domingo, 9 de mayo de 2010

Colombia: A democratic solution for economic violence

In the interests of spreading academic work... i shall place part of the paper on a blog that no one ever reads. i tried... right?

In Eastern Colombia, in the Municipality of Saravena, Colombia, three community leaders were killed by the Colombian military on August 5, 2004. Jorge Prieto was the president of the Arauca Brand of the health workers union ANTHOC; Hector Alirio Martinez was the leader of the Arauca Department Association of Peasant Farmers; and the third was Leonel Goyeneche, who was a member of the largest trade union in Colombia, the CUT. According to Amnesty International, those responsible for the crime were soldiers who were part of the Battalion of the XVIII Brigade of the army.

The assassinations sparked international outrage, and in a rare conviction four people including army Lieutenant Juan Pablo Ordóñez and three soldiers were charged and sentenced to 40 years in prison in 2007. An investigation showed that the three activists had not been killed in combat, but rather in the back of the head. Violence is not new to Colombia, and a civil war has claimed thousands of lives and displaced more than 3 million internally. Depending on which model of conflict is used to analyze the situation, peace building would require different actions. This paper examines the international forces that are mediated through national policy to explain state violence against non violent activists.

Edward Azar: Protracted Social Conflict
The effects of trade, foreign aid, and multinational companies have a large role in the violence. Colombia is the only South American country to remain mired in conflict, despite many shared commonalities that exist in the region. Edwards Azar’s theory of Protracted Social Conflict (PSC) provides a useful framework for understanding the violence in Arauca. PSC theory uses the social group as the unit of analysis and understands conflict by a social group’s relation with the state. Social policies and democratic procedures can exclude a segment of the population based upon their social identity. Describing the kind of governance in which a PSC is most likely is one that “tends to be monopolized by the dominant identity group or a coalition of hegemonic groups’ which use the state to maximize their interests at the expense of others” This theory helps us understand ‘violence from above’ that targets nonviolent civil resistance to state policies. Oil development in Arauca is seen as a benefit to the governing institution that is centralized in the metropolitan capital Bogota`, and resistance to the policies is seen as illegitimate. This creates a clash of interests between the citizens of Arauca and their government.

Cecilia Lopez, a presidential candidate in the 2009 election contributed an essay to the book Colombia: Essays on Conflict, Peace and Development, says that poverty is an effect of limited democracy and is not the driving force of the conflict. Poverty alone does not cause violence, “the cause… and the resulting escalation in violence, is the insufficiently acknowledged political, economic, and social exclusion which has characterized its [Colombia’s] society.” The solution is to fundamentally change the power structures and opportunities for citizen participation. Unless citizens have a greater say in determining their own fate, the cycle of poverty and violence will continue.

Democracy is also hindered because of the high levels of violence. Armed groups on the left and the right have created a climate of fear and persecution during election time that impacts voting procedures. Politicians and judges have been targeted for their political beliefs which inhibit specific ideas and political platforms from ever being voted for or against. The structures of violence are so ingrained that even after the political will has been established to change things; it will take many years to implement democratic forms. Only until violence subsides and people can be involved in politics without fear, can there truly be democratic participation.

As illustrated by the deaths of the three community leaders, the military was directly responsible for the deaths of peaceful activists, which can only be interpreted that their work was interpreted as a threat by the ruling powers. Human rights group US Labor and Education Project (USLEAP) has documented the impunity of trade unionist is at 95%. The fact that some people were held responsible for this crime was due only to international outrage rather than recognition that the actions were wrong. By initially accusing the men as guerrilla fighters to justify their deaths also shows that most likely this type of crime is not even seen as legitimate by the other social groups that the government does represent.

The exclusion of large segments of Colombian society from political participation is a consistent grievance, and some have argued that this is the true root cause of the violent conflict. However, the narrative of human rights groups in Arauca faults the government in their complicity, but is not trying to call into question the legitimacy of the state as is the case in other conflicts.

As the example in Arauca showed, the community still appealed to the judicial system despite a narrative of complicity in the violence by other Colombian institutions. Two prominent and separate issues are pointed out in the narrative. One, that laws exist that are not being applied to perpetrators; secondly, that unjust laws exist that are being used to jail activists. In the same town that the three community leaders were killed, in 2002 hundreds of people were rounded up and closed off in the stadium on charges of ‘rebellion’. Tens of people were subsequently arrested. While many were released not long after, the arbitrary nature of arrests as well as the application and definition of ‘rebellion’ allow existing community tensions to be exacerbated by armed groups on a relational level. Activists claim that this charge is used to jail social activists and to criminalize legitimate protest.
By appealing to the existing system rather than rejecting it outright, shows that there is some degree of legitimacy despite the problems. As more and more favorable cases work themselves through the judiciary, perhaps more judges will be emboldened to apply the law, and controversial laws can be changed. Reinforcement can help strengthen and empower these institutions.

