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Week of December 9, 2003, Program 0349

Global Trade - Protest Movement Transcript MP3 Related Links
Newt Gingrich Transcript MP3 Related Link
North Korea Gulags - Part One Transcript MP3 Related Links
Nobel Peace Prize Winner Transcript MP3 Related Links
Women, Islam, and Africa Transcript MP3 Related Links
South African Opera Transcript MP3 Related Links
World Food Prize Transcript MP3 Related Links
German Jazz Cruise Transcript MP3 Related Links

 


December 9, 2003
Program 0349

(This text has been professionally transcribed, However, for timely distribution, it has not been edited or proofread against the tape.)

GAWAIN KRIPKE: I think there are tensions and there are inevitable debates about whether it's appropriate to work inside, whether the institution itself is legitimate.

KRISTIN MCHUGH: This week on Common Ground, the growing divide within the anti-globalization movement.

KEITH PORTER: Plus, a former Speaker of the House defends his controversial State Department reform plan.

FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE NEWT GINGRICH: The United States in order to be effective in leading the world has to have a State Department that is much more sophisticated than the current system, that has a much different attitude towards representing America's views around the world.

MCHUGH: And the winner of this year's Nobel peace prize.

SHRIN EBADI: [via a translator] The meaning of this reward is this—that the wish of the people of Iran to have true human rights, democracy, and peace has been heard by the people of the world.

PORTER: These stories—coming up next.

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Global Trade - Protest Movement

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Related Links
World Trade Organization
http://www.wto.org/
International Monetary Fund
http://www.imf.org/
OxFam America
http://www.oxfamamerica.org/art1716.html

Tell Us What You Think

 

MCHUGH: Common Ground is radio's weekly program on world affairs. I'm Kristin McHugh.

PORTER: And I'm Keith Porter. The anti-globalization movement has scored some considerable achievements over the past decade—memorably disrupting international conferences in Seattle and Genoa, but also forcing the views of many non-governmental organizations to the forefront of the worldwide debate on economic and social justice. Today, the world's international financial institutions acknowledge that they take account of dissenting viewpoints far more than they did just a few years ago. But now, for the first time, there are indications that the progress made by those who demonstrate against the process of globalization may in and of itself be damaging the movement's unity. Common Ground's Simon Marks reports.

[The sound of noisy street demonstrations in Cancun, Mexico]

SIMON MARKS: They are scenes that are by now familiar to anyone who has ever attended an international trade conference. Anti-globalization protestors in their thousands descended on the Mexican resort of Cancun earlier this year, vowing to disrupt a meeting of the World Trade Organization. The crowd was full of demonstrators from all over the world—industrial workers from Mexico itself, farmers from South Korea, and Owen Kau, representing nurses from South Africa.

OWEN KAU: My main objective as a nurse is actually also to see that we fight extensive migration of nurses to Europe and also to Canada and to the East African countries which is leaving our country with fewer nurses to actually cater for our own people. That is our main position.

[The sound of noisy street demonstrations in Cancun, Mexico]

MARKS: But in expressing their respective positions, and their hostility in general toward the World Trade Organization, the protestors found themselves geographically marginalized.

[The sound of noisy street demonstrations in Cancun, Mexico, this time trying to tear down a fence]]

MARKS: They spent much of their time in Cancun trying to dismantle a fortified chain-link fence that the Mexican police used to keep demonstrators several miles away from the conference center—and several miles away from the government ministers attending the meetings, like Jim Sutton, the Trade and Industry Minister from New Zealand.

JIM SUTTON: You tell me there are protestors but I haven't seen any. And I look out the window, I walk between the hotel and the conference center, all I see are tourists, delegates, and a few security people.

MARKS: That is music to the ears of metropolitan authorities the world over who now host international trade conferences, and seek to enforce a distance between protest groups and the organizations they're demonstrating against.

[The sound of noisy street demonstrations in Seattle, Washington]

MARKS: The new policy arose out of the events that took place in Seattle in December 1999. Protestors then caused the delay of the event's opening ceremonies. Violent confrontations between demonstrators and the police became so serious that the Clinton administration threatened to cancel the entire meeting unless the Seattle authorities brought the situation under control. Seattle was followed by violence at a G8 Meeting in Genoa and ongoing flashpoints at a series of meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in Washington, DC. But over the past four years, the character of the protests has changed because some of the protestors have decided to leave the barricades behind.

GAWAIN KRIPKE: The philosophical reason is that when a door is open, you should, when you're invited in the door, you should take it.

MARKS: Gawain Kripke is a policy analyst with Oxfam America, one of the non-governmental organizations that recently decided to start working with the World Trade Organization in a bid to influence the group rather than destroy it. It's a move that has infuriated many of the protestors left on the wrong side of the fence.

KRIPKE: I think there are tensions and there are inevitable debates about whether it's appropriate to work inside, whether the institution itself is legitimate. And I think those are reasonable arguments to be made. Oxfam has decided that we need to work both outside and inside the process. We need to take every opportunity we can to make trade fair.

