Post #5 – Aaron Pellish

Europe is an interesting example of how to deal with environmental regulations and human rights. France, for example, only has so much wiggle room with which to independently pursue actions that would advance environmental issues and human rights because France is a member of several international organizations which regulate and mediate the ways those actions take form. The European Union has certain benchmarks for energy consumption that each member state must meet, and there is not a lot of room to work outside of that. The United Nations’ chief cause is protecting the human rights of every person in the world and prosecuting those who disobey human rights, and France, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, is beholden to the constrictions of UN regulation. So on one hand, France does play a role in dealing with those issues. But on the other hand, France’s role in those issues extends only as far as larger international organizations will allow it.

There is a specific relationship between climate change and human rights that both Elizabeth Lindsay and Sheila Watt-Cloutier mentioned in their TEDTalk and essay respectively. There are many communities in the world which have heightened relationships with the environment. More than just superficially, these communities depend on the environment for their culture, their food, their water, their identity, sometimes their religion, but most importantly their human identity. And when changes in the climate change the landscape or environment in substantial ways, it affects the identity of these people, it affects their heritage, and it threatens to endanger them. As I said in my post last week, I think the idea of connecting environmental threats to personal and cultural erasure of heritage is a very clever persuasive technique, and it works very well on ordinary people who appreciate the importance of heritage in one’s personal identity. But I think that this persuasive technique has ceiling on its effectiveness, and it is unlikely to change the way we act as a society, because it is unlikely to sway the hearts and minds of governments and corporations who are motivated by factors and priorities which have nothing to do with the culture and heritage of minority populations. We’ve seen governments and corporations ignore these pleas for representation from minority populations be willfully ignored in the past, so there is no reason to assume it will work yet again.

In “Beyond Eurocentrism,” Farish Noor talks about the relationship between Western ideology and the various ideologies of the rest of the world and argues that the separation of those ideologies is detrimental to our ability to coexist peacefully in a globalized society. Noor defines eurocentrism as “the emerging perception within the European cultural, historical experience of European identity as good and all other forms as less good or less advanced.” In going beyond eurocentrism, Noor implores Western society to shed this form of elitism, embrace the ideologies of the non-Western world and incorporate them into Western society in order to have a greater empathy and cultural understanding of non-Western nations which are otherwise treated as unsafe, un-advanced, and exotic.

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Post #5

CLIMATE CHANGE AND HUMAN RIGHTS

Climate change and human rights are interconnected issues. You can’t look at one without considering the other. However, unfortunately much of the dialogue surrounding climate change fails in this regard. In order to convince political and industry leaders that climate change must be addressed in a drastic way now, we need to frame it as a rights issue. Political leaders have the obligation (both moral and legal) to fulfill and protect their citizen’s rights. Now as our world has become increasingly global, those leaders have an obligation to protect the rights of people outside of their nation’s borders.

In her TEDx talk in Maui, anthropologist Dr. Elizabeth Lindsey talks about how her elders interpreted our relationship to the environment and what advice they have for us today. She says she wanted to bear witness to all the changes around her, which influenced her decision to become an anthropologist. She speaks about her elders in Hawaii and how they dealt with experiencing an “encroaching culture.” She relates this to her experience in Micronesia when a village chief told to slow down. She applies that advice to how our (Western) culture, focused on work and industry, implies that our value as individuals is directly related to our productivity.

At first when I watched this video, I saw how it related tangentially to climate change but did not see how this related to human rights. She talks more about individual advancement as opposed to collective work. But in reflecting on it now, I see how she really was laying the foundation for understanding the basis of human rights – that each individual person has worth and dignity far beyond their economic value.

HOW TURKEY DEALS WITH HUMAN RIGHTS

The main pressing human rights issue in Turkey is the refugee crisis. Turkey has been on the frontlines of dealing with the flow of refugees this past year, with some estimates that the country hosted more than two million asylum seekers last year. The bureaucratic issues with dealing with that large of an influx has meant that asylum seekers in Turkey have little access to health care, housing, education and employment. That is, if they are even allowed to stay in Turkey. Many refugees have been forced out of the country without having completed the proper asylum seeking procedures.

