A global view

Education has the power to liberate, empower and mobilize. With our ever-changing world and the increase in globalization, issues pertaining to any region of the world are closer to our doorstep than ever before, which is why it is important to observe international events with a watchful eye.

The following are ongoing world events that few know about, despite their rising importance. They therefore must be monitored and studied, as they have the likelihood to evolve into bigger stories of international interest. They have the ability to develop into issues that transcend boundaries and affect our nation.

With knowledge of current events we can grasp the complexities of the world so as not to be left behind with globalization and the evolution of the planet.

With an unimaginable amount of world issues to cover, here are a few of the world’s evolving questions, partnerships, troubles and triumphs.

Asia

Reintegration of child soldiers from Nepal

The Coalition to Stop the use of Child Soldiers reports that large-scale recruitment of children ended in Nepal with the cease in hostilities after a 2006 peace agreement. However, the release and reintegration of child soldiers from the conflict has yet to be resolved.

The BBC reported that on Jan. 4, approximately 200 young men and women were freed from a United Nations-monitored camp.

The government hopes to discharge the remaining 3,000 former child soldiers by the middle of next month, despite originally claiming they would be released by the beginning of November.

“I joined the party to help the people and serve the nation,” released refugee Puntia Shah told the BBC of her choice to join the Maoists four years ago. “Now I am a common person, not a soldier.”

The BBC also reported that for a year the UN will monitor those discharged to ensure they do not join any military or paramilitary forces. The released child soldiers will also have a choice between pursuing educational or vocational training.

Blogging in Iran

Citizen journalism and blogging has become a form of political expression for many opposing the Iranian government. Expelled from Amirkabir University in Tehran in 2008 because of his political views, the now exiled Saeed Valadbaygi launched the website astreetjournalist.com , from his apartment in Toronto, Canada.

Sites like these, as well as independent journalists using blogs and social networking sites, have become an important source of information.

“What’s happening in Iran is not being reflected globally,” Valadbaygi told CNN. “We want to let the world know and let the state know that the world is watching.”

Taliban income

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The main source of economic gain for the Taliban is opium. It is assumed that the group makes about $300 million annually from the trade, which is 90 per cent of the world’s total.

However, it is hard to convince farmers to grow other crops when opium is by far the most lucrative and Afghans are in need of money. The opium trade also makes up approximately 60 per cent of Afghanistan’s GDP. In order to combat such an industry, according to the New York Times, the American military put aside $250 million to be used for alternative agriculture projects like wheat cultivation.

By utilizing industries like agriculture, there is a hope that with the growth of the economy will come a decrease in militant fighting as jobs are created.

Troop reinforcement, according to the 2009 Afghan Opium Survey has led to a 10 per cent decrease in opium production in some areas. Military operations also destroyed 50 tons of opium, 7 tons of morphine, 1.5 tons of heroin and 27 laboratories for turning opium into heroin according to MSNBC.

Despite great progress, a lot of military effort is still utilized to curb the production of morphine through programs like the distribution of wheat. However, there is hope in that Afghanistan has created so much opium (1,900 tons more than the world consumes) that the price has been driven down to the point where the crop has become less profitable.

Pillaging the planet

The trafficking of wildlife, including endangered and rare animals both dead and alive, is arguably the world’s most profitable illegal form of trade, according to National Geographic. The industry is driven by Asia’s desire for fine cuisine and medicinal usage of rare wildlife and Westerner financiers who enjoy exotic animals.

However, in the process of searching for the possession of these luxury items, the individuals who traffic animals both dead and alive, are emptying the planet of its rare ecosystems.

At the forefront of the controversy is Wong Keng Liang, the kingpin of the wildlife trade, who advertises that his company sells between U.S. $50 million to U.S. $100 million annually.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has 175 member countries and attempts to monitor wildlife trade.

Despite its efforts, the treaty has one glaring problem. Because the convention applies to wild animals, any specimens bred in captivity do not apply, which means that many smugglers forge paperwork or establish fake breeding facilities that claim the animals they are trading were bred in captivity.

Wong plans to open his own zoo with the help of business partners so he can breed wildlife like tigers under the guise that he breeds all the animals he trades at his zoo.