MARKS: Many of the NGOs working on the inside like Oxfam suit still celebrated the collapse of the recent WTO talks in Cancun. Indeed, so influential have some of the NGOs become, that the United States actually blamed them for persuading developing world governments to torpedo the Cancun meeting. New Zealand Trade Minister Jim Sutton says time may be running out for those protestors still on the outside.

SUTTON: There are elements of civil society, there are NGOs who, who either can't or won't avail themselves of that sort of opportunity, and don't feel able to accept the discipline of, of behaving in a way consistent with the, with the nation's policies in return for being allowed to influence them. They want it both ways. Well, you can't actually have it both ways, and so if they want to disrupt proceedings, they have to be kept outside.

MARKS: Outside—and far away from the main event itself.

[The sound of noisy street demonstrations in Cancun, Mexico]

MARKS: Some of the protestors who have been so successful at raising their profile, and forcing their issues on to the agendas of many international institutions, now find themselves exercising less influence than before because some of their colleagues have decided to come in from the cold. For Common Ground, this is Simon Marks reporting.

[Musical interlude]

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Newt Gingrich

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Related Link
The Globalist - Newt Gingrich Biography
http://www.theglobalist.com/DBWeb/AuthorBiography.aspx?AuthorId=36

Tell Us What You Think

 

MCHUGH: Newt Gingrich is no stranger to controversy. As Speaker of the House, the former Georgia congressman's ideas were often the target of Democratic criticism. Now Gingrich is calling for reform of the State Department and Foreign Service. But this time his plan is sparking bipartisan criticism. Common Ground's Cliff Brockman talked with Gingrich and asked about the controversial proposals.

FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE NEWT GINGRICH: The United States in order to be effective in leading the world has to have a State Department that is much more sophisticated than the current system, that has a much different attitude towards representing America's views around the world. And that is much more capable of being part of an organized team, including communications, intelligence, nation building, and helping people create safety, prosperity, health, and freedom in their countries. And I think today we simply don't have a sophisticated enough State Department to carry out that many different functions.

CLIFF BROCKMAN: In an article that you wrote in Foreign Policy magazine you described a kind of a culture at the State Department.

FORMER SPEAKER GINGRICH: I think there are a couple of aspects. I think first of all the way the Foreign Service has grown up over the last 40 or 50 years, it's a very inward looking culture. It's a relatively small number of people. They spend most of their time overseas. They don't have, they're not a big enough system to have, to have formal education programs like the military does so that as you rise in authority you go off to school and you get a more sophisticated world view. They don't have enough people to have the kind of fellowships and internships that would get people out. And I've advocated having a one-year sabbatical after seven years in the Foreign Service and a two-year sabbatical after 14 years so people could see things from other directions. And I think that it's fair to say that the State Department has also an attitude that they are consistently trying to appease and placate foreign governments. And you see this in country after country. Very specifically cited in the case of Yemen, where even when the Ambassador was given direct instructions to pressure the Yemeni government to allow the FBI to get involved in hunting for the terrorists who bombed the Cole, she made the decision on her own against direct orders that maintaining good relations with the Yemenis was more important than helping the FBI. A very bitter interagency fight.

BROCKMAN: One of the reforms that you say is the most important is failure to communicate by the United States its views to world. How should you change the communication strategy?

FORMER SPEAKER GINGRICH: Both the General Accounting Office and a congressional commission chaired by an ambassador have both issued reports that are very strong in saying that we don't communicate very well. It's not organized right. It's not effective. We don't resource it adequately. And I believe you have to start by having a communications director in the White House so that they have a direct representation of the President's views. I think that communications director has to include the State Department and the Defense Department and the intelligence community and other sources of American power.

I'll just give you one example. It is a remarkable American achievement that an Austrian-born weightlifter can become—or body builder—can become both a multimillionaire and governor of our largest state. Now that is an inclusive—whether you're for or against Schwarzenegger personally—that is an act of inclusion radically unlike almost any society in the world. And that makes him a positive symbol. We have a Chinese American governor of the state of Washington, who again is a symbol of achievement and inclusion. I think the degree to which we fail to communicate that, the degree to which we fail to reach out to people in a positive general population way—this is not about the State Department, it's about the inability of the American government to do this job and the State Department is a part of that problem.

BROCKMAN: What other reforms are you calling for in the State Department?

FORMER SPEAKER GINGRICH: Well, I think that it's, it's very, very important that we develop a much stronger interagency capability and that we have a, I think a strong representative from the State Department co-located with the combatant commander in each region. That we have a regional plan, not just a country-by-country bilateral plan. I'm calling for an African Challenge approach where we recognize the challenge of all of sub-Saharan Africa and work directly with the Europeans to try to develop a joint program for all of sub-Saharan Africa. That would represent a level of organized effective activity beyond anything we've seen since the Marshall Plan.. And frankly today the US Agency for International Development and the State Department, which it's a part of, are not capable for delivering it. It took them almost two full years to get the first mile of road paved in Afghanistan. Now that's a fact and it's not an attack on the State Department to report that they didn't get the job done. It's a time to say, "What do we have to change so that we could have been pouring asphalt or pouring concrete within three or four months?"

BROCKMAN: Your calls for reform have stirred up a lot of response, a lot of it negative. And it seems to be coming from both Republicans and Democrats. Did you strike some kind of nerve here with this?

