Saturday, July 16, 2005
The people have roared but the G8 has whispered
by Kumi Naidoo,
"The people have roared but the G8 has whispered", said Kumi Naidoo, chair of the Global Call to Action against Poverty.
"Currently 50,000 people die unnecessarily each day. If the leaders actually implement today's announcement in an urgent manner, we estimate that by 2010 this will fall to around 37,000. Those who have joined the world's largest movement to end poverty can be proud that their voice and efforts will ensure that millions more people will live in health and dignity, but they
will not rest until all of these needless deaths are stopped.
"The promise to deliver by 2010 is like waiting 5 years before responding to the tsunami," Kumi added.
"Despite constant calls from people worldwide for trade justice it is desperately disappointing that G8 leaders failed to act properly on this issue. The debt deal announced is a small belated step in the right direction and though it is good that the principle of 100% cancellation has been recognised, much more needs to be in done in terms of the number of countries, the amount of money and the eradication of conditionalities.
"The Global Call to Action against Poverty will continue to pile on the pressure on all of our demands, including debt cancellation and challenging the structures of injustice, in the run-up to the Millennium Development Summit in September and the WTO meeting in December.
"Given the track record of G8 leaders of broken promises, we will also be closely monitoring their commitments. GCAP calls on citizens and civil society organisations around the world to get involved and join their national coalition. The white band will continue to be a symbol in the fight for justice against poverty".
Kumi Naidoo, chair, Global Call to Action against Poverty
How Understanding a Country’s Culture Promotes Aid Effectiveness
Culture and Development Development Gateway+ Culture and Public Action+ Traditional African values and their use in implementing Agenda 21+ The Culture of Power in Contemporary Ethiopian Political Life+ Knowledge and the practice of relief in southern Sudan+ Crises and Contradictions: Understanding the Origins of a+ The Ethiopic Calendar+ Community-Based and -Driven Development: A Critical Review
: Aid donors to poor countries are increasingly recognizing the importance of local cultural practices in implementing successful aid projects. Cultural practices can extend from local methods for measuring time, such as Ethiopia's ancient calendar that requires reprogramming of computer software to track donor contributions to that country, to ensuring that all donor transactions are translated into local languages. Underlying this momentum is a shift of emphasis over the last decade to country ownership and community-based development to ensure sustainable projects. Understanding a country's traditional agricultural practices, its attitudes toward foreign charity, and its political culture are now considered key to successful donor interactions.
Of maize, Potatoes and Onions
12/07/2005" by Dr. U. Pethiyagoda Ph.D
It is nearly as unthinkable to envisage a successful poultry industry without attention to maize as to embark on milk production without attention to pastures (and manioc). Competitive farming dictates the use of the best possible seed.
I am unaware of any serious maize-growing country which seeks to do so without recourse to hybrid seed. Maybe there is a reason for our tardiness (the department of Agriculture, I guess is nearly a century old) in adopting this technology. An explanation might be opportune.
Anyone who has eaten "corn on the cob" almost anywhere outside Sri Lanka - Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, the US, anywhere in Europe etc. would have noticed that the cobs are invariably full of formed grains, while locally a third to a half may be gaps. Of course, it might not be the only reason but one suspects that the use of Hybrid Seed may well be a very important one. Hybrid corn seed is doubtless expensive, as it has to be skillfully raised from selected parent stocks. Desirable traits probably outweigh this disadvantage.
Maize is an important, ancient and fascinating crop. If I may digress a moment into the botany of this giant grass, cultivated maize is bisexual. The male flowers are the crowns while about two or three leaves close to the stem base bear the future cobs in their axils. The number of potential cobs seems to be a relatively fixed character and breeding efforts cannot successfully increase cob number. The practical approach is to enhance cob size, grain number and successful set.
You may have observed that I refer to "grains" rather than "seed". This is an escape because botanically, each of the objects we eat is in fact a fruit! Each of the strands of the long silk that adorns the top of the infant cob terminates in a grain.
A microscopic pollen grain falling on a strand has to grow down what must seem to it, a relatively enormous distance to the incipient fruit to effect fertilization. It is easy to see why under adverse conditions (untimely rain, excessive dryness, poor winds etc) many sites must fail to be fertilized. Hence poor setting. In a rather cunning arrangement to encourage cross pollination, the male flowers generally ripen and shed their pollen before the tassels on their own cobs are receptive.
Even the belated efforts to widen the use of Hybrid Maize) I suspect a few enterprising growers have managed to bring in small amounts of seed and their experiences should be most illuminating) are commendable.
Reference to the Irish or European Potato (the common potato) is relevant. Many farmers in Sri Lanka are dependent on this crop. However, I believe it is a wrong choice. If at all, we should be growing it as a curiosity or a gourmet item for the affluent. Do not misunderstand me, the potato is a superbly nourishing item, stores very well and tastes divine and we should not be deprived of its virtues.
Agreed - but still I say that we should not grow it commercially! After all, Europe selected, introduced, improved and grew it widely because at that time it was recognized as one of the most efficient converters of sunshine (aided by other factors) into edible starch. Why then discourage its cultivation?
Potatoes are planted as sprouted tubers or tuber pieces. About fifteen hundredweights are generally planted per acre. In commercial farming in potato growing countries, a yield of twenty to thirty tons per acre is average. Under our conditions, we would be lucky with six and exceptionally so with ten tons.
Consider that in order to get fifteen hundredweights of sprouted seed potatoes, we may have to start with perhaps twenty to thirty hundredweights of potentially edible tubers. So in reality, with a harvest of six tons fresh, we are in fact getting a four to six fold return.
Consider the costs, seed potatoes, fertilizer (I believe about a ton of mineral mixture and several tons of compost per acre) fungicides and insecticides, labour and other costs just to get six tons of potatoes. Had we instead imported these six tons of edible potatoes, it is a fair bet that we would need less than the foreign exchange cost alone of fertilizer, pesticides and fuel.
I have heard it said that in season, potatoes in Bangladesh sell for the equivalent of eighteen Sri Lankan cents per kilo! Unbelievable, but economic even if wrong by a factor of 100 times!
I believe the critical factor is latitude. Only if our island shifts to 20 degrees north or south (from its present position of 7 degrees north) can we confidently expect potatoes to be commercially worthwhile.
Until then, little point in battling. It is for this very same reason that we would waste effort if attempts were made to grow lentils (or "massoor" or "mysore" dhall). Best left to Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan and such northerly latitudes.
Fortunately alternatives for potato are available. Sweet potatoes are one of the most important crops in North Carolina, South India has virtually a whole Institute devoted to the study of manioc (Cassava), a type of aroid yam (Colocasia or Alocasia) that grows under virtual paddy field conditions and yielding some thirty tons of fresh carbohydrate in a three-month growing season has been reported.
True they may not have all the virtues of the Irish or European potato but the cost advantage is considerable.
Jak and Breadfruit are also presently important sources of "casual carbohydrate".
Another factor is very relevant. Bacterial Wilt, caused by a Bacterium is a common and serious disease of potato. It is a very difficult pest to get rid of once introduced or multiplied. It attacks other solanaceous crops of which important ones are tomatoes, brinjals, and capsicums (including chillies). This too argues against unrestricted potato cultivation.
Another example worthy of mention is the Onion. We are considerable consumers of the Red Onion (also called shallots or spring onion). Latterly, perhaps as a result of the LTTE insurgency, large onions (Bombay Onions or "big Onions" in post-IPKF-generated patriotic terms!) have largely displaced the small version. Just as well, on commercial grounds. As all know, red onions are grown from separated segments of bulb clusters while the Big Onion is raised from seed.
Hundredweights of small onion bulbs at horrendous cost are required to plant an acre as against a few ounces of big onion seeds and not at prohibitive cost. It is likely that the preference was based on a totally mythical preference of the Sri Lankan housewife (a terribly harassed and deprived species) for the red onion.
Ironically, the evident suitability of Mahaweli areas for the Bombay Onion was being well established at precisely the times of deprivation when housewives stood in line outside the co-operatives at four am for scarce items and when salads with onions were only available in the Parliament canteen!
It is because the above three technological advances need to be rigorously examined and vigorously pursued that I have dared to intrude into areas of which I cannot claim expert knowledge. That they all cry out for concerted attention is evident. While not quibbling about numbers, I would consider it ample reward to be shown where I may be materially wrong.
Incidentally, whatever happened to "Lanka Parippu" a brilliant achievement of our breeders and agricultural researchers?
Friday, July 15, 2005
Wetland Restoration - IUCN
Google Groups : Humanitarian Information Centre Sri Lanka (HIC)
: Best Practice Guidelines:
a series of information papers on Environment-Conscious restoration after the Tsunami
IUCN- The World Conservation Union, in consultation with stakeholders, is preparing a series of information papers that present best practice guidelines on how to make post-tsunami restoration work environmentally friendly and sustainable.
This series of papers focuses on providing concise and specific guidelines on environmental concerns that need to be addressed, and presents key steps that should be followed. A list of important contact persons is also provided.
Topics addressed include where to reconstruct, materials for reconstruction, legal concerns, solid waste disposal, beach and reef clean up operations, dealing with invasives and restoration.
The information papers will be particularly useful to those planning, implementing, managing, and monitoring restoration work including government officials, local government officials, donors, international NGOs, local NGOs, politicians and individuals.
