Post #6- Crisis Caravan

Linda Polman’s book Crisis Caravan exposes the faults within humanitarian aid organizations, including NGOs.  

Her concerns begin with the dilemma expressed by some of the world’s first humanitarian workers: Henri Dunant and Florence Nightingale. The question they differ on is to what extent does one leave and ask “Is it worth it?” NGOs have been subjected to paying excessive amounts to rebel organizations, missing supplies, witnessing atrocities to other groups as well as not being allowed to treat others suffering.

Dunant believed it was a duty to help no matter what and he carried over the principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence while forming the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1863. Nightingale believed aid fails in purpose of warning parties use to their own advantage.

One must determine whether it is just to pick certain human rights to defend and to have others that are chosen from as NGOs have to provide funds to rebel causes, and remain witnesses to atrocities for the sake of neutrality. For example, in Goma, NGOs were at the mercy of the Hutu extremists.

 “In one attack, twenty-five private security guards at an aid supplies warehouse belonging to CARE Canada were shot dead by robbers. Their places at the gate were coolly taken by Hutu extremists, who then demanded-and apparently got-regular salaries from CARE,” (Polman 31).

Polman expresses her concern with aid organizations that have to pay or give supplies to enter a war zone. Warlords use the money to arm themselves, while the aid organizations are trying to help the people they are injuring. For example in Somalia, “the entrance fee charged by warlords to as much as 80 percent of the amount the aid supplies were worth,” (Polman 96). Polman has an issue with the fact that the people who the INGOs are negotiating with are the ones that are mainly the cause of the conflict. By paying to enter the area, they are facilitating the conflict that is ravaging the area. Ethics are not considered once in a war zone, but they should be on this matter. Polman stresses the weight of the benefits the aid organizations are providing with the fact that millions of dollars are entering the pockets of these violent regimes only to make them more powerful. Not only do the aid organizations have to pay, but their lives are pt at risk by working with the powerful leaders. In the Congo, six Red Cross workers were killed for helping the Lendus, whom they were not allowed to help based upon an earlier agreement.

The Hema soldiers in the eastern Congo region, who have been at war with the Lendu people.

Another concern Polman raises is that NGOs provide aid that is not needed. With the introduction of MONGOs (My Own NGO) which are “run by people who are convinced they can get things sorted out in a crisis zone more effectively, quickly, and cheaply than the “real” aid workers with- to MONGO eyes at least- self serving motives and cumbrous bureaucracy,” (Polman 50), the influx of problems in providing any kind of emergency relief has increased. In times of crisis, MONGO carriers unknowingly bring in broken supplies, just bringing in whatever donations received. They focus more on the quantity of goods they are providing rather than the quality in order to boost their statistics. I will address their business mindset later on.

“MONGOs have been known to ship frostbite medication to victims of tropical disasters, and starving Somalis have received laxatives, slimming cures and electric blankets,” (Polman 52).

Polman has issues with MONGOs like this because they are doing more harm than benefit in the areas they enter. They are often unorganized and led by people who feel they have a calling to do good, rather than true humanitarian aid experience. Bringing supplies, medical equipment and clothes that the people of that country either can’t use or don’t need defeats the purpose of the MONGOs existence. Polman argues that those living in a war zone “deserve protection from people that arrive unannounced and set about to work without the most basic qualifications,” (Polman 62). Another issue Polman has with MONGOs is the fact that larger aid organizations rarely critique the faulty MONGOs to avoid negative publicity for the entire industry, so their mistakes rarely go noticed by the general public.

Journalists, Public and Government Officials

This is something that journalists, the public, and government officials need to focus on to make humanitarian aid more successful. Since larger organizations won’t hold themselves or MONGOs accountable, it is up to these groups to ensure that these organizations are performing justly and efficiently. Journalists need to expose the fact that an MONGO performing an operation killed a young boy or another one delivered winter coats to refugees in the desert instead of tagging along with them to refugee camps. Journalists need to distance their relationships with the aid organizations to do an un-biased job reporting on them. By exposing these mistakes, the public, including those that donate money or supply, learn the faults that these organizations have. Public officials need to create some sort of regulation to make sure only legitimate organizations are entering the countries needing aid, instead of a random group with no experience. These regulations will protect those who need the aid, ensuring they receive only legitimate aid. All of these groups are lacking the urgency to investigate these aid organizations properly and are missing out on an important ongoing global issue.

