An Anti-Waste Bill for France

An Anti-Waste Bill for France

In early December, the French Assembly started to debate on a “revolutionary” bill based on “anti-waste and circular economy”. 

The bill covers many topics, including more information on products for consumers, better quality manufactured products, no-more overproduction, no-more built-in obsolescence and plastic reduction. 

 

The key points of the bill are the following:

  • Ending the destruction of unsold products and encouraging products to be donated instead. 
  • Going forward with the “polluter has to pay” rule and introducing a “bonus” to encourage companies to transition their way of producing to a more sustainable model.
  • Creating a mandatory grade sign indicating a product’s longevity, resistance and repairability.
  • Introducing a rule where companies must recycle your old product when selling you a new one upon point of sale or delivery. 

 

A tangible example of what kind of changes the bill could introduce is the possibility to buy one pill at the pharmacist instead of a full box when you don’t need it. Another is the prohibition of supermarkets to destruct unsold food – which would make France the first country to do so. 

Originally, the draft bill was suggested by Brune Poirson, French Ecology State Secretary, in July 2019. In the Senate, the draft bill was approved almost unanimously (342 votes in favor – 1 against) in late September. Following, members of the Sustainable Development and Territory Arrangement Commission made some core amendments and the new draft bill was approved on the 29th November.

One such amendment made by Mrs. Batho, former French Minister for Ecology, would eventually prohibit Black Friday. The idea is to put an end to Black Friday “sales” that are not real sales, in the way that consumers don’t actually benefit from (high) discounts. In the UK, a study has shown that only five 5% of the discounts on Black Friday are actually discounts. In France, it was proven that an average of only 8% of the products sold that day are actually on sale, and that the discounts vary between 2 and 10%, far from the 50%, 75% or 90% signs. With this amendment, Batho added Black Friday’s sales operations to the “aggressive commercial practice” list, which can be punished by a €300.000 fine or two years jail time.

Another member of the Commission, Mr. Pahun also made two interesting amendments. Firstly, mentions of “biodegradable”, “environment friendly” or similar language should be completely prohibited for companies to use. Mr. Pahun states that such  language is subjective and not controlled and therefore should be prohibited to avoid the possibility of “greenwashing”. This means that companies could no longer make you believe that they are doing something to protect the environment when they are actually not, or not as much as they claim they do. Secondly, Pahun added that “if [an item is] said to be a ‘recycled item’, [the] percentage of recycled material used must be mentioned”. Again, he wants to prevent “greenwashing” and ensure that consumers have access to real information concerning the product they might want to buy. 

This bill is a step in the right direction and complies with the country’s goal to have 100% recycled plastics by 2025 and no more plastic food packaging by 2040.

 

 

Photo by Jasmin Sessler

 

 

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Book Review: Klein Gifts Us With Tools to Unite Climate Action in ‘On Fire’

Naomi Klein is as accessible as ever as she dissects the scientific and economic jargon of climate change, while simultaneously injecting empathy and passion in her fight to hold corporations and fossil fuel companies accountable. On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal, has the possibility to unite the movement once again and inspire action on a scale that humanity has never accomplished before.

Unsustainable Biking?

A lot of us are aware that our carbon footprint is terrible and that we have to change our habits. For some of us, this means leaving the car behind and starting to bike. Unfortunately, the way we “consume” biking is an ecological issue.

When Climate Change Refuses to be Ignored – Venice Floods

On the last 14th of November, the city of Venice suffered the worst flooding in 53 years. Flooding is just one of the many impacts from climate change that is being experienced with more frequency and globally it threatens many vulnerable areas and regions.

An Anti-Waste Bill for France

In early December, the French Assembly started to debate on a revolutionary bill based on “anti-waste and circular economy”. The bill covers many topics, including more information on products for consumers, better quality manufactured products, no-more overproduction, no-more built-in obsolescence and plastic reduction.

What does ‘climate justice’ actually mean?

Over recent years, the noise around ‘climate action’ and ‘climate justice’ has been ramping up, but many people are still confused over what writers, activists and politicians are actually talking about.

The European Investment Bank’s decision to divest from fossil fuels

The European Investment Bank (EIB) recently announced that it would be phasing out investment in fossil fuel companies by 2021. The EIB is the biggest public lender globally and the move was celebrated by those within the banking industry and the environmental movement. It sends a clear message that markets are moving away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energies.