The series will be available in English, Sinhala and Tamil.
PDF versions of released issues can be downloaded from the IUCN - Sri Lanka site (www.iucnsl.org
). Alternately, copies can be obtained free-of- charge from IUCN-TheWorld Conservation Union, Sri Lanka Country Office, 53, Horton Place, Colombo 7.
For further information please contact:
Shalini Amarasinghe Programme Officer, Communication and Knowledge Management, IUCN- The World Conservation Union, Sri Lanka Country Office, 53, Horton Place, Colombo 07, Sri Lanka.
Tel : 0094-11-2682418, 2694094 ext - 219 Fax : 0094-11-2682470Download the report
Email : email@example.com
Web : www.iucnsl.org
Effects of Trade Liberalization on Poverty
by Sanath Jayanetti and Ganga Tilakaratna
There is a consensus that rapid and sustainable economic growth is a precondition for poverty alleviation and a liberal trade regime is a precondition for sustainable economic growth. However, trade liberalization affects consumers and producers differently. While tariff reduction on imports may bring welfare gains to consumers, there would be many producers who are adversely affected by such trade policy reforms. Hence, our attempt in this policy brief is to look at the impact of trade liberalization on poverty and welfare of households, with a special focus on the rice (and potato) sector of Sri Lanka. Results from both an analytical model (for the rice sector) and a descriptive approach (rice and potato sectors) are discussed. The brief also analyzes various trade policy reforms taken place during the last decade and the extent and nature of poverty in Sri Lanka.
The results of the analytical model showed an overall welfare improvement to the country from tariff reduction on rice. Net welfare effect for all the income deciles is positive. However, the extent of gain for low-income deciles is higher compared to richer deciles. District level analysis showed welfare gains for all the districts except for two large-scale rice producing areas. Moreover, estate sector households had the highest positive welfare effect while the urban sector had the lowest (positive) effect. The rural sector showed a mixed effect depending on whether the households in the area/district, in general, are net producers or net consumers of rice. In the case of the descriptive approach it is shown that ad-hoc duty changes, in both rice and potato sectors, during the past decade have hurt both the consumers and producers.
This policy brief stresses the need to eliminate ad hoc trade policies and move towards a low uniform ad valorem tariff rate for rice and potato. Moreover, it highlights the importance of having both the compensatory and the complimentary policies to minimize the adverse effects of trade liberalization, particularly the effects on the poor.
Reflections on need for a fresh Post-Tsunami approach to Humanitarian aid in Sri Lanka
Google Groups : Humanitarian Information Centre Sri Lanka (HIC)
: The tsunami struck a relatively thin but extremely long coastal area in Sri Lanka, stretching over 1,000 kilometers, or two thirds of the country's coastline. The damage stretches from Jaffna in the north down the entire eastern and southern coast, and covers the west coast as far north of Colombo as Chilaw. There are over 31,000 dead, 5,000 missing, 15,000 injured according to official reports. The estimated numbers of displaced persons are 443,000, and the population affected could be between 1 million and 2 million of Sri Lanka's total population of about 19 million.
About 100,000 houses were damaged; of which more than 75,000 were completely destroyed. Coastal infrastructure (roads, railway, power, telecommunication, water supply, fishing ports) was also significantly affected. Fisheries, and small-scale retail trade have been hit hard. 10 out of 12 major fishery harbors were damaged including support facilities such as ice plants, cold rooms, fish receiving and marketing centers and offices. Preliminary figures from the UN show that 22,940 vessels of various categories were lost or damaged. This constitutes 81% of total number of fishing vessels in the country. The fishing population suffered 7,573 deaths; 5,686 missing, and 90,657 displaced. Coastal infrastructure (roads, railway, power, elecommunication, water supply, fishing ports) has been significantly affected.
The devastating effects of the catastrophe could add around 250,000 more poor people to a nation that is already struggling with the effects of civil conflict compounded by poverty. Humanitarian assistance in Sri Lanka has thus been subjected to profound and dramatic change in the wake of the Tsunami. An unprecedented number of people have been caught in, and made vulnerable by, civil conflict and the Tsunami has resulted in large numbers being killed, maimed and displaced and vital means of survival being destroyed.
There are obvious limitations to the capacity of humanitarian organizations to assist people whose usual means of coping has been violently disrupted or destroyed by the Tsunami. A major challenge for these organizations is safeguarding norms, safeguarding the well-being of civilians and the provision of assistance in a manner consistent with humanitarian principles. In addition, the international community is faced with the paradox of needing ever larger resources to address the immediate survival needs of victims while simultaneously recognizing that such action may deflect attention and support from initiatives essential to undoing the root causes of vulnerability and strife. The onslaught of sudden crises, new challenges and competing needs have repeatedly highlighted the importance of a well-organized and adequately resourced mechanism for coordination, both within the multi-actor humanitarian arena in Sri Lanka.
The volatile context within which humanitarian assistance is provided is a major determinant in the overall capacity to preempt and respond to crises in a manner which minimizes avoidable suffering. The violence of civil conflict is compounded by the devastation caused, and the number of people affected, by the Tsunami. While much worthwhile action has been taken to improve the response capacity, there are, none the less, major challenges which need to be addressed in the dramatically changed climate of the post-tsunami-civil-conflict era.
The limited means of humanitarian organizations to provide protection is highlighted in the conflict setting. Finding the means to reach those in need without entrenching the power of abusive elements is one of the most difficult challenges facing the humanitarian community in Sri Lanka.
Disrespect for humanitarian norms in conflict ridden areas is likely to have a negative impact on the capacity of organizations to protect and provide assistance to Tsunami survivors. Dependence on the agreement of armed groups often makes the provision of humanitarian assistance tenuous and subject to highly volatile conditions. Safeguarding the concept and reality of "humanitarian space" when the needs of Tsunami -affected communities are deemed secondary to military priorities is one of the most significant challenges currently confronting the humanitarian community.
The ability of the humanitarian community effectively to assist Tsunami affected communities to move from relief assistance to steps towards rebuilding a civil society depends on the political resolve of the international community to address fully the underlying civil conflict. This ability is also affected by the intricate process of identifying, engaging with and making accountable local community authorities and structures. In this context, it is often difficult to define the appropriate transition away from humanitarian operations.
Until recently, traditional wisdom argued that responsibility for the convalescence of a society was transferred from humanitarian actors to development partners in a linear progression along what was called the "relief to development continuum." The assumption was that such baton hand-overs could be accomplished smoothly and that donor momentum or interest would remain constant throughout the process. In fact, in many situations, success by the international community in stabilizing the humanitarian crisis is not accompanied by longer-term political stability. Protracted political instability often results in a reduction of international assistance, thus limiting resources available to support a transition to recovery.
Difficulties which have to be addressed in dealing with recovery and transition include:
(a) A perceived scarcity of empowered local leadership able to interact with the international community to take over and guide the transition process;
(b) Donor fatigue due to a protracted conflict that seems to lead nowhere;
(c) An absence of significant donor resources for the rehabilitation and recovery phases.
Most donor funds are earmarked for either Tsunami assistance or long-term development. The goodwill associated with the successful international Tsunami relief operation provides a window of opportunity upon which the international community must capitalize. The goodwill of armed groups and their willingness to compromise among their own members and with others will be lost if resources for recovery and follow-up support are not forthcoming in a timely manner.
To begin to address these problems, the international community should focus on the sustainability of the impact of humanitarian assistance, especially through the empowerment of local authorities and structures. Supporting local structures in their efforts to guide the humanitarian endeavor will greatly enhance the international community's ability to address the essence of conflict and to identify and support opportunities for diffusing tensions. Continued support to representative local structures beyond the emergency relief stage through the recovery process has the potential to assist nascent and fragile peace efforts to flourish.
One critical constraint which organizations of the system face in a period of transition is the availability of upfront resources to address immediate recovery needs. This could be critical to stabilizing and improving the fragile situations in Sri Lanka. Experience has shown that the response of donors to longer-term rehabilitation requirements often takes time. Despite recognition of the importance of rehabilitation and confidence-building measures, there is a dramatic dearth of funding for such activities. It is important that funds which can be accessed quickly are set aside for immediate rehabilitation activities. Even when donor support for rehabilitation programmes exists, the funding mechanisms are often too slow to maintain the necessary momentum to break the cycle of violence or address the conditions that perpetuate stability. The window of opportunity for such activities, is limited and should be fully utilized.
The humanitarian agenda is shaped by political attitudes, strategic interests in specific areas and the attention span of the media. Such factors, which are for the most part beyond the control of humanitarian organizations, play an important role in the level of attention and support provided to victims. Ideally, assistance would be provided according to need and the core principle of impartiality would have greater relevance.
It is critically important that the international community acknowledges the vital but limited role of humanitarian action in the complex crises in Sri Lanka. It is equally important to ensure that humanitarian programmes are not used as a substitute for action needed to reverse the dynamics of war and the circumstances which led to armed conflict.
The major obstacle facing humanitarian organizations is the absence of sufficient political will and support for action to address the underlying causes of crises. The provision of humanitarian assistance in a vacuum is tantamount to managing only the symptoms of a crisis. The effectiveness of humanitarian endeavors in the conflict setting in Sri Lanka is largely predicated on successful action by the international community to resolve the problems that provoked the crisis. However, notwithstanding the importance of support from the international community, it has to be recognized that it is the people of Sri Lanka who are primarily responsible for their own recovery and that of their communities.
