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Archive for the ‘James Busumtwi-Sam’ Category

A Backgrounder on Human Insecurity and Peacebuilding: Diaspora Perspectives and Roles

This post was written by James Busumtwi-Sam, Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science at Simon Fraser University and Member of the Project Management Team and Project Advisory Committee.

Achieving ‘security’ means different things to different people but in general it involves protecting certain core values (human life, livelihoods, property, etc.) from harm. The notion of ‘human security’ attempts to redefine the traditional approach to security in international affairs from a preoccupation with state/national security to include the security of individuals and groups. The term ‘peacebuilding’ includes a wide range of activities undertaken to transform a hitherto insecure and conflictual situation/relationship, prevent violence, and achieve accommodation or reconciliation between individuals and groups at the community, regional and national levels.

That there is a relationship between ‘development’ (or the lack thereof) and ‘insecurity’ is by now well established. Twenty-five of the world’s 35 poorest countries have experienced a major armed conflict in the last three decades. Since the early 1990s policymakers, practitioners, and scholars have attempted to develop a formula to build and sustain peace, and enhance human security in the aftermath of armed conflict. UN agencies and the major bilateral and multilateral aid donors adopted a formula that generally entailed internationally supported efforts to monitor and enforce peace agreements; provide humanitarian relief, rehabilitate and resettle affected populations; and disarm, demobilize, and reintegrate ex-combatants. The strategy also included broader political and socioeconomic reforms designed to promote a particular type of development centred on democratic governance and a market economy.

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Diasporas and Global Health

Professor James Busumtwi-Sam speaks at the Engaging Diasporas in Development dialogue "Poverty reduction and economic Growth" Photo: Greg Ehlers.

This post was written by James Busumtwi-Sam, Member of the Project Management Team and Project Advisory Committee as well as Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science at Simon Fraser University.

What is health? According to the 1946 WHO constitution it is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Today this definition is widely accepted, as is the notion that, in addition to its biomedical and technical elements, we should be concerned with the broader social determinants of health as shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels. This broadened understanding of and approach to health reflects increased awareness that health issues are affected by factors traditionally considered outside the health sector. Globalization and the proliferation of non-governmental actors and institutions (public and private) strongly influence the ability of national and local authorities to protect and promote public health, but profound health disparities exist across the globe. Situating health within the context of broader social determinants provides a better understanding of the sources of health inequities.

The absence of equity in the provision of health services is considered to be one of the major impediments to achieving positive health outcomes. The WHO’s 1998 World Health Report Health for All in the 21st Century, linked good health to the advancement of human rights, greater equity, and gender equality among other things. Social determinant of health generate health inequalities. An emphasis on health equity implies that need — not income/wealth, power and privilege — should be the major determinant of health-care access and ultimately of health outcomes. This notion was embodied in the 1978 Alma Ata Declaration. However, the profound disparities in health opportunities and outcomes across the world today, indicate quite a divergence between recognizing a ‘right to health’ in principle and in practice.

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Panos Network provides a new lens for international development

In 2007 the Panos Institute of Canada teamed up with public health specialist and photographer Pieter de Vos to produce AIDS in Two Cities: a photography project highlighting the common elements of HIV/AIDS issues in Port-au-Prince and Vancouver. Photos: Pieter de Vos - AIDS in Two Cities.

This post was written by James Busumtwi-Sam, Member of the Project Management Team and Project Advisory Committee as well as Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science at Simon Fraser University.

Faced with complexity, it is often prudent to simplify. To that end, we have invented concepts like “left” and “right” as tools to better understand politics, and use broad categories like “middle class” or “below the poverty line” to build manageable categories out of unwieldy continuums. In some instances, these simplifications help us to make sense of the context in which our busy lives unfold. In other cases, they obscure important dimensions of reality, generate unrealistic perceptions of the world and throw up barriers to achieving a more equitable, just and sustainable global society. The portrayal of the world in terms of a “global north” and a “global south” is a case in point.

According to Jon Tinker, founder of the Panos Network and Executive Director of the Panos Institute of Canada, the concept of a global “north” and “south” is a relic of a bygone era. In the wake of the Second Word War, as communism spread and the powers of Western Europe and North America moved to check its expansion, it became useful to think in terms of a world divided between the First World West, the Second World East and the Third World South. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Warsaw Pact, the Second World was dropped and a simplistic two-part vision of the world remained.

Jon Tinker thinks it’s high time this conceptual hand-me-down is tossed in the dustbin of history. He points out that the “North and South are no longer broadly distinct and homogeneous groups. Today, they are overlapping and heterogeneous categories, with at best only a historical validity” He argues that, while the “North/South lens” was sometimes useful to the social justice and development movements, ultimately “using [it] is not just lazy. It’s dangerous. It hinders us from seeing, let alone addressing, today’s unjust and socially unsustainable imbalances of power and wealth.”

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