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Colonisation (殖民主义)by any other name would taste as bitter...

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https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/15/world/australia/china-students-censorship.html?_r=0
This article about the clash between the nationalism of students from mainstream China, and professors in universities in Australia, reminded me of a conversation I had with a British colleague with whom I travelled recently.  In the places we visited he often talked  and asked questions about the Chinese presence in the country, drawing also from his travels to other parts of Asia and Africa. His comments were quite critical about the way that  Chinese investment and behaviour overseas  was having  a negative impact on local economies and cultures. And there was a lot of agreement.
I couldn’t help thinking  that  consternation about this growing Chinese presence, must be exactly how a different generation of peoples of Africa and Asia would have felt at the height of European colonisation!  The Brits, the Dutch, the French, the Portugese, the Spaniards, the Belgians and others,  carved up continent…

#islandlivesmatter

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So today is Remembrance  Day.  A good time to remember the Solomon Islands, a site of a fierce battle in 1942 between the Americans and the Japanese, resulting in the  sinking of 67 battleships and transports, and the loss of 7,000 American and 30,000 Japanese lives.  Lonely Planet does not tell us how many islanders died during these battles, even though it says that the township of Tulagi was gutted.  #islandlivesmatter

Checking my privilege

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I now travel on a British passport.  This is the result of 10 years (almost)in the UK, working as the Executive Secretary/Team Leader of the Secretariat of the International Forum on Rural Transport and Development, when the Secretariat was based in the UK and hosted by Practical Action Consultants.  This means that to most countries in the world, I don’t need a visa.  So while colleagues from Sri Lanka, Kenya, Nepal  and India spend inordinate amounts of time filling in visa forms and at consulates submitting passports and retrieving them, I am more than likely to be able to waltz into an immigration queue in most countries and get my British passport stamped with an entry visa without much ado. 
Of course there are some exceptions. The Jewel in the Crown, is naturally one such. And, I discovered on Friday night, so is Australia.  This outpost of the British Commonwealth, that still recognizes Her Majesty as the Head of State, needs all British Passport Holders to get themselves an e…

Power, privilege and discrimination

There is always some discussion going on in smaller and wider circles that I am privy to about power, privilege and discrimination.  And recently we have the #MeToo campaign on violence against women which exposes how many women have encountered sexual harassment and violence in their lives.   Even if this exposé is limited to  women on facebook and twitter, the number is quite (unsurprisingly) staggering.   More than a little disconcerted however,  that young feminists are questioning the right of men, even queer men, to post the #MeToo  hashtag. 
Violence is an expression of the abuse of power whatever form it takes, and we should be against violence in all its manifestations, irrespective of who is the perpetrator or who is the victim.  The wonderful Tanaka Mhishi, sole representative of the next generation in our rather unproductive family tree, survived a date rape, and turned his experience into a writing/performing theatre project exploring the experiences of male survivors of …

Listening to "what the women say"

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Was at a meeting this morning organised by FOKUS Women and the Office of National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) by virtue of the fact that I am a Board Member of ONUR. The meeting was conceptualised around the FOKUS Women publication Reconciling Sri Lanka, what the WOMEN say which is an interesting compilation of case studies of 30 women’s views on reconciliation. The agenda included testimonies from some of the women who  featured in the book, but also interventions from government  officials and a minister and some poetry and songs from women who had been directly  affected by  the war. Present at the meeting were four women parliamentarians, some members of the diplomatic corps including the High Commissioner of South Africa in Sri Lanka, women from different age and ethnic groups from  different parts of the country and  from different walks of life. 
The meeting would not have achieved anything had it not had simultaneous translation allowing everyone to speak in either English…

STI Forum- Co-Chairs Report to the HLPF-what happened to gender equality?

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This last week I received the report of the Co-Chairs of the STI Forum on the SDGs 2017 and followed the presentation to the HLPF on the UN webcasting site.  The STI Forum may not be the only culprits, this could be a general malaise across the whole UN  & SDG system, but I was  disappointed that the report and the presentation of the co-chairs reflected an inability to follow an innovative line  of thinking – despite the rhetoric of transformation,  the repeated references to the interrelatedness of the seventeen goals, the continued emphasis on the need to focus on people,  the importance of ‘leaving no one behind’ and the concern that development activity does not destroy our planet.  There was far too much rooted in the past, in business as usual, and far too little linked to achieving a different kind of future.   As the Secretary General has observed, the 2030 Agenda is “a means to improve the lives of people, communities and societies without harming our planet, and a rout…

Saman Kelegama - obituary

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