Post #8

What insights did you gain doing research on your country?

The guest lecturers I found most engaging and informative were the speakers who you could tell really cared about their topic and had extensive knowledge.

Jamila Raqib from the Albert Einstein Institution especially struck me with her presentation because of how informed and well spoken she was. I found myself wondering more about nonviolent action and about her personally after she concluded. She talked about nonviolent action in as an objective of way as she possibly could have from her standpoint. She presented the issue in a way that let the audience take in information and then form questions. I noticed that her lecture produced some of the most questions from the audience during any of the lectures. She knew seemingly everything there was to know as far as nonviolent action, how to obtain resources, and who her information was used by. I found it interesting that she would take the time to come speak to our class in Missouri when she represents a nationally recognized and involved organization. Overall, I liked that she spoke extremely well and presented information for us to think about and form our opinions instead of forcing a viewpoint down our throats. 

I also really liked the lecture given by Soren Larsen about the Cheslatta-Carrier Nation. Larsen spoke with such an intensity about the subject that it made me want to know more immediately. Even though the lecture was about a very specific problem that affected a very specific part of the world, it was apparent how the lessons learned and the behaviors witnessed and recounted by Larsen could be applied to situations worldwide where people have more connection to the land in their culture. I liked how his lecture emphasized the differences in culture that might be in our own backyard, and how industry in all countries tends to ignore these practices. His story was one of David and Goliath, which grabbed me and made me feel for the Cheslatta people. I especially liked how Larsen had been to the area multiple times, had become accepted by the people, and really cared for their welfare. That made for a much more engrossing lecture than if someone who had merely read about or even visited the area once had told us about the Cheslatta and their rights and troubles.

The main insight that I gained while doing research on Belgium is that it is a deeply divided nation, which I did not know before. The country is basically cut into three parts, and each part not only tends to keep to itself, but it competes with the others for resources, and even in aspects of pride. It struck me how much more affluent the French-speaking area of Wallonia was in comparison to its Dutch-speaking counterpart, Flanders. And in the capitol region of Brussels, a giant melting pot of more cultures that Dutch and French mix together to create a lot of unrest in that region. The language barriers create problems in federal government, where the regions compete for funding.

When I did my research on the Belgian Red Cross for the second paper in this class I was struck that even NGOs like the Red Cross are broken up by region and by language. In America, the Red Cross is one entity, and America is much, much larger than Belgium. But in Belgium, the four Red Cross branches within Belgium act both independently and together to aid certain areas.

In sum, Belgian is a country rich in history and is a somewhat hidden cultural crossroads. The country has been in the middle of many major historical events and wars, and has been the background to major terror attacks in current times. It is however, ahead of other countries when it comes to ecological action and protection; but it does experience the same problems as many other nations worldwide, including sex trafficking.

 

#Post 8 – Aaron Pellish

I think the lectures that were most interesting were one’s that spoke on personal experience with a region or group of people that allowed me to gain appreciation and insight for a particular region. So the two lectures that I distinctly remember being very interesting were the lecture from the guy who lived with the native tribe in Canada and the two girls who are from Nigeria and spoke on their culture and traditions (I’m sorry, but I am not very good at remembering names and for some reason I forgot to write them down).

I think the guy who lived with the native tribe was really interesting because he was able to make explicit unifying beliefs and core tenants of that particular native tribe that informed various elements of the culture. Obviously, it is incredibly hard for an outsider to infiltrate any type of community and learn enough about them to identify that community’s core values and connect them to that community’s rituals and traditions. But I would imagine that it is especially hard to do that as a white American entering a Native American community given the history between those two groups of people. I also really appreciated his enthusiasm for the topic. He was really passionate about what he was talking about, and that helped me engage with the issue more. Plus, I remember him being very forthright in his discussion of that tribe, specifically regarding the idea that not everybody in the tribe thought he was honest or was welcoming to him. I think that sort of nuance helps bring credibility to his research and grounds his discussion in some level of reality, and because if felt like a real and honest discussion, it made the conversation much more interesting.