In sum, humanitarian organizations in Sri Lanka have to reassess the processes that shape the nature and impact of their interventions for Tsunami survivors in conflict ridden zones and arrive at a community based empowerment approach with a human rights perspective that addresses the issue of community development using a psychosocial platform with an undercurrent of peace building.
Dr. U. Gauthamadas
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Alcohol and Poverty in Sri Lanka
FORUT: Alcohol and Poverty in Sri Lanka
This report is on a study of Alcohol and Poverty commissioned by the development agency FORUT (Norway). The study ran from June 2002 to June 2003. It covered several settings specified by FORUT, as the agency commissioning the study. These settings included urban overcrowded communities (commonly referred to as slums), dry zone and wet zone rural communities, an estate sector community and a setting of persons internally displaced. To provide better coverage, a predominantly Roman Catholic fishing community was added to the list originally provided.Methodology
The methodology was principally an in-depth qualitative inquiry through trained and regularly supervised field assistants. The in-depth component required the field assistant to be in the given community for a period of at least ten days. There were seven locations so studied. This was supplemented by a brief inquiry in three other settings to obtain greater coverage. An informal entry was used to study eight other urban settings within the capital Colombo.
In addition, a short questionnaire exploring quantitatively some variables connected to alcohol use was administered at the end of the qualitative study.
‘Poverty’ could refer to many things, including a limitation in richness of people’s lives, poor income or lack of basic needs. All of these, unsurprisingly, went together in most of the settings that we studied. Lives were limited in the range of things to be involved in or to do, in variety of interests, in aspirations to aim for and in comforts and range of opportunities to enjoy leisure. We found that people with poor income generally, but not always, had poorer or more limited lives. But poverty of lives was not always a function of poor income. Poverty seemed strongly to imply uncertainty and a lack of control over the future. Many had such regular and routine lives, with so little variation, that they could forecast today the routine they would have to follow on any given day in the future, even ten years hence. But such persons too still felt uncertain about the future. They were still at the mercy of such things as droughts and other natural disasters. Any possible variation from a routine and unchanging life could occur only due to a calamity! Among the economically deprived there was a great deal of intra-group differences. The poor are of many levels, but some common features that were evident are listed below.
Many of the most poor in the city are crowded together. Much of the character of their lives stems from being unable to ‘wall themselves off’, for example as a family, from what happens in their community. Most of the poor in the village and the not-so-poor in the city have a slightly better defined space, a boundary. But porosity is found in rural settings too, particularly among those living in ‘camps’ for the internally displaced, the estate workers living in the line houses, and in the fishing community. Because of not having a boundary beyond which the rest of the world or community cannot intrude (or ‘porosity’ of the living space), the poor in the city’s overcrowded tenements find it difficult to improve economically. Especially so if others around them do not particularly want them to. This phenomenon has major implications for those living in such circumstances and for those working for development in such settings. Porosity has other important consequences too. The lack of private space makes it difficult to resolve conflicts in private. ‘Loss of face’ has to be avoided and, strangely, there is probably more fighting and aggression where people cannot have a boundary between themselves and the rest of the world. Or the fighting is more visible. Envy and jealousy A feeling of ‘envy’ for anybody who rises above the rest was strongly evident. Whether this tendency, to want to keep all others no better than oneself, is a feature outside this kind of community has to be studied. But it certainly is a strong element in these communities. Many of our informants have referred to this as ‘jealousy’. This tendency is most evident in relation to money and material possessions, and was common to both rural and urban settings. More subtle improvements are envied too. A couple that is happy together will be envied. There may even be attempts to impede their wellbeing. A man who does not consume alcohol daily with the crowd can be targeted in the same way. Visible consumption People spend money on things that give them social credit. We found that there are massive expenditures on alcohol for ‘celebrations’ in poor families. It is almost as if they want to be envied their expenditure. At the same time as they complain of others wanting to keep them down because of envy or ‘jealousy’ there is a desire to do exactly the things that make other people envy them. Show off is a kind of must. The need to be envied, or to get social credit, is probably an important factor that keeps people poor. Families getting into debt, and having to pay interest of over ten per cent per month for life, was reportedly common following even a single celebration such as that for a daughter reaching menarche. Lack of control Poor people seemed to have more direct pressure applied on them than the rich, regarding how they should live. Others in the community could directly demand conformity. This applies even to how they choose to conduct a ‘private’ event. Parents, in a poor community, who did not wish to have a party when their daughter reached menarche, could be asked to explain why. Some informants said that they could even be forced to change their decision. Criminality Criminal acts and violence appeared rather close to the surface in the poorest communities. Whether similar degrees of violence and criminality in richer communities are somehow hidden requires separate investigation. But the overall impression was that violent and aggressive behaviour was always lurking somewhere close to the surface. And it was as if this tendency strongly influenced life in the poorest communities. ‘Everybody’ recognized, for example, that the trade in illicit drugs and illicit alcohol should not be seriously challenged. The undertone of possible organized criminal elements was more evident in the urban settings. ‘Impossibility’ of overcoming poverty A repeated theme was that people could never emerge from poverty as long as they lived in their overcrowded urban setting, irrespective of the income they were able to earn. One factor underlying this is the ‘porosity’ of living arrangements that we referred to earlier. There is no room for gradual growth or development. Any progress is visible, and others are not keen to see just one family prosper. The sense was that others would not allow people to develop, and that the shared lives allow them to obstruct those who want to develop. There may be other barriers too, common to both rural and urban settings. One of these is that people have not only to overcome their own personal and private poverty. They have to overcome the culture of poverty that is a part of their surroundings and their everyday life. It appears that acceptance of current circumstances is more adaptive than trying to overcome them. Alcohol and other substance use Significant heroin use was almost entirely an urban phenomenon. Cannabis smoking was common in several rural settings. Alcohol was nearly everywhere. Alcohol and heroin are needed as an essential daily commodity by a significant minority of the poor in urban communities. Alcohol, mostly illicit, is similarly needed daily by a significant minority of the rural. Tobacco is too, but it is somehow less noticed or commented upon. Alcohol and heroin get much more attention than tobacco does. An apparent discrepancy was found between the qualitative and quantitative study results. In the quantitative study 63 % reported that they never consumed alcohol. Only 17 % consumed more often than once a week. But the qualitative study yielded the impression that nearly every male wanted to have alcohol at weddings and celebrations and they would all protest openly about not being able to enjoy the event if there was no alcohol. But in the anonymous quantitative study just 32% said that the act of drinking was a pleasant experience while only 14% said that the experience of ‘being drunk’ was pleasant. The data were analysed separately and could not be clarified with the respondents. There are several possible explanations for this seeming contradiction. One of these is that, during social events, a minority of very vociferous individuals who want to promote alcohol are able to create an impression that becomes somehow the view of the whole group, most of whom remain silent. Perceptions of ‘alcohol user’ and ‘abstainer’ The quantitative component of this study included a focus on how people saw alcohol use and users. In this, fifty nine percent of the total number of respondents rated alcohol users as less attractive than others (versus 20 % who found them more attractive). Similar ratings were obtained for whether alcohol users were seen as stronger or weaker than the others, more or less intelligent than others and whether they enjoyed life more or less than others. On nearly all of these parameters the occasional drinkers and abstainers had close to identical proportions holding the same opinion, quite different from the proportions given by frequent (twice a week or more) drinkers. The classification of people into ‘alcohol users’ and ‘abstainers’ is often used in Sri Lanka. This division may be artificial. The more ‘natural’ division appears to be between the occasional users and non-users on the one side and the frequent users on the other. Cost of alcohol The effect of alcohol on the community was enormous. It was not just the money spent on alcohol, but also its impact on norms of behaviour. But the monetary cost too was high. The findings of our quantitative study correspond to what has generally been known and reported about the monetary expenditures on alcohol. Over 10 % of male respondents report spending as much as (or more than!) their regular income on alcohol. An additional number probably comes close to this. From a community development perspective this is a frighteningly large group – as they are probably the most abjectly poor and the most difficult to help. In our qualitative study we discovered that ‘calculation’ of the expenditure on alcohol grossly underestimates the real cost. And this is not only because of people deliberately or unwittingly ‘underestimating’ the amount of money they spend on alcohol. There are two other mechanisms which came to light. One of these is that heavier drinkers make others pay for their alcohol using a variety of tactics. And this expenditure is not registered either by those who consume the subsidized alcohol or by those who subsidize it. There are several means through which others are made to pay for part of the alcohol expenditures of the regular or heavier users. Heavier consumers ensure, for example, that every ‘fun’ occasion is made into an alcohol occasion. The feeling that much alcohol must be served for a ‘proper’ party or occasion is constantly reiterated. People who are new to a group or junior in a workplace or boarding are made to take up much of the bill for alcohol when they go out with heavier drinking seniors. Collecting money from light alcohol users and non-users too, when special events are organized is common. The second mechanism through which some alcohol expenditures became invisible was the inattention to the amount spent during special occasions. Weddings, ‘big girl parties’ and other celebrations