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Honorary Ambassador Wonder Woman

Courtesy of UN.org and DC

Courtesy of UN.org and DC

The famous comic book character, Amazonian princess, fighter of evildoers, and undisputed role model Wonder Woman turns 75 on Friday, October 21st. In conjunction with the 70th birthday of the United Nations on October 24th and in an effort to meet its sustainable development goals (Goal 5 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”), Wonder Woman will be named an honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls for gender equality.

In many ways, her appointment makes sense. “Wonder Woman is the epitome of the woman who needs a man the way a fish needs a bicycle…She is self-sufficient and strong and fights for equality and justice” (Friedman, 2016). She is a model for female independence. Framing the designation as powerful, inspiring and bold, DC and the WB are promoting this campaign with the new hashtag #WithWonderWoman — notably similar to a certain presidential campaign slogan, #I’mWithHer. 

However, her appointment is not entirely without controversy. In our particular political and social climate, some see this famous super hero as a scantily clad women, encouraging male fantasies of hyper-sexuality. Additionally, her sexual orientation is provocative to some parties. Protests are looming with some arguing that Wonder Woman’s outfit destroys the headway the women’s rights movement has made in looking beyond a woman’s body and clothing for her value as a human being. But, as Vanessa Friedman of the New York Times notes, Wonder Woman is inseparable from her clothing. It represents everything that is special about her, in addition to encouraging women to dress in whatever way that makes them feel comfortable, special, and empowered; whether than be in a sackcloth, loose jeans and button-up shirts, or a tight leather corset with a flowing skirt and combat boots.


“She may not be using her sexuality as a weapon (She has bracelets and gold lasso for that), but it’s nonetheless making a statement”

-Vanessa Friedman, NY Times, 2016


When asked how Wonder Woman would be portrayed as an ambassador, Nicola Scott, the artist behind the most current incarnation of Wonder Woman, noted, “the goal was to create a noble and strong look, while still maintaining Wonder Woman’s approachability and global appeal. While her look is contentious, her reputation and empowering persona still shine bright for all to see.” (Friedman, 2016)

 

Sources:

Canna, Michael. “Wonder Woman is named honorary U.N. ambassador. But not everyone is happy about it.” The Washington Post, 21 October, 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/comic-riffs/wp/2016/10/21/wonder-woman-is-named-an-honorary-u-n-ambassador-but-not-everyone-is-happy-about-it/

Friedman, Vanessa. “Is it Time for Wonder Woman to Hang Up Her Bathing Suit?” The New York Times, 20 October, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/20/fashion/wonder-woman-75-un-honorary-ambassador-fashion.html?_r=0

The United Nations. Stand Up for the Empowerment of Women and Girls Everywhere. Accessed 21 October, 2016. http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wonderwoman/

 


Books:

Cole, William. 1956. Women are wonderful! A history in cartoons of a hundred years with America’s most controversial figure. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Inness, Sherrie A. 1999. Taught girls: women warriors and wonder women in popular culture. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Robinson, Lillian S. 2004. Wonder women: feminism and superheroes. New York: Rutledge.

Spar, Debora L. 2013. Wonder women: sex, power, and the quest for perfection. New York: Sarah Crichton Books.

Articles:

Avery-Natalie, Edward. 2013. “An Analysis of Embodiment Among Six Superheroes in DC Comics.” Social Thought & Research 32, 71-106.Howell, Charlotte E. 2015. “‘Tricky’ Connotations: Wonder Woman As DC’s Brand Disruptor.” Cinema Journal 55, no. 1: 141-149.

Crossette, Barbara. “In 2016, The UN Will be Transformed. Will that be Enough to Bring it Back to Life?.” Nation 302, no. 2/3 (January 11, 2016): 12-17.

Pennell, Hillary, and Elizabeth Behm-Morawitz. 2015. “The Empowering (Super) Heroine? The Effects of Sexualized Female Characters in Superhero Films on Women.” Sex Roles 72, no. 5-6: 211-220.

 

 

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Europe Spurred to Action on Mediterranean Migration

Tunisian coast sign

A sign on the Tunisian coast. Credit Flickr user noborder network.

On Sunday, April 19th, a boat carrying as many as 950 people capsized in the Libyan waters south of Italy, focusing international attention on the problem of illegal immigration and human trafficking in the Mediterranean. An estimated 800 people drowned in this latest incident, where eyewitnesses stated that hundreds had been locked under the deck of the ship, with no chance of escape. But this shocking tragedy, while it may be the worst to date,  is only a fraction of the much larger death toll that has resulted from attempted migration across the Mediterranean, which has reached 1,727 so far in 2015.

