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  • Monday, July 20, 2020 10:00 AM | Anonymous

    By Abrita Kuthumi

    Image credit: Alexander Spatar, Teen Vogue

    Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people are one of the most discriminated groups around the world. Although the coronavirus does not discriminate against humans based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, the society we have constructed surely does. The LGBT community always had many struggles to face prior to the coronavirus but since then, factors such as lack of access to proper healthcare services, family stigmatization, and socioeconomic slowdown have been aggravating the situation. 

    LGBT people, particularly individuals living with HIV/AIDS, face stigma, discrimination, and negligence in the healthcare system instead of being provided with more support for being more vulnerable to the coronavirus. During quarantine and lockdown, LGBT people, whose large percent of the people are employed in the informal job market, have been forced by their financial circumstances to return to their family. While there is a lot of romanticizing of family bonding during coronavirus, LGBT people do not have that same privilege because the lack of acceptance runs not only outside in the society but unfortunately within family households. Therefore, they are at a higher risk because of anti-LGBT family members who could physically or mentally abuse them during this stay-at-home era. Patterns of these issues have been encountered in many different countries across various continents. 

    United States 

    The Human Rights Campaign found that about among the estimated 16 million queer people living in the United States, approximately one-third of the people are working essential jobs. They work as healthcare workers, first responders, agriculture workers, and so on, being more susceptible to the virus. However, LGBT people do not always visit the doctors because of discrimination, mental health, and poverty. For LGBT people of color, that is especially the case as a study read that “40% of Black trans adults and 45% of Latinx trans adults live below the poverty line”. In the United States, often there is data regarding how people of color and low-income groups have been affected by the coronavirus. However, when it comes to LGBT people, there is no data being constantly collected. Dr. Magfa Houlberg, Chief Clinical Officer at LGBT clinic Howard Brown Health and Chair of the American Medical AssociationsAdvisory committee on LGBT explained the current dilemma that health departments have not tracked LGBT people because of the fear of discomfort, discrimination, and privacy reasons. 


    The World Bank reports that in Argentina, beyond 80 percent of trans women are engaged in sex work job market and due to lockdown, they have been unable to receive wages and have faced evictions. Beyond the economic detriments, trans people have also endured abuses from the police. There is institutionalized discrimination against especially trans people who, due to lack of proper documentation, are unable to access aid from the government. To combat these injustices, the government has set up the Ministry of Women, Genders and Diversity to collect data on women and LGBT people. 


    Anti-LGBT has been on the rise during the spread of coronavirus in Eastern Europe and no country has made it clearer than Poland. The Polish President, Andrzej Duda, has expressed his homophobic opinions by stating he would invalidate same-sex marriage and adoption for gay couples as part of his “Family Card” proposal. He has also declared to ban education on LGBT subject matter in schools within Poland to “protect children from LGBT ideology”. Instead of being an ally to the LGBT communities during these times of hardship, his appalling remarks have spread in the country. Churches have blamed the LGBT community for coronavirus despite no evidence linked between gender and sexual orientation to the spread of virus. 


    In the archipelago of Indonesia, many LGBT people hold jobs in the informal business. Thus, the coronavirus has made a huge impact among LGBT Indonesians who no longer have the daily or weekly wages through their work in the beauty, arts, sex work, and others. At least 640 trans women have experienced a loss in income which has impacted their ability to put food on table. The government has not been helpful, which does not come as a surprise given the anti-LGBT history of the country which proposed “family resilience” law that would provide rehabilitation to “people who engage in sadism, masochism, homosexual sex, or incest”. Instead of relying on others, the LGBT community in Indonesia has organized to help not only people who identify within their group but also others; in Yogyakarta, trans women have created food banks to support the low-income people in need and in Maumere, trans organizations have helped others with food, masks, and rent.
  • Thursday, July 16, 2020 9:00 AM | Anonymous

    By Stuart Johnson

    Mist rising from the Amazon rainforest at dawn. Image Credit: Rhett A. Butler for Mongabay.

    Since the outbreak of COVID-19, much attention has been drawn to plummeting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions around the globe and the revival of urban natural habitats as a result of government-imposed lockdowns. Unfortunately, this trend has not applied to deforestation rates in the Amazon - which have increased during this same period. This recent alarming trend can be attributed to macroeconomic market forces - within the last three years the global demand for beef has gone up a staggering 23 percent while available farmland in the Global North (particularly in the Midwest) has decreased. But more importantly, it is linked to the increased economic desperation on behalf of out-of-luck loggers and farmers desperate for cash - an acre of deforested land in the Amazon is worth a lot more than a forested one.

    Granted, and as a WACNH blog post pointed out last summer, the Amazonian fires last summer and today’s dire situation can also be attributed to politics - when right-wing nationalist Jair Bolsonaro was elected Brazil’s President in 2018 he slashed the budget for the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama) by over 25% and reversed a downward trend in illegal deforestation since 2004. However, to blame politics alone is to pull attention away from the deep social learning that sustainable development solutions must continue to undergo in order to be put into practice successfully. Even neoliberal policies like the UN sponsored Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) program, which promised to have Global North countries compensate Global South countries for reducing their deforestation rates, have failed to be implemented effectively.

    As such, it stands to reason that any multi-faceted approach to address deforestation today must meet meat and agricultural producers where they are - by developing methodologies that positively incentivize good behavior rather than merely punish bad actors in the big agribusiness and meatpacking industries. The COVID-19 crisis has laid out the case for this. Deforestation is a sustainable governance problem that requires effective strategies that can address socio-economic problems while also meeting ecosystem preservation goals.

