Nepal: Trade union leaders imprisoned

An edict from King Gyanendra of Nepal has resulted in the arrest of 100 leaders of Nepal’s seven-party political opposition and two top leaders of the General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (GEFONT). Chairperson Mukunda Neupane and Secretary-General Binod Shrestha of GEFONT were held under a 90-day detention order, part of a crackdown which includes a curfew, cutting off landlines and mobile phones and the banning of all political demonstrations.

World labor groups, including the International Confederation of Trade Unions, have sent strong protests to the Nepalese authorities.

GEFONT, led by members of the Communist Party of Nepal – United Marxist-Leninist, and other trade union groups threatened a general strike if the leaders were not released.

Mali: World Social Forum meets

About 11,000 people gathered in Bamako, Mali, Jan. 19 for the Africa World Social Forum, the first of three regional events providing a people’s alternative to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Uniquely Afrocentric, the event included a special area for children where topics such as alternative tools to educate children in rural areas were discussed. A youth forum brought together young people and village elders to discuss such issues as immigration, education and employment.

The World Court of Women held hearings on crimes against women on the theme, “Resistance to Wars – Wars of Globalization, Wars Against Women.”

The overriding issue of the event was globalization and the various and insidious ways in which it adversely affects the lives of Africans.

“Globalization is a paradigm whose theme is destruction masked as competition and survival for the fittest. Life values are left to the dictates of the market,” Wahu Kaara, a civil rights activist from Kenya told the Inter Press Service News Agency.

Mali is one of the poorest countries in Africa.

Switzerland: World faces global jobs crisis

According to a statement issued by the International Labor Organization at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the world is facing a major global jobs crisis with serious repercussions for all countries, rich and poor alike. The statement said that over half the workers of the world, about 1.4 billion, are working poor who live in families that earn less than $2 per day without any benefits such as social security or health care. Official global unemployment has grown by 25 percent over the past 10 years to its highest figure ever: 192 million and rising, half of whom are between the ages of 18 and 24.

Stating the importance of shifting economic policies to provide people with decent work, ILO Director Juan Somovia said, “The global jobs crisis is one of the biggest security risks we face today. If we choose to continue along the present path, the world risks becoming more fragmented, protectionist and confrontational.”

Philippines: U.S. war games resume

A new series of U.S. war games is scheduled to begin near the Philippine Army base on the island of Mindanao.

In the past, such games have resulted in injury or loss of life and serious damage to the local environment. This time they are taking place in the midst of a raging controversy regarding the rape of a young Filipina by six U.S. Marines last year. Only four of the Marines have been charged. The refusal of the U.S. to extradite the accused has brought about a call for the abrogation of the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) under which the military exercises are conducted.

According to a statement by the Partido Komunista NG Filipinas (PKP-1930) (Philippine Communist Party), “The VFA has become the justification for the USA to establish a semi-continuous military presence in the Philippines, even without a permanent basing arrangement. … A renewed U.S. military presence in Mindanao is not only a denigration of Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity, but also poses a threat to the independence of neighboring countries.”

New offshore oil prospects and inland mineral ore deposits have increased U.S. attention to the region.

Canada: Call to action against war

Canada’s largest network of peace organizations has issued a Call to Action on March 18 for pan-Canada demonstrations. Under the banners: “Stop the War,” “Troops out of Afghanistan” and “Let the War Resisters Stay,” the Canadian Peace Alliance is urging Canadians to turn out in force on the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

“The pretexts used to justify the war in Iraq have been proven false, only to be replaced by new lies from the occupiers that they are bringing democracy, freedom and security to people in Iraq. Nothing could be further from the truth,” the call said. “The continued presence of the U.S./UK forces is creating more violence each day.”

The demonstration is also calling for withdrawal of the 1,500 Canadian troops based in Afghanistan.

World Notes are compiled by Pamella Saffer (