Sunday, 11 February 2018

THE NEWS EDIT [05/02/2018- 11/02/2018]

On Tuesday, we celebrated the 100 year anniversary of when some women were given the right to vote, after years of campaigning through the Suffragette movement. Many headlines debated whether the UK government should pardon the suffragettes for their actions during their fight for voting equality. While I can understand the underlying logic, it is my belief that if you pardon the suffragettes, you undermine their deliberate radicalism and by extension, the very struggle we are remembering and celebrating. 

I also think that pardoning the suffragettes suggests that gender inequality (at the core of their protests) is somehow a thing of the 'past' and that the government of today is both progressive and an optimal model or champion of gender equality. It is neither. It is the government's responsibility to ensure that life is made better for the women who are struggling in this bleak age of austerity and to ensure that women's rights are protected. Historical pardoning not only rewrites the suffragettes as a non-radical group, but it threatens to entirely erase the society of the time and rewrite the historical narrative, without which we cannot hope to reshape our present. 

The UN issued a statement calling for a one month ceasefire  to ease the humanitarian crisis and dramatic deterioration in some parts of Syria. A series of blockades by Assad's regime has rendered the UN almost powerless to respond to the increasingly desperate situation. New layers of complexity to the conflict has manifested in the province of Idlib, which has been subject to mounting political tensions and violent attacks from Turkey and an Arab proxy force. While Idlib has been officially marked as a deescalation zone, peace and stability are far from the lived reality of the region.

The situation in Idlib reveals a great deal about the nature of the conflict as a whole. Perceptions of regions as deescalation areas contribute to the view that the Syrian civil war is unwinding somewhat which gives little, if any, political imperative to the international community to intervene and step up their efforts in creating a long-term political situation. The few attempts which have been made (in Geneva and Sochi, Russia for example) have failed to materialise and the conflict is continuing to impact upon thousands of Syrian lives.

This March will mark seven years since the outbreak of the conflict, yet many recent reports which have circulated in the media have failed to convey the true extent of the rapidly deteriorating situation in Syria. It is the responsibility of corporate news divisions to ensure that developments in Syria are reported on a far more regular basis and that the lived realities of life during the humanitarian crisis are relayed to the global community, if we have any hope of saving another generation of Syrians from suffering from the same fate. 

A ''grand coalition'' deal was announced in Germany this week, between Merkel's centre-right Christian Democrats and the centre-left Social Democrats, commonly known as the SPD. A series of Christian Democrats concessions to the SPD, including the finance, labour and foreign affairs ministries, have placed Merkel in a position of scrutiny from the offset, from hardliners in her party who strongly oppose the concessions made. There is also a lot of ambiguity, with agreements between the two parties yet to be finalised. To me, it seems highly likely that both sides will play out politics to ensure that they are in the strongest position when inevitable future challenges arise. It's clear that this will be Merkel's toughest run as Chancellor. 

Images taken in the Arctic this week capturing the increasing levels of plastic waste in the region have been particularly hard hitting to see. The Arctic is commonly described as a pristine wilderness, when the reality is clearly so very far from it. Last year alone saw the removal of 30 tonnes of plastic and other rubbish from the Arctic coastline, which have been sourced from all over the world. It's saddening to see that the Arctic's fragile ecosystem is, quite literally, at the very tip of the iceburg tip, with irreversible consequences. 

News of the inappropriate sexual misconduct of Oxfam's aid workers in Haiti, back in 2011 after the earthquake of 2010 have absolutely disgusted me. The way in which the charity handled the allegations, by carrying out private investigations and not disclosing the case details to the public, is utter negligence on Oxfam leadership's behalf. The organisation's immense cover-up of the sexual misconduct and exploitation of vulnerable sex workers, including very senior aid workers in the region such as Oxfam's country director for Haiti, has completely shattered the relationship of trust between the government, those who donate to the charity and most importantly, those who were victims of the sexual misconduct. 

It's not surprising that many people have called for the government to cut off its funding to the charity. But I can't help but feel bitterly disappointed if this is the final verdict. The actions of a few threaten to discredit the integrity of a majority of aid workers, who are committed to their jobs and committed to helping those who most need their help. Senior executives of the charity have denied any cover up of the events of 2011, insisting that drawing attention to the case at the time would have been catastrophic. On the contrary, revealing the true extent of the people of Haiti's vulnerability, even by its very own aid workers, was Oxfam's moral responsibility. They have completely failed, right at the top of the organisation. 

Antonia x

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