Inside: Mexico’s Post-Modern Revolution ■ Counting the Indian Poor ■ Shale Gas Revolution
Hilary 2012 / Vol 2. Issue 2
Press Freedom in the US
Shutting Down the Internet The Rise of Online Hate Groups A foreign affairs magazine produced by students of the University of Oxford
Mexico’s Post-Modern Revolution
Filming an African Election
10 Minorities in Israel
A Troubled Democracy
An examination of recent protests by Israel’s Ethiopian Jewish community Simon Williams
Once Upon a Time in Mexico Benjamin Parkin Voting on Camera Tim Wigmore Rhino Poaching in Africa
Golden Horns Philip Bell
Economics Disaster Insurance 12 Natural People Over Profits
Risky Business: (Un) Covering Catastrophic Insurance Risks in 2012
Who Rules Iran?
Beneath the Turban Amir Teymour Ala’i
The catastrophe risk insurance industry faces challenges in the form of an increase in natural disasters Ginger Turner
Theme: Freedom of (Op)press(ion)
Press Freedom in the USA
Losing the Land of the Free
The United States falls 27 places in the World Press Freedom rankings due to arrests of journalists covering the “Occupy” protests Aatif Rashid
Shutting down the Internet Adam Clement
How the Internet is Changing Hate Groups Brunilda Cimo The Digital Stage of Colonialism Rafi Alam
24 Degrees of
Tuberculosis in North Korea
Donor Funding for AIDS
The Shale Gas Revolution
Africa’s Fight in Peril Jamila Headley Game-Changer or False Panacea? Tim De Santa
A New Path towards Peace with Pakistan?
Just Say Please
A researcher’s somewhat contradictory experiences with obtaining and extending visas across the world Willy Oppenheim
Cholitas in Bolivia
Wrestling with Tradition The lives and practices of professional female fighters in the Andes
North Korea’s Public Health Problem
International health diplomacy as a potential entrance to effectively engaging with North Korea Ye Jin Kang
Counting the Poor Mihika Chatterjee
Controversy surrounds the grandes écoles, France’s elite universities Nina Cohen
Assessing Poverty in India
The Humanitarian Establishment
The Cult of the Humanitarian Hero Laurence Deschamps-Laporte
OXONIAN A foreign affairs magazine produced by students of the University of Oxford
Globalist Hilary 2012 / Vol. 2 Issue 2 Editor-in-Chief Sophie Stewart, Trinity Print Editor Stephen Wan, St. Catherine’s Online Editor Alice Robb, Keble Publisher Annette Chau, LMH Treasurer Irene Song, St. Antony’s Secretary Lucy Zhou, Merton Deputy Print Editor Natasha Rees, Hertford Deputy Online Editor Temisan Boyo, Mansfield Deputy Treasurer Cornelius Christian, Keble Advisor Dr. Stephen Fisher, Trinity
reedom is a term seldom used with any precise meaning, yet throughout our history it has inspired great thinkers and intrepid revolutionaries. Its allure and status as a cherished ideal is at odds with the reality, for the majority of people it is nothing more than an unrealised, often seemingly unobtainable, fantasy. Those claiming to be the guardians of liberty have become tyrants in themselves. Whilst the greatest hope of the modern world for the extension of free speech and expression, the internet, has become a battleground for the confrontation between proponents of unlimited expression and the darker malignancies that such freedom allows. Freedom remains a privilege that millions aspire to and many more have died for and yet all too often, those freedoms which only a small portion of the world can take for granted – freedom of religion, press, association, speech – are threatened. This issue of The Oxonian Globalist offers just a glimpse of the paradox of the freedom of speech and some of its controversies and contradictions, the implications of which affect us all. Other articles in this issue include a look at female wrestlers in Bolivia, the challenges of counting the poor, the difficulties of insuring against the increasingly frequent natural disasters and a perspective on the relationship between the car and American identity. These are just a snapshot of the variety of fascinating issues considered by our writers. We hope you enjoy this issue. If you have any thoughts or comments, or would like to become part of the Globalist team please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your continued support,
This magazine is published by students of the University of Oxford. The University of Oxford is not responsible for its contents. For the online version of The Oxonian Globalist, please visit toglobalist.org
Sophie Stewart Editor-in-Chief Back cover photo by Garry Knight
All pictures from CreativeCommons used under Attribution Noncommercial license. http://creativecommons.org All maps adapted from Wikipedia Commons
Stephen Wan Print Editor
Also: Filming an African Election ■ Rhino Poaching in Africa ■ Who Rules Iran?
Jerusalem ■ The backdrop on which ethical tensions are played out
Minorities in Israel
A Troubled Democracy Simon Williams
An examination of recent protests by Israel’s Ethiopian Jewish community
n January 11th 2012, the front page of popular Israeli newspaper Yedioth Aharonoth featured a chilling photograph of three young Ethiopian Israelis. Their faces were painted white with deep black rings around the eyes and grotesque lipstick smiles, curving up the cheeks. They formed part of a 3,000strong demonstration protesting racial discrimination in the town of Kiryat Malachi, which sparked further demonstrations in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The Kiryat Malachi protests were triggered by a discriminatory housing market, in which Ethiopian residents were prevented from buying or renting apartments because they “did not fit the criteria,” claimed one protester. Knesset Member Sofa Landver, Minister of Absorption and Immigration and a member of the right wing Yisrael Beitenu party, only fanned the flames by remarking publicly that Ethiopian immigrants should be “grateful” for what the state has already provided them. Landver was quoted in Ha’aretz on January 12th: “The gap between people of Ethiopian origin and other Israelis is a gap measured in years, but the State of Israel has done everything to absorb them in the best possible manner…so say thank you for what you have received.” The Ethiopian community in Israel
expanded dramatically as Ethiopian Jews fled civil war in the 1980s and 1990s. The immigration famously included Operations Moses, Sheba, and Solomon, in which the Israeli army airlifted well over 20,000 Ethiopians out of their war-torn country and refugee camps in Sudan. There are now around 125,000 Ethiopians in Israel – almost 2% of the population. Although the older generation struggles with economic, social, and linguistic adjustments, Ethiopian youth attend Israeli schools, speak Hebrew, serve in the military, and have been generally assumed to be on a smoother path towards integration. But protest banners like “Our blood is only good for wars” and “This is our land too” reveal roiling feelings of inequality.
Politicians and advocates frequently criticise the state for treating Arabs as “second-class citizens” Passing the Blame Challenges facing the Ethiopian community – high levels of unemployment, juvenile delinquency, and poverty – must be tackled in their own right, securing mobility and prosperity for
minority immigrants. Unfortunately, though, the tone of the Ethiopian predicament rings familiar. The protestors’ messages and Landver’s cool response resemble the discourse of the entrenched rift between the Israeli state and its ArabPalestinian citizens. Unlike Ethiopian Jews, Arab-Palestinians are an indigenous population. Comprising about 20% of Israeli citizens, this community has long protested its marginalisation along ethnic lines. Many struggle to buy and rent property and confront inequalities in education, healthcare, and emergency infrastructure, as well as coping with the absence of Palestinian history and symbols from Israeli culture. Politicians and advocates frequently criticise the state for treating Arabs as “second-class citizens.” Landver’s recent remarks expose an unsettling bias that bridges both sets of discourse. The notion that Ethiopian immigrants should be “grateful” despite the grave economic and social challenges they face within Israel implicitly points to extreme, external strife, such as civil war, to deflect questions about internal inequalities. The same argument that Israel has done more for these struggling communities than other countries more explicitly animates the rhetoric around the ArabPalestinian minority. In an interview for YouTube’s “World View” series last year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was at pains to emphasize Israel’s democratic character: “There’s only one country in the heart of the Middle East that has no tremors, no protests, and that’s Israel, because ►
Politics ► we’re the only genuine democracy, the
only one where we respect human rights, the only one that respects the rights of Arab citizens. 20% of our population are Arabs, and they enjoy full civil rights in Israel.” Addressing Adversity In the early days of the Arab Spring, Netanyahu was pushing this argument that Israel treats its Arab citizens better than any country in the Arab world treats its own. “Around us, in this vast expanse of darkness, Arabs have no rights. Their rights are trampled on.” Ironically, thousands of Arab citizens were in fact causing tremors of protest that day. They had taken to the streets to commemorate the anniversary of riots against land expropriation in which six Arab citizens were killed by Israeli police in the Galilee region, on March 30th 1976. Netanyahu was quick to respond to Landver’s remarks and, though refraining from personal criticism, he emphasized that racism is “infuriating” and has no place in Israeli society. Yet his 2011 interview perhaps exposes an acceptance of different standards for different ethnic communities. Netanyahu repeated a third time, “Israel is the only place in this entire expanse where Arabs and Muslims enjoy complete freedom.” As was protested on that very day, however, they do not. Yet when this status is disputed, a consistently outward-looking approach would have a coarse answer at the ready: What’s the problem? They’re still better off here
than elsewhere. “I painted my face white, not because I am ashamed of the color of my skin, but because I wonder if my life as a discharged soldier could be better if I was white,” explained an Ethiopian protestor to Yedioth. From a recent soldier in a Jewish pocket of society, such disillusionment is truly disturbing, as is its resonance with recurrent complaints by Arab-Palestinians that their citizenship is less valuable, their rights less cherished, simply “because we are Arab.” Internally Defined It is significant, of course, that Ethiopian and Arab groups enjoy freedom of speech and the protected right to such vocal protest in Israel. Globally, though, Israel’s legitimacy as a liberal democracy comes under increasing scrutiny and criticism. Addressing the estrangement of minorities both immigrant and indigenous is critical for the vitality of a state that holds democracy, diversity, and immigration at its core. Ultimately, whatever the government rhetoric, it will be real social and economic grievances – internal and not external conditions – that define the experience of a new minority generation, whether born to Ethiopian immigrants, indigenous Arab-Palestinians, or any other group in Israel’s diverse demography. ■ Simon Williams studies Middle Eastern Studies at St. Antony’s College.
Mexico’s Post-Modern Revolution
Once Upon a Time in Mexico Benjamin Parkin
The Zapatista Revolutionary Army of southern Mexico is the world’s first “postmodern revolution”
n New Year’s morning, 1994, groups of men and women dressed in fatigues and balaclavas and armed with knives and makeshift guns emerged out of the mist from the surrounding hills. Their target was a quiet town hidden in the mountainous jungles of southeastern Mexico. Anonymous crowds marched through the otherwise quiet streets into the central square, driving out policemen, soldiers and politicians along the way. There, from a balcony, one man, masked like all the others, addressed them: “Brothers and sisters: We are a product of 500 years of struggle… We have been denied the most elementary development, so that they can use us as cannon fodder and pillage the wealth of our country. They don’t care that we have nothing, absolutely nothing… there is no peace nor justice for us and our children.
But today, we say ‘Enough is enough’”. So, in San Cristóbal de las Casas, deep in the mountains of Mexico’s poorest state, Chiapas, began the revolt of the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional: the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, or EZLN. Triumphantly, Subcomandante Marcos, the man on the balcony, declared that they would march all the way to Mexico City, and make right the wrongs that they, and all the people of Mexico, had suffered. This uprising was firmly grounded in a sense of history. For the remote areas surrounding San Cristóbal, much of the past 500 hundred years have been defined by conquest, slavery, war, poverty, hunger and disease. Of its population, most are indigenous Mayans, many of whom don’t even speak Spanish as a first language. In 1545, Bartolomé de las Casas became
the first Bishop of Chiapas. Formerly an enthusiastic advocate of the colonisation of the Indies, he eventually turned, appalled by the mistreatment of the indigenous peoples, and became one of the first great critics of colonialism. It was in the town named after him that the Zapatista revolution began. Mobilising a Movement Despite the initial optimism of Marcos and the Zapatistas, their revolution was not to be: after a successful first day, the Mexican army quickly retaliated and immediately drove them back into the mountainous jungle from which they had emerged. Once the failure of their armed struggle became apparent, the Zapatistas decided to adopt a new strategy. They called a ceasefire and began to negotiate with the government, successfully producing the San Andrés Accords, a bill of rights for indigenous Mexicans. However, the President quickly withdrew his support and the original treaty was never passed by Congress. Dr Neil Harvey, an academic who has studied the Zapatistas since the uprising in 1994, suggested that the government never had the intention to implement the accords – giving rights to the key workforce in Chiapas, in a state rich in natural resources, would conflict irreconcilably with economic interests. The failure to confirm the accords was viewed as a major betrayal, and the Zapatistas abandoned all hope in the political process, publicly rejecting political parties, right or left. Instead, they sought to find “another way” – one without seizing power – seeking instead to mobilise a Gramscian “civil society”. In doing so, they began the world’s first “post-modern revolution”. They began to write letters and communiqués to magazines, newspapers and public figures across Mexico and the world, telling of their plight, and quickly harnessed the power of the Internet, spreading their message to people everywhere. They succeeded in generating immense support, both nationally and
Their initial call to arms, a response to the pressures of global capitalism and modernday colonialism, struck a chord around the world internationally. What began as an armed struggle involving a few thousand soldiers in a remote corner of Mexico turned into a global movement. They have been supported by any number of public figures and intellectuals across the world, from Noam Chomsky to US Senator Tom Hayden, and even by the band Rage ► Against The Machine.
Hilary 2012 ►
Away from the glamour of their international success, the most important aspect of the Zapatistas is the communities themselves, of which there are an estimated 1,100 in Chiapas. They created 5 caracoles – councils of sorts – where local members take turns to govern, doing away with politicians. “It is a truly different way of doing politics”, explains Rita, a Mexican sympathiser living in Chiapas. She said that the system can be, of course, chaotic and disorganised – every member has to learn to govern as they do it – but it has its successes. For the first time in 500 years, they can selforganise and take control of their own lives, acquiring a level of autonomia. “It is about recovering their own knowledge and history – now,” Rita explained, “and not waiting one or two hundred years for a revolution”. Though still an army, their armed wing is entirely accountable to this civilian structure, and this, she said “is the most important decision the Zapatistas have ever made”; one that sets them apart from just about every other revolutionary group in the world.
