Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Santa Cops

No, they are not elves, (elves always wear green anyways).They are members of the Philippine National Police during the launch of the "Santa Cop 2008" initiative outside a mall in Manila. In order to increase the visibility of their patrols and aid the crime prevention efforts during the Christmas season, around 200 policemen wearing Santa Claus hats will be deployed from Tuesday in malls and other crowded areas. I thought you would like this peculiar example of Human Security initiative.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Piracy in the XXI Century

It seems that we are getting used to see more and more reports of hijacked commercial vessels in the Somali maritime vicinities. This is a typical case in which failed states and a poor representation of marginalized sectors of the population can become a threat to the security of others around the world.

Given the growing intensity of these attacks and piracy incidents, it is necessary, even imperative to approach this security not only by the use of military force, but to look at the causes for which these individuals incur into criminal activity. Having grown in an environment in which extreme poverty and violence as a constant companion, and the lure of obtaining big money by subversive and violent activity, it is a simply comparable to the many criminal elements that exist around the world as a byproduct of poverty.

Without taking away the place of protection of civilians, as well as law and justice, it is necessary to offer this irregular sector of the horn of Africa an exit to poverty and human insecurity that would make the violent path of more resistible, unattractive, and simply non viable. Otherwise, it will be other irregular actors, namely global terrorist networks that might seize the opportunity to grow, disseminate and contaminate more areas of the globe. Somehow we need to present an healthy economic alternative to A Pirate's Life.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Blog Action Day: Poverty as a Threat to Human Security

Jacques Necker, a Swiss royal adviser to the French crown in the XVIII century proposed the idea of assisting the poor as a political imperative to preserve stability of the state. To what extent is poverty a catalyst for insecurity? Can poverty worth being perceived as a threat to Human Security? Let's see two instances in which the link between poverty and security is evident.

According to the 2007 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
Thailand is "a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor". Like in many of its neighbors, the generational poverty and despair among Thailand's poorest have spawned social symptoms that can be described euphemistically as perverted and wholly demeaning. Debt bondage, labor trafficking, sexual exploitation, and the selling of young progeny to slavery are among the dangers that mainly poor women and children are exposed to under the pressures of day to day survival. This damning trait has taken place mainly in the Northeast area of the country, but it is among the poorest sectors of the whole nation where these social diseases prevail. The good news is that Thailand is starting to enforce their anti-slavery laws, which will surely translate in a more secure future for the coming generations.

Our next example takes us to my birth country, Venezuela. In 1999 the population of Vargas State located in the northern coast, suffered one of the most devastating floods mudslides our country ever had. After a group of torrential clouds stationed for weeks on the northern areas of the nation, the ground in the "cerros" (shanty town hills), as well as many other areas gave in bringing down the devastating combination of mud, trees and rocks, ravaging the entire state and taking a toll of 30,000 + of missing persons. Not for naught we Venezuelans refer to this horrid event as "La Tragedia de Vargas". Whereas the disaster affected and decimated the middle-class populations considerably, the brunt of the damage and loss of life was received by the poor inhabiting the "barrios" in Vargas, who under the economic pressures of life opt to live in an increase state of vulnerability by building their houses in grounds that unsuitable for construction, making them even more prone to erosion.

Poverty is an underlying variable that touches the safety of every country on the earth. It represents a direct and imminent threat to the security of human beings around the globe and represents a complex and challenging issue to tackle. The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (or MDG's) include halving the world population who live under $1 per day by 2015. Do you think it's possible? Can one do something about this scourge? What if it was possible to reduce it? What if it was possible to eradicate it? What if you could do something about it? What if I tell you that there are thousands of people who are working on this goal, waiting for a way to bring together the power of good into actions that will improve the lives of people around the globe?

They just want you to do something. Here are some suggestions of the many I could give you.

For a palliative approach:
  1. Promote the work towards fulfilling MDG's by joining organizations like The Interface Foundation, or Millenium Promise
  2. Donate to organizations that go to the poorest and most devastated places in the world like the World Food Program, International Federation of the Red Cross, and Stop Hunger Now among others
  3. Help in your local food bank, or homeless shelter (Hey, there's poverty also in your neighborhood, open your eyes to reality and you will find it)
For more long-term solutions:
  1. Become a lender to entrepreneurs overseas by joining Kiva
  2. Sponsor local Microfranchising ventures around the globe
  3. Support Fair Trade initiatives
  4. Offer your expertise in your field of experience to someone who can use it to survive (yeah, the teach a man how to fish thing)

It's time we all do something. Don't have much money? That's OK, since many times money is not the solution, but dedicating one's time, talents, influences, networks, and heart to a noble cause.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Something to reflect upon

Don't need to say much. The kids deliver the message better .