Azar’s theory does not account for the commitment to non-violence by the community in Saravena, and a rejection of all armed groups, yet the protracted conflict continues. Violence comes not only from above, but from guerrilla groups as well that operate in the area. Collier’s theory of a war economy can help explain the high levels and brutality of the violence, as well as the incentives for why the government is not responsive to the needs of such a large portion of its citizens.

domingo, 21 de marzo de 2010

Guatemala’s efforts to reform the judicial system creates needed democratic opening

According to polls, perceptions of democracy are not very favorable in Central America, including Guatemala. But democracy means more than elections, and access to decision making power in all areas of life is strongly lacking. Political and economic freedoms are an integral part, if not a pre-requisite, to changing a country with vast social inequalities and reducing corruption and organized crime. Guatemala faces its biggest challenge in development due to political obstacles rather than a shortage of feasible ideas.

Guatemala signed peace accords in 1996 after a 36 year civil war, but current the crime rate remains one of the highest for a country not at war. Impunity plagues the small country, and the conviction rate remains below 2%. The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, CICIG, has been operating in Guatemala since 2008 to help reform the judicial system and dismantle organized crime. Clandestine security groups that are remnants of the civil war are believed to account for a majority of the violence. Human rights organizations championed the creation of the Commission, although it is widely regarded to be a more watered down version than previously designed. The democratic opening that enabled the existence of the Commission is an opening that can be taken full advantage of to strengthen the foundation for democratic participation in all areas of governance such as decisions over health care, education or police reform.

CICIG has had unprecedented success in its short two years. Separate from international courts, it is a hybrid court which is embedded within the local legal system. The goal is long lasting institutional reform, and legitimacy was gained by immediate success in some high profile cases. Other measures for reform include training, and efforts to increase collaboration with police and prosecution units; and Congress recently approved changes in policies such as immunity of public officials and ammunition and arms laws.

The Commission was catapulted into existence after the murder of three Parliamentarians from El Salvador; and the subsequent murder of the four police who were imprisoned for the crime. The incident highlighted the fact that organized crime was out of control and united broad sectors of society. Guatemala is frequently polarized into a right / left dichotomy, but public discussions can bring these two sides together for a common cause. Citizens often find that their ideal visions of the future are not that far apart such as the desire for a functioning judicial system and being able to feel secure.

Having been requested to renew its mandate in 2010 for another two years, momentum can build on top of what was already accomplished to further institutionalize the changes. Perhaps one of the most important initiatives is the involvement of more civilian participation for Supreme Court nominees. The Supreme Court, along with the government and judges, has historically not been well trusted as an institution trusted to protect human rights. More civilian control fosters legitimacy and accountability which in turn fosters increased interest in being involved in the first place.

Literature on hybrid courts has reported on the importance of an outreach strategy as key to creating lasting change and capacity. International efforts can be a catalyst for change, but long term reform depends on the degree to which civil society takes ownership of the initiative. Other countries, such as Sierra Leone, have experimented with outreach efforts for their hybrid court through town hall style meetings to discuss how trials are proceedings, and to answer any questions and concerns people might have. Not only do town hall meetings offer widespread educational opportunities to learn about the legal system, they foster a mutual understanding of important issues like justice and accountability. Most importantly, this is a time for creativity at the grassroots level. The challenges Guatemala faces should not be underestimated, but they should not be considered insurmountable either. CICIG has created an opening for increased democratic participation, which can be seized and expanded on and serve as a bold model of reform.

lunes, 8 de marzo de 2010

work doesn't make the person

Does being a prostitute or a dancer damage your character? No. Is stripping an ideal to strive for? I would say no. I was asked - as a "feminist" wouldn't i support women stripping. I assume this concerns the idea of a woman being able to do anything she wants to do rather than looking at how ideal this type of work is. Putting the argument to the test: I think stripping is no better or worse than other degrading types of work. For me, working at Starbucks was degrading. People were rude, extremely disrespectful, and the pay was bad. Work is different from meaningful employment.

Women have entered the workforce in throngs, but have hardly broken into the power circles. ceo's and congress people are still overwhelmingly male. Granted, some dancers as well as some escorts do make quite a bit of money. During my union training someone mentioned that there was a union drive in LA for the prostitutes. I argue though, that is not normal, dancing is degrading, and a show run by males, paid by males, of the exploitation of the female body which does not enhance the freedom of women . just as working at wal-mart for low pay long hours and no health care when you have three kids is not liberating. Yes, women want work. But they want good work. As a feminist I am all for women choosing their type of work on their own terms. However, the idea that stripping is a great part time job designed for the ambitious college student is a far cry from reality. I won't pretend like any of my previous minimum wage part time jobs were great. I won't lie and say as a young woman it was so great to have employment.. and learn that your boss likes to go on power trips and that my time is worth shit. So those defending dancing should put it in the same category. taking off your clothes for pay is also degrading, and women rarely do this because they like it. Yes, people have to make choices in life, and sometimes life forces you into degrading, and demeaning employment - like stripping.

