Venezuela
What began as an economic recession in Venezuela has quickly escalated into a humanitarian crisis where one must fight to survive. Venezuela is steadily becoming the most violent country in the world. At least 28,479 deaths of a violent nature occurred in 2016, and the nation currently holds a homicide rate of 91.8 for every 100,000 people. The hunger crisis and the fact that 82 percent of its population is living in poverty could be linked with the growing rate of crime and violence in Venezuela.

Conditions Leading Up to the Violence

In 2014, Venezuela was struck by an economic recession caused by the decline in oil prices – Venezuela’s primary export. Its biggest shortfall came with the collapse of Venezuela’s currency when the price of imported goods swelled and the country was forced to limit the number of goods brought in. Staples like toilet paper or rice were often impossible to find, and when one did locate them, such essential products were often too expensive to buy. A shortage in even basic medicines and medical supplies began causing serious concerns.

The Borgen Project was fortunate enough to interview Venezuelan national and Ph.D. student, Maria Alemán. She described the scene, “Picture a supermarket or a grocery store when there is a snow storm in one of the southern states. You go in and everything is empty. There is nothing. That’s how it is there 24/7.” This lack of imported goods has created panic and a hunger crisis in Venezuela. With the widespread panic, Venezuela was faced with having to put strict regulations on many goods available for purchase. “If you get to the store and they are regulating an item, let’s say you want to buy two gallons of milk because you have a big family. Well no, if they are only allowing you to buy a gallon, then that is all you get,” Maria explains.

Lack of Jobs and Resources is Creating Chaos

The collapse of Venezuela’s economy affected the job market. Many businesses’ closed or took their business out of the country, leaving families to struggle with the cost of rising food prices with no source of income or not nearly enough income. “People are starving because the price of food is too expensive, even with a monthly salary,” Maria defends. As conditions grew dire and many were met with the challenge of feeding themselves and their families, crime in Venezuela rose at an epidemic rate. The Venezuelan Observatory on Violence (VOV) reported a 14 percent increase in violent crimes from 2012 to 2013. In 2015, 17,778 people were murdered in Venezuela; however, the VOV revealed that those numbers were as high as 27,875.

Maria recalls a shift in the nature of the crimes as desperation fueled robberies with the threat of violence. “Thieves started to go find knives and guns because there was no other way people were going to go and give them their stuff. People got so upset that they had no choice but to start killing people to actually feel threatened. It’s even worse now because people are having to kill to survive.” With no other resources available, the population turned to violence, either in an effort to attain resources or to protect oneself from others trying to take resources.

If things couldn’t seem any worse, the increase in crime and violence running rampant in the streets of Venezuela was a catalyst for the formation of several crime organizations who have taken to exploiting the hunger of young people to get them to participate in criminal activities, which is only adding to the rising crime rate.

Efforts to Decrease Crime and Violence in Venezuela

While Venezuela has implemented a subsidized food program that benefits 87 percent of Venezuelans, it hasn’t done much to slow the hunger-induced crime sprees. Maria says, “people receive boxes from the government with some food products like rice, flour, etc., but not everyone gets the same products in their boxes. The contents of a single box aren’t enough for a family of four.” Clearly, the government needs to find other solutions than providing a small amount of food per family.

Other attempts to alleviate the situation were raising the minimum wage to 34 times the previous amount and minting a new currency (the “sovereign bolivar”) to replace the “strong bolivar.” Unfortunately, new currency or no, businesses cannot afford to pay the new minimum wage set by the government and are laying off employees or, in the worst case scenario, closing down. There have been attempts by the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) to act as a mediator between the people and the government amidst the protesting, but no demands have been met. Although the situation is bleak, the hopes for successful negotiation may be the only way to end the crisis in Venezuela.

Although crime and violence in Venezuela have been commonplace in the past, current living conditions in Venezuela have escalated the crime to new heights, creating a harsh reality many are facing in order to survive. Without the basic means of survival such as a livable wage, job security and even access to basic resources, Venezuela will continue to see a steadily climbing crime and murder rate.

