Post #6

Linda Polman brings up multiple flaws of Non-Governmental organizations (NGO’s) in her book The Crisis Caravan.  Some of the main ones are the absence of rules, regulation and governance in humanitarian aid.  There is a rather wide and free market type of thinking amongst these organizations where there’s a lot of reliance of personal judgement, which many times is not helpful.

In Chapter 3, she discusses about “My Own NGOs” or MONGOs for short.  The talks about how MONGOS often have lack of knowledge and experience.  Henri Dunant was one of the first people to establish a professional humanitarian aid organization, which is the Red Cross.

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Henri Dunant, the founder of the Red Cross.

“Whoever feels like it can establish an organization and start collecting money”

Though the Red Cross is a large and successful NGO, NGO’s still function in a free market world and Polman argues how that can be very problematic.  One of the issues brought up is how many NGO’s have good intentions but end up being more of an annoyance.  A lot of the supplies brought overseas are full of defective or broken equipment and drugs that are often expired.  Clothes is also another problem as theres many places where a surplus clothes is shipped to that much of the clothes is thrown away.  Shipping is a huge cost and theres a huge inefficiency when a lot of the goods being shipped are completely unusable.

Another example of the consequences of this free market of NGOs is that there are huge and disastrous mistakes that are made by large NGOs.  Such as when the European Commission sent supplies of food that contained radioactive contamination.

“Whenever aid organizations appear, local political, military, and business leaders suddenly start driving around in expensive cars and building splendid houses”

Polman says, “There’s no rules, no limits, and no requirement to have any understanding for the local balance of power or to coordinate with other parties involved.”  This is huge issue as there are many times where NGOs are actually giving money to troops or the government.  Polman recounts the time where she had to pay a fee to enter a warzone.  This is not uncommon as there are many warlords who require a fee or some percentage of the NGOs income to enter the war zone and help aid war victims.

The reason why there is no regulation in war zones is because after wars there is no chance of fair competition as explained by Polman.  It will take years for a peace accords to be written and because there is usually no government in place, there is no regulation leaving the international NGOs (INGO) to be freely controlled by the warlords and commanders that are still in power.

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A photo of Tamil Tiger rebels that Caritas had to pay a large sum of many to in order to provide aid to the victims of the war.

In Northern Sri Lanka, it would have been nearly impossible to provide aid and help with reconstruction if they did not negotiate with the rebels, the Tamil Tigers.  The humanitarian aid organization Caritas had to set up in their territories and paid a large sum of money to the Tigers.  This is problematic as Tigers are seen as a terrorist group by many Western countries.  Caritas justified their negotiations with the Tiger by saying that they were able to aid the people in need even though they are financing the Tigers.

This is an issue between saying no and doing nothing or trying to help but knowing that there is possibly more harm caused.  Polman explicitly states that she does not offer a solution but there needs to be an option to say no.  She wants to make sure that the system itself needs to be criticized and there needs to be some sort of regulation on top of a free market.  There is the question of whether or not the balance of aid is outweighing the negative and harm.  The question of when does humanitarian aid “cease to be ethical.”

NGOs and other aid organizations are often put under a veil of innocences and heroism.  That is why Polman describes them as businesses dressed up as Mother Teresa.  Businesses are seen as independently own and only for profit, which is really apparent in many NGOs and INGOs.  Because they are independently owned and non-government regulated, there is no rules for what they can or cannot do.  The reason they are described as dressing up as “Mother Teresa” is because they are in a disguise of being aid and humanitarian organization.  This means that the media automatically assumes that there are absolutely no flaws in these organizations when in reality there is many flaws that need to be address.

What Polman is calling for is for journalists, the public and governments to not solely rely on the free market world of the NGOs because there needs to be regulation and there needs to be criticism.  There is a huge lack of criticism because of the stereotype that NGOs are 100% dedicating their time for good when they could very well be causing more harm.  Journalists need to report and investigate a lot more on the actions of aid organizations.  The public needs to be able to start an outcry and start a movement if necessary so the government should hopefully create regulations and laws that will indirectly make sure that NGOs (though ironic now) will actually be aiding instead of harming.