20 Letters via Flickr
Subcomandante Marcos ■ The anonymity of “El Sub”, as he is affectionately known, has become an iconic image for the Zapatistas
The Anonymous Spokesman Always masked and anonymous, they have become a symbol of the voiceless, mirroring those they represent. The masks actually began as a very practical measure – helping to keep them warm at a very cold time of the year. Only later did this help them become symbols. Paradoxically, it is largely thanks to their anonymity that they have achieved such recognition and fame: “When indigenous people in Mexico don’t wear masks,” Neil Harvey explained, “nobody sees them”. Nowhere is this subversive celebrity more apparent than in the case of
their mysterious and charismatic leader, Subcomandante Marcos – their postmodern answer to Che Guevara. He has never publicly removed his black ski mask. He acted as their primary spokesman to the world, with writings that are characterised by “a humorous, poetic and refreshing use of language” – with ambiguous political statements and subversive references to everyone from Shakespeare to Borges – which captured the attention of people all around the world. Yet he is a controversial figure on both the right and the left. An investigation by the Mexican government, eager to put an end to his ironical cult of personality, decided that he was a certain Rafael Sebastián Guillén Vicente, a middleclass, university educated philosopher from northern Mexico – born of Spanish parents. This would mean that Marcos, the ultimate symbol of the resistance of the indigenous poor, is not himself one of them. There is a certain contradiction that in speaking for them, he, on some level, continues their voicelessness. While his charismatic persona has been hugely important for the Zapatistas, “the media tended to focus almost exclusively on him and his particular role and history within the movement,” Neil Harvey explained. Many became tired of him, and viewed his angry exchanges with Mexican politicians and intellectuals as little more than verbal sparring between rival machomen, seeking attention. Back to the Future Fast forward to 7th May 2011, and you will find a scene reminiscent of New Years Day, 1994: crowds of masked men and women, once again emerging from the dense forest and marching down into San Cristóbal. This time, however, they were responding to a new crisis, one that has engulfed Mexico in recent years: the drug wars. The violence that started at the American border has spread to the country as a whole: in the past five years, 50,000 people have been killed. This has not been a battle restricted to rival gangs; rather, it is a war in which the victims are ordinary men, women or children, whose “only fault,” Marcos wrote, “is having been born or lived in a country badly governed by legal and illegal groups, thirsty for war, death and destruction”. “The Zapatista uprising was a warning,” Rita explained, “that if things did not change, we would end up where we are now.” The Zapatista communities have in fact experienced low-intensity warfare ever since 1994. Paramilitary groups – funded by ranchers and landowners, trained by the army, and peopled by locals, mainly indigenous members of the same villages as their Zapatistas enemies – have been in a sort of proxy-war with
autonomous communities. The army, far from stemming the violence, has exacerbated it, and where necessary given the paramilitary groups a leg up. The most shocking example of violence was the Acteal Massacre in 1997, in which 45 people – mainly members of a pacifist group – were slaughtered at a prayer meeting. Recently, an attempt to set up an autonomous school by one of the governing caracoles was thwarted when it was attacked. The violence “has really restricted what could have been more effective changes within the communities,” suggested Neil Harvey. Despite this, other towns and villages across Mexico have responded to the Zapatistas’ call for autonomy and X”:t, “the other way”. In 2006, San Juan Copala, in neighbouring Oaxaca, declared its independence. It was similarly assaulted by local paramilitary groups – again covertly aided by the army – who began such a sustained campaign of violence against it, documented in Channel 4’s Unreported World, that in 2010 the whole town had to be evacuated. Cherán, in central Mexico, similarly decided it was fed up with local gangsters, loggers and politicians alike, and threw them all out, setting up barricades and declaring its independence. Return of the Zapatistas? When the Zapatistas once again marched into San Cristobal in May last year, many were surprised to see them. It was their first major appearance in 5 years. Marcos, having become aware of the tension his celebrity was causing, had stepped out of the limelight. Negotiations with the government have remained at a standstill for the better part of 15 years, and their “other way”, despite some success, has not taken the country by storm, as they once hoped it would. Crucially, the San Andres accords remain unimplemented. Their initial dream of revolution for all Mexico is no longer a possibility, and Rita suggested that for many they are a thing of the past: “People say to me, ‘Oh yeah, the Zapatistas - what happened to them?’.” It therefore remains to be seen what will become of the Zapatistas. Yet, despite everything, they have shown remarkable resilience. They survived the initial onslaught by the army, and resisted the subsequent terror of paramilitaries. They continue to do good work in the communities where they operate – evidenced by the thousands of NGOs and aid workers who flock to Chiapas to witness this revolution in action. Their initial call to arms, a response to the pressures of global capitalism and modern-day colonialism, struck a chord around the world, and groups in North America, Europe and elsewhere seek to emulate them. Maybe their revolution hasn’t reached the scale ►
Politics ► they once hoped it would, or maybe it
has surpassed it. The ending of the tale of the Zapatistas is yet to be resolved. Or maybe it never will be – after all, it is post-modern. ■ Benjamin Parkin studies Philosophy and Theology at St Peter’s College Filming an African Election
Voting on Camera Tim Wigmore
A first-hand discussion of the 2008 Ghanaian election through the eyes of the man who documented the entire process on film
hadn’t been back in 28 years and of course the idea was to come back to the place of my childhood. My dad said, ‘has anybody ever made a documentary about an election?’.” Jarreth Merz describes the inspiration for directing the film An African Election, in which he followed the main protagonists of the 2008 Ghanaian election. Every documentary maker needs a good story and, with the final margin of victory just 40,000 out of ten million votes cast, Merz certainly had that. During his long absence from Ghana, the country had changed a lot. Traditionally, like Nigeria, Ghana was associated with “revolving door syndrome”, whereby there was a seemingly constant alternation between military and civilian rule. However, the reintroduction of democracy in 1992 has proved more resilient than previous attempts: 2008 was the fifth presidential election of the Ghanaian fourth republic. Merz says there has been “progress – no doubt” and was particularly struck by “a young generation that was actively involved in politics and the discussion going on over the airwaves… it was really exciting.” Despite this, on
his return “the level of poverty struck me as absolutely unacceptable”. In stark contrast to the West, where “we’ve been numbed and we live in a bubble” Merz was struck by the sense that Ghanaians “really went over to the polls to change their conditions”. Merz observed this over the more than three months he travelled around Ghana, during which he visited all ten regions of the country. The contrasts, even for a man with experience of the country were striking, from the “most vibrant” capital Accra, to “remote areas in the upper West of Ghana”, which “feel like the Middle Ages – they are still very, very traditional”. Yet the most striking thing about the film is the level of access Merz is afforded to the key political players in the election, filmed and interviewed during some hugely tense moments. In explaining this, he points to his background – he has roots in Ghana and lived there for seven years, but his long absence from the country meant he was simultaneously perceived as “one of you, but not one of you – I was seen as a link between the worlds”. Dangerous Business Equally importantly, Merz could count both Ghana’s post-democratisation Presidents, John Rawlings and John Kuffour, as “friends of our family”, which made him especially well placed to enjoy access to them. Rawlings, the revolutionary leader of the military coup in 1981, who then democratized the country in 1992 before leaving the presidency in 2001, features very prominently. He was “one of the most exciting, vibrant characters to film”; even in political retirement: “when he shows up, he commands the masses”. However, Rawlings is a man with “very populist rhetoric. That at times could be dangerous.” Indeed, rhetoric, from both Kuffour’s New Patriotic Party (NPP) and Rawlings’ New Democratic Centre (NDC), “was not always very-
Recording Victory ■ A new Ghanian democracy
tresponsible” in the 2008 elections. Due to the “desperation of parties”, they “reverted to certain tactics and strategies that were potentially dangerous” – essentially, accusing the other side of cheating in a bid to drum up their own support, a tactic that can too often lead to violence in African elections. And at one point in the film, there is footage of a journalist asking about the possibility of the military “sorting out” the situation, as confusion engulfed the country before the announcement that neither main party had secured a majority of the vote, and so there would be a second round of voting. Merz says such a risk “was real – when Ghanaians were asking these questions, there was so much insecurity within country. People believed it was an
…violent scenes in the Electoral Commission “strong room” during vote counting procedures, with both sides aggressively accusing the other of fraud option, so it was an option. The media were asking about the military: ‘are they firing into the air or are they firing at the people?’…it was wild.” Thankfully the fears proved unfounded, and power peacefully changed hands. Which begs the question: why was violence of the sort that marred the Kenyan and Zimbabwean elections in the 12 months prior to the 2008 Ghanaian election, absent? Merz credits the outgoing President, Kuffour, who “didn’t give any signs his party were going to hold onto power no matter what” thereby facilitating a smooth democratic handover from the incumbent NPP to the NDC after the NPP had been in power for eight years. He also emphasises that, with the level of intermarriage across regional and ethnic lines, “Ghanaians are one people”; there is “a culture of inclusion and not exclusion.” But most important was “my secret star of the film” – the President of the Electoral Commission, Dr Afari-Gyan. Cultural Difference? The subject of electoral commissions would probably serve as an excellent insomnia cure for many in the West. Yet in Africa, they are critically important: had Ghanaians “not believed in the integrity of Afari-Gyan, the worst could have happened”. That much is hinted at by violent scenes in the Electoral Commission “strong room” during vote counting procedures, with both sides aggressively accusing the other of fraud. With the tension generated by a second round of elections, it’s “important to have an ►
Hilary 2012 ► arbiter who is bullet-proof who has a
clean record and Afari-Gyan proved to be exactly that”. After originally planning to retire after 2008, Afari-Gyan was coaxed into monitoring the 2012 elections as well, after which the not insignificant challenge is to find someone with “the same authority and neutrality”. Nevertheless, Merz does not believe the 2008 elections were completely fair: “Someone will always try and cheat.” In particular, he points out that “lots of chiefs are struggling financially – they can be manipulated to certain extent… Did people buy chiefs and pay for their votes? Possibly so – but I don’t have any proof.” Yet ultimately Merz is adamant that “elections are not about how perfect elections are but are all players willing to accept the results as they stand? Are they good enough to pass for everyone? The results were good enough to accept and move on.” As he points out, in 2000 in the United States, the “Supreme Court decided who will be the next President – is that democracy?” Merz is clearly “very, very happy this film turned out to be an African success
story,” and it is one he hopes others will learn from, as he has taken the film around the world – including Kenya and Zimbabwe, countries with sadly little experience of non-violent democracies. This is part of a project called A Political Safari: “We travel with the film, especially to countries with impending elections and use it to engage people in a creative discussion about elections and democracy in Africa,” hoping “local filmmakers will do something similar.” Such has been the reaction to the film that there are plans to cover the 2012 and 2016 Ghanaian elections on similar lines. Yet an underlying frustration has been the reaction from TV stations: “If you want to sell the film they’ll be like ‘Who’s really interested in Africa?’ It seems Africa is still seen as a basket case.” Merz’s film may go a little way towards changing that. The full documentary film, ‘An African Election’ by Jarreth Merz, is now available on DVD. ■ Tim Wigmore studies History & Politics at Trinity College.
Rhino Poaching in Africa
Golden Horns Philip Bell
The latest generation of poachers radically increase rhino slaying
hino horn is more expensive than cocaine or gold on the Asian market, where it is worth over US$65,000 (£41,000) per kilogram. The horns are composed of keratin, the same substance as is found in human finger nails, but are seen to hold important Chinese medicinal values. The rhino has survived for tens of millions of years, but is under serious threat from a new obstacle; man. A record 440 rhinos were poached in South Africa alone last year, according to the International Rhino Foundation, an increase of 97% from just five years ago, begging the question: how can poaching be controlled? A 96% decrease in Black rhino numbers from 1970 to 1992 saw the species drop into the critically endangered bracket. In 2012, an estimated 4,240 Black rhinos survive, though the White Rhino is still at a more comfortable 20,000. Control of poaching has been successful on the whole since 1992, but a new era is emerging where black rhinos are threatened in countries like Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa. Rhino horn is ground down into a powder and used to treat a number of illnesses. In 2003 a rumour was first circulated about the horn-aided curing of a
Vietnamese official suffering from cancer accompanied a boom in the Vietnamese rhino horn market. Brian Van Blerk, a professional hunter born in Zimbabwe, says, “The reasons why poaching has become so prolific the past few years is supply and demand.” Chinese, Vietnamese and Yemeni markets are driving poachers to use more sophisticated and destructive methods of hunting, and with more than 8 million Chinese now working in Africa, the market is domestic as well as international.
