Utblick issue 3 20/21: The Neglected Issue

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Utblick Staff

Sara Razi Ullah Editor-in-chief, Magazine designer

Emelie Eriksson Editor

Bea Almhagen Editor Graphic designer

Julian-Alexis Kasapov Editor

Johanna Bergström Editor Online Content

Lisa Stockhaus Editor

Morgan Young staff writer

Felix Sjögren staff writer

Miriam Laux staff writer

Vilma Ellemark staff writer

Turkan Omari staff writer @womenofafg

Isabel Wilson staff writer

Magdalena Kamont staff writer

Rine Mansouri staff writer

David Ekelund staff writer

featurEd Artists Cover designed by Cristen Post IG @cristenwithac Back cover designed by Morgan Young Also featured artist is Chloe Settle This material is entirely or partly financed by SIDA, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, through ForumCiv. SIDA/ForumCiv do not necessarily share the opinions found in the magazine. The responsibility for the content rests fully on the writer.

Issue 3/20-21 Printers: Ringöns Tryckeri Responsible publisher: Sara Razi Ullah To contact editor-in-chief email utblick.got@gmail.com or firstname.utblick@gmail.com for editors. A party-politically and religiously independent publication. Part of the society of international affairs Gothenburg. ©Utblick 2021

The Neglected Issue Editor’s letter by sara razi ullah 4 Utblick recommends 5 Is the BRI a way for China to reshape international aid policy? By Turkan Omari 6-9 Work from Anywhere by Morgan Young 10-13 Boys Will Be Boys Sexual Violence victims too by Vilma Ellemark 14-17 Mental Illness in the Modern Western World by David Ekelund 18-19 Islamism in Mozambique by Felix Sjögren 20-23 Logistics in the age of Covid-19 by Rine Mansouri 24-28 Gravure. Pavel Shilingovsky by Heghine Aleksanyan 28-30 Cornered and Forgotten - 45 Years of decolonisation for Western Sahara’s refugees by Isabel Wilson 30-31

Editor’s letter It is finally time for another print edition of Utblick Magazine. The issue you are currently holding in your hands – or reading online – is called The Neglected Issue. We wanted to spend time analysing, thinking, talking, discussing and reviewing issues that are kept in the dark, that never see the limelight, that rarely gets talked about or that are in any other way neglected. Our writers found different ways to approach the subject. While Vilma Ellemark talks about conflict-related sexual violence and that not only women and girls are affected by it, David Ekelund wants to highlight mental illness in the Western world, and Rine Mansouri dives deep into the intricacies of the global trade in times of the pandemic. Morgan Young, while also talking about the pandemic, is more focused on the aspects of mobility it has allowed some people. Felix Sjögren gives an overview of islamic radicalisation in Mozambique while Turkan Omari keeps us informed about China’s next moves which may influence international aid policies. Also, do not forget to check out the Enlight Zone which also makes a special feature in this issue. There is a whole spectrum of articles and we are so excited for you all to read them and discuss them with us. We have also been fortunate enough to feature a brilliant young illustrator named Cristen Post, who made the front cover. Other amazing artists in this issue are Morgan Young, who made the back cover and page 10, and Chloe Settle, whose illustrations can be found on pages 24-28. This also happens to be the last issue for the 20/21 Utblick Staff, and it will be my last issue as editor-in-chief. It has been both challenging and stressful but mainly, its been a blast. Countless emails, zoom meetings and word documents later, I am proud of all the work that every single person involved has done and I hope that all the writers and editors feel that too. So dive into the issue and help us illuminate these neglected subjects! Ps. If you feel like some subject is missing that you want to write about, illustrate or video/photograph, come join us! You are welcome to pitch us at any time! Email: utblick.got@gmail.com utblick.got@gmail.com.. For more articles, check out utblick.org. Signing off, Editor-in-chief 20/21 Sara Razi Ullah


c o m e R m k e c nd i l s b . t .. U For people interested in the intersection between violence and commerce, where geopolitics meets geoeconomics, the military aspects of maritime trade and logistics, there is no more exciting read than Laleh Khalili’s book Sinews Of War And Trade (published last year). The book tells the story of how the Arabian Peninsula has become a key component of the global economic order, about the role of ports like Dubai’s Jebel Ali in the ways and patterns of global conflict and commerce. Laleh Khalili manages to weave the book effortlessly between labor struggles of south asian workers in the gulf states, naval military history, the discovery of oil in the Peninsula and the role of US and British military interests in shaping the modern Saudi Arabia, all while keeping the book accessible and fun to read. – Rine Mansouri Angels in America (2003) is one of the greatest American television series of all time. With an unparalleled cast, lead by Maryl Streep, who plays everything from an Orthodox Rabbi to a Mormon mother in denial, and Al Pachino as the corrupt Republican lawyer Roy Cohn, a beautiful story of belief, disease, tradition and tragedy unfolds. The series, based on a Tony Kushner play, explores, from many angles, the Reaganite time of the AIDS-epidemic in New York. I could go on about the fates of different characters, the eccentric and spectacularly absurd valium-infused hallucinations and fever dreams of Antarctica and prophezising angels, but that will be left to your viewing. All you really need to know is that the series is about aversion and ignorance. When Roy Cohn, based on the Republican fixer with the same name, is diagnosed with AIDS, he refuses to believe this, because, although he has sex with men, he embodies everything a gay man in the 80’s is not. He says: “Homosexuals are not men, who sleep with other men. Homosexuals are men who know nobody and who nobody knows. Does that sound like me?” Similarly, when another of our characters finds out his partner has AIDS, he flees, in fear of disease, decay and death. AIDS was ignored by most. Research was not prioritised and resources not allocated. It affected the most vulnerable and set them back. Far. COVID, although certainly more prioritised, is not so different. It has affected the Roy Cohns of the world, but the ones most affected, both economically and regarding infection and death rate, are the poor and the working class. Similarly, just like AIDS medicine, vaccines seem to be unavailable to poor countries. It will be for the future to tell if they have the same outcome. - Felix Sjögren


Is the BRI a way for China to reshape international aid policy?

countries worldwide have joined the BRI allowing China to increase its investment in the form of bilateral loans for large infrastructure projects such as roads, railways, airports, power plants and telecommunication networks.

