Friday, December 01, 2006

Human Rights Blogging: A Concluding Assessment

In all honesty, blogging was the last thing that I expected to associate with a mandatory writing class, ergo, I was skeptical. However, I found that I was pleasantly surprised by the overall blogger experience. I have to say that I really enjoyed being able to write to my little heart’s content on human rights issues around the world. I really appreciated the freedom that this class provided, being able to bring the subjects of my choice to the learning environment. My blog contains analyses of many topics within the filed of human rights, whether they are situations around the world, websites that promote knowledge of world events, and people I admire for sharing my same concerns.

Being as all of my work was going to be publicly available, I found myself pressured to really dig deep and find topics that were thought-provoking and controversial. As a blogger, I thought that one of my strengths was my willingness to tackle difficult subjects such as Darfur, secret CIA prisons, and human rights abuses in Jakarta. The knowledge that these writings were going to be posted on the internet, and being scrutinized by people other than my professor, provided me with more motivation to really sit down and think about the positions I was choosing to take. I think that one of the things I did well was do extensive research before formulating a thesis. I found that I was able to bring a lot of my academic experiences to the table, forming decisive opinions on each of the topics on which I wrote.

I did have some weaknesses throughout these projects, though, largely do to the fact that I was left to my own devices in choosing a topic. I find that a lot of the time, I’d get carried away with voicing my opinions and recommendations on particular topics, and forget that I was writing a formal paper. I had a lot of problems with using casual language, which is a habit that I know I need to break. I can always improve on my research methods and display of evidence; I need to continue branching out in my search for sources, and include more direct quotes in my writing. This class helped me to learn that, despite the amount of writing that I do as an International Relations major, I still have a lot of weaknesses that I need to work on before I can really succeed.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Nancy Pelosi: A Role Model For All

Congressional expert Norman Ornstein has called her “one of the most savvy political leaders around.” Congressional Quarterly has stated that “over the past half-century, Democrats in the House have never been more unified” than they have been under her remarkable leadership. These are only a few ways in which Nancy Pelosi is changing the face of Congress. During nineteen years representing San Francisco in the House of Representatives, she has worked her way up the ladder in Congress, and was overwhelmingly elected as Minority Leader in Congress in 2002, making her the first woman in American history to be the leader of a major party in Congress. She has used her position of power to promote equal opportunity in education, human rights, AIDS research and respect for social security, and has drafted a New Direction for America, which will be enacted within the first 100 hours if the next election permits her to become the Speaker of the House. She has accomplished all of these things in addition to being a devoted wife, and raising a family of five. Her generosity of spirit, her dedication to public service, and her well-rounded character have led me to believe that conferring the 2007 Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters to Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi would display to the world the high standards and ethics held by the University of Southern California.

The first line of the University of Southern California’s Code of Ethics says that "At the University of Southern California, ethical behavior is predicated on two main pillars: a commitment to discharging our obligations to others in a fair and honest manner, and a commitment to respecting the rights and dignity of all persons." Nancy Pelosi, the current pillar of the Democratic Party, embodies the description of ethical behavior that is written here. She earned her position on merit and skill alone, working her way up to her leadership position from the very bottom. Though her father and her brother, Thomas D’Alesandro II and III, both served as the Mayor of Baltimore, where she was born, she did not enter the world of politics until after her five children were in school. She married Paul Pelosi, a native of San Francisco, where she lived and raised her family after their union. She began her political career as a volunteer for the Democratic Party. After proving herself as a dedicated and efficient Democrat, she became the State and Northern Chair of the Democratic Party, Chair of the 1984 Democratic Convention Host Committee, and the finance chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. After her children had grown up, she ran and was elected as a Democrat to the One Hundredth Congress to fill the vacancy that was made after the death of United States Representative Sala Burton in 1987. Since then, Nancy Pelosi has been re-elected to nine Congresses, resulting in nineteen years of extraordinary service to the House of Representatives. Before being elected as Minority Leader in 2002, she served as the Minority Whip.