The individuals risking their lives to reach Europe through the Mediterranean do so for many, valid, reasons. They flee their home countries to escape war, poverty, or political persecution that has erupted in many African and Middle-Eastern states since the Arab uprisings of 2011. This type of migration is known as “irregular migration,” which involves foreign nationals living in countries in which they do not have a legal status, or foreign nationals working illegally in a country in which they do have a legal status. But, sadly, due to the horrendous and dangerous conditions on many of the boats that carry these migrants, many of them never reach their destination. Migrants often pay large sums of money to owners of vessels to carry them across the sea. However, the vessels are often not equipped to carry the amount of people that are placed on board. This leads to dangerous conditions and wreckage, whereby thousands of migrants have lost their lives in the past several years.

In a special meeting of the European Council on April 23rd, the Council discussed this growing problem and action that could be taken to save lives in the Mediterranean. The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, urged the Council to take action.

“Saving the lives of innocent people is the number one priority. But saving lives is not just about rescuing people at sea. It is also about stopping the smugglers and addressing irregular migration,” the President urged.

At this special meeting the Council released a statement that included several key promises. The first is to strengthen the EU presence at sea, by tripling the financial support for search and rescue operations. The second objective is to pursue the traffickers themselves, through existing international legal channels.  Thirdly, the Council vowed to prevent illegal migration by working with the countries from which the migrants flee in attempts to solve some of the problems that lead to the illegal migration. And lastly, the Council agreed to strengthen cooperation within European Union member states to comply with the Common European Asylum System, which is based on the 1951 Geneva Convention on the protection of refugees, and attempts to maintain a common European policy on protecting those asylum seekers who are fleeing violence in their home countries.

The European Council’s action on this issue is hugely important to finding an end to the tragic loss of life that is happening in the Mediterranean. But the UN is also recognizing that the problem is a global issue of human rights, and is taking action of several fronts as well. The UN Refugee Agency has been assisting those who are rescued at sea or attempting to make the journey to pursue asylum status, but this often means taking the refugees to detention centers where conditions are very poor. In an April 19th press statement, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres stressed that finding a solution to the problem will involve not only helping those who are seeking asylum, but attempting to “address the root causes” of the migration that’s happening in the Mediterranean.

Find more information about this issue with the resources below.

Web Resources

OECD Factbook 2014: Economic, Environmental and Social Statistics: Migration and employment DOI:10.1787/factbook-2014-8-en

European Union – Clandestino – Database on Irregular Migration

UN Refugee Agency

CBS News – Death in the Mediterranean

Scholarly Articles (Available through UIUC Online Journals and Databases)

Battaini-Dragoni, Gabriella. 2002. “The Distinctive Role of the Council of Europe in Migration Management: The Case of the Euro-Mediterranean Region.”European Journal Of Migration & Law 4, no. 4: 1-497. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed April 30, 2015).

Mountz, A., & Loyd, J. M. (2014). Constructing the Mediterranean Region: Obscuring Violence in the Bordering of Europe’s Migration “Crises”. ACME: An International E-Journal For Critical Geographies, 13(2), 173-195.

Raeymaekers, T. (2014). Introduction Europe’s Bleeding Border and the Mediterranean as a Relational Space. ACME: An International E-Journal For Critical Geographies, 13(2), 163-172.

Books (Available through UIUC Libraries)

Lazaridis, Gabriella (2010). Security, insecurity, and migration in EuropeBurlington, VT : Ashgate.

Tapia, Stéphane de. (2008). The Euro-Mediterranean migration systemStrasbourg : Council of Europe Pub.

Kneebone, Susan,, Stevens, Dallal,Baldassar, Loretta. (Eds.) (2014). Refugee protection and the role of law :conflicting identitiesNew York, NY : Routledge, 2014.

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Land Mines and Explosive Remnants of War: A Global Burden

Created by Benjamin D. Hennig, Creative Commons conditions (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Saturday, April 4th was International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. Global Currents would like to take this opportunity to talk about the history of land mines and current issues and efforts surrounding mines and explosive hazards.

When wars end, often the death and destruction lingers for decades in the form of unexploded land mines and other types of explosives. The people living in affected areas must deal with the effects of these remnants of war, which still kill or injure around 11 people each day around the world, despite massive worldwide efforts since 1997 to eliminate them.  In addition to death and injury, the cost of medical care, resulting unemployment, and loss of usable land have detrimental effects on communities as well.

The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, also known as the Ottawa Treaty, was adopted by the UN in 1997, and currently has 162 signatories. 35 United Nations States are not-party to the treaty, including the United States, Russia, and China. Terms of the treaty for signatories includes destruction of land mine stockpiles (except for a small number for training purposes), clearing of all land mine areas within the country within ten years of signing, and assistance to persons affected by land mines. The Ottawa Treaty does not include any provisions for cluster munitions, however, which can pose many of the same civilian risks as land mines.  The Convention on Cluster Munitions , as a result, was adopted in 2008 and is currently signed by 116 countries. This convention is similar to the Ottawa Treaty in its obligations – destruction of stockpiles, clearing of areas, and assistance to victims.

The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) is the branch of the United Nations dedicated to addressing the problem of land mines and explosive hazards. The organization works in 40 countries and three territories on different aspects of mine action, depending on the area’s need. NGOs such as the The Marshal Legacy Institute, The Halo Trust, and the Landmine Relief Fund, cover a range of actions from demining efforts to public awareness to assistance for victims.

