All posts by CPNN Coordinator

About CPNN Coordinator

Dr David Adams is the coordinator of the Culture of Peace News Network. He retired in 2001 from UNESCO where he was the Director of the Unit for the International Year for the Culture of Peace, proclaimed for the Year 2000 by the United Nations General Assembly.

European Parliament Calls for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly and a UN Reform Summit in 2020

.DISARMAMENT & SECURITY.

An article from the DWFed, Democratic World Federalists

In a resolution adopted today [July 27], the European Parliament called on the EU’s governments to advocate “the establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly” (UNPA) and to support a “UN 2020 summit” that will consider “comprehensive reform measures for a renewal and strengthening of the United Nations.”

TAccording to the European Parliament, a UNPA should be established “within the UN system in order to increase the democratic character, the democratic accountability and the transparency of global governance and to allow for better citizen participation in the activities of the UN and, in particular, to contribute to the successful implementation of the UN Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.”

The directly elected parliament of the EU’s citizens called on the EU’s 28 member states represented in the Council of the EU to advocate the creation of a UNPA at the upcoming 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly which will start in September.

European parliamentarian Jo Leinen (S&D) who had initiated the call for a UNPA said that “the UN urgently requires more openness and stronger democratic foundations.” He added that “the European Parliament therefore calls for the establishment of a Parliamentary Assembly within the United Nations system” and that “the European Union and its member states should now play an active role in the implementation of this innovation.”

The European Parliament’s rapporteur on this year’s recommendations on the EU’s UN policy, Eugen Freund (S&D), said that since he first encountered UN reform forty years ago “unfortunately, not much has changed.” He added that “the General assembly has more members now, but it is still a body of unelected diplomats. Therefore, the idea of eventually complementing them with elected parliamentarians is a very appealing one. They would certainly be closer to the populace and thus would have to regularly answer to their constituency. Whether that would also streamline the decision-making processes remains to be seen.”

Other supporters of the call for a UNPA in the parliament’s committee on foreign affairs included Elmar Brok (EPP), Soraya Post (S&D), Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D), Helmut Scholz (GUE/NGL), and Andrey Kovatchev (EPP).

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Question for this article:

Proposals for Reform of the United Nations: Are they sufficiently radical?

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The European Parliament’s resolution was welcomed by Ivone Soares, a parliamentarian from Mozambique and a member of the African Union’s Pan-African Parliament. “With resolutions passed by the European Parliament, the Pan-African Parliament and the Latin-American Parliament, the time has come for progressive governments in these three major world regions to consider the creation of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly,” Soares said.

Daniel Jositsch, a member of the Swiss Council of States commented that “the escalating crisis in international cooperation shows that new ways must be found to combat global problems. It is therefore very positive that the European Parliament is calling on the European states to speak out in favour of the creation of a UN Parliament. It is important that they will not simply pay lip service to this goal, but that concrete implementation measures are being taken.”

“From the many initiatives in favor of a more peaceful, fair and democratic world the creation of a UN Parliamentary Assembly is the decisive one. The recent support given by the European Parliament to this proposal shows that the members of the most important supranational parliamentary body are ready to work for its creation,” commented Fernando Iglesias, a member of the Chamber of Deputies of Argentina.

Jo Leinen, Ivone Soares, Daniel Jositsch and Fernando Iglesias are co-chairs of the parliamentary advisory group of the international Campaign for a UNPA which has been endorsed by over 1,500 elected representatives worldwide. The campaign’s secretary-general, Andreas Bummel, said that the European Parliament’s call for a UNPA was “a bold and important step at a time when multilateralism is under attack.” “Governments interested in defending and strengthening the UN and democracy worldwide should urgently work for the democratisation of global institutions and a UN Parliamentary Assembly is a key to achieve this,” he added. Recently, the Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney stated that Ireland was “open minded” relative to proposals for a UNPA.

The European Parliament’s resolution on the EU’s UN policy also recommended, among other things, the establishment of “an open and inclusive intergovernmental preparatory process under the auspices of the UN General Assembly for a UN 2020 summit, on the occasion of the UN’s 75th anniversary” that would consider “comprehensive reform measures for a renewal and strengthening of the United Nations.”

Earlier this year Jo Leinen and Andreas Bummel published a book on the history, today’s relevance and future implementation of the proposal of a world parliament and on improving democratic world governance.

After escaping 35 years of slavery, this black Mauritanian woman is running for office

…. HUMAN RIGHTS ….

An article from Face2face Africa

A former slave in Mauritania has put her name on the ballot for the elections in September.

Habi Mint Rabah became a slave when she was just five years old and was only released in 2008.

Habi Mint Rabah became a slave when she was just five years old and was only released in 2008.