Nancy Pelosi is also unafraid to fight for the issues that she believes to be important, even if they are ideas that might be unpopular among many of her colleagues. According to James Freedman in his book, Liberal Education and the Public Interest, the conferral of honorary degrees is “an opportunity to emphasize an institution’s values…a university makes an explicit statement to its students and the world about the qualities of character and attainment it admires most” (117). Awarding an Honorary Degree to Nancy Pelosi would be a perfect opportunity for the University of Southern California to prove its support for an increase in human rights worldwide. In her New Direction For America book, Nancy Pelosi suggests a remarkable idea; the prohibition of a Congressional pay raise until the nation’s minimum wage is raised. Pelosi is willing to prevent any further personal financial gain until the means to improve a standard of living for the rest of Americans is provided through the increase of the nation-wide minimum wage requirement. Her New Direction For America also includes a section entitled, "Six for '06", which are all things that she is urging Congress to achieve before this year is done. These six items include transforming failed U.S. foreign policies that have been implemented around the world, raising the nation's minimum wage, making college tuition tax deductible, decreasing U.S. dependence on foreign oil through the use of alternative fuels, negotiating lower drug prices for seniors with Medicare, and stopping any plans to privatize social security.

In Mike Martin’s book, Meaningful Work: Rethinking Professional Ethics, he describes the worldview of Albert Schweitzer pertaining to professional work: “Schweitzer regarded his work as worthwhile beyond the paycheck it provided, as meaningful in terms of his ideals of caring for clients, colleagues, and the wider community” (16). Martin also says that “a life is more than outward events, as we understand persons only when we grasp the value commitments embedded in their motives, character and worldview” (16). Nancy Pelosi fulfills these concepts in both her intentions for improvements in the realm of human rights, and in the progress that she has already accomplished in the field. She has demonstrated incredible dedication to increasing care for those suffering from AIDS, being as one of her first legislative victories was the creation of the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS program. She is an avid advocate of the development of an HIV vaccine, of expanding Medicaid for those living with the virus, and increasing funding for the Minority HIV/AIDS Initiative. These measures add to her numerous qualifications as a candidate for an Honorary Degree from USC, being as one of the purposes of the Honorary Degree system is to "to recognize exceptional acts of philanthropy to the university and/or on the national or world scene".

At great risk to her political popularity, she has been vocal about improving China’s human rights record. China is a key player in the U.S. global trade strategy, and is a very large buyer of U.S. goods; China-U.S. trade rose to $231 billion in 2004, making China the third-largest U.S. trading partner. In Mike Martin's book, he quotes Adam Smith, who proclaimed that "The wise and virtuous (w0)man is at all times willing that his own private interest should be sacrificed to the public interest of his (her) own particular order or society" (13). Despite the fact that it would be in America’s self-interest to leave trade with China as it is, Nancy Pelosi is attempting to tie trade with an increased human rights standard in order to improve the quality of life within our global society. In addition, she has spoken out against the suppression of minority voting rights, inequality in the workplace for disabled persons, and the most recent signing of the Military Commissions Act by President Bush, stating that the bill would “weaken the international legal standards that have protected our troops for decades”. She has no qualms about using her authority to speak out against any U.S. measure or activity that she feels would cause harm to any member of the global community. Her colleagues, however, recognize that she has many challenges in front of her. Though she has announced many plans to try and make policy improvements, her colleagues have expressed some concerns. According to an article in The Washington Post by E.J. Dionne, some hurdles that lay before her include uniting the Young Turks, keeping all efforts to improve policy bi-partisan, and uniting the older and younger members of Congress. Though she has made lots of plans, there are still a number of issues that Pelosi will have to address in the near future.

