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PSA

Our friends at Global Voices Online asked us to pass along the following announcement:

Rising Voices Seeks Micro-Grant Proposals for Health-Related New Media Outreach

Rising Voices, the outreach arm of Global Voices, in collaboration with the Open Society Institute Public Health Program’s Health Media Initiative, is now accepting project proposals for the third round of microgrant funding of up to $5,000 for new media outreach projects focused especially on public health issues involving marginalized populations.

More info after the jump. Ideal applicants are dynamic NGOs or individuals who:

* Represent the vital voices of communities affected by stigmatized health issues whose stories, viewpoints, and experiences are often marginalized, unheard, or misrepresented in mainstream media. These communities include people living with HIV and AIDS and/or tuberculosis, people with mental illnesses or intellectual disabilities, injecting drug users, sex workers, LGBTI individuals, people in need of palliative care services, and Roma facing discrimination in healthcare settings.
* Are enthusiastic about using new, interactive modes of communication to build relationships and establish dialogue on the important advocacy issues of their community.
* Envision and highly prioritize media and communication strategies to achieve the advocacy goals of their organization.

Pre-requisite for the competition:

* Organizations must have their own website or participate in a network website.

Rising Voices and OSI aim to bring new voices from new communities and speaking new languages to the conversational web, by providing resources and funding to local groups reaching out to underrepresented communities. Examples of potential projects include:

* Working with a tuberculosis or HIV clinic or local drop-in center with the offer of training health workers, local harm reduction or sex worker outreach workers, patients, and their families to blog and upload video, in order to document their work, their experiences, and their community.
* Use blogs, podcasts, and online video to help give voice and representation to LGBTI communities and advocate for their rights.
* Distribute mp3 recorders to a local NGO working on palliative care issues, and help them produce monthly audio testimonials and/or interviews featuring stories and experiences of participants, for uploading to the NGO’s website.
* Organizing a regular workshop on blogging and photography at a legal aid center representing the rights of people living with mental disabilities. Part of the budget could be used to purchase affordable digital video cameras and internet café costs, so that participants can describe their challenges and life experiences to a global audience.
* Purchasing an affordable digital video camera and teaching a group of local Roma community outreach workers how to produce an ongoing video-blog documentary about their work, which could then be posted to the organization’s website and linked to other networks’ websites.

Rising Voices outreach grants will range from $1,000 to $5,000. Special consideration will be given to proposals from Sub-Saharan Africa and the Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and the Caucusus. Please be as thoughtful, specific, and realistic as possible when drafting your budgets.

Successful projects will be prominently featured on Global Voices.

Completed applications will be accepted no later than Sunday, June 1st in either English or Russian. Please submit your application on the Rising Voices apply page. Russian-language proposals should be submitted here. All applicants will receive a confirmation email by June 3. Grantees will be announced on June 28 at the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit in Budapest, Hungary.

***

The OSI Public Health Program’s Health Media Initiative aims to increase public awareness of health issues, especially stigmatized health issues involving marginalized populations. The initiative focuses on supporting health NGOs to develop their relationships with journalists across all media platforms so they may communicate health and human rights issues effectively with the public. Where the media environment is especially hostile, OSI also supports “community journalism” initiatives to encourage NGOs to use digital technology to communicate their stories and issues to each other and to the world at large. The initiative also seeks to build the capacity of media professionals to report responsibly on public health issues.

Rising Voices aims to help bring new voices from new communities and speaking new languages to the conversational web, by providing resources and funding to local groups reaching out to underrepresented communities.

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Friday Morning Coffee

Japanese whisky beats Scotch?

Top Stories

>>China – Envoys from the Dalai Lama will travel to China on Saturday for informal talks. China has blamed the exiled Buddhist leader for fomenting the March 10 unrest in Tibet, which it claims was aimed at distracting attention from the Beijing Olympic Games in August. This is the seventh round of dialog between China and the Dalai Lama’s envoys since 2002. While the envoys are there, they can visit Beijing airport’s newly opened terminal 3 (the largest building in the world), a factory that will soon produce one in four bibles, and the world’s longest sea bridge. If I were them, I’d avoid Mia Farrow though.