The 6th of January: Women’s Christmas

The 6th of January: Women’s Christmas

You might know the 6th of January as the Feast of the Epiphany or the day of arrival of the Magi – the Three Wise Men – at the crib in Bethlehem. It is also called Little Christmas as it falls twelve days after Christmas Day, and in parts of Ireland, it is celebrated as Nollaig na mBan or Women’s Christmas.

The tradition of celebrating Nollaig na mBan is particularly associated with the West of Ireland and it seems to have originated as a reward for all of the hard work by women of doing the cooking, cleaning and organising of Christmas festivities. 

On that day men took over the housework and allowed women time off to put their feet up and rest, or to visit other women and share in a small celebration of wine and treats – although the main ingredient was always talk! Throughout the year women sold eggs and used some of the egg money to buy turkeys which they reared and sold at Christmas, as this poem by Moya Roddy describes. Whatever was left over from this money after the expense of Christmas could be spent as the women saw fit, including using it to buy things for their own celebration on January 6th. The tradition of Nollaig na mBan allowed women some economic independence in a time when women did not have a lot of agency. 

Even today, women can be said to draw the short straw at Christmas, often having the responsibility for shopping, cooking, buying presents and looking after the family during the festive season, so any time out is precious.

Nollaig na mBan has been revived over the last number of years with more and more women celebrating it. It has also moved from being a rural event to an urban one too. As housework is more evenly divided these days, the tradition is now seen more as a celebration of friendship and sisterhood, a time of solidarity and warmth. 

So why not take the time this year on January 6th to visit with your female friends, relatives or neighbours or plan a get-together and celebrate the power and potential of female kinship? 

A very happy Women’s Christmas or Nollaig na mBan to you!

 

Photo by Piqsels

 

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The 6th of January: Women’s Christmas

The tradition of celebrating Nollaig na mBan is particularly associated with the West of Ireland and it seems to have originated as a reward for all of the hard work by women of doing the cooking, cleaning and organising of Christmas festivities.

STAND Women: 2019 in Review

Women make up roughly 50% of our global population but still face significant human rights challenges, including some which are less visible but equally damaging such as gender bias in institutions like the media. Cassie, our Women’s Section Editor, reminds us of the women’s rights issues that were important to us in 2019.

The Prevalence of “Lad Culture” and Toxic Attitudes in Ireland

Despite progressive changes occurring throughout Ireland in this decade, findings exploring attitudes towards gender equality and domestic abuse in Ireland has proven the prevalence of toxic attitudes in young men. Ireland’s young women are still facing catcalling, sexist remarks and attitudes from peers, among other serious and intimidating behaviours.

FemFest 2019: Women’s inequality should come with a mental health warning

The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) hosted their fifth annual FemFest on Saturday, November 30th in Dublin’s City Centre. Women between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five were invited to freely participate and unite in various workshops, panel discussions and listen to guest speakers. The event succeeded in empowering the future voices of our society, to continue pushing to implement change across all fields of adversity.

Book Review: “Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!”

“Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!” is a collection of powerful essays, interspersed with beautiful illustrations, that tell the stories of female human rights defenders from Egypt, Kuwait, Palestine, Tunisia, Turkey, Somalia and Sudan. Behind each story is a meeting of two women. Here is our review.

What is Ecofeminism?

Ecofeminism is a movement that unites two issues close to our hearts at STAND: women’s rights and the environment. It is perhaps one of the most useful ways we can look at a wide range of social issues we face today. However, the term may be unfamiliar to many.

STAND Women: 2019 in Review

STAND Women: 2019 in Review

Women make up roughly 50% of our global population but still face significant human rights challenges, including some which are less visible but equally damaging such as gender bias in institutions like the media. I began my role as STAND’s Women’s Section Editor in June 2019 and six months in I’m continuing to learn so much about the issues women face, both internationally but also at home in Ireland – and the myriad connections and intersections that exist between issues! Here is a brief recap of the women’s rights issues STAND covered this year: 

 