In the University of Southern California’s Code of Ethics, it is written that “We have a familial duty as well as a fiduciary duty to one another”. I believe that this statement refers to all future generations, as well as those of us living in the present. Nancy Pelosi is doing her part to ensure the well being of future generations by being a vocal environmentalist. She recognizes that the environmental damages that we inflict upon our world today may not be hazardous to us now, but they might prove to be harmful for those born in the future. Case in point: global warming. In her New Direction For America, she proposes an idea that would both free the United States from dependence on foreign oil, while simultaneously cutting down on dangerous emissions into the atmosphere by increasing research for energy-efficient technologies, and ending tax breaks to Big Oil companies. Her advocacy of a cleaner environment, and therefore a safer environment for the future, does not stop at the domestic front. Nancy Pelosi secured the passage of the International Development and Finance Act of 1989, which requires the World Bank and all regional development banks to review the potential environmental consequences of all development projects that they decide to fund, and to make these findings public. This piece of legislature is now called “The Pelosi Amendment”. Furthering her fight for a better world for future generations is her proposal to make college tuition tax-deductible, cut student loan interest rates, and expand Pell Grants. She wants to ensure a higher level of education to more students, so that fewer young people are hindered in their ability to succeed due to a lack of a college degree. She exemplifies the qualities that Freedman looks for in an honorary degree candidate; "...Intellectual distinction and public celebrate distinguished and sublime achievement" (118). "Fear is not a word that is in my vocabulary or my mentality," says the incoming Speaker of the House. Nancy Pelosi is working to help everyone, taking into account the impacts of our actions today on those who will feel them in the future.

It is easily understood that conferring an Honorary Degree to someone so obviously partial to a political party might be considered controversial, especially since last year’s recipient, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, is also a Democrat. John O. Freedman, for example, makes mention in his book some controversy regarding Brandeis University’s awarding of honorary degrees to every Israeli Prime Minister elected to the Labor Party, but none to the Likud(120). Republican Congressmembers fear that Pelosi is excessively liberal, according to a Fox News election article; "Pelosi is a liberal who represents one of the most left-leaning districts of San Francisco. Republicans had tried to use that against her. In races around the country, GOP partisans said the possibility of a"Speaker Pelosi"was reason enough to keep the House in Republican hands". Outspoken conservatives such as Bill O'Reilly associate Pelosi with what he calls "San Francisco Values", which, according to him, are anti-military and anti-Christian.

However, despite Nancy Pelosi’s very public status as a Democrat and a liberal, she is a role model for every student at USC, regardless of political preference. For women, she is making history. I had the honor of meeting her, as I volunteered at a campaign event for her during the month of October this year. She recalled her first meeting with President George W. Bush as Minority Leader, and said that she remembers realizing that not only was this her first meeting as Minority Leader, but that she was the first woman to ever meet with the President as the leader of a major party in Congress. She conveyed to all the women in the audience that they could have it all: be a wife, a mother, and an incredibly accomplished political leader.

The conferral of Honorary Degrees by the University of Southern California is meant to "to honor individuals who have distinguished themselves through extraordinary achievements in scholarship, the professions, or other creative activities, whether or not they are widely known by the general public". Nancy Pelosi, most likely the new Speaker of the House, has certainly distinguished herself within the political arena. She, along with the other remarkable female politicians in the House and Senate, is doing away with all stereotypes pertaining to the existence of a weaker sex. She is living proof to all that hard work can pay off, being as she worked for twenty-six years to gain her political authority, starting as a volunteer and eventually leading the Democrats in the House of Representatives. For all aspiring leaders, men and women, she is an ideal role model. Under her leadership, the Democrats have voted together 88% percent of the time. This is a record-breaking statistic, and an accomplishment that she achieved through the “restoration of integrity, civility, and fiscal soundness to the House of Representatives while using commonsense principles to address the aspirations and fulfill the hopes and dreams of all Americans”. As the probable new Speaker of the House, Pelosi states that "Democrats are ready to lead, prepared to govern, and looking forward to working in a bipartisan way with the Republicans in Congress and with the president of the United States". According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle written by Marc Sandalow, "Many Republicans grudgingly admit that Pelosi has been far more pragmatic than they first imagined, keeping her liberalism from becoming a central issue and staying away from conservative districts where her presence might have been used against Democratic candidates." These, contrary to the opinions of many of her critics, are the San Francisco Values that Nancy Pelosi has brought to the table.

