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Archive for the ‘Oxfam Vancouver’ Category

I am very honoured to have been featured in the Georgia Straight again. Please direct your comments directly to the article and spark up some discussion! Thanks, Scott

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A whole bunch of activists came together last Saturday afternoon for a Flashmob to End Global Poverty. The United Nations Millennium Development Goal review summit wrapped on Tuesday, so we decided we would make some noise for the Millennium Development Goals! Check it out!

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Photo Credit - Ben West

Over ten years ago at the United Nations Millennium Summit 189 world leaders came together at the turn of the Millennium to make the most important commitments of our generation. The political climate for change was just right. The economies in the Western World were strong and progressive leaders like Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan and Nelson Mandela were centre stage. Coupled with the symbolism of the Millennium, conditions were perfect for a framework that would eliminate extreme poverty as we know it by 2015. We are now beginning the race to the finish line. With only five years left to fulfill these commitments leaders sat down earlier this week at the United Nation’s Millennium Review Summit.

The Millennium declaration back in 2000 stated that all leaders would strive to “free all men, women, and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty”. Despite widespread pessimism, this declaration was possible within the fifteen year timeframe the leaders put forward. With ten years of broken promises and negligible progress by most measures of Millennium Development Goals, we can still do it. We have the ability to drastically reduce poverty by 2015.

To put things into perspective, according to a recent Oxfam International press release, providing comprehensive education for children in all the poorest countries would cost 16 billion dollars per year. In total, all the rich countries combined donations are sitting at 4 billion per year. A recent article in the Toronto Star calculates that Canada’s recent corporate tax cuts will cost our country 12 billion dollars in foregone revenue each year. In 2008, Canada dolled out 4.78 billion in Official Overseas Development Aid. This is about one third of the aid we committed back in 1970. In fact it was Canada with Lester B. Pearson at the helm who called the world to make the same commitment forty years ago. The Millennium Development initiative as held on to this benchmark ever since. In short, there is enough money, resources and skills available to accomplish these goals. What is lacking is the will.

I am not going to ignore the fact that many countries in the developing world, specifically in sub-Saharan Africa have systematic corruption and internal conflict. This however, is not a good enough reason to turn our backs on the possibility for progress. After spending time in Uganda, India and Southeast Asia with several development organizations I witnessed many of the obstacles to development. In the vast majority of cases it is due to the lack of long term commitments and far too much money being channelled through governments with no mechanism of accountability. Divert this through grassroots community based organizations and the situation becomes much brighter. To dig further into the roots of corruption we can look at the rifts generated during the cold war. Don’t forget the massive multinational grab for resources by massive corporations. When accosting corrupt dictators, we have to ask who is signing their cheques.

I have seen top performing elementary schools in Uganda operate with only for only a few thousands dollars per month. I have met tons of incredibly gifted Ugandans with the skills and willingness to seize their destiny and work tirelessly for a brighter shared future. With unprecedented wealth and technology, we have everything necessary to put an end to the 50,000 preventable poverty deaths that occur each day. It’s high time to bury the scepticism that is plaguing the mandate of the Millennium Declaration.

With the net increases in the world’s wealth and I am more optimistic than ever that progress is possible.  As citizens of a historically and geographically privileged country, we have an incredibly opportunity to join the movement for change. Within a few clicks of a mouse, you have the email address for your Member of Parliament and with that, the power to lend your voice to an incredibly powerful movement. There are many groups, associations and online actions to join. From hitting the streets, to joining a local advocacy group, it’s time to stand up and make some noise for the Millennium Development Goals.

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It’s just an accusation, but not out of the realm of possibility. I’ll leave it to you to decide… It might also be useful to point out that Omar al-Bashir (President of Sudan) is the only head of state ever charged with Genocide.

Sudan: North guilty of using LRA rebels to destabilize south? – Afrik-news.com : Africa news, Maghreb news – The african daily newspaper.

Northern Sudan has been accused of employing rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to unsettle southern Sudan and the Darfur region ahead of the south’s independence referendum scheduled for January 9, 2011. But an official from the LRA, which has embarked on a mass recruitment, has debunked the claims and suggested that they are rather seeking a peace deal with the region.

The accusation comes a day after members the Darfur rebel Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) were attacked by militiamen of the LRA in western Sudan.

“A group of LRA attacked our forces in Dafak in South Darfur yesterday, Their language was one of the ways we knew they were LRA. They probably have a relationship with the government of Sudan,” Haydar Galucuma Ateem, vice president of the Darfur rebel Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), was quoted by Reuters.

According to LJM officials, the attackers were identified as LRA rebels after they left some of their belongings behind as they escaped into Central African Republic, a neighboring country. Other reports claim that two small groups of about 20 young LRA rebels carrying small arms shot and killed one LJM soldier before retreating into dense forest in remote South Darfur.

But Justine Labeja, a leading member of the LRA, has denied the allegations saying “I don’t see the reason why LRA should go up to Darfur to look for another rebel [group] to attack them. You know, on this planet, anybody is free to say anything about anybody. That is why I’m saying it’s a baseless statement or accusation”.

