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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Tibet, the Water Tower of Asia

Tibet, the Water Tower of Asia

Lobsang Sangay, president of the Central Tibetan Administration, is increasing the efforts to raise awareness about the deteriorating human rights situation in Tibet. Recently he visited Scandinavia and Canada and last week he visited the United States to discuss the Tibet issue and the U.S.-China bilateral relationship

Globcal International's Goodwill Ambassador Maria Veneke Ylikomi had the great honour to interview Lobsang Sangay, or "Sikyong" as his Tibetan title is, during the president's visit in Sweden. The interview was made for the Swedish magazine Gränslöst, with the theme of human rights, democracy and tolerance. News about justice – for all.   

Photo: Staff photographer



"What we say is that we want to walk with the Chinese government, we want to talk with the Chinese government and we want a mutually acceptable solution with the Chinese government. It is to seek genuine autonomy as per Chinese laws for the Tibetan people", said Lobsang Sangay. 

Sikyong studied International Law at Harvard Law School in the United States. In 2011, he got elected as president of the Tibetan-government-in-exile, Central Tibetan Administration, based in Dharamsala, India. 

"I spent 16 years in America and learned quite a bit. And 2011 I ran for the election. I didn’t think I would win, my mother didn’t think I would win, no one thought I would win, but I won. And then I decided to move to India, to leave Harvard and leave my job in America. I didn’t find it that difficult, mental adjustment."

Below is the article which was published in the Swedish magazine Gränslöst:


Tibet’s president in exile – visiting Sweden 

Tibet’s President in exile, Dr Lobsang Sangay, or “Sikyong” as his Tibetan title is, visited Sweden on November 14–15. The Swedish visit was arranged by the Swedish Tibet Committee together with the Tibetan Community in Sweden. The President had a hectic program during the two days in Sweden. The magazine Gränslöst received an exclusive interview with the Tibetan leader.

Gränslöst Magazine: Interview with the President of Tibet

by Maria Veneke Ylikomi, for the Swedish magazine Gränslöst, 2017-11-22

It is a sunny morning in November when Gränslöst meets Lobsang Sangay at a hotel in Stockholm. He talks about the challenges that the Tibetan people are facing. He says that human rights violations are the most pressing issues today.

– There is political repression, cultural assimilation, environmental destruction, social discrimination and economic marginalization.

As an example of cultural assimilation, Sikyong mentions the Tibetan language.

– The Chinese law says that Tibetan language should be not only used but should be encouraged. But in practice, it is discouraged and not used.

Lobsang Sangay says that 150 Tibetans have burned themselves to death.

– Few young students burned themselves saying we want to use Tibetan language in Tibetan schools. That is severe.

Lobsang Sangay explains that Tibet totally lacks independent media.

– Reporters without Borders have said that it’s more difficult to have access to Tibet for journalists than North Korea. So, if you try to get a visa as a journalist to go to Tibet, Chinese Embassy will say no, you cannot go.

Lobsang Sangay thinks that the water issue is very important not only for Tibet but for the whole Asia.

– Tibet is called the water tower of Asia. The ten major rivers of Asia flow from the Tibetan Plateau.

As examples of rivers flowing from Tibet, Sikyong mentions the rivers Indus, Brahmaputra, Mekong, Irrawaddy, Yangtze and Yellow River.

– Yellow River is the cradle of Chinese civilization. 1.4 billion people depend on freshwater flowing from Tibet. So it’s very serious. China has 19 per cent of the world population but only 12 per cent of freshwater, which means already 400 million Chinese are facing scarcity of water. The situation in other parts of Asia is bad.

Sikyong explains that China wants to divert the Tibetan rivers to the inner parts of China.

– There was one report that they want to divert Brahmaputra River, which is a lifeline for northeast of India and Bangladesh. They want to divert to Xinjiang, which is a very dry area. If that river is diverted, millions of people in northeast of India and Bangladesh will suffer.

The Tibetan Plateau is sometimes called “The Third Pole”.

– After Antarctic and Arctic, Tibet has the third highest reserve of ice. And Tibet also acts like the cooler or the refrigerator of the world. It is so high and so cold, covered in snow. Tibet has 46 000 glaciers. Nasa says, by 2100, one third will disappear, or even as high as two thirds will disappear. If two thirds of Tibetan glaciers disappear, what will happen to 1.4 billion people who are depending on water from the Tibetan Plateau? It is a very serious issue. One scientist in University of California said “if you want to understand climate change and global warming, it won’t be complete without understanding the Tibetan Plateau”.

Sikyong says that Chinese environmentalists are proposing to declare Tibet as the Third Pole National Park.

– Chinese government is not listening, so all the big companies are exploiting mineral resources of Tibet. And they are also exploiting all other kinds of minerals, cutting down trees and building a lot of hydro projects in Tibet regions and rivers. It is Chinese companies and Chinese leaders and officials who are profiting from all this kind of businesses.

