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10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Brazil
Brazil is the largest country in South America and a key player in the international sphere. Despite its power and influence, there are still human rights issues prevalent in Brazil’s population. Human trafficking affects a significant portion of the 211 million people living in the country. Here are 10 facts about human trafficking in Brazil.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Brazil

  1. Due to recent urbanization in Brazil, many industries, such as textile companies, are exploiting undocumented workers, especially those from neighboring Spanish-speaking countries. Undocumented workers are not the only victims of human trafficking in Brazil, however, as women and children are in situations of forced labor or prostitution. Between the years of 2010 and 2017, Brazil had over 500 cases of forced sexual exploitation, stemming from the country’s severe income inequality. Since 2005, Brazil’s government has made efforts to reduce the income gap, but since over 70 percent of those in forced labor situations are illiterate, these efforts have yet to impact the high rates of human trafficking in Brazil.
  2. Traffickers are taking women from their homes in small villages. The NGO Rede Um Grito pela Vida, which translates to A Cry for Life Network, reports that criminal organizations are taking females from their homes in small villages along the Amazon. The traffickers tell these women that they will have a better life involving work or education. Furthermore, criminal organizations usually move them to other Brazilian cities. The traffickers commonly place these women into roles of forced sexual exploitation.
  3. The U.S. Department of State has commended the efforts of the Brazilian government in its work towards ending human trafficking in the country. Such work includes convicting more traffickers, investigating and prosecuting more trafficking cases and identifying more victims of “trabalho escravo,” or unpaid labor. Although each state’s reported data varies, Brazil remains a “tier 2” country, meaning that it is working in the right direction, but still has a long way to go to decrease human trafficking at an effective rate.
  4. In 2019, Brazilian authorities brought down a human trafficking ring that specifically targetted transgender women. At least 38 transgender women were working in brothels in the state of Sao Paulo, where traffickers were holding them due to the debts they owed for undergoing illegal transitional surgeries. The importance of this case involves the distinction between sex work and the exploitation of sex workers. Sex work is legal in Brazil. However, the exploitation of sex workers blurs the line between human trafficking and legal employment.
  5. The Ministry of Labor implemented the use of “Special Mobile Inspection Groups” with the aim of spotting forced labor in rural areas. It does this by performing unannounced inspections in farms and factories. Between the years of 1995 and 2017, there have been over 53,000 successful rescues of forced laborers in Brazil through the efforts of these inspection groups.
  6. According to the Digital Observatory of Slavery Labour in Brazil, government agencies rescued over 35,000 people from slave labor between 2003 and 2017. The Federal Police performed many of the rescue missions in the form of raids on groups that utilize human trafficking. These raids, in particular, focused individuals who had to provide labor for no cost to their captors.
  7. Although there are many kinds of human trafficking, a common type of modern slavery inside Brazil is forced labor. Forced labor is prevalent in rural areas. It focuses on industries that require field labor, such as cattle ranching, coffee production and forestry. About 7 million domestic workers in Brazil are victims of forced labor. This means they work long hours, suffer abuse and receive little to no pay.
  8. There are many NGOs working to provide legal and social assistance to victims of human trafficking in Brazil and its neighboring countries. The GLO.ACT, an initiative that the E.U. and the U.N. support, began its efforts in Nicaragua, and since then expanded to providing assistance to over 100 participants from NGOs and government agencies in Brazil. In addition, it provides missions in Brazil where participants can visit cities and help vulnerable migrants find shelter, all while creating awareness about the issue of human trafficking.
  9. The U.S. Department of State’s 2019 trafficking report outlines the role of the Brazilian Federal Police (DPF) in combatting human trafficking. The DPF has a unit in every state in Brazil that investigates most trafficking crimes. Although law enforcement at all levels lacks sufficient funding and staffing, the support of international organizations and foreign governments is supplementing this deficit.
  10. Traffickers often trick undocumented migrants into entering Brazil under the false pretense that they will live in the U.S. The traffickers then either force those migrants into human trafficking rings or dangerous journeys from Brazil up to the border between the U.S. and Mexico. The U.S. is taking legal action in response to these crimes and prosecuting human traffickers through its judicial system when their crimes cross the U.S. border.

 Although these 10 facts about human trafficking in Brazil present startling statistics, there remains a beacon of hope surrounding the topic. Brazil’s government is taking steps towards advancing the legal protection of human rights in the country, such as ratifying the United Nations Palermo Protocol. International human trafficking is an issue that requires support from various sectors, especially from governments and their agencies. Through international support and awareness, facts about human trafficking in Brazil may replace with more positive statistics. Overall, the work of NGOs, foreign aid and the Brazilian government continues to generate progress in the fight against human trafficking.

Ariana Davarpanah
Photo: Flickr

UN Report on Global Unemployment
Global unemployment plays a key role in global poverty. After all, the logic goes that employment leads to prosperity, even if little by little. Development economists proclaim the efficacy of providing jobs, however low paying, as the means to the end of escaping poverty, regardless of location. There is some evidence for this. According to the Brookings Institute, increasing work rates impacted poverty most, with education being second. With that said, a recent U.N. report on global unemployment clouds the future of international job growth since, for the first time in nearly a decade, the global unemployment rate has risen.