In January, we discussed Gender Equality and the SDGs, asking how SDG 5 links to the other goals, and if countries are doing enough to empower women and girls. Fast forward to March as we documented the Polish government’s threats towards women activists and joined in International Women’s Day celebrations on 8 March. In April, the month of April Fools, we highlighted the unmet need for funny female-led superhero films. In May, we revisited the #BringBackOurGirls campaign five years on and documented the protests of women in Sudan as they took part in the uprising, as well as the practice of breast ironing which affects 3.8 million girls globally. In June, we explored the issue of conflict-related sexual violence; featured a positive news story about the Afghan girls robotic team; and celebrated women engineers like Hedy Lamarr (the 1940s starlet who helped to invent torpedo, Bluetooth, WiFi and GPS technologies) on International Women Engineers Day. In July, football frenzy in the form of the Women’s World Cup was upon us and we took the opportunity to highlight the inequalities women face in the sport. We also discussed self care’s radical origins (did you know it emerged from the feminist and black panther movements?) and the importance of family planning in women’s lives. In August, we marked a year of Greta Thunberg (TIME’s person of the year 2019), celebrated the incredible bravery of migrant rescuer Carola Rakete and the late Somali journalist Hodan Nalayeh (sadly killed in a terrorist attack earlier this year), and discussed the issue of coercive control. Intersections of climate change and gender are extremely important and so in September we focused on the indigenous women who are fighting against climate change, and highlighted the importance of including women in the just energy transition. We also profiled new research showing how countries experience better overall development when women’s rights are prioritised. October was a very busy month for us as we explored sexism in the media, period taboos, the current state of abortion services in Ireland, the sex for rent scandal, and got spooky with a Halloween-themed article about witches and misogyny. November brought a review of Louise O’Neill’s book and play: Asking For It. We also spread awareness about Endometriosis (a disease affecting 1 in 10 Irish women), and marked the new focus on gender in Ireland’s Citizen’s Assembly. In December we discussed Ecofeminism (do you consider yourself to be a radical or a cultural ecofeminist?), brought you the highlights from FemFest 2019 and reviewed the book “We Still drink Coffee” which features short stories about women human rights defenders (we hope it ended up in a few Christmas stockings!). Now in 2020, we look forward to a Christmas-themed article about Women’s Christmas (celebrated on the 6th of January) – so stay tuned! 

 

Happy New Year! Thank you to all of our readers and contributors and we look forward to your continued support and engagement in 2020.  

 

 

Photo by Marc Nozell

 

 

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The 6th of January: Women’s Christmas

The tradition of celebrating Nollaig na mBan is particularly associated with the West of Ireland and it seems to have originated as a reward for all of the hard work by women of doing the cooking, cleaning and organising of Christmas festivities.

STAND Women: 2019 in Review

Women make up roughly 50% of our global population but still face significant human rights challenges, including some which are less visible but equally damaging such as gender bias in institutions like the media. Cassie, our Women’s Section Editor, reminds us of the women’s rights issues that were important to us in 2019.

The Prevalence of “Lad Culture” and Toxic Attitudes in Ireland

Despite progressive changes occurring throughout Ireland in this decade, findings exploring attitudes towards gender equality and domestic abuse in Ireland has proven the prevalence of toxic attitudes in young men. Ireland’s young women are still facing catcalling, sexist remarks and attitudes from peers, among other serious and intimidating behaviours.

FemFest 2019: Women’s inequality should come with a mental health warning

The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) hosted their fifth annual FemFest on Saturday, November 30th in Dublin’s City Centre. Women between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five were invited to freely participate and unite in various workshops, panel discussions and listen to guest speakers. The event succeeded in empowering the future voices of our society, to continue pushing to implement change across all fields of adversity.

Book Review: “Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!”

“Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!” is a collection of powerful essays, interspersed with beautiful illustrations, that tell the stories of female human rights defenders from Egypt, Kuwait, Palestine, Tunisia, Turkey, Somalia and Sudan. Behind each story is a meeting of two women. Here is our review.

What is Ecofeminism?

Ecofeminism is a movement that unites two issues close to our hearts at STAND: women’s rights and the environment. It is perhaps one of the most useful ways we can look at a wide range of social issues we face today. However, the term may be unfamiliar to many.

The Prevalence of “Lad Culture” and Toxic Attitudes in Ireland

The Prevalence of “Lad Culture” and Toxic Attitudes in Ireland

Despite progressive changes occurring throughout Ireland in this decade, findings have proven the prevalence of toxic attitudes in young men. Safe Ireland’s newest research explores attitudes towards gender equality and domestic abuse in Ireland’s younger generations.