“Businesses Dressed up like Mother Teresa”

Polman uses this term in the afterword of her book Crisis Caravan to define the business mindset of many NGOs. They operate like a business for contracts to travel to provide aid in these areas, a term Polman deems “contract fever”. NGOs are in competition with each other by how much money they raise, the number of countries they operated in a year or the number of patients they have treated. These statistics are put together in a report published to the public to have donations poor in. For many NGOs, the percentage of a donation that actually goes towards humanitarian aid is lower than most would think. The website, Charity Navigator, allows people to see how much of their donation goes towards what causes. However, the NGOs hide their business motivations by portraying a “Mother Teresa” front to make themselves appear more charitable in the public eye. By competing with each other to make themselves appear the most involved in global affairs, the NGOs are positioning themselves to receive the most aid, which helps get the better contracts, and powers the entire cycle.





Post #6

What are the principal concerns Linda Polman raises in Crisis Caravan?

Linda Polman, author of Crisis Caravan and journalist, examines an ethical dilemma on whether it is better for aid organizations to “leave or continue providing aid at any price?”(2). Polman devoted her life to submersing herself in real world conflicts so she could bring light both the positive and negative aspects aid organizations really do have.

She is not the first or only person to examine this question. In fact, she outlines in her introduction that this is a conflict deeply historically rooted.

It started with Henri Dunant and Florence Nightingale. Dunant believed in “Tutti fratelli” Image result for henri dunantmeaning we are all brothers. And Dunant was strongly convicted of that belief. He convinced volunteers to help all the wounded men in the Franco-Prussian War despite their nationality. Soon every house, church and place was turned into a clinic for miles and miles. However, volunteers became exhausted resulting in aid to fail. But this is where his idea for the Red Cross, many trained nurses who were qualified bringing help to all, began. From this point onward, the Red Cross serves as an aid organization to all — no matter their side or stance in the conflict.

Dunant believed that reducing the number of cripples would save the government money and thus be more beneficial to countries as a whole. However, this is where Florence Nightingale disagreed with him. She thought that the higher the war expenses, the sooner it would end and by saving the government money (Dunant’s philosophy) the war would be prolonged.

Nightingale’s belief in this was a result of her own experiences. Her hospital for war victims was disgusting and many died there, but she couldn’t get anyone to help better the conditions.The reason she couldn’t get help is because the government wouldn’t present her results of how dirty and gross care conditions were because then it’d be harder for them to recruit new soldiers. She then devoted her whole life to getting the government, the only people who she believed were able to, improve conditions. Nightingale disagreed with Dunant’s attempt to “lessen the government’s burdens” because she wanted them to be more responsible.

“Humanitarianism is based on a presumed duty to ease human suffering unconditionally. Aid organizations endorsing the humanitarian principles of the Red Cross promise neutrality (no cooperation with one side in preference to the other), impartiality (the giving of aid purely according to need), and independent (from geopolitical, military, or other interests). Humanitarian aid workers help wherever, whenever and whomever then can” (Crisis Caravan 7).

Nightingale was appalled by the beliefs stated by the quote above:Image result for florence nightingale she thought it was an incomplete and ignorant viewpoint to have. However, in present day 194 countries embrace and support the Red Cross. Though wars and humanitarian territories have changed, the Red Cross’ views have stayed the same. Polman writes, “Humanitarian aid workers still help wherever, whenever, and whomever they can, as a matter of principle, but by doing so they are at the mercy of the belligerents and become subject to their whims” (9). What Polman means by this quote is that by living up to this principle, humanitarian organizations are at risk of and do help the bad guys and hurt the victims.

Polman goes on to examine this question by traveling with readers alongside the fact that humanitarian “caravans” go to and from humanitarian territories without much thought. She asks the question that is the epicenter of her book: “If aid has become a strategic aspect of warfare, can the claim to neutrality made by humanitarian aid organizations still be justified?” (11). In other words, is neutral humanitarian aid effective in the real world today.

How does Polman answer this big question? 

I believe Polman answers her question of whether aid should be given at all costs and be given neutrally by saying, “Aid organizations are businesses dressed up like Mother Teresa” (177). Polman first went to Sierra Leone to examine humanitarian conflicts and thought that initially they were great: they claimed to be helping people while restaurants opened up again, gas (a resource lost at the time) was given to them, nice places were being rented out for aid workers, offices were opened, and even golf courses were opened for aid workers. She was enthusiastic about this growth until she realized that the aid organizations were finding a connection with the political elite (guilty of causing the war and prolonging it) and giving them the most money and the actual victims would receive none of the aid money. She thought this was wrong because she always thought that aid was going to poor, the “Mother Teresa” disguise many of us believe to be true of aid organizations. She wanted to know more so she went to a multitude of other countries experiencing conflict and humanitarian aid to see if the same thing was happening — and it was.

Image result for linda polman in sierra leone

Polman sums up this issue simply by saying aid is an industry. Amongst the 37,000 aid organizations that the UN have counted (they stopped counting at 37,000) they are not working together and this is where Polman finds a major issue. Since they aren’t working together, they can’t prevent the bad guys from getting the aid and instead are working for their own interior motives and connections.

