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Index October 2007

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People power is taking on new forms

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Linked with AVAAZ.org.

Published on BBCnews, 31 October 2007.

While thousands joined last month’s pro-democracy street protests in Burma, many hundreds of thousands expressed their solidarity via a global online campaign.

Ricken Patel is the co-founder of the web movement Avaaz.org, and he has a grand ambition: to make worldwide public opinion a decisive factor on key global issues from climate, to security, to human rights.

Stephen Sackur talks to the co-founder of a new campaigning website, Avaaz.org, about his vision of global activism online. But who is really being empowered.

Click here to watch the interview, 23.30 min.

The Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers in Burma

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Sold to Be Soldiers

Published on Human Rights Watch HRW, Volume 19, No. 15(C), October 2007. (website available in the 6 UN languages)

Download a hugh amount of related material and texts from links on this HRW-page.

AIDS Virus Traveled to Haiti, Then U.S., Study Says

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Published on National Geographic, by Amitabh Avasthi, October 29, 2007.

an excerpt: … The new study appears online this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Root of the Epidemic: HIV is commonly transmitted through tainted blood transfusions, dirty needles, and unprotected sex. Infections often lead to a life-threatening condition in which the body’s immune defenses are systematically disabled.

Two species of HIV can infect humans—HIV-1 and HIV-2. The former is more virulent, more easily transmitted, and accounts for the lion’s share of global HIV infections. HIV-2 is less infectious and is largely confined to parts of Western Africa.

Based on differences in one of the nine genes that make up the virus, HIV-1 is placed in three major groups. The most prevalent, Group M, has eight geographically distinct subtypes …

… Page 2: Worobey and his colleagues looked at subtype B. Though it is found mainly in North America and Europe, the strain is present in the most number of countries.

The researchers analyzed tissue samples from five Haitian AIDS patients collected in 1982 and 1983. All five had then recently immigrated to the U.S. and were among the first recognized victims of AIDS.

A family tree constructed from the HIV-1 genes of the five Haitians and subtype B gene sequences from 19 other countries place the Haitian virus at the root of all branches … (full text).

UN Experts on racism and minority issues call …

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… for recognition, dialogue and policy to combat the reality of racial discrimination in the Dominican Republic.

Received by mail

From: OHCHR Press Info
Date: 30 October 2007

PRESS RELEASE

Two UN Experts on racism and minorities have noted in their preliminary views that, while there is no official government policy of discrimination, there is nevertheless a profound and entrenched problem of racism and discrimination against such groups as Haitians, Dominicans of Haitian descent, and more generally against blacks within Dominican society. While there is no legislation that is clearly discriminatory on its face, they highlighted the discriminatory impact of some laws including those in regard to migration, civil status and the granting of Dominican citizenship to persons of Haitian heritage born in the Dominican Republic. This situation requires urgent attention to ensure that the Dominican Republic conforms with its obligations under international human rights law including the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. As a first vital step they urged recognition of the reality of racism and discrimination and the expression of a strong political will at the highest level as well as the establishment of a programme of action to combat all forms of racism and discrimination in consultation with, and inclusive of, all groups within Dominican society.

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Saving Lives

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Global Forum on Effective Use of Telecommunications, ICT for Disaster Management: Saving Lives, International Conference Center CICG, Geneva, 10-12 December 2007.

Site ITU on Emergency Telecommunications.

Increasingly, natural disasters are causing considerable loss of life and disrupting national economies, severely weakening the affected countries. While neither natural nor man-made hazards can be entirely prevented, information and communication technologies (ICT) can help reduce their impact and avoid them turning into disasters that impede sustainable development. This event contributes to the progress made at the United Nations International Meeting to Review the Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (Mauritius, 10-14 January 2005), the World Conference on Disaster Reduction (Kobe, Japan, 18-22 January 2005), and a series of other events having focused among other things on the establishment of a Tsunami Early Warning and Mitigation System for the Indian Ocean, including the Ministerial Meeting on Regional Cooperation on Tsunami Early Warning Arrangements (Phuket, Thailand, 28-29 January 2005), the UNESCO International Coordination Meeting for the Development of a Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System for the Indian Ocean within a Global Framework (Paris, France, 3-8 March 2005), and the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction organized Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (Geneva, Switzerland, 5-7 June 2007).

The event builds on a series of events held by ITU on this subject:

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Suryu’s and billybobjoe57′ videos

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Linked with John Pilger – Australia & England, and with Vijay Prashad – India & USA.

Listen to the video: Mumia Abu-Jamal – ‘Ill-ections’ or Elections to Come! 5.48 min., from Suryu …

More videos from Suryu on this Google video-search, and more videos from billybobjoe57 on this Google video-search.

