Tag Archives: North Korea

Why diplomats have to be more humane than national, as seen from Kramatorsk in Ukraine’s conflicted East

by Andy Kozlov, (@KozlovAndy, LinkedIn)

Why would you want to cut off the Rwandan representative from the live feed during the broadcast of the United Nations Security Council deliberations on Crimea? Harare, Zimbabwe-based human rights analyst Takura Zhangazha (@TakuraZhangazha) observed this to take place during the March 2014 vote in which “Africa’s weak placement in global politics starkly demonstrated itself.”

UN General Assembly Vote on Ukraine’s Territorial Integrity. Blue: Yes/For; Dark Grey: Abstain; Light Grey: Absent; Red: No/Against. The only African countries to vote against the resolution were Sudan and Zimbabwe. And what about the BRICS?
UN General Assembly Vote on Ukraine’s Territorial Integrity. Blue: Yes/For; Dark Grey: Abstain; Light Grey: Absent; Red: No/Against. The only African countries to vote against the resolution were Sudan and Zimbabwe. And what about the BRICS?

This happened last month. Then on April 7th, the world remembered the victims of the Rwanda genocide, talked R2P (responsibility to protect) and tweeted massively that we haven’t learned anything since the 1994 massacre.

Mid-April, the reality TV came to my hometown of Kramatorsk in Eastern Ukraine — and usually in a state of near-sleep — which turned it into the next subject of international speculations on whether the Russians are seriously moving west. “Will the world protect the obscure tribes inhabiting the basin of the Donets River? Is this the new Cold War?” If it is I wish it doesn’t make us in northern Donetsk Oblast cry, only laugh. Laugh the way residents of  a small New England island town would in 1966 while watching this American comedy directed by Norman Jewison:

At the moment, it is impossible to pencil out a clear course for the region which has been hijacked by various kinds of crony capitalists since Ukraine’s independence in 1991.

On my way to the tennis court, I could enjoy another sunny spring day in Kramatorsk today. The gusts of the apricot-bloom-scented breeze. The noisy kids playing after school in the yard of my nine-floor apartment block make me want to believe that tomorrow I will not have to closely familiarize myself with the Ragnar’s Urban Survival: A Hard-Times Guide to Staying Alive in the City. This is despite the tense situation in the neighboring town of Slovyansk, 12 km to the north. But.. if I end up having to master the survival guide, this can make me — at least in theory — a more competitive UNHCR staff. And the job of the UN Agency for Refugees is to walk out of job, make people fleeing conflicts a mere fact of history.

During my driving class early in the morning, we didn’t meet any road blocks. Around 4 pm my father and I have both noticed the back-to-normal traffic load on the road between Kharkiv and Rostov-on-Don that cuts through Kramatorsk and passes by Slovyansk.

In the murky waters, disturbed by those in pursuit of their national interests, the value of human life always gets discounted. The events like the Rwanda genocide and its spillover in the DRC; the ongoing wars in Syria, CAR and Somalia and the 1990s events in former Yugoslavia all paint a vivid picture, regardless of the landscape.

The steppe vegetation outside my window brings back the memories of my time as a literacy project volunteer in Zimbabwe’s bush. The Southern African nation celebrates its 34th anniversary today. The independence is partially credited to the comrades in the Soviet Ukraine and Russia, official supporters of the liberation struggle in Southern Africa.

Courses held in the Soviet Union have been of four main types – para-military training, military engineering, radio (usually at Simferopol in Crimea and Odessa), and intelligence (in Moscow). Para-military training has also been given in Bulgaria, North Korea, and the Arab Republic of Egypt. While in Zimbabwe back in 2011, I ran into a retired Zimbabwean general who shared with me some pleasant memories of his time as a youthful trainee in Crimea. Burning pieces of wood clicking in the bonfire, as we spoke outside his compound near the border with Botswana.

