GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE AND THE ENEMY AT HOME

, ,

In 1993 countries in the General Assembly of the United Nations declared their commitment to end violence against women. To this date, UN Women has reported that “35 percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner (not including sexual harassment) at some point in their lives”. According to the same office, the percentage goes as high as 70 in some countries.

Latin America and the Caribbean is a region where women and girls suffer from gender-based violence and the place in which a global movement started. According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), 3,529 femicides were committed in 2018. Governments have taken actions to legislate and create programs to address the issue. However, as with many laws, the problem is a lack of implementation rooted in pre-existing power dynamics: the patriarchal domination of women.

In October of this year, Chilean activists that seek to end gender-based violence came up with a performance (“un violador en tu camino“) that protested against one of the main tools of the existing structure; the song calls to highlight the constant practice of re-victimization. The song and choreography, which have resonated all over the world, voice the demand for States to recognize their complicity with rapists and sexual harassers by claiming that the victim was ‘on the wrong place and provoking their attacker’.

A study conducted by Oxfam shows that many young people in the region still believe that violence against women is justified in ‘domestic’ instances such as marriage. Governments also resort to the strategy of blaming the victims in order to justify their inability to address the issue. As such, the power structure is created and recreated by the same institution that is supposed to protect all the people who live in the State.

The Chilean movement however replicated all over the world given the fact that the same power structure affects women regardless of geographical location. Data shows that 58 percent of the women intentionally killed were murder by partners or family members. Movements like the one started in Chile voice a complaint that seeks to address the underlying structure behind the ‘acceptance’ of violence against certain groups of individuals, i.e. the life of a straight male is more valuable than that of others.

IN DRUGS WE TRUST: THE AMERICAS WAR WITH DRUGS

, , , ,

In its Global Study on Homicide 2019, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) stated that: “[o]rganized crime kills as many people as all armed conflicts combined”. The American continent had the highest rate of murders for 2017 and has been the same since 1990. UNODC has found that Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Venezuela have the highest homicide rates. Can this trend be stopped by the legalization of drugs?

Whether it may help reduce violence is still to be known. Another aspect of it does require further attention; it may help States prevent health deterioration of their citizens. Mainly, legalization could represent access to better quality and information on drugs. Yet, the debate is in no way a straightforward solution.

The motivations of organized crime, especially regarding transnational operations, has been a subject matter of policymakers, academics, and international organizations. Often criminal groups are considered to be ‘rational actors’ that seek to maximize profit. The drug trade is one of the most common methods of revenue associated with organized crime. Both academics and United Nations officials have suggested that legalizing drugs would greatly diminish funding for criminal groups.

Currently, Uruguay is the only Latin American country that allows for the legal use of cannabis and has been since 2013. Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru allow for its use within medical treatments. The debate is particularly relevant in Mexico due to the proximity to one of the largest markets: the United States.

According to research, the legalization of marijuana in some US states helped reduce violent crime in those places that border Mexico. The debate is complex and effects on legalization seem to have different notions in academic texts. The Mexican government has proposed the legalization as part of a wider security strategy but added the need to address both from the need to reduce income to criminal groups and also as a means to reduce the threat to the health of drug users.

Prices for cocaine, one of the most trafficked drugs in the US, increased from 2007 to 2017. Data may show that legalization could contribute to reducing the income of organized crime. But would that necessarily make the groups cease their activities or would it force them into other illegal markets?

Disaster diplomacy: friend or foe?

,

Yesterday, Albania experienced the most destructive earthquake in the last 30 years. The death toll is still rising and hundreds of injured are being treated. The EU, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Kosovo, Northern Macedonia, Turkey have all sent help to Albania. Many other countries announced their readiness to help shall it be needed.

This kind of aid in cases of natural catastrophe is not uncommon. Even when those countries are at a cold or a very warm war. Disaster diplomacy deals with exploring how and why disaster-related activities influence diplomatic relations between countries.