However, there is hope for the ecosystems not only of Southeast Asia, but for the animals of Africa and other parts of the world that are imported there to ultimately be shipped to buyers. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN) was established four years ago and its ten members plan to have customs agents, wildlife officers, prosecutors and police work together to protect the world’s wildlife.

South America

Chavez plans for car exporting

West of Caracas lies a three-year old car factory, a joint venture between Venezuela and Iran that President Chavez claims will turn Venezuela into a car exporter.

Despite having the production capacity of 25,000 cars a year, the Economist reports that the plant struggles to produce 10,000 products annually.

Although Chavez hails that the Venirauto factory will free his nation from the “yoke of capitalism,” workers still only make about $25 daily, complain about safety standards and about being exploited.

The whole process has been ripe with confusion as Chavez often ideologically lobbies against cars altogether.

Even though 30,000 individuals are still awaiting their models, they will receive their vehicles at about half the cost of rival companies.

Europe

Rise of European far-right

The Daily Mail reported that Far-right Austrian political parties like the Freedom Party (FPO) along with the Alliance For The Future (BZO) gained 29 per cent of the public’s vote in September of 2008. The same amount of citizens voted for the Social Democrats, Austria’s main party.

The new movement towards increased representation for far-right parties has led to a renewing of distant memories of the rise of the Nazi Party in the 1930s.

“I see it as this streak within European populism,” said professor Ali Zaidi of Laurier’s global studies department. “Sometimes it submerges and then sometimes it erupts above the visible level.”

There has been a recent rise in suspicion that over the past three years extreme right and neo-Nazi groups have begun an underground infiltration of German and Austrian political parties.

Far-right politicians like FPO leader Heinz Christian Strache campaign on mono-cultural platforms of anti-immigration and anti-European Union. Strache has even been photographed at an alleged neo-Nazi training camp and motioning neo-Nazi gestures, despite adamantly denying any affiliation with the extremist right.

Strache isn’t alone. Right-wing Dutch legislator Geert Wilders has also made public anti-Islamic remarks, like claiming that the Qu’ran incites violence.

In another legislative turn against Islam, Aljazeera.net reported that 58 per cent of Swiss voters approved a ban on the construction of minarets on mosques, with supporters of the change saying minarets “represent the growth of an alien ideology and a legal system that have no place in the Swiss democracy.”

“Some of the reasons for it have to do with the European Union and integration into the European Union,” said Zaidi. “[It] arouses a lot of economic and political insecurities but also the cultural insecurities about who we are, what is our identity, what are our values?”

Not only political actions but civic unrest has plagued areas of Austria, with neo-Nazi thugs desecrating Muslim graves and a swastika flag has been unveiled in Braunau, Hitler’s hometown.

Asylum-seekers between Britain and France

The BBC reports that there are numerous makeshift camps in France where immigrants await a chance to cross the border illegally. Most come from dangerous areas of the Middle East and Africa.

Camps like Calais, where about 2,000 illegal migrants live in desperate conditions, according to CNN International. It is seen as a dangerous area, where a British journalist was allegedly gang raped back in 2002. In September of 2009 the camp was destroyed, though few believe the problem of illegal immigrants will desist.

France and Britain had signed a mutual agreement the July prior to the camp’s dismantling, pledging to crack down on illegal immigration.

Migrants who are able to prove they are refugees are able to seek asylum, but there is little help for those who cannot prove they are escaping some sort of persecution in their homelands and they are expected to return home.

This issue begins beyond the borers of Britain and France, where the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees explains that illegal migrants enter Europe through Greece, often paying smugglers to help them find their desired destinations.

Africa

Zuma makes pledge to his suffering citizens

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On the heels of the 2010 World Cup, last year’s newly elected South African President Jacob Zuma, whose reputation has been heavily criticized, has begun to take steps to combat HIV in the nation home to the highest number of citizens living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

In 2006, Zuma was acquitted of raping an HIV-positive family friend. In court, he testified that he did not acquire the virus because he showered after sex, causing an international and national outcry.

The Guardian reported that last World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, Zuma announced a change to South African policy that would increase treatment for HIV-positive infants, along with a groundbreaking campaign to mobilize his populous to get HIV testing. He has also pledged to increase anti-retroviral drugs to the millions of sufferers, a treatment that helps boost their immune systems.

Zuma even pledged to undergo testing for the virus himself.