Ireland’s young women are still facing catcalling, sexist remarks and attitudes from peers, among other serious and intimidating behaviours from men. “Lad culture” has been brought to the attention of society and the media, yet there is not enough emphasis placed on education and reprimanding for negative behaviour and language. 

27% of men aged sixteen to twenty-five believe that men should act as head of the household, while 20% of the men surveyed believed they should earn the most money in the family. Traditional and often oppressive gender roles and stereotypes are found to be acceptable.

Young women surveyed acknowledged that not all young men embody lad culture. Potentially, their need to express peacekeeping views of “not all men” could indicate the ingrained fear of backlash for speaking out against unacceptable behaviours. This is plausible especially at a young and influential age, where people wish to build interpersonal skills and explore relationships. The women surveyed expressed worry for their future in relation to partners, as there may be potential for macho self-image to manifest into a deeper issue of abusive and violent behaviour.

2019 has been an unfortunate year for violence against women, as have years previous. The Central Statistics Office reports that for the fifth year in a row, recorded sexual offenses have increased. Conor McGregor faced investigastion for a second sexual assault charge, yet maintains huge support and is soon returning to the UFC. High-profile celebrities continue to share their MeToo stories, facing backlash and accusations of lying for attention. Women still need to fight to be believed. Prolific cases such as the 2018 Belfast rape trial shone a gloomy light on the reality of misogyny and sexism even within the law. Text messages between the accused struck a chord with women and men across the country, most of the public appalled yet not shocked by the derogatory commentary allowed and enabled within these groups of men. 

Within a human rights, feminist, environmentalist or activist bubble, it’s easy to assume real progression is happening. Safe Ireland’s study has shaken the notion that negative lad culture is an issue of the past, highlighting the need for education at a younger age, positive role modelling and absolute intolerance for misogynistic or violent behaviours. Older fathers in the survey regard the bravado and misogyny found in younger boys as “natural jostling and bravado.” 

Minimisation of toxic behaviours justifies and enforces inequality in practice. Language is action, and setting an example with words precedes and possibly prevents future violence. Victim blaming has proven to exist in wider society rather than in niche phenomenons like the incel (involuntarily celibate) communities and violent men. 16% of adults and 20% of men believe women might provoke abuse against themselves. Older mothers stated that young men could be vulnerable to how women dress or act, perpetrating sexism against women from women who have been socialised to believe these things.

Despite the belief in universities and media that stigma surrounding mental health issues or personal problems is decreasing, 25% of people believe that domestic violence is a private matter. This outlook has the potential to create dire consequences, from avoiding seeking help to isolation and further distress. 

This research is a wake-up call as well as a motivation to continue utilising resources, striving for gender equality and implementing change at a policy and community level through education, mentorship, role modelling and public campaigns. Older family members are a clear target group for updated education, as unknowingly they could be reinforcing oppressive views on the home and our gendered positions in the world.

 

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre runs a national 24-Hour Helpline which can be contacted on 1800 77 8888. Telephone counsellors are available to listen 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year and offer a free, confidential listening and support service.

 

Photo by Jan Koler

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

 

 

The 6th of January: Women’s Christmas

The tradition of celebrating Nollaig na mBan is particularly associated with the West of Ireland and it seems to have originated as a reward for all of the hard work by women of doing the cooking, cleaning and organising of Christmas festivities.

STAND Women: 2019 in Review

Women make up roughly 50% of our global population but still face significant human rights challenges, including some which are less visible but equally damaging such as gender bias in institutions like the media. Cassie, our Women’s Section Editor, reminds us of the women’s rights issues that were important to us in 2019.

The Prevalence of “Lad Culture” and Toxic Attitudes in Ireland

Despite progressive changes occurring throughout Ireland in this decade, findings exploring attitudes towards gender equality and domestic abuse in Ireland has proven the prevalence of toxic attitudes in young men. Ireland’s young women are still facing catcalling, sexist remarks and attitudes from peers, among other serious and intimidating behaviours.

FemFest 2019: Women’s inequality should come with a mental health warning

The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) hosted their fifth annual FemFest on Saturday, November 30th in Dublin’s City Centre. Women between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five were invited to freely participate and unite in various workshops, panel discussions and listen to guest speakers. The event succeeded in empowering the future voices of our society, to continue pushing to implement change across all fields of adversity.

