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April 04 2013

In Global Downturn, Sustainable Development Begins at Home

Global Voices bloggers have been commissioned to liveblog the OECD Global Forum on Development in Paris on April 4-5, 2013. Leading up to the meeting, our team is submitting posts about development issues that help serve as weekly online discussion topics on their website (#OECDgfd)

Thatched roof Mali

Preparing a new thatched roof in Mali. Photo by Jean-Marc Desfilhes on flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

As Western economies struggle with rising debt and unemployment, their approach to development and cooperation with low-income countries and emerging markets has taken a twist. It is becoming more clear that sustainable development should not be based on external wealth or redistribution, but must instead be generated at home.

Foreign investment and remittances have long been identified as a crucial source of revenue for poor populations in countries like Mali or Cape Verde. Entire villages have been built out of remittances in Mali, for instance, mainly from immigrants to France. However, this does not mean that these countries are being helped to develop sustainably.

For most African countries, the positive ability to attract capital is often negated by lenient fiscal policies towards foreign investors that strip countries of public revenues to build up their economies. This trend seems was still on the rise worldwide in 2007 according to an OECD report “Tax Effects on Foreign Direct Investments”.

A report by Matthew Martin and Nils Bhinda from Development Finance International shows that in Tanzania, for instance, the influx of private capital from global mining companies increased the volume of gold and diamonds sales. However, this failed to produce the expected social benefits, such as increased government revenues or public investment in social infrastructure. In fact, various tax exemptions and fiscal incentives ended up costing Tanzania $140 million USD from 2005-2008.

Remittances: Money at what cost?

A  growing number of poor households worldwide are subsisting on remittances, according to the World Bank. Still the question remains: can these seemingly successful flows of migrants and money secure sustainable development and reduce poverty in the most affected countries?

Remittances from abroad to Mali amounted %3.7 of the countries GDP for the year 2005-2006, and according to some estimates remittances significantly decreased the number of poor in Mali and also reduced inequality. Cape Verde is another nation that has seemingly benefited from emigration as the country with the highest per capita remittances of any African country. With remittances amounting to 8% of the country's GDP, it has even overcome the challenge of establishing banking institutions for the poor on its many islands thanks to financial capital from migrants in Portugal, Brazil and the USA.

Because of such statistics, many international development institutions have attempted to design development policies based on remittance flows, by trying to convert this “subsistence” money into capital for infrastructure. There are some caveats to consider though.

Despite the growth of remittance flows, one should keep in mind that the very concept of remittances originates from a major outcome of global poverty: economic migration. Those who choose to leave their country are often exposed to risks and dangers during the transition (illegal border transfer, human traffickers, social and cultural isolation).

Moreover, remittances from migrants are highly dependent on the economic growth of the host countries. When unemployment in host countries rises, it frequently affects the type of labor available to most immigrants, putting both them and families back home at further risk of precariousness.

Finally, the peer-to-peer nature of remittances is both a blessing and a curse. As Hein de Haas writes in an article for Third World Quarterly in 2005:

The much-celebrated micro-level at which remittances are transferred is not only their strength, but also their main weakness, since this also implies that individual migrants are generally not able to remove general development constraints.

Because of the lack of incentives for locally-produced added value, it appears that remittances based on value created abroad can never be the sole base of a sustainable development strategy for low income countries.

Good measures for sustainable development

There are some measures that can be implemented to support foreign direct investment and remittances towards a more sustainable world.

First, transparency and accountability. With respect to foreign investments, governments should offer proper projections of the benefits for public finance, or projects should not be allowed to take place. Financial policies should encourage a permanent check and balance system for both private and public flows with an obligation of transparency for the source of the revenues and their further use. Transparency, in the form of regular and mandatory publications to civil society should be mandatory.

Low income countries often resort to the setting up Industrial Free Zones (IZF) to spur industrialization and create jobs in strategic locations with mineral resources. The creation of these zones have often led to economic and social instability through a constant race to lower costs, geographical mobility and low-quality production. Therefore if a government chooses to implement an IZF, it should also plan for a rapid conversion of labor and production capacity to evolve with markets.

This concept is all the more important because so far there has been no concerted effort to integrate local products of low income countries and services in global trade. Inter-regional trade should remain the main goal because it provides geographical proximity and reduces vulnerability to the whims of highly mobile multinational companies.

With respect to migration and remittances, a drawback of global inequality is the tendency of qualified students from low income countries to remain in richer countries to pursue careers, a phenomenon also known as the “brain drain“. As the recession takes its toll on employment in Western countries, a “reverse brain drain” effect has emerged for Nigeria, Ghana, Morocco and other countries where there are competitive salaries and working conditions.

It would make sense for policymakers worldwide to start to embrace a simple idiom to ensure sustainable development: the creation of wealth through added value and redistribution must start at home. Policies based on short term incentives, social inequities or external wealth injection might spur growth temporarily, but it is doubtful that they will sustain poverty reduction in the long run.

April 02 2013

Girls Are Told Not to Leave Kyrgyzstan

A Kyrgyz MP has proposed a new draft decree that would ban girls under 23 years of age from leaving the country without parental consent. Yrgal Kadyralieva calls the decree she is pushing through the parliament ‘Sapargul', after a young female migrant who was subjected to a shocking ‘patriotic’ attack in Russia by her male counterparts from Kyrgyzstan, part of a trend Global Voices covered in detail last June.

But the decree which aims at preventing young Kyrgyz women working abroad from becoming ‘sexual slaves' has come under fierce criticism. Human rights groups charge that the decree limits constitutionally guaranteed freedom of movement.

The Bishkek Feminists Initiative depicts the decree of MP Kadyralieva (right) as paternalist and constricting in this demotivator. The caption reads: ‘Hey, where are you going'?

‘Rescuing girls from an uncertain future’

On March 4, local news website kloop.kg published [ru] a compelling interview with the MP discussing the initiative. The interview turned out to be among the most widely read materials on the news platform last month, leading to citizen video debates [ru] on the same topic. One of the reasons that the interview gathered so much popularity was the frank dialogue between Kadyralieva and Zarema Sultanbekova, a young female journalist who would fall under the demographic the controversial decree seeks to protect. At points during the interview, Kadyralieva's passion seems to bubble [ru] uncontrollably to the surface:

Я горю! Мне стыдно за этих девушек.

Зарема, мы хотим или нет — мы рожаем нацию! Богатырей или депутатов! Мужчины не рожают!

I'm burning [with rage]! I am embarrassed for these girls.

Zarema, we give birth to the nation – whether we want it or not! [We give birth to] heroes and MPs! Men do not give birth!

Kadyralieva also revealed how difficult it had been to draft the initiative as a young woman. The lawmaker is only eight years older than girls who could be banned from leaving the country by the decree. She works in the male-dominated parliament, where aksakals (elders) constantly tell her to ‘shut up’ and party bosses accuse her of seeking self-promotion through the initiative.

One Kloop reader, Aizhan Rahmanova, lauded [ru] Kadyralieva's bravery in seeking to address the realities of life for young female migrants in Russia:

я полностью согласна с ней,потому что сама живу за границей и вижу что твориться с девушками.Она женщина мужественная,и спасает девушек от непонятного будущего.

I totally agree with [Kadyralieva]; I myself live abroad and I see what is happening with the girls. She is a courageous woman rescuing girls from an uncertain future.

Yet, some of the readers supporting the initiative seemed to display the same virulent, honor-driven, and nationalistic arguments as the patriots who brutally attacked Sapargul used to justify their assaults on young Kyrgyz women suspected of prostitution in Russian cities. Ulanbek, for instance, wrote [ru]:

Абсолютно Правильный Законопроект надо принять!!!Прочитал некоторые высказывания «Дермократов,АДВОКАТОВ» которым кажется что нарушаются гендерные права женщин,и хочу предложить задать себе вопрос «ТЫ согласен чтобы твою дочь,сестренку [воспринимали] как проститутку???»!!!!

«ДЕВУШКИ» у которых «НАРУШАЮТСЯ» права,извините что выражаюсь грубо в праздник,»ТЫ можешь заниматься проституцией сколько Тебе угодно и за сколько Тебе угодно бери хоть по рублю с клиента» НО ТОЛЬКО ПРИМИ ГРАЖДАНСТВО ДРУГОЙ СТРАНЫ НЕ ПОРОЧЬ МОЮ СТРАНУ КЫРГЫЗСТАН!!!

This is an absolutely correct draft law which should be adopted! I've read some of the comments of ‘Democracy Advocates’ who think that [women's] rights would be violated [if the law is adopted] and I would like to ask them: “Would you like it if your daughter or sister were treated as a prostitute?”

Girls, whose rights are being ‘violated', excuse me for speaking bluntly on [International Women's Day]: You can practice prostitution as much as you like and charge your clients as much as you like – BUT APPLY FOR CITIZENSHIP OF ANOTHER COUNTRY AND DO NOT BRING SHAME ON MY COUNTRY, KYRGYZSTAN!!!

‘Isn't it gender inequality?’