– Catherine Wilson

Photo: Flickr

Is there any Hope that Andrés Manuel López Obrador Can Stem the Violence in Mexico?
Statistics show that in May 2018, one person was killed in Mexico every 15 minutes. This number is record-breaking for the country, proving that 2018 will turn out to be even more violent than 2017, the year that saw the highest rates of violence in Mexico in the last two decades.

New President, New Hope

Mexico recently elected a new president, democratic socialist Andrés Manuel López Obrador (popularly known as AMLO). He officially assumed office on December 1 and his victory has raised great hopes among the millions of poor and struggling citizens of the country.

Among other goals that he committed himself to, such as expanding health care, strengthening the education system and helping small-time farmers, AMLO plans to stem cartel violence in Mexico. When he was voted, AMLO told his gathered supporters: “This is a historic day. We represent the possibility of a real change, of a transformation.”

During his victory speech, AMLO made clear right away one crucial aspect of the transformation he was seeking. “The failed crime and violence strategy will change.”

AMLO inherited the presidential office from Enrique Peña Nieto and a bloody war on drug cartels that has lasted over a decade and taken more than 150,000 lives.

But unlike his predecessor, AMLO does not favor using a military strategy to target the cartels. In May conference, he stated that his opponents think everything can be resolved by force.

So, what’s the new President’s alternative? His strategies of stemming the cartel violence in Mexico are presented below.

Look at the Root of the Problem

AMLO said that he wants to tackle the social problems that cause people to become involved in organized crime and drug cartels in the first place. “More than through the use of force, we will tend to the causes that give rise to insecurity and violence,” he promises.

While on the campaign trail, AMLO used slogans like “Abrazos, no balazos” (hugs, not gunshots) and “Becarios sí, sicarios no” (scholars yes, killers no), to highlight his pacifist platform.

AMLO plans to contact human rights groups, religious leaders and the United Nations to start drafting a new plan for combatting the drug war.

He plans to invest in education and eradicate the poverty in the country that is the root of the problem.

Decriminalization

AMLO has a long-term goal of re-writing drug laws to decriminalize recreational use of marijuana. He is considering making it legal to using opium for medicinal reasons.

Former Supreme Court Justice Olga Sánchez Cordero, who is AMLO’S proposed interior minister, said that poppy production could be legalized to supply the national pharmaceutical company.

All of this could take away the main sources of income for Mexico’s cartels, whose profits come almost mostly from trafficking illegal drugs.

Transitional Justice

The new president is also interested in substituting transitional justice for punitive sentencing and imprisonment. The United Nations defines transitional justice as the full range of processes and mechanisms associated with a society’s attempt to come to terms with a legacy of large-scale past abuses, in order to ensure accountability, serve justice and achieve reconciliation.

Transitional justice has been used in Rwanda, for example, as of way of rebuilding from the 1994 genocide. Now, AMLO’s administration is looking to transitional justice for guidance in creating peace in Mexico.

Some aspects of transitional justice that AMLO wants to employ are truth commissions and giving reparations to victims’ family members. Reparations could come in the form of money, work or education.

One of AMLO’s most controversial ideas is giving partial amnesty to those involved in drug gangs. This amnesty would, however, only apply to non-violent offenders.

Instead of sending them to prison, he sees social work and public service as viable alternatives that could be more effective long-term because this would remove the primary motivations that young people have for joining the drug gangs.

The members of drug cartels eligible for amnesty plans are primarily those whose jobs were planting drugs, serving as lookouts or working as drug mules.

He is not proposing to grant amnesty to those directly involved in the more than 150,000 killings that threaten to destabilize the country entirely.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador plans to stem cartel violence in Mexico. He espouses the lofty goal of eradicating violence by the middle of his first 6-year term in office.

His approach is so different and innovative than those of his predecessors that it might just work. The people of Mexico and the whole world will soon find out if this will actually work.

– Evann Orleck-Jetter

Photo: Flickr

Recent Genocides
Genocide is defined as the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation. Recent genocides have occurred in Sudan against 
Darfur’s ethnic Fur, Massalit, and Zhagawa peoples and in Myanmar against its Rohingya minority.

Tensions Continue as a Result of Sudanese Genocides

Since gaining independence from the United Kingdom and Egypt in 1956, Sudan has struggled to find peace between its Muslim northern regions and its animist and Christian southern regions. Continuous conflict led to the creation of an autonomous South Sudan, but tensions persist. Civil wars in the region have taken an estimated 2.5 million lives and displaced approximately four million people.