Despite the existence of these treaties and campaigns, land mines and cluster munitions remain a huge problem in many areas.  The International Campaign to Ban Land Mines produced the following major results on land mines and cluster munitions for 2013:

  • A global total of 3,308 casualties from land mines worldwide was reported, occurring in 52 states, 32 of which are state parties to the Ottawa Treaty. This number is a 24% decline from 2012’s 4,324.
  • In 2013, Syria had the highest number of cluster munition casualties for any nation, with around 1,000 casualties, 97% of which were civilians.
  • Casualties from cluster munition remnants occurred in nine states and one other area in 2013, including four state parties (Croatia, Iraq, Lao PDR, and Lebanon), five non-signatories (Cambodia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Vietnam), and Western Sahara.
  • Currently, only 11 states are identified as potential producers of antipersonnel land mines: China, Cuba, India, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, and Vietnam.
    • The United States was removed from this list because of a 2014 policy announcement that promised an end to the production and acquisition of antipersonnel mines.
  • “Sixteen countries continue to produce cluster munitions or reserve the right to produce in the future, but only three of these states are known to have used the weapon: Israel, Russia, and the United States.”

The latest reports show that progress is being made in eliminating the threat of land mines and cluster munitions to civilians, but policy and practice need to continue to move towards what ICBLM calls the “international norm against use – where use anywhere by anyone is considered abhorrent.” But integrally important to the effort to reduce the threat of these deadly devices is the raising of awareness around the globe. That is the goal of events such as International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, because the more people that see and are appalled by the statistics, the stronger the pressure will be on governments worldwide to fix the problem.

To find out more about land mine action, please consult the resources below!

Web Resources

UN Libraries Research Guide – Mine Action

The Collaborative ORDnance data repository (CORD) enables web-based search of landmine and other unexploded ordnance data to assist humanitarian demining and ordnance disposal operations.

Landmine & Cluster Monitor – Country Profiles

Cluster Munition Coalition

Scholarly Articles (Available through UIUC Online Journals and Databases)

ARCAND, J., RODELLA-BOITREAUD, A., & RIEGER, M. (2015). The Impact of Land Mines on Child Health: Evidence from Angola. Economic Development & Cultural Change, 63(2), 249-279.

Kirk, R. W. (2014). In Dogs We Trust? Intersubjectivity, Response-Able Relations, and the Making of Mine Detector Dogs. Journal Of The History Of The Behavioral Sciences, 50(1), 1-36.

Perez, J., Shortt, N., & Morton, J. (2012). Latin American Compliance with the Mine Ban Convention. International Journal Of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, 6(11), 89-100.

WILLIAMS J. STOP USING LAND MINES AND CLUSTER MUNITIONS. Foreign Policy [serial online]. January 2013;(198):1.

Books (Available at UIUC Libraries)

Borrie, John. (2009). Unacceptable harm: a history of how the treaty to ban cluster munitions was won. New York : United Nations.

Bryden, Alan. (2013). International law, politics and inhumane weapons: the effectiveness of global landmine regimesAbingdon, Oxon : Routledge.

Tyner, James A.. (2010).  Military legacies: a world made by warNew York : Routledge.

Williams, Jody, Goose, Stephen D.Wareham, Mary. (Eds.) (2008). Banning landmines :disarmament, citizen diplomacy, and human securityLanham : Rowman & Littlefield.

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Ending Gender-Based Violence: Global Efforts

Stop Violence Against Women 2

November 25th is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and the 16 days between November 25th and and December 10th are designated by Rutger’s University Center for Women’s Global Leadership as 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. These events put the problem of gender-based violence in the international spotlight and provide an opportunity to discuss the issue and how it is being addressed globally.

Violence against women and girls is a problem that reaches across national boundaries. It affects women of all ages, races, ethnicities, and religions.  Because gender-based violence is often a result of deeper, ingrained  societal discrimination, it is difficult to address and more difficult to eliminate. No matter what form the violence takes, it is harmful not just to individuals but to communities and societies at large. It is a human rights issue with wide-reaching implications that garners attention from the highest levels of international governance but will require fundamental change at the individual and community levels to stop.

Statistics

Here are some jarring global statistics about gender-based violence:

  • Up to 70 percent of women encounter some form of violence during their lifetime. (UN)
  • 1 in 3 women have experienced physical or sexual abuse in their lifetime. The abuser is usually a member of the woman’s family. (WHO)
  • Of the estimated 800,000 people trafficked across national borders annually, women and girls make up 80%.  A majority of these women and girls are trafficked for sexual exploitation. (WHO)
  • The number of women alive today who have undergone female genital mutilation is an estimated 100 and 140 million. (WHO)
  • In some parts of the world it is more likely that a girl will be raped than learn how to read. (WHO)
  • Women aged 15-44 are statistically more likely to be harmed by rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria. (UN)

What can be done?

