Please be patient with us as we work out some technical difficulties we have been having with our website. We are doing our best to refresh our web presence. For inquiries please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Serwaah is a third year student studying political science with a minor in English at Western University. In 2014 she was the Student Success and Volunteer Officer for the Learning Skills Service at Western. She also went on an international exchange in May 2015 to Barcelona to study Spanish culture, history, politics, European democracy, and political secession. Her interest in International Development has brought her to the position of current Ethnocultural Support Service Coordinator for Western University. This interest, along with her position as a Peer Counseling Editor, has brought her to the Undercurrent. Her academic interests include: microfinance in the Global South, gender politics, along with international and human rights law.
Stacey is a recent graduate from Simon Fraser University where she completed her BA in International Studies, with a focus on international development. Stacey travelled extensively throughout her undergraduate degree, having completing an exchange in Israel, field school in South East Asia, an international co-op in Uganda and partaking in a student delegation in Taiwan. She is currently pursuing an MA in Global Development and Education at the University of Leeds in the UK. She is particularly interested in the impacts of social justice and global citizenship education on youth, which will be the focus of her MA dissertation
Dorna is in her fourth year at York University, majoring in International Studies and minoring in Political Science. In 2014, she interned at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance in Stockholm, Sweden. During her time there she conducted comparative research on transitional democracies’ constitutions and electoral laws. Her research interests include: public health, food security, economics, gender relations and international migration with a specific focus on the MENA region.
For Day 9 of our 10 Posts in 10 Days, I decided to feature 10 Canadians to watch over the next year! In a country that hosts more than 35,000,000 citizens, there are bound to be thousands upon thousands of people doing worthwhile things, so selecting a mere ten people to recognize in this list was incredibly difficult! If you think of anyone that should be added to this list, tell us a little bit about them in the comments below! In no particular order, here is a list of 10 Canadians to Watch in 2015. 1. Luke Strimbold At 24, Strimbold has already been the mayor of a small community in northern BC for more than 3 years, making him the youngest mayor in BC and the second youngest mayor in Canada. Since an explosion occurred at the local sawmill in 2012, Strimbold has assisted in secured funding for a $2-million project to revitalize the downtown area, $3-million to expand a “multi-use facility”, and $5-million to create a new hospital and community health centre. 2. Dr. Annalee Coakley This medical director of the Mosiac Refugee Health Clinic in Calgary has become a federally-recognized name in the battle for refugee health services, particularly after the federal cuts of 2012. As you may know, Ottawa was forced to restore this health coverage in 2014. Keep an eye on Coakley, however, as the Conversatives may appeal to the Supreme Court this year. Additionally, Coakley and 11 other physicians created a fund to cover medication costs for the clinic's patients, as many do not receive full funding. 3. Joe Cressy This 30-year old was elected as a Toronto councillor in October 2014. He's worked in Ghana dealing with HIV/AIDS issues in the LGBTQ community, as well as at the Stephen Lewis Foundation in Toronto. Now, he's looking to work on affordable housing and pursue other anti-poverty initiatives. Torontonians, keep an eye out in 2015 in Cressy's ward, which goes from the waterfront to the Annex. 4. Michael Champagne As the Founder and Organizer of Aboriginal Youth Opportunities, this 27-year old is making waves across Winnipeg's North End in a big way. Here's a few recent notable mentions he has received in 2014: -The Alumni Achievement award by the Youth Parliament of Manitoba -Top 10 Tweeps to follow in 2015 (Awarded by CBC Manitoba) -3 People Under 30 to Watch in Winnipeg (Awarded by MetroNews) -Manitoba's Top 100 Difference Makers of 2014 (CS3 Partners) He has also recently become the President of the North End Community Renewal Corporation, and is joining the Board of Directors at Thunderbird House, an Aboriginal Centre. Watch for his motivational speaking tour in 2015 that will see him in BC, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. 5. Sheldon Kennedy In the fall of 2014, Sheldon received two prestigious awards -- The National Humanitarian of the Year (By the David Foster Foundation) & The Order of Canada. In 2013, this former NHL player founded the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre. As a victim of sexual abuse, he has become a renowned spokesman on the issues of violence and abuse prevention. Watch for his documentary to come out in 2015. 6. Megan Leslie Leslie is a Halifax MP, as well as the Environmental Critic for the NDP Party. Since winning this seat in 2008, she has won a slew of awards, including: -"Best Rookie" by Maclean's Parliamentarians of the Year Awards -"Five best Canadian Members of Parliament" by the Mark News -Favourite "Up and Comer" on Parliament Hill Her name frequently emerges in the media surrounding Harper's frequent environmental plunders. The National Post stated that she could be a contender in running for NDP leadership in the future. 