Clean Water Access and Reproductive Health: The Importance of Intersectionality

Before starting this blogging project, I did not realize how intersectional the Reproductive Justice movement truly must be in order to encapsulate all experiences. Even though I choose this Reproductive Justice because of its intersectionality, there is so much below the surface that connects when a women is confronted with the realities of sexuality, sexual abuse, birth control, pregnancy, abortion, and the idea of raising children.

That is, reproductive health is something that affects us all. The conditions in which you were born, how you were nurtured, and how you were treated by society all comes back to the local and national climate around reproductive health. For my final blog, I want to deviate from the “normal” discussions of indicators of reproductive health (and lack of health), and connect the movement back to another prominent discussion: water.

Water surface

Given the events in Flint, Michigan, as well as around the world, this is an extremely timely discussion. Additionally, water has come to my attention.

This past weekend, I had the honor of attending the Civil Liberties and Public Policy (CLPP) conference at Hampshire College, a weekend-long conference on the topic of reproductive justice. One of the sessions I attended addressed water shortages experienced by indigenous women in California, and their negative effects on pregnant and parenting women. After that experience, viewing the film Good Fortune in class made me realize the disastrous effects that water control have on people, both nationally and internationally.

In Good Fortune, we all learned about how the company Dominion built a dam in Western Kenya that flooded nearby villages and homes (Good Fortune). Despite the fact that the dam was supposed to allieviate poverty in the area, versus applying a “band-aid” (Good Fortune), one woman in the film discussed her miscarriage at 7 months as being a side effect of pesticides applied to the crops, which then got “into the floodwater” (Good Fortune). According to ONE, it seems that little has changed. In sub-Saharan Africa, only 68% of individuals have “access to an improved water source” (ONE). In 2012, three years after the airdate of Good Fortune, The Guardian came out with an article which documented slums near Nairobi, and populations of people that would make their livelihood off of waste located in a nearby “rubbish dump” (Chonghaile). This Western article reminded me of how developers approached Kibera in Good Fortune: as a health hazard, that must be destroyed. While the article sights “miscarriages” as one of the effects of spending days looting through the dump, the article fails to mention how displacement may not better these realities.

Examples of this can be found among indigenous women in the United States. In this concluding blog, I want to make sure that the United States is mentioned as not just the “cause” but as  the “effect” as well, as there are populations that are marginalized in this country, as well as outside of it. At the CLPP conference, speaker Beata Tsosie Peña discussed how water serves a spiritual purpose, as well as a purpose for survival. Enduring decades of marginalization and displacement, forced access to unclean water (and other basic needs) greatly impact reproductive health. Activists Kristen Zimmerman and Vera Miao speak further on some of the environmental implications that affect reproductive health of the Tewa people of the Southwest:

Founded secretly during World War II, the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), is the well-known site of the development of the atomic bomb. Less well-known are the adverse impacts of the laboratory’s activities on the Native people living in the surrounding Pueblos. For more than 64 years, LANL has been dumping toxic and radioactive waste onto Tewa sacred and ancestral lands, including explosives, volatile organic compounds and PCBs. In 2008, the New Mexico Environment Department estimated that approximately 2,093 such dumpsites have been created since the laboratory began operating. LANL itself states that the PCB concentrations in a nearby watershed were 70 times higher than the New Mexico human health standard, and recent research found these toxins within the homes of Pueblo residents. The operation of the laboratory has led to the joint contamination and endangerment of human health and the local ecosystem. (Zimmerman)

In conclusion, reproductive health does not only apply to how a woman experiences sexuality and pregnancy. It applies to the type of life and livelihood that the child will experience. As seen throughout these blogs, actors of development consistently ignore and devalue the importance of reproductive health. That being said, alternatives to development must keep coming into play. As unhealthy as it is for people to be living on or near dumps, or areas with little or unclean water, the issue must be addressed in way that delivers surfaces to marginalized people, particularly women.

With that, here is a mission statement from Tewa Women United, a group dedicated to fighting for reproductive justice with intersectionality:

TWU’s holistic approach combines advocacy, litigation, research, and action with cultural revival. TWU’s Indigenous Women’s Health and Reproductive Justice (IWH) Program encourages Pueblo members and youth to become active participants in their healthcare through all stages of life and aims to revitalize traditional indigenous knowledge and practice in women’s health. This recuperation and sharing of cultural knowledge, values, and practice led by women, is also part of a practice of individual and collective healing from the loss, occupation, and colonization of Pueblo land and culture. … Through this intersectional approach, these leaders are finding innovative ways to connect, frame, communicate, and organize around the issues that matter most to their communities – the health of their children, families, communities, culture, and land. (Zimmerman)

How else do you think intersectionality applies to development?

Works Cited

Chonghaile, Clar Ni. “Kenyan Rubbish Dump Offers Little Money for Much Misery”. The Guardian. The Guardian, 18 Sep. 2012.Web. 16 Apr. 2016.

Good Fortune. Dir. Landon Van Soest. PBS, 2009. Film.

Tsosie Peña, Beata. “Don’t Drink the Water: Water Access is a Human Right and Reproductive Justice Issue”. Hampshire College. Civil Liberties and Public Policy Conference, Amherst, MA. 10 Apr. 2016.

“Water and Sanitation”. ONE. ONE, n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

Zimmerman, Kristen and Miao, Vera. Fertile Ground: Women Organizing at the Intersection of Environmental Justice and Reproductive Justice. Movement Strategy Center, 2009. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

Education and Literacy Rates in Pakistan

Education is a right, not a privilege, yet in many places some cannot afford to get an education. In Pakistan today there is a 58% illiteracy rate and it has been consistent for the past two years. One of the main issues concerning Pakistan’s high illiteracy rates is its small budged for education coupled with education not being as high of a priority. While the government schools tend to be better quality, public schools in Pakistan tend to be lacking in basic resources such as electricity, water, and sanitation.   In addition there are even several unofficial ghost schools have formed. Many who dislike the conditions of public schools in Pakistan have nowhere to turn because private schools have steeper prices, which many people in Pakistan cannot afford. There is a significant disparity in areas with private schooling and in areas with public. Private schools are pretty much only in urban areas where a lot of the more wealthy people are located, whole public schools are located in rural areas where there are more impoverished people. Madrasas are also prominent. These are schools that provide a more Islamic, religious-based education and they are free, so they are more easily accessible for people who cannot afford to send their children to private school.

Above is an image of a ghost school in the province of Sindh, Pakistan.
Above is an image of a ghost school in the province of Sindh, Pakistan.

One issue that is a common trend in many countries is the high gender disparity in literacy with a significantly smaller literacy rate for females. In fact, in Pakistan the female literacy rate has even declined by 2% from 2012-13 while the male literacy rate has stayed the same. In some more rural, tribal areas in Pakistan women are strictly prohibited from getting an education on religious grounds. With social and cultural restrictions and a patriarchal society, women cannot receive the educations that they deserve. In addition, in poorer areas of Pakistan, often women cannot afford to buy sanitary pads if they have their periods, and therefore end up missing school because of it and sacrificing their educations.

Often people are scared to educate women, because along with education comes power. It gives people the power to question social structures and power dynamics. Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani woman dedicated to promoting education in Pakistan and ending the gender disparity in education once said, “Let us picks up our books and pencils. They are our most powerful weapons.” Education is a type of power that Pakistani people need in order to enact change.