FORMER SPEAKER GINGRICH: Oh, I think so. I think the State Department has done a better job of protecting itself from change than almost any agency in the US government. And I think that the—you know, Foreign Service officers are really smart. These are not dumb people. We select out from some of the brightest people in America. And when members of Congress come through the embassies if they're at all clever they make sure that the member of Congress is taken care of. And if the member of Congress is on the right oversight committee they get stroked a lot by State Department officials. So there's almost a sacred cow approach to the State Department bureaucracy. I recently read—I was handed and, and read an e-mail from a midlevel bureaucrat in the State Department who wanted to distinguish the administration's view from the US government's view. Now, under our Constitution, you can't distinguish our commander-in-chief from the US government. I mean, if the President of the United States takes a position it is the position of the US government. It may not be the position of the Congress, but that's a different issue. But you had a, you had a senior bureaucrat, a State Department Foreign Service officer, to whom it made perfect sense to suggest that the view of the bureaucracy was different from the view of the President and therefore the two should coexist. That's just exactly wrong.

BROCKMAN: On the flip side what kind of support are you getting for your ideas for reform?

FORMER SPEAKER GINGRICH: Well, I think first of all as I just said that both the General Accounting Office report and the congressional commission report on information indicates a clear desire for reform. I think the fact that Ambassador Bremer, who has spent a number of years outside the State Department and who sees the world from a more private sector background, the fact that he replaced virtually all the people I was complaining about in Baghdad within three weeks of getting there is a sign that there's change underway. I think the fact that Condi Rice, the National Security Advisor, has indicated a much stronger coordinating role in Iraq for the National Security Council, is a good sign.

BROCKMAN: Do you think Colin Powell is the person to carry out this reform?

FORMER SPEAKER GINGRICH: Look, I think Secretary Powell, if he wanted to, would be tremendous at executing this kind of transformation. But I think Secretary Powell came to the conclusion that he wanted to represent the State Department as it is, rebuild it's morale—because it had been very badly demoralized in the Clinton years. And that rebuilding the Foreign Service morale was more important than transforming the Foreign Service.

BROCKMAN: One last question, kind of a what if question. What if President Bush is reelected and Colin Powell decides not to be the Secretary of State, would you have an interest?

FORMER SPEAKER GINGRICH: All of my strengths are in trying to articulate with clarity rather than trying to figure out how to get diplomatic things done. I think I'd not be particularly good at that job. But I would say that whoever, whether it's Secretary Powell being reappointed or whether it's somebody new, whoever ends up as Secretary of State should be given a mandate from the President comparable to the mandate he gave Don Rumsfeld back in 2001. If you read the President's speeches on transforming the military and simply put in State Department you would have almost exactly what the Secretary of State should be executing I think in the Foreign Service and in the State Department.

BROCKMAN: Former Georgia congressman and House Speaker Newt Gingrich currently heads his own communications and consulting firm. He outlined his thoughts on State Department Reform in the July-August issue of Foreign Policy magazine. For Common Ground, I'm Cliff Brockman.

PORTER: North Korea's political prisoners, next on Common Ground.

[Musical interlude]

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North Korea Gulags - Part One

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Related Links
US Committee for Human Rights in North Korea
http://www.hrnk.org/
Human Rights Watch - North Korea
http://www.hrw.org/asia/dprkorea.php
Korea, North From World Press Review
http://worldpress.org/profiles/Korea,_north.cfm

Tell Us What You Think

 

PORTER: It's hard for even western intelligence agencies to get a clear picture of what goes on in North Korea, often said to be the most secretive regime on the planet. But a recent report aims to shed some light on one of the darkest aspects of life in the communist state. A US-based human rights organization has produced what it says is the most comprehensive research ever on the treatment of political detainees in North Korea. The report's author claims that up to 200,000 people are held. The findings run counter to Pyongyang's denials that any such penal system exists. Malcolm Brown details the report's findings, in the first of a two-part series.

MALCOLM BROWN: The report, written and released by a group called the US Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, concludes that the regime sends tens of thousands of political prisoners to penal-labor colonies known as kwan-li-so. For most, there is said to be no escape. The state locks them up and effectively throws away the key. A survivor, on hand at the recent Washington, DC press conference to launch the report, described his experiences.

KIM YONG: [via a translator] I am the first person ever to escape from that political prisoners' camp in North Korea, which can rightfully be called a contemporary Auschwitz. No one who goes into that place ever dreams of walking out of there alive.

MALCOLM BROWN: Kim Yong has seen both sides of North Korea. Brought up in an orphanage, he became a Lieutenant Colonel in a North Korean security agency. The job came with prestige and privilege. But the subsequent surprise discovery that his biological father had been executed as an American collaborator was enough to have Kim Yong arrested. With obvious emotion, Kim described his torture at the hands of a regime he had been devoted to and a part of.

[The sound of Mr. Kim speaking in Korean, while his hands are raised above his head]

BROWN: [summarizing Mr. Kim's report] His arms raised above his head, he described being handcuffed and suspended from the bars of his cell for 48 hours. He said that he still bears the scars from being beaten with a pistol. The report catalogues other forms of torture he suffered. Following his interrogation, Kim was sent to the first of two prisons—Kwan-li-so Number 14, where he was forced to work in a coal mine.