    The “Tipping Point”

    In 2019, Brazil’s Amazon ecosystem saw its highest deforestation rates in over a decade. First-quarter losses in 2020 have been even steeper – up more than 50 percent compared to first-quarter 2019, according to Brazilian satellite data. As depicted by the graph above, the Amazon’s rate of deforestation is close to a “tipping point” - the five main drivers of deforestation: agricultural expansion, livestock ranching, logging, infrastructure expansion, and overpopulation are pushing towards a point where the forest itself will no longer serve as a carbon sink. A recent New York Times investigative study revealed that much of this devastation is being done by transnational criminal networks which work in remote places in the Amazon that are still technically protected lands but where enforcement is relaxed.

    The Politics of Deforestation

    In short, the perceived politics of deforestation are much more nuanced than they are made out to be. Logically, the poll above reveals the point that two things can simultaneously be true but contradictory at the same time: 75% of respondents strongly or somewhat agreed that “other countries’ interest in the Amazon is legitimate because it is important for the entire planet and is under threat,” yet 61% also strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement “Other countries’ interest in the Amazon is only an excuse to be able to exploit its resources.”

    The larger point here is this: how do you separate the idea that emissions and GDP are linked? Today, G20 countries currently make up 78% of the world’s emissions. It’s a logical conclusion to think that they are tied together. Yet, they should not be. In order to move towards a more sustainable governance model, countries have to believe that in reducing their emissions they won’t be negatively impacting their economic output. As such, sustainable governance is about acknowledging that the livelihoods of the poorest affect those at the top just as much as those at the top affect those at the bottom. And yes, unwanted foreign influence is real, but widespread public support for more sustainable governance strategies clearly exists (as this poll shows) - it just takes the right messaging to capture it.

    Incentivizing Forest Preservation - UN’s REDD+ Program & Carbon Offsetting

    In September 2019, 230 institutional investors with more than $16 trillion in assets called on companies to implement anti-deforestation policies for all of their supply chains. This type of negative reinforcement demonizes bad actors but does not compensate those who are trying to do the right thing. According to estimates from the Woods Hole Research Institute (WHRC), reducing deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon to zero within 10 years would cost $100 million to $600 million per year under a UN-sponsored program involving carbon credits for forest conservation (REDD+). In effect, this program (also known as the Amazon Fund) compensates indigenous and small landowners for the opportunity costs they would lose if they were to raze the forests on their lands rather than preserving them. Unfortunately to date, these programs have largely been unsuccessful due to lack of consistent strategies and the complex nature of the financial compensation system but are promising in principle.

    The California Tropical Forest Standard is another step in the right direction, as pointed out in an op-ed by ecologist Dan Nepstad, President and Founder of Earth Innovation Institute who has worked in the Brazilian Amazon for more than 30 years. Essentially what this standard sets out is a principled way in which companies can buy verifiable carbon credits from Amazonian landowners - easing governors’ and community leaders' concerns that their efforts to cut back on illegal deforestation will cost them money while also allowing the private sector more direct access to this market. Moreover, this standard allows for indigenous people and local communities to retain their voice in the process.

    In conclusion, COVID-19 has exposed the unique economic challenges reducing deforestation imposes on sustainable governance models. The politics are complicated yes, but there is widespread public awareness of the importance of forests as climate mitigators. Engaging with and compensating good actors is harder than demonizing bad ones as we have seen time and time again, but ultimately, it will be more fruitful.
  • Tuesday, July 14, 2020 1:30 PM | Anonymous

    By Megan Harris

    As summer is in full swing and we enter July, we draw closer to the date that was supposed mark the opening ceremonies of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. While postponed to 2021, many questions remain unanswered about the Tokyo Olympics. We decided to take a closer look at the cancellation of the century-old games and explore both Tokyo and the athletes around the postponement.


    Back in February, when neighboring South Korea was going through a spike in COVID-19 cases, Japan continued to live as though the virus was not really a threat. A State of Emergency was declared, schools were shut down temporarily, and strict restrictions were set for those seeking COVID-19 testing as to prevent the spread in hospitals, but very few other measures were put in place. As the rest of the world was closing restaurants and moving to work at home, I watched as friends on social media in Japan continued to live their daily lives, going to restaurants and karaoke, celebrating graduations together in big groups while wearing traditional Hakama and getting their hair and makeup done. The government seemed to act as though the virus wasn’t a threat, being hesitant to ban travelers from China, and there were rumors spreading that many Japanese employers told employees who had tested positive to hide their diagnosis. People living in Japan began to question why the country so notorious for public health concern and cleanliness would be so slow to react to this pandemic whose epicenter was right next door. Many therefore came to the same conclusion—the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Many began to believe that the reason the country refused to shut down was to avoid the postponement of the long awaited and costly Tokyo 2020 games.

    Call from the World and WHO to Pull the Plug

    Despite pressure from athletes and governments around the world, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and the Japanese government continued to insist through the month of March that the games could safely go on. Both Canada and Australia announced they would not send athletes if the games were not postponed, and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee received survey results indicating that 70% of Olympic hopefuls thought it would be unfair to continue with the games in July as planned.

    Sources believed that the IOC and the Japanese government may have been playing a game of chicken so to speak, with each side refusing to make the final decision to postpone the games due to fear of economic and legal consequences. On Monday, March 23rd, a special advisor to Prime Minister Abe’s cabinet announced to the BBC that the decision rests in the hands of the International Olympic Committee. However, later that week, after the World Health Organization consulted both parties and explained that the Olympics would be a great accelerator of the virus, the plug was pulled, and the 2020 Olympics were postponed. This is the second time a Japanese Olympics has been postponed, and first time ever that the Olympics have been postponed for reasons other than war efforts.

    What Are Athletes Doing Now?