 

Works Cited

Ahsan, S. (n.d.). Related Articles. Retrieved April 14, 2016, from http://www.ilmkidunya.com/articles/reasons-for-pakistan-s-low-literacy-rate-719.aspx

Haq, R. (2015, June 05). Education woes: Pakistan misses UN target with 58% literacy rate – The Express Tribune. Retrieved April 15, 2016, from http://tribune.com.pk/story/897995/education-woes-pakistan-misses-un-target-with-58-literacy-rate/

Illiteracy in Pakistan. (n.d.). Retrieved April 14, 2016, from http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2011/08/10/comment/illiteracy-in-pakistan-2/

Mussadaq, M. (2011, July 20). Female illiteracy: 41% of Pakistani girls fail to complete primary school – The Express Tribune. Retrieved April 14, 2016, from http://tribune.com.pk/story/213419/female-illiteracy-41-of-pakistani-girls-fail-to-complete-primary-school/

Saleem, M. (n.d.). The Development and State of the Art of Adult Learning. Retrieved April 14, 2016, from http://www.unesco.org/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/INSTITUTES/UIL/confintea/pdf/National_Reports/Asia – Pacific/Pakistan.pdf

 

Blog 5: Solutions

The last blog… Climate change and the social inequality it brings about is a major issue in our world today. The solutions are out there and ideas are being conjured up, but it will for sure be a difficult process to accept and embrace. Many small scale projects are chipping away at the processes that are destroying our planet. This week I want to focus on one most of us are familiar with, the Leap Manifesto and possible solutions. The Leap Manifesto is a Canadian document that is calling to action radical restructuring of their economy as the use of fossil fuels comes to a close. Fossil fuels are a considerable greenhouse gas emitter and contribute to climate change in a noticeable amount. Extraction and processing of fossil fuels have disrupted the lives of many peoples while benefiting others in an unjust fashion. The release of the Leap Manifesto was during the time of a national election campaign and struck up a lot of discussion about its possibilities and future potentials.

With the Canadian election campaign focusing on the Leap Manifesto there is a large amount of media coverage on the issue and people’s ideas about it. The Canadian New Democratic Party (NDP) are the main supporters and are seriously debating and looking into the Leap Manifestos potential. An article in The Guardian stated, “If we act according to deep principles of justice, combatting climate change can simultaneously address many other problems: creating hundreds of thousands of good, clean jobs; implementing the land and treaty rights of Indigenous peoples; reducing racial and gender inequalities; welcoming far more refugees and migrants; and localizing agriculture so that people eat healthy” (NEWS) with regards to the acceptance of the manifesto and the NDP’s views. The manifesto was written by the people being impacted by climate change and recognize the social unjust that has come from it: labor unionists, migrant rights activists, feminists, indigenous leaders, environmentalists and many more isolated groups. A local Vancouver news article stated the implications with the Leap Manifesto in that it openly rejects pipelines which is an issue for the province of Alberta whose economy heavily relies on the use of pipelines. The article then points out the NDP’s defense for this struggle with the idea that, “A progressive reduction in our carbon footprint does not mean elimination of pipelines and fossil fuel production. It means we must develop them with lower emissions, water use and greater benefits for our population” (LOCAL NEWS). The attention the Leap Manifesto is getting on media sources and through political debates is important for spreading the awareness of solutions towards climate change and social inequality.

Naomi Klein is a social activist who also supports the Leap Manifesto and was one of the initiating signatories for the document release. Klein has done a lot of work with regards to climate change and social inequality including here book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate. In this book Klein discusses how we need to deal with a “savagely unjust economic system” which has been the sole mover of climate change. She suggests we need, “game-changing [policy battles] that don’t merely aim to change laws but change patterns of thought” and, “a space for a full-throated debate about values—about what we owe to one another based on our shared humanity, and what it is that we collectively value more than economic growth and corporate profits” (BOOK). It’s the idea of respect for lives and our planet, the ideology of stewardship and unselfishness that will bring about a solution. The paper Global Inequality and Climate Change by Roberts concludes with the idea that, “issues of equity will have to be dealt with at the same time as the environment” and that, “equity and ecology must be dealt with together” (REPORT). These ideas are the frameworks for altering the minds of the people in control towards halting climate change and social inequality. The presence of the issue and distribution of these ideas to a large scale audience whether through news sources, presidential elections, books, or manifestos is a major step towards a solution by which we begin to understand the planet we share together and the respect for all lives with an unselfish view, neglecting capitalism.

 

Works Cited

Klein, Naomi. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

“Leap Manifesto Dominates National NDP Convention | News Talk 980 CKNW | Vancouver’s News. Vancouver’s Talk.” Leap Manifesto Dominates National NDP Convention | News Talk 980 CKNW | Vancouver’s News. Vancouver’s Talk. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2016.

Lukacs, Martin. “The Leap Manifesto Opens Horizon for Bold New Politics in Canada | Martin Lukacs.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 15 Apr. 2016. Web. 16 Apr. 2016.

Roberts, J. Timmons. “Global Inequality and Climate Change.” Society & Natural Resources 14.6 (2001): 501-09. Web.

 

Small Voice, Big World

In my last blog, I will deviate, but not entirely, from the theme that I had been following in my previous blogs. By focusing on the rise of behemoth companies and food chains, I want to highlight the plight and uphill battles that small-scale, traditional and organic farmers face when juxtaposed next to McDonald, Walmart, and the likes, in this ever competitive global food economy.

When I visited my friend’s aunt during fall break, driving to farmers market with her reminded me not only of my home (Nepal), but also the sad fact of how healthy food options here in the US is a luxury and a privilege. With chains like McDonald offering deals like “McPick 2 for $5” on one hand and organic produce costing more than a dollar for just an apple on the other hand, it is no surprise that healthy options are out of the expenditure equation for most of the mass population. And thus, despite the push for awareness regarding healthy diets many people are obliged to resort to cheapened (as Professor Fabos had mentioned in class), mostly sugarcoated, GMO products from the never-ending aisles of Walmart and thus most organic or traditional farmers are dissuaded from implementing sustainable methods in their fields.

Whats-in-That-Big-Mac-copy

Therefore small-scale farmers are unable to compete with juggernaut corporations like Walmart and Target. Among several negative consequences that arise from this dynamic, the ones that stand out to me are:

 

  1. Loss of traditional and sustainable farming methods
  2. Health effects that arise from consumption of GMO products
  3. Exploitation of farmers who give their produce for almost nothing in return

And even though it has been proven time again that GMO products can cause infertility, promote gastrointestinal and immune disorder, increase the use of herbicide (its effects would require a whole new blog post), and the list can go on, governments are nonchalant about these consequences. In fact, “the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for example, doesn’t require a single safety study, does not mandate labeling of GMOs, and allows companies to put their GM foods onto the market without even notifying the agency” and most of the “health and environmental risks of GMOs are ignored by governments’ superficial regulations and safety assessments.

dossi4

When the governments themselves are oblivious to the health of the people, it is no surprise that mega corporations parasitically suck farmers dry, from grabbing lands to paying abysmally low costs. Raj Patel in Stuffed and Starved paints an eerily gloomy picture of how Nestle makes profit off of Ugandan coffee farmers who are on the verge of slumping below the poverty level. I will never be able to look at a Nestle product the same now with the knowledge that they pay 14 cents per kilo (which is laughably low) of coffee beans to Ugandan farmers while they themselves make profits out of US$ 26.40 per kilo. And this is just a picture that captures one company, one set of farmers and one commodity. In a larger global scale, the exploitation and profits are magnified by insensible degrees.