Freedman states that "Public officials who have a moral dimension to their character are especially prized because they are thought likely to use the occasion of being a commencement speaker to make an important public pronouncement" (126). I could guarantee that she would be an animated, profound and inspirational speaker. I have cause to believe that she would speak about the importance of balance in one's life, accentuating the possibility of having both a family and a successful career. More importantly, she would discuss the importance of working hard to gain what one wants, while still having faith in idealism. She has managed to be a successful politician, and has maintained her popularity through her promotion of equality, human rights, and environmental improvement, which are all subjects that many Congressmembers do not mention. She would say that one does not have to sacrifice morals and ideals in order to be successful, a message that would ring loud and true being as she has managed to keep her own idealism throughout her political career.

Nancy Pelosi is thoroughly qualified to receive an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of California because of her exhibition of character. In Martin's book, he states that "even though personal ideals are focused outwardly on public goods, the allude to ideals of character. Sincere commitment to improving community safety, alleviating suffering, pursuing justice, or promoting informed citizenry implies implies affirming the virtues of caring, compassion, justice and rationality" (21). Nancy Pelosi’s exceptional personality traits translate universally. Her integrity, honesty, and courage are admirable not only to aspiring politicians or women, but are characteristics that everyone should strive for. By acknowledging a leader who has successfully achieved her position of power through twenty-six years of honest hard work, the University of Southern California would be expressing its advocacy of those who do not cheat their way to the top. By honoring an individual who always fights for what she believes in, efficiently leads a group to record-breaking unity, and makes enormous progress on ideas that would work to benefit the future and those who are presently in need, the University of Southern California would be saying to the world that it upholds and admires all of these characteristics, and wishes to instill them in the members of the Trojan Family.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Carnegie Endowment Website: An Analysis

The web is a remarkable development. Just the touch of a button or a click of a mouse can open up a world of opportunities in entertainment, communication, history, and current events. The internet is an excellent way for the average American to be informed about what is going on around the world today. Having knowledge about the international community is increasingly vital, because globalization has made the happenings within all nations interconnected. However, the amount of information on the web can be intimidating for the everyday internet surfer. Therefore, it is important that the web contains sites that offer information about current events worldwide, and present it in ways that are both easy to understand and digest. Fortunately, I found a site that meets this criteria. I found the Carnegie Endowment website through the Web Awards site, which had awarded Matrix Group International, creators of the site, a Standard of Excellence Award in 2005.

Endowment was started by Andrew Carnegie in 1910, who was a fervent supporter of world peace. Since its establishment, the Carnegie Endowment has been a leader in research and public education on many subjects pertaining to the progress of world peace, and has been the inspiration behind the establishment of similar think tanks throughout the 20th century. As an international relations major, much of the information I use for research comes from various think tanks, so I was thrilled to see that the Carnegie Foundation, one of the founding fathers of think tanks, was one of the recipients of a Web Award. The Carnegie Endowment is an institution devoted to analyzing important current issues, and keeping the public informed. The topics covered on this website is essential not only to academics, but for anyone who wants to understand the happenings within our world. The Carnegie Endowment offers intelligent analyses and commentary on many hot-button issues that everyone should keep up with in order to keep moving at the pace of the ever-evolving international community, of which we are all a member.

However, the Carnegie Endowment website appears to be geared towards academics with an already existing motivation to stay informed. It presents its information in a very logical, analytical fashion that lacks an emotional element, which is key for peaking the interest of those who are not already informed. It is most important that information sites such as the Carnegie page be appealing to the Americans who are not driven to educate themselves about international and domestic affairs, because there are an alarming number of uninformed Americans all over the country who cannot even locate Iraq on a map of the world. The Carnegie page should focus less on appealing to academics, and more on catching and keeping the interest of Americans who do not have the desire to be knowledgeable about international affairs. Our world today, much like the world wide web, is interconnected on multiple levels.

