issue 313 - June 1999
NIGEL DICKINSON / STILL PICTURES
Gone but not forgotten
The Guatemalan Government has announced that it will pay compensation for the murder of street kid Nahaman Carmona López who was kicked to death by four policemen in 1990. The four officers were eventually convicted and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment in 1992.
At the time public employees were also ordered to pay 20,000 quetzales ($3,160) to the dead boys mother but the money was never paid. Bruce Harris, from Casa Alianza which presented the case for compensation, says: While the case of Nahaman represents a very good start in terms of official acknowledgement of human-rights abuses, the Government still needs to do more to guarantee the application of laws which will protect the victims of human- rights abuses especially when the victims are homeless children.
Lawyers join anti-MAI struggle
A citizens initiative is underway in Canada which challenges the legitimacy of the Canadian Government to negotiate the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI). The Defence of Canadian Liberty Committee (DCLC) took the Federal Government to court in April. According to the DCLC: The MAI is unconstitutional under Canadian law because it gives entrenched rights to international banks and foreign corporations guaranteed by international law which Canadian citizens do not have... This is contrary to the principle of equality before the law which is part of the Canadian constitution enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedom.
Michel Chossudovsky/Third World Network Features
For further information see: www.canadianliberty.bc.ca/legaldocs/index.html
JEAN-LEO DUGAST / PANOS PICTURES
Drought and diplomatic dilemmas
The worst drought in 50 years has led Israel to cut the supply of desperately needed water to Jordan. The failure of the winter rains only 40 per cent of normal in Israel will have a devastating impact on Jordan, which suffered a severe water shortage last year. Guertin Baskin, director of the Israel/Palestine Centre for Research and Information in Jerusalem says: By summer people in Amman may be getting only one or two days water a week. It is destabilizing for the regime. Israel is pledged by treaty to supply Jordan with 45 million cubic metres of water annually. But now Israel has told the Jordanian Government that it can only send 40 per cent of this. Baskin, who has studied regional water problems for 20 years, says: For Israel the water is an economic issue. For Jordan it is a survival issue.
Patrick Cockburn/Middle East Realities
The shocking truth
The rich world's neglect of female youth
Young girls and women endure hunger, poverty and violence in one of the richest countries in the world the US. Cornell University historian Joan Jacobs Brumberg says: Although young women today enjoy greater freedom and more options than their counterparts of a century ago, they are also under more pressure and at greater risk.
One of these is poverty one in four children under six years of age is poor. But female-headed households are particularly poor 55 per cent of all children in such homes live in poverty, and 67 per cent of black female-headed households live in poverty. Many of such homes are headed by teenagers or young women.
Nearly three million children are reported to be victims of abuse and neglect in the US. But the plight of teenagers is even more shocking. In a typical year, one out of eight teenagers gets a sexually-transmitted disease and one in ten teenage girls becomes pregnant. One in ten teenage boys and one in five adolescent girls has attempted suicide at some point.
Psychologist Mary Piper comments that girls face incredible pressure to be beautiful and sophisticated, which in junior high means using chemicals and being sexual. The belief that beauty is thin preoccupies many girls in San Francisco a survey of 494 schoolgirls found that more than half described themselves as overweight while only 15 per cent were so by medical standards. At the age of nine, 31 per cent thought they were too fat and 81 per cent of ten-year-olds were dieters.
Alarmingly, girls and young women are not only more likely to be victims of social pressures and poverty, but they are also subject to growing levels of violence. The United Nations Childrens Fund says: In the US domestic violence is the biggest single cause of injury to women, accounting for more hospital admissions than rapes, muggings and road accidents combined.
Increasingly girls are attacked by their peers. Rapists are getting younger with under-18s committing one in five of all rapes and under-15s committing one in 20. Sexual attacks by 13- and 14-year-olds have doubled in the last decade. And far from being random attacks by individuals, in places like New York gang rapes and attacks on girls are becoming more common. One municipal swimming pool in the city had five such attacks in a week.
Bharat Dogra/Third World Network Features.
JEREMY HORNER / PANOS PICTURES
North Korean crisis
The famine in North Korea is comparable to the Ethiopian famine in the mid-1980s, says David Morton from the United Nations World Food Programme. He says that large-scale assistance is needed for at least three years to turn the situation around.
The food shortage has produced a generation of stunted and dramatically underweight children. Adults have been forced to leave their jobs to search for food, says Morton. A survey conducted last year found that 62 per cent of children under seven years old suffered from mental-development problems.
Down to Earth Vol 7 No 21
DARIO NOVELLINO / STILL PICTURES
Forests and financial crisis five facts
When the financial crisis hit Indonesia, industrial pollution rose by 15 per cent while industrial production fell by 18 per cent.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that an additional 20 per cent of the population in Indonesia and 12 per cent in both South Korea and Thailand will fall into poverty.
Crisis-hit countries Russia, Brazil and Indonesia rank first, third and fifth respectively among the worlds nations in the amount of remaining frontier forest totaling 47 per cent of the worlds ancient forests.
In order to meet targets set by the IMF, the Brazilian Government has slashed spending on environmental programmes by two thirds.
Under IMF pressure, the Government of Indonesia lifted a log-export ban and cut the log- export tax from 200 per cent to 30 per cent.