101013-UKLondonNestleProtest

 

So it was a breath of fresh air when Costco announced that it would be lending money to farmers for their organic produce after it witnessed high demands for those produce, even though it is only a pilot program. And Whole Foods is also embarking on a similar journey. But do these initiatives effectively mitigate all the problems mentioned above? Personally, I don’t think so and I don’t expect them to carry all the weight on their shoulder. We have to remember that corporations like Whole Foods, although great in their own way, are projected towards and can only be afforded by select bourgeoisie and thus do not effectively solve the larger problem at hand.

So the ability to tackle this multifaceted problem that plague not just the US but places all over the globe should be undertaken by the governments. Some of the points that I took away from one of my discussion classes was the need for the governments to provide subsidies to organic and traditional small-scale farmers so they can compete effectively. On personal levels, we should overcome our obsession with perfect and glossy products and support our local farmers. Corporations like McDonald’s should be responsible to notify customers about where the products they use are sourced from (my friend from France told me that McDonald’s there have started doing so).

An Indian farmers reacts to the camera as others work at a paddy field in Mauayma village, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Allahabad, India, Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010. India's economy grew 8.8 percent in the June quarter, its fastest pace in over two years, as good farm and manufacturing output lifted growth back to its pre-crisis trajectory. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

Of course, my blog post does not hold the answer to everything. But it is a small step and I believe every single action, though it may seem inconsequential in a larger scene, is at least a step towards betterment.

Work Cited:

Jeffery Smith. “10 Reasons to Avoid GMOs.” Institute for Responsible Technology. 25 August 2011. http://responsibletechnology.org/10-reasons-to-avoid-gmos/

Ryan Grenoble. “Costco is Selling So Much Organic Produce, Farmers Can’t Keep Up.” The Huffington Post. 13 April 2016. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/costco-organic-produce-farmers-partnership_us_570d0a80e4b01422324a1f6c

Angel Gonzalez. “Largest Organic Grocer Now Costco, Analysts Say.” Seattle Times. 1 June 2015. http://www.seattletimes.com/business/retail/costco-becomes-largest-organic-grocer-analysts-say/

Christine Wang. “McDonald’s McPick 2 for $5 Menu to Feature its Classic.” CNBC. 26 February 2016. http://www.cnbc.com/2016/02/26/mcdonalds-mcpick-2-for-5-menu-to-feature-its-classics.html

Gender inequality in the workforce in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh: What needs to be done to increase female empowerment?

Progress Bar Loading with the text: Equality

          A common theme that has emerged throughout the past four blog posts is that Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi female factory workers are poorly treated due to the lack of gender equality. In contrast to the education and health sectors which have made substantial improvements, the labor market remains a primary source of gender inequality in both countries. Due to labor exploitation, sexual and physical violence, and minimal access to certain social and political advantages, women continue to be placed on a lower platform than men.

          Throughout Sri Lanka, “women make up the majority of the vulnerable groups that have emerged, which include those retrenched under economic reforms, female heads of less affluent households, and women who have been affected by armed conflict and the tsunami who have lost their livelihoods and are in urgent need of access to income earning opportunities” (Jayaweera et al., 2007, 43). Since women are relatively disadvantaged in the employment structure, they are not receiving the incomes they need to survive. Specifically, many women have sought employment in both garment factories and overseas domestic labor, in which they are solely at the bottom of the power hierarchy. The international and local labor market continues to demand low cost/low wage female workers because it has been a “comparative advantage for national policy makers” (Jayaweera et al., 2007, 44). In other words, due the presence of hierarchical gender ideologies in Sri Lanka, women are viewed as the “subordinate” group. As a result, business owners are able to treat them solely as they please in order to keep the cost of goods low and maximize their profit. Unfortunately, the gender inequality women in Sri Lanka experience goes beyond economic exploitation. In addition to low wages, female workers experience job insecurity, long working hours, hazardous working environments, physical and sexual harassment/abuse, etc. Although these issues may not always be reported, there is evident documentation proving that this is a widespread issue in Sri Lanka.

          Since increasing numbers of females have entered the workforce in Sri Lanka, the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Employers Federation of Ceylon (EFC) urge that Sri Lankan companies become more gender sensitive. According to a study commissioned by the ILO and EFC titled, “Beyond Glass Ceilings and Brick Walls; Gender at the Workplace,” there are various forms of gender bias in the Sri Lankan workforce (Samaraweera, 2006). For example, regardless of their qualifications, men have a greater chance of being recruited or hired into certain types of employment. Men are also more likely to be promoted to higher positions. What’s interesting about this finding is that men are not always promoted based on their track record for better performance or better decision making skills (Samaraweera, 2006). In other words, male workers can easily be promoted to top positions simply because they are male and are viewed as the “superior gender” in Sri Lanka. With this being said, because women are perceived as the “inferior gender,” they are primarily concentrated in lower positions. Although business owners may be benefiting from the goods workers are producing, companies in the long run are not making the most of educated human resources by hiring and promoting males strictly due to their gender and not necessarily their qualifications. Gender inequality becomes an important issue because both men and women have equal potential in the workforce. The main barrier to achieving gender equality are the biases and stereotypes surrounding women. Therefore, the most effective way to help women begin to get ahead in the workforce is to facilitate women’s empowerment.

          Similar to Sri Lankan women, Bangladeshi women face many barriers and disadvantages in their lives that go beyond a lack of economic opportunity. The other main struggles women encounter in Bangladesh are access to health care, political participation, and control of finances (Hasan, 2016). Specifically, Bangladeshi women are fighting to establish their rights in family, society, and in the state; however, discriminatory laws and policies hinder formal equality and certain social and political conditions continue to prevent women from exercising their rights (World Vision International, 2016). Another challenge is that even though there are certain laws to prevent violence against women, the enforcement of these laws remains unsatisfactory. Fortunately, the USAID has been working to set up programs in Bangladesh that solely focus on women’s empowerment. The USAID seeks to increase female participation, reduce gender inequality, and raise awareness about the positive impacts of empowering women and girls throughout society (Hasan, 2016). For example, in 2014 the USAID programs in Bangladesh trained more than 33,000 women farmers to use fertilizer deep placement technology; as a result, this helped them reduce fertilizer use by as much as 30 percent while increasing crop yields up to 20 percent (Hasan, 2016). Not only is the USAID working to place women on the same platform as men, but their advocacy is increasing community connectedness throughout Bangladesh. Additionally, men have become more knowledgeable on these gender issues and are starting to form joint alliances to help fight for the equal status of women. The USAID programs in Bangladesh can positively affect Sri Lanka as well because the USAID has the power and resources to expand their advocacy in other countries or regions in which gender inequality is an evident issue.