    Of all those who have been effected by the cancellation of the world’s largest international sports competition, the athlete’s lives have especially been put on hold. After training their whole lives for this year’s competition, many are left worse off not only in mental condition, but worse physical condition as they struggle to find ways to train. In Uganda, Halima Nakaayi, the gold medalist in the 800 meters at the 2019 World Athletics Championships, has had to alter her training program significant; all the gyms and stadiums in Uganda have been closed since March, and her only option is to train on the roads of Kampala. She’s more worried, however, that with the cancellation of not only the Olympics, but competitions slated to take place before and after, that she may be out of her prime before her next chance to compete again.

    The spokesperson of Uganda’s National Council of Sports expanded on this, saying that not only have athletes lost the momentum of the Olympic year, where their determination to do well at the games had put them in the best physical and mental shape of their lives, but they’ve also been put in a tight spot financially, as many of these other competitions are where athletes can make most of their money.

    On the Olympics’ News website, veteran Olympians offer advice to those who were training for 2020. Chinese speed skater Hong Zhang tells other athletes to try to focus on short term goals, to think in terms of days rather than on months, seasons, or years. Canadian curler John Morris suggested switching up their sport for athletes who no longer have access to specific facilities needed for training. The Olympians also stress the importance of connection to others via the internet during these trying times in alleviating the feeling of training or being alone.

    A Call for Permanent Cancellation by Tokyo Gubernatorial Candidates

    During this time of heightened unknowns, there was a risk of further confusion thanks to the gubernatorial elections in Tokyo set to take place on July 5th. The incumbent, Yuriko had been facing widespread popularity following the relatively low number of coronavirus cases reported in Tokyo despite the size of the city. While Koike maintains that Tokyo will have the virus under control enough by 2021 to continue with the Olympics as planned, the few candidates who opposed her ran on platforms that focused on the postponement or even cancellation of the Olympics.

    The most prominent of the opposing candidates, Kenji Utsunomiya, backed by three of the major left opposition parties, suggested that the Olympics should be canceled altogether and that the money be redirected to social welfare measures and economic revival in the fallout of COVID-19. Candidate Taro Yamamoto, former actor and member of the newly formed anti-establishment ‘Reiwa Shinsengumi’ Party, said the cancellation of the Olympics would actually be his primary order of business, should he be elected as governor. Candidate Taisuke Ono, Former vice governor of Kumamoto Prefecture, was supported by the Japan Innovation Party, and believed the Olympics should be pushed back further to 2022 or 2024, not canceled overall.

    However, the long ruling Liberal Democratic Party was backing Koike, and despite the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party backing Utsunomiya, there was a high chance that the major opposition parties votes would likely be split between the many opposition party candidates, leading to a win for Koike.

    Indeed, last weekend on July 5th, this is how the election unfolded, with Koike garnering 3,661,371 votes to Utsunomiya’s 844,151. With this win, Koike emphasized her plan to establish a CDC-like organization in Tokyo in order to support the simplified Olympics in 2021. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics posted a press release following the election, where the President of the Olympics Mori Yoshiro said he looked forward to the continued partnership with Koike, emphasizing the similarity in the way both he and Koike plan to approach the games.

    Economic Impact and More Cancellations?

    The delay of the Olympics alone is projected to cost Japan between $2 and $6 billion, most of which will be shouldered by Japanese taxpayers. Currently, Tokyo is trying to make a plan that will minimize costs as much as possible for the Olympics should they occur in 2021. For example, there’s been talk of combining the Paralympic and Olympic opening and closing ceremonies to cut down on costs, but Tokyo is hesitant to confirm anything yet.

    Despite the high cost of the games, many have argued that cancellation will have negative repercussions on Tokyo. They’re afraid that without the revenue brought in by those coming to work and to watch the games, all the investments made into the Olympics thus far-- a sunk cost—have no hope of being offset without the financial benefit of Olympic tourism. Many believe this fear is what caused Tokyo and the committee to drag their heels on postponement of the Olympics in the first place. However, some experts are arguing that holding the Olympics after all will actually result in greater economic loss.

    Economists Takuro Morinaga and Hiroko Ogiwara have claimed that in the world’s current vaccine-less state, holding the Olympics will actually hurt the economy rather than help it. In the absence of a vaccine, foreigners will be much less likely to travel to Tokyo for the games, and thus Olympic tourism will not provide the economic stimulation that was previously expected. Ogiwara says that the years-long development process for vaccines would make it impossible to be used on so many people in just a years’ time, and that even with a vaccine, the fallout from the pandemic will make people more hesitant to spend the money it would take to go to the Olympics. Morinaga stressed that the only way to minimize Japan’s net loss is to cancel the Olympics or to postpone until 2022, when there’s a higher chance of a vaccine being developed. However John Coates, IOC Head of Coordination Commission for Tokyo 2020, still maintains that the event is not dependent on a COVID-19 vaccine.

    So, What Happens Next?

    In late February, Shaun Bailey, the UK Conservative Party’s Mayoral candidate for the London 2021 election, had tweeted boldly that London could host the games instead of Tokyo. However, most of the infrastructure put in place for London 2012 games has been dismantled, and Governor Koike of Tokyo called Bailey’s comments out for being “inappropriate.” At the time, the WHO and International Olympic Committee had told Tokyo 2020 task force members that there was no need to cancel or postpone the Olympics. However, as the games were eventually postponed, it begs a few questions—  if, despite the governor’s wishes, the city were to drop the games, would another country be allowed take them? Would another country be willing to take them? If cancelled, will Tokyo pick up the 2024 Olympics, ruining Paris 2024’s clever bid logo as it’s shifted back to 2028? Is there a future in which the this century-old tradition can continue without development and widespread distribution of COVID-19 vaccine?

