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March 27 2013

Exploring New Approaches For Poverty Reduction

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)

Cloth for sale in at market in Ghana

Cloth for sale in Makola Market in Accra, Ghana. Photo by Caroline Beaumont shared by Transaid on flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The quest is on for solutions to poverty reduction with the approach of the 2015 deadline for the UN Millenium Development Goals (MDG). Many organizations are exploring new avenues for answers hoping it can lead to fresh ideas. Among the goals agreed to by the international community more than a decade ago was to halve the number of people suffering from hunger, and for the world's poorest citizens to gain productive employment. Most of the targets are far from being met in most countries, but progress has been made, for instance in Sub Saharan Africa where the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day declined from 58% to 51% between 1990 and 2005.

Ideas exchange on the internet

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) will hold their annual Global Forum on Development in Paris on April 4-5, 2013. This year, the OECD is exploring more inclusive approaches to tackle the poverty issue by inviting to an open pre-forum discussion online with OECD scholars. All the main conversation topics on the agenda are laid out for everyone to see and contribute.

Another interesting approach to online ideas exchange is hosted by Concerned African Scholars, an organization of scholars and students of Africa. Among the many issues explored is the impact of the hundreds of billions of dollars flowing illicitly out of Africa on the slow progress of poverty reduction. The author, Janvier D. Nkurunziza, suggests one key to bringing down poverty would be “the repatriation of the resources which are currently held abroad and not benefiting the continent.”

Had Africa had not lost so much resources in the form of illicit financial transfers, it is likely that poverty would have been less acute. The logic is that keeping these resources in Africa would have produced higher rates of investment, allowing African countries to invest in productivity enhancing sectors such as infrastructure, creating jobs, and raising incomes, resulting in lower levels of poverty.

In a TEDx talk in UlaanBataar, Mongolia on “Social Media and Poverty Reduction” in September 2012, Robert Reid, the Resident Country Director of the Millennium Challenge Corporation in Mongolia, highlighted the necessity of a broad public participation in poverty reduction projects, stressing the importance of private sector involvement for sustainable development. “It's important that the involvment of the private sector be considered at the beginning of discussions on how to reduce poverty,” he says.

This multistakeholder approach is also a key tenet of the open data movement, which is progressively penetrating the development sphere.

The Uganda Open Development Partnership Platform, a civil society organization-led public initiative, is an example of what open data could bring to the debate on poverty reduction:

Open development is where organisations are using information technologies, among other information sharing channels, to provide and share information. Open development enhances transparency and accountability about resources that are available to be invested in development, how those resources are invested and what results they achieve. In the end, all the stakeholders involved in this information sharing chain; the data owners and users benefit from this mutually reinforcing ecosystem

October 25 2012

Mongolia: Goodbye, Lenin

The last bronze statue of Vladimir Lenin in Ulan-Bator, the capital of Mongolia, was recently taken down. Alec Metz on Registan.net explains what this means to Mongols and why many of them miss the previous adherence to ‘Lenin Bagsh' ('Teacher Lenin').

May 01 2012

Mongolia: Ex-president arrested for corruption

Bilguun reports that the Mongolia's former president N.Enkhbayar was arrested on charges of “misappropriation or embezzlement of property” after a long stand-off between the police and his guard. Many pointed to the use of excessive force by the police during the arrest, so Bilguun also lists some questions about the operation.

Mongolia: German beavers to restore ecosystem

14 Eurasian beavers - known as as ecosystem engineers - arrived in Ulaanbaatar from Bavaria, Germany, to build dams that shall bring about positive effects on the ecology of Tuul river in Mongolia, Bilguun reports.

April 09 2012

One Day on Earth: Worldwide Collaborative Music Video Released

A new music video has been released in preparation for the worldwide screening of the Global Collaborative film One Day on Earth, which will take place in locations all around the planet on Earth Day (22 April, 2012).  The video features musicians, poets and dancers captured on film all during the same 24 hour period in 10 October, 2012, artfully recut and remixed by Cut Chemist.

 

The collaborative film One Day on Earth was filmed all on the same day, October 10, 2010, with more than 3,000 hours of footage sent in from all corners of the world, showcasing the amazing diversity, conflict, tragedy, and triumph that occurs in one day. The Global Screening will take place on Earth Day (April 22, 2012) in every country of the world, with the assistance of World Heritage Sites and the United Nations.

 

https://vimeo.com/39875998

The music video includes footage from India, Papua New Guinea, Benin, Burkina Faso, USA, China, North Korea, Mongolia, Kenya, Afghanistan, Jamaica, Spain, Taiwan and many other locations.