 

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Blog #6

The major concerns Linda Polman raises in her book, The Crisis Caravan, are the lack of regulation and standardization of humanitarian aid and a free market mindset amongst humanitarian organizations.

Currently, international law and enforcement of humanitarian standards is sparse. The international Committee of the Red Cross spells out international humanitarian law as applicable only for armed conflict by protecting those who are not participating in the conflict as well as restricting warfare from superfluous injury and indiscriminately killing others. This international humanitarian law is established in the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and further built upon in other agreements in the international community like Protocols of 1977 and the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. Despite many agreements of countries and states, there is little compliance to the international humanitarian law as there is little discipline for those who violate the law.

Polman’s book confirms that there is little standardization and governing of humanitarian organizations around the world. Through research, I have found many entities that allow for aid firms to voluntarily commit to a standard of humanitarian principles without discipline like the CHS Alliance. This is a consultative agency that enforces the Core Humanitarian Standard which are 9 guidelines for humanitarian organizations to follow to increase accountability and transparency with its constituents. Membership and certification in CHS is voluntary and not mandatory of aid organizations. When its members do not follow the 9 guidelines, the organization must submit actionable ways it will move towards reaching the CHS commitments or its certification will be lost.

“The CHS can be used by communities and people affected by crisis as a guideline for what to expect from those organisations committed to implementing the CHS. Through this, organisations can be held to account directly by the people they seek to serve.” 

The CHS Alliance is a small step towards a higher governing body for aid organizations. There are other governing bodies like UN’s financial tracking service that tracks reported money donated to fund specific response plans throughout the world or the International Aid Transparency Initiative that provides voluntary data of humanitarian resource use across the world. These organizations are reporting the money flow of donations used by aid organizations, but none truly regulate how these resources are used in crisis areas.

One organization, Caritas Australia, is working in Papua New Guinea on 11 projects dealing with education, community empowerment and health issues like HIV/AIDS. It is a signatory to the ACFID Code of Conduct, the Australian Council for International Development.

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Everyone is encouraged to discuss issues in the community–PNG Banz Community Conversation Program with Caritas Australia

This is an example of a government regulating its humanitarian aid organizations. The compliance of the code is voluntary and specifies standards for accountability and transparency. Compliance is regulated through annual financial reports and self-assessments. Outside of this code, Caritas Australia is regulated by its own hierarchy. Is one code of conduct and self-regulation of entities like Caritas Australia enough? The answer is agreed by Polman with a resounding “No”.

The financial reporting of many aid organizations may not account for the food and money lost to warlords or other looting involved in the distribution of resources to a needy area. More in-depth reporting to a higher agency and in depth questioning of humanitarian organizations is needed to keep service standards high for crisis management around the world.

Journalists, the public, and governments as Polman argues need to find out if aid firms are truly using the resources for the intended purpose. Journalists need to interrogate organizations exact details of the purpose and how much warlords are benefiting from the humanitarian help. In fact, donating money to these organizations must be informed and purposeful to keep resources going to the people who need them. With the help of smaller governing entities like the CHS Alliance or the ACFID Code of Conduct and financial transparency firms like the International Aid Transparency Initiative, humanitarian organizations can be slightly regulated and held accountable for their work.

Although there is still a lot more regulation to be done, aid organizations around the world still need to help needy people. Humanitarian aid should not be stopped despite possible exploitation by warring parties or profit seekers. In Papua New Guinea, the work of the Banz Community Conversation program has  reduced violence and helped increase HIV awareness and understanding among the people of the Jiwaka Province through Caritas Australia. Overall, there needs to be discretionary donating and movements towards higher humanitarian regulation to create a better impact on crisis areas and developing countries like Papua New Guinea. 