called for large expenditures. The heavy alcohol component of this was not included in calculations of ‘average’ alcohol expenditures. But this money was considerable. People reported becoming indebted, and having to pay high rates of interest to ‘loan sharks’, sometimes for life. Property, jewellery and other possessions were reported to be lost to the family in this way. Behaviour and alcohol use People in the settings studied appeared to be allowed freely to transgress personal boundaries after consuming alcohol. This was probably more evident than in ‘wealthier’ settings. Those who wanted to control what others say, do and think were able, in the drinking setting, to tell them forcibly what they should do. The stronger person, during the drinking event, was given the right to comment and criticize the conduct of others in the community. Some informants claimed that people said to be ‘jealous’ used this opportunity to ensure that others didn’t surpass them. Domestic violence and gender based violence was almost taken for granted in nearly all settings as an ‘automatic’ consequence of alcohol use. Deprivation of the needs of children due to the father’s heavy alcohol use was regarded simply as a misfortune of the children concerned, and not a matter for special concern or mention. Women being abused in the home by ‘drunken’ husbands was known, and even heard, but it was accepted as fate or as an evil caused by alcohol. Striking differences too were visible in the way that alcohol affects behaviour. In an urban hotel, a wealthier group consuming alcohol behaved very differently from a group of poorer workers who came there once to drink as a special treat. Only the poorer drinkers became noisy and conspicuous. Similarly, when alcohol was used surreptitiously in places where it was prohibited, people did not become loud and aggressive. Alcohol and public norms Many informants highlighted the impact of alcohol on public norms. The ‘license’ afforded by alcohol to say and do things without too much concern about social consequences has consequences. It allows the physically strong or aggressive to dominate others. And it permits ‘unacceptable’ behaviour to be openly admitted. Previously unacceptable behaviour that people learn to brag about in drinking settings was said to become gradually more socially acceptable with time. These ceased to cause shame or embarrassment, even in non-drinking settings, after they were publicly boasted about while intoxicated. There are norms about alcohol drinking too. It is almost shameful, for instance, to drink kasippu publicly, but it is not so shameful to be seen drunk on kasippu. Another example is the creation of strong norms commanding people to serve alcohol on special celebratory occasions. Main conclusions and recommendations There are a great variety of meanings attached to alcohol use. So also of behaviours related to use and reported subjective experiences with alcohol. Understanding these provides potential for interventions to reduce harmful consequences of alcohol use. Whilst alcohol remains a great hindrance to development for the poor, some forms of alcohol use are celebrated as the very symbol of economic success. In the wealthier world the alcohol arena is one in which the search for a modern identity is acted out. How this influences the consumption and images within the poor world should be recognised, as also other unseen sequelae of modernisation. Money spent on alcohol by poor families and communities is underestimated to a remarkable degree. This is not due simply to deliberate or unwitting under-reporting. A large part of alcohol expenditure is unseen. One reason is that others ‘subsidise’ a significant part of the alcohol used by heavy or regular drinkers, which neither party notices or reports. A second is that the sometimes huge and unbearable cost of alcohol for celebrations or events is not reported. Lifelong debt and misery too often follows just one family event. Another alcohol expenditure, unrecognised and unreported, is ‘unexpected’ money or illegally earned money being immediately ‘busted’ on alcohol. A cultural change is needed to make these expenses evident and to help communities address the social assumptions that lead to such expenses. A large proportion of the poor is heavily into regular alcohol use – and an additional number in the city into heroin use as well. Families in these categories are likely to be the most abjectly poor and most in need of ‘development’. They are also likely to be the most resistant and difficult to help progress. The risk that the most in need will be left out of, or fail to benefit from, all poverty alleviation or developmental endeavours is high indeed. Special, focussed, attention to this group of heavy alcohol and other drug users is essential if community development efforts are not to miss the most deprived. Freedom from normal social norms when ‘intoxicated’ allows much abuse of weaker members of society, especially women. Children too are open to abuse in this way but the reports were mostly of women being abused. The ‘authority’ given to domineering individuals, to force others to conform by using alcohol-related aggressiveness, is used in other ways too. One such use is to forcibly prevent members of the community from improving economically. Attempts to help the poorer families to overcome their poverty have to address this ‘forcible’ retention in poverty, partly through force exerted under the guise of intoxication. Acceptance and ‘social cleansing’ of socially disapproved behaviours occurs through these being openly proclaimed in the drinking setting. The impact of this goes beyond the drinking setting. When people are allowed to get away with boasting about breaking certain social norms, even whilst ‘drunk’, these norms gradually disappear. Illicit alcohol use is rife, but its consumption is not associated with ‘fun’ and ‘enjoyment’. This is probably just as well. But the finding should be helpful in educating people about the social modulation of alcohol effects. Poverty has many expressions. In the worst instances, it is associated with hopeless apathy. This was particularly visible among those who had been displaced. Envy or ‘jealousy’ and a tendency for communities to obstruct, actively and deliberately, the possible economic development of their neighbours are reported to be widespread. Those who don’t want others to progress use subtle coercion and extortion, often under cover of ‘alcohol-induced’ criticisms or veiled threats. Many in overcrowded tenements believe they can never uplift themselves whilst resident there. The implications for development are that these social dynamics need to be addressed in a collective developmental effort or that people have to be provided avenues to escape the setting or its culture. Families with much lower income than those in a ‘poor’ or under-serviced tenement enjoyed a better standard of living when they were resident in a different setting. This was associated with the adoption of more ‘middle class’ norms and aspirations. Much can learnt about the interaction of low income with other factors in generating ‘poverty’, by studying the relative wellbeing of low-income earners who do not belong to a ‘poor culture’. Back...
Dispelling Corruption Myths: What Works and What Doesn't
: by Aleksandr Shkolnikov, Program Officer, Global, CIPE, Andrew Wilson, Senior Program Officer, Eastern Europe and Eurasia, CIPE. June 8, 2005Introduction:
Corruption remains the primary threat to the consolidation of democracy in developing countries. In order for citizens to embrace democracy and its ideals, the system must provide equal opportunities for everyone to participate in the political and economic process. However, corruption distorts those opportunities and disenfranchises citizens politically and economically. From the business perspective, corruption weakens markets, reduces competitiveness, diverts investments, and increases economic uncertainty.Download this article
Anti-corruption reforms should not be left to governments – business must also lead the way. Business associations and think tanks can become central actors within the anti-corruption movement because they provide the collective energy and intellectual capital necessary to formulate effective anti-corruption policies and become the political force necessary to gain government buy-in. CIPE experience shows that successful strategies to bring corruption under control address the institutional nature of corruption and target the underlying deficiencies that allow corruption to persist. Failure to address the root causes of corruption, such as unclear rules and regulations and weak enforcement, ultimately undermines the effectiveness of anti-corruption initiatives.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Volunteers: Heart and soul of Sri Lanka's tsunami response
24/06/2005" by Rukshan Ratnam and Paruru Lawrence
A serious looking bearded young man glances up from his work and rises to greet us as we enter the Red Cross Red Crescent office in Pottovil, a coastal town in eastern Sri Lanka. Dilshard Ahamed, 22 is the emergency unit coordinator for the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (SLRCS) Ampara branch.
Until six months ago, he worked in his family-owned guesthouse. In his quiet manner he explains that while he only recently joined the Red Cross as a staff member, he has been involved with the Red Cross for eight years, the last two as an active volunteer.
“I enjoy helping people and I thought the Red Cross in Sri Lanka was doing a great job, so I decided to become a volunteer,” Dilshard says.
Dilshard and his family moved east from the capital Colombo only a few years ago to run the family business his grandfather began 27 years ago. His mother and uncles took over the business and, until the disaster of 26 December, it was run by Dilshard and his cousins.
In an area well-known as a magnet for travelers and tourists, The Mermaid’s Rest Beach Resort enjoyed a prime location on a picturesque beach in the small village of Ulla, known throughout the surfing world as Arugam Bay.
When the tsunami struck, the resort was filled with guests, so many of Dilshard’s family members were on hand to assist with the workload. Happily, the entire family and all the guests survived even though the resort itself was destroyed. The only reminders that a hotel once stood on the devastated site are the foundations and a signboard bearing the name of the hotel. Dilshard’s home, a few hundred metres from the beach, was spared the wrath of the crashing waves that devastated almost two-thirds of Sri Lanka’s coastline.
Drawing on his Red Cross training in first aid, rescue and, later on, relief distribution, Dilshard was keen to help. “After I made sure that everyone at the hotel was alright, I began to help the rescue effort. Together with other volunteers we provided a lot of first aid,” he recalls.
As the impact and extent of the devastation became known it also became clear to Ampara branch executive officer Sunil Dissanayake there would be a great demand for skilled volunteers, explains Dilshard. He helped set up an emergency unit and trained volunteers in First Aid. With assistance from American Red Cross, the extra SLRCS volunteers also underwent training in relief distribution. It was fortunate, says Dilshard, that earlier in the year selected volunteers had also attended the psychosocial training college in Jaffna in the north of the country.
“I saw the destruction the tsunami caused in that short space of time and I wanted to help all those people who were affected. All of the volunteers who are involved with Red Cross feel the same way”, he explains.
Today Dilshard works closely with delegates from Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies from around the world who have come to Sri Lanka to help with relief and recovery programs. Together with his team of dedicated young volunteers, Dilshard is often seen on the road traveling between camps of internally displaced people, supervising a relief distribution, or assisting his Red Cross Red Crescent colleagues.