Prosecuting Poachers With this kind of monetary incentive, poaching has not only become large-scale, but also a serious professional criminal activity. A poaching network in Kenya dominated by Somalis has been linked to
A poaching network in Kenya dominated by Somalis has been linked to the wider East African Al-Shabaab cell, a splinter cell of Al-Qaeda the wider East African Al-Shabaab cell, a splinter cell of Al-Qaeda. Helicopters, tranquilisers and silenced guns are part of this network of poachers. It is thought that piracy and poaching both stem from the same source. Like pirates, poachers are rarely aptly prosecuted. After a rhino was poached in the Northern Kenyan Mugie Ranch, four Somalis and one Kenyan of the Picot tribe were caught in a car with two horns and were suspected of rhino poaching. They were fined only 50,000 Kenyan shillings each, the rough equivalent of US$602 (£380). Mugie has since moved its rhino into a national park. Thomas Mortensen, who lives at Mugie, admits, “With the current rate of poaching on the ranch at 1 to 2 per year, and the birth rate at 1.5 per year, you are going to lose out eventually.” Poachers can be legally shot on sight, but the law does not have the structural safeguards by which to treat them justly. Kenyan-born Adam Clements, who runs the hunting company Adam Clements Safari Trackers, described Kenya’s wildlife conservation policy as “an animal genocide”. He argues that hunting would increase the monetary value of rhinos, and increase incentive for their safe-keeping. By providing infrastructural aid to local communities such as clinics, schools and boreholes, hunting outfitters, allowing people living in areas where rhinos are at risk to be “taught the value of wildlife”. ►
World Resources Institute
To the Point ■ Rhinoceros horns are extremely valuable both on the legal and illegal markets
► Killing Demand
Hunting through a permit system is legal in Tanzania and South Africa, but not Kenya. The statistics, however, don’t back up the pro-hunting argument, with so many rhinos poached in South Africa. As one Professional hunter puts it: “Most of the monies derived from hunting go to other government agencies instead of to the parks and wildlife.” Rhino farming provides another option. Claus Mortensen advocates this as a necessary short-term policy: “If we do not start meeting the demand, we will not have any (black) rhino by 2017.” Rhino grows at roughly the same rate as human finger nails and could be shaved and the shavings used to satisfy market demand. This could compromise the competitive advantage of some rhinos, especially females who need sharp horns to protect their newly born calves. But Mr Mortensen recognises the need for
rhino farming to “buy time to educate the next generations.” Dispelling the myth about the medicinal value of rhino horns is in progress. Chinese journalists have actually visited Mugie ranch to gain information for a campaign against the use of rhino horn and other poached animal parts. Avaaz, an international charity, is rallying to encourage the EU to enforce bans on the import of horns to China and Vietnam. Fighting poaching through conservation is effective with enough money. Action taken by the International Rhino Foundation in Loveld, South Africa, has considerably reduced poaching from 71 rhinos in 2008 to 18 in 2010. Antipoaching requires painstaking work and puts those involved in danger. Rangers are working against the odds because, as Van Blerk says, “The areas the anti-poaching units have to cover are so vast.” In some private rhino sanctuaries, informers are
Who Rules Iran?
Beneath the Turban Amir Teymour Ala’i
An insight into some of the power struggles in Iran’s internal political system
ensions over Iran’s nuclear energy programme have reached the breaking point. Key advisers within the Obama administration have openly declared September or October a “sweet spot” for an Israeli unilateral strike against Iran, although American and European leaders still hope that sanctions will bring Iran to its knees and force the country to drop its nuclear ambitions. In response to international pressure, the Iranian regime has alternated between clumsy threats of force and empty promises to negotiate in good faith. The muddled signals coming from Tehran reflect the domestic fight between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who, as theocrat-in-chief, is appointed for life. The conflict between the two leaders is tearing apart the regime’s leadership and the conservative alliance which, after the 2009 presidential elections, united to crush a popular uprising and remove the reformists from government. Now, the president’s men are the victims of the same brutal oppression. In February 2012, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, Ahmadinejad’s chief media advisor and head of a leading newspaper, was sentenced to six months in prison. Security forces under the direction of Iran’s supreme leader had previously arrested Javanfekr last November, attacking his office with tear gas canisters and beating employees inside the stairwell. He was freed after
the president made an angry phone call, demanding his immediate release. A House Divided cannot stand... This vicious attack on such a close presidential aide highlights both the parallel nature of Iran’s power structure and the depth of divisions which threaten to bring different branches of govern-
said to be planted in local communities to alert the ranch-owners of a potential poach. Insufficient funds, according to Van Blerk, are the handmaidens of preservation failure. This anachronistic obsession with rhino horns is untenable, or needs to be made so. Satisfying demand and education are the most important areas in addressing the problem. In the short term demand must be satisfied through farming rhino horns, or selling current stocks. In the long term demand can be reduced to a minimum through educating against this unsupported theory. It is humbling and shameful to think how small a speck human history is compared to the enduring rhinoceros. They are not possessions, and as Claus Mortensen says, “they belong to the world.” ■ Philip Bell studies History at Exeter College. ment into open conflict. Javanfekr’s arrest also points to key ideological differences between Ahmadinejad’s coterie of lay conservatives, and the religious hardliners dominated by the clergy. Javanfekr has been charged with insulting the Supreme Leader before, but his most recent arrest comes after an interview where he stated that the hardliners had lost touch with the people, and called for reconciliation with the reformist opposition. Divisions between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei first came to the fore in spring 2011, when Khamenei forced the resignation Esfandiar Mashaei, Ahmadinejad’s vice president, son-inlaw, and close confidante. Ahmadinejad ►
DragonFire1024 via Wikipedia
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ■ A unity figure, or a growing target of discontent?
► shocked conservative opinion among
Iran’s leadership when he reappointed Mashaei as his chief of staff, openly defying the Supreme Leader’s orders. Khamenei and other conservative leaders in Iran lambasted Mashaei as the chief exponent of a “deviant current” in Iranian politics set on insidiously undermining the Islamic Republic. Mashaei, an eccentric millenarian with a penchant for Iranian pop singers in exile, drew conservative ire for promoting a form of religiously inspired nationalism - “Iranian Islam” - that challenges clerical power and regime orthodoxy. All the President’s Men The conflict between the president’s and the leader’s men had first erupted into the open in April, 2011 when Khamenei, in an unprecedented move, reinstated Heydar Moslehi as Minister of Intelligence after Ahmadinejad had dismissed him from cabinet just days before. President Ahmadinejad was furious and promptly left on a ‘tour of the provinces,’ sulking in Tehran’s environs. For a dozen days he refused to appear in cabinet or even at the presidential palace until publicly summoned back by the “blessed guide.” Both men denied there had been any falling out between the two of them, blaming the misleading news on the work
of foreign “propaganda machines.” But the campaign against the president’s men has continued, with tens of his aides and associates arrested on charges of corruption and sedition. The judiciary, a bastion of hard-liners who tend to equate the rule of law with the leader’s diktat,
The Supreme Leader has the power to do what he wants, but the danger for him lies in overplaying his hand has relentlessly pursued these men on any pretext. Mashaei, who has claimed to be in direct contact with the Shi’a Islam’s chief messianic figure, the Hidden Imam, was charged with sorcery. While Western media often portray Ahmadinejad as an Islamist extremist and militant anti-Semite, he- like presidents Rafsanjani and Khatami before him - has repeatedly clashed with Iran’s religious leadership. Khamenei, it seems, has tired of this essential pattern: he hinted in a speech late last year that he may support abolishing the presidency, replacing it with a prime minister answerable to him. Supreme Confidence The Supreme Leader has the power to
do what he wants, but the danger for him lies in overplaying his hand. Already, the hard-liners have disqualified over thirty serving members of parliament from running for re-election, further provoking moderate opinion. Since his intervention in the 2009 presidential elections on Ahmadinejad’s behalf, Khamenei has taken on a more visible role in politics, exposing himself to unprecedented public criticism and becoming a target for public discontent. For now, the situation shows every sign of being to the leader’s advantage. Both Ahmadinejad’s incompetence in government and the confrontation with the West divert attention away from the regime’s failing legitimacy. At home and abroad, ‘controlled conflict’ seems to be the order of the day for the leader and his allies, as they fight against both internal and external pressures for change. The Islamic Republic’s frequently inscrutable foreign policy might appear to be a strategic game of cat-and-mouse. The reality, however, may be a simple reflection of Iran’s deeply divided domestic politics - an angle too frequently ignored in discussions of the Iranian regime. ■ Amir Teymour Ala’i studies Middle Eastern history and politics.
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Also: Assessing Poverty in India
Kordiant via Flickr
Mass Destruction ■ Part of the Japanese coastline after the earthquake and tsunami Natural Disaster Insurance
Risky Business: (Un)Covering Catastrophic Insurance Risks in 2012 Ginger Turner
The catastrophe risk insurance industry faces challenges in the form of an increase in natural disasters
ast year was the costliest on record for natural disasters. The floods in Australia in January, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake in New Zealand in February, Japan’s earthquake and tsunami in March, and a string of tornadoes in the southern United States in April resulted in the first half of 2011 seeing $265 billion in economic losses. These first six months beat the previous record of $220 billion for the whole of 2005. There has also been an increase in the number of incidents; more events were observed during 2011 than during any year before 2005 in recorded history. If the upward trend continues in 2012, will the insurance industry be able to cope? Rapid urbanization means risks are more concentrated in certain areas, so if a disaster hits a major city, insurance companies will scramble to cover losses. The global financial crisis also took a big bite out of the insurance industry; since investment portfolios have performed badly, insurers have less cash available to cover the next big event. Patrick McSharry, an academic expert in wind modelling and director of the Oxford Centre for Catastrophe Risk Financing, describes his work in the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment with the global insurance industry: “Uncertainty is really feared by insurance companies. They wouldn’t have a business without uncertainty, but now they struggle to measure it.” Catastrophic events that do not happen often, such as major hurricanes and earthquakes, are difficult to predict because most of our risk estimates are
based on historical records. For example, Japan’s 2011 earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0 was one of the five most powerful earthquakes ever recorded – but then modern-quality record-keeping only began around 1900. Making Models “Whereas we have a good idea of the risk of car accidents or house fires, it is very difficult to get an accurate estimate for infrequent events for which we have very little real data,” explains Raveem Ismail, an independent analyst at Trinakria Limited. “Insurance companies must combine historical records with cuttingedge research on natural phenomena from physics and meteorology, plus human behaviour for perils such as terrorism.” Even then, no one predicted many of the disaster events in 2011, or that they would all need insurance in rapid succession.
Insurance companies are truly “too big to fail” when it comes to coping with the worst disasters As a result, most catastrophic risks are under-priced by the insurance industry. In some ways, the global insurance industry operates much like a local marketplace. Syndicates, brokers, and insurance companies negotiate over prices, each relying on different private estimates, and there is a heavy temptation to lower prices to beat competitors. In the case of infrequent events, it is much
easier to under-price for a long time. If insurance for a “100-year flood” is sold as a “200-year flood” at half the estimated price, it is possible no one would notice in this lifetime. On the other hand, if that event does happen, then the insurance company hasn’t collected enough premiums to cover the balance. One big event can wipe out many years of premiums. There is also a social cost to underpricing. When disaster strikes, governments usually assist with emergency recovery and reconstruction. If insurance companies cannot cover their claims, a bigger burden falls on government budgets and ultimately on taxpayers for years to come. Insurance companies are truly “too big to fail” when it comes to coping with the worst disasters. Yet if the government commits to bailing out private insurance companies, the industry faces a moral hazard problem – the temptation to increase short-term profits by holding insufficient liquidity. Facing increasing disaster risk, the EU has proposed stiffer regulations with the “Solvency II” directive, which would increase capital requirements for insurance companies by 2014. McSharry warns, “Everyone agrees that Solvency II is a good idea in principle. The real struggle is bringing together enough staff to get models ready in time.” Numerous efforts are underway to improve catastrophe risk modelling. Most insurance companies have their own proprietary models, but if no one wants to share these trade secrets, it is difficult for anyone to understand the big ►
Hilary 2012 ► picture of global risk. When two different
models disagree, underwriters cannot easily dissect them, so it is more difficult to make business decisions based on model outputs. If the Price is Right… Academic institutions, such as the Oxford Centre for Catastrophe Risk Financing, are helping coordinate collaborative modelling between finance, technology, government, and researchers. The Global Earthquake Model (GEM) was set up in 2009 as to allow open access modelling including both financial and socio-economic effects such as health, migration, and employment. In the future, GEM, like the Global Risk Register that launched in June 2011, will even allow individuals to input their own information to understand their personal risks. “The more people are aware of possible risks and impacts, the more they can prepare. Uncertainty shouldn’t be seen as a weakness. Any honest model, like a doctor before an operation, should tell you about the risks and believe individuals can handle that information,” says McSharry. But in developing countries, private insurance markets are often non-existent or informal, making the poor even more vulnerable. “Being poor is not just about having a low income – it’s about having a very risky income,” says Daniel Clarke, micro-insurance consultant and lecturer
Economics National Flood Insurance Program profits per year US Dollars, billions 5 0
-10 -15 2005 Roger M. Cooke & Carolyn Kousky
in Actuarial Science at the University of Oxford, who has worked in numerous developing countries. “If a harvest was bad in India, it used to be that farmers waited for assistance for up to a year because it took so long to reallocate government budgets toward the emergency, and this happened almost every year.” In the case of a major disaster, or even routine bad weather, it is costly for insurance companies to visit each person to assess damages, and those costs translate into higher prices that most people cannot afford. Recent innovations in index insurance help to make payouts faster and more accurate. Index insurance pays everyone in an affected region, regardless of individual losses. Now with an index insurance program pioneered by
Counting the Poor Mihika Chatterjee
An investigation into the way poverty is assessed and ideas about alternative methods that could be used in India and worldwide overty lines are highly contentious. They are subject to criticism – tainted by politics, inhuman in design, divorced from reality – in the way they are created and used. The politics of counting the poor is not just limited to the national level but extends to international organisations such as the World Bank, United Nations and development programmes targeting services to specific populations. In India, the Planning Commission has been overseeing the computation of the poverty line since 1979, when it came up with estimates based on a traditional consumption-basket approach. It was not until 1993 that the first comprehensive revision to the poverty line was conducted. The methodology was adjusted to account only for inflation and not for other factors like changing foodconsumption patterns or deprivations in health, education and sanitation. In light of the absence of universal coverage for
Assessing Poverty in India
basic entitlements like food grains, subsidised healthcare and housing, the identification of people Below Poverty Line (BPL) is a highly sensitive issue. In September 2010, the Indian planning commission stirred public outrage by setting the per capita poverty cut-off at 32 rupees (US$0.65/£0.41) a day for urban areas and 26 rupees (US$0.53/£0.35) a day for rural India. The figures were derived by revising estimates from the Tendulkar Committee report of March 2009, one of the special
People living in poverty admit that their wellbeing, or lack thereof, is a function of multiple facets of life task-forces commissioned to review the BPL-determining methodology and
The World Bank, the Indian government pays insurance companies upfront to cover 30 million farmers, who can receive payouts almost immediately in case of bad weather, meaning they can invest in better seeds, fertilizer, and supplies for the next year. “Turkey’s national earthquake insurance program has also been very successful,” adds Clarke. The government spends a lot of money educating people, but they invest in their own insurance, and it has paid off: “The trick is for insurance companies to design indexes that actually pay out when the event hits. Offering good insurance at the right price is still the biggest challenge in the future.” ■ Ginger Turner is a D.Phil student in Economics at St John’s College. figures. Immediately after the release of these seemingly ludicrous numbers, condemnation by economists, activists, academics, media personalities and student unions in the country ensued. A statement by over thirty prominent economists in India, including a few who have worked with the government, declared, “We do not consider the official poverty lines set by the planning commission, at 32 and 26 rupees per capita per day for urban and rural areas respectively, to be acceptable benchmarks to measure the extent of poverty in India.” 35p a Day In response to the uproar, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of the implicated Planning Commission and a well-respected Indian economist, released a statement clarifying that the poverty line yielded by his team represented a monthly household budget of 4,824 rupees and 3,905 rupees for a family of five in urban and rural India respectively. These figures had been translated to the controversial per capita numbers of Rs. 32 and Rs. 26 quoted in public discussion, making the official poverty line “appear very low”. While, puritanically speaking, the calculus of transforming a household ►
► budget into per capita share is not as
simple as a division of the total budget by the number of household members, viewing poverty lines in per capita terms is neither entirely surprising nor unintuitive. Poverty estimates the world over, including the World Bank calculation of US$1.25 per day, are expressed as expenditure per person. In order to test the validity of the commission’s poverty line figures, two 26-year-old Indian expatriates, Tushar Vashisht and Matthew Cherian, launched an experiment to live on 32 rupees a day in a small town in the southern state of Kerala. In the first part of their exercise, they lived in Bengaluru on 100 rupees a day, an amount they arrived at after deducting rent from the average monthly per capita income in India. After spending three weeks at the “average expenditure” level in a metropolitan, they then proceeded to Kerala for their second phase of Rs.32-a-day. While their experience in Bengaluru was extremely challenging and detrimental to their physical health, the second part was even more debilitating.
