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ON THE AGENDA: War, peace and reflections on the Delhi rape verdict

Source: Mon, 16 Sep 2013 17:18 GMT
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Devotees carry an idol of the Hindu god Ganesh, the deity of prosperity, into the Bay of Bengal for its immersion during the ten-day-long Ganesh Chaturthi festival, in the southern Indian city of Chennai September 15, 2013. REUTERS/Babu
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(Corrects ratio of doctors to people in third paragraph to "five doctors per 100,000" from "five doctors per 10,000")

Sunday is World Peace Day – but the world doesn’t feel very peaceful. Syria remains our top story this week as Washington, Paris and London threaten consequences if Damascus doesn’t stick to a deal to give up its chemical weapons. As always, we’ll be focusing on the human impact of a war that has so far claimed 120,000 lives.

We have a video interview with Sebastiano Tomada, a photojournalist who won the International Committee of the Red Cross’ Visa d’Or prize for his poignant coverage of the conflict’s impact on health facilities. Karrie Kehoe will be reporting on conditions for Syrian refugees in the vastly overcrowded Domiz camp in Kurdistan. Then on Thursday, Katie Nguyen will be conducting a live “Twitterview” with the head of Britain’s Disaster Emergency Committee on the humanitarian crisis in Syria (submit your questions via #AskDEC).

Next stop Central African Republic, where the health system is on the verge of collapse as hospitals are looted and doctors flee amid deteriorating security. The instability is making an already-terrible health situation worse. Before violence kicked off with a rebel coup in spring, CAR had only five doctors per 100,000 people and an average life expectancy of 48. You can bet those numbers are falling fast, as Misha Hussain will report.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch will be launching a study documenting serious rights violations against civilians, including killings and rapes, by the Seleka alliance that seized power in March. For background information on this most neglected of forgotten emergencies, see our Central African Republic troubles crisis briefing.

Misha will also be writing about alleged rights abuses in Western Sahara, a sparsely populated tract of desert that has been fiercely disputed since 1975. Morocco says the region is its territory but the Algerian-backed Polisario Front claims it as an independent state.

Between conflicts, Misha will be scrutinising how much – or little – aid has flowed to West Africa for flood relief following a summer of heavy rains. The conclusion of frustrated humanitarians: Floods just aren’t sexy enough to attract the aid dollars.

Ahead of World Peace Day on Sunday, Alex Whiting will be blogging about the important role women have played in rebuilding countries after war. Alex has also been asking experts about the future of U.N. peacekeeping. Does the UN's new brigade in Congo set a precedent for peacekeepers having a mandate to use force?

Meanwhile in Colombia, Anastasia Moloney has been hanging out with a recently demobilised female rebel soldier. And Thin Lei Win will be uncovering the big, shameful secret of widespread sexual violence during the Khmer Rouge era in Cambodia.

Last week, the four men accused of the high-profile gang rape and murder of a Delhi student were sentenced to death, bringing some sense of closure to a story that has provoked soul-searching across India. From the immediate aftermath of the crime nine months ago to judgement day, Nita Bhalla has been all over the story, winning the prestigious Society of Publishers in Asia award for human rights reporting largely for her work on it. After a few days of reflection, she’ll be blogging about her personal experience of covering the case and what the verdict means to her.

Nita also has an interview with Siddhartha Jain, producer of a controversial new Bollywood movie due to be released on the anniversary of the Delhi gang rape in Dec. The film aims to make potential rapists quiver with fear before thinking of committing a rape.

She’ll then be travelling northern India where religious rioting erupted a week ago in a sign of rising tension between Hindus and Muslims ahead of a general election. Although calm has been restored to the area, thousands of mostly Muslims are living in displacement camps fearful to return to their homes.

We have plenty of stories on land grabs this week, including reports from Colombia and Cambodia. And as Megan Rowling will reveal, around a third of land in developing countries that is allocated as concessions to private investors – for agriculture, mining and forestry projects – also belongs to local communities. That represents a major financial risk and current methods to protect investors against risk fail to take this into account.

Keep an eye out also for Megan’s portrait of a young American photographer who spent a year with a couple whose relationship deteriorated into domestic violence.

Last but not least, we have an interview, by Alex Whiting, with a controversial Kuwaiti painter who is daring to show how Muslim men really live in Kuwait and what life is really like for women. Last year the secret police closed her exhibition within three hours of its opening.

Stay tuned for all this and much more.

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