Post #5 Australia

The environmental movement in Australia began as a conservation movement and was the first in the world to become a political movement.  Australia was home to the world’s first Green party.

The normal and typical environmental movement is represented by a vast array of organizations.  The organizations are sometimes referred to as non-governmental organizations.  These organizations exist on international all the way down to local levels.  Environmental non-governmental organizations (NGO) show many different outlooks and political views and the amount they seek to influence environmental policy in Australia and elsewhere.  The environmental movement today in Australia consists of national and many small local groups with more localized concerns.  There are also 5,000 Landcare groups in six states and two mainland territories.

The normal environmental movement is represented by a wide range of organizations sometimes called non-governmental organizations. These organizations exist on local, national, and international scales. Environmental NGOs vary widely in political views and in the amount they seek to influence environmental policy in Australia and elsewhere. The environmental movement today consists of both large national groups and also many smaller local groups with local concerns. There are also 5,000 Landcare groups in the six states and two mainland territories.

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The Landcare logo and hand sign as demonstrated.  (Source: Landcare Australia)

 

Landcare brings together groups of people who share a common problem and usually live in the same catchment. A catchment is an area that collects and directs water to a common point. By working together in a catchment, land degradation problems can be addressed successfully.

Australia has their own branch of government dedicated to bettering environmental issues called the Department of Environment and Energy.  Their website states that, “The Department designs and implements the Australian Government’s policies and programmes to protect and conserve the environment, water and heritage and promote climate action. The environmental framework is being delivered under four pillars: Clean air, clean land, clean water and national heritage.”

There is also a Australian Human Rights Commission that funded by the government but works independently.  They hope to lead to the promotion of human rights in Australia and hopefully spread internationally as well.

In recent news for the Australian HRC, the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council adopted its annual resolution on “National institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights.”  Adopted on September 29th, Australia sponsored the resolution and 62 UN members also co-sponsored the resolution as well.

In general, the Human Rights Council resolution aims to provide National institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights.

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The entrance to the Australian Human Rights Commission Headquarters.  (Source: Australian Human Rights Commission) 

The Australian Human Rights Commission applauds and approves of Australia for sponsoring this resolution annually at the HRC.  The commission also appreciates the continued support for national human rights institutions (NHRIs).  The current Human Rights Council resolution included participation and contribution from the NHRIs to all relevant UN system.  The Commission included their input on issues such as the Status of Women, the Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Person with Disabilities and the Open-ended Working Group on Aging.

The resolution also paves way for the Merida Declaration and the role of NHRIs in implementing and further pushing for progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The inclusion of national human rights institutions helps bring more voices into power as what Farish Noor calls for in “Beyond Eurocentrism.”  Noor talks about there being a huge vast array of culture and diversities and there needs to be more of an exchange of ideas and thoughts and input.  This is especially important for Australia as they are extremely diverse with many different cultures and being one of the most diverse countries in the world.  The human rights commission in Australia is fighting for everyones voices to be heard and for equality for all voices.  This is what Noor would like to see in the world as well as he states, “There is no reason to believe that one of these perspectives is essentially better or more accurate than the other,” (70).

Human rights and climate change then eventually become overlapping issues and they are issues that usually are not addressed together but definitely have a relationship.  For example, climate change could be a reason that there are more displaced people around the world.  There could potentially be 50 to 200 million people being displaced from their homes and creating more international refugees by the year 2100.

There are many courtires where climate change effects have a huge influence on economic, social and political conflict.  These effects include water scarcity, loss of arable land, extreme weather events, shortened growing seasons, and melting glaciers.

Development is hindered by climate change given that many of the world’s poorest citizens depend directly on the environment for all or part of their daily livelihoods, many international development agencies see climate change and development as linked.

 

The Australian Human Rights Commission website provides a report that details the relationship between human rights and climate change.