By Turkan Omari In the form of financial aid with development ambitions, China is increasingly becoming a donor the size of the US, the largest bilateral donor in the world. With the BRI allowing for developing countries to receive investment without ideological strings attached, is China changing foreign aid as we know it? It was in October 2013 that Chinese President Xi Jinping first unveiled the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The initiative aims to connect Asia with Africa and Europe through land and sea corridors to improve regional integration, increase trade and achieve economic cooperation with other regions. The Belt and Road Initiative is the largest infrastructure project of the 21st century and many of the routes correspond to the ancient Silk Road, which was used to transport spices and fabrics between China, Middle East and Europe. Today, 138


However, there are some major concerns about how the BRI investment strategy will affect international aid policy. Instead of cheap credit, BRI investments often come with market interest rates, with shorter repayment periods and loans approved by government development banks or commercial banks. Yet, there are countries like India that are granting loans with cheap credits and according to indian senior analysts the Indian loans are demand-driven, and respond to the needs of the people without imposing debt-traps or long-term dependency like the BRI-loans have shown to do. Additionally BRI in comparison to the Multilateral development Bank that offers stable, low-cost and long-term loans for various projects within developing countries. The BRI loans primarily seek to make profits of the granted loans at the expense of the recipient country falling under the debt-trap where they are unable to repay the loans in time that also undermines their sovereignty. Additionally according to CSIS (Center for Strategic and International Studies) the BRI-loans also violate several international leading best practices involving procure-

ment, transparency, and dispute settlement. And notably, as part of securing the loan, the projects financed by it become collateral. While China stresses financial gains for both parties, some would argue that the BRI is a way for China to reshape international aid in a way that pushes developing countries into diplomatic debt traps, signing unfavorable trade agreements that further increase their debt and result in China taking over strategic assets. One such case can be found in Sri Lanka. In 2005, president Rajapaksa decided to build a port in the southern part of the island in the Hambantota district, with the assumption that the port would become one of the world’s busiest in a few decades. As reported by Business Hours, China was the only investor to bid, and it came with the expensive price tag of $300 million with more than 6 percent interest, and a repayment plan of 11 years. However, the price became much higher than that as the local community raised concerns on how the major infrastructure project coming to fruition can have a major negative impact on the local wildlife.The small village of Hambantota is known for its large gathering of flamingos in the shallow bays and elephants walking through the jungle along the paths they had trodden up for generations, relatively undisturbed by mankind.


When a new government came to power in Sri Lanka in 2010, it did not take long for it to realize that the Hambantota port was too big a project to be worthwhile. Construction was halted and, as the US think tank CSIS reports, 95% of the country’s government profits in 2015 went to repaying loans and interest. Continued negotiations therefore ended in 2017 with China taking control of the Hambantota port as collateral for the loans, in a 99-year lease. Worth to mention is that the port is strategically located next to one of China’s biggest power rivals, India. Could it be said that these are loans with a hidden agenda? While Xi Jinping rejects the notion, stating that China is not “indulging in outdated geopolitical arrangements”, there is no denying that with developing countries such as Sri Lanka incapacitated, this ‘trap diplomacy’ allows for China to take over their strategic assets. Why are developing countries increasingly seeking risky loans from China? Part of the answer is in that many developing countries suffer from authoritarian regimes, corruption, and lack of transparency and democracy.

©Ralf Leineweber/ Unsplash

The so-called traditional donors that dominate international development cooperation consist mostly of Western countries, with Sweden being one of the pioneers. While China can be said to provide the ‘hardware’ of poverty alleviation in the form of BRI projects, Sweden focuses on what can be called the ‘software’: international development cooperation. Swedish development aid policy is based around the democratic project to further the socio-economic and humanitarian development of all parts of society. It aims to narrow the gap between developing and developed countries and to reduce the increasing tensions in the world in order to build peace. To receive financial aid from traditional Western donors like Sweden, the receiving countries in question must commit to upholding and working towards democratic values. For countries unable or unwilling to do so however, Chinese investment might be more attractive, as it does not follow these traditional foreign aid conditions as set by Western donors. Instead, China has its own philosophy, reflected in its eight principles of foreign aid, one of which is ”respect for sovereignty and no strings attached”. China’s flexible foreign aid strategy, combined with its expanding economic status, has attracted the attention of many developing countries that want both easier access to bilateral funds and to break away from Western influence. It offers the possibility of lifting developing countries’ populations out of poverty through infrastructure-driven growth without the pressure to at the same time tackle corruption, inequality, and lack of democracy, transparency and accountability. It comes as no surprise then, that China has had no difficulty bringing developing countries on board the BRI ship. Yet, this can be seen as problematic in many ways. One being that Chinese foreign aid contradicts the main goal of all developing funds, which is to eradicate economic inequality and promote democracy and human rights. The BRI initiative does not consider individual freedom, political equality, democratic self-governme8

nt, and the rule of law. Moreover, BRI-linked countries’ labour conditions of workers have been described by Human Rights Watch as abusive and unfair, suggesting that the Chinese foreign aid principle of “respect for sovereignty” means that people governed by undemocratic governments, that oppose the respect for human rights, are left to fend for themselves. While the concept of developing countries trying to become independent of Western financial aid might seem progressive, with Chinese investment they might instead throw themselves into debt crises. The BRI interferes with decades of work by traditional donors to promote democracy, human rights, and macroeconomic stability, an interference which could undermine and worsen international security. There are currently no indicators of how the BRI will directly affect Swedish foreign aid policy, but it is nonetheless clear that the more China emerges as a major donor, the more traditional foreign aid norms and values will be challenged. From the standpoint of traditional donors, this kind of no-strings-attached investment promises a future where the values of liberal freedom, human rights and democracy are undermined in favor of financial gains and geopolitics.

©Chuttersnap/ Unsplash

9 ©Chuttersnap/ Unsplash

©Morgan Young


Work from Anywhere How remote work could free us from the office and encourage us to travel in a post-pandemic world By Morgan Young The Coronavirus outbreak has accelerated an ongoing transition to remote work wherever possible. We can expect this trend to outlive pandemic measures, giving many the freedom to conduct work on-the-go and even start a new life abroad. But as the traditional on-site employment model loses dominance, governments are slow to accommodate a remote workforce with corresponding immigration reform. The Future is Remote For centuries, people have embarked on long, treacheous routes in order to work. Many of us descend from the settlers and colonists; indentured servants and slaves; post-colonial and post-war migrants who, whether out of destitution or completely against their will, left their homeland expecting little more than mere survival in exchange for their labor. Pondering this, one begins to appreciate just how radically the relationship between travel and work is currently changing. While COVID-19 has restricted us from traveling when and where we want for the short term, the pandemic’s more enduring effects on employee-employer relations may turn out to be quite liberating, providing a greater degree of worker autonomy. The near timeless practice of physically relocating to a new job-site is slowly approaching obsolescence in an age dominated by telecommunication. According to an OECD report from April last year, two out of five employees within the 37 member states were able to work remotely. When workfrom-home is the new normal, and where you call home no longer depends on where your employer is, home can be anywhere you wish. Staying a week with distant family no longer conflicts with your office schedule. Neither does a month-long getaway to a tropical paradise, or a year abroad to immerse in a new language. But making work-from-anywhere a reality requires a meeting of the minds on the part of employees, employers, and policymakers. 11

The outlook from the employee side is the easiest to guess. As it turns out, the freedom provided by remote work makes for a happier and more productive workforce. A 2020 University of Chicago survey conducted in December found that people are willing to take as much as an 8% salary reduction to keep remote work an option for them. The same study estimated a 2.4% productivity increase when working from home. The findings of a special Pew Research report, “How Coronavirus Has Changed the Way Americans Work,” come as little surprise; Over half of respondents currently working remotely prefer to keep doing so even in a post-pandemic world. Some are finding a greater balance between their work and family life, seeing little reason to move. On the other hand, many may seize the opportunity to travel or move elsewhere, given the chance by a remote work relationship. Work-desk daydreams of a much needed vacation are nothing new, after all. Even despite the greater comfort of a home office, the collective experience of lockdown has made many of us weary, restless and longing for a retreat. Many large employers are likewise embracing remote work as a long-term policy rather than just a quick fix under the weight of the pandemic. Entrepreneur reported in August 2020 that Microsoft, Zillow, Spotify, Mastercard, Nielson, and 12 other major companies have welcomed the opportunity for their employees to work remotely indefinitely. American outdoor retailer REI announced on their website in August how they have taken the opportunity to sell off 3.2 hectares of office space. Businesses are realizing the benefits of hiring talent that do not need on-site accommodation. But what this ultimately means for employees’ freedom of movement depends on the final factor: whether, and how quickly, immigration policymakers around the world adapt to current labor market trends.

