Lots to report on recently, but I have been caught up in my annual push to clear my consultancy inbox before the holidays. Could be thin pickings this week as well, as I will be doing my fourth turn as co-facilitator and coordinator for a very engaging advanced course on internal displacement held at Sida’s ‘Partnership Forum‘ in the mind-focusing north of Sweden (with winter coming on and the sun rising at 9 a.m. and setting just after 2 p.m., it can be a bit like holding a training in outer space!)
That said, the most obvious story from last week is the apparent opening of Myanmar, as indicated by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s much-discussed visit. I planned to summarize some of the land and natural resource issues arising from Myanmar’s tentative political transition here and now, but quickly found that there were too many! More than enough to justify a separate posting, at least, which I hope will come before the end of the week.
A less ballyhooed event last week was the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the independent state of West Papua. If you haven’t heard of it, that may be because it only lasted a year before being incorporated into Indonesia via a dubious ‘Act of Free Choice’. Hugh Brody gives an angry appraisal of the territory’s subsequent and ongoing misery, with some of the world’s most isolated indigenous peoples threatened by an alliance of military force and mining interests. The case of West Papua is similar to that of Western Sahara, East Timor, and other territories that essentially went straight from the frying pan of overseas colonialism into the fire of regional expansionism. While the East Timorese suffered greatly in the process, they ultimately exercised the right to self-determination. Whether West Papua or Western Sahara will follow suit remains less clear.
Also on OpenDemocracy, Luis Cabrera makes an intriguing argument for the morality of illegal migration as a response to the immorality of the continued extreme levels of inequality between the countries that produce migrants and those that attract them:
More specifically, the claim is that by illicitly crossing borders in order to better provide for themselves and their families, unauthorized migrants are implicitly claiming some core human rights. Because most of the rich, immigrant-receiving countries have formally bound themselves to treaties proclaiming the importance of those universal rights—to adequate food, decent work, and an overall adequate standard of living—the migrants can plausibly be viewed as challenging rich countries to make good on their promises.
This argument is the mirror image of the objection many human rights and humanitarian actors initially had against the 1990s effort to organize an international response to internal displacement. In effect, critics viewed such efforts as a means for rich countries to shirk their responsibility to provide international protection to refugees by discouraging them from crossing state borders to claim what, under international law, was their due.