>>Iraq – Turkish bombers launched three hours of fierce raids on northern Iraq last night. No casualties were reported. The raids were targeting senior PKK members in Iraq’s remote Qandil mountains.

>>Germany – A rally by 6,000 left-wing demonstrators to protest a rally by Germany’s extreme right-wing National Democratic Party broke bad yesterday in Hamburg, as protesters set cars on fire and pelted police with bottles. Water cannons were used to quell the violence. May Day typically brings violent street protests to German cities, but these may have been the worst in years.

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Don’t Throw the Biofuels out with the Bathwater

Commenting on the rush to blame biofuels for the global food crisis, the UN’s Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes has warned against “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” His ideas were echoed by Lennart Baage of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, who said, “It is important not to go to extremes.”

In fact, there are a number of experts trying to dispel the myth that biofuels are the sole or primary force behind the unfolding global food crisis. As I have discussed previously on UN Dispatch, the processes that have caused the spike in food prices are numerous and complex (including increased demand, rising oil prices, the weak dollar, commodity speculation, trade distortions), and policymakers should avoid making a scapegoat out of biofuels simply because it is politically expedient.

The truth is that sound policy toward biofuels can be extremely beneficial for the developing world. Nobody has said that the shift to biofuels from fossil fuels has been perfectly executed, but you would be hard pressed to find an energy expert who says that the situation presented by fossil fuel reliance is a sustainable path. The initial move toward biofuels offers developing countries an opportunity to develop natural resources and infrastructure that will help lead away from oil addiction, with the significant environmental, economic and security benefits that implies. Policymakers have already learned many lessons about the “smart” and “dumb” ways to manage the production and sale of plant-based fuel, and with this experience leaders will be all the more prepared to deploy the next generation of biofuels (made from non-food plants and agricultural waste products), which will be even further dissociated with the limitations of the current generation.

John Holmes and Lennart Baage are right, managing food and energy requires a longer-term perspective and casting blame is counterproductive. The food crisis should be approached as a whole and responses must be measured. Thankfully, the UN is prepared to take a cautious approach, so at least on the international level, it seems unlikely that the world will throw the biofuels out with the bathwater.

Current UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has initiated immediate and sweeping responses to prevent dire impacts from rapidly escalating food prices. And former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is stressing the importance of long-term investment in agriculture, as part of a drive toward a second “green revolution” in Africa. He estimates that food production on the continent could be doubled or tripled through such a change. Unfortunately, this is made difficult as a result of such factors as drought and lack of property rights for farmers in many African countries. If these problems can be overcome, however, the African continent could quickly move simultaneously toward growing its own food and securing its economic, energy and environmental future.

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Don’t Throw the Biofuels out with the Bathwater

Commenting on the rush to blame biofuels for the global food crisis, the UN’s Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes has warned against “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” His ideas were echoed by Lennart Baage of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, who said, “It is important not to go to extremes.”

In fact, there are a number of experts trying to dispel the myth that biofuels are the sole or primary force behind the unfolding global food crisis. As I have discussed previously on UN Dispatch, the processes that have caused the spike in food prices are numerous and complex (including increased demand, rising oil prices, the weak dollar, commodity speculation, trade distortions), and policymakers should avoid making a scapegoat out of biofuels simply because it is politically expedient.

The truth is that sound policy toward biofuels can be extremely beneficial for the developing world. Nobody has said that the shift to biofuels from fossil fuels has been perfectly executed, but you would be hard pressed to find an energy expert who says that the situation presented by fossil fuel reliance is a sustainable path. The initial move toward biofuels offers developing countries an opportunity to develop natural resources and infrastructure that will help lead away from oil addiction, with the significant environmental, economic and security benefits that implies. Policymakers have already learned many lessons about the “smart” and “dumb” ways to manage the production and sale of plant-based fuel, and with this experience leaders will be all the more prepared to deploy the next generation of biofuels (made from non-food plants and agricultural waste products), which will be even further dissociated with the limitations of the current generation.