What does it mean to be “poor”? In October 2011, the government, in response to the commotion, announced that the poverty numbers would not be used to cap out people benefiting from government schemes and programmes ensuring basic entitlements. It also declared that it would consider multiple dimensions of poverty to better target policies. What might it mean for India if it begins to look at multiple dimensions of poverty instead of the expenditurebased deprivation it currently does? The fact that poverty is not just the paucity of income is not an idea limited to the academic discourse spearheaded by Nobel-prize-winning economist Amartya Sen. People living in poverty admit that their well-being, or lack thereof, is a function of multiple facets of life, such as the lack of education, access to health services, housing, employment opportunities. An index called the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) developed by Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) at the University of Oxford incorporates three dimensions of poverty – education, health and living
Slum in Mumbai ■ There is no questioning that these people are poor, but how do we assess their poverty?
There were common expenditure patterns under both budgets: food was the largest component of spending and they could only afford to drink well water. However, in the second phase, they faced more serious deprivations. They could not afford public transportation and were not able to meet the recommended 2000 calories a day. They were forced to rely on carbohydrates as the most filling meals included rice, wheat and plantains and most proteins, including eggs and dairy, became luxuries they could no longer afford. The month-long experiment took a toll on their weight and blood sugar levels, and they experienced fatigue and weakness throughout. “The nutritional intake (protein especially) is nowhere close to what we need. If it is not sufficient for us, it clearly doesn’t satisfy the requirements of someone who does hard labour with greater caloric needs,” they note in their blog.
standards – and aims to capture deprivations beyond income for 109 countries. The poverty “dimensions” are further represented by measurable indicators that help capture the concepts of health, education and living standards in numerical terms. The education element of the index, for example, is reflected through years of schooling and school attendance, while child mortality, nutrition, sanitation, water, electricity are some of the seven dimensions representing health and living standards. Based on national surveys conducted by the government of India in 2005, OPHI’s MPI revealed that 53.7% of the population was “poor”. For the same time period, the percentage of people ‘income poor’ as per the World Bank threshold of US$1.25 was 41.6% whilst the Tendulkar Committee Report placed the percentage at 37.2%. Relative Poverty While the disparity in the headcount
of poverty may become significantly larger by expanding the definition of poverty, the more pertinent advantage of a holistic measurement such as the MPI is that it allows for the government to understand what areas make its people suffer the most. For instance, among the people that are considered multi-dimensionally poor in India by the MPI, the biggest contributor to deprivation was nutrition. Furthermore, the MPI data shows that the MPI-poor living in rural India are more severely deprived than those living in urban poverty and the reasons for their deprivation are different; school attendance is a bigger contributor to multidimensional poverty in the urban areas whereas electricity is a larger factor in rural parts. As director of OPHI, Dr. Sabina Alkire, pointed out in an interview with the Economist ((http://www.ophi.org. uk/sabina-alkire-interviewed-on-povertyindexes-by-the-economist-2#sabinaint, 2010), by focusing on the intensity of deprivations suffered by the people considered multidimensional poor, the MPI serves as a clear tool to target the poorest: “because of the way our measure is constructed you can look at who is deprived in 90%, 80%, 70% of the attributes”. The MPI provides a ‘sliding scale’, as Dr. Alkire calls it, that is more accurate than the sliding scale of income in identifying the poorest because it looks at multiple dimensions, making targeting of social programmes less error-prone. Mexico, for example, has adopted a contextualised MPI that reflects its policy goals by putting weights on the dimensions that are relevant to the country. The index allows Mexico to design relevant poverty-reduction strategies and modify the index from time to time to reflect the changing nature or poverty in the country and the conjunctive changes in the goals of the government. The debates surrounding poverty measurement are many and that in a way suggests the challenges a policy-maker has to face in designing poverty lines. In a country like India, sub-national variations in any indicator or proxy in capturing poverty are large, making the exercise of creating homogenizing measures like BPL even more complicated and subject to criticism. However, aiming to merely raise income of people in a country may not be the solution to improving social indicators because higher income does not guarantee access to basic human entitlements. Counting the poor is an important step in povertyreduction strategy, but it succeeds the first crucial step: rethinking what it means to be poor today. ■ Mihika Chatterjee studies for a M.Phil in Development Studies at Green Templeton College.
Also: Anti-piracy Laws ■ Internet Hate ■ Digital Control
Theme: Freedom of (Op)press(ion)
Violent Clashes ■ Police arresting a man at Occupy Wall Street after having run over his foot on their motorbike Press Freedom in the USA
Losing the Land of the Free Aatif Rashid
The United States falls 27 places in the World Press Freedom rankings due to arrests of journalists covering the “Occupy” protests
he freedom of the press is one of the five freedoms enshrined in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, an amendment which has achieved an almost religious significance in the American political tradition. It therefore comes as a surprise that in the latest World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the United States has fallen 27 places over the past year to rank 47th in the world. According to the report, this decline is attributable to the arrests of journalist covering the Occupy Wall Street protests. “In the space of two months,” says the report, “in the United States more than 25 [journalists] were subjected to arrests and beatings at the hands of police who were quick to issue indictments for inappropriate behaviour, public nuisance or even lack of accreditation.” The Occupy Wall Street movement protested against the growing income inequality in the United States and targets the financial services sector as responsible. While they achieved very few tangible results in the way of governmental policy shifts, they have sparked a discourse across the country over corporate power.
Journalists are actively identifying themselves as press and being ignored – or worse, having press credentials removed during police actions The arresting of journalists covering the protests, therefore, is a troubling development that RSF was right to point out. Josh Stearns, the Journalism and Public Media Campaign Director of Free Press, a non-profit organization working to reform the media, has compiled a list of all journalists arrested while covering the Occupy movement. As of the writing of this article, the number of arrests has reached 59. Stearns, however, says that he does not believe these journalists are being arrested specifically because they are covering the movement, but instead are just being swept up into the larger
set of arrests at each protest. “However, that doesn’t excuse these actions,” he adds, “especially when journalists are actively identifying themselves as press and being ignored – or worse, having press credentials removed during police actions.” A Common Thread? While Stearns does not see the arrests as specifically targeting journalists covering the Occupy movement, he does see them as part of a growing crackdown against a new demographic of independent and freelance journalists resulting from the growth of online journalism. A glance at his list reveals that many of the journalists arrested were freelancers or citizen journalists not associated with large media institutions. Nevertheless, the list also contains journalists representing more prestigious newspapers and magazines such as the San Francisco Chronicle, Mother Jones, ABC News, the New York Times, and even the Associated Press. The arrests are therefore clearly not limited to independent journalists, though they may make up a larger portion of the list. When asked whether this type of crackdown on journalists is a unique phenomenon in the United States, Stearns mentioned the protest at the Republican National Convention of 2008 in St. Paul, where more than fifty journalists were arrested in a week. Among the most prominent were Democracy Now! reporter Amy Goodman and producers Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. “The video of Salazar’s violent arrest still gives me chills,” says Stearns. He does add that through an online petition launched by Free Press, journalists detained in St. Paul were freed, and many, among them Amy Goodman, received a settlement from the police. Interestingly, this incident in St. Paul did not affect the ranking of the United States in RSF’s 2009 World Press Freedom Index, perhaps because it was an isolated incident compared to the Occupy arrests, which have occurred across the country. Cracking Down on Coverage As of now arrests of journalists at Occupy movements are still ongoing, with 14 already detained in 2012. The most recent was Jacqui Kubin, a reporter for the Washington Times, who was arrested at an Occupy movement in Washington D.C. on February 10. This arrest, like many others, has received very little press coverage. Stearns, however, is confident that these arrests will not limit public exposure to the Occupy movement, stating that “the journalist arrests have become a story in and of themselves and ►
Theme: Freedom of (Op)press(ion)
► have helped to highlight aspects of the Occupy movement and
the police reaction”. Stearns analysis is confirmed by press coverage of the U.S. decline in the RSF ranking. The major media outlets that have reported on this decline have highlighted the reference made in the report to the crackdown on journalists reporting on the Occupy movement. Perhaps if these arrests continue to receive more press coverage, the United States can reclaim some of its lost ground in the next World Press Freedom Index. According to Press Freedom Indices from earlier years, the country suffered a similar slip in the rankings during the Bush administration, when many journalists critical in their coverage of the war Anti-piracy Laws
on terror were arrested for “national security” purposes. With the election of President Obama, however, the U.S. was able to recover 16 places in the index in one year, due to what the RSF perceived as a different approach to the war on terror that resulted in fewer arrests of journalists. Reversing the current decline will take more than just a shift in national policy. But through a greater public awareness of the issue as well as collective action by its citizens, the United States can return to its former position in the rankings and once again be able to revere its First Amendment freedom. ■ Aatif Rashid studies Global and Imperial History at St Hugh’s College.
