Upcoming country visit of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries to Côte d’Ivoire.

Presented by Ariel Ozdemir and Caren Thomas

The history of Côte d’Ivoire shows periods of political instability and coups. The 2002 Ivorian Civil War deepened the divisions within the country. 1 The presidential election in 2010 highlighted the power struggle between the candidates, which increased the political and ethnic tensions in the country. This constant state of political instability and civil unrest can contribute to Ivorian nationals’ being more susceptible to recruitment into mercenary activities. The lawlessness prevalent within Côte d’Ivoire may force individuals to seek stability or financial gain from different sources.
Despite Côte d’Ivoire being the largest economy in the West African Economic and Monetary Union, the country’s 46.3 per cent of its population is below the poverty line. Gender inequalities continue to persist within the country. This is noticed right from the grassroot level. Only 52 per cent of the girls have completed secondary education in the country compared to 63 per cent of the boys. Additionally, the fluctuations in cocoa, coffee, and palm oil export prices severely impact the Ivorians as their livelihoods depend on these commodities. 2

However, despite the progress in domestic legal responses to mercenarism in Côte d’Ivoire, the country has yet to ratify the 1989 Convention Against the Recruitment, Use, Financing, and Training of Mercenaries. While the country supported the 3rd Cycle UPR recommendation to ratify the convention, the mid-term assessment outlined the lack of any substantial actions to do so. 6 As a result, Côte d’Ivoire still has substantial further progress to make in its fight against the use of mercenaries. An optimistic sign as to potential future progress on ratification can be found in the Ivorian Minister of Foreign Affairs’ 2019 speech, in which he asserted Ivorian support for the convention and urged those nations to ratify the convention that had not yet done so. However, whether this declaration represents a wider domestic desire to begin the ratification process is yet unclear.

PMC activities pose significant threats to Ivorian stability. Foreign actors have been exporting PMC and military equipment to many countries on the African continent, and Côte d’Ivoire is no exception. Two principal PMC’s have a strong presence in the country, namely the French PMC CorpGuard 12 and the Russian Wagner group. Since 2017, CorpGuard, founded by Secopex’ co-founder David Hornus, which is itself active in Somalia and the CAR, has been training the Ivorian military. 13 According to CorpGuard, during a 9-month training period they set up 4 infantry companies, 1 operational center, and trained 1,235 soldiers “to United Nations standards”. 14
Despite being strongly marketed as harbingers of peace and allegedly participating in the transformation of Ivorian military personnel from “soldiers in war” to “soldiers of peace”, 15 the complete lack of regulation of PMCs has resulted in an inability to enforce legitimacy and accountability. In this light, CorpGuard’s training of President Alassane Ouattara’s military can be understood to have had a direct impact on the 2020 electoral violence.

Download PDF

23A-Upcoming_country_visit_of_the_Working_Group_on_the_use_of_mercenaries_to_Cote_dIvoire

Photo by Alexander Jawfox on Unsplash


References

1 Tayoh, B. (2009). Background information. In Property Taxation in Francophone West Africa: Case Study of Côte d’Ivoire (pp. 1–4). Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. http://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep18288.3
2 Nelson, N. (2020). The Top 3 Causes of Poverty in Côte d’Ivoire. The Borgen Project. https://borgenproject.org/poverty-in-cote-divoire/

6 S.E.M. Marcel Amon-Tanoh. “Conseil De Sécurité Des Nations Unies Débat Public De Haut Niveau Sur Le Thème: Les Activités Mercenaires Comme Source D’insecurite Et De Destabilisation En Afrique Centrale Déclaration De S.E.M. Marcel Amon-Tanoh Ministre Des Affaires Étrangères De La République De Côte d’Ivoire.” New York, February 4, 2019. https://press.un.org/fr/2019/cs13688.doc.htm

12 Note: David Hornus rejects the description of CorpGuard as a PMC and claims that “CorpGuard is an operational security and defense service company which does not meet the designation of a private military company.” source: Martin, Elise. “Armée: de Lyon à la Côte d’Ivoire, pourquoi la société « de sécurité et de défense » CorpGuard interroge?” 20 Minutes, April 28, 2023. https://www.20minutes.fr/societe/4034203-20230428-armee-lyon-cote-ivoire-pourquoi-societe-securite-defense-corpguard-interroge
13 Kadlec, Amanda. “In Africa, Wagner Is Not the Only Game in Town.” New Lines Magazine (blog), July 17, 2023. https://newlinesmag.com/spotlight/in-africa-wagner-is-not-the-only-game-in-town/
14 CorpGuard. “Developments And Challenges of Peacekeeping Operation in The French-Speaking World 2017-2020.” CORPGUARD Conseil International (blog), May 26, 2020. https://www.corpguard.com/fr/evolutions-et-defis-du-maintien-de-la-paix-dans-lespace-francophone/
15 Observatoire. “Table ronde du 4 octobre 2017 – 3ème panel.” OBG, October 7, 2017. https://www.observatoire-boutros-ghali.org/2017/10/table-ronde-du-4-octobre-2017-3/

Country Visit to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Presented by Merve Tiregul

Recent data spanning from March 2020 to June 2021 further highlights this disparity, indicating that black women were 14% less likely to be referred to Refuge for assistance by the police compared to their white counterparts who are survivors of domestic abuse. 2 The data implies a systematic failure by the police to adequately support Black women against domestic abuse. According to Victim Support’s research in 2022, victims of domestic abuse, particularly from Black and ethnic minority backgrounds, often face dismissal and marginalisation by the police. The study found that nearly half of Black and ethnic minority respondents felt that the police treated them differently due to their heritage. Over half of all respondents reported instances of domestic abuse multiple times before receiving appropriate police action, with almost a quarter needing to report three times or more. Despite increased reports of domestic abuse, recent data from the Office for National Statistics shows an 8% rise in related offences, underlining the urgent need for improved support and response mechanisms for victims. 3