Getting to know our feelings

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Published on Wildmind.org, by Buddhist author Valerie Mason-John/Vimalasara, October 18th, 2007.

When we are angry a whole host of vulnerable feelings percolates into our hearts. These are so physically uncomfortable they feel as though they are choking us, and all we want to do is move away from them rather than sit with them until we feel something else. Our aversion to such feelings can be so strong that we believe they need brute force to push them down or purge them. In fact, I have come to realize that, if we can experience all the levels of what we are feeling, and then have the courage to acknowledge and sit with them, our uncomfortable and vulnerable feelings will not get a chance to fester in this way, and in time they disappear of their own accord. Instead, we often use anger as a distraction from what we are feeling deeper down. Then we end up holding on to those very feelings we fear and avoid – until they become poisonous in our hearts …

… Another strong reason to take note of our bodies’ messages in this way is that our anger can manifest in more extreme forms. Most people who work in alternative therapies have found a link between anger and a number of physical illnesses and life-threatening diseases. I realize now that the back and shoulder ache I used to get was connected with my anger. I have no more pain, and when I feel my shoulders tense up I tell myself to let go. Engaging with our anger involves coming into relationship with our bodies. (full text).

Poverty is the enemy, not humans

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Linked with Nishikant Waghmare – India.

Received by mail:

From: Nishikant Waghmare
Date: 25.10.2007

Nishikant Waghmare wrote on October 25th, 2007, as a comment to an emission on ‘BBC World’ about Dalits of 14th of October 2006:

There is greater awareness among the Dalits today.

“Prime Minister Singh has rightly compared ‘untouchability’ to apartheid, and he should now turn his words into action to protect the rights of Dalits,” said Professor Smita Narula, faculty director of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) at New York University School of Law, and co-author of the report. “The Indian government can no longer deny its collusion in maintaining a system of entrenched social and economic segregation.”

Dalits endure segregation in housing, schools, and access to public services. They are denied access to land, forced to work in degrading conditions, and routinely abused at the hands of the police and upper-caste community members who enjoy the state’s protection. Entrenched discrimination violates Dalits’ rights to education, health, housing, property, freedom of religion, free choice of employment, and equal treatment before the law. Dalits also suffer routine violations of their right to life and security of person through state-sponsored or -sanctioned acts of violence, including torture.
Caste-motivated killings, rapes, and other abuses are a daily occurrence in India. Between 2001 and 2002 close to 58,000 cases were registered under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act – legislation that criminalizes particularly egregious abuses against Dalits and tribal community members. A 2005 government report states that a crime is committed against a Dalit every 20 minutes.

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World Development Report 2008: Agriculture for Development

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Published on World Bank.org, Oct. 19, 2007.

Download the report (exists in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Russian, Chinese).

October 19, 2007 – World Development Report 2008 calls for greater investment in agriculture in developing countries.

The report warns that the sector must be placed at the center of the development agenda if the goals of halving extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 are to be realized.

While 75 percent of the world’s poor live in rural areas in developing countries, a mere 4 percent of official development assistance goes to agriculture.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, a region heavily reliant on agriculture for overall growth, public spending for farming is also only 4 percent of total government spending and the sector is still taxed at relatively high levels.

For the poorest people, GDP growth originating in agriculture is about four times more effective in raising incomes of extremely poor people than GDP growth originating outside the sector … See more with this link.

On this page find links for two videos (scroll down): Africa’s Agriculture for Development Agenda, Part one (17,16 min.), and Part two (2 h 10.18 min).

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Baghdad Burning

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Published on Bloggers Without Borders, a ‘Girl Blog from Iraq’, Oct. 22, 2007.

Syria is a beautiful country – at least I think it is. I say “I think” because while I perceive it to be beautiful, I sometimes wonder if I mistake safety, security and normalcy for ‘beauty’. In so many ways, Damascus is like Baghdad before the war – bustling streets, occasional traffic jams, markets seemingly always full of shoppers … And in so many ways it’s different. The buildings are higher, the streets are generally narrower and there’s a mountain, Qasiyoun, that looms in the distance.

The mountain distracts me, as it does many Iraqis – especially those from Baghdad. Northern Iraq is full of mountains, but the rest of Iraq is quite flat. At night, Qasiyoun blends into the black sky and the only indication of its presence is a multitude of little, glimmering spots of light – houses and restaurants built right up there on the mountain. Every time I take a picture, I try to work Qasiyoun into it – I try to position the person so that Qasiyoun is in the background.

The first weeks here were something of a cultural shock. It has taken me these last three months to work away certain habits I’d acquired in Iraq after the war. It’s funny how you learn to act a certain way and don’t even know you’re doing strange things – like avoiding people’s eyes in the street or crazily murmuring prayers to yourself when stuck in traffic. It took me at least three weeks to teach myself to walk properly again – with head lifted, not constantly looking behind me.