  • Monday, July 06, 2020 6:00 AM | Anonymous

    By Abrita Kuthumi

    Image credit: The Jakarta Post/Dhoni Setiawan

    The death of George Floyd brought momentum to the Black Lives Matter movement through protests in not only America but all around the world-- in France, Malta, Ghana, South Korea, China, and more. For some nations, such as Indonesia, the discussions on racism hit closer to home because the Indonesian society has been facing their own challenges on social discrimination with the dark-skinned, Melanesian origin indigenous group known as Papuans. As the Black Lives Matter movement spread globally, it influenced the rise in support for another movement in Indonesia that is being referred to as Papuan Lives Matter.

    Between the two social movements, there are major differences given the history, geographic context, and experiences. In the United States, African Americans played an instrumental role towards the foundation of a nation which was built on slavery. Despite abolishing slavery during the 19th century, discrimination continued in every sector that oppressed Black people, including but not limited to unaffordable housing, higher rates of imprisonment, police brutality due to racial profiling, and more. The goal of the Black Lives Matter movement is to eliminate these generational injustices that have followed to the present. 

    In the archipelago of Indonesia, Papuans were already inhabiting the islands of Papua and West Papua prior to Indonesian independence from Netherlands in 1949. The Dutch initially sought to have Papua become a separate country but the Indonesian government held a referendum with 1,000 Papuan people who decided to become one under the Act of Free Choice. This act has been called out for its irony given how its “free choice” title does not align with the process in which they were handpicked. Since then, Papuans have faced episodes of racial discrimination, such as the usage of racial slurs from the police which compare the people of Papua as “monkeys” against West Papuan students in 2019. The lack of economic resources in a land rich of natural resources is another major issue. While this does not apply to all, some of the Papuans seek independence from Indonesia. Although different narratives, the two movements share the act of speaking out against the social and economic disadvantages faced due to racial discrimination within each society. 

    If Papua gains its independence, then Indonesia most likely loses its mining deposits. Therefore, the government of Indonesia has been active in quelling any protests that may concern the separatist movement. In 2019, 56 peaceful West Papuan activists who were protesting against racism in Jayapura, Papua were arrested and charged with treason under articles 106 and 110 of the Indonesia criminal code, which respectively states, “the attempt undertaken with intent to bring the territory of the state wholly or partially under foreign domination or to separate part thereof shall be punished by life imprisonment or a maximum imprisonment of twenty years” and “the conspiracy to one of the crimes described in Articles 104-108 shall be punished by a maximum imprisonment of six years.” Despite demands of releasing the Papuan activists and criticisms for restricting freedom of speech and assembly, the Balikpapan District Court in East Kalimantan proceeded with a sentence of 10-11 months in jail. 

    This scene of oppression is nothing new yet the level of awareness within the local community that considers the issue of racism with Papuans to be low. However, given how people in Indonesia have supported the Black Lives Matter abroad but have been showing a lukewarm response to the racism within its own boundaries, Indonesian activists have called Indonesians out. 

    “ [...] where was their [Indonesians netizens] compatriots’ outrage about Indonesia’s own racism-fueled conflict with black Melanesians in the contested territory of West Papua?”
  • Thursday, June 25, 2020 9:35 AM | Anonymous

    By Abrita Kuthumi

    Image credit: The Telegraph

    The COVID-19 pandemic has swept the world by storm and disrupted the daily lives of people everywhere. Countries have shut down public spaces, postponed international sporting events such as the Olympics, canceled graduations, transitioned to working remotely, and more. However, for developing nations, the pandemic has done more than just impacting the health of individuals and adding more inconveniences—it has rocked the socioeconomics of a fragile system at its core.  


    Image credit: Zabed Hasnain Chowdhury/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images 

    Ready-made garment factories have been the economic pillar and development pathway of Bangladesh. The industry employs around 4.5 million workers and accounts for 84% of the exports that travel from Bangladesh to developed regions, such as the United States and Europe. However, COVID-19 has hurt the supply chain of this industry by influencing the buyers to cancel or postpone product orders, resulting in about 1 million female garment workers being temporarily or permanently laid off. Before the pandemic, the percentage of Bangladeshi workers who earned more than six dollars a day sat at 15%. Now, with COVID-19 in full force, the economic impacts have been even more detrimental to their livelihood as widespread income cuts were implemented unexpectedly and abruptly. 


    Image credit: Aljazeera

    The reality of the six-feet-apart social distancing guidelines do not apply well in India, a nation where 40% of the urban population dwells within slums. Given these living conditions, where most of the people do not have clean water and private bathrooms inside their homes, it becomes a necessity to leave their quarters for communal resources. Staying at home also raises other risks, such as starvation due to the lack of income. Many face the difficulties of having to choose between working while confronting the dangers of contamination or staying safe in isolation but being unable to feed themselves. 


    Image credit: Silvia Izquierdo/AP

    In Brazil, the recorded number of COVID-19 cases has hit a staggering 1,188,600 people and the death count sits at 53,830 people currently. Due to a lack of testing that directly impacts reporting, a common theme among developing countries such as Brazil, those numbers may be even higher. Brazilian President Bolsonaro has not helped lower the virus count as he has contradicted his health minister’s advice to stay home due to the negative impacts on the economy. These health and political struggles have hit poor communities the hardest, because not only are there not enough beds to treat COVID-19 patients, the hospitals are too far away for people to access in rural areas. This explains the pattern of rapid increase in COVID-19 cases among communities with less than 20,000 residents. To combat this, there are regular citizens, such as Buba Aguiar, who are helping Rio’s poorest favelas by delivering COVID-19 kits and food packages. 