Previous Global Unemployment Rise

In 2008 and 2009, the Great Recession hamstrung the United States economy in the worst way since the Great Depression nearly 70 years prior. Unemployment soared, reaching 13.2 percent nationally and 5.6 percent globally. Between 2008 and 2009, the last time the U.N. reported on global unemployment rate increases, it increased by nearly a full percentage point, according to the World Bank. The stock market crash in the United States and Europe clearly caused this, but thankfully the rate recovered and surpassed the 2009 point in 2019, returning to about 4.9 percent.

Reasons for the Present Situation

A U.N. report on global unemployment in January 2020 indicated that this rise in the global unemployment rate was due largely to trade tensions. The United Nations said that these conflicts could seriously inhibit international efforts to address concerns of poverty in developing countries and shift focus away from efforts to decarbonize the global economy. Due to these strains, the report claims that 473 million people lack adequate job opportunities to accommodate their needs. Of those, some 190 million people are out of work, a rise of more than 2.5 million from last year. In addition, approximately 165 million people found employment, but in an insufficient amount of hours to garner wages to support themselves. These numbers pale in comparison to the 5.7 billion working-age people across the world but they concern economists nonetheless.

To compound the issue, the International Labor Organization said that vulnerable employment is on the rise as well, as people that do have jobs may find themselves out of one in the near future. A 2018 report estimated that nearly 1.4 billion workers lived in the world in 2017, and expected that 35 million more would join them by 2019.

The Implications

A rise in global unemployment, like that which the U.N. report on global unemployment forecasts, assuredly has an impact on global poverty. More people out of work necessarily means more people struggling to make ends meet. The World Economic and Social Outlook places this trend in a bigger context. Labor underutilization, meaning people working fewer hours than they would like or finding it difficult to access paid work, combined with deficits in work and persisting inequalities in labor markets means an overall stagnating global economy, according to the report.

Hope for the Future

First of all, stagnation is not a decline, and a trend of one year to the next does not necessarily indicate a predestined change for the years ahead. In fact, the World Bank points toward statistics that it issued at the end of the year to support the claim that every year, poverty reduces. In 2019, nearly 800 million people overcame extreme poverty from a sample of only 15 countries: Tanzania, Tajikistan, Chad, Republic of Congo, Kyrgyz Republic, China, India, Moldova, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Pakistan and Namibia. Over a 15-year period, roughly from 2000 to 2015, these 15 countries showed the greatest improvements in global poverty, contributing greatly to the reduction of the global rate of people living on $1.90 a day or less to below 10 percent. Additionally, efforts by organizations such as the International Development Association have funded the needs of the 76 poorest countries to the tune of $82 billion, promoting continued economic growth and assisting in making them more resilient to climate shocks and natural disasters.

While the U.N. report on global unemployment forecasts a hindrance to these improvements, hope is far from lost. The fight against global poverty continues with plenty of evidence of success and optimism for the future.

– Alex Myers
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Serbia
The Republic of Serbia gained independence following the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1992. Although birthed from the aftermath of a bloody civil war and a subsequent period of violence and civil unrest, Serbia is a progressive nation with a high quality of life standards. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Serbia.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Serbia

  1. Trends: Life expectancy in Serbia continues to trend upwards. The current average life expectancy is 76.05, a 0.18 percent increase from 2019. U.N. statistical projections anticipate that life expectancy rates will grow to 80.21 by 2050.
  2. Leading Causes of Death: A 2018 report from the WHO identified the leading causes of death in Serbia as coronary heart disease, which accounted for 21.39 percent of deaths. In addition, around 14.92 percent of death are from strokes.
  3. Infant Mortality: Serbia’s infant mortality rate is steadily improving. In 2000, there were approximately 13.5 deaths per 1,000 live births. Today, the metric stands at only 4.6 deaths per 1,000 live births. Additionally, U.N. data predicts that infant mortality rates will drop even further by 2050 to just over two deaths per 1,000 births.
  4. Health Care: Serbia underserves health care to around 20 percent of Serbian citizens. However, Serbia, in general, has an inclusive and effective health care system. Pregnant women, infants, college students and children 15 or younger all receive free health care. Furthermore, mental health services and treatment of infectious diseases are free for all.
  5. Access to Medical Facilities: The post-World War II Serbian government invested heavily in the territory’s medical schools. Eventually, it hopes to correct its problematic lack of trained medical professionals. As of 2016, there were 3.13 doctors per 1,000 citizens. That same year, Serbia recorded health funding equivalent to 9.1 percent of the national GDP.
  6. Birth Rate: Serbia’s population is shrinking. The estimated fertility rate in 2020 is 1.46 children born per woman. This place Serbia at 211 out of 228 nations. As a result, the population should decline by an estimated 0.47 percent.
  7. Violent Crime: Serbia’s murder rate has significantly declined over the past decade. In 2007, there were 1.9 homicides per 100,000 citizens. By 2017, the number dropped to 1.1. However, Serbia is a strategic corridor in the international drug trafficking trade. This means that multiple organized crime syndicates operate there.
  8. Women’s Health: In general, Serbian women live longer and healthier lives than their male counterparts. Women live on average around five years longer than men. Estimates determine that Serbia’s maternal mortality rate is 12 deaths per 100,000 live births. It places Serbia in the upper half of global maternal mortality figures.
  9. Sexual/Reproductive Health: Serbia is a highly religious nation. In addition, citizens typically hold conservative attitudes towards sex and relationships. Contraceptive prevalence is a comparatively low 58.4 percent. Only 18.4 percent of married or committed women use modern contraceptive methods. The United Nations Population Fund is in the midst of a campaign to ensure universal access to contraception and family planning services.
  10. Ethnic Minorities: Hungarians, Romani, Bosnians and other ethnic minorities comprise 16.7 percent of the Serbian population. Historically, Serbia’s relationship with the rest of the Balkans has been volatile both within and outside national borders. Additionally, this contributed to unequal access to health care, particularly for the Roma population. In concert with UNICEF, the Pediatric Association of Serbia is engaged in improving pediatric care for minorities and children with disabilities.
These 10 facts about life expectancy in Serbia attest to the nation’s rapid recovery from the tragedies of the 1990s and early 2000s. Serbia’s health care system and quality of life standards should improve even further in the coming years.