Look at the UNGA Crimea vote map above and yes, Robert Mugabe’s envoy in New York sided red. A decade before Rwanda, Zimbabwe had its own genocide, Gukurahundi. While the world looked the other way, North Korea followed its ‘national interests’ and sent troops to massacre the civilians in Zimbabwe’s Matabeleland region.

North Korea have voted red on Crimea. The country that, according to the latest 372-page study by UN, forced a mother to drown her just-born baby in a bowl of water.

Asked whether he believed the North Korea Inquiry report would change anything immediately in that Asian country, Michael Kirby, an Australian retired judge, recalled a UN mission he led in the early 1990s to report on human rights abuses in Cambodia, some years before that country’s eventual UN-led tribunal on Khmer Rouge crimes. He said: “Bearing witness, collecting the stories, recording them and putting them there for future use can sometimes bear fruit a little later.”

“But how confident can Kirby be that action will follow?” wonders Jonathan Freedland (@Freedland) of The Guardian. He argues:

Any UN plan – even a referral of North Korea to the International Criminal Court – would hit the immediate obstacle of a Chinese veto in the security council. .. Did a recent report laying out comprehensive evidence of the suffering of detainees at the hands of the Assad regime in Syria spark a worldwide demand for action, with demonstrations outside parliaments and presidential palaces? It did not. Perhaps mindful that any call for UN action would be blocked by a Russian veto, the chief response was a global shrug. Now, after Iraq and Afghanistan, [people’s] belief that if they only shouted loud enough, they would eventually get the international powers to act, has vanished.

The take on the Ukrainian crisis jotted down by Timothy Garton Ash, another Guardian contributor, in China highlights another hurdle in humanity’s way to becoming more humane.

Ukraine was a long way away – and, frankly speaking, the positives of the crisis outweighed the negatives for China. What’s more, the United States would have another strategic distraction (after al-Qaida, Afghanistan and Iraq) to hinder its “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific region, and divert its attention from China. And, cold-shouldered by the west, Russia would be more dependent on a good relationship with Beijing. As for Ukraine – which already sells China higher-grade military equipment than Russia has been willing to share with its great Asian ally – its new authorities had already quietly assured the Chinese authorities that Beijing’s failure to condemn the annexation of Crimea would not affect their future relations.

Russia’s two other partners in the so-called Brics group – Brazil and South Africa – both abstained on the UN general assembly resolution criticising the Crimea referendum. They also joined Russia in expressing “concern” at the Australian foreign minister’s suggestion that Vladimir Putin might be barred from attending a G20 summit in November.

Monocle’s foreign affairs editor, Steve Bloomfield here:

Brazil, highly critical of western action in Libya, made a strong intellectual case for respect for human rights being linked to respect for sovereignty. When the United Nations General Assembly voted to support Ukraine’s sovereignty Brazil failed to join the 100 nations in favour. They, like India, chose to abstain. One imagines that if the US had annexed a part of Mexico, Brasília would not have sat quietly on the fence.

Who knows, if Sérgio Vieira de Mello, Brazil’s son who had often risked his life for the promotion of the humanitarian cause, was still alive maybe he could inspire Russia’s Sergey Lavrov to be less national and more humane in his reasonings.

In the H1N1 age, diplomats’ inactions speak louder than their words. The world is pronouncingly being told to forget the human drama amidst all this national interest talk and the short-sighted concern caused by geographic proximity. Paired with the country interest, resentment at centuries of western colonial domination stops the shrinking world from realizing the urgency of collaboration, as the ever increasing number of problems transcends borders of some 190 countries.

Hal Varian, chief economist for Google, recently suggested that “the smartest person in the world currently could well be stuck behind a plow in India or China.” Well, it could easily be someone from Slovyansk, a community becoming a case study for the Stockholm syndrome, collective phycosis and, accidentally, civil society resurgence in a region where demonstrating for your rights had not been a habit shared by many even a couple months ago. But which diplomat will feel responsible to secure Slovyansk residents from the carnal violence? The gunmen sitting in the Slovyansk city council are reportedly unwilling to accept the April 17 Geneva deal.