The aid industry is a competitive, highly expensive industry. Polman says in her TedTalk,”What’s Wrong With Humanitarian Aid? A Journalist’s Journey,” that $130 billion dollars per year (not included private citizens’ money that they donate) is put into the aid industry. This is an ENORMOUS amount of money. Because there is so much money involved, aid organizations want their specific organization to rise to the top and have the most money, thus shutting other organizations down. Aid organizations don’t go in with a communal plan (looking at what’s best for the citizens) but rather a plan catered to their own personal motives of money and success which often results in connecting with the elites who can give them money. But the catch is, the elites are almost always the bad guys. But honestly, this is not entirely the aid organizations fault. There are no precautions taken to make sure that they do not fall victim to this tragedy.

Watch Polman’s full TedTalk here: 

Polman believes that for aid organizations to stop being a business or industry disguised as Mother Teresa they must work and cooperate together, to actually become an agency that gives help to those who need it most.

What do journalists, the public, governments have to do to make humanitarian aid successful?

So this is a pretty scary thought that something like the Red Cross, associated with so much good, can be prolonging or even fueling conflicts as a result of their competitive nature with one another. We must ask ourselves, what can we do?

Polman gives a few suggestions on this. First, in regards to journalism, they need to stop “automatically approving” (177) of aid organizations, supporting them wherever they go, and begin to question them. They must ask why aid is needed (and if it is in fact needed), how much money is being gained and who is gaining it, if aid workers have the right training to be giving aid, if they are paying the correct attention to the correct people/neighborhoods/environments, what post-care after their aid they are planning to provide, and whether the enemies would reap benefits. Polman claims that journalists not only should be asking these questions but have the responsibility to be asking them. Journalists see aid organizations as a good story but they must dig below the surface and get at the root of aid organizations in our world.

So what can we as human beings do? We must also ask questions. Polman suggests we must stop highlighting the principles of humanitarian groups and get at the effect of their consequences. We need to ask when their principles do not become ethical.

The government, and us as individual citizens, also must know that saying “no” to giving aid is an option. We need to ask if doing something is always better than doing nothing and find out who is truly receiving the aid.

Polman exposes a new identity of humanitarian groups that we must actively question and examine.

Take a look at the Red Cross in my blog’s focus country of Syria: 

Post #5

Iran, while it may be one of the more progressive countries in the Middle East, still has many issues regarding human rights. Iranians were hoping for a change in human rights with the 2013 election of moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, but little progress has been made.

The most prominent issues regarding human rights in Iran are particularly over repressions by government officials as well as executions. Most of the executions are related to drug offenses. The number of executions was projected to decrease in 2016, but human rights groups, however, report that the number might be as high as 437, with most executions taking place in the second half of the year. While most executions are drug related, the extent of crimes that can be punishable by death is rather absurd. For example, adultery and homosexual acts can get people, especially women, killed. It should be noted that Iranian law is inherently biased and more brutal towards women.

This video displays the mistreatment of women political prisoners in Iran.

Iranians are also restricted with their speech. Social media websites like Facebook and Twitter that Americans use so freely, are blocked in Iran. In June of 2016, the country began implementing a political crime law which, while a step forward in granting fair trials, could still limit free speech. According to the law, insulting or defaming public officials, when “committed to achieve reforms and not intended to target the system, are considered political crimes.

Women are oppressed and are denied rights when it comes to travel, working and many other aspects of daily life. Iranian women are treated as second-class citizens, but authorities choose to ignore that women cannot enter stadiums and that there are gender barriers in the market. 

Environmentally, the Iranians are destroying their own people due to the extent of their pollution issues. According to city officials, some 270 people die each day from blood cancer, heart and respiratory diseases, and other pollution-related illnesses. The government needs to implement strict environmental regulations to make a drastic improvement in air quality, especially in the capital city of Tehran. The Iranian people have a right to have a safe, clean place to live and right now a majority of cities are not reaching these standards. Iran has recently made progress by restricting gasoline imports, however, there has been a massive increase in use of automobiles in recent years which increases pollution.

Climate Change and Human Rights

Climate change affects the way people can live their lives and the way governments can function. Dr. Elizabeth Lindsey’s TED Talk emphasizes the importance of connecting our deep-rooted traditions to our environment and the value we get from it. Earth is our home today and has been home to our ancestors hundreds of years ago, too. So, why destroy it? Why destroy the history of the human race by the search for the latest development, or to make the most money?

Islands will disappear if we do not reduce our carbon emissions, and gone with them will be the homes of people as well as the history of the lineages of the many families who resided there for decades. However, in the Western world, we tend to only focus on our own individual lives and the direct impact things like climate change have on our daily lives. We are very ethnocentric people.

