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The Transformation of Identity within Diaspora +  


London South Bank Univesity
United Kingdom
43° 46' 21.9612" N, 79° 30' 12.6288" W
Geographical Locations: 

The Government’s Rhetoric About Bogus Refugees is Bogus +  


43° 46' 21.9612" N, 79° 30' 12.6288" W

Nice blog on cuts to refugee health care by Alex Neve (Amnesty International Canada). Particularly like the section about using the term "bogus":

Since it has no real meaning, what does the Minister mean when he uses it? Refugee claimants the government doesn’t like? Coming from countries the Minister wishes they wouldn’t leave? Whose claims get rejected?  Rejected on what basis? Because they weren’t believed? Because their problems, though genuine, don’t fit the legal technicalities of the refugee definition?  Because a decision-maker was not prepared to agree that human rights problems are real and serious in their country? Because they are a war criminal and thus, while having a valid fear of persecution, are not eligible for refugee status? Because conditions back home have changed since they left? Or because they couldn’t come up with enough documents to prove their story?

Geographical Locations: 

A vision from the South on participation to community development and food security +  


43° 46' 21.9612" N, 79° 30' 12.6288" W

By Zilia Castrillon

I used to work with the Nasa-paez community, an indigenous Colombian group who lived in the Cauca Department (territorial region) located near Cali, the third largest city in the nation. The concept of participatory approach to community development had been in the process to be implemented for a while when the struggle for an agrarian reform was in the peak and these communities were taking actions to recover lands and property on the hands of landowners and were organizing social movements to affirm their autonomy in their respective post-colonial territorial entities known as Resguardos. In development projects and research studies in agriculture for the indigenous survival, the use of a participatory methodology in which the observation and constant search for different tactics to incorporate individual and collective reflection involving the whole community of the Resguardo, was frequent and pivotal.

After starting a process of incorporating local knowledge to land and territorial management and learning of ancestral culture systems such as the traditional home gardens or Thul Nasa, those involved in the design and implementation of the development agro-ecological projects initiated a participatory approach through oral history techniques that integrated the indigenous Governor, ex-governors, mayors, councilors, the Indigenous Guard, the educational community (teachers, students, parents) with community leaders, agricultural technicians and the direct beneficiaries of the productive projects who were at the time the most vulnerable community members.

Despite the Western socio-cultural influence and violence against them, the Nasas tribal communities have kept some degree of cultural heritage as it is represented in their beliefs, language, spirituality and manifested through rituals, traditional medicine and the “Minga”, a way of collective work that is an important part of their autonomy, self-reliance, dignity and food security as it is expressed in the Nasa Tul as their ancestral form of production. Indigenous families have gained knowledge working together to increase their food security but subsequent conflicts have threatened their survival having a significant effect on the high number of forced displacement from the ancestral rural territories. The country's ethnic groups have been deeply affected by the different forms of violence still actively continuing throughout the nation. (Joris J. van de Sandt, 2007)

The participatory approach and local involvement in planning has been a mechanism used to renew formal structures of democracy and turn them into self-managed procedures that are powerful enough to interpret the will and demands of this population. This approach in the case of the Nasa - Paez indigenous community operates within a social, political and symbolic framework. An example of this movement was the creation of the Nasa Project, the Paez life plan, a participatory civil proposal that has faced the action of armed groups settled in the area where the indigenous community has lived. (Fabio Velásquez, Esperanza González R, 2003)

Participation is a process of collective analysis, learning and action. (Luttrell and Quiroz with Scrutton and Bird October 2007) It is an empowerment practice that is defined by the increasing power from critical consciousness (Freire 1992) and collective action better than a power being provided by a benefactor or outsider. According to Servaes (cited in Is Empowerment the Answer? By Robert White), empowering means self-reliance, self-planning and specially, breaking ties of dependence on the guidance of more powerful partners. (White, 2004) It also implies building capacity of the community towards communal benefit, although not always involves sharing of power. (Meshack 2004) However, it only become effective as it engages with issues of institutional change (Gaventa 2004) and when the engagement to create opportunities for the exercise of participation, comes from people’s themselves not only from the strong will of governments either national, regional or municipal. (Ibid)

