Monday, December 28, 2009

Steven Spielberg quits as cultural advisor to games: A sign of further protests?

This is an old story but a good one all the same.
EVENT: Steven Spielberg resigns as Olympic Cultural Advisor over China’s lack of diplomatic efforts in solving the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan.

SIGNIFICANCE: With Spielberg’s resignation and increasing global concern over Tibet, protests at the 2008 Olympic Games seem increasingly likely. Spielberg’s resignation as cultural advisor to the Games has highlighted the lobbying done by several Human Rights Organisations (such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and smaller specific groups such as Team Darfur and Dream for Darfur) in regards to the conflict and China’s relationship to the Sudanese Government. With conflict likely to occur, China might well try to limit freedom of speech and especially regarding their nation’s political record. Australia’s policy of allowing freedom of free speech to all its athletes, any retraction on the expression of ideas would limit Team Australia’s pursuit of recording their experience and their thoughts. More importantly, Australia has a moral responsibility to encourage China to do what it can to promote a quick solution to the conflict.


Background to China’s involvement in Sudan

For quite a while now, ‘China has played a critical role in the oil-felled boom in Sedan. After Bashier [Sudan’s Head of State] visited President Jiang Zemin in 1995, co-operation blossomed. Sudan now supplies 10% of China’s oil. Production has risen from 500,000 barrels-per-day….This year’s revenue from oil will exceed $4 billion’ . As a result from such an involvement, many in the international community believe that China should lobby the Sudanese Government to resolve the conflict in Darfur.

Why Director Steven Spielberg resigned

In a statement to the Chinese Ambassador and Chinese Olympic Committee, Spielberg argued that ‘Sudan's government bears the bulk of the responsibility for these ongoing crimes but the international community, and particularly China, should be doing more to end the continuing human suffering there….China's economic, military and diplomatic ties to the government of Sudan continue to provide it with the opportunity and obligation to press for change.’ He strongly believes that China’s involvement in the region leaving them in a position to promote peace and reconciliation among the waring parties.

Global pressure has so far not deterred the Chinese’s current strategy as they continue to support the trade arms with the war-ravaged country (having sold the Sudanese authorities $55 million during the 2003 – 2006 period ) as well as act as a major importer of their oil recourses. There are no signs of any change in approach as a result of global pressure to do so despite the fact that the world’s eyes will be upon them in August.

In response to Spielberg’s comments, a Chinese official in America states that "As the Darfur issue is neither an internal issue of China nor is it caused by China, it is completely unreasonable, irresponsible and unfair to link the two as one.’ This highlights the strategy used by the Chinese to avoid any responsibility for participating in the conflict in the Sudan and their attempt to reduce the number of negative political issued discussed during the lead up to the games. However, this is unlikely to deter individuals and human rights organisations from protesting, unless the Chinese make drastic changes to their approach – which seems unlikely.

Other forms of protests being undertaken by Political Institutions

There are several UN Security Council resolutions that deal with the issue of China’s involvement in Sudan; however, since China is a permanent member of the Council, it is unlikely that they will be passed.

What is done by Non-Government Organisations and other Activists

Since the uprising in Tibet in recent days, there have been renewed reports concerning China’s political stances. Such as Activists will demonstrate in Beijing during the Olympics to press China to help end bloodshed in Darfur, a group said Thursday, adding to the government's public relations headaches as it tries to quell protests in Tibet.’

To be more specific, these groups have announced that ‘We are planning some actions during the games themselves in Beijing," Dream for Darfur's executive director, Jill Savitt, said in a conference call with reporters. Savitt said the group was keeping details secret "for fear we would not be able to pull off those events.’ While these are only two groups, it is presumed that they will not be the only ones that are planning protests at the games.

Having looked at the Dream for Darfur’s website, it appears that much for their action seems to be surrounding the provision of information and lobby as well as physical protest, however due to the Chinese crackdown on descent, details of any action, is at present, unclear. But they take the interesting approach of asking the sponsors of the games (such as Coke a Cola, McDonalds and Rolex) to also pressure the Chinese Government into action. There are also broadcasts from refugee camps by actress Mia Farrow and an invitation to the public to refrain from watching the sponsors’ commercials on television.

While these actions might not work in Western Countries, in image conscious China where loosing face must be avoided at all costs, negative campaigns could be what is needed to ensure that the government does something to solve the conflict.

It is also important to remember that many Athletes will also have opinions and express their views on political views. After originally banning their athletes from saying anything, the British have allowed their athletes to speak publicly and the Australians are given freedom of speech and opinion so some athletes may choose to speak out on a range of issues.

Team Darfur is a good example of athlete taking action to bring global attention to particular issue. The organisation began when Olympic Gold medallists speed skater Joey Cheek and UCLA water polo player Brad Greiner ‘$1 million in 2006 when he announced he would donate his medal bonuses to relief in Darfur, and encouraged other athletes and sponsors to do the same’ . Their approach is not so much “causing trouble and embarrassment” to the Chinese Government, although they would prefer them to change their policies but they seem to lead by example by donating their prize money to helping the Sudanese Children. They are also strong in proving information regarding the relationship between the Chinese Government and Sudanese Authorities.