“I became a slave at the age of five. Every day I had to take care of the flock. Every night I was raped by my master. I always believed, without really understanding, that it was normal, “she said.

As a slave, she hauled water, did the cooking, and sometimes slept next to the goats on the sand.

“I carried the water on my back. I ate the leftover food. If they left nothing, I had nothing to eat. I was sleeping wherever I could find a place – sometimes in the sand, with the goats.”

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Question related to this article:

What is the state of human rights in the world today?

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Her owners  would even deny her the chance to pray, telling her that she did not deserve to because her soul was inferior.

She was able to escape slavery thanks to her brother Bilal Ould Rabah who freed himself and alerted the anti-slavery movement IRA and human rights group, who mobilised her release after 35 years in bondage.

“Even if sometimes I don’t have anything to eat, at least I have my freedom now. My freedom is the most important thing. I’m like another person now. I’m the master of my own life,” she said after she was released.

Rabah is one of the black women in Mauritania who have been enslaved by their light-skin country people.

The country is considered the slave-capital of Africa and the practice is still ongoing. The government has denied the existence of slavery  amid pressure from the United Nations and other rights groups.

Rights groups have also been under attack for protesting slavery, with the government accusing them of colluding  with the West to destabilise the country.

Rabah is vying for a parliamentary seat under the Sawap-Ira coalition.

According to the president of IRA, Biram Dah Abeid, Rabah is the perfect candidate for a number of reasons:

“[She’s] a victim of slavery that has been liberated. She is in our ranks, militant, and it is she who will bring the contradiction to the dominant slavery group, in the future Mauritanian Parliament,” he said.

This will be the first time for the abolitionist group to participate in elections after it registered as a political party.

(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

For Afro-Colombians, a Slow March Toward Peace

. . FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION . .

An article by Kati Hinman for NACLA (North American Congress on Latin America

On Colombia’s Pacific coast, paramilitary violence has engulfed Afro-communities and their leaders in the wake of the peace accords. But resistance at the grassroots level remains strong.


Photo source: comité paro civico Buenaventura facebook

On April 17, three community leaders from the Naya River, south of the city of Buenaventura on Colombia’s Pacific Coast, were kidnapped by an unnamed armed group. The group was also searching for another leader, Iber Angulo Zamora. On May 5, Angulo Zamora was kidnapped from a boat in the presence of officers from the Human Rights Ombudsmen. The two attacks generated terror along the Naya, trapping people in their villages or displacing them to the city of Buenaventura.

Men claiming to be dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) released a video  in June, claiming responsibility and stating that the leaders were killed because of their involvement in “illegal activities,” most likely referring to drug-trafficking. There has been no evidence  to substantiate the accusations against the leaders, but residents have been reluctant to suggest motives for the attack in fear of repercussions. Paramilitary groups are also present in the zone, and there have been reports of combat between armed groups, adding to the danger and confusion for civilians. 

These attacks are unfortunately only a few examples of the violence that continues to plague the majority Afro-Colombian communities in the city of Buenaventura and the surrounding rural areas, despite the reforms promised in the 2016 Peace Accords between the FARC and the Colombian government. The Peace Accords has been hailed as one of the most progressive and thorough peace agreements in history, promising  rural land reform and development, a comprehensive effort to replace illegal crops such as coca with legal sources of income, reparations to the conflict’s victims—ranging from individual payments to collective land titles and social projects—and truth and justice commissions. However, the first two years of implementation have fallen behind expectations, especially for Colombia’s Afro and Indigenous communities, who are some of the principal victims of the conflict.

The Naya River zone is home to 64 Afro-Colombian and two Indigenous communities. Afro-Colombians have lived on the river for over 300 years, and were first brought there as slaves to work in mines. After the abolition of slavery in Colombia, they created independent settlements in the region. After paramilitaries committed a brutal massacre in 2001, killing more than 70 people, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights implemented a series of precautionary measures to protect these communities. Today, Afro-Colombian communities along the Naya are governed by one democratically elected Community Council. Just three years ago, the Community Council was granted a collective title to the 64 communities’ lands under Law 70, which protects the ancestral territories of Afro-Colombians.

Government response to the recent violence has been slow and mainly focused on further militarizing the zone  by sending in more troops and pushing for additional military bases within the communities. Community leaders advocated  for a thorough criminal investigation into the crimes and respect for their rights as civilians to remain neutral in the conflict. They are concerned that military presence in their public spaces might put them at risk for more attacks.

