September 2016 Newsletter

Welcome to this edition of the Peace/Justice action email!

In this newsletter there are two areas of actions.  One concerns South Sudan with a couple of long-term-oriented actions to help its leaders change their calculus that has led to one of the worst humanitarian disasters today.

The second area of action is focused on the appalling working conditions suffered by many around the world, specifically in this case the factory conditions in Bangladesh.

 


STOP ARMS TO SOUTH SUDAN / STOP CORRUPT LEADERS

After the initial euphoria of being the world’s newest country in 2011, South Sudan quickly descended into a horrific quagmire by the end of 2013.  The primary actors were President Kiir (and his Dinka tribe) versus Vice President Machar (and his Nuer tribe) although there are around 60 tribes.  Prior to 2011 they fought together against the government of Sudan (though with many skirmishes against each other).

When they gained independence, placing Machar as VP was supposed to give each tribe a place of positive influence in shaping the new country.  The reality turned out deadly instead in 2013.  By 2014 there were at least 50,000 dead (it is grimly telling that no one even remotely kept track of approximate figures [APF], and could easily be 300,000 now) and by now over two million have fled the area.  Several cease-fires have been made and broken.

Two actions can be taken to help reduce the violence and help change the overall calculus.  The first one focuses on stopping the flow of weapons.  The second action has arisen from a two-year investigation that revealed how both President Kiir and Riek Machar have personally siphoned millions of dollars from the very conflict they have been perpetuating.

Take Action #1:
Stop Weapons to South Sudan [Human Rights Watch]

Take Action #2:
Hold Corrupt South Sudanese Leaders Accountable [Enough Project]

Background:
One Million People Flee South Sudan [Globe&Mail]
South Sudan Leaders Pocket Millions from the Conflict They Continue [Washington Post]

 

 


NESTLÉ & BAT: COMPENSATE VICTIMS OF BANGLADESH FIRE!

Earlier this month at least 39 workers died in a fire that ripped through a factory in Bangladesh. The facility manufactured packaging for Nestlé and British American Tobacco (BAT).

It is the worst industrial accident in Bangladesh since the Rana Plaza building collapse in 2013, where over a thousand workers perished.  This newsletter joined a petition calling on action which eventually resulted in the  Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord.  This accord was signed by global unions and international apparel brands, and created a new inspection system for fire and building safety with a degree of transparency previously unknown in the industry. Another initiative, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, was led mostly by American brands.

While those have been good steps, there are still far too many factories and other conditions which remain with no or poorly enforced regulations and transparency.  The following action can help bolster the efforts to expand such safety procedures and laws.

Take Action:
Support Victims of Bangladesh Factories

Background:
Tampaco Fire [Sep. 15; Dhaka Tribune]
Fatal Fire – Still Too Many Poor Inspections [HRW]

 

 

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=== FOLLOW-UP TO PREVIOUS ACTIONS AND ARTICLES ===
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Chad’s Ex-Dictator Convicted of Atrocities

In the last newsletter we highlighted some of the convictions that had occurred.  Just as the newsletter was being sent out, one more name can be added to the list, Chad’s former President,  Hissène Habré.  He was found guilty of rape, war crimes, torture and crimes against humanity by the Extraordinary African Chambers in the Senegalese court system.
https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/05/30/chads-ex-dictator-convicted-atrocities
Bolivia Enacts New Gender Identity Law

Signed into law in May, this measure allows people to change the gender listed on official documents. The author says it means that “Bolivia joins Argentina, Uruguay and Colombia as the only four nations in the deeply Catholic region to recognize the needs of transsexual and transgender citizens in this way.”  While the article also indicates that the law has met significant resistance, and implicit is a legacy of much pain, behind the headline there exists amazing courage that hopefully will prevail.
A Surprising Move from a ‘macho’ President

 

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=== ARTICLES OF INTEREST ===
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Good News: Polio to be Eliminated Globally This Year

The World Health Organization (WHO) is hopeful that polio will be eradicated this year.  It will take another 3 years of no polio cases before that claim can be verified.  The only other disease to have been eradicated is smallpox.  The last frontier for polio has been Pakistan and Afghanistan, where health officials are often threatened – examples of tremendous courage and perseverance.  Muslim imams have also been helpful in dispelling the notion that the program was some form of Western conspiracy.
http://www.irinnews.org/news/2016/08/05/polio-be-wiped-out-globally-year-who

 

Issues with “Countering Extreme Terrorism”

Developing some form of global consensus and response to the ongoing ISIS-inspired terrorist attacks can seem a reasonable step to take, and a recent UN document is a marker in that direction.  But some argue that the term “Countering Extreme Terrorism” (CVE) is not defined well enough, and the results are already troubling.

One problem is that if you take a “whole of society” approach (promote employment, education, alleviate poverty, etc.) for CVE, that programs well-suited for those basic aims sometimes modify their goals to include CVE.  Yet when not well defined it may reduce their original success without reducing extremism.  Secondly if it is a battle of ideas, then what ideology should be promoted to take its place – there is little consensus among global partners, and much in partners’ actions that contradict any given concept.  And so on – there are several examples given.

This is not to suggest that the endeavour be dropped; only that it be carefully and continually scrutinized and adjusted.  “Gradual reform” among nations may be the best aim possible, which if so, reinforces that we will be in this for the long-haul.
http://www.irinnews.org/analysis/2016/08/10/does-countering-violent-extremism-work

 

Monsanto: Who to Protest Against Now?

Monsanto, the U.S.-based agricultural (seed and related pesticide) company, has just been bought out by the German company Bayer, subject to various regulatory approvals.  Monsanto had come to symbolize much of what was wrong with giant agri-business.  For years around the globe, farmers, environmentalists and academics have vehemently protested against such Monsanto actions as forcing framers to buy both their seed and pesticides;  or their high rate of sung farmers for “using” their seeds even when they were blown onto their fields from  someone else’s fields, etc. [see articles below for examples].

Monsanto has been the arch-type villain [though The Modern Farmer suggests that much of Monsanto’s problems stem from (a) not recognizing the almost difference-in-kind between a patent for say software (something that can be disputed but is on an unremarkable entity) versus a seed (which is more akin to water, earth, life-itself, almost sacred and possibly spiritual); and (b) some of the worst PR on volatile issues.  Read the comment section of the article to get a good sense of the back-and-forth of even this contention].

The bigger issue, however, involves the implications for a shrinking global agri-business.  See the Vox article for the troubling terrain.
Worrisome Monsanto buy-out [Vox]
Colombian Farmers’ Revolt Tied to Agri-business [2013; Global Research]

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