“Let there be no more shame, no more blame, no more discrimination and no more stigma,” Zuma was reported saying to the World AIDS Day crowd. “Let the politicization and endless debates about HIV and AIDS stop.”

A country that once struggled with apartheid, South Africa now faces a bigger threat if their current leader follows in the footsteps of the regime he replaced – one where the former health minister of then-President Thabo Mbeki claimed garlic and beetroot were treatments for the virus.

Zuma has harsh critics; turning around a nation where there are approximately 1,000 deaths each day from HIV related causes, somewhere around 5.7 million people living with the virus and about 59,000 babies born infected annually will not be an easy task for him to accomplish.

Standing up to the King

The Kingdom of Swaziland stands strong as one of the last absolute monarchies left on the planet. The nation is ranked 142nd on the Human Development Index, its economy continues to falter and it is home to skyrocketing HIV/AIDS infection rates.

Succeeding his father, who had abolished Swaziland’s constitution in 1973, King Mswati III took the throne in 1986. According to the BBC, King Mswati, known as Ngweyama, “the lion,” has been accused of requesting public money to pay for his lavish lifestyle that includes luxury cars and numerous palaces. Street protests are credited with stopping Mswati’s plans to purchase a personal jet.

The kingdom is not without its political challenges, despite the outright reign of its king and low public sector spending. Swaziland held an election in September of 2008; though political parties remain banned in the country, freedom of association is allowed.

Mario Masuku, leader of The People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo), one of the parties banned in Swaziland, dismissed the elections as “a window-dressing exercise trying to pull wool over the eyes of the international community.”

Just days after the results of the election were released, two individuals attempting to detonate a bomb near one of the kingdom’s royal palaces were killed when their device exploded.

Recent unrest and an overall feeling of doubt regarding Mswati III has been observed, with many considering the king’s lavish lifestyle to be an insult to the 69 per cent of the population Amnesty International says live on less than one dollar a day and the 40 per cent of the population who are HIV-positive.

Public trials of genocide

Although less publicized than the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which has been widely studied since its establishment in November 1994, the gacaca system was also created as a mechanism to punish those accused of participating in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

As there were a large number of everyday citizens who participated in killings and the subsequent death of the majority of Rwanda’s judges and lawyers, Rwanda’s judiciary was left in shambles.

Numerous gacaca courts have been set up in Rwanda to try those accused of participating in the mass killing of about 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus. A panel of nine elected judges oversees the courts, where a trial open to the public is conducted and defendants are allowed to plead their case and make plea bargains.

Many believe that the gacaca system of courts is an important process to help Rwandans heal from the trauma caused by the nation’s history of conflict and genocide. However, some critics argue that despite popular belief, the gacaca system is not a traditional way of employing law in Rwanda, that the courts lack impartiality and at times become emotionally charged.

Fighting for land and resources in Virunga

In June and July of 2007, seven of the 700 mountain gorillas left in Africa’s Congo Basin were found shot and killed. The endangered species makes its home generally in two areas of the region: Virguna National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda.

Their deaths were attributed to the illegal charcoal trade that occurs in the forests of the national park. Normally when the wildlife of the area is killed it is for meat or food for the many refugees who have fled to the area. USAID estimates that 3 million Congolese have been displaced and National Geographic believes 800,000 to have moved to camps on the national park’s borders.

Since 1998, the eastern DRC has been a hotspot for violence. According to USAID, as a result of fighting, disease and malnutrition, unrest in the region has claimed an estimated 5.4 million lives.

The conflict is a mixture of two rebel militias made up of mostly Rwandan Hutus and Tutsis engaging in fighting with each other and the Congolese army, often joining ranks and attacking one another unsystematically.

The Congo Basin is rich in natural resources and is home to a diverse ecosystem. It appears as though the charcoal and coltan (a material widely used in cell phones, computers and videogame consoles) drive the desire for groups to control the area of North Kivu and the surrounding countryside.

It has been assumed that the vicious murders of the mountain gorillas have become a warning sign to the rangers of Virunga, who often patrol the park to protect the park’s ecosystem, often ensuring that charcoal is not being harvested there.

To honour the dead mountain gorillas, the rangers of Virunga carried them ceremoniously on their shoulders to be buried outside the dense bush.

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