The Need for Reform As mentioned earlier, people do not traditionally move to faraway places without at least a faint hope that there is work to be found. Consequently, current regulatory norms are configured to screen foreign job seekers on the condition that they actually have an employer within the receiving country. This is no doubt the rule, but more and more countries are adjusting to make workfrom-anywhere possible for remote employees. The previous decade has seen occasional reforms prompted by the growing gig economy; as opposed to long-term, full-time employment committed to a single enterprise, so-called “digital nomads” can take short-term contracts on-the-go in any country of their choosing. Georgia, for example, offers visas for self-employed, mobile professionals. Meanwhile, Germany and Portugal have had similar arrangements in place for years. The spread of remote work norms has blurred the lines between the self-employed “digital nomad” and the rest of us. For this reason, a recent wave of visa programs have been announced as a response to our pandemic circumstances, catering to a broader group of newly mobile professionals. Caribbean island nations that depend on year-round tourism are leading the movement, seeing new residents as their key to economic rebound. The Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda have announced visas for digital workers ranging from a few months to a two year’s stay. Aruba’s ”One Happy Workation” program even entices mobile workers by including discount rates for hotels, condominiums, and resort chains. Bermuda’s new residence permit is one of few aimed at full-time students in addition to digital professionals. With proof of sufficient funds, students may stay on the island for up to a year while attending classes online. Developments elsewhere have been sparse: Mauritius also offers a Premium Travel Visa for those who want to balance their workload with a year of vacation, and Estonia is the only European nation yet to provide a similar visa option for remote workers. Information regarding all of these visa options can be found on their respective government websites. Competing for Citizens A little-known 1997 publication, “Digital Nomad,” by technologist Tsugio Makimoto predicted a future of remote work where states compete for new citizens much in the same way that they compete for foreign investment. Remarkably, these glamorous new visa programs mark the beginning of what he prophesied over twenty years ago. Nations are in fact marketing their individual endowments of natural beauty, culinary vibrance, 12

history and cultural allure in a competition over a new class of permanent vacationers. Many countries can expect to benefit by adjusting their regulatory framework and attracting remote professionals. Newcomers can stimulate local economies much in the same way that tourists do, only that they stay longer and therefore provide more sustained consumer spending. They could also be one of the most effective ways of supporting strong welfare states, precisely when many are strained by aging populations. Remote workers provide a compelling antidote by contributing tax revenues that help cover public healthcare and pension expenditures, all without competing with the domestic labor force for employment. The state of Hawaii’s new ”Movers and Shakas” program demonstrates just how creative governments can be as they customize ways to draw mobile workers to their shores and serve domestic economic needs. The program entices remote professionals with free airfare, on the one condition that they volunteer 15+ hours of their time by assisting state non-profits or consulting small businesses. Although currently only available to American citizens, the state is currently working to expand the opportunity to foreign nationals. A Freedom for the Few While this transition bestows new meaning to our freedom of movement in a post-COVID world, we should neither overstate its scale nor underestimate its downsides. Excluding employment as a factor in our personal decisions involving where we want to live will emerge as a luxury available to a mere sliver of the global population. Those employed in digital marketing, IT, data analysis, graphic design, or virtually any field that requires little more than a functioning Wi-Fi network stand to benefit. Doctors, mechanics, retail and culinary workers do not. The hypothetical competition for human capital in a work-from-anywhere world also means that some countries emerge as winners just as others certainly lose. The greatest potential drawback would be a “brain drain” towards the most exciting centers of the developed world (or countries offering the most attractive benefits), leaving peripheral regions to stagnate and even atrophy. In other words, it could mirror patterns already seen on a smaller scale within Europe’s integrated labor market, as qualified professionals leave southern and eastern EU member states for job prospects elsewhere. The possibility of a work-from-anywhere future does not stand to equalize job opportunity, but simply reflect pre-existing socio-economic divisions both within countries and between them. According to Pew Research polling from December of last year, two-thirds

of employees with at least a bachelor’s degree said their work can be done remotely, while less than a quarter of those without such education said the same. Consequently, the freedom to work wherever will be an opportunity provided disproportionately to college-educated professionals and those with advanced degrees in the world’s wealthiest nations. Air travel, a stable internet connection, and indeed even sufficient space for a home office set-up are simply out of reach for many working traditional trades in the global south. They will continue to work largely unaffected by the transition to remote work.

they establish networks across the globe, their place of origin may stand as only one among many places they feel a deep connection to, or so he theorized. Whether these trends actualize cannot be said for now. Certain is that remote work and the slow adjustments made by global immigration policy regimes will endure through and beyond our long recovery from the pandemic. It blurs the lines between leisure and work, and complicates how travel relates to both. It provides new possibilities for where we call home, and may even alter our understanding of citizenship in an increasingly blended world.

Still, we might imagine how a more autonomous and mobile workforce will help solve some of today’s most pressing issues. Makimoto elaborated that a workfrom-anywhere world would send materialism and nationalism in retreat. As people find freedom in travel, they might shed possessions that weigh them down and opt for more functional, minimalist lifestyles. As

©Storyset 13

‘Boys will be Boys Sexual violence victims too’ By Vilma Ellemark “Sexual violence against men is a horrendous crime that often goes unheard, unseen and unspoken” — Centre for African Justice Conflict-related sexual violence is a widespread issue across the globe, from Afghanistan in Asia to Colombia in South America. The term ‘femicide’ and calling it ‘a systematic pattern of destruction toward the female species’ demonstrates the tendency to think of sexual violence survivors exclusively as female, but is this the whole truth? A growing body of research pays attention to the under-reporting of male sexual violence victims. This is not to dismiss the fact that women constitute the majority of conflict-related sexual violence victims, nor to say that the issue of wartime sexual violence is not gendered at all. Rather, this research asks if the issue is as gendered as we might think, and more importantly, “why sexual violence against men and boys often goes unheard”. The history of conflict-related sexual violence is as old as the history of war and armed conflict itself, but it was not until the 1990s and after the horrifying mass rapes in Rwanda and Bosnia-Herzegovina, that wartime sexual violence finally became widely recognized as a part, rather than just a tragic by-product, of war. The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1820 in 2008 marked an important milestone, demanding “the immediate and complete cessation by all parties to armed conflict of all acts of sexual violence against civilians with immediate effect”. The resolution was an 14