Faris Noor’s paper on going beyond eurocentrism emphasizes on a general acceptance of other cultures from the Western world. Noor states that there are two alternatives for Europe. One is to “try to retain it’s socio-political and cultural leadership” and th other is “coming to terms with its existence in a multi centered world.” It is not a secret that Europe and North America are losing its dominance as the only superpowers in the world, especially with the rise of China.

Noor believes that cultures, instead of trying to adapt to Western ways for modernization and development, should instead solve their own problems by turning to their own cultures.

Westerners need to accept that today’s world is fragmented and there are many powers in the world, not just contained in Europe. With that acceptance, a mutual respect of other cultures should follow.


Post #5

What does climate change have to do with human rights? 

In member of the National Geography Society Elizabeth Lindsey’s TED Talk, “Ancient Wisdom for a Modern World,” she claims she became an anthropologist because she, “wanted to bear witness to that which was vanishing.” She continues to tell a story about the women who raised her. She was with these women by the ocean and they told her that they knew there’d be a time that came that the world would be in trouble. Meaning the vast ocean and nature they stood around of wouldn’t be the same forever. They told Lindsey to remember the stories they told and so that is what Lindsey sought out to do.

Lindsey’s TED Talk continues with her telling of ancient wisdoms of these people. She ends with a story saying that she called one of the women who raised her to tell her about a new position she had gotten for a job and that they needed to go out and celebrate. Instead of asking all the details of her new position, the women takes her in front of the ocean and studies her. All she then asks about it is, “Will it make your heart happy?” The women who raised Lindsey did not value the same materialistic aspects our current American culture does like job promotions or new cars just to name a few. They value their land and are their happiest just with that. However, their land is vanishing before them. If our another nation decided to take away American’s job promotions or possessions, we would not hesitate in the least to consider it a violation of their rights. So why aren’t we doing the same in regards to taking away a cultures land?

Watch Lindsey’s entire TED Talk here:

The first women president of Ireland, Mary Robinson addresses this idea of climate change being an infringement of human rights in her TED Talk, “Why Climate Change Is a Threat to Human Rights.” She says that her interest with climate change began because of the impact it had on people and their rights (for example, their health, education, shelter and food just to name a few rights). She talks about whole countries on track to go out of existence because of climate change.

In a trip to Africa, she kept hearing the phrase, “Oh but things are so much worse now.” What she found out was “worse” was their climate. A woman she met there didn’t have to worry about going hungry when she was younger: they had the four seasons and knew when to harvest. But recent droughts followed by floods destroyed schools, livelihoods and harvests. If any other factor was destroying those aspects of a culture, we would be outraged on the violation of human rights.

Robinson then talks about Malawi. She informs listeners that there have been terrible floods there causing thousands of people to lose their livelihoods and 100 people were killed. The interesting thing is that the average Malawian emits 80 kg of carbon dioxide a year. However, the average American emits 17.5 metric tons. Those who are suffering don’t even have as much as an impact on the climate change but they are the ones feeling the drastic effects. This is an unfair human condition.

An image used in Robinson’s TED Talk illustrating the disproportionate emissions of pollution: 

Screen Shot 2017-03-01 at 8.04.24 PM.png

Robinson ends her talk saying that the problem ahead of us is large, but they can be solved. We need the total support of the international community and there can be seen hope. There must be change in order to not only save the climate, but save human rights.

Watch Robinson’s entire TED Talk here:

So how is Syria addressing human rights and climate issues? 

Human Rights:

With the ongoing conflict in Syria, actual action on the bettering of human rights is on the back burner. However, human rights are still on the radar as something that will be necessary for Syria’s survival post conflict. In the Geneva Talks of February 23, 2017, it is said that Syrian human rights need to be the priority amongst the UN. Ending the bombings, unlawful attacks and safety for refugees are just a few topics amongst this issue.

To obtain the proper attention human rights in Syria needs, they must make constitutional amendments and most importantly, it must be a Syrian-led process.

Image result for syrian human rights

It is explained in the Human Watch Right’s article, “Syria: Make Human Rights Priority of Geneva Talks,” that on the agenda of addressing and changing Syrian human rights, is the drafting of a new constitution, free elections, a ceasefire, releasing war prisoners, and a complete end of civilian attacks.

Check out more details in the outline for Syrian human rights in this article:

Climate Change:

Climate change, specifically drought, is widely thought to be one of the causes of the Syrian conflict. The drought leading up to the war created the loss of livelihoods and thus tension and migration of the Syrian people. However, climate change was not the only cause of the conflict. Instead, climate change contributed to the built up tension of the regime but did not cause it.

