no. 2   april - june 2007

World Social Forum, Nairobi - 2007
Another World for Africa: An Ethic of Peace?

An historic moment of solidarity for Africa was experienced during the month of January 2007. It is important to remember that in 1945, after the deadly Second World War, the birth of the United Nations gave the possibility of hope to humanity. The UN Charter focused on liberating future generations from the scourge of war, protecting the fundamental rights of humanity, of favoring social progress, and of doing everything possible to create the best conditions for life with broader liberty. A century was not enough as world evolution itself proved to be against it.

Cries were raised during the world conference in Nairobi on January 20-25, 2007. This time the cries were from Africa. General observations were given by this forum through conferences and different displays. More than once it was verified that:

1) From the creation of the UN, the more developed countries, in terms of economics, have distanced themselves from the scourge of war. Yet this scourge continues in numerous countries, especially those called "developing." From 1990, millions of people have died in armed conflict. These conflicts have, on the other hand, brought about an anamoly in human conscience: that of the child soldiers, the street kids, the sexual abuse of children. In 2000, UNICEF spoke of 300,000 involved in 30 conflicts (in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Darfour, Somalia, etc, to speak only of Africa).

2) From the creation of the UN, the economic development has been important in some regions of Europe or North America, it is not so for thousands of human beings that, in a certain way, have been left behind on purpose. This is the case of numerous sub-saharian African countries. A present day inhabitant of Zambia, for example, has less possibility of reaching 30 years of age than an Englishman born in 1840.

3) Since the Second World War, the struggle for peace worldwide has taken various forms: the struggle against colonialism and for the independence of the people in Vietnam and Algeria, the struggle against the arms race be they nuclear, chemical, or bacterial and for general disarmament. There is the fight against the exploitation of humans by other humans, in particular the very subtle form of exploitation called segregation which is the struggle for individual and group liberty.

Nevertheless, the Forum occasionally noted that a belief in the possibility of a lasting peace is gradually taking hold as people see equality, justice, and ethical responsibility taking place. One sign of this was the enormous crowd marching around Jomo Kenyatta Stadium. They did so to highlight that peace and security, now more than ever, must be the focus of attention. Any discussions must include the challenges for humanity over the next 50 years that are related to the population increase: going from 6.5 to 9 billion inhabitants of the globe with problems of, among others, waters, energy, and the protection of the environment.

It requires some audacity and even the sacred courage of Elijah to say:

"Now summon all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, as well as the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah who eat at Jezebel’s table." So Ahab sent to all the Israelites and had the prophets assemble on Mount Carmel. Elijah appealed to all the people and said, "How long will you straddle the issue? If the Lord is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him. The people, however, did not answer him. So Elijah said to the people, "I am the only surviving prophet of the Lord, and there are found hundred and fifty prophets fo Baal. Give us two young bulls. Let them choose one, cut it into pieces, and place it on the wood, but start no fire. I shall prepare the other and place it on the wood, but shall start no fire. You will call on your gods, and I will call on the Lord. The God who answers with fire is God." (1Kgs 18:19-24)

This is the initiation of Elijah’s ministry within his own situation and is what we must hold up in our ministry as Carmelites. It even becomes more important when we realize that he dealt with the current situation: Elijah came during a period of social unrest and restored the society with God’s justice. The need for a prophetic voice in his day was primarily for the restoration of what was lost, the old things, original, what once was, and perfect. We can be sure that a ministry is one way of arriving at a different and larger point, that is, "the restoration of all things of which God spoke of through his holy prophets in ancient times" (Acts 3:21b). The restorations for Israel came after the disastrous disorders, when people did as they wished.

The work of restoration can only be realized if we use all available means. It is a monumetal task which will require each person to have an ethic of peace. How many among us have the energy that is necessary to listen to the weeping and cries of the people who suffer because we have never restored things?

"There is no peace because there is no justice," wrote Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1984. This is a synthesis that describes the current situation we are in. In fact, there will not be a lasting peace without the common research of projections based on the satisfaction of the needs of the people, of all people, without a meaningful cooperation, by any subordination of the weak by the strong, without a suspension of the arms market, or the exploitation of basic materials in developing countries. If we do not wish to see the global situation deteriorate more than is already occuring in some regions of the world such as the Middle East, in Sudan, in Western Africa, it behoves us to:
1. have the audacity and sacred courage to speak out,
2. seek to resolve problems at their roots and not use
pretexts that almost always hide the economic and
politicial interests of the great powers.

Chelo Dhebbi, O. Carm.
International Commission for Justice and Peace and the Integrity of Creation

Carmelite NGO Tells UN It Intends to Request ECOSOC Status

The Carmelite NGO submitted a "letter of intent" to apply for membership to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations (UN) on February 14, 2007. In her letter, Sr. Elizabeth Fitzpatrick, President of the Congregation of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, outlined the participation of members since becoming an NGO affiliated with the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI) in December of 2001.

The Congregation of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, based in Louisiana, USA, made the formal application to the United Nations on behalf of the Carmelite Family and is the official representative between the Carmelite NGO and the UN. The exact responsibilities of an NGO with ECOSOC status are detailed in ECOSOC resolution 1996/31. Such status provides more opportunity for involvement in discussion of issues and policy within the ECOSOC framework than is allowed for at the DPI status level.

The letter refers to the coverage of UN and Carmelites NGO activities in our international publications. It also highlights Carmelite attendance at various international UN conferences including that on trade and development in Bangkok, Thailand, and the preparation meetings for both the Conference on Financing for Development in New York, and two for the World Summit on Sustainable Development which were held in Bali, Indonesia, and Johannesburg, South Africa.