KIM: [via a translator] The experiences or ordeals that I had to go through in that political prisoners camp were beyond my imagination.

BROWN: Kim Yong was later transferred to another camp, from where he managed to escape, before crossing into Mongolia and making his way to South Korea. He now lives in Los Angeles. He was among more than 30 former prisoners and guards interviewed for this report. The finished product describes a system which employs; execution, starvation, torture, forced abortion, and collective punishment against those the North Korean regime regards as a threat. It's a rare glimpse inside the closed nation and the camps, where political prisoners live and often die, according to the investigation by the US Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. It's a bipartisan, nonprofit organization, which aims to draw attention to human rights abuses in the country. Executive-Director Debra Liang-Fenton says the significance of the research should not be underestimated.

DEBRA LIANG-FENTON: It is the first time that the vocabulary of repression in North Korea has been laid out in clear terms, combined with the full treatment of corroborated testimonies of survivors of the camp system and satellite imagery supporting this testimony.

BROWN: According to the survivors, political detainees—and up to three generations of their family—are sent to the kwan-li-so forced labor colonies without trial and usually for life. Separate penitentiaries—known as kyo-hwa-so—contain individuals found guilty of political offenses and given fixed sentences. Still other detention centers are said to house those who escaped into China, only to be sent back. The report's author, David Hawk, who conducted the interviews, is a human rights investigator who's worked for the United Nations and who has previously examined the genocides in Cambodia and Rwanda. He says the conditions in the North Korean system are almost unimaginable.

DAVID HAWK: Each of these different prison slave-labor camps, prisons, and detention facilities are characterized by extreme phenomena of repression.

BROWN: Almost all political prisoners are said to be held in what the United Nations would define as arbitrary detention, for offenses which can include things like failing to take proper care of pictures of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il or singing a South Korean pop song. As pictured in the satellite photographs used in this report, the kwan-li-so are large encampments—at least 20 miles long and up to 20 miles wide—where inmates are used as slave labor in mining, logging, and farming enterprises. In the kyo-hwa-so camps, political prisoners and convicted criminals are forced to do hard labor on below-subsistence rations, leading to such a high fatality rate that they are reportedly regarded as death camps by the inmates. The survivor testimony is now being used by human rights advocates to put pressure on North Korea—and the rest of the world. Report author David Hawk is challenging Pyongyang to open the camps up to independent scrutiny.

HAWK: And until such a time as such on-site verification is allowed by the regime, the refugee testimonies stand. They retain their authority and their credibility.

BROWN: The report also calls for the international community to take action, saying that any future discussions with North Korea about security, nuclear proliferation, aid and trade need to include the issue of human rights. For Common Ground, I'm Malcolm Brown in Washington.

[Musical interlude]

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Nobel Peace Prize Winner

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Related Links
Nobel Peace Prize
http://www.nobel.no/index.html
Shirin Ebadi Biography
http://www.iranianchildren.org/ebadimain.html
Iran From World Press Review
http://worldpress.org/profiles/Iran.cfm

Tell Us What You Think

 

MCHUGH: The Nobel Peace Prize and its check for $1.3 million will be awarded this month in Oslo, Norway. The prize has thrown this year's winner, Iranian woman Shirin Ebadi, into the global spotlight. And it has sparked debate among the competing factions in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Some hardliners say the Nobel Peace Prize was politically motivated, while supporters say the lawyer deserved it for her work on human rights and democracy. Roxana Saberi reports from Tehran.

A NOBEL COMMITTEE SPOKESWOMAN: She has stood up as a sound professional, a courageous person, and has never heeded the threat to her own safety.

ROXANA SABERI: When Shirin Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize in October, she said it reinforced her efforts to promote human rights at home in Iran and around the world.

SHRIN EBADI: [via a translator] The beauty of life is to fight in a difficult situation like it is in Iran. And if today as a woman and as a lawyer, I was living in a country that all the rights of women would have been respected I wouldn't be so proud of myself as I am today.

SABERI: The 56-year-old lawyer was one of Iran's first female judges.

[The sound of an Iranian crowd of protestors chanting "Death to America."

SABERI: But after Iran's Islamic Revolution of 1979, Ebadi found she had to start a new career because women could no longer be judges. Instead, she used her judicial experience to defend political dissidents and to campaign for the rights of women and children. She and other human rights activists have challenged laws in Iran giving fathers greater custody rights over children and they've tried to make it tougher for girls under 13 to get married. Now her selection as the country's first Peace Prize winner has stirred up passions in the Islamic Republic, revealing divisions among the country's polarized factions.

[The sounds of debate in the Iranian Parliament]

SABERI: Some members of Iran's Reformist government have congratulated Ebadi for striving for human rights and democracy. And some of her colleagues, such as lawyer Faride Gheirat, hope the award will help women and children gain more rights and improve Iran's standing in the world.

FARIDE GHEIRAT: [via a translator] This award has brought us national pride. Everyone understands the significance of this honor. Legal experts are proud of Mrs. Ebadi. She herself said this award belongs to the entire Iranian nation. It shows the world that Iran is not warlike, but peaceful.