7. Tariq Fancy As the youngest partner at a Wall Street Investment firm, Tariq abandoned this comfortable life in 2013 to found the Rumie Initiative. This project distributes tablets that are loaded with textbooks and tools to areas that struggle with access to education. The tablets can be used with little to no internet access and have a long-life battery that costs less than $1/year to charge. In 2015, he plans to hand out 30,000 tablets, largely in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kenya. 8. Trevor Loke As Vancouver's youngest elected official, Loke has tackled a wide range of issues. In 2010, after organizing rallies against gang-related attacks, he was asked to run in the provincial election by the Green Party. He instead chose to work under an independent MLA. However, in 2011, he was asked to run again, and decided to do so. Loke is the Chair of the park board, which has an annual budget of $110 million. In addition to these political ventures, he also created a crowd-funding platform for non-profits and works full-time for a US tech start-up. 9. Wab Kinew This unique name may ring a bell: After the Ghomeshi scandal, Wab Kinew became the guest host of the CBC Radio Interview Program, Q. He's been a host for CBC Winnipeg, a correspondent for Al Jazeera America and is a well-known speaker across Canada. I believe that 2015 is the year that this 33-year old fully breaks out across Canada. 10. Amy Dopson In 2009, Amy Dopson created PAC10 Tutoring, a service that seeks to support a student's school experience in Prince Rupert. This initiative has grown from 30 to 94 students at a time, and now holds a waiting list as well. She has donated over $27,000 to local groups, and was recently awarded the Young Aboriginal Entrepreneur of the Year by the BC Aboriginal Business Awards.
On Day 8 of our 10 Posts in 10 Days, Managing Editor M'Lisa Colbert takes a look at renewable energy initiatives in the Global South!
Poetry. Development. It might not be our first instinct to link these two words together, but that doesn’t mean they are entirely unrelated. Poetry is an epitome of the power of words – whether written or spoken – to showcase human imagination, to evoke empathy, and, finally, to galvanize the audience into action. The concerns poets raise in their works often resonate with issues that are at the heart of international development. In this blog post Translator Kelvin Chu look at 10 works of poetry with development-related themes written by poets from around the world. Poverty 1. Charles Baudelaire’s “A Toy for the Poor” A prose poem from Paris Spleen, it begins with the suggestion of what the speaker calls “an innocent diversion:” the offering of toys to poor children. At first they “won’t dare accept…Then they will grab the gift and move away, as cats distance themselves to eat what you toss them, having learned to distrust mankind.” An apparent hierarchy between the rich and the poor is thus set up, and the reference to distrust hints at the hypocrisy of the former group. Building on their gulf of circumstances, the speaker goes on to juxtapose two children, on “a neat and beautiful little boy in fastidious country garments,” the other a “boy, dirty, sickly, soot-covered, one of those outcast urchins whose beauty an impartial eye might appreciate, if it…could wash off the repulsive patina of poverty.” Baudelaire implies, therefore, that wealth is but a façade, and he makes a point of ending his poem on a note of equality: “And the two children, each to the other, laughed fraternally, with teeth of equal whiteness.” 2. Jayanta Mahapatra’s “Village Evening” “Village Evening” gives a portrayal of poverty in India. Time references frame the poem: This evening, fruit bats will hang once again from the rain-wet deodars ………………………...………………….. her promise to feed her son milk-curd next morning another faraway dream. The temporal structure of the poem implies that poverty is like a trap, and there seems to be no end to the misery and suffering that it causes. Already, as night falls, the protagonist Ahalya has to worry about how she will feed her son the next day. The most powerful lines are spoken by Ahalya herself. Ironically, this expression of relief only adds to the grimness of her situation: “What a relief there are just the two of us! Or else this little money would get us nowhere." Race/Migration 3. Langton Hughes’ “America” What is the relation of the self to community? And how do we find our place when others don’t seem to accept us or our race? “America,” conveying a strong desire to fit in, portrays a very dynamic identity-building process. Through the anaphoric repetitions, Hughes seeks to level the differences between a “little dark baby” and a “little jew baby” by drawing attention to their common experience of past suffering: “the chains of slavery…the ghettos of Europe.” The construction of the speaker’s identity is very much based upon his similarity to “you,” the Jew, as well as their forming America together. The line “You and I” ultimately becomes “I am you / And yet / I am my one sole self, America seeking the stars.” This last sentence is admittedly not very convincing, since it suggests that “I”, which remains the subject grammatically, has inflated to include America, rather than the other way round. The frequent repetitions also appear somewhat excessive, to the point that they seem to register a sense of insecurity and paranoia rather than strengthening the speaker’s point. 