    Image credit: CNN

    Devastated by disease, hunger, and war, Yemen has been pushed to its limit. Now, with the COVID-19 virus adding to its vulnerability, it has become one of the most urgent humanitarian crises of the world. The country was already struggling with access to necessities such as food and health. Over 80% of the population, of the nation's 24 million people, did not have a stable source of nutrition, and diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, and cholera plagued the country even before COVID-19. Yemen is not equipped to handle the current pandemic because the war destroyed 3,500 medical facilities through air strikes, leaving the healthcare system operating with scraps. 

    South Africa

    Image credit: PHILL MAGAKOE/AFP via Getty Images

    When the South African government created the Black Economic Empowerment policy as a response to COVID-19, an act that would provide aid to majority black-owned small businesses, it gave rise to racial tensions that are deep-rooted in the country. Although the government did not continue with this idea, it created an intense response. Right-wing groups such as the AfriForum responded by claiming it was an “attack on white people and business.” In another episode of racial tension, the South African government was criticized for planning to isolate COVID-19 patients- who were mostly foreigners and white- on Robben Island, the place where many African National Congress leaders were put in prison during apartheid. The Economic Freedom Fighters’ leader Julius Malema made a statement saying, “Our government loves … to keep white people happy and safe, even at the expense of Africans.” The Daily Maverick newspaper reflected on the current events and wrote, “The lockdown, in its umpteenth day, is taking on some typically South African characteristics: it’s turning into a low-grade race war.”

  • Thursday, June 18, 2020 1:02 PM | Anonymous

    By Abrita Kuthumi

    Photo: Yonhap/Associated Press

    After years of talks on peace and reunification, there has been a sudden tense escalation between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Republic of Korea (ROK). The most recent incident that exacerbated the relations between the two Koreas was the four-story joint liaison office that is located in the North Korean territory of Kaesong and paid for by South Koreans being blown up and destroyed by North Korea. The building was highly symbolic as it was used to push forward dialogue between North Korea and South Korea. As the office stood close to the demilitarized zone, the aftermath of North Korea’s actions could be witnessed from South Korea as smoke filled the sky. 

    According to the South Korean Unification Ministry, there were no South Korean staff present at the liaison office because of its closure since January 30 after the Covid-19 pandemic hit the area. Nonetheless, the incident gravely angered the South Korean government who responded with a strong message that it was monitoring North Korean armed forces and any further attacks would be met with great opposition. South Korea’s Blue House expressed disappointment, stating it as “an act of betrayal of the expectations of all who wish for the improvement of the inter-Korean relations and settlement of peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

    North Korea has claimed the reason behind the decision to destroy the liaison building to be the leaflets that were sent to spread anti-North Korean propaganda towards the north of the demilitarized zone. Groups of North Korean defectors were launching balloons with the leaflets, which led North Korea to criticize South Korea for allowing it to continuously happen. Kim Yo-jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister, has been particularly vocal. A statement from North Korea was published that read, “The world will clearly see what severe punishment our people will mete out to the South Korean authorities and how they wipe the human scum off the earth.”

    Before this aggravation, South Korea had been aware of North Korea’s frustration with the leaflets and announced that it would seek to stop these activities by charging the defectors with the reasoning that “such action of distributing leaflets should be ceased as it not only poses a risk to the lives and property of our nationals living in the border area, but also hinders inter-Korean quarantine cooperation.” Park Sang-hak, a defector and leader of the Fighters for Free North Korea, inflamed by the decision spoke up, saying “South Korea is gagging us, who are its citizens, while kowtowing to the evil regime in the North [...] The more they suppress us, the more leaflets we will send, and the more often.” This act of the South Korean government has been criticized by some for infringement upon the freedom of speech in a democratic state. 

    Despite the South Korean government’s apparent intentions to ease tensions, given North Korea’s aggressions, analysts have been led to believe that the issue is not about the leaflets-- that is merely an excuse. Laura Bicker, the CNN Seoul correspondent, expressed that Kim Jong-un needs to make an issue to rally its people around to hide the dire economic situation that has taken a toll on the country, especially with the Covid-19 pandemic hindering the ability to acquire raw materials and smuggle. 

    South Korean President Moon Jae-in has been consistently eyeing on peace and negotiation over confrontation. After the news of the incident, he stated, “The path that two Koreas must walk is clear. Like the river that twists and turns but eventually reaches the seas, the South and North must keep their optimistic faith and taken each step towards national reconciliation, peace, and unification, however slow it may be.”
  • Monday, June 15, 2020 9:42 AM | Tim Horgan (Administrator)

    By Stuart Johnson

    The following was compiled, sourced, and written in association with my colleagues from The American University of Paris: Evan Floyd, Ki Byung Park, Karl Baldaccino, and Husam Ibrahim. 

    Mural of George Floyd on Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

    Image Credit: North Central University

    Over the past two weeks, as protests over George Floyd’s death have broken out across America, people around the world have reacted powerfully and passionately. In some countries, demonstrators have joined in solidarity - vowing to highlight and even subvert their own countries’ political, social, and historical ties to racism. In others, government figures have used the opportunity to criticize the US for representing a ‘double standard’ when it comes to human rights, democracy, and police brutality.

    Below are brief summaries of respective countries' notable moments that exemplify these phenomena:

    United States

    In Concord, the protesters rallied first at Memorial Field before marching through town to the State House, chanting and holding signs for racial justice.

    Image Credit: Josie Albertson-Grove / Union Leader

    According to the USA Today, protests have now taken place in over 700 US cities including Washington D.C., New York, Seattle and Philadelphia. Legislative responses to the protests have been noticeably swift. Last Monday, Democrats in the House of Representatives introduced the Justice and Policing Act of 2020. In the Republican-held Senate, South Carolina's Tim Scott and Utah's Mitt Romney have vowed to introduce similar legislation. Over the weekend, Romney was spotted at a large Black Lives Matter demonstration in Washington D.C. and told NBC News, "We need to stand up and say, 'Black lives matter.’”

