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Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that Iran is ready to resume talks with the West regarding its nuclear program. He stated however, that any negotiations will fail if the West does not clearly come out against Israel’s suspected nuclear arsenal. He made it clear that there will be no achievements whatsoever if the West does not change its policy towards Israel, Iran’s archrival. The West, especially the U.S., will have to make great sacrifices in its foreign relations with Israel in order to meet Iran’s demands, which is something that is highly unlikely to happen. It may appear that Iran is using Israel’s suspected nuclear program in a way to move tensions away from its own.

EU foreign affairs and security Chief Catherine Ashton has suggested the talks to be held in Vienna in November with the P5+1 Countries (the U.S., the U.K., China, France and Russia plus Germany) while U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said it was up to Iran to set a date. Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has signaled that October or November seems like a suitable time for talks with P5 + 1.

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Good news!!!  Just yesterday, the UN passes a resolution to make the right to water and sanitation a human right.  As I mentioned in my last post on the subject, this means that not having access to clean water and/or sanitation can be considered to be a violation of human rights — something that requires international action according to the UN Declaration on Human Rights.

According to Food and Water Watch, 122 states in the UN voted in favor of the resolution, and 41 abstained from voting on it.

The bad news in this, is that the US abstained from the vote.  Water rights are still not a priority issue for the US, perhaps because it is something so removed from our experience.  Whatever the reason is, there needs to be more work done on this issue to ensure that the next time water rights come up in the UN, the US does not abstain from the vote.

This resolution is non-binding, meaning that states are not required to take action yet.  However, this movement is an important first step in making a binding resolution concerning the right to water and sanitation.  9 states have already included the right to water in their constitution.  This is a growing movement, one that is essential to development, to human rights, to the environment, and to creating a more just and sustainable world.  So while the passing of this resolution is just a small step in the long run, it is a tremendous small step that can lead to so much more!

Here’s a link from a BBC article that tells a little bit more about the resolution.

Peace is something that mankind has strived for since our ancestors left the swamps and began to build civilizations. It is what prompted pilgrims to leave Europe in hopes for a new start and huddled masses to chance everything for something better. It is the creed of our United Nations and it is a value in the lives of every American. But the question is how do we find the road to peace? Is it the UN? Is it through our Government? Is it in academia, the Peace Corps, churches, special panels, or non-profits? The road to peace is simpler than we think; it is You and I, who believe that peace comes when individuals gather for a greater cause than themselves.  We believe that peace is something that is a right to all. You and I know (and do not merely believe) that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at chains of slavery to others. Peace is something that must be given and must be able to live on its own – and that is where we come in. Individuals are the key to the road to peace.

The road to peace is long and at times it seems difficult, but it is the drive of individuals pushing forward, that the cause is greater than their self.  There are American civilians in Afghanistan working at the International School of Kabul, www.iskafghan.org , working to help give a better education to the future of that country and through that education, build peace.  I have the honor of friendship with one of the people there who has shared with me the following:

“I enjoy my work well enough and God proves Himself faithful time and time again. Really to watch God love these people who have known nothing but war and death for generations is incredible and humbling. Some of our students lost families to assassination. The pain in their eyes is so terrible yet they come to school because there is peace and the freedom to find joy. It’s such a privilege to witness God’s unwavering love through pain and tears. The horribleness that we do seldom see seems insignificant to what we see every day….hope for Afghanistan.”

I have also had the privilege to know a friend that attends a church from Massachusetts who adopted a town in South America to build a school and a better future for its people.  It is here that the road to peace is built, through the work of individual people. Read the rest of this entry »

This year’s Earth Day celebrations are focusing on effecting legislation for climate change, both globally and nationally.  This focus on climate change coincides nicely with the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Bolivia.

The Conference was held April 20-22 in Cochabamba, Bolivia — the same city where the famous ‘Water Wars’ took place 10 years ago.  The summit is meant to be a recognition of those countries (mostly developing countries) who were left out of the Copenhagen Accord.  Environmental leaders, indigenous leaders, and civilians from around the world gathered in Cochabamba to discuss a plan for counteracting climate change.

Bolivian president Evo Morales is at the fore-front of this message, saying that ‘either capitalism dies, or it will be Mother Earth.’  The theme of this conference is very much that indigenous lifestyles are the best way to live sustainably, and that more industrialized nations should bear their weight of responsibility when it comes to the damage that has been done to the global environment.

The intent of the delegations in attendance is to draft new proposals to submit to the UN council in Mexico later year.

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Hi all, I’m Erick Ford, the AIDemocracy Southeast Regional Coordinator at George Mason University.  Last Friday – March 26th 2010 – over 100 members of the George Mason University community welcomed Former UN Ambassador Ahmad Kamal of Pakistan to the Fairfax campus for a discussion about building sustainable peace and security for future generations.