I also really enjoyed the discussion held by the two study abroad students from Nigeria. I think they had really interesting things to say about Nigerian culture. Nigerian culture is something that I am personally becoming more and more interested in, and so it was nice to hear them explore, for example, Nigerian fashion or Nigerian food. Plus, I’m also becoming very interested in speech patterns and accents, and so I am not ashamed to admit that I was enraptured by their accents and speaking styles the entire time. Maybe that was not the most educational part of their lecture, but for me it was incredibly informative and it entertained my curiosity greatly.

In researching my country, I was able to learn more about the climate of French politics and government. Specifically, I was able to understand why the French government and French political figures have a reputation for being hardline and uncompromising. For example, I learned about how the French government sent spies to blow up the Greenpeace main sea vessel, the Rainbow Warrior, in order to prevent them from protesting a nuclear test that they were conducting. I think behavior like that was a revelation to me, and I think it epitomized the way the French government handles its affairs both domestically and internationally.

Post #8

The guest lecture that will stick with me after this course is over is the one about the Cheslatta Carrier First Nation. Part of that comes from how passionate the professor who spoke was about his experience with that nation. He clearly had strong feelings about their situation and hearing how he had spent years of his life focused on preserving their language and mapping their land was particularly interesting.

That discussion, while very specific to the particularities of the Cheslatta’s land rights and the hydroelectric dam project, illuminated some larger ideas as well. My initial reaction to his experience was that of discomfort. I was skeptical of the implications of this white, educated, American man intervening in this society in such a way that in some ways mirrored colonial relationships between indigenous people and white colonists. His clearly emotional relationships that he’s built over the years obviously benefit him and his work, and the cynical part of me recognizes that he is going to monetize his experience with them through his upcoming book.

However, I felt like he addressed a lot of those concerns with humility in his discussion. He admitted that not everyone in the Cheslatta nation felt comfortable with him integrating himself. Despite that, I think it was clear by the end of the presentation that he was able to provide a concrete good with his work there.

His discussion about the symbolism and meaning of place as it related to the burial grounds was thought-provoking. That, in combination with the readings for that week, led me to think of places in a new way. I have never had those types of spiritual relationships to places, but it was illuminating to learn and understand how for some people places have agency.
As for insights I gained while blogging, I think the main one is that no country is very clear cut. I would not say that I have a complete knowledge of Turkey after reading about it for a couple of months. In fact, I think this blogging project helped me see how places are unknowable in a lot of ways. You can move somewhere new, live there for several years, and still not fully understand that country in a complete or accurate way. And I think the same goes for places you grew up in as well. Your knowledge of a place is filtered through your experience in a way that dilutes absolute truth. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It just should humble you into realizing how much you don’t and will never know.

Post #7 – Aaron Pellish

Regional Sex Trafficking

In France, sex trafficking and sex slavery is a significant issue. To be honest, it’s a much bigger issue than I thought it would be. But that’s the nature of sex slavery and human trafficking; it’s always a bigger problem then we realize because it operates in the shadows of our society. The French government estimates that there are at least 18,000 women in the nation’s commercial sex industry, and that the majority of those women have most likely been forced into prostitution. France also has influence in several international territories, including incredibly impoverished states like French Guiana and Haiti. This begs a series of questions about the responsibility of France to stop these human rights violations.

In its Trafficking in Person Report from 2010, The United States government categorized France as a Tier 1 nation (the highest tier) when it comes to enforcing standards against human trafficking. Countries in Tier 1 are “countries whose governments fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards.” Those minimum standards, which were set in 2000, state that governments should do four basic things to encourage the elimination of human trafficking. They should 1) prohibit severe forms of trafficking and punish such acts 2) should severely punish those who force people into sex industry, either by force, coercion, rape, kidnapping or violence 3) should punish sex trafficking with sufficient punishments so as to deter sex trafficking and reflect the heinous nature of the crime, and 4) should make serious and sustained efforts to eliminate severe forms of trafficking. Based on this standard, the United States feels that France is fulfilling its governmental obligation to prevent sex trafficking. But of course, these preventions are primarily defined in terms of a government’s penal code, rather than it’s policies or trade politics with nations who have reputations for trafficking women. But apparently, this goes beyond the minimum expectation for a government.

