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10 Posts in 10 Days: 10 Canadian NGOs to Follow in 2015

This year, countless Canadian NGOs led the way in the development sector, creating waves of change on an international level. This list, compiled by Devon Matthews, features 10 Canadian founded and operated NGOs. These organizations work on some of the world's most pressing issues, including women’s rights advocacy and medical services provision. Check out their 2015 campaigns and consider becoming involved or donating to some of these amazing organizations in the new year!  Engineers Without Borders (EWB) This group’s tagline -- “We are outraged and hopeful” -- speaks volumes to the passionate and pragmatic work this organization does. EWB works with engineers, major Canadian companies, university students and development workers from across Canada to innovately create meaningful change in communities across the African continent. In 2014, one project that EWB advanced was Mining Shared Value (MSV), which connects Canadian mining companies with the African communities they are working in to create an ethical and mutually beneficial business model.  Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) AWID is an “international, feminist, membership organization committed to achieving gender equality, sustainable development and women's human rights” through innovative projects. AWID draws attention to gender inequality and women’s rights-related issues . Above and beyond AWID’s direct action, however, AWID’s website serves as an excellent source of information and publications. Check out their 2014 report on funding allocation to gender equality issues in development.  Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) CCR works to create policy changes concerning the rights of refugees in Canada as well as abroad, with a special focus on refugee family reunification. In 2014, CCR lobbied for changes in policy regarding refugee health care access, discrimination of refugee assistance based on religion in bill C-43 and issues of human trafficking to and within Canada. Additionally, CCR does excellent work in the infrequently-addressed area of LGBT refugee rights.  Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative Founded by the renowned LGen. Roméo Dallaire (ret’d), the Child Soldiers Initiative seeks to eradicate the use of child soldiers in armed conflict situations by providing training to international police, military, peacekeeping and security forces, In addition, the Child Soldiers Initiative conducts extensive research on this issue and advocates for the international conventions against the use of child soldiers. This organization is guided by Dallaire, whose extensive experience with child soldiers in both Rwanda and other countries has assisted this organization in its effective work.  Dignitas International Dignitas International, co-founded by Dr. James Orbinski and James Fraser, was created to provide medical care and access to those suffering from HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB) in Malawi. Today, Dignitas works in many countries throughout sub-Saharan Africa, including its original projects in Malawi. In addition, Dignitas has focused considerable energy on clinical research and policy advocacy regarding access to essential medicines for both HIV/AIDS and TB. In 2014, Dignitas trained health care workers to respond to the Ebola crisis in order to contain the spread of this deadly disease.  The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) HRNK has been working tirelessly over the last decade to bring global attention to the crimes of the North Korean government, specifically in relation to the estimated 200,000 North Koreas currently serving multi-generational sentences for political crimes in labour camps. HRNK has worked closely with Shin Dong-hyuk -- the only known North Korean that was born a political prisoner and successfully escaped the country -- in lobbying for greater action by international governments and the UN.  The Maria-Helena Foundation This Vancouver-based NGO works to provide education, skills training and health care for children in Pakistan. This foundation also gives scholarships to Pakistani women who are leaders in their communities in Pakistan.  Founder Dr. Muhammad Iqbal is from Pakistan, and thus has a lifetime of experience with Pakistani development issues that allow him to inform the organization's mandate.  Disabled People’s International (DPI) DPI provides much-needed support systems for those who identify as disabled and struggle with issues of access and equality worldwide. DPI works in Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean to ensure that the UN's Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities is upheld through lobbying and advocacy work.  DPI has been working on a two phase project that began in January of 2014 and will carry into 2015, which aims to integrate those suffering from leprosy into their disability advocacy movement in 18 countries in the Global South.  The Stephen Lewis Foundation The Stephen Lewis Foundation is world-renowned for its fantastic work fighting to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa. Over the past decade, the Stephen Lewis Foundation has funded over 1,100 initiatives run by 300+ community-based organizations across 15 countries in Africa. In addition to the provision of treatment for those who suffer from HIV/AIDS, the foundation also focuses on preventative community education and support networks to assist children who have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS.  Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL-ACAADR) This group of Canadian lawyers and law students works on a non-profit basis, advocating for the rights of international refugees in Canada and providing free legal services for those who are unable to afford legal representation. In 2014, CARL did extensive lobbying work to attempt to change the Conservative Government’s stance on the rights of Syrian refugees. -Devon Matthews
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10 Posts in 10 Days: Comparing 2004 to 2014

We are 10 days away from the release of the 10th anniversary issue of the Undercurrent! To celebrate this milestone, we thought we’d do a blog series: 10 Posts in 10 Days. Today, we kick off the series by looking back at what was going on in the world when the Undercurrent was created! Comment below if you think of anything else that happened in 2004.