Alex Randall agrees that climate change was not the sole factor in the rise of the Syrian conflict in his article, “The role of climate change in the Syria crisis: how the media got it wrong”:

Image result for syrian drought

Though climate change is an obvious issue in Syria, as seen in forms of droughts, it is not an issue being tackled head on right now since the conflict is the main focus. However, I do think in the years to come there will, and should, be a large rise of climate protection organizations in Syria.

Main points of Noor’s “Beyond Eurocentrism”

Author Farish Noor writes in his article, “Beyond Eurocentrism: The Need For a Multicultural Understanding of Human Rights” he outlines the problems of eurocentrism and the ways we should and must respond to that.

Eurocentrism is the belief that the Western world is the superior and dominant way of life worldwide. In other words, it’s when the Western world thinks that their way is the global way. For example, Americans believing that Coca-Cola, an inherently western thing, is a global product is Eurocentric.

Political cartoon on eurocentrism:Image result for eurocentrism

Noor says that for countries to protect themselves against eurocentrism, they use essentialist ideologies. He then claims that these essentialist ideologies can become, “reactionary, defensive and exclusivist” (53). So there must be a better way. But what?

Noor suggests we can break out of the fight that has resulted from the Eurocentric vs. essentialistic cycle by first making sure all cultures have a concern for the liberty and human dignity of everyone. He claims this will also benefit us because the healthiest societies have understandings of“issues related to power, rights ad equity” (54).

Noor insists we then must accept that the world is trying to save a multicultural, multiracial and multi-religious world.

“We will need to attempt to understand and appreciate the way different societies and cultures have developed their respective understandings of human dignity and values and to try to identify the specific local traditions and thought systems that should be elaborated to ensure that the goals are achieved” (Noor 54).

Noor then outlines how we must begin to understand indigenous rights and liberties. Western nations trying to impose their ways on Asian (and other) cultures are simply unaware of Asian traditions and values so we must educate to inform them of this. When they are educated, they then might realizing they are actually intruding on their rights by implementing their values. Noor informs readers that there have been many movements in many different parts of Asian but that there needs to be more (such as recognizing other cultures’ beliefs) done to stop eurocentrism.
Image result for asian indigenous cultures

Finally, Noor outlines obstacles to combatting eurocentrism. He says the first one is simply that Asia has so many traditions and beliefs that it is going to be a daunting task to account for all of them. In addition, he claims of two other major obstacles in reviving Asian rights and liberties. The first being that Asian elites tend to use their Asian values as a strategic way of political and economic influence. The second one is that Western elites tend to assume that human rights are guaranteed only if the Western model is used everywhere. These are two very different but two very potent obstacles that need to be accounted for unbiasedly in the hope to revive a multicultural world.

“By living in a world crowded with different cultural world views and value systems, we can experience the many possibilities that underlie the true meaning of pluralist universalism, which, though it is rooted in genuine differences, also embodies fundamental similarities” (Noor 70-71).

Post #4

When the Earth first came into existence, resources were plentiful and land was beautiful and uncontaminated. Whether you believe the Earth was created thousands, millions, or even billions of years ago, this time has taken its toll on the environment. There are many different ideas of what contributes to environmental problems, but they almost all fall within one category: human activity. Land that can be lived on is much scarcer than it once was, largely because humans are reproducing at a fast rate. Land and animals used for food are disappearing as a result of climate change, which is caused by greenhouse gases and pollution; also a product of human activity.
The Inuits are among the first to see the affects of global climate change. Animals that generally live in warmer climates are starting to show up and disrupt their communities. At the same time, it is predicted that the animals they hunt will soon start to disappear, because they were built to live in colder environments. Inuits have been urging world leaders to limit the heat their industries omit for over a decade, but the developed world is hesitant to cooperate. This is largely due to the fact that this extra heat is a byproduct of economic growth. Climate change has not affected most of the developed world yet, so they have no real incentives to change their lifestyle. Many will even claim that climate change is a myth. Sadly, many people other than the Inuits are affected by environmental crises.
In Afghanistan, water scarcity is a large environmental crisis. The geographical location, wars, and climate change have all played a part in creating this issue. Afghanistan could use help from a charity organization such as, but is not active in Afghanistan or anywhere in the Middle East yet.
Afghanistan is a landlocked country, so its primary source of drinking water is streams and rivers. A good amount of water flows into the nation, but because of a lack of infrastructure, less than half of this water is available to Afghans. The rest runs into neighboring countries, and causes many disputes over who has the right to use this water. Most of the water that does get used by Afghans does not stay clean for long. Because of the underdevelopment of the nation, most of the water gets contaminated by human waste. In order for this issue to be solved, someone would have to be willing to fund the development of sanitation facilities and structures to help keep water in Afghanistan. As of now, no one is willing to do this because of the war culture. Developed nations fear that if they were to spend the billions of dollars necessary to build reservoirs, canals, and other infrastructure, they would just be torn apart by war. You may be thinking that climate change would melt glaciers and actually increase water supply. This is not necessarily the case. While there may be more water available on Earth as glaciers melt, the distribution of the water changes. This could, in time, cause the rivers of the Afghan mountains to dry up, which would worsen the crisis.
While state leaders and other political figures are not doing much to help the Afghan environment, organizations such as EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and Greenpeace are working to bring attention to the water crisis in Afghanistan, as well as to raise money to build infrastructure where it is desperately needed.

