Syria: Neoliberal Reforms in Health Sect Financing: Embedding Unequal Access?


Coat of arms of Syria -- the "Hawk of Qur...

The recent volatility and uprisings in several countries of the Arab world have been interpreted by the West solely as a popular demand for political voice. However, in all the countries of the region,including those in which there is ongoing violent opposition, the underlying economic dysfunction speaks for itself. The legacy of
joblessness, food riots, and hunger is commonplace and is most often related to structural reforms and austerity measures promoted by the IMF and World Bank. These have played a significant role in reinforcing the rich-poor divide over the past three decades,fostering inequality, suffering, social divisions, and discontent,
which are often overlooked by Western observers. In Syria, the state introduced policies for the liberalization of the economy as early as 2000; these were formalized into the 10th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010). Economic liberalization has been supported by the European Union with technical support from the German Technical Cooperation agency (GTZ). Changes made to the health sector and the labor market include: the piloting of health insurance schemes to replace universal coverage,the charging of fees for health services in public hospitals, and job losses across the board. While the West views discontent in Syria largely as political, its own role in promoting economic reforms and
social hardship has been largely missed. In large part, discontent in Syria and in the region as a whole are a part of a phenomenon that has repeatedly highlighted the failure of policies that aim at rapid commercialization with little consideration for pre-existing disparities in wealth and resources. This paper traces some of the proposed changes to the financing of health care and examines the implications for access and equity.

Read full paper here

Immediate Release–New list of Enemies of the Internet


English: A map showing the level of Internet c...

Image via Wikipedia

REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS

Beset by online surveillance and content filtering, netizens fight on

Eritrea is among the list of “countries under surveillance”

Read more on Eritrea on http://en.rsf.org/eritrea-eritrea-12-03-2012,42060.html

More information on the full report on 12mars.rsf.org

To mark World Day Against Cyber-Censorship, Reporters Without Borders is today releasing its new list of “Enemies of the Internet” and “countries under surveillance.” This report updates the list released in 2011.

Two countries, Bahrain and Belarus, have passed from the “countries under surveillance” to the “Enemies of the Internet” category. Venezuela and Libya have been dropped from the “under surveillance” category while India and Kazakhstan have been added to it.

“The changes in this list reflect recent developments in online freedom of information,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Netizens have been at the heart of political changes in the Arab world in 2011. Like journalists, they have tried to resist censorship but have paid a high price.

“Last year will be remembered as one of unprecedented violence against netizens. Five were killed while engaged in reporting activity. Nearly 200 arrests of bloggers and netizens were reported in 2011, a 30 per cent increase on 2010. These unprecedented figures risk being exceeded in 2012 as a result of the indiscriminate violence being used by the Syrian authorities in particular. More than 120 netizens are currently detained.

“On World Day Against Cyber-Censorship, we pay tribute to the ordinary citizens who often risk their lives or their freedom to keep us informed and to ensure that often brutal crackdowns do not take place without the outside world knowing.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “As online censorship and content filtering continue to accentuate the Internet’s division and digital segregation, solidarity among those who defend a free Internet accessible to all is more essential than ever in order to maintain channels of communication between netizens and to ensure that information continues to circulate.”

Social networks and netizens versus filtering and surveillance

The last report, released in March 2011, highlighted the fact that the Internet and online social networks had been conclusively established as tools for organizing protests and circulating information in the course of the Arab world’s mass uprisings. In the months that followed, repressive regimes responded with tougher measures to what they regarded as unacceptable attempts to destabilize their authority.

At the same time, supposedly democratic countries continue to set a bad example by yielding to the temptation to put security above other concerns and by adopting disproportionate measures to protect copyright. Technical service providers are under increasing pressure to act as Internet cops. Companies specializing in online surveillance are becoming the new mercenaries in an online arms race. Hactivists are providing technical expertise to netizens trapped by repressive regimes. Diplomats are getting involved. More than ever before, online freedom of expression is now a major foreign and domestic policy issue.

Two new Enemies of the Internet – Bahrain and Belarus

Bahrain and Belarus have joined Burma, China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam in the “Enemies of the Internet” category. These countries combine often drastic content filtering with access restrictions, tracking of cyber-dissidents and online propaganda.

Bahrain offers an example of an effective news blackout based a remarkable array of repressive measures: keeping the international media away, harassing human rights activists, arresting bloggers and netizens (one of whom died in detention), smearing and prosecuting free speech activists, and disrupting communications, especially during major demonstrations.

