The rise of sustainable online businesses

The rise of sustainable online businesses

BUSINESS + POLITICS

The rise of sustainable online businesses

"online shop open!"
Megan Carey

11th May 2021

 
 

Sustainable online businesses have flourished amid the pandemic, as Covid-19 restrictions appear to have had a positive effect on e-commerce. Within the growth of online business, many are opting to contribute to the effort of achieving sustainable principles. There are many definitions of sustainability; a commonly referenced understanding of sustainable development was offered in the Brundtland report in 1987,Development which meets the needs of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” 

 

There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations to be achieved by 2030, that are often used as indicators to measure how far we have come and how much further we must go to implement sustainable practices globally. Small sustainable businesses that have emerged during the pandemic are particularly well placed to achieve two of the SDGs, namely, Goal 8: Decent work and Economic growth and Goal: 12 Responsible consumption and production. It is understood that a thriving economy can be conducive to a better quality of life. A report by the OECD in 2007 found “there is clear evidence to show that economic growth is an essential requirement and, frequently, the main contributing factor in reducing income poverty”, but where do we draw the line between sustainable and unsustainable consumption and production? 

 

Sustainability has many facets in which businesses and consumers both have a part to play. The sourcing of materials, treatment of labour, packaging and the effects of mass production, are all elements of  consumption processes that have garnered media attention in recent years. Most of us are familiar with the narrative of unscrupulous multinationals underpaying employees, working in deplorable conditions, making mass-produced poor-quality garments in factories, pumping out fossil fuels and waste into the environment. Most recently, major fasion brands including H&M, Zara and Adidas have come under fire for their links to the forced labour of Uighur Muslims in camps in China , who sourced cotton and yarn produced through a vast state-sponsored system of detention and forced labour.” 

 

As a society, we also must inherently change our relationship with how we consume. The fashion industry currently perpetuates notions of instant trends and fast fashion, which creates an estimated 92 million tonnes of textiles waste each year”, and the fashion industry is alone responsible for, “10% of all greenhouse gas emissions, and 20% of global waste water. 

 

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, some have used the extra time at home to harness their entrepreneurial skills and turn passion projects into sources of income, while pre-existing businesses have benefited from the surge in sustainabilityconscious buyers. Beautiful, unique and diversified products have emanated from this time of lockdowns and restrictions.”

Art, fashion and beauty are a few of the many areas in which people are creating and selling in this upsurgence of small and independent online businesses. The switch from high street to online purchasing is evident in every area of life and has specifically positively impacted the visibility of many small businesses who now promote themselves solely online. Apart from in-store essentials, consumers spend a good deal more time online, both shopping and on social media where creators use their platforms for marketing. A report in The Irish Times found The Covid-19 pandemic saw growth in online sales last year surge to five times the average annual growth.” 

 

The sustainable Irish business scene has grown exponentially since the first lockdown in 2020. I interviewed three small sustainable Irish businesses who use social media, specifically Instagram, to market themselves. All three businesses were founded and are run by young women. The first of which is Sew it Seamsrun by Mairidh, who sells handmade clothing, specialized sewn garments including fleeces and tops. The second of which is Lemon Queen Vintage, owned by Chloe, selling vintage and handmade clothing and accessories including stain glass earrings. FinallyShhillustrations ran by Sophie, who creates unique print illustrations, cards and graphics. The intent was to understand how the pandemic has impacted their businesses, their views on sustainability and how they implement sustainability practices in their business.

 

I firstly questioned whether the pandemic had positively affected the business and how so. Two of the three business interviewed emerged from the pandemic. Mairidh of Sew It Seams accredited the pandemic for giving her time to create her business, “suddenly I had so much free time and I decided to make myself a fleece and a sewing page to document my journey…it then started spiralling.” Mairidh now has amassed over 15 thousand followers on Instagram and has sold out various times after dropping her collection of fleeces. 

 

Similarly, Shhillustrations was also born “in the middle of the pandemic”, as Sophie agreed that the situation was “definitely a good time for online business” and shecontinues to get great engagement online”, withlots of people sharing, commenting and liking. Lemonqueenvintage pre-existed before the pandemic. Chloe mentioned the “conscious effort made by people to shop more local and sustainably”, and has been “super busy with custom and pre-made drops due to a high-demand for sustainable slow fashion.” 