Book Review: “Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!”

“Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!” is a collection of powerful essays, interspersed with beautiful illustrations, that tell the stories of female human rights defenders from Egypt, Kuwait, Palestine, Tunisia, Turkey, Somalia and Sudan. Behind each story is a meeting of two women. Here is our review.

What is Ecofeminism?

Ecofeminism is a movement that unites two issues close to our hearts at STAND: women’s rights and the environment. It is perhaps one of the most useful ways we can look at a wide range of social issues we face today. However, the term may be unfamiliar to many.

Could Community Sponsorship be the Answer to Refugee Integration in Ireland?

Could Community Sponsorship be the Answer to Refugee Integration in Ireland?

In the last few years, issues of displacement and resettlement for those seeking refuge from war and violence has become increasingly important across the world. Since 2011, the Syrian War has thrown millions of people into a state of displacement, travelling thousands of miles to seek asylum in countries in which they will be safe from war and persecution. European governments, including Ireland, in 2015-16 committed to resettling Syrian refugees in several EU countries through traditional government resettlement programmes. As the years draw on and many EU countries have broken promises or failed to meet quotas, alternative pathways to resettlement and integration are looking more attractive. These alternatives also appear to be more successful in the long term. 

Community Sponsorship is a pathway to resettlement that involves refugees being welcomed directly into a community by a group of people who have already committed to helping them settle in and integrate into the community. The concept was created in Canada in the late 1970s, with 300,000 refugees successfully resettled since that time. It involves a community group who commit to providing financial, social and administrative support to a refugee family (or individual) and give them a helping hand into beginning their life in this community. The focus of community sponsorship, according to Nasc (the Migrant and Refugee Rights Centre) is “promoting independence, agency and social inclusion for the [Community] Groups and the refugee families”. Generally, the Community Group fundraise a sum of money, source accommodation for the family, and provide language, healthcare and educational support to help the family integrate. Rather than being dropped into an unfamiliar country, often with an unfamiliar language and culture, forced to start from scratch; the family already have an in-built support system and social group to slot into and begin their new life.

In 2015, Ireland committed to resettling 4,000 refugees through the Irish Refugee Protection Programme, of which community sponsorship was one strand. Just over 2,500 refugees have arrived in the four years since the IRPP began. In Ireland, the pilot scheme for Community Sponsorship was launched in 2017 with the first family arriving in Ireland in December 2018. The Al Fakir family from Syria were resettled in Dunshaughlin, Co. Meath, and quickly became involved in community activities such as the local ‘Park Run’, with their daughter Lorca attending a local primary school. Through community sponsorship, five Syrian families have been welcomed into communities in Cork, Meath and Waterford since the scheme was launched. Unlike people arriving into Direct Provision centres, those arriving into Ireland through Community Sponsorship have already been given refugee status and have been identified as needing resettlement. Community Sponsorship takes the responsibility of welcoming refugee families out of the hands of impersonal government officials and forms, and into the open arms of a community ready to welcome them with support and friendship. 

One Community Group who have made this commitment to welcome a refugee family are the St Luke’s Welcomes group in St Luke’s, Cork City who are working along with Nasc to resettle a family in their community. The group was established in the Spring of 2019, by a few members of the community who realised they all shared a desire to act regarding the ongoing refugee crisis. Several of the members had been involved already with the work of Nasc, while for others this is their first taste of activism. One of the members, Jean, talked about how a leaflet through her door from St Luke’s Welcomes coincided with her watching the emotional RTÉ series Taken Down, inspiring her to act and get involved. The group are in the process of finding a house for the family to rent in the St Luke’s area, as well as fundraising an amount of around €10,000 to help with initial costs and support. One of the group members, Maria, who is also the Nasc Community Sponsorship Project Worker, outlined that this fundraised money would go towards things such as initial rent payments, transport costs, healthcare and dentistry needs, interpretation costs and English language tuition. The aim is that these costs will be taken over by the family once they have social welfare payments or an income, but they take away some of the extra hurdles to integration presented by emergency reception centres, which are often isolated from the community. 

