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eritrean_government

Without any other choice, people are fleeing the country of Eritrea. The Eritrean government has been involved in several forms of human rights violations since 1993, when they broke off from Ethiopia. It is described by Human Rights Watch as “one of the most closed countries” in the world.

Reporters without Borders rank the country last on their freedom index and Amnesty International believes the country has imprisoned more than 10,000 citizens for political reasons since 1993. Despite all these violations, the government claims they have made progress in working to reach six of eight of the U.N.’s anti-poverty goals.

As a result of these rights violations, previous estimates show that Ethiopia had been experiencing a monthly inflow of 2,000 refugees. Italy has experienced an inflow of 13,000 Eritrean refugees since the beginning of the year and Sudan has also seen a rise in those seeking asylum.

More recent estimates by U.N. investigators, however, average the number at 4,000. Investigators describe this 50 percent spike as “shocking” and a sign that the situation has gotten worse since last year’s U.N. report.

Accusations of abuse by the Eritrean government include indefinite service in the country’s army, detainment of citizens without cause, secret imprisonment, torture and forced labor. The government has also enforced guilt by association laws for families of those who flee, resulting in fines or detainment. Many die while in detainment due to appalling living conditions including extreme heat, poor hygiene and very little food.

The path to freedom is a rocky journey often involving the crossing of deserts and seas. Many drown in the sea or die from the extreme heat in the desert, yet their hope and lack of choice drives their journey as they risk life and limb to reach free land.

Poverty provides opportunities for oppression and also creates the conditions necessary for oppression to thrive. When people of the world do not have the resources necessary to retaliate or the power necessary to change policy, they are left with few options. Often, the best choice is to leave, and so they do, often in the face of great danger.

Christopher Kolezynski

Sources: Bloomberg, Voice of America, ABC News
Photo: Cloudfront

adivasis
A great deal has already been written, discussed and predicted about India’s newly elected leader, Narendra Modi, and his Bahratiya Janata Party. A tremendous amount of implications arise from his election, but one that has slid under the radar has been his and his party’s policies toward the indigenous population — the Adivasi people.

Many of the laws currently in place in India already fall short of international standards regarding human rights and indigenous persons. This problem is only compounded by the nationalist platform adopted by the BJP, and has caused concern for people both inside and outside of India’s borders.

While on the campaign trail, Modi took several opportunities to debunk claims from the opposition Congress party that he would take advantage of the Uniform Civil code to take away rights of Adivasis. Furthermore, Modi went on to claim that BJP rule in states with prominent Adivasi populations has already helped protect their rights and increase their living standards. But as is natural with most political campaigns, what is said on the campaign trail does not always match up with reality.

The indigenous population of India has historically had a negative relationship with the state and companies based in the country. Amnesty International has already called for Modi to bring to justice those who have committed prior crimes against Adivasi population, referencing riots that took place in 2002 and 1984. While there have been acts of violence against the indigenous population, the most common crimes have been committed against the Adivasi’s rights to give businesses the free reign they need to make a profit. This information is particularly frightening considering that one of the central components of Modi’s platform was reinvigorating the Indian economy.

So the question remains — are the Adivasi people about to find themselves in the crosshairs yet again? Recent legislative efforts indicate this might not be the case. However, many of these need to be passed by Parliament in order to be ratified into law.

One recent draft bill proposes that in order to use land on constitutionally protected indigenous territories, you would need the consent of village assemblies. However, this draft bill still needs to get passed before becoming a law. The recent Parliament also passed a temporary law making wrongful possession of Adivasi land a criminal offense. But similar to the draft bill, this law will expire unless it gets passed within six weeks of Parliament reassembling.

While these laws and bills certainly are a step in the right direction, more work still needs to be done. One of the main criticisms lobbied at the bills is that while they protect the Adivasis from private companies, there is very little mention of intervention done on behalf of the state. But before more comprehensive bills can be written and laws can be passed, these important first steps need to survive the political process. It is now Parliament’s turn to take action. With any luck, they will make the right decision and protect India’s indigenous population.

— Andre Gobbo

Sources: Amnesty, Indian Express, The Guardian
Photo: Forbes

Amnesty International History Global Development
Since its inception in 1961, Amnesty International has transformed the developing world through the philanthropic efforts of its 2.2 million members. Its work has pervaded over 150 countries and territories, making it one of the largest non-profit organizations in the world.

Launched by the British lawyer Peter Benenson, Amnesty International completed its first mission in Ghana in 1962. For the next eight years, the organization focused on improving prison conditions in Portugal, South Africa and Romania.

By the end of the 1960s, Amnesty had secured the release of around 2,000 prisoners of conscience – individuals who, according to Amnesty, had “been jailed because of their political, religious or other conscientiously-held beliefs, ethnic origin, sex, color, language, national or social origin, economic status, birth, sexual orientation or other status.” Following this success, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) granted Amnesty International a consultative status.