    Paris, FranceReported on by Evan Floyd, Husam Ibrahim and David Sohmer

    Photo from the #blacklivesmatter and #justicepouradama protest at the Tribunal de Paris.

    Image Credit: David Sohmer

    In Paris, two different groups joined forces: Black Lives Matter, focusing on George Floyd's death in Minneapolis, and Justice for Adama, focusing on Adama Traoré’s death in 2016. Initially, authorities barred people from gathering in front of the US Embassy due to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, thousands protested there anyway, as well as on the Champ de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower. The below was reported first-hand from Evan Floyd; who attended the protest.

    Outside the U.S. Embassy

    Before the protest started, the Seine's bridges were closed off. Police vans and officers blocked the paths connecting the right and left bank. A friend and I got to the first location an hour early taking the metro. We had plans to meet up with people but the metro was unavailable soon after we arrived. Before the crowd was organized, a woman yelled “Black lives matter. My life matters,” at officers behind the gate surrounding the embassy. There was chanting for George Floyd, it shifted to Breonna Taylor and ended on Adama Traoré.

    Champ de Mars

    Journalists and photographers surrounded us before the police. They tried to conduct interviews or capture us with our signs. We called for justice. We shouted for the lives that were lost. The police were told the whole world hated them. There were arrests going on away from the crowd; we chose to stay in the thick of it. A few officers held camcorders, pointing them at us behind their body shields. A friend flipped them off. My group was shocked yet excited at the sight of a man dressed as Jesus. We saw more officers arrive and tried to figure out our exit strategy; the police were all equipped with gas masks and allowed for one exit.  Signs were collected and bags opened but we ran back in to recollect and redistribute items to their owners.

    Malta - Reported on with the help of Karl Baldaccino, Luca Splendor & Peter Hili

    Protesters place placards on barricades in front of Maltese Parliament, demanding justice for black lives.

    Image Credit: Karl Baldaccino

    On Monday night, around 300 Black Lives Matter demonstrators gathered before the Maltese Parliament holding signs that read “proud to be black” and “we are all migrants” where they were met by a rival group of anti-migration protesters holding up signs that read, “we are not racists, we are patriots.” A tense standoff ensued, and police had to step in to separate the two groups.

    Since April 2019, controversy has swirled in the country surrounding what many Maltese politicians and the police have denounced as the racially-motivated killing of Lassana Cisse – a migrant worker from the Ivory Coast. To date, two members of the Maltese armed forces, Francesco Fenech and Lorin Scicluna, have been charged with his murder.


    The President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, took the opportunity to denounce Mr. Floyd’s killing as well as to offer his condolences to the family, writing the above on Twitter. Peaceful demonstrations were also organized by the Diaspora Coalition and held in front of the US embassy in Accra.

    In addition to protests, this past Friday Ghana joined a coalition of 54 African countries calling for an urgent meeting by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to look into instances of police brutality and violence against people of African descent – most notably in the United States. The UNHRC has not met since March 13th, and is planning to open next week. In order for such a meeting to be held, it needs to have the backing of at least one member nation.

    South Korea - Sources from Ki Byung Park

    Protesters taking a knee in Hanbit Park in Cheonggyecheon, Seoul.

    Image Credit: Newsis, Kim Myung-won

    According to the Newsis News Agency, protests in Seoul were organized by Shim Ji-hoon (34), who used Facebook to organize a group of about 100 demonstrators. When interviewed at the march, he commented that Korea was dealing with some of the same issues as the US: "Korea is no longer a single-ethnic country...there are issues of racial discrimination such as bullying of children from multicultural families or aversion to Korean-Chinese. The gaze on black people is similar...I hope that this march will give awareness to the issue of racism in Korean society.”

    The march was initially planned to take place in front of the US embassy, but instead demonstrators marched silently from Myeong-dong, Seoul to Hanbit Square, Cheonggyecheon, wearing black clothes and pickets in honor. There, they knelt for eight minutes and forty-six seconds - the length of time officer Minneapolis Police Department’s Derek Chauvin’s knee was on Mr. Floyd’s neck.


    Chinese diplomat Hua Chunying responds to U.S. Department of State’s Morgan Ortangus on May 30th.

    Image Credit: Twitter.

    Since Floyd’s death, Chinese government officials along with state-owned print and online media have used the opportunity to reverse criticism of their own government’s handling of the protests in Hong Kong back onto the US for their own aggressive police response to the protests in US cities that have turned violent. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian accused the US of supporting a ‘double standard’ when it comes to human rights and democracy, going as far calling Hong Kong recent police’s tactics as being “very restrained” in comparison to those of the US police. In response, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has criticized China for exploiting George Floyd’s death for political gain.

    This heated back and forth all came on the eve of the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square student-led protests quelled by the Chinese state. The timing has not been lost on a number of Chinese officials and news outlets – who in particular have pointed to the Trump Administration’s vow to use the military to quell protests as justification for their own government’s actions. In the current context, that parallel is specifically being drawn to justify China’s move to pass the Hong Kong National Security Law. 

    Among other capitals, demonstrators also took to the streets in Ottawa, Vancouver, Stockholm, Athens, Milan, Mexico City, Auckland, Amsterdam, and Warsaw - a truly unprecedentedly passionate demonstration of just how widespread the outrage, anguish, and hope for a more just future the death of George Floyd has brought about.