4. Cyril Dabydeen’s “Multiculturalism” Dabydeen is of mixed East Indian, Caribbean and Canadian descent, and is a vibrant voice in race relations. His poem “Multiculturalism,” like Hughes’s “America,” represents an attempt to dismantle the official ideology that is so insistent on categorizing ethnic groups. It recognizes the diversity within Canada: Quebec or Newfoundland; the Territories... How far we make a map out of our solitudes, As we are still Europe, Asia, Africa; and the Aborigine in me Suggests love above all else – The expansion of territory (“make a map”) here is driven by a desire for more company. Love will ultimately unite all, and the poem emphasizes Canada as one country, regardless of its people’s heritage: I raise a banner high on Parliament Hill – Crying “Welcome!” – we are, you are… OH CANADA! Gender 5. Afghan women poets’ Landays A landay is a folk couplet, often created by illiterate people. In Afghan culture, these people are usually women. In a way, therefore, this poetic genre might be their only form of education. A landay has 22 syllables – 9 in the first line and 13 in the second – and ends with the sound “ma” or “na” (these conventions might not be preserved in the English translation). Consider the following landay: When sisters sit together, they always praise their brothers. When brothers sit together, they sell their sisters to others. This poem aptly captures the gender inequality in Afghan patriarchy, contrasting women’s loyalty to their family and men’s poor treatment of them. Some landays also address the issue of poverty, for instance: I dream I am the president. When I awake, I am the beggar of the world. 6. Margaret Atwood’s “Eurydice” Atwood’s poem is a retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, but she deviates from it to emphasize female subjectivity. Traditionally, Orpheus is the steadfast lover who descends to Hell to save Eurydice, albeit in vain. In “Eurydice,” however, Orpheus is cast in a selfish light, for all he seems to do is subject Eurydice to his own desires: He wants you to be what he calls real. He wants you to stop light. He wants to feel himself thickening... Each line here beings with “He wants,” and the anaphora reinforces the selfish nature of her desires. Further, Atwood’s Eurydice is a subject with her own agency: You hold love in your hand, a red seed you had forgotten you were holding ....................................................... it is not through him you will get your freedom. Eurydice’s grasp of love is a tactile image that is symbolic of her own subjectivity, and the last lines make it clear that her freedom is not dictated by Orpheus. 7. Adrienne Rich’s “A Woman Dead in Her Forties” Rich is known for the political dimension of her poetry; this poem of hers explores breast cancer. The first stanzas are a powerful statement of female strength: Your breasts/ sliced-off The scars dimmed as they would have to be years later All the women I grew up with are sitting half-naked on rocks in sun we look at each other and are not ashamed The caesura in the first line is a verbal representation of mastectomy, and the second stanza offers a strong sense of community. Yet, the main tension of the poem is one between communal support and the privacy of loss. Sensitive but bold, Rich’s poem explores the female experience of breast cancer. Environment and urbanization/industrialization 8. Ai Qing’s “Fuqiao” (The Floating Bridge) How do we reconcile conservation of the environment and the need for development? The Chinese poet Ai Qing finds himself trapped between his fascination with urban life on the one hand and his love for nature on the other. The development of cities, he realizes, happens at the expense of the environment. His poem “Fuqiao,” for instance, contrasts images of cities and villages, showing the former’s exploitation of the latter. A link between “wealth and poverty,” the floating bridge is implicated in the exploitation, as it allows the cities to take advantage of the villages’ natural resources. 9. Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Redwood-Tree” A late poem from Leaves of Grass, “Song of the Redwood-Tree” reveals Whitman’s doubt about the sanity of urban experience, as well as the harm it does to Nature. The poem contains a song from the wood nymphs, and it tells us that the redwood-tree is being chopped, sacrificing itself for the humankind: With Nature’s calm content, with tacit huge delight, We welcome what we wrought for through the past, And leave the field for them. What Nature “wrought for” is the great good of the world at large, but the circumstance has become such that Nature’s regenerative quality cannot, ironically, save itself. It takes up its motherly role again, sacrificing for its children, and even doing so with “delight.” The redwood-tree has symbolic value, its death signaling to the speaker the potential of the loss of his dwelling. But the speaker is at the same time cognizant of the inevitability of urban development, which causes him to yield to it on the condition that it is “proportionate to Nature.” This is nevertheless only tentative: Fresh come, to a new world indeed, yet long prepared, I see the genius of the modern, child of the real and ideal, Clearing the ground for broad humanity, the true America, heir of the past so grand, To build a grander future. The fragmentary syntax here is uncharacteristic of Whitman’s frequent use of unpunctuated end-stopped lines that create a regular rhythm. The many line breaks here perhaps reflect a kind of uncertainty between the desire to build a greater good and the suspicion of its success. The hopeful note on which this last stanza seems to end turns out to contain an element of self-deception. 