- 4 International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action
- 7 World Health Day
- 22 Earth Day
- 25 World Malaria Day
In the foyer of our Pétionville guest house you could hear the hymns, prayers and song of locals and aid workers marking two months since the January 12 earthquake.
I wanted to be with them but duty called across town for the last day of the visit of the ACT Alliance general secretary, John Nduna, to Haiti. As his seconded media support officer I had just gone through a whirlwind tour of post quake Haiti taking in everything from refugee camps through to the diplomatic circuit. The two month ceremonies took place on the tail end of our trip.
People took time out to reflect on their losses, their pain, their hope and what they need for the still stunningly unclear future. You could feel the palpable sense of loss, even as the sounds of demolition and construction rang out in our upmarket neighbourhood. In what passed for rush hour Pétionville the normal mobile Russian roulette combat of four wheel drives, creaking trucks and crammed multicolour mini buses slowed down by 30 minutes as people milled around in search of meaning.
While I waited I thought of the hundreds of people we had met that week who had their lives catastrophically upended by the earthquake. Death at least had been democratic in this profoundly unfair society. The Prime Minister’s staff told us that 70 key central Government staff had died on the quake night while everywhere you met people without spouses, children or kin.
I thought of the educated artist I had met in a Jacmel camp who basically just wanted someone from outside Haiti to hear his confusion and bemusement at ending up just another refugee face for the cameras. He showed me the eight latrines for 2000 people in what was rated as one of the “good” refugee camps. In the day the temperature was hovering in the low 30’s.”I would like to emigrate, but to where and with what”, he said less in despair, more in puzzlement that it had come to this.
I thought of the young guest house worker who had helped me heft around tables and chairs to make a work station. How when he had worked out from the unusual foreigner who shared in physical work that I was after stories of the average Haitian surprised both of us by starting to cry. Nobody ever tells our stories,’’ he said.
Then there was the guesthouse manager, Joanna, an educated American raised Haitian American who pre quake was a serial entrepreneur who came home to start up a restaurant. The night of the quake was meant to be the last dry run before the restaurant opened. It never did, she was ruined financially but ended the 24 hours as the adopted mother of baby Moses who was given to her by his birth mother before she died of her injuries.
From there my thoughts wondered to all the mothers in the filthy camps managing to wash their clothes and in what is almost a metaphor for Haiti hanging them to dry on barbed wire.
Beauty and tragedy, cheek to cheek, that’s one of the truly amazing features of Haiti two months after the quake. Maybe it was always so. There is lightness, laughter and love. There is darkness, death and loss.
In some odd way post the quake and the emotional adoption of Haiti by the world it has also become the world writ large. Two months on the challenge will be to turn that sense of world community and support into long term help that gives Haiti a chance to start anew.
Having met Haiti’s human face, from high to low, rich to poor the challenge and mystery is working out how well any other people would do faced with this Biblical scale of destruction. It’s a riddle I hope I never get to see solved at home.
For more information, a PowerPoint presentation or to invite Greg to speak contact firstname.lastname@example.orgDonations to the Haiti Appeal can be sent to PO Box 22652, Christchurch 8142 or made online
Mothers Day Gifts
Delight your Mum with something very special that will make a lasting difference in communities battling poverty. Choose anything from goats, to a bunch of mangroves or the opportunity to ‘be your own boss’. Each gift comes with a card and a magnet to remind the recipient of your lasting gift.
Make the Switch to Fairtrade
CWS invites churches and supporters to swap their normal tea, coffee and sugar for fair trade varieties this Fair Trade Fortnight, 1-16 May. Resource material for those wanting to host A Fair Cuppa will be available after Easter.
Fair Trade Fortnight is being celebrated for the fourth year in Aotearoa New Zealand. It is an annual event to promote awareness of this growing new market. It is coordinated by the Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand of which CWS is a founding member.
Between 2008 and 2009, retail sales of fairtrade products increased by 50% across Australia and New Zealand. This sharp growth reflects the growing recognition by shoppers that they can help small farmers by making a deliberate choice for fairtrade. Earlier this month the first fairtrade branded bananas sourced from the El Guabo Cooperative in Ecuador appeared on some North Island supermarket shelves, and Trade Aid products are now available on line.