 

Importantly, I queried the businesses on how they implement sustainability into their business model. Mairidh explained, “I only buy what I need, when I need it and make all my fleeces with as little waste as possible.” As for waste, “I collect all the larger scraps and either sew them together and make them into something or donate them to sewing groups and schools for projects.” Chloe believes sustainability “can be made fun.” She elaborated, “all the clothing I sell is second hand, vintage or handmade by myself”, and she has in the past had “a special earring collection with all proceeds going to two charities dedicated to helping the Black Lives Matter movementand is keen to do something similar again. Sophie tries to “go paperless as much as possible by offering digital prints”, and does not use “excess packaging or anything non-recyclable”. Shhillustrations delivers mainly in Ireland and Sophie hand delivers orders in her surrounding area. Shhillustrations are “not mass produced, they are made to order.” 

 

The business landscape is changing vastly due to the circumstances the pandemic has put us in as a society. Small and independent businesses are benefitting from ongoing advancements in e-commerce and are also paving the way for ethical businesses to thrive in a growing community of sustainability conscious shoppers. These communities of people who are buying less, while buying goods with longer life spans and of higher quality, who are conscious of those who make their goods and how they are being treated, will reduce the carbon footprint for all and are creating a fairer landscape. Consumer interest dictates how businesses operate, so we should all make sustainable purchases and watch as the industry adapts. 

 

 

 

Featured photo by Samuel Regan-Asante on Unsplash

This article was supported by: STAND News Programme Assistant Rachel 

 

 

Vaccine inequity: Why it exists + how to solve it

Vaccine inequity: Why it exists + how to solve it

HUMANITARIAN

Vaccine inequity: Why it exists + how to solve it

"I got my COVID-19 vaccine" sticker
Seán Sexton

10th May 2021

 
 
The race is on to get as many jabs as we can into the arms of the human population. This requires a global effort to immunize the entire population and prevent further infections. However, Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, recently said that a mere 10 countries account for 75% of the total vaccines rolled-out, with 130 countries not having received any vaccines so far. 90% of those in low income countries will probably not receive a dose this year. Poorer countries are at a disadvantage to their more wealthier counterparts. There is a need to ensure that every country gets its fair share of doses, in a bid to drive down transmission and prevent further fatal mutations which could spread to other countries. It’s clear that a  global emergency requires a global solution; to end the vaccination gap between the global North and South. With that in mind, why is there such a disparity? What is at stake? How can we, Ireland, help out other countries in ensuring fairer distribution and overall improved vaccine equity?

 

The pandemic has exacerbated healthcare inequalities around the world, disproportionately affecting those in poorer countries. A grim figure suggests that if the 20 most vulnerable countries in the world had an active infection rate of 0.4%, these countries will run out of ICU beds. A study from the Imperial College indicates that low and lower-middle income countries are at a 32% increased risk of dying from the virus due to lack of access to treatment, high exposure to the virus and lack of protective measures. Distributing medical equipment, clean water and sanitation products to poorer rural regions of the world can be challenging. We also know that variants can impose strains on hospitals, as they mutate into more infectious forms. Poorer countries bear the brunt of the pandemic with more strains to their healthcare systems and already existing healthcare access inequities are widening.

 

Delivering vaccines to countries in conflict will also be an obstacle in achieving global inoculation. When examining outbreaks of infectious diseases, the risk is increased in countries affected by fragility, conflict and violence. By the middle of 2022, only 2 out of 20 countries with the highest levels of conflict worldwide are forecasted to be largely vaccinated with the rest waiting until 2023 or later to be largely vaccinated. Policy measures which are supposed to curtail the virus have been weaponized by the conflict parties to increase state control and suppress opposition. For example, in Colombia, armed groups have taken over parts of the country and have threatened, killed and attacked people for breaching lockdown rules. This amplifies mistrust in people in power which could undermine the vaccine roll-out in their countries. It could also enable abuse of power, leading to unfair distribution of doses by the state. These countries have faced economic downturn, damaged healthcare infrastructure and lack of resources to ultra cold freezers, healthcare staff etc., all of which are necessary to set up a workable vaccination strategy. The logistical challenges in these countries makes it even more difficult to have fair vaccine equity.