“The accusation they are talking about is very easy to send a monitoring team to go and verify what happened, why and where exactly […] If it was found that LRA did that, they have to account for it because what we know [is that] LRA has become so many on this planet, especially in the region.

“You can find LRA in Sudan. You can find LRA in Congo and you can find another LRA in Central African Republic. But, [of] all these, which one are we talking about?” Justine Labeja is quoted as saying by VOA.

South Sudan

And south Sudan, which engaged the north in decades of civil wars over ideologies and resources until a 2005 peace deal ended the combat, has accused the northern government in Khartoum of arming the LRA to destabilize the semi-autonomous region ahead of the south’s referendum for independence scheduled to take place on the 9th of January.

Groups of LRA soldiers frequently attack south Sudanese villages near the border with Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the United Nations and south Sudan government. The UN has also indicated that over 25,000 people have been forced from their homes by LRA since the beginning of 2010.

While Uganda has also joined in the chorus to accuse Sudan’s central government in Khartoum of providing support to the LRA, although northern Sudan deny the charges, US-based Human Rights Watch has warned that the rebels have gone on a massive recruitment campaign in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

“Many of the young people in the area say they [Northern Sudan] are arming the LRA,” adds Ateem, the Darfuri LJM vice president.

LRA wants ceasefire?

However, LRA official Justine Labeja argues that his “group has often been used as a scapegoat for selfish different political reasons” whilst insisting that “the leader of the LRA rebels wants a ceasefire with the governments of Sudan, Uganda and the Central African Republic to jump-start the peace process ahead of south Sudan’s referendum scheduled for January 9 next year,” he told VOA news.

The LRA, headed by war crimes suspect Joseph Kony, moved into remote areas in neighboring countries like Sudan and Central African Republic, after coming under pressure from the Ugandan army.

The LRA leader has been on the run since December 2008 when regional states launched a hunt to arrest him after he refused to sign a peace deal with Kampala.

The LRA is known for their abduction of child soldiers and extreme brutality. And there is an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued to LRA commanders, whose tactics include mutilating their victims by cutting off their lips and ears.

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Wow, it has been nearly five years since I have stepped into a University classroom. Needless to say, my first day at Simon Fraser University today was very exciting and much anticipated. I have been offline for almost three three weeks, so there were many shocks to myself in the pipe on this Sunny September 8th. On the activist front, there is so many issues to catch up on and I am so far out of the loop I don’t even know where to start, but when in doubt, blog!

Before my summer hibernation, the backlash against the assault on Canadian Civil Liberties at June’s G8/G20 in Ontario was buzzing, but since then Pakistan has been hit by a huge flood, the Sahel Region of northwest Africa is facing a huge food crisis and locally, some five hundred (or just under) tamil asylum seekers landed in Vancouver. While I don’t have too much to say, as I have been starved of news in the past weeks, I wanted to give them a brief mention as I attempt to cure my writers’ block.

Where I stand on all issues is no surprise, we need more aid from individuals, but especially from our Governments for Pakistan and the Sahel region. In the case of the Tamil Asylum seekers, we have to step back and realize that we are a settler nation. As Canadians, we are all only a few generations away from where these asylum seekers are today. Are we going to be haters or do we stand for something greater? Thanks to Duncan Campbell, a freelance journalist reporting from Vancouver with the Guardian for being a straight shooter in his recent article, “Sri Lankan Tamil refugees spark racism row in Canada”.

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The People's Bus Stay tuned for updates from the People’s Bus, which left at 7pm June 20th from the Vancouver Peoples’ Summit on Main and 32nd in Vancouver. A team of dedicated activists will be bringing citizen’s recommendations to Toronto for the summit and providing Vancouver a voice. Participants in the Vancouver Peoples’ Summit sat down throughout the day to discuss Women’s Rights, Climate Change and Global Financial Justice. Further to that everyone had their chance to write an update on the side of the bus.

Ries Mentik is the fearless leader as the team makes the 4200 Kilometre journey. Updates are below, you can also follow the team on Facebook and Flickr.

SMS Updates from Ries:

Monday2:33am – Early Morning (June 21st) – Kamloops! Spirits high – van running strong! Tell the World!

7:34am – The people in the rockies! All fast asleep – Brianne and Ries holding the fort!

2:45pm – Wow! The van almost loaded. Red Deer and Edmonton represented. On our way to Winnipeg! Nothing gonna stop us! Not even a flood! Check out Facebook and Flickr!

6:20pm Drumheller. 1st pull over – being accused of arsen in Rosedale. A report came in of a hippie van setting fire. After 30 mins it turns out there r 2 hippie vans in town! It drives past – we are back on the road!

Tuesday 8:45am – Just left Winnipeg! 15 people on board – our road trip has official become a caravan! 4 peeps from Winnipeg follow us. Tired but spirits and solidarity high. Setting up camp in Ontario tonight. Tell da world!

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Oxfam Vancouver Twitter Account - http://www.twitter.com/oxfamvancouver

It seems like the social media bandwagon isn’t going anywhere. The local Vancouver Oxfam Advocacy and Outreach committee recently set up a twitter account that you should check out. My goal is to have 100 followers by next week, so follow us and find out what is new and exciting in Vancouver’s Oxworld!

http://www.twitter.com/oxfamvancouver

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