Beside the warring north and south of Sudan, recent genocides have occurred in a western part of the nation known as Darfur. In February 2003, rebel groups led by predominantly by non-Arab Muslim sedentary tribes, including the Fur and Zaghawa, rose up against the Khartoum government due to unequal treatment and economic marginalization. In response, the government sent militias known as Janjaweed, which translates to “evil men on horseback,” whose duties were to carry out attacks on villages. The Janjaweed used slash and burn methods to decimate communities as well as injuring and murdering civilians and poisoning wells.

The Darfurian genocide was the first genocide of the 21st century and its unrest and violence have not yet ceased. As of 2016, more than 480,000 people have been murdered and more than 2.8 million people have been displaced. Many refugees have fled Sudan and some have been living in camps for more than 10 years.

Recent Genocides in Myanmar Draw Global Attention

Myanmar, the nation formerly known as Burma, lived under the governance of an oppressive military junta from 1962 to 2011. The government is now under civilian control, but the military continues to wield extensive power and commit human rights abuses. Its population is mostly Buddhist with large Christian and Muslim minorities.

Two-thirds of Myanmar’s people identify as Burmese or Bamar, but there are 135 ethnic minorities residing in the country. The Christian Karen people and the Muslim Rohingya people of Myanmar have faced long-standing systemic violence and oppression from the Buddhist government. Aid agencies estimate that 200,000 Karen have been driven from their homes in the decades of conflict and as recently as 2010 the government was still burning, shelling and abusively sweeping Karen villages.

The Rohingya Muslims have also had a long-standing history of genocide and statelessness. In 1982, the Burmese military stripped the Rohingya of their citizenship, claiming that they were Bengali despite their having lived in Burma’s Rakhine State for generations. This led to a mass migration of over 250,000 Rohingya people to Bangladesh in 1991 and 1992, but they were met with deportation once in Bangladesh and were forced to return to Burma.

The recent genocides of the Rohingya in Myanmar began in 2012 when political party officials, senior Buddhist monks and state security forces committed mass killings of men, women and children. The cleansing left 150,000 Rohingya homeless and more than 100,000 fled the country.

Even more recently, in August 2017, a small rebellion of Rohingya militants led to military retaliation against any and all Rohingya people. These attacks caused the largest refugee movement since the Rwandan genocide. More than 675,000 Rohingya fled the country within three months to seek safety in Bangladesh. As of January 2018, more than one million Rohingya refugees have been registered in Bangladesh.

Fulfilling the Promise to End Genocide Worldwide

Ethnic cleansing and genocide are not acts of the past. Religious and cultural minorities continue to face persecution and attempts at forced extinction. However, this does not mean that individuals elsewhere must simply be bystanders to such atrocities. Raising awareness about the genocides occurring in the world and donating time or money to organizations that work to end genocide can make an impact and ensure that the world does not turn a blind eye to those in danger.

The organization United to End Genocide states that one of the best ways for individuals to help prevent and stop genocide is to vote for representatives who support foreign aid and acknowledge global atrocities. Support representatives who make the end of genocide a priority.

– Carolina Sherwood Bigelow
Photo: Flickr

Global Prevalence of FemicideFemicide is defined as the killing of women. It has also been called gendercide and it is the most severe form of violence against women. The global prevalence of femicide is evident within all regions and cultures.

The Current Situation

Four of the five regions with the highest levels of femicide also have the highest rates of overall homicides, but in Eastern Europe and the Russian Federation, femicide rates are disproportionately high in respect to general homicide rates. In India, 8,093 cases of dowry femicide were reported in 2007. In China, female children are twice as likely to die in their first year of life compared to male children and the risk of death is three times higher for second born female children than first born.

Furthermore, in Guatemala, two women are murdered on average every single day. In Mexico, an estimated seven women were murdered every day in 2016. In South Africa, the rate of femicide for 2015 was 9.6 per 100,000 women, 4 times more than the global average that same year.

