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ACTION FOR GLOBAL JUSTICE Issue 92 / Spring 2013 ISSN 1649-7368

Harvesting hope after war in the fields of northern Uganda DFID - UK Department for International Development

INSIDE Action - World We Want / Global Citizenship / Southern Alternatives Launch / ALBA - A new dawn for the Americas? / Social Change in Kenya / Education and Inequality in Brazil

{ Welcome } Credits & Contact details Focus magazine, established in 1978, now published three times a year, is Ireland’s leading magazine on global development issues. It is published by Comhlámh, Development Workers in Global Solidarity, Ireland, which works to promote global development through education and action. The views expressed in individual articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comhlámh, Irish Aid or our other funders. We have tried to contact all relevant photographers to seek their permission to use photographs. We apologise to those we have been unable to trace. The publication of Focus Action is grant aided by the Development Education unit of Irish Aid. Honorary Patron, Mary Robinson. © Copyright Comhlámh 2013. Correspondence Comhlámh, 2nd Floor, Ballast House Aston Quay, Dublin 2 Ph 01 4783490 E-mail:

We Need You –FocusGet Involved is produced by an editorial

Editorial team Editorial Team: Fleachta Phelan, Conor Grogan, Katie Latchford, Miren-Maialen Samper, Jodie Neary, Melissa Bonotto, Chrystian Schadler, Avril James, Helen Concannon, Hannah Hamilton, Neil Walsh, Áine Rickard, Izzy Fox, Lorna Barton, Mark Stewart, Aprar Elawad, Emmet McNamee, Paul Hickey, Stephen Kelly Photography: ????????????? Cover Image: ???????. Design/illustration: Alice Fitzgerald (

collective of volunteers, with the support of the Comhlámh office. New volunteers are always welcome. Please contact Comhlámh if you are interested in any aspect of the production of this magazine. No prior experience is necessary.

Code of Conduct on Images and Messages Comhlámh is signatory to the Dóchas Code of Conduct on Images and Messages (for full document see http:// html or contact us for a copy of the Dóchas flyer). Feedback on this issue is most welcome – email:

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The views expressed herein are those of Comhlámh and can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of Irish Aid.

Charity alone will never change the world

Join Comhlámh: take action for global justice In a world that seems so unfair, don't you wish that Ireland would stand up for justice? Yet there have been moments to be proud of when Ireland helped make a difference:   

against apartheid for the freedom of East Timor for debt cancellation

But these breakthroughs only happen because people - like you - demand change and make justice matter. For 36 years, Comhlámh (Irish for 'solidarity' and pronounced 'co-law-ve') has been educating and campaiging for global justice in solidarity with the developing world. Our members challenge the root causes of injustice and inequality - globally and locally.

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You can join in campaigns for Trade Justice  against racism  for aid that makes a difference 

Comhlámh can also offer advice on overseas volunteering.

Sign up for membership at Join our activist network at:

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Logo design © Twitter Logo traced by Jon Knox / / For personal use only. Distribution without permission is prohibited. All Rights Reserved.

{ Focus Action }


The World We Want! Ireland’s EU Presidency As you probably know, Ireland holds the EU presidency this year, until the end of June. This is an exciting and important time globally and at EU level. The world is changing, and Europe is changing its relationships with developing countries. In September 2013, world leaders will meet at the UN to begin discussions on a new global development framework to replace the Millennium Development Goals. The EU will be negotiating the new framework at this meeting on our behalf. As the largest negotiating bloc, the EU can greatly influence this process in a way that benefits the world’s people and the planet. But only if everyone who’s passionate about global justice engages in this ‘post-MDG’ process and demands change.

What can YOU do? • Check out the website - • Join the discussion by sharing your ideas for a better world on the website’s discussion forum • Check out the events listing and take part in them • Create your own event and let Dóchas know about it • Write to your TDs and MEPs telling them about the world you want

Our Opportunity Right now, we in Ireland have a unique opportunity to influence the global future through our Presidency of the EU. The World We Want Campaign, led by Dóchas, the umbrella body of Ireland’s development NGOs, has been working hard to bring together a variety of voices and perspectives from across Irish society on what essential ingredients would create a better Ireland in a fairer and more sustainable world. These ideas will be presented to the EU so that our shared vision can help to shape the new global development framework. Join the Discussion How do we want Ireland to develop, and what international role do we want to play? It’s important that all of us engage in this discussion. What do you think should be Ireland’s priorities? What do you think needs to happen to move towards a sustainable poverty-free world?