Elena pointed out [ru] that laws applying to women should apply to men, too:

 Это что гендерное неравенство? Пусть тогда и парней до 23 лет не пускают… Пусть лучше дома работают, порядок наводят, заводы строят, дороги… Замуж девушек берут. А то не справедливо получается.

Isn't it gender inequality? Then ban boys younger than 23-years-old from leaving. Let them work at home, do the work, build factories and roads. Marry women. Otherwise it is not fair.

One of the most salient contributions to the debate was made by a lawyer, Sadanbekov, who suggested [ru] that in a country as corrupt as Kyrgyzstan the initiative would impose additional financial burdens in the form of bribes on girls who wishe to leave the country:

А вы не усматриваете здесь нарушение прав человека (девушки)? Под этим соусом погранцы начнут злоупотреблять служебным положением и вымогать деньги со всех девушек. Каждый имеет право на свободу передвижений, на свободу выбора места жительства и выезда. А может быть самой Ыргал Кадыралиевой запретить выезжать за границу? Зачем нам такие парламентарии, которые палки в колеса вставляют и инициируют бестолковые законы? Разогнать надобно такой Жогорку Кенеш! Система парламентаризма в Кыргызстане не оправдала себя.

Don't you see this as a violation of human rights (of girls)? Border guards will use the [decree] to extort money from all girls. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement, freedom to choose their place of residence, and freedom to leave the country. Maybe we should ban Yrgal Kadyralieva from traveling abroad? Why do we need such MPs who initiate senseless laws? Such a [parliament] ought to be disbanded! The parliamentary system in Kyrgyzstan has not lived up to the expectations.

The citizen debate on the same topic, which pitted Yuri Puinov (arguing against the decree) against Beks Okenov (arguing for) has triggered an intense discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #kloopdebates. According to a poll, Puinov was adjudged to have won the debate by a small margin.

During the debate Anisa Atalova (@AnisaAtalova) tweeted [ru]:

@AnisaAtalova: А что если девушки не хотят защиты? Кто-то будет спрашивать? #kloopdebates

@AnisaAtalova: And what if the girls don't want to be protected? Will they be asked for their opinions? #kloopdebates

Janygul Janibekovna (@janygul) asked [ru]:

@janygul: Безопасность важнее свободы? #kloopdebates

@janygul: Is security more important than freedom? #kloopdebates

And Azat Ruziev (@Azat25) noted [ru] about the assumptions underlying the decree:

@Azat25: Девушки, получается не полноценные граждане… законопроект готовит их стать проститутками #kloopdebates

@Azat25 Girls, it appears, are not taken to be citizens enjoying full rights… this bill is turning them into prostitutes #kloopdebates

As recalled in Global Voices’ June report on patriotic attacks against female labor migrants, between 30-40% of Kyrgyz migrants working in Russia are women. Many of these women are young, unmarried, and travel to the country alone.

Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee has supported the proposal. It is unclear at the moment when the voting for the bill will take place in the parliament.

This post is part of the GV Central Asia Interns Project at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

March 25 2013

The Highest Money Transfer Fees in the World Are in Sub-Saharan Africa

Babylas Serge de Souza wrote [fr] on his blog:

 Sub-Saharan Africais the most expensive destination in the world for money transfer: the average cost of transfer from abroad reached 12.4% in 2012. The average cost of money transfers to Africa as a whole is around 12%, which is higher than the world average (8.96%), and almost two times higher than the cost of remittances to South Asia, which has the lowest rates in the world (6.54%).

Shades of Communism in New Russian Registration Law

On the evening of March 18, 2013 group of around 12 people [ru] unveiled a long black-and-white poster in the Red Square, reading “Go f*ck yourself with your registration”. They set off flares and shouted slogans, among which were “Down with the Chekist government!” and “Putin will be executed!” The protest [ru] lasted for a few minutes before it was harshly broken up by Moscow police, who arrested the demonstrators in their usual brutal manner [ru], dragging some away by their hair.

Protesters holding a banner in the Red Square. Banner reads "Go f*ck yourself with your registration." YouTube screenshot. March 25, 2013

Protesters holding a banner in the Red Square. Banner reads “Go f*ck yourself with your registration.” YouTube screenshot. March 25, 2013

The action was in response to legislation currently under consideration [ru] in the Russian parliament, which if adopted would create harsh penalties for any Russian citizen not registered at their current address.

“Inflatable Flats”

Currently, Russians are already required to register with the authorities within 90 days of changing address. The new bill would increase fines for failing to register from 2,000 rubles to 3,000 rubles  and up to 5,000 rubles in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Landlords or tenants who sub-let are also liable for fines of up to 7,000 rubles, while legal entities face fines of up to 800,000 rubles. Furthermore, intentionally misleading the authorities by registering a person who, in fact, doesn't reside at the property (so called “fake registration”) becomes a criminal offence carrying large fines and punishable up to 3 years in jail.

The new registration rules were first conceived in line with Putin's election promises to fight the notorious practice of registering dozens of foreign migrants in a single apartment. According to statistics cited [ru] by Duma deputies, in 2011 some 300,000 people were found to be registered at 6,400 addresses — hence the curious name of the proposed legislation, the “Inflatable Flats Law”. In Russia today there are about 10 -15 million migrant workers, many of them from poor Central Asian republics. The vibrant economies of Moscow and St. Petersburg make these cities especially popular destinations for these laborers, and their large numbers are seen as placing a serious strain on social services and provoking ethnic and cultural tensions.

The proposed legislation has been harshly criticized by Russia's online community, many of whom feel that it breaches the freedom of movement clause of the Russian Constitution. For many Russians it invokes memories of “propiska” – a Soviet-era registration permit used by Soviet authorities to control internal migration by effectively binding citizens to their place of residence. While propiska is still remembered as a painful example of limited civil liberties under communism, it was not universally disliked, as many perceived it as a way to limit economic migration.

The proposed legislation also has potential unintended consequences. According to a report in Niezavisimaya Gazeta [ru], about 7 million Russians currently reside in properties whose landlords, for various reasons, are refusing to provide them with necessary registration paperwork. Oleg Shein, an Astrakhan based politician from the “Just Russia” party, voiced a popular criticism by pointing out [ru] in a blog post that rather than foreigners, it’s ordinary Russians, homeowners and occupiers, who will be most affected by the increased penalties:

Реально закон касается вовсе не мифических “таджикских иммигрантов”, а примерно 25-30 миллионов русских, татар, калмыков, евреев, осетин и т.д., живущих не там, где написано в паспорте. В Астрахани я оцениваю число таких людей примерно в сто тысяч. [...] Причины могут быть разные: аварийный дом, трудовая иммиграция из села в город, конфликт с родственниками и т.д.

In reality the law affect not “migrants from Tajikistan”, but approximately 25-30 million [ethnic] Russians, Tatars, Kalmyks, Jews, Ossetians, etc. who do not live at the address stamped in their passports. In Astrakhan I would estimate there are around 100,000 people in this situation. [...] There may be various reasons for this: emergency housing, labor migration from villages to the city, a family conflict, etc.

Muscovites face inspections

Despite the fact that the legislation is not yet in effect, Moscow City Government has already begun to actively monitor registration of people living in housing association flats. It has introduced guidelines on its website which advise inhabitants that a district policeman with the representatives of the housing association will be visiting flats twice a month to verify registration. Communal flats have been plastered with notices asking neighbors to notify housing authorities if they suspect that large numbers of strangers may have moved into a flat in their building. Bloggers [ru] and the media [ru] report that these “raids” have already started in many districts of Moscow.

The revelations have provoked strong online reactions, as citizens are outraged about the violation of their privacy. The new rules are also seen as a bribe-seeking opportunity for corrupt law enforcement officers — people will be incentivised to pay them off rather than face fines or court procedures. An online petition [ru] against the legislation has been set up by the activist movement “No to Propiska” and already boasts 91,621 signatures (by law, upon collection of 100,000 signatures it has to be debated by the Duma). Bloggers and online communities are now issuing advice [ru] to the public about what to do should the police knock on their door and demand entry for inspection.

Putin against Putin

Many opponents of the tougher registration rules are convinced that the law is just another symptom of the ongoing crackdown on civil liberties during Putin’s third presidential term.

Popular liberal blogger Oleg Kozyrev made it clear [ru] he has no doubts about the motivation behind the bill.

Мое мнение – смысл этого закона конечно не в том, чтобы кормить участковых, а в том, чтобы повысить репрессивный характер контроля над гражданами, это шаг к тоталитарному характеру власти. Закон абсолютно в логике законов о митингах, об интернете и т.д.

In my opinion – the logic behind introducing this legislation is, of course, not to feed local police officers [through corruption], but to increase the repressive means of control over citizens, a step towards totalitarian government. This law follows the same logic as ones restricting public gatherings, censoring the Internet etc.