The world as a whole will win if it fosters more goodwill ambassadors at the expense of nation-framed diplomats. The geographic distance could increasingly be a plus as far as balanced negotiations are concerned.

To downplay the gory and militant imagery of Russian and Ukrainian videostreams, here is a somewhat balanced report by Press TV, a 24-hour English language news organization of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting:

Zimbabwe’s Takura Zhangazha again:

We may be a weaker continent but we are not weak global citizens. And we must consistently lay claim to this global citizenship by shouting from Mt Kilimanjaro: “no return to the past of the Cold War. It does not help the world to move forward.”

No matter what becomes of Crimea — a Tibet, Western Sahara, South Sudan or the German Democratic Republic as we observe it in 2014– the trend globally has been clear: the world on the whole is becoming a better place as individuals on all continents grow healthier and more educated in ever larger numbers.

Steve Bloomfield once more:

While reporters scramble to hear the latest press conference from John Kerry or William Hague, few would make a similar effort to get the views of India’s external affairs minister, Salman Khurshid, a man so well known around the world that you’re not entirely sure if I’ve just made him up. India will have a new foreign minster next month. Let’s hope it’s worth learning his name.

A time will come when the Foreign Minister of Russia or any other international power –be it soft or hard — will not just be a “tough, reliable, extremely sophisticated negotiator” unwittingly drawing the world’s attention to the double standards applied to the Comoros. A goodwill ambassador we want to see in Kramatorsk tomorrow will be a human being using her/his knowledge, skills and international connections to effectively alleviate the suffering and overcome miscommunication, and using this intention as a guiding principle to substitute the touted national interest.

As the military jets circling above my hometown have become a routine view over this week, I tell myself to keep calm and “bear witness, record the stories and put them there for future use.”

You can write to Andy Kozlov on a.kozlov@steppesinsync.com

See also:

Kramatorsk. A Global Intersection

Discussing the isolation/insulation of Donbass aesthetics with an industrial photographer from Eastern Ukraine

Ukrainian Gangnam Style: Hyundai gets Ukraine wrong, apologizes. While FEMEN topless-climb up South Korean bullet train at Kyiv

Steppes In Figures #5: Ukraine and the world

Freelance Diplomacy and Small States

Not-your-usual faces of African diplomacy

A different world map

Video Games Are Mapping Your World I

TV and film help UNHCR to raise refugee issues awareness in China, Ukraine as well as Japan

Sri Lankans cover Zimbabwean engineer helping Mongolians in sustainable Ninja-Mining, while Estonians document Eastern Ukrainian kids digging for coal

For Chornobyl with Love: strumming Ukrainian pain in Japan and relieving that pain in Japan

Successful designer in Syria and internationally, asylum-seeker in Ukraine. Hussam Al-Yamani defies the odds, opens Mediterranean cuisine restaurant in Kyiv’s Podil

Multikulti Ukraine


Switch on Ukraine! – To then do what?

How Ukraine is providing the world with high-end IT solutions. Via Uruguay’s Montevideo

We feed the world — the Ukrainian way, that is

My North Korean film classes in humanity and creativity

The 10 Commandments of Development Communication

What a young Ukrainian expert in international relations can learn traveling for 15 days with 450 people by Indian train

Ukraine’s own ‘Zaha Hadid’ introduces the gentrifying Eastern Europe to the Iranian-inspired design

Mounteering Nigerians and the Cossacks of Ukraine

Nigerian engineer creates dozen job opportunities for Ukrainians in Kyiv

Soviet, a South African brand

South African training for Ukrainians

The worst music with the best intentions? Insights on a Zimbabwean fundraising tune for Somalia

General History of Africa gets more non-European dimensions

These reporters and media execs shape English-language reader-s perception of Ukraine

On international reporting

The challenges of reporting on sustainable development in Ukraine. What is this ‘sustainable development,’ by the way?