          Gender issues are fortunately now being prioritized by aid and development agencies as seen in the USAID programs in Bangladesh. However, gender inequality remains one of the biggest development challenges of the twenty first century. Therefore, it is important to conclude with a discussion of how the world can be a more equitable place for women and girls. The western newspaper, The Guardian, recently published an article discussing twelve steps that need to be taken to achieve gender equality on a global scale. One of these solutions is to stop sexual harassment. In Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, in particular, sexual harassment is a prominent issue in both the workforce and other areas of life. Not only is sexual harassment a violation of fundamental human rights, but it is also a major barrier to women’s full potential (Leach, 2016).  Another important solution that has been discussed multiple times throughout my blog posts is the need to give proper value to “women’s work.” Specifically, the low-waged work women and girls do provide the foundation for the global economy. Increased research and awareness on this point would be beneficial in emphasizing the key role women and girls have in the economy and the need for proper recognition and compensation (Leach, 2016). In addition, there needs to be a global increase in campaigns for equal pay and equal work. Lastly, there is a need to stop violence. Gender inequality is associated with violence; because women are viewed as inferior to men, they can be treated a sexual objects. The UN has found that globally, one in three women will experience violence in her lifetime (Leach, 2016). Fortunately, many actors, including the UN, ILO, and USAID have done a significant amount of advocacy work to raise more awareness on the issue of violence against women and discuss effective prevention and response strategies. However, there is still a lot more work that needs to be done until women experience true equality with men in all facets of life.

References

Hasan, W. (2016). GENDER EQUALITY AND WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT. USAID. https://www.usaid.gov/bangladesh/gender-equality-and-womens-empowerment

Jayaweera, S., Wijemanne, H., Wanasundera, L., & Vitarana, K. M. (2007). Gender Dimensions of the Millennium Development Goals in Sri Lanka (Publication). Colombo: Centre for Women’s Research. http://www.undp.org/content/dam/srilanka/docs/mdg/Gender_Dimensions%20of%20Sri%20Lanka.pdf

Leach, A. (2016, March 14). 12 steps to achieve gender equality in our lifetimes. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2016/mar/14/gender-equality-women-girls-rights-education-empowerment-politics  

Samaraweera, D. (2006). Working women of Sri Lanka dealing with brick walls and glass ceilings. Sunday Times. Ik. Retrieved from http://www.sundaytimes.lk/060813/ft/4.4.html  

World Vision International: Bangladesh (2016). Gender equality. Retrieved from http://www.wvi.org/bangladesh/gender-equality  

 

AED: Agriculture, Environment, Development

What are the relationships between agriculture, the environment and development? What should be the relationships between agriculture, the environment and development? Development thinking has, for a long time, focused almost solely on economics. GDP per capita has been the standard measure of how developed a country is. Agriculture has been heavily influenced by this thinking, with the expansion of industrial agriculture owned by transnational corporations. This can increase agricultural productivity in the short term, but can also have negative environmental consequences, and negative effects on local populations. Recently there has been a movement towards taking into account environmental and social consequences in development thinking that are not necessarily connected to economic indicators.

The importance of agriculture in developing countries was highlighted recently by famine throughout Africa. Rains have failed and temperatures have risen, leaving millions without food from Ethiopia to South Africa. This is partly due to Climate Change, and also to a particularly strong el-nino (2016). In particular this has put into sharp contrast Ethiopia’s recent surge in GDP growth, with its ability to prevent famine (see my last post).

The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is one organization that is influential in development thinking and practice. The foundation widely supports agriculture in developing countries. They especially focus on small farmers, and women, trying to target the most marginalized sections of society. Their stated goal is to “help all people lead healthy, productive lives.” This is one definition of development, and agriculture factors prominently in its achievement. The Gates Foundation specifically aims to increase the productivity of small farmers in an effort to bring prosperity to poor rural areas, and enable them to send their children to school. Their goal is to also do this in an environmentally friendly manner (2011). These appear to be laudable goals, that not many people would disagree with. However, many charities, including the Gates Foundation, have been criticized for not truly delivering on the improvements they say they will make. After completing a project and funding dries up, often the effects of that project dry up as well. In addition, the Gates Foundation mentions explicitly their funding of projects involving the research on and use of transgenic crops, which many environmental groups do not approve of.

Another viewpoint is through an academic and engineering lens. Sreekala Bajwa is a professor at North Dakota State University who is an agricultural engineer. He advocates an approach called precision agriculture. This approach requires the studying of specific environmental conditions on any land being farmed, as well as increased communication between farmers in the same area. This system allows farmers to know exactly how much irrigation, fertilizer, pesticides, etc. to use. According to Bajwa this will maximize production while reducing the carbon footprint and other negative consequences of agriculture (2015). However, many poor small farmers, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, would have difficulty affording any of the technology or materials required to use this technique, and environmentalists often disagree with the use of any chemical fertilizers or pesticides.

In contrast to this view that agriculture is primarily a scientific and engineering issue, Annalies Zoomers, a professor of International Development, and George Schoneveld, a Scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research in Nairobi, view agriculture in its place in the middle of social, political and economic practices. They advocate Inclusive Green Growth (IGG). Under IGG governments would play a bigger role in ensuring private investment, especially from transnational corporations (TNCs) would benefit everyone, as well as stopping land grabbing. Governments would concentrate more on aiding small farmers, including building infrastructure that would benefit everyone. Food should be produced by and for the local community and only exported when there is a surplus. The authors argue that these changes are necessary to achieve IGG, which has failed in the recent past due to the diminishing of the state and the power of the private sector. One main challenge that the authors admit is that in order to make these changes, a strong government is necessary, and strong governments are lacking in many places, especially Africa (2015). There are also questions about how productive agriculture can be without significant technological improvements. IGG extends to much more than just agriculture, though. It includes all natural resources and environmental protections. One recent innovation in attempting to achieve IGG gets around the troubles experienced by African governments. A group of Zambian villagers is suing the TNC Vedanta for polluting their water through mining operations…in London. Vedanta is based in London, and although its transgression was perpetrated in Zambia it might be held to account in its hometown (Vidal 2016). There are precedents for this in Europe, but so far none in America.

Incorporating social and environmental factors, such as food security, in development is a contentious issue. Recently there have been many ideas put forward, some of which I have written about such as low-carbon growth, green economy, agroecology and IGG. It is clear that humanity as a whole needs to increase agricultural production, but we also need to decrease our negative effects on the environment and decrease inequality. Treating development as purely economical and relying on free markets has not worked for us so far. It should be acceptable for states, especially wealthy states, to not have continuous economic growth. Food security should be more important than economic growth. Economic growth is not desirable if it only benefits a small percentage of a population and destroys the environment. Consumption should not be the ideal of a society. In order to feed everyone on Earth we need to waste less food. We need to improve scientific knowledge and technology related to agriculture. We need to promote social well-being as much as economic development. We need to support governments who will do what is best for everyone, and not special interests. Most of all we need to think to the future so that we will be able to continue to survive in the long term.

