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[VOICE Release, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, 16 November 2009]
Civil society organizations, human rights activists, researchers, academicians gathered in the United Nations Internet Governance Forum (IGF) taking place in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt strongly criticized UN for removal of a poster during the meeting of Open Net Initiative (ONI) held on the first day of the UN IGF on 15 December 2009. The poster mentioned internet censorship and China's Great Firewall.
Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, Stockholm, 23 October 2009 `Democracy and Development' was marked with a lively debate among the panelists during the second day of the European Development Day. The plenary was held in Victoria Hall of the EU Conference held on 23 October 2009. 15 other events and discussions. Some of 15 other events and discussions were also held which were attended by hundreds of people including Ministers, Government officials, civil societies from around the world. Amr Moussa, Secretary General, League of Arab States, urged that, “Democracy is a system that should be promoted, but the definition of democracy must be broader than simply a ballot box. Democracy promotion requires more than elections, it also requires institutions” . Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of Liberia, argued for infrastructure: “If one wants to promote good governance and democracy, one needs a people that are able to access the information that enables them to do that. In many underdeveloped countries, infrastructure is a major constraint to development Putting emphasis on building infrastructure is very important and that in itself will foster the processes of development.”
Global media activists criticized control over media and proposed alternatives
A three day Medifes was held in Tokyo Women’s Plaza, Japan from 20-22 September 2009 organized by OurPlanet-TV, a network of media activists based in Tokyo. The conference was attended by a large number of stakeholders from Japan and international civil society organizations.
Tokyo Medifes 2009 is an annual event of alternative media, community media and citizen media held in Japan. Participants of the conference shared and discussed the experience on media and proposed alternatives while media in a global corporate control.
Hajime Shiraishi, the Representative of OurPlanet-TV told the conference to uphold the alternative media and citizen broadcasting realizing the diversity and publicity of wide range of stakeholders to really make media benefit for the people.
The southern countries are suffering from the global climate change impacts and the northern countries should compensate them for the ecological degradation speakers said in a panel discussion on 'Climate justice towards CoP 15 Copenhagen, ecological debts: We are the creditors' jointly arranged by EquityBD, Jubilee South-Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development, Philippines, Media Foundation for Trade and Development, SUPRO, VOICE and Unnayan Onneshan at the National Press Club on 27th of July 2009, Dhaka.
Lidy Nacpil, convenor of Jubilee South-APMDD, a regional network in the Philippines, referred the example of the Bolivian government which formally placed the demand of ecological debt to UNFCC in its Bonn conference in June.She said the north has exploited the rights of all human beings who have equal shares to the global commons which include ozone layer, air and on natural resources. These global commons should be utilised in equitable and sustainable way. The north has exploited those and also created negative consequences like present climate crisis.
[VOICE, Dhaka, 14 July 2009] Speakers at a sharing meeting held today in Dhaka stressed the need for water access rights to be guaranteed by supply management systems across all municipalities in Bangladesh. The group concurred that this could only be achieved through greater transparency and accountability.
Organized by VOICE, a research and activist group, the roundtable was held in the city’s SUPRO’s meeting room. Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, executive director of VOICE presented the meeting with the findings of research conducted by VOICE on water sector transparency and accountability in the Mymensingh municipality.
“The municipality only supplies four hours of water per day, which causes serious problems for consumers.” Said Ahmed Swapan. “Twenty-five percent of our research participants said that they have been victims of fake billing, while ninety percent complained that they did not receive a regular water supply.”
The research reveals that consumers suffer due to consistent impurities with the water supply, as seventy-six percent of users are dissatisfied about the cleanliness of their municipal water. The findings also show that only twenty-two percent of residents are covered by the municipality's water supply, while other seventy-eight percent are forced to collect water from different sources.
[Dhaka, 5 July 2009] Speakers in a seminar spoke about how neoliberal policy doctrines have failed to reduce poverty or ensure social protection for the poor. Neoliberalism has not only had devastating consequences in developing countries like Bangladesh, it has also shaken the northern economy.
