Sampela is where children learn to swim before they can walk the crooked, rotting planks connecting fetishized stilt houses constructed upon coral foundations. Sampela is where chickens learn how to fly over the sewage-filled water, hopping from one thatched roof to the next. Sampela is where the oppressed misfits of Indonesian society, including the LGBTQ+ community, find refuge. Sampela is essentially a non-place, but it is also a place of all.
Last fall, I had the opportunity to live with a host family for two weeks in Sampela, a Bajau fishing village located off the coast of Wakatobi, Sulawesi, in Indonesia. The Bajau are a stateless group of fishermen who were originally nomadic, living in house-boats and traveling from one reef to the next once the fish supply dwindled. Throughout the 50s, the Indonesian government instituted several programs that forced the Bajau to settle, hoping to control and integrate the group into Indonesian society. The Bajau are located all over Southeast Asia, and they are both linguistically and culturally distinct from each of the countries in which they reside. Their economy is based almost entirely upon fishing, and available work beyond this is mostly limited to the production of handcrafted swim goggles, nets, spear-guns, and dug-out canoes.
My time is Sampela mainly consisted of accompanying my host family when it was time to “pergi ke laut,” or go to sea. Depending on the family, this usually occurs once or twice per day. While most women stay at home caring for their children, the men venture out into the village’s surrounding waters with nets, spear-guns, or hand lines—each fisherman is known for his specialty in one or more of these fishing practices. Going fishing not only provides sustenance for the Bajau community, but also serves as respite from the oppressive heat within the coral flats; it is a means of survival and a way of life.
Upon going to sea with my host family for the first time, I was alarmed to discover that we were fishing in Hatta, an area of the ocean that had been designated as a protected zone by the Indonesian government. I reluctantly became complicit in helping my host family spearfish, but I returned to the community filled with questions. Over the next few days, I spent time speaking with my friends and community elders, who taught me about the regulations that the Bajau mostly disregard; after all, the waters are patrolled infrequently and somewhat predictably. For the fishermen, it’s worth it to ignore the rules in favor of fishing in the protected areas, since these are the most conducive to catching enough fish to feed one’s family day after day.
Understandably, many people view the Bajau’s fishing practices as extremely destructive to the ecosystems in which they reside, but the way in which policymakers have tried to remedy the situation has proven to be quite ineffective. Policymakers have drawn boundary lines and sent out agents to enforce said areas of the ocean, all with very little attention given to the nuanced history of the Bajau and their resulting fishing practices. Yes, the policymakers’ cursory regulations may have been formed with the objective of both protecting the environment and ensuring that the Bajau won’t deplete the reefs on which they so heavily rely, but this ‘good intention’ has little bearing on the fact that their agenda is incompatible with the group’s culturally situated practices. If the current fishing habits are maintained, the status quo will almost certainly lead to the group’s demise; nonetheless, because many Bajau are accustomed to concerning themselves with surviving today, this is not a particularly relevant concern.
Community members of Sampela nostalgically recount times when one could go to sea and very quickly and easily find enough fish for the day. The current situation has become quite grim— I recall motor boating from one depleted reef to the next, my host father hoping to get lucky each time. In the case of the disappearance of a reef robust enough to provide sustenance for the few thousand Sampelan citizens, the only foreseeable plan B would be relocation to the nearby island, Kaledupa. However, the Bajau are incredibly marginalized, both by the Indonesian government and by other Indonesians who deem them to be an inferior class, and they would hardly be accepted in Kaledupa (and that’s not even taking into account the worker skill mismatch that would act as a strong barrier to economic integration). Thus, relevant agencies must create policy that encourages the Bajau to develop sustainably, while still allowing the group to maintain their cultural practices. The answer to how one should achieve this daunting task is definitely not simple, but it would be a whole lot easier if people would stop for a minute and just listen.
International development must move away from the all-too-frequently-true stereotype of a bunch of professionals sitting around a boardroom table making misinformed policy decisions that lack cultural relativism. Instead, it must move toward a localized approach that takes into account the historical realities that have shaped that populations who are being addressed, and it must listen to the voices of those who yield the most wisdom in the matter, but as a result of their diminished status in society, are rarely heard.
