In Which I Learn to Spell Srebrenica, and Use it a Lot

It’s always a bit strange to have two big anniversaries at the same time, and I’m really glad one of them was mentioned on the radio this morning or I would have gone about blissfully unaware of the cosmic irony/coincidence/shitfest. I was about to ask how many of you remember Srebrenica , but I don’t actually remember Srebrenica – I was gestating at the time and too busy growing legs to listen to the World Service (I have no idea if my parents did either now I think about it). Anyway, Srebrenica was one of the case studies we learnt in Politics about how the UN is well-meaning but inefficient, which kind of tells you everything you need to know.

Basically, between 1993 and 1995 there was a war between ethnic groups in the area that’s now Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The whole area was part of Yugoslavia during the Soviet era, and when the USSR ended people who’d lived side-by-side for decades suddenly remembered they didn’t like each other because they had different religions and whanot. The war was so bad that in 1993 the UN announced that the predominantly Bosnian Muslim town of Srebrenica was a ‘safe area’ for Muslims. (The opposing side was Christian. Love thy neighbour indeed.) In July 1995, Christian Serbian forces, led by a dude named Ratko Mladic, twigged that there were lots of Muslims living in Srebrenica and stormed the place, deporting and raping women and forcing the men to flee into the surrounding mountains. Then they found the men, shot about 8000 of them and buried their bodies so well that people are still finding new ones today. The Dutch UN forces in Srebrenica had neither the means nor permission to do anything for about ten days, which is when the UN got their shit together and NATO bombed the Serbian forces.

That, kids, is called a genocide. It was the worst European one since the Nazis and you can learn more about it here.

Anyway, I’m guessing more of you remember 7/7? I’m doing that old person thing of thinking it was two weeks ago, but seriously it’s hard to believe it was 10 years. Thinking about it now, although 9/11 helped cause the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, which inspired ISIS, al Qaeda seem hopelessly 2000s. No one bombs public transport any more – they brainwash teens on the Internet and shoot random strangers. And take their children to live in Syria. And try to make their version of a religion into a functioning Middle Eastern state.

In a few years we’ll all consider ISIS perpetrators of genocide. President Assad’s regime too, although I believe he’s back on the West’s side while ISIS are a bigger issue than democracy and chemical gas.

from sunshinethekatt.tumblr.com
from sunshinethekatt.tumblr.com

What I’m trying to say – and I’d be a lot more eloquent if the draft I saved hadn’t disappeared 15 minutes into an excellent paragraph – is that there are a lot of people who will try to tell you that human behaviour is inborn, or that all Muslims should personally apologise for ISIS, or that Word War II was the last time anything bad happened to Europeans. These people haven’t thought about anything that goes beyond their front door. Shit happens, and sometimes we could have prevented it if we thought a bit harder. Sometimes we couldn’t. Mostly we’ll never know. Regardless, if you take a moment to think about Srebrenica or 7/7 or any of the other waste of human lives that’s happened in the last century, you might be a teeny bit smarter than the people at the UN who didn’t fully think through Srebenecia, or who let the Iraq war happen without considering consequences.

That in itself will probably guarantee that you’ll never get a place in the UN, huh.

The Six O’Clock News: Fun Facts Proving the World’s Fucked Up!

I feel it would be deeply ironic if I missed the News because of my last ever Politics exam so here is a fun video of GWay at the K! Awards Electric Century’s song anything MCR-related damnit I’m back in an ‘MCR phase’. I may have never left an ‘MCR phase’. Also I can’t think of any videos that are appropriate so here are some fun stats that hopefully I’ll have regurgitated into an essay or four by the time this goes out:

  • The UK spends 0.7% of its GDP on international aid, which was over £11 billion in 2013… in 2012 someone effed up and gave £87 million to Somalia, estimated to be the world’s most corrupt state (£200 million went to Afghanistan, the third-most corrupt state). By ‘someone effed up’ I mean that loads of people are corrupt for a variety of shitty reasons
  • In 2002 the African Union estimated that $150 billion international aid is lost to corruption every year
  • Half of Africa’s population live on less than $1 per day
  • Living on under $1.25 per day means you’re in absolute poverty – about 20% of the world’s population is – but relative poverty means that even people in the UK or the States are ‘poor’… interestingly, 40% America’s wealth goes to 1% its population. If you’re reading this, Mr Obama, sort that shit out, yeah?
  • The UN accidentally gave Haiti cholera when it was giving aid there after the earthquake because some Nepalese troops had picked it up. Oopsie. Still, the UN tried to help which is good because often genocides happen when it doesn’t (hi Rwanda!)
  • Around 50,000 rapes occurred in the Bosnian War of 1992-5 and there’s been less than 70 convictions. Nope, that’s not a typo
  • The DRC has had $17 billion of odious debt (which is debt left over from a dictator borrowing cash) written off, which was nice as the dictator man, President Mobutu, is believed to have nicked at least $5 billion of it to build himself a palace in the middle of the jungle. These days it looks like a carpark.

It’s a good thing I know how to control angry swearing and sarcasm… please remind me that bad news looks better in pink.

The Six O’Clock News: Children In Need, Charities and Cynicism

I mentioned last week that people can donate to the Syrian refugee crisis appeal via the United Nations, and in light of the Philippines’ typhoon and Children In Need’s imminent broadcast I thought I’d talk about giving cash to worthy causes.

Medicins Sans Frontiers is currently fundraising to support their work in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Syria, the Philippines, Haiti, Mexico, Nepal, Greece and the USA. I picked those names out of a list; you can see the map of their locations here. The World Food Programme, an extension of the UN, is present in Iraq, Sierra Leone, Egypt, North Korea, Ecuador and the Republic of Congo. Their list is here. Comic Relief has projects going in Guatama, the UK, Mozambique, India, Columbia and Bangladesh. This is their list.

I’ve name-dropped twenty countries and, shocker, they aren’t all in Africa. Some aren’t even poor. Most need help because of corrupt governments, war, shitty geographical locations or a mix of the three. (By shitty I mean “in the way of bad weather”, for the record. If it weren’t for the resemblance to a war zone, the Philippines would look very nice for a bit of winter sun.)

So how does one choose a worthy cause? By going on an aid-giving website and picking a location randomly? By picking a cause (sex trafficking, slavery, refugees, queer rights, women’s education, famine, etc.) and donating to a specific charity? By donating to a ‘general’ cause like Children In Need and letting them do the allocation? What about causes closer to home – cancer research, Jeans for Genes, the poppy appeal, local homeless shelters…?

I saw Daniel Radcliffe on The One Show the other day (nice hair, Oprah) and he said that he had to choose the causes that meant the most to him personally. JK Rowling’s charity helps out children who live in institutions, which has a passing resemblance to a certain bad guy in a certain book series she wrote. If I had to choose three charities to support I’d probably go for APEC, which supports families and sufferers of pre-eclampsia, because it’s quite literally close to my heart (yes you can make a pun out of critical illness), something that provides education to children like Camfed and something that strives to improve human rights, like AllOut or Amnesty International. But what if there was a part of the charity that I didn’t like? I’m hesitant about giving to Greenpeace, however much I love the planet, because they’ve got a habit of working against, not with, some institutions. They’re anti-GM, for example, when there are regions full or starving people for whom GM crops would help quite a bit. Humans aren’t going to stop using stuff we’ve made, like nuclear power, so we’re going to have to use our science to make sure that we’re looking after nature without compromising human rights or lifestyles that people arguably should not have to give up.

I’m going off-topic. Children In Need is on tonight and I’ll almost definitely raid my spare-change pot, but if I’m out tomorrow and see a homeless person I probably won’t give them the change in my pocket, because I have no way of knowing whether or not they’re legitimate. Then I’ll feel guilty. Should I? Should I march on the government to get them to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place? Whose problem is poor people anyway?

I don’t even know any more. Pudsey awaits.

The Ten O’Clock News: Nick Clegg Might Be Right About Something!

Clegg Urges ‘Outdated’ UN to Reform

I’ve been studying the United Nations recently and in today’s Politics lesson we mentioned that the Security Council reflects international politics of 1945, not 2013. If it did, Brazil, India and Germany would be there. Japan. South Africa. Australia. According to the BBC, Nick Clegg thinks so too. How about that.

Thought of the day: if the Security Council were to modernise, would the UK still be there?