The Battle for Puente Nayero

The continued violence is not limited to the rural areas around Buenaventura. On July 1st, a group of known paramilitaries entered Puente Nayero, a humanitarian space in the city of Buenaventura, where they remained for several hours as residents hid in their homes. Humanitarian spaces are designed as places where civilians can remain neutral and free from engaging with armed actors. Puente Nayero, created four years ago in response to terror and brutality as successor paramilitary groups were dividing the city, received legal and financial support from the Inter-Church Commission of Peace and Justice, a Colombian human rights organization, and protections from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Elisabeth [last name withheld] was one of the community leaders behind the space. “One thing that pushed me personally [to act] was my son,” she said. “He is very big, people think he is older than he is, and they started looking at him to become part of the [paramilitary] structure [when] he was 13 years old.”

The protections for the space call  on the Colombian government to adapt effective measures to preserve the lives of the 302 families who live in the humanitarian space and to respect their rights as civilians. Elisabeth explained that through the declaration of the humanitarian space and better community organizing, they were able to decrease the violence and remove a “chop-house” from their street, which were houses utilized by paramilitaries to torture and murder.

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Question related to this article:

What is happening in Colombia, Is peace possible?

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Elisabeth still feels that as a leader, just stepping outside the humanitarian space leaves her feeling vulnerable and scared for her life. She has reason to fear; social leaders in Colombia are being targeted and killed at alarming rates. In January of 2018, Temistocles Machado, an Afro-Colombian activist, was killed in the city. Machado was one of the most prominent leaders of the civil strike that took place in Buenaventura in 2017.

Buenaventura is home to Colombia’s principal port, surrounded by a Free Trade Zone that allows most of the wealth generated by the port to flow directly to international companies. Corruption is rampant in the city, and in 2017 64% of the population lived in poverty, with unemployment at 62%. When the violence between warring paramilitary groups in Buenaventura escalated in 2013-2014, much of it occurred in neighborhoods that were part of development plans for a tourist boardwalk, airport, and other projects that would have to displace residents.

José, a 67-year-old from the humanitarian space, explained that the paramilitaries, with support of corporations, “wanted us to de-occupy this territory [Puente Nayero] so they could take it, so they started doing things to terrify us, to get rid of us.” The residents of Puente Nayero still worry that city development projects might lead to their displacement, and the recent presence of paramilitaries in the neighborhood has elevated these concerns.

The battle over land rights is an ongoing and central concern for Afro-Colombians in Buenaventura and the surrounding rural regions. Colombia has the highest rate of inequality in land ownership in Latin America, with just 0.4% of holdings encompassing two-thirds of agricultural land. Meanwhile, 60% of Colombian farmers have no formal titles to their land. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, over 7.6 million Colombians are internally displaced, forced to leave their homes because of violence or threats from armed groups, many without formal titles to prove their ownership and right to return.

To address this, land restitution was a central tenet of the Peace Accords. But many people remain uncertain that they will recover their ancestral lands. The rural Afro-Colombian community of La Esperanza was displaced to Buenaventura due to paramilitaries in 2004. Although they won collective title to their land under Law 70 in 2008, as well as provisional protective measures from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, their land has been parceled off and sold, and community leaders stated that local politicians were involved and now own some of the plots. Florenina, a community leader, emphasized repeatedly that logging and construction companies were responsible for the damage to their lands since their displacement. “True peace for me is defined as when people can return to their lands, when they are given reparations, beginning with the land because the territory is very damaged.”

Sara, a young woman and teacher on the Naya, is particularly disappointed with programs intended to combat illicit crop substitution, referring to financial support and training for farmers to replace coca with other crops, and the Development Plans with a Territorial Focus (PDETs). The PDETs are rural development plans for the areas hardest hit by the conflict, based in the community’s needs and priorities. These plans are critical for the Naya, as the river is utilized by criminal networks, not only for illegal mining and coca cultivation but also for the production and transit of cocaine directly to international waters. Other community members I spoke with agreed with Sara, adding that the government has not helped to provide needed social services, such as health centers and schools.

There is also concern that the “peace” era will bring extractive development projects that could drive the people of the Naya from their lands. Despite the Community Council’s collective land title, the Colombian government still holds legal rights over anything beneath the earth’s surface. Community leaders worry that their authority might be usurped to move forward with large-scale mining projects, since the area is rich with gold. The natural riches in their territory have become a source of danger for the communities.

As people have become disenchanted with the implementation of the accords, they have continued to build peace in their own ways. In May 2017, the residents of Buenaventura and the surrounding area shut down the city in a civil strike, demanding a recognition of their rights. Despite the assassination of leaders such as Temistocles Machado, the strike committee continues to implement the agreement reached with the government, which includes overseeing the funds to build a hospital and an aqueduct for the city.