The UN campaign UNiTE to End Violence Against Women outlines 16 steps that they believe are necessary to work towards ending violence against women.  These include adopting and enforcing laws, engaging the mass media, mobilizing men and boys, ending impunity towards conflict-related sexual violence, making justice available to women and girls, along with several more.  International and regional treaties are also an effective tool in mobilizing large-scale action to eliminate violence against women. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which was adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, defines discrimination against women as “…any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.” This widely-arching convention is a powerful tool for gender equality that calls upon UN member states to enact laws and create institutions to eliminate discrimination.

The International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) has been proposed as a piece of legislation in the United States, supported by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other advocacy groups, that would address violence against women through United States foreign policy, implementing a set of best practices for preventing the violence and prosecuting perpetrators of such acts.  The act was introduced in 2011 to the United States Congress, but was not passed into law.  Critics, such as Wendy McElroy from The Independent Institute,  claim that the act would unfairly ignore male victims of gendered and sexual violence.  Some international agreements, such as the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention, address this concern, pointing out that the principles and framework of such rulings can be applied to “men, children and the elderly who are exposed to violence within the family or domestic unit.” It will remain to be seen whether formal legislation such as I-VAWA will be passed in the United States, but advocacy organizations hope that awareness events such as International Violence Against Women Day and the 16 Days Campaign will spur the creation of new legal measures and activism throughout the world to address this problem.

Check out the resources below to learn more or get involved!

Web Resources

International Violence Against Women Survey

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 2014

Unite to End Violence Against Women

No1Nowhere Campaign

Women Thrive Worldwide

Violence Against Women FactSheet – UN

Books from the UIUC Libraries

Nakray, Keerty. (Eds.) (2013). Gender-based violence and public health: international perspectives on budgets and policiesAbingdon, Oxon : Routledge.

Nichols, Andrea J. (2014). Feminist advocacy: gendered organizations in community-based responses to domestic violenceLanham : Lexington Books.

Renzetti, Claire M., Edleson, Jeffrey L.Bergen, Raquel Kennedy. (2010). Sourcebook on Violence Against Women. Thousand Oaks : SAGE Publications.

Rose, Susan D.. (2014). Challenging global gender violence :the Global Clothesline Project. New York : Palgrave Pivot.

Stewart, Mary White. (2014). Ordinary violence: everyday assaults against women worldwideSanta Barbara, California : Praeger, an imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC.

Scholarly Articles (Available through UIUC Online Journals and Databases)

Casey, E. A., Carlson, J., Fraguela-Rios, C., Kimball, E., Neugut, T. B., Tolman, R. M., & Edleson, J. L. (2013). Context, Challenges, and Tensions in Global Efforts to Engage Men in the Prevention of Violence against Women: An Ecological Analysis. Men & Masculinities, 16(2), 228-251.

Devries, K. M., Mak, J. T., García-Moreno, C., Petzold, M., Child, J. C., Falder, G., & … Watts, C. H. (2013). The Global Prevalence of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women. Science, 340(6140), 1527-1528.

Mason, C. L. (2013). Global Violence Against Women as National Security “Emergency”. Feminist Formations, 25(2), 55-80.

McFarlane, J., Nava, A., Gilroy, H., Paulson, R., & Maddoux, J. (2012). Testing Two Global Models to Prevent Violence against Women and Children: Methods and Baseline Data Analysis of a Seven-Year Prospective Study. Issues In Mental Health Nursing, 33(12), 871-881.

Šimonović, D. (2014). Global and Regional Standards on Violence Against Women: The Evolution and Synergy of the CEDAW and Istanbul Conventions. Human Rights Quarterly, 36(3), 590-606.

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The Lyon Declaration and the Role of Libraries in Development

banner_lyon-declaration

On August 18th, at the 80th IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) General Conference and Assembly, IFLA released the Lyon Declaration on Access to Information and Development.

The UN post-2015 Development Agenda is the plan currently under construction to succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as a framework for global development. The MDGs consist of eight specific goals, from eradicating poverty to promoting gender equality to reducing child mortality, and have been the impetus for a wide range of programs since their implementation in 2000. The 2010 High-level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly on the MDGs called upon UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to begin the process of constructing a post-2015 development plan.  As a result, the UN System Task Team on the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda was created, as well as a High-level Panel of Eminent Persons to advise on the post-2015 developmental framework.

Part of the post-2015 development planning process is the call for an “inclusive dialogue” in the creation of the goals.  In order to open up the dialogue and utilize the input of people and organizations worldwide, the UN launched “The World We Want 2015,” an interactive survey that allows people to voice their opinions on what should be included in the post-2015 developmental agenda.  This website also provides visualizations of the data that has been collected so far.

In this spirit of “inclusive dialogue,” The Lyon Declaration is an advocacy document that aims to influence the UN’s post-2015 Development Agenda.  It outlines the importance of access to information and knowledge in development and individual empowerment.