been stymied by the international and shifting nature of file sharing. The Pirate Bay, self-declared as “the galaxy’s most resilient BitTorrent site”, even goes so far as to keep the location of Adam Clement its servers secret, and has at various points in its history been hosted in Sweden, the Netherlands, and Ukraine. Recently proposed legislation, such as SOPA and PIPA, would have SOPA and PIPA shake up the battle of free information allowed governments to force internet service providers to block access to websites that provide copyrighted material. n January 18th, popular websites Wikipedia and Reddit Similar provisions were to be included in the 2010 Digital shut down in protest against a new copyright protec- Economy Act, although they were later removed after a review tion bill that was then under consideration by the United by Ofcom, an independent regulator of TV, radio and wireless States Congress. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the airwaves in the United Kingdom. Legislation like this demonPROTECT IP Act (PIPA) were the latest government efforts at strates that national governments recognise that any effective curbing the sharing of copyrighted material online. The issue campaign against online copyright infringement must be interpits the usual contenders of traditional media companies, who national. However, the prospect of ordering Internet Service see strict regulation as the only way to prevent the destruction Providers to block offending websites attracts criticism from of their industry, against online content providers and free internet freedom groups, who have accused governments of speech advocates, who see the proposed legislation as deliberate promoting censorship and forecasted the death of websites such silencing at its worst. as YouTube that host user-generated content. Sir Tim BernersThe protests were sufficient to derail the legislative process. Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, argued that SOPA and On the day of the blackout, six Republican supporters of PIPA, PIPA had “not been put together to respect human rights as is Senators Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, John Boozman of appropriate in a democratic country”. Arkansas, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Mark One potential successor to the failed bills is the AntiKirk of Illinois and Marco Rubio of Florida, had withdrawn their Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), a plurilateral trade support. By the end of January 19th, the legislative coalition agreement that has been under negotiation since 2007. In a behind SOPA and PIPA had collapsed January entry on the Electronic FronMike Davis and the bills were shelved indefinitely. tier Foundation Deeplinks blog, they Despite the widespread opposition, described ACTA as the “one thing that however, it remains likely that similar encapsulates what’s wrong with the way legislation will still be considered. In his government functions today” because of response to the petition against SOPA, the lack of transparency with which it was President Barack Obama stated that negotiated. while he would not support legislation The objective of ACTA is to standthat would lead to censorship of the ardise domestic anti-piracy legislation Internet or damage innovation, he would across much of the industrialised world, encourage legislation that “provides despite having no domestic force. As a prosecutors and rights holders new legal trade agreement, its stipulations are quite tools to combat online piracy originating vague, and much of the concern over early Restricted Access ■ Legislation beyond US borders”. drafts is not justified by the most recent to curb copyright violations online ran President Obama’s statement captures version. In effect, ACTA is only a threat into vociferous opposition a central issue in governmental struggles to internet freedom after individual signaagainst internet piracy. In order to be tories have passed enabling legislation. successful, legislation must address not only domestic but also international sources of copyrighted The Virtual becomes Physical material. Traditionally, anti-piracy efforts have focused on In addition to the aforementioned blackout in response to persistent domestic users. In October 2009, the French govern- PIPA and SOPA, a petition organised by Google gathered over ment adopted a law to suspend the internet access of anyone 7 million signatures, and the online protests were accompanied receiving three warning letters for online copyright infringe- by real-world demonstrations, indicating the growing salience ment in a year. Similar legislation was included in the 2010 of internet-related issues in real-world politics. On February Digital Economy Act in the United Kingdom, although this has 3rd, the Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk announced that yet to be implemented. In the United States, file sharers have his country’s ratification of ACTA would be suspended pending been combated largely through civil cases by the media industry. further consultations. This reversal came after days of street protests in late January and a protest in Parliament on the 26th Failed Attempts in which opposition politicians donned the Guy Fawkes masks Action against the providers of copyrighted material has made infamous by Anonymous, the “hactivist” group also ►
Shutting down the Internet
Hilary 2012 ► known for their Denial of Service attacks against government
websites. In the United States, online protests against SOPA and PIPA were accompanied by demonstrations in New York City,
Despite the widespread opposition, however, it remains likely that similar legislation will still be considered Seattle, and San Francisco. On the extreme end of the internet freedom debate, several European states have seen the rise of Pirate Parties, political parties that campaign on a platform of internet freedom and reform of copyright and patent law. While their electoral success has been limited, the Piratenpartei
Theme: Freedom of (Op)press(ion)
Deutschland currently holds 15 state parliament seats in Berlin, and the Swedish Piratpartiet has sent two members to the European Parliament. There are two key lessons to be drawn from recent clashes over anti-piracy legislation. First, all future legislation will concentrate on preventing the supply of copyright-infringing material as well as prosecuting those who consume it. Second, that the architects and proponents of stricter online regulation have already lost the public relations battle. The vociferous response, both online and offline, to SOPA and PIPA indicates that digital natives will fight on the world stage. ■ Adam Clement studies Philosophy, Politics & Economics at Jesus College.
How the Internet is Changing Hate Groups Brunilda Cimo
The Internet is becoming an increasingly powerful tool for spreading hate
ace is a concept which historically has organized many societies. Sanjeev S Anand, in Expressions of Racial Hatred and Racism in Canada: An Historical Perspective, defines racism as “the belief that one race is superior to another, and this belief is associated with attitudes and acts.” After learning a lesson from the atrocities of the Nazis against the Jewish people, many countries – including Canada – do not accept that race has any biological basis that determines superiority or inferiority. Thus, Canada has undertaken initiatives to protect all “racial” groups, through its multicultural policy. Also, as Anand states, the Charter added in 1982, stioulates that “[t]his Charter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians.” Because the government has adopted and tries to promulgate the idea that a person’s race is not a valid reason for descrimination, Canada is perceived as a society tolerant of “cultural diversity.” However, as Anand indicates, in Canada alone there are at least 75 hate organizations that use the internet to spread their hatred. Given the prevalence of these white supremacists groups, hate sites and the effects that these have on many individuals (such as teenagers), racism is still a problem in Canada. The internet allows for the promulgation of racist views in new and possibly more efficient ways because it is easily accessible to millions of people. Moreover, it is difficult to censor such material because of the technology it employs and freedom of expression rights guaranteed by the Charter. On-line Recruiting Websites allow hate organizations to access new groups of people. The internet can be accessed more easily than other methods used by hate groups in the past. As Joe Roy (cited by Margaret E Duffy in Web of Hate: A Fantasy Theme Analysis of the Rhetorical Vision of Hate Groups Online) says, “There’s no question that the Net is one of the key factors in the growth of hate groups[…] These groups are reaching people who would’ve never been exposed to it otherwise”. In other words, the internet is a more efficient modern method to attract and recruit members. For example, Elissa Lee and Laura Leets in Persuasive Storytelling by Hate Groups Online: Examining its Effects on Adolescents indicate that in the past, the Nazis would use “fliers, newsletters, small rallies, mailings, and interpersonal contact[,]” mostly for targeting people who had the same “beliefs” or were part of the group and thus “predisposed to accept the messages.” However, the internet can recruit or persuade many more people.
Youths are especially vulnerable to these messages. Lee and Leets have found that male teenagers generally use the internet more often than any other group; and a poll in US found that 25% of teens have seen hate group websites. Moreover, Lee and Leets say that “[h]ate Web sites appear to be one of many potential pitfalls that await youths on the Internet.” In other words, young people are more likely to view websites because they spend more time than any other group browsing on the internet, making them more susceptible to hateful messages. Youths are not only more likely to view these websites because of their greater use of the internet, but many of these hate websites specifically target youths, and try to convince them to believe in their ideology. Children and teenagers are attractive targets simply because they are in a stage of moral and intellectual development. Generally, once certain beliefs are ingrained at a young age, these ideas are not easily removed later in life; most likely, they tend to be reinforced. Lee and Leets show evidence suggesting that even former members of White supremacist hate groups have pointed out that the special target of hatred groups are “young, White, male teenagers”. A study in California found that many students in high school were physically “approached” or “recruited” by hate organizations. Links to Crime Hate crime reports suggest a possible a link between the viewing of hate sites and hate crime occurrences. The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics show that in 2001 and 2002, twelve police forces indicated that 57% of hate crime incidents were about race or ethnicity issues, and visible minorities were overrepresented as victims in these types of crimes. This pilot survey also found that in 83% of the cases, the perpetrators were not known to the victim, making the incident a hate crime because it shows that the victim was selected based on his/her racial or ethnic characteristics. Among these incidents, black victims ► 10
Hate crimes by selected census areas, per 100000 people
St John’s 3.3
Theme: Freedom of (Op)press(ion)
► had a higher chance of becoming victims, followed by South
Asians, Arabs/West Asians, East and Southeast Asians, and lastly Whites. Not surprisingly, considering that many sites now target young individuals, the survey found that the perpetrators involved in these incidents were younger than previous perpetrators. In the past the average age of the men participating in hate crime was around 29.5 years, but the present average age is 23.6. Also, Duffy says that many studies have found that hate sites motivated hate incidents against African Americans and the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. In other words, we see that some of the young people, who are targeted by many hate websites, may eventually engage in hate acts against other “racial” groups. Free speech on the internet is almost impossible to censor
57% of hate crime incidents were about race or ethnicity issues and this contributes to an even greater effect on the promulgation of racist attitudes. This is the case for two main reasons. First, technologically it is difficult to regulate or disconnect hate websites. Some of these hate sites are not Canadian, so they are not under the jurisdiction of Canadian law. Many times, blocking a website is repeatedly undermined by the creation of “duplicates.” Anand says that in one case, in Germany, Deutsche Telekom tried to block a Santa Cruz Company that was spreading hate propaganda through its website. Deutsche Telekom failed, as many other “duplicates” were created by “free speech proponents.” Thus, hate sites constitute an almost unstoppable flow of information which aim to instigate racist attitudes. Secondly, from a legal perspective, prohibiting hate sites infringes on the freedom of expression, which is part of the same Charter that guaranteed multiculturalism. Both rights are highly valued in our society and to transgress either one,
requires a lot of of convincing evidence. Many agree that some free speech should be prohibited. There have even been efforts by the Canadian government to try and put some limits on free speech. One such effort was the Cohen report in 1965. This Special Committee on Hate Propaganda in Canada said that some form of speech should be prohibited because our society is more diverse, and during times of stress we tend to put the blame for our problems on others. In other words, they were worried about racist scapegoating. The recommendations of this report, Anand says, led to hate propaganda laws. Nevertheless, thus far there have only been a few cases with convictions. We can see from Statistics Canada that hate propaganda is the least common form of hate crimes reported, whereas mischief and assault are the highest. If hate crime involves an act then it is easier to detect. However, if the act involves speech, it is more difficult to prove. Hate websites are prevalent and can exert significant influence but because of the right to freedom of expression, they can almost never be effectively censored. To conclude, although Canada has made many efforts to encourage diversity (such as through the Multiculturalism Act and the Charter), racism has not been erased. Hate sites are better instrument for the spread of racist ideas than methods used in the past. Moreover, hate sites are a stable source of racist ideas as they cannot easily be censored. Hate sites transcend borders and thus cannot be controlled by the Canadian legal system. Even when these sites are Canadian, censoring them is difficult because many people can create duplicates and can also claim that the act of controlling them violates their freedom of expression guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Thus, hates sites are not only pernicious in themselves but also cause racist attitudes to become prevalent in Canada. ■ Brunilda Cimo studied International Relations and Political Science at the University of Toronto. This article is reproduced with permission from the Toronto Globalist.
The Digital Stage of Colonialism Rafi Alam
The evolution of digital media brings with it new forms of colonial rule
e are constantly reminded that we live in an ‘information age’, that our world is decentralised and globalised. We are reminded of the power of the media as a tool for democratisation, creating a platform for the voices of many and challenging the assumed authority of the state and corporations. This is the dominant narrative of our time: from the classroom to the boardroom, ‘social’ and ‘mass media’ pervade scholarly and common discourse regarding contemporary society. These forms of media encourage the belief that consumption and choice are the true means of global democratisation. People from different cultures, different nations and different ideologies can communicate through the Internet, sharing and experiencing new ideas. There is no locus of authority; no culture or ideology is prioritised or hegemonic. But the alleged democracy of mass and social media is the fiction of a modern society that is infatuated with themes of participation, freedom and equality. These ideas are noble, but they tend to disengage global events from their socio-cultural and historical contexts and instead impose the West as a reference point. One example is the media’s proclivity for talking about Facebook and Twitter when discussing the recent uprisings in the Arab world – an attempt at making the events relevant and comprehensible for an indifferent public. Treating mass media as a corporation reveals the subtle nuances of its social function. We can examine the mass media
in terms of neo-colonialism and cultural imperialism. The neocolonial aspect of mass media suggests that the media profits from the consumption practices of foreign nations, while the culturally imperialist aspect suggests that the media profits by shaping the consumption practices of these countries. We can understand these phenomena in terms of ‘electronic’ or ‘media imperialism’. Colonialism Redefined The subtlety of electronic imperialism stems from the assumed benignity of mass media. Consumption is understood as a purely individual choice. If we dislike a television program, we switch it off. If we dislike an advertisement, we ignore it. But media consumption is at the very centre of our culture; its role is too significant to be ignored. The status of mass media as an integral component of everyday leisure, work and social communication (for example, water cooler conversations) sustains its structural import in contemporary society. Social media only accelerated these trends, and while such media cannot wholly replace ‘real’ social relations, it becomes a talking point and a form of networking and therefore influences how we interrelate. Satiating the desires and inclinations of the public is at the core of mass media. The corporate structure at the foundation of most television and Internet networks determines the profit-geared function of mass media’s message. The synthesis ►
Theme: Freedom of (Op)press(ion)
of information-as-entertainment and its need for widespread itself ) in the terms produced by the imperialist centre – in this dissemination, equipped with the financial capital of these case, the ‘global north’. media firms, produces social capital as the media guides society around its goals. Fulfilling these goals requires the exploitation The New Phase of Imperialism of the consumption habits of modern citizens. Electronic colonialism has a significant impact on the ‘global But while mass media is a Western phenomenon, its reach south’. Persistent violence, social stratification, political destaextends across national borders into communities and cultures bilisation and institutionalised poverty can be partially (but around the world. While local entertainment and information importantly) attributed to the effects of electronic imperialism. programs exist in the ‘global south’, a disproportionate volume A comparison of the Middle East/North Africa and Japan, seen of films, television programs and websites originate in the ‘global as anti-West and pro-West respectively, exemplifies these factors. north’ – namely, the United States and Europe. The prosperity The Arab world is primarily perceived as unstable and of the ‘north’ ensures a prolific entertainment and information violent, a portrayal that is facilitated by the mass media. Major industry. television networks perpetuate this image through their disproFurthermore, while television sets and computers are mostly portionate coverage of these regions. Events that capture the produced in developing nations, they are primarily distributed interest of their viewership will invariably be shown, and these in the West where the very rules for their assembly also origi- events usually mould to preconceptions of the region. Thus, nated. Tom McPhail, who developed electronic colonialism Islamic violence makes it onto the news, feeding off Western theory, draws on Marshall McLuhan’s concept of ‘medium as paranoia and the voyeuristic fetishism of violence in Other message’ and theorises on the power of technology in shaping worlds; meanwhile, protests against governments also make it the values and beliefs of foreign cultures. onto the news, again framed and executed in terms of Western The protocols, rules and systems of modern Western tech- symbology. nology lead to the intellectual restructuring of those societies While there is nobility in the actions of the protesters, that must abide by these ‘laws’. Electronic Western electronic imperialism constrains imperialism echoes the orientalising their overall success. Western media focus of traditional colonialism. In order to on signs written in English, and on interprocure access to ‘being’ in a sociological viewees who can invoke the empathy sense – which includes potential, satisfacof a public whose mentality is genertion, wealth, status, hope and knowledge ally incongruous with Middle Eastern – the instruments of modernity (like telethought. This empowers some, but disemvision) must be acquired and submitted powers others. Furthermore, a reliance on to. Western news media can itself often lead bfishadow via Flickr The logic of electronic media is propto violence. For example, terrorism’s goals agated through these means. Corporainclude not only the direct consequences Searching for Control ■ Is tions disseminate information through of violence but also the indirect conseGoogle a part of the rising electronic consumerist broadcasting – advertisequences of global exposure, as if they were dominance by the West? ments, brands, public relations, irriperformers on a stage. This vicious cycle tating viral campaigns, obnoxious billof exposure and violence reinforces instaboards, sometimes even megaphones! – producing the doxa or bility in these regions. ‘common sense’ of our age. The values of consumerism become On the other hand, Japan is a nation of relative peace and the subsuming logic of modernity, governing how we behave prosperity. While Japan is not part of the ‘Western world’, it is and think. often seen as ‘faux-Western’. Its politics, economics and society Consider, for instance, Slumdog Millionaire - itself an align with most of the Western world, and yet historically it is example of an Orientalist portrayal distributed to the portrayed viewed as an ‘Eastern nation’. Despite this, Japan’s position as an culture. Local Indian citizens crowd around television sets that almost honorary member of the West is enabled by mass media illuminate the darkness of the slums, anticipating the protago- representations of Japan as hypermodern, wealthy and quirky. nist Jamal’s victory on Who Wants to Be A Millionaire. Mass These representations include kawaii aesthetics such as the media is seen as connecting people regardless of geography, class big-eyed, flustered, generic anime characters, or the grotesque or status. Everyone is equal. Everyone is involved. This narra- aesthetics of horror and ‘mature’ anime. These images keep Japan tive is entrenched in modern society: advertisements for mobile at a distance from the West, while simultaneously encouraging phones and other communication technologies often highlight the commercial perpetuation of this stereotype via merchandise and employ motifs of ‘connection’ and ‘togetherness’, which and repetition, in order to access the social capital which comes become metaphors for happiness and satisfaction. with ‘Western’ status. This boosts Japans own ‘colonial’ power Another function of mass media in this ‘new imperialism’ is in the Asian region, due to its position in global media. its construction of the Other. The ‘democracy’ of mass media Electronic colonialism works in a variety of ways, with a rests on consumer participation through viewership. However, the media also influences how its viewers approach and interpret reality. Mass media therefore both influences and is influ- Mass media is a Western phenomenon whose reach extends across borders enced by the (connected) public. This process is analogous to a ‘synopticon’: we are held under the gaze of authority, yet they are held equally under our own. variety of different effects. The core of electronic colonialism However, this synopticon is exclusionary to the Other, which is the propagation of Western values and ideals through the is either an illegitimate participator or entirely absent. In other symbolism of technology, and the transmission of information words, the Other – in this case, the developing world – does not through the hegemonic Western media as an extrapolation of interact with Western mass media except as an object thereof. neoliberal corporate power. Electronic colonialism, subtle as it For instance, think of charity advertisements, the shock! horror! is, robs cultural conceptions of their own identity and leads to that accompanies every story on the East/South, the trope of the political, social and economic destabilisation. ■ ‘token ethnic’, and so on. These images are then transmitted to the West without any active engagement in the very image Rafi Alam studies International and Global Studies at the Univerthat is produced. This parallels the imperialist project of Orien- sity of Sydney. This article is reproduced with permission from the talism, whereby the Other is defined (and is forced to define Sydney Globalist.