Bloom is:

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{ Focus Action }

{ Action } The MDGs In 2000, the UN Millennium Declaration expressed a new rights-based vision for a better world. The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that followed set measurable targets to achieve this vision, including reducing poverty rates, improving education and access to healthcare. These goals are due to conclude in 2015. Despite tangible progress since 2000, a ‘post MDG’ framework is required, and should focus on sustainable and inclusive development on the basis of rights rather than needs; a ‘rights-based approach’ that puts the well-being of people at the centre. Rather than defining poverty as the absence of food, health or resources, a rights-based approach to development focuses on the wellbeing and empowerment of an entire society, on the basis of the active and meaningful participation of its citizens. After the MDGs: What Needs to Change While the MDGs achieved a lot and helped to focus the international community on reducing global poverty, they have been criticised for not addressing many important issues which impact on poverty. Issues such as climate change, human rights abuses, insecurity and conflict and social inequality were understated. They have also been criticised for being developed in a top-down manner, and for not addressing the structural root causes of poverty. The postMDG framework will need to better recognise how all these issues are inter-connected. This is not about simply ‘adding’ to the list of global goals – it’s about taking a more holistic approach to bringing about a more sustainable and fairer world. This means moving beyond quantitative targets on development towards a framework that focuses on peoplecentred goals. Development is not about ‘powerful givers and ‘grateful recipients’. The MDGs placed significant emphasis on the role of developing country governments, and reduced the role of richer countries to that of resource donor. Richer countries must address the impact that their own policies have on poorer countries. The post-MDG framework should highlight the need for richer countries to ensure all their policies do not undermine poverty eradication efforts. This is an essential area where Europe, led by Ireland, can really make a difference.

We can make a difference – Ireland’s EU Presidency The Irish Presidency puts us in the driving seat, just as the EU sets new priorities for itself ahead of the UN discussion on a new set of sustainable development goals in September. The World We Want manifesto sets out key areas of action for the EU to address the root causes of global poverty and climate change. In particular, Ireland’s development NGOs want the EU to: • end hunger and malnutrition • strengthen community resilience • agree a strong EU vision for a world beyond 2015 • ensure other EU policies do not harm development • provide increased and new sources of development financing. Dóchas hopes that one of the lasting messages from our EU Presidency will be that “Development is not just for Development Ministers.” The World We Want The World We Want’ campaign has been launched at a crucial time; Ireland is in crisis and it is time to reassess our national priorities and objectives. Ireland is growing more unequal, poverty is deepening, unemployment continues at an unacceptable level and emigration is ongoing. We need a new model of development and a new set of goals to guide and shape national strategy and public policy. The campaign seeks to identify a set of development goals for Ireland and the wider world based on values of equality, environmental sustainability, social justice and participation. Why not join the debate and help build an agenda for Irish, EU and world leaders on the Ireland we want and the world we want.

Important Dates May 28th - Foreign Affairs Council adopts Conclusions on post-2015 agenda June 17th & 18th - G8 summit – Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh June 27th 27th - Formal adoption by EU General Affairs Committee of key elements of post-2015 negotiation mandate July 1st - Beginning of Lithuanian EU Presidency September 23rd - High-Level meeting of UN General Assembly on disability and development For more information and to join the conversation, please visit

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Global Citizenship:

{ Global Citizenship }

Our Rights and Responsibilities In the context of the European Year of the Citizen, Ireland’s EU Presidency and global discussions around a new development framework, Avril James explores how the global and local can be brought together to address poverty and injustice worldwide.


he European Union has designated 2013 as the European Year of Citizens. According to the EU, this is a year for European citizens to educate themselves about their rights, as “the better the men and women of Europe understand their rights as EU citizens, the more informed the decisions they can take in their personal lives, and the more vibrant democratic life in Europe can be at all levels.” By this logic, EU citizens should focus on themselves for a year, reflect on their rights and responsibilities in a European context and by extension, give consideration to improving political life within their own sphere. However, there is an alternative; instead of focusing on these suggestions solely in a European context, why not consider them on a global level? By taking the EU to be our immediate locality and acknowledging our rights and responsibilities in this area, it is surely as important if not more so to consider our rights and responsibilities as global citizens? A global citizen is someone who is aware of global interdependence and who acts as a citizen in solidarity with people all over the world, on local and global issues. Many may argue that in these austere times, we should be focusing on ourselves, that there are others more financially secure and better equipped to support and act in solidarity with those in the developing world. According to the Department of Social Protection, in 2010 15.8% of the Irish population was experiencing relative poverty i.e. an income of less than €207.57 per week, while 22.5% were experiencing material deprivation (i.e. they were unable to afford to heat their homes adequately, buy new clothes or eat a meal with meat/fish every second day). For people living in these circumstances, it may be hard to summon up enthusiasm to