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Press freedom has increasingly become a human rights issue in Turkey as well. Freedom House has classified Turkey’s status as “Not Free,” citing a five year decline. Turkish government has created more laws to allow for censorship and increase the amount of legal hoops journalists, especially those critical of the AKP party, have to jump through to deal with these types of lawsuits. The future is not looking very bright on this front either.

“The combination of the breakdown of the Kurdish peace process and crackdown on media and political opponents over the past year spell dark times ahead and take Turkey further away from the goal of being a rights-respecting country,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, the lead Turkey researcher at Human Rights Watch.

HOW TURKEY DEALS WITH ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

Finally, as for environmental issues, Turkey does not have a strong reputation for being environmentally friendly. A report from a couple of years ago shows that few Turks consider environmental issues a high priority. Some of the major environmental issues in Turkey are air and water pollution. From 1990 to 2011, Turkey’s carbon emissions increased 124 percent, which has come mostly from the energy sector and industry.

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As Turkey aims to become a member of the European Union, it has adopted some of the EU’s more advanced environmental policies. Turkey’s Tenth Development Plan in particular is focused on creating more sustainable environmental practices, including a focus on clean water. It remains to be seen how effective this plan will be in accomplishing its goals.

Post #4

We do have a moral obligation to protect the future of a planet in peril -that’s all there is to it. In Moral Ground the authors center on the idea that saving the environment is not merely and economic, political, or environmental issue; it is a human issue and should be considered with its implications on human rights. The environment is tied to humanity. Without the health of the environment, we cannot expect to experience an increase in the health of humanity. We cannot expect ourselves to be separated from an environment from which we take so much and give so little in return. From my findings, Belgium seems to understand this obligation to the planet and its people and has created policy on the local and federal levels to try to fight climate and environmental issues.

First, a few facts on the current state of the environment in Belgium:

–Total energy consumption in Brussels has actually decreased between 2004 and 2011 by 18 percent, according to the European Environmental Agency. The capital region, however, also experienced a growth in population of 12 percent during that time.

–The majority of Brussels (54 percent) is covered in green space; however, it has been noted by the EEA that that green space is shrinking, as it is among many urban areas across the world.

–In Flanders, the pollutant load of domestic waters as well as the energy intensity of the area both decreased from 2003 to 2009.

–In Wallonia, atmospheric emissions have decreased heavily since the 1990s, attributed to a growth in energy requirements and increase in renewable energy sources. However, Wallonia also experiences some pollution of their groundwater. According to the EEA, the state of Wallonian groundwater is not improving.

–In addition, the majority of agricultural lands in Belgium (70 percent) have received ratings that deem their soils are insufficient in nutrition.

In summation, Belgium is ahead of the curve as far as global climate change is concerned, though they may still experience issues with water and soil.

On a federal level, Belgium has created a new plan for climate and environmental preservation to be completed by 2020. They aim to have low-carbon development strategy, a federal adaptation plan, the third federal plan on sustainable development. They aim to enable public services and collaborate with many stakeholders nationwide, including activists, corporations and other players, to get their project done.

As far as environmental organizations working in Belgium, there are many. 350 World Map has set up shop in Brussels, but no where else in Belgium. According to the site, they are, “building a citizen climate activist movement in Belgium.” They claim they want to be part of a “creative, non-violent and open movement that aims to engage the people of Belgium and beyond in being part of the solution to catastrophic climate disruption.”

Greenpeace is also involved in Belgium. They have currently been working on a project to protect a forest the size of Belgium in Canada.

In 2013, a Greenpeace activist scaled the side of a podium at the Belgian Grand Prix (a car race) as a famous Belgian driver, Sebastian Vettel, was claiming his prize. The activist was attempting to stand against the contest’s sponsor, Shell and their drilling programs in the Arctic with a sign that read: “Congratulations. Now help us save to savethearctic.org.” Throughout the competition, other Greenpeace activists posted signs that read, “Arctic Oil? Shell no!” and other phrases.

Another prominent humanitarian organization, water.org, is not involved in my area. Although Belgium does experience issues with water pollutants, it does not experience drought like many of the issues that water.org assists.

Post #4 – Aaron Pellish

After reading the essay from Sheila Watt-Cloutier about how climate change is affecting her home, I was impressed by how she was able to use her own situation to shift the ideas of climate change from abstract concepts and overwhelming problems like global warming and waste management into one’s of humanity and compassion. Frankly, I thought it was an incredibly clever argumentative tool. And I do think, aside from Watt-Cloutier’s arguments, that we have an obligation to take care of our planet. But I don’t think that her argument could ever move the needle politically or globally because it doesn’t shift the conversation around climate change to a place that has merited more action or attention in the past.