Blogger Sapojnik voiced [ru] similar sentiment:

Все-таки несчастная Россия – это какой-то дурной сон, поставленный на вечный “повтор”. Когда уж, наконец, клеймо “регистрации” начнут ставить всем прямо на лбу, чтоб не перетруждать ответственных работников ДэЗов?? Позор, конечно. Людей в собственной стране ходят и проверяют, как скот – есть клеймо или нет. Дожили! В 1991, когда казалось, что в страну пришла СВОБОДА – разве я думал, что опять доживу до такого маразма??

Poor Russia is like some kind of bad dream, put on eternal “replay”. When will they start putting a registration brand right on your forehead, so as not to trouble responsible government officials?? A total shame. People in their own country are being inspected like a cattle, checked if they are branded of not! This is what we've lived to see! In 1991, when it seemed that the FREEDOM came to the country, did it ever occur to me that I’d witness such madness again?

Oleg Kozlovsky reminded [ru] his readers that since the abolition of Soviet-era propiska in 1993, various restrictions and limits to freedom of movement were gradually lifted as legislators aimed to make life easier for the citizens, first allowing to remain without registration for 90 days, then allowing to register over the Internet. Now:

[...] больше государственного контроля, больше запретов, больше наказаний. [...] Так Путин отменяет то немногое, что при нем было сделано хорошего.

[...] more government control, more restrictions and more punishments. [...] Thus Putin reverses the little good that was done during his time.

It is hard not to sympathize with such pessimistic reactions. While the legislation does try to address the specific problem of large numbers of migrants registering in one flat, police inspections of people’s homes are rightly seen as unacceptable. By encouraging neighbors and district police officers to keep a close eye on residents and identify any “illegals”, the law fosters a culture of invigilation and mistrust. At the same time it fails to distinguish between foreigners and Russian citizens, and fails to address broader problems with large numbers of foreign migrants.

According to [ru] the Presidential Human Rights Council many foreign laborers are simply unable to legally obtain residency permits. President Putin is said [ru] to acknowledge that there are problems with the legislation in its current form, and recognizes that improvements have to be made before it is signed into law. Nevertheless, most politicians in the ruling “United Russia” party seem content [ru] with the bill in its current form, and so any hope for substantial change seems forlorn.

March 20 2013

Brides Traded In India As Sex Commodities

The blog on India's Gendercide posts a video which shows shocking stats of bride trafficking, the Indian version of domestic sex-trafficking.

Spanish Youth in Exile: “We're Not Leaving, They're Kicking Us Out!”

Youth unemployment in Spain, one of the tragic consequences of the crisis that this country is living through, stands at 55.6%. Last year, the European Union called for urgent action to combat this alarming number. After 15 months in office, the People's Party (PP) finally presented a Plan for Youth Employment [es] (with a Twitter account at @empleo_joven) while simultaneously assuring that the country will overcome the crisis. They have talked about “green sprouts” as a symbol of the supposed economic recovery. The people feel otherwise, and insecurity continues to expand [es] since the last labor reform. Spanish labor unions have given warning that if this plan does not tally with the growth measures, its effect could be limited.

In 2012, the number of Spanish youths (between the ages of 15 and 29) residing abroad rose to 302,623 [es], not counting those who have not registered in their host countries’ consulates. Many have gone abroad for economic reasons related to the lack of employment in Spain or poor contract conditions. The Juventudes sin Futuro (Youth Without a Future) movement has launched a campaign entitled “We're not leaving, they're kicking us out” [es], with a Twitter hashtag with the same name, in response to the current labor problems. The initiative debunks statements from Marina de Corral that attribute the exile to “young peoples’ spirit of adventure.” [es] The campaign's blog has different sections, one of which is dedicated to mapping out young people looking for a better future in different parts of the world, with some never finding it. They explain it in the blog in the following way:

Portada El Diagonal.

El Diagonal Homepage.

Si bien es cierto que la media europea de paro juvenil (un 22,5%) es muy inferior a la española, encontrar trabajo no está garantizado. Y más allá de Europa, l@s jóvenes españoles están empezando a optar por otros destinos como Latinoamérica y Asia. Generalmente, los trabajos que realizan l@s jóvenes en el extranjero también se encuentran caracterizados por la precariedad, con jornadas laborales muy largas y sueldos muy bajos que no aseguran una vida digna, y menos un futuro.

 

While it is true that the average youth unemployment in Europe (22.5%) is much less than its equivalent in Spain, finding a job is not guaranteed. And beyond Europe, Spanish youths are starting to opt for other destinations such as Latin America and Asia. Generally speaking, the jobs that young people get abroad are also characterized by instability, with long working hours and low wages that do not ensure a decent life, and even less so a future.

Jóvenes en condiciones precarias. Foto tomada con permiso de la web gritopolítico.es

Youth in unstable conditions. Photo taken with permission from gritopolítico.es

By clicking on various points on the map [es], we are able to access the stories and experiences of the young people in exile:

Marcos, 26, has gotten an indefinite contract as an Engineer of Roads, Canals, and Ports in Austria. He explains his motives behind his decision to leave Spain:

Tras casi un año buscando, recibiendo negativas (los pocos que contestaban) y perdiendo el tiempo, decidí transformar la desesperación en nuevos retos.

After almost a year of searching, receiving rejection letters (from the few that responded), and wasting time, I decided to transform despair into new challenges.

Others have not been so lucky. Such is the case of Alex, an unemployed emigrant in Romania, who would like to return home since his situation is not improving:

Llevaba viviendo en España desde los 14 años y este año después de hartarme de pedir para comer, migre a Rumanía donde tenía familia. Esto te destruye mentalmente ya que mi vida se construyó en España donde tenía amistades, conocidos y todo mi mundo. Ahora me quedan los recuerdos de lo que un día tuve.

I had been living in Spain since I was 14 years old and this year, after getting tired of asking for money for food, I emigrated to Romania where I had family. This destroys you mentally since my life was built in Spain where I had friends, acquaintances, my entire world. Now all I have left is memories of what I once had.

Raquel, 25, previously a teacher in Spain, has to conform to having a job without a contract in Ireland as an au pair:

Después de acabar la carrera de Magisterio y un Máster empecé a trabajar como maestra en España. Con el tiempo empezaron los recortes en educación…y luego se acabó el trabajo para los más jóvenes. Después de malvivir con trabajos temporales (cuando los había) durante un año decidí que era hora de hacer las maletas e ir a buscar nuevos objetivos. Aquí estoy ahora, en contacto con la “educación” y mejorando mi inglés… Más de lo que podía pedir en mi tierra!

After receiving my undergraduate and graduate degrees in education, I began working as a teacher in Spain. With time came cuts to education… and later the jobs ended for most young people. After barely making it with temp jobs (when I could get them) for a year, I decided it was time to pack my backs and go in search of new objectives. Here I am now, in contact with “education” and improving my English… More than I could ask for in my country!

Many wish to return to their country of origin but are aware that Spain, at the moment, does not offer stability nor the prospect of a decent future, but rather a greater dependency on family and unstable work conditions, if any at all.

“Suitcase Mood”: Why Ukrainians Are Moving Abroad

According to Migration in Ukraine: Facts and Figures [.pdf], a report published by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Sept. 2011, 6.5 million of Ukrainians, or 14.4 percent of the population, are emigrants. Among the most popular emigration destinations are Russia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Italy, Portugal and Spain. Ukraine's population of approximately 45.5 million people “is shrinking by 330,000 per year,” says the IOM report, and emigration, no doubt, contributes to this downward demographic trend.

The theme of leaving Ukraine temporarily or for good comes up regularly in conversations that Ukrainians are having online.

For example, one may be looking at MP Mykola Kniazhytsky's Facebook item [uk] about the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report 2012-2013, in which Ukraine comes in 73rd out of 144 countries ranked, and see this comment [uk], by user Mykhaylo Kalinichenko:

It's futile to expect economic growth in Ukraine. Everyone is trying to escape from it as quickly as possible. [...]

Or, one may be reading this post [ru] by LJ user metalina_888, in which she talks about the crisis in Ukraine's metal production industry, blaming it on the metallurgical plant owners’ unwillingness to invest in modernization, and then one runs into this comment [ru] by LJ user nik968, who offers the following explanation:

Our oligarchs are panicking and don't know what to do. The majority of them are preparing for an escape, because they are just too afraid to put up some resistance [to the current regime]. [...]

The issue of relocation comes up even in discussions of such local problems as, say, the unfinished subway construction in Donetsk, which has been going on since the early 1980s, with little to show except for the heavily flooded pit where Proletarskaya Station was supposed to be [video; ru]. Yevgeniy Ikhelzon wrote this [ru] on Facebook:

[...] I don't know if subway ever appears in Donetsk and whether there is any need for it, but, with all the money allotted [for its construction throughout the years], they could have built a whole new town, somewhere near a warm sea. So that any Donetsk resident could leave and not see these [ugly faces of the local bureaucrats].