UN Sustainable Development Goals

The most obvious of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals which pertains to human trafficking, and sex trafficking particular, is the goal of gender equality, which calls for the elimination of all harmful practices towards women. It cites child marriage, early marriage, forced marriage and female genital mutilation as its examples, but obviously sex trafficking falls into this category as well. And the argument for nations to respect the health and humanity of women is fairly strong. The UN argues that enacting gender equality “will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large.”

I think the quickest way for underdeveloped countries that suffer from high levels of human trafficking need to enact the penal code oriented policies that were put forth by the TVPA. Simply by having governments and legal systems that harshly punish human trafficking all over the world, not just in the West, I think our world will take a big step forward towards eliminating human trafficking in our society.

I think the UN Sustainable Development Goal which will most quickly address the problem with many government’ penal codes is the goal to Promote Just, Peaceful and Inclusive Societies. Many of the targets in this goal refer to ending corruption in government and creating transparency in public institutions. I think by doing that, it will force some third-world governments that are plagued by corruption and allowed to rule with opaque autonomy to reshape its laws and penal codes to work for the people, not against them, and I think that will ultimately help reduce the level of human trafficking in our society.

Post #7

Sex trafficking is a global issue, so Turkey is not immune to the problem. Historically it has been an issue in Turkey particularly with the trafficking of women from former Soviet countries, as the LA Times report in 2006. The majority of the women were aged from 18 to 24 and about half came from Moldova and Ukraine. The LA Times reported that the estimation of the profits of those women’s sex slavery was $3.6 billion over the course of one year alone.

Turkey is considered a “destination country” because of its geographic location. Often these women are offered other jobs like cleaning or childcare before entering Turkey, much like some of the stories in Half the Sky, and then once they arrive, their passports are taken and they are forced to work in the sex industry, according to the UNHCR. While Turkey has made some efforts to address the problem of human trafficking within its borders, the UNHCR says it has not done enough. It recommends that Turkey ratify legislation against human trafficking, create more supports for victims of human trafficking, prosecute traffickers more heavily, and train their police forces to better identify victims.  Others are suggesting that Turkey enact legislation that would make human trafficking violations be classified as terrorism.

What further exacerbates the situation currently is how the refugee crisis has increased the number of people vulnerable to the threat of human trafficking. A 2014 report on the state of female Syrian migrants “tells of early and forced marriages, polygamy, sexual harassment, human trafficking, prostitution, and rape that criminals inflicted upon Syrians in Turkey.” The report found that girls aged 15 to 20 were the most vulnerable to forced prostitution, but that younger girls were still affected as well.

The Sustainable Development Goals do specifically mention human trafficking as an issue to be dealt with in three of the goals: 5, 8, and 16. The fifth SDG is all about gender equality, aiming to end discrimination against women and girls entirely. The eighth SDG focuses on providing “decent” work for sustainable economic growth and part of that promotion of employment for all works as a way to “eradicate forced labour, slavery and human trafficking.” The sixteenth SDG works to reduce violence and promote just and peaceful societies, citing that where there are lax laws sexual violence and exploitation must be addressed.

So what can be done to fight human trafficking? Well I think it’s clear that human trafficking is a global phenomenon that as citizens of the world, we are all responsible for ending. But I also think it’s important to acknowledge that since the problem is so widespread, it can feel intimidating to try and tackle it. And the standard question of how you as an individual can do anything is understandable too, but in order to really combat the issue, we need to push past that attitude. The State Department has a list of ways that individuals can help fight human trafficking, including several ways that you can stay aware of the issue, be an observer of the injustice, and report what you see happening in your community.

Here’s how Obama has responded during his administration: 

Post #7

Human trafficking is occurring in practically every area of the globe. To think otherwise would be naive. Human trafficking is not only occurring in places like India or Pakistan, where more stories of victims have come to light. It occurs in what the world considers to be “well developed” or “moral” countries. According to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), hundreds of thousands of women and girls are trafficked to and from European countries year to work as virtual slaves in the sex industry. The country of my focus, Belgium, is such a country.

Belgium is involved in  European-type culture, which means that nudity and sex are not as taboo as they are in some countries. Some experts believe that a heightened sense of morality, an increase in rules about sexuality and purity, or high religious affiliation in large geographic areas may result in an increase in sex trafficking. The idea is that the more devout a culture is, the more that young men are encouraged to look outside their relationships with actual partners and participate in prostitution. This increases the demand for human trafficking and the amount of culture and social acceptance of sex slavery and prostitution in a country. It should be pointed out, however, that this is only a theory.