Eebra Toore’- came to Ukraine to play a Somali pirate boss against the Russian marines

The most remarkable Japanese person who dedicated himself/herself to Africa’s development is anonymous

Bad bad video! Or what we-ve learned from KONY 2012 to change the world for better

North Korean artist turns from propaganda to pop art


Come to the XIII Pyongyang International Film Festival to watch “Comrade Kim Goes Flying” and stay at the the Deluxe Yanggakdo International Hotel

There seem to be all signs in place that this year’s Pyongyang International Film Festival will take place in the North Korean capital. Koryo Tours, British-led, Beijing-based tour operator with an unprecedented access to destinations in North Korea, made sure there is an official website for the event. (See The Bittersweet Taste of Soft Power: North Korea’s flirting with tourism)

According to Wikipedia, the biennial cultural exhibition  is an unusually cosmopolitan event for a state known to be reclusive to outside (particularly Western) contact. The 13th PIFF is scheduled to be held from September 20 to 27, 2012. Cinema-goers have the option of staying at the Deluxe Yanggakdo International Hotel, which is in close proximity to the Pyongyang International Cinema House.

The event originated in 1987 as the Pyongyang Film Festival of the Non-aligned and Other Developing Countries. As the name precisely delineated, the festival was a cultural exchange between countries of the Non-Aligned Movement. The maiden event, held from September 1 through September 10, showed short films, features, and documentaries that were judged for competitive awards.

The Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea

The film festival returned in 1990 and would be regularly held every other year. Recurrent subject matter included domestic cinema that commonly praised the high leadership such as a film shown at the 1992 film festival, verbosely translated, Glory of Our People in Holding the Great Leader in High Esteem, and foreign films about revolutionary resistance. In 2000, officials widened the acceptable breadth of film watching, by screening Japanese films for the first time.

The ninth festival, held in 2004, moderated cultural restrictions further with the screening of a dubbed and censored version of the British comedy Bend It Like Beckham and U.S.-produced South African drama Cry, The Beloved Country.

The first fictional film with an entirely Korean cast co-produced with Western partners and shot inside North Korea, “Comrade Kim Goes Flying,” to premiere at PIFF 2012
North Korean cinema: a history book cover

In 2006, the Swedish horror comedy Frostbiten was shown at the festival, being the first foreign horror film to ever be shown in North Korea. The Schoolgirl’s Diary, which premiered at the 2006 festival, in 2007 became the first North Korean film in several decades to be picked up for international distribution, when it was purchased by French company Pretty Pictures. It was released in France in late 2007. In recent years, the film festival has included films from Western countries with which Pyongyang has diplomatic relations. Many of the films are censored and often have themes emphasising family values, loyalty and the temptations of money.

Koryo Tours has been the official Foreign Representative for the biennial Pyongyang International Film Festival since 2002 when they first submitted their film on the North Korean World Cup football team of 1966 ‘The Game of Their Lives’ to a packed North Korean audience.

Koryo Tours is offering a special tour for this year’s PIFF that goes for EUR 1,990 (S$3,071). It allows access to film screenings, meet-ups with directors, actors and students, as well as a tour of the film studio and locations where Koryo filmed in-house release Comrade Kim Goes Flying. (See Kim Jong-il the Creative (film fan) and My North Korean film classes in humanity and creativity)

The challenges of reporting on sustainable development in Ukraine. What is this ‘sustainable development,’ by the way?

“Although less than a month remains till the UN Conference on Sustainable Development – Rio+20,” complained an Ukrainian media observer Maryna Dorosh in a May article on the United Nations in Ukraine site – “Ukrainian mass media rarely provide information either on Rio+20 or on sustainable development in general.” This is, she claims, because the notion of sustainability “sounds too global and distant to the Ukrainian public, including journalists. They say the ‘world leaders’ have their own events while we have our own one here.”

