A symbol for the Venezuelan Future

Every place has symbols and icons that makes it unique. In some cases, they can be architectural wonders, as the Eiffel tower, or natural beauties, like the Niagara Falls. Independently on which symbol or icon is used, we all refer to them to describe the wonders of that place and to explain some of its problems.

In Venezuela politicians use iconography to create bonds between them and their followers. This practice has been very common in the past 20 years, and the ruling party is its main user. In fact, Venezuelans are used to this practice, and for that reason they are not discussing the newest symbol: the schoolbag.

For the Academic Year 2018-2019, President Nicolas Maduro ordered to deliver 4 million bags to students who attend to public schools. In an official event, the Minister for Education indicated that students in the public sector represented 80% of the active student population (approx. 7.2 million students). Even though there is no official data regarding the exact number of schoolbags distributed per state and that the help did not cover the entirety of the population, at least 55.6% received it; therefore, it is possible to see them in every corner of the capital.

The main beneficiaries of the help were children. Kids like Jose Liborio, who was using his bag in the subway while moving around Caracas accompanied by his grandmother. However, he is an exception to the rule. The main users of the bags are grandparents, siblings, and other relatives who need the bag to carry personal objects or just the food the bough that day. For that reason, for some people the bag is a symbol of misery and poverty. They see it as the symbol of parents who do not have the money needed to buy back to school supplies and books. The symbol of children that for several reasons have abandoned school. The symbol of broken families because thousands of Venezuelans have migrated to pursue a better life. A symbol of a population who patiently waits for the government charity to survive in a country that every day is stepping away from achieving the sustainable development goals.

And with this panorama, one could ask, what is the type of development that Venezuela has? What is the type of development that it should have? For me answers are very simple. In this moment Venezuela has no development, and precisely because of that, we have a great opportunity to discuss the type of development that Venezuelans would need to have.

In my opinion, Venezuelan development agenda should start with SDG 4: ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. However, to achieve it we need coordinated action to ensure good health and wellbeing (SDG 3), zero hunger (SDG 2), and that teachers are receiving a decent salary for their work (SDG 8). But, above everything, Venezuela needs strategic alliances as indicated in the SDG 17.

The government should promote alliances not only with foreign institutions, but also with domestic organizations. Sustainable development can only be achieved with the participation of the majority of the stakeholders. The inclusion on local institutions will transform the situation from within, and produce bottom-up solutions.

Moreover, as soon as Venezuelans start participating, they will stop being passive receptors of aid. They will be active creators of a more peaceful and inclusive society (SDG 16) and in doing it, Venezuelans will be able to develop and transform those bags in symbols of hope and prosperity.

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On the Job! Gender Project Consultant in NYC; Clinical Fellow @ Duke Law

On the Job! compiles interesting vacancy notices, as follows:

logoThe Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack. Applications are welcome from Ph.Ds, Ph.D candidates or other advanced research training in fields such as gender, human right, humanitarian assistance or education for the position of GCPEA Gender Project Consultant.  The holder of this position will conduct research and develop gender-specific recommendations on protecting girls and women from attacks on education and military use of educational institutions. They will work approximately 65 days between April and November 2017, presenting research to the GC{EAGender Project Working Group and external reviewers. Applications will be reviewed as received until the position is filled; details here.

download► Duke University Law School. Applications are welcome from individuals with 2-5 years experience with international human rights for a supervising attorney/clinical fellow to join the international human rights program and clinic beginning in Summer 2017, led by Professor Jayne Huckerby. The holder of this position will primarily help supervise student fieldwork in Clinic projects and participate in the planning and teaching of the Clinic advocacy seminar, among other opportunities, supervised by the Director of the International Human Rights Clinic. Deadline is April 16, 2017; details here. 

Eight reasons why the Safe Schools Declaration matters

Crossposted courtesy of The Right to Education Project (November 27, 2016), summarising a mini series of four postings on the international legal protection of education.

‘I felt that humanity has ended. I mean, a place of learning, to be hit in this way, without warning… where is humanity? …It is supposed to be illegal in any war to strike such places…’ A teacher’s account of airstrikes on al Shaymeh School, Hodeidah, Yemen (25 and 27 August 2015) in ‘Schools Under Attack in Yemen’ Amnesty International Report (11 December 2015).

‘Bodies were on the ground. We didn’t know what we were stepping on. […] There was no armed presence around the schools. Had there been, we wouldn’t have been teaching on that day.’  A teacher’s account of airstrikes on schools in Haas, Syria (26 October 2016) in ‘Russia/Syria: Satellite, Video Imagery Confirm School Attack’ Human Rights Watch Report (16 November 2016).

The testimonies of these two teachers, one Yemeni, one Syrian, evoke the egregious hurt and harm of attacks on schools. These attacks, among others, illume the imperative of conducing compliance with foundational rules of international humanitarian law, in particular, as recalled recently by the Security Council in relation to the Syrian attack above, the obligation to distinguish between civilian objects and military objectives, and the prohibition on indiscriminate attacks. Undergirding this is an another imperative of respecting the civilian character of schools.  The two are deeply interconnected. The international legal protection accorded schools from attack is necessarily contingent on their civilian character. It is of these dual imperatives that the Safe Schools Declaration was born. Led by the Governments of Norway and Argentina, 56 states have thus far signed the Declaration and committed to implementing the associated Guidelines.  And this matters. Continue reading

Meta-engagement with international law, understated effects and engagers

Fourth of a series of four postings probing the international legal protection of the right to education within the converging contexts of emergencies, threats to international peace and security and armed conflict.