SABERI: But some of Iran's hardliners, who hold most of the power in Iran, say the choice was politically motivated by outsiders trying to interfere in their country. And since her award, Ebadi has reportedly been receiving death threats, forcing her to use bodyguards from the police.

[The sound of a pro-Ebadi welcome home rally in Tehran]

SABERI: The conflicting views over Ebadi's award became magnified at Tehran's Mehrabad International Airport one night in October. That's when thousands of supporters waited to welcome Ebadi home after she had won her award in Europe. Many of the people at the rally said the lawyer deserved the award for her work helping women and children.

IRANIAN WOMAN ON THE STREET #1: This reward was not political at all. This reward was her right. This reward is divided among all the people of Iran, especially the women of Iran. It's the right of women. They have always been subject to oppression.

[The sound of a pro-Ebadi welcome home rally in Tehran]

SABERI: Still others at the gathering used the occasion to voice their growing disillusionment with the slow pace of reforms at home, which some say have been blocked by the country's hard-line leaders. As many voiced their support, some Islamic vigilantes at the same rally didn't hesitate to carry written signs of disapproval.

IRANIAN MAN ON THE STREET #1: We said on this cloth, who has received this award in the past? Why do they get it? What do they get it for? And those who give the awards, what do they want from them?

[The sound of a pro-Ebadi welcome home rally in Tehran]

SABERI: Amid these differing views, Shirin Ebadi arrived, expressing her faith in the freedoms the Nobel Peace Prize promotes.

EBADI: [via a translator] The meaning of this reward is this—that the wish of the people of Iran to have true human rights, democracy, and peace, has been heard by the people of the world.

[The sound of a pro-Ebadi welcome home rally in Tehran]

SABERI: Ebadi's award comes during a time when Iranian women have made certain advances. More women than men are entering universities and 13 members of Parliament are women. Many analysts say the prize will help the lawyer push for more reforms as a voice outside the regime. The day after her arrival in Tehran, Ebadi, who was once temporarily jailed for some of her work, said it was too soon to tell if this will happen.

EBADI: [via a translator] It's my first day back and I must see if I'm comfortable or not.

SABERI: Despite conservative resistance, Ebadi is not showing signs of slowing down her role in the sphere of human rights. She has recently joined the legal team representing the family of Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian reporter who died in Iranian custody in July. For Common Ground, I'm Roxana Saberi in Tehran.

MCHUGH: If you have questions or comments about today's program, visit our Web site at commongroundradio.org or e-mail us at commonground@commongroundradio.org.

ANNOUNCER: Common Ground is a Stanley Foundation production. On the Web at stanleyfoundation.org.

MCHUGH: This is Common Ground, radio's weekly program on world affairs.

[Musical interlude]

KEITH PORTER: I'm Keith Porter.

KRISTIN MCHUGH: And I'm Kristin McHugh. Coming up this half hour on Common Ground, the impact of Islamic fundamentalism on women in Africa.

PROFESSOR SONDRA HALE: At no time in Sudanese women's history has there been so much activism as under the Islamist regime.

MCHUGH: Plus, this year's World Food Prize Winner. And, we'll cruise the Rhine on a German jazz boat.

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Women, Islam, and Africa

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Related Links
Amnesty International - Baobab
http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/engAFR440082002
Nigeria From World Press Review
http://worldpress.org/profiles/Nigeria.cfm

Tell Us What You Think

 

PORTER: When most people think of Islam they think of it being centered in Middle Eastern countries. But the religion is prominent in many African countries as well. In Sudan, for example a hard-line Islamist regime has been in power since a 1989 coup. And several states in Nigeria's heavily Islamic north began to implement the hard-line Muslim law, known as sharia just a few years ago. Recently, an appeals court in Nigeria overturned a sentence of death by stoning handed down to a woman accused of committing adultery. Experts gathered in Washington not long ago to take a look at how these types of regimes have impacted the lives and rights of women in Africa. Judith Smelser reports.

[The sound of a public stoning in Nigeria]

JUDITH SMELSER: A crowd of men gathers in Nigeria as two women, tied in large white cloth bags, are buried up to their waists in two holes in the ground. Then the men begin to throw stones at the women. Under sharia law, this is the punishment for adultery—defined as having sexual relations out of wedlock. Sentences like this are fought tooth and nail by a Nigerian women's rights organization called Baobab. Ayesha Imam is the group's coordinator. She says the twelve Nigerian states that now use sharia law implement the Muslim code in a way that discriminates against women. She gives one example.

AYESHA IMAM: In the orthodox jurisprudence, if there is not formal witnesses, the other evidence that is sufficient to convict should be a voluntary and repeated confession. And in fact I submit that having a vigilante group take you to the police station, making the police charge you with an offense, and then following you to court and packing the court, is not a voluntary confession.

SMELSER: The preponderance of vigilante groups, Imam says, demonstrates how the imposition of sharia law has had repercussions outside the legal system itself. The groups take the law into their own hands, enforcing dress codes and curfews on women, and even forcing women to sit in the backs of busses. Imam says the very existence of these groups has also spawned a form of female self-oppression.

