Monday, September 08, 2008

Climate Change and the Future Ahead of Us

Ishita Dey

Walter Kälin, Representative of the Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons and Co-Director, Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement has introduced a new dimension in the discussion on climate change. He strongly feels that the debate needs to move beyond what terms we propose to use for the affected. Do we term them as “ environmental migrants”, “climate change refugees: Instead he feels that we need to identify specific scenarios which will trigger displacement and migration. He has proposed five specific scenarios which is likely to create migration and displacement. He feels that the international protection mechanisms should be abe address to the following problems. Excerpts from his speech are provided below:-

1.The increase of hydro-meteorological disasters (flooding, hurricanes/typhoons /cyclones, mudslides etc) is going to affect the African and Asian mega deltas. Though the displaced should receive protection under the existing 1998 Guiding Principles on Internal displacement some people might be forced to cross “borders” and according to the present international protection mechanisms they will not qualify as economic migrants or as refugees.

2.Disasters will increase the need for governments to designate areas as high-risk zones too dangerous for human habitation. This means that people may have to be (forcibly) evacuated and displaced from their lands and prohibited from returning to them, and relocated to safe areas. This will occur, for example, because of an increased risk of mudslides in mountain regions, andalong rivers and on coastal plains prone to flooding. The difference between this situation and other forms of disaster-induced displacement is that return usually will not be possible.

3.Environmental degradation and slow onset disasters (e.g. reduction of water availability, desertification, recurrent flooding, salination of costal zones etc.).

4.The case of “sinking” small island states caused by rising sea levels constitutes a particular challenge.

5.A decrease in essential resources (water; food production) due to climate change may well trigger armed conflict and violence: This is most likely to affect regions that have reduced water availability and that cannot easily adapt (e.g. by switching to economic activities requiring less water) due to poverty.

For the detailed speech please click on the link given in the right hand column

Displaced Lives

Debdatta Chowdhury

‘Once a displaced, always a displaced’. Instances are abounding as if to hold the phrase true. Lebanon is just another story in the already full plate of displacement and re-displacement stories. The report on 23 July 2008 by Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) put the figure of displaced Palestinians and Lebanese to 24,000 from Nahr el-Bared camp in Lebanon following three months of fighting in 2007 between Fatah al-Islam and the Lebanese army. The camps having been hard-hit by the fighting is not being able to accommodate its dwellers. The displaced lot is living a life of perpetual displacement. For those who have returned to the camps, life is all the more miserable due to the lack or rather absence of the minimum living facilities or livelihoods. Twenty-five years of instability and occupation have destroyed the basic socio-economic fabric needed for return of the refugees.. Most of the displaced Palestinians still have to rely on the humanitarian agencies for the supply of food and shelter. With increasing security measures in Lebanon since June 2008, the refugees are concerned about their own safety. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and the Government of Lebanon launched a comprehensive three-year plan to rebuild the camp and the surrounding areas.

But these humanitarian actions are not able to raise hopes. And not without reasons. Though the Taif Agreement of 1989 declared the return of the displaced necessary for reconciliation and sustainable peace, most of the displaced people after the hostilities between Hizbullah and Israel in 2006 were unable to return to the camps due to continuing instances of sporadic attacks, cluster bombs and lost livelihoods. Unresolved cases of property disputes also make the process of returning of the refugees complicated. Life threats coupled with inflation in building materials make the process of return difficult by delaying the process of compensation payments and rebuilding. Most of the cluster munitions are planfully dropped around 72 hours before the ceasefire to create a prolonged atmosphere of threat and inhibit the process of return. Thus, surveillance measures and humanitarian efforts are no signal that the displaced are soon to return to their camps. With bombings and attacks being a constant fear-factor around the camps, the refugees continue to live a displaced and thus, uncertain life.