Also: Donor Funding for Global AIDS ■ The Shale Gas Revolution
Centers for Disease Control
Grim Realities ■ A tuberculosis-infected lung North Korea’s Public Health Problem
Tuberculosis in North Korea Ye Jin Kang
International health diplomacy as a potential entrance to effectively engaging with North Korea
n 2000, the Lancet published an article highlighting the failings of North Korea’s health care system, ranking tuberculosis (TB) as the highest public health concern in North Korea. In 2010, the prevalence rate of TB in North Korea was 399 per 100,000 people, which is alarming given that Ghana, another developing country with the same popu-
International policymakers should keep in mind the dangers of ignoring the state of the Korean health system. lation of 24 million, has a prevalence of only 106. The amount of infected individuals is more than three times higher than that of South Korea and China. TB is a highly infectious disease needing professional diagnosis and treatment. The situation in the country only compounds the problem, as even 20 years after a famine reportedly killed about 3.5 million people, malnourishment is still rife. A weakened body increases susceptibility to the disease. On a more positive note, North Korea’s history with international agencies and non-profit organizations to target the elimination and prevention of this disease has been cooperative. One victory was the construction of a BSL-3 laboratory, which has the capability to diagnose
drug-resistant TB strains. This idea was formulated in early 2007 by John Lewis, a professor at Stanford University, who considered engaging with North Korea from a different angle, by helping them with their TB epidemic. Given the infectious nature of TB, this was undoubtedly a matter of international interest, and it received much positive reception worldwide. TB Cooperation Soon afterwards, public health officials from North Korea and experts at Stanford University met several times, initially at Stanford and then later at Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital. The project, led by epidemiologist Sharon Perry, was named the US-DPRK Tuberculosis Project, and its success was the result of collaboration between Stanford School of Medicine, Christian Friends of Korea (a U.S. nongovernmental organization), the WHO South-East Asia Regional Office in Delhi, and North Korea’s Ministry of Public Health. The willingness of North Korea to engage with US academics and specialists is a good sign. Not only has North Korea’s Ministry of Public Health chosen to engage the US in this issue, but it has also been working with the WHO South East-Asia Region Office in Delhi for over ten years. A grant from the Global Fund has cured 31,000 TB patients in North Korea since 2010, achieving the second highest performance rating available. The
Eugene Bell Foundation, a non-profit organization registered in both South Korea and the U.S. has worked with North Korea for over 50 years to help control their TB epidemic. International Interests This engagement is crucial not only because TB is infectious but also because drug-resistant strains are continuously evolving. The international community must continue to support North Korea with this issue as the consequences of ignorance are potentially catastrophic. If a drug-resistant strain unresponsive to current drugs were to evolve in North Korea, it could easily spread rapidly through the small channels of tourism and trade, as well as the sporadic flow of defectors across the border with China. It is problematic that public health is routinely left out of any sort of discourse on North Korea. However, throughout the upcoming year, as countries with or without formal international relationships with North Korea re-evaluate their diplomatic stances, policymakers should keep in mind the dangers of ignoring the state of the health system. This knowledge can be a crucial factor in setting up a better framework for how humanitarian aid really affects the people of North Korea. Involving public health in foreign policy is complicated, especially when it involves a process as delicate as persuading North Korea to phase out its nuclear capabilities. However there have been other cases of success by other countries, for example Brazil’s exportation of its successful HIV/AIDS combating model to other developing countries has increased its access to international markets. At the very least, employing healthcare diplomacy in North Korea through offi- ►
Hilary 2012 ► cial channels is a useful way of showing
compassion to a people who are taught as schoolchildren that contact with the outside world should be avoided. It would be a small but positive step towards effective engagement with North Korea, one of the world’s most isolated countries,
and could potentially cause negotiations to end more positively than they have done in the past. ■ Ye Jin Kang studies medical anthropology with a public health regional focus in North Korea at Green Templeton College.
Donor Funding for AIDS
Africa’s Fight in Peril Jamila Headley
Just as scientific advances suggest that we can end the pandemic, broken promises and retrenchment of donor funds threaten progress
n 2000, almost no one in Sub-Saharan Africa had access to life-saving antiretroviral therapy (ART) that had already transformed HIV/AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable chronic condition in wealthy countries. Over the last decade, as a result of sustained pressure from activists and the falling prices of ART, there has been an unprecedented mobilization of financial resources and political will to expand access to these treatments. As a result of this, the Joint United Nations Programme HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), estimated that by the end of 2011, 6.6 million people in developing countries were on treatment. Additionally, the number of AIDS-related deaths is declining globally, and the rate of new infections has fallen by more than 25% over the past decade. However, the fight is far from over. Today there are 34 million people living with HIV worldwide, two-thirds of these in Sub-Saharan Africa. Approximately 10.4 million people (or more than half of those who require them) are without the medications they need to stay alive, and only 50% of pregnant women living with HIV are receiving effective treatments to ensure that the virus is not passed on to their children.
For the first time since 2001, international funding for HIV is falling In May 2011, scientists announced that people living with HIV who adhered to treatment were 96% less likely to pass on the virus, based on results of the HPTN052 randomized control trial. Other trials have also demonstrated that antiretroviral drugs and male circumcision have significant protective effects for people who are not HIV-positive. Economic modelling undertaken by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control demonstrates that substantial investments in Sub-Saharan Africa will not only significantly reduce the incidence of HIV but also offset the cost of scaling up treatment
International AIDS Assistance from Donor Governments: Commitments & Disbursements, 2002-2010 US Dollars, billions 8 6 4 2 0
UNAIDS and Kaiser Family Foundation
and care by almost 60%. Last year, in its global report, UNAIDS set goals of zero new infections and zero AIDS-related deaths – targets that they believe are achievable in the not-so-distant future. In a letter to partners, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé urged that “together, we can make this the defining decade, the decade that signals the beginning of the end of AIDS”. Brake on Progress Ironically, for the first time since 2001, international funding for HIV is falling. The two largest international donors, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, have both recently revealed worrying retrenchments. At the end of 2011, in an unprecedented move, the Global Fund announced that it was cancelling its next round of funding due to the failure of wealthy governments to deliver on their commitments. Also, despite promising to work towards the realization of an “AIDS-free generation”, the Obama administration has proposed an 11% cut in funding to the PEPFAR program next year. By reducing, or even flat-lining, investments in expanding treatment access, donors are threatening to pull the brakes on this fight. When asked about the reasons for this
reneging on aid commitments by wealthy nations, Dr. Jennifer Cohn, international HIV policy expert and Assistant Professor in Infectious Diseases at the University of Pennsylvania said: “I think some has to do with the global economic downturn, but it also has to do with donor fatigue and the fact that governments view foreign assistance as expendable.” According to Cohn, this back-pedalling by international donors is already having an effect on some of the most vulnerable states on the continent. In 30 African states, donor funds account for more than 70% of expenditure on HIV treatment and care. In countries like Uganda and Mozambique, caps have been imposed on the numbers of people that can be put on treatment, and there are reports of a shift in donor funds from recurrent expenses to one-off investments. A moral obligation While African governments must most certainly be held accountable for increasing domestic resources to address the pandemic within their own borders, some believe that donor governments have a moral obligation as well: “The reality is that those cuts, as devastating as they are to these communities, will never balance the budgets of the richest countries in the world. They are not necessary cuts. Fundamentally, they are political choices. African communities have become collateral damage in an effort by some donors to attempt to step away from a commitment that they made as members of the international community. I think that our challenge as a global social movement to promote universal access to HIV treatment, to freedom from TB and protection from Malaria, as well as the human right to health, is ►
Physicians for Human Rights
Will Fight AIDS for Money ■ Medical students and professionals in Boston campaign on funding for global and domestic HIV/AIDS programs
► to ensure that they don’t get away with
it”, said Asia Russell, Director of International Policy for a U.S.-based HIV advocacy organization called the Health Global Access Project. While activists around the world are enraged by recent retrenchments, Russell
expressed hope that civil society could ensure that donors do the right thing: “We know that the cost of doing the wrong thing is astronomical. It is morally, politically and economically untenable. I think that is why even a sceptic can understand that, although we are facing a
The Shale Gas Revolution
Game-Changer or False Panacea? Tim De Santa
Shale Gas as an alternative to crude oil may not be all that it’s cracked up to be
n 2000, shale gas – natural gas siphoned from shale rock formations thousands of feet beneath the earth’s surface – accounted for 1% of the total U.S. supply of natural gas. By 2011, that number had risen to 25%. At the current growth rate, it will account for 50% of the U.S. supply by 2030. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s estimates for 2011, the country now has enough accessible natural gas (2,552 trillion cubic feet or ‘Tcf ’) to last more than a century at current rates of consumption (roughly 22.8 Tcf per year). In short, the Shale Gas Revolution has arrived in America, for better or for worse. Shale gas has quickly become the most significant new development in the global energy and power industries since Saudi Arabia first began to recover and market its massive crude oil reserves more than half a century ago. Energy industry geologists have long known about the massive gas reserves in U.S shale rock. But until the 1990s, when Texas oil and gas wildcatter, George Mitchell, began to tap the Barnett Shale using the innovative techniques of horizontal drilling and “hydro-fracturing” – setting off a depth charge in a gas well to blast cracks into the shale rock, then pumping in “fracking fluids” at high pressure to widen the cracks and thereby siphon out the trapped gas – no one expected shale gas to be economically recoverable. Now that horizontal drilling and “hydrofracking” have become standard industry practices, America has taken a giant leap toward becoming the Saudi Arabia of natural gas. The implications are profound. Massive domestic natural gas reserves could reduce U.S. dependence on foreign energy, decrease U.S. carbon emissions (because burning natural gas produces about fifty percent less CO2 than burning oil or coal), and create long-term, non-outsourceable jobs in the United States. The Fracking Problem At the same time, while the economic and geopolitical upside to the shale boom is enormous, the downsides for the environment and for the future of renewable
energy might be even greater. On the environmental side, horizontal drilling and hydrofracking may pose significant threats to watersheds around the four major shale plays in the United States: the Bakken play in Montana and North Dakota; the Barnett and Haynesville plays in Texas; and the king of them all, the massive Marcellus play from Pennsylvania and New York all the way down the Appalachian into Virginia and West Virginia. If these threats can be corroborated by current and pending environmental investigations, the risk to potable groundwater in the densely populated North-eastern United States alone could be high enough to derail the shale revolution before it even fully begins. Perhaps even more ominously, given the global climate-change crisis, a prolonged shale boom will almost certainly bankrupt many renewable energy companies over the next decade, as power plants switch from cheap coal to cheap gas rather than to expensive renewable energy sources. Water, on three separate levels, is the key environmental issue at stake in the
In the midst of this gloom and doom, the shale gas revolution will only make things worse for renewable energy companies, at least in the short term. shale boom: first, shale gas extraction is a water-intensive process, with each new shale well typically requiring up to five million gallons of water to be effective; second, horizontal drilling and hydrofracking increase the risk of contaminating potable groundwater with fracking fluid chemicals and radioactive subterranean elements, which naturally occur thousands of feet underground; third, in the United States, toxic and in many cases radioactive wastewater from shale wells is frequently sent to municipal water treatment plants ill-equipped to screen for dangerous chemicals and properly sanitize the waste liquid. This untreated