AYESHA IMAM: Because people are afraid of being attacked by vigilantes, there's also a voluntary withdrawal of people from driving on streets, from sending their daughters to school if they can't provide escorts for them to get to school, and stuff like that. Okay? None of which is legislated on, but people are doing it out of fear of being attacked themselves.

SMELSER: But there's also a bright side to all this. Imam says the laws have sparked a fight for women's rights that has never been seen before in Nigeria. For example, she says people are increasingly willing to mount an appeal when they're charged under sharia law.

AYESHA IMAM: Initially, the feeling was very much that if you've been charged, it must be God's will. Okay? And even though the acts themselves provide for appeals, it was being seen as, again, tantamount to challenging God if you tried for an appeal. Now, people are going on the radio and saying, "We want to appeal."

SMELSER: Imam says Muslim community groups have grown more willing to support such appeals. The same effect has been seen in Sudan, where an Islamist regime came to power in 1989. That's according to UCLA Professor Sondra Hale, who spent time interviewing Sudanese women in and outside of their home country.

PROFESSOR SONDRA HALE: At no time in Sudanese women's history has there been so much activism as under the Islamist regime. It's one of the contradictions.

SMELSER: The government imposed a strict dress code on women and has taken steps to restrict women's freedom to travel. Still, Professor Hale says many women she interviewed didn't blame Islamic law for their plight.

PROFESSOR HALE: I discovered that Islamist women do not deny that men oppress them, if we can use that term for a moment. However, the ambiguity is in the twist of meaning. A number of Islamist women claim that it is not Islamic ideas that are responsible but Arab patriarchy.

SMELSER: Indeed, Ayesha Imam points out that most sharia laws—including punishment by stoning—are not directly written in the Koran. Rather they are the result of human interpretations of the Islamic texts. And, Amnesty International and other human rights groups have repeatedly condemned the harsh sentences carried out against women under sharia law. For Common Ground Radio, I'm Judith Smelser in Washington.

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South African Opera

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Related Links
University of Natal Opera School and Choral Academy
http://www.und.ac.za/und/music/acstaffd.html
South Africa From World Press Review
http://worldpress.org/profiles/South_africa.cfm

Tell Us What You Think

 

PORTER: In New York finding good opera is easy—whether it's at the Metropolitan Opera house, Lincoln Center, or Carnegie Hall. But for something different opera lovers have been heading downtown. A recent performance from a little known opera school from South Africa has been generating interest in that country's vast range of musical ability and the talents of its struggling students. Nathan King spent an evening with the University of Natal's Opera School and Choral Academy.

[The sound of a soaring aria]

NATHAN KING: From Amadeus Mozart to Guiseppe Verdi the range of singing from the South African students is on a par with singers from the best musical academies of Europe and the US.

[The sound of a soaring aria]

KING: All the more remarkable then that many of the University of Natal's students have come from impoverished townships and some have at times some have had to choose between eating and paying for singing lessons.

[More operatic singing, this time a male voice]

KING: This trip to the US and a performance at the New School in Manhattan was to showcase the talent on offer in South Africa and to try and tap the patronage of wealthy New York opera lovers. The University of Natal is one of the few centers of operatic excellence in South Africa and it badly needs more scholarships to help develop the first generation of post apartheid opera singers.

SELBY HLANGU: By coming to New York, I thought, I'll get more exposure than South Africa and maybe get something, maybe people will come and help because I am a little bit short of cash for study. I always struggle when it comes to that. So I'll always make sure that I show people my voice. I show everybody what I can do.

KING: Selby Hlangu is an impressive baritone from the remote hills of Kwa-Zulu Natal. He's had to give up his opera training at times due to lack of money, but that hasn't dampened his enthusiasm. In fact just to sing in New York was a huge boost for him and many of the other struggling students After the show Zanele Gumede a mezzo soprano from the Durban townships could hardly contain her excitement.

ZANELE GUMEDE: Oh god! The audience made me to be more ambitious, to be more—I mean I have a lot of courage because they are so wonderful. They are so wonderful. They believe in opera You see, they make you believe in yourself.

[The sound of men singing opera]

KING: But the singers also had to convince the many opera lovers and music professionals in the audience. And judging by the reaction of opera singer Katarina Karneuss, the singers from South Africa proved they can sing on a world stage.

KATARINA KARNEUSS: I am speechless. It's been an amazingly magical evening. I've discovered some beautiful singers, young talents. I'm just almost speechless. It was a fantastic evening and these people need all the support they can get so that they can come and audition, they can come and study here in American or even Europe. They need absolutely all the support they can get and I urge people to help these people because they are fantastic.

KING: And due to their unique musical heritage these South African singers can do more than just master the operas of old Europe. And so they gave their New York audience a taste of opera Kwa Zulu style.

[The sound of South African music]

KING: For Common Ground, I'm Nathan King in New York.

[The sound of singing South African music]

MCHUGH: Coming up next, the winner of this year's World Food Prize. You're listening to Common Ground, radio's weekly program on world affairs.