You can read more about the upcoming screening on our previous post One Day on Earth: Global Screening of Worldwide Collaborative Film and you can sign up for a screening in your city or town on the One Day on Earth site.

February 17 2012

Video Highlights: Video Advocacy and Recent Events

This section aims to showcase interesting and recent posts in Global Voices that show the many ways in which videos are helping people tell stories all around the world. You can follow the activity by regions in our YouTube channel.

Advocacy through video

Several stories this month have focused on how video is enabling communities to get their message across to a wider audience.

Video: Online Media by and for Indigenous People

Intercontinental Cry posted a list of 12 recommended films on indigenous issues, some made by indigenous people from Brazil, Australia, Panama, USA, Northern Kenya, Colombia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Malaysia: Organization Advocates for Human Rights Through Video

KOMAS is an organization which hosts a yearly documentary video competition and festival in Malaysia. One of the 2011 winners of the documentary competition include Afiq Deen, who directed Huruf J, a short documentary on the hardships and discrimination faced by divorcees in Malaysia. A society that sets them apart for their condition, debt, poverty and a legal system which is unable to enforce fathers' financial obligations with their children are some of the hurdles these women have to face when trying to move on with their lives. The film includes some subtitles and audio in English.

West Papua: A Different Side of the Independence Struggle through Video

A video letter from a woman in West Papua to an Indonesian soldier echoes the stories of many other women in the area. In this case, she asks the soldier, who was once based in her village, to please write and return to meet his daughter. It can be viewed with subtitles here.

Mongolia: The Mining Projects Leaving Herders Without Livelihoods

This short video shows some of the environmental and social impact the Ukhaa Khudag coal mine in Mongolia's south Gobi desert is already having on the communities and the people who have lost their livelihoods due to the mines.

Vladlena Martsynkevych, Bankwatch's Central Asia Officer addressed this controversial topic and its social and economical cost:

The extractive industry can very well contribute to a country’s economic development and bring desired employment and revenues. At the same time mining is a highly disruptive activity with considerable negative impacts on the environment and the livelihoods of local communities. In countries with underdeveloped democratic structures, lack of institutional capacity or simply corruption, the damages can quickly overweigh. Benefits can then bypass the local level and end up enriching the involved companies and – not least - the technological progress and wealth in developed nations.

Recent News

Cuba: Cleaning Up for Papal Visit?

El Cafe Cubano reported that residents who live close to the Basilica of the Patron Saint of Cuba, a destination that is on Pope Benedict XVI's itinerary when he visits Cuba next month, are being evicted in en effort to “[cover] up the prevailing misery that the Cuban people are suffering in the island.”

Panama: The Indigenous Leader Who Took on the Government

The first female indigenous leader of the Ngobe Bugle people in Panama has become a media sensation after standing up to the government and demanding their rights to be respected.

In the midst of all of this crisis, one name has emerged as the standard bearer for the indigenous fight. The cacique [Taíno word meaning tribal leader or chief] Silvia Carrera who, after becoming the first woman to be elected to this position, has risen up in opposition to the current government's mining plans.

The following video by Orgun Wagua, uploaded to YouTube by laoruguitaecoloca [es] on February 4, shows the cacique spearheading attempts to start a dialog during the conflict:

Mozambique: All Aboard the Musical Marrabenta Train!

The fifth Marrabenta Festival has spread some cheer in Mozambique. One of the highlights seems to be the acoustic musical train trip to Marracuene, leading revelers for free to the all night outdoor concert that marks the Festival's finale. The following video takes us to this lively train full of song and music:

February 02 2012

Mongolia: Mining Project Leaving Herders Without Livelihoods

Mining projects in Mongolia promise development of social and economic infrastructure and a way to alleviate poverty, but on the wayside, local communities near the mines are feeling the negative impact as their environment and traditional livelihoods are affected.

The environmental NGO CEE Bankwatch Network has been reporting on mining projects both in Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia, projects which have been encouraged by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Bankwatch's concerns, voiced in Rushing into gold can leave people behind, EBRD are around resource depletion, particularly water, and changes in commodity prices:

Whether the promised revenues will help Mongolia to develop badly needed welfare services and build an economy that can sustain the depletion of its resources or sudden changes in commodity prices is an open question however. The dominance of the mining sector has already raised fears of a “dutch disease” or “resource curse”.