Dan Zamarelli
Photo: Flickr

Locust Swarms in Ethiopia
Brutal locust swarms have been decimating the food supply of Ethiopia and other African nations. Over 40 percent of Ethiopia’s GDP comes from agriculture, specifically the cultivation of grains like wheat and barley. Locust swarms attack the food supply of the livestock as well, of which Ethiopians consume at a much higher standard than most developing countries. Ethiopia consumes 15 kilograms of meat annually, 50 percent of which is beef. Locust swarms plaguing East Africa have the potential to create a famine that threatens to starve the people of Ethiopia. Here are some facts regarding the locust swarm crisis in Ethiopia recently.

7 Facts About the Locust Swarm Crisis in Ethiopia

  1. The locust swarm crisis in Ethiopia threatens to plunge several Eastern countries into famine. The United Nations (U.N.) has released a call to action, asking other nations around the world to provide $76 million for relief efforts in order to spray the affected areas with insecticide. This is one of the only ways to quell this impending famine.
  2. Ethiopia is no stranger to this kind of epidemic, as a similar influx of locust swarms preyed upon nearly 100 percent of green plant cover in Northern Ethiopia back in 1954. This locust swarm, along with extreme drought that year, plunged Ethiopia into a year-long famine.
  3. The locust’s ability to fly over 150 kilometers in one day makes it a traveling crop reaper. A single locust swarm, containing 40 million locusts, can consume the amount of food required to feed 35,000 people in a single day. This is the largest locust swarm Ethiopia has faced in 25 years.
  4. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supports the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in order to monitor prime breeding locations of locusts to effectively eradicate them before a full-blown infestation comes to fruition. USAID also backs the research of naturally-occurring pest control agents over harmful chemicals.
  5. USAID aids in coordination with national authorities in order to quickly locate swarm locations so every party has the preparation to eliminate the swarms. Local farmhands and herdsmen often alert locust control staff when people have spotted locusts in a particular area, playing a primary role in the prevention of locust swarms. Locusts tend to destroy crops very quickly, so it is important for locust control staff to know whether it is necessary to intervene with the local sightings and data they collect.
  6. Biologist Arianne Cease believes that the practice of overgrazing livestock creates more severe locust swarms. The land management that farmers implement creates a humid climate that is perfect for spawning locusts. Cease says that farmers should feed crops to their livestock that are optimal for that specific animal and not for locusts. For example, locusts thrive on a high carbohydrate crop, such as the grain that farmers grow in Ethiopia, while a sheep thrives on a high protein crop. Therefore, selecting the right crop and not overgrazing can decrease the severity of swarms, according to Arianne Cease.
  7. Dr. Cease has begun working with over 1,000 Mongolian farmers at a university for agriculture in order to implement these farming strategies, all with the hope of decreasing locust swarm sizes, such as the city-sized swarm currently plaguing Ethiopia.

One locust swarm can threaten Ethiopia’s entire food security. With the right precautionary measures like selective crop growing, moderate grazing and reporting locust sightings to international and local authorities, Ethiopia and the rest of the East African nations that these swarms plague can work together to mitigate the destruction that these pesky insect swarms caused.

– William Mendez
Photo: Flickr

Libyan Civil War
In the wake of the Arab Spring revolts in Egypt and Tunisia, protests broke out in Benghazi, Libya in February 2011. The protest was over the arrest of human rights lawyer Fethi Tarbell. When the government responded with greater and deadlier force to suppress the protests, demonstrators took up arms against the Qaddafi regime. NATO forces intervened in support of the rebels, who found and killed Qaddafi in October of that year. Libya has experienced a civil war between the Libyan National Army and the General National Congress. The ongoing conflict has had severe consequences for the Libyan people. Here are four humanitarian costs of the Libyan Civil War.