John Holmes and Lennart Baage are right, managing food and energy requires a longer-term perspective and casting blame is counterproductive. The food crisis should be approached as a whole and responses must be measured. Thankfully, the UN is prepared to take a cautious approach, so at least on the international level, it seems unlikely that the world will throw the biofuels out with the bathwater.

Current UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has initiated immediate and sweeping responses to prevent dire impacts from rapidly escalating food prices. And former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is stressing the importance of long-term investment in agriculture, as part of a drive toward a second “green revolution” in Africa. He estimates that food production on the continent could be doubled or tripled through such a change. Unfortunately, this is made difficult as a result of such factors as drought and lack of property rights for farmers in many African countries. If these problems can be overcome, however, the African continent could quickly move simultaneously toward growing its own food and securing its economic, energy and environmental future.

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The Meaning of “Realism”

Security Council countries took a turn at word interpretation yesterday, somewhat ambiguously invoking the need for “realism” in negotiations between Western Sahara and Morocco, which has occupied the desert territory since 1975. What this means in reality — no pun intended — is that outright independence is likely off the table for Western Sahara. The Security Council renewed the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force that has maintained a ceasefire there since 1991, but the Council’s president in April, South African Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo, objected to what he perceived as powerful countries’ bias toward Morocco in the dispute.

“This council has made a mistake. They sent a wrong message to Morocco, thinking that they will always support Morocco,” Kumalo told reporters after the vote, adding that he nevertheless voted in favor because he still held out hopes for the negotiations.

In a statement to the council after the vote, he said the reference to realism could set a precedent in other conflicts, such as that between Israelis and Palestinians, that the principle “might is right” would hold sway.

Kumalo also complained that the resolution drafted by France, Russia, Spain, Britain and the United States omitted any reference to human rights, a sensitive subject for Morocco. He said such an omission was a case of double standards.

I can’t help but notice that Kumalo’s examples conspicuously did not include Zimbabwe, where Robert Mugabe’s faltering government has long benefited from South Africa’s protection. If it is “realistic” to downplay the prospect of Western Saharan independence, then surely it is equally so to acknowledge the electoral defeat that even Zimbabwe seems ready to admit. For South Africa to continue to shield Mugabe, then, would represent an entirely unambiguous “case of double standards.”

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The Meaning of “Realism”

Security Council countries took a turn at word interpretation yesterday, somewhat ambiguously invoking the need for “realism” in negotiations between Western Sahara and Morocco, which has occupied the desert territory since 1975. What this means in reality — no pun intended — is that outright independence is likely off the table for Western Sahara. The Security Council renewed the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force that has maintained a ceasefire there since 1991, but the Council’s president in April, South African Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo, objected to what he perceived as powerful countries’ bias toward Morocco in the dispute.

“This council has made a mistake. They sent a wrong message to Morocco, thinking that they will always support Morocco,” Kumalo told reporters after the vote, adding that he nevertheless voted in favor because he still held out hopes for the negotiations.

In a statement to the council after the vote, he said the reference to realism could set a precedent in other conflicts, such as that between Israelis and Palestinians, that the principle “might is right” would hold sway.

Kumalo also complained that the resolution drafted by France, Russia, Spain, Britain and the United States omitted any reference to human rights, a sensitive subject for Morocco. He said such an omission was a case of double standards.

I can’t help but notice that Kumalo’s examples conspicuously did not include Zimbabwe, where Robert Mugabe’s faltering government has long benefited from South Africa’s protection. If it is “realistic” to downplay the prospect of Western Saharan independence, then surely it is equally so to acknowledge the electoral defeat that even Zimbabwe seems ready to admit. For South Africa to continue to shield Mugabe, then, would represent an entirely unambiguous “case of double standards.”

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