Cultures facilitate femicide through the normalization of violence against women. Dowry femicide, the murder of a woman by her in-laws over dowry-related conflicts, and honor killings, the murder of a woman by a member of her family for a behavioral transgression, can be considered “traditions” in the Middle East and South Asia. Intimate partner femicide is relabeled as a “crime of passion” in Latin America.

The pressure to desire male children for their dominant advantages over female children is a major cause of femicide in many nations. In societies such as China and India, girls are seen as burdens due to their inability to help support their families financially. The expense of dowries makes female infanticide a viable option for families seeking a more lucrative future.

Combatting the Global Prevalence of Femicide

Governments have a responsibility to protect women’s rights to life and liberty. By creating and enforcing laws that protect women from violence and discrimination, a precedent can be set and the complacency shown to the oppression of women can cease.

In Central America, femicide has been criminalized and prosecutors have been trained to take cases to trial. In Pakistan, sweeping new legislation has been passed to prevent the use of acid on attacks on women. Meanwhile, in Palestine, the first national strategy to combat violence against women in the Middle East was adopted with survivors of violence taking part in the legislation’s drafting. These are important positive steps toward legal recourse and representation in instances of femicide and violence against women.

Improving Female Representation in Government

As of June 2016, only 22.8 percent of all national parliamentarians were women, and as of June 2017, only two countries have 50 percent or more women in parliament. Room for women is slowly growing. 11 countries in Latin America and 13 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have applied for some form of gender quotas to open more space for women in governmental positions of power and influence.

Evidence has shown and continues to show that women’s leadership and inclusion in political decision-making processes improves governments. Female empowerment in government creates room for a discussion of many issues connected to gender equality and puts people with deep personal connections to these issues in positions with the power to fight the global prevalence of femicide.

The Causes of Femicide

Two of the largest risk factors for femicide and sexual violence are a lack of education and poverty which, in many cases, are intertwined afflictions. Education is a two-way street when seeking to end violence against women. It has been found that both men and women with higher levels of education are less likely to commit or experience violence.

By making education available to women, they have more opportunity for economic independence, are less likely to be forced into early marriage and learn skills that make them valuable members of society. In conjunction with educating women, educating men on the human rights of women can stunt the normalization of violence against women in the minds of young men and boys.

A perfect example of such an education can be seen in Nairobi, Kenya, where the nonprofit organization No Means No Worldwide implemented a program to prevent sexual assault on girls and women. The curriculum for males aimed to shift attitudes that lead to the acceptance of assault and rape of their female peers. Those male students in the experimental group who received the aforementioned curriculum were twice as likely as those in the control group to successfully halt instances of verbal harassment and physical or sexual violence against women.

Female empowerment and the re-education of both men and women to the equal rights of women and in culture and society are the keys to ending the abhorrent levels of violence against women and the global prevalence of femicide. Nina Simone once said, “I’ll tell you what freedom means to me. No fear.” Equal power and equal space are a route out from under the oppression of eternal fear, and released from that fear, women can find freedom.

– Carolina Sherwood Bigelow
Photo: Flickr

Children
A 2016 survey conducted by UNICEF and the Philippine government found that eight out of 10 children suffer some form of physical or psychological abuse. More than 60 percent of the cases of physical violence happen at home, with slightly more victims among boys than girls. Also during this time, UNICEF and the Philippine Council for the Welfare of Children found in their first nationwide survey of children and youth aged 13-24 that one in five respondents had been sexually violated. Less than one percent of victims of child abuse report these cases to authorities.

The Philippine Plan of Action to End Violence against Children

Since these findings, the Philippines have acted to combat violence against children and have made great strides. The Philippine Plan of Action to End Violence against Children (PPAEVAC) of the Republic of the Philippines (2017-2022), formulated by the government’s Council for the Welfare of Children and UNICEF, seeks to “break the cycle” of violence by guaranteeing access to services, building the capacity of children to protect themselves, improving legislation, and serving as a guide for policymakers and donors.

The PPAEVAC responds to Filipino children’s need for protection, care and development. The act is a multi-sectoral road map designed for the progressive reduction of violence against children and a part of the government’s general commitment to building an enabling environment that respects, protects and fulfills the rights of all children.

Furthermore, the effort also reflects the government’s recognition of children’s rights to survival, development, protection and participation, and their right to attain their full potential, as enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. It serves as an effective blueprint addressing the proliferation of various types of violence against children, including sexual abuse and exploitation.

