Grassroots International

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  • Her Own November 3 Picket Line

    Since last week's election, we've been wrestling to find the words to share our perspective on the outcome in a way that would add something to the hundreds of "Morning After" bulletins that have filled our inbox. As we neared exhaustion from the wrestling, we stumbled upon a speech given on November 3 (the Morning After) by Indian writer Arundhati Roy in acceptance of the Sydney Peace Prize. She doesn't mention the U.S. election, but her words have special significance for us as we face the challenges of building our own movements for change in this Week Before.

    Arundhati begins by noting that last year's recipient, Hanan Ashrawi, was picketed during her speech. Ms. Roy demands her own picket, even if it must be thrown together on short notice.

  • Haiti Descends

    More troubling reports concerning the human rights situation have emerged from Haiti in recent days. A variety of Haitian sources have confirmed that several apparent summary executions have taken place in so-called slum areas in and around Port-au-Prince, especially in the International Fort area. Information remains incomplete, but evidence suggests that these killings were carried out by units of the Haitian National Police. The neighborhoods in which these actions have taken place are known to be areas of strong support for former President Jean Bertrand Aristide and his Lavalas Family Party.

  • Jewish Congregation Adopts Palestinian Partner

    Last weekend I had the opportunity to speak at a progressive Jewish congregation, Kahil B'raira-- Community of Choice -- Congregation for Humanistic Judaism (KB).

    Some time ago, KB contacted Jennifer Lemire and I about possibly adopting a Grassroots International Palestine partner as a project of the congregation. After a painstaking two year assessment and dialogue, the congregation's Middle East Working Group decided to sponsor two projects - one in Israel and one in Palestine.

    One project is Open House in Ramle, Israel, which supports the building of relationships and reconciliation between Israeli Jews and Arabs. The other is support for the Anin Kindergarten through Grassroots International, a project of the Anin Women's Club, located in the northern West Bank (The Anin Women's Club is a project of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees.)

  • We Must Protest

    I've just returned from the conferences of Grantmakers Without Borders (GWoB) and the National Network of Grantmakers in Miami. These conferences brought together hundreds of people who have in commom that they are trying to change the face of philanthropy in this country. GWoB is trying to increase that tiny percentage of U.S. philanthropy (less than 3%) that supports work outside of the U.S., while NNG is a leading voice for "social change philanthropy" in this country.

  • The Opposite of Disarmament

    In the last few weeks, more than 50 people have been killed in political violence in Haiti. For days at a time, normal life in Port-au-Prince grinded to a halt, with the lucky few people who had jobs too afraid to go to work. Even emergency aid destined for the victims of September's floods in Gonnaives was stopped, because containers could not be unloaded in the port, and supplies that were in-country could not safely be delivered to the people who so desperately needed them.

    In the immediate aftermath of the ouster of President Aristide, U.S.-led multinational forces proclaimed that they would embark on a program of disarmament, demanding that insurgents and extremists lay down their weapons to make a peaceful, democratic political transition possible. The proclamations lasted a few weeks, until the head of the U.S. mission revealed a change of plan: "This is a country with a lot of weapons and disarmament is not our mission. Our mission is to stabilize the country."

  • Who Will Protect the Haitian People?

    After more than six months in office, the "Boniface-LaTortue government has failed to serious tackle the task of disarming all illegally armed groups," according to the National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR), in a report on the violence of the past week. Yesterday, the bodies of three slain police officers were buried as gunshots rang out in the area around the funeral (read the AP report here).

  • Deadly Incursion in Gaza Continues

    Last Tuesday, following a three-week withdrawal from Gaza, Israeli forces invaded the northern section of the Gaza Strip. The ensuing week has been one of the deadliest periods in Gaza in years. (For an overview of the last four years of intifada--1,008 Israelis and 3,334 Palestinians dead-- read Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi's analysis on Electronic Intifada.)

    Our partners in Gaza are doing their best to do their work and live their lives, but they are struggling. In addition to the 66 Palestinian deaths (including 19 children), there has been extensive damage to infrastructure, including the total destruction of water, power and sewage systems for more than 100,000 refugees.

  • Tension Rises, Violence Escalates

    The distribution of food aid to flood-ravaged Gonaives continues to be harried by armed gangs and looters, while ex-military rebels have challenged U.N. troops and said they would begin patrolling the streets of the city themselves, as the Haitian police have yet to mount a decisive plan for security.

    Meanwhile, in Port-au-Prince, a march to commemorate the 13th anniversary of the September 30, 1991 coup that deposed President Aristide erupted into violence.

    The situatation is charged, to say the least. All of the actors in last winter's protests and last spring's insurgency are still active and armed, and there haven't been any signs to suggest that anyone has a plan to return the country to peace or stability.

    The National Coalition of Haitian Rights (NCHR) has issued a statement on the anniversary, and on the state of Haiti's struggle to build a just, democratic political and economic system for all its citizens. We've posted it here for your consideration.

  • Amid Gang Violence and Rebel Presence, Death Toll Rises in Haiti’s Floods

    The news coming out of Gonaives and the surronding area is troubling.

    Today there are reports that Haiti's former military have begun patrolling the area to prevent looting, and growing concern about the extent of damage the storm has done to crops in the area.

    The Haitian National Police and the UN forces have been able to do little to insure the security of local and international aid workers, or to facilitate the delivery of direly-needed food, water and emergency shelter materials.

  • Yet Another Deadline for Disarmament Passes Without Progress in Haiti

    When President Aristide left office, the one thing that was clear to all Haiti observers was that if there was any hope for Haiti to return to a truly democratic government, and--dare we dream--to move toward a truly democratic society and economy, one of the first priorities had to be the disarmament of the rebel forces whose threatened besiegement of Port-au-Prince helped drive Aristide from office. (Even Rebel leader Guy Philipe announced in March that his men would hand in their guns.)