According to a 2020 survey conducted in the UK, Black, minoritised women, and non-binary individuals were more prone to experiencing online violence during COVID-19, with many reporting worsened abuse during the pandemic. This emphasises the necessity of adopting responses that incorporate an intersectional perspective. 46% of the participants indicated they had encountered online abuse since the onset of COVID-19. This percentage rose to 50% among Black and minoritised women and nonbinary individuals. Among survey participants who encountered online abuse in the year prior to the survey, 29% noted that it intensified during the COVID-19 period. Black and minoritised women and non-binary individuals were disproportionately affected, with 38% indicating that the pandemic contributed to heightened online violence. Gender emerged as the most frequently cited reason for online abuse, with 48% reporting gender-based abuse, followed by 21% for abuse related to gender identity and sexual orientation, 18% for ethnicity, 10% for religion, and 7% for disability. Black and minoritised individuals were almost as likely to face abuse based on ethnicity as they were on gender, with 46% reporting gender-based abuse and 43% reporting ethnicity-based abuse. Additionally, they were more prone to religious-based abuse compared to white respondents. 4

In England, since September 2020, Relationships Education has been mandatory for all primary school pupils, while Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) has been compulsory for secondary pupils, alongside Health Education for all students in state-funded schools. RSE curriculum encompasses crucial topics such as sexual consent, exploitation, abuse, grooming, harassment, rape, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, and domestic abuse, aiming to equip students with the knowledge to navigate current and future relationships. In primary schools, comprehensive sex and relationships education can empower children to stay safe by fostering confidence in seeking help, understanding bodily autonomy, and providing appropriate language for discussing private body parts. 15

The UK recently updated the Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE) curriculum requirements in Northern Ireland. The new curriculum will include age-appropriate, comprehensive, and scientifically accurate education on sexual and reproductive health and rights. The education will provide factual information on preventing pregnancy, abortion rights, and accessing relevant services without advocating a particular stance. 16

Download PDF

22A-Input_for_SR_VAWGs_country_visit_to_the_UK_and_Northern_Ireland-1

Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash


References

2 Refuge. (2021, September 30). Ahead of Black History Month, Refuge calls for better protection for Black women experiencing domestic abuse. Retrieved January 30, 2024, from https://refuge.org.uk/news/refuge-better-protection-of-black-women-domestic-abuse/
3 Victim Support. (2022, December 1). New research shows police failing to act on domestic abuse reports – ethnic minority victims worst affected. Retrieved January 30, 2024, from https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/new-research-shows-police-failing-to-act-on-domestic-abuse-reports-ethnic-minority-victims-worst-affected/
4 End Violence Against Women. (2020). The ripple effect: COVID-19 and the epidemic of online abuse. Retrieved January 30, 2024, from https://www.endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Glitch-and-EVAW-The-Ripple-Effect-Online-abuse-during-COVID-19-Sept-2020.pdf

15 Female genital mutilation: resource pack. (2023). Gov.uk. Retrieved January 30, 2024, from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/female-genital-mutilation-resource-pack/female-genital-mutilation-resource-pack
16 New requirements for Relationship and Sexuality Education curriculum in Northern Ireland. (2023). Gov.uk. Retrieved January 30, 2024, from https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-requirements-for-relationship-and-sexuality-education-curriculum-in-northern-ireland

Follow-up to the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls’ country visits to Kyrgyzstan, Romania, Greece, Poland, Honduras, Chad, Samoa, Kuwait and Hungary

Presented by Ariel Ozdemir, Luna Plet and Olimpia Guidi

The Lenca, indigenous to southwestern Honduras and northeastern El Salvador, reside in approximately 50 villages within a 100-km radius of La Esperanza, the capital city of the mountainous Intibucá department. 1 Most of these villages find themselves on the outskirts of the public education system due to factors such as poverty, age, geographic isolation, gender, and ethnicity. These circumstances collectively contribute to the difficulty in accessing education for many inhabitants.
The educational hurdles for Lenca girls in Honduras, especially in regions like San Francisco de Opalaca, are intricate and deeply influenced by socio-economic, cultural, and geographical factors. These challenges are marked by restricted access to education due to economic constraints, particularly affecting girls pursuing primary education. Gender-sensitive education proves to be a critical aspect of the struggles faced by Lenca girls. Prevailing patriarchal norms pose obstacles to their educational opportunities.
Concerns about the quality of education in public schools, notably in regions like San Francisco de Opalaca, are pronounced. Challenges include limited access to junior high schools in most villages and the geographic obstacles that impede education beyond grade 6. 2 Inadequacies in the education infrastructure, such as a shortage of teachers and insufficient facilities, further hinder the provision of quality education for Lenca girls. Furthermore, with a literacy rate of 30-50%, the Lenca population typically spends an average of only four years in school. 3 This low educational attainment contributes to a pervasive sense of inferiority and a lack of confidence in advocating for a democratic and civil society.
The need for revamping the curriculum to address gender equality, stereotypes, and violence is evident. Emphasis is placed on incorporating human rights workshops to create awareness about gender, cultural, educational, and employment equality. 4 This approach strives to foster an inclusive and supportive educational environment, empowering Lenca girls and addressing societal challenges they encounter.

education for disadvantaged communities . 21 Women and girls, already facing obstacles in pursuing education, find themselves further marginalised by the privatisation of schooling . 22
Consider the challenges faced by promising young students in La Esperanza who experience increased fees due to their schools’ privatisation, leading to their education’s abandonment. This educational setback not only perpetuates the cycle of poverty but also underscores the gendered impact of privatisation on educational opportunities for women and girls.
Expanding on the educational aspect, it’s essential to recognise that privatisation can lead to a reduction in educational resources. Privatised institutions may prioritise profit over educational quality, leaving women in poverty with fewer educational support systems. This, in turn, perpetuates systemic disadvantages, limiting the potential for upward mobility through education.
Healthcare Challenges
Privatisation in the healthcare sector can pose significant challenges for vulnerable populations, particularly women. As essential healthcare services become privatised, the financial burden on impoverished women intensifies, limiting their access to crucial medical support. The lack of affordable healthcare options further entrenches gender disparities in health outcomes . 23