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Upcoming UOttawa Conference!

The University of Ottawa’s International Development Students Association has organized an International Development Week (IDW) conference, to take place from January 30-31, 2015 at the University of Ottawa. This annual conference aims to unite undergraduate and graduate students, faculty members, development practitioners and members of the general public to share knowledge and fresh ideas pertaining to international development. It includes workshops, presentations and interactive networking events -- such as a wine and cheese and banquet dinner -- and is focused on engaging and informing students in international development, promoting global citizenship and increasing cultural awareness and understanding. This year’s theme, “A New Era: Changing the World of Development,” was chosen in conjunction with the upcoming release of a post-2015 development agenda. While the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) have been an influential framework in shaping global discourse and driving the allocation of resources towards key international development priorities and improving policy monitoring, they have also been criticized for presenting an agenda rather than a strategy. The discussion on the future of development is thriving, and many ideas have surfaced regarding sustainable and long term practices, participatory discourse and innovative measurement practices. IDW 2015 seeks to discuss the failures and successes of the MDGs, how development is practiced today, and most importantly, focus on the best ways to approach development post-2015 in order to see a world without poverty, inequality and injustice. It seeks to discuss the changes occurring around us, as well as how these changes will affect the practice of development. It seeks to answer questions that will contribute to the future of how we approach development. It seeks to bring together individuals with a drive for change and a willingness to learn. The theme of IDW 2015 acknowledges the changes needed in order for development to be successful and how these changes can become a reality. Register today! Early-bird prices end after December 31, so hurry! http://en.aedsa.ca/registration.html   -Zahura Ahmed
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Alumni of the Month: Talia Smith

taliaOne early October morning, I had the opportunity to virtually connect with Talia Smith, an Undercurrent alumni who is presently working with the UN in Indonesia! Oh, the wonders of modern technology, where you can be instantly connected to someone across the world -- and conduct interviews in your pyjamas! After being warned that the internet may cut out during our meeting, Talia told me about the recent change in government, where a new President had just been inaugurated the previous week. This had meant a lot of short-notice meetings regarding her project, so I was happy that she was able to squeeze the Undercurrent in! How did you find out about the Undercurrent back in the day? Through McGill’s IDS list-serv actually, which is where I completed my undergrad. I saw an email about submitting papers to the journal, so I started following the Undercurrent. When they announced they were hiring, I applied for a position! You were an associate editor with the Undercurrent, and then sat on the editorial board. Was there much of a difference between these positions? Both positions followed the review process of receiving papers, editing them and then returning them. The main difference was that the editorial board had the papers redistributed --after the editing cycle -- and the board would make the final call on which papers were to be accepted or rejected. During your undergrad, you spent a summer in D.C. working at the Global Environmental Facility, which is a part of the World Bank Group. How did working in the field, and this particular experience, shape your degree? I’m actually from Washington, DC, so this was going home for me! As it was an unpaid internship, it was great to be able to crash at home. This was my first professional experience in the field of development, and it definitely shaped my career. I had never worked in environmental policy, I had never been to a developing country. I thought I was interested in international development, but I wasn’t totally sure, so this was my first entry point -- and I totally fell in love. What sort of work did you do during this internship? I was working with the communications team, so I helped translate dense World Bank project documents into something comprehensible for the general public. In this, I was helping to answer questions such as: What are these projects actually doing? What are they achieving? How are they relatable? How do they fit into other streams of work at a more programatic level? I was also involved in event-planning, as the Global Environmental Facility invites universities, schools and organizations to come learn about these field programs. One of my biggest take-aways from this internship was that there are many different shades of working in development. This internship was at a very high-level policy institution, and helped me to see that I also needed to focus in on more ground-level field work. Did you travel after this internship or completing university? After receiving my BA, I started my Masters of Public Administration (MPA), which was specifically focused on field-level development practice. As part of this degree, I spent three months at a local think tank in Myanmar, and I fell in love with Southeast Asia. [At this point in the interview, I asked her if she had been anywhere else in Asia, completely forgetting the fact that she was in Indonesia presently! She graciously laughed once I realized my mistake (hey, it was early!).] You also spent a summer in Paris as an Economic Sector Intern to the US Mission to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development/the US Department of State. Tell us a little bit about that! This was also a position at a high-level policy institution. It was technically with the US State Department, but was working at the OECD. As OECD members, each state has a diplomatic mission to the OECD to represent each country’s interest there. The main function of the OECD is to produce economic and social policy reports on a range of issues, so I was focusing on their environmental, agricultural and development policy. The United States’ role is to make sure that each policy is in line with the US’ foreign policy, so it was very interesting to go from a multilateral perspective to a bilateral one, focusing on the interests of the US. You only completed your undergrad degree three years ago, yet you have had so many opportunities! What’s your secret? Most of my experiences have come about through networking. Speaking from my own experience, remotely applying for a job on a website doesn’t often get you the job. When I say networking, I don’t mean going to happy hours and giving out your business card. Rather, networking for me has meant taking advantage of the opportunities at your school. Go to conferences and lectures, ask questions and talk to people after theevent; people will remember you. Secondly, try and isolate a mentor in each specific field of interest. For example, if you’re at the bottom of a rung in an internship, you may feel like you won’t have opportunities and develop skills. However, identifying a mentor within the organization will help you grow leaps and bounds. At the Global Environmental Facility, I developed a relationship with my direct supervisor, who also had a career that I wanted to emulate. I asked to go to coffee with her from time to time, I asked her questions about her career. Today, she is a close friend, and has written me countless letters of recommendation. You are presently working as a Research Assistant for UNORCID (The United Nations Office for REDD+ Coordination in Indonesia). Tell us a little bit about UNORCID. UNORCID was created to support the Government of Indonesia's national REDD+ programme. REDD stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and REDD+ further supports sustainable management of forests, conservation efforts and enhancement of forest carbon stocks. The Government of Norway has pledged $1 billion in performance-based payments to the Indonesian Government to strengthen their capacity to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation and to incentivize such reductions. Indonesia is one of the biggest emitters of carbon in the world (See Hansen et al. 2013). So while $1 billion is a substantial amount of money, there is also a lot of work to be done. Specifically, one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions in Indonesia are forest and peatland fires. And this is an area I focus on at UNORCID. In particular, UNORCID is supporting government efforts to reduce these fires through improved anticipatory mechanisms and the development of a climate-based early warning system. What do you do on a normal day in this position? As I mentioned, I am supporting the development of a climate-based early warning system for fire prevention, one of the National REDD+ Agency’s key projects. So for this, I meet with key government and non-government stakeholders to discuss the project’s development process. I also support research on the institutional structures required to implement the early warning system. I travel to field sites of forest fires to better understand what is going on and to ensure that national level policies support field level observations. Overall, as the “coordination” in UNORCID would suggest, I help coordinate efforts amongst governments, donors and civil society concerning forest and peatland fires across Indonesia. To learn more about UNORCID, check out their website here (insert link to http://www.unorcid.org/).
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Pale Native: Memories of a Renegade Reporter