4 Humanitarian Costs of the Libyan Civil War

  1. Displacement: The Libyan Civil War has resulted in the displacement of tons of Libyans. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, the amount of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Libya was upwards of 217,000 people as of late 2017. By January 2020, the estimated number of IDPs rose to 343,180 Libyans. In addition to these IDPs, Libya is housing tens of thousands of refugees. Because of its proximity to Europe, Libya has remained a hub for migrants and asylum-seekers despite the civil war. Currently, Libya has 46,913 registered refugees and asylum-seekers. Refugees and migrants living in Libya face unsafe living conditions. This can lead to a litany of abuses at the hands of smugglers and members of militias and gangs including rapes, beatings and killings. This is due to weak law enforcement in Libya. Both internally displaced Libyans and refugees from other countries are often exposed to the violence of the civil war.
  2. Poor Living Conditions: The civil war has significantly worsened living conditions for Libyans. Three percent of Libya’s population, or 229,468 people, live in extreme poverty. Rural Libyans more commonly live in these conditions when measured proportionally. The incredibly high unemployment rate has worsened economic living conditions of young Libyans. At 48.7 percent, Libya now has the fourth-highest youth unemployment rate in the entire world. More young people in Libya are unemployed per capita than in the Gaza Strip or in Syria. More than 1.3 million are in need of humanitarian assistance in Libya. In addition, hundreds of thousands of them lack adequate access to health care and essential medicines, reliable food, drinking water sources, safe shelter and education.
  3. Violation of Human Rights: An important consequence of the civil war is the transgression of basic rights, such as freedom of religion and freedom of speech and expression. Since the civil war broke out in 2011, armed militias and ISIS fighters have threatened and attacked religious minorities. This includes Sufis, Ibadis and Christians. They destroyed religious sites in Libya with impunity. Unidentified groups have committed several attacks of violence against Sufi religious sites including a historic Sufi mosque in Tripoli and Sidi Abu Gharara. The violation of freedom of speech and expression occurs when groups have intimidated, threatened and physically attacked activists, journalists, bloggers and media professionals. Journalists and members of the media have experienced arrests and detainments without charge.
  4. Human Trafficking: Another problem that has intensified during the civil war is human trafficking. According to the CIA World Factbook, Libya is a destination and transit country for men and women from Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia subjected to forced labor and forced prostitution. Migrants who seek employment in Libya as laborers and domestic workers or who transit Libya en route to Europe are vulnerable to forced labor. Traffickers often force migrants to work on farms and construction sites. Additionally, they frequently force women to work in brothels. Militias and armed groups have been forcibly enlisting children under 18 years old since 2013. The civil war exacerbates this problem. The violence and unrest of the conflict hinder the ability of international actors and of the Libyan government to gather information on human trafficking. Libya’s judicial system is dysfunctional. Thus, the government cannot investigate, prosecute or convict traffickers, complicit detention camp guards or government officials, or militias or armed groups that used child soldiers. The Libyan government cannot protect trafficking victims.

International Response

These four humanitarian costs of the Libyan Civil War have significant negative effects on local civilians. In response to the civil war and its effects, organizations like the U.N. sought to provide aid to the Libyan people. The UNHCR has instituted a Quick Impact Project (QIPs) in Libya. It is a small project that helps support those in need with health, education, shelter or water and sanitation sectors. UNHCR provides vital assistance to refugees and migrants at 12 disembarkation points in western Libya. Other activities include working to end the detention of refugees and asylum seekers, resettlement, family reunification and voluntary repatriation.

Sarah Frazer
Photo: Flickr

corruption in El Salvador

In 2018, El Salvador received a Corruption Perception Index score of 35 out of 100, with 100 being no perceived corruption. El Salvador ranked 105 out of 108 countries that the index scored. This poor rating is a reason for concern. However, with the establishment of the International Commission Against Impunity in El Salvador in September 2019, there is newfound hope.

Cost of Corruption

Corruption is not just morally wrong, it is also expensive, costing the world at least $2.6 trillion every year according to an estimate by the World Economic Forum. The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has noted that corruption often disproportionately affects the poor. That $2.6 trillion comes from schools, hospitals and other critical institutions losing resources and businesses and individuals paying bribes, creating a deteriorating effect on the society as a whole.

President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador estimates that every year the government loses $1.5 billion without a trace. Former President Tony Saca cost El Salvador $300 million because he redirected government funds into the companies and banks of family and friends. Meanwhile, his successor, Mauricio Funes, gave away another $351 million to family and associates.

Corruption in El Salvador has also largely centered around the actions of the state security forces and gang-related activities. Within the state security forces, there has been a pattern of excessive force, including reports of extrajudicial killings and threats against the LGBT community, children and those who work toward the rehabilitation of gang members by the U.N. In 2017, there were reports of a death squad engaging in killings, disappearances, robbery, sexual assault and extortion. Additionally, there are approximately 60,000 gang members throughout the country, and in many cases, they are the ones who set and enforce local rules and partner with government officials in criminal operations.