important message to the world to start raising awareness about conflict-related sexual violence and to start considering this violence a potential tactic of war. Conflict-related sexual violence has since gained widespread attention in media, policy reports, NGO projects and within the academia, often considered a gendered issue since the majority of victims or survivors are women and girls and most perpetrators are men. The story most often told, as Maria Stern and Maria Eriksson Baaz point out in their book Sexual Violence as a Weapon of war? Perceptions, Prescriptions, Problems in the Congo and Beyond, is the story of the female victim/survivor raped by a man in (military) uniform. Stern and Eriksson Baaz say there is a binary of the man/perpetrator and woman/victim, and that male sexual violence victims are often treated as feminized exceptions. When reading about male victims in war, the story often told is that he is a victim of other, non-sexual, violence. An Amnesty Report about the conflict in South Sudan in 2017 said for instance: “If men are caught they are killed, If women are caught they are raped”. A growing body of research has, however, started questioning the dogmatic gender binaries in stories told about wartime rape. It should be emphasized that the intention is not to redirect focus or funds for female sexual violence victims, but rather to add a more inclusive and coloured lens to what is otherwise often seen as too black and white. A challenge for this research has, however, been to estimate to what extent men and boys fall victim to conflict-related sexual violence. Studies are in general quite small, and there is a widespread consensus among academics, NGOs, international organisations and such that conflict-related sexual violence against men and boys is widely under-reported. There are some cases which challenge the presumtion of solely female victims, such as Yemen and Afghanistan, where men and boys made up a third respectively almost half of the reported sexual violence victims in the UN 2020 Secretary General Report on Conflict-related Sexual Violence. The general trend ©greystorm/ Unsplash


is, however, that men and boys constitute very few or none of the victims in statistics, even though researchers believe this does not correspond with the reality. The issue of under-reporting must in turn be treated as a possibly contributing factor to the prevailing idea of male victims as exceptions. It therefore becomes important to ask why there is a problem of under-reporting of conflict-related sexual violence against men and boys in the first place, in order to make a change. One great challenge posed to the ability to get accurate numbers of male sexual violence victims seems to be the stigmas which keep many boys and men silent in about their experiences. Stern and Eriksson-Baaz writes:

“Being a victim – especially of sexual violence – symbolizes ‘failed masculinity’, which occupies a position of weakness associated with femininity”. We might therefore assume that being a male victim of sexual violence can sometimes come into conflict with the man’s or the boy’s masculine identity and that some male survivors choose to not report out of shame of failing to live up to certain masculinity norms. We should moreover ask ourselves if the dominant gendered story of wartime rape might have had a negative impact on the idea of a sexual violence victim as something feminine. There is furthermore some evidence showing that male sexual violence victims do not receive much support from their social communities, which might also hinder men from reporting. In a report for the International Review of the Red Cross, an interview with one male sexual violence victim from the Democratic Republic of Congo is being raised as an example.

He says: “I’m laughed at …The people in my village say: “You’re no longer a man. Those men in the bush made you their wife.” Another stigma regards the fear of being considered homosexual. Studies shows that when the perpetra16

tor is a man, which often is the case, the male sexual violence victim tends to be identified as homosexual. This is not only sometimes culturally unacceptable but also illegal in some states, preventing some men from reporting since they do not want to risk being socially or legally punished. A Human Rights Watch report about Syrian sexual violence victims raises this concern saying that although Syrian law defines rape in gender-neutral terms, “every sexual intercourse against the order of the nature” is criminalized and “punishable with imprisonment by up to three years” which in practice could include male sexual violence victims too. The UN 2020 Secretary General Report on Conflict-related Sexual Violence similarily identifies South Sudanese law against homosexuality as an obstacle for South Sudanese male conflict-related sexual violence victims to report the assaults. Besides the stigmas there are also sometimes other circumstances which complicate the reporting of conflict-related sexual violence again men and boys. Research shows that it is not unusual for wartime sexual violence against men and boys to take place while the victim is in detention as a war prisoner or such, or that the victim is raped by another soldier in his own armed group. Retrospective reports show that 80% of the men in the Sarajevo Canton concentration camps were exposed to sexual violence, as well as 76% of the male political prisoners in El Salvador in the 1980s. Since aid is typically aimed at civilians, these men and boys fall out of the scope of both help and statistics. Finally, a pressing issue is the sometimes limited amount of health and support services on the ground available for men and boy survivors of conflict-related sexual violence. Human Rights Watch have found that while support services for Syrian women and girls who has fled to Lebanon are scarce, services for other sexual violence victims are even more limited. Since these services fills an important role for documentation, we cannot exclude that the lack of them might negatively affect the reporting of numbers of male sexual violence victims in war.

Conflict-related sexual violence against men and boys have historically been a neglected issue and it remains to be seen how the problem is dealt with in the future. Important progress has been made on the international arena, such as the UNs recognition of conflict-related sexual violence against men and boys as an emerging concern, and a more gender-neutral language in reports about conflict-related sexual violence. But many challenges remain and there is still neglect on the ground both in social communities and the in aid services provided. In the forefront is the issue of under-reporting which must be dealt with in order to better understand the reality of conflict-related sexual violence and to provide the same aid for male sexual violence survivors as is provided to female survivors today. Of course it is also important to note that it is not only men’s and boys’ stories that often goes un-

heard. There is as much a need for a LGBTQ+ perspective on these issues too. If the perspectives are not widened, there is a risk of ending up in a vicious cycle where the under-reporting of male sexual violence victims confirms the established idea of male survivors as exceptions, leading to less attention and less resources on the ground which further complicates reporting. Conflict-related sexual violence does have an important gendered dimension, but the dichotomy of female victims and male perpetrators must be challenged. Boys will not only be boys as in male perpetrators — No, boys will be sexual violence victims too.

17 ©Storyset

Mental Illness in the Modern Western Society By David Ekelund “Our modern technology has achieved a degree of sophistication beyond our wildest dreams. We live in an age of anxiety, a time of stress. And with all our sophistication we are in fact, the victims of our own technological strength”. That is a quote from the documentary Future shock, which elaborates on the prevalent and increasing stress experienced among the population in today’s information society. The fact that this documentary was released back in 1972 goes to show that questions regarding stress and mental illness have been around for decades. Yet, does it not feel like mental illness is an ever-growing problem in our modern societies? Is the stressful lifestyle that we experience in the age of information to blame for the seemingly growing pandemic of mental illness – or is it possible that our perception of mental illness and sense of misery has changed? Drawing on notions from the renowned Swedish sociologist Roland Paulsen and the Swedish psychiatrist Christian Rück, it is obvious that the contemporary state of mental illness, as described above, is a complex and contested topic. Some of the most prominent findings that seem to explain why global mental illness has worsened stretches from material welfare, self-fulfilment and increased secularism to the scientific-based society and altering attitudes of mental health conditions. The growing number of possible reasons behind the issue of global mental illness makes it more urgent than ever to discuss and seek answers to how we can cope with this burning topic.

