In early December, the nations of the world are poised to take an historic step forward on nuclear weapons. Yet most Australians still haven’t heard about what’s happening, even though Australia is an important part of this story – which is set to get even bigger in the months ahead.
Thankfully, amazingly, over 250 senior faith leaders across the world have added their names to this combined call for urgent action on climate change. I’m flying to New York for 50 hours on the ground to witness the formal handover of this joint statement to the current President of the United Nations General Assembly.
Today we lost a great friend in Vicki Kalgovas. She was a fearless and tireless worker for all that is good, generous and kind, to the planet and to its people.
I first got to know Vicki when we were both working for OXFAM Australia in the 1980s, back when OXFAM was known as Community Aid Abroad. My small tech team was introducing custom-designed Donor Relationship Management software to the OXFAM State Offices. Despite not having had previous computer experience, Vicki took on the new challenge cheerfully and became our most valued software user, always ready with a good suggestion for improvement.
All Australians should feel deeply disturbed by the impending executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. The two Australian citizens, convicted in 2006 of attempting to smuggle 8.3 kilograms of heroin out of Bali into Australia, will, barring an improbable eleventh-hour reprieve, be put to death by the Indonesian state at an as yet undetermined time in the coming weeks. Once transferred to a prison island off Java, the men will be dressed in white, bound at the hands and feet, tied to poles alongside one another, and finally sprayed with bullets by a 12-member firing squad. If Chan or Sukumaran do not die immediately, the commander will step forward and shoot them in the head as many times as is necessary to achieve the desired result.
India has come under heavy criticism for blocking the implementation of a World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreement reached at Bali in December 2013.
Proponents celebrated the Bali “package” as a long-awaited achievement by the WTO, which had failed to reach a significant agreement since 1995. However, critics lamented that the Bali deal was skewed in the favour of developed nations.
Did Reza Berati’s death in the Manus Island detention centre mark a low-point in Australia’s response to asylum-seekers? Or could the Australian Government response become even harsher and more unjust?
A week later thousands of people around the country lit a candle in memory of Reza, and also as a memorial to the Australia we used to be proud of: the land of the fair go; the country that lent a hand to those who’ve been treated badly.
The Adelaide #LightTheDark rally was particularly poignant, with two very moving speeches that are well worth re-reading.
A few years ago at a World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) conference my good mate Geoff White from Trade Aid in New Zealand was giving an update on happenings in what had historically been called the “Pacific Rim” regional grouping of WFTO.
Basically the Pacific Rim included the few countries, spread around the Pacific and over half the globe, that didn’t fit either geographically or thematically into the other formalised WFTO regions – which had adopted the names WFTO Europe, WFTO Asia, WFTO Africa and WFTO Latin America. We were the rump, without the formal structure and meaningful names the other regions had taken up. They, and the global secretariat, had been pushing for us to name ourselves formally – and get organized…
Much of the world knows little about Bangladesh other than threatened coups, George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh in 1971, the annual monsoonal floods and perhaps, the Grameen Bank, changing lives one microcredit loan at a time. But it should also be known that this country’s grassroots groups, like the Association for Climate Refugees and Young Power in Social Action, among others, are quickly becoming the vanguard leaders in solving the growing challenge of re-homing Bangladeshis affected by climate displacement.
First up, I must confess my ‘interest’ in this topic. I am co-secretary of the WA Branch of the Support Association for the Women of Afghanistan, SAWA. Founded in Adelaide, there are now SAWA groups in every State. We raise money for several projects, including a Vocational Training Centre in Kabul which educates women in literacy, computing skills, handicraft skills and English. The only money we raise that does not go to our causes is the auditor’s fees and postage for the newsletter. Our partner organisation in Afghanistan is OPAWC, the Organization for Promoting Afghan Women’s Capabilities. Because of their vision for women’s empowerment, OPAWC staff receive regular death threats from the Taliban and other fundamentalist forces. They describe their program of ’empowerment’ as not ‘short-lived or humanitarian’ but focused on improving the capacities of women, who only require ‘a door to walk through, and we are the ones who could help them and open the door and let them walk through it’.
In her book, Raising my Voice, Malalai Joya talks of warlords, drug lords and NGO lords. In the recent ABC 4 Corners program on Afghanistan, one commentator claimed that less than 5 per cent of the money promised after September 11 has actually gone to improve the lives of ordinary Afghans. Continue reading →