support those less fortunate. Despite this, throughout history there are inspiring examples of people living in poverty who have helped others also suffering from deprivation; the Choctaw Indians who collected $170 to send to the starving Irish people in 1847, despite having very little themselves, serve as a prime example, as do the poor Irish immigrants in Great Britain who took in Irish children during the 1913 Dublin Lockout. In light of such generosity, do we really want to be the generation who only thought of its own needs and rights? Thankfully, the Irish do not seem to lack in empathy; Ireland was ranked third on the Global Giving Index in 2010, with 72% of the population donating to charities and 35% having volunteered for a charity in the month prior to the survey. According to Dóchas, the EU Member States and the European Commission make up the largest block of aid donors in the world, having contributed some €53 billion in official development assistance in 2011, representing nearly half of the world’s donations. Surely, some would argue, we are already doing more than our fair share? The EU says it wants citizens to be part of a more vibrant democratic life in Europe, that it wants to represent our thoughts and beliefs. Ireland took over the EU presidency on January 1st 2013 and the Taoiseach has stated that development cooperation will be an important issue in our work over the 6 month presidency. With the 2015 target of the Millennium Development Goals fast approaching, we need to start considering our next set of goals and how we should approach them. As the country holding the EU presidency and as EU citizens, it is our responsibility to make suggestions and share ideas, just as it is our right to be listened to and the

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responsibility of those in power to respond to the issues we raise. The Millennium Development Goals have achieved a lot of positive changes: extreme poverty (i.e. people living on less than $1 a day) has fallen in every region, the number of people without access to clean water has halved and the lives of 200 million slum dwellers have significantly improved. Achieving gender parity in primary and secondary education had been a major priority but this has proved difficult to achieve, with the recent case of Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai illustrating the challenges in overcoming certain cultural barriers. Now we must look at what has been missed and address what still needs to be done. Issues such as climate change, human rights, economic justice, equality and conflict prevention were excluded from the original Millennium Development Goals, which were developed in a non-participatory way. The groups involved in the decision-making process need to be widened to include local communities, members of religious and ethnic minorities, grassroots organisations, social movements and small businesses. In addition, the focus of the Millennium Development Goals was a quantitative approach, which did not focus enough on the disaggregated impact on the individual. For example, Dóchas mention that while the target of halving the number of those living in poverty was reached, a sharp improvement in China’s economy contributed to this, skewing the statistics. The MDGs have also been criticised for not tackling the structural, root causes of poverty, which need to be addressed if poverty is to be eradicated. Clearly changes are necessary but what sort of changes? One major change that we can campaign for during the Year of the Citizen is to emphasise a human rights based approach as an integral part of international development. According to Dóchas, “rather than defining poverty as the absence of food, health or

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“Rather than defining poverty as the absence of food, health or resources, a rights based approach to development focuses on the well-being of an entire society, on the basis of the active and meaningful participation of its citizens.” resources, a rights based approach to development focuses on the well-being of an entire society, on the basis of the active and meaningful participation of its citizens.” Since the EU is calling for the active and meaningful participation of its citizens, this is an approach that we should be promoting and working towards on a global level. To invoke this rights-based approach, it is necessary to look at participation, empowerment and non-discrimination. A more sustainable approach to fighting poverty is needed to achieve this. We should communicate with the recipients of our aid and fully involve them in the development process, as well as seeking opinions from other actors. We should also include civil society and social movements in developing countries, and solicit their opinions on what needs to change in Europe so as to address global poverty and injustice. Long term solutions to escaping poverty must be developed; solutions which address the root causes of poverty and support active global citizenship and participatory democracy worldwide. It is our duty to be proactive global citizens and work to ensure that Europe’s actions in the world promote, protect and support the rights of people living in poverty and contribute to poverty eradication and sustainable development.

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Dracula Returns? Structural Adjustment and Economic Imperialism in Europe and Africa. Miren Maialen Samper reports on the visit to Ireland of Dot Keet, African global justice activist