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UN-ECOSOC’s Multi-Year program until 2009

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Published on UN.org/ for ECOSOC 6311, October 4, 2007.

ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL, RESUMING SUBSTANTIVE SESSION, ADOPTS MULTI-YEAR PROGRAMME OF WORK FOR 2008-2009, DECIDES THEMES FOR MINISTERIAL REVIEWS:

The Economic and Social Council resumed its 2007 substantive session this morning, adopting proposals on matters deferred from its main meeting in Geneva (2-27 July), including the multi-year programme of work for the newly mandated Annual Ministerial Review and the election of members to some of the Council’s subsidiary bodies.

For 2008, the Council decided that the Ministerial Review would focus on implementation of internationally agreed goals and commitments related to sustainable development. In 2009, the focus would be on implementing the agreed global public health goals … (full text).

Court Rules Delay in Release of Presidential Papers is Illegal

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Published on NSArchive – The National Security Archive, October 1, 2007, For Immediate Release.

Fails to Address Authority of Former Vice Presidents to Hold Up Disclosure of Papers

(For more information contact: Meredith Fuchs, 202/994-7000)

Washington DC, October 1, 2007 – A District Court in the District of Columbia has ruled that an Executive Order issued by President George W. Bush in 2001, which severely slowed or prevented the release of historic presidential papers is, in part, invalid. In a carefully constructed decision, the court held that the Archivist of the United States acts arbitrarily, capriciously, and contrary to law by relying on the Executive Order to delay release of the records of former presidents. The court did not reach the issue of whether it was permissible for President Bush to extend the authority over disclosure of presidential papers to a former president’s heirs or to former vice presidents.

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… do more for children living amid conflict

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Published on reliefweb, GA/SHC/3888, 17 Oct 2007 – Source: United Nations General Assembly.

Former child soldier takes international community to task for failure to do more for children living amid conflict.

2 excerpts: … Ishmael Beah, who as a young teenager had been forced to fight in the civil war in his country in the 1990s, recalled how hopeful the mood had been when he came to the United Nations a decade ago to draw attention to the plight of young people caught up in war. That appearance coincided with the publication of a landmark United Nations report by Graça Machel that put children in conflict at the forefront of the Organization’s agenda.

He regretted, however, that the call for immediate action made by Ms. Machel had gone largely unheeded. More concrete things had to be done, not least to give children a voice in resolving conflict. “Whatever your ideas are, you haven’t done very well with them”, he told representatives in the unusually crowded conference room. In a question and answer session, he went on to stress the importance of conflict prevention, saying that in the past decade, he had become aware of a pattern of reluctance and lack of political will to respond to conflict situations at their very early stages.

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The TAO of democracy

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by Tom Atlee, simply a book having its own website.

Excerpt from the book, chapter 6 – COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE: Collective intelligence at different levels of society. Given the central importance of collective intelligence, let us take a closer look at this phenomenon. The following examples show how collective intelligence might be applied at a variety of levels: in groups, organizations, communities, states, and whole societies.

GROUPS: An individual IQ test compares individuals’ problem-solving skills with the problem-solving capabilities of others their age. In a similar manner, we could demonstrate the existence of group intelligence by comparing how well various groups solve problems.

In a classic experiment, group intelligence was measured by presenting small groups of executives with a hypothetical wilderness survival problem. All-female teams arrived at better solutions (as judged by wilderness experts) than all-male teams. The women’s collective problem-solving capabilities were enhanced by their collaborative style, while the men’s efforts to assert their own solutions led them to get in each other’s way. Significantly, the resulting difference in collective intelligence did not occur because the individual women were smarter than the individual men, but rather because of a difference in gender-related group dynamics.

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Press freedom day by day

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Published on Reporters without borders, not dated.

(on the same page, in a right column: the ranking of 169 countries (Iceland first / Eritrea last).

Excerpt: … Government repression no longer ignores bloggers:

The Internet is occupying more and more space in the breakdown of press freedom violations. Several countries fell in the ranking this year because of serious, repeated violations of the free flow of online news and information.

In Malaysia (124th), Thailand (135th), Vietnam (162nd) and Egypt (146th), for example, bloggers were arrested and news websites were closed or made inaccessible. “We are concerned about the increase in cases of online censorship,” Reporters Without Borders said. “More and more governments have realised that the Internet can play a key role in the fight for democracy and they are establishing new methods of censoring it. The governments of repressive countries are now targeting bloggers and online journalists as forcefully as journalists in the traditional media.”