CNN International’s Deborah Rivers (centre), UNDP Ukraine Country Director Ricarda Rieger, moderated by Yevhen Fedchenko, director of the Kyiv-Mohyla School of Journalism (photo courtesy of Osvita.Mediasapiens.ua)

Well, for those of us in Ukraine who are familiar with an average (read ‘parochial’) journalist’s proclivity to lazy out each line of an article or script, Post-Soviet development communication prospects got a bit brighter. The United Nations in Ukraine recently co-organized a seminar “Synergy between government, business, society and media on the threshold of Rio+20,” where she brought together CNN International‘s Deborah Rivers, Kyiv-Mohyla School of Journalism’s Yevhen Fedchenko, CIS media expert and founder of an Eastern Europe/Central Asia-focused strategic communication and planning agency Pro.movaYevhen Hlibovytsky. (See Whose premise: UNESCO-Harare or UNESCO-Paris?A 10-step guide for creating effective UN-Business partnershipsBiosphere Connections by Star Alliance+UNESCO+National GeographicUNESCO partners with NHK to produce World Heritage videos)

Kyiv Fashion Park’s Lubava Ilyenko and artist Natalia Makeeva inaugurating Makeeva’s art installation “Turnip or an old Eco-tale” by the UN office in Kyiv (Photo courtesy of United Nations in Ukraine)

The speakers encouraged Ukrainian journalists to develop a fresh angle at the issues of sustainability and to make sure that it is rendered more attractive to their audiences. The sustainable development theme is unpopular because some journalists have not heard such a concept at all, whereas those who have do not understand its meaning in full, believes Serhii Volkov, Senior Programme Manager at UNDP Ukraine, who oversaw work on the National Education Development Doctrine in Ukraine 2015 (2000), Evaluation of Ukraine’s Preparedness to the Modern Information and Communication Technologies (2002), National Environmental Strategy of Ukraine (2007).

Volkov’s colleague, UNDP Ukraine Country Director Ricarda Rieger, who has had experience of work in North Korea (1989-1991), Thailand, Egypt, Cambodia and the Philippines,  said that some pressing issues facing Ukraine today are:

For people to make decisions, discussion should be initiated. It is media that put the subject on the agenda. Journalists should not only report statistics but also propose possible solutions.

For the sceptics who cite the prospects of boring Ukrainian audiences with ‘global’ topics as too high in reporting on sustainable practices, CNN International’s leading producer, Deborah Rivers, who was responsible for the production of the Road to Rio: A Green City Journey programme series, came out with,

Sustainable development is naturally an important and serious topic but it looks tiresome to the audience. Hence, beginning a series of reports, we decided to change the angle of view and show what others do, rather than teach or tell the viewers ‘don’t do that’. I mean we focused on positive examples, on what had been already created by some communities in various places.

The CNN crew went to China, India, UAE, Turkey, Mexico, among other countries. Their main task was to talk about local ‘economy greening’ projects. For example green initiatives in Delhi or Darjeeling tea plantations where renewable hydropower is used.

Ricarda Rieger and Yevgen Zelenko of UNDP in front of the art installation “Turnip or an old Eco-tale” (Photo courtesy of United Nations in Ukraine)

However, the CNN sustainabilty reports produced by Rivers are not overburdened with detail. The reporters certainly communicated with experts and scientists but did not go too deep into technical or industrial data. According to Rivers, they tried to keep a balance between information and entertainment in the programmes and their key goal was to draw attention to the subject and to kindle interest. Great attention was paid to creative approaches in journalist’s work and drawing vivid pictures. So the CNN producer suggests:

In the international format, we have to generalise many things. Meanwhile, raising the sustainable development issues locally, including in Ukraine, you can get deeper to the bottom, show the context. Not only make a description but also explain reasons and consequences.

This approach – focusing on concrete examples and highlighting local initiatives – was showcased during the seminar by Tamara Malkova, director of the Ukraine-based Green Dossier information centre. She believes that journalists need not go too far to find sustainable development examples in Ukraine. They can look at the most traditional field in the public perception, Ukrainian countryside.