Show me a worker run cooperative owned and run by the dancers, and I'll show you my future child's mentor...

martes, 23 de febrero de 2010

to be continued- initial thought:
the mistake of Ayn Rand and to a lesser extent milton friedman is that ability honesty and non discrimination pays. however, doesn't starting ahead five spaces on a game board help you win? why wouldn't it be reasonable to assume that people would act in their interests to keep their privilege or advantage. corruption pays.

jueves, 11 de febrero de 2010

I think Fukuyama had an interesting point about the “radius of trust” which seems to me it can be fostered and destroyed in any community or group, and some of these ties do not translate into trust of others, or may be trust within destructive groups.

I think this applies not only to developing countries but to poor communities within the richer countries as well. I’ve heard argued convincingly that in impoverished areas individualism can be detrimental. A community that already is impoverished will have fewer opportunities, and more obstacles. The success of the group is integral to the success of the individual – as one person cannot magically obtain affordable healthcare if the program does not exist. I don’t believe this takes away emphasis away from individual agency, but rather that an individual is situated within a community, and their successes are integrated. A strong sense of community can positively impact the quality of lives of people. In developing countries practically no safety nets exist for large segments of society, and communities / groups must fill that role. Although it seems that even in areas with strong social cohesion, violence can tear this down. Dictatorships seem to specialize in using terror with the exact intent to sow fear and distrust – which then hinders shared quality of life development.
As a problem this poses to development aid, perhaps this should be taken into account to NGO’s or other international organizations just as much as developing the ‘right program’ is.

Dependency theory vs. culture vs. geography:
I think neither theory can claim a monopoly on explaining economic development. As we discussed in class week, the importance of human agency plays a large role as well as strong leaders. Many factors influence the course a country is taking, and the extent to which each factor plays a role is more important than privileging one over the other. For example, massive foreign intervention has had a far more destabilizing effect in Guatemala than Peru. Rather than claim that foreign aid to dictatorships or corporate ownership of half a country does not hinder economic growth, a better question is to what extent

Some of the authors, particularly Mariono Grondona would use broad generalizations to support a theory that had too many exceptions. As one of the authors Mala Htun – on gender inequality points out that there are drastic differences among Latin American countries as well as within the countries themselves. While culture is important, I think there is not enough correlation to tie values to economic performance as many of the authors would like. The book we read last week discussed the interaction between civil servants and the central government; and the complex relationships between keeping ones job, balancing ties where one works and to whom one reports to. He adds that the incentive for better work performance is strongly tied to belief that the job will allow one to move up in rank, and that the job security will not be influenced by politics. While this is also ‘work culture’ it is quite disconnected from work ethic or ones belief in the value of a hard day’s work.

jueves, 4 de febrero de 2010

atheist vs. me
who gave you morality?

one of the ten pillars of conflict resolution skills is communication. assertiveness, not aggression. non violence has nothing to do with being passive. Honest communication prevents you from holding grudges, and just keeping yourself honest with what you need in your life, and if you are giving yourself what you need.

I get to do a research project for one of my classes. have trouble narrowing it down though. Thinking about doing interviews for a restorative justice program if it exists. I wonder if it works as well for victims of vicious attacks in these types of programs or if it is mostly tailored to less violent crimes. It seems to work very well in juvenile small crime.. what about adults? vamos a ver.

got distracted by a pumpkin curry recipe. yum

martes, 17 de noviembre de 2009

my product

Product: developing workplace processes and code to address various forms of conflict
Training - 3 hours (two evening of 1.5 hours, or 3 sessions during the lunch break)
Goal: institutionalizing workplace code to address the issues
What issues: sexism, racism, homosexuality, x,y,x.. addressing conflict in the workplace
Who: NGO’s (build the contact base, and most likely to want to improve in these areas)
Numbers: small groups.
Price: I see this as a product that we can begin as pro-bono conducted by students. Later on this could be a situation where new students could be the second facilitator and gain experience and be involved in the consulting group project. Eventually, I think this product could then charge on a pre-determined price. 3 hours = how much?
What is needed: create a framework of practice that will be used in all of these trainings. This will be the ICAR brand.Here is my idea about the framework that would need some professional input, using the example of a gender workshop:
Goal: awareness of gender stereotypes, establish processes and code that address sexism, and practices to confront and handle it in the workplace. Creation of a more productive and positive work environment
session 1: 1.5 hours
20 minutes: large group, general discussion of what sexism is, provide definitions,
- 10 min: small group discussion of stereotypes for males and females
- 10 min: share in large group what each small group discussed – collaboration of ideas
20 minutes: What kinds of issues / concerns does this create in the workplace? (eg promotions, childcare..)
- 10 Small group activity
- 10 Large group presentations
15 minutes: vision – what would the ideal workplace look like
Session 2: What are the workplace procedures that most appropriately prevent and address gender issues in the workplace

My idea behind this is the language learning model: that there is a general framework that has been developed – what needs to be learned first, etc. but for each topic, the teacher / consultant can modify the small group activity, or how people interact to best demonstrate the theory. The working groups could help come up with what theories should be presented in what order, and what could be covered in a few hours. I believe the part with the least amount of creativity involved would be the workplace code that would be most effective. This should be pre-developed. We could also offer advanced training to go more in depth in handling these issues.
Thoughts anyone?