The wit in Watt-Cloutier’s essay comes from the fact that she is able use her own plight and the plight of her people as a way to reimagine climate change as an issue involving people rather than science. When climate change is discussed, it is frequently done so in terms of the lifespan of the earth or the amount of money it could save us over time to take care of our planet. On a personal level, these arguments are generally pretty effective, but on a corporate and governmental level, these arguments are much less effective, because governments and corporations are inherently short-sided and are structurally motivated to think in short time frames, whether it be the time frame between elections or the time frame between contract negotiations. Watt-Cloutier wants us to think less about time and more about people, and she argues that governments will do more to fight human rights violations because they so loudly proclaim the importance of human rights. But corporations have historically been negligent of human rights, so that argument will not effect their actions. And with governments, Watt-Cloutier is essentially calling their bluff. If they were to ignore this human rights violation, nothing would happen and there would be no consequences because the same thing has happened before.

In fact, this ties into one particular episode in French governmental history that I think undermines what Watt-Cloutier is trying to argue. In 1985, the DGSE (the French foreign intelligence service, the French CIA) organized an operation that led to the bombing of Greenpeace’s flagship vessel, the Rainbow Warrior. Greenpeace was planning on protesting at the site of a French nuclear trial. They had agents infiltrate the Greenpeace offices in Auckland, New Zealand, and scout the ship. Then they sent in two agents to place a pair of bombs on the boat, which were designed to sink the boat without hurting any one. However, one photographer on board was killed during the second explosion. New Zealand investigators were quickly able to identify that the French were involved in the attack, leading to the prosecution of two of the agents and the resignation of Charles Hernu, the French Defense Minister at the time.

I think this incident proves a couple of things. First, that France has a shaky history regarding the incorporation and acceptance of environmental advocacy groups. Second, there is a track record of governments ignoring both environmental and human rights concerns, even in the West, if it means doing things the way they want to do them. And so, while I am impressed with Watt-Cloutier’s argument, I am also very jaded towards the likelihood of its effectiveness.

Post #4

THE MORALITY OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

Yes, we have a moral obligation to take action to protect the future of our planet. As Sheila Watt-Coultier said in her piece in Moral Ground, “it would be internationally significant if global climate change were debated and examined in the arena of human rights, an arena that many countries, particularly those in the developed world, say they ‘take seriously.’” I like this quote because she is calling the bluff of those countries. It’s clear that the time of hemming and hawing over what to do about climate change and who bears the most responsibility are over. It was important to see in December following the COP21 summit, that countries are now legally bound to fight rising temperatures. But still, that progress is not quite enough. As Watt-Coultier noted that while she might see the effects of climate change on her community in her lifetime, her grandson most certainly will. Because of that, we need more active inclusion of young people in the dialogue and decision-making processes related to climate change. Young people have a right to have their voice not only heard but taken into account in a meaningful way. If you want to learn more about what young Europeans think about the COP21 negotiations and climate change, read this from the European Youth Forum (where I worked last semester).

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES IN TURKEY

Water.org does not currently work in Turkey, but that doesn’t mean water is not an issue there. About two years ago, during a particularly hot summer, Turkey went through a period of fresh water scarcity. That crisis had impacts on energy production, agriculture and even trade. That experience shows how delicate the connection is between the way we live and the impact that has on the environment.

Turkey has a few pinpoints on the 350.org map, which aggregates projects and campaigns focused on climate change. The first one, a green arrow signifying a global power shift, is centered on Istanbul. In Istanbul in June 2013, “hundreds of climate leaders from around the world gathered in Istanbul to share stories, learn skills, and sharpen strategies.” So it was more about training the leaders and activists of climate change movements across the globe, so they can go out from there and be better prepared to actively fight for environmental protections.

Here are some photos from the event: 

https://www.flickr.com//photos/350org/sets/72157634531016998/show/

The second pinpoint is in Adana, where 350.org is protesting 12 coal plants that will be built along the coast of the Mediterranean. This specific, local protest is a part of the organization’s larger effort to reduce carbon emissions. It’s an interesting example of how the local can connect with a larger global issue – where the term “glocal” has now been seen as useful in describing that relationship.