An example of disaster diplomacy is the Iranian-USA relationship. In 1990, a huge earthquake killed more than 35,000 people in Iran. Although Iranian government refused help from the West, shortly after the American Red Cross and AmeriCare were providing help in Iran. Twelve years later, after another disastrous earthquake in Iran, the US sent help again, although Bush declared Iran part of ‘Axis of Evil’. Both countries wanted to cooperate but with no strings attached. This had no impact on USA-Iran relationship. However, Israeli help was not accepted – because this would likely hinder the chances of government’s re-election. In addition, following the denial of the UN representatives to access the nuclear power plants, Iran had to project a cooperative image at the international level. So it’s not only about human lives.

Demolished building in Albania following the earthquake in November 2019
REUTERS/Florian Goga

Another example are relations between Greece and Turkey. In 1999, more than 17,000 people died in an earthquake in Turkey. Greece sent financial aid as well as special forces, to help the Turks. Only three weeks later, an earthquake hit Greece and although Turkey itself was still managing the catastrophe, it responded to the needs of Greece and sent help. These moves were followed by a series of bilateral agreements between the two countries.

Kelman however states that disaster diplomacy sometimes yields further cooperation and sometimes further conflict. He states several important factors for disaster diplomacy to be successful: already set grounds for cooperation prior to disaster, focusing on disaster instead of diplomacy, building informal networks, working at multiple levels, reciprocity. Disaster diplomacy fails when diplomacy is avoided, relations are dependent on disaster, there are other events overwhelming disaster, and disaster is used as a weakness of the enemy.

Disaster diplomacy can be a powerful means for setting ground for future cooperation. Effective disaster diplomacy has to be followed by official conflict-resolution efforts led by governments. Or else, beware the helpers.

We at the World Youth Academy send our condolences to Albania and we wish you as quick as possible recovery from the catastrophe.

Israeli politics at the expense of Palestinians

, , ,

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the longest-running and most controversial conflicts taking place in the world today. Two opposing movements of self-determination fighting for more than seventy years over territory claims, political control and resources, with no clear direction towards peace.

However, what is clear is that whenever attacks are launched from Gaza into Israeli territory, public coverage and attention double up, unlike all the other stories such as Palestinians getting shot almost every week or the daily reality of occupation for example, that get much less or no coverage at all. This may immediately imply the general perception that it is the Palestinians who insist in debilitating relations with Israel. But is this always the case?

Once again, provocations, violence and revenge have invaded the Gaza Strip and Israel. But this time, it is worth noting that the recent hostilities were sparked by an Israeli air strike last November 12th ordered by Israel´s interim Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The attack aimed at and killed the 42-year-old leader of the Islamic Jihad´s armed wing Al-Quds Brigades, Bahaa Abu Al-Ata to which the Islamic network responded with retaliatory rocket fires. And so hostilities began again, creating a new security issue for Israelis.

So why would Netanyahu order such attack, knowing the full consequences?

The events have come at an interesting time in Israeli domestic politics: two months after Netanyahu came second in the general elections. The Israeli army does not usually take credit for initiating confrontation with Gaza and according to its narrative only retaliates when provoked – whether that is true or not is a story for another day.

So why take credit now? Netanyahu is desperate to hold on to power and in order to do so he is trying to convince his people that Israel is in a state of security emergency and that Benny Gantz´Arab-backed minority potential government would be ‘a historic danger to Israel´s security’ and that it ‘will gravely hurt the security of Israel’. But Gantz, former chief of the Israeli Defence Forces, is no peace-hugger either. He contributed to the mass killings of Arab populations as a soldier of the occupying army and if that wasn´t enough, he brags about how many Palestinians he has killed and uses those numbers to convince his voters.

The most devastating fact about this political competition is that it is all at the expense of millions of Palestinians. With the absence of a political solution and hope for peace and security in Palestine, Israeli political leaders will continue to impose violent solutions that only serve their personal political gains. There has to be a shift in focus because regardless of who wins in Israeli politics, Palestinians will continue to be powerless against a situation that the international community has turned a blind eye on. Instead of looking at those politicians in the occupying power, Palestinians, the Arab and international communities will need to create a popular movement based on healthy thought that truly desires peace and change.