ast year Comhlámh published a new report entitled “Southern Alternatives to European Union Trade Policy”. To launch the report, an event was held to provide a space for discussion, reflection and debate on the connections between trade and development. The keynote speaker was Dot Keet, an activist involved in many African and international networks and an outspoken critic of corporate “free trade” agreements. Dot, a Zimbabwean based in South Africa, has decades of experience as an activist and thinker, and has been actively involved in the continental Africa Trade Network (ATN) and the international network Our World is Not for Sale (OWINFS). In her speech, Dot referred to the misleading negative stereotypes used in the media when discussing Africa. The media focus on wars, collapsed states, starving children, instability and corruption. At the same time, paradoxically, economic journals and mainstream media all “predict a rising Africa, as one of the new growth areas, with positive signs and opportunities”. Thus contradictory images are conveyed to the general public simultaneously; of “a hopeless continent” and of “a promising, exciting continent for business”. The truth, of course, is much more complicated than this. According to Dot, Africa has always been characterised by the extraction of resources such as aluminium, uranium and timber. It possesses 80% of the world´s strategic minerals, the largest concentration in the world. New resources for oil and gas have also been discovered, leading to a heightened presence of foreign corporations in countries such as Uganda, Kenya, Niger, Senegal, Mozambique and Tanzania. Intensification of oil and gas exploration is not only detrimental to the planet, but it also reinforces Africa’s restrictive historic role as merely a source of raw materials for developed countries. Also, while land has always been vital for food production in Africa, we are now witnessing a “new phenomenon of investment through the expropriation of African land.” Dot referred to these land acquisitions by foreign multinational companies as a “new colonisation through commercial rather than political or military means.” Land has become an asset for bio-fuels, with the “destabilising impact of speculation” leading to fluctuating prices and global food crises. Worryingly, “financial flows to Africa are low and declining,” according to Dot. Overseas development assistance is stagnant and Foreign Direct Investment in African countries is also very low (€45bn, UNCTAD figures place it at less than 3% of global FDI). UNCTAD calculates that 60% of FDI goes to 6 countries in Africa, all oil producing. These inflows are dwarfed by legal and illegal outflows

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from Africa worth billions of Euros. UN agencies and the South Centre have been critical of tax evading devices and contrived transfers, hidden within subsidiaries, which enable companies to pay minimal tax in Africa. The average return on investment in Africa is 28-30% per annum, which dwarfs average returns in Europe (2-3%) and Asia (7-8%). Thus even through legal measures, foreign investors in Africa get a full return on their investment within 3 years and usually these ‘investors’ immediately take all this money out the continent, according to Dot. They are joined by African elites who deposit billions of Euros in European banks annually “no questions asked”. Dot expressed concern about the negative roles played by international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in restructuring African economies to the detriment of African populations. She also made local to global links; expressing solidarity with people in Europe now struggling with austerity policies and loss of economic sovereignty. Dot called on people in Ireland to resist economic imperialism and conditionalities at home, just as movements across Africa, Asia and Latin America have done for decades. She referred to the social movements in Africa and the energetic campaigns against the World Bank and IMF structural adjustment programs. She slated the institutions for “manipulating the indebtedness of these governments to force them to implement policies of trade and investment liberalisation and deregulation of the financial sector and labour markets”. Until recently the IMF and World Bank had disappeared off the global radar, with the World Bank largely rudderless, having “struggled for the last ten years to define its role and its policies.” However, suddenly “indebtedness reappears in Europe and voila there’s the IMF resuscitated like Dracula... and suddenly squeaky clean... not only to give advice and solve Europe’s financial problems but to impose in indebted European countries the same structural adjustment terms that have devastated Africa over the last 30 years”. In Africa the IMF and World Bank coerced nations into implementing policies of trade and labour market liberalisation, destroying the livelihoods of small farmers in the process. Closer to home, Dot criticised the IMF’s efforts in Greece and Spain, noting a terrible sense of déjà vu and drawing parallels with the IMF’s role in the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s. The IMF “played a big role and has a big responsibility for causing the earlier financial crisis in Asia in 97/98”, however “suddenly it’s all wiped clean and when you have trouble in Europe the IMF is brought in to solve your problems”.

Dot discussed the detrimental impact of Europe’s current free trade approach to African countries and the depth of community mobilisation, and resistance to it in Africa. She was also passionate in her endorsement of the campaign to resist EPAs (Economic Partnership Agreements). EPAs are an effort by the EU to impose Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) on developing countries, opening them up to free trade which would severely undermine development. Dot argued that the campaign to resist these set an example to similar social movements and that it is possible to resist being steamrolled by global multinationals and economic blocks. Dot credited the solidarity and support from campaigns by European social movements, in raising the problems with EPAs in Europe, and the influence they have exerted on African governments. In this context Dot emphasised the need for the European public to understand the role of European Transnational Corporations (TNCs) in the Global South, noting that the EU’s unconditional support for TNCs had created poverty, exploitation and dispossession in Africa. She also sounded a note of concern about Ireland’s new Africa Strategy, and asserted that the Irish people “have an important role in exposing the self interest of Irish TNCs and the Irish government’s self interest in its support of Irish business in Africa”.