Goods bearing the fairtrade mark come with the guarantee that small farmers get a fairer price for their harvest. As members of a cooperative they receive additional support on growing and marketing crops like coffee, and the whole community benefits through the premium that is spent on agreed priorities like education. The scheme is guaranteed through a rigorous international system.
CWS and Trade Aid offer a joint Fair Trade Church scheme to make the swap to fair trade permanent. So far more than 50 churches have joined the scheme.
World Malaria Day
World Malaria Day was instituted by the World Health Assembly in May 2007 as an opportunity to promote effective control of malaria. Malaria is a deadly mosquito-born disease, which takes almost one million lives per year and afflicts as many as half a billion people in 109 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Each 30 seconds, a child dies from malaria. Each of these deaths is avoidable.
The next year presents a rare window of opportunity to save a million lives by rapidly delivering malaria interventions – protective nets, diagnostic tests, ant malarial drugs and indoors spraying – to all people at risk of the disease and to pave the way towards virtually ending malaria deaths by 2015.
World Health Day 7 April
World Health Day 2010 focuses on the impact of growing urbanisation on global health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has launched the 1000 cities, 1000 lives campaign to make urban areas healthier. It invites 1000 cities to open up public spaces for health activities and aims to collect 1000 stories about urban health champions who are having a significant impact on health in their cities. The campaign runs in the week 7 – 11 April. See WHO website
Let us Rise against Violence against Women!
CWS partner, the Women’s Centre, works in Sri Lanka’s free trade zones to empower women including through training and health programmes as well as its Street Drama Troupe. The women are exploited in their work place, underpaid, abused and liable to be laid off without notice. Most live in cramped boarding houses paying exorbitant rent and high prices for food. This interview is with Chandi Dissanayake from Bratex in the Katunayaka Free Trade Zone:
“My village is Bibila…. We had been well to do people back at home. We did not have to eat sparingly like the present day. There had not been a time when the rice pot was empty during the day. However I did not have money. Nor could I ask my dad for it. I wanted to earn it. In 1994 I went to the Minister and asked for a job. He gave me a letter to go to the Katunayaka Free Trade Zone. I came and worked for some time there…. I came to work in Bratex in 1995. There was a girl working with me called Rupika at that time. She fought alone and won the Thaipongal Day (harvest festival) holiday and gratuity for service for 20 years. However they took revenge. She was thrown out of service on the false charge that she assaulted supervisor Sandya.
“First it was said that it was a suspension for seven days but they never let her in after seven days. Rupika shouted in front of the gate claiming she was innocent. I don’t know what impulse caused me to get out of the factory with all other workers demanding the expulsion of Sandya too. We went on strike all of that day. We demanded either Sandya should be removed as well or they should take back Rupika. Therefore the management finally had to budge and remove Sandya as well. However Rupika was not taken back and the lawsuit on it is still continuing. Because of this kind of injustices we formed a trade union in 2005. We have been able to win certain demands through it…
“I often regret that there is no unity and organisation among Free Trade Zone workers. We don’t have to suffer as much as we now do if we were more united.”
UN: Food Rights for small farrmers
The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, presented his second annual report to the UN Human Rights Council in March saying, “Agribusiness can play a key role in realizing the right to food. But States have to give more support to their small producers and push corporations to change their pricing and standards policies.”
His report concluded that in an increasingly globalised food sector dominated by large transnational corporations, smallholders have a very limited numbers of buyers, and are in a deeply unequal bargaining position in respect of a fair price for their crops. To address this situation and the specific needs of smallholders, the Special Rapporteur recommended that governments could support the establishment of farmers’ cooperatives and act against unfair practices of corporations, excessive concentration in the food chain, or abuses of the dominant position by acquired by certain actors. He also noted that the development of private standards (hygiene, food safety etc) has worked against smallholders who can not afford the high cost of compliance and have no appropriate avenues to remedy the situation.
Noting the increased pressure to produce food at low cost, leading to repressed wages of agricultural workers and the casualisation of the work force, he reminded employers of their responsibility to respect the right to food.
The Papua Customary Council as well as Papuan civil society organizations have rejected new plans for expanded “transmigration” as announced by the Governor of West Java.