Download PDF

20A-Call_for_inputs_Follow_up_to_country_visits-1

Photo by Michelle Ding on Unsplash


References

1 Susan Stone, “El Maestro En Casa,” El Maestro en Casa, accessed January 20, 2024, https://lencaedu.wordpress.com/
2 Wanda Bedard, “2009 – Honduras,” 60 million girls, accessed January 20, 2024, https://60millionsdefilles.org/en/our-projects/2009-honduras/
3 Susan Stone, “El Maestro En Casa,” El Maestro en Casa, accessed January 20, 2024, https://lencaedu.wordpress.com/
4 Wanda Bedard, “2009 – Honduras,” 60 million girls, accessed January 20, 2024, https://60millionsdefilles.org/en/our-projects/2009-honduras/

21 Edwards Jr, D. B., Moschetti, M., & Caravaca, A. (2023). Globalisation and privatisation of education in Honduras—Or the need to reconsider the dynamics and legacy of state formation. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 44(4), 635-649. Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01596306.2020.1852181
22 Murphy-Graham, E. (2007). Promoting participation in public life through secondary education: evidence from Honduras. Prospects, 37(1), 95-111. Available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11125-007-9013-2
23 Hasemann Lara, J. E. (2023). Health Sector Reform in Honduras: Privatisation as Institutional Bad Faith. Medical Anthropology, 42(1), 62-75. Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01459740.2022.2125388

Broken Chalk’s Press Release on World Refugee Day 

Mamta Rao, Rieke Lahrsen

Every year on June 20th, the world comes together to commemorate World Refugee Day – a day to raise awareness about the plight of refugees and celebrate their courage, resilience, and contributions to societies around the globe. It is a day marked by various events hosted globally that are organized by or include participation of refugees, government officials and inclusive communities.

This year’s theme is “Hope away from home”, emphasizing the importance of enabling refugees to pursue education, employment and healthy living in their place of refuge. Inclusion stands at the forefront as the most effective way to help refugees not only rebuild their own lives, but also contribute to their new communities and place of safety.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are currently over 100 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, including refugees, asylum-seekers, and internally displaced persons. These individuals have been uprooted from their homes due to conflict, violence, human rights violations, and increasingly, the impacts of climate change and natural disasters.

The journey of a refugee is one marked by unimaginable hardship, loss, and trauma. They have fled their homelands in search of safety, leaving behind everything they once knew and loved. Yet, in the face of such adversity, refugees continue to demonstrate an extraordinary capacity for resilience and hope.

World Refugee Day is an opportunity to honor this resilience and to remind ourselves of our shared responsibility to support and protect those seeking refuge. It is a day to amplify the voices of refugees, to listen to their stories, and to recognize the immense contributions they make to host communities.

Refugees bring with them a wealth of skills, knowledge, and cultural diversity that enriches the societies in which they settle. They are entrepreneurs, artists, scientists, and community leaders, whose determination and perseverance inspire us all.

On this World Refugee Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to upholding the rights and dignity of refugees. Let us advocate for policies that promote their inclusion and integration, and work towards creating a more just and compassionate world where no one is forced to flee their home.

Here are a few ways you can make a difference this June 20th and beyond:

Educate yourself and others: read, listen and learn about the refugee crisis and how it impacted innocent lives worldwide

Support refugee organizations: donate or volunteer your time and energy to help refugees through organizations such as UNHCR, IOM, IRAP or local assistance groups

Advocate in your community: advocate for policy changes through local engagement, support refugee-owned businesses, participate in awareness campaigns or engage with schools to integrate refugee issues into their curricula

Spread positive stories: success stories and positive personal experiences of individuals can highlight the resilience of these strong individuals and fight the negative stereotypes portrayed in the media!

Remember, refugees are not just statistics; they are mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters seeking a better life and a haven. Their stories remind us of our shared humanity and the power of hope in the face of adversity.

Together, we can build a world where refugees are welcomed, supported, and empowered to rebuild their lives and thrive.

References

International Day for Countering Hate Speech

Written by Astrid Euwe Wyss and Panashe Marie Louise Mlambo 

On 18 June, the world observes the International Day for Countering Hate Speech, established by the UN General Assembly in its resolution 75/309 on 21 July 2021.1 This day serves as a global call to action to combat hate speech in all its forms, fostering a culture of respect, tolerance, and understanding. 

The principles enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights emphasize that “Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference” and “Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.” Broken Chalk stands firmly behind these ideals, advocating for educational environments where respect, tolerance, and mutual understanding are promoted. 

Educational institutions are critical arenas for fostering values of respect and tolerance. However, many regions around the world still struggle with the harmful effects of hate speech, which can create hostile learning environments and impede students’ educational progress.2 Broken Chalk’s efforts focus on raising awareness about these challenges and urging the international community to implement effective strategies to counter hate speech. As an international organization, Broken Chalk remains steadfast in its mission to achieve both local and global perspectives in its advocacy efforts. Through collaborative action and collective engagement, we strive to create a world where every individual has access to quality education in a peaceful, inclusive, and respectful environment. Our press releases, monitoring articles, and UN-UPR submissions are all the strides we have take to address the gaps in education and challenges affecting individuals in the educational sphere.  

“Our work is driven by a commitment to fostering respect and understanding in education. On this International Day for Countering Hate Speech, we urge governments and stakeholders to the UN to prioritize the fight against hate speech in education and to take decisive action to address systemic issues.” is a sentiment that is agreed by the Broken Chalk representatives.  