Eight Key Strategies

As the Philippines acts to combat violence against children, eight key strategies in the PPAEVAC aim to address areas necessary to break the cycle of violence and achieve the vision of its complete termination. These strategies include:

  1. Promotion of evidence-based parenting program and life skills and personal safety lessons
  2. Capability building
  3. Comprehensive Communication for Behavior Change (C4BC) strategy
  4. Children and adolescent participation/mobilization
  5. Direct service delivery
  6. Monitoring, evaluation and research
  7. Policy advocacy
  8. Institution building

It’s already difficult to track abuses by relatives and acquaintances against children, but one of the biggest challenges ahead for the plan is the Duterte government itself. Its murderous “war on drugs” has brought untold misery to the families of mostly poor urban dwellers.

According to government data, the campaign against alleged drug dealers and users started in 2016, and has since contributed to the deaths of more than 12,000 people. Children have been among those killed by police and police-backed vigilantes. Many have been targeted, while others are what some government officials call “collateral damage,” or bystanders in police shootings.

Violence by state officials should not be a part of the large numbers on child violence. As the Philippines acts to combat violence against children, the PPAEVAC provides significant hope that violence against Filipino children has an end.

– Ashley Quigley
Photo: Flickr


On August 15-17, 2017, a workshop was held to prioritize citizen security and crime reduction throughout the Southern and Eastern Caribbean region. The conference was a start in the process of reducing crime and violence in Barbados, one of the countries that participated in the workshop.

CariSECURE Project

The conference was organized through the Strengthening Evidence Based Decision Making for Citizen Security in the Caribbean Project (CariSECURE). The essential goal of the project is to decrease the incidence of youth crime and violence through policy-making and programming throughout the Southern and Eastern Caribbean region.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) partnered with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to formulate the CariSECURE toolkit, funded fully by the USAID.

The USAID consulted with many regional stakeholders, including 10 delegates from the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Caribbean Community Secretariat, in development of reducing crime and violence in Barbados and other Caribbean countries.

What does CariSECURE Do?

The CariSECURE project advances citizen security data management, analysis and monitoring for reduction of crime and violence in Caribbean countries. Through reporting on citizen security patterns, the project converts quantitative data into valuable qualitative information, which then enables public servants the ability to generate data-driven results.

The project relies on the ideas of intervention logic by focusing on problem prevention rather than addressing the problem after it occurs. Identifying the problem, recognizing the risk factors, developing preventive strategies and adopting the preventive strategies are the four essential steps of intervention logic.

Barbados National Task Force for the CariSECURE Project

To help implement the ideas of CariSECURE, Barbados developed a National Task Force to instill administration and coordination of the project to reduce crime and violence in Barbados.

Mr. Stephen O’Malley, Resident Representative, UNDP Barbados and the OECS described that“the National Task Force will be particularly helpful in driving the management and coordination of the Toolkit” in Barbados and the whole Caribbean.

The National Task Force was officially launched on February 21, 2018 in Bridgetown, Barbados by the Honourable Adriel D. Brathwaite, the Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs in Barbados. Law-enforcement officials assisted in the launching of the National Task Force, which is the official implementation of CariSECURE in Barbados.

The Barbados National Task Force is composed of senior staff members from various public institutions that deal with crime and violence, which include the Royal Barbados Police Force, the Probation Department, the Courts, the Department of Public Prosecution, Prisons, the Statistical Service, Government Industrial School and the Criminal Justice Research and Planning Unit.

A Step in the Right Direction

The Honourable Brathwaite described how “reliable data provides an invaluable resource for the development and implementation of evidence-based policies and programs which have the potential to reduce crime and violence among the youth population.” The CariSECURE project was implemented by the National Task Force to secure an effective means in reducing crime and violence in Barbados.

– Andrea Quade

Photo: Flickr

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s quotes about nonviolence
Although his main intent was to fight for the equality of African-Americans during the 1960s, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s quotes about nonviolence are still relevant today. As of 2017, Colombia, Yemen, El Salvador, Pakistan and Nigeria are the top five most dangerous countries in the world.