 

“Refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants also face barriers in accessing vaccines. 80 million people are forced to be displaced in excess of 100 countries. This demographic group is more vulnerable to other population groups. Some live in refugee camps and deportation centres where there is little to no room to implement public safety measures.”

Furthermore, refugees also face unequal access to healthcare, increased risk of exploitation and poor working conditions. A disappointing 57% out of only 90 countries developing a vaccination programme are including refugees as a priority group. Many stateshave a history of discrimination and xenophobia, creating mistrust and warranting a more education-based approach to beat the stigma. Moreover, some  fear excluding other groups in place of displaced people in case controversy arises over vaccination rollout and order of priority. 

 

The vaccination disparity needs ambitious and innovative solutions to reduce accessibility issues . The access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator is designed to “accelerate development, production and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines”, according to the World Health Organisation website. It was first set up after G20 called for a collaborative response to the pandemic back in March 2020. Some of the participating organisations involved include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, WHO, the World Bank and the Global Fund. This is an initiative set up with the help of scientists, philanthropists, governments, business and global health organisations. It aims to provide medium term solutions, reduce the spread, make tests and treatments more accessible and to restore economic activity and societal growth. Since its launch they have reviewed healthcare systems of over 100 countries, procured treatment for 2.9 million patients in relatively low income countries and plan to make 120 million diagnostic tests available for low income countries.

 

Within the ACT Accelerator, the COVAX pillar is established to end vaccine inequity by ensuring each country is able to inoculate 20% of their population. Co-led by WHO, Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) along with UNICEF, it pools a portfolio of 10 vaccines to eliminate competition and ensure a quicker and fairer distribution of doses. This involves negotiation with pharmaceutical companies on fairer prices to poorer countries, especially in the global South. Over 180 countries are participating in this scheme. It hopes to deliver 2 billion vaccines doses in 2021 with around 1.3 billion of those to low income countries. 92 low income countries benefit from this. However, a buffer of up to a maximum of 5% of each participating country’s stock is used as a backstop if their national vaccination programmes fail to reach certain populations such as displaced people and frontline workers.

 

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency has announced that they will work with Gavi to ensure that displaced migrants are prioritised in their countries’ national vaccination plans.  However, it is limited in terms of directly implementing vaccination programmes. UNHCR works with its partners to increase vaccination uptake and to support vaccination roll-out with refugees being considered. 

 

A European response has also been launched by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. The EU Vaccine Sharing Mechanism aims to permit EU member states to donate surplus vaccines to non-EU countries. In a continent with 450 million people, Europe has managed to secure 2.9 billion doses with plenty to share, albeit COVAX is considered the preferable route for pooling vaccines. ‘The Global Goal: Unite for Our Future’ was a summit to acquire €6.15 billion in additional funding for countries affected by fragility, conflict and violence, including €4.9 billion from the European Investment Bank, €485 million from the EU member states as well as pledges from non-EU countries like Canada and Japan and even private stakeholders like FIFA and Vodafone. The European Commission has successfully sourced around €15.9 billion as part of the Coronavirus Global Response.

 

These collaborative, multilateral projects are welcome in the midst of a global emergency. Both of them have received firm backing from the G7, with investment of around US$7.5 billion. The G20 are also under pressure to address the financing gap for COVID therapeutics and diagnostics. But the potential financial dividend makes economic sense; a successful vaccination programme which will save the global economy US$375 billion per month. 

 

There have been calls for a waiver of Trade and Intellectual Property Rules (TRIPs) for vaccines including from former president and UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson. She isn’t the only one  150 global leaders and Nobel laureates have signed an open letter to US president Joe Biden. With cases surging in India and other countries at the moment, there has also been increasing pressure in the Dáil for our government to support the waiver to no avail. The European Commission, the US and other high income countries have said that they oppose the patent waiver at a World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting held in March this year. Supporters argue that this waiver would allow countries all over the world, but especially in the global South, to manufacture vaccines and therefore increase vaccine supply and lower costs.  