10. Lucinda Roy’s “Points of View” This poem is made of two stanzas, each presenting a different point of view on water. The first – that of “daughters of Africa” – still sees water as a source of life that they offer not only to their family but also to inanimate objects: Even now, women bend to rivers Or to wells; they scoop up life and offer it To men or to their children, to their elders, To blistered cooking-pots. On the other hand, the speaker, a woman presumably living in modern society, has grown used to her easy access to water, taking it for granted: I catch it tamed from metal spouts encased In quiet glass, contoured in porcelain. I compartmentalize the beast in ice, Then serve it, grinning, to distant friends. What do I know of water? Her question, however, reveals that she is aware of the inadequacy of her point of view. She goes on to seek “a new baptism free of metaphor,” and becomes “a newly-evolved fish” that has learned to appreciate the power and importance of water – a life-giving force.
The dawn of a new year is often cause to pause and reflect on various moments throughout the previous twelve months that have impacted us on some deeper level. This article, however, is likely not about those moments. What you will find below is a small selection of moments that you may have found yourself reflecting on now, had they received greater attention from major Western media outlets. From Africa and the Middle East to Asia and North America, these moments have taken place across the world and, whether you know it or not, each have the potential to impact the day-to-day lives of both you and those around you. On that cheery note, I, Nathan Stewart, am pleased to present to you ten news stories of 2014 that deserved more media attention. 1) When the Genie Leaves the Bottle On September 18, 2014, the Chinese internet retailer ‘The Alibaba Group’ went public on the New York Stock Exchange releasing a block of shares at $68/share. With institutional investors chomping at the bit, the company managed to raise an astonishing $21.8 billion in just a single day. As a result, the ‘Amazon of the East’ managed to snatch up the prestigious title of having launched ‘the single largest Initial Public Offering (IPO) in history’. Impressive as this was, it did not stop there. By September 19th, the share price had grown by 36.3% to a rate of $92.7/share, allowing Alibaba to raise an additional $3.2 billion by the end of the week, bringing the total figure to $25 billion. While to some this may appear as just another entrepreneurial success story to be found in the pages of Forbes or Business Insider, to me the tale of Alibaba tells of a much profound story. In this version of the story, Alibaba’s landmark IPO is simply a footnote in the much larger and more familiar story of the rising power of the People’s Republic of China. Casting the country’s growing military and political prowess to the side for the moment, the growth of the Chinese economy over the past three decades has been nothing less than astonishing. This is clearly represented by the fact that, prior to Alibaba’s 2014 IPO launch, the record had been held by both The Agricultural Bank of China (2010) and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (2008). With the IMF now projecting the size of China’s purchasing power parity adjusted economy to actually surpass that of the United States by the end of 2014, China has proven that it is ready and willing to carve itself out a role as a new power centre in what looks like the new bipolar international power structure of the 21st century. With companies like Alibaba leading the way in an increasingly globalized world, Chinese influence will undoubtedly continue to spread, and we in the West must keep this in mind as we progress into the decades to come. 2) Blood In the Water In July, 2014, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a ‘reinterpretation’ of the Japanese constitution, specifically targeted at the famous ‘article 9’. In place since the end of WWII, article 9 was a prohibitive clause which prevented the country from deploying its troops on foreign soils. With this reinterpretation, Japan will now be permitted to deploy its ‘Self Defense Force’ into other nations in the defense of its allies. Coming on the heels of a five year boost in military spending, this reinterpretation is yet another major move by the country signalling its desire to counter the rising regional power of China. Primarily aimed at advancing Japan’s naval and amphibious military power, this spending increase and constitutional reinterpretation will allow Japan to better defend its heavily contested assets such as those in the South and East China Seas, both of which have been the cause of tension between China and Japan in recent years. With foreign military operations outlawed since the forging of the constitution in 1946, this represents possibly the single largest shift in Japanese foreign relations of the past 68 years. The political-economic consequences of war between two of the world’s largest economies is incomparable