Colombia faces drug trafficking and frequent acts of terrorism. Pakistan is in the midst of a religious war in which innocent bystanders have become collateral damage. Nigeria is terrorized by two extremist groups, Boko Haram and ISIS of West Africa.

However, violence is not only a common trend in these countries but in a large percentage of the world. From the Caribbean to Africa and even parts of Asia, violence is an epidemic.

Violence is an ongoing cycle that is hard to break, and no one seems to have understood this more than Dr. King. He preached of the power and strength of nonviolent actions. He understood that peaceful protest and other nonviolent protests could strike real change.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Top Quotes about Nonviolence

  1. “In spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace.”
  2. “We adopt the means of nonviolence because our end is a community at peace with itself. We will try to persuade with our words, but if our words fail, we will try to persuade with our acts.”
  3. “Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.”
  4. “Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.”
  5. “Nonviolence is absolute commitment to the way of love. Love is not emotional bash; it is not empty sentimentalism. It is the active outpouring of one’s whole being into the being of another.”
  6. “World peace through nonviolent means is neither absurd nor unattainable. All other methods have failed. Thus we must begin anew. Nonviolence is a good starting point.”
  7. “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”
  8. “I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action.”
  9. “I am convinced that even violent temperaments can be channeled through nonviolent discipline, if they can act constructively and express through an effective channel their very legitimate anger.”
  10. “In the nonviolent army, there is room for everyone who wants to join up. There is no color distinction. There is no examination, no pledge, except that, as a soldier in the armies of violence is expected to inspect his carbine and keep it clean, nonviolent soldiers are called upon to examine their greatest weapons: their heart, their conscience, their courage and sense of justice.”

From Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s quotes about nonviolence, many have been and continue to be given the power to envision peace. If humans across the globe could comprehend Dr. King’s lesson, the world would finally be able to achieve peace.

– Cassidy Dyce

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

 

most dangerous countries in the worldAs of January 2018, the State Department currently categorizes 11 countries with a level 4 travel advisory. The advisory recommends that U.S. citizens refrain from traveling to that individual country due to dangerous conditions. Level 4 travel warnings are issued for various reasons, which include terrorism, armed conflict, health, civil unrest and crime. The seven most dangerous countries in the world detailed here all have high poverty rates due to the unsafe and unstable living conditions in the country.

The Most Dangerous Countries in the World

  1. Afghanistan
    In recent years, Afghanistan has experienced prolonged armed conflict between NATO forces and domestic terrorist groups such as the Taliban and ISIL. Al-Qaida and other foreign terrorist organizations have maintained a presence in the conflict as well. Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, continually faces the threat of terrorist attacks, which include suicide bombings, kidnappings and armed conflict. A portion of these attacks explicitly target government buildings, hotels, restaurants and other areas frequented by foreign visitors.
  2. Syria
    According to the State Department travel advisory for Syria, “No part of Syria is safe from violence. Kidnappings, the use of chemical warfare and aerial bombardment have significantly raised the risk of death or serious injury.” As of February 2012, the U.S. Embassy in Damascus has ceased all operations.

    Originally, the Syrian conflict began as an extension of the Arab Spring, which sought to remove Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s current president. Over the course of the last seven years, the nature of the conflict has changed with U.S., Turkish and Russian involvement. Armed conflict continues among multiple militia groups. As a result of the continued crisis, a large number of refugees have sought asylum in Europe, North America and other regions of the Middle East. It is unclear as to when a peace agreement can be reached between the current opposing forces.

  3. Yemen
    With the removal of President Abd Rabuh Mansur Hadi by Huthi forces in 2015, Yemen has suffered from continuous internal conflict between tribal groups and political parties. As a consequence, Yemen’s infrastructure of medical facilities, schools, housing, power and water utilities have been massively damaged.Between April and July 2017, more than 400,000 cases of cholera were reported. During that same period, close to 2,000 individuals died of cholera. In 2016, the U.N. attempted to reach a peace agreement for the cessation of hostilities, which ultimately failed.

    Sporadic fighting persists within Yemen, along with a domestic presence of terrorist groups such as al-Qaida.

