Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

How many people live in shantytowns?

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

Even in the West, inequality and poverty are on the rise. Poverty has, in fact, reached the levels of 1933. Devote 4 minutes to watching Thomas Pogge, professor of Yale University, talking about the current international system that allows a large part of the world’s population to live in abject poverty:  

The great recession pushed millions of people into poverty, or worse, extreme poverty. Add to that the fact that people all over the world are moving into urban areas to seek their fortune and we have a danger of slums increasing tremendously. 

How do we keep them safe in urban areas?

There hence is a huge need to reduce vulnerability in urban settings. Half the world’s people now live in cities, a share that will rise to 70 percent by 2050.  

So what are we going to do to give more people in the world a decent life? If we don’t do anything the amount of people living in shantytowns will rise, everywhere. Or call them homeless, if you wish. 

Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz believes we are paying a high prize for inequality

Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz believes we are paying a high prize for inequality

Extreme poverty leads to crime – or worse

Countries with a lot of poverty easily gets trapped in crime or worse, become failed states. And I don’t need to tell you how easily failed states can follow in the steps of Afghanistan and Somalia, do I? Iraq and Syria are in the pipeline. So it’s in the interest of all of us to start eradicating poverty in the world. 

And let’s not forget poverty in the developed world

Frankly find it unbelievable that child poverty is on the increase even in a country like Sweden. And so is poverty in all age groups, for that matter. And the same applies to Europe as a whole and the United States Isn’t it, like Thomas Pogge put it, a crime against humanity? 

Do we really want a world where poverty is increasing and the middle classes are in decline? Just look at what has happened the last few decades in Latin America, Africa, Asia and Russia.

Negative for much of the world’s population

One hundred faculty members at University of Chicago wrote a letter of protest when university president Robert ZImmer announced the creation of a $200m Milton Friedman Institute stating that “The effects of the neoliberal global order … strongly buttressed by the Chicago School of Economics, have by no means been unequivocally positive. Many would argue that they have been negative for much of the world’s population.” Since the time when Reagan was president the Chicago boys have dominated not only Washington but the world, not least through the IMF. So isn’t it time to stop implementing policies that favour multinational companies at the expense of the majority of people?

Do you agree with Pogge that many of the people who support the current international system are like passive Germans during the Nazi era? Do we really want the world’s middle classes and poor to be worse off? Is it really a good idea to have more people across the globe living in shantytowns? Or being homeless? What’s your opinion? Is it time to put market fundamentalism aside and start stimulating economies in order to grow again and give more people a decent life? Or are you of the opinion that Friedman’s version of corporate capitalism is the way forward?

(Video: carnegiecouncil – You Tube, Picture: GovernmentZA )

What would make you flee to Iran?

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

Exactly, desperation. And that’s precisely why there are one million refugees there. They have escaped war torn Afghanistan and Iraq for the relative safety of Iran.

UNHCR, refugees, EU, economic migrants, Europol,

That refugees are not a threat, but are people who are threatened is frequently forgotten because of constant headlines about criminal immigrants.

Contrary to popular belief the majority of refugees are not in the West, according to UNHCR‘s 2010 Global Trends report. A staggering 80% have taken refuge in developing countries. Notably in Pakistan, Iran and Syria that account for 1.9 million, 1.1 million and 1 million respectively.

In Europe, you wrongly get the impression that the majority of refugees are here. But they are economic migrants, which is very different. Their arrival in Europe is often facilitated by human traffickers aiming to profit from the transport of migrants and also their criminal exploitation upon arrival in the EU.

How many refugees can pay people smugglers $10,000 to get to Europe?

From what I understand it costs $10,000 per person to be smuggled from Iraq or Afghanistan to Europe. Only a handful of refugees are able to pay such prices. And many people smugglers recruit their clients on the internet. How many refugees in the camps are surfing the net?

Instead it’s economic migrants who get into debt with criminal gangs thinking they will earn a fortune in Europe, which of course they don’t. To pay off their debts they hence end up, willingly or not, working for criminal gangs in all kinds of illegal activities. Anything from begging and benefit fraud to murder.

Criminals giving refugees a bad name

Europe has for a long time been happy to give refugees a new life here. But due to the problems of criminal activity by a section of economic migrants, more and more Europeans are turning against immigration. So much so that anti immigrant parties have been elected to parliament in many EU countries. That even immigrants who have been here a long time vote for such parties says a lot about how criminal gangs are exploiting the open borders in Europe.

Genuine refugees are not a threat

That refugees are not a threat, but are people who are themselves threatened is forgotten because of constant headlines about what criminal immigrants are up to.

Handle asylum applications swiftly

Asylum-seekers judged through proper procedures not to be refugees, nor to be in need of any other form of international protection, can be sent back to their home countries. So speeding up such procedures would ironically be a way of helping real refugees desparately in need of asylum.