John Friedmann (1992) explains that the social and political empowerment fundaments an alternative community development in a process with the long-term goal of changing the balance of structure of power in society. This change increases the accountability of state action, strengthens the power of people in the management of their own affairs and improves social responsibility of private businesses.
Participation would be put into practice through a combination of mechanisms that have been productive working in the Latin American context using the techniques aforementioned: the process of research-action [1] that uses sharing of knowledge and collaborative social learning to provide development agencies and organizations a method of analyzing and understanding the reality of targeted communities (their problems, needs, capacities, resources), and allows them to plan and develop actions and measures to transform and improve their social conditions. (Fals Borda y otros 1991) The distinction between subject and object established in traditional social research for development is carefully avoid since, according to Fals Borda, it may be counterproductive for the researched and the researcher (or experts and clients or targets) to identify them as two discreet discordant or antagonistic poles instead of seeing them as individuals with diverse views which should be considered in conjunction. (Fals Borda y otros 1991)

The “extension model” in development services that assume the researcher or “interventor” as a producer of a “package of improved practices that would transform the ‘ignorant’ customs of peasant farmers or other recipients”, has also been reviewed. (White, 2004)

The participatory approach recognizes that the methods and procedures for monitoring and evaluation of the main aspects that affect people’s livelihoods are most effective when the community identifies their problems and act over them promptly because of time constrains between the detection of various problems and the beginning of appropriate interventions. Indeed, it is an inclusive, iterative and incomplete process as opposed to the conclusive old problem analysis of the integrated rural development (IRD) approach (DFID 1999)

The participatory and local involvement in community development planning to improve food security depends on the social and political context implicated as well. Community leaders and locals need to take part in all process of their livelihoods improvement but there must be a balance in the decisions taken by stakeholders and that is possible trough collaborative learning and negotiation. Acceptable disagreement and reconciliation of competing interests are part of a participatory process. Policies on food security improve by creating a valid space for each community to make their voices heard taking into account the different circumstances and groups.

Following the Participatory Action in research and as a basis for development action, the emergence of participatory research techniques in the global north, originally known as Participatory Action Research (PAR) and Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA), directly involve people in the definition and analysis of local conditions. (Chambers 1994)

International organizations, NGOs, universities and research centers have worked using these techniques around the world having been subject to debate and criticism because of the increasing lucrative consulting business as a part of the development industry fueled by rich industrialized countries through their development and international aid agencies in a process that David Moose (2003) describes as “‘comodification’ of participation”. In The Making and Marketing of Participatory Development, David Moose says that the emphasis on technique and methodology expertise compensates the ignorance (of outsiders) of social conditions, while at the same time, promotes the capture of local knowledge. The commercialization of knowledge promoted participation with clear differences in power relations. As David Moose (2003) states in his essay, participation (lately conceived as a way of changing power relations) may be “edited, printed, packaged (sometimes literally wrapped in colored paper) and presented as a gift”. (Ibid) Moose also says that participation is a powerful component to legitimate development projects through the presentation of a series of activities (meetings, conferences, work plans, seminars and workshops) as indicators of success to justify investment and budget execution. (Ibid)

According to (Rahnema1999) when the term participation for development started to be mentioned, it involved a people-centered approach to development. Participation was expected to enable the following functions: cognitive, political, social and instrumental. Cognitive function generates a development discourse and practices based on different understandings of human realities. The political role of the development discourse provides a source of legitimacy to promote people’s development, creating a bridge between them and elites. The instrumental function generates a number of alternative strategies to justify the failure of conventional development strategies used in the past. This aims to involve beneficiaries in solving their own problems. Then, the social function gives the new development discourse a breath to reactivate old concepts. Under this function, it was expected that all institutions, groups and individuals involved could be finally integrated in the development process. The involvement, however, has many interpretations, which change in relation to whom is implementing.