Freedom of information has long been considered a human rights issue.  In the first session of the United Nations in 1946, Resolution 59(I), adopted by the General Assembly, stated, “Freedom of information is a fundamental human right and … the touchstone of all the freedoms to which the United Nations is consecrated.”

The rise of the Internet has transformed the ways in which people access information and has opened up possibilities for information dissemination that the delegates of that first UN session in 1946 could never have imagined.  The Internet provides the unprecedented opportunity to support development by empowering individuals with information that facilitates education, increases job opportunities, provides connections to cultural heritage, and allows for civil participation in governmental processes.  The Lyon Declaration asserts that the equitable access to this information should be part of a human-rights based framework for development.

Another important aspect of the Lyon Declaration is its emphasis on the role of libraries, archives, and civil service organizations as facilitators of information dissemination.  By outlining the role that these organizations can play in providing information access to individuals and communities, the declaration urges the UN and the world to recognize them as human rights institutions.  While it is important to have the Information Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure to disseminate information to people, it is just as important to have institutions present that can bridge the gap between the technology and the people that it serves.  As Kay Mathiesen states in a recent article on information access and human rights, “libraries provide a centralized access point so that people know where to get information and they organize information so that people can find what they need and explore further.” The Lyon Declaration points out to the world the importance of libraries in development and places libraries at the cornerstone of the effort to empower individuals through knowledge and information fluency.

As of October 2nd, 2014, the Lyon Declaration had over 350 signatories, made up of libraries, institutions, and organizations all over the world.  IFLA plans to continue to the campaign to include information access in the final Post-2015 Development Agenda.  On October 6th, IFLA released a toolkit to assist library professionals who are interacting with government policymakers in successfully arguing for the role of libraries in development.  The UN expects to release the final Post-2015 Development Agenda by December of 2015, and undoubtedly IFLA will continue to push for the recognition of the Lyon Declaration until this final release.

Check out the resources below to learn more!

Web Resources

The Lyon Declaration – One Month On – IFLA

The Lyon Declaration Tackles Information Access and Sustainable Development – Information Today

Millennium Development Goals and the Post-2015 Agenda – UN

Africa: Fight Poverty – With Data –All Africa

The World We Want 2015

How Libraries can Support Development – The Guardian

IFLA/UNESCO Public Library Manifesto – 1994

Beyond Access – Library Partnerships

U.N. report: Internet access is a human right

 

Scholarly Articles (Available through UIUC Online Journals and Databases)

Rad, S. T., Kurt, Ş. Ş., & Polatöz, S. S. (2013). Use of Information and Communication Technologies in Rural Mersın (Turkey); Prospects For Rural Development. Journal Of Tekirdag Agricultural Faculty10(3), 97-106.

Gelb, E., A. Maru, J. Brodgen, E. Dodsworth, R. Samii, V. Pesee, 2008. Adoption of ICT Enabled Information Systems for Agricultural Development and Rural Viability

Ceeehini, S. and C. Scott, 2003. Can Information and Communications Technology Applications Contributeto Poverty Reduction? Lessons From Rural India. Information Technology for Development 10(2003)73-84.

Mendel, Tony. Freedom of Information as an Internationally Protected Human Right.

Mathiesen, Kay. 2009 Access to Information as a Human Right. Conference Paper.

 

Books Available at UIUC Libraries

Al-Suqri, Mohammed Nasser, Lillard, Linda L., Al-Saleem, Naifa Eid. (Eds.) (2014). Information access and library user needs in developing countries. Hershey, PA : Information Science Reference.

Browne, Stephen, Weiss, Thomas George. (Eds.) (2014). Post-2015 UN development: making change happen. Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, NY.

Gready, Paul, Vandenhole, Wouter. (Eds.) (2014). Human rights and development in the new millennium: towards a theory of change. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon : Routledge.

Njobvu, Benson, Koopman, Sjoerd M. J.. (Eds.) (2008). Libraries and information services towards the attainment of the UN millennium development goals. München : K. G. Saur.

Steyn, Jacques., Van Belle, Jean-Paul, Villanueva, Mansilla, Eduardo. (Eds.) (2011). ICTs for global development and sustainability practice and applications. Hershey, Pa. : IGI Global.

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Upcoming Teach In – The Islamic State and the Implosion of Syria and Iraq: Whither the Middle East?

Teach-In — The Islamic State and the Implosion of Syria and Iraq: Whither the Middle East?

Thursday, October 2

4:00 – 5:15 PM

Bevier 180

UPDATE: The video for the Teach-In is now available!

Sponsored by: Program in Arms Control, Disarmament, and International Security (ACDIS), Center for Global Studies, and Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

Panelists will include:

  • Jamsheed Choksy, Indiana University
  • Carol Choksy, Indiana University
  • Paul Diehl, University of Illinois
  • Dr. Zaher Sahloul, Syrian American Medical Society

Moderator:

  • Edward Kolodziej, University of Illinois

In preparation for this event, this blog post will summarize some important information about the terrorist group known as the Islamic State.