Bibliography

Bajwa, S. (2015). Precision Agriculture and International Development. Engineering & Technology for a Sustainable World. Retrieved from: http://go.galegroup.com/ps/retrieve.do?sort=DA-SORT&docType=Article&tabID=T002&prodId=AONE&searchId=R1&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&searchType=AdvancedSearchForm&contentSegment=&currentPosition=23&searchResultsType=SingleTab&inPS=true&userGroupName=mlin_c_clarkunv&docId=GALE%7CA405807060&contentSet=GALE%7CA405807060

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (2011). Agricultural Development: Strategy Overview. Global Development Program. Retrieved from: https://docs.gatesfoundation.org/Documents/agricultural-development-strategy-overview.pdf

IPPMedia (2016). ‘Little Boy’ devouring African Food. IPPMedia. Retrieved from: http://www.ippmedia.com/features/little-boy%E2%80%99-devouring-african-food

Schoneveld, G, & Zoomers, A. (2015). Natural resource privatisation in Sub-Saharan Africa and the challenges for inclusive green growth. International Development Planning Review. Retrieved from: http://go.galegroup.com/ps/retrieve.do?sort=DA-SORT&docType=Report&tabID=T002&prodId=AONE&searchId=R1&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&searchType=AdvancedSearchForm&contentSegment=&currentPosition=25&searchResultsType=SingleTab&inPS=true&userGroupName=mlin_c_clarkunv&docId=GALE%7CA399413678&contentSet=GALE%7CA399413678

Vidal, J. (2016). Mining Giant Vedanta Argues UK Court Should not Hear Zambia Pollution Case. The Guardian. Retrieved from: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/apr/12/mining-giant-vedanta-resources-uk-court-zambia-villagers-case-alleging-pollution

Conclusion: What is the relationship between levels of development and torture?

Torture-Activism

Torture Reality ≠ Torture Portrayal

Amnesty International describes torture as “A global crisis of barbarism, failure, and fear” (“Torture in 2014”). I think we can all agree that torture is indeed a global crisis and an international human rights issue. The question remains, however, do we apply Amnesty’s description to all acts of torture equally? Is torture in developed, particularly Western, countries more accepted than torture in the Global South?

The prevalence of torture throughout both developed and developing nations suggests that levels of development do not directly correlate with the occurrence of torture. The U.S, for example, continues to use torture in the name of national security and intelligence gathering; Spain and New Zealand join the U.S with their use of torture by law enforcement; Germany, France, and the United Kingdom all continue to accept and utilize intelligence that was obtained through illegal torture. All of these (and many more) developed, Western countries have direct and explicit ties to torture. But how often do you hear (via government officials, news outlets, etc.) about torture in these countries?

Research conducted on the media portrayal of Abu Ghraib reveals significant deficiencies in the reporting of torture by U.S news outlets. The research report explains:

Even when provided with considerable photographic and documentary evidence and the critical statements of governmental and nongovernmental actors, the nation’s leading media proved unable or unwilling to construct a coherent challenge to the administration’s claims about its policies on torturing detainees (Bennett et al, 2006).

The lack of demand for change by the U.S media directly results in a weakened perception of torture by U.S citizens. It has been established that torture occurs at all levels of development; the portrayal of torture, however, appears to play a significant role in the determining what actions receive attention, and what is categorized/ accepted as torture.

 

A Blurred Line

Though there is an international definition of torture, established by the UN Convention Against Torture, there remains a blurred line on what actions constitute torture. In a recent interview with NBC, John Brennan, director of the CIA, stated that the “agency will not engage in harsh enhanced interrogation practices” such as waterboarding (Engel & Windrem, 2016). In response to comments made by presidential candidates, Brennan said, “I will not agree to carry out some of these tactics and techniques I’ve heard bandied about because this institution needs to endure” (Engel & Windrem, 2016). Not once throughout the interview did Brennan refer to CIA actions as “torture.” He continually used the phrase “enhanced interrogation techniques” when discussing the horrific acts of the CIA.

Even Lester Holt, the reporter summarizing the interview said, “Waterboarding is a controversial technique used in the past that many call torture” and that the CIA would no longer implement “harsh interrogation techniques such as waterboarding” (Engel & Windrem, 2016). This rhetoric leaves dangerous room for the possibility that waterboarding is not actually torture (which we know is incorrect). When viewers hear “enhanced interrogation” over and over, “torture” begins to feel less significant. It was not until the very end of the report that the word “torture” was actually used. Waterboarding is indeed torture, yet some continue to refuse to call it what it is.

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz says he doesn’t believe that Waterboarding is torture. Waterboarding undoubtedly is an act which inflicts severe pain and suffering with the intent of obtaining intelligence, therefore falling under the UN definition of torture (“United Nations”). Cruz said, “Well under the definition of torture, no it [waterboarding] is not” (Kampmark, 2016).

The UN’s definition of torture is just loose enough to provide governments with grey area. Personally, I feel that “pain and suffering” should be descriptive enough for individuals to know what actions constitute torture. When it comes down to national security, however, those words take on a new weight and continue to be exploited, manipulated, and redefined by governments across the world.

 

Western Nationalism & Rationalization

As I began to explore in my post on Guantanamo Bay, and again in my post on media portrayal of torture, the United States attempts to legitimize torture in the name of national security. The rhetoric surrounding much of Western torture is centered on the safety of citizens. Governments harness the fear of their citizens, and present torture (what they call “enhanced interrogation”) as a necessary avenue of intelligence gathering. Even though the CIA senate torture report deemed Guantanamo torture unsuccessful at gathering useful and/or accurate information, governments use fear and nationalism to gain the backing of their constituents.

The 2016 U.S presidential elections have focused heavily on torture and its use to combat terrorism. Republican candidates generally support “enhanced interrogation” (read: torture) against suspected threats, and have exemplified the exploitation of fear that Western governments frequently use. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in particular have voiced (loudly) their beliefs that torture is absolutely necessary for U.S and international security.

In several GOP debates the topic of torture has been discussed; almost always, these discussions frame torture as something that the government has no choice but to perpetrate. Ted Cruz once stated, “I would use whatever enhanced interrogation methods we could to keep this country safe” (Engel & Windrem, 2016). Trump has said on multiple occasions, “I would bring back waterboarding and I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding” (Engel & Windrem, 2016). Following the recent Brussels attack, Trump stated that he would close U.S borders and, “would try to expand the laws to go beyond waterboarding” (Minnis, 2016). Even in these few examples you find the appeal to fear; the threat that without torture the lives of U.S citizens are in danger.

Trump’s rhetoric specifically focuses on the other-ing of religious groups, ethnic/racial groups, and nations. He presents certain groups as un-American and a threat to national security, which has detrimental consequences. Of course Isis is a threat, but not every Muslim is a threat; of course some terrorist attacks happen by immigrants, but not every immigrant is a terrorist. By focusing on an “us vs. them” plot, Trump is able to convince a large group of Americans that torture is necessary. He uses his slogan of “Make America Great Again” to promote blinding nationalism.

The reality of torture is that it is not necessary, or even consistently effective, for preserving national security. Much of the Western torture I found was perpetrated by some of the highest government officials, of which rely on the rationalization of torture in the name of America’s safety. While these Western countries are torturing behind locked doors “in the name of national security” they are simultaneously demonizing non-Western countries (ex: Nigeria, Syria, Mexico, the Philippines, etc.) for torturing (“Torture in 2014”).

 

Development & Torture: A Summary

I began my first blog post a tad unsure of where my research would take me. My research has enlightened me immensely and exemplified the discord between the portrayal of torture and the reality of its occurrence. Here are some of the key findings, highlights, and points I hope you takeaway from my posts:

  • Torture is not directly related to the level of development of a country; it occurs across the globe in countries of varying development.
  • Media portrayal of torture significantly impacts the public’s perception, tolerance, and categorization of torture; the portrayal of torture is not necessarily accurate to reality.
  • Mutua’s “Savage, Victim, Savior complex” can help explain the media portrayal of torture (Mutua, 2001).
  • Western/ developed torture is more widely accepted, while non-Western/ developing torture is demonized and criticized.
  • Western torture often relies on nationalism and rationalization to legitimize government use of torture.