Deport criminals

Some Europeans deport immigrants convicted of a crime and some don’t. In order to help the millions of refugees that genuinely need asylum, isn’t it time for all EU countries to start deporting such criminals? In Northern Europe they don’t care if they end up in jail since the sentences are low and mild and they even get a TV in their cell. Very different from prison back home.

Who are the people smugglers?

According to Europol, the most widely reported organised crime groups involved in the facilitation of illegal immigration are of Chinese, Turkish, Albanian, Indian, Iraqi, Roma and  Russian origin. Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Pakistani, and some West African groups are said to be among the most capable, managing all successive phases of illegal immigration from source to destination countries. That’s not to say that some ethnic Europeans are not involved, but mainly the gangs are of the same ethnic groups as the refugees that are suffering as a result of their activities.

Flying in their victims

Some EU countries have already started to have border controls on land and they are working. So according to Europol,organised air smuggling is an emerging trend.

Criminal groups issue flight tickets to illegal immigrants who make asylum requests upon arrival, or attempt to pass through security checks with counterfeit or forged documents, or genuine documents issued to ‘lookalikes’.

An Iraqi criminal group in Sweden was for instance identified as the owner of an airline that facilitated its people smuggling activities.

How about putting economic migration on hold?

With Europe struggling with the Euro crisis and recession, maybe it would be a good idea to temporarily only allow economic migration for people who already have secured a job? That would be a huge blow to people smugglers and make Europe accept more genuine refugees.

Exploiting Europe’s generosity

Frequently criminal immigrants, resident in the EU, facilitate the last step of the migrants’ journey, in some cases collecting final instalments of transportation fees, and are in an ideal position to profit from newly arrived migrants.

It’s really terrible that criminals are poisoning Westerners against refugees when we should instead reach out a helping hand and welcome them here. But due to the problems caused by people smugglers and their gangs, Europe is reluctant to take more refugees. What do you think can be done to stop those criminals? Let’s face it, they are ruining the lives of genuine refugees who need and should be given asylum in the West. Or maybe you believe having open borders is more important than giving refugees a safe heaven? Should we just leave genuine refugees to rot in camps so that economic migrants can be exploited by criminal gangs?

Photo: Al Jazeera English – Flickr

Blood Diamonds on Linkedin?

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

Sounds like part of the plot to a thriller doesn’t it? Makes you think of Leonardo diCaprio and the movie that claimed “it will cost you everything” But it may actually be going on.

Africa, dictators, war lords, social media, blood diamonds, Linkedin, spam, conflict diamonds, Ivory Coast, Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, Leonardo diCaprio

Would you buy conflict diamonds? Or make your purchase from someone hiding their identity on social media?

Now with restrictions in place to stop conflict diamonds financing wars and dictators it looks like social media unfortunately has become an outlet for blood diamonds.

Came across the following out of context comment in about ten different discussions in Linkedin groups. If it was discussions about diamonds, investing or any subject of relevance to the comment, I would have understood. But that was not the case: “i am the most individual effective diamonds seller in sauther africa region.My primary market are individual buyer, I also assist new buyer who want to explored the market of diamonds in Africa. Diamonds is the most profitable business which an individual can earn so much money with few stone you purchse.” Followed by a yahoo email address, a name and a different name for Skype.

The member had no photograph or information on his Linkedin profile. The only enlightenment was that he is a member of numerous Linkedin groups.

Desperate way of selling diamonds

Why would someone selling diamonds resort to the kind of tactics deployed by for instance people desperate for a job who, post their CV:s as comments in discussions? A reputable dealer would definitely not act like that. So if he is genuine, I strongly suggest that he stops behaving like a spammer to make people trust him. His current behaviour gives the impression he’s a person under pressure to sell the diamonds. If not, why would someone be that desperate to sell a valuable commodity that’s in high demand?

Would you buy diamonds from a spammer?

Who in their right mind would buy diamonds from someone that resorts to guerilla tactics to sell them? Few, if any. So what makes someone employ such methods? What immediately comes to mind is conflict diamonds because it’s difficult to sell them through normal channels.

Illicit diamond trade funding Ivory Coast conflict?

Can’t help wondering of the origin of those diamonds and which war lords the sales will fund? The conflict in the Ivory Coast comes to mind. But groups in, for instance, The Republic of Congo, The Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola are also selling diamonds, for instance to Ivory Coast groups, to finance their insurgencies and fighting. If so, his desperation makes sense. He is most likely under pressure to sell a certain amount or he is in trouble with his bosses.

Or maybe the Linkedin seller isn’t from Africa at all but working for, say, an Afghan war lord? Difficult to prove where someone posting on social media actually resides, isn’t it.