Residents have also created local peace-building initiatives. For example, Niridia, a member of a collective of 300 women in the Naya River region, helps run political advocacy workshops and leadership schools, focusing on various themes from globalization and multiculturalism to gender and nature. “We are all family members of disappeared persons,” she said of the collective. “Although we might consider our family members dead, they still give us the possibility to exchange the tears for smiles for new generations.”

Sara, the teacher, said that keeping up the traditions that communities on the Naya have practiced for 300 years is an important part of peace-building. As an educator, she works to ensure an emphasis on protecting the environment. They use practical lessons to teach the children how to take care of their water and natural resources. In Puente Nayero, leaders continue to organize around their principles of dialogue and fair treatment.

President-elect Iván Duque has been critical of the Peace Accords and seems committed to obstructing their implementation, generating further doubt that there will be reparations and justice for Afro-Colombian victims on the national level. This has not deterred grassroots commitment to local peace-building processes, giving people hope and strength while they continue to resist violence and advocate for their rights and their lands.

Colombia’s peace deal: Where is the peace? Interview with outgoing President Santos

. . FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION . .

An article and video from Deutsche Welle

In an exclusive interview on DW’s Conflict Zone, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos denied his low level of public approval would jeopardize the peace he negotiated for over four years and said the process was already underway. “Peace is irreversible. There is no way back,” he said.


Video of interview

Asked whether history might suggest otherwise, Santos told Conflict Zone host Tim Sebastian: “The agreements have been ratified by Congress, by the constitutional court. And the people will not allow the peace process to go back. Some people would like to bring war back, but that is something which will not happen.”

Rising violence

But violence has spiked in Colombia following the peace agreement, with dissident rebels and drug gangs seeking to take over in areas formerly under the control of FARC guerrillas, who waged an insurgency in the country for more than half a century and have largely been demobilized under Santos’s peace deal.

Human rights defenders, activists and protesters have also been targeted with 441 attacks recorded in 2017, including 121 murders.

Santos won a Nobel Prize in 2016 for his peace agreement, but his international plaudits have not translated into popularity at home. In March, his approval rating was 14 percent, with just 17 percent expressing support for his amended peace deal. 

He narrowly lost a referendum on his original peace plan in October 2016, when 50.2 percent voted against it, on a turnout of less than 38 percent of voters.

Santos told Tim Sebastian he had underestimated the opposition to the deal, which he signed along with FARC leader Rodrigo Londono, known as Timochenko. “I was wrong … Referendums are answered for reasons different from the particular question,” Santos said.

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Question related to this article:

What is happening in Colombia, Is peace possible?

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After the failed referendum, an amended deal was passed by Congress without going back to voters. It includes a guarantee of five seats for the FARC in Colombia’s Chamber of Representatives and Senate. 

False positives

Of the recent violence, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in March voiced its concern over accusations that the army and police had contributed by committing 11 extrajudicial murders in 2017.

However, Santos challenged the commissioner’s account: “The High Commissioner has not signaled any member of the armed forces as being responsible, right now, for extrajudicial assassinations. They were before. … I made a stop to that when I was minister of defense.”

Thousands of innocent civilians were systematically killed by the military in the early 2000s and presented as rebels to inflate statistics and gain promotions or bonuses.

Santos told Conflict Zone the “false positives” policy was “shameful” and one he ended when he was defense minister from 2006 and 2009 when the killing reached its peak. “I stopped those false positives. …

And those responsible for false positives, they have to go to the transitional justice and be judged and condemned,” Santos said.

In May, a former police colonel said approximately 10,000 may be have been murdered as “false positives” between 2002 and 2010, a figure which Santos disputed on Conflict Zone.

Drug trade

On the ongoing war on drugs, Santos said the world has a “wrong approach to the drug problem,” costing Colombia dearly and keeping it the world’s biggest exporter of cocaine.

In June, a US government report said cocaine production in Colombia had increased by 19 percent, prompting a warning from Donald Trump to reduce it.

“And I said to him,” Santos told Conflict Zone, “that 81 percent increase in coca consumption in the US is also unacceptable. This is a problem that the world has and it’s a problem that the world has to address in a different way.”

When Tim Sebastian confronted the outgoing president about blaming consumers when Colombia’s drug market makes huge sums of money for many people in the country, Santos said it was “a co-responsibility” and that he wanted more support from countries consuming cocaine.
 

Colombia: the Culture of Peace Advances in Caldas

. . FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION . .

An article from Eje 21

130 teachers of public educational institutions, cultural managers, librarians, social leaders, police, members of the Red Cross and members of the municipal councils in the Department of Caldas, including Samaná, Chinchiná, Pennsylvania, Riosucio, Salamina and surrounding areas, have become peace promoters through the diploma “Rural education as a scenario in peace building.”