The Carnegie website offers an extensive amount of information on all of its topics. This can be said for many websites within the same field. The element of the Endowment’s website that makes it different, however, is the way that this content is organized. When a website contains as much vital subject matter as the Endowment site, it is easy for the page to be designed in such a way that a visitor is inundated with information, becoming easily overwhelmed. This page, however, is very easy to digest. According the the Webby Awards judging criteria, "Good content should be engaging, relevant, and appropriate for the audience. You can tell it's been developed for the Web because it's clear and concise and it works in the medium." The Carnegie page definitely fulfills this requirement. It is both informative and well-structured. The home page offers a broad summary of the most recent stories in a handful of topic areas, divided into analysis and commentary. For example, the October 9th front page of the Carnegie Endowment site, there are analyses of Iraq intelligence reports, farm policies, and political reform. Also, there are staff-written individual interpretations of subjects such as post-9/11 relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Hamas victory in the most recent Palestinian election, and China's economic and security interests. This is all important and informative, but it is barely scratching the surface.
According to the Web Style Guide, the Carnegie page is organized in a hierarchical fashion, allowing the visitor to choose his or her own path starting from the home page. A visitor can browse the home page and get a brief taste on the latest happenings in many fields covered by the Endowment. For example, if a viewer were to hold the mouse over the word "Programs" at the top of the page, several options appear: Democracy, Rule and Law, China, Russia and Eurasia, Middle East, Non-Proliferation, South Asia, Trade, Equity and Devleopment, and the US Role in the World. If a visitor is particularly interested in a certain topic, he or she can visit that program’s section on the page. Here, a visitor can choose what kind of information he or she wishes to see on this topic, including analyses written by Carnegie staff, recent press releases, recent books published on the subject, relevant articles in publications such as the New York Times and Washington Post, and upcoming events that pertain to the subject matter. If one were to visit the Non-Proliferation page, one would find a statement from the President of North Korea issued directly from the White House, a variety of reports written about every weapon that has been discussed in the international arena, a map showing the locations of nuclear weapons arsenals, and a list of the most recent books written on the subject. A visitor to the Carnegie Endowment website is put in the driver’s seat, where he or she can choose how much information is presented, and which program it pertains to. In the Resources section, material is even divided into pages pertaining to information on media, policymakers, regions and even research topics. The Carnegie Endowment website’s main strength is the number of ways a visitor can search for the information that interests him or her without becoming flooded with material.

Adding to the page’s simplicity is its visual design. While it is not as flashy as some of the other sites I examined, I find that its understated visuals is what caused me to take it seriously. Bright colors, sound effects and flashy graphics are not appropriate in an academic field, and the presence of any of the aforementioned elements on a page containing so much information might have made me feel anxious. According to the Webby Awards criteria, "Good visual design is high quality, appropriate, and relevant for the audience and the message it is supporting." The Webby Awards criteria says that the visual experience should depend on the content of the page, and the audience to which it is directed. The Carnegie page matches seriousness of its content with a mature visual layout. The page has so much to offer, that any additional elements to its visual layout would result in a content overload. The Web Style Guide informs us that "The primary task of graphic design is to create a strong, consistent visual hierarchy in which important elements are emphasized and content is organized logically and predictably." The recurring color scheme of royal purple and beige is sophisticated, and doesn't distract a visitor from the information on the page, or make for an environment that is too busy or anxiety-inducing. The only permanent graphic that is not related to the stories on the page is a light beige map of the world in the upper left hand corner. The rest of the images are dependent on the story that the accompany, such as the picture of a Moroccan politician that is placed next to a story on Moroccan political reform.