Thank you for reading and learning with me throughout these posts!

 

References 

Bennett, W., Lawrence, R., & Livingston, S. (2006). None Dare Call It Torture: Indexing and the Limits of Press Independence in the Abu Ghraib Scandal. Journal of Communication, 56, 467-485. Retrieved April 12, 2016.

Engel, R., & Windrem, R. (2016, April 11). Director Brennan: CIA Won’t Waterboard Again — Even if Ordered by Future President. NBC. Retrieved April 12, 2016, from http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/director-brennan-cia-won-t-waterboard-again-even-if-ordered-n553756

Kampmark, B., Dr. (2016, April 9). Keeping Torture “Fashionable”: The US Presidential Elections. Retrieved April 12, 2016, from http://www.globalresearch.ca/keeping-torture-fashionable-the-us-presidential-elections/5519442

Minnis, G. (2016, March 23). Donald Trump’s Brussels Response: Close US Borders, Use Torture Tactics. Latin Post. Retrieved April 12, 2016, from http://www.latinpost.com/articles/118977/20160323/donald-trumps-brussels-response-close-us-borders-use-torture-tactics.htm

Mutua, M. (2001). Savage, Victims, and Saviors: The Metaphor of Human Rights. Harvard International Law Journal, 42(1), 201-209. Retrieved March 3, 2015.

United Nations, Convention Against Torture. (1994, July 16). Hrweb. Retrieved March 3, 2016, from http://www.hrweb.org/legal/cat.html

Torture in 2014: 30 Years of Broken Promises. (2014). Retrieved April 12, 2016, from https://www.amnestyusa.org/sites/default/files/act400042014en.pdf

Indigenous Values Should Be a Key Component of Our Response to Climate Change

http://buzz.naturalnews.com/001148-Terminator_seeds-petition-ban.html
http://buzz.naturalnews.com/001148-Terminator_seeds-petition-ban.html

Thus far, I have written posts on what sustainable development is, sustainable development in Peru, the ways indigenous land entitlement can be seen as sustainable development, the differences between community sustaining development and government mandated development and the role of microfinance and digital payment in development in Peru. To conclude this set of blog posts, I would like to write more about agriculture and development with a focus on terminator seeds (seeds that are genetically modified so that the second generation of seeds are sterile). Many problems arise from terminator seeds including soil degradation and increased farmers’ dependency on large seed providers such as Monsanto and Syngenta because new seeds need to be bought each year.

An article in a Mexican news forum, Quadratin, points out that agricultural chemicals and nitrogen fertilizer were not actually invented for agriculture but were a product of war. They report that these strong chemicals, can have serious health consequences. For example, in Peru in 1999, 24 children died because they were poisoned by eating food contaminated by Parathion, an insecticide. Problems of contamination, however, are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of all the problems caused by terminator seeds and chemical farming.

The organization Quechua-Aymara Association for Nature and Sustainable Development (ANDES) held a community meeting in 2005 to discuss the potential impacts of terminator seeds on Peruvian agriculture. About 70 indigenous leaders met together for this discussion and produced a report for the UN working group to submit at the next Convention on Biological Diversity. The main worries voiced included fear that the “pollen from terminator seeds could transfer sterility to and effectively kill off other crops and plant life (ANDES),” worry about increased dependence on monster seed distribution companies such as Monsanto and Syngenta, and concern that terminator seeds could put Peru’s 3,000 varieties of potatoes at risk as reported on History Commons. The concerns also include loss of biodiversity, “erosion of indigenous knowledge and innovation systems” which include knowledge of seed saving and exchange, loss of food sovereignty, cutting back of indigenous human rights and marginalization of women (quoted from the report itself). History Commons quoted Felipe Gonzalez, a member of the indigenous Pinchimoro community who said, “[t]erminator seeds do not have life…[l]ike a plague they will come infecting our crops and carrying sickness. We want to continue using our own seeds and our own customs of seed conservation and sharing.”

A letter signed by representatives of 34 indigenous communities provides another example of the struggle against ending the international de facto moratorium on terminator seeds. As IIED reports ‘the coalition says Syngenta’s claims that its patent for ‘terminator technology’ potatoes is neither relevant nor applicable in the region are “deeply offensive.”’ The coalition requests that Syngenta disown the patent of a genetic modification that can stop potatoes from sprouting. Despite the de facto moratorium, research continues and corporations want to see the ban revoked. One quote that really stuck out to me in this same article was said by Alejandro Argumendo who is part of ANDES. He said “We feel greatly disrespected by corporations that make a single genetic alteration to a plant and then claim private ownership when these plants are the result of thousands of years of careful breeding by indigenous people.” In the end, the moratorium on terminator seeds was not relaxed to the relief of the indigenous Quechua working so hard against it in Peru as well as to people all over the world yet an end to the moratorium in the future is still a very real possibility.

One prime example of a program ANDES operates that works with bio cultural conservation is the Potato Park where six Quechua communities live and cultivate about 1,500 varieties of potato. As the ANDES website explains “[t]he communities’ traditional knowledge, customary laws and spiritual beliefs that nurture these resources are in turn shaped and sustained by the Andean ancestral landscapes and their sacred mountain gods or Apus.”

Respect for indigenous values and traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples “is a key component in the response to climate change.” Various organizations, including ANDES are coming together to bring attention to the power of having indigenous cultural and spiritual values as central in the fight to slow global warming.  The brief “Indigenous spiritual and cultural values to guide climate change adaptation” quotes Karenna Gore, the director of Center for Earth Ethics saying, “[i]ndigenous spirituality seeks powerful connection to larger purposes and meaning, celebrates biodiversity and promotes inclusion…[t]he world especially needs that kind of worldview at this time. This great body of knowledge has a wealth of adaptive capacity. It not only protects the wellbeing of indigenous peoples; it also promotes an awareness of our deep interconnected relationship with nature that can enhance our world as a whole.” This powerful quote resonates with me personally. I strongly believe that indigenous valuation of the earth must be central to a reformed society that is truly able to take care of the earth, which is why I chose to write my blog posts on the topic of sustainable development and the Quechua and Aymara peoples of Peru.

 

 

WORKS CITED:

Alcalá, Salvador. “Los Orgánicos.” Quadratin. 04 Mar. 2015. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. <https://www.quadratin.com.mx/opinion/Los-organicosSalvador-Alcala-6/>.

“Biocultural Conservation – Sallqa Ayllu.” ANDES. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. <http://www.andes.org.pe/program-biocultural-conservation-sallqa-ayllu-about>.

“COP21 ANDES in Paris.” Asociación ANDES. 9 Dec. 2015. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. <http://www.andes.org.pe/note-cop21-andes-in-paris-2>.

“Indigenous Peoples of Cusco, Peru on the Potential Impacts of Terminator.” Letter to Hamdallah Zedan. 27 Sept. 2005. 27 Sept. 2005. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.