In 1990, depression was the fourth leading cause of disability worldwide after respiratory diseases, diarrheal diseases and prenatal complications. 20 years later in 2010, it had become the second leading cause of illness. Finally, in 2017 the leading cause of illness was no longer a somatic disease. In only a decade, the global number of clinical depressions had increased by about 20 percent, making it the number one leading cause of disabilities in the world. Only a couple of years before these results were published, The World Health Organization (WHO), believed that it would take at least another 10 years before clinical depression would become the most common disability in the world. Whether the unexpected acceleration is due to some detrimental changes in our way of living or rather is grounded in improved methods to collect data is a contested question. However, what is undisputed is the fact that the rapid spread of mental illness is highly concentrated in certain parts of the world. Data from WHO shows that the most common diagnoses of mental illness seem to follow a socio-economic and geographical pattern: the wealthier the country, the greater the proportion of inhabitants who meet the criteria for various diagnoses. The World Mental Health Survey carried out by the WHO shows that 17 out of 18 mental disorders are more prevalent in high-income countries than in low and lower-middle-income countries. However, contrary to what one might believe, this does not confirm that mental illness is more likely to emerge as a result of higher incomes. Nevertheless, there seems to be a clear correlation when analysing nations’ living standards in monetary terms and diagnoses of mental illness. This raises the question: what may be the underlying reasons for this correlation? According to Roland Paulsen, one answer to this broad and complex issue may be found in our well-structured and eternally scheduled way of living our lives. In brief, modern human beings tend to analyse events that have happened in the past and events that will occur in the next weeks, months and years to come. This constant way of planning and analysing the past and the future can, according to Paulsen, lead to despair and anxiety. The main reason why eternal scheduling and contemplating can be harmful is the abundance of life choices it creates. Fundamental questions like what university to attend, what friends and family to prioritize and what extracurricular activities to engage in easily turn into dilemmas such as: how will these choices affect my future? Paulsen pinpoints a crucial theme that is very relevant in our contemporary life – namely the constant search and realization of ourselves. The following quote encapsulates Paulsen’s line of reasoning:

“The anxiety is reinforced by the perception that the choice should be rational and preferably rooted within myself, which amplifies the struggle of who I really am.” How is this associated with the correlation between mental illness and high living standards, one may ask? Well, Paulsen argues that the modern human being, in the developed part of the world, simply has enough time on




their hands to rationalize, question and contemplate about our existence in a way that we could not do in premodern societies due to lack of resources and time. In today’s wealthy modern societies, we have the “privilege” to analyse and cast doubt upon every decision that we make in life. Paulsen finds a second answer to our endless dubieties in the societal process of disenchantment, a notion developed by the German sociologist Max Weber. In brief, it explains the cultural rationalization that has increased to be a result of the devaluation of religion. In today’s secularized Western society, scientific understanding has become the dominant way of reasoning, whereas beliefs no longer uniformly hold the answers in our lives. Paulsen argues that the fundamental logic of science, cause and effect, has dismantled what used to be the most prevailing meaning in life – our belief in an omnipotent power. Since the foundation of our modern and secular lives are based on cause and effect, the relationship that explains that one thing makes something else happen, every act and every possible scenario in the future is solely dependent upon the decisions that we make every second of our life. Although this mechanical way of interpreting our way of living can make a lot of sense to people, myself included, it is not difficult to understand that it may also be a source of anxiety and disbelief. Another person who has been elaborating on why mental illness seems to follow an increasing tendency in the Western world and Sweden, in particular, is the psychiatrist Christian Rück. According to him, a number of Swedish studies show that mental illness is not increasing. However, the number of diagnoses and prescriptions of pharmaceutical drugs have seen a dramatic rise during the last decades. This conclusion is also in line with a global survey carried out by the Dutch university of Dordrecht. The survey was conducted in high-income countries and shows how the prevalence of general well-being has not increased, whereas prescriptions of drugs have surged in recent years. According to Rück, one


reason behind the fact that prescriptions have expanded can be found in linguistics. He argues that our all-encompassing use of the term mental illness for everything from sorrow to the most severe form of depression undermines the true meaning of the words. This blurred distinction has widened the spectrum of mental health conditions that require pharmaceutical drugs for their treatment. In addition to the indistinct usage of the term mental illness, Rück believes that there has been a shift in the perception of misery in modern western societies. In the current state-of-the-art society, people seem to believe that it is possible to abolish misery. Since so much has been improved and perfected in our everyday lives in such a short period of time, why would it not be possible to abolish misery once and for all? According to Rück, this reasoning is disconnected from reality since suffering in various ways is a fundamental part of being human. Ultimately, what has happened is that people have turned to various forms of prescribed drugs instead as if it would be the antidote to their sufferings. Though Rück acknowledges that antidepressants and other drugs are effective for certain people, he is concerned with the overprescription of drugs. This too is a tendency that is observed in many other high-income countries. Can the reason, for one out of ten people in Sweden taking some form of pharmaceutical drugs to treat mental illness, be found in the overprescription of drugs? Or is it rather a symptom of a cultural shift? The answers to these questions are more or less impossible to confirm. Personally, I believe that we must question the way we understand mental illness at the very core and that we need to embark on a more holistic approach. Initially, we should start by revising the term mental illness in order to comprehend its diverse and wide-ranging form. This should be followed up by a large-scale societal analysis of potential tendencies that are detrimental to our mental health similar to Paulsen notions. Although the roots to the issue of mental illness are intertwined and complex, it is nonetheless an ever-present societal development that needs to be further discussed and revised in order to be dealt with.

©Andrew Moore on Flickr - Aerial View - Beira

Islamism in Mozambique By Felix Sjögren Over the last years, ISIS-controlled areas in the Middle East have been decreasing in size. From the 100,000 square kilometres big caliphate in the mid-2010’s to the now fairly insignificant hold of the group, ISIS has been experiencing a substantial regression. But an ISIS-affiliated Islamist group has been gaining ground in another part of the world: Mozambique. Mozambique, a sub-Saharan country, with a predominantly Christian population, is not commonly known for its militant Islamism. But in recent years, the Islamist group Ansar al-Sunna have been establishing themselves there. In fact, in August of 2020 they took control over the port of Mocimboa da Praia, used to access one of the biggest natural gas-finds in Africa. Later on inNovember of 2020 more than 50 people were beheaded and two villages burnt down and as recently as in March of 2021, there have been reports that 20

children as young as 11 have been beheaded. Estimates claim the group has killed as many as 2000 people since 2017, in an attempt to establish an Islamic state in the area. How could Islamism establish itself in a predominantly Christian region? Ansar al-Sunna, or perhaps their technique, is quite different from other Islamist groups. They do of course hold fundamentalist beliefs, such as an aversion to education, Christianity, the Western World and the local government, but this ideology is not, outwardly, the prime reason for recruitment and expansion, making them quite different from more established groups such as ISIS or Al-Qaeda. Rather, they claim to be an antidote to elitism, corruption and resulting poverty. The literacy rate in Mozambique is at about 60%, the same rate thatthe adult population of the entireworld was at 50 years ago. The rate of unemployment, especially among the young, is high and the presence of organized crime, particularly the trade of arms, is evident. Even though there exist industries of

ruby mining and natural gas extraction, most feel they do not benefit from it. A lack of education and a frustration over job scarcity makes the young people of Mozambique particularly susceptible to propaganda of all sorts. Ansar al-Sunna has, unsurprisingly, realised this and used it to their advantage. It is easy, and perhaps not entirely wrong, to point to the Western form of government and schooling for your problems as a Mozambican. And Ansar al-Sunna’s simple answer lies in militant Islamism. These conditions are undoubtedly the main reasons for the group’s success. As a local alternative to corrupt politics, Ansar al-Sunna is sending an appealing, subscribable message to most of Mozambique’s considerable Muslim population. This regardless of level of fanaticism of both Ansar al-Sunna and the Muslims of Mozambique. The government has created a vacuum where the political needs of the poor aren’t fulfilled and it is instead being filled by promises from Ansar al-Sunna.