To read the full article please click on the link given on the right column:-

Gender, Conflict and Migration. Vol. 3, Ed. Navnita Chadha Behera, Series Editor, Meenakshi Thapan

Tarangini Sriraman

Navnita Chadha Behera in her introduction argues that feminist knowledge is transformative knowledge and this point illustrated in an admirably layered manner through their conceptual, empirical, first-hand and sometimes personal narratives by the contributors to this volume. This volume amply substantiates Behera’s claim that foregrounding the structural nature as well as the individual instances of gender discrimination is necessary to the analysis of gendered experiences of women in the face of conflict and conflict-driven migration. This book is the third in a series of five volumes. The other volumes explore aspects of gendered migration in relation to the politics of identity, poverty, work and marriage. Meenakshi Thapan in her series introduction describes the commitment of the contributors to unravel the migration of women as prompted by independent and self-sustaining reasons. As a whole, the book critiques migration as a universal process that men and women participate in for similar reasons. The various essays are rounded in their perception of the ‘vulnerability’ of women before, during, and after conflict, citing different sources of vulnerability of women to state power, institutional frameworks and social norms. But refreshingly different, is their treatment of the possibilities of the empowerment of women, however ambivalent, in situations of forced migration.

Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake describes the opportunities and the relative freedoms that present themselves to internally displaced, especially younger generation, Tamil and Muslim women in post-conflict zones in north-east Sri Lanka in the form of a distance from caste and gender hierarchies, newfound responsibilities for engaging with authorities and discovering new “spaces of economic agency” (p.178) Senanayake allows both civilian and armed women the experience of such agency, though there is no mistaking her scepticism of the form that such agency enjoyed by women in combatant roles takes, given that they are often co-opted by ethnic, national aspirations. These possibilities are somewhat diluted though by such women’s encounters with violence at the hands of emasculated husbands and their constant fear of regression to a pre-war gender status quo in situations of peace. Mary O’ Kane too invokes the term ‘empowerment’ in her descriptions of the women’s movement in Burma’s borderlands with Thailand among other countries. In an astonishing narrative, she describes the bold efforts of some women activists who take advantage of their statelessness to lobby for international recognition of the Burmese opposition movement. Mary Kane is however keen to emphasize the determination of these women to challenge subservient notions of women’s participation and to make their movement one for women’s rights as much as for democracy. Especially novel is her treatment of borders as implying transversal, porous, non-static boundaries marked by forms of political expression and interactions between local and global.

If Senanayake and Mary Kane challenge traditional perceptions of displacement, so does Nayanika Mookherjee. Apart from outlining the new skills and capabilities that women in East Pakistan discovered during the war that resulted in the creation of Bangladesh, she complicates the tale of migration as something that can entail adventure, romance and discovery without obscuring the well-known persecution and slaughter that the period saw. She employs the narrative of the Bengali film ‘Muktir Gaan’ to insert heterogeneous, compositely gendered, middle class receptions of the war, reminding us that a wide section of the middle class along with villagers and workers were affected by the war. In capturing such varied class experiences of the war, Mookherjee also attempts to challenge settled notions of the ‘subaltern’ and the discounting of experiences other than the subaltern ones in the context of migration and Bangladesh, a country which immediately evokes images of squalor and fleeing refugees.

Another theme that the contributors approach from different directions is the theme of citizenship. Contemplating citizenship as something that is within the reach of the conflict-stricken people of East Pakistan, Mookherjee raises the question of citizenship as “the conjuring of citizenship rights” rather than “forfeiting citizenship rights” (p.88). Urvashi Butalia links citizenship with troubled questions of choice in the face of nation, family and community and in the context of abducted women who are conferred citizenship through their mediating relationship with their husbands. Consequently, in the tug of forcible recovery between India and Pakistan, and between East and West Pakistan, not only were women forced to be citizens of this or that country against their choice, but their children, because they were fathered by kafirs or infidels, were denied citizenship and given away for adoption. Rita Manchanda too writes on such mediated citizenship, but she exposes the predicament of Bhutanese refugee women in Nepal who have to cower under the protection of their male relatives for their access to daily rations as household cards are usually issued to male heads of the family (except in the rare instance of divorce). Both Butalia and Manchanda argue against fraught conceptual distinctions between forced and voluntary migration, refugee and migrant, migration and dislocation, with Manchanda outlining the various instances of different countries in South Asia infantilising their migrant women.