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OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL WORK IN TURKEY

Some of the main issues Turkey is facing in terms of environmentalism is related to the recent uptick in energy consumption and subsequent carbon emissions in the country. This website has some interesting graphs that show how rapidly Turkey’s energy consumption has risen over the last couple of decades. That makes sense given the context that I have previously written about regarding the rapid economic growth Turkey has seen recently. As with many issues Turkey is facing, the prize of EU membership is consistently dangled in front of its face as a means of motivating the country to solve the issue. For example, the article with the graphs argues that in order for Turkey’s application to be stronger, it must be more energy efficient.

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Here is a list of other environmental groups working in Turkey. Greenpeace does have a presence there as well, and the organization came into media focus a few weeks ago. President Erdogan a few weeks ago made a play on words criticizing Greenpeace and claiming that he is greener and cleaner than the international organization.

Overall, Turkey faces many of the same environmental issues that countries with strong industrial economies face – namely, how can you continue to move economically upward while practicing sustainable business strategies?

Post #3

Nationalism, according to Zakaria in his book The Post American World, is a deep pride and confidence of a nation’s people. Zakaria describes a conversation with a Chinese man who seemed like a very globalized, open-minded person at first, but turned out to be very proud of his country, to the extent that he disliked talking about other countries. Zakaria believes that as economic fortunes rise in a country, so does its nationalism.

Zakaria sees danger in the rise of nationalism because he thinks it will be harder to get things done. More global players means more difficult decision making because more countries will have power. If more of a country’s people take more pride in it, then people will be more willing to fight for their country’s interests, making global decision making more complex and potentially more dangerous.

In Belgium, I have found that though many people are passionate about their country, more people seem to be passionate about the region of Belgium from which they come. This schism heavily is based on a stark language barrier as well. Since the people of Belgium are heavily split north by south, Flanders by Wallonia, their identities resting in whether they speak French or Dutch. Within the country, the various political parties have to try to balance their identities with each other to create policy.

In this article in The Guardian, its author Ian Traynor touches on the barriers between people from Flanders and Wallonia. In Belgium, nationalism seems be more state-ism. As the article states, there is no national newspaper, TV station, common school curriculum or nationally funded higher education, which leads us to wonder, how does Belgium stay together as a country?

“Broadly speaking, the Walloons vote for the left, the Flemish for the right. Flanders is prospering, Wallonia is depressed, with twice the unemployment rate of the north,” Traynor wrote. “Flemish leaders are increasingly strident in demanding greater autonomy, while the Walloon leaders retreat to their bunkers and refuse to negotiate. Flemish separatism was once the stronghold of the extreme right: it is now much more mainstream.”

Traynor provides us with another example of the conflict between Wallonians and people from Flanders: Brussels, the capitol, of Belgium, is electorally linked to surrounding Flemish districts. This means that people who speak French in Brussels can affect policies in Wallonia, but Wallonians cannot do the same, which has created a great unrest in the capitol city. Unrest over the quality of the constitution of Belgium has also created unrest.

In Globalization, Manfred B. Steger talks about the consequences of the neoliberal agenda. In Belgium, my findings indicate that a neoliberal agenda is not a part of Belgium’s global attitude, by evidence of the high rate of their national debt induced by large amounts of government spending. The 2016 Economic Freedom Index remarks that while Belgium has a high rate of government transparency, that government is by no means limited. It does, however, have a national unemployment rate of 8.5, which calls into question Steger’s perspective in Globalization. I feel that, in the parts our class has read at least, Steger does not take into account the welfare of the people when he develops his theories about globalization.

Inequality, as can be noted in the quote from Traynor in his article, also plays a large role in how people from each area feel politically. Traynor tells us that the national debt is 80 percent of GDP, an absolutely huge rate. In addition, Wallonia is simply falling behind Flanders. Therefore, I would say that inequality is a problem, even though by global standards, Belgium is one of the most open and welcoming trading economies.

The shots below are from a project by Tim Van Rie and Ive Marx called Growing Inequalities and Their Impacts in Belgium. 

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It is easy to see by the above chart that the Flemish region is doing far better in income and unemployment rates. The authors of this project go on to say that many people question whether Belgium should continue to be referred to as an entity.