What are Dilshard’s plans for the future? “I am happy that the work I do has such a positive impact on the lives of the people of this district. There are tangible results of our work. I am happy too that I am contributing towards the development of my country and the Red Cross Society”, he says. “I plan to stay involved with the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement for as long as possible and hopefully realise my dream of becoming a water and sanitation specialist.”
Recipe for progress
09/07/2005" by Dr. Tilak S. Fernando
From time immemorial the common ambition of man has been to progress in life. History reveals that in every generation evolution in social standards, coupled with knowledge and education, have taken place. Why do parents go through every financial risk to educate their children? Naturally, to make their second generation better educated and progressive individuals in life. This theme is not confined only to man but applies to countries, business houses, political parties and governments alike because no one likes to stay put all the time like gigantic mountains but like to widen their horizons and grow like tress with new branches shooting up all the time.
A country's progress is directly proportional to its strategic, economic and development plans with positive and long-term policies. What are the ingredients required for a country to be economically and financially advanced? To find answers to this question one does not need to be a professor of philosophy or an eminent economist, but common sense will prevail. As much as a good foundation is needed to build a solid house, grass root policies of a country should be to identify and recognise the local talent and develop such genius into national industries.
Simultaneously, it will be important to maintain an open-eye attitude on foreign and international market forces too. Combination of these two factors in this economic equation and balancing out the act will not only create employment opportunities but will open doors for more innovative and new ideas and local industries alike. If this concept is focused on Sri Lanka, what do we see today? A handful of local industries and manufacturers have reached the industrial winning post in a very short period of time.
Can a local industry function effectively and profitably on its own? Definitely not, and it does need the fullest cooperation, support and assistance from the State as much as from the general public. Assistance from the Government should focus on cutting down red tape in administration and duty in case of compulsory import of raw materials needed for local productions. A good transport network either by road or rail is vitally important in distributing functions. A minimum political interference by opposition political parties in these areas is paramount for a nation's progress. By getting caught up in critical policy warfare rather than thinking positively on issues the country will only make the whole nation suffer as a consequence. Therefore, the underlying factors towards the progress of a country rests on the blessings of the Government, collaboration of the opposition and also the cooperation of the consumer in recognising local products and becoming one hundred per cent national minded in their purchases.
Advanced countries in Asia, such as Malaysia and India, are good examples. Their national policies being to recognise the local product, local industries and local manufacturers have successfully paved the way to industrial expansion and helped them to build up a sound economy and become profound foreign exchange earners simultaneously.
Sri Lanka needs to focus her economic and manufacturing strategy on Malaysia and India and learn a lesson or two from them as to how they give their first preference to local products and manufactures. No doubt there will be major challenges in such a climate with giant international institutions coming to play a major role, at times to serve the local industries with sledge hammer blows or to steam roll them completely with their crooked marketing strategies where sometimes even the Will of the strongest political hero will be tested and sapped with the root evil of the world today! Therefore, as nationalists who are keen to develop our own affairs and economy we need to grasp the situation and understand the subtleties of foreign invasion. The Government and the opposition alike have a major role and a bounden duty in this regard in backing up the local production to the extent even in imposing law and order on classified imports, if Sri Lanka has the qualitative local manufacture which could challenge any foreign produce.
The role played by the local manufactures in a competitive world is equally important in this regard. They need to be reasonable, rational and regularly responsibly in terms of quality control of their products with a fair pricing policy to give the consumer value for money. Short-sighted policies of making a 'quick buck with one shot' attitude or producing cheaper quality goods for bargain basements will only help them to 'dig their own industrial graves'! Such foolish and selfish motives will only kill the local industry and encourage the local consumer to alienate from local products altogether and to seek solace on foreign imports.
If people do not support their local industries not only will they aid a foreign exchange drain out of the country but the backlash of such irresponsible moves may lead to the collapse of local factories, loss of employment and ultimately towards a national catastrophe. Another unfortunate factor that has been very successfully managed to condition people's minds is that 'foreign goods are much superior to any local product', a concept which is far from the truth.
Today many foreign inferior quality goods entering Sri Lanka can be seen abundantly on high street payments.
A typical example is the so-called energy saving bulb sold at cheaper rates which burns out immediately or within a day or two of burning! The danger of using such inferior quality electrical goods can be highly dangerous too, as the saying goes, one should not play with fire! Fake electrical goods can kill and there are stipulated standards, either British or international, as safety measures for this very purpose. The Government authorities will become duty-bound in these areas to introduce strict controls on import of such inferior and dangerous electrical items.
If Sri Lanka is seriously thinking of attaining an advanced and progressive state, like her neighbours, Malaysia or India, then the Government, politicians of all hues, local manufacturers and consumers alike need to work in unity and harmony. Local industries who produce quality goods and create employment opportunities should be recognised, encouraged and given the fullest support. Then local products will not only be adequately available in the consumer markets at reasonable prices but Sri Lanka's economy too will start to boom with international exports. On that day a new era will dawn on Sri Lanka to be on a par in development with either India or Malaysia.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
We the People 2005 — Mobilizing for Change: Messages from Civil Society
Publications / Books and Reports
: "For the last four years, The North-South Institute (NSI) and the World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) have conducted annual global online surveys of civil society engagement with the implementation of the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
In 2005, civil society organizations around the world are reviewing the lessons learned and, the progress made, over the past five years.
Through our most recent global survey, more than 400 groups provided a wealth of information about their work on the MDGs and their assessment of progress on Declaration objectives. "
Forced Migration Review
FORCED MIGRATION REVIEW (FMR)
: A special issue of Forced Migration Review (FMR) is being printed in and distributed from Sri Lanka. Published in English, Tamil, Sinhala and Bahasa Indonesia, the issue brings together local and international analyses of the effectiveness of the post-tsunami humanitarian response by key leaders of relief and recovery operations.
The full text of articles in the English language version is available. There are three download options:
a) the entire magazine in a single pdf
c) a text-only version
Online versions in Sinhala, Tamil and Bahasa will be available in August. To obtain a hard copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org
, indicating which language you require and providing your postal address.
Many thanks to the donors - AUSTCARE, Concern, Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement, Christian Aid, Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies - Sri Lanka, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), World Vision Australia, World Vision Canada, World Vision USA, UNICEF and UNHCR Sri Lanka - without whose help this issue could not have been produced.
What price bumper harvests?
09/07/2005" by Afreeha Jawad
The misconception that artificial fertilizer applications give rise to consistent high yields is very apparent now. Bumper yields in coconut make growers feel all very smug about it but it has been growers' experience that such good news is only temporary. Sooner than later crop yields tend to decline.
Weedicides and pesticides application on coconut land have and all other ruined both soil and biodiversity which otherwise contribute heavily to increased productivity. In India studies have shown that in the long term, shade grown coffee plantations can be more productive than their full sun counterparts. The full sun plantation may achieve very high productivity levels for short periods but this requires high inputs of fertilizer and weedicides according to some Indian agriculturists. Generally, however, productivity declines after a relatively short period and trees must be replaced. In contrast, for example, coffee grown under shade remains productive over long time.
Support for productivity comes from interspersed trees, often leguminous varieties that supply a portion of the hydrogen requirements. In addition, the shade controls weed growth reducing the need for herbicide input and can also contribute to disease prevention.
In addition to reduced productivity in the long term arising out of inorganic chemical application, damage brought on the soil itself is tremendous. In both instances growers are compelled to grow short-term crop varieties which unlike the older plantations are genetically manoeuvred in a manner necessitating inorganic input decided by external sources.
Thus we see the constant demand for inorganic chemicals on the rise with inter-national chemical companies standing to gain.
A glaring example in damaged crop varieties, is paddy. Where have all the 'Pachcha Perumal,' 'Heenatihaal' and what not gone. Limited quantities of such today lie not in fields but neatly lodged in gene banks of to the Agriculture Department.
As this writer researched this subject's present status it was revealed how supposedly improved varieties have come in for purposes of "greater output" - a short-term reality and long-term myth.
The latest victim in this "greater output" exercise is the Red Lady papaw variety which has now been completely effaced and replaced by the exceptionally sweet yellow-coloured local papaw.
The fate befallen this local papaw variety is akin to what happened to Sri Lanka's traditional rice varieties. Many farmer attempts to cultivate traditional varieties has ended in failure. The soil is most irresponsive to its growth due to damage done by constant inorganic chemical application. Not a single paddy field in this country today retains soil originality and whether we like it or not we are compelled into inorganic chemical usage for all crops without the exception of even a single.
There is also a counter argument put forward which advocates the current trend in the agricultural layout. Traditional varieties it is said are most unconducive to feed rising numbers.
So which way do we go? Plantations with greater productivity in the short-term risking long-term effects on such or the traditional varieties with reduced output unable to feed the teeming millions. Having arrived at such crossroads the time has come for sustainability in agriculture.
A paradigm shift from agri-business to agro-sustainability, from pecuniary gain to sustenance is the hour's need.
Weaning even small time farmers away from inorganic chemicals is not going to be an easy task for all of them including even home gardeners firmly uphold the need to apply such. Its easy accessibility all neatly packeted is yet another reason for its preference over organic manure, the collection of which is time-consuming.
It is here that organizational intervention is needed in an islandwide collection of organic manure from large scale dairies similar to what supermarkets do in collecting glut produce. Small time dairy owners could even deliver their collection at collecting centres on their way to delivering milk.