The cognitive function, however, implies a feedback process that can be sometimes overwhelming. Locals need to be constantly informed and participation cannot be a sole mechanism to complain, but one that allows the construction of ideas among disagreements. For the Nasa community, land disputes have been a matter of concern for leaders. Conflicts over leadership and management have occurred. But the participatory approach to food autonomy within the community (participation includes different stakeholders), begins with the principle that production is based on using the diversity of resources and production practices, the transfer of agricultural environmentally sound technologies designed to enable a clean production system and product diversification obtained from ecosystems and, in a very important way, outside expertise intervention.

Van de Sandt Joris, (2007) Behind The Mask of Recognition, defending autonomy and communal resource management in indigenous resguardos, Colombia Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands (with A. J. Hoekema)

Fabio Velásquez C. y Esperanza González R., ¿Qué ha pasado con la participación ciudadana en Colombia? (2003), Fundación Corona, Fundación Social, Foro Nacional por Colombia, Banco Mundial, Cider - Universidad de Los Andes, Corporación Región, Viva la Ciudadanía, Transparencia por Colombia, Fundación Corona, Bogotá

Luttrell, Cecilia and Quiroz, Sitna with Scrutton, Claire and Bird, Kate (2007) Understanding and Operationalising Empowerment

Freire P. (1992) La educación como práctica de la libertad. México: siglo veintiuno

White, Robert A. Is Empowerment The Answer? Current Theory and Research on Development Communication, (2004) In: Gazzette: The international Journal for Communication Studies, Vol. 66(1): 7-24, London, Sage Publications

Meshack, M. (2004) Potential and Limitations of Stakeholders’ Participation of Community Based Projects: the case of Hanna Nassif roads and drains construction in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. International Development Planning Review. Volume 26, Issue 11

Gaventa, J. (2004) Representation, Community Leadership and Participation: Citizen Involvement in Neighbourhood Renewal and Local Governance, Report Prepared for the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

Friedmann, J. (1992) Empowerment: The Politics of Alternative Development, Oxford: Blackwell

Fals Borda y otros (1991) Acción y conocimiento Como romper el monopolio con investigación-acción participativa, Santafé de Bogotá, Cinep

Department for International Development (1999) Sustainable Livelihoods Guidance Sheets

Chambers, R. 1994. 'The origins and practice of participatory rural appraisal'. World Development, 22 (7), pp.953-969

Mosse, David (2003) 'The making and marketing of particpatory development.' In: Quarles van Uffard, P. and Giri, A., (eds.), A Moral Critique of Development: In Search of Global Responsibilities. London & New York: Routledge, pp. 43-75.

Rahnema, Majid (1999), “Participation”, en Development Dictionary: a Guide to Knowledge as Power, Wolfgang Sachs (ed.), London, Zed Books

[1] Fals Borda Investigacion Accion Participativa (IAP) Fals Borda (1991): "The reality of people who engage in dialectical processes of the type of IAP can be understood if we share their spaces. They are the ones who know the territory, which in turn constructs the meaning and purpose of involvement. In this way, learning their ways and means, it is necessary coexistence and dialogue in their contexts. "


G8/G20 +  

Toronto, July 2010



Zilia Castrillon



I was one of the few Latin American persons in the Alternative Media Center during the G20 summit in Toronto in June.  I exchanged information and perspectives with different Canadians and a few International NGOs about their campaigns and expectations.  With  “special” accreditation that segregated us from the mainstream media in a governmental move that the South African CEO of Greenpeace International and co-chair of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty called “media apartheid”, our work was particularly difficult. One positive aspect is that we were able to hear NGOs’ initial reactions to the announcements and official press releases.  However, one of the negative aspects is the fact that more than 4,000 journalists from all over the world weren’t able to have any access to heads of states, ministers or country delegations unlike at the G8 in L’Aquila, Italy where civil society representatives were present in press briefings with top officials. Only a few journalists had access to these officials and, I guess, they are the ones who have not been able to unravel and convey the real results of the summit in Canada and previous summits.  NOW magazine of Toronto said that reporters had an incentive to provide favorable coverage if they wanted to be invited back to cover future summits. 