We implemented a few projects collecting positive stories of farming in the Carpathian Mountains. It turned out that an ordinary farmer has this natural ability of living and working in a sustainable way without knowing that this kind of  lifestyle is called ‘sustainable development.’

The Carpathian Mountains

The Green Dossier projects include Dumka (‘Thought’ in Ukrainian), a local newsletter covering issues like recovery of traditional agriculture in the Carpathians. Examples of their stories include reports about the valylo, a traditional mountain washing machine in Horod village and a private cheese dairy in Nyzhnie Selyshche that uses the latest Western technology.

To lure the audience, Ukrainian journalists should not invoke a mythical public welfare right away. It is rather recommended to focus on ‘personal usefulness’ of sustainable living by paying particular attention to personal health and well-being. Hence, reporting about a factory’s hazardous emissions or about an improper use of materials in road construction it is worth explaining what specific impact the problem has upon personal health and everyday life. Offering solutions to a non-sustainable problem is no less important in reporting. But one should be careful not to abuse the stats. To learn more check this blog about science training for journalists.

In short, be attentive to your local environment, make the story fun, do it regularly.


The United Nations Office in Ukraine recently partnered with a waste treatment and recycling company Kyivmiskvtorresursy and the first Ukrainian eco-channel ECO –TV” as well as the first Ukrainian park of modern sculpture and installation Kiev Fashion Park, whose aim is to beautify public outdoor space of Kyiv and other cities by installation of modern and contemporary art objects.

A fragment of an art installation “Turnip or an old Eco-tale” by Natalie Makeeva by the UN headquarters in Kyiv (photo courtesy of Arsenale2012.com)

The partnership resulted in an art installation “Turnip or an old Eco-tale” by Natalie Makeeva by the UN headquarters in Kyiv. The title alludes to a traditional Slav fairy-tale “Turnip,” in which a turnip grows so huge that it becomes extremely hard to harvest it. It is a metaphor for the old gadgets that people one day might not be able to control. In other words, technical and media development leads to a huge waste track which we deny to see.

See related material:

UN4U in Eastern Ukraine

Bad bad video! Or what we’ve learned from KONY 2012 to change the world for better

The past few months saw a lot of Africa experts complain about the KONY 2012 video, the most cited drawbacks being:

  • wrong timing for Uganda (the theatre of Joseph Kony’s operations shifted from Northern Uganda in December of 2005 to neighboring countries)
  • oversimptlistic treatment of the on-the-ground reality (good vs evil)
  • perennial patronizing attitude by the ignorant Westerners misrepresenting the complex truth to Western audiences
World map of mobile internet penetration (May 2012)

But really no-one studied the 30-min video from the point of view of media for development, taking into consideration the challenges and advantages of mass communication in the Web 2.0 age (See The 10 Commandments of Development Communicator). Because of the digital divide, it is still predominantly Western audiences that are able to implement social awareness campaigns on the scale similar to what the Invisible Children did. Besides, for many a nation in the non-Western world voluntarism is low on the public agenda – one half of the population is busy getting super rich, the other one is struggling to find enough food to survive. The stable middle class base is rare throughout the Majority World.

We disagree with Ugandan journalist Angelo Izama when he argues that the KONY 2012 campaign will not make Joseph Kony more famous. Instead, he suggests, “it will make Invisible Children famous.” Mr Izama overlooks the fact that any media campaign contributes to the increase in popularity of its producers. Especially if it is being banned or protested against.

As Tashi Tagg, a noted South African TV critic and pop culture expert from The South African TV Authority, noted in a conversation with Thinus Ferreira, a media expert,  the South African broadcasters’ bru-ha-ha to yank a recent Nando’s Diversity ad off the air “gives Nando’s an edge on the advertising scene. It’s giving them loads of free advertising and buzz – everyone’s talking about them. Their ad is doing well on the internet and they don’t have to pay broadcasters to flight it. So it’s ultimately Nando’s who is winning.” Tashi Tagg also says that it gives Nando’s “loads of fodder for future campaigns. They can run with the copy: ‘Nando’s – so spicy … the broadcasters are too chicken to air our ads’,” she says.