A map of geographical distribution of Ukrainian labor migrants by regions of origin. Source: International Organization for Migration (IOM)

A map of geographical distribution of Ukrainian labor migrants by regions of origin. Source: International Organization for Migration (IOM)

For years, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have been a source of cheap labor abroad, feeding their families back home – and, to some extent, feeding Ukraine's economy – with their money transfers. Labor migrants, known as zarobitchany in Ukrainian, make up the bulk of Ukraine's expat community. Below are some relevant observations from the IOM report:

  • The unemployment rate rose from 6.8% in 2006 to 8.1% in 2010. In 2010, 545,000 Ukrainian citizens were recorded as unemployed. If employment abroad was impossible, the unemployment rate in Ukraine in 2008 is estimated to have been 1.5 times higher.


  • The average migrant wage abroad was USD 820 in 2008, which was almost 3 times higher than the average salary in Ukraine (USD 281).

  • Hypothetical models estimate that the Ukrainian economy would have lost about 7% of its potential without the stimulating effects of migrant transfers [...].

  • Ukrainian labor migration, at least to a certain extent, can be characterized by ‘brain waste’ [...]. Only few of the migrants manage to find jobs abroad corresponding to their qualification levels [...].

  • The dominant types of economic activity among Ukrainian labor migrants are construction, more prevalent among men, and domestic care, more common among women.
  • For years, too, have the upper-echelon compatriots of zarobitchany kept their fortunes in offshore tax havens (which is why Cyprus has been the largest foreign investor in Ukraine, before the current troubles began anyway) or “invested” in expensive real estate abroad (e.g., in 2008, Olena Franchuk, ex-President Leonid Kuchma‘s daughter and businessman Victor Pinchuk‘s wife, was reported to have acquired a villa in London for £80 million, and in 2011, Ukraine's wealthiest person, Rinat Akhmetov, paid £136.4 million for a London apartment).

    Recently, however, a new type of exodus seems to have begun, as a number of Ukrainian opposition politicians and entrepreneurs relocated to Europe – and some were even granted political asylum there. MP Anatoliy Hrytsenko mentioned [uk] the most prominent cases on his Facebook page:

    [Former Acting Defense Minister Valeriy Ivaschenko has been granted political asylum] in Denmark. [Ex-Minister of Economy Bohdan Danylyshyn and ex-MP Andriy Shkil] are in the Czech Republic, [ex-Head of State Reserves Committee Mykhailo Pozhyvanov] is in Austria, [entrepreneur Denis Oleinikov] is in Croatia…

    [Billionaire Ihor Kolomoysky] is in Switzerland, [businessman and ex-First Vice PM Valery Khoroshkovsky] is in France, [businessman Vitaly Hayduk] has transferred his business to South Africa, [businessman Yevhen Chernyak] – to Russia, [businessman Eduard Prutnik] has sold everything and is abroad, too…

    [...]

    Dozens, if not hundreds, of names of lesser-known people could be added to this list; above all, the entrepreneurs who, [following the election of Victor Yanukovych as the President of Ukraine], left and/or moved their businesses abroad. There are people like this in every region of Ukraine, with no exceptions.

    [...]

    It's hard to stop these people, hard to find arguments… Not everyone is prepared to be patient and to suffer, people want to live in peace and security today, not tomorrow. [...]

    Hrytsenko's post has generated a discussion of nearly 130 comments, and the two of them translated below illustrate just how painful the issues he brought up are for ordinary citizens.

    User Natalia Levchenko wrote [uk]:

    [...] Why do I have to run away from my own country? But they aren't letting us live. What's the future of my children and grandchildren? God forbid, they find themselves in a wrong place at a wrong time. Is it possible to hope for justice? [...] I do not own a business, do not have bank accounts or real estate, I have nothing to go abroad with, I want to live peacefully [...] at home.

    User Alexander Shapovalov wrote [ru]:

    [People who lack imagination] comment more or less similarly: these are the thieves, the oligarchs! I agree. [...] But there are many people who were not mentioned by [Anatoly Hrytsenko] – ordinary people who are tired of living in a country of [total lawlessness and corruption], and they are leaving and taking their brains and business with them [...].

    Back in January, journalist Vitaly Haidukevych surveyed [uk] his Facebook audience of nearly 2,500 users on their attitudes towards emigration:

    Friends, who of you would like to leave Ukraine because [the situation is hopeless]? [...] Let's tackle the topic of “got to go.” Disappointment and the suitcase mood…

    He received a variety of responses, and below are two comments, out of nearly 300 that follow Haidukevych's inquiry.

    Vitaliy Yermak [ru]:

    One has to leave quietly, or else they'll soon introduce a tax on leaving.

    Andrij Romanov [uk]:

    People ran, are running and will run. So many have left [Western Ukraine] for Italy, Portugal and the Czech Republic, and have not returned, and more will leave. It's just that [mostly people from] the provinces used to be leaving before, and now Kyiv is moving as well. People are taking their kids to study to Poland and some even further! It's a difficult situation in the EU now, but it's still livable, while in Yanukovych's Ukraine it's 100 times harder! Me, I came to the Czech Republic five days ago, sit here without a job, but I'm not going back home.

    And here are some of Haidukevych's conclusions [uk]:

    [...] The suitcase mood is there. [...] Young, promising people have it. [...] Since they are young, they are leaving not for the sake of immediate earnings [...], but to grow roots for the future. [...] I assume that these people asked themselves whether it was possible to change the state of things in the country – and the answer was ‘no'. [...] Some are leaving for exactly the same reason others are reluctant to join [the anti-regime] protests – they care about themselves, their families and their future. [...] “what are those rapid movements for, you've got kids, think about them” – this is what those who've stayed think. And those who are leaving [...] do not want to wait for the tax authorities to come and take away their last pair of underpants. [...]

    For more views on emigration from Ukraine, please see this GV text by Tetyana Bohdanova, published in February 2011.

    March 14 2013

    Assault Against Immigrant Causes Outrage in Spanish Town

    Moulaye Ndiaye, a street vendor and native from Senegal, was thrown from a bridge on the eve of the 2012 Tomatina [es] Festival in Buñol, Valencia, Spain. Moulaye was selling his products at the festival when a young man stole his sunglasses. After asking, without success, for the man to return them, Moulaye decided to leave, and then he was shoved and pushed over a bridge more than six metres from the ground. The backpack which he was carrying and the reeds growing in the area where he fell saved his life. He spent a month in intensive care at the Manises Hospital with traumas, several broken ribs and a spinal injury. The assault has caused him to lose sight in his right eye and a very serious neck and back injury has prevented him from working since.

    Moulaye Ndiaye. Photo by Jesus Cisnes from lasprovincias.es. Published with permission.

    Moulaye Ndiaye. Photo by Jesus Cisnes from lasprovincias.es. Published with permission.

    In its blog [es], and on its Facebook [es] wall, the Movement Against Intolerance seeks the help of those who witnessed the assault, asking them to make contact with the organisation so that the case can remain open, as the police have been unable to find the aggressor who escaped into the night. There has also been a large civilian mobilisation [es] which still continues, and the residents of the town of Buñol say they are horrified at this tragic event.

    Ángel Galán, coordinator of the Movement Against Intolerance [es], and Salva La Cruz, spokesperson for cear.es [es],

    At the scene of the attack in Buñol. Photo by Sara Serano, used with permission.

    At the scene of the attack in Buñol. Photo by Sara Serano, used with permission.

    have tried to help Moulaye. In the following entries they analyse the dilemma faced by immigrants in the light of the recent healthcare reform that doe snot cover costs for undocumented immigrants:

    Moulaye tiene 39 años y vive desde hace 6 años en España en situación irregular; lo que hace que con el nuevo decreto Ley 16/2012(BOE 24 de abril de 2012) se le haya intentado cobrar la asistencia sanitaria recibida. Los redactores de este decreto piensen que los inmigrantes irregulares que no pagan impuestos se aprovechan del sistema sanitario.

    Moulaye is 39 years old and has been living in Spain for 6 years without papers; this means that with the new decree Law 16/2012 (BOE 24th April 2012) there has been an attempt to charge him for the healthcare which he has received. Those responsible for this decree think that irregular immigrants who do not pay taxes are taking avantage of the healthcare system.

    Según Medicos del Mundo la reforma es contraria al derecho internacional público y a los tratados suscritos por España.

    Para Mónica Garcia de Red acoge ”las personas en situación irregular contribuyen, a través de sus impuestos indirectos al sostenimiento de la sanidad pública.”

    According to Doctors of the World [es] the reform contravenes both public international law and the treaties to which Spain is party.

    Mónica Garcia of the Acoge Network [es] considers that “people in an irregular legal situation contribute through their indirect taxes to the maintenance of the public health system.”

    El pasado 23 de febrero de 2013 se anunció la muerte de una mujer boliviana tras ser rechazada dos veces en centros de salud por no tener papeles. Se ha abierto una petición en change.org para pedir explicaciones.

    On February 23rd 2013 the death of a Bolivian woman after being turned away from health centres on two occasions because she lacked papers [es] came into public knowledge. A petition has been launched on change.org to demand explanations.