While Belgium does not experience these cultural consequences, it does have a problem with human trafficking which lies mainly in the law. In fact, the area is accused of having a high amount of tolerance to prostitution.

According to the United States Department of State’s 2014 Trafficking Report, “Belgium is a destination, transit, and a limited source country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.” The report also states, however, that the government of Belgium completely complies with the minimum standards for reducing human trafficking. Although, this calls into question what the minimum standards are, and if they are high enough.

Expactica.com states that, “Last year it was estimated there were 30,000 prostitutes working in Belgium, half of which came from Eastern Europe, although the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights confirms statistics on sex trafficking are impossible to obtain.”

Prostitution is not a crime in Belgium; however, the exploitation of another person is deemed prosecutable by law. This allows prostitution to hide away (somewhat) from the law. On the other side of the coin, though, is the notion that both the European and Belgian work against human trafficking is, by global standards, progressive. In general, according to Expactica, clubs or businesses that make a lot of money from their goings on are considered to be exploiting. But for obvious reasons, this is a very thin and foggy line, and more could definitely be done to reduce human trafficking and sex slavery in Belgium.

In Born Free, Sarah E. Mendelson addresses the faults of previous U.S policy and former Sustainable Development Goals. She brings to light the fact that human trafficking was not expressly mentioned in any of the goals or documentation from the previous Outcome Document and Sustainable Development Goals from 2000. Without the express mention of terminating human trafficking and sex slavery, many non-government organizations were able to have a hands-off approach on the issue. Many NGOs that the government enlisted for help on the Sustainable Development Goals backed away from the issue of human trafficking, stating that they had no interest in it or it was not one of their main focuses.

However, the new Sustainable Development Goals which go (or already have gone) into effect in 2016, are supposed to be more effective than their predecessor. While they do not expressly mention intentions to try to  eradicate of human trafficking as a practice in the U.S., the document sets out some goals which have to do with the issue. Goal five states that gender equality and the empowerment of women will be worked on, while goal eight aims to promote decent work and economic environments for all people.

I believe that this “dancing around the issue,” while it may be getting better in some countries, is a worldwide attitude about sex slavery, prostitution, and human trafficking. From the United States to Belgium, governments are afraid to take decisive stances against the issue. In Belgium, more must be done to increase awareness and increase the influence of government in stopping human trafficking. In the United States, more must be done. In every country across the globe, more must be done.

 

Post #6

In The Crisis Caravan, Linda Polman points to the almost 37,000 non-government organizations, or NGOs, and the fallacies and corruption that surrounds them. She points to the system of humanitarian aid itself, and uses specific examples, like that of the aid offered in the stereotypical “developing” countries Haiti, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Goma, to explain how it has failed victims across the world.

From my readings, I have perceived that the principal concerns that Linda Polman raises in her book are:

  1. Humanitarian aid is often not effective because it has become a part of modern warfare strategy.
  2. Humanitarian aid is often not neutral.
  3. Humanitarian aid organizations are often self-serving.

Humanitarian aid is often not effective because it has become a part of modern warfare strategy. 

As touched on many times in Polman’s book, humanitarian aid is being used by members of both sides in their warfare tactics. Refugee camps and hospitals are being attacked by “the bad guys” in the dead of night. Camps are treating both the good and the evil. This, in Polman’s eyes, could be said to prolong wars and create more conflict than they resolve. Polman brings up the question if maybe doing nothing is better than doing something in some cases because of situations like this. This feeds into the next contention.

Humanitarian aid is often not neutral.

Modern humanitarian aid is taking sides. They are often not remaining neutral, like in the old days of the Red Cross. This is sometimes not their fault, because opposition is pressuring them to behave in certain ways. Sometimes, it is impossible for them to remain neutral in order to remain safe.

Humanitarian aid organizations are often self-serving.

Just like any business, humanitarian aid likes to take a cut of the profits it receives. Not only that, but a cycle of taking cuts of donor dollars has been accepted in many situations. An NGO may give money to an agency in the country it is trying to help, who takes 20 percent, and then they give it to hospitals, etc. who also take 20 percent. By the time the aid reaches the afflicted people, it has been downsized incredibly by people taking small cuts of donations along the way.