“‘Insulted’ Andean Farmers Pick GM Potato Fight with Multinational Syngenta.” International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). 12 Jan. 2007. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. <http://www.iied.org/insulted-andean-farmers-pick-gm-potato-fight-multinational-syngenta>

Profile: Quechua-Aymara Association for Nature and Sustainable Development (ANDES).” History Commons. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. <http://www.historycommons.org/entity.jsp?entity=quechua-aymara_association_for_nature_and_sustainable_development>.

You Think You Own What Ever Land You Land On

This post deviates from the focus of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) due to my desire to further discuss land grabbing.

Land grabbing simply is International land holding where government, corporations, or speculators, own the rights to lands in other countries. Yes, the control of land in another country! This phenomenon goes back to colonial days which SIDS are all too familiar with. Presently, land grabbing doesn’t appear to be a problem within SIDS (probably do to finite land availability), most of it is occurring in Africa and Latin America.

‘Land grabbing’ re-emerged in the context of a spike in global food prices in 2007-2008. Local communities and farmers have been evicted from land they long regarded as their own. In the documentary, Good Fortune, addressing land grabbing in Kenya, Locals discuss their struggles with fighting to protect their lively hoods, community, and even health. They speak on how they are made to feel poor when in fact they do not see it that way. However, further disruption from development is making them poor. In the film it showed the new rice farm is effecting their water causing it to flood good agricultural land and effecting the ecosystem. As land is grabbed and reserved for development, this often has implications for the water nearby. They spray pesticides and other chemicals which contaminate water sources that locals have to drink, making them sick. Locals aren’t sitting back and passively accepting this. Recently, residents of Kirimon in Samburu Central Sub-County have protested over what they say is illegal grabbing of 10,000 acres of public land meant to benefit their community. This is common among targeted communities. They are making their demands, but they fall on deaf ears.

Despite these serious implications, various arguments are made that try to reinforce land grabbing as ‘acceptable’ that are very short sighted in my opinion. A popular stance that reinforces land grabbing is that there is an availability of excess land where investment can be turned into income and jobs for developing countries. Worldwide the areas being targeted for this kind of large-scale investment are being portrayed as ‘empty’, ‘marginal’, ‘idle’ or ‘degraded’ land, largely unpopulated, unused, unproductive, and unlikely to compete with local food production. The World Bank has been key to sustaining this view. Leading people to believe that agriculture needs investment, particularly foreign investment.

Another stance is that large-scale land deals are necessary to deal with food and oil scarcity. Even though this contributes to the environmental exploitation in regard to climate change. Advocates stressed the need to develop alternative non-fossil fuel-derived, renewable energy sources to achieve higher levels of energy security, while at the same time, combat climate change through ‘greener’ fuels. However, both of these arguments oversimplify complex realities. Conveniently, the problem is reduced to mere supply.

Food scarcity is a big motivator, however, they fail to acknowledge that there is already more than enough food in the system to feed the world’s population. In reality, food security is challenged by costs, harvests loss, waste, and the diversion of land use for production of non-food industrial products. We debate oil scarcity but do not acknowledge serious inefficiencies in the management of our finite fossil fuel supply, such as, a huge and increasing global commercial transport sector that moves industrial food and non-food products long distances across the world. They also ignore the fact that industrial agriculture and industrial livestock production are major emitters of key greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane).

In all honesty I don’t get it. I don’t get how we can pretend that this phenomenon is acceptable and ok. Especially in the form it takes on with disrupting lives. Land purchases which ignore the interests of local communities and the local landscapes are both morally wrong and commercially short-sighted. We need action both nationally and globally to stop them. It looks like racism, I can see the colonial roots embedded in this and it’s wrong. Is it just me or does anyone see? It’s environmental injustice. How can you go to a country whose society isn’t built on privatization/that type of ownership and exalt your control and power there?

*As I was researching and writing this I kept thinking about Pocahontas and the famous song, Colors of The Wind.

“You think I’m an ignorant savage

And you’ve been so many places

I guess it must be so

But still I cannot see

If the savage one is me

How can there be so much that you don’t know

You don’t know

 

You think you own whatever land you land on

The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim

But I know every rock and tree and creature

Has a life, has a spirit, has a name…”

 

 

Bowman, Mark. “Land Rights, Not Land Grabs, Can Help Africa Feed Itself.” CNN. Cable News Network, 18 June 2013. Web. <http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/18/opinion/land-grabs-africa-mark-bowman/index.html>.

Franco, Jennifer C. “Are African Land Grabs Really Water Grabs?” CNN. Cable News Network, 22 Mar. 2013. Web. <http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/22/opinion/water-grabs-africa/index.html>.

Good Fortune. Prod. Landon Van Soest. Dir. Landon Van Soest. Filmakers Library, 2010. DVD.

Keti, Johnston. “SAMBURU: Residents Protest Land Grabbing.” Daily Nation. N.p., 28 Mar. 2016. Web. <http://www.nation.co.ke/counties/Samburu-residents-protest-land-grabbing/-/1107872/3136504/-/8pmnagz/-/index.html>.

Woertz, Eckart. “The Global Land Grab Phenomenon.” Oil for Food The Global Food Crisis and the Middle East (2013): 143-60. Reliefweb.com. Oct. 2012. Web. <http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/landgrabbingprimer.pdf>.

The Media Portrayal of Torture & Its Consequences

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Shhh…Don’t say the “t” word

When reading articles regarding U.S torture, you are almost guaranteed to find adjectives such as “brutal,” “harsh,” and “extreme” used to describe the torture by the CIA at Guantanamo (Mirkinson, 2014). Of course, we can’t forget the “enhanced interrogation” phrase that many also like to throw around. Though the findings of the CIA Senate Torture Report concludes that the actions at Guantanamo were indeed torture, it continues to be difficult to find a news outlet that will use the forbidden “t” word.

With the release of the senate report there was naturally an influx of articles and news reports on Guantanamo. Jack Mirkinson of the Huffington Post explains that though the information is newly released, what isn’t new is “the media’s persistent dance around the word at the heart of the entire story: ‘torture’” (Mirkinson, 2014). He references one study, which found that when the Bush administration began using waterboarding as an interrogation method, many major media outlets stopped defining the practice as torture (Mirkinson, 2014). Mirkinson provides examples of some of the country’s largest news outlets, including MSNBC, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, all of which avoided using the word torture (Mirkinson, 2014).

Where the word torture is most commonly found is in alternative news outlets such as Truthout, a nonprofit organization “dedicated to providing independent news and commentary on a daily basis” (Ahmed, 2014). In an article titled, The United States Is Committing Brutal Acts of Torture Right Now, Truthout writer Nafeez Ahmed writes, “Media coverage of the Senate report has largely whitewashed the extent to which torture has always been an integral and systematic intelligence practice since the Second World War…” (Ahmed, 2014). AlternativeNews, The Real News Network, and AlterNet are all additional independent news outlets that not only use the word torture but also explicitly call out mainstream media for failing to do so. The problem remains though, that a large portion, I would suspect the majority, of Americans rely on mainstream news outlets for their information.

 

The Double Standard

The rhetoric used by the U.S mainstream media in regards to foreign torture, on the other hand, is almost astonishing. One New York Time’s headline reads, Organizations Say Torture Is Widespread in Libya Jails (Stack, 2012). A Washington Post article claims, China must be pressed to end torture by police (Wang, 2015). The list can continue for pages, with no hesitation from U.S news outlets to use the word torture when referring to other countries.