 

 

Blog #5

Papua New Guinea has been moderated by the United Nations for environmental issues and human rights issues. Over the course of recent years, PNG has passed many laws pertaining to protecting people’s rights like the Family Protection Act that outlays penalties for domestic violence and gives help to victims. Yet, these laws have not been implemented in PNG. In the article, “Papua New Guinea: Address Abuses at UN”, Human Rights Watch concedes that

“PNG should also make concrete commitments to address other serious human rights issues highlighted in Human Rights Watch’s submission to the UPR [Universal Periodic Review], including police abuses, violations of women’s and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights, the death penalty, extractive industries, and disability rights” 

Upon the Universal Periodic Review that reviews Papua New Guinea’s efforts to increase human rights over a multitude of issues earlier this year in May, PNG fell short of expectations as Elaine Pearson, the Australia director at Human Rights Watch commented,

“Over the last four years, we’ve seen no practical improvement in justice for violence against women,” Pearson said. “Countries need to press PNG to decriminalize abortion and implement the Family Protection Act without delay.” 

This Western standard of human rights reflects Farish Noor’s eurocentrism. The challenge of enforcing global human rights as the UN ultimately tries to do like promoting gender equality and freedom of expression is according to Noor in “Beyond Eurocentrism”, the gap of inequality between the Western and Eastern cultures. One is well off compared to the other, which brings a gap of understanding of cultural implications. With a history of the Western world colonizing other countries and indigenous societies, it is easy and natural for Western cultures to view their ideals as dominant towards other cultures. The eurocentrism mindset speaks into how world leaders at the UN attempt to govern countries like PNG that has not progressed to acceptable Western human rights standards. Yet, the true issue here is the enforcement of global human rights that are enforceable for all societies. This one-size fits all standard is a huge obstacle for differing cultures and values and can easily fall into ethnocentrism.

To balance the enforcement of global human rights and cultural values, cultural human rights philosophies and values should be revived as Noor argues, but these cultural values must be understood and leveraged by local and world leaders trying to enforce greater human rights. Instead of a passive understanding of another’s culture, one should dive into those values and relate them to the attempted global standard of human rights.

The culture and religion of Papua New Guinea is a mixture of Western and indigenous ideals that often are enacted side-by-side. Most PNG citizens identify their faith as Christianity which was introduced by missionaries to PNG in the 1700-1800s. These Christian beliefs are often enacted along with traditions rooted in indigenous belief systems like animism and totemism. Animism is the belief that all animals and living things have a soul like humans and ought to be respected as such. These spirits are to be pacified and respected through rituals and taking care of the environment. Other people of PNG who live in the forest usually have cultures rooted in totemism, in which an animal or plant is holy and revered. The totem, highly special animal or plant, is the glue that holds the people of the forest together as a civilization. The totem is not worshipped as a god but is used in traditions and can be a way for people to connect with their environment.

With these indigenous beliefs comes traditions and practices that are outlandish to the Western viewpoint: witch hunting. In PNG, witchcraft is widely believed and feared. When a someone dies like a child, sometimes the agreed upon cause by the tribe is a witch. A witch must have cast a spell or taken the heart of the person, and the tribe must find this perpetrator and bring her to justice. In modern times, witch hunting has metastasized in PNG especially in remote areas like the Highlands. The prone nature towards violence and inequality of women are a few affecting factors for the witch hunts. While the UN tries to regulate this violence through meetings with the PNG government and laws, a local woman in PNG is working against these frequent witch hunts by protecting accused witches and hiding them. 

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Monica Paulus hides accused witches in Papua New Guinea

Acts like these on the domestic level are essential to grow human rights in a society. Change must happen within PNG before governmental regulation will make a huge difference.

In the end, cultural understanding, empathy and action within a country combined with global standards and regulation help enforce human rights.