On page 177 in her book, Polman says that “aid organizations are businesses dressed up like Mother Teresa” because these non-government organizations state that they are trying to save humanity and help the world, but they are often caught up in the three contentions mentioned earlier. These organizations run like businesses. They are corrupted (not every one, however) by the same corruptions that affect corporations and governments. They, however, are able to hide more easily behind a cloak of innocence due to their role in society as the “savior.” And thanks in part to lots of advertising and donor reassurance, these businesses in Mother Teresa’s clothing are often able to easily convince to citizens that their money is being used in a positive way. In some ways, some NGOs’ tactics to gain donor support verge on propaganda.

The media, the public, and governments play directly into NGOs’ role as this wolf in sheep’s clothing.

The media

The media is the liaison of information from these NGOs to the public. They are responsible for showing things that are timely and newsworthy, but that often distorts how the public sees global issues and hinders NGOs in their ability to do things the right way. Some events receive mass amounts of coverage, therefore, NGOs race to be the first and best on the scene, as in Haiti after the earthquake. In order for humanitarian aid to be successful, the media needs to offer a more well-rounded and truly global view of world issues instead of focusing on one event and covering it until its beaten to a pulp, all while ignoring other pertinent issues.

The public

The public needs to be educated. They need to look further into things that what NGOs, the media, and the government presents upfront. The public must ask questions and follow the money that they send to NGOs. The public must be interested in more than sending a $500 check and feeling good about themselves. The public needs to hold NGOs accountable, and most importantly, they must look outside the big issues that draw attention and ask, “What else is going on in the world?” For humanitarian aid to be successful, the public must be interested, curious, and they must care.

The government

The government’s role in making humanitarian aid successful is the most complex out of the three. I believe, from my perception of the contentions in The Crisis Caravan, that the government must be willing to pave the way for NGOs to do their job correctly. Our government must take an interest in global issues that have to do with social responsibility, not just economic plunder. If our government were to support and work directly with NGOs, then they could decide how to use donor dollars in efficient and effective ways. Currently, most of the world’s humanitarian aid is provided by governments. If these governments could work with and for NGOs, then more donor dollars could be allocated correctly, which may reduce some burden on governments to provide for the world. In short, NGOs cannot do everything by themselves. They need a little bit of help and protection in areas so that their aid is not useless, as said above.

Post #6 – Aaron Pellish

Linda Polman’s The Crisis Caravan deals in many complicated ethical issues, but it mostly attempts to accomplish one thing. The book’s principal concern is to format a critical understanding of aid organizations and humanitarian aid in order to examine how humanitarian aid can solve its big problems. She goes on to identify these problems with a great deal of expertise and detail, and demonstrates the problems of non-government organizations in foreign countries and how deeply complicated and well-rooted those problems are.

Among the problems she identified is the clashing between non-government organizations and international non-government organizations that often leads to competitions between the aid groups over who can help the most people. The root of this problem comes from the fact that many organizations see proportional increases in their funding based on the number of people they can claim to have distributed aid to, and that leads to organizations inflating their own statistics to help get more donations and continue to operate in a given region. Polman argues, I wholeheartedly agree, that aid organizations with the goal of helping people in need should not be forced to use their support and aid in the political game of fundraising and organizational pride. Instead, more organizations should be collaborating and working together to help solve the problems in the best ways possible.

Polman also discusses deeply the political problems with an NGO claiming that they are neutral and intend to give aid to whoever needs it. This can lead to a chain reaction of different events which compromise the organizations neutrality and, in some cases, even prolong the humanitarian crisis that the organization is trying to prevent. Polman discussed cases where NGOs gave supplies to the antagonists of a conflict, which helped them to commit further atrocities. Obviously this is a cut and dry example of where NGO politics turns chaotic. But she also discussed how donations are not appropriately distributed to the people who need them. She suggests that less than 10 percent of every dollar donated gets to the people for whom the money was intended. The money can sometimes be siphoned off to local militias, which go on to do things and act on beliefs which the NGO may not condone. In these cases, the NGO gets put in a tough situation, because they are forced to either continue giving aid to a militia who can go on and do whatever they please with the supplies, or they are forced to drop their veil of impartiality and make ethical distinctions about who gets supplies and who doesn’t. Polman contends that the most ethical decision is to drop any claims of impartiality because it ends up creating more grave ethical dilemmas that could be avoided if NGOs gave supplies based on who deserved them.