Lobsang Sangay explains that deforestation causes natural disasters and floods.

– The Tibetan Plateau affects the climate all the way to Europe, whether the Sweden winter is cold or warm, whether there is heat wave in Europe or not, is partly determined by the climate change on the Tibetan Plateau. So the Tibet issue is a global environmental issue.

For the Tibetan leader Lobsang Sangay, Gandhi’s non-violent philosophy, ahimsa, is the right way to go.

– There is so much violence already in the world. If you can solve the issue, any issue, based on ahimsa and non-violence, it is always good. We are advocating this. There are people who are interested, there are people who are supportive, but unfortunately the Chinese government and Chinese leaders are not listening, so that’s where the challenge is.

Photo: Office of Tibet

Sikyong explains that Tibetan Buddhists are not given the right to peaceful demonstrations.

– Larung Gar monastery had 12 000 monks and nuns. From last year August to this year August, it was destroyed and reduced to 5 000 monks and nuns. 7 000 were expelled. Three nuns committed suicide. So you can clearly see, peaceful demonstration by Buddhist monks and nuns is impossible. Larung Gar and the surrounding mountains are surrounded by troops.

Sikyong believes that rise of nationalism is a global challenge.

– There is decrease in internationalism and there is rise of nationalism. In North America, Europe, Asia, it is a reality. And the Chinese nationalism is a new thing. So how we handle that is a big test. That’s the big challenge for the globe, for the whole world. We must continue the path of internationalism and liberalism. The world is getting smaller in the sense we all are integrated, the borders become porous, are intermingling. The liberal pulse is the best way to go. The rise of nationalism and extremism is creating more obstacles for general peace and harmony in the world.

Lobsang Sangay’s parents fled to India from Tibet in 1959.

– I grew up in a small village, in a place called Darjeeling. Darjeeling is known for tea. But I was not from the town. I was from the village. My family did not have much, only one acre of land, two–three cows, one dozen chicken. On my winter vacation I cut grass for cows, cut wood for home. I went to a refugee school, studied hard and worked hard.

Later in life, Lobsang Sangay received a Fulbright Scholarship to study International Law at Harvard Law School in the United States, where he got a doctorate degree. In 2011, he got elected as President of the Tibetan-government-in-exile, based in Dharamsala, India. He left America, Harvard, and went to Dharamsala to work for the Central Tibetan Administration.

– Since childhood, when you hear the stories from your parents, how much they suffered, how difficult it was, that inculcate some sense of responsibility in you.

Sikyong explains that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a good helping hand.

– He thinks I am doing okay, helping the Tibetan cause. I meet him regularly. Just one week before I travelled to this part of the world, I met him twice in one week. I inform him and he advise me, so I get to meet regularly. He is a good support for me in everything I do.

In conclusion, Sikyong says he likes nature.

– I like forests, I like mountains, I like fresh air. And I like cows.

Gränslöst (borderless/limitless in the Swedish language) is a Swedish magazine with the theme of human rights, democracy and tolerance. News about justice – for all.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Sami People Adopt the Indigenous Unity Flag for Solidarity

International Indigenous Unity Flag in Stockholm

By Maria Veneke Ylikomi, Author and Goodwill Ambassador

At Riksbron bridge in Stockholm, Sweden, every Thursday between 11 and 12 o'clock, there is a group of devoted people who fight for land rights, clean water and a living cultural heritage. In all weathers, they stand up for the rights of indigenous peoples and protest against Sweden’s current mineral regulations. On Thursday, October 26th, Pierre Åhrén received the International Indigenous Unity Flag. The International Indigenous Unity Flag is an international symbol uniting all indigenous peoples in world peace calling for the need to unite to protect indigeneity and the planet earth (mother nature). The flag was created in 2012 by aboriginal Canadian, Col. Michael Lawrence Sher, one of the commissioning founders of the organization Globcal International.

Tidningen Gränslöst is a magazine published in Sweden, this article was published original article: "Riksbron every Thursday"

Pierre Åhrén became a Goodwill Ambassador for Indigenous Peoples Unity.

After demonstrating for 3 years with a homemade banner of the International Indigenous Unity Flag on Thursday, October 26th, Pierre Åhren received a genuine flag, representing unity among indigenous peoples, world peace and how we must become united to protect our planet. The gift was facilitated by goodwill ambassadors of Globcal International.

It all started in November 2013

Pierre Åhrén explains the background to the activities that take place on the Riksbron bridge every Thursday. It all started in November 2013 when activists demonstrated against the mining project in Gállok outside Jokkmokk during the summer. When Pierre stood there demonstrating he came to think of the women in Argentina, Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, whose children disappeared between 1976 and 1983, and who march on Thursday every week. Pierre decided that he also can march once a week, on Thursdays, and other people followed him.

The Poisonous and Destructive Mining Industry

Pierre is on the bridge half an hour before the other demonstrators arrive to prepare the activities. Through the years, they have had protest placards supporting different peoples and places in the world, for example Brazil. The purpose is to protect the earth from deforestation and destruction. The mining industry is poisonous to nature and contaminates our drinking water. The mass consumption society is destroying our planet.