Since most people in wealthy areas of the world take our current supply of clean water for granted, this video may help you see how dirty the Earth is becoming and how the lack of clean water directly impacts human beings around the world. This is the reason that every nation, every world leader, and everyone who can has an obligation to keep this planet clean and safe.

Post #4

What should taking action on climate change look like? 

Native Inuit Sheila Watt-Cloutier insists in her article “The Inuit Right to Culture Based on Ice and Snow,” that environmental issues should be considered a violation of human rights. For too long, she has watched her land and Inuit culture fade away being bandaged with “short-term ideologies” favored by businesses that pushes the problem under the rug.

Image result for inuit culture environment

The problems should be looked at from a human rights standpoint because it is in fact detrimental to the rights and cultures of human beings. For example, Watt-Cloutier says that the young males in her Inuit society have one of the highest suicide rates in the world which she says can be credited to the traumatic historical change climate change has brought them over the years. In addition, some communities are so damaged, Watt-Cloutier says, that they have already had to uproot and spend millions of dollars to relocate. The events that climate change brings are life transforming or even life risking. Since lives are at stake due to environmental issues and Watt-Cloutier insists that countries, specifically big and developed ones, starts taking on this issue with the seriousness of the results of climate change in mind.

So how does it actually look realistically to implement the change that Watt-Cloutier is suggesting? She says they are not asking that we take a step backwards in developing our economies, but rather as we step forward in developing them we are using proper technological advancements that limit greenhouse effects that are the driving force behind the impact in her community.

What is actually being done by global leaders? Is there consensus? 

In regards to the United States, environmental issues are being ignored or unmentioned by President Trump. When Trump became president, he basically archived all things related to climate change into an online Obama file. He calls climate change a “hoax” and all President Trump says now in regards to climate change on the White House website is that they need to eliminate unnecessary policies such as the “Climate Action Plan” which was Obama’s broad plan to get rid of carbon emissions. So not only is Trump making environmental issues nearly disappear, he is also denouncing them by claiming he will take efforts to remove any progress made. President Obama said that establishing the United States as a global leader in climate policy is one of his best legacies and now Trump is diminishing and worsening that legacy.Image result for epa

In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been told (by President Trump) to halt all plan making and to be quiet about it. This means that they can’t post on social media, can’t respond to interviews, and can’t make any public statements. This will severely halt progress to a global consensus on environmental protection issues. Since social media is the primary source of news nowadays, there will be less informed citizens who can take action and less informed international connections who could help. By the time people do become informed, it is possible that it will be too late.

However, there is still global hope amidst Trump’s setbacks. The Paris Agreement, a policy within the UN to combat pollution starting in the year 2020, is standing strong. Trump cannot legally block countries from following through on their promises with the Paris Agreement. But the concern still lies in the fact that without participation of the United States in the Paris Agreement, the world’s second largest polluter behind China, the ultimate goal of the agreement cannot be obtained. Also, without the United State’s participation, other governments are likely to withdraw too.

The platform for global consensus on climate change is very unstable with the recent election of President Trump and we have to wait and see how other nations choose to respond to his policies and ignorance of environmental issues.

Check out these articles for expansion of the information provided above:

Environmental Groups in Syria 

Neither nor have bases in Syria. However, has a base in Adana, Turkey which is Syria’s neighbor.

Image result for syrian environment problems

The Syrian Environment Protection Society (SEPS) was founded in 1992 and it was the first environmental movement founded and announced publicly in Syria. They hope to correct the urban environments that pose environmental threats to their nation. SEPS has a multitude of problems that they want to fix but their website lists the following as “priority problems.”

  1. Contamination, depletion and dissipation of water resources.
  2. Poor air quality and air pollution (industrial and urban).
  3. Deterioration of urban environment and uncontrolled urban expansion.
  4. The growth of illegal settlements.
  5. Poverty and population growth.
  6. Inappropriate solid waste disposal (domestic, industrial “hazardous & toxic”) and waste water pollution.
  7. Degradation of biodiversity and habitat deterioration and poor use of biological resources.
  8. Soil, land and rangeland deterioration & degradation (soil salinization , land contamination and erosion ).
  9. Deforestation and desertification.
  10. Lack of public awareness on environmental issues.
  11. Lack of industrial zones.
  12. Food contamination, food diseases & epidemiologies, food security, environment security.
  13. Coastal degradation.
  14. Excessive use of agro-chemicals and pesticides.
  15. The wrongful hunting.
  16. Cultural heritage degradation (archaeological and historical sites).