The seminar titled `Neoliberalism, Poverty and Social Protection Policies’ was held in the city’s national press club today. It was organized by VOICE, a research and public education organization and moderated by its executive director Ahmed Swapan Mahmud. The panel included Monower Mustafa, a researcher and development activist; Mohsin Ali, Coordinator of Governance Advocacy Forum; and Saiful Haq, Genral Secretary of Biplobi Workers Party. Ahmed Swapan Mahmud also presented Voice’s keynote paper at the seminar.
“Neoliberal policies have been proved ineffective and have failed to offer any better solution for society.” said Ahmed Swapan Mahmud. “Rather, they create marginalization, deprivation, economic injustice, insecurity and poverty at large.” Mentioning existing Social Safety Net Programms (SSNPs) he told the seminar that these ad-hoc measures are merely neoliberal tools, while the programmes do not play any real role reducing poverty.
Civil society members at a roundtable on Thursday criticised the government for imposing surveillance and censorship on Internet access and for the move for re-registration of mobile SIMs by taking details of individual subscribers.
They also feared that details of individuals, which were stored for the preparing the national identity cards and which were given for re-registration of mobile SIMs, could be abused by the government or any other agencies to undermine democratic values.
‘For free flow of information and peoples right to know, no government should impose surveillance and censorship on Internet access and block any websites,’ said former chairman of Bangladesh Telecommu-nication Regulatory Commission, Syed Margub Morshed, at the roundtable held at National Press Club.
VOICE, a right-based activist group, organised the roundtable on ‘Access to Information: Internet Surveillance and Censorship vs People’s Rights Protection’.
Margub said that it would be a futile exercise if anybody wants to block any website to censor or hide any information.
22 May 2009
A consortium of civil society representatives met to discuss access to information at the World Bank in Bangladesh on May 20th.
Article 19-Bangladesh, the Bank Information Center and VOICE, an IFI research and advocacy organization, convened a meeting of various civil society groups to solicit feedback on their collective experiences with the World Bank’s information disclosure practices in the context of World Bank country projects. About 90 civil society representatives attended the May 20th meeting in Dhaka which included political activists, representatives from a variety of NGOs, trade unions, human rights and women groups as well as journalists and communications organizations. Prominent academics and experts were in attendance, including Justice (retd) Mohammad Golam Rabbani who presided over the meeting. Proposals and concerns with regard to the information disclosure policy as well as suggestions for an improved policy will be conveyed to the World Bank.
Civil society suggestions and observations
The World Bank does not provide any information on its projects in Bangladesh, obstructing stakeholders’ access to information in areas such as project agreement, implementation and monitoring, said participants in a consultation meeting.
They demanded public disclosure of all information related to WB projects as well as its funding procedures.
The meeting, held at the Dhaka Reporter’s Unity on Wednesday, was organised by research and advocacy organisation Voice and the Bank Information Centre. Former Appellate Division Judge Golam Rabbani presided over the meeting.
In his keynote speech, the Voice executive director, Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, said according to the WB’s Inspection Panel Annual Report, there were allegations of lack of transparency, even violations, of its disclosure policy, he added.
He cited violations of the disclosure policy in a significant number of cases.
BRAC University professor Dr Piash Karim said the World Bank was losing its legitimacy worldwide because of imposition of neo-liberal conditions on the states.
Accusing the World Bank of taking advantage of the global financial crisis, he said it was eager to expand its lending base. He demanded that the World Bank’s lending policy and the project agreements should be made public so that people could voice their opinions on the project documents.
May 20, Dhaka [The participants of the consultation allegedly said that the Bank didn’t provide any information on the project they undertook in the country and categorically it impedes the access to information at all levels including project agreement, implementation and monitoring levels. The consultation was held at the Dhaka Reporters Unity today jointly organized by VOICE, a research and advocacy organization and Bank Information Centre. The consultation was presided over by Justice (Retd) Mohammad Golam Rabbani.
Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, executive director of Voice read out the key note paper while he citing the example from the World Bank's Inspection Panel Annual Report, said that Bank suffers with the problem of access to information within several World Bank-financed projects. There are allegations of lack of transparency, and even violations of its own disclosure policy according to recently published Inspection Panel Report, he told. Ahmed Swapan also said that alleged violation of the Bank’s disclosure policy was raised in 22 of the 52 cases, which equates to 42 percent of all cases brought to the panel since its 1993 inception.