  4. Mali
    Violent crime and terrorism are prevalent issues in northern and central Mali. The State Department warns foreign visitors that both kidnapping and armed robbery are major concerns when traveling to the country. Hotels, nightclubs, places of worship and restaurants are frequent places for domestic terrorist attacks.It is advised to avoid traveling at night due to random police checkpoints and illegal roadblocks. Seasonal holidays have also seen increased violent activity.
  5. Somalia
    Somalia has seen great progress in recent years with the creation of a 275-member parliament and a presidential election in 2012. However, the continued presence of the terrorist group al-Shabaab, an al-Qaida affiliate, presents dangerous conditions for Somali citizens and foreign visitors.

    On October 14, 2017, Somalia saw its deadliest attack ever recorded in its prolonged war against Islamic extremists. Two truck bombs were detonated in the capital city of Mogadishu, resulting in approximately 280 casualties and more than 300 wounded. Illegal roadblocks are common throughout the country, posing dangers to travelers. Also, the issue of piracy continues to threaten the security of those traveling by sea.

  6. Central African Republic
    In its report on the Central African Republic, the State Department warns visitors of crime and civil unrest. Currently, large areas of the country are under the control of armed groups, preventing safe travel. Notable violent crimes are listed, such as armed robbery, aggravated battery and homicide. The fragmented nature of the country is a result of a civil war launched in 2013 which ousted President Francois Bozize, who seized power through a military coup in 2003.

    As of 2016, the current president, Faustin-Archange Touadera, has sought to establish peace with the various rebel groups through a program which aims to reintegrate the armed groups into society.

  7. Iraq
    Upon the removal of Saddam Hussein by U.S.-led coalition forces, an Iraqi government was formally established. However, Iraq has continued to be a hotbed for armed conflict and terrorist activity, most notably the invasion of Mosul by the forces of ISIS and their eventual defeat in late 2017. Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, continues to be the target of suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks. Due to the current security crisis throughout Iraq and the civil war in neighboring Syria, Iraq remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world.

    As the security situation remains largely unsolved, the State Department continues to list Iraq as a level 4 travel warning, urging potential visitors to avoid travel for the foreseeable future.

Primarily, the current security climate in these states is a direct result of various types of armed conflict. As a result of armed conflict, critical health issues have also arisen. However, this is cause for hope. Continued support from the world’s wealthiest nations in the form of development and aid can help bring armed conflict to an end. A different future is possible, one in which these war-torn nations will no longer be classified as the most dangerous countries in the world.

– Colby McCoy

Photo: Flickr

John Marks
In an increasingly polarized world, it is becoming more and more common for individuals to be split on issues. Although this may not be negative, such binarization certainly has the potential to breed conflict. Search for Common Ground (SFCG) is a non-governmental agency that seeks to prevent violence that results from differences. Here are ten facts about Search for Common Ground that provide a better understanding of what the organization does.

10 Facts about Search for Common Ground

  1. Search for Common Ground was founded by John Marks in 1982 in Washington D.C. His vision was to replace the dog-eat-dog mentality of the world with the premise that everyone is better off if we are all better off.
  2. SFCG is revolutionizing the way the world deals with conflicts. Through listening and cooperation, the company brings people together toward a common goal and away from conflict.
  3. They have 59 offices worldwide and work in the U.S., Middle East, Africa, Europe and Asia.
  4. Search for Common Ground is dedicated to upholding human rights. As a result, they served as a signatory for a delegation in Nigeria known as the Steering Committee of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights Initiative.
  5. SFCG has a great global outreach program, as 795 thousand individuals volunteer with SFCG every year.
  6. Search for Common Ground has global initiatives such as “The Team.” This is a television series where soccer players must overcome their ethnic, social, religious and racial differences and use diversity to work together. This has proved to be an effective method to reach viewers as Richard Scudamore, the Chief Executive of the Premier League said, “football (soccer) is a remarkable tool which can break down barriers, foster understanding, and teach people valuable lessons on a wide range of social issues.”
  7. SFCG encourages cooperation in specific locations through dialogue, media and community work.
  8. SFCG has been successful in using dialogue to better relations. In one case, they transformed the reputation of police officers in the Terai region of Nepal through the Pahunch Project. This project invited Terai youth and police officers to play football and ask questions about one another. Notoriously there is tension among these groups, but afterward, one participant named Mamta said, “The football clinic has made my friends and me positive towards the police.” In fact, she even later decided to become an officer herself.
  9. SFCG created a video: L’Équipe to address gender-based violence. It revolves around the perspective of two African women soccer players that are victims of sexual violence. Despite their pain, the two women seek to better their situation and community. This is one of the many SFCG media tools that reaches 51 million people annually and provides encouragement for women to stand up against sexual violence.
  10. The Kpaika community within the Democratic Republic of Congo is a poor area that is prone to attacks from rebel groups. In response, SFCG organized the Secure, Empowered, Connected Communities (SECC) project. This project bettered communication within the community by establishing radio networks and emergency plans of action. As a result, the community has felt a lot safer and is more prepared for potential attacks.

