Sunday, March 01, 2015
Thursday, January 30, 2014
BREAKING: Justin Bieber gets a DUI. In other news: Syria, South Sudan, Iran, Central African Republic…
— Samantha Power (@AmbassadorPower) January 23, 2014
But there are good reporters out there, telling the story, such as Sigfrid Modola from Reuters, or Thomas Fessy from BBC, or Marcus Bleasdale. They are taking risks and doing their job, to show the rest of us how war is changing the human landscape of Central African Republic. Why we don't see more journalists on the ground, it's difficult to say. Perhaps of fear. Perhaps of lack of funding or support from their bosses. And I also understand journalists who are not traveling there. I do find it difficult stop looking at those eyes, that fear of mother and child: One cannot go back to write about banalities after witnessing images like the photo above.
Another kew witness to what has happened in Central African Republic is Peter Bouckart, from Human Rights Watch. In his dispatch "We will take our revenge" I found a story that I found extremely important, not only because of its sadness, but because some people are still doing the right thing, even though hate and revenge is drowning the hopes for peace.
Fatimatu Yamsa was a young Muslim woman. She wanted to leave the city of Boyali, escaping from the violence which has changed everything in a matter of days in Central African Republic. With her was her 7 month old baby.
Knowing that she was going to die, desperate to save her baby, Fatimatu asked the Christian woman sitting next to her in the truck, to take the baby and pretend it was hers. Fatimatu wanted her baby to live. Fatimatu and two other Muslim women and their four children were taken out of the truck. One child managed to escape, but the others were taken into the local Mosque by the Christian militias. These three women and three children were hacked to death with men - and children - all blinded by hate.
Often when tragedies like this happen, we are paralyzed by its terror and maybe we may feel somehow content that it's far away, it's not close enough, we don't care, we may even don't know where that country is. It's difficult to stop these crimes to happen. It's then difficult to see how the social fabric, that intricate bond between groups of people can mended, when violence is changing everything around us. If we don't have enough observers, those who can find the stories of cohesion, then there will be one single narrative, and that is a dangerous thing, because it can leave violence alone, to continue its devastating force. We know from the story told by Peter Bouckart, with the tragic example of Fatimatu Yamsa, that there are people in times of war who are not murderers. There are people who have saved people from the other side. There are people who have done their best to work for peace, but their voice is too lonely, too weak, too seldom. We have to find them, and we have to give them a powerful microphone, and to amplify the message of compassion, solidarity, love for life. It should not be that difficult. And we need both more journalists on the ground, and we need agencies who are willing and able to support the reconstruction as soon as possible of the social fabric in Central African Republic.
And yes, Fatimatu's baby was saved. The Christian woman did the right thing, and reunited the baby with Fatimatu's family.
Friday, September 13, 2013
”Imagine if governments could tell people: What is happening to you is not right! What is happening to you is unfair! But the situation at the moment is not like that. Internal displacement is a betrayal. It’s a betrayal because someone is displacing you. And the country you are a citizen of is not protecting you. Imagine then there is a legal framework that says ”in spite of something terrible happening to you in our country, we are going to help you, because that is my right and duty as a government. That is my duty as a citizen, as a fellow brother and sister. That is hope. Hope is a sail. It can bring you somewhere. When you move forward you change something. You change what you had before, you change where you are going. And that, friends, is development.
Sunday, July 28, 2013
And here is what got me thinking today:
Obama expresses great concern over inequality yet surrounds himself by Wall Street bankers. He is mesmerized or trapped by great wealth.
— Jeffrey D. Sachs (@JeffDSachs) July 28, 2013
Thursday, May 30, 2013
|My father as a political prisoner in Arica, Chile, 1973. (5th from left)|
It started in so many meetings with good people who changed my father's life and my own in small ways, a smile, a sandwich, a word of encouragement. I am also thankful to the people who made this happen in pure practical terms, writing the letters of recommendation. You know who you are, and I am most thankful. It could never have happened without the generous contribution of the sponsor, the Kistefos Public Service Fellowship Fund in Norway. And what can I do to pay back? I could perhaps invite you to never stop doing what people did to me, when I was in need, 39 years ago, give someone a sandwich, hope, generosity.
I could invite you to continue believing that everyone can travel far and to support those whom you see are in despair, and when doing so, changing someone's life a moment at the time.
I know that every now and then, magic happens. And I know where it started. In moments like those when you give to someone who need a meal, a hug, a tender smile, a word of encouragement. It works. Other people's life can be changed. By people like you.
Saturday, April 20, 2013
I remembered the words of Helle Gannestad,a young Norwegian girl who shortly after the Oslo attacks on July 22nd 2011, expressed her thoughts on what we together are able to do in contrast to hate, and I thought that her words could also be applied for the events of this week in Boston (with some minor edits):
"If just two people have all this hate, imagine how much all of us have together".
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Sunday, January 13, 2013
Sunday, December 30, 2012
Victor Jara's voice was, no, I should say is unforgettable.
All of us who have been in exile, have listened to his records.