All of the above arguments are why Polman writes at the end of her book that “Aid organizations are businesses dress up like Mother Teresa.” Admittedly, I think this is an overly critical statement and a generalization, but she makes a strong point in this comparison. She exposes the gap between how an aid organization actually functions and the purpose it claims to serve. Many aid organizations claim to be pure-hearted, sanctimonious organizations that use their money for good as a combatant of evil. But in reality, aid organizations, especially large ones, must make logistical and practical decisions about how they allocate resources, and sometimes those decisions end up benefiting the organization while hurting the people they claim to help. And when an organization does that, it should be criticized more freely.

And that, Polman argues, is the role of journalists. She says that journalism must be unafraid to expose unethical humanitarian aid organizations, just as they would any unethical government organization, because that criticism will encourage NGOs to evolve, improve their resource distribution and cut out any unethical policies. Currently, Polman believes that journalists reflexively avoid questioning the work of aid agencies, and it ultimately hinders both the journalists’ and the NGOs’ credibility. She also calls on the public to be more demanding and transparent of aid organizations, and she calls on governments around the world to assist in creating infrastructures that NGOs can safely operate in so that the NGOs do not have to do it themselves in places where they otherwise would have to.

Post #6

THE CRISIS CARAVAN – LINDA POLMAN

Broadly, Polman discusses the two different philosophies of international aid work that inform how workers decide who to help. Do you treat everyone indiscriminately? Or do you treat people strategically, in an effort to avoid wasting resources or prolonging a conflict? What those questions really get at is whether aid organizations should remain neutral in conflicts. Polman argues that that neutrality has negative effects on conflicts, in some cases prolonging them. She uses her experience in the humanitarian aid crisis in Goma as an example. In some cases, much like in journalism, aid workers don’t realize they are showing their biases through the choices they have to make. So Polman argues that they just give up the charade of pretending to be neutral to begin with.

Voices of America

I don’t think she makes a strong enough case for that though. Her argument relies on anecdotes about her observations in Goma, in which I found her not particularly credible enough to take her thoughts as absolute truth. For one, her argument lacks specificity. This book is too generalized of an argument, lacking in academic rigor and specificity. So in that sense, it makes the book more appealing to an average reader who would maybe be interested in a hot take on aid organizations and enjoy it as an entertaining argument. But I think in general this piece does not provide a thoughtful and academic of an argument.

Toward the end of her book she writes “Aid organizations are businesses dressed up like Mother Teresa.” This is a fairly typical catchy and provocative statement for a journalist, making you think about something generally thought of as positive like aid organizations in a more critical way. But again she’s dealing in generalities. She argues in this passage about how journalists don’t question aid organizations as much as they would a business. I think that this may be valid for some journalists working in international conflict zones in particular. As a journalist parachuted into a conflict zone, an NGO or aid organization from your country would be a comfortable place to start. You would have an easy access point to sources, filtered through people who understand both you and hopefully the context of the culture you are reporting in. However that filtering process is what she points to as problematic. However, her assumption that journalists often stop there and fail to question or investigate that organization’s work is unsubstantiated. It’s definitely a bias that many journalists must work around – automatically not trusting anything that anyone tells you. But it’s a fundamental part of the job, and on that I think most journalists understand and strive to practice. So since she cannot possibly know the motivations/work habits of all journalists working in all conflict zones all over, one can only assume she is speaking from personal experience. So that furthers my distrust of her as a journalist and a truth teller.

photo: Sven Torfinn, DRC Congo, Goma, North Kivu. November 2012. Displaced people

photo: Sven Torfinn, DRC Congo, Goma, North Kivu. November 2012. Displaced people

She also points out that sometimes journalists are not as independent from aid organizations in these kinds of situations too: “often the journalists reporting on an aid campaign are also financed, or at least accommodated, by one of the aid agencies taking part in the caravan.” While this may be true anecdotally in her life experience, she does not prove that empirically. As a reader, I don’t have any reason to necessarily trust her anecdotes, and she fails to build that credibility in her writing.