As an international organization, Broken Chalk remains steadfast in its mission to achieve both local and global perspectives in its advocacy efforts. Through collaborative action and collective engagement, we strive to create a world where every individual has access to quality education in a safe, inclusive, and respectful environment. 

Educational Challenges in Afghanistan

Written by Charlotte Lagadec-Jacob

Introduction 

The Taliban’s takeover in 2021 has had a devastating impact on the education system in Afghanistan. The declining quality of education and the promotion of gender inequality have become major concerns for the international community. Last year, UNESCO dedicated its International Day of Education to Afghan girls and women. 

Une image contenant écriture manuscrite, plein air, présentation, bâtiment

Description générée automatiquement

Picture by Nk Ni via Unsplash

Although Afghanistan has signed multiple UN human rights treaties and conventions, which aim for access to education to all, gender equality and children’s rights, the new education system established by the Taliban restricts access to education for young women, allows the use of corporal punishment at school and has led to a deterioration of the overall quality of education for both boys and girls.

Impact on girls and women’s educational rights

The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan had a negative impact on access to education for girls and women. This issue has been raised by the United Nations as well as NGOs in several reports. Education is a fundamental right enshrined in the Convention of the Rights of the Child. The restrictions imposed on girls and women violate several treaties signed by Afghanistan which prohibit gender-based discrimination. 

Une image contenant habits, personne, plein air, chaussures

Description générée automatiquement

Picture by Wanman uthmaniyyah via Unsplash 

Decrease of the school attendance rate among girls and women

The bans imposed by the Taliban on access to secondary and higher education for girls and women have resulted in a rising drop-out rate among female students in Afghanistan.  

Article 28.1 (e) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 states: 

Governments should “take measures to encourage regular attendance at schools and the reduction of drop-out rates.”

Despite the ratification of this Convention by Afghanistan, 75% girls are currently out of school. This makes Afghanistan one of the countries with the highest out-of-school rates for girls in the world.

While the ban on access to secondary education for girls was introduced in 2021 as a temporary measure, it is still ongoing. Moreover, the ban on access to university for women violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that higher education should be ‘accessible to all on the basis of merit’ as opposed to gender. 

Low literacy rate among women 

Most women in Afghanistan are currently illiterate. Despite Afghanistan being a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child which encourages the elimination of illiteracy, the literacy rate in Afghanistan is currently among the lowest in the world. This particularly applies to women as only 20.6% of Afghan women are literate. 

Being literate is important for daily tasks and cannot be neglected. In the long term, restricting access to education might worsen this situation and jeopardise Afghan girls and women’s independence and future, as it also makes accessing information about humanitarian support more difficult. 

Impact on boys’ educational rights 

Boys are also negatively affected by the new education system introduced under the Taliban. According to Human Rights Watch, boys and their parents have noticed a deterioration in boys’ access to education as well as the quality of their education.

Une image contenant habits, personne, Visage humain, plein air

Description générée automatiquement

Photo de Wanman uthmaniyyah sur Unsplash

Corporal punishment 

The use of corporal punishment on boys is becoming more prevalent at school and constitutes a severe violation of human rights law. The Human Rights Watch has reported an increasing use of corporal punishment at school and interference of the “Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice” with the functioning of Afghan schools since the new education measures were put in place by the Taliban. 

Corporal punishment violates international law and the Convention of the Rights of the Child which was signed by Afghanistan. This convention is complemented by Article 39 the Afghanistan’s education act 2008 which prohibits all forms of punishment at school. 

Afghan students have reported an increasing use of corporal punishment for moral crimes since the Taliban took power in 2021. Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety among boys are unfortunately common consequences of the restrictive measures imposed by the Taliban at school. 

Decreased school attendance rate 

As with girls, the attendance rate of boys at school has decreased since the Taliban takeover.  This may be related to the economic and humanitarian situation of the country which puts more pressure on boys, thus resulting in decreased attendance. Moreover, the regime of fear established by the Taliban at school and a loss of motivation due to the low quality of education may lead some male students to stop coming to class.

Promotion of a misogynistic society 

Barring girls and women from studying and teaching also has a negative impact on the quality of learning of boys in Afghanistan and promotes values in contradiction with human rights treaties and conventions signed by the country.

Under the Taliban regime, female teachers are restricted to teach boys and were replaced by men regardless of their qualifications and experience. Sometimes, no replacement could be found, leading to the disruption of classes.  This certainly has had a deteriorating effect on the quality of education of boys.

In addition to the decline of the quality of education caused by these replacements or teacher shortage, the new education system established under the Taliban promotes values in contradiction with rights enshrined in human rights treaties. Gender-based segregation by excluding girls from secondary schools and universities as well as the modification of the school curriculum may also have a negative impact on boys as it shows them an example of society where men and women are not equal. This promotion of misogyny violates several human rights treaties ratified by Afghanistan which provides that men and women should enjoy the same rights and be equal. 

These new decrees introduced by the Taliban regarding education constitute severe violations of human rights law.  

Impact on the overall quality of education

In addition to the ban on female teachers which severely undermines the quality of education in Afghanistan, the change of curriculum by the Taliban and the condition of facilities in some schools constitute significant challenges to the current education system of the country.

Change in curriculum 

The new curriculum established under the Taliban does not align with human rights law and appears to deny women’s rights. Human rights treaties provide that education should encourage the full development of the human personality and the respect of human rights. 

Despite the ratification of these treaties by Afghanistan, important subjects such as English, civic education, physical education, arts have been removed and the new curriculum focuses primarily on religion as well as on the view of women’s Islamic rights. A report obtained by Human Rights Watch in January 2022 which is believed to be an internal proposal for the revision of the curriculum contains discriminatory statements such as: 

“Many books have presented women’s rights as human rights. The teachers must explain women’s rights through the framework of Islam, not what the West calls women’s rights.”