The training is received from the Academic Working Group Culture of Quality in Education at National University of Colombia with headquarters in Manizales. It offers tools for daily work in the construction of peace and for the recovery of the emotional, psychological and social fabric of the society that was devastated by the years of armed conflict.

Professor Germán Albeiro Castaño Duque, director of the Group, recalled that the post-agreement does not mean that there is a definitive and lasting peace, especially in the Colombian municipalities affected by the conflict.

“With training, we seek to make these people more proactive, so that they become peace educators both in schools and in other areas. In this way, coexistence can be achieved and violence can be ended in their communities”, said the teacher Castaño Duque.

Aspects of the diploma include: education and the University Peace Program; human rights and international humanitarian law; the 1991 Constitution and its contribution to peace; construction of citizenship in the post-agreement period; Art, culture in the post-agreement; the Law of Victims; and application of the agreement between the Government and the FARC.

Peace in daily life

The teacher Luz Mary Zuluaga Salazar, of the Educational Institution José María Carbonell, in Palestina (Caldas), affirmed that “more than thinking about peace as a university program, one must think about it as the experience of daily life. As classroom teachers, we must make the links with other topics such as the arts, culture and the post-conflict period.” She added that in these areas it is unknown what should be done after 52 years of war.

“What we are learning with the National University has helped us to go beyond the traditional classroom mentality. Violence destroys communities and we must ensure that students do not attack or intimidate people, not only in the classroom, but in the broader community,” said the teacher.

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(Click here for the original Spanish version of this article.)

Question related to this article:

What is happening in Colombia, Is peace possible?

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Professor Julio Alexander Argoti Álvarez, of the Naranjal Educational Institution, in Chinchiná, pointed out that “we are not sufficently disturbed by the death of someone or by the suffering of an entire community. We need to be more connected with empathy to the population. The more training and vision tools we have, the more it will be possible to achieve changes”.

In this regard, Professor Emanuel Márquez, one of those responsible for conducting the training of the graduates, said that with this the students have not only been able to analyze the history of the armed conflict, but also to overcome their fears and contribute in their daily lives to the peace of the country.

“Teachers in rural areas, fearful and displaced from their leadership, are vulnerable to groups that may come to intimidate them and the communities. It is precisely with the tools that they have gained with the diploma that they can reunify and reconstruct the social fabric in the areas where they are teaching,” he said.

Experience

The National University of Colombia with headquarters in Manizales includes in its curricular and pedagogical program projects related to the construction of peace, the analysis of the variables of the Agreement between the Government and the FARC, and the history of the armed conflict.

One of the most important contributions is the University Chair of Peace, in which 120 students from the 11 undergraduate courses from the Headquarters participate every six months, and the project “Peace Building: the role of the United Nations in the post-agreement”, with extension programs such as the diploma “History, peace building and post-agreement in Colombia”, attended by teachers, officials of the judicial branch, uniformed members of the armed forces and the National Police, social leaders, members of the Red Cross and professionals from different areas.

In addition, extension training programs are carried out with different sectors, in workshops, seminars and other academic and pedagogical activities that seek a greater contribution and closer relationship with the communities.

The Ministry of National Education has relied on the National University to carry out the diploma course “Rural education as a scenario in peace building”, which aims to allow citizens, from the regions, the classroom and the scenarios of coexistence, through an open, dynamic and respectful dialogue to take on the challenge of overcoming the ideological and political differences that affected the country for the 54 years of the armed confrontation.

The training is free and takes place over 120 hours. It aims to strengthen the pedagogical and didactic strategies of teachers of social sciences and other areas in the implementation of the University Chair of Peace in educational institutions, as provided by Law 1732 of 2014. Issues include the history of the armed conflict , the peace agreement between the Government and the FARC, and what country should be like in the post-agreement.

The diploma will be certified by the National University of Colombia with headquarters in Manizales, with the endorsement of the Ministry of National Education.

6,000 teachers deployed to promote peace in Mindanao (Philippines)

… EDUCATION FOR PEACE …

An article John Unson for Philstar Global, as reprinted by the Global Campaign for Peace Education

Some 6,000 teachers deployed in five southern provinces in the past five years are now actively helping propagate interfaith solidarity among schoolchildren in support of the government’s Mindanao peace efforts.
They are now handling classes in remote barrios in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao covering Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, both in mainland Mindanao, and in the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.


New ARMM public school teachers show their appointments signed by the region’s chief executive, Gov. Mujiv Hataman. (Photo: Philstar.com / John Unson)

Lawyer Rasol Mitmug Jr., ARMM’s regional education secretary, said Friday the latest batch of duly licensed public school mentors enlisted by his department is comprised of 765 men and women who had signed commitments to accept teaching assignments in far-flung schools.