How Bosnian war refugees forgot their recent past

,

Violence, harsh living conditions, traumatic experiences in their countries of origin, risky travelling, loss of control, security, money, health, family, dignity. They go through their personal Golgotha to escape their war torn homeland and end up in a country that knows war very well.

And then they end up in a whole new type of hell, surrounded by a landmine field. Migrant camp Vučjak in Bosnia & Herzegovina could easily be one of the most inhumane places in Europe. Since 2018, the EU has issued €36 million to B&H to deal with the refugee crisis. Although a number of non-governmental organizations claim that most of the money for managing migrant crisis is used for militarisation of the police, the EU representative claims otherwise: 94% is spent on migrant care.

Migrant camp Vučjak
Source: N1

Well, not in Vučjak, so it seems. On October 21, even the water supply delivery was stopped. With the winter coming, conditions are worsening. ‘Only a matter of time when migrants will start dying’, claim Doctors Without Borders. Although Bosnian government was issued by the EU to urgently close the Vučjak camp almost a month ago and to find a better solution for those people, only a few days ago was it announced that they would be transferred to two old military barracks.

But there is another problem: the reaction of local communities. They don’t want migrants anywhere near. They claim it’s a security issue. The migrant crisis is even being manipulated in everyday political crossfire based on nationalism (like pretty much everything else in Bosnia). Fake news have been produced in order to raise anti-migrant attitudes. In a study that is to be published in December, a half of respondents have expressed negative attitudes towards migrants, even without having any contact with them.

Those people are left to the mercy of a few individuals. Could they have imagined worse destinies as they embarked the ships to a better future?

But why would Bosnians think otherwise anyway? It’s not like they led one of the bloodiest wars in recent European history. It’s not like 2.2 million people were forcibly displaced. It’s not like nearly half a million of them fled B&H. It’s not like they were left with nothing.

It’s not like they know what war and fleeing mean.

A woman refugee from the Serb-besieged Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica.
Source: AFP / Pascal Guyot

BOLIVIA FOR-EVO-R

, , , ,

Bolivia has captured the attention due to the 4th re-election of Evo Morales as President. First elected in 2006, he became the first indigenous president of the country. He sought to eradicate poverty and better conditions for the multiple indigenous communities of the State. During his rule, extreme poverty rates fell from 38 per cent in 2006 to 15 per cent in 2018.

Bolivia also experienced an unprecedented growth in GDP, surpassing that of neighbouring countries. Morales was even said to break with neoliberal economic policy and become the first president to break with the United States neo-colonialism. However, he made a mistake many Latin American rulers have made: he sought to remain in power longer than the constitution allowed.

Morales enjoyed overwhelming support in his previous re-elections but began losing popularity in 2016 when a referendum was held. The referendum sought to get the popular support on reforming the constitution so the President could run for a fourth term in 2019. The results did not favour Morales’ ambition as 51.3 per cent of Bolivians rejected modifying their constitution.

In October 20th 2019, Evo Morales won in elections that the Organization of American States marked as containing ‘serious irregularities’. The event threw Bolivia into massive protests and civil unrest. On November 10th, Morales resigned and fled to Mexico in seek of asylum. Nonetheless, the resignation was not enough to put an end to the chaos in Bolivia.

The Bolivian former president has said that he was ousted from the country via a coup organised by the opposition. Amid the confrontation created by Morales’ declaration and the power vacuum created in his absence, Bolivia is now heading down a dangerous path of division. Jeanine Añez, a senator, has assumed interim presidency but has been declared illegitimate by some. Adding to the unrest, Morales has announced that he intends to return to help his fellow Bolivians, creating further animosity.

Evo Morales’ actions have not only undermined his country’s democratic institutions, but he continues to divide Bolivian society by maintaining the declaration of a coup. This tactic has been commonplace in Latin American politics when long-standing leaders have been accused of breaking the law in attempting to remain in office. Paraphrasing a Batman film, it could be said that in Latin America you “either retire a hero or remain in office long enough to become the villain”.

Kashmir: A Never-Ending Division

, , , ,

Following the 1947 separation of India and Pakistan and their independence from the British Empire, the conflict to control the territory of Kashmir began. This conflict has been one of the longest ones in history and unlike others, the situation is anywhere near settled.