Issues with the condition of educational facilities and infrastructure

Poor standards of hygiene and a lack of clean water, toilets and soap may also have an impact on school attendance. In over 50% of schools in Afghanistan, there is no clean drinking water and in over one-third of schools, there are no toilets where students can wash their hands. 

Conclusion and recommendations

Despite the ratification of multiple human rights treaties and conventions by Afghanistan, the Taliban have established an education system which causes gender-based discrimination, promotes illiteracy and allows human rights violations such as corporal punishment at school. Different recommendations can be made to address these issues. 

Combating illiteracy among girls and women in Afghanistan

The high rate of illiteracy (particularly among girls and women) in Afghanistan calls for action. For example, the EU, UN Women and UNESCO have collaborated in implementing the project “Empowering women and adolescent girls in Afghanistan through literacy and skills development for sustainable livelihoods”. Other projects could be initiated in this regard. 

Encouraging vocational and community-based education for girls and women

Among options currently available to girls and women to remedy the ban on secondary and higher education imposed by the Taliban, vocational education can be considered. This alternative can help women secure self-employment, thus allowing them to obtain financial independence. UNESCO currently provides literacy and pre-vocational training to over 55,000 young people and adolescents (over 68% of students are women and adolescent girls) in Afghanistan. UNICEF also provides children (mostly girls) with community-based education classes and teaching and learning materials. 

Providing women with teacher training

Teacher training could be provided to women who aspire to teach. This was the approach taken by UNICEF for its Girls’ Access to Teacher Education (GATE) programme. 

Addressing corporal punishment at school

The use of corporal punishment on children constitutes a severe violation of human rights law and might severely undermine the quality of education of boys as it may lead some students to drop out of school. It is urgent to act to prevent such punishments at school. 

Improving the condition of educational facilities to foster attendance at school.

Since 2024, UNICEF and the EU have joined forces in improving the condition of buildings and classrooms in 385 public primary schools in Afghanistan. UNICEF stressed the importance of ‘rehabilitating classrooms, building toilets and water systems’.

References

Broken Chalk’s World Day Against Child Labour Press Release 

Panashe Marie Louise Mlambo, Mamta Rao  

World Day Against Child Labour, annually on June 12th, was first launched in 2002 by the ILO to raise awareness and foster activism aimed at preventing child labour. This day brings together governments, local authorities, civil society, international organizations, workers, and employers to highlight the issue of child labour and to define effective strategies for its elimination.1 Despite progress over the past two decades, conflicts, economic crises, and the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have reversed many of these gains, making it more critical than ever to renew global efforts against child labour.2 

Broken Chalk, an Amsterdam-based non-governmental organisation committed to addressing human rights violations in the education sector, joins this global call to action. Our organisation, established in October 2020, is dedicated to removing obstacles to education, promoting peace and tolerance through intercultural understanding, preventing radicalism and polarisation, and eliminating educational opportunity gaps across various demographics.3 

Our extensive research and advocacy work reveal that child labour can indeed be eliminated if its root causes are addressed. Economic disparities, lack of access to quality education, and systemic injustices are the primary drivers that push children into labour. More than ever, it is urgent for all of us to contribute to bringing solutions to people’s daily problems, and child labour is – possibly – the most visible of these problems. 

We call for a renewed global commitment to social justice, with the elimination of child labour as a central focus. This involves leveraging the Global Coalition for Social Justice to drive initiatives that address the socio-economic factors contributing to child labour. 

 We urge all nations to ratify ILO Convention No. 138 on Minimum Age. Combined with the universal ratification of ILO Convention No. 182 on Worst Forms of Child Labour achieved in 2020, this would provide comprehensive legal protection for children against all forms of child labour.4 

Regions like Africa and Asia-Pacific bear the brunt of this issue, with Africa having the highest percentage of children in child labour (one-fifth) and the highest absolute number (72 million). Asia and the Pacific follow with 7% of all children and 62 million in absolute terms in child labour. Together, these regions account for nearly nine out of every ten children in child labour worldwide.4 

This year, the focus is on accelerating progress towards achieving Target 8.7 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aims to eradicate child labour in all its forms by 2025. By focusing on Key areas of action—legislative reforms, education, decent work for adults, social protection, and public advocacy—we can create a comprehensive strategy to eliminate child labour and build a brighter future for all children.6 

Let us renew our commitment to ending this grave violation of children’s rights. By uniting our efforts, we can build a future where every child enjoys their right to a childhood free from labour and filled with opportunities for education, growth, and development. 

“Our work is driven by a commitment to fostering respect and understanding in education. On this World Day Against Child Labour, we urge governments and stakeholders to the UN to prioritize the fight against child labour in education and to take decisive action to address systemic issues,” said a representative from Broken Chalk. 

As an international organization, Broken Chalk remains steadfast in its mission to achieve both local and global perspectives in its advocacy efforts. Through collaborative action and collective engagement, we strive to create a world where every individual has access to quality education in a safe, inclusive, and respectful environment. 

References

Unjust Detention and Abuse of Minors and Mothers in Istanbul Allegedly Affiliated with the Gülen movement

Context

On the 7th of May 2024, the Turkish police conducted a large-scale operation in Istanbul, where multiple people associated with the Gülen movement, distinctly young female students were targeted. Consequently, 49 persons were detained, including students aged between 13-25, together with their parents. Among the people arrested, a mother with Parkinson’s disease and her daughter were put in prison, facing numerous violations of human rights that will be further explained. The operation was carried out by the Anti-Smuggling and Organised Crime and Anti-Terrorism units of the police in the Beylikdüzü district of Istanbul.