Origins of ISIS

The terrorist group known as ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) traces its origins from the early 2000s, when Abu Musab al Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant, founded the Sunni Muslim extremist group Tawhid wa al-Jihad (Unity and Jihad).  This group later became a splinter group of al-Qaeda in Iraq, and became well-known for its ruthlessness.  After Al-Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. airstrike in 2006, a new leader, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, took control of the terrorist group and changed its name to ISI (Islamic State in Iraq).  At this point ISI was still affiliated with al-Qaeda.  During the period of U.S. troop surges in Iraq in 2006-2007, ISIS was considerably weakened but not completely wiped out.  In 2010 Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi took control of the group.

Expansion

The anti-government uprising in Syria during 2011-2013 presented itself as an opportunity for ISI to expand, and the group moved into Syria by taking over the Syrian group al-Nusra, renaming itself ISIS.  Al-Qaeda leadership opposed this expansion, which led to ISIS’s break from al-Qaeda in 2013.  As U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq in 2013, ISIS increased its violent endeavors in the country.  In January of 2014, ISIS fighters overtook the Iraqi cities of Fallujah and Ramadi.  In June the group made further advances in Iraq, capturing the second-largest city of Iraq, Mosul, as well as Tikrit.  At this point ISIS declared itself “the Caliphate.”  During the summer of 2014, ISIS shocked the world with graphic videos of mass executions of captured soldiers.  ISIS has continued to use social media outlets as mediums for displaying their brutality, releasing execution videos of two American journalists and one British humanitarian worker in August and September.

Crisis of the Yazidi People

In the late summer of 2014, ISIS fighters began targeting Iraqi Yazidis, a Kurdish ethno-religious community in Northern Iraq, in efforts to rid the country of non-Islamic peoples.  In early August, ISIS advanced on the town of Sinjar which held tens of thousands of Yazidi people, some of which had already fled from other towns.  The Yazidis, along with some Shiite Muslims, were forced to flee the city into the neighboring mountains.  As many as 40,000 people became stranded in the mountains, besieged by ISIS forces and faced with extremely high temperatures and dehydration in the rough mountain terrain.  At this point President Obama authorized airstrikes against ISIS to help these stranded people flee to safety in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The airstrikes as well as aid from Syrian Kurdish fighters have allowed for the escape of 20,000 to 30,000 people from the mountains surrounding Sinjar. While a majority of those stranded have escaped, thousands more remain in peril and face imprisonment, slavery, or death at the hands of ISIS forces.  On September 24, the BBC reported that more than 3,000 Yazidi women and children have been captured and are  being trafficked for sex.  Iraqi Yazidi politician, Vian Dakheel, stated, “We’re a minority here and there’s no strong lobby to support us.” She explained that support from foreign governments was essential to rescuing the thousands of individuals still in the hands of the extremist group.

What the Islamic State Wants

The goal of the Islamic State is to establish a caliphate, which according to Islamic Law is a religious state ruled by a single leader who holds absolute political and religious rule.  The current leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, claims to be this leader, or “caliph,” declaring himself, “leader of Muslims everywhere.” But ISIS subscribes to a brutal extremist version of Sunni Islam, and the group is intolerant of any religious groups which contradict its beliefs.  ISIS seized the profitable oil fields of central Iraq in 2014, and subsequently has an estimated $2 billion in assets, which makes it currently the world’s wealthiest militant group.  ISIS’s sizeable assets, as well as the seizure of weapons and supplies from Iraqi and Syrian forces, make the group extremely well-armed as well.

Foreign Intervention

In August of 2014, President Obama sent a small number of American troops into Iraq to assist Iraqi forces in fighting ISIS.  The U.S. has also undertaken an airstrike campaign against ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria.  Part of the U.S. campaign against ISIS includes a humanitarian effort to assist the ethnic and religious communities in Iraq and Syria that are in threat of persecution.  The U.S. is joined by France, Saudia Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, and Jordan in airstrike operations against ISIS.  The United Kingdom has also been involved, primarily in Northern Iraq, in humanitarian efforts.  Germany and Italy have also committed to providing humanitarian support to the region.  Albania, Croatia, and the Czech Republic have assisted by supplying weapons to Kurdish forces in Northern Iraq.  In a speech on September 24th before the United Nations, President Obama called for the world to assist in the military efforts against ISIS. Meanwhile, the UN has declared the crisis in Iraq a “Level 3 Emergency,” calling upon the nations of the world to assist with the growing humanitarian crises in Iraq and Syria.

Learn more about ISIS by attending the Teach-In, and with the sources below:

News Resources from Around the World

Hindustan Times – The Rise of ISIS terror – a timeline

CNN – ISIS Fast Facts

BBC News –  Iraq crisis: Desperate plight of refugees near Dohuk

The Independent –  Where does Isis get its money from? US steps up the battle to find out

BBC News – Islamic State crisis: Yazidi anger at Iraq’s forgotten people

Al Jazeera – ISIL’s war just went global – Group calls for attacks on US and allies wherever they are – a declaration of war and a defining moment of this conflict

Web Resources

Institute for the Study of War – Timely updates on the situation in Iraq and Syria.

