#SOSBlakAustralia: Colonialism of Indigenous Australians in 2015

Genetics research shows Aboriginal Australians are descendants of the first people to leave Africa. They represent the oldest continuous culture. #SosBlakAustralia

The Australian Government is actively sustaining cultural violence against Indigenous Australians. The Abbott Government is trying to force 150 Aboriginal Australian communities off their lands in Western Australia. This would displace up to 12,000 Aboriginal Australians, effectively making them refugees in their own ancestral lands. This comes after months of ongoing campaigns to address:

  • The removal of 15,000 Indigenous children: The Grandmothers Against Removals group have been fighting for the return of Aboriginal children who live in so-called “out of home care,” away from their families. This practice goes back to early colonialism, where Indigenous children were removed from their communities and forced to give up their culture.
  • The denial of basic services to remote Indigenous communities: as shown in the Utopia Homelands in the Northern Territory, an Indigenous community that lived without clean water for two months in late 2014.

Continue reading #SOSBlakAustralia: Colonialism of Indigenous Australians in 2015

Sustainable Growth is a Human Right

This post focuses on a 2013 United Nations  report on population trends to 2050. Our planet will be home to 9.3 billion people by then, which raises various ecological, humanitarian and sustainable planning issues. The UN argues that sustainable growth is a matter of human rights.

Continue reading Sustainable Growth is a Human Right

Refugees: Belongings and Loss

In sociology, we distinguish between two general types of refugees: anticipatory and acute,  both of which I discuss below. This typology helps us to think about the resources that facilitate the refugee journey. Some people leave with their families and belongings relatively intact, which can support their resettlement in another country. Others flee with very little belongings and they are lucky to have their families with them.

The refugee process renders tremendous loss and trauma, but the material and social assets that people are able to take with them can make a significant difference on resilience. Continue reading Refugees: Belongings and Loss

Challenging the Social Value of Child Marriage

By Zuleyka Zevallos

Challenging the Social Value of Child MarriageThe 11th of October 2012 was the inaugural Day of the Girl. This year, the focus was on the eradication of child marriage. Around the world, 70 million girls were married before they reached the age of 18. My post today explores how the interrelated issues of gender, education and child marriage might be addressed by sociology. My focus is primarily on girl brides. While young boys are also married, the research I review shows that the adverse effects of child marriage have chronic health and socio-economic impact on young girls. The “value” attached to child brides refers to the cultural and economic issues underlying child marriage. Young girls are married off according to dominant beliefs about preserving women’s “honour” (that is, ensuring virginity before marriage), as well as the costs of raising girls. Child marriage has been linked to people trafficking in extreme situations. In most other cases it maintains the status quo in poor or underdeveloped areas, where economic deprivation is used to justify men’s dominance over young women’s reproductive and life choices. In order to eliminate child marriage, communities need to be shown practical demonstrations that delaying marriage increases everyone’s welfare. Continue reading Challenging the Social Value of Child Marriage

World Autism Awareness Day


On 2 April, World Autism Awareness Day, watch this special video featuring United Nations staff whose families have been touched by autism. The annual observance highlights the need to help improve the lives of children and adults who suffer from the disorder so they can lead full and meaningful lives.

Also launched this week are new stamps from the UN Postal Administration designed by artists with autism.

Conflict-Related Sexual Violence

[TW: Sexual violence.]

United Nations, New York, February 2012 – The annual United Nations report documenting conflict-related sexual violence around the world today for the first time names some of the military forces, militia and other armed groups that are suspected of being among the worst offenders.
The groups listed in the report include the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the Central African Republic (CAR) and in South Sudan, armed militia groups and former armed forces in Côte d’Ivoire, and the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Via: United Nations YouTube. Read the article here.

Syrians Await International Action

We want from them deeds and actions, not more condemnations and promises.

Syrian protester Abdul Rahman reflects the frustration felt in Homs at the ongoing state violence in his city and around his country.

International intervention in Syria has stalled. Russia and China blocked the United Nations Security Council from intervention. Over 60 nations have gathered in Tunis to urge the Syrian government to halt action and to explore the possibility of the UN sending in a peacekeeping force. The USA has pledged $10M in food and other aid to Syrians, but with various Syrian cities under siege by State forces and thousands of Syrian refugees scattered in Turkey and Jordan, the people of Syria are asking for stronger international action against their government.


1. USA Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in Tunis on Friday [24th Feb 12].
2. Local Coordination Committees, via European Pressphoto Agency. A photograph provided by an alliance of grass-roots activists in Syria is said to show residents of a neighborhood in Homs in a shelter during a government assault.    
3. Local Coordination Committees In Syria, via Associated Press. The Baba Amr neighborhood. The image was also supplied by opposition groups.