In 1970s, Amnesty widened its concerns, launching its first international campaign to eradicate torture in 1972. In part due to Amnesty’s efforts, the United Nations adopted the Declaration Against Torture in 1977, and the organization was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In the following decades, Amnesty continued to promote its human rights agenda. In 1985, it published its first educational packet, “Teaching and learning about Human Rights.” It also create several new initatives, aimed at protecting individuals against the violence of armed opposition groups and protecting those imprisoned due to sexual orientation. During this time, Amnesty’s membership grew, exceeding one million members by the 1990s.

Currently, Amnesty’s presence is larger than ever.  In 2002, the organization launched a campaign against the Russian Federation, working to call attention to the human rights violations perpetrated by the Russian government, and in 2004, it started its “Stop Violence Against Women” campaign. The organization celebrated its 50th anniversary two years ago, and continues to transform the world through aid and reform.

– Anna Purcell

Sources: Amnesty International, Learning to Give
Photo: The Guardian

Fan_the_Flame_People_Too
Russian artists Aleksey Lyapunov and Lena Erlikh are the talent behind the paper-craft agency, People Too, which has quickly become known for its intricate and miniaturized portrayals of lifelike scenes. The dynamic duo produce three-dimensional images entirely out of paper, depicting scenes of office spaces, factory work, holiday parties, rock concerts and, most recently, human rights violations.

In coordination with human rights organization Amnesty International, People Too has created an advertising campaign called Fan the Flame, which highlights several major, well-known abuses. These images show the harshness of human rights violations, by depicting police brutality, stoning, water-boarding and military executions, all in unsettling detail.

Each image in the campaign depicts a violent scene of aggressors attacking their victim. The sculptures and backgrounds are all white, with the exception of a small orange flame on the bottom of each image. The flames are lit by Amnesty’s iconic candle logo, metaphorically linking Amnesty’s burning of the paper oppressors to their work in combating real-life human rights violations.

Using a range of knives, scissors, tweezers and wire cutters, People Too spent a total of four weeks crafting their intricate sculptures for Amnesty’s Fan the Flame campaign. Well worth the effort, this campaign brings to life the cruelty that afflicts many around the world and the work that Amnesty does to end it.

Tara Young

Sources: Digital Journal, Design Boom, Behance
Photo: Design You Trust

giving_change

The self-help genre is frequently stigmatized and written off as being trite. Rarely are these books truly life changing – nor do they often make a genuine attempt to broaden their readers’ world views. Azim Jamal and Harvey McKinnon’s “The Power of Giving” is an exception to the rule. Since its publication in 2008, it has been sparking a revolution in the field of philanthropy.

Its message – give more and expect more in return – is hardly novel. However, the authors take a multifaceted approach in striking a chord with their readership by offering a preponderance of evidence – both empirical and anecdotal – suggesting that a willingness to give back to the world can facilitate a happier, healthier and more meaningful life. For instance, academic research has demonstrated a correlation between volunteering and stress reduction and a healthy immune system.

This age-old idealism is balanced by pragmatism. Keenly aware that people come from varying backgrounds dictating how charitable they can afford to be, Jamal and McKinnon look beyond the monetary aspect of giving by emphasizing the importance of offering one’s expertise and empathy unto others. Tips on how to maximize the impact of contributions is also offered within the book’s 208 pages.

No life lesson renders itself legitimate if its messengers do not practice what they preach. In this regard, Jamal and McKinnon once again step up to the plate. The former has sacrificed twenty hours per week for volunteer projects and charitable endeavors for the last three decades of his life, while the latter has dedicated his life to fundraising on behalf of Amnesty International and UNICEF, among other renowned nonprofit organizations. To boot, 100 percent of the book’s proceeds go toward Tides Canada, a nonprofit that works to better Canadian society by connecting donors with specific causes.

“The Power of Giving,” transcends heartwarming banalities by embodying not just a book, but a multimedia movement. It is in the authors’ hopes that readers will physically pay it forward by passing the book onto friends and family, thus spreading its positive teachings through tangible means. On the media front, Jamal and McKinnon have centered numerous interviews and inspirational speeches around the book in a bid to reach the masses. Furthermore, they have created an interactive website and blog through which people exchange ideas and personal stories on the gift of giving. With this constant addition of new information online, it is hard to imagine such a fluid philosophy ever losing its spark.

Applied to the issue of global poverty, Jamal and McKinnon’s words inspire compassion among the fortunate for their brethren suffering in remote countries.

– Melrose Huang

Sources: The Power of Giving, Tides Canada, Amazon
Photo: Seth Skim