Tag Archives: Digital democracy

The Maldives on the map and finding a fan in Cameron.

Back in June, I was lucky enough to witness some of the goings on at the 17th meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, including an emergency session on the situation in Libya.  While unanimously condemned by the delegates, there was an absence of true revulsion at the situation until the Maldives took the floor. The delegate of this tiny group of islands (population 350,000) released such a passionate and hard-hitting condemnation of Libya it really took me by surprise and made the room squirm. Taking to Twitter (with something along the lines of ‘Go Maldives!” ) led to an RT by @ILoveMaldives, whose little blurb reads “1% Land & 99% Water- In the Maldives We Teach YOu The Art Of DOing Nothing- Please NO News And No Shoes here! :)” [sic]

From this, the Maldives sounded feisty, fun and I wanted to know more.   My interest was piqued in a bizarre interview with David Cameron in The Guardian recently when, and bear with me here,  street artist Eine hypothetically asked which 5 world leaders Dave would invite on hypothetical stag do, obviously organised by Berlusconi. Part of Dave’s answer was, “My new best friend is the President of the Maldives. He’s great.” What’s going on? Is this a bit like Gordon Brown attempting to boost his popularity by claiming a love for the Arctic Monkeys? Are the Maldives the new Arctic Monkeys?

The BFF in question, President Mohamed Nasheed, has been quietly creeping onto the world stage since election in 2008, taking office from a President who by all accounts ruled with an iron fist from 1978. President Nasheed’s activist roots at first makes you wonder what on earth he and Dave have in common…

Returning to the Maldives in 1989 after a British public school education and graduating with a degree in maritime law from Liverpool, Mohamed Nasheed (nicknamed Anni) was imprisoned and tortured by government forces for speaking out against the regime and accused of spreading Christianity. Nasheed was declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International in 1991 and eventually fled the Maldives in 2004 to be granted refugee status in Britain. Following another few years of return, arrest, imprisonment, becoming an MP, losing his seat, regaining his seat, Nasheed was eventually elected President in the first major democratic vote in the Maldives for decades.

Enemies continued to accuse him of spreading Christianity in a muslim country. A BBC article in 2008 claims Nasheed “enjoyed close links to foreign organisations such as Britain’s Conservative Party which undermined the country’s faith. He has strenuously denied the allegations.” The article is unclear whether the strenuous denial applies to spreading Christianity or to having links with the Conservative party. However, it seems the Conservatives had quite a lot to do with Nasheed’s presidential campaign including campaigning advice and even funding.

Cynicism aside, President Nasheed seems to be doing an alright job: the United Nation’s universal periodic review of the Maldives in 2010 uncovers the problems you would expect from a country under transition from dictatorship to democracy, including the population getting to grips with the concept and entitlement of human rights.

Environmental credentials are impressive; as the Maldives is seriously threatened by climate change due to rising sea levels, the aim is for the entire country to be carbon neutral within ten years. Nasheed was named Time Magazine Hero of the Environment in 2009 and one of the UN Champions of the Earth in 2010. Also in 2010,  Newsweek  placed Nasheed at Number 2 in their top ten of the world’s best leaders. And Number 1? David Cameron. I get the feeling this isn’t the last we’ve heard of this ‘special relationship’.


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Top 5 Apps for Rights Information

In John Pilger’s 2007 documentary ‘The War On Democracy’ we find the Venezuelan Constitution printed on the back of local produce packets sold in government sponsored supermarkets. This is a significant and effective way to empower the people and spread the message that rights belong to everybody.  After all, how can you begin to defend your rights if you don’t know what they are?

In the UK, as we face uncertainty over the future of our own Human Rights Act, we are a long way from inviting human rights into our homes and perusing them on cereal boxes over breakfast.  Instead, we can download these brilliant apps and take our rights everywhere we go!

1. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

This is where it all started. Members of the UN pledged to follow these 30 articles to preserve the dignity of the human. The home screen features a photograph of Eleanor Roosevelt with the original declaration where you choose your language from 14 options. Each article is laid out separately, it’s easy to read and use.  One step towards everyone knowing their rights. Download it right now! Available for iPhone/ iPad/ iPod.

2. International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

Once you’ve downloaded the UDHR which forms the basis of human rights law, you can find out about humanitarian law (the law of armed conflict) through the Red Cross and Red Crescent missions. Regularly updated information, photographs and films via YouTube, plus full reports.  There is a huge amount of information on this for a phone app, really impressive and a great resource. Available for iPhone/ Android/ iPad/ iPod.

3. Human Rights Watch.

Released in January 2011 and only available on the iPad at the moment, most likely due to the huge amount of content available. Catch up with weekly human rights news and Human Rights Watch’s excellent reports which allow you to take notes, bookmark and highlight text. Videos, photographs and podcasts. Would love to see this available for phones, if the ICRC can do it, HRW can!

4.  Facts On The Ground

APN, (Americans For Peace Now) created this app in September 2010 to map Israeli settlements in the West Bank.  APN claims to have “the most comprehensive, up-to-date and authoritative database on settlements in the world”. This app lets the user pinpoint individual settlements, access information on their size, population and year of establishment and see population trends. I’m not sure how often it is updated, but more detailed information is available on the web-based app. Available for iPhone/ iPad/ iPod.

5. Digital Democracy

An ambitious project from a small New York based NGO using app-creating software AppMker, DD have put their money where their mouth is and created this app to update users on their most recent projects helping grassroots organisations and marginalised communities become media literate. Easy to use featuring videos, photographs and articles, some of which are a bit on the long side for an app but still worth a read as DD is involved with some really fascinating projects. Available for iPhone, iPad, iPod.

These apps are all great sources of information and I’m excited to see developments in more interactive apps, which I’ll review at a later date.  Amnesty International’s ‘AI Candle’ app is worth a mention as it gives information on current campaigns and ways to take action. However, it still suffers from glitches and is quite slow, I’ve  had problems receiving data so can’t give it a full review. Lighting the virtual candle to show solidarity and support to end human rights abuses is fun to play around with but only for a few minutes. I did manage to ‘burn’ the side of my phone though!

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