    In the early stages, U.S., multi-national and U.N. forces announced that they would begin the disarmament process, but the rules of engagement for that military/humanitarian intervention collapsed to the point that the U.S. refused to use its helicopters to help victims of the catastrophic floods of the spring.

  • [nchrhaiti] NCHR-Haiti condemns the behavior of members of the Former Haitian Military

    The continued presence of illegal armed gangs and militias throughout Haiti "seriously threatens the democratic process in Haiti and plans for holding elections in the coming year," as Pierre Esperance of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights said in an interview with Radio Metropole last week.

    Read NCHR's statement on the situation here.

  • This Week in Haiti: Attacks on Police, International Delegations and the Very Idea of Justice

    In the last couple of weeks there have been reports of increasing activity by members of Haiti's former army and other armed groups in Haiti. At the same time, the Haitian judiciary is taking troubling steps further down the road of impunity and politicization.

    This week former soldiers--who were part of the armed uprising that led to Aristide's ouster in February--chased the police out of the southern town of Petit Goave and took the town over in an attempt to force the interim government to re-instate the army, which Aristide dissolved in 1995. (See this Reuters report for details.)

  • Poetry and Images from Palestine

    Many of us have read report backs and journals from friends, loved ones, acquaintances that travel or visit Palestine filled with first impressions, checkpoint stories and vivid descriptions of the brutality and impact of the Israeli Occupation on everyday life in Ramallah, Rafah, Jenin, Hebron etc...Never having been in Palestine myself, I have been craving for stories of hope, beauty and laughter intertwined with those of pain, resilience and despair. Suheir Hammad, who is one of my favorite poets and writers has been traveling in Palestine and the Middle East this summer and has been writing journal entries that to me, have satisfied those cravings in a very poetic way. (See two random excerpts below). Check out her Journal on Palestine on her website at http://www.suheirhammad.com/.

    As I write this some dear friends of mine are traveling throughout Palestine and connecting with Palestinian youth, artists, families and organizers along the way. Check out their beautiful picture log most of which were taken by photographer Justin McIntosh at http://capedmaskedandarmed.com/justin/. One of my favorites is the one of Abu Dis Youth posing with the Puerto Rican flag. Enjoy!

    "Wafa has picked up ca-ak and eggs. The bread is fragrant in the car. He's also picked a stem of jasmine and placed it in his car like a bouquet. The scents are of a peaceful morning. We drive into the mist that drapes the hills of this country. We drive by goats herders and sheperds drinking strong coffee under tents to prepare for the grueling physical work of tending. The sun is in the sky, a bright disk of white behind the mist. It looks like the moon."

    "Palestinian girls, in every area I have visited are drawn to bright colors and patterns. In town, there is more black and white, hijab and long...but in the country and in the camps...the colors of poppies and limes, sky and mint.Thank you, Dead Prez. It is indeed bigger than Hip Hop. There are many secrets in this earth. Hushed Stories of touchings and rapes. The Occupation has denied breathing room for critical gender analysis, and safe space. And it is the girls who suffer."

  • Notes from the Un-Convention

    The Democratic National Convention is coming to Boston. Plans are in place to dramatically restrict vehicle and pedestrian traffic in the center city. Just yesterday, a judge said that the space being prepared to keep protestors "under wraps" resembled an internment camp, but he refused to order the police to re-think this radical restriction of the right to assembly. Life is good in the Cradle of Liberty. The jury is still out on whether or not any of this could prevent the feared terrorist attack, but turning Boston into a police state will surely keep thousands of people from exercising their democratic rights...such as they are.

    Luckily, the DNC will not be the only political gathering in Boston during July's final days.

  • “The people, together, are like a pool of wisdom. When you share that wisdom, the pool gets deeper.”

    As they prepared for their workshops and panels at the Boston Social Forum, I had a chance to talk with Paulo de Marck of the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement (MST) and Ruba Eid from the Democratic Wokers Rights Center (DWRC) in Ramallah, Palestine.

    Paulo and Ruba have come to Boston to share stories from GRI's partner organizations, and to meet people engaged in similar struggles here in the States and around the world.

    Why come all this way for a conference?

    "The people, together, are like a pool of wisdom," Paulo said. "When you share that wisdom, the pool gets deeper."

  • One Billion Pledged…Don’t Hold Your Breath, Haiti

    The international donor conference on Haiti closed on July 20 with pledges of $1.037 billion from the international community, including $239 million from the United States. As the weeks and months pass, we will watch closely what becomes of these pledges.

    The World Bank sounds absolutely giddy in its post-conference press release.  One billion dollars sounds great, but it is worth noting that none of these pledges are on paper: They all come from press statements like the one made by Colin Powell. At Grassroots International, our auditor insists that a pledge must be very specific and in writing before it is considered real. The same standard should apply to these donor conferences. 

  • Haiti: The Not So Consultative Group

    On July 19 and 20, representatives of the world's major donor countries and institutions will gather in Washington to discuss aid to Haiti. Four prestigious and powerful actors-The United Nations, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the European Commission--will host the meeting and make a pitch for $924 million to help jumpstart an economy that is clearly on life support. One expects the four hosts will come up with something to sweeten the pot for the bilateral donors.

  • Haiti–Flood of Injustice

    While there's no doubt that drought-stricken Haiti needs rain, the water-poor nation did not need the flash floods that struck late in May, killing thousands and leaving thousands more without food, shelter or potable water. There's also no doubt that Haiti could use a helping hand from the international community, but to date, U.S. and French and now U.N. forces have done little to really help Haiti's most vulnerable citizens. Click here to read Grassroots' analysis of the situation.