Open pit mining in Mongolia CCby-nc-sa pjriccio2006

Open pit Copper/Moly mine in Mongolia CC by-nc-sa some rights reserved by pjriccio2006

 

This short video was made by CEE Bankwatch Network in eastern Europe, urgewald from Germany, Bank Information Center in the US and Oyu Tolgoi Watch from Mongolia who traveled to Mongolia to study the environmental and social impact the Ukhaa Khudag coal mine in Mongolia's south Gobi desert is already having:

If the previous video showed how things are starting to go with mining in Mongolia, in Kyrgyzstan they already have a long history of negative effects mining has had on the environment, health and local communities. The next video goes into the glaciar region of Kyrgyzstan and visits the areas surrounding the Kumtor open air gold mine where it has been operating for over 15 years. Cyanide poisoning and water contamination is what the communities have: none of the promised development and benefits have reached them.

Both the Mongolian and the Kyrgyzstan mining videos and background were written about in Earth's riches, people's troubles. Mining in Central Asia.

The cases in question – the Oyu Tolgoi and Tavan Tolgoi mines in Mongolia and the Kumtor gold mine in Kyrgyzstan – are both important contributors to their country's national income and both receive (or in case of Oyu Tolgoi may soon receive) support from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development(EBRD). Both, however, pose risks to the local communities that can't be compensated in monetary terms.

These countries are not the only ones facing development with the negative impacts mining brings. In nearby Tibet, villagers managed to halt a mining project being established in one of their sacred mountains.

The topic is controversial; how high a price can a community pay for development of their country? Vladlena Martsynkevych, Bankwatch's Central Asia Officer writes:

The extractive industry can very well contribute to a country’s economic development and bring desired employment and revenues. At the same time mining is a highly disruptive activity with considerable negative impacts on the environment and the livelihoods of local communities. In countries with underdeveloped democratic structures, lack of institutional capacity or simply corruption, the damages can quickly overweigh. Benefits can then bypass the local level and end up enriching the involved companies and – not least - the technological progress and wealth in developed nations.

October 20 2011

North Koreans in Mongolia Working Under Miserable Conditions

North Korean Economy Watch blog posted about North Koreans working under miserable conditions in Mongolia. Hundred of North Koreans were placed across Mongolia to help the country to meet its financial targets.

August 26 2011

Mongolia: Higher visitors cause major traffic jams

Bilguun writes about the visits of president of South Korea and US vice-president Joe Biden to Mongolia - both in one day - causing major roadblocks and traffic jams across the nation's capital city.

February 15 2011

China and Mongolia: Goliath and David?

Written by Andy Yee

At East Asia Forum, Justin Li discussed the Sinophobia in Mongolia caused by high dependence on China for trade and investment. In another article on the Forum, Julian Dierkes questioned Li's claims, and highlighted that significant shift in Mongolia's ‘third neighbour' policy is possible. In a separate but related article in Asia Pacific Memo, Dierkes discussed how changes in Mongolia's political party landscape will affect populist tendencies and public discussion on national policies in Mongolia.

November 17 2010

Mongolia: Global chains are rumored to enter the market

By Adil Nurmakov

Bilguun writes about unconfirmed rumors of Starbucks opening a branch or five in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, along with that of McDonalds' - the blogger notes these are often deemed as the modern barometers of globalization and international recognition of a country.

October 18 2010

Mongolia: Fashion designer wins prize in France

By Adil Nurmakov

Mongolian fashion designer Tsolmandakh Munkhuu picked up the “Public Prize” at the annual Hyeres Festival of Photography and Fashion, heesco informs.

September 07 2010

Mongolia: Mongol horse racing and Naadam festival

By Adil Nurmakov

Bilguun tells about Mongolia's Naadam festival in July, it's history and present. It is normally followed by a season of feasts, featuring the “three manly sports”, namely archery, wrestling and horse racing.

August 08 2010

China: Visa tales

By John Kennedy

Just how how hard can it be, asks Sina blogger and freelance journalist Chen Zikun in his August 6 post, for Chinese travelers to get a visa—with Chen's answer apparently being: not too hard—in which he shares the stories behind visas for the many countries he's been to:

第一次出国办理签证前,一直喜滋滋地认为:来自一个经济快速发展的大国,特别是CCTV等根红苗正的媒体经常自鸣得意地报道“中国游客的奢侈品购买力高居世界第一”时,心里的底气就更足了。中国都已经“可以说不了!”哪个国家还敢不会笑脸相迎,顺利给予签证放行呢。

然而,事与愿违……

Until I went to apply for a visa for my first ever trip out of the country, I was always happily under the impression that, being from a country with a rapidly-developing economy, and especially with how smug red-to-the-root media like CCTV are in their frequent reports about how Chinese tourists always rank first in purchasing power of luxury goods. Couldn't have felt better. China had already learned how to say No, thus there probably wasn't any country that wouldn't greet me with a smile, never mind give me a visa hassle-free.