Images of violated spaces of learning — untouched since the moment of flight — have a visceral luminosity that belies the absence within. Latent there are the attacks, or acts of violence, of the recent past: the incursions of spatial and bodily inviolability, or as opined in postings one and two, violations of the duo dimensional international legal obligations to protect embodied learners, and their spaces of learning from attack. Lesser stated (if there is no rapid recovery response or alternative) is the multi-dimensional hurt and harm that lies beyond: the violations of the rights to, in and through education (see posting three). And the hurt and harm beneath: domestic embodiment of those rights may be partial and/or access to public affairs or remedies limited. Or in other words, the vulnerability shift from ordinary to extraordinary embodied vulnerability may precede, undergird and be exacerbated by the attack. The sole form of redress, then, may be international law.

Meta-engagement with international law 

Relatively the engagement doubles itself: extraordinary engagement invoked by the vulnerability shift (of which attacks on schools may form apart) is undergirded by ongoing ordinary processes of human rights treaty and Charter bodies and promotional engagement of the guardian of international humanitarian law. Discrete fractals of this engagement are renowned, if not infamous. If the violations of applicable international law are recurrent, the Security Council’s sui generis monitoring and reporting mechanism may be invoked, or if persistent, the Security Council may decide to adopt targeted and graduated measures against the listed violator. Equally the Office of Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court may, subject to its jurisdiction, act on its recent commitment ‘to pay particular attention to crimes against and affecting children’ (including those relating to attacks on schools in violation of article 8 (2) of its Statute) by either supporting genuine domestic investigations or opening an investigation itself. Undergirding both is the often unseen and unheard direct dialogue opened with applicable parties by the International Committee of the Red Cross and extraordinary mechanisms adopted by the Human Rights Council, for example, the Independent International Commissions of Inquiries. Continue reading

(Part II) Converging law, equivocation and delimits on the supposed inviolability of spaces of learning

 

CAR Along Religious Lines

Picture Courtesy of Marcus Bleasdale.

 

As opined in the first part of this posting, an international humanitarian obligation to respect and ensure respect for the civilian character of spaces of learning may be inferred from existing treaty and customary law. However the precise point of delimitation remained unanswered: when, if at all, may the space be lawfully transformed by, for example, military use? Of course determining this, the scope, demands probing the equipoise—the interrelations between the principles of military necessity and limitation—more deeply.

Yet to an extent, this too may be determined from treaty and customary law. Indeed military necessity itself extends the inviolability (or protection) of the space, in so far as it prohibits military acts if not militarily necessary. Thus there is minimally an obligation to refrain, from transforming learning spaces from civilian objects to military objectives, unless required by military necessity. And, in light of the multiple sources of international humanitarian rules from which the obligation may be inferred, there is reason to argue, the obligation is particularly restrictive; that is, it forms a prohibition on such transformation ‘unless imperatively required by military necessity’, on a par with the customary rule limiting the use of cultural property for military purposes, if not the more restrictive treaty rule. To this, there is another delimiter: humanitarian rules limiting the (vulnerability creating) effects of non/international armed conflict, both those basic and specific express rules of treaty and customary law, and the principles of precaution and proportionality applied as general principles of international humanitarian law. Indeed, and here the opinion becomes more precarious, in light of the multidimensional hurt and harm that may follow the use of learning spaces by armed forces/groups, it may be opined, such use is (or should be) presumed to be unlawful—disproportionate or excessive in relation to the military contribution and advantage sought. Continue reading

(Part I) Converging law, equivocation and delimits on the supposed inviolability of spaces of learning

CAR Along Religious Lines

Picture Courtesy of Marcus Bleasdale.

 

Chibok. Rafah. Peshawar. Garassa. Donetsk. Aleppo. Sana’a.

The recent violations of spaces (of lower and higher) learning have evoked near universal condemnation. Held there are ‘the dictates of public conscience’. Undergirding, if not sparking, this collective sense of injustice is a supposition: the spaces of learning are supposedly inviolable from attacks /acts of violence. From this, a supposition of law might follow: ipso facto the spaces are protected as inviolable as a matter of international law.  But is this so?

Of course, the multifarious spaces of learning, as holders of embodied subjects of rights, principally learners, and their rights to, in and through education, are necessarily accorded protection under international human rights law. The concomitant duo dimensional obligation to protect the embodied rights holder within the space from acts of violence, and the space as a safe space of learning continues within the converging contexts of emergencies, threats to international and peace and security and non/international armed conflicts. Indeed the latter triggers international humanitarian law—and the principles of distinction between civilians and combatants and civilian objects and military objectives, or in other words the humanitarian obligation to refrain from attacking learning spaces as civilian objects, and embodied persons in relation to the space, as civilians. The international legal protection, then, may be viewed as doubling itself: the human rights and humanitarian obligations are—complementary and mutually reinforcing. Of course, either way the—supposed—inviolability of the space is a partial international legal actuality; under both bodies of law the space may be lawfully delimited.  Continue reading