Many members of the group believe that not only is Community Sponsorship simply a superior method than traditional resettlement, but it is particularly fitting for resettlement in Ireland. Ailbhe, a member of St Luke’s Welcomes, feels that Community Sponsorship is particularly suited to the Irish mentality and the welcoming nature of the way we live in communities in this country. She said that Irish people find it easier to get behind initiatives like this which avoid years and years of paperwork, and many people see Community Sponsorship as a refreshingly direct route compared to more traditional resettlement. All the members were surprised and touched by the level of positive response they had received from inside and outside of the St Luke’s community, with people approaching them offering many different forms of support and services.

 In modern Ireland, especially in cities like Cork, we often forget the importance of communities. Initiatives like this help to remind us of the benefit that having a community and support system around us has in helping integration and building relationships. Nasc describes how Community Sponsorship requires “hard work, imagination and […] commitment” and can empower not only the resettled family, but also the community that they are welcomed into; creating stronger bonds than may have ever been possible without it.

 

 

Photo by St Luke’s Welcomes

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

What Do You Know About Direct Provision?

As the 2020 General Election is fast approaching, why not test your knowledge on one of Ireland’s biggest human rights issues of the last two decades; Direct Provision. Brush up on your facts and figures so you can quiz your local candidates and help keep Direct Provision at the front of the new Dáil’s minds!

Could Community Sponsorship be the Answer to Refugee Integration in Ireland?

Community Sponsorship is a pathway to resettlement that involves refugees being welcomed directly into a community by a group of people who have committed to helping them settle in and integrate. One group who have made this commitment are the St Luke’s Welcomes group in Cork City who realised they all shared a desire to act regarding the ongoing refugee crisis.

Aung San Suu Kyi Denies Genocide at the International Criminal Court

In the realm of international politics, few world leaders have incited such hope and then despair as Myanmar’s president Aung San Suu Kyi. Amidst allegations of genocide against the treatment of Myanmar’s Rohingya population, Suu Kyi has been summoned to the International Court of Justice to answer for her nation’s transgressions.

43 People Die In Factory Fire In New Delhi

At least 43 people were killed in a devastating fire that spread through a bag factory in the old quarter of the Indian capital New Delhi, trapping workers who were sleeping inside. Authorities say they do not yet know the cause of the blaze but it has been reported that the site had been operating without the required fire safety clearances.

UNCHR’s impact in war-torn Libya?

Recent investigations from Euronews into the work of the United Nations Refugee Agency, the UNHCR, in Libya has revealed a culture of neglect. The UNHCR is under fire by human rights activists for its operations in the Northern African state. Many refugees and migrants seeking asylum end up in militia-run detention centres with little to no help from the UNHCR.

What is Russia doing in Africa?

On October 23rd and 24th, Russia hosted representatives from all 54 African countries at the first ever Russia-Africa summit, with the aim of improving partnership and trade links. This event shows that Russia is clearly seeking to further its influence in Africa. But why is Russia so interested in improving ties with African states?

Aung San Suu Kyi Denies Genocide at the International Criminal Court

Aung San Suu Kyi Denies Genocide at the International Criminal Court

 In the realm of international politics, few world leaders have incited such hope and then despair as Myanmar’s president Aung San Suu Kyi. The 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate rose to power on a wave of hope becoming Myanmar’s State Counsellor, the country’s top office, in 2015. Despite the hopes of the international community, Suu Kyi’s tenure has been marred by allegations of brutal treatment of Myanmar’s minority Muslim population, the Rohingya, who primarily inhabit the western Rakhine state. Amidst allegations of genocide brought by the state of Gabon, Suu Kyi has been summoned to the International Court of Justice to answer for her nation’s transgressions. The dichotomy inherent in Suu Kyi’s championing of civil rights and democracy and apparent blithe indifference to charges of genocide in the face of growing international opprobrium is representative of contradictions at the heart of Myanmar’s politics and, indeed, national and ethnic make-up.

 

            Myanmar, formerly Burma, is comprised of over 100 ethnic groups with the majority Bamar holding the lion’s share of power. The former British colony gained independence in 1948. Su Kyi’s father, Aung San, led the country’s first transitional government, however, he was assassinated in 1947. Held up as a father of the nation and a beacon of democracy, Aung San’s legacy lived on in his daughter’s enduring popularity amongst the Bamar. Structurally, the majority Buddhist Bamar population exist within an effective enclave in the centre of the country ringed by minority groups. Civil conflict of varying degrees between the Bamar majority and minority groups as well as a repressive military junta who seized power in 1962 have long been staples of the country’s political economy. 