Then, the opposite turned out to be true…..

2003年深秋,第一次办理的出国旅游签证是申根国家的奥地利。要求我提供房产、车产、银行5万存款证明,单位介绍信,介绍信的职能是,汇报我年收入在10万人民币以上,担保我肯定如期归国、绝不滞留非法打工,当然,还要求“如实填写”八辈祖宗的详细履历……

In late fall 2003, the first overseas tourist visa I applied for was for a Schengen country, Austria. They required property ownership certificates, car ownership certificates, proof of bank balance exceeding RMB 50,000, a letter of introduction from my workplace, the purpose of which being to confirm my annual salary to be over RMB 100,000 as well as guarantee that I would return to the country and not overstay my visa to work illegally. Of course, they also needed an “accurate” record of my ancestry going back eight generations….

第二次去埃及和被欧盟一直不齿的土耳其。埃及相对简单,但先决条件也不少,本以为也遭受歧视的土耳其能够通情达理,不料,这个昔日的奥斯曼帝国,对中华人民共和国公民的态度跟欧盟国家一样的傲慢!

My second time was to Egypt and that country long despised by the EU, Turkey. Egypt was fairly simple, but which isn't to say there weren't a fair number of preconditions. Being so subject to discrimination as it is, I would have though Turkey would be reasonable about processing visas. Turns out, the former Ottoman Empire country is just as arrogant toward citizens of the People's Republic of China as it is to those of European Union countries!


话说回来,别责怪人家外国人,自家的香港、澳门也要求你先办理经过严格审核的签证,才可能放行呢。其手续与程序,同办理其别人家一样复杂好繁琐,更重要的是,日后还经常遭到导游的冷眼甚至辱骂。

Having said that, don't be too quick to judge the foreigners. Even our own Hong Kong and Macau require you to first undergo a strict process before they'll issue a visa. The paperwork and procedures involved are just as complicated and elaborate as those required by anybody else, but even more important is that once you do get it, you find yourself constantly stuck with cold glares and even abuse from tour guides.

第二次进入申根国家,是法国签证,照例又是复印一大沓资料以及银行存款等财产证明,再次发誓绝不赖在人家屋檐下,一定如期回来。

My second time applying to a Schengen country was with a visa to France. Per usual, they wanted copies of yet another stack of information as well as proof of financial statements, and again I had to swear that I wouldn't remain anywhere and that I would return on schedule.

毕竟是难兄难弟,越南明显地好客,不费心调查你是否有足够的资产和计较你是否拥有体面的工作,交钱后差不多就OK了!

We are brothers of the same misfortune, after all, and Vietnam is much friendlier, not taking the trouble to check whether or not you own sufficient assets or fixating on the suitability of your job; you pay your money and then you're more or less good to go!

太平洋上的美国托管地塞班岛,虽然有美国有亲戚关系,但美国东家知道中国人再怎么聪明,也无法把塞班做跳板蹦到美国本土,所以手续相对简单,但单位介绍信还是少不了的。

In the Pacific Ocean, Saipan, although administered by the United States, its masters know that even with as clever as Chinese are, there's no way for any of us to use the island as a springboard to land on American soil, and therefore applications are relatively straightforward, but of course that employee letter is still required.

虽然曾经体制相同,俄罗斯实际上也多次尝试给予昔日小兄弟一些宽松,但发现招惹不得,稍有松懈,中国人就非法涌入、大量滞留。屡放屡收的结果是,仅仅比苛刻的欧盟强一点,但有些公证、身份证明一样不少!

Despite the similar political system we once shared, Russia has in fact made multiple attempts to relax procedures for its former brethren, at least until it became clear that each time they did, large numbers of Chinese would flood in and end up staying. The result of this tightening and relaxing has been requirements that are only marginally more strict than those of the EU, and don't forget those notarized papers and proof of identity!

最亲密的盟国朝鲜,对于中国游客的财产证明并不看中,但对职业的审查却极为严格。记者休想进入!但以盈利为目的的旅行社自有对策,把职业一栏随便改成“教师”或“经理”就平安无事了。失望的是,签证是没有“伟大领袖”的头像和他们独自一国实行的“主体元年”年历划分日的期。

Oh-so-intimate North Korea, which doesn't place much emphasis on proof of assets for Chinese travelers; screening based on profession, however, is extremely strict. Journalists, don't even think about getting in! Travel agencies, however, in pursuit of profit, have found a way around this, by changing employment status to ‘instructor' or ‘manager'. What's disappointing is that visas don't come with a picture of The Great Leader, or stamped with the special Juche year Gregorian calendar unique to their country alone.

