Tag Archives: West Papua

Week in links – Week 27/2012 – grab some sugar (or water) with your land?

Incredibly, its been about 7 months since my last WIL, but I thought I might dust the institution off now that the summer is upon me. As usual, it would be more accurate to describe this as a month in links, but here goes.

First, a moment to note the passing last month of Elinor Ostrom, a pioneering economist who decided that the commons might not actually be so tragic after all. At the top of my list of readings for whenever I eventually become an actual rather than frustrated academic. One of those scholars where even if one has yet to read her, one suspects she has colored analysis of these issues so thoroughly that her works will seem familiar.

Next, on the familiar theme of the global land rush/grab, a few items of interest recently. First, Grain just came out with a new report arguing that much of the land investment going on in Africa is actually targeting the scarce water resources necessary for large-scale agriculture – and in a manner heedlessly destructive of local, sustainable water management systems. Second, the Journal of Peasant Studies has been cranking out an amazing amount of analysis of the land grab phenomenon in all three issues of this year’s volume 39 (many articles available for free download).

And finally, Human Rights Watch released a grim report last month detailing the Ethiopian government’s self-inflicted land grab in the southern Omo valley, where a dam and state-run sugar plantations are expected to run 300,000 indigenous persons off their land, while ruining the livelihoods of a further 200,000 to the south in Kenya’s Lake Turkana region:

These developments – which threaten the economic, social, and cultural rights of the Omo valley’s indigenous inhabitants – are being carried out in contravention of domestic and international human rights standards, which call for the recognition of property rights, with meaningful consultation, consent, and compensation for loss of land, livelihoods, and food security, and which state that displacement, especially of indigenous peoples from their historic homelands, must be treated as an absolute last resort.

If that doesn’t drive home the message that sugar is the new palm oil, this video from Cambodia may. David Pred, who is pushing for the EU to take a more rigorous approach to human rights abuses related to Cambodian land concessions will hopefully guest post on the blood sugar phenomenon shortly.

Not that palm oil has reformed, mind you. The Economist provided a timely reminder of the inverse relationship between the money to be had from this lucrative form of monoculture and the chances of Indonesian-controlled West Papua ever being able to achieve ‘external’ self-determination in the manner East Timor did. Meanwhile, the ICTJ rather bravely attempts to promote a transitional justice approach to a situation in West Papua where the only transition seems to be toward more oppressive and militarized control and less chances of even meaningful internal self-determination (e.g. autonomy).

Update: See David Pred, Is the European Commission sweet on land grabbing? How trade benefits to sugar companies displace Cambodian farmers (23 July 2012)

Week in links – Week 49/2011

Very briefly this week:

IDMC has much of interest, including updates on land restitution in Colombia, forced evictions of Roma in Serbia, and an ongoing crackdown on West Papua. Of most interest is a new report on land rights and ethnic conflict in Northeast India, but I won’t go into more detail here as I am quite hopeful that the author, Anne-Kathrin Glatz, will shortly be introducing the issue in more detail in a guest-posting. Finally, a new research report is available on ‘unlocking’ situations of protracted refugee and IDP displacement.

Meanwhile, Antoine Buyse of the ECHR Blog provides an enlightening summary of a new European Court of Human Rights judgment – in the case of Gladysheva v Russia – involving the rights to property and the the home. On the property side, the Court finds an unsurprising violation in the annulment of the applicant’s purchase of an apartment from the person who had fraudulently privatized it (pointing out that the privatization resulted from the state’s failure of due diligence). On the housing side, the Court condemns the summary eviction proceedings initiated as a result and orders the equivalent of restitution (restoration of title and quashing of the eviction order). Antoine points out the significance of some particularly strong dictum on the centrality of the right to the home:

This judgment sends a clear signal that national authorities should take housing rights, specifically the protection of the home, seriously. Under the ECHR, this is more than a simple property issue – respect for the home also has important social and other connotations which strengthen the protective umbrella of the ECHR (the issue of attachment to a home counts) in such cases. Individual interests based on this should always be taken into account by states when interfering with housing rights. To put it differently, human rights start at home!

Week in links – Week 48/2011

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.