moment of acute challenge, this threat is something that is imminently surmountable.” ■ Jamila Headley is a doctoral candidate in Public Health at Exeter College. wastewater is then dumped into major rivers, thereby eventually contaminating aquifers in key watersheds. Each of these three water issues is further complicated by loopholes in the current federal and state regulatory frameworks regarding shale gas extraction. The U.S. oil and gas industries are largely exempt from some of the most important federal and state environmental laws, thanks to what has come to be called the “Halliburton Loophole”. This loophole is in fact a series of exemptions from federal regulatory requirements given to the energy industry during the Bush-Cheney Administration in 2005. A Quiet Water Crisis Among the Halliburton Loophole’s most indefensible provisions is its removal of the Environmental Protection Agency’s legal right to regulate hydrofracking through the Safe Water Drinking Act. In essence, this loophole enables oil and gas companies to use any chemicals they would like for their fracking fluid, without public disclosure or federal oversight, and to dispose of said fluids when, where and how they see fit. Thus far, the major oil and gas companies involved in the shale boom have taken advantage of these privileges to ignore local safety requirements. Bryan Walsh of Time Magazine, for example, has reported that in 2010 alone, over 62% of all hydrofracked wells inspected by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in the Marcellus Shale – home to the largest shale gas reserves in the world – had failed to abide the state’s basic safety standards. As shale gas extraction increases to national and indeed global scale, this rate of environmental and regulatory failures would prove disastrous for both the oil and gas industry and the local populations whose drinking water could become permanently jeopardized. While the EPA is planning to release new standards in the next few months to shrink these loopholes, many provisions will likely remain intact unless more drastic federal and state action is taken. Even without the adverse impacts of the shale boom, renewable energy companies have recently been struggling to turn a profit all around the globe; 2011, in particular, was a very bad year for the biggest firms in the industry. Leading solar companies First Solar and Sun Power Corporation saw their stocks ►
► fall by more than 70% and 50% respec-
tively. Denmark’s Vestas and Spain’s Gamesa Corporación, global leaders in wind energy technology, did not fare much better, posting losses of over 60% and 40% on the year, respectively. The short-term horizon looks just as bleak. Barack Obama’s stimulus package – officially, the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009” – included over US$70 billion (£44.2 billion) in subsidies and tax credits for the renewable energy and clean tech industries, many of which have already expired or will likely do so in the coming months. Given the current sovereign debt and unemployment problems in the States, Congress will be loath to pass new subsidies and tax credits once the stimulus provisions expire. Across the pond in Germany, the European leader in renewable energy, many key subsidies for the solar, wind and geothermal indus-
for the shift from Big Oil to Big Gas. As the largest energy companies in the world have invested in the new shale gas bonanza, the biggest utilities companies have likewise replaced oil and especially coal contracts with natural gas contracts instead of renewable energy contracts, much to the dismay and financial ruin of many solar, wind and geothermal companies staking their business models on utility-scale deals. The shale boom continues to rage in the United States, has already spread abroad to many nations, notably including neighbouring Canada, and has begun to stir excitement in Gazpromdependent Europe (especially in Poland, whose shale gas reserves are thought to be the largest on the continent). In the mean time, the United States must take rapid and definitive action on many fronts to ensure that the historic shale gas revolu-
The Energy Revolution? ■ A shale gas drill rig for fracking tries are also set to expire in 2012. The same patterns are emerging all around the world. In the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2009, the governments of many OECD countries are simply too handcuffed by ballooning federal deficits and unemployment rates to open the coffers for the risky, cost-inefficient, subsidy-dependent renewable energy industries. Not to be Renewed In the midst of this gloom and doom, the shale gas revolution will only make things worse for renewable energy companies, at least in the short term. As natural gas has suddenly become a cheaper and cleaner alternative to coal and oil in the past few years, both state oil and gas companies, such as the Saudi Arabian Oil Co., the National Iranian Oil Co., Brazil’s Petrobras, and China’s CNOOC and Petrochina, as well as giant multinationals such as ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP have already begun preparing
tion does not turn into an environmental, economic and geopolitical catastrophe. The Bottom Line First, Congress must fully close the aforementioned loophole to increase the transparency of the environmental impacts of shale gas extraction and production. In particular, Congress must pass new legislation demanding that energy companies disclose the identity of each chemical used in their fracking fluid and submit their wells and wastewater management facilities to EPA scrutiny. This legislation should also demand maximum recycling of flowback fracking fluid to minimize the amount of wastewater pumped into underground storage tanks or shipped to ill-equipped municipal treatment plants. Once the Halliburton Loophole is closed, a new EPA department should be created specifically for the regulation of energy companies’ wastewater management. Second, shale gas drilling must not
be resumed in the New York watershed, which supplies drinking water to more than eight million New York City residents, until the regulatory framework has been repaired and the energy industry subjected to federal investigation and analysis. Third, once these proper regulations are in place, the United States should rapidly develop a strong Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) export industry. A boom in LNG – gas cooled to a liquid state suitable for safe long-distance transportation – would help to globalise the gas industry the way the oil industry is already globalised, and thus reduce inefficiencies and regional chokeholds such as Gazprom’s on Europe and the former Soviet satellite countries. Fourth, in light of the third proposal, the Unites States and its allies must begin to set up a defence framework for the potential collapse of the world’s most powerful petro-states in the coming decades, including Russia and the member-states of OPEC, especially Iran and Saudi Arabia. As these petro-states lose their disproportionate leverage over the rest of the world’s economies, their own non-diversified economies will be in grave danger of extreme instability if not outright collapse. The United States must thus be prepared to confront the prospect of failed petro-states with suddenly vulnerable nuclear stockpiles (e.g. Russia). Finally and most importantly, despite the recent, massive revisions to estimates of U.S. shale gas reserves, natural gas must still be viewed only as a middle stage for the ultimate transition (probably a multi-decade process) from fossil fuels to clean and renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal and secondgeneration biofuels. To this end, the U.S. federal and state governments should pass long-term emissions reduction legislation (like in Germany and Britain) to ensure that the United States does not merely shift from Big Oil to Big Gas over the next half-century. On the contrary, it must use its massive domestic shale gas reserves to reduce coal-based electricity production in the transition period from a Fossil Fuel Economy to a Renewable Energy Economy. In this vein, natural gas can be an important baseline power source to supplement wind and solar energy, which can only generate a steady flow of electricity when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining, respectively. The Shale Gas Revolution may or may not be here to stay, but so long as shale gas is booming, America must act quickly to avert disastrous consequences. ■ Tim De Santa studies for a pursuing an M.St. in Latin American and Russian Studies at Lady Margaret Hall.
Also: Cholitas in Bolivia
Les Grandes Ecoles ■ France’s well-funded, elite-dominated postgraduate schools French Meritocracy
Degrees of Separation Nina Cohen
Controversy surrounds the grandes écoles, France’s elite universities
he ternary motto for which the French Republic is famous, “liberté, égalité, fraternité” adorns the nation’s municipal institutions. Adopted during the 1789 French Revolution, these values represented the views of both the revolutionary suffragists and the liberal philosophes. The Jacobins envisioned a Republican system in France with Enlightenment ideals of tolerance, rationality and progress. Their aspirations were not limited to political reform; the Jacobins also hoped to ensure France achieved a position as a bastion of cultural and scientific eminence. At the centre of this philosophy was the need to promote universal values. Regarded now as the source of equality, education was centralised and secularised, with standardised curricula providing instruction in Republican
30% of the higher education budget is used to educate only 4% of post-graduates morality as well as an array of academic subjects. Graduate-level teaching institutions called grandes écoles were founded in order to educate an academic elite trained to solve the nation’s problems. Students were selected exclusively on the basis of intellectual merit, without regard to wealth or social position. Grand Designs Today the grandes écoles are by far the best funded educational institutions in France, claiming nearly 30% of the higher education budget to educate only 4% of post-graduates. Students have the official title “Civil Servant Trainees”, and as such receive monthly stipends from the state. They benefit from the best facilities and from student-instructor ratios unseen elsewhere in the French education system. Upon graduation,
even those who were unsuccessful in the rigorous examinations enjoy unparalleled employment prospects and job security both in France and abroad. As Richard Descoings, director of the grande école Sciences-Po, commented in the Financial Times in 2010, “in France, you open the champagne when you get into one of the grandes écoles, not when you graduate.” It is easy to see why. Graduates of these elite universities dominate the upper echelons of the French job market. According to the Economist, in 2006 half of the CEOs in France’s 40 largest companies had attended a grande école, as had eight of the last ten prime ministers, and two of the three presidents incumbent during that period. Admission to the grandes écoles is elusive, with success rates typically 3-5%. In its entirety, the system educates only 6% of secondary school graduates. Competing Standards The grandes écoles have been the subject of ongoing debate in a country where education has always been a highly contentious issue. In 2010, President Sarkozy proposed that the grandes écoles meet a 30% quota of entrants from lowincome backgrounds. This motion met immediate opposition from the Conférence des Grandes Écoles (CGE) which argued that such a measure “would lead inevitably to a lowering of standards”. It seems that the Jacobins’ meritocratic project has fallen short of its egalitarian aspirations. For the past 60 years sociologists have studied the state of social and economic diversity within the grandes écoles and have observed a vast over-representation of bourgeois students. They have Income shares over time, 1790-2010 Percentage overall income 60 Richest 5% 40
20 Poorest 10% 0 1800
concluded that the admissions procedures restrict access to a tiny percentage of those who have excelled in France’s intensively tracked education system, and have proven a largely impassable barrier for students from poorer, less welleducated backgrounds. Pierre Bourdieu, a renowned social theorist, argued that France has a new aristocracy of “status conferred by getting into a certain school”. Almost any effort to increase minority representation based on gender, race or economic background has been repeatedly rejected by the CGE. However, inegalitarian critiques of the grandes écoles have not been limited to the admissions procedures. The most forceful arguments have come from those concerned with the condition of the state university system. Open to all citizens with a secondary school degree, it is overburdened, poorly funded and blighted by a 41% drop-out rate. Many contend that the grandes écoles siphon not only the best students but also a disproportionate share of available resources. A striking distinction is seen between the selective, generously subsidized grandes écoles and the entirely unselective, impoverished state universities. This is a divide that perpetuates the concentration of educational, and therefore political and economic, privilege among an elite few. French Connection Jacobin Republicanism, with its mantra “la République une et indivisible” (one indivisible Republic) has a universalist conception of the state that depends upon the shared national identity of its citizens. It is therefore inherently hostile to identity politics, leaving little room for diversification within the grandes écoles. In their censure of Sarkozy’s proposed quota scheme, the CGE asserted that they must continue to serve only the “veritable Republican elite”, who they claim are selected solely on the basis of merit. It contends that to consider any criteria other than intellectual achievement would infringe upon the Republican ideal of meritocratic justice. Their egalitarian belief holds that with standardised education, the most gifted students will be the most successful, regardless of their socio-economic origin. This argument presupposes that public institutions ►
Hilary 2012 ► can rectify social inequality. This has not
proven to be the case. The poor diversity of the grandes écoles has led to the cyclical transmission of privilege among a relatively homogeneous, elite few. Without significant equality of opportunity, meritocracy can degenerate into oligarchy. As it grapples with the many ramifications of an increasingly diverse society, France faces a number of questions about the durability, moral justification and relevance of 18th century political ideals. Nowhere are these concerns more pressing than in the education system. Cholitas in Bolivia
Wrestling with Tradition Joanna Kozlowska The lives and practices of professional female fighters in the Andes
izarre”, “ridiculous”, even “shameful”: these are words that Bolivians repeatedly associate with these women. “Female wrestlers? Please. Anything but that.” Yet the lucha libre – wrestling shows starring women from traditional Indian communities in Bolivia – remain one of the country’s most famed tourist attractions. With her folk costume, sacks of brightly-coloured cloth and a bowler hat, the cholita is an iconic sight. Add a rush of adrenaline, a shabby sports hall and a furiously enthusiastic crowd, and this certainly beats examining the curiosities in the local market place for entertainment value. Fernando, a journalist in La Paz, Bolivia’s capital, hands me a leaflet advertising the fights. A robust, grotesquely drawn cholita strangles her fellow tribeswoman, pulling her thick black braids with a spare hand. The other’s eyes bulge out in terror. The caption enthuses over “the unique secret of the Andes”. “It’s a traditional thing”, says Juan Fabbri, a young La Paz anthropologist. “Wrestling has been here for decades.” Women, however, don’t strictly belong to this tradition. The lucha de cholitas was introduced in the 1950s, on the initiative of El Alto coach Juan Mamani. “It was his idea for attracting tourists”, Fabbri continues. “It’s grown popular with the locals too. What was good for gringos had to be good for us Bolivians.” Although it may be a relatively new phenomenon, the lucha libre has its roots in the Andean past: “In the Andes, a woman had to be strong to survive.” Fabbri explains. “Women performed heavy physical tasks, carried weights and couldn’t hesitate to defend themselves. The delicate woman is a European invention.”