The press has a huge responsibility to hold countries accountable and to be sure that people retain a collective memory of the actual events of the summit.  For instance, a memory should be kept of what happened concerning security measures and costs for the G8/G20 summits that surpassed $1 billion dollars, almost the same contribution the Canadian government promised to deliver for maternal and child care in the Global South. Part of the money for security was directed to the deployment of 20,000 police officers whose abuses during the demonstrations caused an international outcry among civil rights groups. The costs included the construction of a six-kilometer fence to protect Summit leaders and ministers that gathered at the Metro Convention Center where only the privileged had access.

Also a collective memory should hold the richest countries accountable for their promises on the prevention of HIV and care for those infected. In 2005 during the Gleneagles Summit those countries promised universal access to medical treatment with respect to HIV/AIDS by 2010. Today more than half of the 33 million people living with HIV are without therapy. Most of these are children and women. 

In Gleneagles, Scotland, the G8 countries committed to add US$50 billion in official development assistance (ODA), a promise that have fallen short by US$15 billion due to “insufficient political will, changed political leadership, and deep recession”, according to a document cited by the journal the Lancet.

“What is the point if they don’t look up the evaluation and do something to keep the promises”, said Dennis Howlett, Coordinator for the coalition “Make Poverty History” referring to the accountability mechanism included by the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the so called Muskoka Initiative to ensure the goals of the G8 countries will be fulfilled.

Oxfam has criticized the leaders for “their failure to deliver on their promises and for trying to divert attention by cobbling together a small initiative for maternal and child health”.

Despite the Harper government’s proposal on maternal health and the additional US $5 billion over the next five years added by the rest of G8 countries, the NGO community fears that the money committed to maternal health will be taken from other areas such as food security and education. 


Holistic approach to rural development and food security


Debates on food security were absent in the G8/G20 summits. The three year $20 billion commitment made in the L’Aquila joint statement on Global Food Security has not materialized in reality. The inclusion of country-level planning for   agriculture and smallholder farmer organizations in L’Aquila Food Security Initiative was an important shift in the policies of some G8 countries according to Action Aid. Small-scale agriculture and rural development have been neglected in world deliberations during the past years. Policies have trended to prioritize large-scale land investments, which has increased dependence on food aid and   escalated hunger in the poorest countries. The lack of political will to mobilize the promised funds for malnutrition is also a threat to the achievement of the rest of the Millennium Development Goals, especially the reduction in child and maternal deaths. 

Dame Sall, head of the The Réseau Africain pour le Développement Intégré (African Network for Integrated Development) (RADI), an organization from Senegal and partner of the Canadian Catholic Development and Peace, asserts that without a holistic approach to rural development never will the Global South have the ability to claim its right to choose its own food. “Without food Sovereignty you can’t have Food Security”, Dame Sall said during the People’s Summit and alternative event held by civil society organizations a week before the G8/G20 Summits. 

According to Mr Sall, ensuring food security implies independence from agricultural international policies. “Food security has different meanings for the G8/G20 leaders and farmers in poor countries”, he said adding that the Global South is not isolated from global solutions. While for some food security means more resources for agro-business and growing cash crops for export and international trade in food products, for others like Dame Sall it means land reform, family farming and food sovereignty.

For many civil society organizations, world leaders were once again, more interested in fighting bank taxes than getting the job done on delivering proper aid to the Global South and curb speculation in the market of raw materials. The liberalization of agricultural markets has proven to be a criminal action for the more than 800 million people still suffering hunger.  