The Nando’s Diversity TV commercial went viral and has amassed more than 400,000 views since June, 1 when the TV advert was posted. Another controversial Nando’s video “Last Dictator Standing” has amassed a stunning 1, 220, 000+ views since November 2011.

KONY 2012 did make Joseph Kony famous. The real practical question is for how long? With whom is he famous now? (Did he go viral in non-English-speaking countries like Kazakhstan?) And what did we in the Majority World countries learn from the Invisible Children campaign to tackle the numerous invisible issues at home? How can a media campaign of this kind mobilize any society in the world?

One issue to consider as a lesson learned  from KONY 2012 is enhancing the democratic principle of representation. The famous dictum by Winston Churchill goes, “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” It used to be for a long time (and in most parts of the world it still is) that, for the people to reign according to democratical principles, there had to be a person representing a group. The internet is changing that. As shown in KONY 2012, the Invisible Children campaigners used social networks to enhance the effect of their conversation with the representatives of the US people. Without the resonance of the Lord’s Resistance Army issue achieved by Facebook-empowered campaigns, no-one in Washington, D.C. wanted to talk about an obsolete warlord from Central Africa — Joseph Kony isn’t considered a threat to the US national security and, thus, there used to be no mechanism or interest among politicians to stop the violance perpetrated by his guerilla group.

With this said, let’s ask ourselves what stops citizens of other nations from campaigning to put in the limelight any humanitarian challenge anywhere in the world? Issues like increasing inter-African trade, providing one billion people with enough nutrition to get them off the brink of chronic starvation (See The worst music with the best intentions insight on a Zimbabwean fundraising tune for Somalia), helping North Korea out of its cul-de-sac (See My North Korean film classes in humanity and creativity), resolving the societal and infrastructural challenges in Haiti?

One of the numerous lists of countries to media-campaign for was prepared by Open Doors, a non-denominational mission supporting persecuted Christians in 50 countries where Christianity is socially or legally discouraged or oppressed.

2012 World Watch List of Persecuted Christians by Open Doors, a non-denominational mission supporting persecuted Christians in 50 countries where Christianity is socially or legally discouraged or oppressed

 2012 World Watch List of Persecuted Christians by Open Doors

  1. North Korea
  2. Afghanistan (See I want my TV in Afghanistan)
  3. Saudi Arabia
  4.  Somalia (See What the world’s only active Somali archaeologist has in common with the Iraqi-British winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize)
  5. Iran
  6. Maldives
  7. Uzbekistan (See Post-Soviet nations gradually embrace high-speed overland transportation)
  8. Yemen
  9. Iraq (See Steppes In Figures #5: Ukraine and the world)
  10. Pakistan (See Photojournalism prize offers €50,000 grant to develop a project in Zimbabwe)
  11. Eritrea
  12. Laos
  13. Northern Nigeria (See Copyright wars II: What “pirates” of Hollywood (read “American film-making pioneers”) share with Nollywood marketers)
  14. Mauritania
  15. Egypt
  16. Sudan (See The debut list “40 Most Powerful Celebrities In Africa”: dominated by musicians+overwhelming number has a very small social media presence+some did very little to support social causes)
  17. Bhutan
  18. Turkmenistan (See Adasia: untapping media markets in Central Asia)
  19. Vietnam
  20. Chechnya
  21. China (See From Geely in Ukraine to Chery in Zimbabwe: how many China’s global brands can you think of?)
  22. Qatar
  23. Algeria
  24. Comoros
  25. Azerbaijan (See Multikulti Ukraine)
  26. Libya
  27. Oman
  28. Brunei
  29. Morocco
  30. Kuwait
  31. Turkey (See Turkey’s ‘soap power’)
  32. India (See India’s creative industries)
  33. Burma (Myanmar) (See Myanmar. Its soldiers, pirates, posters and theaters)
  34. Tajikistan
  35. Tunisia
  36. Syria
  37. United Arab Emirates (See Why I am excited about flying through Dubai or Why I am excited not to fly through OR Tambo in Jozi)
  38. Ethiopia (See Fast readers of Ethiopia or Addis’ avid culture of newspaper reading)
  39. Djibouti
  40. Jordan
  41. Cuba
  42. Belarus
  43. Indonesia
  44. Palestinian Territories
  45. Kazakhstan (See Afriwood to participate in 2012 Ukrainian Content Market)
  46. Bahrain
  47. Colombia
  48. Kyrgyzstan
  49. Bangladesh
  50. Malaysia