The International Commission Against Impunity in El Salvador

The commission serves to act as an autonomous and neutral institution to ensure transparency within the federal government by investigating possible corruption in El Salvador and helping to enforce the laws. It is accomplishing this by establishing close relations with institutions in the country. This includes the establishment of an Anti-Corruption Unit within the National Civil Police, as well as working with the Ministry of Finance, the General Directorate of Customs and the General Directorate of Migration.

The El Salvadoran government has worked with the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States to set up the commission. The organization includes 35 countries in the Western Hemisphere and dedicates itself to the promotion of democracy, security and development. It has been working with various institutions within El Salvador, including the Attorney General’s Office, Supreme Court of Justice and various civil society organizations to ensure greater transparency and that authorities properly enforce the laws in El Salvador.

Concerns with the Commission

Firstly, Bukele’s major step of establishing the commission has come only in the past few months, meaning it is too early for there to be conclusive evidence of its impact on corruption in El Salvador.

Secondly, the commission is in conjunction with the Organization of American States, not the U.N. People have questioned the legitimacy of the commission due to the fear that the organization will not lead the commission with as serious intent, as the U.N. led the Guatemalan impunity commission. This fear stems from the belief that the organization is “underfunded, poorly managed and inadequately staffed,” according to the Foreign Policy Magazine. It is important to note that despite these concerns, the organization has played a crucial role in uncovering human rights violations in the Americas over the past several decades.

Lastly, President Bukele has stated that the commission will not require lawmaker approval to run. Jessica Estrada of the National Foundation for Development has added that the El Salvadoran “constitution does not allow the establishment of a mechanism” similar to that led by the U.N. in Guatemala. These statements call into question how much will change if there is a lack of legal enforcement available.

Reason for Hope

For one, the International Crisis Group reported in 2018 that the Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala has helped lead to a 5 percent average annual decrease in the murder rate in the country since it formed in 2007, providing a precedent for success. The commission in Guatemala accomplished this by being instrumental in the passing of legislation that allows for wiretaps along with greater use of DNA and ballistic testing and with other modern investigation methods. These efforts helped to create stronger law enforcement, discouraging criminal activity.

Also, already under the newly elected President, El Salvador has seen its most peaceful month this century, averaging only 3.6 homicides per day in October 2019. At its worst, the country suffered through an average of 17.6 homicides per day throughout the entire year of 2015.

Finally, within weeks after his election, President Bukele deployed police and soldiers to areas of highly concentrated extortion efforts where the gangs in the country receive 80 percent of their income, giving some sense of how seriously he is taking the issue.

While the fight against corruption in El Salvador is far from over, there is meaningful potential for the creation of a more peaceful and transparent state.

– Scott Boyce
Photo: UN Multimedia

Chinese Re-education Camps
Currently, China is holding Uyghur Muslim prisoners in what it calls re-education camps. China is holding them captive in its re-education camps without trial, with the excuse that these centers are voluntary and a way to fight Islamic extremism. However, police forces hold power over these places, making it impossible for the Uyghur people to leave by choice. Despite the negatives these camps represent, people can do remarkable things to help from wherever they are. This article covers information about the discovery of the Chinese re-education camps and how nations and people are taking action.

The China Cables Leak

Currently, estimates state that China is holding somewhere between one and three million Uyghur Muslim prisoners in what it calls re-education camps. This number would equate to around 10 percent of the Uyghur Muslim population in China, which is about 10 million. The government is claiming that these centers are voluntary and a way to fight extremism. However, after the leak of the China Cables, China had a difficult time sustaining this narrative.

The China Cables refer to the leak of the operating manual for the Chinese re-education camps, which people formally knew as the Xinjian re-education camps. Prisoners only obtain weekly phone calls and a monthly video call with relatives. Other than that, any other contact can result in their suspension. The Chinese camps have high security and prisoners are under constant surveillance, which makes it nearly impossible for them to contact the outside without someone catching them.

One can mostly trace the documents back to 2017, and they explicitly reveal the government’s plans to use these facilities to forcibly teach manners and ideologies to the prisoners. Even though the government says the people can leave the camps and are there voluntarily, the China Cables state that the camps would only release the students after a year and only after achieving a minimum point score. Despite the evidence, Shohrat Zakir, chairman of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, said: “What we established are vocational training centers — they are not concentration camps as called by some people.”

The World’s Action

The world has been noticeably quiet about this issue. However, some U.S. representatives have provided comments and critiques about the camps. Mike Pompeo, the United States’ Secretary of State, has called the treatment of the Uyghurs “the stain of the century.” Deputy John Sullivan called it a “horrific campaign of repression.”

Even though it took some time, the U.S. government finally took concrete action. The administration blocked Chinese officials who carry out the repression from gaining visas to the U.S. The Commerce Department sanctioned Xinjiang’s Public Security Bureau, its subsidiaries and eight companies for their involvement in the persecution, detention and surveillance of the Chinese camps. China has used the camps as a testing ground for intrusive surveillance of the Uyghur.

Outside of the U.S., other nations are taking action. The United Kingdom has urged China to give U.N. observers access to detention camps. Belgium stated that it would continue raising the issue of human rights violations in these centers. Finally, 22 countries at the U.N. issued a joint statement directed to China to end the detentions and human rights violations of Muslims. The U.K., Canada and Australia are amongst the countries that signed.