I agree with Polman that we the public and we journalists must remain vigilant and critical of humanitarian aid in order to ensure that it is effective. I think governments can also play a role in this in setting specific legal requirements for aid organizations funding in the same way that many push for stricter oversight of political campaign funding. Transparency is the biggest key to success for aid organizations: transparency with journalists so they can relay the truth of the work and its effectiveness to the public and transparency with the governments the organizations work with.

Post #5

As highlighted in my last post, Belgium does not have many issues relating to the their own environment. They tend to be ahead of the curve when it comes to being progressive about stopping climate change, reducing emissions and conserving resources. While they do struggle with water pollution and a decreasing amount of green space due to the growth of cities and their population, they tend to handle environmental issues efficiently, especially in comparison to some of their neighbors in Europe and the United States.

In her TED talk, Dr. Elizabeth Lindsey addresses her personal experiences with the connection of environment and humanity through her work as an anthropologist and  with the National Geography Society. She explored how people consider their environments and even more so, how they consider themselves as a part of their environments.

When listening to Dr. Lindey’s talk, I was struck with her ideas about the current state of society. Even in a country like Belgium, where environmental issues are being handled at a relatively good rate of efficiency and effectiveness, I do not believe that they are doing these actions out of a deep connection to their environment or a belief in what Dr. Lindsey recalled as a “fluency of meaning.” It seems as though everything is a race, perhaps even the race to be the most environmentally friendly. That does not mean that what Belgium is doing is not good, I just found it interesting that even the things we tend to do for the environment tend to come from our need to behave a certain way or be successful in the eyes of others.

That thought makes me sort of jaded about the way societies work in today’s world. Dr. Lindsey talked about how we are being sold a lifestyle and told we have to live in certain ways to prove ourselves worthy enough of acclaim and love. I definitely agree that it is this lifestyle, some may argue the “western” lifestyle, has defined our breaking with our environments and our lack of care for it. This consumerist, mass-intake lifestyle has helped fuel industry and economy, but it has come at the cost of the earth and as Dr. Lindsey points out, maybe even our happiness, our self-peace or self-love, maybe even our very souls.

That part of her talk brings forward, in my mind at least, how environmental issues relate to human rights. If we reignite that caring within us, not only for our environment but for our neighbors, for humankind as a whole, we can start solving problems and stop creating them. I think without the sense that our earth and all of the people in it need care, we cannot expect our growing population to survive in the future.

I believe that Farish Noor’s concept of moving outside and away from eurocentrism in “Beyond Eurocentrism” are closely linked to Dr. Lindey’s ideas about the importance of listening to human voices.

Noor argues that the idea of Eurocentrism has been spread throughout the world and that this harms the dignity of non-western cultures. She gives examples of how Eurocentric ideals have permeated societies throughout the world and drown out local culture, such as the British occupation of India. She also claims that in order to heal areas where many cultural and religious ties pit a country or region’s people against one another, western culture has been implemented. She calls it the “lowest common denominator” of an area. I found this notion especially interesting because I feel that it can be seen in Belgium in the issues between Flanders and Wallonia. The English language is being used there as a connection between the two zones, who differ on everything from state of their economies, to language, to political belief. This, however, is helping to squander the cultural capital of both areas, and does not seem to be aiding much in healing the broken relationship between the two areas.

The effects of Eurocentrism may not be most evident in Belgium because it is a European country. And while Belgium does not have any great crimes against humanity or human rights offenses in the recent past, I believe they are experiencing something revolutionary in the amount of Syrian (and other) immigrants that have came into their country. Because Eurocentrism is so deeply rooted in western countries, any immigrant who comes to Belgium must offer up their culture in many ways in order to fit into a new type of society. Some may argue that this is fitting, some might say the opposite. I, for one, would not be surprised to see human rights abuses increase in Europe in general (though perhaps not in Belgium, or at least not only in Belgium) because of the meshing of cultures currently occurring there. The federal government of Belgium will have to decide how it plans to handle this influx of new culture, added onto the fact that they already possess two existing warring cultures within their own borders.