The essays in this volume are particularly sensitive to the aesthetics, politics and memories of various spaces, the most predominant of these being the space of ‘home’. In her recounting of the experiences of displacement of Afghan women to Pakistan, Saba Gul Khattak deconstructs conflict , focusing attention on the attack that such conflict entails on the ‘homes’ of these women, breaking a silence that many feminists keep on this space, owing to their aversion to this space that they associate with domestic violence. But Khattak revives this space as laden with identities, their creativity, nurturing memories of warmth and plenty, relationships that Afghan refugee women cherished. They often likened their home with their ‘watan’ or nation, though many of them appreciated the deceptive protection that home held out and reconciled themselves to never being able to return home. Anasua Basu Raychaudhury captures similar moods of nostalgia for home among refugees from present-day Bangladesh in the bleak surroundings of the Cooper’s camp in West Bengal immediately after the partition of Pakistan. Others like Butalia are more suspicious of women’s homes as a space which weighs heavily on Indian and Pakistani women as they are forced to return home to satisfy community and state expectations.

Most of the authors are conscious of memory as a complex tool that guides personal narratives but also leads them to blur different periods of time. Raychaudhury for instance remarks that the past, present and future ceased to have their separate character for an East Bengal-based refugee woman in Cooper’s Camp, largely due to the uninterrupted suffering that she underwent. Others like Khattak comment on the abiding comfort that memory provides to refugee women far away from home, though it became tainted a little with the painful unfolding of events. Furrukh A.Khan however makes a crucial link between memory and certain kinds of narratives: state narratives or meta-narratives invariably delineate memory of a nation’s history as a coherent, chronologically unfolding, almost inevitable account of events while individual stories are often punctuated with breaks of forgetfulness, pain and confused recreation of events. According to Khan, state narratives fall back on community-specific images of violence, seldom capturing the abrupt moment of dislocation or the disruptions in livelihood caused by conflict and migration and focusing instead on grief on a grand scale. Many others like Nayanika Mookherjee, Urvashi Butalia and Rita Manchanda also critique state narratives as they entail not only incomplete histories but also dangerous policy implications as in the construction of a certain movement of people in history as voluntary migration.

The last two essays discuss the limitations of implementing the international refugee and asylum law in South Asia and the restrictive application of the refugee asylum law in judgements concerning South Asian applicants in UK respectively. Oishik Sircar identifies the various banes of the international refugee law as it is implemented in South Asia, its constricting definitions of what constitutes persecution against women, who the perpetrators of violence can be---private actors are often discounted, and which kinds of conflict yield to legitimate persecution. Sircar makes a strong case for evolving clear national and refugee asylum laws in South Asia. Anthony Good narrates a bewildering story of case law in determining asylum eligibility of South Asian applicants, especially women, in the UK. In excluding many applicants from asylum protection, courts mostly found that their membership in a ‘social group’ or the invocation of ‘political opinion’ did not conform to the Courts’ interpretations of the Convention reasons. They therefore denied women asylum if they were persecuted by private armed groups, state-employed soldiers acting in an individual capacity, or if they were persecuted for expressing what the courts construed as personal opinion (as against political opinions).

Immensely satisfactory in the range of subjects it intends to cover, this volume must however be faulted with being crowded in its eagerness to bring together the dynamic themes of gender, conflict and migration. Faced with the task of making links between them, the authors sometimes cramp ideas that interfere with their mostly well-reasoned arguments. But this may be inevitable in a volume that is determined to uncover and reframe in an as comprehensive way as possible the gendered nature of conflict and conflict-driven migration.

Resistance to Displacement through Forest Rights Act

Priyanca Mathur Velath

Displacement and resistance have co-existed in India’s history since even before its independence. However, the past few years have particularly witnessed violent upsurges to industrial units being set up on fertile lands, where people have been farming for generations, and on forest land, that has traditionally been the home of indigenous and rural communities. Even though Schedule Five of India's Constitution prohibits the alienation of tribal land to non-tribal private companies, people continue to be uprooted from their lands and livelihoods by developmental projects.