Opensource Research

Any of these things would not be possible if it were not for the power of the people, beginning with the leak of the China Cables and opensource research. Opensource research is the type of research that includes sources available to everyone on the internet. German academic Adrian Zenz followed this type of research by using a Chinese search engine, Baidu, to discover documents that proved the existence of these camps.

Shawn Zhang is another significant contributor, who is a law student that used satellite imagery to investigate the location and size of the camps. Both of their research has supplied evidence and images to news outlets. It has also helped disprove the Chinese government’s denial of the camps. One should never underestimate the importance of the power of the people. Zhang says: “During my research, I have felt a lot of pressure from the Chinese government (…) [but] I think it is worth it because there are so many Uighur people held there. They just totally vanished, they disappear, like going into a black hole. They’ve lost contact with their families. At least my research can help international society to pressure the Chinese government so there can be a better chance of a peaceful solution.”

The Save Uighur Campaign

There has also been an increase in coverage of this issue, particularly in social media, through the hashtag #SaveUyghur. It is essential to keep talking about this, so more people become aware, and those in power feel pressured to exercise change. Finally, there are also nonprofits such as The Save Uighur Campaign, where people can donate and contact Congress. This NGO’s mission is to help the Uyghur Muslims suffering from the Chinese re-education camps. In its own words, “The project is a concerted effort to tie media exposure, public relations, and government action together into a single strategy aimed at the liberation of the Uighurs from the oppression they face at the hands of the Chinese government.” It is prompting people to protest and giving them the resources to do so as well.

A popular way of protesting, which Save Uighur also promotes, is Fast From China. China bans Muslims from fasting, which is part of their religion. As a way of protest and an act of solidarity, people stop eating Chinese products during the month of Ramadan. There is even a hashtag for this, #FastFromChina.

The Save Uighur NGO does something fundamental by encouraging people to contact Congress, as this is where one can see the most tangible progress when fighting for this issue. Congress is considering two bills that support Uighur Muslims. The Senate has already passed one, while the House of Representatives is yet to pass the other one. One can find the tools to support it and contact leaders on the Save Uighur website.

Atrocities are happening in China, but people are doing some things about them. People can start taking action and changing the circumstances by informing themselves and contacting their leaders. Some fantastic ideas are already in motion to fight against these Chinese re-education camps, both from the government and the people. From discovering the China Cables to a hashtag, everything counts in this battle. Despite the negatives these camps represent, people can do remarkable things to help from wherever they are.

– Johanna Leo
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Palestine
Despite Palestine’s constant immersion in conflict as a result of Israeli occupation, there are some positives in regards to girls’ education. Here are 10 facts about girls’ education in Palestine that showcase both the good and the bad of the country’s education system.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Palestine

  1. Literacy Rates: Palestine has one of the highest literacy rates in the world with 96.9 percent of its population being literate. In particular, there have been great strides in improving women’s literacy rates. The literacy rate went from 78.6 percent in 1995 to 97 percent in 2018. Female literacy rates are at their highest in the West Bank and their lowest in Salfit.
  2. School Infrastructure and Teachers: The education system is struggling due to insufficient school infrastructure and a lack of teachers with adequate training, as well as the existence of schools in marginalized areas. During the first 10 years of the Israeli occupation, the government built no new schools and classrooms of existing ones were overcrowded. The lack of schools led to an emergency-like situation in education, which resulted in some positive achievements, such as the regaining of the credibility of the Tawjihi, a secondary school matriculation exam. There has also been an improvement in extracurricular activities for students.
  3. The Effects of the Israeli Occupation: The Israeli occupation is mostly responsible for the struggles of the education system, given that it continually causes the exposure of schools to rockets and bombs. Building restrictions that Israeli rule implemented in places such as Area C and East Jerusalem are primarily responsible for the shortage of infrastructure. There are also movement restrictions, such as checkpoints and the Barrier, which can pose challenges to accessing services like education. The Barrier is an Israel-approved physical barrier in and around the West Bank in Palestine.
  4. Enrollment in Early, Primary, Secondary and Higher Education: There is a comparable amount of enrollment in primary education when it comes to boys and girls. Still, admissions are higher for female students to both secondary and higher education institutions. However, when it comes to Early Childhood programs, only 14.9 percent of girls are enrolled. Therefore, the U.N. has made it a priority to start investing in early childhood education, focusing on funding both teacher education and gender equality awareness.
  5. Raising Awareness About Female Education: Some of the U.N.’s planned interventions include raising awareness about the disadvantages of early marriage and the importance of female education. This effort is on-going, as women still struggle with early marriage, and gaining education and employment in Palestine. A female Palestinian student interviewed by the L.A. Review stated that “we have this thing in our society that is like, your house, your kids are [more] important than anything else. Your job is not so important because it’s like, your husband is working.”
  6. Education and Conflict: Education is critical in Palestine because it can be a non-violent form of protest against the on-going conflict. UNICEF enforces this ideology by using a behavioral change approach towards students. It encourages students, parents and teachers to challenge the acceptance of violence. It enforces this mindset by providing education and raising awareness.
  7. Women and Unemployment: Women in Palestine experience marginalization despite their education, suffering from a high rate of unemployment when compared to the rest of the world. The unemployment rate among women with 13 years of schooling or more was 50.6 percent in 2016, which was a significant increase from the 21.9 percent recorded in 2000.
  8. Women’s Participation in the Labor Market: Palestinian women have the lowest participation in the labor market within the MENA region. When it comes to labor force participation, women have a 19 percent participation rate compared to 71 percent of male participation. There is a joint effort to find and apply solutions to this problem. One solution is the U.N.’s policy to encourage girls to have Technical and Vocational Education Training, which the U.N. has partially implemented to date.
  9. Dangers on Route to School: Approximately half a million children in Palestine require humanitarian assistance to receive a quality education. The violence in the West Bank poses threats and challenges, which lead to children to experience distress and fear, even when going to and from school. This is because they might pass high-risk locations or checkpoints.
  10. Electricity Shortages: Electricity shortages that constant conflict causes are affecting access to education, both at school and at home, by striking study time and concentration. These shortages are a result of the sole electric company facing a lack of fuel, which is a consequence of the closure of the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza. To reduce the reliance on fuel, organizations such as the World Bank and the International Committee of the Red Cross have been working on providing alternative energy sources.