    According to Caritas [es], ”once again we confirm that it is not only the circumstances brought about by the economic crisis, but the structures by which the system of social protection is being reconfigured and fortified, which leaves out those groups who are most impoverished and excluded from society”:

    Moulaye dice que ahora no piensa más que salir adelante. No le guarda rencor a la persona que le agredió. Solo quiere agradecer a los que lo han ayudado: los ciudadanos, las ONGS, el Alcalde de Buñol que le ha pagado el collarín y la faja ortopédica. Dice que quiere que lo ayudan a tener papeles. Según Ángel Galán, coordinador de Movimiento contra la Intolerencia de Valencia, le han dado una residencia provisional por medidas excepcionales, pero sin sentencia firme se le complicará su situación.

    Moulaye says that for now he is thinking only about getting on with his life. He bears no grudge towards the person who attacked him. He only wants to thank those who have helped him: the town's residents, the NGOs, the Mayor of Buñol who paid for his neck and back brace. He says that he wants them to help him get his papers. According to Ángel Galán, coordinator of the Movement Against Intolerance in Valencia, he has been given provisional residence for exceptional reasons, but without a firm judgement his situation will become more difficult.

    Lo que es cierto es que la Ley de Extranjeria deja claro que para renovar los permisos de trabajo, como minimo se tiene que cotizar seis meses a la seguridad social o en otros casos excepcionales. Lo que hace que los inmigrantes que se encuentran en paro no van a poder renovar su tarjeta de residencia y volverán a ser ilegales.

    Moulaye Ndiaye se desespera sabiendo que puede volver a ser “ilegal” con su discapacidad.

    What is certain is that the Immigration Law makes it very clear that in order to renew a work permit, a minimum of six months’ social security payments must have been made or in other exceptional circumstances. This means that immigrants who find themselves unemployed will be unable to renew their residence permits and will become undocumented once more.

    Moulaye Ndiaye is filled with despair at the knowledge that he could become ‘illegal’ once again with his disability.

    March 10 2013

    The State of Torture in the World in 2013

    On January 23, 2013, an excerpt from the annual report of l'ACAT-France, A World of Torture 2013, makes a fresh assessment of the state of torture in the world [fr]:

    “A report called A World of Torture in 2013, assesses torture practices that continue to be alarming, from Pakistan to Italy, by way of South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Bolivia. From authoritarian regimes to democratic countries, none are exempt from criticism on the topic. In 2013, torture remains as endemic, omnipresent and multi-faceted as ever”.

    March 08 2013

    Tips On Writing About Demographics

    How many people? Demographics Revealed, a new blog of the Population Reference Bureau and the Population Association of America offers advice on how to write about demographics.

    Beauty & the Beast? “Ethnic” Pageant Winner Enrages Russian Nationalists

    Eighteen year-old Elmira Abdrazakova likely did not anticipate winning the Miss Russia pageant last Saturday, March 2, 2013. If she had, she would likely have made her profile on the Russian social network VKontakte private beforehand. Instead, she later ended up removing the profile entirely. Having grown up in the small Siberian town of Mezhdurechensk (located in Kemerovo Oblast', a coal-mining region near Novosibirsk), Abdrazakova wasn't prepared for the amount of vitriol her victory would attract from the RuNet's nationalists, who inundated her page with racist messages.

    Though her account is no more, plenty of vitriol still circulates the RuNet. When top Russian blogger Rustem Adagamov posted news [ru] of Abdrazakova's victory on his blog, along with some of her photographs, the announcement attracted comments like [ru] ”Are there still Russian girls in the Russian Federation?,” not only implying that women like Abdrazakova aren't really Russian, but that foreigners are somehow taking over. (Russian society is no stranger to ethnic tensions, certainly. Indeed, there's currently an online initiative [ru] aimed explicitly at combating such “illegal immigrants.”) Nationalist ideologue and opposition Coordinating Council member Konstantin Krylov also lamented Russia's “changing face.” Posting a photograph of an elderly Asian woman to represent this “face,” he continued [ru] in a faux-folksy style:

    Нам её таперича любить положено. Ну так и дочу её, значит, положено любить. И весь прочий выводок. Всех народцев-золоторотцев, в земле россиянской просиявших.

    Nowadays we gotta love her. And her daughter, too, we gotta love. And the rest of the brood. All the ragamuffin peoples Resplendent in the Russian Land [ru].

    Abdrazakova's name and dark hair are indeed classically Tatar, but in reality she is a Shor (a related Turkic people native to Siberia). Both the Tatars, Russia's largest ethnic minority with the eponymous Republic of Tatarstan, and the much less numerous Shors have been a peaceful part of the Russian “experience” for hundreds of years. Nevertheless, the modern crop of Russian nationalists views them (and really any other non-Russian ethnic group) with suspicion and animosity. To these nationalists, Tatars look “different,” although any foreigner would be hard-pressed to pick out a Tatar from a Russian crowd, while their traditionally Muslim faith is a reminder of the problems of the North Caucasus. Finally, Tatars are the remnants of the Tatar Yoke, the historic occupation of medieval Russia by Mongolians, which ended around seven hundred years ago.

    An artist's depiction of how Russian nationalists may view Elmira Abdrazakova. Image remixed using Vereschagin's "A Bukharian Soldier", CC 2.0 Wikimedia Commons.

    How Russian nationalists seem to view Elmira Abdrazakova. Image remixed by author using Vereschagin's “A Bukharian Soldier,” CC 2.0 Wikimedia Commons.

    These opinions are clearly visible in how the unabashedly nationalist publication Sputnik & Pogrom has reacted to Abdrazakova's victory. Egor Prosvirnin, an S&P ideologue, went the extra mile in his tirades, drawing on rumors that Abdrazakova had plastic surgery performed on her lips (a rumor that has since been disproved [ru] by Elmira's acquaintances and childhood photographs), calling her a “darkie exploding from botox” [ru] and a “provincial tatarva [disparaging] with blown up lips” [ru]. The main argument [ru], however, concerned a plot even more sinister:

    [...] нам начали прививать толерантность через эталонный образ женской красоты [...] меняя наше представление о том, как должна выглядеть “мисс Россия”

    [...] they've began to inculcate in us tolerance through a master image of female beauty [...] changing our conception of how a “Miss Russia” should look

    Abdrazakova's supposed Muslim faith also reared its head — S&P readers left comments like “Miss Pakistan and Azerbaijan 2013” [ru] and “Why wasn't she wearing a burqa or at least a hijab?” [ru].

    In fact, Shors are largely Russian Orthodox (as is Abdrazakova, who attended Sunday school as a child), and are only tenuously related to the Tatars. People who are quick to defend Abdrazakova by citing her “real” ethnicity tend to undermine their own cause: claims that “it's okay for her to win because she's not really a Tatar” are rather weak tea, as far as defense goes. This is especially dangerous in Russia, where people unironically write things like [ru] “out of the three runner-ups, Abdrazakova is closest to the europeoid racial type,” and are later surprised when this sparks a racist discussion about which of Russia's ethnicities are most European-looking, replete with mentions of Aryans and genetics. Blogger Alexander Nemirovsky, a historian, explained [ru] why, for some, Shors may be an attractive alternative to Tatars:

    Шорцы – православные + сибирские аборигены. А татары – этнические мусульмане и не “хорошие индейцы отдаленной земли Сибирской”. Кроме того, шорцы не ассоциируются с властью, бизнесом и т.д., и их вообще мало кто видел, а татары – ассоциируются, и их как “чужих” себе представляют много лучше [...]

    Shors are Orthodox + Siberian aboriginals. Tatars on the other hand are ethnic Muslims and not “good Indians from the far away land of Siberia.” Besides, Shors aren't associated with power, business, etc., and they are in general not well known, while Tatars are associated with that, and are much easier to “other” [...]

    Generally, this case is reminiscent of the outpouring of nationalist hostility last summer [ru], when several North Caucasian wrestlers won gold medals competing for Russia. Few things annoy the nationalists more than “unworthy” minorities enjoying some form of success.

    Meanwhile, one blogger did pen a successful defense of Abdrazakova. Anastasiya Karimova, a journalist at Kommersant and the young lady who famously brought oranges [ru] to the FSB Lubyanka office back in 2005, frankly talked about the banal racism she has had to deal with as a half-Tatar, ending on an impassioned note [ru]:

    Я очень хорошо вижу разницу между национализмом и нацизмом. У меня не вызывают ужаса националисты, я даже разделяла в своё время многие предложение ДПНИ по изменению миграционной политики. Мерзкое цепляние к фамилиям и к чертам лица – это переход через черту, разделяющую два разных понятия. На Эльмиру Абдразакову вылились и продолжают выливаться потоки ксенофобского дерьма, но она может утешаться хотя бы тем, что её победа в очередной раз вскрыла старый гнойник [...] Держись, Эльмира!

    I see a very clear difference between nationalism and Nazism. I am not horrified by nationalists, at one point I even supported many DPNI proposals for changing immigration policy. The disgusting fascination with surnames and facial features crosses the line between two completely different notions. Streams of xenophobic crap have been, and continue to be, poured out over Elmira Abdrazakova, but she can console herself with the knowledge that her victory once again opened up an old abscess [...] Be strong, Elmira!