Post #4 Australia

Earth is currently the only planet in existence with life and it has been thriving with life for possibly back to 4 billion years ago.  Unfortunately, the human race has only existed for about 200,000 yrs of that time and within the last few centuries we have managed to put the entire world in peril.  Human activity is really the only reason that global warming, over population, deforestation, pollution and many other environmental problems with the world.  The human race may be the most intelligent species on Earth but it also has managed to be the species that put the world on the brink of destruction.  I personally think that environmental issues should be the world’s top issue right now as that is the definitely the most imminent danger that every living thing is facing right now.  Many nations are only finding solutions for the short-term but this is completely ignoring the longevity the planet that we all live on.  It is very discouraging to see many world leaders (and even a United States presidential candidate) dismiss and completely ignore these extreme danger that the world is in.

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The Climate of Australia (Source: Wikipedia)

Australia faces many environmental problems and climate issues as well as it is not an exception to the contribution to the destruction of the world.  The World Wide Fund (WWF) has listed many of the environmental problems in Australia.  Some of the issues include:

Deforestation is when forests are teared down and cut down to make more land for farming.  When forests are cut, the salinity of the soil can greatly increase. Salinity is the amount of salt in water.  The saline water draining from these certain areas can affect downstream or flow of water down.  There is an estimation that around seven percent of the agricultural area of western Australia is suffering from this problem following deforestation.

A few studies in Australia’s wet tropics show that soils have partially prevented recovery from deforestation. This makes deforestation much more costly.  Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) estimates that land degradation costs about $1 billion annually.
Agriculture clearing and over grazing is clearing activities for agricultural land.  Around 13 percent of Australia’s original vegetation has been removed since European settlement.  Overgrazing is one of the primary causes of problems on biodiversity in Australia. Grazing and other agricultural attempts at improvement have merely changed the vast areas of grasslands and open grassy woodlands. In temperate ecosystems, about 2 precent of the original grasslands only remain.  Moreover, overgrazing promotes desertification and erosion, and is also seen as one cause of the spread of invasive plants.
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Australian grassland (Source: Geoff Park)
Overfishing has decreased part of Australia’s fish population to very record low levels. Two major factors account for this problem are the fact that some areas have low biological productivity , along intensive fishing efforts by commercial and recreational fisheries.  This prevents the fish from reproducing as a normal rate.  In 2005, about 20 percent of species that were observed and assessed in Australian waters were classified as overfished. Species that are currently still subjected to overfishing and are overfished include the southern bluefin tuna; blue warehou; silver trevally; orange roughy; and bigeye tuna in the Pacific and Indian Oceans beyond the Australian Fishing Zone.
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Warm-water fish around Australia are moving southward to colonize the cool, temperate waters other Tasman Sea. (Source: Naharnet)

Illegal fishing is another factor that places further pressure on some species.  Fishes such as the patagonian toothfish in the Southern Ocean and sharks in northern Australian waters are now potentially endangered.

It is estimated that Australia gains around 20 new pests or diseases each year. Some well-known examples include cane toads, rabbits, willows and, more recently, black striped mussels and red fire ants. Historically, feral cats, foxes and rabbits have been a cause of local extinctions and significant reductions in range for native species through a combination of habitat modification and predation. They are a major ongoing problem.
Of continuing concern for Australia’s is continued population growth along the coastline. The formation of massive metropolitan centers with increasing population density on Australia’s coasts could possibly displace much valuable biodiversity and ‘high-value’ agricultural land.
There are many different organizations that address issues that were mentioned and many others not mentioned.  There are over 60 organizations in Australia that are Australia based and do not include the international.  Today, I will focus one locally based group, the Australian Environment Foundation (AEF).
AEF’s website states that they are “a not-for-profit, membership-based environmental organization having no political affiliation.  [AEF] takes an evidence-based, solution focused approach to environmental issues.”They have recently written an article about International Policy developments.  The discuss how the Obama administration along with others are pushing for less carbon emissions.