The French must now evaluate whether or not true meritocracy is possible within the nation’s current sociopolitical context. Most fundamentally, France must consider how to render the grandes écoles consistent with the demands of the nation’s Republicanism. Whether or not such reconciliation is possible will depend upon on a honest re-evaluation of what, in light of modern social realities, égalité really entails. ■ Nina Cohen studied Philosophy and French at St Anne’s College.
Inside the Ring The wrestling hall is packed with tourists and locals alike, the former occupying a row of VIP chairs in front of the ring. The loudspeakers boom out “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor as the first cholita appears. Graceful in her newly designed outfit, Martha “La Altena” (a name alluding to the high altitude at which the fight is taking place) emerges from backstage with her skirts twirling and a swing in her step. The public applauds as she dances around the ring, bowler hat in place, eventually stopping to take off her jewellery. She is to fight with a man. “I’ve had a whole family of wrestlers”, Martha says. “I wanted to be a strong person, just like my father. That’s why I chose the ring. I’m grateful to Mamani for the opportunity. I also like sewing my costumes, designing my blouses myself. It’s both a sport and an art”, she explains. “Because of this, tourists won’t think we’re just a macho country”, she tells me, showing me the hall and the wrestling ring. “I think it’s good for Bolivian women.” Soon after beginning, the fight goes terribly wrong for Martha la Altena. Her adversary, a chubby but tough-looking man in a zebra costume, throws her onto
“It’s you who are crazy” ■ A wrestler jeers at the audience for coming to watch the spectacle
the ground. Blood flows. The referee approaches, and his impartiality suddenly disappears. They throw Martha around the ring, kicking her, pulling her legs apart. The audience boos and hisses. Eggs and tomatoes fly onto the ring. “Martha! Martha!” the back rows chant. In this fight, the line between good and evil is clearly defined. Martha stands up. The audience applauds. Eggs and tomatoes keep flying. Cheers and shouts increase in volume as a chair lands on the referee’s head. The fight is evidently staged, the inevitable outcome clear to all from the start. Behind the Scenes “Sometimes it’s hard”, Martha says after her fight. “Sometimes I’m ashamed to go to the market. I don’t know if I’d encourage my daughters to become luchadoras. But most people support me eventually. I like winning over those who are initially against me. And my family stands by me all the time.”
“I wanted to be strong, like my father. That’s why I chose the ring.” Not all wrestlers are so lucky. Martha’s friend Carmen Rosa first became a luchadora to defend herself from an abusive husband. “In the end, he was too scared to hit me”, she says. “We separated. My family doesn’t like what I’m doing, but I can always rely on my sons.” Carmen firmly agrees with Martha that what they are doing is important. “It helps to end the discrimination against cholitas.” The lucha libre simultaneously represents a return to traditional values and an important step in the advancement of women’s rights. A third fight begins: two women competing against one another. Both are household names here, and the audience’s applause is deafening. “What do we call Jennifer?” the announcer shouts. “Loca!” the back rows scream in excitement, cheering and jeering at the same time. “Crazy!” Jennifer enters the ring, wielding a pair of scissors like a medieval sword. “It’s you who are crazy!” she yells at the public. “Coming here! Watching all this! Actually enjoying it. It’s you who are insane!” The back rows smile – they expected this from Jennifer. Each wrestler has his or her established role to play. “We’re all art professionals,” explains Mr Atlas, an older wrestler who has coached the two women. “It’s all a spectacle.” This becomes increasingly apparent as, with the onset of the third fight, things begin to drift towards the surreal. “I still dance when I enter the ring”, Martha la Altena says. “I always come out dancing”. ■ Joanna Kozlowska studies History and Modern Languages at New College.
Also: The Humanitarian Establishment
Vying for Visas ■ The (somewhat less crowded) floor of the Pakistan High Commission in London A New Path towards Peace with Pakistan?
Just Say Please Willy Oppenheim
A researcher’s somewhat contradictory experiences with obtaining and extending visas across the world
ver the past year I have directed a considerable amount of time, money, and emotional energy towards acquiring visas for travel in Pakistan. I have spent untold hours on the phone with dismissive bureaucrats, in the queue at the High Commission in London, and in anxious conversations about what happens to people found travelling in Pakistan with paperwork that is less than fully valid, but my efforts have paid off, enabling me to make three separate research trips to Pakistan. When most people hear this and recognize that I am American, they surmise that my struggles are related to the new wave of diplomatic bitterness that has emerged in the wake of recent events relating to drone strikes, Raymond Davis, and Osama bin Laden. To be sure, these headline issues are the backdrop of my story, but its heart is elsewhere.
a scribbled note on a piece of blue paper ... will, in theory, get me what I want from Lahore’s passport office Fast-forward to the front gate of the police station in Lahore. A man I met on the plane from Abu Dhabi knows a key person inside, and he offered to bring me here to help extend the Pakistani visa that the London High Commission issued me for the laughable duration of fifteen days. The guard at the gate tells us that the office doesn’t open for ten minutes. My friend finds this unacceptable and places a phone call. The guard lets us walk past. Minutes later we are drinking tea and smoking cigarettes with the highranking official who is supposedly going to extend my visa. My friend wears the loose-fitting shalwar kameez of Pakistan’s landed elite. The official wears a crisp suit and matching moustache. Power rubs on power. I leave the office with a scribbled note on a piece of blue paper that will, in theory, get me what I want from Lahore’s passport office, but when I make
my way through that crowded building the next day I am told it can’t be done: a new policy says foreigners must go to Islamabad for visa extensions. My friend from the plane takes me into his home for the weekend, gives me a new set of clothes, buys me two bus tickets so that I can sit beside my backpack, and sends me on my way. An Expired Visa Rewind to the Ministry of Tourism in the northern city of Skardu during the previous summer. The Pakistani consulate in New York had informed my American colleague that he would have no problem extending his visa here. Now we learn that a new rule forbids it, and his visa will expire before we can do anything about it. We spend the next few weeks in a remote mountain valley and periodically use a satellite phone to check on the status of our attempt to obtain a letter granting special permission to leave the country with an expired visa. With only hours to spare before our planned departure, we receive the letter. It never leaves my friend’s pocket: as we walk through customs that evening, the officer on duty stamps my friend’s expired visa and waves us onward. Flip to a rainy day in Islamabad. I am at the Ministry of the Interior, trying to obtain a letter to bring to the passport office. There is no queue, only elbows. I make my way to the desk and present my paperwork. The man sees that I have
foolishly written the word ‘research’ in the box asking for my purposes, and he tells me it can’t be done. “Come back in a month,” he says. I follow my mother’s advice and say “please”. He looks at me a moment, nods his head, signs and stamps my form, hands it back to me, and turns to the person who is already pushing me aside. The Close Call Jump back to London, the Pakistan High Commission. I’ve been there so many times now I could walk from Knightsbridge with my eyes closed. A uniformed man has ushered me away from the visa desk downstairs and taken me outside because I’ve been making such a fuss. Who could blame me? I applied for a visa six weeks ago; I’m scheduled to leave in a few days, and still, no word. Just then, as he stands beside me on the sidewalk, the man’s phone rings. It’s a call from downstairs: my visa is ready. I grin at him and go back inside. We can read this story any way we like. One version bemoans the diplomatic struggles, the clashing foreign policy interests, the bureaucratic inefficiencies. I choose a different view, one that still sees hope in the human beings through which politics must be enacted. I don’t think I am naïve about power and conflict: I recognize that the wiggle room between official policy and individual choice enables at least as much cruelty as it does kindness. Still, I am not sure which is more naïve: assuming that there is always space for negotiation, or defining our enemies by the flags they fly. Most days of the week, the latter option seems far more dangerous than simply saying “please”. ■ Willy Oppenheim studies for a D.Phil in Education at Pembroke College.
The Humanitarian Establishment
The Cult of the Humanitarian Hero Laurence Deschamps-Laporte
Journalists and philanthropists’ superficial outlook on the developing world undermine real change
isconnected from the suffering that takes place in distant developing countries, we rely on the words of public figures and first hand
observers to better understand epidemics, wars or poverty. We see the world through their eyes, and our vision is shaped by ► their accounts.
Hilary 2012 ►
These accounts are usually crafted by the same gaze most of the world is filtered through and documented by – the upper middle-class, white, male, often New York-based establishment. While it is not their class, race, gender or location that is inherently problematic, this group of people is influential and has somehow developed a homogenous discourse and set of practices. Their outlook shapes the views of a new generation who is eager to go out and emulate them. One of the most representative members of the group of humanitarian heroes is Nicholas Kristof; a witness many rely on, follow and hold in esteem. With his Times column and two Pulitzer prizes, our Oxford alumnus is widely read. Of course the cult of these self-appointed spokesmen for the disenfranchised exists elsewhere, in other fields and media, and the now debunked Greg Mortenson, Bono, or other high-profile academics and philanthropists such as Sachs, Soros or Gates have a similar message and crowds of admirers. The issue of voice Kristof writes about trauma wherever he finds it. As Jina Moore puts it in the Columbia Review of Journalism: “Trauma stories require the writer to consider the reader, listener, or viewer as a partner in the creation of ethical journalism. Our choices as craftsmen – about identity and attribution, about detail, about writer’s voice, about structure and style, and even about medium – do more than simply tell the story. They tell readers about our values”. Kristof crafts stories around himself, for his audience, and the “subject” is rarely a partner in the process. When Kristof reports on the Cambodian sex slaves he buys off to then try to return to their families, or when he tweets live from the brothel raids, his voice is the loudest, and overshadows the social “background noise”. The ethical issue of consent arises. A woman who has worked with former “sex slaves”, including the ones Kristof interviewed, claimed that these women did not want to be the face of trafficking, and that they were pressured into “sharing their story”.
Harvest Plus via Flickr
Changing Perspectives ■ Kristof gives a speech in Washington D.C.
They felt parts of their stories were exaggerated and altered, transforming their lives into myths. They complained about not getting compensated for their stories being retold and re-written numerous times while Kristof is being praised and paid for his heroic acts of journalism. I critique Kristof not only for his reporting, but more specifically for his self-proclaimed heroic mission to “save lives”. If Kristof was merely a columnist, I could partly blame the media and its
With his words Kristof creates a generation of American youth who wants to witness the victims of famine and conflicts – not necessarily to find sustainable solutions. commercial nature and restrictions for his misleading reporting, but he sees himself on a great humanitarian mission. Further, he often does more than passive and misdirected journalism, he perpetuates the problem. When he bought “sex slaves”, he made their pimp richer. Perhaps one can understand Kristof ’s impetuous actions, trying to momentarily alleviate the suffering these teenagers may be experiencing. However, by writing about this, Kristof does not only engage once more in self-glorification but he also deceives his audience into thinking that buying sex slaves may be a solution. Without properly insuring the reintegration of the young women in society – because they were sold by their families in the first place – the girls probably returned or will be returned to where Kristof found them. After Kristof leaves, no one knows what happens to these lives altered by Kristof ’s money and power, but Kristof, on his plane back home, receives congratulatory tweets from Laura Bush and his other aficionados. Kristof ’s journalism is clearly voyeurist and objectifying when we hear that these girls felt exposed and used in his stories. He also fails to look at the teenagers’ attempts to negotiate and improve their situation, which undermines the complexity of the social situations they find themselves in – circumstances in which the good and evil is not as obvious as Kristof describes it to be. Why this cult is problematic Kristof ’s work influences young people who idolize and want to emulate him. Last year, at a talk in North Carolina, I saw a group of about fifteen yearold girls gathering at the end of the lecture around Kristof ’s book signing booth, hysterical, holding their copy of Half the Sky, eager to win his assistantship trip, meet war lords and travel on mud roads
with him. There was something troubling about the scene; I rarely saw such teenage fanaticism for a journalist. Kristof ’s young audience might be seduced by the impression that they can make a difference; perhaps he infuses some hope to an otherwise cynical portrayal of the world in the media. In his talk, he encouraged them to go abroad and change problems they see. More amateurs abroad is not always the solution (in fact it rarely is) but Kristof also fails to see the stories that are not triggered by a good American Samaritan; the grass-roots successes. With his words Kristof creates a generation of American youth who wants to witness the victims of famine and conflicts – not necessarily to find sustainable solutions, or to think critically about how to work to change the system – but to be able to say that they were there, and write about giving their own blood to the dying mother in Congo, as Kristof did. Kristof engages with problems superficially, and consequently his readers do the same. As Prasse-Freeman wrote in the New Enquiry, Kristof knows how to play orientalist and racist fantasies of his audience. “[His] distancing double move provides us with precisely what is worse than a bourgeois not knowing about the world’s horrors: knowing about them only enough to simultaneously acknowledge and dismiss them, to denude them of political and moral demand, to turn them into consumable and easily digestible spectacles. We are encouraged to look only so we can then close our eyes.” His journalism makes us passive, and discourages true involvement. Kristof sees the world as a series of easy-to-solve problems. For example, in his book Half the Sky, he argues that women stay out of schools during their periods because of lack of sanitary products. Thus, the solution is easy: one should simply provide sanitary towels and tampons. He dismisses culture, beliefs and institutions, and in his imaginary world of easy-fixes he insults locals and NGOs who have been working on these challenges for decades. We find ourselves in a cafeteria of media outlets and journalism options, and it is not easy to choose a critical, ethical and culturally-sensitive meal. While Kristof ’s stories might not taste problematic at first, their ingredients have bitter post-colonial, exoticising, white man’s burden after-taste. There are different ways to impact lives and make a difference, but it rarely only involves a five-day stay in a country and throwing money at problems. There are no easyfixes, and solving problems require time and collaboration, but of course this is hard to convey in a 140-character tweet. ■ Laurence Deschamps-Laporte studies international development at Magdalen College.
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