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Calling all journalism students – your chance to win a trip to South Africa!

RESULTS UK and Student Stop AIDs Campaign have launched an exciting competition to find a dedicated student with journalistic flair and a passion for global health. The person selected will attend a parliamentary delegation in South Africa early next year and accompany MPs and grassroots activists to meet people affected by TB and HIV, learning about the successes and challenges related to combating both diseases.

The ACTION (Advocacy to Control TB Internationally) team is looking for innovative pieces with advocacy potential, based on the theme of TB, HIV or TB-HIV coinfection. TB is a major barrier to treating HIV and the ACTION group actively promotes the need for political and financial backing to prioritize TB in order to save lives.

South Africa accounts for 28 per cent of the world’s people living with both HIV and TB and is addressing these major health challenges using new and innovative integration tools. An important aspect is the ever-increasing public knowledge and awareness that the country is fighting ONE epidemic of TB/HIV coinfection, and not two separate diseases. South Africa has one of the highest burdens of TB in the world, with three out of four HIV-positive people also with TB, a leading cause of death for those infected with HIV. Lack of funding and low political priority remain huge obstacles, yet the disease is treatable and curable.  

Anyone interested in entering the competition or supporting the work of RESULTS UK, can visit the website or find more information here.

To apply and receive an application form and a copy of the terms and conditions, please contact Amy Sheppey at RESULTS UK via email or telephone on +44 (0)20 7499 8238.  

Catch us if you can!

The sun is finally upon us here in the UK, and that can only mean on thing; the New Internationalist Campaigners are on the move! I’m going to use this blog to tell you about our movements over the coming months: we’ve got a pretty busy summer of festivals and events, and we’d love to meet as many of you as possible. So if you see an event which you think you might be heading along to, come and say hello to us on our stall. We’re also running workshops at some of the festivals so if you’re going along, or you know someone else who is, tell them to come and join us!

We kick off our ‘summer tour’ this coming weekend (29-30 May) at the Bristol EcoVeggie Fayre, a great event that we’ve been involved with for a few years now. For tickets and info visit the webiste.

We then head on to our first big weekend of festivals and we start off with a real bang. On 3 – 5 June we will be at both Sunrise Festival, which takes place in the wonderful Somerset countryside just outside of Frome, and our longstanding favourite, Wychwood, which goes off on Cheltenham racecourse on the same dates. We have workshops confirmed at both festivals and if the weather stays like this, both will be ace!

We will then be swinging by Nottingham University Student’s Union’s very own Sounds on the Downs, a one day music affair with a sustainability and environmental twist being held on 9 June from 1-9pm.

Our next port of call will be Lynton and Lynmouth music festival, also known as Llama Fest, on the weekend of 11 – 13 June. This lovely little free festival promises to be great so if you’re near by, then pop on over.

We then move onto the West London Greenfest, which is being organized by the Hammersmith and Fulham group of the London Cycling Campaign. It’s another free one and it’s taking place in Fernival Gardens in Hammersmith, from 1-5pm on 20 June.

Next up is the Sheffield Green Fair, taking place on 26 June from 11-5 pm, at St.Mary’s Community Centre on Bramall Lane. Being organized by the local Green Party, it will be showcasing all things green: campaigns, products, veggie and vegan food, the whole caboodle!

After a short break we’ll be descending upon Canterbury for Lounge on the Farm from the 9 – 11 July.

We then head straight on to our biggest gig of the year (in terms of festie size): Latitude. Probably the biggest green/alternative festival in the UK, Latitude takes place in idyllic surroundings at Henham Park near the Suffolk coast from 15 – 18 July. 

Following directly on from that we have our biggest weekend of the summer with three festivals on the same dates! We’ll be at the long running, world -famous WOMAD at Charlton Park in Wiltshire, at Rhythms of the World – a large World Music extravaganza which takes place at Hitchin Priory in Hertfordshire – and at TRUCK fest which is happening in South Oxfordshire.

We’re then taking the whole of August off to recover before returning for the Urban Green Fair which is happening in Brockwell Park, South London, on 5 September and which is free of charge. We have some workshops confirmed at this event.