During the operation, multiple homes were forcibly entered and searched, and children were forcefully taken into custody by the Turkish authorities, despite objections from their families and lawyers. This has raised concerns among Turkish society, but also at the international level, about the treatment of minors and the violation of their basic rights during the operation.

Basis for the detention

During the investigations, the minor detainees were reportedly questioned in the absence of their lawyers, and their statements were allegedly manipulated by the police authorities. Some minors were interrogated for 15 hours without having access to legal services, while others were questioned under threat or pressure.

The alleged reasons for this operation were based on activities such as providing, educational support to people by being an education coach, offering financial support, assisting with language learning (English), and organizing educational events. All those activities were intended to support the legal as well as the learning/pedagogic needs for students, but instead, they were labelled as ‘terrorist activities’.

Among the detainees, the female students were questioned about institutions and activities that could be potentially linked to the Gülen Movement. Specific questions included subscriptions to closed publications, use of the ByLock application, and holding accounts at confiscated Bank Asya. Those inquiries as well as how they were made, reflect intrusion into individual freedoms of expression, access to information, and financial freedoms Other students were also questioned about participation in tuition centres, schools, or dormitories associated with the Gülen Movement. Other questions that were put were either interpretative, leading, or based on physical and phone surveillance.

Stories behind the scenes

The stories from the detained people paint a disturbing picture of the unlawful detentions in Istanbul and the heavy impacts on children and their families. From a mother arrested for providing English lessons to her children, to a doctor detained with his daughters, and a mother of seven detained along with her children, these stories showcase the arbitrary and unjust nature of the detentions. People who were suffering from different diseases, for example, a woman diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, were kept in unsuitable and unacceptable conditions.

Those stories not only underscore the need for greater accountability in the detention process, in order to prevent these violations of human rights and arbitrariness but also bring to the surface the reality behind the bars and the unspoken atrocities that happen to these innocent individuals and their families.

Recommendations

The following recommendations are non-exhaustive and can be used to address human rights violations and prevent such cases:

  • Advocate for legal and humanitarian assistance by encouraging NGOs to provide support for the affected persons. For example, providing counselling services, funding legal defence and monitoring the conditions for the detainees to see if they align with the international standards.
  • Promote awareness and mobilize support for the current issue, as well as encouraging campaigns that support human rights. Additionally, these could also determine the Turkish authorities to adhere to international standards.
  • Call for investigation by demanding the UN organs or different human rights organizations to initiate an independent investigation to the alleged violations of human rights.

Keywords: Gülen, students, Turkish police, detention, Istanbul, minors, arbitrary, human rights

References:

Water Scarcity in Jordan 

“When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.”  

-Benjamin Franklin 

Written by Iasmina-Măriuca Stoian 

Water scarcity is a serious issue that affects over 700 million peoplei that live in over 43 different countries. From those, there is a list of 14 countriesii that face severe water stress: Qatar, Israel, Lebanon, Iran, Jordan, Libya, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, United Arab Emirates, San Marino, Bahrain, India, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Oman and Botswana. Because most of them are located either in the Middle East or in the Northern Africa region (MENA region), they are mostly affected by the desert climate and by the increasing level of demand. 

By definition, water scarcity, or water shortage, is the lack of necessary supplies of fresh and clean water to meet the demand for water, thus affecting the countries economically, politically and also the world’s growth level of population. 

Background 

Jordan, a relatively stable oasis in the midst of Middle Eastern turmoil, is affected by two issues that threatens its continuous stability – water scarcity and the regional conflicts that not only affects the surrounding countries, but also the Jordanians. According to a study, without intervening measures, over 90% of Jordan’s low-income population will be experiencing critical water insecurity by the end of 2030 (Yoon et al., 2021). What is worth mentioning about this issue is that, although infrastructure is adequate, demand exceeds supply due to population growth and Syrian refugees. Water sources in Jordan include 54% groundwater, 37% surface water, and 110 mm of annual rainfall. However, while the underground basins are overly exploited, the surface water supplies are either mismanaged or contaminated by pollution, making them inaccessible for immediate use. 

This article will look firstly into the factors contributing to this issue, then the effects on the society and the environment, and finally the solutions and current projects. From the mismanagement of surface water resources to desertification and climate change, this article will provide an overview of Jordan’s water scarcity, the measures already taken and solutions for this issue. 

Main causes for water scarcity 

The issue of water scarcity in the Jordan Valley is complex and difficult to address due to a variety of factors such as natural processes, political crises, rapid population growth, water pollution, the discrepancy between supply and demand, the migration of Syrian refugees, and the misuse of water resources. The water shortage not only has effects on the environment and people living in the region, but also on the poor populations from rural areas who face daily struggles due to water scarcity, pollution, and resulting health and economic crises. The following paragraphs will present some, but not all causes of the water shortage in the country. 

Desertification, droughts, and climate change 

Desertification and droughts are natural phenomena affecting the water shortage not only in the country but also in the region, as well as the impact of climate change leading to decreased groundwater and aquifer replenishment. Also, heavy irrigation practices and the overdrawing of water from aquifers have contributed to the depletion of water sources. 

While droughts are temporary periods caused by a lack of precipitation, desertification is a long-term process in which fertile land becomes arid and almost impossible to support vegetation, leading to the transformation of the specific area into a desert. They are both caused by the increased temperatures, human activities, such as deforestation, or lack of rainfalls. 

On the other hand, climate change means rising global temperatures, modifying rainfall patterns, intensifying drought conditions and desertification processes. These conditions increase the risk of wildfires and threaten groundwater resources, which supply a significant portion of the country’s domestic water. 

Pollution and water contamination 

Pollution from agricultural runoff and contamination has had a significant impact on the water in Jordan. Multiple rivers and lakes have been contaminated due to the use of insecticides by farmers. In Jordan Valley, the widest region with freshwater resources,iii approximately 70% of freshwater resources are now contaminated by biological pollutants.  