The Carnegie Endowment itself is a credible institution with a reputation of intelligence that has been almost a century in the making. Members of the staff are professors at prestigious universities such as George Washington and Johns Hopkins, have written for prominent newspapers such as the New York Times and Washington Post, have served as representatives for the U.S. Secretary of State, and have even written bestselling books on the topic of international peace. Ergo, its staff of intellectuals and published authors deliver logical interpretations of current affairs to a relatively informed audience. This logical approach makes it an excellent research tool. In fact, further proving the idea that the website is geared towards academics, there is even a specific section of the site for visitors who are conducting research. Within this section of the site, there are links to the Endowment website’s sections on specific topics and regions. There is an extensive list of topics to choose from, ranging from refugees to democracy promotion or post-Soviet economies. This section also provides press releases, transcripts, and the latest book, newspaper, and academic journal publications pertaining to each topic. The "Post-Soviet Economies" section has publications such as statements made in front of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and radio transcripts from "All Things Considered" on National Public Radio. This was my favorite aspect of the overall experience, because I have found an excellent research tool that I will most likely use to find information in my field for the rest of my academic career.

While this website is an intellectual’s dream site, it is still not completely effective in the realm of informing the public as a whole. The page provides an extraordinary amount of information, but it is directed towards those who already have the drive to learn. There is nothing about the page or its content that would invoke the desire to become informed; there is the bare minimum of pathos. The page contains crucial material and interpretations of current events, therefore the page should inspire as many visitors as possible to stay and read the articles. An emotional link to the issues is what would encourage an average internet surfer to educate his or herself further on a particular subject. For example, in the China section of the Carnegie website, Albert Keidel analyzes the effects of China’s social unrest. While he discusses corruption and the failures of compensation for farmers, he only analyzes it as it pertains to the well-being of the international economic structure: "Increased social unrest could, nevertheless, undermine China’s leadership effectiveness, and Communist Party officials are raising alarms about national security risks." Here, Keidel recognizes that China's social unrest poses a problem for the nation, but does not discuss the effects on the Chinese population. The report could be improved by the inclusion of individual accounts from Chinese who have been personally affected by the recent violent standoffs between police and civilians. In order to attract and maintain the interest of the less educated sector of the public, the Carnegie Endowment page could benefit from more pathos. For instance, the page could offer a different article explaining the effect of social unrest on the Chinese people. Adding that touch of humanity and offering a more intimate connection to this issue is what would inspire the uninformed to care. This way, academics can still get logical information, and everyone else can find a way to be more aware of the issue via an emotional appeal.

The intricate interconnectedness of the international community is intimidating and confusing to those who have not been educated extensively on the subject. Therefore, I think that the page’s interactivity element could be greatly improved by a chat room or comment board. The interactivity factor of the Carnegie site is its weakness. According to the Webby Awards criteria, "Good interactivity is more than a rollover or choosing what to click on next; it allows you, as a user, to give and receive. It insists that you participate, not spectate." The Carnegie website offers little or no interactivity. There is so much information on controversial issues offered on this page, but there is not a forum for discussion or asking questions. For academics, a chat room or comment board would offer a forum for discussion and debate of different topics, allowing readers to express their opinions. For the visitors who are less knowledgeable, it would allow for a method of asking questions concerning certain topics or concepts. It surprises me that the website offers so much information, and nowhere for non-staff members to discuss it.
What the page does offer, however, are several ways for people to stay informed, through their several issue-specific newsletters. If someone were to find a program that particularly interested them, they could subscribe to an e-newsletter pertaining to that program’s subject matter alone (i.e. proliferation or Arab reform issues). There is of course a general Carnegie Endowment newsletter available as well, but the option of breaking down the newsletter information by issue is another aspect of this website that sets it apart from others in its category.
Overall, the Carnegie Endowment is a helpful, informative site.. I feel that I was lucky to discover this page while searching for a website on which to write this assignment, because it will benefit me in the near future; not only while I am researching possible paper topics for my classes within the next couple of weeks, but for the rest of my time as an International Relations major and academic. Though the page needs to work on attracting a broader spectrum of visitors through the addition of pathos to its analyses, the fact that I feel that I have benefited from examining the Carnegie Endowment site leads me to believe that the Web Award Standard of Excellence it received was well-deserved.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Secret CIA Prisons: Human Rights Violators at Home