 

      Amid increasing international isolation and a dismal economic outlook as well as domestic pressure, in 2010 a pragmatic decision was taken by the junta’s leadership to initiate some degree of democratic reform. However, the levers of power are very much still in the hands of the military and, what’s more, a restrictive constitution stymies any real hope of true reform and ensures a toothless polity. Moreover, as evinced by the country’s dismal human rights record, democratic reform for the Bamar does not imply the same for ethnic minorities within the country. This was the key factor missed by interlocutors who invested such expectation in Suu Kyi. Lastly, the historic distrust between Myanmar’s various ethnic groups, especially that between the Buddhist Bamar and the Muslim Rohingya, who have been held up as scapegoats by influential hard-line Buddhist preachers, all but ensures a policy direction of abuse by Myanmar’s security forces. 

 

       While tensions between the Bamar and Rohingya have alwasy remained high, the current conflagration began in 2016 as a vastly dispropotionate reaction by Myanmar’s security forces to attacks by Muslim militants on police posts in Rakhine state. It has developed into a protracted counter-insurgency operation involving land clearances and large scale round-ups of Rohingya people. Worse still, Buddhist extremists have been involved in brutal mob attacks, rape and violence against Rohngya groups. The crisis has also had knock-on effects creating attendant refugee crises in neighbouring states, especially Bangladesh with more than 730,000 Rohingya fleeing to the country as of 2018 according to Human Rights Watch. Furthermore, 128,000 Muslims, mainly Rohingya but including other minority groups have been interned in detention centres within Myanmar. A cautious estimate puts the death toll at roughly 10,000.

 

           As such, while Suu Kyi attempts to defend Myanmar’s alleged atrocities against its Muslim population citing a terrorist insurgency as the primary reason for “clearance operations” against the Rohingya, it is clear that regardless of her true feelings, which remain opaque, there are structural issues and political forces above her. These forces effectively hamstring any effective response from within Myanmar’s de jure government. Suu Kyi, then, for those who advocated for her, becomes a cautionary tale of hope turning to deep disappointment and, ultimately, chagrin. Tragically, the human cost of this lesson is enormous and may not have yet been fully counted.

 

 

Photo by Stortinget

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

 

What Do You Know About Direct Provision?

As the 2020 General Election is fast approaching, why not test your knowledge on one of Ireland’s biggest human rights issues of the last two decades; Direct Provision. Brush up on your facts and figures so you can quiz your local candidates and help keep Direct Provision at the front of the new Dáil’s minds!

Could Community Sponsorship be the Answer to Refugee Integration in Ireland?

Community Sponsorship is a pathway to resettlement that involves refugees being welcomed directly into a community by a group of people who have committed to helping them settle in and integrate. One group who have made this commitment are the St Luke’s Welcomes group in Cork City who realised they all shared a desire to act regarding the ongoing refugee crisis.

Aung San Suu Kyi Denies Genocide at the International Criminal Court

In the realm of international politics, few world leaders have incited such hope and then despair as Myanmar’s president Aung San Suu Kyi. Amidst allegations of genocide against the treatment of Myanmar’s Rohingya population, Suu Kyi has been summoned to the International Court of Justice to answer for her nation’s transgressions.

43 People Die In Factory Fire In New Delhi

At least 43 people were killed in a devastating fire that spread through a bag factory in the old quarter of the Indian capital New Delhi, trapping workers who were sleeping inside. Authorities say they do not yet know the cause of the blaze but it has been reported that the site had been operating without the required fire safety clearances.

UNCHR’s impact in war-torn Libya?

Recent investigations from Euronews into the work of the United Nations Refugee Agency, the UNHCR, in Libya has revealed a culture of neglect. The UNHCR is under fire by human rights activists for its operations in the Northern African state. Many refugees and migrants seeking asylum end up in militia-run detention centres with little to no help from the UNHCR.

What is Russia doing in Africa?

On October 23rd and 24th, Russia hosted representatives from all 54 African countries at the first ever Russia-Africa summit, with the aim of improving partnership and trade links. This event shows that Russia is clearly seeking to further its influence in Africa. But why is Russia so interested in improving ties with African states?