There’s always Vancouver–if you can not make it to Climate March in NYC

Here is something of an update to a previous post on the planned climate march of 21 September in NYC, meant to coincide with the UN Climate Summit. If you are either unable or unwilling to go to New York, but also wanted to take part in this civil society manifestation, there is a local march planned for that day. Here is more information (note: this should not be meant as an endorsement/non-endorsement of the event or the organizers):

We are at the crossroads of the future. Vancouver stands as either the terminus or the gateway of a potential flood of oil, coal and LNG headed out to contribute substantial, irreparable damage to the world’s earth, air and water. We are uniquely situated to act in defense of our planet by helping to stem that flood. Now is the historic time! We have waited all our lives for this moment, to discover that we are the ones we have been waiting for.

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We are staging an event in Vancouver to mark our solidarity with the largest environmental protest in history, at the UN Climate Conference in New York on September 21st. This event page is to keep everybody informed as we get closer to the date. If you have ideas and want to help plan, there is also a Facebook group. We also need volunteers! If you’d like to help, we need drivers, sign and banner makers, posterers, tent assemblers, crowd marshals … contact aalarigakis@shaw.ca.

Here is the trailer for a movie, Disruption, that has been produced to coincide with the Climate March.

 

Reporters without Borders is an important international NGO

We read about the importance of international NGOs in Chapter 7 of Mingst and Arreguin-Toft this past week. Prompted by this blog post of a student of mine in POLI 1140, I have decided to highlight the work of Reporters without Borders. If you are interested in learning more about the challenges that journalists and “netizens” (after all, with the advent of the Internet we are all potential budding citizen-journalists), their website can be accessed here.

Below is a screen-shot of the front page where we see that as of this point in 2012, 11 journalists have been killed, an additional 153 journalists have been imprisoned, while 120 netizens have also been imprisoned. Clicking on the links to the graphic on their website will take you to more detailed information regarding the individuals behind these numbers. Of the 120 netizens who have been imprisoned, 68 are from China, 20 from Iran, and 18 from Vietnam.

The “New Humanitarianism” and Rule vs. Act Utilitarianism (Consequentialism)

In chapter 3 of Humanitarian Intervention Weiss analyses “new wars” and “new humanitarianisms.”  The changing nature of humanitarian work is characterized by many things, but I’d like to focus on one particularly, which will lead us to a discussion of the importance of neutrality and the concepts of rule and act utilitarianism.

Weiss argues that humanitarian responses, by NGOs particularly,  are becoming more ambitious in scope and thereby shifting from a focus on short-term emergency relief to “attacking the root causes and post-conflict peacebuilding.” He continues,

“rather than provide band-aids, they [humanitarians] wish to use assistance and protection as levers. Many aid agencies desire to spread development, democracy, and human rights and create stable, effective, and legitimate states.” (76)

This has led, concomitantly, to a change in the humanitarian principles of neutrality and impartiality. These principles, Weiss notes, “made sense if the objective was to provide relief and gain access to affected populations.” These principles, it is argued, foundered upon the reality that contemporary wars–“new wars”–were creating “unanticipated and unintended negative consequences.” Moreover, in a world in which the combatants are state militaries, neutrality and impartiality retained some internal logic. However, as genocidaires and other ty[es of rebel groups become the main combatants in civil wars and the predominant perpetrators of crimes against humanity, the principles of neutrality and impartiality come to be seen increasingly as relics of a bygone era.

A few students took issue with this argument, insisting that there are also likely to be unintended consequences of humanitarian organizations repudiating the principles of neutrality and impartiality. They mentioned some of these in class. This prompted a quick excursion by me into the difference between act and rule utilitarianism/consequentialism. I’ll explain below the fold:

Bosnia Muslim leaders argued that the neutrality policy allowed Messrs. Karadzic and Mladic free reign in their campaign to ethnically cleanse large swaths of Bosnia of (well-fed) Muslims.

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Afghan Aid Money Spent on High Salaries

After class today I spoke with a student who is interested in working in the humanitarian field after graduation.  Given that I had acquired some experience working for humanitarian organizations before heading to graduate school, I was able to impart some words of wisdom.  While I enjoyed my time working for humanitarian NGOs, I did find that it was very easy to get frustrated and become cynical.  Here’s a story from the Associated Press that reminded me of some of the reasons that I stopped working for humanitarian organizations (I encourage you to read the whole report):

afghan_woman_usaid.jpg KABUL, Afghanistan – Too much money meant for Afghanistan aid is wasted, with a vast amount spent on foreign workers’ high salaries, security and living arrangements, according to a report from humanitarian groups published Tuesday.