Who are the Huli people?
With an estimated 400,000 people, the indigenous Huli tribe is the largest ethnic group in the Southern Highlands region of Papua New Guinea. They have lived high in the central mountains for at least over a thousand years, with some scholars speculating that they have lived there for over twenty-five thousand years.
Anthropologists throughout the 20th century have been researching the Huli people due to their remarkable isolation from modern society. They had minimal to no contact with the outside world until the 1940s, when air travel made the inland regions of Papua New Guinea more accessible to visitors. As a result, they primarily speak their own tribal language Huli with some also speaking the more common language Tok Pisin.
Their society is agricultural and organized through clans (hamigini) and subclans (hamigini emene). Subclans are autonomous, as they can choose to participate in war or aspects of the local economy without approval from the larger clan. Relatives like aunts and uncles are still called “mother and father”, with the extended family playing a large role in Huli culture. For the most part, Huli tribesman practice polygamy.
A Look into Huli Tradition: Wigmaking
One of the most predominant customs of the Huli people is wig making. At Huli celebratory festivals called sing-sings, tribesmen with painted bodies wear wigs made from their own hair and with bundles of feathers from birds of paradise.
Making the wigs is a complicated and esteemed act in Huli society. Not everyone can participate in the making of the wigs; rather, they are made by a small clan known as the Huli Wigmen. They attend wig schools and live together isolated from the rest of the community.
position: perched on one elbow with their necks resting on a wooden log.
Threats to the Huli Tribe: Deforestation
Modernization and specific threats from the outside world, including widespread deforestation, have already had strong effects on the Huli community since their discovery in 1940.
In 2014, a $15 billion Papua New Guinea Liquified Natural Gas (PNG LNG) project formed by a subidiary of Exxon-Mobil, the Esso Highlands, began to extract natural gas from the highlands and homes of the Huli people. The gas is then transported via pipeline to Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, and sent to foreign markets in Asia. After this initial extraction, Esso Highlands plans on developing more infrastructure such as roads, processing facilities, and airports to bring the gas to market on a large scale.
The company’s extraction of natural gas has had huge deleterious influences on the community. They purchase land cheaply from the Huli clansmen, who are largely illiterate, by luring them with false promises of shares of profit and new land. Officials from Exxon-Mobil never delivered complete information regarding the full impacts of development.
In addition to economic manipulation, the environmental effects of the project have also eroded the Huli way of life. Their traditional practices rely closely on their local rainforest--they obtain food by hunting and gathering with over 50 different rainforest products. Papua New Guinea as a whole contains over 10% of the world’s vertebrates although only 1% of the earth’s land mass.
Right now, deforestation is slowly spreading throughout their highland region, with reports that the Huli men themselves are choosing to log the forest in order to sell the products to encroaching road construction companies from Australia and New Zealand. The populations of the birds of paradise, which are used by the Huli in their wig making, have been rapidly depleting.
The government of Papua New Guinea has attempted to curb the destruction of traditional Huli culture by forming a commission--the Hela Transitional Authority--to watch over the rural communities. However, the indigenous people of the area have complained that the government has failed to encourage the sharing of economic benefits and the slowing of environment degradation.
Ultimately, after twenty-five thousand years of isolation, the Huli people since the 1940s have slowly been falling prey to modern influences, and in recent years, especially to the encroachment of large foreign energy and construction companies.
In one of my other clubs this week, I was leading a meeting in which we were looking into some potential speakers for a conference we are holding in the spring. One of the groups found an amazing preview of a new Netflix documentary called The White Helmets. You can watch this thrilling preview here. Basically, The White Helmets are a voluntary group in Syria who have taken on the role of first responders to bombings in a country where the government departments no longer are in place to handle these situations. While everyone in this meeting was stunned by the footage and work that The White Helmets are doing, one of my closest friends asked about where the speaker would need to be flown in from. The student who found the video responded by saying Aleppo. My friend then asked, “and where is that?” By no means is my friend unconscious of what is going on in the world, but this had taken me aback. One of the most dangerous places in the world and she had no idea about what was going on there. I realized that this is no fault of her own, but that as students who care about the world, it is important to understand the current situation in Syria to at least some extent.
