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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Friday, April 12, 2024
The Echo
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Global Need-to-Know: Turkey-Syria, Africa, Ecuador

Major earthquakes, AU summit, illegal mining

Three stories spotlighting relevant pieces of international news. These global stories aim to broaden the perspective of the Taylor community as they absorb information from a variety of sources and spaces.

Turkey, Syria continue to face earthquake repercussions.

On Feb. 6, earthquakes measuring 7.8 and 7.6 on the Richter scale struck southeastern Turkey and northern Syria less than 12 hours apart. 

Magnitude 7 quakes are considered major — and the aftereffects of the tremors have been devastating.

According to a recent Reuters article, the combined death toll has reached 46,000 and is expected to rise. Victims continue to be found under the rubble of apartments, schools, hospitals and other damaged infrastructure.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared a three-month state of emergency in the 10 provinces impacted by the quakes.

The situation in Syria has been more complicated, as ongoing civil war impacts rescue efforts. In the northwestern region, where the most fatalities have occurred, insurgents opposing the Syrian government have blocked access to areas impacted by the earthquakes. This has frustrated the efforts of relief organizations such as the World Food Programme (WFP).

"Time is running out and we are running out of money. Our operation is about $50 million a month for our earthquake response alone so unless Europe wants a new wave of refugees, we need (to) get the support we need," WFP Director David Beasley is quoted saying in a Reuters article.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has launched an appeal for $1 billion in funding for the humanitarian agencies responding to the earthquakes’ aftermath in Turkey.

In making this appeal — an article by AP notes — the U.N. emphasized that Turkey hosts the world’s largest number of refugees, with more than 1.74 million living in affected provinces.

Yet despite the support of external organizations, the people of Syria and Turkey continue to play a critical role in the recovery of their communities. 

Civilians were digging through rubble in the hours following the earthquake, and the search efforts of international rescue teams have since been carried on by domestic teams who continue to sort through the debris for survivors.

"The people who are going to have the most effect on the rescue is going to be your neighbors. Because they're the ones right there, right when it happens," Forrest Lanning, an earthquake and volcano response liaison with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told NPR.

Annual African Union summit discusses security, trade issues.

From Feb. 18-19, leaders from 55 Member States of the African Union (AU) met in Addis Ababa to discuss the continent’s future. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and European Council President Charles Michel joined the African leaders for the duration of the summit.

Following military coups, the nations of Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea have been suspended from the AU and were not allowed to participate in this summit. However, diplomats from the three countries were present to lobby for readmission.

Discussions revolved primarily around the issues of security and trade.

Conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) — where militants have seized territory and sparked diplomatic disputes — prompted conversations about ceasefires. Leaders also discussed ongoing insecurity in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Sudan.

“I am deeply concerned about the recent rise in violence by armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and the rise of terrorist groups in the Sahel and elsewhere,” Middle-East headquartered news channel Al Jazeera article quotes Guterres as saying at the start of the summit.

At a mini-summit prior to the one in Addis Ababa, leaders called for armed groups to leave the eastern DRC by the end of next month.

Guterres’ concern for safety was echoed by Kenyan President William Ruto.

“We cannot walk away from the people of DRC, history will be very harsh on us. We must do what we have to do,” Ruto is quoted as saying in the AP article.

Also on the agenda were discussions around food security and the acceleration of a free-trade pact (launched in 2020 but poorly implemented), regional cooperation and permanent African seats on the U.N. Security Council.

With increasing tensions within the continent and between global powers, the need for productive discussions and a cohesive voice from the African Union is a looked-for outcome of the 2023 summit.

Mining in Ecuador exposes Indigenous communities to toxins.

The consequences of illegal mining activities in Ecuador are disproportionately impacting Indigenous communities.

According to an Al Jazeera article, a recent study of mining areas in Ecuador’s Andes foothills uncovered high concentrations of toxic metals that are 352 times above the permissible limits of environmental guidelines. The resulting impact on human health — experienced primarily by Indigenous communities living in these areas — is concerning.

The communities most vulnerable to these toxins are in need of protective measures which prioritize their well-being and are proactively enforced.

Unfortunately, this may be more easily said than done.

Ecuador’s national system of protected areas rarely encompasses rivers — where Indigenous communities are exposed to many of the mining toxins. Furthermore, the enforcement of governmental policies is weakened by state corruption and tip-offs that alert miners to potential police operations.

Andres Tapia, spokesperson for the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE), noted that many of Ecuador’s mining activities are under the control of illegal mining mafias. In an article by Al Jazeera, Tapia is quoted as stating that illegal mining has become “uncontrollable.”

Additionally, while a Constitutional Court ruling in Feb. 2022 gave Indigenous communities authority over extractive projects in their territories, the ruling was later disregarded when a mining project was approved without the consent of the communities in question.

With little governmental intervention, Indigenous communities and organizations have begun to establish their own defenses. Alliances and connections between communities, alarm systems and newly-created guard systems have assisted these efforts. 

A recent article by Reuters noted that the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) is preparing to hold protests in mining areas in an attempt to protect its communities from extractive activities.

"We want to say to trans-national mining companies, to mining business people in our country: don't invest more in mining because we are going to defend our land," CONAIE leader Leonidas Iza is quoted as saying in the Reuters article.