    March 06 2013

    Activists Worldwide Mourn French Author Stéphane Hessel

    Writer, human rights advocate, and French resistance fighter Stéphane Hessel, whose bestselling manifesto on peaceful uprising inspired the disenchanted of Europe and the United States to organize into protest, died on the night of February 26, 2013. He was 95.

    Hessel came to the worldwide recognition with the 2010 publication of his short pamphlet ”Indignez-vous!” (Time for Outrage!), which quickly became a publishing phenomenon – the work has sold some 4.5 million copies in 35 countries including China and been translated into 34 languages. The manifesto became the bedrock of global protests, including Spain's Indignants movement and the international Occupy movement.

    Following the news of his death, more than 500 people paid homage to him at the Place de la Bastille in Paris. A peaceful march is planned on March 7, 2013, the day of his funeral.

    A man who spoke meaningfully in simple words, Hessel sought to impart optimism to a disillusioned generation. He was the quintessential European, starting with his birth in Berlin, then his childhood in Paris, and right up to his latest European tour presenting and commenting on his book “Time for Outrage”. Hessel says that he found out what being European meant in the Buchenwald concentration camp, where he had been deported in 1944 for acts of resistance:

    Cette expérience m’a ouvert politiquement. Nous étions là, solidaires, à partager un douloureux quotidien entre des milliers d’Européens. Il y avait là un brassage, une génération qui a inventé un monde nouveau dans son opposition au nazisme.

    This experience was a political awakening. There were a thousand of us, fellow Europeans, sharing a very painful lot, and supporting each other. It was a melting pot, a generation whose opposition to Nazism had given rise to a new world.

    He became a diplomat with the United Nations and worked for development aid, making the fight for human rights his daily struggle. But it was after his retirement in 1983 that he fought his most outstanding battles. Called upon to defend the rights of undocumented foreigners in France in the 1990s, he also gained attention for defending the right of self-determination of peoples, alongside the Sahrawi and the Palestinians. He explained his point of view [fr] to Philosophie Magazine:

    J’ai le sentiment d’appartenir à l’histoire des Juifs, d’autant que la Shoah m’a touché de près. Je me suis enthousiasmé pour le sionisme et la création d’Israël. Mais je ne partage pas le repli d’une partie de la communauté juive. Je déteste l’entre-soi communautariste. Depuis 1967, je refuse la politique de colonisation et de territoires occupés par Israël. Gaza est une prison à ciel ouvert.

    I feel that I am a part of Jewish history, especially having been so personally affected by the Shoah. I was enthusiastic about Zionism and the creation of Israel. But I do not share the inward-looking attitude of a certain part of the Jewish community. I abhor self-centered isolationism. Since 1967, I have rejected the settlement policy and the occupied territories of Israel. Gaza is an open-air prison.

    Today this pro-Palestinian stance has earned him severe posthumous criticism from the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France [fr].

    He penned “Time for Outrage!” in 2010, a 32-page pamphlet promoting non-violent uprising, which would become a source of inspiration for hundreds of thousands of activists around the world [fr]:

    Aussi, appelons-nous toujours à une véritable insurrection pacifique contre les moyens de communication de masse qui ne proposent comme horizon pour notre jeunesse que la consommation de masse, le mépris des plus faibles et de la culture, l'amnésie généralisée et la compétition à outrance de tous contre tous. A ceux et celles qui feront le XXI ème siècle, nous disons avec notre affection : CRÉER, C'EST RÉSISTER. RÉSISTER C'EST CRÉER.

    So, let us all commit to a truly peaceful insurrection against mass media, whose only offer to our youth is mass consumerism, contempt for the weak and for culture, widespread amnesia and merciless competition pitching everyone against everyone else. To those who are going to create the 21st century, we say, with all our affection: TO CREATE IS TO RESIST. TO RESIST IS TO CREATE.

    Hessel believed that society must always push itself to be better. In December 2010, he confided to Le Monde des Religions (The World of Religions) [fr]:

    Nous ne sommes nous-mêmes que lorsque nous essayons de nous dépasser, lorsque nous ne nous contentons pas de l’acquis.

    We only come into our own when we seek to surpass ourselves, when we are not satisfied with what has already been achieved.

    Hessel understood well the social and ideological leanings of the younger generations and the opportunities opened up by modern means of communication and information. What he saw was the possibility for the young activists to consolidate their revolt [fr]:


    Je constate avec plaisir qu’au cours des dernières décennies se sont multipliés les organisations non gouvernementales, les mouvements sociaux […] qui sont agissants et performants. Il est évident que pour être efficace aujourd’hui, il faut agir en réseau, profiter de tous les moyens modernes de communication.

    I am pleased to note that over the past few decades, more and more active and efficient NGOs and social movements have appeared [...] These days, it seems quite clear that in order to be efficient we need to network and make the best use of all modern means of communication.

    And thus, demonstrators in France, Spain, Greece, Italy, and Portugal throughout 2011 and 2012 began to call themselves The Indignants, or in the case of New York, Occupy Wall Street, in line with Hessel's writing. The pamphlet also found a significant place in the recent uprisings against dictatorial regimes in the Arab world.

    A video posted on YouTube on February 27, 2013 honors Hessel, combining readings of his appeals to the younger generation in English, French, and German with footage of demonstrations all over Europe:

    In Spain, some have wrongly labeled Hessel as the “father” of the 15-M movement, where his book has lent a name, notoriety, and media coverage to activists going under the name of “Los Indignados“. Juan-Luis Sanchez commented [es] on the connection between Hessel and the 15-M movement:

    La aportación más importante de Hessel al 15-M fue la de transmitir, con su edad y trayectoria política, un tipo de credibilidad que los grandes medios necesitaban para poder hablar de las movilizaciones en calle sin sentir que daban voz a lo que caricaturizaban como un latido antisistema. [...] Su palabra, “indignación“, fue un regalo: un ejemplo perfecto para la nada y el todo a la vez. Para esa militancia inclusiva que usaba términos que no dejaran a nadie fuera.

    Stephane Hessel's main contribution to the 15-M movement is that, due to his age and political career he has conferred a necessary credibility to mainstream media, so that they may speak of citizen mobilization without having the impression of giving voice to what they caricature as being a wave of anti-system sentiments [...] the word “indignation” was a gift : a perfect example of everything and nothing all in one, for this all-inclusive activism using expressions that leave nobody out on the cold.

    The German online magazine diesseits.de called Hessel the “ideological father” of global protest in a headline [de]:

    Der 95-jährige Stéphane Hessel war der ideologische Vater der demokratischen Aufstände weltweit. Von Arabellion bis Occupy Wallstreet kamen die Menschen seiner Aufforderung nach Entrüstung und Einmischung

    At 95, Stephane Hessel was the ideological father of the pro-democratic rebellion that shook the world. From the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, people have answered his call for insurgence and commitment to a cause.

    Hommage des Indignés à Marseille- Photo anonyme partagée sur facebook Par millions rendons hommage à Stéphane Hessel

    Homage of the Indignants in Marseille. Photo shared on the Facebook page One million to pay hommage to Stéphane Hessel

    ALL JUX wrote on his blog [fr]:

    Stéphane Hessel a réveillé l'esprit critique, le sens humain et la raison. Il a encore su initier le mouvement d'indignation politique qui se répand sur les continents en publiant un tout petit livre par le nombre de ses pages mais d'une puissance sans mesure par la portée de ses propos.

    Stéphane Hessel has awakened critical awareness, human sense, and reason. He has also implemented a worldwide movement of political indignation by publishing a book: a very small book, going by the number of pages, but containing powerful comments of immeasurable impact.

    Portuguese blogger Helena Araujo described why youth should listen to Hessel in her blog 2 dedos de conversa [pt]:

    Indignez-vous! Engagez-vous! – é a consciência do século XX que nos fala, a voz de um homem livre que atravessou o pior e o melhor que o século passado nos legou”

    Get Angry! Get Involved! – the conscience of the 20th century is talking to us, the voice of a free man who has lived through the best and the worst of what the last century has bequeathed us.

    Rassemblement en mémoire de Stéphane Hessel à Bastille (Paris) le 27/02/2013- Photo de Célia Bonnin pour Par millions rendons hommage à Stéphane Hessel

    Gathering in memoriam of Stéphane Hessel at Bastille (Paris) on 27/02/2013- Photo by Célia Bonnin for the facebok pageOne million to pay hommage to Stéphane Hessel

    On the Facebook page Par millions rendons hommage à Stéphane Hessel [fr] (One Million Pay Homage to Stéphane Hessel), Rüdiger Bender expressed his gratitude:

    Wir denken voller Dankbarkeit an Stéphane Hessel …dankbar für ein Leben exemplarischer Menschlichkeit und tapferen Engagements für die unantastbare und gleiche Würde aller Menschen … dankbar für seine Fragen und Anstöße und noch mehr für seine Ermutigung für uns und sein Vorschußvertrauen auf uns: dem gilt es nun gerecht zu werden.

    We owe a debt of recognition to Stéphane Hessel…recognition for a life of exemplary humanity and courageous commitments in favor of the inviolable and equal dignity of all human beings…recognition for his questioning and motivation and even more so for his encouragement and trust in us:  it is now up to us to rise to the challenge.