Creating Change

These facts about Search for Common Ground do not encompass the entirety of the organization’s successes as a whole. To learn more about the organization or how to help, visit sfcg.org.

– Mary McCarthy

Photo: Flickr

15 Facts About the Rwanda Genocide How 800,000 People Were Murdered in 100 Days
Rwanda is located in Africa and borders Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo), Tanzania and Uganda. Approximately 800,000 people were killed within the 100 days of the Rwanda genocide; the following facts about the Rwanda genocide explain the genocide’s precursors, methodology and consequences.

15 Facts on How 800,000 People Were Killed Within 100 Days

  1. Tensions between the Tutsi minority and Hutu majority were amplified when civil war broke out in Rwanda in 1900. Rwandan outcasts created the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and attacked Rwanda from their base in Uganda.
  2. The RPF consisted primarily of Tutsis who blamed the government for ignoring Tutsi refugees. All Tutsis were seen as RPF accomplices, and Hutus who belonged to opposition parties were seen as traitors.
  3. Although a peace agreement was reached between the opposing forces in 1992, political debate ensued in attempt to reconcile the Tutsis and Hutus. In 1994, Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana was killed when his place was shot down outside of the capital, Kigali.
  4. Hutu extremists believed the RPF to be responsible for the president’s murder and launched a genocide against them, whereas the RPF believed Hutus shot down the plane as an excuse for the genocide.
  5. President Habyarimana’s death sparked a violent campaign against Tutsi and moderate Hutu civilians. Hutu rebels overwhelmed Kigali, eliminated all of Rwanda’s moderate leadership, and killed Tutsis and anyone suspected of having ties to a Tutsi.
  6. Government radio stations asked Rwandans to kill their neighbors and provided names, addresses and license plates. The radio was used to disclose locations of Tutsis and justify the genocide. Broadcasters used dehumanizing language to anger listeners and incite action.
  7. Once Hutu extremists encountered resistance from the RPF, they launched an extermination campaign to murder all Tutsis, thus eliminating their opposition.
  8. As many as 800,000 people were murdered by the Hutus from April to June 1994.
  9. Machetes were often used to kill Tutsis, as many Rwandans kept them around the house.
  10. Systematic rape was used in addition to the brutal mass killings. It is estimated that between 250,000 and 500,000 women were raped and killed during the Rwanda genocide; thousands of women were kept as sex slaves.
  11. At the end of 100 days, the RPF had made advances on the battlefield and in negotiations led by Tanzania. The RPF controlled most of the country by early July.
  12. The RPF victory created approximately 2 million more refugees, with over 100,000 Hutus fleeing in fear of reprisal killings. The aftermath of the Rwanda genocide intensified what was already a full-blown humanitarian crisis.
  13. The Rwanda genocide resulted in two decades of unrest in the DR Congo, where over 5 million people have died. Rwanda’s government, controlled by the RPF, has invaded the DR Congo twice because Hutu militias are believed to operate there.
  14. RPF’s leader and Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, has overseen rapid economic growth in Rwanda and tried to turn the country into a technological hub. Critics say Kagame refuses to tolerate dissent, which resulted in the trial of nearly 2 million people for roles in the genocide.
  15. It is illegal to discuss ethnicity in Rwanda. The government says such a regulation is in place to prevent further bloodshed, but some believe the law will only cause tensions to build and eventually boil over.

Future Prevention

These facts about the Rwanda genocide elaborate on the genocide’s background and future implications in order to educate the public and prevent other tragedies. 

– Carolyn Gibson

Photo: Flickr