Another issue that KONY 2012 made us think about is the celebrity factor. Say whatever you want but the media trick the video and the related to it campaign used to publicize the persona of Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony is something to emulate in the future.

Don’t get us wrong, we are not saying that pacifying Kony is the only solution to the guerilla war problem facing Central Africa. Take Zimbabwe for an example. Last month, Senator Femai, a member of Zimbabwe’s main opposition party the Movement for Democratic Change suggested that to stop HIV women should have fewer baths and shave off their hair to make them less attractive. (See Top ranking cities for health safety and security list. Scrap it!) Petina Gappah, an international trade lawyer and Zimbabwean-born writer, commented on her Facebook wall (See The creator of Ted reinvents conferencing):

The Femai story has gone viral. As always in the UK, it is all about [President Robert] Mugabe and Zimbabwe. No mention at all that Femai is one of [Prime Minister Morgan] Tsvangirai’s men, one of the people that the British are actively supporting to take over.

Petina Gappah’s spirited debut collection An Elegy for Easterly

The role of celebrity culture in media is huge. From George Clooney to Bono and Angelina Jolie, global celebrities (predominantly from the West rather than anywhere else–why, anynone?) promote social causes across the world and get celebrated (or criticized and, thus, publicized) along the way.

KONY 2012 did not invent this. What the campaign video did is to work with the reality that we live in and harness the celebrity factor to promote the cause Invisible Children fight for. The NGO identified the right celebrities and shaped public opinion with their help. Moreover, Invisible Children thought it through and applied the celebrity principles to the villain Kony to publicize his persona by using the United States political imagery and gimmicks. Whether wrong or right, this move did put Joseph Kony into the public mentality. It’s already a different question how to do it right to eliminate the problems Kony’s LRA troops are causing in the Central African region.

To conclude, we can only ask all the KONY 2012 critics, especially from the African crowd of experts, how can you maximize the publicity effect created by the US-made video? What can you do to educate the world (especially the Majority World) about the Kony-related problem, the lack of cooperation between Africans on the continent or the challenges of urbanization in Africa. (See Urban rail in Africa: Whether “freedom trains” will solve Zimbabwe’s traffic jam problems, more attention should be paid to what happens when you board at A and get off at B. And don’t forget the bike!SinS book review. Africa Rising: how 900 million African consumers offer more than you think and Navigating African cities through our own unique and diverse mental maps)

It’s easy to make a name for oneself by criticizing something that the US enthusiats did to help solve a problem that was low on their government’s agenda, something that went viral because of the efforts and media expertise of the US Americans. And before you criticize Steppes in Sync for this article, think of how many Africans (like Kofi Annan) work for the good of other nations and how expertised they are in this pursuit? Why was Open Doors founded by a Dutchman (one of those Westerners)? While a Zimbabwean Pentecostal leader Emmanuel Makandiwa or a Nigerian prophet TB Joshua are busy stirring controversy by picking up a new Mercedes or prophesising deaths of African presidents. (See Digitalizing religious discourse in Zimbabwe) Instead, these Africans could be doing their best to help the starving kids of  Somalia or the persecuted Christians in North Korea?