in today’s world system. The threat of massive casualties, infrastructural decimation, spill-over conflicts and economic atrophy each carry with them massive consequences which would be felt for years, if not decades to come. Additionally, in a world where solutions to global issues such as nuclear proliferation and climate change require international cooperation and coordination, the divisive impacts of war have the potential to cause devastating interruptions that could set the world back years. With that, were the militarization of Japan to take place in a political, geographic, and historical vacuum, there would be little sense in writing this, as these apparent consequences would be enough to deter any two states from going to war. However, with Japan’s hyper-belligerent and colonial past still fresh in the minds of many in both East and South East Asia, it is of utmost importance that we begin to take this shift seriously. The threat of war is real, and steps must be taken now if it is to be avoided. With that in mind, let me be clear about one final point. When I say steps must be taken now, I mean steps must be taken by the parties involved. There is no room for a ‘white knight’ in this scenario, and the direct involvement of the West would only complicate things further. We must remain on the sidelines of this one, for if we don’t, we may well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. 3) Peninsular Panic In September of this year, Houthi rebels managed to occupy the Yemini capital of Sana’a after over a decade of protest and rebellion. With street protests and violence quickly breaking out across the capital, the government was eventually dissolved and a new unity government was installed in an attempt to quell the uprising. As much as this may seem like a new success story in the ongoing saga of the Arab Spring, a deeper look reveals the true, much more troubling nature of Yemen’s political shift. Prior to the Houthi occupation of Sana’a, the Yemeni government was battling rebellion on all fronts. From the aforementioned Houthi rebels in the North and West of the Country to the ubiquitous presence of tribal rebels and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemeni government has spent the past few years attempting to control a country on the brink of multiple civil wars. It now appears, however, that at the time when the government must be at its strongest, this new political hiccup may be just disruptive enough to allow the country to devolve into the pure chaos of failed statehood. It is surprising that Yemen’s political breakdown has not received much attention from Western media outlets in comparison to that of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. For years, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has been touted by international news outlets and government agencies alike as amongst the most active and dangerous branches of the Al-Qaeda network. In fact, AQAP has posed such an international threat that Yemen has even made it onto the very exclusive list of countries within which the US admits to carrying out drone strikes in the interest of national security. For a bit of context, some other countries that currently find themselves on this list include Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and Somalia. With a new government in place, Yemen is now more vulnerable than ever to succumbing to the disintegration that would be necessary for extremist factions to establish a territorial foothold in the country. This should be particularly concerning to Western governments considering the country’s proximity to the ‘terrorist breeding ground’ of Somalia as well as to one of the West’s most important regional allies, Saudi Arabia. And so one must ask themselves, why is it that Yemen seems to have stayed off the radar in an age where superpowers seem to have more to fear from the existence of failed states than the presence of other superpowers? 4) A Crisis of Faith In 2012, the Central African Republic saw an uprising led by a group of primarily Muslim rebels, known as the Seleka, that eventually ousted then-president Francois Bozize in favour of the group’s leader, Michael Djotodia. In the aftermath of the transition, however, a large number of Seleka refused to put down their weapons and began to instigate instances of communal violence across the country, with the majority of action centered in Bangui, the country’s capital. In response, by 2014 a number of primarily Christian ‘Anti-Balaka’ militias had risen up in an attempt to protect their communities from the violence of the Seleka. While the UN issued warnings that the situation in the CAR would soon explode into the next Rwandan genocide, the African Union, France, and the European Union deployed troops in an attempt to quell the violence and prevent the outbreak of mass killings. Since then, the violence in the CAR has continued in spats, a new president has been put into power, and the international community has sat on the sidelines patiently waiting to see the outcome. In December of 2014, the Anti-Balaka vowed to put down their weapons in the interest of pursuing their goals politically, and a tense calm has washed over the country. In the shadow of the Rwandan genocide, the international community has employed a strong discourse against communal violence and ethnic cleansing. The situation in the CAR, however, revealed that in the face of persistent warnings from the UN, the Western willingness to respond to such conflict remains largely the same as it was in 1994, with France playing the role of the former colonial power supplying highly trained, well-armed ‘peacekeepers’ to the country. There is, however, one major difference. This time around, the African Union has stepped up in an attempt to produce an African solution to an African problem. Though it would be difficult to claim any connection to the AU presence and the relatively peaceful state of the situation, what can be said is that the CAR mission, taken in concert with its mission in Somalia and Kenya, and can be seen as a new era of African governance led by Africans. While it is too early to tell, perhaps this will eventually be seen as a turning point for a continent that has seen more than its fair share of conflict and destruction since its independence. 