Palestinian refugee family's escape from Syria via tropical island to new life in Sweden +  

Palestinian refugee family's escape from Syria via tropical island to new life in Sweden

News Stories, 30 August 2013

© Reuters/Y.Homsy
The Palestinian refugee family had fled from Syria, where more than two years of war has devastated many parts of the country.

NEW DELHI, India, August 30 (UNHCR) "The Sunny Side of Life", beam the tourism ads for the Maldives, a tropical island in the Indian Ocean. That tagline has come true for one Palestinian refugee family, who found hope for their future on these islands after 10 months of life on the run.

Last October, Ubaid*, 49, fled Syria with his wife and two little daughters. "I thought the revolution would end and we would get victory. But there was no change, the killings increased and everything became expensive. There was no life for my children, they were living in fear," he said of the civil conflict that has driven nearly 2 million people out of the country 1 million of them children.

The family fled first to Egypt, then to Libya, before arriving in Dubai, where Ubaid's brother lived. They later tried to fly to Europe to join relatives there. But due to irregular documentation, they were stopped from boarding the flight. Barred from re-entering Dubai and faced with the threat of deportation to Syria, on 10 July they instead chose to go to the Maldives, where the tourist-friendly authorities allow visas on arrival. But yet again their travel documents posed problems, and the Maldivian authorities detained them at the airport in the capital, Male.

The fact the Maldives, the smallest Asian country in population and area, could receive a Palestinian refugee family from Syria was itself unprecedented. This was complicated by the Maldives not being a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol and lacking experience in dealing with asylum-seekers and refugees.

"Once we heard about this family, we contacted the Maldivian authorities and dispatched a mission to Male to meet the family with the help of UN colleagues based there," recounted Dominik Bartsch, UNHCR's Chief of Mission in India, whose office also covers the Maldives without a permanent presence there.

The government of the Maldives granted UNHCR unimpeded access to the family and after three days of rigorous interviews, UNHCR New Delhi recognized the family as refugees and submitted their case to the Swedish government for possible resettlement in Sweden.

As they awaited a decision, Ubaid and his family were housed close to the airport. The girls were given toys to play with and could watch cartoons on a TV in the lobby. However, they could not leave the building, and greatly missed the fresh air and freedom of movement. It was hard for the parents to keep the girls in the confines of the room as the days went by. Once UNHCR's mission had returned to New Delhi, the UN Resident Coordinator on the Maldives and his Human Rights Advisor continued to provide regular support and comfort to the family.

"I have tried to go to other countries, but it has been impossible," said Ubaid. "Since we are Palestinians, no one accepts us. I can't go back to Egypt or Syria as both are in turmoil. Libya is equally dangerous. I faced harassment every day and once even got close to getting killed."

Sharing his hopes for the future, he added, "I want my daughters to be educated. I want special care for my daughter as she is suffering from Down's syndrome, and all my family live abroad."

Their hopes were answered when Sweden accepted them for resettlement. The family left Male last Monday evening and arrived in Stockholm the following day.

"I'm sure the girls will now have plenty of sunshine and fresh air to play in, thanks to the wonderful support from the Maldives, Sweden, and UN colleagues in the Maldives," said a delighted Bartsch.

Sweden and Germany have received the majority of asylum claims from Syria for the entire European Union. UNHCR has urged more countries to help Syria's neighbours shoulder the burden and offer asylum or resettlement.

* Name changed for protection reasons

By Abid Mohi ud din Shah, in New Delhi,India


REFUGEE CULTURE Book Review by Steven Salaita +  


Ethnic Identity of Palestinian Immigrants in the United States: The Role of Cultural Material Artifacts, by Faida N. Abu-Ghazaleh. El Paso, TX: LFB Scholarly Publishing LLC, 2011. v + 162 pages. Appendix to p. 187. Bibliography  to p. 196. Index to p. 202. n.p.  Reviewed by Steven Salaita:


 In Ethnic Identity of Palestinian Immigrants in the United States, Faida N. Abu-Ghazaleh does much to fill crucial gaps in the scholarship of Arab American communities, in particular the study of Palestinians in the United States. This sort of title, one focused on the cultural politics of Palestinian Americans, remains rare despite an increased emphasis among scholars on various practices of the Palestinian diaspora. This book is a welcome addition to the small corpus of scholarship that exists at present.