Social media – outlet for blood diamonds?

On social media networks we are already inundated with “Nigeria letters”, beggars and all kinds of shady deals. So it makes perfect sense that peddling conflict diamonds is also going on.

Spammers illegally selling Viagra send out millions of emails daily since one sale only generates massive profits. And you don’t have to be Einstein to understand that one sale of illicit diamonds generate much more money than a sale of Viagra.

Make sure you buy diamonds certified by the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme

We should all join forces to make it difficult for people to deal with blood diamonds on social media. If not, we help fuel conflict and keep tyrants in power. So I hope you make sure any diamonds you buy are certified by the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. By doing so you will at least know the origin of the diamonds you buy. Can’t understand why, but diamonds from Zimbabwe are now cleared for sales on the international market. But is it really a good idea to buy diamonds from there? Don’t forget that by doing so you help keeping Mugabe in power.

Do you believe social media has become an outlet to sell blood diamonds? Have you also come across diamond dealers hiding their identity on, say, Linkedin, Facebook or Twitter? Would you consider buying diamonds from them just to make huge profits? If not, what do you suggest should be done to stop them from using social media networks to sell their goods? Let’s face it, if peddlers of conflict diamonds succeed in selling their goods on social media networks it will, as the movie pointed out, cost quite a few people everything.

photo: jenny downing – flickr

Is Ahmadinejad provoking a strike on Iran?

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Just days after President Barack Obama voiced willingness to talk to Iran, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed 9/11 had been trumped up as an excuse for the United States to invade Afghanistan and Iraq.

If necessary, could the Saudis, again, in the interest of the world succeed in making Teheran opt for peace?

He said there was no evidence that the death toll at New York’s World Trade Center, destroyed in the attacks, was as high as reported. “They created and prepared public opinion so that everyone considered an attack on Afghanistan and Iraq as (their) right,” he said in a televised speech.

No “Zionists” were killed in the World Trade Center, according to him, because “one day earlier they were told not go to their workplace.” That there is a published list of Sept. 11 dead from more than 90 countries available online, was conveniently ignored.

Ahmadinejad accused the US government of exercising more media censorship than anywhere in the world. And, again, talked about the Holocaust never happening. Obviously having a go at Israel again.

The Iranian president leaves a lot to be desired but no matter how much we disapprove of him he is not an idiot. If he was, he wouldn’t have succeeded to get elected the first time (unlike the last election which was obviously rigged). He knows what he is doing and he has the Mullahs approval. Considering that Iranian elections are rigged they don’t need to show Iranians that he is capable of standing up to the West. They already know that.

What does the Iranian regime gain from sable rattling?

Begs the question of why they keep on provoking Israel and the US with his statements? Maybe the timing is not a coincidence since only 50,000 US soldiers will soon be left in Iraq? The current Israeli government is also more likely to be provoked to strike Iran than the previous one. Maybe he and the Mullahs would like that to happen to give them an excuse to strike back? Or worse, start a war with Iraq that could lead to an all out war in the Middle East? The Mullahs would love to control Makkah and Medina and Iran has caused trouble there in the past which the Saudis luckily managed to handle.

Tehran says it is refining uranium only for electricity and medical treatments. But it’s not out of the question that they already have been supplied with enough uranium for a few missiles from North Korea or Pakistan? Whatever their reason they are hiding something when it comes to their nuclear capacity.

Iran has already caused enough problems in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Afghanistan. That the current regime would like to be more prominent in the Middle East is no secret. So is Ahmadinejad, just like he accused the US of doing, trumping up an excuse to invade Iraq or attack Israel? After all the best thing an unpopular regime can do is unite the people behind an outside enemy.

Doubt that Teheran would attack Iraq unless the US were involved in a strike against them. But then again Israel would be using US equipment and that might be enough of a provocation?Do believe that it’s questionable if the Iranian regime would dare to attack Israel or Iraq without having an excuse to do so. So hopefully no strike on Iran will take place?

Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states have for years been worried about Iran’s behavior because a strike against Iranian nuclear sites would spread radiation across the whole region. Or worse lead to an all out war in the Gulf between Shias and Sunnis. Don’t need to tell you what that would do not only to the region but the world economy.

So maybe it’s time for the Saudis to, again, make Teheran opt for peace? King Abdullah sent Prince Bandar to Teheran in 2006. The result was that Teheran ordered Hezbollah to stop fighting Israel in Lebanon, which effectively ended that war. Considering King Abdullah’s effort recently regarding Lebanon, maybe it’s no coincidence that the Hezbollah isn’t yet playing an active part in the border incidents?