 

If there is one thing is certain, it is this: vaccine nationalism only serves relatively wealthy nations. In the interest of a timely immunization, a two-pronged approach encompassing private deals with pharmaceutical companies, to cater for their own population and fair distribution of vaccines to vulnerable countries everywhere, for the greater public good. But, successful vaccine equity distribution is also underpinned by public trust and peaceful governance, especially in countries which have been damaged by the state. This sentiment is even shared by Simon Coveney, Minister of Foreign Affairs, who emphasized, at the UN Security Council meeting held in February 2021, the need to uphold ceasefires and pause hostilities to allow humanitarian aid. We also need to make sure to tackle misinformation and to educate people on the facts about the virus and the vaccine. Ireland has now a seat on the UN Security Council and is a member of the EU. Our potential global imprint is significant when we act collectively with other countries. We need to look outward and be an active global citizen: no one is safe until everyone is safe.

 

 

 

 

 

Featured photo by Marisol Benitez on Unsplash

This article was supported by: STAND Humanitarian Editor Amyrose Forder

 

 

Coláiste Dhúlaigh Series: Social media and beauty standards

Coláiste Dhúlaigh Series: Social media and beauty standards

 

OPINION

Coláiste Dhúlaigh Series: Social media and beauty standards

bring back our girls protest in nyc
Elizabeth Quinn

May 7th 2021

 

This series is in collaboration with first-year Investigate Journalism students in Coláiste Dhúlaigh CFE

 

Social Media. A huge digital tool that allows people of all ages and genders to create, post and share content with their friends and the public in general.

 

Social Media is an internet-based tool and allows users to connect and also communicate between each-other and share pictures and videos with each-other. Social media allows users to get in touch with businesses and also allows businesses to promote their own brand.

 

Through generations of technology, we have seen the up-rising of the Internet and Social Media. Social Media as a whole comes with its advantages and disadvantages. Disadvantages seemingly taking rule over the advantages as the years go on.

 

Disadvantages include: Social media and major brands like Instagram feeding us a perception of Beauty and ‘Body Goals’. When scrolling through Instagram, I and many others find ourselves comparing how we look to the Instagram models we see every day, we find ourselves being sucked into this black hole of self-loathing and self-judgement.

 

Instagram is one big business driven brand, with users that feel the need to feed off people’s insecurities in order to sell their “Amazing new, slimming smoothie” or “The amazing new waist trainer” that they themselves use every single day and have had or are having amazing results with.

 

In 2017 an Irish Examiner/ Reach-Out Ireland survey was put in place to show the implications of mental health issues and the affect they are having on teenagers. This survey showed that 75% of teenagers have Body image issues. 43% of these teenagers say that social media caused them difficulties in their lives.

 

To be a young girl, scrolling through Instagram means one day wanting to look like the women and girls that take up their Instagram feeds. This means being slim, thin and having fabulous skin and having a face for social media and for boys this means one day wanting to have that perfect 6 pack and being totally and completely shaven.

 

On average, we spend 2+ hours on social media every day, a number that is forever growing. Seeing filtered images, advertising and women with the apparent ‘Ideal body type’ is constantly affecting our mental health.

 

In 2014, Jennifer Read Hawthorne, discovered that we have 12,000- 60,000 thoughts a day. 80% of these thoughts are negative. Assuming Jennifer’s discovery was based upon how teenagers feel about their body image, we would see that from already looking at the Reach Out Ireland survey that these statistics show how teenagers are negatively impacted by body image issues.

 

At first, I assumed that the younger generation have more image issues when it comes to not just social media but media as whole. When researching I realised that this is not entirely true, in reality it seemed to have been older women that self-judge and self-loathe more than the younger generation do in terms of Body image.

 

Jean Kilbourne is mostly recognised for her work on the image of women in advertising. Jean’s Film ‘Still Killing us Softly’ in 1987 show how women are portrayed in adverts and how this beauty isn’t real or even reachable. In 2010, ‘Killing us Softly 4’ tells us about how this unrealistic beauty in adverts has gotten worse over the years saying “Failure is inevitable with the ideal being based on absolute flawlessness”.

 

When speaking to award-winning documentary filmmaker Jenny McQuaile about her documentary ‘Straight/Curve: Redefining Body Image’ I asked her if she thinks social media has any impact on the older generations’ perception of beauty.

 

Being part of the younger generation, I know that I look at older women and admire their confidence and will power in all aspects of their life but I tend to forget that they have Image issues and Body image issues the same as the next person does.