The prospects for peace in Afghanistan are being undermined because Western countries are failing to deliver on aid promises — and because much of the aid money they do send is going to expatriate workers, according to the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief, an alliance of 94 international aid agencies.

Since 2001, the international community has pledged $25 billion in help but has delivered only $15 billion, the alliance said. Of that $15 billion, some 40 percent of it — or $6 billion — goes back to donor countries in corporate profits and consultant salaries, the report found.

“A vast amount of aid is absorbed by high salaries, living, security, transport and accommodation costs for expatriates working for consulting firms or contractors,” the report said. The costs are increasing with a recent deterioration in security, it said.

The cost of a full-time expatriate consultant working in Afghanistan is around $250,000, according to the group.

This is some 200 times the average annual salary of an Afghan civil servant, who is paid less than $1,000″ per year, the report said.

Amy Frumin, an international affairs fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations who spent a year in Afghanistan as an officer on a U.S. Agency for International Development reconstruction team, said blaming high expat salaries is unfair.

“You have to pay them good money to do that. They’re still having trouble finding people to fill these positions. It’s a dangerous place. Not many people are willing to risk their limbs,” she said.

NGOs and Their Changing Roles–How Have They Changed

Here is a two-part interview, available on YouTube with Norman Cook, and long-time practitioner and student of NGOs and the role they play in international politics.  We’ll be looking at NGOs next week, so you may want to take a look at this interview to learn a little bit more about how the role of NGOs has changed over time.

Here is a description of the interview:

Interview with Norman Cook, Canadian development expert (and jazz lover). How have the roles of NGOs changed? Are they becoming near-governmental – “embedded” with power politics? How our development models and criteria often don’t fit the reality in developing countries.
Interview by Jan Oberg, November 27, 2007

While watching consider the arguments of Krasner and Slaughter that we discussed last week.  How would they respond to Cook’s assertions?

Mapping the Future from CSIS

The Center for Strategic and International Studies has a fascinating new subway-style map, which interactively maps the global future on the basis of various themes–construction, sporting and culture, science, politics, etc. Each node of information on the interactive map is a hyperlink that takes the reader to a web page with detailed information about the topic.

Below is a much reduced version of the map.  If you click on the word map above, you’ll be taken to the large interactive version of the map. Click on the link (which I’ve indicated using the red circle) and you’ll be taken to a page where you’ll be told the following:

As a result of the internal reorganization of the U.S. military command structure, a new headquarters dedicated exclusively to Africa is expected to become fully operational in 2008. The United States Africa Command, or AFRICOM, will report to the Secretary of Defense on U.S. military relations with 53 African countries, with a focus on war prevention and capacity-building programs. The ultimate stated goal of the program is to enable “a more stable environment in which political and economic growth can take place.” For the fiscal year 2008, AFRICOM is expected to have a $75 billion budget. 

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h/t to V. Wang.

Human Security Resources

A general trend has developed, amongst governments, academics, and (especially) activists working in IGOs and NGOs worldwide that has moved the focus of security away from traditional concepts–such as protecting borders from external threat–to a new approach that focuses specifically on human security. What is “human security?” Well, the Human Security Report Project, at Vancouver, Canada’s Simon Fraser University, defines human security in this way:

Unlike traditional concepts of security, which focus on defending borders from external military threats, human security is concerned with the security of individuals…

For some proponents of human security, the key threat is violence; for others the threat agenda is much broader, embracing hunger, disease and natural disasters. Largely for pragmatic reasons, the Human Security Report Project has adopted the narrower concept of human security that focuses on protecting individuals and communities from violence.

Traditional security policy emphasizes military means for reducing the risks of war and for prevailing if deterrence fails. Human security’s proponents, while not eschewing the use of force, have focused to a much greater degree on non-coercive approaches. These range from preventive diplomacy, conflict management and post–conflict peacebuilding, to addressing the root causes of conflict by building state capacity and promoting equitable economic development.

The website has an informative and very useful set of links to various organizations, governmental institutions, research institutes, etc., that focus on issues of human security.

Another excellent source for information related to human security is the Human Security Gateway. Below is a thumbnails which will take you to a screen shot of their home page. (Notice the RSS feed icons in the left sidebar.)

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