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10 Bright Spots in a Pretty Bad Year

In this week’s special edition of Global Pulse, host Erin Coker reviews 2009 news stories that will matter in 2010. Watch the episode, and share your thoughts, below!

 

Between the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an upsurge in violence in Pakistan, Iran’s political upheaval and the global financial crisis, 2009 has been tumultuous to say the least. Even for someone immersed in global media, it was difficult at times not to hit the cheap (and the not-so-cheap) wine just to get through the daily barrage of bleak news.

 

Which is why I took it upon myself to drum up 10 of the year’s more positive stories. Some were widely reported, others warranted only a fleeting mention, but all stand out as bright spots on an otherwise challenging year. A good reminder that even in the darkest of times, a silver lining can be found if you look hard enough. I’ll drink to that!


1. A Different Kind of Hotel Rwanda
Following the instability and brutal civil war that plagued the central-African nation in the late-1990s, tourists are returning to the country to marvel at its mountain gorillas and lush landscapes. Tourism revenues rise 11 percent in the first quarter of 2009, compared to the same period last year. Even better, the Cartagena Summit on a Mine-Free World announces that Rwanda is officially “landmine free” – a distinction that is doubtless welcomed by tourists and residents alike.

 

2. Afghanistan and Pakistan Get More Schools
Non-profit activist Greg Mortenson and his Central Asia Institute (CAI), continue to build schools in rural Pakistan and Afghanistan, even in Taliban areas. Because CAI schools rely heavily on community involvement, militant groups have largely avoided destroying or damaging what are perceived as locally-backed projects.  To date, the CAI has built 130 schools in the two countries. To learn more about CAI or to get involved, visit www.ikat.org.

 

3. Aceh Rebuilt
Five years after the Indian Ocean Tsunami devastated communities in Aceh, Indonesia, rebuilding efforts in the hardest-hit province are wrapping up. In November, aid group CRS announces that it has met its reconstruction goals in Aceh.

 

4. Karadzic Faces the International Criminal Court. Sort of.
Although the alleged Bosnian Serb war criminal boycotts the opening of his trial, claiming that he did not have sufficient time to examine the evidence against him – 10 years on the lam wasn’t enough time? – Radovan Karadzic does appear in court on November 3. The trial is expected to resume in March of next year.

 

5. Kidnapped Aid Workers Released
After being seized by Somali gunmen in Kenya, three aid workers with Action Against Hunger are released three months later. In a similar bit of good news, assailants also free kidnapped aid workers snatched in Sudan’s Darfur region.

 

6. U.N. Demands Halt to Rape as War Weapon
Unanimously voted in, resolution 1888 reflects the 15-member body's "demand for the complete cessation by all parties to armed conflict of all acts of sexual violence with immediate effect." Plans are in the works to create a special U.N. post to front the effort.

 

7. Detained Journalists Freed in Iran, Iranian Writers Honored
Following domestic and international protests, jailed U.S./Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi is released from a Tehran prison. Saberi had been originally sentenced to eight years in prison for “having collaborated with a hostile state.” Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari is also released after being held for nearly four months following Iran’s June elections. In November, Human Rights Watch honors four Iranian writers with prestigious Hellman/Hammett awards for their courage in the face of political persecution.

 

8. Latin America Takes Steps Towards Equality
Mexico City backs a gay marriage bill, making the city the first in Latin America to legalize gay marriage. In another first, Uruguay passes a same-sex adoption bill, granting same-sex couples the right to adopt children.

 

9. Zimbabwe Slowly (Very Slowly) Improving
Following political instability, runaway inflation and a devastating cholera outbreak, Zimbabwe is making some inroads to recovery. HIV prevalence rates continue to fall and inflation is dropping. After months of fruitless negotiations, Zimbabwe’s rival leaders reach an agreement on commissions for human rights, election and the media, possibly putting an end to ongoing political deadlock.

 

10. Child Brides Take a Stand
A Saudi court rules in favor of an 8-year-old girl seeking to divorce her 47-year-old husband. Soon after the decision, the Saudi justice minister announces plans to enact a law protecting young girls from marriages. In rural India, young girls follow the lead of Rekha Kalini, who attracted widespread attention after refusing a forced marriage.

 

For more news highlights from 2009, catch the Global Pulse year-end special Once and Future News 2009-2010.

 
 

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Sudan and the ICC: Justice or Hypocrisy?

The International Criminal Court has issued a warrant for the arrest of Sudanese President al-Bashir. He is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity for the crisis in Darfur. But al-Bashir and many in the Arab and African world remain defiant and refuse to recognize the court's decision. Most western media outlets immediately vilified al-Bashir, while Arab, African and Chinese media support the president and ask the question: if al-Bashir can be accused of these crimes, why not the leaders of Israel or the U.S?

SOURCES: ABC News, U.S.; NBC News, U.S.; BBC, U.K.; SABC, South Africa; TV5, France; CCTV, China; Al Jazeera English, Qatar; Sudan TV, Sudan; Press TV, Iran.

 

 

 
 

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Will international law save or scuttle the peace in Sudan?

This week, Global Pulse is covering the controversy surrounding last week's International Criminal Court decision to issue an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Human rights activists hope the court's action, the first against a sitting head of state, will end the bloodshed that has flared in Darfur since 2003. But many Sudan watchers worry that the warrant could set off further tensions, including a resurgence of a decades-long, north-south civil war.

 

The Christian Science Monitor examines how Sudan's move this week to expel 13 international aid groups cuts Darfur's humanitarian effort in half, placing over 1 million people at risk for starvation. Likewise, BBC News predicts that rising desperation in Darfur could trigger renewed conflict in south Sudan, where rebel groups have long sought political recognition from the Sudanese government.

 

Meanwhile, guest columnists at the Huffington Post and the Washington Post call on the Obama administration to use the ICC warrant as justification for a stepped-up military campaign in Sudan. Today's kidnapping of 3 Doctors Without Borders workers in Darfur may further stoke the fire of the military interventionists.

 

Should the international community enforce ICC wishes and arrest Bashir, even if by military means? Or will enforcement of the court's wishes only lead to further humanitarian catastrophe?

 
 

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