The harsh reality is that the biggest foreign direct investment project in India since independence actually intends to displace hundreds of tribals from their original habitat in their ‘sacred’ hills in the state of Orissa. But the affected people of those areas in Orissa have been far from silent. They have not just been most vigilant is voicing their protest against this ‘development without a face’ but have also done so through novel methods.

Resistance to development-induced displacement in India has come a long way from the first satyagraha led by Senapati Bapat against the Tata Dam on the confluence of the Nila and Mula rivers at Mulshi Peta near Pune in 1918 to the violent agitations against the Tata car factory at Singur, Nandigram today. The protesting Mulshi Malwas used to have boiling water thrown at them by the British officers while the farmers in West Bengal have faced bullets. However, the tribals of Orissa have decided to arm themselves with the newly enacted Forest Rights Act (FRA)

In August 2008, the so-called "Green" bench of the Supreme Court delivered a double blow to the Orissa tribals facing displacement by giving its go-ahead to Sterlite Industries to divert forest land for bauxite mining in the Niyamgiri Hills and to the South Korean steel-giant POSCO's proposed steel plant in Jagatsinghpur. The Court simply asked Sterlite industries to pay Rs.55 crore towards a 'wildlife management plan for conservation and management of wildlife around the mine' and Rs. 12.2 crore towards 'tribal development'. The miniscule amount that has been attributed as accountability cost is undoubtedly shocking when the entire project is worth a whopping $12 billion. But what is indeed unfortunate is that these pronouncements seem to have pulled the spanner off this huge project.

POSCO-India had signed an MOU (Memorandum of understanding) with the Orissa government to set up a 12 million tonne steel project at Paradip, in Orissa's Jagatsinghpur district for which it needs 4,004 acres of land there. As nearly 3000 acres of the required land requires forest diversion approval, the project hinges on this approval that the government is seeking from the Ministry of Forest and Environment and the Supreme Court. The preparatory work that it was supposed to start on the land given by the government to the project was stalled as the land was found to be recorded as forest land. But now the Supreme Court's approval shall allow work to progress.

The protesting tribals have this time found a new ally to once again stall the go-ahead granted by the Court. It’s the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act. In Jagatsinghpur, the residents of Dhinkia village have passed a resolution declaring that their forests are ‘protected’ community forests, as categorised under the FRA, and under the FRA consent from the gram sabha or village council is necessary prior to the acquisition of such declared forest land. This move has been thought of as a well-timed strategy to block the Court’s go-ahead. Realising the implications of such a resolution the local administration had actually refused to accept Dhinkia village’s notice under the FRA. However the gram sabha was resolute and it sent its resolution through registered post to ensure that it reached!

This one simple act of resistance is bound to complicate matters and inhibit the smooth flow of the project. The frustration of the protestors is understandable. The project authorities have not shown much interest in ensuring the rights of those affected. There seem to be not much meeting grounds between the Dongaria Kondhs, the original inhabitants and custodians of the Niyamgiri Hills and the mighty Vedanta company intending to displace them. Many mistakenly thought that Anil Agarwal, Vedanta's Executive Chairman had recognised the rights of the Dongaria Kondhs to withhold from the project, when in reality at the company's Annual General Meeting in London on 31 July he referred to the necessity of permission from the Supreme Court and the Government. With this permission being granted, it was thus left to the Kondhs to devise their own strategies. In fact, what the Dhinkia villagers have done is now being viewed by many other tribal groups and villages as a model to be replicated.

Far away from India, in Norway, the Norwegian Government Global Pension Fund dropped Vedanta from its investments, citing in its Council of Ethics' report to the Ministry of Finance of Norway that Vedanta's "planned mining project in the Niyamgiri Hills may entail considerable negative and irreversible effects on the whole ecosystem of that area" and that "this indicates a pattern of behaviour where such violations are accepted and have become an integral part of corporate practise. This pattern represents an unacceptable risk that the company's unethical practise will continue in the future." It is indeed unfortunate that a company is condemned for its un-environmental friendly actions on Indian soil by another nation but still it continues to enjoy the patronage of the Indian state. Such circumstances can only expect unprecedented reactions – like that from the Dhinkia village.