As you’ve hopefully seen from our beautiful PennSID posters around campus, the situation in Syria is at extreme levels. The current civil war has been going on for approximately five years. More than a quarter million Syrians have been killed and over eleven million have been displaced. It is currently estimated that more than 50 bombs and mortars a day land on Syrian neighborhoods. What started out as pro-democracy protests in March of 2011, suddenly became violent when security forces fired on some of the protestors. A couple months later, protests evolved asking for the president’s resignation and were combatted by military force. When opposition emerged, a civil war had essentially begun.
Nowadays this is not just a war between those for and against the president. It has become covered by religious overtones as the Sunni majority of the country combats that of the president’s Shi’a sect of Alawite. Similarly, with the emergence of ISIS, the conflict has become increasingly violent as the Islamic State looks to gain a major foothold in Syria.
So why should we care? Obviously, there are horrible things happening, and sometimes it feels as if there is nothing to do about them. The major concern for many U.S. citizens is the involvement of foreign powers in the conflict and the extremely high exodus of refugees. Russia and the United States are two of the biggest players with Russia supporting President al-Assad, while the United States has focused on promoting democracy and saving people from the Islamic State. Similarly, as we have seen throughout this year’s presidential debates, a major concern has been welcoming in Syrian refugees. Many say that the U.S. needs to play a bigger role in helping with the relocation of refugees, as the burden is falling largely on European and Middle Eastern countries. However, many are concerned about national security despite a rigorous approval procedure that any refugee applicant must go through.
Overall, I hope that this has given you a little more background on the issue in Syria and some of the staggering figures that many seem to be unaware about. Keep up with the conflict by staying in touch with PennSID and checking out our events where we discuss many similar issues and what role we can play in the situations.
Sources: thewhitehelmets.org, BBC.com
While it’s not an easy time to be living in the United States, as our country appears to be falling apart, being an American abroad presents its own unique set of challenges. Here are five crucial phrases you might want to memorize if you find yourself traveling south of the border:
1. Soy de los Estados Unidos. (I am from the United States)
Own up to it. Don’t be a wimp and pretend to be Canadian to sidestep the negative stereotypes associated with Americans. Do your part to improve our reputation.
2. Tengo mucho miedo, y tengo mucha vergüenza. No se porque Donald Trump tiene tanto éxito. (I’m very scared and I’m very ashamed. I don’t know why Donald Trump is so successful.)
Every acquaintance, Uber driver, and storeowner will ask you about Donald Trump once they find out you are American. But fear not, it is almost always out of curiosity and never accusatory. Once they find out you are just as terrified and baffled as they are, that is. Pleasant responses not guaranteed if you are actually a Trump supporter, in which case, well, that's your own damn fault for going to Mexico.
3. El feminismo es la teoría de la igualdad política, económica y social de los sexos. (Feminism is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.)
The patriarchy is alive and well all over the world. There’s never a bad time to get out of your elite bubble of liberal feminist friends and start a dialogue.
4. Si, hablo español. (Yes, I speak Spanish)
People assume that Americans have deficient foreign language skills, so they will be impressed by even the broken Spanish of a gringa like yourself. Here is your chance to wow them! Although most people have learned some level of English in school, you should still do your part to try and speak Spanish. When traveling you’ll save yourself the embarrassment of being the only person in a hostel full of multilingual Europeans that only speaks one language.
5. Has oído del Brexit? (How about the Brexit?)
If worse comes to worst you can always change the subject. Luckily the U.K. briefly stole the spotlight of supposedly civilized societies making irresponsible political decisions. Thanks, Mother England!
I have now lived in a small village called Nangara for nine weeks. Nangara sits next to a trading center called Kikholo (pronounced “chi-HO-lo”), which is in Bududa district of eastern Uganda, in the mountains right next to the Kenyan border. I am interning with a Philadelphia-based (located at 15th and Walnut!) non-profit called the Foundation for the International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC) at their Bududa clinic. In my time here, I have been working on a range of projects, including training staff on Excel skills, improving community health education materials, volunteering at the clinic, and hiking out to surrounding villages to assess and develop the sanitation and hygiene situations in homes and schools.