If you follow the chain starting from the mine in the mine you extract metals, from the metal things are made that people should buy, then the things are thrown away and new things are bought. This is going on all over the world, says Pierre.

In Sweden, many of the mines are located in the Sami reindeer herding areas.

The Sami Cultural Heritage

Despite the severe problems with the mining industry, Pierre is quite hopeful when it comes to young Sami people. He means that young Sami people readopt the Sami languages and the Sami art. The young Sami people are the ones who feel the urgent need to protect their cultural heritage.
Kinship with all Indigenous Peoples


Erica Lundström presenting Pierre Åhrén with a medal for indigenous human rights advocacy.

When talking about the Indigenous Unity Flag and the event on the Riksbron bridge on October 26th when Pierre Åhrén received the flag from Erica Lundström, he gets emotional.

I feel kinship with all the world’s indigenous peoples.

On October 26th Pierre Åhrén was awarded a medallion to acknowledge and recognize his contribution to the advocacy of human rights and future of indigenous peoples in Sweden.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Fighting Hunger with Bytes of Data and the Blockchain

What is ‘Blockchain’ and How is it Connected to Fighting Hunger?

Photo: WFP/Alexandra Alden

‘This can revolutionize assistance to vulnerable families across the globe.’

The World Food Programme (WFP) is testing the use of blockchain, a bold technology that can potentially transform the fight against hunger. Blockchain technology, most famously associated with the crypto-currency Bitcoin, offers unique opportunities for humanitarian agencies to provide the best-possible assistance to vulnerable people around the world.

What is blockchain?

Put simply, blockchains provide a way for two parties to do business with each other without the need for a trusted third party. Akin to emails, information on the blockchain can flow from one address to another. The content of the message, for example, can be a value transfer, a beneficiary’s ID, or somebody’s health records.

Where markets are functioning, cash-based transfers allow people to choose what food to buy. Photo: WFP/Farman Ali

An identical record of all messages on a blockchain is available to every participant (or ‘node’) on the blockchain, which can be many thousands or more. Because there are so many copies of the data on the blockchain network, it is exceedingly difficult for a would-be attacker to alter the records and falsify transactions. Should this happen, however, it would be immediately obvious that there has been an intrusion. This makes the blockchain much more secure than traditional, centralized systems, and renders its records unchangeable.

Shifting towards Cash-Based Assistance

In recent years, WFP has significantly scaled up its cash transfers. In areas where markets and services are well functioning, these transfers are often more effective and efficient at improving livelihoods. Not only do they allow recipients to choose which food to buy, they also inject much-needed cash into local economies. WFP’s Innovation Accelerator is therefore exploring approaches to delivering cash-based transfers in order to reduce costs and risks, while improving data protection and speeding up delivery.

From the Sandbox to the Field

The first, successful test at field level of WFP’s blockchain innovation — called ‘Building Blocks’ — was carried out in January deep in the heart of Sindh province, Pakistan. As vulnerable families received WFP food and cash assistance, the transactions were authenticated and recorded on a public blockchain through a smartphone interface. Transaction reports generated were then used to match the disbursements with entitlements.

Photo: WFP/Alexandra Alden

“Blockchain can revolutionize the way WFP delivers assistance to vulnerable families across the globe. It can bring us closer to the people we serve and allow us to respond much faster,” said Farman Ali, from the WFP Karachi provincial office.

Using the lessons learned in this first phase in Pakistan, WFP is now moving towards a full-scale pilot.

Immense Potential

Blockchain has the potential to allow faster intervention in some of the world’s most difficult environments. For example, in vulnerable countries lacking financial infrastructure, blockchain could help humanitarian actors roll out life-saving cash assistance in a matter of days when disasters strike.

Blockchains can be seen as a foundational technology akin to the internet, upon which many different applications can be built. Just as email was the first widespread application of the internet, payments have been the first widespread application of blockchains. And just as the internet rapidly expanded beyond email, blockchain applications have already expanded beyond payments. WFP is monitoring the scope for applications beyond cash-based transfers, identity management, and supply chain operations.

The full potential of blockchains can only be realized if all humanitarian actors collaborate around this platform. Republished from the World Food Programme blog on Medium.

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Learn more about how WFP is harnessing the potential of blockchain technology to enhance our ability to provide effective, efficient assistance to the people we serve — and save millions of dollars.

Based in Munich, the Innovation Accelerator combines internal WFP staff with experts and entrepreneurs from across the private sector and civil society. Teams collaborate for three to six months on ideas that are either proposed by WFP innovators with first-hand field knowledge, or crowd-sourced by members of the public. For more information, contact: global.innovation@wfp.org.

The Accelerator is generously supported by a network of public and private partners and funded by the German Federal Foreign Office alongside the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the State of Bavaria.