The scope of the book is both narrow and broad. It is narrow in the sense that the subjects of Abu-Ghazaleh’s study reside mainly in Maryland, a small sample size when considering the significant Palestinian populations elsewhere in the United States (Southern California, Chicago, Jacksonville, Washington, and D.C). On the other hand, Abu-Ghazaleh proffers a broad context of analysis, one that is highly illuminating. Rather than limiting her analysis of Palestinian cultural artifacts to their spatial and symbolic presence in Palestinian American homes, she describes those artifacts relative to the histories that provided them meaning in Palestine. As a result, the cultural material artifacts of the book become metonymical of numerous Palestinian devotions. To this end, Abu-Ghazaleh begins the book with a broad history of Palestinian dispossession and the subsequent migratory patterns of Palestine’s displaced population. The history provides a useful context to the particular symbolic meanings attached to the cultural artifacts displayed in Palestinian American homes in Maryland. According to Abu-Ghazaleh, the artifacts play a specific role in the families’ lives: “Despite their struggles, Palestinians inside and outside their country have been able to create, sustain and pass their culture [sic] heritage, traditions, memories and oral history to their children wherever they went” (p. 2). The sustainment (and revival) of cultural traditions is facilitated by the possession and display of artifacts with a distinctive connection to Palestine. This is true precisely because of their profound symbolic qualities. Some of the cultural traditions Abu-Ghazaleh highlights include musical instruments, dance, jewelry, artwork, war mementos, and religious icons. The most important element of Palestinian remembrance, however, is land, an abstract yet concrete phenomenon Abu-Ghazaleh spends considerable time exploring, to productive effect. She argues that, for Palestinians, “loss of their land is the loss of their identity” (p. 10). This argument is not novel in Palestine studies or in scholarly inquiries into other colonized societies, but the careful manner in which Abu-Ghazaleh connects land as a physical space to the materiality of household artifacts is original and quite well done. Yet, as she illustrates, it is the emotional appeal of land that underlies the power of the artifact in Palestinian American homes. Her approach is essentially semiotic—that is, concerned with the play of signs and symbols with connotations and meanings—but her analysis isn’t loaded down with theoretical jargon or per-formed in the abstract. Like the artifacts she examines, Abu-Ghazaleh’s methodology is materialist, focused on the ways people remember and continue to desire Palestine through displays of cultural, religious, and political icons. The methodology works well. While most of Abu-Ghazaleh’s subjects are Muslim Palestinian Americans, she takes care to discuss Christian Palestinian experiences in the United States. Some of her subjects are immigrants, others the children or grandchildren of immigrants. Much of the second half of the book provides interview excerpts, and a lengthy appendix displays dozens of photographs of icons, food, costumes, crafts, and all manner of bric-a-brac. Taken together, the interviews and photographs create a vivid sense of how Palestinian culture can be conveyed through visual and descriptive markers. They likewise render her central thesis that Palestinian Americans memorialize Palestine through the display of symbolic artifacts more vivid and convincing. Ethnic Identity of Palestinian Immigrants in the United States will be of interest to scholars and students of Palestine and, to a lesser extent, those interested in anthropology and ethnic studies. It is written clearly and will provide a useful bit of knowledge even to the general reader concerned with Palestine or with Arab Americans. Abu-Ghazaleh’s broad history of Palestine segues to six focused chapters, each a collection of short analyses, interviews, and descriptions. The book thus reads quickly and contains emotional moments about the intergenerational pain of dispossession. I would recommend it for both libraries and personal collections.