    On the Facebook page en Hommage à Stéphane Hessel [fr], Sweekitt Carlson exclaimed:

    Un résistant est mort, pas la Résistance!

    A resistance fighter is dead, but Resistance is not!

    A petition requests his entering in the Pantheon in Paris [fr] (where distinguished dead French citizens are kept):

    Nous souhaitons ardemment que la pédagogie civique et la mémoire collective témoigne de l’importance de l’esprit de résistance. Parce qu’avec Stéphane Hessel, c’est une vie consacrée à l’intérêt général et au service d’une certaine idée de la France qu’il s’agit d’honorer.

    We fervently hope that our civic awareness and collective memory bear witness to the importance of the spirit of resistance. Because in the case of Stéphane Hessel, it means honoring a life devoted to the well-being of all and in the service of a certain idea of France.

    [This text was written with the help of contributions by Pauline Ratzé, Paula Goes, Katrin Zinoun and Thalia Rhame.]

    March 04 2013

    March 03 2013

    Singapore's Population Strategy

    Improving total fertility rate and labor force participation rate to increase the resident workforce over time rather than immigration-driven growth is the more appropriate way forward for Singapore

    Titled ‘A Dynamic Population for a Sustainable Singapore', the opposition Workers’ Party drafts its own policy paper in response to Singapore government's Population White Paper.

    February 20 2013

    “Ask Angy” Humanizes the Experience of Undocumented Immigrants

    “Isn't it kind of ironic that we're undocumented, but you have to prove that you're undocumented with all these documents?,” Angy Rivera concludes in one of her videos. Angy is a college student born in Colombia and raised in New York City who shares her story of immigration with the world in hopes of humanizing this complex discussion.

    Angy, foto de su cuenta de Facebook, usada con permiso.

    Angy, photo taken from her Facebook account, used with permission.

    A few years ago, Angy publicly announced that “she was not afraid to be undocumented,” and since then she has been writing a column in English called Ask Angy in which she responds to endless questions, doubts and comments that she receives on a regular basis.

    Angy explained to Global Voices in an interview via email that while she participated in a training session at the New York State Youth Leadership Council, she was asked what she wanted to incorporate into the work plan, and she suggested: “an advice column.” That was how the first column dedicated to guiding undocumented youth arose at a national level and is published on the organization's website.

    This column has already been featured on numerous mainstream media sources (BBC News, NBC Latino, New York Magazine) as well as many online forums organized by activists. The column discusses topics that deal with personal relationships, human rights, education and work. Although recently certain legal processes, particularly the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, are the most widely discussed issues.

    Her videos on YouTube are also very popular and complement the information provided in her written work. Angy also shares her visual creativity, poetry and of course her sharp sense of humor. In the following video, for example, she talks about her hopes now that President Obama has been reelected and has just proposed “comprehensive immigration reform.”

     

    In general, her audience's comments have been quite positive. Many have shared their stories with her, others constantly thank her for being an inspiration. Nonetheless, there have been hurtful and even threatening comments as well. “I have been told that life would be better if I didn't exist, that I should kill myself, that I'm a cockroach, that I'm just taking up the country's space and resources. People have wished that not only I, but that my family, would be deported,” Angy explains in our email conversation.

    Below is another ingenious video entitled “More than 9 Digits,” which somehow undermined the reactionary tendencies present in some of the comments published online:

     

    The activist recognizes that her story (much like that of many “dreamers“) motivates others to join the movement in favor of immigrants and if they do not join, may they “do the best in their lives because they become aware of the privileges they have.”

    If tomorrow Angy were no longer classified as undocumented, her demands would continue to be important, particularly when speaking about deportation, second class citizens, and the country's transformation. If in the future she is granted “American citizenship” it will not be difficult to imagine her initiating debates on the unconditional respect for human rights, independent of one's migration status.

    February 15 2013

    Cuba: Reactions to Pope's Resignation

    Cuban bloggers, both on-island and from the diaspora, react to the announcement of Pope Benedict XVI's resignation here, here and here.

    February 12 2013

    A Digital Farmer’s Almanac – How Communities Track ‘Microchanges’ in Climate

    This interview was originally published by New America Media on February 11, 2013.

    Colorado climate change

    Source: New America Media

    Question & Answer, Ngoc Nguyen, Interview with Julia Kumari Drapkin.

    The iSeeChange almanac allows people to make observations about climate change in their own backyards and ask scientists questions directly. NAM’s Ngoc Nguyen spoke with the project’s producer, Julia Kumari Drapkin, about how this experiment in crowd-sourced environmental reporting is spurring conversations about climate change in rural Colorado and elsewhere.

    What is the idea behind the iSeeChange almanac?

    I’ve worked closely with scientists, had personal conversations with them and written stories about scientists and why they think the way they think. After all this time, we’re still struggling with communicating climate change … You can’t narrow down very easily global climate change to individual community experiences. Like when Hurricane Katrina slammed into my hometown of New Orleans…. could you attribute it to climate change?

    We are afraid to go into local experiences and attribute climate change to local experiences because we don’t want to make a mistake. That’s a good fear to have, but it prevents us from having conversations with citizens who may have climate change affecting their lives.

    As a journalist, what were you trying to change about the way environmental news is communicated?

    I realized that part of the problem is the structure of the way [journalists] report. Traditionally, a science story begins with a scientist making observations and asking questions. They answers questions in a research paper, and if I [the reporter] have time, I find a local anecdote to make that experience seem familiar. What if we reverse that process? What if we provide tools and mechanisms to make observations about what is changing in their lives?

    How does the website work?

    People go online and make observations and ask questions, and the questions are answered by the community, which includes scientists. As questions get asked, we come through every week and review the postings. Either the questions are answered by the community or scientists or we call a scientist and get them to answer specific questions. For example, if there’s an early spring, what happens?

    It’s a socially networked almanac — half journalism, half farmer’s almanac. People keep detailed notes about farms and ranches, in the same way that a biologist would keep field notes. It’s relevant to their bottom line. They derive their livelihood off the land so they pay attention to the way it changes. Even on Facebook, there’s a weather journal. It’s never been curated and shared.

    What have you learned and what’s been surprising about the project so far?

    I learned that when you give the community the power to ask the questions, it’s one of the most empowering things you can do. It’s a powerful [reporting] tool and allows me to see what is happening in the community months before things break in the mainstream [media]. Communities could tip off their news if they had the tools to do it. I do believe in that process. When we launched the website, I remember, I received texts about wildfires and droughts in April 2012, long before wildfires and droughts made mainstream news and headlines. In Colorado, we saw a historic wildfire season and …half the country is in a drought now.

    The face of the environmental movement has been traditionally white, despite the fact that ethnic communities and immigrants have long championed environmental rights and protections, and polls find they want cleaner air and water and clean energy. How could the iSeeChange project change that?

    I would say that immigrant communities are the ones who are the best positioned to see these microchanges in the climate because of their relationship to the land. One of the reasons iSeeChange works so well is because in Paonia, Colo., you have a natural resource community. People here live off the land. They derive their livelihood off the environment. Immigrant communities know that really well. In a way, it would be really interesting to have an ISeeChange in a Vietnamese community in coastal Louisiana who are attuned to microchanges in the environment over time.

    You’re in rural Western Colorado, so how do you talk about climate change there?

    In ironic, because in Paonia, half the town are miners and the other half are organic farmers. We have a coal mine in town owned by Bill Koch. When we first started to promo iSeeChange, the radio station heard from some listeners that it was a misuse of resources. [In Paonia], there’s a part of the community that doesn’t believe in climate change. Mostly, people I am working with are white…they may not be wealthy, they may not buy into climate change, but they do pay attention to how the weather’s affecting water [supply]…we all have common ground. Weather – it’s a little bit ‘Eliza Doolittle’ — you can talk to anyone, anywhere about the weather.

    Right now, iSeeChange is locally focused [on Paonia, Colo.], but could it have a global lens as well?

    Yes, right now, it’s geared for the community. The weather feed has info relevant to the community. But we’re getting clips everywhere. We got a post from Baltimore, saying that spring flowers were blooming earlier in Baltimore.

    We envision websites for three environments – rural, urban and coastal. We’re exploring how it could or should be modified for urban climate change, how it can be adjusted for coastal climate change.

    Climate scientists say that weather is not the same thing as climate, but there’s so much mingling of extreme weather events and climate change now in the minds of the public. There seems to be value in talking about climate change through weather, but is it also misleading?

    Scientists are much closer to saying the weird weather is indicative of climate change. That’s what the almanac is about. Extreme variability in the environment. This tool allows us to map the noise…we can see that sustained number of bizarre events at the same time is telling us something. For a drought series we did, we looked at the changes in the behavior of the jet stream has on heating temperatures in the Artic. Jet stream is the river of air and as it slows down…it can contribute to the weather pattern persisting. If dry weather is what we’re seeing lately, it is more likely to continue to be dry and if it’s more wet, it will continue to be wet.