Foreign aid and raising awareness about the importance of girls’ education in Palestine have enabled some progress. However, as a conflict-ridden area, there is more that the country requires to ensure long-lasting development and enforce quality education. By looking at these 10 facts about girls’ education in Palestine, one can begin to see some of these efforts and realize how it should be a priority to find additional solutions.

– Johanna Leo
Photo: Flickr

Safe and Voluntary Refugee Repatriation
Despite the constant divisive debates about whether to welcome refugees, they have protection under international law by the 1951 refugee convention, a multilateral United Nations treaty. It defines who people can consider refugees and outlines their basic rights, including access to fair and efficient asylum procedures. Despite the ever-present debates about acceptance, very little of it has actually been to talk about what happens when countries refuse asylum seekers including the problem of ensuring safe and voluntary refugee repatriation rather than returning them to dangerous situations in their home countries.

Refugees in the US

A country must ensure that refugees live in safety and dignity while it is processing their claims, and safety and dignity are also integral to voluntary repatriation. In 2020, the United States will only accept 18,000 refugees. This will be the lowest number of refugees that the U.S. resettled in a single year since 1980 when Congress created the nation’s refugee resettlement program. In light of such low acceptance rates, a national debate around safe and voluntary repatriation is crucial so that those a country turns away will have safe alternatives. Without debate, there is no clear answer to where those refugees should go, if not the United States.

Migrants, Refugees and Asylum Seekers

People often confuse the matter even more because they use the terms “migrants,” “refugees” and “asylum seekers” interchangeably, despite very different legal meanings and obligations. Amnesty International defines an asylum seeker as an individual who is seeking international protection whose claim a host country has not yet determined. In short, a country will not recognize every asylum seeker as a refugee, but every refugee is initially an asylum seeker. “Migrant” is a broad term that describes anyone who moves to another country for at least one year, for any reason.

“Repatriation” is when a person returns to their country of origin, whether it is because conditions have improved and they want to go home or because their host country has refused their request for asylum. According to the U.N. Refugee Repatriation Agency, safe and voluntary refugee repatriation requires not only the commitment of the international community to safely bring displaced people home but also the cooperation of the country of origin, which has to do the difficult work of reintegration and ensuring stability and safety.

So who will be the 18,000 refugees the U.S. allows in 2020? In 2019, refugees coming to the United States from the Democratic Republic of Congo far outnumbered those from other countries. D.R. Congo accounted for nearly 13,000 refugees, followed by Burma (Myanmar) with about 4,900, then Ukraine (4,500), Eritrea (1,800) and Afghanistan (1,200).

Repatriation

As of November 13, 2019, a total of 1,439 individuals repatriated. ReliefWeb, an online news source for humanitarian information on global crisis and disasters, reported that approximately 14,700 refugees chose to return to their country spontaneously and by their own means. However, home countries and the international community are working together to help with safe and voluntary refugee repatriation.

The United Nations, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Angolan government collaborated on organizing convoys for voluntary repatriation. Wellington Carneiro, UNHCR’s interim representative in Angola, stated that voluntary repatriation faced challenges like poor road conditions in the rainy season and the need to find suitable vehicles as a result. However, Carneiro assured that the operation, which he expected to finish by mid-December 2019, would fully guarantee the returning Angolans’ safety and dignity. While the international community’s collaborative work was a big part of the success of these trips, the Angolan government played the most important role. Paolo Balladelli, the U.N. Resident Coordinator in Angola, highlighted this when he said that “the Angolan authorities have shown their solidarity by welcoming people, including children, who were at risk of life due to serious ethnic conflicts. The conclusion of this chapter demonstrates to Africa and the world that Angola is a good example of good international practices.”

