Photo: Gizmodo

Monday, July 25, 2011

Let there be light!

How about this for a sustainable way to light your home in the Philippines? Nothing more than a plastic bottle, water, bleach and let there be light! (h/t Duncan Green). Though perhaps the question should be asked of whether a similarly inexpensive solution can be found to prevent people from having to live in windowless shacks in the first place...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Are you a human rights defender?

Just seen this great video produced by the Mexican office of the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, encouraging people to "Declare yourself, I'm declaring myself" as human rights defenders. If the English subtitles don't show, run your mouse over the red "cc" button underneath the video and check the English subtitles.

Still on the theme of human rights, an attack on NGOs who support a human rights based approach in an essay by Pranab Bardhan featured in a blog post by Chris Blattman. Lots of rebuttals from the NGO community in the post's comments (including from me!). In my opinion, the essay seems to miss the point when it suggests that NGOs lack an understanding of the necessary trade-offs for development to materialise. The arguement goes that democracy should be left to play out in “party forums” and NGOs shouldn't interfere as their involvement can lead to decisions not being taken in the broader interest of society. Yet, one of the basic principles of a human rights based approach is to ensure the rights of the most vulnerable are respected – notably when such trade-offs are on the table, it typically leads to the poorest and most excluded people and populations losing out. This is the positive role NGOs should, and usually do, play in development. If democracy is left to play out in “party forums”, you can be sure that decisions taken in the broader interest of society, will be to the detriment of the most vulnerable.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Community Solidarity on Mandela Day

In 4 days time on 18 July 2011, people are encouraged to celebrate Mandela Day by taking responsibility to change the world into a better place, one small step at a time, just as Mr Mandela did for more than 67 years. Once you've done your good turn on 18th July, you're then encouraged to "make every day your Mandela Day by doing some good for others."

Reading about Mandela Day, made me think just how many amazing people exist who are already taking responsibility for changing the world without knowing about the celebration of this Day. Not your much maligned "whites in shining armour," but people from all walks of life, including those who have to fight to provide a livelihood for themselves and their family yet consider it a priority to show solidarity with others in their community which "development" projects risk leaving behind. 

It especially made me think about a short clip I saw recently, from the ATD Fourth World series "Unknown Volunteers" to commemorate International Year of Volunteers +10. 

Do take just a couple of minutes to watch this fantastic portrayal of community solidarity which echoes Nelson Mandela's rallying call when he said that "it is in your hands to make a difference."

The Hills of Hope from ATDENG on Vimeo.