Territorial disputes over the Kashmir region sparked two of the three major Indo-Pakistani wars in 1947 and in 1965. In exchange for helping with the rebels, Kashmir signed an agreement to become part of India. Despite joining the country, autonomy was formalized through Article 370, added into the Indian Constitution shortly after. The said article gave the territory of Kashmir a certain amount of freedom: they were able to have their own constitution, their own flag, and autonomy to make laws, whereas foreign affairs, communication, and defense remained under Indian control.

After several violent attacks on each other’s soil, in 1972, under the terms of the Simla Agreement and following UN advice, India and Pakistan renamed the borderline as the “Line of Control” and signed a ceasefire agreement in 2003. Despite this arrangement, they regularly exchanged fire across the border.

With the newly elected Prime Minister Modi, there were high hopes that his government would make significant progress in the negotiations with Pakistan. It was true that some effort was put into fixing their relations, however, momentum was definitely lost in September 2016, when armed Pakistani militants attacked an Indian base near the Line of Control, the deadliest attack in decades. According to the CFR between 2017 and 2018, there were more than three thousand reported violations along the Line.

At the moment, tensions between both territories and other international forces are exploding after the attack in February 2019. Official reports state that the Pakistani Islamic group Jaish e-Mohammad drove a car carrying between 300-350kg of explosives and crashing into a convoy transporting about 2,500 Indian troops to the Kashmir Valley.

Using the attacks, Prime Minister Modi decided to revoke seven decades of Kashmir autonomy by rescinding article 370 in an attempt to regain support and win the upcoming elections. “The risks of violence have risen significantly. The bottom line is India may believe that this move will bring more clarity to the Kashmir issue by formally integrating the region into the union of India, but there are all kinds of risks and uncertainties ahead” said Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program.

Attempts of peace talks have come to no result and Pakistan and Indian remain tense, both aware that their counterpart is a nuclear superpower. On their part, India has approached the US to gain strength as China is gaining power across Asia. Pakistan, on the other hand, is one of the biggest beneficiaries of China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative attracting millionaire investments to Pakistani Kashmir.

While the conflict gets worse and international forces seek their own interests in the territory, people living in the Kashmir region have endured decades of human rights violations and abuses at the hands of security forces on both sides.

 

 

Securitizing Catalonia (I): the Copenhagen School in the Spanish context

, , ,

The ‘rupture of Spain’ and ‘the Spanish unity’ have been one of the most repeated tropes following the events that took place in Spain from 2017, until today. Catalonia, an autonomous region of Spain, announced and celebrated a referendum contra legem in order to gain independence. The Spanish government at the time responded by using a type of discourse that legitimized it for taking a wide range of measures that went from suspending the autonomy of the region to the incarceration of Catalan political leaders, the latter confirmed on October 14th by the Spanish Supreme Court. Is it possible to understand the handling of the process of independence of Catalonia from the frame of the securitization theory from the Copenhagen School (CS)?

Following the linguistic turn, the theory draws on the premise that securitization occurs when actors label certain events as threats and relevant audiences accept such designation. Approaching from constructivism the CS understands that the most important feature is that the word security doesn’t need to be uttered. What is relevant is the use of particular logics that define security, logics enrooted in the speech act (mostly political discourses) that provoke the rupture of the logic of normal politics to enter the realm of security.

The moment of entering the security realm would be the 6th of September 2017, the day in which the Catalan Parliament passed the laws that would allow Catalonia to become independent after the celebration of a referendum, set for the 1st of October. The day after, the Spanish government led by Mariano Rajoy activated the security logic. On the 7th of September, he gave a speech in which he depicted independency as ‘the end of Spain’, creating the need for survival.

Despite Rajoy’s emergency measures to avoid the vote from taking place by transferring National Police officers from all over Spain into Catalonia with the order of confiscating –even by force—ballots and boxes, the vote did take place on the 1st of October. Two days after, the security logic entered a new post-referendum phase: the King of Spain—Felipe VI—gave, symbolically, his first institutional speech following the independence vote.