 

In response to my question Jenny says “I think social media has an impact on any generation that’s plugged into it. Older people might be wiser at curating their social media feeds and might be more media literate, but older people are definitely being marketed to on social media as well and fed a standard of beauty they’re meant to fit into.”

 

The older generation are targeted when it comes to the next anti-age cream or weight loss regime, weight loss being something that is constantly being ingrained in the lives of the women who are plugged into social media. People of all ages are being targeted and are being fed the ideology that being thin and slim, a gym-goer and living a healthy lifestyle will have a lasting effect on your happiness and mental health but with my research I have figured out that this is not the case at all, the term ‘Happiness comes from within’ plays more of a role in this topic than I initially thought.

 

When you search the term happiness, the result you will get is ‘the state of being happy’ and the example underneath that, saying “she struggled to find happiness in her life”. Off the bat, the term happiness is put into a negative and the self-loathing category and all you have done is search what the term means. When I think about happiness, I think about a person who loves every single last thing about themselves, their weight, their appearance, their style, their job and everything else in between, but it has become a rarity to find someone that is in a complete state of happiness.

 

“This survey showed that 75% of teenagers have Body image issues. 43% of these teenagers say that social media caused them difficulties in their lives.”

 

Social media not only creates a beauty standard but it creates an emotional standard. On Instagram we constantly see, expensive cars, designer clothes and happy people but this portrayal of happiness usually has a four-step process 1. Get the thing your supposed to be happy about 2. Smile for the camera 3. Post it to your social for the world to see how happy you are and 4. Once this picture is posted, stop pretending and go on about your normal life.

 

There are so many psychology websites and psychologists that have tried to prove that happiness does come from within but I think maybe if we were to change the term happiness comes from within to confidence comes from within, it would be much more fitting.

 

Confidence and happiness fall within the same category. Confidence is being able to be happy with how you present yourself either physically or through your personality and loving yourself and the person you are and do it with ease. It has been proven on countless occasions that in order to be confident you have to be happy within yourself and Jenny McQuaile gave me ways in which you can do this “Learn self-acceptance and self-love. Some practical exercises include looking in the mirror and naming 3-5 things you like about yourself. You can even write some positive affirmations on post it notes and stick them on your mirror or even start checking yourself when you speak negatively about someone else’s body or appearance as that leads to a cycle of negative thinking”.

 

Edel Hill a past student of National College Ireland did a small-scale survey which showed, that overall positive self-assessments are linked to happiness and life satisfaction.

 

Going to the gym and being slim and eating healthy does not mean a happy and positive mindset, yes exercise and fresh air have been proven to help this mindset but this isn’t fully true.

 

Plus size women can be happy, healthy and confident, imagine that? This does not mean that Plus size women don’t go to the gym or eat healthy, it means by process of elimination they chose what makes them happy and what makes them feel confident and decided whatever it was, was the best route to take for their own personal happiness and confidence.

 

Around the world people are being put into category’s, this is the equivalent of putting someone in a box, making people feel they can only be a certain way in order to fit in with society. Society today and Social media today tells us we have to look and act a certain way to fit in with the way the world is going.

 

Plus size women and models have changed the game and continue to change the game today in terms of raising awareness with hashtags such as #Borntobeme and changing people’s perception of what beauty should be.

 

Plus Size women represent 68% of shoppers, yet there is not enough clothing or clothing brands around to supply this 68% of men and women who wish to buy clothes the same as a size 6 would do.

 

Today, being a size 12 means you are a plus size model. I hate using the term ‘Plus size’ as again it puts women in a category, I personally feel that beauty is beauty and that’s the way it should always be no matter your height, weight or style because despite all of these things, there will always be somebody that thinks your beautiful no matter how much self-loathing you have.

 

In 2013 Debenhams in the UK, decided to introduce a new size 16 mannequin to display women’s fashion. Debenhams, in doing this gained a lot of mixed reactions. Some people thinking it was finally representing diversity others saying it is giving people the wrong idea and normalizing being overweight.

 

Dr Eva Orsmond made her scepticism about the new mannequin size clear, saying it is “quite misleading to try and make women happier in themselves” (if they are overweight) going on to say “Extra fat gives chronic problems-high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. There is a link between low body weight and longevity. The smaller you are, the less you eat and the longer your life.” Other arguments consisted of people saying the same could be assumed about a slim mannequin as we have illnesses like bulimia and anorexia.