Vox – Things about Isis you need to know

Tracking Terrorism – Islamic State of Iraq and ash Sham / Islamic State (Islamic State of Iraq, ISIS or ISIL, IS)

Scholarly Articles (Available through UIUC Online Journals and Databases)

Cragin, R. Kim. (2014). A RECENT HISTORY OF AL-QA’IDA. The Historical
Journal, 57, pp 803-824.

Hogger, Henry. (2014). SYRIA: HOPE OR DESPAIR? Asian Affairs,
45:1, 1-8.

Phillips, Andrew. (2014). The Islamic State’s challenge to international order.
Australian Journal of International Affairs, 68:5, 495-498.

Books at UIUC Libraries

Celso, Anthony. (2014). Al-Qaeda’s Post-9/11 Devolution: The Failed Jihadist Struggle Against the Near and Far EnemyLondon : Bloomsbury Publishing.

Feldman, Noah. (2010). The Fall and Rise of the Islamic StatePrinceton : Princeton University Press.

Gottlieb, Stuart. (Eds.) (2014). Debating terrorism and counterterrorism: conflicting perspectives on causes, contexts, and responsesLos Angeles : Sage.

Lappin, Yaakov. (2011). Virtual caliphate: exposing the Islamist state on the internetDulles, Va. : Potomac Books.

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Global Challenges for Gender Equality

UN Commission on the Status of Women

This week, the 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW58) coincides with International Women’s Day (which took place on March 8th), as well as Women’s History Month in the U.S.  These events present a great opportunity to discuss and examine the challenges faced by women and girls in today’s world.  Let’s focus on three key target areas for gender equality (UN Women, 2013).

Freedom from violence against women and girls

The World Health Organization reported in 2013 that 35% of women worldwide have experienced some type of violence  in their lifetime. This violence can have serious and long-lasting effects on women’s mental, reproductive, and sexual health (WHO, 2013). This issue is addressed in the UN Millennium Development Goals, and will undoubtedly be addressed by the post-2015 development goals.  UN Women works to encourage legal reform, create safe spaces for women, provide health services for victims of violence, increase awareness of the problem, and prevent violence by addressing the root causes. This cause has also been taken up by many private organizations, such as End Violence Against Women International and Springtide Resources. These organizations focus on education initiatives, prevention programs, as well as conducting research to guide efforts at reform.

Gender Equality in the Distribution of Capabilities

This area involves women’s access to education, healthcare, and opportunities such as land or work with equal pay.  The Millennium Development Goals Report of 2013 indicates that progress is being made in all of these areas, but this progress varies by region and demographic.  For instance, the report reveals that women tend to hold less secure jobs than men in developing regions.  The statistics for education reveal that in Northern Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and Western Asia, the gender disparity in education still remains high (UN, 2013).  The World Economic Forum’s World Gender Gap Report also shows that the “Gender Gap” varies greatly depending on region and tends to be higher in developing areas(World Economic Forum, 2013).

Gender equality in decision-making power

This issue is about women holding positions of influence in public forums and government, but also in their own homes and families.  The number of women that hold parliamentary seats has increased in almost every world region since 2000, mostly due to the creation of legislative or voluntary quotas that require a certain number of female members. However, women’s decision-making power at home remains significantly lower than men’s in many regions of the world (UN, 2013).  These types of decisions range from money-related decisions, to women’s ability to visit friends and family, to decisions about women’s own health.  Family dynamics are greatly influenced by societal and institutional norms, and the hope of many organizations is that by increasing women’s access to education and work opportunities, these norms will begin to change in a direction that is less discriminatory towards women.

Why is gender equality so important?

In a recent report, the UK-based Department for International Development explains that economic stability and growth for developing countries is greatly boosted by improved gender equality.  It makes sense – if women and girls can gain access to improved education, they will eventually get better jobs and be able to better contribute to the economy. The same study shows that including women in political decision-making leads to more effective governance, since women’s presence in government brings greater diversity and different experience to the process (DFID, 2013). This makes the problem all the more pressing and important.  Gender equality is not only a significant concern from a human rights standpoint, but it will allow for the economic and political growth that developing nations need to make them competitive in world markets.

But on a more basic level, gender equality is about advancing human rights for all citizens of the world.

Check out the resources below to learn more about this subject:

Organizations

He for She

UN Women

Women Thrive Wordwide

International Labour Organization Bureau for Gender Equality (GENDER)

End Violence Against Women International

Springtide Resources

Women for Women International

 

Informative Websites and Web Articles

Timeline of International Agreements and Standards to End Violence against Women

Five Human Rights Issues for U.S. NonProfits on International Women’s Day – Non-Profit Quarterly

International Women’s Day: Mainstream Messaging For The Radical Cause Of Full Economic Empowerment – Forbes

 

Scholarly Articles (Available through UIUC E-Journals)

Corinne L. Mason. “Global Violence Against Women as a National Security “Emergency”.” Feminist Formations 25.2 (2013): 55-80. Project MUSE. Web. 14 Mar. 2014.