My semester thus far has been centered around studying human rights. As and international relations major, and as an intern for a California senator, part of my everyday life involves keeping up with world issues. So, when I started getting calls at work about a Military Commissions Act that would allow extreme measures to be taken in interrogation, and also restrict judicial review of habeas corpus, I felt compelled to research the issues further. I was shocked and appalled when I learned about the secret CIA prisons. I found lots of blogs from all places on the political spectrum giving their opinions on this subject. In the first blog, I discussed the idea that torturing prisoners (especially Iraqi prisoners) might generate even more anti-American sentiment, and therefore defeat the purpose of the Bush administration’s war on terror. In response to the second blog, I discussed the fact that this military commissions bill violates Article 3 of the Geneva Convention (which was ratified by the U.S.), and that this disregard for international law encourages other nations to act in a similar fashion.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Evictions in Jakarta: Avoiding the Poverty Problem

“The Regional Government for the district of Jakarta holds the mandate to create a capital city which is orderly, safe, comfortable, clean, and beautiful, so that Jakarta is representative of a capital city. However, the regional government faces the obstacle of unhindered urbanization and it is mostly the people with social welfare problems who obstruct the [public order laws]. Because of that, the regional government has chosen the means of law enforcement.” ~Governor Sutiyoso

Under the rule of Governor Sutiyoso, the city of Jakarta, Indonesia has been performing brutal evictions of many individuals living in the slums. The governor has waged a campaign against this informal sector of the city since 1999, whose inhabitants include mainly street vendors, sex workers, homeless children, pedicab drivers and beggars. This campaign of eviction is the governor’s solution to “overcrowding”, a problem which began with an increase of economic migrants to Jakarta during Indonesia’s 1997 economic crisis. The governor is also fixated on the “beautification” of the city, something he thinks that he will achieve by demolishing slums. Some of the government’s tactics included house-to-house raids, demanding evidence of jobs and official residence, raids which often end in imprisonment or hefty fines. Government orders are enforced by a group of military police called “public order officials” who, despite their lack of training, are permitted to carry firearms, batons, electric shock devices, and gas pistols.

Interviews with victims describe gruesome accounts involving aggressive actions taking by government officials, and also local gangs that have been linked to the government. A typical eviction is a frightening experience, as described by Eva Sugiharto in a Human Rights Watch document. Government officials have been known to show up at homes in impoverished communities to notify residents of their eviction, only to begin to demolish said residences immediately after the announcement, leaving no time for residents to take their belongings and move out. Homes are bulldozed and set on fire before residents can get their bearings, let alone their belongings. Residents are left with no compensation, due process, or anywhere to go. Many victims describe being beaten and mistreated during the eviction process.

Governor Sutiyoso needs to concentrate less on beautification and more on the flaws in the system that have caused the questionably legal communities to pop up in Jakarta. Destroying homes, mistreating residents and replacing slums with shopping malls still leaves Jakarta with a homeless problem. Bulldozing the slums and leaving residents without homes or compensation is not only a violation of human rights, it perpetuates Jakarta’s poverty situation. Instead of funding an insufficiently trained Public Order Official unit, Sutiyoso should use the money to create a compensation program, or even a job-training program so that impoverished economic migrants can help boost Jakarta’s economy through the means of labor, or other sources of employment. Furthermore, Sutiyoso and the government of Jakarta need to condemn and take action against all gang involvement in the eviction process, which is only furthering the extent to which human rights are being violated. Violence and bulldozers are not going to solve this problem, and the brutal mechanisms used by the government of Jakarta will yield no positive results. The only way Sutiyoso is going to achieve the “beautification” he wants is by examining and fixing his system, which is lacking in respect to protecting its destitute citizens.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The U.N and Darfur: Reaching An Effective Solution?