terrible dictator, still provided a sense of security and honour to many Iraqis. When he was executed, that was lost and the weaknesses in the Iraqi infrastructure became all too unbearable. Most people had no access to water or electricity. It was the belief of many that the Americans had come to free them, but it became more evident over time that they were failing in that respect, when no serious attempts were made at rebuilding the Iraqi nation. Further economic hardship was created when the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer III, signed an order disbanding hundreds of thousands of soldiers from the Iraqi army, leaving them without work, with great knowledge of warfare and enmity towards Americans.

© Thomas Forgac on Flickr

There are many examples of groups using a poor socio-economic situation to their advantage, from the Nazis during the depression of the ‘20s, to more contemporary Al-Qaeda or ISIS. Saddam Hussein, albeit a


Corruption and poverty explains the emergence of a group such as Ansar al-Sunna. But what, in turn, explains these conditions? The effects of several hundreds of years of colonization are quite evident. The exploitation of land and resources, as well as the slave trade obviously had, and still has, a detrimental effect on the local population. The loss of control over the land leads to a loss of power and of knowledge, which is fatal

once a former colony becomes independent. This can be seen in, for example, Zimbabwe, where previously white-owned farms were taken over by local farmers, in an attempt to mediate the economic damage done by colonization and white dominance. However, the country now has an acute starvation problem and the policy is to some extent being rolled back by Mugabe’s successor. Mozambique has a similar sitaution. 80% cannot afford an adequate diet and nearly half of all children under five are stunted from undernourishment. Such suppression and powerlessness over a long period of time will inevitably lead to a conflict, much like the war for Mozambican independence and later the Mozambican Civil War. The one-party state established after independence, in a desperate measure to mediate the damage of colonization and war without interference, led to the corruption and mismanagement, which later paved the way for groups like Ansar al-Sunna to establish themselves. What can we predict will happen to Ansar al-Sunna in the future? At the moment there are no signs of them withdrawing anytime soon. Rather, it seems they are expanding and taking increasingly bigger risks. Experts in armed conflicts and Islamism are expressing concern over the fact that the attacks now are happening in coordinated and professional fashion, meaning that the attackers are receiving training from knowledgeable people, presumabley members of other Islamist groups in Africa. This is not so different from the former Iraqi soldiers and military men joining and helping to establish ISIS. Even Mozambique’s southern neighbours South Africa, who have sent lego soldiers to the region, have been unsuccessful in their attempts at countering the group’s expansion. This, of course, poses a great threat to the local population and the area. But it also fuels islamophobia and racism in the West. It is fascinating to see how Europe’s actions throughout history entail consequences in the present day. As explained above, colonialism has created a sense of powerlessness among the local population. In turn 22

that despair has led to groups of people who now actually have power in these previously colonized governments to abuse it, which has led to increased corruption and widespread poverty. Those conditions, together with the arising extremism, conflict and war, have led to people having to move or flee their home, often with the ambition of settling down in Europe. The refugees have been blamed for all of Europe’s problems by the European right-wing, and this has led the right-wing to become more popular in politics. The right blames the refugees and the left blames the right. In reality, it is the fault of the West and its colonialism and imperialism. The West radicalized Islam and the West forced people to flee. This is true in much of Africa and the Middle East. But in Mozambique, this issue receives little to no attention. They, too, deserve to be free. This is why this conflict should engage us and not be neglected. Other than that we must show compassion, it gives us as former, and in many ways still present, colonisers, an opportunity to understand the almost inconceivably far-reaching consequences of our actions in former colonies. Not only the actions of the past, over which we have no control, but also the actions of today, over which we do.

All images by © Thomas Forgac on Flickr 23

© Chloe Settle

Logistics in the age of Covid By Rine Mansouri In the early months of 2020, it was extremely common to see headlines such as “Coronavirus wreaks havoc on supply chains“ in the news, explaining how the novel Covid-19 pandemic could be affecting the thing that was most dear to you. For most of us living in the west, during the early months of 2020, the pandemic’s effect could be felt mostly through the impact it was having on imported goods from China and the surrounding region rather than being of any medical or epidemiological concern. The virus seemed so far away, almost as something otherworldly. Shipments of clothes ordered from Zara that once took 2 weeks now suddenly seemed forever 24

lost in transit, away somewhere stuck at sea or in a shipping container docked at Guangzhou. As the epidemic spread out to become a pandemic, people in the west soon realised that having their shipment of clothes delayed was the least of their problems and that, even basic commodities taken for granted could potentially be in danger of running out. Take for instance the situation with pharmaceutical drugs last spring where headlines in Sweden appeared warning about dangerously low supplies of Alvedon. News like this helped create a sense of panic and led to hoarding of basic medical supplies, in turn exacerbating the issue. How is the lack of Alvedon connected to Covid-19? The substance in Alvedon is called Paracetamol, and the bulk of it worldwide is produced in China and India. Sweden receives most of its supply of paracetamol from the latter country. In the beginning of March, India decided to ban exports of medicines because they could not get the raw materials necessary to produce the drugs from China. Hundreds of the factories that

With all the inputs and little things that have to happen in order to put food on our table (the coal that makes the steel, that goes into the tractor, that goes into… and so on and so on), we cannot possibly know about the labour conditions for all of the people who worked to put breakfast on our tables.

produce generic drugs are located in the provinces of Hubei and Zhejiang, areas that were heavily affected by Covid-19. It is also interesting to note that Sweden in the 1990’s privatized and disassembled its vaccine production capacity and infrastructure, most of the production was moved to India.

David Harvey, a geography professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY) used to start his classes off by asking the students: “Where does your breakfast come from?”

The issue of shortages and delays in supply chains led to calls for protectionism, of questions being raised about why most of the countries affected cannot produce their own hand sanitizers or medical equipment. More importantly, there were questions being asked about why so many countries in the western world cannot seem to produce basic commodities and why they have to import most of it from abroad.

The first answers would invariably, semi-seriously, be “Well I got it from the store”, but then Harvey would push back and ask “Well no, come on, go back a bit further than that. Where does your breakfast come from? And what do you know about the people who produced it?” and people would generally be unable to answer in any great detail. And by the time this practice had gone on for weeks, his students would respond to the question with “Stop asking me! I didn’t have any breakfast this morning”.