Considering the smallness in size of this country soil contamination is most swift. To ignite and spread is not a herculean task unlike in a vast geographical expanse.
Farmer awareness on weed controlling and nutrient supplying plants and creepers such as glydicidia and Buttala, need to be popularised.
Seeking magic numbers in crop production alone would not suffice considering its long-term ill-effects on the soil and environment.
Monday, July 11, 2005
The moral, political and financial corruption in NGOs - an early reply to Mr. S. Hattotuwa
: "Date : 2005-07-07, by H. L. D. Mahindapala
Readers who have followed the exchange of correspondence between Mr. S. Hatotuwa and myself on NGOs in Sri Lanka in the Asian Tribune will not cavil, if I give 100 marks to him for dodging the issues raised by me in the debate. He also deserves 100 marks for copying by hand and reproducing selected texts from NGO manuals in his latest response published in yesterday’s Asian Tribune. He pats himself on the back for repeating paragraphs from his master’s voice in the Centre for Policy Alternative (CPA), or from NGO guidelines as if he has revealed another divine message rivalling that of Moses or Jesus.
The ground rules of any healthy debate require some intelligent rebuttals of the arguments presented by the opposing side. He has avoided all the salient issues in the debate except the one where I requested him to define a “civil society” and an NGO – two instrumentalities sharing common issues in global society. In the upper reaches are AI, Green Peace etc., who would not hesitate to take on multinationals, states and fascist dictators whose self-serving politics and interests collide with the benign goals of open, liberal and pluralistic societies. At the lower levels are the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), (Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu), Sarvodaya (A. T. Ariyaratne), MARGA,(Godfrey Goontilleke), ICES (Radhika Coomaraswamy) etc., all of which prefer to “pussyfoot” around the enemies of open society. They have a record of exploiting the misery of the people – particularly our war-weary people -- to boost their image, their egos, and their role as behind-the -throne power-brokers to re-structure societies according to their theoretical assumptions.
Like Mr. Hattotuwa, an obedient acolyte of his master in CPA, they have not deviated from the political agenda outlined by the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (ITAK)/Tamil State Party launched in 1949 by the separatist leader S. J. V. Chelvanayakam. A study of their political agenda will substantiate that these NGOs had gone along with the escalating demands stepped up incrementally by the separatist movement of the ITAK/Tamil State Party. First they backed the so-called “Tamil grievances” and then, when their “grievances” were addressed, they jumped into the next stage of “Tamil aspirations” (read separatism). Any objective study of the NGO politics will confirm that NGOlogists had marched consistently in step with the mono-ethnic agenda of the Tamil extremism of the northern peninsula. There is neither an ideological nor a rational balance in opting for the political agenda of the northern hegemonists. The logical extension of their commitment for the racist extremism of the northern Tamils alone would force them to reject the rightful aspirations of other ethnic groups. NGOlogists have yet to explain why in a multicultural society the political “aspirations” of only one armed group should be appeased denying the rights of other multi-ethnic groups. Mr. Hattotuwa responded with a deafening silence when this issue was raised earlier.
The NGOlogists talk glibly of pluralism, multiculturalism, democracy, liberalism but the main thrust of their political programmes have gone along with mono-ethnic, mono-cultural, anti-democratic, anti-liberal fascism of one–man rule in the Vanni. A leading spokesperson of this NGO movement is Jayadeva Uyangoda, a pseudo-theoretician aligned actively to fascist movements in Sri Lanka. One of the highpoints of his career was to join the delegation led by Bishop Kenneth Fernando in the 1990s that met Velupillai Prabhakaran. They returned to Colombo elated with the news that they had discovered a “humane” leader in the Vanni – Velupillai Prabhakaran, a political criminal wanted by Interpol, India, Sri Lanka, banned by the international community, and hated by most Sri Lankans, including the Tamils of the east and north!
Then there is Jehan Perera, the side-kick of Sarvodaya’s Ariyaratne, who writes naively that Prabhakaran’s administration has turned democratic because he was given permission to run a workshop in the Vanni. Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu of CPA is another NGOlogist who harps gleefully on the army desertions without a commensurate reference to the war crimes of Prabhakaran abducting Tamil children from Tamil parents to beef up the depleted cadres of the LTTE. All three of them emphasize the need for the LTTE to maintain a “military balance” as a bargaining chip – a military capability which, they know, is being used to subvert and suppress the values they espouse in their seminars, workshops and lecture circuits.
As opposed to Sri Lankan NGOs the leading activists in the global civil society have notched up some astounding successes. Those leading the anti-capitalist movement have 1) challenged and debated with George Soros, the man who was accused of causing the Asian meltdown, and Bjorn Edlund, head of corporate communications for ABB Ltd., the Swiss-based engineering giant, 2) succeeded in imposing international treaties, 3) challenged the exorbitant pricing schemes of pharmaceutical giants, 4) organised confrontational demonstrations against globalisation that led to the first martyr of the anti-capitalist movement, Carlo Giuliani, who was shot dead by the Italian Police, 5) transformed power structures, and 6) led death-defying campaigns in sea and land in protecting the environment (example: Green Peace) etc. Even as I write committed leaders of the civil society are demonstrating in Gleneagles in Scotland against the G-8 demanding a new economic order to serve needs of the exploited people of the Third World.
But what are the land mark achievements of the Sri Lankan NGOs, apart from ICES spending $250,000 to commemorate the death of Neelan Tiruchelvam? Take, for instance, their biggest environmental campaign against the construction of the Kandalama Hotel. Ariyaratne, Fr. Oswald Firth, the first Assistant General of the OMI's now residing in Rome, and other NGOs joined hands with the then opposition of Mrs. Bandaranaike and whipped up media hysteria and ran a massive campaign ostensibly against the construction of the Kandalama Hotel on environmental considerations. In reality it was a political campaign launched against President Premadasa who had authorized it. To cut a long story short, after it was built Kandalama was hailed as a remarkable environmental success story. It has been winning environmental awards in successive years exposing the humbuggery of bogus environmentalist like Ariyaratne and Fr. Firth. And Ariyaratne has been a frequent visitor to this “environmental hazard” which is now a popular resort to holiday makers.
It is mainly the lower-level NGOs that are tainted with the political, financial and moral corruption. A critical reading of the literature on global NGOs/CSOs will reveal that this is a common malaise of the do-gooders rushing to exploit the misery of disempowered in Third World. Those studying the global mushrooming of CSOs will find the following report from Addis Ababa resonating their fears and suspicions about NGOs. Here’s the concluding part of the report from the London Times’ correspondent Jonathan Clayton which was published yesterday: “The shabby streets of the (Ethiopian) capital, Addis Ababa, are dotted with billboards of non-government organizations and aid groups from the Christian Right to liberal Left dealing with everything from adoption to female genital mutilation to vaccination.
“Ethiopia has a cachet among aid workers,” one insider said. The country is a particular favorite among young Western idealists keen for field experience.
At night the car parks of trendy bars and fancy restaurants -- opened by yuppie Ethiopians returning from abroad with money – are packed with duty-free 4x4 vehicles. Inside lively debate take place.
One issue, though rarely has a hearing in this politically correct world: why doesn’t it work? Why is it that after an estimated trillion dollars of aid to Africa over the past four decades, average per capita income across most of the continent is, according to the World Bank, lower than at the end of 1990s?
Some of that answer lies in the aid business itself. One report recently estimated that about 70 per cent of all money raised went on NGOs administration – cars, salaries, equipment and the all-important workshops and seminars.” (July 5, 2005)
Easily, Addis Ababa could be mistaken for Colombo with some minor alterations. Go around the country side you will find billboards of A. T. Ariyaratne’s Sarvodaya whistling in the winds of villages. I am told that he pays a retainer for advertising his billboards. I’ve seen heads of NGOs, supposed to be working for the poor, dining and wining in 5-star hotels. The newspapers reported sometime earlier that the people threw stones at an NGO workshop on poverty conducted in the plush premises of a 5-star hotel in the south. The workshops and seminars in the closed circuit of NGOs, where ideological Tweedledums and Tweedledees scratch each others backs, indulge in gabfests recycling their theoretical mantras that have never brought relief or hope to the war-weary people of Sri Lanka. There is a simple reason for it: unlike leading NGO activist abroad the local minions dare not collectively challenge the fascist dictator obstructing peace and communal harmony. On the contrary, they are happy to go along with him manufacturing theoretical justifications for his authoritarian rule.
Their open agenda has been to strengthen the hand of Prabhakaran at the expense of all other communities. The bulk of their seminar workshops and other writings and lectures have been to demonize only the Sri Lankan state and the Sinhala-Buddhist constituency. Apart from occasional asides in passing, written mainly to cover their backs and not as a confirmed policy of defending democratic and humanitarian values, they have studiously avoided commenting adversely on the fascist rule of Prabhakaran. There is no constant barrage to target violations of human rights, war crimes or crimes against humanity committed by Prabhakaran. There is consistency only in the attacks against the state but not against the Vanni villainy. In Sri Lanka the NGOs are brave in attacking the weak state but cowardly in taking on the brutal and vindictive dictatorship of the north.