 

Both illnesses being very common in women in Ireland, Body Whys- The eating disorder association receive about 500 calls to its helpline and 4,500 visitors to its website every single month.

 

Sharon Dmake creator of Ireland’s Got curves is one of many women who wish to help other women feel confident in their curves and love themselves by showcasing this on a runway.

 

Irelands got curves is a safe place for women to say that they love their curves and how they look, this show gives them the opportunity to show off not only their style but their body too. But Sharon herself was subject to being put in a category and made feel less than for her size. When being interviewed she spoke to me about her story “ I worked In the plus size industry back in the 90s, I was a smaller size with a flatter stomach and in the clothes I was wearing they put padding on a couple of shoots, that’s when I left, they would pad out my bum and my hips and leave my stomach relatively small.”

 

Being ‘Plus Size’ is finally moving in the right direction, and body diversity is slowly coming, every now and again I will see a plus-size model on Instagram that model for the clothing brand Boohoo, or hear that Victoria’s Secret, a brand who pride themselves on having slim, thin models will now broaden their brand to plus-size. Which means that hopefully social media will soon look like a huge community of people of different weight, height and color. All wanting to do the same thing.

 

Feel Beautiful.

 

Myanmar: human rights ignored as civil war looms

Myanmar: human rights ignored as civil war looms

HUMANITARIAN

Myanmar: human rights ignored as civil war looms

signpost saying 'free people from myanmar'
Kate Bisogno

6th May 2021

 
 

 

The current unrest in Myanmar is not solely a threat to the possibility of future democracy, it is an infringement of the fundamental human rights of citizens. Ever since the country gained independence from British rule in 1948, Myanmar, also known as Burma, has experienced both the violence of military rule and the controversy of a quasi-democracy. The National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, received an outright majority in the 2020 elections. The military responded with voter fraud allegations and viewed the result as a vote on the popularity of Aung San Suu Kyi. Although the election commission rejected these allegations, on 1 February 2021 the military announced a state of emergency and a year long coup d’etat. Since the coup began, hundreds of innocent lives have been lost and thousands have been injured, detained, or both. With military commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing in power, a ruthless approach has been used to terminate protests (many of which remain peaceful) and strict measures have been put in place, such as curfews and a nationwide internet shutdown. The events of the coup are seen on a global scale as a violation of international human rights. Numerous countries have condemned the actions of Myanmar’s military and imposed sanctions, but is this enough to put an end to the brutality?

 

Violence has consumed the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar. According to Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), almost 600 deaths have occurred as a result of the unrest since the 1st of February. Of those, more than 40 were children. On 27 March, the deadliest day since the coup began, more than 100 people were killed. The military’s response to protestors has been brutal. Security forces have used water cannons, rubber bullets and live ammunition in an attempt to disperse protesters. There have been reports of security forces opening fire at protesters and demolishing barricades. An opposition group, the Karen National Unions (KNU), stated that the “inhumane actions against unarmed civilians have caused the death of many people including children and students.” They continued, stating “these terrorist acts are clearly a flagrant violation of local and international laws.”

 


Not only have civilians been injured and killed, but thousands have been detained, many of whom’s whereabouts are unknown. It has been reported that approximately 2,751 people have been detained or sentenced, the vast majority without charge. Among those detained are the leaders of the NLD, along with President U Win Myint. The nation’s elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was arrested when the coup began and has recently been charged with violating a colonial-era official secrets law. Cabinet ministers, politicians, journalists, protesters, activists and even children have been taken into custody. More than 60 warrants have been issued against cultural celebrities in an effort to silence any opposition to the coup.

 

“Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated that the Myanmar military, often referred to as the junta, has “forcibly disappeared hundreds of people” since the coup began. Brad Adams, the HRW Asia director said “the junta’s widespread use of arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances appears designed to strike fear in the hearts of anti-coup protesters.” Innocent citizens have been taken from their homes and their whereabouts have not been disclosed to loved ones.”

These actions are an evident violation of fundamental human rights. Under international human rights law, an enforced disappearance occurs when authorities detain an individual while concealing the fate or whereabouts of the person. They are placed outside the protection of the law. Forcibly disappeared people are commonly subjected to torture or extrajudicial execution. “Enforced disappearances are grave violations of international law, and when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack on a civilian population, are crimes against humanity.”