This was the second year in a row that Ambassador Kamal made the trip to George Mason. The forum was hosted by GMU’s Global Relations Organization, Americans for an Informed Democracy, the Public and International Affairs Department, Global Affairs Department, and the Office of the Provost, with support from the Student Government President Devraj Dasgupta.  The purpose of the forum was to bring the leaders of tomorrow an opportunity to ask and learn directly from today’s global leaders.

Ambassador Kamal spoke on various subjects including the Middle East peace process, Iran, nuclear proliferation, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, Russia, US debt, the WTO, global concentration of wealth, welfare states, access to water, and the role of the US and the UN in maintaining global peace and security.

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With the December 6 news that it plans to build twenty new uranium enrichment facilities, Iran has dealt a serious blow to hopes of peacefully resolving its nuclear standoff with the West. After months of courtship by the international community, Iran’s announcement appears to be both a rejection of the West’s advances and a signal of its intent to step up its pursuit of a nuclear program. With the US running out of cards to play, many fear that the two countries are on a collision course to military confrontation.

Much like North Korea, the consequences of an Iranian possession of nuclear bomb are dire. The Obama administration has sought to right the wrong of American Cold War policy, when the US provided its then-ally Iran with nuclear reactors in an attempt to curry favor. Preventing proliferation is a priority for the Obama administration and confirmation that Iran has a nuclear bomb would trigger an arms race in the Middle East, with heavyweights such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia seeking to counter Iranian domination in the region. An Iranian nuclear bomb would also bring Israel and Iran closer to war. Iran’s anti-Semitic leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has publicised his hatred of Israel so often that Israeli leaders deem a nuclear-armed Iran an existential threat. Just last year an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear sites was narrowly averted after George W. Bush refused to give Ehud Olmert the green light. The Obama administration has since tried to convince the Israelis of the virtues of diplomacy with Iran, but the latest setback means that hawks in Israel and the US will be circling Iran with greater intensity.

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It had started off simple enough.

Two weeks ago, still relatively new in my position as a Northeast Regional Coordinator with AIDemocracy, I spent a few hours trawling through Social Edge and twitter. With an eye on global development and security, my goal was to discover what was being done already in the non-profit world, who was doing it best and who among these folk were the most open to collaboration.

I made a number of new friends: the people at Acumen Fund, Water Charity (not to be confused with charity:water), Be Unreasonable, Sangam India, CORD and Open Society Institute were fantastic right off the bat– They were engaging, interested and human. It was like a Utopian first day at school.

In the context of my new job and projects I had in mind, I needed to know what was being done in terms of technology support for non-profit outreach and education services. One name that came up regularly was Ken Banks, founder of Kiwanja.net

I had heard of Kiwanja in passing before, but didn’t know much about it’s main project FrontlineSMS, otherwise known as \o/ (Which, btw, is a design based on this fantastic visual here).

I wasn’t sure what to expect. Before this Saturday, I had no idea who Ken Banks is as a person, and was as wary as a product of post-post-colonialism can be of anybody who does “non-profit work” in “Africa”. I was afraid I might run into yet another individual who’s working to “save Africa” just because that’s what Bono, the UN and everyone else is talking about right now.

[And if this is something that bothers you, Aid Watch has a great post on the issue here.]

I sent an email to Ken, one of those self-introduction/basic outline of project/can we chat sometime emails. You must remember that I moonlight as a writer: after all my experiences writing lit mag queries, I was prepared to face rejection or silence.

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If you are at all interested in finance for development, check this out.

Post courtesy Choike.org

Statement of the WOMEN’S WORKING GROUP ON FINANCING FOR DEVELOPMENT * for the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh, September 2009

The current G20 meeting in Pittsburgh takes place a year after the outbreak of the worst financial crisis in recent history. That moment left us astonished as we watched powerful governments and the International Financial Institutions scramble to plug a hemorrhaging financial bubble burst in the system of the global market but the crisis quickly spread as a global contagion and soon entire economies were placed at risk. Everywhere the crisis led to destabilizing impacts on the real economy threatening the livelihoods of men and women.

WE believe that G20 leaders’ declarations have committed three essential mistakes: First, the declarations fail to diagnose the crisis as a symptom of something deeper: the unsustainability of an economic and financial system based on profit; the over concentration of capital, overproduction, rampant speculation; and the reckless consumerism that is guided by free market principles. The decoupling of the real economy and financial markets was accompanied by yet another fundamental artificial separation: the productive economy and the sphere of social reproduction.

