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Beyond Blood Diamonds: The Violence behind the Gold Route

Gold Teeth

Courtesy Jason Taellious/Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

This article was originally published by openDemocracy on 25 November 2016.

Illegal gold exchanges between the global North and South are fuelling violence and exploitation, but most consumers are oblivious.

While the violence and exploitation associated with the illegal diamond trade is now widely known, there is far less global awareness of the violence associated with gold extraction. In 2014, an investigative journalism piece documented the illegal gold exchanges between some South American countries and those in the global North—on the one side Colombia, Bolivia, Peru and Brazil, and on the other Canada, the United States, Switzerland, Falkland Islands, Panama, and several European countries. This report found that not only does illegal gold mining adversely affect a country’s tax revenues, it is also directly related to human trafficking—particularly of children—and the perpetuation of conflict by funding armed groups.

While mining in general creates various problems (e.g., contamination of water sources, displacement of local populations), these problems are magnified when mineral extraction is done outside the legal regulatory framework. At this point it is necessary to make a distinction between illegal and informal mining because these tend to be confused.  The first cannot be formalized due to certain characteristics (for instance, it violates environmental laws or has unsafe labour conditions) that lead to criminal mining. Informal mining, however, is defined by the lack of legal mining titles and often can be formalized eventually. The problem with illegal mining is that the lack of mining titles facilitates gold trafficking.

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Will Colombians Embrace Their New Peace Deal?

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Courtesy antefixus21/flickr

This article was originally published by the IPI’s Global Observatory on 26 August 2016.

After 52 years of armed conflict, the Colombian government and FARC rebels announced a final agreement aimed at ending one of the world’s longest-lasting insurgencies. In talks that began in Havana in 2012, the two sides have reached understandings on peacebuilding measures that include transitional justice, accounting for the “disappeared,” and a plan for demobilization of the rebels’ estimated 7,000 fighters. The historic agreement opens the way for peace after an internal conflict that, in a nation of 50 million, has left 220,000 dead, 7.65 million recorded victims, and more than 6 million people displaced from their homes.

The accord marks the beginning of the end of the FARC as an armed group and of Colombia’s internal armed conflict. This is a tremendous achievement by not only the two negotiating teams and the international community that supported the talks, but also by Colombian civil society, which for decades pressed for a political solution.

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Justice and Accountability for War Related Sexual Violence in Sri Lanka

 

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Courtesy Quinn Dombrowski / Flickr

This article was originally published by openDemocracy on 15 August 2016.

As the testimonies of survivors of sexual violence in Sri Lanka’s long war enter the public domain and the government designs transitional justice mechanisms, is an end to impunity in sight?

The Sri Lankan government is currently designing transitional justice mechanisms to address human rights abuses connected to the three decade long war which ended in May 2009. But a key question is whether victims of sexual violence and rape committed in the context of the war will come forward and use these mechanisms?

The silence around sexual violence has long posed a challenge to determining its nature, scale and magnitude in the context of Sri Lanka’s long war. On the one hand, this is due to the pervasive culture of shame, which deters women from speaking out. Twenty-five years ago, in Broken Palmyrah Rajini Thiranagama noted that the “loss of virginity in a young girl, even if against her will, meant that she could not aspire to marriage in our society and, if already married, there is a good chance that she will be abandoned”.

The view of rape victims as “spoilt goods” has always been one of the most significant causes of under-reporting. Survivors and their families are however silenced not only by the shame of rape, but also by fear. Fear of reprisal by perpetrators or of further violence from the very institutions meant to protect them. That too remains unchanged.

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How to Rebuild Trust in the Humanitarian System

Haitian relief workers assist service members embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) unload food and water to aid those affected by recent hurricanes that have struck Haiti.

This article was originally published by the Global Observatory (IPI) on 4 May 2016.

The international humanitarian system is suffering from a crisis of legitimacy, not only because it lacks the capacity and funds to respond to the volume and complexity of current humanitarian needs, but also because the “authorizing environment” has changed: the system no longer represents the interests of today’s humanitarians or is able to instill trust in aid recipients.

Take places like Syria, where approximately 700 local organizations and diaspora groups have filled the void left by the absence of international relief organizations, which have been largely unable to operate in besieged areas since the conflict began. In Yemen, suspicion and mistrust by governments, armed groups, and communities themselves compel international aid organizations to work almost exclusively through local partners. According to surveys done by the accountability project Ground Truth, only one in six of those affected by the 2015 earthquake in Nepal and one in 16 during the early response to the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa felt that their needs were being met by aid organizations. » More

“Soldiering Through”: A Preliminary Assessment of Serbia’s OSCE Chairmanship

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini shakes hands with Serbia`s Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dacic. Image: European External Action Service/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Security and Human Rights blog of the Netherlands Helsinki Committee on 2 December, 2015.

When in December 2011 Serbia – together with Switzerland – put forward its candidacy for the OSCE Chairmanship, it was seeking wider international affirmation and influence. Belgrade wanted to prove itself as capable of sustaining a serious, committed service to European security, and also hoped to bolster its chances for EU membership. The fact that 2015 presented an important milestone – 40 years since the signing of the Helsinki Final Act – was not without significance. » More

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