To explain securitization logic, the process has to be taken as gradual and incremental, from Rajoy’s speech to the Kings one, in different moments, pre-referendum and post, enabling the adoption of emergency measures  in 2017-2018 such as the application of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution that suspended Catalonia’s autonomy and led to new elections in the region.

Notwithstanding the government effort in securitizing Catalonia, the issue remains unsolved. Emergency measures and particularly the role of the judiciary within the process have not helped in approaching the situation.  Can the judiciary of a country be a securitization actor? How does the realm of security interact with the legal frameworks? One thing is clear: legal frames without political dialogue have proved to be inadequate to solve the situation.

Why is America afraid of children’s rights?

, ,

All the members of the United Nations have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but one. The United States. What may be the reason behind this opposition, given that the US actively contributed to the creation of the CRC and even suggested original text for several articles?

The UNCRC is the fastest ratified convention in the history of the UN. In the process of its creation, several articles were originally proposed by the US and were based on existing US law. However, for 30 years has the US failed to ratify it. Interestingly, the very articles proposed by the US are the ones that inspire the strongest opposition. One wave of opposition stems from religious-right and some other conservative organisations, whose slogan ‘The UN Wants Your Children’ is more than enough to portray their line of acting.

Another wave is grounded in fear that the Convention threatens the sovereignty of the US. The Convention threatens national security, it is said. A State Department legal advisor clearly explained: ‘In our constitutional form of government, we view basic rights as limitations of the power of government to do things to the individual, rather than requirements that the government do things for people’.

Although it is not very clear how ratifying the CRC would hinder American sovereignty since enforcement mechanisms by the UN are not foreseen, there are several possible explanations (there have been quite a few experts dealing with this issue). One is that the ratification could lead to necessary public reports on the negative state of American children. Well, there is no help there. Another explanation is the fear that the CRC would supersede the Constitution. Except it does not work that way. The UN can publish facts and give suggestions, but there is no legal way to influence the American law.

Another explanation is that the Convention might empower the congress to act in areas that are normally handled by the state. Here too has the UN no mechanism to mandate action at the national level, but rather to oversee whether the obligations are fulfilled.

Is failure to ratify the UNCRC reflection of the US paranoia or their need to act as a superpower, even at the cost of children’s rights? This question remains to be answered.

Until then, the US will remain the only country in the world with yet another glooming role: allowing juveniles to be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

Iraq´s rocky road to stability

, , ,

After years of war and occupation, the security scene in Iraq appeared to be somewhat better than it was in the post-2003 conflict period. The territorial (but not complete) defeat of Daesh in 2017 also brought some sort of optimism to the country. However looking closely, Iraq continues to be a war-torn country where a majority of the population lives in aggravating conditions and reconstruction of infrastructure and a harmonized society remains far-sighted. Iraqis have grown tired of a widely believed culture of corruption, weak governance, and a fragmented political arena. These once again, have sparked public anger.

Protests have erupted across Iraq over government corruption, shortage of basic services, increasing rates of unemployment and general discontent with the political system. The most striking features of these protests are their magnitude – they are the biggest protests since the fall of Saddam Hussein – and the brutality employed by the Iraqi security forces against those opposing the status quo – as of today, leaving 319 dead and 15,000 injured. These protests are the clear proof and example of the loss of trust in the Iraqi political system and instability in the country, putting Iraq in a direction difficult to pull back from.

So what is interfering in Iraq’s road to stability?

Iraq suffers from a heavily fragmented political system where different factions are competing against one another for power and influence and ultimately applying contradictory measures and working at cross purposes. This fragmented political arena is coupled with the integration of various factions of paramilitary groups within the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) with differing purposes, into the security forces. This can only lead to the absence of coherent control over the security situation and therefore more escalation of the conflict. Iraq has consequently become an open political space for contestation between weak and divided political and security figures and the Iraqi population.

Now, will the protesters’ claims be heard? Iraq is trying to get onto a path of stability but protests will not end while the root cause of the problem – unwanted and fragmented government and security forces – is still in place. There needs to be a strengthened and more unified national movement that removes the current political system and re-builds one that truly responds to the Iraqis´ basic needs. Although this will be a long process, it is not impossible and has to be urgently pushed for.