5) Impérialisme From the Central African Republic to Mali and Chad, French military interventions in Africa have not been uncommon in the 20th and 21st centuries. In each instance, the French military was deployed with the aim of preventing the division of a warring state into new political entities. In 2014, the most prominent French incursion into African politics came in the form of the previous story, that is, the deployment of 2,000 French soldiers tasked with preventing the escalation of communal violence in the Central African Republic. France has always maintained close political relations with its former colonies and, to a degree, has taken great pride in its ability to do so. However, in the era of ‘post- decolonization’, should France’s incursions be seen as a truly altruistic expression of its loyalty to its former colonies, or rather, should they be viewed as neoimperialist forays into France’s sphere of influence? There has been no shortage of criticism from both the media and governments about current and past US foreign policy regarding the Middle East. From Iraq and Afghanistan to Libya, Syria, and Israel, the US has been accused of harbouring neoimperialist motives and actively working towards forcing the region into its own sphere of influence. However, with deployments in 11 countries across North, West, and East Africa, France constitutes a major military presence on the continent that has gone largely unnoted in major Western media outlets. As much as the US may have used the veil of the ‘War on Terror’ to execute its agenda in the Middle East, France has used various African political crises as an excuse to install a formidable military presence on the continent specifically tasked with maintaining international borders and preserving the status quo of political power. Being fully aware of this, can we legitimately demonise the United States for its actions while also allowing France to get away with such a blatant exercise of political privilege? Or should we finally stand up and say something? 6) China’s Northwest Passage While much news was made of various Muslim sects such as the Alawites and the Yazidi’s in 2014, little attention was paid to a small group of Chinese Muslims known as the Uighurs. Residing in the northwestern province of Xianjiang, the Uighur population is viewed by the Chinese government as a ‘separatist movement’ and has implemented harsh laws in the name of stifling ‘dissention’. With penalties for ‘dissention’ as stiff as death, the population is facing draconian laws restricting religious practice. As a rising power, China will have an important role to play in shaping the international discourse of the 21st century. I do not question that the institution of human rights will eventually become a point of contention in the international community as a result of this influence. In an effort to prepare for this, I believe more attention should be paid to these cases of persecution taking place in China. It is important that people understand the potential consequences of this contention. This is, of course, unless China begins to adopt a strong pro-human rights policy over the next few years. 7) Stateless in the New Democracy In 2011, the military junta ruling Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, formally handed power over to a civilian government for the first time in 42 years. While the international community applauded the release of political prisoners such as Aung San Suu Kyi, the government of Myanmar continued to do nothing to prevent the oppression of the stateless Rohingya Muslism in the state of Rakhine. The origin of the Rohingya is legally debated, but they are argued to be from both Rakhine State and modern Bangladesh to the northwest. On March 29, 2014, the Burmese government banned the word Rohingya and asked the population to register as Bengalis in the country’s census. Though some believe this is a gesture of goodwill, many believe that this is an attempt by the government to declare the Rohingya as illegal immigrants. In 2014, much attention has been paid to regions of the world where people are viciously fighting for sovereign territory like Ukraine, Iraq, and Syria. But much less attention is being paid to a region of the world that does not fit into the Orientalist image of the Muslim with an issue of the same ilk. The persecution of Muslims in Myanmar is a perfect example of an important story that was ignored by the media. While stories of Muslim extremism fermenting in the West dominated the media circuit, Ayman Al-Zwahiri, the leader of Al-Qaeda, announced the spread of Al-Qaeda to South Asia, yet the story has been left for dead since. This story was dwarfed by the coverage of the emergence of ISIL in Iraq and Syria. The same threats of globalized travel and infiltration exist in South Asia as they do in Iraq and Syria, and yet this issue has not received a fracture of the coverage that ISIL has. To me this is suspect, and I believe this is likely a result of the investment that has been sunk in the crafted image of the Islamist that has been projected by much of the media. 