[Musical interlude]

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World Food Prize

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      MP3

Related Links
The World Food Prize
http://www.worldfoodprize.org/Symposium/index.htm
United Nations World Food Programme
http://www.wfp.org/
UN Undersecretary General for Management Catherine Bertini
http://www.unwire.org/UNWire/20030717/449_6657.asp

Tell Us What You Think

 

MCHUGH: The World Food Prize was established in 1986 to honor individuals who have advanced the cause of ending world hunger. The founders envisioned it as an equivalent of the Nobel Prize complete with a $250,000 award. The 2003 World Food Prize is going to an American woman who spent 10 years leading the United Nations World Food Program. Today, Catherine Bertini is the UN Under Secretary General for Management. She spoke with Keith just before the award ceremony in Des Moines, Iowa.

WORLD FOOF PRIZE LAUREATE CATHERINE BERTINI: I was speechless when they first called from the World Food Prize to tell me I was the laureate. The World Food Prize is well known for honoring people who have really made a difference to help people be able to eat around the world. And in this case they're giving this honor to me and to really to all the people who work for the World Food Program, feeding people worldwide.

PORTER: During all that time you spent at the World Food Program as the Executive Director, what was your proudest accomplishment? What are you most proud of from that time period?

BERTINI: Well, I'm most proud that we were able to refocus our efforts to get food to women. It sounds like something that's so basic that it wouldn't even need to be discussed or thought about. But we were distributing food in the past just to, without any special direction. And once we defined our mission, that being to end hunger, we then had to figure out how that's done in a household. 'Cause after all, hunger, ending hunger means that someone has more to eat and doesn't have to worry about the effects of being hungry. So, so we said, "Well, who is responsible for that?" And the answer is, throughout the developing world, in virtually all households it's the women. And that means we have to get food to women. If we have to get food to women that means we have to ask the women what kind of food they need. And, and what's easiest to cook, since they also have to get the water and the firewood and everything else. And then that means we need to have enough women on our staff to talk to women, 'cause in some societies men can't talk to women. So it had a snowballing effect based on a very basic piece of information, which is our mission is to end hunger and the people in the households who are dedicated to doing that are women.

PORTER: And that seems to be one of the things that's a common threat through much of the development programs that I see—the micro-credit and other kinds of technologies that you try to introduce. Sometimes they'll go into a village and, and you'll talk to the village elders and nothing will happen. But on the second try you go back and you talk to the people who really matter and then things happen.

BERTINI: Yeah, right. The village elder or the mayor or whomever, they don't know necessarily what the day-to-day lives are like about desperately poor people who are struggling to make ends meet. But the women in the community do. And if we can organize as the World Food Program has, groups of women in leadership roles in different communities, then we can learn more about what's necessary. And I'm not the first laureate to talk about this because in fact Muhammad Yunus, who is a laureate of the World Food Prize, talks about his lending programs where he found that when he lent to women he got a lot more out of those resources than when he lent to men.

PORTER: Where do the biggest challenges lie in ending world hunger? Are they in technology? Are they in agriculture? Are they in politics? Where are the biggest challenges?

BERTINI: They are in access and they're in the elimination of poverty. What we see on the news are the stark examples of people cut off from food because of floods or droughts or because of wars. What we don't see on the news are the almost 800 million people who are hungry and poor. They're hungry because they're poor and they're poor because they're hungry. They're not living in the middle of a natural disaster. There are not people shooting guns around them. They're just poor. And those are the people where we still have to address most of our resources. However, most of the resources go to those people who are living in conflict or in a natural disaster because that's where the press goes.

PORTER: What should the people or the governments in the world's richest countries be doing right now to end world hunger?

BERTINI: They should be putting more resources into concrete efforts to improve economies, to decrease poverty, and to end hunger. The US is proud that it is a major contributor worldwide. And for instance to the World Food Program the US is by far the largest donor, giving about half of the resources. However, when you look at what the US gives on a per capita basis compared to what other countries give, of the 22 wealthy countries in the world, the OECD countries, the US is 22nd in terms of its per capita contributions to—through the government—to individuals in need throughout the world. If you look at the contributions also given by the private sector—by individuals, through NGO's and religious institutions and so forth, the US moves up a few notches, but it's still in the teens in terms of where it sits among wealthy countries for how well, how much it gives per capita. So while we think we're generous we could be far, far more generous in this country.

PORTER: I have one last question for you on this. Your new assignment, your latest assignment, is Under Secretary General for Management at the United Nations. It seems to me that you've gone from one very challenging job to another. And I'm wondering, what's the bigger challenge—ending world hunger or reforming the bureaucracy at the United Nations?

BERTINI: Well, this is exactly what one of my colleagues at the University of Michigan said before, before I left. He said, "I'm not sure if there was one thing more challenging than ending world hunger and maybe it's the job you're moving to now." It is a management challenge. There's no question about it. However, there are a lot of systems in place that have been improved over the last few years. A new personnel management system, a new recruitment system, a new information technology system. And so there, there has been a lot of movement in the last few years. And what Kofi Annan, the Secretary General wants to do and asked me to do, is move those some steps further. To streamline, further streamline the bureaucracy to work on building its efficiencies, to work on eliminating duplication between the agencies and, and to really maximize the strengths of the UN. We have a lot to do but again we have a lot of expertise and a lot of people dedicated to helping the Secretary General actually achieve his reforms. He started in 1977 with a series of reforms and he's, he's done very well implementing those. So this is his next round and I'm honored to be there to help carry them out.