Image result for syrian environment problems

The overarching goal of SEPS is to bring awareness to environmental issues and act on them in proper ways. They hope to do this by publishing books, stickers, brochures and so on to educate the community. They also want to hold lectures, campaigns and projects that have the ultimate goal of implementing environmental change.

The Middle Eastern Drought 

The drought, starting in 1998, in the middle east region has been said to be caused by human global warming. This drought is also thought to have contributed to the rise of the Syrian conflict — specifically the lack of food and stability.

Environmental issues are clearly impacting Syrians and their surrounding regions. Since they are more focussed on the conflict right now they are (understandably) doing little to solve the environmental problems. However, I think in the years to come Syrians will recognize the importance of environmental activism so that they can avoid conflicts such as the one they are currently in.

Note: I looked up Greenpeace but they are not directly working in Syria right now. I think this is likely because of the current conflict. 

Post #3

What is nationalism and what are problems with it? 

Nationalism is a patriotic feeling, principles, or efforts. Citizens who feel very loyal to their country typically feel a great sense of nationalism.

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Nationalism can be great motivation for a country to better themselves but it also has its downfalls. According to author Fareed Zakaria in regards to nationalism, “The rise of pride and confidence among other nations, particularly the largest and most successful ones, is readily apparent” (34). This gives countries a certain sense of cockiness or superiority over other countries. Zakaria goes on to talk about an example he’s seen of this. He was talking to a Chinese executive who was describing the vast growth of his country. The Chinese man describes how he thinks his country will go on into years of prosperity and is very positive and uplifting about it. However, when he is asked about other countries roles in the global world, he starts using “furious” tones claiming that he would invade or distrust certain countries if problems were to arise. The problem that Zakaria is seeing with nationalism here is that it is a wonderful and positive driving force internally for a country, however, when they have to consider their external competitors, the attitude suddenly becomes harsh and negative due to the country’s nationalistic ideology of superiority.

How does nationalism play out in Syria?

With such large and concerning claims made by Zakaria, we must examine a country’s nationalism to get a feel for them as a world power and as an independently operating country.

1. Western Nationalism In Syria 

We can see the effects of Western nationalism in Syria. Some people have suggested that Syria rapidly transitions into a Western capitalistic and democratic system. This is due to the fact that Western powers have seen their ways work for themselves, so they feel a sense of superiority and assume that their way must be the best way. However, Syrian sectarian cleavages have stressed the importance of gradually moving to a system that is specifically suited for the Syrians’ needs. The Syrian nation is believed to have many different identities that define it. If they transform into a nation that operates the same as the Wester-world, many cultures and voices will be shut down. The opposition to the Western nationalism trying to be implemented in Syria is a good example of the negative effects of powerful countries nationalism (in this case the nationalism of the Western world) and how it is impacting other countries. Zakaria says, “We still think of a world in which a rising power must choose between two stark options: integrate into the Western order, or reject it” (38). Syria’s choice to seemingly reject Western ways illustrate their loyalty to their own form of nationalism.

2. Arab Nationalism In Syria 

If Syria is rejecting Western nationalism, then what type of nationalism do they portray? One article argues that the official nationalistic identity of Syria is Arab. This is referred to as the “Baath” ideology. Amongst this Arab (or Muslim) nationalism, Syria still allows a safe haven for Christians — as long as they don’t want to convert the Muslims.

However, the dominant Arab nationalistic identity does not allow the acceptation of the Kurds. Maps try to diminish the Kurdish population when it actually remains very prevalent in Syria. For example, most sources say that Kurds are 10% of the population when in reality it is at more than 15%. Syrian government does not conduct transparent censuses that hardly acknowledges the Kurds existence in the first place making more grounds for Arab nationalism. Even the U.S. department of State and CIA didn’t recognize the Kurds until the 1980s. Image result for arab nationalism

Because of this refusal to acknowledge the Kurds, there have been many unfortunate circumstances. Some 300,000 of them are denied citizenship, relegated to statelessness with no access to passports and, in many cases, governmental services. In the 1960s, Kurds were even stripped of their national status. Arabic Syrians were afraid a Kurdish nationalist movement would uprise. And that did in fact happen. Martin W. Lewish of GeoCurrents writes, “Syrian security forces have repressed at least 14 Kurdish political and cultural public gatherings, overwhelmingly peaceful, and often resorted to violence to disperse the crowds. Not only have the security forces prevented political meetings in support of Kurds’ minority rights, but also gatherings to celebrate Nowruz (the Kurdish new year) and other cultural celebrations. In at least two instances, the security services fired on the crowds and caused deaths.” The Kurds are ignored as a negative result of Arabic Syrian nationalism.