When it comes to Iran the US, Saudi Arabia, Israel and, most likely, the majority of the Iranian population are on the same side. Actually most of the citizens of the world is. If we all need to unite against Ahmadinejad and the Mullhas probably depends on how badly the Mullas and Ahmadinejad need to unite the Iranians against an outside enemy. Hopefully it will not come to that, but if it does it wouldn’t be the first time the West has been wrong about Iranian intentions.

(photo: The White House – Flickr)

WikiLeaks – what a public relations coup!

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

What was new about the “WikiLeak scoop” a few days ago? Anybody following international news have heard about alleged Pakistani involvement in Afghanistan from US officials.

Anybody following international news have heard about alleged Pakistani involvement in Afghanistan from Hillary Clinton and other US officials.

Last week Hillary Clinton actually said there must be someone in the Pakistani government that knows Osama bin Laden’s wheeabouts. Can you get more blunt than that?

So what was the point of making the trove of 90,000 classified military documents public? The only reason they got so much attention was by only released them to The New York Times, Guardian and Der Spiegel. They were no scope and I don’t understand why they caused so much consternation? The only difference they make is that now some Afghans lives are in danger.

WIkiLeaks goal in disclosing secret documents is to reveal “unethical behavior” by governments and corporations. Catch is since it was founded in 2006 it has only been able to disclose secrets from Western countries.

But what about secrets from inside the ISI or Pakistani government? If the 90,000 documents were from inside the ISI they would have been truly sensational. Or if WikiLeaks published classified information from say, the Iranian, North Korean, Russian or Chinese government.

But chances of that ever happen are next to none. Who inside such regimes would dare to take the risk? Pity since that kind of information would make WikiLeaks a worth while organisation. As it is they provide one sided information from the West without being able to deliver information that would really make a difference.

What does WikiLeaks want to accomplish?

Part of me likes what they are doing, but since they will only be able to reveal secrets from the West I don’t think they have a mission to fulfil. At least not if they continue leaking “scoops” that are common knowledge.

WikiLeaks and Julian Assange are a bit of a question mark. He says he’s a journalist but according to the New York Times he is not. They call him an activist but to what end isn’t clear. If it is his desire to promote peace I don’t think he has accomplished anything so far.

So what did he accomplish by bringing his organization into the debate on Afghanistan? WikiLeaks had to close some time ago due to lack of funding so presumably the aim was to get sponsors? Or just become famous? Some people go to extremes for fame and glory.

The pr coup he achieved was brilliant. He is now a household name and so is Wikileaks. Just a pity that by showing little regard for the hard moral choices and dearth of good policy options facing decision-makers, he is as reckless and destructive as soldier or soldiers who leaked the documents in the first place.

All WikiLeaks has achieved so far is, putting Afghans who provided leaks to the US in danger as well as – again – show us that technology has diminished our control over what the world knows. So now WikiLeaks needs to step up to the plate and deliver scoops of classified information from inside totalitarian states. That would justify their existence. If not, what can such an organisations accomplish?

(Photo: US Department of State – Flickr)

Saffron instead of opium?

Friday, June 4th, 2010

The whole world would benefit from farmers in Afghanistan replacing poppy farming with alternative crops. Saffron yields about the same price as poppy and would hence be a viable possibility.

Saffron surrounded by saffron blossom. To induce poppy farmers in Afghanistan to grow saffron instead of poppy would benefit the world at large.

Other high-value high-volume alternatives are pomegranates, almonds and grapes. Catch is that the start-up period for such crops is too long. Establishing a grape vineyard there would take about three to five years. Obviously that’s not appealing to impoverished farmers. Not least since buyers of poppy provide them with monetary guarantees up front.

Another huge barrier in revitalizing the legal agriculture sector is the ongoing peace crisis. And poppy, unlike  alternative crops, is harvested annually which also make it more lucrative for the farmers.

But is enough focus being made by aid organisations to change farmers’ minds as well as give them monetary guarantees up front for changing crops? Experts believe much more could be done in that respect. So maybe it would be a good idea for aid organisations to start coordinating their efforts to have a major impact?

Reducing the amount of poppy exported out of Afghanistan would benefit the whole world as well as contributing to making the country a better, and safer, place for the Afghan people. This is actually one of those unusual situations where aid would have positive affects around the globe. So wouldn’t it be good for the world community at large to pull toghether and start channeling more aid into compensating Afghan farmers for turning to, say, saffron?

What do you think? Should the world community make an effort by channeling aid to compensate Afghan farmers that change to alternative crops? Or should the poppy farmers just stick to poppy while we wait for peace in the area? Throughout history Afghanistan has been a challenge. Waiting for peace to come may be futile. So wouldn’t it be a good idea for the world to finally unite when it comes to Afghanistan and make an effort to do something to improve the situation in the country that doesn’t involve arms?

Photo: Steenberg’s photostream – flickr