    So iSeeChange is recording what you call microchanges in the environment. Is it also mapping how people are adapting to the changes?

    We’re interested in that too. Scientist and ranchers and farmers are all seeing the same thing…farmers and ranchers are making a decision. What do they do on their farms and ranches? We’re interested in mapping the decisions. That’s a core question that … iSeeChange tries to answer … as the environment is changing, how are we changing too? That’s the whole point of the project. A digital almanac…to document what 2012 has done to us, how it changed us.

    We had a earlier spring, flowers grew earlier, markets weren’t ready for some of the food, people ran out of water, they decided not to plant…people selling off [farm] animals right and left. This has been an epic year.

    Apply Today: Journalism Fellowship, Immigrant Women

    Today is the last day to apply for New America Media's fellowship for journalists writing about immigrant women in the United States. Ten fellowships are available, and bloggers and online journalists in the U.S. can apply too.

    February 07 2013

    Mexico's Social Media Love Revolution

    Internationally, you will find many “different Mexicos” in the news: the beach-sun-party-tequila paradise, the drugwar-dangerous nation and the artistic-folkloric-colourful country with great food to discover.

    Mexico is a very big and diverse country, and for the last couple of days Mexican social media has been full of violent news, starting from the tragedy of a gang raping 6 Spanish tourists to the Blast in Pemex Headquarters, not to mention corruption and human rights violations against journalists.

    By knowing the negative image Mexico has in international media, some people from the international community living in Mexico got tired of seeing how the positive side of the country gets lost in a sea of horrifying stories and they decided to act in Twitter by creating the hashtag #ForTheLoveOfMexico.

    Some of the TOP tweets of this conversation include:

    Susannah Rigg (@MexicoRetold) invites netizens to start the online conversation:

    @MexicoRetold: Join the love revolution #fortheloveofmexico

    MexicoMoment (@MexicoMoment) continued the dicussion by mentioning the importance of the use of the hashtag:

    @MexicoMoment: We believe in Mexico's performance & potential. In good tidings and great food. In responsible tweeting. #fortheloveofmexico @MexicoRetold

    Tach (@tachauvergne) made some compliments on Mexico's cultural diversity:

    @tachauvergne:  Because there's nowhere else on Earth that offers such a diverse and thrilling melting pot of culture, food and people#ForTheLoveOfMexico

    Paola O Silk (@HTOMpaola) mentioned she is proud of her country because of its indigenous heritage:

    @HTOMpaola: RT”@MexicoRetold: Mexico has over 68 distinct indigenous languages!#fortheloveofmexico” ~that is 1 of the reasons I'm in love w/ my country

    Tapagringa (@kimmcdaniel) explained how Mexico changed her sense of time and family:

    @kimmcdaniel: I love Mexico for teaching me to slow down and enjoy the ride.That family is most important.Everything else will wait.#fortheloveofmexico

    Alejandro Castañón (@alexgillessen) expressed his concern about his nation's “bad luck” and courage:

    @alexgillessen: @vocativmexico I love Mexico for its strength to carry on despite of the bad luck that has #fortheloveofmexico

    Alejandra Castre (@Alejandra81) wrote about the amazing migratory phenomenon happening with monarch butterflies:

    @Alejandra81: #fortheloveofmexico Mexico is witness for one of the most amazing migratory events: The Monarca Butterlfy comes every 2 our Oyamel Forests.

    Finally Laura Winfree (@CancunGringa) expressed her admiration for Mayan heritage next to beautiful Caribbean beaches:

    @CancunGringa: Because where else can you see Mayan ruins next to Caribbean beaches? #fortheloveofmexico http://twitpic.com/c16zbe

    Captura de pantalla 2013-02-07 a la(s) 13.37.39

    Some positive thoughts that needed to be raised, made by Mexicans or people who have been in Mexico, for their citizens not to lose hope when facing the wave of violence the country is facing today.

    Sports and National Reconciliation in Cuba

    [All links lead to Spanish language pages unless otherwise noted]

    In April 2012, the young journalist, Lenier González, editor of the Cuban magazine Espacio Laical [Social Communication Project forming part of the Archdiocese of Havana], concluded the prologue to the compilation “By Consensus for Democracy” with the following words:

    El intenso debate sociopolítico que está teniendo lugar en la sociedad cubana, y su capacidad demostrada de impactar sobre la opinión pública insular, constituyen una muestra irrefutable de que Cuba está viva.

    The intense sociopolitical debate that has been taking place in Cuban society, and its clear ability to impact on insular public opinion, constitute irrefutable evidence that Cuba is alive.

    The vibrancy of the Caribbean nation, as evidenced in the recent discussions surrounding the Internet [en] and the Migration Reform [en], amongst many others, has been expressed through blogs and social media.

    The arrival, just over a week ago, of José Ariel Contreras to Cuba, a Cuban baseball pitcher based in the US since 2002, has moved the habitants of his native province, Pinar del Río, and also fans of Cuba's national sport: baseball.

    Las últimas modificaciones de la Ley migratoria, que finalmente “pusieron” a mi primo en Miami y en Belice a mi mejor amigo, trajeron a José Ariel Contreras al Capitán San Luis. ¡Demasiado para el aburridísimo pueblito de Pinar que José Ariel, en el castellano que casi olvidara antes de “irse”, hubiese intercambiado con su pueblo!, cuenta desde su perfil en Facebook el periodista Carlos Díaz.

    The most recent modifications to the Migration Law, which finally “put” my cousin in Miami and my best friend in Belize, brought José Ariel Contreras to the stadium Capitán San Luis. So much for the boring town of Pinar, which José Ariel (in nearly forgetting his Castilian before leaving), had exchanged for his new town!, recalls the journalist Carlos Díaz from his Facebook account.

    The Migration Reform, which has been in place since January 14th, allows visits from those who are health professionals or high performing athletes “that left their country after 1990, if they have spent more than eight years of this time away, except in cases where they have been tending to humanitarian work where their entrance to the country will be dealt with within less time”, relays a note from the Inter Press Service agency.

    Aliet Arzola, makes an evaluation from her Facebook page:

    Esto era un sueño hace muy poco, pero finalmente se hizo realidad… Como mismo René Arocha rompió el hielo y desertó, ahora José Ariel Contreras se convierte en el primer pelotero cubano en regresar a la Isla… Ojalá detrás puedan venir muchos más, deseos no les faltan, de poner sus pies en Cuba y de enfundarse en la camiseta de las cuatro.

    Only recently this was merely a dream, now finally it has become reality… In the same way that René Arocha broke the ice and left, José Ariel Contreras has become the first Cuban baseball player to return to the Island… I hope that following this, many more will come and with no shortage of wishes to set foot on Cuban soil and squeeze into their number four shirts.

    Carlos Manuel Álvarez, a journalism student and blogger, who carried out the interview with Contreras, joined the celebrations. Álvarez travelled to Las Martinas- Contreras birthplace- late on the 30th January in order to ask him about his experience of Cuba more than 10 years later, along with other questions, which the sportsman was happy to answer.

    Carlos Manuel Álvarez interviewing José Ariel Contreras. Photo: Courtesy of Carlos Manuel Álvarez

    Carlos Manuel Álvarez interviewing José Ariel Contreras. Photo: Courtesy of Carlos Manuel Álvarez

    According to Álvarez, Contreras’ exit from the national selection during 2002 caused a great shock. “Many players had split beforehand, but Contreras stayed a while. Your return has created a way back in, in some respects it has built a bridge. Can you imagine those baseball players who left, playing once again for Cuba?”, he enquired.

    To which Contreras responded:

    Antes que todo somos cubanos. Donde quiera que estemos y haciendo lo que hagamos. Jugando beisbol, o barriendo una calle en cualquier lugar del mundo, seguimos siendo cubanos. De hecho, yo tengo una cláusula, que firmé en 2002 con los Yankees, donde dice que en contra de Cuba no juego. Si juego en un evento internacional, es con mi equipo. Y ese es mi sueño, tener la oportunidad de jugar por Cuba antes de retirarme.

    First of all we are Cubans, regardless of where we are or whatever we are doing. Be it playing baseball, or sweeping a street in any place in the world, we continue being Cuban. In fact, I signed a clause in 2002 with the Yankees that states that I won't play against Cuba. If I play in an international event, I will play with my team. This is my dream, to have the opportunity to play for Cuba before I retire.

    Throughout this month, Cuba has also reformed the programming of state television channels. As part of these changes, it was announced that a weekly transmission of baseball games from professional foreign leagues would be shown, satisfying the long-standing demand of the people, that could make possible the dream of watching the New York Yankees on screen.

    The professionalisation of baseball is another pending matter for sports in Cuba. According to Contreras, “the best baseball in the world is in the US, but the Japanese, Korean, Domincans and Venezuelas all play there. The Cubans will also have to join and the quality will rise, indisputably”.

    For the readers of OnCuba, the magazine that got the scoop on the interview, it is important that “the Cuban baseball players can get involved in the major leagues, and that Contreras’ dream of playing for Cuba in the World and Classic Leagues may come true”.

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