Mismanagement of water resources  

Jordan relies on 3 major surface water sources for 37% of its total water supply; these are the Jordan, Zarqa, and Yarmouk rivers. Overdrawing water for heavy irrigation is depleting water resources in the whole MENA region, leading to drier landscapes and decreasing moisture in the ground. Heavy irrigation uses water from various sources, such as rivers, aquifers, and groundwater, preventing the excess water from being used for other purposes due to added pollutants and chemical compounds. Additionally, over-pumping by Israel and Syria are causing Jordan’s access to the Jordan and Yarmouk rivers to diminish, due to lack of regional environmental cooperation.  

Migration of refugees and increasing demand 

Current water demand exceeds the water supply, leading to a constant water deficit in Jordan. Population growth, particularly from refugees, exacerbates the issue by reducing available water per capita. There are three main uses for water in Jordan: municipal, industrial, and agricultural.  

As for Amman, private water tankers in wealthy areas have seen a rise in prices, contributing to the ongoing water shortages in the city. As a result, government rationing of water is common, and wealthier households often use private water trucks to fill multiple tanks on their roofs. On the other hand, the poor households are most affected, as they have limited capacity to store water and cannot afford to buy from private trucks. While people are responsible for obtaining water tanks on their own, damage to these tanks can make them lose precious water. Stories from people show the dramatic image behind this issue, making people beg for water from their neighbours or skip showers or cleaning to save water.iv More effects will be further discussed below. 

Impact on society and environment 

Human capital impacts 

Apart from the insufficient amount of drinking water for the population, the rest of the amount necessary for basic hygiene and sanitation is almost inexistent. Consequences of the lack of water on the long term are the development of adverse health conditions such as lethargy, neurological symptoms, kidney failure, and others. Moreover, the lack of clean water can also affect the population by increasing the mortality rate attributed to numerous wash-related diseases. 

Water scarcity can also affect children and young students, by lowering the school attendance and performance rates, especially for girls. This is important as children would be able to practice important hygiene behaviour, such as correct disposal of menstrual products and handwashing. 

Impact on refugees 

The impact on refugees is even more drastic. As many of them are among the poorest people in Jordan, the impact is even greater. Tayba Abkar, a 32-year-old Sudanese refugee and a mother of four says: “My children have to go to the neighbours’ house on most of the days to use the toilet. My 13-year-old daughter feels very embarrassed when she goes there”.v This is just one of the many stories of families struggling with this environmental issue. 

Impact on food security 

Water scarcity not only affects human lives but has also a direct effect on food security. A decrease of water in local lakes and rivers means a decrease in agricultural productivity. Food insecurity mostly affects the poor population, leading to multiple cases of malnutrition, famine or undernourishment. 

Solutions and mitigations 

Jordan Water Sector Efficiency Project 

The Jordan Water Sector Efficiency Project aligns with the government’s strategy and aims to improve water sector efficiency, drought management, and climate resilience, for which the World Bank approved $300 million for the implementation of this project.vi The project is still being implemented and is envisaged to cover over 1.6 million people and to save 10 million cubic meters of water, reduce electricity use, and establish a drought management system to benefit households, farmers, and industries in the country. 

UNICEF collaboration 

Among the different international organizations involved in this issue, UNICEF supports sustainable water and environmental conservation projects to improve access to water and sanitation for vulnerable children and families. They currently work with the Ministry of Water and Irrigation to enhance water supply and sanitation infrastructure in cities, schools, refugee camps, and communities.vii They are planning to implement alternative water technologies, promote water conservation, and advocate for policies that manage social-ecological systems. Regional advocacy groups like EcoPeace Middle East also contribute to environmental protection and peacebuilding.  

Dialogues about regional water allocation 

Another solution would be the improvement of water allocation by establishing multilateral discussions and regional cooperation between countries. The Jordan River Basin lacks a multilateral treaty for water allocation. These discussions could play a significant role in reaching comprehensive agreements and promoting regional sustainable development, including unified management of the Jordan River Basin. 

References

  • Wu, T. L. (2024, March 4). 4 Countries with Water Scarcity Right Now | Earth.Org. Earth.Org. https://earth.org/countries-with-water-scarcity/ 
  • Yoon, J., Klassert, C., Selby, P., Lachaut, T., Knox, S., Avisse, N., Harou, J., Tilmant, A., Klauer, B., Mustafa, D., Sigel, K., Talozi, S., Gawel, E., Medellín-Azuara, J., Bataineh, B., Zhang, H., & Gorelick, S. M. (2021, March 29). A coupled human–natural system analysis of freshwater security under climate and population change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2020431118 
  • Water, sanitation and hygiene. (n.d.). UNICEF Jordan. https://www.unicef.org/jordan/water-sanitation-and-hygiene 
  • Beithou, N., Qandil, A., Khalid, M. B., Horvatinec, J., & Ondrasek, G. (2022, July 8). Review of Agricultural-Related Water Security in Water-Scarce Countries: Jordan Case Study. Agronomy. https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy12071643  

The war in Ukraine and its impact on education

Commencing on the 24th of February 2022, the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to unfathomably disastrous outcomes, both internationally and within both countries. Of course, the scale of destruction had mapped onto virtually every aspect of the political, economic, and socio-cultural functioning of Ukraine’s society. Leaving no one unaffected by its persistent brutality, Russia’s military adventurism has highlighted the particularly pertinent problems surrounding the daily struggles of educational institutions, their children and their staff in producing a safe and stable environment that is conducive to the educational needs of the youth.