马来西亚除了对中国年轻女子(大量性工作者活跃在马来西亚,使所有的中国良家女子也收到牵连)审查严格外,基本网开一面。新加坡也如此,只要有足够的存款证明就成。签证是另外一张纸,不占护照页面。

Malaysia, aside from harsh screening of young Chinese women (large numbers of sex workers are highly active in Malaysia, something which implicates even upstanding Chinese women), basically has its doors wide open. Singapore is the same, although proof of sufficient bank balance is needed. Visas are issued separately, not on a page in your passport.

虽然我们把他们的外交部、国防部、行政院统统打上引号,从心理上安慰自己。但是,在“一个中国原则”下,去台湾比办理去其他国家甚至还要繁琐。至少没有正式开放前的2004年是这样。

Although we put their foreign ministry, ministry of defence and Executive Yuan in quotation marks, that's just to comfort ourselves. Under the “One-China policy”, applying to go to Taiwan is far more complicated than for other countries. At least up until 2004 when things had yet to formally open up.

台湾签证与众不同,套用李登辉的话,毕竟这是“特殊的国与国”关系。幸好我不是军人、党员和官员,审查轻易通过。但去台湾却必须从香港经由第三国才能实现。

Taiwan's visas are different from most, covered in sayings from Lee Teng-hui. After all, these are “special state-to-state” relations. Fortunately I'm not a soldier, Party member or official, so getting approval was easy. Though if you go to Taiwan, you have to go through Hong Kong or another country.

这个第三国就选择了菲律宾。这个东南亚唯一的天主教国家,没有调查我的财产和职业。

For my third country, I chose the Philippines. This the only Catholic country in Southeast Asia, and neither my assets nor profession were checked.

韩国与朝鲜的签证区别明显,首尔机场人员见到我的朝鲜签证时,惊讶地问:我可以用手机拍照吗?

The difference between South and North Korean visas is obvious. When the employee at Seoul Airport saw my North Korean visa, they asked excitedly if they could take a picture of it with their cellphone.

柬埔寨既不担心中国记者的“负面报道”,更不害怕中国黑工的“非法滞留”。甚至落地再办理签证也来得及。

Cambodia is not worried about “negative reports” from Chinese journalists, and are definitely not worried about Chinese people working or staying illegally. You can even apply for a visa upon arrival.

经常被国际社会谴责践踏人权的缅甸军政权,与朝鲜有很多相同之处——都不欢迎喜欢追求真相的新闻记者。

With a military regime so frequently criticized by the international community for its human rights situation, Myanmar has a lot in common with North Korea: neither of them like journalists coming chasing after the truth.

泰国属于少有的几个最容易签证的国家之一,即使没有红衫军闹腾。不过,去那个国家没有兴趣,只不过,首都曼谷是交通枢纽,以这里放射状地飞向缅甸仰光、斯里兰卡的科伦坡、印度尼西亚的雅加达等地。

Thailand belongs to the small group of countries whose visas are easiest to obtain, even when the red shirt army isn't creating any disturbance. Although, I have no interest in traveling there except that the capital Bangkok is a transportation hub and from there one can fly on to Yangon in Myanmar, Colombo in Sri Lanka, Jakarta in Indonesia, and other places.

2005年。印度尼西亚还不对中国公民个人发放签证,必须多花一倍的钱委托旅行社办理才成。

In 2005, Indonesia was still not issuing visas to Chinese citizens; one had to pay a hundred times the normal cost to a travel agent to take care of the paperwork.

非洲的岛国塞舌尔,同另一个印度洋岛国毛里求斯相同,破例可以让中国游客同其他各国游客那样,平等免签进入。这是出入境盖的印章。只是每逢遇到中国人入境,检验就格外严格。

The African island nation of Seychelles, quite similar to the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius in that, unlike nearly all other countries, exempts Chinese travelers from a visa. This is the stamp given at the Immigration crossing. When Chinese go through, however, inspection is more thorough than normal.