Pale Native: Memories of a Renegade ReporterChristie here with another edition of the IDS Students’ Bookshelf! The second book to be added to our bookshelf is Max Du Preez’s Pale Native: Memories of a Renegade Reporter (written in 2003). Prior to embarking on a field course in South Africa in 2013, I was required to read numerous books written by South Africans and/or about South Africa. This book’s title caught my attention, and so I borrowed my professor’s copy. 

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Kelvin Chu

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Kelvin is a final year student at the University of Toronto, focusing on English and French with a minor in Italian. Although literature remains his main passion, he is also eager to learn more about the humanities and social sciences in general. His background in literary studies has taught him that literature and politics are not two disparate worlds. Indeed, many writers are politically engaged. But more importantly, literary works show us the power of imagination. Plutarch once said, "what we achieve inwardly will change outer reality." It is with his belief in the imagination of the youth, and in their power to make the imagined real, that he joins the Undercurrent. Within the field of international development, he has a particular interest in education, which he sees as a crucial social force that drives empowerment of the underprivileged.
Kelvin est étudiant de dernière année à l’Université de Toronto, se spécialisant en anglais et français avec une mineure en italien. Bien que la littérature reste sa passion principale, il désire également apprendre les lettres et les sciences sociales en général. Sa formation en études littéraires lui a appris que la littérature et la politique ne sont pas deux mondes disparates. En effet, de nombreux écrivains sont engagés. Mais plus important, c’est que les œuvres littéraires nous montrent le pouvoir de l’imagination. Plutarque dit: « ce que nous accomplissons à l’intérieure modifie la réalité extérieure. » C’est avec sa foi en l’imagination des jeunes, et leur capacité de rendre l’imaginaire réel, qu’il rejoint The Undercurrent. Dans le champ du développement international, il s’intéresse surtout à l’éducation, qu’il considère comme une force sociale cruciale pour la prise de pouvoir des défavorisés.
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20 Websites Every IDS Student Should Know About

You've probably seen Buzzfeed articles pop on your Facebook newsfeed. With titles like “17 Things Anyone Who Has Built Ikea Furniture Knows To Be True”, these articles are a great (and hilarious) way to put off writing that analysis on microcredit schemes in Bangladesh. On occasion, however, these articles can be quite useful. Here at the Undercurrent, we decided to create an IDS-themed list to help you ace this semester.  We present you with.....