If the process was reversed the NGOlogists would have advanced peace and stability and all their values long time ago. This casts doubts as to whether they cherish their values at all. Their obsession is to the change the south for the north to take advantage of it to establish a mono-ethnic enclave. In their political agenda they consider it a necessity to change the constitutional, political and administrative framework of the nation so that only one minority community in the north can establish their hegemony over the other communities. The Cease Fire Agreement and the P-TOMS have proved that the NGOs would sacrifice the interests of all communities for the gains of only the fascist hegemonists of the north.Their main argument is that concessions made to the northern dictatorship would bring peace. But where is the peace that the NGOlogists promised at the beginning of each round of negotiations? The more they concede invoking peace the more they arm the LTTE to escalate their brutalities and threats of war. Readers can be sure that the NGOlogists will front up to argue for the ISGA set of demands saying that peace will come after the next round of concessions. They know for sure that the LTTE is not committed to grant peace to the nation until they realize their goals. Even after that it is doubtful because the north and the south will be fighting over the Line of Control a la India and Pakistan. So whom are the NGOlogists fooling? Not the LTTE because they know that the NGOs are batting for them. The NGOs are playing the game of the LTTE to fool the public. The first fundamental flaw that has brought disrepute to NGOs is in raising false hopes of peace with promises they know that will never materialize. The second is their one-sided policy of promoting mono-ethnic extremism, denying the other communities their right to co-exist in a state shared commonly by all communities. Mr. Hattotuwa loyally subscribes to these ideological fantasies constructed to sustain and advance the fascism of Prabhakaran who has written the darkest chapter of Sri Lankan history with the blood of innocent Tamil children. Once again Mr. Hattotuwa remained silent when I asked whether he and his boss would indict Prabhakaran in an international court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
If the NGOs are to regain their lost dignity and credibility then they must begin by rejecting their ideological fantasies that peace, stability and justice will dawn only if one fascist group is given the right to establish and rule a mono-ethnic enclave according to the whims and fancies of one man. There is a rising revolt even within the ranks of the eastern and northern Tamils against the hegemony of Tamil fascism. The mono-ethnic extremism advocated by the NGOlogists is running into a disastrous phase with the Muslims of the east resisting attempts to make them oppressed subjects of the northern hegemonists. When these central issues bedevilling the peace process are raised Mr. Hattotuwa accuses me of failing to “constructively further a useful debate.” There is no point in harping on this allegation. I leave it to the readers to judge because I am sure they have a better appreciation as to who has contributed to the debate and who has not.
The mounting evidence that exposes the moral, political and financial corruption of NGOs undermines the foundations of their institutions. It is futile to sweep these corroding factors under the carpet. Mr. Hattotuwa, like his boss in CPA, Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu, has no remedy for the ideological corruption that perverts their thinking. They are free-wheeling on the foreign funds and whatever reputation they had gained in the past. Slowly but steadily the tide of public opinion is turning against them. They have no one to blame except their own moral failure. They are as corrupt as the society in which they operate. This explains why NGOs have become the most commonly used four-letter word in Sri Lankan society.
It has come to a point where to belong to a Sri Lankan NGO/CSO is a) to sell your soul, b) to live off the fat of foreign funds, c) to pretend that you are superior because you can quote some Western ideological fad that is irrelevant to local crises caused by unrepentant political criminals, d) to justify and strengthen the hidden agenda of the political criminals whose existence is vital for the NGOlogists to raise their profile as peaceniks and attract foreign funds, e) to skip the ground realities and promote a self-serving political agenda of a bleeding crisis like the beggar who fears the healing of the wound that would put an end to his source of income, f) to enter into a symbiotic relationship with Velupillai Prabhakaran to live off each other, g) to lose your intellectual and moral independence, and last but not the least, h) to become an “yes-man” carrying the lighter for his master’s pipe.
Mr. Hattotuwa is an example of a typical NGO “yes” men who are trapped in their master’s intellectual chicanery. He tries to escape by mouthing generalities prepared by some NGO catechist. The easiest thing in any discourse is to regurgitate the cud chewed by some other cow. Mr. Hattotuwa seems to have passed with honours in this bovine habit. The political, moral and intellectual crises facing NGOs in Sri Lanka demands a calibre of NGO activists who can re-imagine their roles with a genuine commitment to address the aspirations of all communities and just not one armed group of political criminals. One of the unpardonable crimes committed by the NGOlogists (except UTHR (J)) is to give the silent nod of impunity for the LTTE to get away with violations of all known canons of human rights.
In the name of an elusive peace, which these NGOlogists know will never come under the one-man fascist rule in Vanni, they watch without blinking an eye, dissident Tamils being thrown to crocodiles in the Iranamadu tank for not paying homage to Velupillai Prabhakaran. In contrast, there is a commendable record of CSOs abroad leading campaigns to indict cruel dictators like Pinochet and Soeharto. When, for instance, will A. T. Ariyaratne and his side-kick Jehan Perera lead their million members (?) against Prabhakaran who has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity on a scale far worse than that of both Pinochet and Soeharto put together?
Recently, Ariyaratne transported in buses (funded by foreign donors, no doubt) a large crowd that assembled in the rain at the BMICH not to protest against the human rights violations of Prabhakaran but to impress upon the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and other political players, including foreign diplomats, that he has considerable political muscle. This is a good example of how the so-called peace activists are misleading and exploiting the naïve people at home and abroad.
Ariyaratne is one of the best examples of an NGO mudalali who has risen from the rank of a Rs. 75 teacher in a Colombo school to become a rupee multi-millionaire. After he stepped into the NGO tracks his fortunes and that of his family have increased manifold. He cultivates the media and big names assiduously to use the press cuttings as evidence of his service to peace and development. He even exhibits some of the big names seated on his board as worthy curiosities to convince foreigners of his standing in the community. He also uses some of his people walking in a procession from Moratuwa to Panadura as peace marches that can send shivers down the spine of Prabhakaran. He takes videos of all these events and screens them abroad and for visitors to his Sarvodaya as proof of promoting peace and development. Above all, he has yet to answer satisfactorily the probing questions he ducked at the Presidential Commission that inquired into the shady deals of NGOs.
One of his close associate told me once that he has high hopes of using his NGO base to contest the presidential election and beat the incumbent. He has also ambitions of winning the Nobel Peace Prize. But he has to first beat his rivals like President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Ranil Wickremesinghe – two secrets aspirants for the same prize. Ariyaratne is not the only skeleton in the NGO cupboard. Collectively they all give a bad name to the NGOs. Unless the government steps in to monitor and hold the NGOs accountable and transparent NGOs are not likely to self-regulate on a policy alternative to clean up the NGO stables. If no action is initiated to rein in the NGOs the Ariyaratnes will trade on their NGO label with impunity like Prabhakaran.
It must be said that Mr. Hattotuwa admits the need to address the NGO issues raised by me. Here are his own words: “Interlocutors such as Mr. Mahindapala cannot be dismissed with a nonchalant sweep of one’s hand – the points he raises are valid, even if their applicability to all NGOs can be called to question. This article is also guided by a long standing belief that unless such introspection is undertaken as a continuous process of re-evaluating one’s activism and interventions in a given context, NGOs run the very real risk of developing a hubris that strengthens (and perhaps even corroborates) the allegations of those who are opposed to all such forms of intervention.”
He also concedes that “NGOs (are) entities that in Sri Lanka command the most attention / derision”He also comes with his own remedy: “…NGOs on the one hand (should) listen seriously to the issues that are laid out before them and that those who bring up these issues are also interested in genuinesicaddresal and engagement. As with any sustainable process, a culture of openness and reciprocity needs to be cultivated in order for the long term transformation of distrust into partnerships of cooperation for the larger ideals of nation-building.”
But saying this is not good enough. By his own admission he has a moral duty to practise what he preaches. He could begin by addressing the issues raised in this debate. He says that he writes “to map possible channels for constructive dialogue between NGOs and their detractors.” Well, here’s a suggestion that comes within his ambit for a dialogue with the NGO detractors. For a start, he can invite me for a TV debate and we can thrash out the issues for the Sri Lankan constituency to judge. I’ll gladly join if he can fix up a mutually convenient date, place and medium. I guess he can arrange for some foreign funds available at his master’s NGO to buy my air fare. If he can’t I am happy to buy my own ticket.
Finally, judging by the title of his text it seems that he has a problem with onanism. Whatever that problem may be, it seems that after laboriously transcribing of his master’s voice, word by word, and other NGO texts his hand has been overworked, leaving him to nurse a permanent pain in his wrist. Hope he would give his hand a rest and recover soon. I can then, with some luck, look forward to a response from him without dodging the issues!
* The onanism of the intellectual effete
* Portrait of an NGO “yes-man” – a late reply to Mr. S. Hattotuwa
- Asian Tribune -
Sunday, July 10, 2005
Stepping over tsunami debris to a new future
08/07/2005" BY CHANDANI Jayatilleke
KALMUNAI - Houses built for fishermen were flattened to the ground when the tsunami hit Marudamunai in Ampara district on December 26 last year. The 34 houses had been constructed under a government fisherfolk development program, but today they are in a shambles.
Frustrated yet with a glint of hope, this fishing community continues to live in temporary camps at the same site since the tsunami made them homeless and jobless. Currently, they largely live on relief provided by the government and other organisations.
Even after six months, this community has not been able to restart its livelihood - fishing - due to two reasons.
Firstly, they do not have any fishing equipment as they got washed away and secondly, the sea where they had been doing 'madel' fishing is filled with debris. And it is not possible to restart fishing until the debris is cleared.