What is particularly interesting is the lack of consistency in U.S reporting. A study from the Joan Shorenstein Center at Harvard reveals a significant shift in the way that U.S news outlets have covered torture. From the 1930’s until 2004, newspapers that reported on waterboarding almost always considered it torture; “The New York Times characterized it thus in 81.5% of articles on the subject and The Los Angeles Times did so in 96.3% of articles” (Linkins, 2010). Following 2002 (around the time when the Bush administration began implementing waterboarding), those same newspapers rarely referred to waterboarding as torture; “The New York Times called waterboarding torture or implied it was torture in just 1.4% of articles. The Los Angeles Times did so in 4.8% of articles. The Wall Street Journal characterized the practice as torture in just 1.6% of articles. USA Today never called waterboarding torture or implied it was torture” (Linkins, 2010).

When it comes to other countries’ use of waterboarding, the study showed no reluctance to use the “t” word:

In The New York Times, 85.8% of articles that dealt with a country other than the United States using waterboarding called it torture or implied it was torture while only 7.69% did so when the United States was responsible. The Los Angeles Times characterized the practice as torture in 91.3% of articles when another country was the violator, but in only 11.4% of articles when the United States was the perpetrator (Linkins, 2010).

 

Development and Torture

Spain and New Zealand join the United States in the group of developed countries that use torture (Gallagher, 2014 & Brooking, 2014). Additionally, the Human Rights Watch has accused France, Germany and the United Kingdom of using intelligence that was gathered by using torture (“No Questions,” 2010). There are, of course, numerous other developed countries that use torture but receive minimal attention (Noack, 2014). Why then, is there little mainstream media coverage of these developed, particularly Western, countries?

It seems that Western, especially American, news outlets are the groups afraid to call Western torture what it truly is. CJ Werlemen, a writer for the Middle East Eye, has no hesitation in calling out the U.S, writing, “Americans are pro-torture and proud of it” (Werleman, 2016). An article in the Iran Daily is titled, Guantanamo prisoner recounts ordeal, tortured by guards (“Guantanamo prisoner,” 2016). To my surprise, alongside Saudi Arabia, The United Arab Emirates, Cuba, Burundi, China, Vietnam, Syria, Eritrea, and Iran, the United Nations Human Rights Council recently called out the U.S and U.K for torture (“United Nations,” 2016).

Other organizations and media outlets, though, place a much larger emphasis on developing, non-Western countries that torture. One article by The Guardian is titled, Afghanistan officials sanctioned murder, torture and rape, says report (Graham-Harrison, 2015). Even Amnesty International uses different rhetoric when discussing U.S torture versus discussing other countries that torture. Their headline for U.S torture reads, for example, U.S Needs Accountability for Torture (“Demand Accountability”). Their Mexico torture campaign, on the other hand, reads, Torture in Mexico is Out of Control, followed by horrific descriptions of Mexican torture (“Police and soldiers”). “Out of Control” is quite a powerful phrase and creates a very specific picture of Mexican torture. Amnesty’s current torture campaign states that their “priority countries” are Mexico, the Philippines, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan, coincidentally all non-Western countries (“Global Campaign”).

The studies, headlines, and articles show a clear focus on torture in developing, non-Western countries. Though torture occurs in countless developed nations, there is a lack of demand for developed, Western countries’ accountability. The rhetoric surrounding torture in developing, non-Western countries convey barbarism and ruthlessness while weaker words such as “brutal,” “enhanced,” or “harsh” are used to describe Western torture. This language choice is powerful, influencing perceptions and ultimately categorization. Though the same actions may be occurring in two different countries, the way in which each is portrayed impacts the public’s tolerance for those actions. Hearing that the U.S is using enhanced interrogation, for example, is much different than hearing that torture in Mexico is out of control. This discrepancy determines which countries get demonized and which countries are left to perpetrate torture behind closed doors. Hearing “out of control” conveys urgency, but isn’t the CIA’s torture at Guantanamo also “out of control?” When the media, activist organizations, and news sources stop considering an action to be torture, is that action no longer torture? Why does media portrayal appear to supersede international law? Perhaps most importantly, why are developing, non-Western countries portrayed as savage, while developing countries are also committing horrific acts?

 

Next Week: A summary of findings and conclusion on the relationship between development and torture.

 

References

Ahmed, N. (2014, December 23). The United States Is Committing Brutal Acts of Torture Right Now. Truthout. Retrieved April 7, 2016, from http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/28177-america-is-committing-brutal-acts-of-torture-right-now

Brooking, R. (2013, September 30). 80% of countries use torture – New Zealand is one. Pundit. Retrieved April 7, 2016, from http://pundit.co.nz/content/80-of-countries-use-torture-–-new-zealand-is-one

Country Classification (Rep.). (2014). Retrieved April 7, 2016, from World Economic Situation and Prospects website: http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/policy/wesp/wesp_current/2014wesp_country_classification.pdf

Demand Accountability for Torture and Abuse. (n.d.). Retrieved April 7, 2016, from http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/torture/accountability-for-torture

Gallagher, E. (2014, February 4). Spain: More than 6,600 cases of torture or ill-treatment by police since 2004. Revolution News. Retrieved April 7, 2016, from https://revolution-news.com/spain-6600-cases-torture-ill-treatment-police-since-2004/

Graham-Harrison, E. (2015, March 3). Afghanistan officials sanctioned murder, torture and rape, says report. The Guardian. Retrieved April 7, 2016, from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/03/afghanistan-allies-sanctioned-torture-murder-report-human-rights-watch

Global Campaign to Stop Torture – Focus on priority countries. (n.d.). Retrieved April 7, 2016, from http://www.amnesty.ca/our-work/projects/global-campaign-to-stop-torture-focus-on-priority-countries

Guantanamo prisoner recounts ordeal, tortured by guards. (2014, December 14). The Iran Daily. Retrieved April 7, 2016, from http://www.iran-daily.com/News/57362.html

Linkins, J. (2010, June 30). Once America Started Waterboarding, Major Newspapers Stopped Referring To It As Torture, Says Study. The Huffington Post. Retrieved April 7, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06/30/once-america-started-wate_n_631447.html

Mirkinson, J. (2014, April 14). The Media Is Still Dancing Around The Word ‘Torture’. The Huffington Post. Retrieved April 7, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/14/media-torture-senate-report-cia_n_5138450.html

No Questions Asked (Rep.). (2010, June 29). Retrieved April 7, 2016, from Human Rights Watch website: https://www.hrw.org/report/2010/06/29/no-questions-asked/intelligence-cooperation-countries-torture

Noack, R. (2014, December 12). Most countries are against torture – but most have also been accused of it. The Washington Post. Retrieved April 7, 2016, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2014/12/12/most-countries-are-against-torture-but-most-have-also-been-accused-of-it/

Police and soldiers rape, beat up, suffocate and electrocute men and women as a way to get supposed ‘confessions’. (n.d.). Retrieved April 7, 2016, from https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2015/10/stop-torture-mexico/

Stack, L. (2012, January 26). Organizations Say Torture Is Widespread in Libya Jails. The New York Times. Retrieved April 9, 2016, from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/27/world/africa/groups-denounce-widespread-use-of-torture-in-libya.html?_r=0

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