From a gender perspective, it is also necessary to consider that the aggregate contribution of female labor in the productive economy is concentrated differently than that of male labor. This implies that the impacts of the crisis on women will vary according to sectors of the economy and work conditions. In general, female labor is more vulnerable than male labor with a highest concentration in the informal sector. Therefore, the trend is that women also suffer the most in the productive economy during a crisis. However, the G20 has not approached or attempted to provide answers to any of these elements and analysis of the gendered aspects of the crisis.

Second, the G20 statements presented some of the same elements that caused the crisis as a solution to it.

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Post by Connie & Anika, STAND: Student Anti-Genocide Coalition, University of Delaware

The United Nations estimates that over 2.5 million people have been displaced in Darfur, as a result of the genocide that endures in this region. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are those forced to leave their homes but reside within their country in shelters known as IDP camps.

Last year, we attended the “Seal the Deal” rally in Washington D.C, in which hundreds urged PreIMG_1857sident Bush to enforce passed legislation in dealing with Darfur. Several mock IDP camps were set up on the National Mall, exposing the realities of life inside of a real IDP camp via accurate representations of food rations and medical supplies, as well as photographs, videos and written information. These camps immediately caught our attention and we, along with many others, spent a great deal of time walking inside each tent to learn more about the lives of the displaced people of Darfur.

After the march, we decided to apply for a Rights, Camera Action mini-grant from AID in order to create a mock IDP camp similar to the ones we saw at the rally in D.C. for our campus’s next genocide awareness event.
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Two years ago, our nation boiled in rage when Congress attempted to revise immigration policy that had long been in shambles. I was working as an intern then at Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Sestak’s office, taking phone calls from crotchety, disaffected senior citizens about their political concerns and entering their opinions in a crammed database.

When bipartisan legislation was introduced in the Senate that would, among other things, give citizenship status to 12 million illegal immigrants, phone calls at the office ran off the hook. Complaints ranged in tone from articulate, quiet concern to vitriolic, racist diatribes. I was struck by the utter lack of sympathy displayed by callers who claimed the United States should close its doors to immigrants forever.

Fast forward to 2009.  Revising immigration laws doesn’t seem to be a top priority for the incoming Obama adminstration. In fact, during the election, the topic of immigration mysteriously disappeared from local town hall meetings and presidential debates. Curiously enough, Public Radio International’s Lisa Mullens reported that the financial crisis has prompted a mass exodus of immigrants from the United States. Sparse jobs and waning incomes have taken a toll on remittances crucial to the Mexican and other Latin American economies.

But the flow of migrants from Africa doesn’t appear to have ebbed since the global credit meltdown.

Each year thousands of sub-Saharan Africans cross the treacherous Sahara in hopes of self-sustenance and prosperity in Europe–things they can’t count on in their countries of origin. Along the way, many are attacked by robbers and smugglers. Others die of dehydration, ensnared by desert heat without enough water. Still others fall prey to disease or murder.

Migrants from countries like Niger, Mali, and Chad who manage to safely traverse the Sahara face even more obstacles in North Africa. Against seemingly insurmountable odds, why do African migrants risk their lives each year?

The BBC’s Jenny Cuffe asked Innocent Acabo from Niger why he is saving to embark on a dangerous trip to Spain:

“This country we are not doing anything there is no work…There is no work…There is nothing here. So many people like that we get to Libya see if we get a job…Spain..I don’t know much about Spain..but it’s far better than my own country in terms of working. In my country, we work and work and work and you don’t get what you’re working for. In Spain, but I believe when you get there, you work, you struggle, something will change.”

But the citizens of recipient countries aren’t always so sympathetic. Under pressure from citizens rankled by the influx of undocumented immigrants, many European countries are cracking down on migrants, forcing sub-Saharan and North Africans like Innocent back to their respective homelands. Still worse, many migrants are captured by authorities at North Africa’s borders, and are often sent to languish in putrid detention camps. Those who make it through Africa travel across the Mediterranean in flimsy vessels, often meeting their deaths in stormy seas.

European lawmakers talk of managed migration, whereby African migrants will be permitted to enter Europe to fill in labor gaps. However, African policy-makers worry that such a measure may further stunt the economic growth of the continent.

In 2006, European and African countries gathered in Morocco for the Rabat Conference to discuss solutions to unrelenting migration. Attending the meeting is the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, who claims that problems of migration are firmly rooted in the conundrum of African under-development.

“I hope that this conference will enable the states of Africa and Europe to formulate cooperative approaches to the challenge of development – approaches which can help us to create the conditions that enable people to migrate out of choice, rather than necessity.”

Two years later, scant progress has been made as rates of migration continue to increase and the developed world persists in ignoring the connection to poverty and global inequality.

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