Though the violence in Darfur is an issue that has only recently been given the spotlight in American media, it is a problem that has been years in the making. War first broke out in the Darfur region of Sudan in 2003, when two rebel groups attacked military installations. This was followed closely by a U.S.-brokered peace agreement ending a twenty-year civil war in Sudan. The rebel groups were acting out in response to years of political and economic marginalization, but they were also arming themselves against government-sponsored violence. The Sudanese government has been backing “Janjaweed” militias for the past twenty years: a militia that is uniformly Arab and Muslim, backed by the government in their violent persecution of civilians who are considered disloyal to the Sudanese government. Government offensives and Janjaweed militia attacks have included random killings, mass rape and looting, not to mention the displacement of two million citizens, all of which are violations of the 1949 Geneva Convention, which prohibits attacks on civilians.

Recognizing the tremendous escalation of violence in the Darfur region, the United Nations (U.N.) and the African Union (A.U.) have begun taking steps together to try and ameliorate the situation, which has evolved into a mess of intertwined conflicts. Most recently, the Darfur peace talks were held in April, where the Sudanese government assured negotiators that it would permit a U.N. peacekeeping force in the Darfur region. On May 5th, a permanent ceasefire agreement was signed between the Sudanese government and the largest rebel faction in Abuja, Nigeria.

But all is not well. The Sudanese government began backing out of its agreement to permit a U.N. peacekeeping force almost immediately, when Sudanese President Omar El Bashir threatened to take action against forces that were attempting to “occupy” and “colonize” Darfur. Even the rebels are beginning to fight amongst themselves, with the factions who signed peace treaties having conflicts with rebel factions who did not sign peace treaties, and committing further human rights abuses. On top of it all, the Janjaweed militia still has not eased up on its campaign of violence against “disloyal” civilians.

The U.N. is moving slowly but surely towards a solution. On August 31st, it adopted a resolution to deploy U.N. troops to Darfur, and combine the U.N. forces with the feeble and under-funded A.U. mission to create a strong U.N. protection force, including up to 17,500 U.N. troops and 3,300 civilian police. This resolution, however, isn’t going to help much unless the U.N. can get the Sudanese government to allow said peacekeeping forces to remain in Darfur. In the meantime, beginning on August 28th, the Sudanese Khartoum government sent its military to launch attacks on rebel groups in North Darfur. This is less than a month after the Khartoum government circulated the proposal to send 10,500 troops into Darfur, which is a blatant violation of the Darfur Peace Agreement that was just signed in May. “The Sudanese government’s plan is a recipe for inflicting even more abuses on a devastated civilian population,” said Peter Takirambudde, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Khartoum wants the U.N. to endorse a plan that would throw out the Darfur peace agreement. It wouldn’t help protect civilians from constant attack or make it safe enough for them to return home.” The U.N. Security Council not only took no action, but it failed to even condemn the proposal. Interesting.

So what should the U.N. do? Human Rights Watch has suggested sanctioning the government officials who are against U.N. peacekeeping forces in Darfur, which is a good start. However, Russia and China’s silence on the issue still presents a problem, being as Russia is a major supplier of weapons to Sudan, and China is a huge consumer of Sudanese oil. Not only does the U.N. need to sanction specific members of the Sudanese government, it needs to call out Russia and China to re-think their ethics. What good is a sanction going to do if two of Sudan’s largest suppliers of weapons and income don’t help the cause? If the states involved in negotiating the presence on U.N. peacekeeping forces in Darfur can pressure and/or shame Russia and China into issuing sanctions on the Sudanese government, therefore putting a stop to their contribution to human rights abuse, Omar El Bashir and the Khartoum government would be significantly weakened, and hopefully a little more open for negotiation concerning the state of human rights in Darfur. The risk of hurting the pride of these two countries is a worthy sacrifice if it means bigger step towards a safe Darfur region, especially since the African Union has said it will pull out its peacekeeping forces by September 30th, unless Sudan drops its opposition to the deployment of U.N. peacekeeping forces. The U.N. needs to take more forceful actions if it wants to see any real progress, and shaming Russia and China into cutting its support for Sudan has the potential to be a very effective method. It’s a relief to see some action being taken on this issue, being as humanitarian intervention was frighteningly stagnant for the first few years of conflict. Though the U.N. is moving forward, it needs to do so with more force, because every day, the violence continues.