8) A New Place for Canada For decades Canada has been known as a peaceful nation. However, in 2014, three key steps were taken that pushed Canada closer to becoming a belligerent presence in the 21st century. The first step regards the current deployment of Canadian soldiers in Iraq. In total, there are under 100 Canadian soldiers in Iraq, with the support of 9 combat and surveillance aircraft. Though the number may be small relative to deployments by countries such as the US or England, the Canadian government has confirmed that this is a deployment of Special Forces. While traditionally situations such as this would be handled by Canada’s premier special forces unit, Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2), it is likely that members of the deployment will be from the newly formed Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM); Canada’s answer to the US Joint Special Operations Command. Formed in 2006, the purpose of CANSOFCOM is to act as an elite military unit tasked with the protection of Canadian citizens and assets both domestically and internationally. With the creation of this unit, Canada took its first step towards accepting a more active role in the ‘War of Terror’. With that, Canada’s second step can be found in its aforementioned deployment to Iraq. But it is the third step which places this news item on my list. With little uproar or media attention, Canada passed bill C-44, an amendment to the Canadian Security Intelligence Services Act that provides CSIS with greater power to operate internationally as well as an improved ability to protect their human sources. It seems as though bill C- 44 is the government’s way of making good on Stephen Harper’s promise to strengthen Canada’s intelligence service made after the October 22 parliament building shooting. The importance of this reactionary policy has been highly understated, and as a result, Canadians are being kept uninformed about a crucial issue in their own country. 9) The Knight of Libya After the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya collapsed under the weight of the power vacuum left by the regime. In 2014, a former faction leader and general in the Libyan military named Khalifa Haftar took control of the military and began his mission to remove the corrupt from the Libyan government and battle their Islamist allies. On August 4th, 2014, while battling Islamists in the East, Haftar forced the dissolution of the General National Congress after they failed to abide by their term limit. While this allowed for elections to take place, the result was contested, and a civil war broke out. Since he began his offensive, General Hafter has affected massive damage to his Islamist rival, largely due to his massive air superiority. In his quest to defeat the Islamist allies of the government, Khalifa Haftar is presenting the world with an interesting case study of conflict resolution in the Middle East and North Africa. With numerous recent examples of militaries being employed to take power in the Middle East, the example of Khalifa Hafter provides a unique situation where a large number of actors dilute the power of the established military. As such, this conflict reads more like a battle between warlords than a government campaign against insurgents. With the recent tensions building in the region, it will be interesting to see how Egypt will fair keeping extremism from traveling through its borders in these increasingly more transnational conflicts. 10) The Old Kingdom to the East In an historic development, relations between the US and Iran have improved over the year. With talks on Iran’s nuclear program progressing well, the two counties have opened diplomatic relations for the first time since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. What’s more, with the fight against ISIL forging unlikely allies out of Hezbollah, the American military, Iraqi Kurdistan, and much of the Gulf Cooperation Council, it seems as though the US has finally managed to create a united front against Sunni extremism in the Middle East. This however, has the potential to produce deep reverberations in the US’ long-time ally in the region; Saudi Arabia. While Saudi Arabia has long been an ally to the US, the long history of Sunni fundamentalist loyalty has produced a nation frustrated with the actions of the superpower. With tensions at an all-time high, and projections of Saudi oil prospects on the decline, a strategic shift in US foreign policy could be on the horizon. If the US were to open trade with Iran, the supply of oil available to the market would be substantial, and the country would have a guaranteed regional ally in the fight against Sunni extremism. As the situations in Libya, Egypt, Somalia, and Yemen continue to worsen, dependence on the Wahhabist Kingdom becomes more and more risky, but abandoning Saudi Arabia could have devastating consequences for regional stability in the event that the government becomes hostile. This issue is threatening to come to a head in the next year, and yet major media outlet have not drawn attention to the issue. With international security focusing more and more on the Middle East each year, it is clear that developments in the region have the potential to affect large parts of our lives whether it be in the form of increased troop deployments, stricter laws, or even an attack on the country. It is shocking that more information has not been provided about this to the general public, and it is certainly a news story I hope to see covered more in 2015. And so that concludes my list of 10 new stories of 2014 that deserved more media attention. I hope you enjoyed my selection, and even more so, I hope you knew about some of these! Please feel free to offer any suggestions for stories that should have been included! Cheers and Happy New Year, Nathan