I believe that this inequality might lead Belgium to split in the future. As Zakaria states in his novel, in a globalized world nationalism takes a back seat to people’s ideals and identities, where central governments mean less to people. I believe this could impact Belgium’s political future. Wallonia and Flanders might be destined to become two different countries some day.

Post #3 – Aaron Pellish

Nationalism is a social movement that exists in every type of nation. It is a rise in prideful sentiment towards one’s own country. Generally, it is weaponized to counteract the fears that normally arise during the globalization and cultural integration of a country. In France, it famously played out during the French Revolution and during the Napoleonic era, where French citizens felt entitled to certain resources and structural rights as French people. Nationalism worked against them in World War II, when the nationalistic Nazi party conquered France for a few years before being defeated in 1945. Obviously, nationalism can be beneficial, in the case of the French Revolution, which helped liberate a people from monarchy and establish a sense of national pride in the country. But the direct consequence of that nationalism was the Reign of Terror, which used nationalism to justify the unjust killings of many honest French people. In this sense, nationalism is a very fickle social and political phenomenon.

In the current age of globalization and interconnected economies, Zakaria warns that nationalism can interfere with the peaceful cooperation of nations. In a sense, a portion of the beginning of Zakaria’s “Post-American World” frames nationalism as a pesky form of governmental entitlement. He talks about how newly strong nations are itching to receive recognition and respect from established powers, and that urgency to be recognized for greatness could cause geopolitical friction which could further impede the already messy business of international governmental cooperation.

In France, a good example of this was when the French people voted against adopting the European Union constitution in 2005. The “Non” vote has since been viewed as a pushback to the idea of losing French identity, which is rooted in the principal values of nationalism. French people wanted France to maintain as much of its autonomy as an indicator of their belief in France as a country and as an idea. Zakaria also alludes to this idea of nationalism-as-protest in the second assigned reading from “Post-American World,” when he discusses clothing. He mentions that Gandhi insisted upon wearing traditional clothes as a revolt against British tariffs and British colonization of India. In these two incidents, nationalism was yielded peacefully and honestly. It becomes much more problematic, however, when that nationalism is defined by the elimination of other nations, which is something that France’s National Front party, led by Marine Le Pen, has implicitly and explicitly endorsed to great acclaim among some French residents.

Inequality plays a huge role in France. Social inequality and economic inequality are often overlapped, leading to the systematic marginalization of certain groups of people. In many cases these people tend to be black Muslims. Here’s an article from the New Yorker in which the author speaks to residents of poor neighborhoods outside of Paris who are turned down from jobs because they have an address in a poor neighborhood and a Muslim name on their application. So this type of inequality exists in France, and it is very much a large issue. The problem is that the National Front party is gaining popularity in France, and they, along with other popular right-wing parties in France, are either blind to these inequalities or actively working towards widening those inequalities, which creates an incredibly tricky situation for marginalized poor Muslims in France. As the New Yorker article points out, some of those Muslims turn to extreme Islam because they have no other outlets, which is an incredibly tragedy on behalf of the French government.

Post #3

INCREASING NATIONALISM GLOBALLY

Nationalism is defined as “a feeling that people have of being loyal to and proud of their country often with the belief that it is better and more important than other countries.”  In The Post-American World, Zakaria recognizes nationalism as “a backward ideology” (p. 35). He sees the danger in the rise of nationalism alongside globalization because as countries rise, gaining power, they also gain certain responsibilities. These countries in order to establish legitimacy rally around their origin stories, increasing national pride. That pride then gets in the way when multiple powerful countries must cooperate on tackling issues on the global scale.

NATIONALISM IN TURKEY

Turkey is a good example to look at when thinking about nationalism. During the Ottoman Empire, Turkey was divided up into religious sections called millets. That became problematic because those divisions were too blunt in some circumstances. For instance, the Muslim millet combined different cultural groups that maintained separate identities like the Turks and the Kurds. That structure established the connection between religion and national identity in Turkey.

Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War One, Turkey underwent a dramatic secularization process spearheaded by the first president of the country, Kemal Atatürk. Aiming to modernize Turkey, Atatürk introduced reforms modeled after the West that tried to root out the Islamic institutions in Turkish society. For example, Atatürk changed the official calendar from the Islamic calendar to the Latin one, banned the hijab, turbans and the fez, and replaced Arabic words with Turkish ones. These secular reforms aimed to promote a Turkish identity separate from religion.

