Post #12: Morocco’s Biggest Challenge

When looking at the present problems in Morocco, the country’s most challenging task is learning how to allocate its water usage. I’ve talked about this issue in several blog posts, but I feel that this issue is important enough to speak about more. The main reason for this is that I believe that water is life. Without water, there can’t be life. It’s a simple compound, but it is necessary for survival and future success.

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Makeup Post #6 UN Involvement in Libya

Kate Burke

The UN has been actively involved in Libya due to the widespread violence in the region. Following six months of armed conflict, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) was established in September of 2011 at the request of Libyan authorities. The aim of this mission is to support the Libyan political process, mediate conflicts, and protect human rights. (UNSMIL)

UNSMIL has an organization mandate that consists of four sections outlining the main goals of the mission. Section A states that the first priority is to ensure Libya’s transition into democracy. This is to be done while providing assistance in creating a single national dialogue, a Libyan electoral process, and a new constitution. This assignment also involves promoting political participation in all parts of Libyan society, especially women, youth, and minorities. Section B focuses on enforcing the law and protecting human rights by aiding the Libyan government in ensuring humane treatment and due process of detainees, reforming judiciary processes, and constructing accountable law enforcement and correctional facilities. Section C aims to control unsecured arms in Libya and ensure their safe management or disposal, strengthen border security, support facilitation and coordination of international assistance, and develop effective national security. Section D, the fourth and final section, seeks to build the capacity of the government by providing support to the cooperation between national legislature and local government, as well as the UN itself. (UNSMIL)

Clearly, the UN set its sights pretty high when creating these mandates. It seems like it has been hard to accomplish all these things, since this mandate was established in March of 2014 and the country is still battling political instability and violence. However, the UNSMIL did do a good job of outlining a wide range of the most important issues in Libya. I found it important to include these mandates because they detail the exact concerns that are currently troubling Libya. Although the UNSMIL may not have eradicated all of these problems from the country, they have formed a solid plan and taken action to generate political and societal change in Libya.

In addition to UNSMIL, there are fifteen other UN specialized agencies, funds, and programs operating in Libya. These include some well-known organizations such as United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Orgnization (WHO), and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). There is also a UN Information Centre (UNIC) in Tripoli and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has a representation in the Libyan Capital.  (UNSMIL)

With the heavy amount of involvement in Libya and the Middle East, the UN has a lot of influence in the region. Especially with the recent development and presence of ISIS in the area, the UN has been taking action. UNSMIL met in February of 2015 to form a plan on resolving the political crisis in Libya, and the UNSMIL mandate was renewed in late March with intentions to mediate the Libyan political process. (UN News Centre)

UNSMIL Meeting in February to Discuss Crisis in Libya

UNSMIL Meeting in February to Discuss Crisis in Libya

Photo Source: UN News Centre

From what I could find, I did not see any direct involvement with the US and the UN in Libya. However, with the wide range of UN programs contributing to the region, it is probable that the US has significant influence when working with these organizations. Further, as of January 2013, UNSMIL was made up of 205 national and international members, some of which are surely American. (UNSMIL)

Much of the mandate focused on addressing human rights issues. In a country with almost no working government, these sorts of problems are commonplace. I have discussed the range of human rights violations in previous blogs, but some of the most important include violence, gender inequality, and human trafficking. Due to militia groups and ISIS, there are frequent attacks against civilians including shootings, bombings, and airstrikes. Many Libyans are also living in terrible conditions where they struggle with poverty, water shortages, and electricity blackouts. On top of all this, there are still even more issues for women in Libya, who often deal with restrictions on their most basic human rights. Human sex and labor trafficking is also common for migrant travelers in Libya. Human rights violations are one of the most pressing and widespread issues in Libya currently, and these issues desperately need to be addressed by the Libyan government with the help of the UN. (Human Rights Watch)

Farish Noor speaks of moving past Eurocentrism, in his excerpt of Dealing with Human Rights. Ethnocentrism, or Eurocentrism, is “the tendency of individuals and cultures to view themselves as well as the environment around them from the perspective of their own culture, values, and beliefs” (Noor, 51). He also claims Eurocentrism to “entail a favorable evaluation of one’s own culture while perceiving any differences from this norm as inferior” (Noor, 51). Noor believes that Eurocentrism is at the core of many Western countries’ attitudes, and it is reflected in their actions regarding the rest of the world. He disagrees with how “Western governments and elites have tried to impose their own ethnocentric/Eurocentric values and beliefs on other communities and cultures” (Noor, 52). This makes them feel threatened and move more towards maintaining their culturally-specific values, instead of adopting the Eurocentric beliefs. Noor argues that the US and other Western countries need to neglect their urge for pushing Eurocentric views and instead focus on understanding and appreciating other cultures’ values. He believes that only then will we be able to establish a global standard for human rights. I think this is relevant to the conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, and that the elimination of Eurocentrocism would benefit the reformation of Libya’s government.

Sources: Meijer, Martha, and Farish Noor. Dealing with Human Rights: Asian and Western Views on the Value of Human Rights. Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian, 2001. Print.