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

To my refugee friends

The desert roars in my ears...

the wind has torn the sand from one a hill to another...

it has dispersed it...

it has pulled it from the earth... has eroded it...

will the sand mix in with this new soil, this new earth?...

will another wind blow?

where will these grain of salt and sand land next?

the wind has brought them to my face,

its sensation is so different, that I just want to remove them,

to scratch, to get them out of my skin, even if I excoriate it...

then I try to ignore it, to pretend it's not there,

but it is there...

and then I remember,
I realize that I'm one more grain of sand in the desert, hoping to blend in new ground

I realize how the sand got where it is, and the wind that scraped off its old home.

And then I receive it, I welcome it, I embrace it...

Friday, September 19, 2008


In my professional life I have gravitated between the private sector and the non-profit sector. My last gig was managing two Emerging Markets indexes for Standard & Poor's . In my position, I had the displeasure to witness the Pakistani market take a nosedive after Benazir Bhutto's death, but nothing compared to last week. If there has been a tough week for the Capitalist system, this was it. The Wall Street credit crisis has managed to do something that neither the Great Depression, nor two World Wars managed to do, which was taking down Lehman Brothers , shaking the basis of the Capitalist system to its very core.

Well, while Capitalism's hub and raison d'être is self-interest, there is the parallel to this idea, which is 'Philanthropy'. It derives from the greek vocables that mean "love towards men", in other words, love for others. Can these two notions co-exist? Furthermore, can these two practices interact effectively? Can Capitalism be applied in a way destined to the benefit of mankind? From this very questions emerge a whole discussion that is taking place in The Global Philanthropy Forum. Some of the participants are Michael Edwards, which is vocal in his skepticism about the subject, Matthew Bishop, who coined the new term in the work: Philanthrocapitalism: how the rich can save the world remains hopeful.

What's your opinion? is Philanthropy doomed by Capitalism, can it actually help it?

Well, here's my two cents, a very predictable one given my professional background. Along with the many considerations and changes that both the current philanthropic and markets need to experiment, and with the risk of looking foolish and simplistic, I am a believer, I think that Philanthrocapitalism is more beneficial, rather than deleterious to humankind. Hopefully this will ignite another discussion.

You can find this entry also at :

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

After the Hiatus, I'll Just Train for Humanity

¡Hola Mi Gente!

It has been quite a long time since my last post. Coincidentally, I have not participated in any sort of race for years either. In fact, after participating in a Triathlon in Bountiful, Utah in 2004. I realized that this type of race became one of the most gruesome and excruciating experiences that I never subjected myself to in a voluntary manner. I had prepared myself with great discipline and tenacity; I swam, I biked, and I ran with constancy, so much constancy that it made me believe that I was ready to compete in the long leg of the race, just like any other athlete, after all, that's what I had trained for. Yes, my naivete was unmeasurable, but soon after it would be dispelled, for the moment the race started I realized how this amount overconfidence could be, ironically, humiliating.

I had signed up for the full length of the triathlon and BY GOLLY I WAS GOING TO FINISH THAT LENGTH!. Yes, I can be a determined fellow. Well, I did finish, after everyone else in the race, with the dubious consolation price of obtaining the 2nd place in my category. What was my category? the Clysdale Division. For those of you who don't know the Triathlon lingo, that's the division created for guys like me which are over 200 lbs., so I could not even brag about my level of fitness with that type of prize. Humbling, definitively humbling.

After finishing, however a very relevant question came about in my mind: "OK, Why did I just do this?". I thought that the satisfaction of THE FINISH would have been total and absolutely wasn't, at that moment. Hey, it's not like accomplishing the last place of the race provokes the most exciting and rewarding feeling, so I decided to place that moment in the back of my mind. Nonetheless, the feeling of accomplishment came three years later during a public speaking engagement, when I realized that indeed I did swim, I did bike, and I did run, and most importantly...I finished the race! It was rewarding to see the positive reaction of my audience when I shared that experience: it gave them joy, it gave them as we say in Spanish "ÁNIMO", it gave them "GANAS", and most importantly, it motivated them to have confidence in thier own experiences (now go and look up those two new words).

I think that one the greatest quality of human beings is its ability to restore and renew good things in themselves, even if they were forgotten, hidden, or simply in remission. Who would have thought that such a success could have come from what seemed an evident failure?. I did not think that a Triathlon in which I was not first would become quite a highlight in my life, still it took a while to recognize it.

While sailing the blogosphere not too long ago, I found an original way to help the Darfur Crisis , which is a Human Security Crisis slipping through our minds, making us less and less aware of it. Train for Humanity is a Non Profit with the mission of combining fitness with social media and help empower people for social good while creating a humanitarian movement. I think that this is a good example of how common interests can channel into a noble purpose, thus creating synergistic action. Furthermore, it has the capacity to motivate individuals to better themselves by not only improving their own lives, but the lives of those living in insecure conditions around the globe. It took me four years to find a reason an enough motivation to do another Triathlon. I think I just found one.