Face the Facts/Friends of the Earth US
Tears over spilt oil
Ten years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, only two species the Pacific herring and sea otters in Alaskas coastline ecosystem have recovered. Species like common loons, harbour seals and killer whales have made little or no progress towards recovery, say scientists.
More than 10.8 million gallons of crude oil spilled when the Exxon Valdez tanker ran aground in March 1989. The slick covered more than 1,600 kilometres of coastline, killing an estimated 250,000 seabirds, 2,800 sea otters, 300 harbour seals, 250 bald eagles and up to 22 killer whales.
Drillbits and Tailings Vol 4 No 4
No sweat shopping
Sweatshops on the Pacific island of Saipan have had orders drop by 25 per cent since human-rights lawsuits were launched in California against buyers and retailers. As the island is part of the US territory of the Northern Mariana Islands, its garments carry a Made in the USA label. The industry employs around 40,000 Filipino and Chinese migrants and earns $1.2 billion a year which is virtually the islands only income.
Human-rights groups allege that labour conditions in Saipan violate US laws. These include claims that workers were underpaid, recruited illegally, locked in factories, beaten and forced to have abortions.
Pacific Islands Monthly Vol 69 No 3
New campaign aims to make more people see the new millennium
TRYGVE BOLSTAD / PANOS PICTURES
The number of blind people around the world stands at 45 million and is projected to double in 20 years. People are 10 times more likely to go blind in the developing world than people in the developed world, and 80 per cent of these cases are preventable, says Vindy Baines from Sight Savers International. In response, a new campaign is aiming to eradicate preventable blindness within the next 20 years. The campaign and the umbrella organization co-ordinating it are called Vision 2020: The Right to Sight. Its a joint initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO) and 19 international eye-care charities.
Vision 2020 will tackle four types of preventable blindness: cataracts, river blindness, trachoma and child blindness. Affecting over 20 million people, cataracts are believed to be related to exposure to ultraviolet rays putting the South more at risk. A 20-minute operation, costing only $24, can remove cataracts and restore sight entirely.
Another leading cause is river blindness, a contagious disease caused by a parasitic worm spread by the black similium fly. In some villages in Central and Western Africa 50 per cent of the adults are affected, says Baines. It is the children who suffer most because they have to work or act as guides for their blind parents or grandparents. Sight Savers hopes that distribution of the drug Mectizan will eliminate river blindness by 2007.
Trachoma is one of the oldest known infectious diseases and is responsible for 15 per cent of the worlds blindness. It is hoped that trachoma will be eliminated by 2020 through surgery, antibiotics, education, improved hygiene and access to clean water.
There are 1.5 million blind children in the world, mainly in Africa and Asia. A campaign to distribute vitamin A tablets and treatment is under way to prevent further cases of childhood blindness.
WHO is co-ordinating the Vision 2020 programme but not funding it. That will remain the responsibility of the charities. Simple operations, medicine and education would drastically reduce the incidence of blindness, which is costing $25 billion a year in lost productivity worldwide.
Patrick Lejtenyi/Gemini News Service
JULIO ETCHART / STILL PICTURES
Nestlé has been warned by Britains Advertising Standards Authority not to repeat its claims of an ethical policy over marketing of baby foods. In January the ASA said Nestlé must not repeat claims that even before the World Health Organization International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes was introduced in 1981, Nestlé marketed infant formula ethically and responsibly and has done so ever since; that the Nestlé Charter concerns the companys commitment to the WHO International Code in developing countries; and that Nestlé do not provide free supplies of baby milk to hospitals for use with healthy infants.
Baby Milk Action asks anyone who finds Nestlé repeating these claims to contact them:
Baby Milk Action 23 St Andrews Street, Cambridge CB2 3AX.
Tel: 44 1223 464420 Fax: 44 1223 464417
e-mail: [email protected]
JEAN - LEO / PANOS PICTURES
Cambodians pay for cheap seats
Sitting on wooden chairs marked Made in Vietnam leaves little of Cambodias forest standing, according to a report by Global Witness. In the last 30 years Cambodian forest cover has declined by 70 per cent and it is now a mere 30 per cent of land area. And much of the timber ends up as Vietnamese-made garden furniture sold throughout Europe despite a log-export ban beginning in 1997. Many of these exports are also falsely labeled as environmentally friendly, claiming a tree is planted for every one cut down. The report concludes: By buying Vietnamese garden furniture consumers risk finding out that they are at best contributing to forest destruction in Vietnam, Malaysia, Burma and Laos... At worst there is a direct link between much of this garden furniture and the enriching of military warlords and the political élite in Cambodia.
For further information see: www.oneworld.net/globalwitness/
Australias record in getting overseas-born citizens into Parliament is poor despite its ethnic diversity. The country lags behind Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the US in ethnic representation in Parliament 22.3 per cent of Australians were born overseas but they represent only 12.5 per cent of members of parliament, which is little changed from a decade ago. Migrants have been more successful at the local rather than the national level because ethnic communities are a significant voting block in local elections and are more unified over local issues. Only 4 per cent of federal politicians nine MPs were from non-English-speaking backgrounds, compared with 14 per cent of the population.
All I could think was: My God! NATO is bombing us. I ran through the fields like a mouse.
Dibran Asmani, Kosovo refugee, on the elephantine power of NATO.