Tunisa Post #11: Politics of The Veil

In Politics of the Veil, Joan Wallach Scott thoroughly examines the tensions between Muslims living in France and the French Republicans who run the governmental system. A large dispute arose when French high school students were banned from wearing headscarves at their schools. Many saw the ban as clear racial discrimination while others argued that a clear separation of church and state was needed and that religion has no place in the school system.

 

As Wallach describes on page 172, many French women (specifically feminists who had long been fighting for gender equality) sought to ban the headscarf. To them, the veil was a sign of sexism and oppression. As Wallach explains,

 

            “Entirely forgotten in the glorification of the freedom of French sexual relations was the critique of theses same feminists, who for years have decried the limits of their own patriarchal system, with its objectification of women and overemphasis on their sexual attractiveness. It is the power of their unconscious identification with the republican project – their own acceptance of the psychology of denial – that led many of them to unequivocally condemn the headscarf/veil as a violation of women’s rights and to talk as if the status of women in France were not a problem at all. Banning the headscarf became an act of patriotism.”

 

By classifying the practices of another culture as “more sexist” than their own, French women justified the gender inequality that they faced in their daily lives. However, for Muslim women, the veil is a way to acknowledge sexuality and embrace it. They do not view headscarves as oppression. The different ways that the cultures view sexuality creates a rift that is hard to climb over, specifically for this issue.

 

The disagreement about laws and fairness and discrimination is indeed a problem, but the way we discuss it might actually be worse. Often, we throw around words without a second thought, but words hold tremendous power. When we talk about bringing Muslim women up to the standard of their western sisters, we create A LOT of problems. This creates a hierarchy, saying that western women are inherently better than Muslim women. It also creates a divide between Muslim and French. “Bringing one up” to the standards of the other implies that a woman cannot be Muslim and French or Muslim and western. Statements like this only serve to create divides and to deepen conflicts. They also neglect to take into account the viewpoints of other cultures. In this case, refusing to acknowledge that the veil is a sign of equality, empowerment and Feminism to Muslim women. It is not a problem that the French do not feel compelled to wear a headscarf,; the problem comes with the disparity between cultural beliefs and the lack of understanding that ensues.

 

Although the banning of the headscarf in French high schools is simply one argument in one country, the general premise of the situation can be found around the world, and the way France chooses to deal with this issue will no doubt influence many other nations. Immigrants exist worldwide; and discrimination is common. There will always be people living in the same communities who hold different beliefs. Ethical dilemmas will always exist. What matters is how we choose to deal with them. The chances of traditions of another culture fitting into the beliefs and context of your own culture are slim. To live harmoniously, we must open our eyes not only to other practices and beliefs, but also to the systems that underlie them. We do not have to agree, but we must learn to be tolerant if we are to work for a world without social injustice.

 

Tunisia Post # 6 Make-up (In place of Post 10)

In the words of Kofi Annan, “In a world where globalization has limited the ability of states to control their economies, regulate their financial policies, and isolate themselves from environmental damage and human migration, the last right of states cannot and must not be the right to enslave, persecute, or torture their own citizens.”

 

As I have discussed in several previous blogs, the largest human rights issues in Tunisia right now revolve around freedom of speech. Women fight for equal footing with men, and men fight to have their voices heard in a newly established democracy. In January 2011, Tunisia became the first MENA country to switch from an autocratic regime through a peaceful popular uprising. The United Nations office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (UNHCR) agreed to help accompany national efforts towards establishing democracy. A Tunisian office for this UN involvement was established in April 2011. The full mandate to protect and promote human rights focuses on strengthening accountability and the rule of law, combatting inequalities and poverty, increasing engagement with international human rights mechanisms, and monitoring the country’s compliance with its international human rights obligations. The Tunisian office will also provide technical assistance to the Tunisian National Human Rights Institution and will monitor and investigate human rights violations. It will strengthen national protection systems and support the development and monitoring of public policies for the protection of vulnerable groups including women, youth and migrants.

 

As Americans, it seems that the problems in Tunisia and violations of human rights there might not concern us. I choose to argue. Annan asserts that “sovereignty implies responsibility, not just power.” As citizens of a free nation, I believe we hold the responsibility to protect the freedom of others, no matter how different they are from us. Not only is it morally correct, but it also could serve to keep peace in the world and thus benefit Americans as well; this was the general thought implicit in the founding of the United Nations in the first place.

 

However, this school of thought is not always easy to come by. Farish Noor examines the follies of eurocentrism and essentialism:

 

“Despite the fact that the Roman Empire collapsed under the weight of its own corruption and hypocrisy, the Western world continues to think of itself as the centre of not only the world but perhaps even the universe, much like the cultural imperialism of the past… Ethnocentrism (eurocentrism) is the tendency of individuals and cultures to view themselves as well as the environment around them from the perspective of their own culture, values and beliefs.”

 

This view quickly leads Westerners to favor their own culture above others while perceiving any differences from the norm they create as inferior.

However, Noor offers advice on addressing the problem:

“Concern for liberty and human dignity is common to all cultures and civilizations. Evidence from history and sociology shows that even the most ‘primitive’ societies have a deep-rooted understanding of issues related to power, rights and equity.

