Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Charles Taylor guilty

Today Charles Taylor, former Liberian President, has been found guilty of 11 counts of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity, when supporting rebels between 1996 and 2002. Here is a piece in The Guardian and a video.

The serious business of tree hugging

Back in 2001, infamous tough politician from Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams, admitted that he liked hugging trees. At the time, he noted: “Hugging trees has a calming affect on me. I’m talking about enormous trees that will be there when we are all dead and gone.”

This week, I was amusingly accused of being a tree hugger after I circulated a petition to save a forest in Northern Ireland known as the Prehen woodland.

By global standards, this forest is minuscule. The remaining tract of forest in Prehen, just outside Derry, covers 18.5 acres, compared to the 1.7-billion acres of the Amazon forest basin.

But this small forest is also unique. It is an ancient woodland with trees dating back to the 1600s and is one of the few ancient woodlands left on the island of Ireland. One of the last colonies of indigenous red squirrels lives in the forest and it offers local people a green area on the edge of the city.

Nonetheless, the local government and planners still allow continued encroachment on the forest, giving developers licence to chop down ageless trees to build luxury homes. The developers then have the gall to advertise the new homes as located in a forest setting.

The savagery the officials have allowed on this tiny forest over the years is disgraceful, but is also part of a bigger global problem.

Forests cover about 30% of the world’s land area. But deforestation continues at an alarming rate. Logging, mining, housing and the planting of crops for grazing, besides other practices, destroy 4 500 acres of forest worldwide every hour, according to the United Nations. It is estimated that 18-million acres of the world’s forests is lost each year.

Experts estimate that, within 40 years, the last remaining rainforests could be consumed. This will have a devastating effect on the global climate and the 1.6- billion people who rely on forest products for all or part of their livelihoods.

Yet those who fight to roll back this destruction, like veteran local Prehen campaigner George McLaughlin, are generally dismissed as troublemakers by the planning authorities while, globally, corporations and governments turn a blind eye for a quick buck or financial support for their next election campaign.

Given the gargantuan annihilation of trees around the planet, should I, or anyone for that matter, care about the Prehen woodland in Northern Ireland?

Of course, we should. We need to challenge the human delusions I have seen in relation to forest annihilation. When it comes to vast forests like the Amazon, we are tricked into thinking they are too big to be completely wiped out. When it comes to small forests like the Prehen woodland, we think they are too insignificant to matter.

However, not caring about the Prehen woodland, or any other, is like saying the extinction of a specific species of insect is not important because there are lots of other insects in the world. But, like an extinct species, once this ancient woodland is gone, you cannot grow it back.

Adams claims he likes hugging trees because he knows they will be there long after he is gone. Well, in this case, he might be wrong.

When will the authorities in Northern Ireland wake up to the reality staring them in the face? Or will they continue to sell their resources to the highest bidder for some short-term gain, just like many others worldwide?

Given the record of government and the planners in relation to the Prehen woodland and internationally, there is little prospect. But each day I hope, just as my financial adviser is prone to say, past performance is not always an indicator of future performance and, perhaps, someone with the power to stop the wanton destruction of forests like the Prehen woodland will stand up and have the courage to say: “No more.”

This article by Brandon Hamber was published on Polity and in the Engineering News on 19 March 2012 as part of the column "Look South". Copyright Brandon Hamber.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Friday, May 25, 2012

Dealing with the Past in Northern Ireland

Today I attended a Transitional Justice Institute workshop looking at dealing with the past in Northern Ireland. Main question asked: where to now. In short, the key point emerging was that the dealing with the past question has not gone away, and there is a need to have some organised way of addressing it. However, a lack of leadership and commitment locally and by the two governments stymies things moving forward. While this goes on victims continue to be frustrated by the plethora of mechanisms out there, none of which are meeting their needs in entirety, in fact making many feel they have to repeat themselves in multiple forums. There is also a growing resentment by some victims of their cases being called "historical" or "legacy issue" implying the concerns about truth and justice are not contemporary. Denis Bradley spoke at the event, and although does not see much progress, said he felt that the Consultative Group on the Past report has not been entirely binned and may return, as it is the only viable option on the table.

Also see my collection of resources and website on dealing with the past in Northern Ireland.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Reparations in context

Today I am attending a meeting entitled "Reparations in context" as part of the 14th World Society of Victimology Symposium in The Hague. The event is organized by Redress, International Victimology Institute Tilburg, Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies, Leiden University and The Hague Institute for Global Justice. At this meeting, experts in the field of victimology are invited to share ideas and identify new topics that thus far have received less focused attention and need further consideration. The event is intended to find new avenues for the implementation of reparations for victims in international criminal proceedings that may result in new projects to be further developed after this meeting. A background document on reparations will serve as a starting point, though an open, small scale debate is envisaged in order to stimulate creative and innovative thinking.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Website update

After much work I have updated my website. Now there is much better integration with various forms of social media such as Twitter, Linkedin and Instragram. Also updated the background pages of the blog and Twitter to match - my homemade patchwork of images, hope you like it. All my publications on the website are also now up to date, including a new section featuring the translation of my book into Spanish.