Kemal Atatürk.

Kemal Atatürk.

This conflict between secularism and Islam in political life in Turkey is still felt today. Erdogan, the current president (and dictator by some standards), rode the wave of Islamic reforms and rules over the country with a religious perspective. Many in Turkey find the lack of secularism today appalling to Atatürk’s memory. However, clearly Atatürk didn’t have all the right answers. You could argue that his secularization bred the sectionalism and conflict that still exist today. Turkish nationalists have consistently demanded Kurdish assimilation in society. Thus in retaliation, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has been calling for independence from the Turkish state since the 1970s-80s. Violence between the armed PKK and Turkish military has been escalating in the recent years, and just over the summer, Turkey launched airstrikes against PKK camps. Along with those attacks that broke a ceasefire, the number of attacks against ordinary Kurds in Turkey increased. Some then worry that prospect of peace between the Turks and the Kurds might not be able possible.

INEQUALITY IN TURKEY

In Ill Fares the Land, Tony Judt writes that inequality “is not just unattractive in itself; it clearly corresponds to pathological social problems that we cannot hope to address unless we attend to their underlying cause” (p. 18). This quote is especially salient when looking at inequality in Turkey. While Turkey’s economy has boomed since the early aughts, income inequality is a growing problem. The percentage of unionized workers in Turkey fell nearly forty percent from 2003 to now. In 2014, the OECD reported that one in three Turks cannot afford to buy enough food. That report also showed how Turkey’s employment rate is the second lowest in the OECD, just above Greece, and that it has the lowest employment rate for women at just under 30 percent.
That leads to another aspect of inequality that’s particularly problematic in Turkey: gender inequality. With a president who openly acknowledges that women’s equality is against nature, Turkey is far from a feminist’s paradise. Turkish feminists have been fighting against the culture that calls them inferior, but it’s a tough fight when you have the necessary laws on the books but need to change the minds of unwilling people.

Turkish feminists protesting the lack of prosecution against violence against women.

Turkish feminists protesting the lack of prosecution against violence against women.

Post #2 – Madeleine Sutherland

To further explore Belgium, we need to take a deeper look at the people who make it up. Belgium, as stated in my last post, is a diverse country in language, culture and people.

The majority of the Belgian people are of Flemish decent. The country is made up of 58 percent citizens of Flemish decent, 31 percent Walloons and 11 percent “other.” I personally find it interesting that the World Factbook categorizes the country on such strict racial lines. Here in America, I feel that racial boundaries are more blurred. Someone may consider themselves Caucasian or African American, but their decent is not traced to a particular region of the United States, as is the case in Belgium.

Furthermore, the World Factbook breaks down the approximate number of people who speak its official languages, which were listed in my last post. According to them, 60 percent of Belgians speak Dutch, 40 percent speak French, and less than one percent speak German, even though it is considered an official language. I also found that English is a common second or third language in Belgium, and is sometimes used as a “bridge” language in Brussels, the largest city in Belgium and its capitol.

There are also three main non-official language categories that trace back to Belgium’s distinct cultural and geographic northern/southern split. The country is split, as mentioned in Post #1, between two main areas: Flanders to the north and Wallonia to the south. Brussels sets in the middle of these two areas. In Wallonia, the language Walloon, a relative of French, is spoken by older citizens or primarily in rural areas. It is the historic language of the region. In addition, Picard, Champenois and Lorrain, all variants of French, are spoken in the southern regions. In the north, Flemish, Low Dietsch, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish, all Germanic-related languages, are spoken in low concentrations in mainly rural areas.

From my findings, it seems that Belgium does not struggle with problems with indigenous languages; citizens either speak the more commonly recognized ones or accommodate their diverse area by taking up second or third languages. If any language “problems” are arising in Belgium, they are due to the high number of immigrants to the area. As of 2011, the total foreign population in the country was 1,119,256, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

Because the two main regions of Belgium, Wallonia and Flanders, tend to be very separated by their politic ideals and culture ties, the presence of increasing numbers of foreign immigrants only increases the complexity of culture in the country. According the the Migration Policy Institute, the country must continue to try to unite its two regions politically to solve issues of immigration. However, politicians in each region, especially in light of the recent terror attacks, are hard-pressed to change their views.

