Monday, 30 June 2014

Why No Nicaraguan Children?

        Alliance for Global Justice

Nicaragua Network Alert --  June 30, 2014

This publication may be reproduced in whole or in part. Please credit the Nicaragua Network.
Why Aren’t Nicaragua’s Children Fleeing to the United States? 

A supporter sent us a letter to the editor she had written to counter all the right-wing letters in her local paper commenting on the humanitarian crisis on the border caused by children fleeing Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Here’s her answer to the question in the headline:

We read that children are streaming across the Texas border from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador…but….not Nicaragua? Why aren’t Nica’s children fleeing the left wing Sandinista government that the US has been trying to crush ever since their revolution in 1979? Could it be that Nicaragua, despite its poverty, provides more security for its population than other Central American countries? Yes! Check out the stats: lowest homicide rate, no death squads, little gang activity: “least violent country in Central America and safest in all the hemisphere”!! Wow! Maybe Obama could shift gears, and, instead of sending military equipment to ‘fight’ the ‘war’ on drugs, and the ‘war’ on youth, he might support education, health and small farmers in Central America, and repeal the disastrous free trade policies that are making the rich richer and the poor ready to head for the border. That might help convince young people to stay home. 

We encourage you to write letters to the editor in your own words to try to bring some rationality to the immigration “debate.” Letters below 200 words have the most chance of being published. Below are talking points that we hope are helpful:

Talking Points 

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) presented in Nicaragua on May 19, 2014 its Regional Report on Human Development for 2013-2014 on security matters and classified Nicaragua as “atypical” because of its low rates of homicide and robbery. Juan Pablo Gordillo, adviser on security at the Latin American Regional Services Center of the UNDP, said that, “The case of Nicaragua is an important achievement at the regional level,” adding that because Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, it breaks the myth that poverty causes violence. Nicaragua’s homicide rate dropped to 8.7 per 100,000 inhabitants. Honduras, with 92 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, has the highest murder rate in the world. El Salvador has 69, Guatemala 39, Panama 14.9 and Costa Rica 10.3 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

Speaking in San Salvador at a regional conference on community policing, Nicaraguan National Police spokesman Commissioner Fernando Borge said that the proactive, preventative, community policing model of Nicaragua’s police has helped make Nicaragua one of the safest countries in Latin America. He described “a model of shared responsibility, that of person-family-community” which shapes all the areas of police work. In 2013, out of each 100 cases reported to the police, they have been able to resolve 79. This compares to the almost complete impunity for crime, especially politically motivated crime, in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

The problem of the children migrants is blowback from US policy in the 1980s when our government trained and funded Salvadoran and Guatemalan military and police to prevent popular revolutions and more recently when the US supported the coup against President Manuel Zelaya in Honduras. Those countries were left with brutal, corrupt armies and police forces whereas Nicaragua, with its successful 1979 revolution, got rid of Somoza's brutal National Guard and formed a new army and a new police made up of upstanding citizens.

Who consumes all those drugs that are causing all that violence and corruption in Latin America? Who has militarized the Drug War and is funding and training repressive militaries and police in the countries from which the children are fleeing? In both cases it is the United States.

Respected Latin American polling firm M&R Consultants polls show at the end of 2013, 72.5% of Nicaraguans approved of government economic management and President Daniel Ortega’s personal popularity stands at 74.7%, the most popular in Central America. Why? According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Nicaragua ranks second in Latin America and the Caribbean after Venezuela as the country that most reduced the gap between rich and poor in recent years.

According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Nicaragua’s predicted 2014 GDP growth rate will put it among the five fastest growing countries in Latin America. Why? Because Nicaragua invests in poverty reduction, education and health care.

During the past seven years, agricultural workers income and wages grew, showing the effectiveness of programs for the rural sector, which is where there are higher rates of poverty and malnutrition, and taking away the economic reason for migration.

Nicaragua is the only country in Central America that managed to return to the pace of economic growth that it had before the international crisis of 2008-2009. This not only has been recognized by ECLAC, but also by the International Monetary Fund in its latest assessment. Why? Because the Sandinista government forced the IMF to support its poverty reduction programs, and to like it!

Nicaragua’s successful poverty reduction programs have caused multilateral agencies and governments to become more interested in the effective implementation of programs that cater to the poor and allow more Nicaraguans to have free access to health and education.

The Vice-President of the World Bank for Latin America, Hasan Tuluy, called projects in Nicaragua one of the best run portfolios of projects in Latin America.