There are other groups such as the Australian Conservation Foundation where their goal is for ecological sustainability.

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ACF protesting for their cause.  (Source: ACF)

 

Blog Post #4

The earth is more than an environment we live in, it defines aspects of our culture, identities, and relationships. The greater meaning of Earth gives voice to an intrinsic responsibility to preserve and protect our world from future destruction. While it may be hard to realize climate change in developed countries from a more distant relationship with the environment, those of developing countries who depend on the land for life are hyper aware of global warming and other issues in climate change. The gap between experiencing and understanding climate change is a huge issue for many across the globe today. Western countries are generally more industrialized and commercialized therefore disconnected from experiencing climate change on a person level in nature. Yet, developing countries like Papua New Guinea whom depend on natural resources for survival are all too aware of the deadly implications of climate change. This gap does not discredit moral obligations to take care of the environment; it merely identifies areas of deficiencies. The intrinsic moral responsibility to care for the earth is not enough to take action. Instead, this obligation coupled with our dependency on nature for sustainable life creates the motivator for action. For example, staple food items like the taro root and banana for Pacific islanders are core parts of their culture intertwining nature with the daily life of a farmer, mother, or islander.

“In 2009, some residents of the Carteret Islands 80km off Bougainville became the first climate refugees following years of worsening storm surges and king tides” 

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The Carteret Islands

As sea levels rise, Papua New Guinean islands like the Carteret Islands are hit hard by the pollution of crops and water via ocean waters. Worsening storms and king tides lend to infected water supplies from flooding. Over time, the staple foods and traditional actions or rituals associated with the harvesting, cooking, and consumption of those items are diminished as the food disappears from climate change. Other aspects of the culture change when rising sea levels sink houses, ruin gathering places, and force people to leave their homeland. The climate refugees of the Carteret Islands fled in 2009 to another area of PNG, the island of Bougainville. With a new environment came new ways of life and a change of culture. The integration of nature and culture along with the intrinsic moral obligation to protect the environment give motivation to take action against the depletion of the earth.

Nowadays, there are more environmental organizations distributed across the globe. In Papua New Guinea, the 350 PNG is a youth climate organization that aims to educate the youth of PNG about the effects of climate change. Originally created through Youth Against Corruption Association in 2013, 350 PNG is working to have one voice through youth in businesses, politicians, government, and many other organizations to fight climate change. 350 PNG is fighting rising sea levels increasing “at a rate more than double the global average, at 7mm per year”, increasing average temperature, acidic oceans, infrequent, intense storms, extreme rainfall, and climate refugees. Amid these environmental issues, PNG is degrading its natural resources through deforestation. The WWF, World Wide Fund for Nature, is one of the world’s largest conservation organizations involved in the deforestation issue in PNG with an office in Port Moresby called, “Western Melanesia Programme Office”. With over 70 percent of the island made up of forests, over 2 percent has been felled due to deforestation via logging, hunting, grazing, firewood collection, and monoculture plantations, the growth of one crop on a tract of land often demanding a lot of space and forestry.

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Papua New Guinea as a country of huge biodiversity is the home of the Eastern Long Beaked Echidna 

The immense biodiversity of the country is depleted by the loss of natural habitats. Other effects of deforestation includes a loss of biodiversity, modified climate, and the loss of water cycling. As fewer trees populate the island, “less carbon dioxide is absorbed by trees, which accumulates in the atmosphere as a result of pollution. At the same time, there may be an increased presence of CO2 if trees  are being burnt”  Without as many trees, the water cycle may be effected since trees help reduce water pollution, increase evapotranspiration, the amount of water returned to the atmosphere, and combats erosion.

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PNG also houses the Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroo 

All of these environmental changes are working to create a different world than the one today. This change will perpetrate if not already everyday life through different food staples, gathering places, transportation methods, and many other aspects of culture. The only way to minimize environmental change and preserve our livelihoods is to take action.