 

In an attempt to contain the protests, the military has imposed a range of restrictions, including the implementation of curfews and limits to gatherings. In what looks like an attempt to disrupt any flow of communication, not only have the military taken control of media outlets and detained journalists, they have recently cut all wireless internet services. The Ministry of Transportation and Communications instructed telecoms companies to cease wireless broadband internet services, making any opposition to the coup significantly weaker.

 

The actions of the Myanmar military have been condemned at a global level. Some 300 Myanmar MPs have urged the United Nations to investigate “gross human rights violations” that they claim have been carried out by the military. The European Union, the UK and the US have responded to the events by imposing sanctions on the junta. Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, has accused the security forces of a “reign of terror”. Although sanctions have been imposed by the UN and Western governments, they have little to no authority over the actions of the junta. Both the military and the protestors are determined not to surrender, meaning internal conflict and human rights violations will undoubtedly increase. A political scientist at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, Thitinan Pongsudhirak wrote that instead of the hope of a stable democracy, the country faces “the imminent threat of economic collapse” … “perhaps even a full-fledged civil war.” Western governments may have the ability to save the people of Myanmar by redirecting development aid from the military toward civil society. It is necessary for individual countries and international NGOs to reorganise their aid programmes. A new approach must be adopted which recognises the inevitable instability that occurs when countries such as Myanmar are in the midst of transitioning from military rule to democracy.

 

 

 

 

Featured photo by Gayatri Malhorta on Unsplash

 

 

Australia’s rebuke of international justice in Palestine 

Australia’s rebuke of international justice in Palestine 

HUMANITARIAN

Australia’s rebuke of international justice in Palestine 

"no one is illegal"
Alisha Lynch

5th May 2021

 
 

 

The International Criminal Court (ICC) investigates and, where applicable, prosecutes those accused of the world’s most severe crimes. As stated on their website, this is a“court of last resort”and one that works respectively with national courts. The ongoing Israeli–Palestinian conflict has been subject to this court for the Israeli government’s continuation of imposing extreme andconfining restrictionson Palestinian human rights. They have continued to restrict the movement of people and goods in and out of the Gaza Strip, and are facilitating the illegal transfer of Israeli citizens to settlements in the occupied West Bank. 

 

In February, the International Criminal Court issued a landmark judgement stating that the prosecutor of the court has the authority to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity in Palestine. What was surprising about this trial was the statement made by Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne, stating;“Australia has deep concerns with the ruling of the Pre-Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court” and the court“should not exercise jurisdiction in this matter.”  Australia is a member of the ICC andclaims to advocate  for  humanrights. Just the month before, Australia condemned China fortheirabuses against Muslim minorities in China’s Xinjiang region. So why is Australia overlooking the human rights abuses in Palestine?Australia’s rebukeof international justice inPalestineis not really abouthuman rights but more of a geopolitical stance. Australia has consistently supported Israel in its decisions, but why are they so quick to defend them? 

 

“Unsurprisingly, Australia is an ally of the United States of America, which has been a firm supporter of Israel since the 1960s. The United States of America has prioritized the continuation of a close and supportive Israel–United States relationship. Support for Israel is nearly unconditional for the US government and remains a vital issue in domestic US politics.”

Also, Australia does not recognise the‘State of Palestine’which was part of Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s statement. Another reason is the growing tension between China and Australia causedbythetrade conflict between the two countries and most recently Australia criticising the horrific treatment of Uighur Muslims in China. Nevertheless, Australia cannot be called a supporter of  human rights if they are trying to block international justice for Palestinians, anindigenous group within the West Bank. This begs the question: is Australias defence of Israel a result of bothsettler statesdispossessingtheir indigenous populations? Australias alarming stance and supportofthe Israel government has shown that theircontinuing  and condoning behaviouris  segregating indigenous people from the wider population. Furthermore, it shows that thisnationhas yet to come to terms with its own history. 

 

Australia is home to around 15,000 Israelis and also has many pro-Israelipressure groups. One of these groups is called the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA), which was established in the year 1927, in Melbourne. Although the lobby in the United States is most aggressive, Australia beingan ally,is seeing pressure from these groups and some Australian politicians like Melissa Parke havebeen falsely accused of antisemitism by groups like the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC).Thefalse accusation ofpoliticianshas been utilised as aweaponof toutedanti-discriminationby those who do not recognise Palestine.Is this  weaponization silencing people, especially government officials, from speaking out against Israel’s actions? 