Pablo Mendeville, representative of the UN Development Program (UNDP), has said that Nicaragua is striving to achieve the Millennium Development Goals of social policies to halve global poverty and could achieve this by the end of 2015.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has recognized that Nicaragua is among countries that achieved ahead of time the goals set by the Zero Hunger Challenge and lowered the national poverty level. Official data from the Nicaraguan Institute of Development confirm this: in previous years, the level of "poverty was more than 40%, and that of extreme poverty was 17.2%; today we are calculating extreme poverty at 7.6%."

Nicaragua recorded indisputable achievements in terms of disease prevention and health promotion, with a program of immunization which is an example for Latin America, with coverage as high as one hundred percent in children under one year old, and more than 95 percent in general. It has an effective campaign to prevent 16 serious diseases that can affect the population, such as diarrhea and pneumonia.

The maternal mortality rate of 93 per 100 000 live births in 2006 was lowered to 50 per 100,000 live births in 2013.

Educational programs have resulted in a school retention rate of approximately 96 percent of the students enrolled. In addition, the government achieved 100 percent coverage of students receiving school meals, thus benefiting students of public preschools, community schools, and subsidized Catholic schools throughout the country.

Nicaragua is the country with the most gender equality in Latin America and the Caribbean and tenth worldwide, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). This means that Nicaragua is one of the countries where women have greater access to health and education, while they have more political participation and economic inclusion, said the study.

In the report Climatescope 2012, Nicaragua won second place after Brazil due to its policy of clean energy, the structure of its energy sector, low-carbon business activity, clean energy value chains, as well as the availability of green credits.

According to the Executive, investments from 2013 to 2016 will raise the national rate of electrification from 76 percent of households to a little over 87 percent, as part of efforts toward economic development with social inclusion. In 2006 electricity supply barely reached 54 percent and there were rolling blackouts averaging 14 hours a day.

The director of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Jose Graziano da Silva, congratulated the government for the effectiveness of programs implemented against poverty and hunger at the end of a 2013 visit to the country and after visiting various locations to check the value of plans such as Zero Hunger, Family Gardens and the Production Packages, aimed at promoting the development of the agricultural sector and guaranteeing the security of national food consumption.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Lefty Nonsense: the suspiciously popular round ball game

World Cup fever really has hit America – Ann Coulter thinks football is socialist

Team USA may be through to the last 16, but for some, the suspiciously popular game with the round ball is leftie nonsense
USA fans during their World Cup match against Germany in Recife
USA fans during their World Cup match against Germany in Recife. Photograph: Magics/Rex
With Team USA suddenly in the round of 16, and World Cup fever allegedly sweeping the nation that football forgot, the American right has sprung into action. Determined to preserve American exceptionalism against a rising tide of baguette-munching ball-juggling pinko Europhile hippy surrender-communism, Ann Coulter has come to the rescue: "Any growing interest in soccer," she wrote to widespread amusement, "can only be a sign of the nation's moral decay."
Her reasons for hating football are manifold, and typically hilarious – chiefly, the suspiciously popular game with the round ball seems to show all the key indicators of socialism. The New York Times likes it. It's foreign. Foreigners like it. Obama likes it. It is even, somehow, "like the metric system". For arch conservatives like Coulter, the culture wars never stop, and the sudden spike in interest in the World Cup is just the latest assault on The American Way, accompanying the barrages of promiscuity, multiculturalism, Islam, R'n'B, and trains: "The same people trying to push soccer on Americans are the ones demanding that we love HBO's Girls, light-rail, Beyonce and Hillary Clinton."
It's not just that the wrong people like it – Coulter thinks football as a sport is intrinsically socialist. "In soccer," she laments, "there are no heroes, no losers, no accountability, and no child's fragile self-esteem is bruised." Unlike the glorious sports of basketball, American football and baseball, she says, all individual talent is subsumed into the back-patting, winning-isn't-everything comradeship of football. (Because obviously, no one minds if you win or lose a game of football – and at the full-time whistle, after meditating for a while, the players pool their wages with the fans, before shyly retiring to their modest homes and ascetic lifestyles.)
In any case, are American sports really a Randian festival of untrammelled capitalist heroics, as she claims? Besides being more arcane, bureaucratic and hyper-managed than anything the Soviet Union ever dreamt up, the draft system used in most American team sports sends the very best young players to the clubs that did most poorly the previous season, in order to establish parity and fairness the following season. Have you ever heard of anything more socialist in your life? As if that wasn't enough, the NFL, MBA and NHL even have salary caps! Negotiated by – wait for it – trade unions! The MLB, meanwhile, has something called a "luxury tax" on its richest teams. What kind of lefty nonsense is this?
Of course, people always project their politics on to sport. Without naming and shaming, during the USA's game against Portugal, I saw one leftwing tweeter ask with plaintive, stony-faced sincerity "how can anyone be supporting the imperialists?" – as if Clint Dempsey had personally signed off on the CIA's covert military operations in Nicaragua (the poor lad has enough to handle with his burgeoning rap career).
What Coulter hasn't noticed is that even in the global game, Team USA is comporting itself with its usual bombastic exceptionalism, strutting around with an eagle tattooed on its chest. "I believe that we will win!" is exactly the kind of ridiculous army recruitment advert of a chant that you would expect from our cousins across the Atlantic.
Admittedly, there has been a bit of sour grapes in the English response to the success of Dempsey et al, and no doubt we will be treading those grapes into wine and drinking ourselves into oblivion if Team USA get much further – they are, as today's typically excitable NY Daily News front page informs us, now just "four wins from glory".
In the unlikely event that they do win the World Cup, I can see Coulter coming round to football. In the second verse of the The Right Brothers' tribute, I'm In Love With Ann Coulter, the ultra-conservative duo inadvertently sum up the appalling partisan burlesque that is modern American politics: "I've been driving liberals crazy / I bet I've quoted half her book at work / To those godless jerks who can't debate me". Like the woman herself, Coulter's armchair fans are completely unwavering in their faith, shout themselves hoarse, and are chauvinistic to the point of comical absurdity in their hatred of their opponents. Sound like anyone you know?