Dot spoke of the need for strong civil society in all nation states as, without this, national governments could “be brought to their knees by international capitalist forces”. Dot also emphasised the need for alternatives to the current global economic model as part of the global movement for change, as European governments tackle the financial crisis and growing opposition to austerity. Dot inspired those present to connect these issues, to take action, to work together across continental boundaries and to think about how alternative economic policies could support sustainable development and poverty eradication both locally and globally. To read more of Dot Keet’s thoughts you can follow her blog at http:// To read more about the event southern_perspectives_tradedev/southern-alternatives-to-eu-tradepolicy-report-launch-dot-keet To read the policy report southern_perspectives_tradedev

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{ Economic Alternatives }

ALBA: A new dawn for the Americas?

Jodie Neary explores Latin American attempts to build an alternative model of economics and trade. hat is ALBA? “As the world struggles to combat the The countries of Latin America do things differently current financial crisis, even developed and take pride in this distinction, often reacting to countries are questioning the role of regional and global trends in unique and especially dynamic ways. A particular example of this is ALBA, a socialist trade bloc set up neo-liberal principles in the global in 2004 by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, originally as a trade agreement between Venezuela and Cuba. The trade bloc now includes financial system.” 8 members; Antigua & Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador,


Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Venezuela.

Its growing popularity is perhaps due to its unique social concept and the progressive ideal of bringing social issues and aims into the economic realm. Accordingly, the acronym ALBA stands for the ‘Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America’, or the word dawn in Spanish. Origins: Backlash against Neo-Liberalism and Political Vacuum Backlash against Neo-Liberalism The ALBA initiative has been developed and implemented at a time when global dynamics are changing and the sustainability of neoliberal principles are under scrutiny in response to the disastrous impact of the IMF’s policies during the 1980s and 90s. For two decades the IMF promoted neo-liberal economic principles such as free trade, open markets, deregulation and privatisation in return for loans to developing countries, including those in Latin America. Leaders of the ALBA nations viewed neo-liberalism as a negative force which was overpowering weaker developing nations. The region-wide Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) for example, strongly backed by both the Clinton and Bush administrations, was criticised by Chavez as an imperialist tactic under the guise of neo-liberalism. Thus ALBA was in some respect created in response to the FTAA. Latin American leaders were also concerned by the reduced public sector, privatisation of public enterprises, weakening of organised labour and trade unions and US military responses to non-liberal policies in the region. Political Vacuum and Grass-Roots Pressure The United States’ previous preoccupation with Latin America waned during the 2000s mainly due to higher priority interests in the Middle East. A political vacuum opened up in the region, political tensions rose in anticipation to fill the void and Latin American citizens increasingly demanded change. Country after country elected populist governments in a regional sweep towards left wing ideology known as the ‘pink tide’. (‘Pink’ used here to denote a move away from ‘red’ communist ideals towards softer socialist principles). Citizens voted overwhelmingly in favour of an alternative to the current world order, a perfect breeding ground for such alternatives to emerge.

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Chavez and Fidel Castro, then President of Cuba, capitalised on this left wing movement by developing and presenting the concept of ALBA. It was to be the antithesis to the neo-liberal dream, enabling weaker Latin American states to pool their sovereignty with 21st century Socialismo (socialism) as its binding glue. Chavez’s 21st century Socialismo predicted that the current financial system would fail because it did not invest in its people. Socialist principles intend to put the ‘people’ first. The socialist principles that bind the ALBA integration project include ‘participatory and protagonist democracy’ such as Popular Power local community centres that reported back to Chavez from all areas of Venezuela. ALBA’s socialist principles aim to tackle problems of illiteracy, access to education, access to healthcare, child mortality, environmental degradation and the exploitation of indigenous and minority groups in an effort to further empower the electorate. Implementation ALBA was implemented through the unique process of parallelisation. ALBA created a replica of existing powerful institutions and organisational structures in the region and altered them to suit the principles of the new trade bloc. The United Nations reacted to this, stating “the left wing theory of creating parallel powers to break down and end the old order… [has been] taken to new breath-taking heights.” The parallelisation embraced by ALBA has created a list of developments and institutions which attempt to replace their neoliberal counterpart. For example, the implementation of an OPECstyle enterprise called Petroamerica in Latin America consists of Petrosur, Petrocaribe, Petroandina. It attempts to empower member states’ governments to replace multinational companies with state run oil companies such as PDVSA, Petrobras and Bolivia’s YPFB to ensure that profits go to the people rather than to private individuals. The Latin American Parliament was established to replace the Organisation of American States; the Food Security Fund was set up to provide funds to address agricultural and land rights issues; the ALBA Bank or Banco del Sur replaced the IMF and World Bank, while ALBA summits were designed to offset any regional political or economic gatherings that justified neo-liberal ideals. A monetary union with the ‘SUCRE’ as its currency unit is one of ALBA’s core ideas, aimed at reducing the influence of the U.S. dollar in the region.