For example, right-wing Belgian parliament member (and member of the Parti Populaire) Aldo Carcaci compared the immigration of many immigrants of Muslim decent to a Trojan horse takeover. Carcaci, pictured below, described the immigration of Muslims as the “end of civilisation.”

 

Aldo Carcaci of the Belgian People's party

The full article, presented by the Gaurdian based on an audio interview of Carcaci they obtained, can be found here. In my opinion, these issues in Belgium semi-mirror the issues we experience with bias, race and immigration here in America; however, in Belgium it must be much more intense. In America, we have oceans separating our eastern and western borders from our neighbors, but in Belgium, a country with an already rich cultural fabric, people can move in from all sides, which we could argue means that they have a harder political climate to navigate.

Belgium is also a member of the European Union, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization.

Belgium was a founding member of the UN in 1945. Their most current statements for their role in the UN include to offer more humanitarian aid, to fight against impunity, and to protect and defend civilians if and when they are endangered, using force if necessary. This year Belgium has also been reelected to the UN Human Rights Council, a position it will keep until 2018.

In a meeting in 2015, the queen of Belgium, Queen Mathilde spoke at a UN meeting pushing for an integration of new gender perspectives through the work of the Human Rights Council.

Belgium has been a member of the International Monetary Fund since December 27, 1945, and the World Trade Organization since January 1, 1995. The country’s most recent action with the IMF has been to stand by an anti tax avoidance regulation this past January. According to the World Trade Organization’s website, Belgium’s main exports are chemical products, transport and storage and wholesale and retail trade. The full trade report for this last year can be found here. They export mainly to France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Post #2 – Aaron Pellish

In France, the national language is French. As of today, about 90 percent of French residents speak French, and it’s the second most popular language in the world due to France’s history of colonization in Africa and the West Indies. In total, there are 25 languages spoken in France, according to a report from ethnologue.com.

French citizens advocating against anti-Semitism

French citizens advocating against anti-Semitism

Of those languages, there are two extinct languages. They are Zarphatic, a regional language popular in the Alsace and Lorraine regions commonly spoken among French Jews, and Shuadit, a regional language in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region that was also used primarily among French Jews of that region. This strikes me as being indicative of a harsh and unfriendly culture towards Jews in France, which can be confirmed by a history of anti-Semitism in France that is punctuated most famously by the Dreyfus Affair and the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in which the attackers ran into a kosher grocery store and began attacking people before they were captured. It is interesting to see this particular element of cultural history manifest itself in the language history of France.

Of the 25 languages spoken in France, five are languages that have been nationalized in another country. Those are Greek, Italian, Luxembourgish, Portuguese and Spanish. This is significant because it indicates how intermixed the European cultures have become since the opening of the Schengen region in the 1990s. This doesn’t even account for immigrant languages spoken in France, such as English, German, Arabic, or any others. The fact that these languages are credited as being natively spoken in France says a lot about what it means to be a native of a European nation in the 21st century.

Former French Minister of Education Jack Lang

Former French Minister of Education Jack Lang

In 2001, French Minister of Education admitted in a speech that the French government had, for more than two centuries, used political authority to repress the influence of regional languages. He also announced that he would introduce bilingual education into French public schools. I could understand the problems that the French government thought the regional languages might pose. I think they believed that regional languages would create regionalism in the place of nationalism in France, which would undermine the political authority of the national government. However, it remains incredibly problematic for a government to intentionally engage in the erasure of the culture of a people, as is evidenced by the erasure of Judeo-French languages.

The UN Security Council gathers around a table.

The UN Security Council gathers around a table.

France has membership in the United Nations. In fact, it is one of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, and French is one of the official languages of the UN. It was a charter member of the UN and has maintained its membership ever since.

France was the first ever country to borrow from the International Monetary Fund. France has been involved in the IMF since its inception in 1945. It currently holds one of 24 seats on the IMF Executive Board, and is one of eight nations to be directly and solely represented on the Executive Board.

France has been a member of the World Trade Organization since its inception in 1995. As part of an agreement between the WTO and the European Union, all nations that gain membership in the EU also gain membership in WTO. This gives France dual representation through its own delegation and its representation as a member of the EU.