The new plan arises from discussions between the West Java Governor and Papuan officials, sponsored by the Ministry of Transmigration, which lay the groundwork for the sending of 700 family heads to West Papua from West Java on an annual basis. The scheme targets an area of 5,870,642 hectares of what the Minister of Transmigration described as “potential placement locations for transmigrants.” The Minister noted plans to assist the transmigrants beyond levels in past years. Specifically, transmigrants would receive training in agribusiness and trade as well as development of facilities and infrastructure.
It is precisely such assistance, now to be provided at an increased level that has facilitated the marginalization of Papuans who are easily out-competed by the newcomers in part due to Government assistance.
The Indonesian Government plans to take control of vast tracts of land near Merauke in West Papua, much of it already owned and farmed by Papuans.
The planned Merauke food estate will comprise a 1.6 million hectare integrated food production zone where companies will grow, process and package their products in one location. The project, part of President Yudhoyono’s fast-track development” 100-day program,” is aimed at developing food estates in eastern Indonesia. The plan entails an expansion of Merauke’s population of some 175,000 people to up to 800,000. That potentially disruptive population growth will likely involve a massive, state-supported inflow of non-Papuans along the lines of decades of “transmigration policies” that have sown ethnic conflict in West Papua, Borneo and Sumatra. That conflict has arisen as local populations are marginalized in their own homelands as Government support programs favor the internal migrants to the disadvantage of locals.
There is growing opposition to the scheme from small-scale Papuan farmers who say they fear their traditional livelihoods will be threatened by the large-scale, state-subsidized commercialization of agriculture. “We reject the concept of the food estate. For us, food estates are another kind of land grabbing scheme. It’s like going back to the era of feudalism,” Indonesian Farmers Union official Kartini Samon told the Jakarta Post. “The regular farmers’ land will be taken by big companies and the farmers will be left with nothing,” she said.
The plan is only the latest in a history of Indonesian state expropriation of land which has displaced and disadvantaged Papuans which began in 1967, when Papuan lands were still nominally under a UN mandate. In that year, the Suharto regime seized land in the Timika-Tembagapura area in order to facilitate the development of the Freeport McMoran copper and gold mine. The succeeding decades saw the displacement of thousands of Papuans (Amungme and Kamoro) and the destruction of tens of thousands of acres of productive land and fisheries.
La Via Campesina welcomes UN preliminary recognition of peasant’s rights
The international peasants’ movement La Via Campesina welcomes the preliminary UN recognition of the role and rights of the world’s 2.2 billion peasant and small farmers. The Fourth Session of the Advisory Committee of the UN Human Rights Council, who met in Geneva on 25-29 January 2010, adopted the report of the Advisory Committee titled “Discrimination in the Context of Right to Food” (A/HRC/AC/4/2). This report describes the marginalisation of peasants, rural women and traditional fishing, hunting, and herding communities.
Marginalisation, exclusion and repression of peasants and small farmers have been going on for centuries, and La Via Campesina has been struggling for the recognition of the rights of peasant – men and women – since 2002.
The outbreak of the food crisis in 2007-2008 revealed to all, including policy makers, governments and institutions, the severity of the situation. This crisis raised the number of undernourished people worldwide to more than one billion, among which 80% live in rural areas. Meanwhile profit makers in the sector of food production have been increasing their benefits. While the rhetoric of transnational corporations seems convincing (when they say that they can feed the world), the stark food shortages and speculation only confirm that it is misleading. Therefore the recognition and the defence of peasant’s rights is an unavoidable condition if we want to feed the world and combat hunger and poverty.
In August 2008, the Advisory Committee recognised the positive role of peasants and small farmers in the world food system and began to look very carefully on the nature of the food situation, the role and rights of peasants, and the types of discriminations, obligations, and good practices. As a result, the current report recognises that many small farmers cannot feed themselves and their communities because they are losing control over their productive resources, such as land, water and seeds. Those resources are being increasingly controlled by agrochemical giants and transnational food producers.
La Via Campesina is now calling all the UN member states to support this new resolution at the March session of the UN Human Rights Council. The movement also asks all its members and allies to raise awareness among their governments on the importance of adopting this resolution in order to combat hunger and bring social justice worldwide.