My field manager here talks about “the first four rules,” rules that were passed on to him from his supervisor while he was doing Peace Corps in Zambia.
1.) If it makes sense it won’t happen.
2.) However long you think it will take, be sure it will take longer.
3.) Never trust a fart (because it will turn into a shart).
4.) Embrace the suffering.
When I first got to Uganda, rule number four was a particular favorite of my colleagues and mine. We would use it all the time—to complain about the lack of WiFi, the unpredictable power outages, the pit latrines, the bucket baths, the same meal of beans and rice served at the clinic every day. In hindsight, our excessive use of rule number four now seems naïve and selfish. But at the time, I think we used it because it helped us adjust to living out “in the village.”
I didn’t learn about the origin of rule number four until about three weeks in. Rule number four came directly from the Zambia Peace Corps supervisor, who spent her own Peace Corps years in a rural village where within a period of six months, the village went extinct because every single member died of AIDS.
I wish that I had some grand statement to make about international development for this blog post, but in truth this entire summer has been insanely overwhelming. Not in a bad way, but in a way that I haven’t yet been able to completely process and in a way that motivates me to want to dig deeper into ID issues and learn as much as I possibly can. I have seen (and maybe become habituated to) a large amount of suffering, but I have also seen a large amount of resilience and determination. And for me, I think rule number four means that we should not let the suffering grind us down, but really use it, and the hope that comes from it, to motivate us to do whatever we can to work through it.
In truth, I don’t know if anything I knew before had really prepared me for this experience. Not my global health classes, the SID general body meetings I’ve attended and organized, even the Harvard International Development Conference that the board and I went to last April. That is, all these experiences gave me a foundational knowledge, but it is crazy to me how new and unexpected everything feels, how much I feel as though I am just starting in square one, learning as much as I can from my experiences on the ground and the people around me.
When I get back to America in three weeks, I hope I will be able to finally process some of the things I have seen and experienced. But for now, I am excited to see how my new perspective situates itself into my everyday life, how it affects my role as a member and the Training Director of SID, and how it reshapes my motivations and goals.
When I decided I was going to write a blog post about my experiences so far this summer I spent probably (definitely) too long trying to come up with some sort of catchy opening sentence that would simultaneously 1) show that I’m funny 2) demonstrate ~all~ the knowledge I’ve learned (aka how smart I am) and 3) give other people “fomo.” Then, when I failed miserably at creating this all-powerful sentence, I decided to take a step back and actually think about how my experience interning for the US Embassy in El Salvador actually pertains to International Development. Not surprisingly (especially considering my original attitude) what kept coming to mind were two things: privilege and the White Savior Complex.
Discounting the fact that my house here does not have wifi, it can be so easy to forget that I’m living in El Salvador. I have access to the same stores I do at home, a great gym and swimming pool, and I can head to the beach for a weekend trip with minimal planning. While these perks have me counting my blessings, they also have me wondering about the extent to which I should be working to get to know the “real” El Salvador. Can I really claim to have lived in a country, to “know” a country, if I am constantly surrounded by people, places, and things that remind me of the United States? At the same time, though, I am only here for two months, and it would be ignorant and conceited if I thought any efforts made by me in this time could come close to impacting deep-rooted developmental problems, such as increasing economic disparities, gang violence, or lack of infrastructure.
Furthermore, because I am working for the US Embassy, and not an NGO or non-profit, I think it can be easier to ignore the variety of developmental issues and moral conundrums that present themselves in countries considered “underdeveloped.” My work is so interesting, new, and focused specifically on the US-Salvadoran relationship, that it can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks at hand and the United States’ foreign policy, security, and economic goals, and consequently ignore overall development trends and the United States’ impact on sustainable development in El Salvador.