These differences in a state’s capacity to produce seemingly basic goods are not related to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is rather a matter of political economy and the distribution of political power between countries and within a country. The mood was different early on in the pandemic, the western world looking on with a sense of smugness and indifference to the initial outbreak, with Liubomir Topaloff writing in The Diplomat (March 04, 2020) and wondering if this was the moment when the Chinese regime would collapse. But when instead of a collapse, we saw an amazing recovery by China, the response by western commentators was a mixture of anger and envy.

“Where does your breakfast come from?”

The way that China, and the other East Asian countries, have dealt with the containment and rebounded economically, lead some to wonder why the western countries´ response to the pandemic was so lackluster and toothless. The East Asian countries seem dynamic and able to marshall the productive forces of society for the greater good while in the west, the state seems weak, lethargic, and unable to cope with the basic functions of a government (take for instance how the US and the UK have handled the pandemic and the ensuing fallout from it). The intricacies of world trade are so complex and abstract, making it difficult for us to fully comprehend it, one can be forgiven for thinking that the products we order online just magically manifest in front of our doorsteps. Of course, there are people involved at every stage of the process, there is an entire network of workers, infrastructure, and technologies that make the circulation of goods possible. 25

Aside from being a funny little anecdote, it also potentially reveals an underlying sense of guilt about the way we consume things and how we would rather not be too aware of the dark reality beneath the surface. As satisfied consumers in the west who enjoy all the cheap t-shirts, sneakers, and toys that come our way from the far east, we tend to forget or actively ignore how these products are made in factories in China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Indonesia by people working in often appalling and miserable conditions. We speak of long hours and low wages as a thing of the past, the Manchester of Charles Dickens time, but in Asia, the ‘worlds factory’, that is the reality, front and center. China, however, is more than just the factory of the world, it has also become a logistics empire. Having the world’s largest container and crane manufacturers, China is now the third largest ship-owning country and the second largest shipbuilding country after Japan as well. The rise of China as an economic powerhouse has led to geopolitical tensions, the recent trade

© Chloe Settle 26


Gravure. Pavel Shilingovsky

war between China and the US has not just become a question of unfair trade policies but also about resources and tech supremacy (in semiconductors and chips).

By Heghine Aleksanyan

© All rights reserved. “Enlight” Public Research Center NGO(Armenia)

As Deborah Cowen writes in her brilliant book, The Deadly Life Of Logistics,

Today gravure is often perceived as an old, already forgotten type of art. Such associations, to some extent, maybe conditioned by the fact that for a long time-till the invention of the photo, gravure has mostly accomplished the role of photo, TV, and movie. Thanks to that, we have a lot of historical information, and it is because of this “documentary nature” that we associate this type of art with antiquity. However, without intending to refer to gravure as documentary material, we would consider it as a type of graphic art. As such, it includes almost all printing techniques from classic gravure done on paper, wood, and metal to printing and other types developed as a result of information technology such as laser technology application in gravure printing.

“Today, war and trade are both animated by the supply chain [...] Sneakers may still be easier to order online than smart bombs, but the industry that brings us both is making it increasingly difficult to discern the art of war from the science of business” The use of violence and militarization works as the lubricant in what makes supply chains tick and function, there is a huge military apparatus at work securing the flow of goods and making the oceans safe for commerce and transit. Logistics, both military and corporate, are intertwined, entangled and dependent on each other. One can take a look at Iraq and Afghanistan where private military companies are contracted to do much of the feeding and housing of troops. In Iraq for instance,there were more soldiers belonging to private military contractors, such as Blackwater, than there were regular US military personnel.

There is no other way to present richness and achievements of such genre without focusing on an artist that deserves a special mention and gives a general idea of the roots of the gravure traditions. One of such artists worth mention is prominent Soviet painter Pavel Alexandrovich Shilingovsky (1881-1942), whose creative path never fails to attract viewers both due to their distinctive style and originality and consideration of the development of the historical events. The great master of graphics represents the modern and neoclassical direction and has worked with several gravure techniques. He has made a significant contribution to establishing the Faculty of Graphics of the All-Russian Academy of Arts. Referring to Shilingovsky’s creative path, it should be noted that he mainly worked with etching techniques.1 Among his earliest works are two masterpieces on biblical themes(1914) made with this technique: “Flight into Egypt,” “Lot with His Daughters.” The complexity of this technique and, at the same time, its attractiveness lies in unpredictability for the master of the end result.

Today, roughly a year after the pandemic took shape, shortages are still a problem, but this time for different reasons. Demand is rising everywhere and there is not enough supply available to meet the demand. There is a global shortage of shipping containers and of semiconductors, affecting carmakers and smartphone manufacturers. The vaccine rollout is being affected as well by disruptions in the supply chains, creating a bottleneck that could hinder and delay the recovery from Covid-19.


1 al.

Etching, a method of making prints from met-

Enlight Zone Later, Shilingovsky began to work with the techniques of xylography, lithography, and linogravure. The artist created his first work on wood (xylography) called “Mountain Landscape with Trees” in 1917. There was still a lack of experience and skill in it, but already in the following graphic, he would surprise everyone with his new technical skills.

authors. In particular, we can see it in the bookplate of the legendary “Odyssey,” where the author has preserved the ancient Greek tradition of black-figure style or black-figure ceramic. Shilingovsky has created more than 50 figurations dedicated to the poem, which can be seen as one of the most remarkable genre paintings that remained true to the traditions of the past. There are many landscape series in Shilingovsky’s “treasury” made by one of the most popular methods of printing graphics - lithography.3 The “Pushkinesque Places” and “New Armenia” series stand out here. Yerevan (from the album “New Armenia”) (1928)

In the 1920s, bookplates, also known as ex-librīs, became widely used in graphic art. Their complexity and the interest for the masters of engraving were connected with creating an expressive and precise composition on a small surface of the book. Shilingovsky hasn’t left this challenge behind as well. Many of his bookplates are part of the gold legacy of 20th-century ex-librīs books. Some of them are connected with Armenia.

In the end, we can not fail to refer to Shilingovsky’s favorite city, St. Petersburg, to which the artist’s latest series, “The Siege of City” (1941-1942), is dedicated and where ironically, he died of starvation during the Siege of Leningrad. (Andrei Bartashevich wrote about the artist’s funeral in his Blockade diary).