满以为兄弟的非洲国家一定不会如此歧视中华人民共和国的护照,不料,强国梦在黑非洲照样破灭!坦桑尼亚与肯尼亚同样铁面无私,都必须在北京的大使馆先把签证办理完毕才能动身。幸好乌干达可以“搭车”进入。目前,在东非共同体内,有其中一个国家签证就可以通行。

With Africa full of countries we think of like brothers, definitely anyone with a People's Republic of China passport will not be faced with this kind of discrimination. Nope, turns out the Superpower Dream gets destroyed in black Africa too! Tanzania and Kenya were equally strict in requiring visa processing to be completed at their embassies in Beijing before I could go. Fortunately, I was able to “truck” into Uganda. Currently, one travel throughout the EAC with a visa from any of its member countries.

更有甚者,世界上最不发达国家之一的马达加斯加,在法文的申请表上还特意用汉字注明:本人在马达加斯加期间,保证不非法打工。另一个最不发达国家之一的赞比亚,更是明令规定:包括中国在内的六个国家不能享有落地签证待遇……

In Madagascar, the least developed country in the world, they went and stipulated in Chinese on the French-language form that “this person is not allowed to work illegally during their stay in Madagascar.” In Zambia, another least developed nation, it was much clearer: “China is one of the six countries not privy to visas upon arrival”……

要想获得津巴布韦签证,请记住,同朝鲜、缅甸一样,千万不能透露记者身份!专制政权都害怕舆论开放。

If you want a visa to Zimbabwe, please remember, as with North Korea and Myanmar, do not under any circumstances reveal that you are a journalist! Authoritarian regimes all fear open discussion.

美国签证最为麻烦,要象应聘工作那样先去使馆“面试”和按手印,北京人还好说,新疆人也得不远千里,来北京的秀水街碰运气,拒签后,100美元的签证费不退!不过,我面试时,所以的财产证明人家根本没有看!

American visas are the most troublesome. Like job-hunting, you have to first go to the embassy for an “interview” and be fingerprinted (Beijingers will tell you that Xinjiangers face the same thing when they show up and try their luck at the Xiushui Silk Market), and if you get rejected, you don't get that USD 100 back! Although, when I had my interview, they didn't even bother looking at my proof of assets!

早在1989年,遭到加拿大拒签,没想到,后来竟然去了三次这个国家。不过,第二次入境时遇到麻烦,签证官反复检查护照后,不解地质问:你为什么去伊朗?叙利亚、津巴布韦、缅甸和朝鲜这样的国家?你跟他们军人有联系吗?你见过他们的领导人吗?

Back in 1989, I got denied a Canadian visa. Who knew that I'd actually end up going there three times? Although, I had a lot of trouble the second time when the visa officer, after repeatedly going through my passport and with no explanation, kept asking my: why did you go to Iran? Or countries like Syria, Zimbabwe, Myanmar and North Korea? Were you in contact with any soldiers there? Did you meet with any of their leaders?

印度需要往返机票、1万元存款证明。但只能一次入境和30天期限。最恼火的是印度大使馆很没信誉,极不靠谱,当你按规定的时间去取护照时,往往会毫无歉意地说:“没有办好呢,明天来吧。”

India requires a return plane ticket and proof of RMB 10,000 in the bank. Only one entry is allowed for a maximum of thirty days. The biggest headache is that the Indian embassy is so unreliable—this was extremely uncool—such that when you go back to the embassy at the specified time to pick up your passport, you keep getting the completely unapologetic response of “it's not ready, come back tomorrow.”

尼泊尔是对中国最友好的国家,签证免费,且两天后即可来取。大使馆外门可罗雀,不用排队直接进入使馆内填表。不要财产证明。

Nepal is the friendliest of all countries to China: visas are free and processed in two days. No line-ups outside the embassy, you can go straight in and fill out the forms. No proof of assets necessary.

虽然,我们本家兄弟台湾、香港的游客,能够在申根以及欧盟其他许多国家享有免签厚爱,但安理会五大常任理事国之一的中国,其国民却享受不到这些待遇。去北欧四国时,又带着中国银行至少10000元的存款证明、本人在职证明和年收入证明、单位的营业代码、领导或法人代表的保证签字以及其他个人财产证明等等,来到芬兰大使馆签证。

Although travelers from our own brothers of Taiwan and Hong Kong are lovingly exempted visas for Schengen as well as European Union and many other countries, citizens of China, one of the five major permanent members of the UN Security Council, are unable to enjoy such treatment. When I went through four countries in Northern Europe, I had to bring proof of at least RMB 10,000 in savings at Bank of China, proof of employment and annual salary, my employer's company code and, among other things, a signed letter of guarantee from my leader or a legal representative as well as various proofs of assets, to get a visa from the Finnish embassy.

