all our readers, supporters and contributors a very Happy New Year 2014. Thank you all for being with us throughout the year 2013. Happy reading!