I don’t really have an answer about how to balance my desire to promote all-around development with the knowledge of my limited role, abilities, and time here. I think in some situations the most we can do in the moment is start a conversation, educate ourselves, and strive to never stop learning. I’m inspired by my fellow interns who sit in the kitchen of our house with me and talk for hours about US foreign policy and the strides our generation has made towards tolerance and cultural awareness (big factors in sustainable development!), as well as by my Salvadoran co-workers at the Embassy who have taught me everything I know about both the Consular Section and the country in general. I am learning to recognize the United States’ progress – not only have the last two ambassadors to El Salvador both been female, they have also actually known Spanish, a first for the embassy – while also understanding that the United States cannot (and should not) consider itself solely responsible for El Salvador’s “development.”
I really could go on and on in a similar vein (slightly vague and inconclusive, but somehow development oriented), so instead I’ll end witha plug for my internship – I’ve learned a ton, am (usually) mentally stimulated, and the people are awesome – and a request that we all take a minute to educate ourselves on the social, economic, and political strengths and weaknesses of wherever we happen to be right now.
Currently, Bolivia has the lowest ranking health system of any Hispanic country in the Western Hemisphere. At 69 deaths for every 1000 births, it holds the highest infant mortality rate of any nation in South America. For decades, Bolivia’s quality of life has been brought to its knees by the alarmingly low level of sanitation. Recent governmental response has initiated developments that have vastly improved the health of many urbanites. Extensive research demonstrates that, while the small class of wealthy urban citizens receive some degree of regular medical care, the overwhelmingly vast population of rural poor has largely been neglected.
The indigenous population, composed of native Bolivians of 36 recognized groups, reside primarily in the rural highlands of Southern Bolivia. They make up about 85% of the Bolivian population, yet are at a higher risk of mortality in every scenario. Less than a quarter of the indigenous population has access to clean water due to the geography of the Bolivian highlands, where malaria and Chagas’ disease runs rampant. In addition to the especially low quality of sanitation in rural regions, no formal medical clinics have been established. Patients are, therefore, required to travel fatal distances to urban areas for medical treatment. Physically, the indigenous people of Bolivia are at a disadvantage in their heightened exposure to lethal bacteria and communicable diseases. Due to their widespread location, routine illnesses such as diarrhea and pneumonia prove deadly. Geographic isolation also means that rural women have essentially no access to contraceptives or obstetric care, which is reflected in the incidence of early and multiple pregnancies among indigenous people. Additionally, the maternal death ratio is quadrupled in rural areas.
Although the Bolivian government has responded through multiple programs to revitalize its suffering health care system, such efforts have done little to alleviate the struggle of Bolivia’s rural majority. The Strategic Health Plan, instituted in 1997, aimed to lower infant and maternal mortality rate and reduce the financial barrier to medical treatment. In the past decade, immunization coverage and birth survival rates have improved gradually, but have been primarily limited to the urban elite who can afford coverage. The few rural initiatives that have been established have been hindered by low funds, medicine shortages, and a lack of staff willing to work in the highlands.
In the midst of decentralizing health care, one of the most vulnerable groups of Bolivians has been left stranded by their nation’s social security. Unfortunately, this crisis is a reflection of a financially struggling government, which can do little in the face of such a challenge. The solution lies in potential efforts of NGOs to institute a more cohesive system to deliver efficient health care to the Bolivian highlands. Rather than focusing on availability for sporadic emergency, a system must be developed to address regular physical examination to sustain the health of indigenous citizens. The establishment of equipped emergency medical centers in remote areas of the country is no doubt ambitious, which highlights the need for regular health check-ups and more uniform knowledge of basic medicine. Prior initiatives have demonstrated the effectiveness of instructing indigenous people on sanitation defenses and alternative pharmaceutical solutions. Bolivia’s recent initiatives have been successful in urban centers as their programs rely on the large population size and geographic convenience. Thus, the solution for aiding the indigenous population must be shifted toward an expansive effort of delivering regular medical supplies to villages and offering instruction on daily health and well-being so as to minimize the need for emergency room visits.
By Christopher Medrano
Many African countries are now “emigrant states” that have citizens or nationals—most of whom keep ties with the homeland—spread across the world and within the continent. African governments have come to realize the significance of this growing population of transnationals and have moved to structure the diaspora’s long-distant social, political and economic obligations to the homeland. This has been done through the creation of ministries that represent diasporic interests, extended electoral rights to the diaspora, and the aggregation of remittances for public projects.