Syria in Political Crisis


Syria in political crisis:

The image above is taken from a video posted by homsYT on YouTube, which reportedly shows neighbourhoods devastated in the Syrian city of Homs after the Syrian Government set buildings ablaze. (Link provided by Al Jazeera Syria Liveblog.)

Syria, 4 February 02:01 GMT: The BBC reports that 200 people were killed on Friday when the Syrian government forces “shelled” civilian building blocks in Homs and then set buildings on fire. The information comes from the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The BBC notes this information is yet to be independently verified but this is being reported throughout the international media. Al Jazeera further reports that Syrian forces have conducted similar attacks in other key cities and towns, such as the historically significant town of Hama.

The state attacks in Homs come after thousands of Syrians marched in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the 1982 Hama massacre led by former President Hafez al-Assad, who is the current President, Bashar al-Assad’s, father. Up to 40,000 Syrians are believed to have marched in these demonstrations across the country, in remembrance of the thousands of people who were killed (at least 10,000 and up to 40,000 people are estimated to have been killed in 1982). The photo below by The Telegraph shows that the protesters also displayed solidarity in calling for the removal of the Syrian President.


(Telegraph: Demonstrators protest against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in Qudsaya, near Damascus Photo: REUTERS)

The BBC reports that the United Nations Security Council are preparing to vote on a resolution to back the Arab League’s plan to remove President Bashar al-Assad from power. Up to now Russia has been the biggest obstacle for international intervention. Russia opposes the wording of the UN’s resolution because it reads that the signatories “fully support” the Arab League proposal. Reuters reports that because Russia did not file an alternative wording to the UN resolution, Russia can either file an abstention, which would still mean the resolution will pass (albeit registering Russia’s opposition), or Russia may otherwise be forced to back international action in Syria.

Russia and its allies (China, India and Pakistan) have thus far refused to back the United Nations Security Council on sanctioning Syria. Russia says its objection is because other international interventions in the Middle East have not been successful, citing the poor results in Libya, where conflict and human rights abuses persist under the transitional government despite the NATO action taken to remove Moamar Gaddafi from power. Political commentators note that Russia’s objections are more likely to be influenced by the fact that Russia and Syria have a long-standing arms trading relationship via the capital city of Damascus, an allegiance which may be threatened if the regime changes. Russia is also concerned about providing further international power to the Arab League. Reuters notes that the current draft resolution is ‘vague’ about what sanctions the international community will take if the Syrian President does not back down from office.

As I noted a couple of days a go, the United Nations reports that at least 5,400 people have been killed by Syrian forces over recent months. The currently reported death toll overnight brings the number of deaths closer to 6,000 people.

It is difficult to fully gauge the severity of the conflict in Syria as few international journalists are allowed into the country. In the video I’ve posted above Al Jazeera reports on the work of British-Syrian “citizen journalists” who have set up a make-shift media centre in Homs in order to document the government violence against ordinary civilians. Such activists play an important role in relaying the human rights abuses in Syria to the rest of the world. The number of protests across Syria is rising, and they include all levels of Syrian society, young and old, as the photo below shows. As these protests rise, so too does the level of state sanctioned violence against civilians, as reflected in the events unfolding in Homs.

Image below via Al Jazeera: Girls demonstrated against the government in Idlib on Wednesday [AFP/LCC]


Stay up to date with the events as they unfold via Al Jazeera’s Live Blog. For more background on Russia’s relationship with Syria, see The Political Notebook on Tumblr.

Telling Other Stories of Climate Change in Africa and Around the World

Danger of a single storyA couple of weeks a go, in her CNN opinion column, Mary Robinson wrote her praise for women’s leadership in sustainable environmental progress. The piece was titled: Why women are world’s best climate change defence. Robinson is the former President of Ireland and she is now the head of the Mary Robinson Foundation (a ‘climate justice’ organisation). Robinson puts forward a call to action on the ‘gendered dimensions’ of climate change – but she doesn’t really say what this means. While the title of her paper talks about ‘women’, her commentary focuses on rural women in developing nations, especially in Africa.

Today I unpack the ideas that Robinson presents with respect to gendered environmental practices in African countries and developing nations. I contrast these with practices in advanced nations. I refer to Chimamanda Adichie’s writing about the dangers of telling ‘a single story’ about developing nations, specifically about ‘Africa’.

Different parts of the world face unique environmental challenges due to their national landscape and population distribution. Painting a singular picture about the gendered dimensions of climate change in developing nations narrows the scope of environmental progress.

Continue reading Telling Other Stories of Climate Change in Africa and Around the World