This article breaks down the Ukrainian educational struggles in the context of the waging of a genocidal war by its belligerent neighbour. Furthermore, contemporary innovative solutions to some of these educational issues will be outlined – as well as an assessment of their utility. Lastly, it is of essence to avoid perceiving these educational struggles as isolated cases specific to the Russo-Ukrainian War. On the contrary, these struggles must necessarily be understood in connection with other parts of the world which are consumed by the devastating impacts of chauvinism and warfare. Only from this comparative understanding can one begin to construct a fruitful perspective that is solutions-based, as opposed to the simple dissemination of platitudes devoid of meaning.  

Background Information 

The onset of the war has caused widespread devastation, particularly in the five oblasts (regions) affected the most being Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia, Kherson and Kharkiv. As of the 9th of November 2023, over 3,790 educational facilities have been either damaged or totally destroyed. These are often the result of “aerial attacks, artillery shelling, rocket strikes”, and in certain cases even cluster munitions (Human Rights Watch, 2023). It is the imprecise nature of Russian weaponry that particularly causes them to indiscriminately shell and strike civilian infrastructure, if not also the vile disregard for the laws of war on the part of the invading army. As such, it is not uncommon for pupils’ school days to be interrupted by siren alerts forcing them to flee into a bomb shelter. There has even been evidence of deliberate striking of schools, with the shelling of one such building with the word “children” written in large as a message in front of it (CNN, 2022). 

In addition to this, there has been extensive occupation of schools by Russian troops, who utilize the space to store munitions, weaponry, vehicles, tanks, amongst other military equipment. The military-use of schools strictly breaches the laws of war. Launching attacks from such locations causes a reciprocation from the Ukrainian counter-battery fire, thus leading to even further destruction of schools. Beyond the exploitation of educational facilities for military purposes, there has been comprehensive evidence of the Russian army engaging in not uncommon looting and pillaging. The stolen equipment includes, but is not limited to, desktops and laptops, televisions, interactive whiteboards, and heating systems. The Human Rights Watch has summarized this by stating “what was not stolen was often broken”. Before ultimately leaving the premises, Russian forces engage in destruction and vandalism, often denoting hateful sentiment towards Ukrainian people (Human Rights Watch, 2023).  

The question should then be posed: how are students able to continue their studies given such wholescale destruction of their schools? Students who have found themselves without feasible schooling options had to resort to continue their studies from a different school in another area. Although moving is expensive, time-consuming, and therefore is not an option for the majority of people along the front lines, if not actively assisted by the government (which is also not always possible). Students became accustomed to studying in shifts, in between sirens, as well as remotely. The last option was made redundant to a great extent, given that Russia has deliberately and over a prolonged period of time targeted civilian infrastructure such as power and electricity stations, including the hydroelectric Kakhovka Dam in the Kherson region. In the rough conditions of power outages, major floods, and routine shelling multiple times a day, it is unsurprising that these adjustments have been insufficient in the face of Russia’s brutality. Therefore, the physical devastation of educational facilities has significantly impacted Ukraine’s ability to commit to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which plainly states in Article 26 that “everyone has the right to education” (UDHR, 1948).  

These educational struggles had not commenced only in 2022. Violent ethnic conflict was raging in the Donbas since the beginning of 2014, which already produced devastating realities for students, staff, and the entirety of the educational sector. This was further exacerbated by the effects of the global pandemic, Covid-19. At just about the time that Covid-19 was starting to subside, the full-scale invasion of Ukraine was launched. As such, for the past decade, students and staff were unable to catch a break as the situation progressively went from bad to worse to inconceivable as it stands today. The laws of war simply do not exist for the invading forces who have rampaged through thousands of schools and other educational facilities, using them for the purposes named above as well as for the detainment, torture, and execution of innocent civilians.  

Solutions in the Context of War 

In order for the educational system to continue apace, some modifications were needed to be made. Ukraine began establishing shelter zones in schools (Visit Ukraine, 2023). These were visited quite frequently as a result of the daily shelling and provided the security the students needed to maintain their education. Taking exams and going to lessons in an underground bomb shelter is far from an uncommon occurrence in Ukraine. In Kharkiv, the government has resorted to building “bunker schools” in the subway for a more safe, stable, and quiet environment conducive to studying, as the explosions will not be heard (CNN, 2024).  Further adding onto the stress for students and staff are the conditions of working in irregular shifts to ensure as many students are accommodated as possible. Whereas remote learning remains interrupted by the incessant shelling of Ukraine’s power infrastructure.  

An additional class was added to the educational curricula for all students. Announced by Ukrainian Deputy Interior Minister Kateryna Pavlichenko, ‘safety classes’ were introduced in schools. These special classes were dedicated to the critical important knowledge of life safety and civil defence (Visit Ukraine, 2022). Such practical information must be imparted upon the youth in order for them to understand how to behave in numerous circumstances, as well as the necessary precautions to be taken in an active war zone.  

Concluding Remarks 

The nature of the educational struggles in light of the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have been examined, and the innovation that Ukraine has witnessed in solutions to these educational struggles have been duly noted. However, it is of essence to note that these need not be considered as solutions per se. The accommodation that Ukraine has made to the functioning of educational institutions should instead be construed as a temporary band-aid, one that harshly scratches the surface of the real problems facing many millions of children, teachers, and others included in the process. As such, our attention must shift to the source of boundless suffering – Russian imperialism.  

A long-lasting peace settlement is essential to the stability of educational institutions, and a critical necessity for the wellbeing of students all over Ukraine. However, this settlement must not be on the terms of the invader. That does not solve the problems of the educational issues students face in the temporarily occupied areas of Ukraine. The peaceful settlement of the conflict will necessary be on Ukrainian terms, including the necessary persecution of war criminals responsible for the decimation of Ukrainian education. For now, Ukraine is valiantly fighting for its freedom and independence from Russian aggression. Children had nothing to do with the decision to begin the invasion, yet they are ultimately paying the highest price. The end of Russia’s war on Ukrainian children is long overdue.   

References