PORTER: Catherine Bertini is the UN Under Secretary General for Management and winner of the 2003 World Food Prize.

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German Jazz Cruise

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Related Links
Rheingau Musik Festival
http://www.accenture.com/xd/xd.asp?it=enweb&xd=events%5Csponsorship%5Ceven_rmf.xml
Germany From World Press Review
http://worldpress.org/profiles/Germany.cfm

Tell Us What You Think

 

[The sound of Dixie land music]

PORTER: Ah, the sound of traditional jazz played aboard ship, floating lazily down the river. Sounds like a cruise down the Mississippi to New Orleans. But as Common Ground Special Correspondent Reese Erlich found out, this riverboat cruises the Rhine near Frankfurt. And German fans feel just as passionate about the music as their American counterparts.

[The sound of Dixieland music]

REESE ERLICH: According to stereotype, Germans drink beer and listen to oompah music. Well, some do. But here on the Riverboat Shuffle, part of the annual Rheingau Music Festival, they are just as likely to be sipping Riesling and listening to the music of New Orleans.

[The sound of Dixieland music]

ERLICH: What is your name?

DIEDER PFIFER: Dieder Pfifer.

ERLICH: When did you start liking jazz?

PFIFER: Oh, I think when I was 15. I heard music from Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald. I think the people like the Dixieland, and not the modern jazz. 'Cause modern is not good for my ears.

FEMALE PASSENGER: Let's go further upstairs.

ERLICH: There's the band.

FEMALE PASSENGER: All right.

ERLICH: Is that them?

ERLICH: Many Germans say they love jazz. But by the time the music crosses the Atlantic, the definition gets stretched considerably. The Riverboat Shuffle has four bands, playing traditional jazz, boogie woogie, zydeco, and New Orleans-style rhythm and blues.

[The sound of New Orleans R&B]

ERLICH: Hartmut Schroder is director of the jazz cruise.

ERLICH: [Now interviewing Mr. Schroder directly] The definition of jazz is pretty loose.

HARTMUT SCHRODER: It is. And it is, I think as loose here as anywhere else. Well, everything that isn't classical music and everything that isn't pop is jazz.

[The sound of New Orleans R&B]

SCHRODER: Our audience is usually middle aged and older who are well situated. That is just our typical audience. This audience that goes to jazz here does also go to classical music and other parts of our festival. And in Frankfurt you have a lot of bank workers and they are one of our main audience. Bankers for jazz.

[The sound of Dixieland music]

ERLICH: Florian Abel, another organizer of the event, says the audience can relax on the sun deck, getting a river view of the region's castles, monasteries, and vineyards. And then he spots the famous Lorelei mountain, and explains the myth that surrounds it.

FLORIAN ABEL: This girl called Lorelei has fallen in love and couldn't get the man she wanted. And then she waited at the top of this mountain. The sailors were falling in love with her and crushed into the mountains and sank. She's now sitting up there up to the hills.

ERLICH: Now, presumably, your captain is not in love with Lorelei.

ABEL: We hope that he doesn't love Lorelei. He's married. Maybe he's putting wax into his ears.

ERLICH: On this cruise the captain may not be the only one needing wax in his ears. The music can get very intense.

[The sound of a loud boogie woogie piano trio]

ERLICH: Christoph Oester, a native of Frankfurt, bangs out a bad boogie woogie.

[The sound of Christoph Oester speaking in German, receiving applause, and starting a new boogie woogie piano tune]

ERLICH: Oester initially studied classical music. Then after 10 years of playing the European classics, he fell in love with boogie woogie.

CHRISTOPH OESTER: I played some music from Liszt and integrate something of this music in my boogie piano style. Some of this classical trained virtuosity, you can hear in my own piano style.

ERLICH: Oester also studied the recordings of everyone from boogie woogie masters of the 1930s to modern day jazz-rock musician Dr. John.

OESTER: They played this kind of music in the early '30s and the late '20s, yeah. The influence of this music to rock piano, to soul piano, and to funk piano is enormous.

ERLICH: Strictly speaking Riverboat Shuffle may not be a jazz cruise. But the 1,000 Germans on board dig the music. And the joint sure is jumping. For Common Ground, I'm Reese Erlich cruising the Rhine in Germany.

MCHUGH: That's our show for this week. If you have questions or comments about today's program, visit our Web site at commongroundradio.org or e-mail us at commonground@commongroundradio.org . Please drop us a line—we'd love to hear from you.

PORTER: Transcripts and information on how to order copies of this and other Common Ground programs are also available on our Web site: commongroundradio.org. I'm Keith Porter.

MCHUGH: I'm Kristin McHugh. Cliff Brockman is our Associate Producer. B.J. Liederman created our theme music. Additional compositions by Wink Music.

ANNOUNCER: Common Ground is a Stanley Foundation production. The Stanley Foundation: promoting public understanding, constructive dialogue, and cooperative action on critical international issues. On the Web at stanleyfoundation.org.

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