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Questions for this article:

Where is peace education taking place?

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More than 4,000 teachers were appointed by ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman during the time of Mitmug’s predecessor, John Magno, who was at the helm of the regional education department from late 2015 to 2017.

They filled out vacancies after the removal by the Hataman administration of thousands of “ghost teachers” from the payroll of the Department of Education-ARMM that proliferated during the time of past regional governors.

“Some of them showed their dedication and commitment when they volunteered to help facilitate the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataang elections last month,” Mitmug said.

He said the teachers are now helping propagate the so-called “culture of peace” and religious solidarity among ARMM’s Muslim and Christian communities.

The ARMM education and public works department were touted as the most corrupt agencies of the regional governments under past administrations.

Officials of the two agencies now openly talk about efficiency in  handling of quarterly operating funds from the national coffer, open to scrutiny by media entities and peace advocacy blocs helping improve regional governance through various capacity-building interventions.  

(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

Philippines: New Bangsamoro Organic Law Includes Provision for Peace Education

… EDUCATION FOR PEACE …

An article by By Jasmin Nario-Galace and Loreta Castro from the
Center for Peace Education, Miriam College for the Global Campaign for Peace Education

On July 27, the Philippine President signed into law the Bangsamoro Organic Law which aims to complete the peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. This peace agreement was signed in 2014 but required a law to implement it.  


Questions for this article:

Where is peace education taking place?

The Center for Peace Education at Miriam College  in Quezon City has been lobbying for the inclusion of peace education in the Education provision of the said draft law. After nearly 4 years,  the said efforts had finally yielded the result that was hoped for.  

Under Article IX, the Education provision of the new law, second paragraph says: “The Bangsamoro government shall institutionalize peace education in all levels of education” (page 39).

You may download here a copy of the Bangsamoro Organic Law

(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

Teachers, activists denounce U.S. immigration policies, attempt to deliver books, toys to detained children

…. HUMAN RIGHTS ….

An article from Education International

A group of teachers, unionists, activists and religious leaders traveled to a detention center at the U.S. Mexico border to deliver books, toys and gifts to children incarcerated by U.S. immigration authorities.

The delegation was there to denounce the cruel, inhumane and traumatic separation of children from their families, the abusive detention conditions of minors and the systematic violations of the Human Rights of migrant families by the U.S. government.

Under the scorching Texas sun, educators from both the Mexican and U.S. side of the border arrived at the gates of the Tornillo detention center, where several hundred children are living in a series of tents surrounded by a stone wall and barbed wire and under the custody of armed guards of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 

Before reaching the gate, the activists, which included members of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (SNTE) and EI’s General Secretary, David Edwards, participated in a demonstration to protest family separation policies and indefinite internment policies of the U.S. government.

The rally and visit to the detention center came on the heels of President Donald Trump’s executive order on the issue, which has done nothing to reunite children with their families and continues the policy of jailing children, minors and migrants seeking refuge. The administration also continues to violate international law and detain thousands of children.

(Article continued in the right column)

(Click here for the Spanish version of the article or here for the French version.)

Questions related to this article:

The post-election fightback for human rights, is it gathering force in the USA?

(Article continued from the left column)

Armed guards at the gate refused to accept the donations, which included notebooks, teddy bears and soccer balls, and did not allow the teachers to enter or visit the children. The U.S. authorities also did not respond to a letter a sent in advance requesting the opportunity to deliver education materials to the children.

“We have seen governments around the world mistreat migrants and refugees, but we are horrified by the level of cruelty, arrogance and disregard for human rights displayed by U.S. authorities,” remarked EI General Secretary David Edwards.

Several NGO’s have reported children being tied up, handcuffed and forcibly medicated and sedated. In other instances children are denied exercise and human affection. This is also aggravated by the long term trauma of being inhumanly separated from their parents, explained Edwards.

“As the voice of educators, as professionals who care about children, as an organization committed to Human Rights, Education International condemns this brutal and outrageous treatment of migrants and children and calls for the immediate end to these policies,” Edwards added, “As educators we welcome, develop, encourage and inspire children. We also stand up for their rights.”

The president of AFT, Randi Weingarten, stated that “these policies are typical of tyrannical and dictatorial regimes, not democracies…These actions violate basic human rights and have caused deep and traumatic harm. The nations of the world must take action against these immoral and hateful acts by this administration.”

Juan Díaz de la Torre, president of SNTE, who was also at the rally asserted that as educators “our vocation goes beyond teaching in a classroom. We are men and women dedicated to forming the citizens of the future. The inhumane treatment that these children are bearing will leave a mark on their development if we don’t act immediately.”