The diaspora itself has taken advantage of its relationship with the homeland to assert its power and influence through what can be labeled as “Diasporic Lobbying.” Diasporic lobbying can take two forms:
1) Diasporic lobbying in the host country to influence the host country’s foreign policy towards the homeland.The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, founded in 1980, is an example of a diaspora lobby, which advocates for an American foreign policy in the Middle East that promotes justice and peace in the region.
2) Diasporic lobbying that seeks to directly influence the public officials in the homeland.This form of lobbying, though understudied, has become a significant phenomenon. Diasporic lobbying of this form is usually done when the homeland is in crisis. The 2012 Presidential Election season in Senegal, was the most controversial and violent in the nation’s democratic history. The current president at the time, 85-year-old Abdoulaye Wade, had proposed constitutional changes that would have ensured his victory. Senegalese people took to the streets to protest and Senegalese diasporic communities around the world lobbied the government to take actions that would avoid democratic fallback.
Unfortunately, scholarly literature that links the diaspora with democratization processes or development is limited. However, there are many policy papers that provide normative connections between the diaspora and development. The common argument across many policy papers—which are often written by large international organizations like the World Bank and the International Organization of Migration—is that the diaspora has the capacity to “develop” their homeland. And democratization is assumed to be an outcome of that development. The “migration-development nexus” is worth mention here. In 2002, the phrase “migration-development nexus” was launched in a special issue of International Migration edited by Sørensen et al. The phrase was little used before this publication. The concept argues that migration and development are linked in many ways –through remittances, investments and advocacy by migrants, refugees, diasporas and their transnational communities. A decade after Sørensen et al., Vammen and Brønden encouraged other authors to revisit the theme in another special issue of the same journal. Since then, academics have churned out books, articles and innumerable papers on the links between migration and development. New institutions sprung up such as the EC-UN Joint Migration and Development Initiative and the Global Forum on Migration and Development, which sponsored research on the topic.
Adamson argues that contemporary diasporas in general are “defined by a national or cultural identity, yet differ from nation-states in terms of their organizational and spatial logics.” By comparing diaspora mobilization in two cases, Adamson also finds that both NGOs and state elites are using “diasporic practices of identity formation as a means of generating economic and political support in an increasingly integrated global economy.” Many scholars instead have seen members of diasporic communities as “transnational communities” and diasporic communities as “transnational organizations.” Thus, the African diasporas are increasingly becoming a significant actor in international relations and international development even though they are not nation states.
Social research on this topic is significant because it explores the dimensions of diaspora-homeland transnationalism, namely the diaspora’s influence in the political development of the homeland, a topic that has solely gained relevance in international development policy research. Policymakers—regardless of where they are in the world—must now consider diasporas when making economic and political policies, particularly policies related to the sustainable development of the nation. However, inadequate data and understanding of the diasporas, especially those from the African continent, hinder efforts to increase the contributions diasporas can make to their homelands. My research and others like it would help those in the global community that are interested in harnessing diaspora political and social capital. My research paper on the topic will be published in May of 2016.
 N. Sørensen, and Nicholas Van Hear. The Migration-development Nexus: Evidence and Policy Options : State of the Art Overview. Geneva, Switzerland: International Organization for Migration, 2002. Print.
 I. Vammen, and Birgitte Mossin Brønden. “Donor-Country Responses to the Migration-Development Buzz: From Ambiguous Concepts to Ambitious Policies?” International Migration: 26-42. Print.
 I. Vammen, and Birgitte Mossin Brønden. “Donor-Country Responses to the Migration-Development Buzz: From Ambiguous Concepts to Ambitious Policies?”International Migration: 26-42. Print.
 F. B. Adamson, and M. Demetriou. “Remapping the Boundaries of `State’ and `National Identity’: Incorporating Diasporas into IR Theorizing.” European Journal of International Relations (2007): 489-526. Print.
 R. Bauböck, and Thomas Faist. Diaspora and Transnationalism Concepts, Theories and Methods. Amsterdam UP, 2010. Print.
By Arame Niang