老挝签证费用130元,条件宽松。

A visa to Laos costs RMB 130 and requirements are loose.

同卡塔尔一样,作为中东最大的中转站,阿联酋的迪拜,也不在护照上贴签证。

As was the situation in Qatar, as the largest transportation hub in Middle East, the visa I was given in Dubai, UAE, was not stamped into the passport.

伊朗是唯一要求女性入境者提供的照片必须是带头巾的国家,不知海湾其他国家有没有类似强制规定的?

Iran is the only country that requires women to wear head scarves going through Immigration, unless other countries in the Gulf have similar forced requirements.

叙利亚,又一个以色列的敌国,为此,这本护照没有用完之前,我不敢贸然去以色列大使馆办理签证。

Syria, another enemy of Israel, which is why until this passport expires, I don't dare head to the Israeli embassy for a visa.

约旦驻华大使馆的工作人员,态度粗鲁无礼,甚至比其他驻华使馆里的一些中方雇员的态度还恶劣。

Staff at the Jordanian embassy to China were quite rude, far more vile even than attitudes of some Chinese staff at any other embassy in China.

蒙古的签证官居然能够把申请者的年月日写错,害得我发现后第二次找他们纠正。

The Mongolian visa officer actually got my date of birth wrong the first time, after I noticed I had to go back and ask them to correct it.

澳大利亚尽管要求必须把逝去了20多年、甚至40多年的父母姓名“如实填写”,彻底调查清楚我的底细,但还好允许一年内多次往返。第二次再去时,免受了一次心灵屈辱。

Although Australia required the names of both parents from the past 20-40 years “written accurately” and fully investigated my ever last detail, in the end gave my a multiple entry one year visa. The second time I went, I was spared the humiliating ritual.

日本虽然不断降低签证的门槛,但中国人要想像港台同胞一样从容第出入东京,还是一个遥不可及的梦想。也难怪,每个旅行团都面临游客中途脱逃的风险,10万现金被旅行社扣押,也依然挡不住脱逃的洪流。

Although Japan keeps lowering its visa requirements, it's a dream still years in the future when Chinese will be able to go in or out as freely as their Taiwan or Hong Kong compatriots. And no wonder, ever tour group runs the risk of travelers escaping partway through; even a deposit of RMB 100,000 kept by the travel company hasn't stopped the flood of runners.

没有与中国建交的不丹,自然不会在护照上留下签证,只是出入境是盖个章而已。

Bhutan, which has yet to establish diplomatic relations with China, naturally leaves no visa in the passport, instead just a stamp when pass through Immigration.

第三次办理尼泊尔的签证,免费时代早已结束。

By the time of my third visa to Nepal, the era of free visas had long passed.

孟加拉要求提供邀请函,没办法弄邀请函,只好委托旅行社办理,费用翻番,有的黑心旅行社甚至提高4倍!

Bangladesh requires an invitation letter, and if that can't be provided the travel agent will arrange it for several times the cost. Some evil travel agents will raise the fees as high as up to four times the original cost!

How does all that that compare to your experiences traveling?

In a final note, Chen writes:

现在,想必大家发现:一个国家的国际地位、国家实力、形象与声誉到底如何,通过办理签证得到了验证。但愿“提升国家形象”的宣传片快快播放吧,别让大陆的炎黄子孙总沦为不受欢迎的三等贱民(当然,有钱有势的人都有了其他“国籍”)。

By now, everyone must have noticed that people one can ascertain the international standing and national power, image and reputation of a country through the process of applying for visas. I hope they hurry up and release that propaganda film which will “improve China's national image” so that the Yellow children of China don't have to put up with being treated like third-rate scum any longer (of course, those with money and power already have have their own other “citizenship”).

May 22 2010

Mongolia: New ethnic music band

By Adil Nurmakov

Bilguun links to the music videos and blog of Jonon, a new Mongolian band to watch out for.

April 16 2010

Mongolia: Earthquake in Ulaanbaatar

Radigan Neuhalfen writes a story about the most recent earthquake in Ulaan Baatar, the capital of Mongolia, and also provides a background of seismic research in this country.

February 09 2010

Mongolia: “Khoomii doesn't belong to China”

On PetitionSpot, a new petition goes on to ask China officials to stop registering “Khoomii” or Mongolian throat singing in their Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in UNESCO.

December 01 2009

Mongolia: Climate Change Affecting Nomadic Way of Life

Mongolian nomadic families have historically depended on the vast land for their livelihood. In the past, rangeland for their grazing animals had been plentiful, and food and water were readily collected from their surroundings. However, all is that is changing, as climate change is having a negative impact on their way of life.