In particular, Shilingovsky has two bookplates designed for Artashes Karinyan.2 Each of them plainly expresses the subject of the master’s creative search. With its arches and ruins, the first bookplate is evidence of Shilingovsky’s interest in the country’s architecture. And in the second one, the artist’s love for the nature and life of Armenia is noticeable. The wide range of his creative abilities of Shilingovsky is also testified in his unique works with books by ancient

2 3

A Soviet party and state figure, literary critic, historian. The printing is from a stone (lithographic limestone) or a metal plate with a smooth surface. 29

Cornered and forgotten – 45 years of decolonization for Western Sahara’s refugees By Isabel Wilson One of the longest-standing humanitarian crises in the world resides in Western Sahara. Thousands of Sahrawis have been displaced in the conflict of national sovereignty between Morocco as an occupying force and the independence movement Frente Polisario. Inertia in the international community to negotiate an acceptable political solution has prolonged the stay of UN peacekeeping forces and created a situation of donor fatigue as well as substantial gaps in human rights monitoring in the Territory. Cornered and forgotten, generations of Sahrawi refugees continue to live nationless, defenseless and without hope for the future. Often called Africa’s last colony, Western Sahara is situated between the Atlantic Ocean, Morocco and Mauritania. While having been recognized by the UN as a Non-Self-Governing Territory since 1963, the colonizing power Spain officially ceded administrative power over the territory to Morocco and Mauritania in 1975, which triggered an armed conflict with the indigenous people’s liberation movement, Frente Polisario. Under Morocco’s “peaceful occupation” of the territory, many Sahrawi refugees have settled in camps run by the Front or fled across the border to Algeria. Over the last several decades, Western Sahara has gone through different stages of conflict and decolonization in efforts to relieve the situation. After Mauritania withdrew from the Territory in 1979 The United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) was established by the Security Council in 1991 in a settlement brokered between Morocco and the Frente Polisario. MINURSO’s mandate was to monitor the ceasefire and provide a preparation of a referendum where the people of Western Sahara could choose between independence or integration with Morocco. To this day, continued disputes between the main parties have stopped the referendum from taking place. Traditionally of nomadic culture, Sahrawis are now forced to live in a desolate land without any guarantee of livelihood. According to Oxfam, many refugees have no real chance of self-sufficiency without citizenship, living in the unforgiving arid desert with constant drought, lack of infrastructure, sandstorms and extreme heat of up to 55 °C during summer months. 30

In a letter sent to the UN Secretary General last September, the Frente Polisario Secretary General Ghali informed that “[…]the failure of the United Nations Secretariat and the Security Council to act robustly […] has […] undermined the credibility of the United Nations and deepened the loss of faith amid the Sahrawi people in the already fragile United Nations peace process”. Feelings of hopelessness among the people living in refugee camps have also been reported by international media outlets. As disclosed by Deutsche Welle from within one of the refugee camps in Algeria, Awserd, some 50,000 people live in tents, brick houses and mud shacks and struggle to organize schooling, health care, and the distribution of relief supplies. Inconsistencies in donor aid and resource shortfalls have become the main challenges for humanitarian actors trying to provide for the many refugees. According to the report of the UN Secretary General on the situation in Western Sahara released in September last year, UNHCR, UNICEF, and WFP only received about 58% of their combined needs for their 2020 regular programmes. Around 173,000 Sahrawis in the Sahara Desert near Algeria are forced to rely on aid relief and the same nine basic food supplies. Sadly, Oxfam warned in a press release in 2015 that many in the camps have developed chronic illnesses relating to their limited diet, such as diabetes, hypertension, anemia and malnutrition. Although the final responsibility of resolving the conflict lies with the Moroccan Government and the Frente Polisario, the Sahrawi refugees’ current situation is impaired by weak solutions brokered by MINURSO and the Security Council under ambiguous international law on the right to self-determination. Oxfam, and scholars such as Walter et al. (2014) in the book Self-Determination and Secession in International Law, have accused previous negotiations of neglecting the right to a referendum by favouring technical solutions while glossing over the fact that the conflicting parties have publicly tried to manipulate the peace talks. As for the Frente Polisario, they have tried to invoke the principle of self-determination under national law, while Morocco at several occasions has opposed the liberation movement publicly by declaring historical sovereignty over Western Sahara. For example, at the 75th session of the Special Political and Decolonization Committee held between October and November in 2020, a Moroccan representative stressed that the Sahara had been Moroccan “since the dawn of time and will remain so until the end of time.”, according to a UN press release. At the same conference, representatives from Namibia and Algeria both expressed concerns that a resolution without the involvement of the people on the ground would only continue to deny the rights of the Sahrawi people.

In legal terms, it is remarkable that the human rights of the Sahrawi people have been cornered for so many decades. Sahrawis have nowhere to turn to report atrocities committed against them, and many national journalists who try to cover the situation are persecuted or silenced. Less media coverage has been argued by activists like Lena Thunberg, editor of the only nordic magazine in Western Sahara, to allow for the conflict resolutions to be watered down to toothless agreements. In the past, both the UN General Assembly and the International Court of Justice have rejected Morocco’s claim of sovereignty mainly on the grounds that Western Sahara was not a terra nullius unoccupied by people prior to annexation and had undocumented ties to its neighboring countries. Still, the 2,700 kilometer long sand berm built by the Moroccan Government to divide the Western Sahara has been uncontentious in international media. Paradoxically, while unmonitored negotiations have postponed peace into the distant future, the responsibility of the international community to step up to respect and protect the rights of the Sahrawi people should be straightforward; In a paper published by Carlos Ruiz Miguel, a constitutional law professor at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, Miguel claims that there is no doubt that Morocco’s occupation of West Sahara remains a serious violation of international law concerning the obligation to observe, respect and promote the right of self-determination. Walter et al.‘s (2014) analysis on the situation in Western Sahara also reinforces how Morocco has violated the prohibition of the use of force and aggression towards other states. Morocco’s obligations in relation to Western Sahara have also seen increased tension after Morocco was readmitted as a member state of the African Union in 2017, where Western Sahara is a recognized member of the union as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. Therefore, all obligations under the AU’s Constitutive Act are applicable in dealings between these members, independent of their mutual recognition as states under international law. Moreover, in terms of taking a stand for the rights of the Sahrawi people, the European Union has had a vital role to play in the handling of Western Sahara due to bilateral cooperation with Morocco. Morocco thrives off exports from Western Sahara, a region that holds some of the largest phosphate reserves in the world and access to rich fishing waters with offshore gas and oil resources. The EU has legitimate reasons to stay on good terms with the kingdom for both these reasons, as well as the cooperation to reduce migratory


flows and in the fight against terrorism in North Africa. However, according to a commentary piece by Hugh Lovatt on the European Council on Foreign Relations website, the biggest problem with the EU’s stance on Western Sahara has been to untangle the bilateral trade from international law. In December 2016, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that Western Sahara falls outside the scope of Morocco’s Association Agreement, which forms the basis of its trade relationship with the EU. However, the EU has not yet adopted the UN’s categorization of Western Sahara as an occupied territory. In reality, this ruling has meant that the EU has wrongfully allowed Morocco to include Western Sahara in its agreements with the EU on energy exports and fish and agricultural products at the expense of the rights of the Sahrawis. It seems that in conflicts between nation states, the nationless people have become the forgotten victims at the mercy of the international community. In postponing the swift peace resolution between Morocco and the Frente Polisario by focusing on technical solutions and national interests, there is a great risk of neglecting the people whose lives are affected the most. The UN, the European Union and the African Union all have the undeniable responsibility to protect the Sahrawis and resolve the crisis they have had to endure in refugee camps for generations, waiting for the day they can return home.


The S o c i e t y o f Internat i o n a l A f fa i rs in Got h e n b u r g The Gothenburg Society of International Affairs is a Student organization with the ambition to spread knowledge and spark discussion about foreign policy issues. We organize lectures and trips, host movie screenings and publish Utblick Magazine. Follow us on Facebook: UF - Utrikespolitiska Föreningen Göteborg on instagram: @ufgbg and read more about us on our website: ufgbg.se Become a member for free to get the Magazine at home! @utblickmag Utblick.org

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