He added that to solve the migration challenges there must be a multilateral agreement/process that involves all countries receiving or expulsing migrants. Everyone must work towards a solution. “It may seem that borders divide us, but we have a vocation that unites us.”

(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

Honduras: New health clinic in gang-ridden suburb of San Pedro Sula rebuilds community

.. DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION ..

An article from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees / Canada

On a sweltering afternoon, an elderly couple sit in the waiting room at the free health clinic holding hands, while a young mother waits for a medical appointment with her toddler napping in her lap.

“We welcome anyone in this clinic, we don’t turn anyone away,” says Wendy Espinoza, the health centre’s nurse, who knows everyone in town.

Keeping doors open to all may sound like a simple achievement. But it is a feat in some of the high risk neighbourhoods in San Pedro Sula, Honduras’ second city.


Local residents visit the medical clinic at the UNHCR-backed Holy Trinity Comprehensive Support Centre in Chamalecon, San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

The patchwork of streets in Chamelecón has for years been an arena for rival street gangs MS-13 and 18th Street, who control their respective territories with an iron grip, destroying communal spaces and severing neighbourly bonds.

Since opening its doors April 30, the Holy Trinity Comprehensive Support Centre has assisted roughly 100 patients per month, most young or elderly and suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes, and respiratory illnesses. But this space, which is located between the gangs’ fiercely contested territories but beholden to none, is more than just a health clinic.

“We don’t just want to cover basic medical services and medications,” says Father Luis Estévez, the local Catholic priest behind the project. “We want this to be a holistic support center for the community.”

Such support is very much needed in Chamelecón which came to world attention in 2004, when gang thugs sprayed a bus with automatic weapons fire, killing 28 passengers as they returned from the centre of San Pedro Sula, just ten minutes’ drive away.

The clinic – founded by Father Estévez, community leaders, and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency – has a key role to play in rebuilding this community, as part of a comprehensive regional support and protection plan.

Known by its Spanish acronym MIRPS, the plan developed by regional governments with UNHCR’s support, seeks to tackle the root causes of displacement in crime-wracked neighbourhoods, as well as strengthening asylum systems and working on durable solutions.

“It’s a place where people can feel safe, where they can be open with each other and they can be protected,” says Yolanda Zapata, the head of the UNHCR office in San Pedro Sula.

As an important first step, the clinic welcomes anyone, regardless of what part of Chamelecón they are from or whether they or their family have any gang affiliation.

This inclusivity is important for nurse Espinoza, who has lived in the area her whole life and splits her work hours between the clinic and the trauma unit of a major public hospital. Gang members and their victims are regular patients there.

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Questions for this article:

How important is community development for a culture of peace?

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The clinic provides comprehensive primary care, including help to address the mental health needs of the countless local residents who have suffered or witnessed violence.

Since opening its doors earlier this year, it has an on-site psychologist on Saturdays, who now has a dozen local youth as patients. The waiting list to see the psychologist is now more than a month because of such high demand.

“Our patients often have some kind of trauma they are dealing with,” says Karina Ugarte, the young resident physician at the clinic. “Sometimes it’s severe but sometimes it’s just a little frustration they want to get off their chest. But there’s no other space for them to just talk around here.”

Living with violence, or the constant threat of it, has made many residents fearful and reluctant to open up. The clinic prioritizes privacy and discretion.

“Everywhere else there’s always a fear you’re being listened to so you constantly censor yourself,” says nurse Espinoza. “That barrier is broken inside here.”

For the fragile community, the Support Centre is seeking to play a wider role than simply providing comprehensive primary care. Upstairs offices and meeting rooms are quickly becoming a hub for rebuilding the community of Chamelecón from the inside.

As part of a push to reverse years of gang rule, the centre has also begun to reach out to local youth, who are particularly affected by high crime and poverty, and are under constant pressure to join one or other of the criminal groups.

“Young people really aren’t allowed to express themselves because from a young age you learn to stay quiet, and that bleeds over into every aspect of life,” explains Angel Sandoval, a teacher at a local school and the coordinator of the center’s budding youth program. “They need a place where they can express themselves and feel free.”

In their first youth outreach, leaders brought together 1,200 young people and organized a talent show in the park. It was the biggest community event in Chamelecón in recent memory.

Community workers and youth leaders are also organizing technical skills training, art and dance classes, and reproductive health workshops at the centre for young people.

And the leaders – Father Estévez, Sandoval and others – are building a growing network of protection for locals since gang control means victims have nowhere to turn when they are at risk.
“People will come to us and say ‘The gang told us we have 48 hours to leave’ but we as community leaders didn’t know what to tell them,” says Father Estévez.