Photo by Tonio94 and used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo by Tonio94 and used under a Creative Commons license.

A recent article by Joshua Kucera in Eurasianet highlights some of these changes:

Global warming is having a harsh effect on Mongolia’s nomadic herders, who comprise about 40 percent of the country’s overall 3 million inhabitants. Since 1940, the mean air temperature in the country has increased 1.6 degrees Celsius. Heat waves are longer, and rain patterns have become “quite variable, decreasing at one site and increasing at a site nearby,” according to an assessment by the country’s Ministry of Nature and the Environment. The Gobi Desert, in the south of the country, is creeping northward.

The desertification of the Gobi Desert is reducing available land for their animals to graze, which are important sources of food. This population is also facing a freshwater crisis, as described by blogger Mandah, who writes about the the water issues facing these communities:

Mongolian high mountain peak’s snowcap and glaciers have been melting and thinning because of the Global Warming. The thickness of the snow melting will become 131 centimeters by 2039. According to the scientist, the whole world will start to face fresh water shortage by 2020 and 108 million people actually have to deal with the fresh water shortage by 2025. Since 1996, Mongolian groundwater level has been decreasing constantly. Some of the biggest lakes in Gobi region such as: Taatsiin tsagaan, Adgiin tsagaan, Ulaan, Orog lakes as well as many other rivers dried up.

Blogger and local botanist Ariungerel adds information about these changes:

Nowadays, the meaning of the phrase “water is treasure” is becoming clearer. Our country is situated far from nearest sea and has less water sources on the ground and underground compared with countries that has enough water sources. Our people range their life in line with water sources, for example: remote area can be utilized only in winter times because running water source is scarce there, only snow is available there. Elders said that they used to use mouthful water to wash their faces and hands, but in the contemporary world, we use many more litters of water for the same reason.

Many of these issues are not well-known within the country, much less around the world. However, a local project called Nomad Green has taken up the initiative to teach the use of citizen media tools like blogs, photogs, and videos to tell the story of this country and some of its environmental problems. The project started in 2009 as partnership between various organizations and institutions, and to date several workshops have taken place in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar and other communities around Mongolia.

Photo of Nomad Green workshop by Portnoy (Working Man) and used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo of Nomad Green workshop by Portnoy (Working Man) and used under a Creative Commons license.

The project has already demonstrated positive steps in teaching Mongolians how to use these tools to tell their stories about environmental challenges of their country. Part of this proof is that the two bloggers previously cited in this article, Mandah and Ariungerel are a part of the Nomad Green project, which only adds to number of voices concerned about the environmental future of Mongolia.

November 30 2009

Video: Worldwide youth express themselves in 60 seconds

TheOneMinutesJr Logo

OneMinutesJr Logo

The OneMinutesJr project gives young people between 12 and 20 years of age from many corners of the globe the opportunity to express themselves, speak out and learn audiovisual skills to communicate across borders, languages and distances through 60 second videos.

The OneMinutesJr project results from the joint effort of the European Cultural Foundation, the One Minutes Jr. Foundation and Unicef, as well as other partner organizations. On their website, you can browse through years' worth of one minute videos from different countries, some sent in by individuals, others are results from workshops where youth are taught the skills to write, film and edit their ideas.

These short videos portray the concerns, ideas and dreams of youngsters from many different backgrounds, and give us a window into their daily lives. For example, from Poland, Ludmila Kierczak makes a video explaining who she is. To view the video, please click on the image below to go to the OneMinutesJr site.

Who am I by Ludmila

In Bangladesh, Mobasshera Tarannum Adiba illustrates a couple of articles from the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In his video, I want Freedom, he touches on Article 12: Children have the right to have their views heard and their voices should be respected and Article 16 which states that every child has the right to privacy.

From Mongolia, Tuvdenjamts (Tuvden) Altankhyag illustrates the right every child has to their own culture:

And in this next video, Simone Tonge from Antigua and Barbuda, exercises her right to freedom of expression in Confessions of a Female Adolescent:

Ibrahim Ide from Niger illustrates the right children have to a family that loves them and protects their rights in With or Without:

For more one minute videos, you can check out the main site for the project at TheOneMinutesJr.org or you can visit the UNICEF One Minutes Jr. Channel on Youtube to see many other 60 second videos created by youth on the topic of Childrens' Rights.

November 23 2009

Mongolia: Edurelief project “Laptops for Teachers”

Radigan Neuhalfen writes about new program “Laptops for Teachers”, aimed at promotion of education in Mongolia.

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