Julia Stephens
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About the Sudan Genocide
The grave human rights abuses and mass slaughter in Darfur, West Sudan between 2003-2008 was the first genocide of the 21st century. The Sudanese government and the Janjaweed (government-funded and armed Arab militias) targeted civilians, burned villages and committed many more atrocities. Below are 10 facts about the Sudan genocide.

10 Facts About the Sudan Genocide

  1. The long term causes of the Sudan genocide stem from the two prolonged civil wars between the North, that promoted Arabisation and a Middle-Eastern culture, and the South, that preferred an African identity and culture. The First Sudanese Civil War began in 1955 and ended in 1972 with a peace treaty. Eventually, unsettled issues reignited into the Second Sudanese Civil War in 1983 and lasted until 2005, however. Both civil wars occurred due to the southern Sudanese rebels’ demands for regional autonomy and the northern Sudanese government’s refusal to grant it.
  2. The direct cause of the genocide during the Second Sudanese Civil War revolves around allegations that the government armed and funded the Janjaweed against non-Arabs. This supposedly led to the southern rebel groups, the Sudan Liberian Army and the Justice and Equality Movement, attacking a Sudanese Air Force base in Darfur in 2003. The government countered with widespread violent campaigns targeting non-Arabs and southern Sudanese civilians, which turned into genocidal campaigns.
  3. The United Nations estimated that the attacks killed at least 300,000 people and led to the displacement of 2.6 million people. Of that number, 200,000 fled and found refuge in Chad, which neighbors Sudan to the west. Most of the internally displaced people (IDP) settled in the Darfur region, which counts 66 camps. According to a UN report, the lack of law enforcement and judicial institutions in these areas generated human rights violations and abuses, including sexual violence and criminal acts of vulnerable IDPs.
  4. The government and militia conducted “ethnic cleansing” campaigns, committing massive atrocities. They targeted women and girls, deliberately using rape and sexual violence to terrorize the population, perpetuate its displacement and increase their exposure to HIV/AIDS. The government and militia conducted ‘scorched-earth campaigns’ where they burned hundreds of villages and destroyed infrastructures such as water sources and crops, resulting in the dramatic famine. These acts are all war crimes that still prevent IDPs from returning to their homes.
  5. In 2005, the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened investigations regarding the alleged genocide and crimes against humanity in Sudan, which produced several cases that are still under investigation due to the lack of cooperation from the Sudanese government. The ICC dealt with the genocide in Darfur, the first genocide it worked on and the first time the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) referred to the ICC.
  6. A military coup in April 2019 overthrew the former President of Sudan, Omar Al Bashir, allowing the country to secure justice and address the wrongs committed between 2003-2008. Indeed, the prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, urges the UN Security Council to extend the UNAMID’s peacekeeping mission to 12 months and the new government of Sudan to transfer Omar Al Bashir and two other war criminals to the ICC.
  7. Omar Al Bashir was the first sitting President that the ICC wanted (it issued the first arrest warrant in March 2009 and the second in July 2010) and the first example of the ICC incriminating a person for the crime of genocide. However, the ICC still cannot move forward with the trial until Omar Al Bashir receives arrest and becomes present at the ICC (in The Hague).
  8. The UNSC created and sent the peacekeeping force UNAMID (composed of the United Nations and the African Union) to Darfur in 2007, which operates to this day. The mission deployed almost 4,000 military personnel to protect civilians threatened by violence, especially in displacement areas and on the border with Chad. In addition, UNAMID facilitated humanitarian assistance by protecting and helping in the transportation of aid to isolated areas and providing security for humanitarian workers. The UN decided to extend the mandate of the UNAMID until October 31, 2019.
  9. Although the fighting stopped, there is still a crisis in Sudan; the UN estimates that 5.7 million people in Sudan require humanitarian support and can barely meet their basic food needs. There are many NGOs actively working to provide aid, such as Water for South Sudan, that works to ensure access to clean water to rural and remote areas, and the Red Cross, that provides medical care across the country due to its collapsed public health care system. Despite these efforts, there is still an unmet funding requirement of 46 percent in humanitarian aid as of 2018.
  10. In September 2019, a new government established with a power-sharing agreement between the military, civilian representatives and protest groups. According to Human Rights Watch, Sudan’s new government should ensure justice and accountability for past abuses. Moreover, the constitutional charter (signed in Aug. 2019) entails major legal and institutional reforms, focused on holding the perpetrators accountable for the crimes committed under al-Bashir’s rule, as well as eliminating government repression and ongoing gender discrimination.

These are just 10 facts about the Sudan Genocide which are essential to understanding the current events happening in Sudan. Despite the peak of violence in Sudan in 2019 which killed hundreds of protestors, the country finally has a new government and it seems willing to right the wrongs committed during the genocide. The new prime minister Abdullah Adam Hamdok expressed in front of the UN in September 2019: “The ‘great revolution’ of Sudan has succeeded and the Government and people and will now rebuild and restore the values of human coexistence and social cohesion in the country as they try and turn the page on three decades of abhorrent oppression, discrimination and warfare.”

– Andrea Duleux
Photo: Flickr