If the effort to secure, promote and defend the rights and freedoms of all peoples is to have a serious beginning, then we must accept that the world we are trying to save is a multicultural, multi-religious, and multiracial one. We will need to attempt to understand and appreciate the way different societies and cultures have developed their respective understandings of human dignity and values and to try to identify the specific local traditions and thought systems that should be elaborated to ensure that the goals are achieved.”

 

I know that human rights in Tunisia are not in the forefront of the minds of most American citizens. If global injustices are not being plastered on the television or across the front page of a national newspaper, chances are that people don’t consider injustices in this way; there is not much direct American aid for the struggles of the Tunisian people as they strive for democracy. Several international charities that involve America, such as Oxfam International, work in Tunisia to elevate freedom of speech and to train and support women in leadership. If Americans continue to support organizations such as these, and simply to consider global inequities and the sovereign individual’s duty to help, I am confident the world will eventually move toward freedom and the abolishment of human rights violations.

Post #10 Human Trafficking in Libya

Kate Burke

As I have explored in previous blogs, Libya is not very progressive in the field of human rights. Last week I focused on the issues and injustices that women have to face in Libya. However, I did not go into depth on one of the major human rights violations that Libya struggles with: human sex trafficking. Unfortunately, this is currently a widespread issue in Libya.

Libya is a transit and destination country for forced labor and sex trafficking. This means that some victims are exploited in Libya on the way to another destination, and some are kept in Libya permanently to be trafficked. Libya’s location along the Mediterranean coast makes it a prime setting for trafficking to take place, as often both migrants and smugglers are traveling to Europe. Trafficking networks in Libya are connected to many other surrounding countries, which makes it even harder to enforce. (Protection Project)

It is common for migrant men to be forced into manual labor and for women to be forced into prostitution.  The majority of human trafficking victims in Libya are from Sub-Saharan Africa, trying to find refuge in Europe. As Sarah E. Mendelson states in Born Free, “People without legal identities are more vulnerable to victimization in general and to being trafficked specifically” (Mendelson, 4). This is because they are often looking for work or migrating to a new location. It also makes it easier on the traffickers to ensure that they wont get caught. If a victim has no identity, the sad truth is that the government most likely will not concern itself with their problems. Mendelson highlights this by offering striking numbers; “Since 2008, when the U.S. State Department began tallying numbers on identified victims, it has found only 246,798 trafficking victims worldwide, and since 2006, it has found an average of only about 6,675 prosecutions of human traffickers worldwide annually, with an average of fewer than 4,000 convictions” (Mendelson, 1). Even though mendelson meant for these statistics to demonstrate the inconsistency and uncertainty of the numbers on trafficking, they can also display other information that is just as valuable. These figures illustrate just how prevalent and widespread human trafficking is, but how little it is enforced. (The Milla Project)

Libyan Child from Mercy Wings Organization Website

Libyan Child from Mercy Wings Organization

Photo Source: Mercy Wings Organization 

According to the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report from the US Department of State, Libya’s government currently “does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, and is not making significant efforts to do so”.  Libya has been labeled a Tier 3 country since 2011 because it has no laws against human trafficking and is not making any effort to change this.  Investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenders is rare in Libya, as well as identification and protection of trafficking victims.  The US Department of State also claimed that “Libyan authorities continued to treat trafficking victims as undocumented illegal migrants and frequently detained and punished victims for unlawful acts that were committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking”. Furthermore, allegations have surfaced that militia groups that provide security on behalf of the government recruit and use children under the age of 18 years old. Clearly, the country has many pressing issues along the lines of human trafficking, and not only is the government failing to help the problem, it is contributing to it. (US Department of State)

Fortunately, there are NGOs that are taking action to prevent human trafficking in Libya. One NGO that I found particularly interesting was the Mercy Wings Organization. MWO is a Libyan NGO that was established in 2013 solely to provide aid in the area of human trafficking. Many NGOs from America and other developed countries have pulled out of Libya due to the violence there, so it inspiring to see an NGO still serving, especially an NGO from Libya. MWO focuses on three principles when providing aid; prevention, protection, and prosecution. They aid in prevention by holding public awareness campaigns to spread knowledge on human trafficking. MWO employs “3 Rs” when providing protection aid for victims: rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration. The NGO also advocates for policy change and stricter prosecution laws to enforce traffickers. Personally, I think that MWO is a big step in the right direction for Libya. Although human trafficking is a severe issue in Libya that will probably not be solved any time soon, organizations like MWO are taking action and making a difference in the fight against human trafficking. (Mercy Wings Organization)

Source: Mendelson, Sarah E. “Born Free: How to Prevent Human Trafficking.” (September 22, 2014): n. pag. Web.

Post #10: Human Trafficking in Morocco

There are many problems within Morocco, and human trafficking is, sadly, one of them. Morocco serves as a transit country for sex trafficking, and there are millions of men and women of all ages who are trafficked (U.S. Department of State).

The country’s government has made strides to work toward ending human trafficking, but these actions have not made serious advancements (U.S. Department of State).

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