As Belarus sinks further into political isolation and economic stagnation, President Lukashenko’s regime has lashed out at the Internet in response to an attempted “revolution via the social media.” The Internet was blocked during a series of “silent protests,” the list of inaccessible websites grew longer and some sites were the victims of cyber-attacks. Internet users and bloggers were arrested or invited to “preventive conversations” with the police in a bid to get them to stop demonstrating or covering demonstrations. And Law No. 317-3, which took effect on 6 January 2012, gave the regime additional Internet surveillance and control powers.

India and Kazakhstan added to “under surveillance” list

Since the Mumbai bombings of 2008, the Indian authorities have stepped up Internet surveillance and pressure on technical service providers, while publicly rejecting accusations of censorship. The national security policy of the world’s biggest democracy is undermining online freedom of expression and the protection of Internet users’ personal data.

Kazakhstan, which likes to think of itself as a regional model after holding the rotating presidency of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 2010, nonetheless seems to be turning its back on all its fine promises in order to take the road of cyber-censorship. An unprecedented oil workers strike helped to increase government tension in 2011 and led to greater control of information. The authorities blocked news websites, cut communications around the city of Zhanaozen during unrest, and imposed new, repressive Internet regulations.

Venezuela and Libya dropped from “under surveillance” list

In Libya, many challenges remain but the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime has ended an era of censorship. Before his removal and death, Col. Gaddafi had tried to impose a news blackout by cutting access to the Internet.

In Venezuela, access to the Internet continues to be unrestricted. The level of self-censorship is hard to evaluate but the adoption in 2011 of legislation that could potentially limit Internet freedom has yet to have any damaging effect in practice. Reporters Without Borders will nonetheless remain vigilant as relations between the government and critical media are tense.

Thailand and Burma may be about to change places

If Thailand continues further down the slope of content filtering and jailing netizens on lèse-majesté charges, it could soon find itself transferred from the “under surveillance” category to the club of the world’s most repressive countries as regards online freedom.

Burma, on the other hand, could soon leave the “Enemies of the Internet” list if takes the necessary measures. It has embarked on a promising period of reforms that have included freeing journalists and bloggers and restoring access to blocked websites. It must now go further by abandoning censorship altogether, releasing the journalists and bloggers still held, dismantling the Internet surveillance apparatus and repealing the Electronics Act.

Other subjects of concern

Other countries have jailed netizens or established a form of Internet censorship. They include Pakistan, which recently invited bids for a national Internet filtering system that would create an Electronic Great Wall. Even if they are not on these lists, Reporters Without Borders will continue to closely monitor online freedom of information in countries such as Azerbaijan, Morocco and Tajikistan.

Lebanon advocate Ghida Anani talks TV media and how men can protect women


 10th Feb, 2012 Elahe Amani – WNN Features (WNN) Beirut, LEBANON: In an amazing coordinated campaign, a Lebanese advocacy group dedicated to protecting women  from violence shook up the media world by working closely with men as they asked them to act decisively and without hesitation to stop violence against women. Elahe Amani, special reporter from Iran for WNN – Women News Network, talks with Ghida Anani the Lebanese founder and director of  ABAAD – Resource Center for Gender Equality. ABAAD, based in Beirut, has been working to bridge the power of Youtube, Twitter and Facebook together with strategies to improve life in Lebanon and the Middle East region. ABAAD has been making a strong mark on youth. WNN recently interviewed Ghida Anani to find out how a campaign to improve the world and the lives for millions of women can work closely through television commercials, male advocates and hundreds of billboard banners throughout Lebanon. . .

_________

Elahe Amani for WNN: What are your thoughts on the impact of religious extremism (all religions) in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa)region? Do you think there has been a militarization of violence against defenders of human rights and gender rights in Lebanon?

Ghida Anani:

ABAAD was born in a time of transition. There is a revolutionary spirit infused to this day [in Lebanon] and it reminds us that our struggles remain highly politicized and multidimensional. And it is only through viewing our work in its myriad dimensions that we stand a chance of success.

So what about the Arab world – a region that has always highly politicized women’s issues, intertwining them with nationalist and religious struggles? What dimensions can we use here to generate the change we seek?

During the ‘so-called’ Arab Spring, women in the region have called for a broader definition of security to include [all forms of] human security, embracing human rights and equal rights. These democratic currents lend themselves not only to changed governments but also to a new socioeconomic and cultural landscape.

Traditional understandings of security only exist inside a militarized environment. Our ‘Arab Spring’ has shown us that individuals [first] should be the barometer through which security is measured. This people-centered paradigm is the only way to achieve national, and ultimately regional, security.

The power of people [today] – women and men – on Arab streets is palpable. We, the rights holders, are now holding our governments, the duty bearers, accountable. In so doing we are holding ourselves accountable as well. We are raising the standard and raising our expectations. If toppling a government is possible, what is not possible?!