Hendra, J., FitzGerald, I., & Seymour, D. (2013). TOWARDS A NEW TRANSFORMATIVE DEVELOPMENT AGENDA: THE ROLE OF MEN AND BOYS IN ACHIEVING GENDER EQUALITY. Journal Of International Affairs67(1), 105-122.

Munin, N. (2013). NGOs, Multinational Enterprises and Gender Equality in Labor Markets: A Political Economy of Conflicting Interests?. Journal Of Multidisciplinary Research (1947-2900)5(1), 5-26.

Chant, SylviaSweetman, Caroline.  (2012). Fixing women or fixing the world? ‘Smarteconomics’, efficiency approaches, and gender equality in development. Gender & Development. 20(3), 517-52.

 

Latest Books at the UIUC Libraries

Joffe, Lisa Fishbayn.Neil, Sylvia. (Eds.) (2013). Gender, religion, & family law: theorizing conflicts between women’s rights and cultural traditionsWaltham, Mass. : Brandeis University Press.

Karamessini, Maria.Rubery, Jill. (Eds.) (2014). Women and austerity: the economic crisis and the future for gender equalityMilton Park, Abingdon, Oxon : Routledge.

Ringrose, Jessica. (2013). Postfeminist education?: girls and the sexual politics of schoolingLondon : Routledge.

Rose, Susan D.. (2014). Challenging global gender violence: the Global Clothesline ProjectNew York : Palgrave Pivot.

Runyan, Anne Sisson,Peterson, V. Spike. (2014). Global gender issues in the new millenniumBoulder, CO : Westview Press.

Yarwood, Lisa. (Eds.) (2013). Women and transitional justice: the experience of women as participantsAbingdon, Oxon : Routledge.

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World Leaders Talk Disarmament at UN Conference

Photo: U.S. Mission by Eric Bridiers

On January 21st, the UN Conference on Disarmament opened in Geneva.  With members from 65 countries including the world’s leading military powers, the conference is designed to create multilateral agreements on arms control and disarmament.  The conference, which began in 1979, has resulted in some of the most important treaties on non-proliferation, such as the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon opened the conference with a speech urging member states to overcome differences and move past the stalemate that the conference has experienced in recent years.  Speaking of the Syrian chemical weapons incident of 2013, and the unified voice that came from United Nations member states against such weapons, he encouraged the conference to use structured discussions and draw out new non-proliferation treaty frameworks.

While non-proliferation has become a strong point of rhetoric for many nations, the steps taken to reduce nuclear arms have fallen short of many expectations in recent years.  In a 2009 speech, President Obama vowed that the United States would “seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” (as cited in Karp, 2012).  Yet, in early January, the U.S. Defense Secretary announced a plan to upgrade the United States nuclear forces that will total $1 trillion in cost over the next 30 years. These discrepancies between ideology and practice are not limited to the United States.  Russia, China, and India are all taking huge steps to expand their nuclear defense programs as well (Wittner, 2014). The Conference on Disarmament could be an important forum for bringing these discrepancies to light and developing structured and open discussions about their meanings.  Hopefully, member states will heed the words of Secretary General Ki-Moon and overcome their differences to engage in these discussions.

You can learn more about non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament with the sources below!

News Sources

UN chief encourages Conference on Disarmament to live up to world’s expectations – UN News Centre

Interview with Angela Kane, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs

The Endless Arms Race: Despite Great Power Promises, New Nuclear Weapons Are On the Way – Huffington Post, Lawrence Wittner

 

Scholarly Articles

Doyle, J., & Streeper, C. (2012). Steps toward increased nuclear transparency. Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists, 68(2), 55-62.

Karp, R. (2012). Nuclear Disarmament: Should America Lead? Political Science Quarterly, 127(1), 47-71.

Lawrence Freedman (2013) Disarmament and Other Nuclear Norms, TheWashington Quarterly, 36:2, 93-108.

Tannenwald, N. (2013). Justice and fairness in the nuclear nonproliferation regime. Ethics & International Affairs, 27(3), 299.

Walker, P. F., & Hunt, J. R. (2011). The legacy of Reykjavik and the future of nuclear disarmament. Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists, 67(6), 63-72.

 

Books at UIUC Libraries

Chalmers, Malcolm. (2012). Less is better: nuclear restraint at low numbers. London : Rusi.

Jasper, Ursula. (2014). The politics of nuclear non-proliferation: a pragmatist framework for analysis. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon : Routledge.

Kutchesfahani, Sara Z. (2014). Politics and the bomb: the role of experts in the creation of cooperative nuclear non-proliferation agreements. New York, NY : Routledge.

Warren, Aiden. (2014). The Obama administration’s nuclear weapon strategy: the promises of Prague. Abingdon, Oxon : Routledge.

 

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