We thought, we hoped, that maybe one day, justice would come.
And justice came, late indeed, but it came.
Here is my favorite song, Manifesto, with some images of those days which changed the life of millions.
Rest now in peace, Victor Jara. (For the lyrics in English, follow this link)
Saturday, December 29, 2012
It is just so much, students are brilliant, our professors are excellent, learned people and willing to share. The logistics are optimal. And we get so many guest speakers that I would just like to be here to attend those conferences.
The start of this program was already indicative of what was coming. For all Mason fellows, and later for all Mid Careers, quantitative classes were compulsory this summer, before all students came in. That was just to bring us up to the zero point where we needed to be before the serious stuff started. I had 4,5 courses this semester. (We can take maximum five courses in one semester). One of the greatest surprises was my class "Politics and policies: what can statistics tell us" with professor Deborah Hughes Hallett. One of the success criteria for this class was surely that is an extremely well thought and planned class. Everything was applicable to real issues, and we learned through case analysis. If you six months ago told me that I would actually enjoy this class, I would have said you were too optimistic. Our professor, "Deb", for everyone, is a legend within her field, and she who brought the 80-something students in her class through a respectable amount of curriculum. We are probably not going to be statisticians, but we learn how to make some pretty good questions.
Do not misunderstand me, I have enjoyed all classes this semester, and I could say that "The Homeland Security Enterprise" with professor Juliette Kayyem was a particular new experience for me, understanding how the US thinks and organizes its internal security, and this class in particular has been useful to understand how difficult it must be to run anything of a national policy in a country with 50-something states and territories. Federalism is not an easy thing...and I feel tempted to say... it is like herding cats!
Another class, "Controlling Weapons Proliferation", with professors William Tobey and Matthew Bunn, was an exquisite piece of learning for anyone who wants to know more in a systematic way how to calculate how long time does it take for a nation to enrich uranium, or to understand some of the secrets of negotiating on nuclear issues based on facts with some tough counterparts.Role plays, essays, memos, presentations, all techniques combined to give us an impression on how things can be done in this field.
I had also the great pleasure of learning more about social innovation, in a class called "Sparking Social Change", with professors Archon Fung and Mark Moore, where we went through how to be or reinforce our identity as change makers in any given context, using among other tools, the "Strategic Triangle", with concepts from different areas of planning, sociology and management. We pushed ourselves to think conceptually on what are we about to do, what is the public value we want to create, who or what is the authorizing environment and what is our legitimacy and support for this plan.
Finally, one of the highlights of this semester has been a course at Harvard Law School, with professor Bruce Hay, where a group of students gathered and discussed systematically several books and articles written by Hanna Arendt, the eminent German philosopher, starting with her book "Eichmann in Jerusalem". A full semester about Hanna Arendt! Imagine that privilege!
I am happy and I am thankful for this opportunity in life. Happy New Year to you all, my friends.
Friday, July 27, 2012
Friday, April 13, 2012
Three weeks ago, something extremely unusual happened to me. I got a letter from Harvard University, saying that I have been accepted as a Mason fellow, Mid-Career Master in Public Administration. Now, that letter alone would be one of the happiest moments in anyone's life, but it became better. A couple of weeks later, I received another letter, saying that I had been awarded the generous and prestigious Kistefos scholarship. In the last two weeks I have been all over the place. Happy, proud, smiling, and all the mixed feelings one can get when something spectacular happens in life. It is just a school. Just one year of work. It is just another huge amount of books to read and papers to write. It is just work, as it is normal in life. But it is Harvard! Yeah.
I am here at this point because I have received the help of many who have supported the process. Such as my friend Diego Osorio, who suggested I should apply, and who gave me crucial information and guidance. There are also three important people who wrote their letters of recommendations, and I will not mention them here, but they know that I am most grateful. Thank you, my friends! Thank you!
In today´s Norwegian newspaper called Verdens Gang - VG, there is an article called "From being a refugee to become a Harvard student" telling the story from their perspective. They are also writing that I did not want to have my life in parentheses while living in Norway, that I wanted to live it fully. I am now perhaps too old to say that there my future is still out there, but I do believe that, indeed. Many challenges are there and there are plenty of things that a simple guy from a tiny little city in the Atacama desert can do. And I have to say it: this is just the beginning.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
After leaving Timor-Leste a year ago, we went to Colombia, as a ProCap Senior Protection Officer, to work on coordination of protection issues and hired by the Norwegian Refugee Council. It has been a good year, besides seeing Colombia again and watching how much and how little things have changed in the ten years that have passed since I used to work there. But back to the title of this posting...which reminded me of the fact that I should tell the story to those of you who wants to know about Darfur. Some weeks ago I got a text message from a IDP camp in South Darfur, saying. "Hello Alfredo, we are eating camel at the market and we are wondering if you still are a vegetarian". This message is hilarious and impressive in so many ways. First, it is amazing that technology is giving us access to the most remote and hostile parts of the world. It is also an interesting message because I envisioned my Darfurian friends sitting there, in the midst of a huge refugee camp, having camel meat for lunch, and thinking of that Chilean friend of them who used to work there...five years ago. It was nothing romantic working in this place, but I wonder how they are doing, what are the challenges and what kind of future do they have. I hope that peace comes soon, very soon to the people of Darfur.