{ Social Change }

ALBA’s economic concept prides itself on the principle of bartering, based on the needs of member states. For example, Bolivia trades soya with Venezuela in return for affordable oil, and Cuba exchanges much needed doctors for Bolivian soya. Global Economic Crisis As the world struggles to combat the current financial crisis, even developed countries are questioning the role of neo-liberal economic principles in the global financial system. Five years on and the world is thinking more critically about the ramifications of a deregulated global financial market. ALBA has thus gained ideological legitimacy in its prediction of neo-liberalism’s decline. Nevertheless ALBA’s own survival will be difficult to ensure. The problem with challenging the current system is that global finance and its economic infrastructure were designed with neo-liberalism and deregulation at its core. It is thus extremely difficult to break this model down and embed another type. Another obstacle facing ALBA is its over reliance on Venezuelan oil, the cornerstone of ALBA’s finance. While oil is the lubricant which the capitalist system runs on, ALBA is effectively gambling on its

“Citizens voted overwhelmingly in favour of an alternative to the current world order, a perfect breeding ground for such alternatives to emerge.” future value to maintain the trade bloc. ALBA’s member states are the weaker, less populated and less profitable of the Americas and therefore have little power to dismantle the old system and rebuild it in the image of ALBA’s new dawn. The recent passing of Hugo Chavez, the chief architect of the project, will be another obstacle. ALBA successfully championed the demand from citizens across Latin America and around the world for an alternative to an economic system many perceive has failed, yet it may struggle in Chavez’s absence. Without such a strong, recognisable and charasmatic leader, it will be interesting to see how ALBA develops in the years ahead.

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{ Social Change }

Community action for social change in Kenya Focus asked Friends of Londiani’s Helen Concannon to share some experiences and perspectives from their work placing Irish volunteers in Londiani, Kenya, to support community change.


riends of Londiani (FOL) was founded in 2002 by a group of Irish volunteers working in partnership with the people of Londiani, in the Kipkelion District of Kenya, on community development projects. The organisation’s mission is to work with the people of Londiani and its surrounding villages to develop and complete sustainable community projects. They aim to enable and empower the local people to achieve an improved quality of life based on their values and for the people of Londiani to become the authors of their own development. All the projects are community driven and based on the communities’ self-identified needs. FOL currently focuses on three main development areas – health, education and clean water provision. One of its ambitions is to curtail the practice of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) through an Alternative Rites of Passage (ARP) programme. The programme is faced with a common challenge; promoting human rights and development while respecting local customs and culture. 1. What is the the set-up of your volunteer programme at Friends of Londiani? Our volunteer programme is called Harambee which is a Swahili word meaning ‘togetherness’. The programme involves Irish and Kenyan volunteers working together on a 2-3 week project. This includes working on community health, education or water programmes in the villages around Londiani, Kenya. Partnership is a key aspect and sustainability is ensured through the involvement of local staff and community leaders. Harambees take place in summer and autumn for people over 18 years who are willing to learn and share. Living and working side-by-side in the community allows volunteers to learn about local culture, history and life’s daily challenges. 2. How did the Alternative Rites of Passage Programme develop? One of the programmes FOL organise is a Life Skills Peer-Education Course. This is a 5 day course run jointly by Kenyan and Irish facilitators, which involves discussions on communication, relationships and different aspects of health. One of the topics includes female genital

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“Living and working side-by-side in the community allows volunteers to learn about local culture, history and life’s daily challenges.” mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). During a course in 2009, an older woman who had been a circumciser admitted she didn’t realise how this age-old custom could be harmful. Although aware of the area’s high maternal health problems, she hadn’t realised the possible connection. A village elder said he had learned that FGM/C was unnecessary and asked FOL to help find a safer rite of passage for local girls. We heard about another area of Kenya where an Alternative Rite of Passage (ARP) is held. After some research and training, the community held their first ARP in Londiani in December 2009 for 50 girls. Since then, over 4,000 girls and their families have opted for the alternative. 3. How has the programme changed over the years? In what way were your local partners/the community involved in its development? The ARP is a residential training course which mirrors the period of seclusion which follows traditional circumcision. It provides all the same training and cultural information as the traditional version but without any cutting or health risks. Initially it took place outside the village but in response to the communities’ desires, it now takes place within the girls’ villages. All the topics for the ARP have been developed by a group of Kenyan and Irish volunteers working together. Posters, t-shirts and manuals were designed by this team and successfully piloted in the communities with amendments based on feedback. Extra resources were produced in response to the needs identified by the local facilitators. Throughout the year, they conducted mobilisation activities to discuss FGM/C in schools and with church groups and parents, from whom they occasionally faced objections. The facilitators asked us to help them develop the skills to overcome these obstacles and to lead behavioural change in their community. Working together, we developed a Toolkit for Facilitators of Social Change.

