2012 was a busy year, this is a small selection of the experiences I had in Haiti, Palestine and Jordan. As many people may know that read this, my main focal points of interest are the Middle East and Latin America. This year I was able to fully accomplish a broad spectrum of things that I wanted to do in these regions.
In Haiti I had my first encounter with South-South cooperation. In 2012 there has been a lot written about South-South cooperation. Is it a solution for the current dilemma’s in International Aid? While in the Western countries we see an expert based international cooperation, what I saw with the Brazilian NGO Viva Rio was totally different. The employees were closely connected to the Haitians, they were not part of the international community in Haiti nor the Haitians population, but lived a life in between the two. In stead of being behind their desks, they were on the spot reaching out to people. I think this is the most beautiful thing of this type of cooperation, because southern souls meet each other and create something. Haitians are emancipated, they participate in projects, there is ownership.
What I experienced was a type of less structured form of Aid. Not to many rules about safety, ethics, … only in the department where they apply for funding was a professionally western style run department. This is meanly because most of there funding comes from Western Organizations, so they still have to obey the Western rules of the game.
The experience I had I can't extrapolate to a broader opinion on South-South cooperation, because I don't think Viva Rio is representative for all thing that happens around South-South cooperation, but it can be representative for the Brazilian way. It's widely know that Brazil wants a seat in the UN Security Council and that I want to build up an international reputation. More then other BRIC's Brazils underlines the social aspects of International Cooperation. I call this type of Cooperation Humanistic. Brazil is able to put social issues on the table when it come to cooperation. And this is what I saw at Viva Rio, projects that promote social cohesion and tackle social issues like drug abuse, aggression, arms control...
I only left for one day Port-Au-Prince(PaP), I was always in the city quite dependent on the organization because security issues. 3 people every day get killed in PaP, so some caution has to be taken. The reputation of PaP is bad abroad, bad but my Haitians friends in Belgium tell me that it's not more dangerous then in other countries of the Caribbean. The reason why Haiti is perceived more dangerous then other counties in the region is probably because there is a big difference in income with a Gini coefficient of 0,6 is one of the most unequal countries in the world.
In Palestine I was able to meet a different spectrum of social organization's, political parties and international organization's. Let's begin with the Balfour declaration (1912): His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.
A foreign power legitimized the occupation of the Palestine, this is the basis of the state of Israel. The second part states clearly that the Israeli settlers should respect the other communities. Instead what I saw in Israel was that the State of Israel absorbed these communities and exiled the Arab majority. I witnessed this the Baqa'a camp in Jordan, where 300.000 Palestinians are living since the “six day war”. There can't be peace with out the right of Palestinians to return to their homelands. Like the Arabs can't deny the Jews from living in Palestine the way around should also be a fact. Jews have the right to live in Palestine, I don't think they need a foreign country to tell them that, but they don't have the right to take away this right from the other communities. What a saw was a country where the vast majority of Arab citizens was considered as second rang citizens. In the free lands, Gaza and the West Banks, the Arabs live under the control of Israel. Making their lives very difficult. The prices are as high as in Israel and the wages are as low as in India. I was able to meet the trade unions, they fight every day for better wages, but the Gazans and the people from the West Bank are so dependent of international donors. That colonization of Israel has become the cheapest in the world because other countries pay the price.
The second time that I was in Palestine in the mid of social upheaval. Everybody was striking, Ramallah was a ghost town. I happy to see the Palestinians fighting for their socioeconomic rights, the pay a double price, one the occupation and two the socioeconomic problems.
Jordan is county of refugees, first the Palestinians now the Syrians. I had the possibility to make a report about the Zatari refugee camp. I got the contact of the liaison officer of Unhcr in Jordan, he put me in contact with the official press office of Jordan. From them I got a permission to go the camp. I went together with a Brazilian photographer Jean Schwarz on the last day of my stay in Jordan. On the road to Almafraq the region where the Zatari camp is located we saw huge sandstorms that that sometimes passed over the camp. We got some difficulties to get in, I could believe what I saw. Tents as far as the eye can reach. We got a guide, but I soon as I could I left him because I didn't want censored information. We were able to talk with the refugees and they told us the biggest horror stories. They were all waiting to go back to Syria, because they were bored of the stay in the camp. There was nothing to do. At the moment there were some 40.000 refugees in the camp. Most of them are poor, the richer ones rent a houses in Almafraq or go to Amman. At the moment there 550.000 refugees most of them children. They carry the most difficult burden because they are deprived of education and a safe physical and social environment. They have to grow up early, to support their families. Most of them experienced or witnessed violence in Syria. The children are traumatized, because of there high numbers it's hard to give social support to all of them.