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

"If we say girls count, We must count girls" - Malala Yousafzai

We can finally give the world's poorest children the education they deserve

I hope the world's leaders will pledge to support the Global Partnership for Education on Thursday. So many children's futures depend on it
The Abuja wing of the
A protest in Abuja about the Nigerian schoolgirls, taken by Boko Haram. 'The kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls is a reminder of the millions of girls who are denied an education.' Photograph: Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters
I am a daughter. My father is an example for me. And he is a great father because he says: "I did not give you something extra. I did one thing, I did not cut your wings."
This Thursday in Brussels, leaders from around the world will decide how much they will pledge to support the Global Partnership for Education.
Many of the leaders making the decisions for this summit are also fathers and mothers. And all of them were once children themselves. Will they now cut the wings of the world's poorest children, or will they give them the education they need to realise what is already inside of them, their God-given potential?
Until I spoke at the United Nations in July last year, I had never been to a summit before. My life in the Swat Valley of Pakistan seemed far away from these places of power.
Since my recovery after being shot by the Taliban for daring to go to school, I have been honoured to be asked to speak at many of these summits. I often wonder if all these meetings, all these speeches, do they really make a difference for girls like me?
I know now that what countries do at summits has the power to help girls in Pakistan, Nigeria or Afghanistan. This summit can be a breakthrough moment for the millions of children in school, or dreaming of one, who may not even know it's happening. But these men and women from rich and poor countries will have the power to either help those children reach their potential, or leave them without the future they deserve.
What is at heart of this meeting is the right of all daughters and sons to receive a quality education. The kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria is a reminder of the millions of girls who are denied an education. These girls are my sisters. They strengthen my resolve to fight for the right of every child to go to school.
Education is the best weapon we have to fight poverty, ignorance and terrorism. But today, 57 million children around the world do not go to school at all. Another 250 million children drop out or do not learn basic reading or maths by the time they reach grade four. We are failing these children. I think if we are all honest, we know we can do better.
I have been shocked to learn that, since 2010, aid for education is actually getting smaller. This makes no sense to me. We need to increase education budgets. In many countries, they do not even keep track of how girls are doing in school, or if they are there at all. If we say girls count, then we must count girls, so we can see if we are really making progress in educating every girl.
This Thursday, donor and developing countries will make pledges to fund education in 66 developing countries for the next four years, through to 2018. I hope to be in university by then, but I think about all the other girls who may still be waiting for even their first day of school if we don't act.
I hope all world leaders will speak to their representatives for the conference, and ask them to do their very best. Their pledges will mean real girls will learn and grow. It is not just a number on a paper. It is our future.
As these leaders sit together in Brussels, they have the opportunity to treat the world's children as they believe for their own. I hope they will be bold.
Young advocates from India, Pakistan, Tanzania, Kenya, Guyana, the Philippines and Ethiopia will also be at the summit, which is right, as the decisions taken will impact millions of children and young people. The Malala Fund is proud to have helped these students be able to attend the summit, as they are also fighting for the right to an education in their own countries. We must listen to the voices of these brave and growing leaders, as they are the only ones who can change the futures of their own countries.
Every student knows what it is like to take an exam. It is my hope all our world leaders will be inspired, and will pass their own test and resolve to keep their promises, not just at the summit, but every day, in every country, in every classroom.
I am grateful for all that countries are already doing to support education for children around the world. It is only with their increased leadership that millions more children will get a quality education. I hope the leaders meeting this week will be my friends in this fight. I know together, we are stronger.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Global Inter-Dependence NOW!