{ Education and Inequality }

4. What have been the challenges? How have you collectively overcome them? Two of our greatest challenges have been working with local belief systems and providing the necessary financial resources for the programme. The first ceremony in 2009 started off well and the community was ‘blessed with rain’ during it. However, the rain got heavier and developed into a storm which blew the roofs off three houses. The Village Elders thought this was an ominous sign for the ARP and FOL had to wait for the Council of Elders to meet and decipher the meaning of the storm before progressing. After investigation, it was found that the three houses that were damaged had other underlying issues – one was land related, one involved an extra-marital affair and the other concerned a debt. Therefore the Elders declared it safe to continue with the ARP. The following year, a local girl who was circumcised in secret, experienced complications and had to be hospitalised. The Elders decided this was a second confirmation of the value of the Alternative Rite of Passage. This local belief system was not easy for Irish volunteers to understand but it was a vital part of the programme’s development. Our financial constraints posed another dilemma. The cost of supporting the programme was beyond the resources of FOL and a costsharing system had to be developed where the local communities would provide items in-kind such as food, water and firewood. However, as time progresses and the course gathers significance, the communities will be able to fund more of the costs involved. The programme’s increasing popularity should encourage locals to offer venues free of charge and good harvests will enable them to contribute more towards the costs. 5. What do you think are the key components that have led to the programme’s success? The involvement of local men and women who grew to become local leaders and agents of change was the biggest factor in the success of this programme. These people live locally and were able to establish

“The involvement of local men and women who grew to become local leaders and agents of change was the biggest factor in the success of this programme.” relationships with those in favour and those against the ARP. These relationships took time and patience to develop which allowed a sensitive issue such as FGM/C to be discussed. Sensitisation throughout the year was also key to the programme’s success. This ensured that local boys/men were made aware of the issues and were consequently willing to accept un-circumcised wives. Responding to the requests for training was the second key component. The local facilitators didn’t need FGM/C awareness training. They were already knowledgeable in this area but sought to improve their skills and abilities to lead social change. It was vital that FOL responded to that need. The programme is entering its 4th year but in terms of creating social change, it is still in its infancy. It could take 10 years or more for ARPs to become ubiquitous in Londiani. Although it remains a slow process, “the effect of the ARP is a long term one for the girls and this will impact positively on generations to come,” as one parent of an ARP graduate enthused. Patience is required to support communities to change this age-old custom and for the entire community to reap the benefits. FOL’s next Harambee volunteer project will run in Autumn 2013. Applications will be accepted from April. For more info visit www.

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Education as a tool for empowerment in Brazil

Melissa Bonotto and Chrystian Schadler discuss the deep roots of inequality in Brazil and the role of education in transforming the socioeconomic landscape.


olonialism and the Roots of Inequality Brazil, South America’s biggest country and the world’s seventh-largest economy, is also well known for its social and economic inequalities. Conquered by the Portuguese in the early 16th century, Brazil was under colonial rule for almost three centuries during which time Portugal maintained an intense system of exploitation.

In order to understand the roots of inequality in Brazil today, it is important to look at the way Brazil was colonised. The Sesmarias rule was a system of land distribution used by the Portuguese barons. Land was handed over by the state to private owners for agricultural work with designated property covering vast areas of land. Portuguese barons needed labour to work these large areas. After some unsuccessful attempts to force the indigenous people to work, the colonial landowners began to import slaves from Africa to cover the labour shortage. This continued for a number of centuries until the abolition of slavery in 1888. The status quo of wealthy barons nonetheless remained, maintaining their dominance and cementing inequality. Moreover, this inequality built up due to systems such as Coronelismo (a system of patronage and power), which sustained large oligarchic agrarian regions. This prevented the social emancipation of the local population by offering only very low paid jobs with almost no access to education. The Vargas Era FAPAD’sThe Old Republic (1889-1930) was marked by alternate presidencies, representing the coffee beans oligarchy and the economic interests of the milk industry, with both failing to address inequality. However, this situation changed during the Vargas Era. President Getulio Vargas rose to power in 1930 and implemented significant changes in the Brazilian social structure in order to address social unrest. Among the initiatives he introduced were; a minimum wage, paid holidays, public health, women’s right to vote and the establishment of the Ministry for Education. Military Dictatorship The onset of Military rule in the 1960s brought further reform, albeit