  • Thursday, June 11, 2020 9:15 AM | Tim Horgan (Administrator)

    By Abrita Kuthumi

    The South Asian neighbors, Nepal and India, are walking away from diplomatic ties as the long running saga concerning the 230-mile disputed territories of Limpiyadhura, Kalapani, and Lipulekh rises back to the surface. Although Nepal and India seemingly reached an agreement on 98 percent of the borders through the Nepal India Joint Technical Committee that was created in 1981, the 2 percent that comprises the three territories have yet to be decided. 

    In May, where the most recent clash took place, the Land Management Ministry of Nepal publicly announced a new map of the country that also included the northwest territories would be published as part of educational textbooks for school and be used for administrative work. The decision follows India’s creation of a political map, which included the controversial area as part of their country back in November 2019. Although the government of Nepal criticized India’s actions as unilateral and proposed the two countries fix the argument through diplomatic talk, the response was met with silence. 

    Then, in early May, the Defense Minister of India, Rajnath Singh, announced the inauguration of a road project that extends from India’s Uttarakhand State to Tibet’s Kailash Mansarovar. It would be a fast route for Indians to make the pilgrimage to Tibet and create better opportunities for trade between other countries in the region, such as China. This infuriated the Nepalese public because the roadway would interject Lipulekh, one of the contested areas that Nepal believes it owns, and thus, protests erupted in front of the Indian Embassy in Nepal. Also, the Nepalese saw themselves as being ignored once again. The Nepalese public put pressure on the Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli to take a bold stance on this geopolitical issue, resulting in Nepal issuing the new map; reigniting the argument. The government of Nepal also issued a statement to India, asking them “to refrain from carrying out any activity” on the territory that has been the center of the debate between the two countries.  

    Historical background

    The dispute between Nepal and India over the boundaries travels back to 1947 AD, when India gained its independence from Great Britain. To clarify the modern borders between the two, there was a treaty signed by Nepal and the British East India Company known as the Sugauli Treaty in 1815. It stated that Kali River, also known as the Mahakali downstream, indicated the western border of Nepal. Without a map attached and the Mahakali headwater source flowing from two different locations, it has left this issue unsolved. Nepal claims the start of the Mahakali to be Limpiyadhura whereas India claims it to be Lipulekh, which is further east. 

    Distraction from Covid-19?

    Some are questioning the timing of this heated dispute for taking place during the coronavirus pandemic. Akhilesh Upadhyay, former chief editor of The Kathmandu Post, expressed that the Prime Minister Oli was using the territorial dispute to take away the negative attention from the underwhelming response of the government to the Covid-19. Asok Swain, Indian professor at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research at Sweden’s Uppsala University, echoed the sentiment in India, stating that “The road inauguration was an attempt of the Modi government to divert India’s attention from [Covid-19] policy failures.”

    China, the third-party

    There have been claims from India that Nepal’s political move to draw up the disputed territories under their sovereignty had to involve China. Swaran Singh, professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, reflects on Nepal’s new political map as reinforcing “allegations of Nepal becoming more emboldened to take a tough stand and use harsh language against India to please their Chinese friends.” Khadga KC, Head of Diplomacy at Tribhuvan University in Nepal has rejected that narrative, claiming “As a sovereign nation, Nepal does not need to drag another neighbor in between [...] in fact, Nepal become forced to reveal its new political map after India unilaterally built and inaugurated the road within its territory.” China, claiming neutrality, chimed in by choosing to opt out of the situation. Foreign Ministry spokesperson for China, Zhao Lijian, offered a statement, saying “We hope the two countries will resolve their differences properly through friendly consultations and refrain from taking any unilateral action that may complicate the situation."

  • Tuesday, June 02, 2020 10:40 AM | Tim Horgan (Administrator)

    By Stuart Johnson

     The Russian pipeline laying ship “Akademik Tscherski” was recently docked off the island of Rügen, Germany in the Baltic Sea to complete the Nord Stream 2 project.

    Image Credit: Bild / Stefan Sauer

    Last week, outgoing US Ambassador to Germany and former Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell told the Handelsblatt, a leading German language business newspaper, that Germany and Russia should expect fresh US sanctions to impede the completion of their Nord Stream 2 pipeline. But there remain many questions of what form these sanctions would take, and whether or not they could be passed quickly enough to stop the project’s completion - there is a mere 6% left to lay and a Russian ship capable of completing the project, the Akademik Tscherski, has just completed a two month long voyage to re-position itself off the coast of Germany in the Baltic Sea.

    New Hampshire’s Senior Senator Jeanne Shaheen is well acquainted with this issue - at the end of 2019, it was she and Republican Senator of Texas Ted Cruz that successfully included legislation in the National Defense Authorization Act to compel Allseas, a Swiss company then working on the project, to stop work under the threat of US sanctions. Unfortunately, this was just a temporary solution, and Russia, via its state-owned oil and gas company, Gazprom, along with their German partners, has remained defiant in completing the pipeline. In response to this latest threat of sanctions from the US, a spokesman for Nord Stream 2 emphasized that the project is in accordance with international law and will be completed as planned.

    Nord Stream 2 Project

    As market demand for natural gas around the world has increased in recent years due to the need to move away from fossil fuels, Russia has sought to expand its market share – particularly in the European Union through Germany. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would connect the two countries, does this. Moreover, in short, what makes this project of critical geostrategic importance to US national security interests is that pipeline promises to allow Russia to bypass Ukraine – a key US and NATO ally in Eastern Europe. Back in December, it was actually Shaheen and Cruz’s legislation that compelled Russia to sign a newfive-year transit contract with Ukraine – an important agreement for Ukraine given its economic benefits, as well as the leverage it gave them vis-à-vis Russia in their ongoing war with them in the Donbass region.