Nation states are too small to fix global problems

We need a debate about tackling international problems, rather than hankering for some mystic past in which country was king
Andrzej Krauze: an uphill struggle for supranationalism
‘The greatest democratic problem today is the weakening power of the nation state faced by threats stretching beyond its borders.' Illustration: Andrzej Krauze
Jean-Claude Juncker may not be the right answer, but his candidacy for the presidency of the European commission is at least a response to the right question. The process by which he rose to lead the European People's party list – which then emerged as the largest group in the European parliament – was an attempt to engage voters in the European decisions taken in their name. As such, it confronted the central political issue of our times.
We live in a world of increasingly global problems, ineffective national solutions, and consequent disillusion with democratic politics. These tensions will ultimately prove as great a threat to our democracy and our values as the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. Who cares about pretentious, powerless politicians? Powerlessness is stealthy, insidious and corrosive to our belief that politics matters. At least Europe has attempted to respond by electing its supranational legislators.
It is, though, a work in progress. Europe is full of talk of the "democratic deficit", even though EU institutions are the only transnational bodies with any elected component. Nor are the voters impressed. Even in Europe, there is scant understanding of the new transnational realities. The European parliament elections showed a yearning for simple, nationalist solutions.
Nigel FarageGeert Wilders and Marine Le Pen are tribunes of nostalgia for national certainties. Yet scarcely any problem that people care about passionately is any longer susceptible to a purely national solution, even by a country as big, powerful and besotted with the perfume of sovereignty as the US. Yesterday's American hubris is today's Iraqi disaster.
Conflict resolution? Most recent conflicts have begun within societies, not between them. Last week's UN report noted that there are now 51 million refugees and internally displaced people across the world, half of them children. This was the highest level since the second world war, and mainly due to internal conflict in Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
Yet the UN is no nearer to developing a legitimate template that can impose order in the increasingly common phenomenon of the failed state. Afghanistan, Yemen and Sudan have all been horrible warnings of what can follow from internal collapse, all with consequences far beyond their own frontiers. Ominously, Pakistan is on many experts' danger list, and it is a nuclear weapons state.
Even an issue like wealth and income inequality, once the meat and drink of class-based national politics in the old democracies, is not immune. Inequality is likely to grow, as Thomas Piketty has argued. National solutions will not work. High tax rates in one country are liable to be undercut by competitor countries, sometimes gleefully and deliberately, as in the case ofGeorge Osborne's explicit decision to cut corporation tax rates. The only solution is international agreement on tax avoidance, evasion and minimum tax rates. Goodbye nation state.
Take the prosperity brought by large-scale mass production. The US is so rich in part because of its huge domestic market. If we want our European companies to produce at scale, they have to be able to make the same product for the whole European market. For such a single market to work, every national market has to have similar consumer safety, health and environmental standards. That means at least Europe-wide – and maybe soon transatlantic – rule-setting. Goodbye nation state.
Then there is clean water and unpolluted air. Climate change alone makes the case for international action: without it, we are heading inexorably for such extreme weather events that our prosperity will be cataclysmically undermined. Ask the insurers: one group of private companies only too aware of the rising costs and damage of climate change.
Take even an area traditionally central to the nation state, such as crime. The European arrest warrant and speedy extradition are responses to the easyJet age. Cybercrime disrespects frontiers as readily as air or sea pollution. Fraud in London may begin in Singapore, and involve counterparties in Zurich. Policing is international, or it is flat-footed.
If we cannot grasp these global issues – fundamental to our future prosperity and to our belief in the efficacy of the public realm – the disillusion with national politics will fester. When problems are global, solutions must match. Power is increasingly going to be wielded supranationally. That, in turn, brings the challenge of how to make politics work across language and cultural barriers.
This is not a counsel of despair. We have solved global problems such as the hole in the ozone layer. There are also examples of successful, multilingual democracies that provide a model for the public accountability of international power: India, Switzerland and Canada. (I could add Belgium and Luxembourg, but that is more contentious.) Language barriers may even melt as voice-recognition technology gives everyone a hand-held interpreter.
But we need a public debate about where the real problems in our democracy lie, rather than hankering for some mystic past in which powerful nations resolved simple problems with the smack of firm government. David Cameron needs to spell out some home truths to his own party, and start to provide some answers himself.
The greatest democratic problem today is the weakening power of the nation state faced by threats stretching beyond its borders. The nation's weakness is fatally wounding the prestige of its political elites. Pity the mediocre Juncker, for he carries all the expectations of this new and frightening world.