GRAIN, an international organisation supporting small farmers, reports, “The history of Latin America is one of agrarian conflicts, and of indigenous peoples struggling to defend their ancestral territories. A new chapter of this history is opening. Another wave of land grabbing is hitting the Americas, and this time it operates from a distance and wears a halo of “neutrality”. Today’s land grabbers (as thoroughly explained in governmental web brochures) say that they are merely responding to food insecurity and a world crisis “that forces us to grow food wherever we can, even if we outsource production, because we will bring home this food for the benefit of our citizens”. But when we dig a little, the financial monster shows its tail. The land grabbers are in fact big corporations and joint ventures investing enormous amounts of money in land, food production, the export and import of commodities, and food-market speculation.
Millions of hectares of farmland in Latin America have been taken over by these foreign investors over the past few years for the production of food crops and agrofuels for export. Much of the money comes from US and European pension funds, banks, private equity groups, and wealthy individuals like George Soros, and it is being channelled through special farmland investment vehicles set up by both foreign and local companies. Brazil’s largest sugar company, COSAN, has a specialised farmland investment fund called Radar Propriedades, which buys Brazilian farmland on behalf of clients such as the Teachers’ Insurance and Annuity Association–College Retirement Equities Fund of the US. Louis Dreyfus, one of the world’s largest grain-trading multinationals, has a similar fund into which American International Group (AIG) has invested US$65 million. While media attention has focused on land deals in Africa, at least as much money and more projects are in operation in Latin America, where investors claim that their farmland investments are more secure and less controversial – ignoring the struggles over access to land being waged in practically every country on the continent. More and more investors and governments from Asia and the Gulf are training their sights on Latin America as a safe place in which to outsource food production.
Most governments in Latin America embrace these developments, with diplomatic missions frequently being sent abroad to sell the advantages of investing in their countries’ farmland. The Brazilian Minister of Development, Miguel Jorge, recently told reporters: “Some Saudi princes with whom we met last year […] told President Lula that they do not want to invest in agriculture in Brazil in order to sell here in Brazil, they want food supply sources. They need food. So it would be much more effective to have them invest in agriculture in Brazil in order for us to be direct suppliers to those countries.”
…But the most profound long-term consequence of this new wave of land grabbing is the expansion of corporate control over food production. Over the last fifty years, corporations have constructed the framework that facilitates today’s land grab, and now they are moving in to reap the harvest. Land grabbing is not simply the latest opportunity to make speculative investments for quick, massive profits; it is part of a longer process in which agrochemical–pharma–food–transport corporations are taking control of agriculture.
In Jerusalem and the Holy Land, Easter takes on special significance. For Palestinian Christians and for thousands of pilgrims who commemorate the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, these events are reawakened in association with the same places Gethsemane, the Via Dolorosa, Golgotha and the Sepulcher of two thousand years ago. The story of Lazarus is the most telling of the Easter saga: here is a man who physically died but was resurrected. The compassion of Jesus, individual in the case of Lazarus, was extended to all through His ultimate sacrifice on the cross and resurrection. For us here, in the troubled land of Palestine and Israel, resurrection is yet to come. We are like Lazarus awaiting compassion.
The landscape these days confirm that spring has arrived. Yet, unlike years where the winter is generally cold, this year the rainy cold days were followed by milder sunny days. As a result we had had green shrubs and wild flowers year round. This is a miracle in itself even if it detracts from the contrast in the scenery between winter and spring. In early springtime, before the hot summer sun reduces the green into the brownish burnt color, the landscape is a kaleidoscope of a variety of brilliant colors mixing daffodils, anemone, lilac chaste tree, corn poppy, pretty Carmelite and scores of other plants and wild flowers into a beautiful carpet of divine scenery.
Yet in this Easter as we relive resurrection and its promises and as we humbly learn from the wild flowers of the land and their survival and rebirth, we find ourselves, Palestinians and Israelis caught in the catacombs of a political process. For us Palestinians peace is in the essence of our survival as a people and as a society. For our neighbors, the Separation Wall and the control mechanisms offer a mirage of security. Without genuine peace, agreed upon by the two parties, the ground will remain fertile for more death and destruction. The miracle of resurrection is not simply a physical one nor is it a gift without commitment. Passing from one situation to another necessitates commitment and determination. This cannot be done without a vision: be it freedom, self and group preservation or simply making peace with neighbors and accepting them. This is the essence of the resurrection and its celebration in this Holy Week.