 

Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s  statement shows  that the country has much to overcome and, most of all, Australia’s rebuke of international justice for Palestine is dangerous. For years Palestinians havebeensubject toseverecrimesand now,in the wake of a pandemic, Palestinians are victims of a vaccine segregation effort made by the Israeli government. The ICC’sjudgement to investigate Israels oppressive actions is now allowing for hope and justice. Australia claims it is an advocate for human rights, but  its  stance on Palestine shows otherwise. Australia is using this as a progression of geopolitics, where instead this should be about the safety of real people and showing supportforthe ICCs decision to bring warcriminalsto justice.

 

 

 

 

 

Featured photo by Mike Guziuk on Unsplash

 

 

Activists protest proposed ban on Nepali women travelling abroad

Activists protest proposed ban on Nepali women travelling abroad

WOMEN

Activists protest proposed ban on Nepali women travelling abroad 

view from a plane window
Aoife McDonald

4th May 2021

 

A proposed law in Nepal banning women from travelling abroad without a permission letter from their families and government wards has caused uproar. It contradicts the rights to freedom of movement and asylum under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which Nepal is a signatory. It was introduced by the Department of Immigration in February of this year and aims to prevent women being trafficked, while making it easier for governments to contact citizens in trouble overseasAccording to a 2018 UNODC report, 35,000 Nepalese people were victims of human trafficking that year, including 15,000 women and 5,000 girls. 

 

Activists have pointed out that it is not only women who are trafficked, and policymakers should consider both women and men in any proposed legal changes. Hima Bista, executive director at Women Lead Nepal, told protesters that the thinking behind the proposed law is “extremely dangerous and demonstrates how deep-rooted the patriarchal mindset is. Patriarchal attitudes have had a long tradition of restricting the autonomy of women in Nepal. In 1988, during the reign of the monarchy, the Foreign Employment Act was amended, requiring women to obtain permission from a guardian (usually a parent, husband or brother) as well as the Nepali government.  

 

The country later adopted a more progressive stance following the downfall of the monarchy. In 2007, the Foreign Employment Act stated that “No gender discrimination shall be made while sending workers for foreign employment”. The latest development, however, demonstrates the persistence of traditional patriarchal views within the state apparatus. In 2017, the Nepali government issued an order banning Nepali citizens from travelling to the Gulf for jobs as domestic workers.  

 

“Gulf countries employ migrant domestic workers under the “Kafala” system, by which their mobility is controlled by their employer. This means that employers hold the passports of migrant workers and have legal control over their ability to change employment or leave the country.”

Although the Kafala system is problematic, feminist activists criticize the 2017 ban as compounding the issues faced by Nepali migrant women. Again, the ban was to protect citizens from being trafficked. In reality, instead of protecting women from exploitation, the ban discriminates against women as the main cohort seeking domestic work, and even places them in danger. 

 

The Gulf countries remain a favourite destination of Nepali women, as salaries for domestic workers far outstrip those in Nepal. Due to the 2017 legislation, women choose to travel through neighbouring countries, such as India, with which Nepal shares an open border, before travelling on to the Middle East. This leaves women undocumented, and more vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation. Activists refute the claim that further restrictions on women’s freedom of movement will prevent the exploitation and abuse of women. The average salary of women in Nepal is only $5,497 per annum, meaning that many will choose to emigrate without documentation. The most recent proposals restricting women consolidates this fear. 

 

The recent proposals have been shrouded in confusion regarding the actual content of the proposed changes to legislation. Teknarayan Paudel, director of the Department of Immigration, insisted in an interview with The Republic, that every female under 40 would have to obtain the letter of permission. The stance of the Department of Immigration, however, is that the requirement would only apply to women travelling alone for the first time to countries in the Middle East and AfricaDespite this contradiction, it appears as though the intention was to impose a blanket ban on all countriesThe limited ban seems to have been a revaluation of the original intention in response to the backlash. The department clarified that the law only applied to “vulnerable” women and has not yet been finalised. 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured photo by Eva Darron on Unsplash