While this community is idling, swinging between despair and hope, ITDG, an institution promoting small technologies has come forward to assist them by rebuilding their houses.
ITDG plans to rebuild 34 houses, each house costing about five to six lakhs of rupees.
Mohammed Shackeel of the ITDG office in Ampara who is in-charge of this project told the Daily News that the proposed houses are essentially low-cost houses and not cheaply-built houses.
"We are using a special, improved technology called 'rat-trap' to build these houses. This technology is widely used in countries such as India," he said.
The advantage in this technology is that its cost is about 28 per cent lower than building a house in the normal way. However, this needs skilled masons. "To meet that requirement we have a group of trained 'basses' in Nikeweratiya whom we trained under a pilot project."
In this method the use of raw materials such as cement, sand, brick is quite low. No plaster is needed which is another saving.
The roof also will be a combination of cement slabs and tiles. These houses can resist earthquakes up to 6.5 on the Richter Scale.
"We have done such houses in Nikeweratiya as a pilot project and the University of Moratuwa has certified this method as a safe and economically profitable house building technique," Shackeel added.
Shackeel said they have many different housing designs. "We have taken gender sensitiveness into consideration and each house will be constructed according to the requirements of the main female member of the household.
There are instances where the female member would like to have the kitchen or the lavatory at a certain area so we have to listen to their preferences when designing each house. There are also specially designed houses which are disabled-friendly," he said.
ITDG officials have already given an idea of these houses to the local community through a presentation and it responded quite appreciatively.
V. Adam Bawa (50) was an owner of a house in the NHDA scheme in Marudamunai for fishermen.
When the tsunami came in its full strength, on December 26th, Bawa's house and the rest of the houses got washed away.
"We lost everything, the house, the fishing equipment and all our belongings. Now we have nothing, except relief given by the Government and other organisations," he said.
"We haven't got any fishing equipment as yet, even if we have the equipment, we can't go fishing immediately because the sea is full of rubbish and it is difficult for us to restart fishing under this condition," Bawa said. Many other villagers also expressed similar ideas.
M. Jasmy who is the ITDG coordinator in the village said, the villagers were really happy to learn about this housing project and they are eagerly waiting for construction work to start.
Work has already been started in many tsunami affected areas. According to a recent United Nations report it will take as long as 10 years to rebuild what was destroyed.
And Sri Lanka alone will have to build more than 90,000 homes for its half-million displaced people.
Forced Migration Review Special Issue Jul 2005
ReliefWeb - Document Preview - Forced Migration Review Special Issue Jul 2005 - Tsunami: learning from the humanitarian response
: Source: Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford University (RSC), Date: 06 Jul 2005
The politics of the tsunami response by Eva-Lotta Hedman
The Asian tsunami of 26 December 2004 destroyed lives and entire Indian Ocean coastal communities. Within minutes coastal communities. Within minutes of an earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale striking the west coast of northern Sumatra in Indonesia, the first large tsunami hit these shores to devastating effect, especially between Banda Aceh and Meulaboh in Aceh. A massive upward shift in the seabed also caused tsunamis to hit coastal communities in parts of western Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, eastern India and the Maldives before reaching the coast of Africa, with terrible damage to life and property. In the aftermath of this massive natural disaster, some 290,000 people were dead or missing, and more than one million displaced, across 12 affected countries.
As news of this natural disaster broke, it sparked an extraordinary mobilisation of resources for humanitarian relief and assistance by private citizens and corporations, NGOs and governments in the affected countries and beyond. An elaborate international machinery of expertise in the coordination and delivery of relief and assistance in complex humanitarian emergencies was revved up and deployed in affected areas. In places, the sheer scale of the destruction posed formidable logistical difficulties for the delivery of basic humanitarian relief to affected populations and in many cases national and/or foreign military forces were needed to enable access to affected populations. Another major challenge in the emergency relief phase stemmed from the fluidity of displaced populations.
This was especially the case in Aceh, as survivors from affected areas sometimes moved between public or community spaces, host families, tent camps and other temporary shelters. Mapping the situation and location of survivors was not easy. National governments, international donors and humanitarian organisations put much energy into establishing the nature and extent of the impact of the tsunamis – the destruction of homes, livestock and livelihoods; loss of property, land titles and other important documents; and damage to public infrastructure. A proliferation of damage assessments, surveys and maps, drawing on an array of expert knowledge, provided guidelines to shape donor and national government's rehabilitation and reconstruction plans. Beyond issues of coordination and expertise in complex humanitarian emergencies, it is important to refocus attention on the nature, direction and pace of relief and reconstruction efforts which remain embedded within complex relations of power shaped by national and local politics in the affected areas. The diverging responses to the unprecedented direct impact of this massive single disaster on 12 different countries, with their own distinctive political, economic and social dynamics, underscores the powerful effects of everyday politics upon humanitarian efforts, whether amateur or professional, local or international. To date, however, little systematic effort has been made to examine the role or significance of political dynamics and patterns affecting humanitarian relief and reconstruction across tsunami-affected areas.
Betwixt and between the natural disaster and pre-existing complex humanitarian emergencies, many tsunami survivors have had to negotiate a range of constraints. In the case of Aceh, where conflict, violence and a massive counter-insurgency campaign against separatists has displaced over 300,000 people since 1999, the IDP 'identity' of tsunami survivors has become politically sensitive and contested. By definition the term 'IDP' includes those forced by natural disasters to leave their homes, yet Indonesian government officials and international humanitarian organisations have at times referred to them as 'homeless'. Such distinctions have critical implications for identifying the rights and guarantees to protection and assistance of affected populations, as well as the role and obligations of local and national government set out in the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.
In Thailand, with its punitive approach to containing a large refugee and migrant worker population from neighbouring Burma, there is evidence of de facto discrimination by local government authorities and Thai citizens against Burmese tsunami survivors in the affected southern provinces. As the Thai government declared a position of self-reliance in the coordination and delivery of post-tsunami emergency relief, thus affording an unrivalled opportunity for Premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his Thai Rak Thai (Thai Loves Thai) political party to campaign for the 6 February 2005 elections, Burmese migrant workers were also comparatively isolated from alternative sources of assistance and support, including from their own military-led government. Burmese migrant workers have been excluded in the distribution of emergency relief and the implementation of Thai government aid programmes by local officials, as well as targeted for arrests by local police in post-tsunami crackdowns on 'illegal migrants', leading, in many cases, to eventual deportation back to Burma.
In the case of India, where the government also declined offers of a coordinated international humanitarian emergency response, there is evidence of discriminatory practices by local officials and populations alike against dalits (still commonly referred to as 'untouchables') in tsunami- affected areas. Trapped within a social structure of caste-based hierarchy and domination, dalit survivors were reportedly only reluctantly received in many temporary shelters and camps housing (higher caste) IDPs from coastal fishing communities; some dalits were driven away. There is also evidence of other IDPs preventing government officials, NGO staff and other civil society groups from distributing emergency relief to dalits.
Another crucial dimension of the tsunami emergency response stems from the primacy of military-strategic considerations in some of the worst affected areas, most notably Aceh, the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka and arguably, the Nicobar Islands of India. Aceh has been massively militarised by the presence of 40,000 soldiers since a state of emergency was declared in May 2003. With forcible relocation into camps an integral part of recent counter-insurgency campaigns, the role of the Indonesian military in the post-tsunami distribution of emergency relief, as well as in the coordination of IDP relocation into controversial 'barracks', has seriously compromised the principles of humanitarian assistance in many cases. In the case of Sri Lanka, moreover, the coincidence of the tsunami's path of destruction with the so-called 'uncleared areas' along the coastal belt of zones controlled by the Liberation Tiger of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has made for a sluggish relief operation as the government in Colombo has firmly opposed any mechanisms to bypass its central authority. The absence of a central government response is further highlighted by the Somalian case. Finally, in the Nicobar Islands, home to Indian strategic naval bases, there is evidence to suggest that tsunami relief and rehabilitation efforts were military-led and that they bypassed affected indigenous communities and local civilian administration.
As many humanitarian actors involved in the tsunami relief and reconstruction begin to evaluate their responses it is to be hoped that assessments will offer critical comparative perspectives on the varying responses undertaken by those agencies which operated in two or more affected areas, thus facing distinct and distinctly political challenges. The long-standing presence of UNHCR and other UN bodies in Sri Lanka prior to the tsunami suggests an illuminating contrast with Aceh, for example, with far-reaching implications on the relief efforts that ensued.
Concerns about shortcomings in meeting the rights of disasterinduced IDPs to protection have drawn attention to relations of power and politics within which IDPs remain embedded. Authors in this special issue of FMR highlight a range of protection concerns in the aftermath of the tsunami, including access to assistance, enforced relocation, sexual and gender-based violence, safe and voluntary return, loss of documentation and restitution of property. Such concerns must be tackled at an early stage as the protection of economic, social and cultural rights tends to deteriorate over time. As the media focuses on other news, large tsunami-affected populations remain in areas of enduring conflict. It is high time to focus more systematic and comparative analysis on discourses and dynamics of state security and everyday politics, how they have influenced this complex humanitarian emergency and their implications for IDP protection and assistance.
Eva-Lotta Hedman is a Senior Research Fellow at the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford, specialising in the dynamics of conflict, violence and internal displacement in Southeast Asia. Email: email@example.com
(pdf* format - 2.06 MB)
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