Then, with a tear in our eye, we round off the summer with the Spitalfields Show and Green Fair. Run by Alternative Arts, the fair is a showcase for all things green. It takes place at the Spitalfields farm on 12 September.

And that’s our lot! It looks like it’s going to be a great summer and that we’re going to get the word about the New Internationalist spread far and wide. So if you’re at any of these events then come and say hello. We’d love to meet you!

The campaigners

The whole story

In recent weeks my fellow campaigners and I have been running a series of workshops for students focusing on Haiti. Two of our team, Rob and Ben, gave a workshop to Bristol University HUB (an activist network) and Matt and myself spoke with the politics society of Exeter University. What we learned was quite revelatory, both for the students and for ourselves. From both our workshops, and from our face-to-face campaigning work, it became clear that a distinct lack of understanding is present amongst the general population about, firstly, the systems of structures that have left Haiti in such a precarious state of underdevelopment, and secondly, how those structures have created a unique vulnerability to natural disaster.

For many of the people we spoke to, Haiti’s troubles began with the earthquake that took place on the 13 January, and as such we were asked to direct our workshops on the topics of ‘emergency aid provision and its problems’ and ‘world hunger: Haiti’. However, when we discussed the topic amongst ourselves we felt that both of these areas fundamentally ignored the ‘real’ cause of the disaster in Haiti: historical exploitation, proximity to mainland America and the neoliberal globalization programme. The fact that Haiti, as the first independent black nation (and the first country to outlaw slavery), was indebted to its former colonial masters, France, to the tune of 90 million gold francs (the equivalent of $21 billion today), a debt which took over 120 years to pay back (1938), or that after the country’s first ever free elections in 1991, the newly elected president Jean-Bertrande Aristide was overthrown in a US-instigated coup due to his ‘radical’ policies; introduction of a minimum wage, allowing the formation of trade unions, opposing US influence.

Aristide’s overthrow was followed by four years of military rule, during which time Haiti’s already weak economy was further liberalized, allowing increased access by US and South American corporations, the privatization of several major national industries including concrete manufacturing and the removal of protective tariffs on US agricultural imports. When Aristide was returned to power in 1994, it was on the condition that he accept the continuation of the programme already begun by the US, and that he adopt the policies of the candidate he defeated in the elections. The US and the neo-liberal lobby had won. Haiti’s rich agricultural lands fell barren as heavily subsidized US exports flooded in, the agrarian poor flooded the city (Port-au-Prince has grown from a small town of 50,000 in the 1950s to a massive shanty town of over 2 million), and people went to work producing cheap consumer goods for export markets.

With huge numbers of desperately poor people living shacks in Port-au-Prince, is it any wonder so many were killed when the earthquake struck? With the US determined to see a mass relocation from the country to the city is it any wonder there were no housing regulations in place in a city that sits on a major international fault line? With so few prospects in a nation that is perpetually poor, is it any wonder 80 per cent of all skilled graduates leave Haiti to find work elsewhere? With a GDP of less than a dollar a day, is it surprising that the emergency services and infrastructure were woefully underprepared for the earthquake?

These are some of the issues that we tried to explore with the students we worked with. We found that whilst many were unaware of the situation Haiti faced, they were shocked to hear of the extent to which it was undeveloped. And that was our point. No-one was talking about Haiti before the quake, and that reflects the media portrayal and public understanding of these situations and the strange belief that we can separate natural from human-made disasters. There are hundreds of other Haitis out there, countries that are in desperate situations due to the imposition of oppressive economic policies and exploitation by Minority World governments, yet countries like Timor-Leste or Eritrea or Belize don’t register on the international agenda.

We had some excellent discussions amongst our groups about these issues and we genuinely felt we had taken significant steps to developing people’s understanding of how a country can become so specifically vulnerable to a natural disaster.

We are trying at the moment to broaden our workshop and event programmr as a co-operative and are willing to run sessions on a whole variety of topics. If you’d like more information about what we do please contact [email protected]

Don't laugh!