Thursday, January 06, 2011
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
Last month I was made aware of this footage and note aired by CNN, and the curious thing is that I did not know about this note. I remember the interview, but in the limelight of so many complicated events during those difficult months, I never saw it on TV. (For the record: my family name is misspelled at the beginning of the interview).
I realize that there so much information that is stored in places where we will never find them, and reality is still there, sometimes in our face, but we simply ignore it, due to so many reasons. Some of these reasons is the perception of an overload of information; sometimes it is because of political convenience, and sometimes, it is just because we think we don´t need to know everything around us. When finding this note last month, I thought I did not want to forget these people, as they do not forget us. So here they are, as I remember them from three years back.
The CNN note was published on January 26, 2007 — As seen on Foreign Exchange with Fareed Zakaria. The Pulitzer Center Director Jon Sawyer traveled in early 2006 to Sudan, where he spent a week with African Union peace monitors in Darfur.
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
I have not blogged in months, busy as I have been working on the rural schools and also on the exit strategy from our mission here in East Timor. I will tell you more about this later. Today I wanted to write about what happened in Chile on February 27th, when an earthquake of 8.8 on the Richter scale did shake my beautiful country, changing the life for hundreds of thousands of people. After the initial fear and violence of the quake, violence, looting and the absence of a culture of solidarity inflicts another trauma. The Government has called in the Army to keep public order. There are already some voices raise up discussing the reasons behind the lootings, but from my point of view, some things are important to be said. Humanitarian assistance is almost always insufficient. It is not enough for everyone. Information plays a crucial role, and people must be told what is happening, and if there is no certainty, at what time more information might be available. It is important to tell what kind of help will be given, where, how and to whom. Humanitarian space is required in order to provide such assistance. This space is provided by the parties and these must ensure the safety of those who provide assistance. I know that I may be writing a lot of theoretical nonsense for many, but for me, in certain occasions, it has been a valuable help to do my job in a good manner and to save lives. I believe that when things are difficult it allows also to move the best parts of human beings and to improve our society. Maybe, we could start with the simple things: no civil servant in Chile – or in the neighborhoods – will fall asleep when trained on disaster prevention or Sphere standards, etc. I believe that in difficult moments of life people must be told the truth, the whole truth, but also give them a horizon and a calendar. And comply with the promises. And if you can’t comply, you must tell. And I have seen that this works, social cohesion is possible to mend. With the truth..
Monday, July 06, 2009
This last weekend Valentina and I went to see some of the schools we are working on in the hills of Manatuto, east of Dili (Timor-Leste). So far it could be taken for any excursion in any poor country, where you expect roads to be full of holes and so forth. But forget everything you know about bad roads. The roads we went through this weekend were no roads. It took us about 4 hours of driving to move 20 kilometers, and mind you, this is not the rain season! The drive was worth though, beautiful little villages, and we met these resilient and strong kids.
|Click here to see Anicia, Alberto and Elias|
The villages, abandoned and almost forgotten by anyone else outside their valley, but with strong parents, pushing for assistance, and now someone has listened. An example is that a german NGO is setting up a water post, pipes, tanks. Another example is our own work. We are setting up simple schools in a traditional manner, working together with the parents of these kids, using local materials (as much as possible) and local labour. So back to the headline, "going somewhere"? It was very funny when coming back to the main road (full of holes and nevertheless it felt like a six lane highway) we saw this traffic sign. And then, I thought of you. And I stopped and got the photo.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
It had never occurred to me before that my best friend had become someone's dinner. My friend was my dog, Beatriz, or Betty among her friends (look at those eyes!). It happenned one evening when she was figuring out how to play "I run away and you come and catch me" sort of thing, but nobody was actually looking at that moment. So when we started looking, we had no idea where she was. Many hours later, looking everywhere and asking everyone, Betty was still missing. For weeks we drove around with a poster of her in our car, offering a reward and nothing. After a while, an old man told us that he knew who did eat her, but he could not tell. I believe him. This is after all, one of the less atractive characteristics of East Timor (it makes sense though from a food security point of view, but nevertheless, it is not very nice). I have since then actively spread the rumour that eating dog meat is bad for your masculinity. I have no statistics yet if the rumor is functioning.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Friday, October 31, 2008
A friend of mine asked me once what I have learnt while working in places far away from home. While trying to answer, I made this humble video
while I was still working in Kalma IDP camp in South Darfur.
It is hard stuff to watch. Do you dare to look? You will be surprised by these strong African women, resilient and brave. The strength of people, in the most difficult of enviroments, to find moments of normality and keep surviving...that is one of the lessons during these years of working abroad. (You will not find the usual crying babies in this video, but a lot of hope and rage). This montage was done while working in the field and has not being edited or improved. Rough, crude, and authentic. Take your time to read the subtitles at the end...