Conclusion: The Olympic Games, despite the ideal of being above politics, will always attract protest and scrutiny of the host country. However, some countries attract more scrutiny than other and China, with its poor human rights record (both nationally and internationally); will no doubt have experience high levels of critique and protest.

Steven Spielberg’s resignation will be among the first acts of protest in the lead up to the games and there will be protests not only in regards to the Chinese – Sudanese relationship but also regarding China’s human rights record.

However, there are reports that ‘China's envoy for Darfur, Liu Guijin, began a five-day visit to the country to push for peace. China has come under increasing pressure to use its influence with Sudan to end the fighting…..‘My [Mr Liu, China’s envoy to Darfur] message to the media and to the world is that the Chinese government and people are ready to help Sudan and to help the international community to find the solution of the Darfur issue", he said. ’ .

The article continues to state that the recent developments have not persuaded Steven Spielberg to reconsider his position.

While the Chinese Government might be reluctant to be active in bringing about peace, they are in a perfect position to do so and Australia should continue to pressure to them to use their influence to make a difference in the conflict in Sudan.

References available on request

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The benefits of completing an internship

Gain global exposure.

It is often said that we now live in a global market place and having an international background is vital to being successful in it. By undertaking an international placement you will develop an understanding of the big picture and gain a different prospective as well as international contacts.

International Internships help you stand out from the crowd.

Completing internships in another county is an experience that is both a rewarding and challenging one. Doing an internship in overseas requires an extra set of skills such as operating in a new culture, overcoming culture shock and cross cultural communication. Your experience as an intern in overseas will show your adaptability, drive and focus.

Develop real skills.

During your internship in Malaysia, you will able to use many of the skills that you have learnt at university and apply them to international situations. You also aquire work experience and skills which can assist you to secure perminant employment in the future.

Evaluate your career path and the skills you need to get there.

It can be hard to know what its really like to work in a particular industry and how to progress onto a career path within that area. By doing an internship, you’ll be in a better position to understand your own strengths and weeknesses as well as evaluate your own choices and adjust your plans accordingly.

False expectations surrounding Bachelor of Arts highlights need for more internship programmes

It has been reported that Arts students have faux expectations of their qualification after they graduate. In a study for the Deans of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (DASSH) lists the career testimonials for arts graduates as authers, editors and news producers as well as diplomats and actors. The report found that in reality, arts graduate often are found in adminstrative roles as well as in teaching and liberian positions.

Professor Nick Harvey, executive dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Adelaide University is developing stratagies to remove the myths surrounding the job prospects of an Arts graduate as well as building on previous parliamentary, environmental and media internships at the University of Adelaide to include an arts internship.

This article states the importance of his work with almost a quarter of Arts grads who are not in full time work 4 months after graduation as compared to 15% of graduates of other disaplines. However Professor Nick Harvey did stress that Arts graduates long term outlook was as successful as many other graduates in other disaplines.

Friday, October 30, 2009

At internship midway point, Intern describes experience as “best time ever”

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 3. Being approx 6 weeks through her 3 months through her internship Aussie Intern Gabs seems to have pack in more than most during the last 6 weeks.

With a slight change of placement and with university over for the year, a window of opportunity presented itself for spontaneous trip to Hong Kong, Georgetown and Malacca.

“I just want to make the best of my time away from Perth and explore more exciting places before settling back into my internship programme” she says.

This week saw the start of a new internship placement at the Australian Education International which is located at the Australian High Commission. Her role is, among other things, to start a journey into the blogoshere and bring Australian education into this brave new world. “Its all very exciting and I love every minute”.

Of course being at the High Commission does equal to heavy socializing, but not that is ever a problem for Aussie Intern Gabs.

“Oh, it's great, seriously” she says heading out to another event. “last week there was a farewell do, networking drinks and a Murdoch Uni Alumni dinner. As for next week, who knows?” We know for one that there will be a race that stops the nation and we are sure it will stop the diplomatic lot too.

However, there have been a few challenges. “The mozzies were awful at first, it looked like I had chicken pox”, she says pointing to the scars. “Living in a backpacker for 3 weeks was another” but we are assured that things are almost sorted now. Being confined to solitry confinement for a month (which seemed like a life time) was also a challenge but things soon picked up when Aussie Intern Gabs came down from the jungle to the city. She was always a city girl ;)

We are also told that while this internship is part junket, "I am here to work” she says, chaining herself to her desk.

We have also noted that she always eats out and catches taxis everywhere. Who does she think she is??

“Well, with food costing what it does and KL transport being what it is, why would you do anything else?”

Aussie Intern Gabs is looking forward to the next 6 weeks and learning as much as possible about everything. All we can say is “back to work, Aussie Intern Gabs”.

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