In response, community leaders are using the support center as a training site to teach local leaders how to refer those in need to UNHCR and other support groups that can assist those who have been displaced from their home.

In this neighborhood, beset by gangs and with a limited government presence, a new generation of local leaders is hoping to change the future.

“Our hope is that in the future when people have any sort of problem or threat, they automatically think of the Support Centre as the place they can come,” he says.

(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

USA: Former Marine to Create Legacy of Peace

.DISARMAMENT & SECURITY.

An article from Ploughshares

On May 1st, 1952, two thousand Marines waited in the Nevada desert for the detonation of an atomic bomb. Crouched in foxholes just two miles from ground zero without protective equipment, they were instructed to keep their heads down. “The bottom of my foxhole turned a brilliant, bright white I’ve never seen except in chemistry classes,” Bud Johns remembers, adding, “We were told to stay down until that light changed, and then immediately leave the foxholes and double time with full packs and rifles toward ground zero.” The explosion to which these Marines were exposed was the 19 kiloton Shot DOG, the fourth of a series of eight atmospheric tests of nuclear weapons conducted by the Atomic Energy Commission as part of Operation TUMBLER-SNAPPER. According to a government fact sheet, “Tactical maneuvers were designed both to train troops and to test military tactics.”


Photo: Bud and Fran Johns

“When we got to ground zero,” Bud said. “where they had built a mock village with houses, sheep and goats, there was nothing but ashes. That made me a pacifist.”

Asked about his exposure to radiation, Bud shared, “We were guinea pigs. We wore badges to record how radioactive we were. We were lucky in our test because the wind disbursed the mushroom cloud and its radioactivity. The next test dropped a radioactive hotspot near St. George, Utah, where it killed farm animals. The hotspot remained, and years later when they were filming The Conqueror many of the cast and crew ended up dying of an identical cancer. Nobody paid much attention until John Wayne died.”

“The tests were widely publicized, so we weren’t sworn to secrecy afterwards,” Bud explained, “but we never talked about it.” Looking at a photo of Shot DOG that appeared in newspapers at the time, Bud noted he might be among the Marines pictured in front of a giant mushroom cloud. When results of US nuclear tests were declassified, Bud learned that his radiation exposure fell within acceptable AEC standards.

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Question related to this article:

Can we abolish all nuclear weapons?

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Completing his Marine service in 1953, Bud returned to his home state of Michigan where he renewed a career in journalism as a political reporter for the Flint Journal. Having worked his way through Albion College, Bud came to San Francisco in 1956 as a newspaper bureau chief.

Not long after arriving in San Francisco, Bud met Sally Lilienthal. Sally was horrified to learn of Bud’s experience. “I’ve never shared my story publicly, only individually, and I told Sallie I wanted no part of anything like that ever again. I became involved with Ploughshares Fund as soon as Sally started it,” Bud said. Bud and Fran Johns were married in 1992. Having dated while Fran attended Randolph-Macon Woman’s College and Bud was in the Marines, they were reintroduced after 40 years by family. According to Bud, “When Fran first came to San Francisco, I brought her to a party and introduced her to Sally with, ‘I want you to meet a great lady.'” Fran, a life-long writer who has written extensively in the fields of death and dying and reproductive justice, added, “So, I married into Ploughshares.”

Reflecting on Bud’s experience, Fran said, “Every time I hear about a test, I have to wonder what human participation they had that we’ll never hear about. When you look at the fallout on the soldiers and the film crew, you get an idea of how related we all are. We can’t just think that if North Korea drops a bomb somewhere the effects will only impact that place.”

“And the bombs are so much more powerful now than the bomb I saw,” Bud added. “It’s like comparing the M1 rifle I carried to an AR15.”

Commenting on his decades-long annual support of Ploughshares Fund, and his decision to include Ploughshares Fund in his will, Bud said, “The work it does is important, and it’s a battle that doesn’t have the support it should. You have to chip away at it, and that’s what Ploughshares Fund does. I’m probably the only member of Ploughshares who has seen an A-bomb blast. Politicians often think in terms of a war machine. A lot more of them would be pacifists if they had experienced the foxhole and seen the results at ground zero.”

Fran expressed her hope that people will see how Ploughshares Fund works to, “stop us from going down this horrendous path we’re on.” She said, “Other than voting, the individual doesn’t have the power to stop this, so supporting Ploughshares Fund is one little way for people to help stop the planet from self-destructing,” Ploughshares Fund is honored to list Bud and Fran Johns as members of the Nuclear-Free Legacy Society. For more information about the Nuclear-Free Legacy Society, or about ways to support Ploughshares Fund through your will or trust, contact Elizabeth Warner at 415-668-2244 or ewarner@ploughshares.org.

(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.)