The organizational meetings for the Carmelite NGO that were held in Rome and Indonesia involving over members from a large area of the world were also highlighted. The course for promoters of Justice and Peace held last summer in Fatima, Portugal and which involved representatives from the Carmelite NGO as well as a representative from the United Nations based in Geneva, Switzerland

Sr. Fitzpatrick wrote, "We bring with us grass root organizations that are involved in substantive issues and a strong commitment to the Millennium Development Goals (of the United Nations). We see our role as one of partnership in sustainable development, education, and human rights."

An organizational structure for the Carmelite NGO to better facilitate its networking and support for the local ministries is currently being developed. The new structure will give the opportunity for stronger regional participation in the Carmelite NGO’s governing body.

"At the international meeting in Fatima, Portugal," said Sr. Jane Remson, the representative of the Carmelite NGO, "we heard reports from Carmelites ministering in different parts of our world. We realized in order to have a united global influence, we need a structure to facilitate our global participation. The Carmelite NGO is such a structure."

"The Carmelite NGO is a tool or structure for us to facilitate justice in the 21st century," she concluded.


Revolution Ahead for Education of the World’s Children?
The $100 Computer

Perhaps the name changes – it began life One Laptop per Child (OLPC) which reflects the goal of providing a learning tool for students around the world. Now it is the 2B1 Children’s Machine or the Hundred Dollar Laptop Project.

The price is also changing. On April 27, 2007, the OLPC group announced that it had raised the price for its one hundred-dollar laptop to US$175 but they were still confident they would collect enough orders to begin volume production by September. They currently have orders for 2.5 million units but need to reach 3 million units by May 30.

The goal of OLPC is to create and distribute inexpensive, durable, power-efficient laptop computers which will allow students in poor areas to become more active and creative in their educational process.

So far Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Nigeria, Libya, Pakistan, and Thailand have committed. Two hundred test versions of the laptop were sent to each of those countries. Some 2,000 laptops were sent to software developers around the world.

"The biggest hurdle will be manufacturing 100 million of anything … The scale is daunting," said Nicolas Negroponte who came up with the project.

But the design is proving to also be challenging. OLPC designers are working to keep the laptop design trim, holding its average power consumption between 2 watts and 4 watts. An original goal was to have one minute of hand cranking generate 100 minutes of power for the computer. The crank, "although cute, in the end proved impractical," according to OLPC.

"Mesh technology"—allowing computers to connect to the internet by connecting to each other over distance— will give many machines Internet access from one connection point.

Kofi Annan, then Secretary General of the United Nations, introduced the $100 laptop in November 2006 at the World Summit on the Information Summit (WSIS) in Tunis. He said "The $100 laptop holds the promise of major advances in economic and social development. It is not just a matter of giving a laptop to each child, as if bestowing some magical charm on them. The magic lies within—within each child, within each scientist, scholar, or just plain citizen in the making."

In November 2006, 875 B1 test machines rolled off the assembly line, marking a major step forward in the realization of the project.

Nigeria has ordered one million of the machines. Libya announced in October 2006, that it would purchase 1.2 million computers, one for every school aged child in the country. It is the first Arabic speaking country to commit. In December 2006, Uruguay committed to the OLPC Project. This was followed in January 2007 by Rwanda. Peru and Russia have expressed interest. Nineteen US states have also expressed interest.

There are lots of nay-sayers. Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, famously mocked the wind-up powered PC advising his audience to "get a decent computer that offers a decent screen, a broadband connection, and it not powered by a wind-up handle." Those who sees Gates’ hold on the computer software industry as stifling and overpriced for people in developing nations did not laugh.

"Bill Gates said ‘Get a real laptop,’ but when your house doesn’t have electricity, two watts is a real laptop," came the initial verbal response. Other organizations jointed MIT scientists in developing a technology that would impact education around the globe. Mr. Gates is now offering a $3 version of Windows Vista operating system and Intel Corporation recently created the "Classmate" notebook PC design for developing nations. In a concession from OLPC, the latest version of their new laptop is reportedly capable of running Microsoft’s Windows operating system.

India dismissed the laptop as "pedagogically suspect." Its Education Secretary said if money were available it would be better spent on existing education plans.

Kofi Annan, then Secretary General of the United Nations, introduced the $100 laptop in 2006 at the World Summit on the Information Summit (WSIS) in Tunis. In his opening statement, Annan said, "Some inventions are ahead of their time. Others are perfectly of their time. Still others seem so obvious and natural that once people hear about them, or see them—they wonder why it took so long for them to come into being. It is rare—it is a rare invention indeed—that manages to be all greatness at once. But Nicholas Negroponte, his team of the world renowned MIT media lab, and their partners have given us just such a breakthough. The $100 laptop is inspiring in many respects."

For more information about the One Laptop per Child Project:

The $100 laptop features a 7.5 inch screen, 1200x900 pixel, with a high-resolution mode that is sunlight readable. The screen in "transmissive mode" uses about one seventh the power of a normal laptop screen. The CPU consumes one tenth the power of a standard laptop, meaning it can be recharged by human power. This is a critical advance for the half-billion children who have no access to electricity. To connect to the internet, each machine is a full-time wireless router, connecting one machine to another using "mesh network" technology. Only one machine need be connected to the internet. Children in the remotest regions of the globe will be connected both to one another and to the internet.