    The Nord Stream 2 pipeline connects Russian and German gas markets - bypassing Ukraine

    Image Credit: Nord Stream 2 Website

    Ukraine-Russia’s “Transnational” Conflict

    There are of course significant historical / civilizational sources of division that drive the Ukraine-Russia conflict, most importantly the Annexation of Crimea in 2014; however, it is important to consider that this conflict has now become a “transnational” one –  many cross-border relationships between individuals and groups of people are impeding the resolution of the war in the Donbass region. In other words, to date, a multitude of factors, including economic conflicts like this Nord Stream 2 project, are impeding traditional conflict resolution strategies like the Minsk Agreements from providing a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Over the past six years, in total, the conflict has killed more than 13,000, wounded more than 25,000 and forced 2.5 million people from their homes. Concerningly, even in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, deadly fighting continues – with five government soldiers, eleven Russian-backed fighters, and one civilian killed in the month of April according to official and unofficial reports from the OSCE.


    In conclusion, while there are certain other economic forces at play like the US’ interest in selling their liquefied natural gas to Europe, conflict over the Nord Stream 2 project is one of the latest manifestations of the still unresolved (not “frozen”) Ukraine-Russia conflict, which broke out in 2014. Another round of sanctions promises another temporary fix to a conflict that clearly is in need of a more multi-step, multi-modal process– like the oneadvocated for by the Euro-Atlantic Security Leadership Group composed of experts from think tanks in the US, Russia and Europe. And yet, they seem to be looming as the only option lawmakers have at their disposal in Washington. As for Ukraine and the Donbass region, they are the ultimate losers, as it seems likely that violence will continue to rage while the “transnational” forces in the region pursue their respective economic interests.

  • Wednesday, August 21, 2019 10:59 AM | Tim Horgan (Administrator)

    The Amazon rainforest is responsible for 25% of the worlds oxygen and home to indigenous tribes, however, the portion of the forest that lie in Brazil is under targeted attacks by Jair Bolsonaro, Brazils current president.


    Jair Bolsonaro was a former captain under Brazils military dictatorship and was elected president in October 2018. Many are touting his election as a continuance of the rightward authoritarian shift in global politics. Bolsonaro is a climate skeptic whose environmental policy, consisting of opening up the Amazon for development and agribusiness, has drawn international condemnation.

    Historically, Brazil has been a successful leader in combating the climate crisis. According to the New York Times, between 2004 and 2012, Brazil created new conservation areas, increased monitoring of the forest, and took away government credits from rural workers caught razing protected areas. These efforts brought deforestation to the lowest levels since record keeping began.

    These practices, however, are nowhere to be seen in Bolsonaros administration. Bolsonaro has said that Brazil is like a virgin that every pervert from the outside lusts for, and claims that criticism of his environmental policy is an attempt to restrict Brazils growth. Bolsonaro believes that opening up the Amazon to commercial exploitation--including mining and agribusiness--is the key to the development of Brazils economic potential. He has pulled back on enforcement measures like fines, warnings, and the seizure of illegal deforestation equipment. He has systematically slashed the environmental agencys budget and recently claimed that his own governments satellite found evidence that claims of dangerous deforestation are lies. According to the Associated Press, Brazils portion of the Amazon has lost more than 1,330 square miles of forest since Bolsonaro took office in October of last year.  The Amazon produces 25% of the Earths oxygen, is the most biodiverse spot on the planet, and is currently losing the equivalent of three football fields of tree cover a minute. The rainforest is also incredibly vital in absorbing and sorting carbon dioxide through a natural process which slows down global warming. However, when trees are cut down, bulldozed, or burned the Carbon Dioxide is released back into the atmosphere. An independent research study aimed at cataloguing the impact of Amazon destruction on global warming conducted by the Associated Press found that in the last 50 years, one fifth of the Amazon has been cut and burned to make way for logging, mining, and ranching. Scientists are afraid that should the current trend continue, the Amazon could potentially degrade into a savannah and would no longer be capable of its natural processes that aid in combating climate change. Oppositely, Bolsonaro believes that the key to Brazils economic future lies in opening up the Amazon for commercial exploitation and has dubbed any criticisms of his policies as a concerted attempt at stifling Brazils economic growth, despite proof from human rights activists that commercial exploitation greatly endangers the Amazons hundreds of indigenous tribes.

    The majority of the worlds 100 or so uncontacted tribes live in the Amazon in Brazil, and their protection is inscribed in Brazils constitution. Indigenous tribes are guaranteed under law the preservation of their rights and cultures, which have been persecuted for centuries. Bolsonaro has forgone those enshrined promises and instead campaigned on hard cuts to government funding for indigenous peoples and has frozen the expansion of federally protected reserves. In response to concerns about what opening up the Amazon to mining could do to indigenous populations, Bolsonaro stated that indigenous people want to work, they want to produce and they cant, despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of people in more than 400 tribes live, and rely on, the Amazon.

    Survival International, an organization dedicated to protecting indigenous people and their tribes, has called for increased police protection for tribes in the Amazon. However, due to violence from illegal loggers and ranchers, Brazils Indian Affairs Department FUNAI, has been prevented from working in the area. Despite these concerns, Bolsonaro continues to defend his economic agenda and, according to a Guardian article which likened his forgoing of indigenous rights to genocide, stated that, “(t)here is no indigenous territory where there arent minerals. Gold, tin, and magnesium are in these lands, especially in the Amazon, the richest area in the world. Im not getting into this nonsense of defending land for Indians. Human rights activists have called the situation an emergency, stating that the remote Awa tribe live in such fear that they teach children not to cry so no one can know where they are. Additionally, a plethora of gold miners have invaded the Yanomami territory bringing disease and death to its people. Facing international outrage and cries to stop his commercial exploitation Bolsonaro offered a resounding and final response; the Amazon is ours, not yours.

    -By Monericka Semeran, WACNH Intern

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