3. Explaining Nationalism In Correspondence With Nation States

A nation state is a sovereign state whose citizens or subjects are relatively homogenous in factors such as language or common descent. The Arab sense of nationalism can be explained by regional nation states. The areas where the Kurds are, are thus overpowered by the dominant nation state of Arabic citizens. Even though the Kurds and Muslims both consider themselves Syrians, the conflict of their nation state surfaces. Author of Globalization A Very Short Introduction Manfred B. Steger argues that nation states manage immigration control (67). This can be an explanation as to why the Arabic nation state is able to control and displace the Kurdish population.

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Another article argues that the concept of a nation state for Syria is different than most other countries. Since there are a lot of different religions in Syria, there are a lot of different cultures. This article then argues there isn’t one prevailing “nation state attitude.” This doesn’t make the conflict of nation states and nationalism in Syria nonexistent, it just makes it complicated. The article then goes on to say that the people’s sense of common identity has a lot to do with the ability of former president Hafez al-Asad to orchestrate financial incentives and repressive tactics. So in a sense, this article argues that their nation state is their own way they have been doing things. The argument would then be that any transition into a new state, for example the transition into a Western-like economy, would pose a lot of dangers and threats for the Syrian people.

Inequality in Syria

We must also consider how a country’s inequality plays into the country’s problems and conflicts.  Syria’s two biggest forms of inequality are gender and economic.

1. Gender Inequality In Syria

Since the conflict, women are experiencing increased sexual violence and discrimination. Below is a video on stories of different Syrian women who have fled Syria because of domestic violence.

The horrific stories of women such as in the video above are much too prevalent in Syria. Correlating with these stories are the many pressures Syrian women feel. Syria values protecting their family’s honor, so women are pressured into conforming to social norms to uphold a family’s reputation that men don’t feel. In Farah’s story she refused a man’s proposal resulting in violence and abuse from her own family. Many women like Farah are afraid to defy the norms as she did so they are stuck in relationships.

What is being done to help domestic violence in gender inequality?

The Constitution of the Syrian Arab Republic gives equality to all of its citizens despite gender in article 25. It also says in Article 45 women are guaranteed, “all opportunities that enable them to participate fully and effectively in political, social, cultural, and economic life.” However, no law technically prohibits gender discrimination and individual laws even have deep gender biases.

The Syrian Arab Republic created the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Violence against Women in 2003 but nothing has really been done to implement this. In addition, many women in Syria have seen growth of women in the workforce, but gender inequality remains a major issue in social standings. In summary, not much can be done politically or economically until Syria socially accepts women.

2. Economic Inequality In Syria

Despite the 5% growth in the economy over the last 5 years, poverty still remains high. One out of every three Syrians live below the poverty line.Image result for syrian poverty

Lahcen Achy, writer for the Carnegie Middle East Center suggests there are five main economic problems:

  • 1. Population growth and the creation of new jobs are not keeping up with each other
    • Pop grow 2.5% per year (requiring 250,000 jobs) but only 20,000 jobs per year have been created since the mid-1990s
    • Official unemployment rate is about 10%
  • 2. Drought
    • 25% decline in agricultural jobs
    • Agriculture provided 20% of jobs to the labor force and made up 20% share of the GDP
    • Lots of people have moved from their farms to cities
    • As a result, urban poverty rates have doubled over the last five years
    • Government has tried to put in place cash transfers to poor families but the effect of this is not comparable to the effect they need
  • 3. Syria is dominated by large companies that have strong connections to the regime
    • Corruption problems
  • 4. Oil is becoming less important to the GDP
    • Oil prices fell more than 14% in the 2000s and the poor have felt the effects of this because the government has thus decreased their social spending
    • The government couldn’t offset the decline of oil revenues
  • 5. Income inequality has increased in the last ten years
    • Excessive inflation
    • The wage increases that were happening only benefited those with higher-education degrees and not the 60% of the less educated people who make up the labor force

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What is being done to improve economic equality? 

Syria is trying to better economic equality as a whole while facing many other problems:

  • 1. Unequal distribution of services by region
    • Easter and southern regions are most at risk due to the drought and poor infrastructure – they face rising child labor and deprivation
  • 2. Transition into a market-oriented economy and the need to keep up with competition
    • The government needs to become less corrupt and implement a better physical and technological infrastructure
  • 3. Syria needs to spend more money and increase their debt to help the population during this transition
    • They need to spend more money specifically on healthcare and create a program that gives the poor a bit of a “safety net”
    • Many people are protesting and if Syria spends more money to help the poor protesters, they could give their citizens the economy and freedom they desire.

If Syria can overcome all of these problems, Achy suggests they will be on the road toward economic success.