As part of our 10th anniversary celebrations, the Undercurrent continues its 10 blog posts in 10 days. Today, Associate Editor Andrew Hay looks at 10 stories that helped shape the year 2014. Recognizing the subjectivity of these lists, our list is based on what we considered to be the year's most newsworthy stories that had the greatest impact. As always, we welcome your comments, arguments and thoughts! In no particular order, here is our list of the 10 stories that shaped 2014. 1. The Ebola Outbreak As of December 20th, the BBC has estimated that there have been 19,065 cases of Ebola and 7,533 deaths attributed to the disease. The outbreak has been largely centred in West Africa, with the affected countries including Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria, Mali, Senegal, Spain and the United States. 2. Ukraine Ukraine has been a source of continuous turmoil for most of the year. What began as an internal political battle between pro-Russian and pro-Western Ukrainians has spread into an international conflict. Pivotal moments of the crisis included Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March and the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 -- allegedly by pro-Russian forces -- in eastern Ukraine in July. 3. ISIL The militant group ISIL has grown to become one of the largest threats in the Middle East, controlling large parts of Syria and Iraq. ISIL made headlines when they publicly executed a number of hostages including journalists and aid workers. A United States led alliance, including Canadian Forces, have since begun air operations aimed at diminishing ISIL’s presence in the region. 4. Ferguson Shooting The fatal shooting of 18 year old Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9th has sparked nationwide protests and rallies across the United States. On November 24th, a St. Louis grand jury decided not to indict Officer Wilson with any crime stemming from the incident, sparking further protests. Tensions remain high as this story continues to develop. 5. Violence Against Women Violence against women became a prominent topic in 2014, highlighted by a number of high profile cases including celebrities and several professional athletes. These high profile cases brought this important topic to the forefront perhaps as never before. 6. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 One of the most bizarre stories from 2014 was the loss of Malaysia Airlines flight 370. MH370 took off from Kuala Lumpur airport on March 8th destined for Beijing, however, authorities lost contact with the flight shortly after take-off. An unsuccessful international collaborative effort to find the aircraft ensued. The 227 passengers and crew are presumed dead. 7. Last NATO Troops withdraw from Afghanistan December 31st looms as the deadline for the last remaining British and American forces to withdraw from Afghanistan. As the thirteen-year war draws to a close, several major challenges remain as the Afghan government struggles to take over security responsibilities from NATO forces. 8. The Philae Comet Lander On November 12th, the European Space Agency successfully landed the first spacecraft on a comet. The nine-year mission culminated in the successful landing on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The mission will attempt to explain the physical composition of comets. 9. Olympics/World Cup 2014 was also a year of international sporting competition. The winter Olympics hosted in Sochi, Russia and the FIFA World Cup in Brazil were the two most prominent events of the year. The most significant highlight was Canada’s men’s and women’s hockey teams winning gold at the Sochi Olympics. Other countries won medals too… I think. Check out here and here to relive the gold medal hockey games in Sochi for men and women, respectively. 10. ALS Ice Bucket Campaign A social media oriented fundraising campaign became one of the most popular and successful charitable campaigns of the year. Initiated in support of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis research, the ALS association raised $98.2M between the end of July and the end of August this year. Compared to the $2.7M the ALS association raised in the same time period in 2013, it’s easy to understand just how successful this campaign was. -Andrew Hay
A recent report from the Macdonald-Laurier Institute -- a conservative public policy think tank based in Ottawa -- named the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) the 2014 Policy-Maker of the Year. Benjamin Perrin, the author of the report, reached the following conclusions:
- “The policy and legal impact of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decisions of the last year are significant and likely enduring;