Last week, my fellow New Internationalist campaigners and I went for a meeting at HQ to discuss the Copenhagen magazine. One of the issues we discussed was the decision to include a lengthy comic as a central element to that month’s issue. During the discussion it became clear that the issue was fairly divisive, with some happy to see graphic work appearing in the magazine’s pages and some arguing that comics have little place in a serious publication. These twin reactions tend to sum up general critical discussion of the medium in a wider context. I personally am a firm believer in the power of the format and have to say I’m glad that the New Internationalist is experimenting with a greater prevalence of drawn reportage.

Whatever you call them – comics, graphic novels, visual diaries – the medium has been around since time immemorial, from ancient cave paintings, to crude doodles found on the walls of Pompeii, via the pages of Punch and the New York Times, to a ‘serious’ rebirth in the 1960s in the form of Comix, and on to the present. The combination of words and pictures has a long and rich history, yet as a form of serious political or documentary reportage the reaction from the mainstream has been relatively muted. 

There have been some major successes of course; the Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus by Art Speigelman is a harrowing yet redemptive Auschwitz survivors’ tale; Palestine by Joe Sacco is a journalistic report on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict; Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi tells the story of a young girl growing up in post revolutionary Iran, and Waltz With Bashir by Folman and David Polonsky centres around the massacres of Palestinian refugees in the Sabra and Shatila camps by Lebanese Phalangists during the 1982 Israeli invasion. These are all examples of the format’s success, yet the spotlight of widespread acclaim has been fleeting. This is truly a shame. I feel that visual language has the power to deal with large, complicated issues, such as those described above, with a poignancy and delicate human touch that is barely achievable in any other format. 

The effective use of comic art can bring a conflict or political process to life and can provide both serious dialogue and discussion, whilst retaining focus upon those most directly affected by issues: one of the New Internationalist’s primary goals. Comics can be used to effectively explain and map out issues to those new to an area in an accessible and empowering way. For instance, in Safe Area Gorazde, another work by Joe Sacco on the siege of Gorazde during the Bosnian conflict, the artist uses a series of flashbacks and metaphors to explain the political causes for the war creating a pictorial history of the conflict for the reader and also illustrates all the key figures on both sides; thus when Radovan Karadzic speaks, you know who is talking and the narrative remains simple to follow, allowing you to enter the world of the besieged Bosnian Muslims. What more powerful a call to action can you imagine?

So there we go. I love this stuff basically and so should you! Don’t listen to those who say that comics aren’t a ‘serious’ enough medium to deal with serious political messages. There seems to be a belief that as ‘comics’ they should concentrate on the lighter side of life and stick to what they do best. I say, rubbish! Comics provide an excellent way into issues for the uninitiated, offer intensely personal accounts of major events, provide a call to action to would-be activists and allow an escape from convention that no serious book or film can manage. As the eponymous Harvey Pekar (writer of the incredible American Splendor series) stated: ‘Comics are words and pictures with no boundaries. What can you not do?’

As well as those listed above, I recommend:

Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle. A roaming animator provides an insightful peek from the inside of the Junta.
Deogratias by Stassen. A harrowingly personal account of one young man’s destruction during the Rwandan genocide.
Barefoot Gen by Keiji Nakazawa. Recounts the tale of a survivor of the Hiroshima bomb
In the Shadow of no Towers by Art Spiegelman. A deeply personal, politically charged, graphically and emotionally stunning account of the events and aftermath of September 11.
Dropsie Avenue by Will Eisner. The drawn writings and musing of early-century New York provide a comment of the unstoppable force of capitalism.
The Rabbi’s Cat by Joann Sfar. In this beautiful book the cat of an Algerian Rabbi learns to talk and wishes to convert to Judaism. Cue some lengthy theological debate.
Louis Riel by Chester Brown. Retells the tale of mostly forgotten hero of the Metis people, who shared both French and Native American blood and who were ruthlessly persecuted by the British in Canada. Provides insightful commentary on the beliefs and practices relating to indigenous people at the time.