Women Migrants and their Sexual Health in Jammu and Kashmir

Anju Munshi

Displacement for women provides a fertile ground for the worst kind of social economic and viral epidemics and this is proved true when we turn our attention towards the migrant camps in Jammu.

These are women who are going through financial crisis, mental trauma, flesh trade and social stigma, in that order. Sex scams are religiously reported but not many want to know what leads to all this. It is the family's needs that put them under compulsion. Health, education, marriages mean money and how much do the rehabilitation packages offer. Jobs are very hard to come by. In the absence of an organised health awareness campaigns or the non governmental organisations making an effort , the threat of HIV/AIDS is looming large in the camps of the valley and the inmates of the camps have no clue about AIDS, so much so that one young sex worker belonging to a camp in muthi asked rather innocently if AIDS was contagious and if she could take antibiotics .In the meantime HIV is stealthily marching into the valley using two important carrier modes, that of ignorance and government apathy .

In February of last year, Jammu &Kashmir has reported six times increase in the number of AIDS cases compared to previous year. According to figures provided by the state government to New Delhi, 211cases of AIDS were reported in the region in 2007compared to 34 cases in 2006. The government also reported 42 AIDS deaths in 2007. ---The figures forthe previous years were not available. The data from the migrant's camps isn't available for no one visits the people that side; no counselling and no dissemination of information of any kind exists.

Women in camps with special reference to Jammu and Kashmir have just been dumped with no thought for their well-being, their physical and mental health.. It is an accepted fact that vulnerability in displaced people is high and one doesn't have to wait for things and epidemics to go out of hand and then sound an alert. It is also known that 'HIV/AIDS spreads among displaced migrants due to increased contact with outsiders and dramatic social change', says Survival International, a human rights organization formed in 1969 .The fact of the matter is that HIV/AIDS threat looms large in the camps that accommodate almost 5000 families with women numbering to at least two thousand. . Jammu and Kashmir might well be face to face with the ominous portents of the killer disease for more than one reason

The National AIDS Control Organization (NACO),further confirms and says that the state of J&K has 14,589 [2006]HIV patients with a sizeable number being in Kashmir and a large number has unfortunately gone unreported due to the social stigma attached to this disease.

Says Dr. K.L.Chowdhury doctor and a social activist of the Shiriya Bhatt Mission hospital in Jammu, "in the last eighteen years no NGO has bothered to come and sensitize the inmates on various health issues."

Dr. M A Wani, project director of JKAPCS [Jammu and Kashmir Aids Preventive Control Society ]said that "mass awareness must be generated about the disease and its preventive measures, which is the best strategy to tackle the menace of the disease".

How does one do that in the absence of any kind of an awareness campaigns, related to women's health and HIV /AID information?

Ms.Neerja Mattoo and Dr. Shakti Bhan, both associated with Daughters Of Vitasta ,female wing of Panun Kashmir say that 'these camps are unsafe for women there have been raped and killed and many girls have committed suicides .'

We see huge amount of funds released worldwide to bring in an awareness but surprisingly nothing gets it close to the valley. lack of committed NGOs and voluntary organizations in the State that would have otherwise augmented the awareness drive and helped the State government in implementing the AIDS awareness programme is compounding the problem . In West Bengal Aids prevention has a new ambassador Bula Di "di" is a Bengali suffix (short form of "didi") which means elder sister. You can see her in billboards around the city teaching about AIDS in no uncertain terms. She informs through simulated dialogs how drug abuse , unsafe sex or blood transfusion could lead to AIDS.

In Mumbai Ashley Judd, who is Global Ambassador for Youth AIDS, has been doing her bit to promote AIDS awareness along with other stars of bollywood.Similarly in Chennai the red ribbon express is going into villages and spreading the awareness. As against all this, there has never been any data collection in the migrant camps ,no one visits the people that side; no counselling and no dissemination of information of any kind exists... Add to this the fact that several languages and dialects are spoken in the state - Kashmiri, Urdu, Dogri, Punjabi, Ladakhi, Pahari and Gujjari – "it's even more challenging to accomplish minor tasks like developing video films, songs and posters,' say experts in this field.. Consequently disseminating information and spreading awareness about the disease have not been an easy task.