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regressive, in the educational system. Universities suffered due to their social activism and the government withdrew its attention from primary and secondary education. This vacuum allowed private enterprise to enter the education sector and to this day “quality primary and secondary education” is highly associated with private schooling. The military regime, which came to power with a coup d’etat in 1964 and ruled until 1985, intimidated civil society through intense surveillance and stripped citizens of their political rights and civil liberties. During the military dictatorship decrees were published overriding the constitution. “Ato Institucional Numero 5” was the decree which most infringed on citizen’s liberties; it closed down the Chamber of Deputies and granted total power to the President. The amendment also gave the army the power to hunt, imprison and torture its opponents with impunity.

“In order to understand the roots of inequality in Brazil today, it is important to look at the way Brazil was colonised” It was in this context that the most influential and famous work of the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of Oppressed”, was published. The book addressed the presence of the oppressor and the plight of the oppressed, living in an unequal and dehumanised society. Freire wrote that “Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.” He argued that using education as a tool for empowerment can enhance community, build social capital and act in ways that lead to justice and human development, observing that. “If education alone cannot transform society, without it society cannot change either.”

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Democratic Freedom After two decades of military dictatorship Brazil re-emerged as a democratic republic and unveiled its new constitution promoting “the right to life, liberty, equality, security and property”. The 1988 Constitution was a watershed for Brazilian public policy and civil society’s organised participation. It triggered profound changes in the administration and democratisation of the national education system.

“Brazilians are currently enjoying unprecedented access to education, however, there is still a lot to be done to improve the quality of education”

New educational policies, such as the National Plan of Education, improved collaboration within the system and consolidated the role of the state as facilitator of education. The clear intention of the 1988 Constitution was to promote justice and social development for all and to reduce discrimination. However, there remains a long way to go. According to the 2011 IBGE (Brazilian Statistics Office report), the illiteracy rate among people aged 15 or older in Brazil was 8.6%, 1.1 percentage points less than in 2009 (9.7%). Although the improvements are encouraging, it still indicates that 12.9 million people (over 15) remain illiterate.

The introduction of the Family Allowance (Bolsa Familia) was among Lula’s most ground breaking social policy moves. The allowance transfers cash to families living in extreme poverty for the first time in Brazil. The scheme entitles families with a monthly income of less than R$140 (€54) to state benefits. Depending on the family’s circumstances they may be entitled to further benefits, such as the school allowance (conceived by the previous government), an initiative to improve school attendance and address poverty. The scheme, which covers 26% of the population or 50 million people, has been widely lauded for successfully tackling child labour exploitation, poverty and inequality.

Lula’s Legacy and Improved Access to Education There was huge expectation following the election of Luiz Inácio da Silva to the presidency in 2003. Despite leaning to the political left, his victory was well received by Brazil’s elite due to assurances that he would continue the neo-liberal policies introduced by the previous government. Conservatives believed this indicated that Lula’s Labour Party had achieved maturity and signalled to the private sector and outside investors that Brazil was a solid and stable democracy. In his first term Lula played safe with orthodox economic measures to stave off the potential for hyperinflation. After this settling period his government focused its efforts on three reforms: social security; taxation; and monetary policy, particularly in defining the autonomy of the Central Bank. As a result, international confidence in Brazil continued to grow which, combined with international media attention on the BRIC nations’ possibilities, led to a massive capital inflow and effectively ended speculation over the viability of the national currency.

Lula introduced further reforms in the national education system such as PROUNI (Programa Universidade Para Todos - University For All) which granted full and partial scholarships to private undergraduate schools for low-income families and created the REUNI (Programa de Apoio a Planos de Reestruturação e Expansão das Universidades Federais – Programme of Support to Planning, Restructuring and Expansion of Public Universities) which enlarged the number of vacancies in public universities. He also established a controversial racial quota to secure places for black and indigenous descendants in third level institutions. Although significant progress towards equality has been achieved in Brazil, there remains a long way to go. Brazilians are currently enjoying unprecedented access to education, however, there is still a lot to be done to improve the quality of education, from primary to tertiary, in order to build an equal society by empowering the less privileged through education and knowledge.

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Focus Magazine , Issue 92 , Spring 2013  

Action - World We Want / Global Citizenship / Southern Alternatives Launch / ALBA - A new dawn for the Americas ? / Social Change in Keyna /...

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