This is an incredible time where a door has opened for us showing Arab women and men what is possible. And through this door lies a society that we build together founded on principles of human rights and gender equality.

This is not unique. Societies everywhere fight for the same principles. But in the Arab world we need the international political space to foment these peaceful revolutions in our own ways. The ‘Arab Spring’ not only renewed our own faith in what is possible, it also demonstrated to an often-skeptical world that we can ask for what we need; fight for what we deserve; and succeed. The principles of human rights and gender equality might be the same but the method and the means to achieve them must be indigenous. They will only work if they come from us and for us.

WNN: What are some of your major areas of concern for violence against women in Lebanon?  In what ways do women in Lebanon experience violence? 

Anani:

To better understand the regional dimensions of this global struggle we must broaden our understandings of human security. The security of women is an accurate measurement that acts a barometer for the security of a country as a whole. If women don’t feel safe – then no one is safe.

In the Arab world this means renewing our commitment to engaging with men in creative and meaningful ways. We are moving beyond stereotypes and clichés that bind us. We no longer accept the image of men as perpetrators, tyrants, oppressors. This is erroneous and irresponsible. It creates a rift between men and women; a void where real work could have been done.

An image of all men as perpetrators reduces all women to victims. Even women lose in this scenario. This simplistic dichotomy doesn’t resonate with the Arab world where women are protesting arm in arm with their brothers.

We need to liberate ourselves out of outdated stereotypes if we are to understand the dimensions that animate our struggle. We fought to level the playing field – and we are still fighting – but we have also come to realize that we cannot do it without the support of men as partners, advocates and champions.

ABAAD embraces the belief that human security involves engaging with men. In the Arab world this is a wellspring of untapped energy that can bring about positive sustainable change. Women in Lebanon continue to suffer from family, spousal and legal violence in all its forms.

WNN: What are the statistics?  How do you collect information on violence against women (VAW) and how do you remedy its consequences in the public and private sphere?

Anani:

Unfortunately there are no [official] national statistics on the size of this problem. A majority of the studies are done by NGOs through their centers. Most of the support of victims is done by civil society organizations that offer: forensic medical reports or social, legal & psychological counseling, psychotherapy services, court representation [and] socioeconomic empowerment.

WNN: Has ABAAD or other Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Lebanon initiated any reforms in the law? Like the Campaign for One Million Signatures did in Iran and Morocco?

Anani:

Since 2007 a local Organization called KAFA, in partnership with a national coalition of NGOs, has been leading a campaign calling for the endorsement of a law that criminalizes family violence against women.

ABAAD is currently advocating for the application of  a law for the Personal Status Codes [for] Iraqi women [who are] residing in the country [and are] victims of domestic violence.

WNN: Could you outline ABAAD’s involvement with the U.S. based global 16 Days Campaign?

Anani:

I believe that a very well structured and managed coalition always brings more strength to activism for women rights issues, especially in light of the similarities of [many] women’s situations in the region.

[We have worked] in line with a general climate in Lebanon and the [Lebanese] public debate around the proposed Family Violence Bill. We believe that there is a great need to organize a public opinion campaign with a message that is not only peaceful and inspiring, but also comes from youth as ‘real agents’ of societal transformation [who are] focusing on the root causes of violence in a culture [that has been too] tolerant of violence against women.

ABAAD also provides group support to victims [of violence] through ongoing support groups with referrals to [lawyers who can help with] existing cases through different ‘Listening & Counseling’ centers operating in the country.

We are also in partnership with UK based International Medical Corps (IMC) that operates a mens center that provides rehabilitation services to men engaged in violent behaviors with anger management workshops.

WNN: We learned about you with your incredible advocacy work that has been using social media to get out your message. How has the use of social media been working for ABAAD?

Anani:

Media has become a major tool for activism and advocacy for social causes. It has reached every house with a widening and diverse population. Youth, as the number one users of social media, can be easily influenced by using [social media], rather than [going to] lectures or [reading] in-print publications.

Using different media tools reaches a broader and wider audience: the general public, stakeholders, NGOs & youth.

It is to be noted that the flow of our campaign (daily actions through different media tools) created a wide impact on [our] targeted audience, a matter that can be measured though the increase in the numbers of subscribers to the ABAAD Facebook page (from 2,618 to 4,257 to date). [We have also been showing close to an] equal gender balance [on Facebook] with 57 percent female to 43 percent male subscribers.

The numbers of signatures on [our] campaign’s petition: more than 1,454 to date with the number of views of our different TV Spots on our YouTube Channel (varies between 470-1400 views per video).

Contributions from a famous artist was also [provided] a great added value to the campaign as it conveyed a [one-line] message: A very well-known reputable artist stands against violence against women representing a great role model for youth.

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