An independent study conducted by Jammu-based clinical immunologist Anil Mahajan notes that HIV/AIDS in the state is no longer a low prevalence disease.

False Promises

At the national level a number of studies have been conducted to bring in awareness about HIV/AIDS, but hardly any in Jammu camps..

'Existing NACO (National AIDS Control Organisation) guidelines do not provide costing and implementation of the Targeted Intervention (TI) programme for migrant labourers in a systematic manner, which for example is the second highest risk group in Jammu and Kashmir,' confirms Wani.

Albina du Boisrouvray closely associated with FXB an NGO ,came to India as part of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's delegation and announced that five villages would be set up to look after the HIV orphans, start income-generating activities, education healthcare support etc, publicly announcing to adopt West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Mizoram and Manipur. Kashmir was not mentioned. Lack of money should not be a deterrent, especially when FXB's India budget for the 2008 calendar year is $1.3 million.

On January 17th 2008, the union cabinet approved the creation of a joint secretary post to oversee the multi-billion rupee National AIDS Control Programme (Phase-III). Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi was categoric in saying that things would move on not only on national but international level.

Even though India's Minister of State for Health & Family Welfare, Panabaaka Lakshmi said Phase III of the National AIDS Control Programme has been formulated to control the spread of HIV by up scaling targeted interventions among the high risk groups, not much can be seen even though the camps fit the high risk group for many reasons.

Common people in the valley still don't know the exact causes of this disease nor do they know the difference between HIV and AIDS. The health dept in Kashmir needs to do more than just put burden on the religious scholars and Imams who can only have a limited impact in this regard. Dr. KL Chowdhury, , a doctor social activist, and human rights crusader , the man behind Shriya Bhatt Mission Hospital and Research Center at Jammu , that addresses the problems of Health Trauma of Kashmiris displaced from the valley of Kashmir in the wake of terrorism, says that he did not know of anyone with HIV symptoms in the migrant camps for they dont get tested for lack of testing facilities , even if there are , they don't get reported for fear of being discriminated and shunned , but that doesn't mean that they don't need awareness." He did agree that promiscuity is prevalent in the camps. He strongly recommends counselling and increased ways of communication for improved awareness, expanding testing services in the state. "Counseling ,discussions ,open forums and also sociologists visiting the camps could stir up things and set the stage for a new start. It is time for serious negotiations ,for the state of women inmates of the migrant camps need serious attention and thought, for education is always an intelligent investment."

Fact File

1. There is a strong social stigma and a large number of these cases has unfortunately gone unreported.

2. Facilities to get blood tested for Aids is limited to a few centers. Facilities for testing blood for HIV before transfusion are available only at main hospitals in both J&K but this isn't extended to places like Rajouri-Poonch, Kupwara and Baramulla.

3 Discreet enquiries revealed that the foreign terrorists have an access in exploiting the girls who are border migrants, in camps close to the borders There were an even larger number of young boys with this dreaded infection..

Reasons to Worry

1.The State has huge concentration of military and paramilitary forces, who are another high risk groups.

2. The ongoing militancy has also increased the number of people needing blood transfusion. .

3. A study conducted in Kashmir has shown the social change and new social order has been responsible to some extent for the problem of aging brides.-a risk for indulging in risky sexual behaviors.

4. Lack of committed NGOs and voluntary organizations in the State that would have otherwise augmented the awareness drive and helped the State government in implementing the AIDS awareness programme is compounding the problem.

5 In addition, difficult terrain, socio cultural diversity and low literacy pose tough challenges to disseminate information and spreading awareness about the disease in the State. .

It would be hazardous to shy away from the harsh realities that stare into our face.

The problem is now beginning to acquire such disturbing proportions that there is an urgent need to sound an AIDS alert in this state.