At least 64 persons are currently imprisoned worldwide because of what they posted on the Internet. China maintains its leadership in this form of repression, with a total of 50 cyber-dissidents in prison. Eight are being held in Vietnam. A young man known as Kareem Amer was sentenced to four years in prison in Egypt for blog posts criticising the president and Islamist control of the country’s universities.
(full text).

The 2007/2008 Human Development Report

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Fighting climate change: Human solidarity in a divided world

Climate change is the defining human development challenge of the 21st Century. Failure to respond to that challenge will stall and then reverse international efforts to reduce poverty. The poorest countries and most vulnerable citizens will suffer the earliest and most damaging setbacks, even though they have contributed least to the problem. Looking to the future, no country—however wealthy or powerful—will be immune to the impact of global warming.

The Human Development Report 2007/2008 shows that climate change is not just a future scenario. Increased exposure to droughts, floods and storms is already destroying opportunity and reinforcing inequality. Meanwhile, there is now overwhelming scientific evidence that the world is moving towards the point at which irreversible ecological catastrophe becomes unavoidable. Business-as-usual climate change points in a clear direction: unprecedented reversal in human development in our lifetime, and acute risks for our children and their grandchildren.

Download the brochure to learn more:

in english, en français, en espanol.

(Homepage).

European human rights system

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Study Guides:

Published on HREA/Europe – European human rights system.

Excerpt: … The European continent suffered much devastation from the effects of World War II. To renew efforts of peacekeeping and cooperation with one another after the war ended, leaders throughout the region founded three organizations: the Council of Europe, the European Union (formerly the European Coal and Steel Community), and later, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (formerly the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe). These organizations have survived the Cold War and the fall of Communism, and continue to this day to serve as forums for dialogue and exchange within the European continent.

Although these organizations were founded to bring peace and stability to Europe, they were each established with different purposes:

  • The Council of Europe promotes the rule of law, human rights, and democracy;
  • The European Union was devised as an institution for promoting trade and economic stability for its members;
  • The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) was founded to maintain peace and military security within Europe.

Today, these organizations have evolved to address many overlapping issues?all dealing to some extent with human rights, though the Council of Europe remains the most involved … (full text, for Council of Europe, Organization for security and cooperation in Europe OSCE, European Union).

Children and Conflict in a changing world

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Published on this page of UN.org, not dated.

Executive Summary Of the Strategic Review report to the General Assembly, A/62/228

An excerpt: … Consequences for children. The impact on children is more brutal than ever. War violates every right of the child. The direct consequences of war have received improved attention in the last decade – unlawful recruitment, sexual violence, displacement, killing and maiming, separation from family, trafficking and illegal detention. But in addition to these effects, the indirect consequences of war – including the loss of basic services, such as water, sanitation, health and education, as well as the rise of poverty, malnutrition and disease – have an equally horrific impact on children. Yet they are often overlooked. The impact of armed conflict on children perpetuates poverty, illiteracy and early mortality, robbing children of their families, security, education, health and opportunities for development. Whether as a cause or consequence, conflict is a significant obstacle to achievement of the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) … (full text).

Suffering Hunger

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Published on UNHCHR, by Jean Ziegler, October 16, 2007.

UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON THE RIGHT TO FOOD DEPLORES INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE SUFFERING FROM HUNGER

The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler, issued the following statement on the occasion of this year’s World Food Day which is celebrated today:

“Today I am unable to report a reduction in the number of persons suffering from violations of the right to food. On the contrary, despite real advances realised in different countries, the number of people suffering from hunger has increased every year since 1996. This number has now reached an estimated 854 million people, despite Government commitments at the 2002 World Food Summit and at the 2000 Millennium Summit to eradicate hunger. Every five seconds, a child below ten dies from hunger and malnutrition-related diseases.

Yet hunger and famine are not inevitable. According to the FAO, the world already produces enough food to feed every child, woman and man and could feed 12 billion people, double the current world population. Our world is richer than ever before, so how can we accept that 6 million children under five are killed every year by malnutrition and related illnesses?

All human beings have the right to live in dignity, free from hunger.

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World Food Day

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Published on HREA.org,

This year’s World Food Day theme, ‘The Right to Food’, highlights a basic human right that is often ignored as severe food insecurity continues to afflict more than 850 million people.

The right to food, according to international law, is the right of every person to have regular access to sufficient, nutritionally adequate and culturally acceptable food for an active, healthy life. It is the right to feed oneself in dignity, rather than the right to be fed.

Source: FAO

Selected learning materials:

Study Guide on the right to Food & Water An introduction to the right to food and water, including key definitions, international standards and references to other advocacy, education and training materials.

World Food Day (by Richard Pierre Claude in: Popular Education for Human Rights: 24 Participatory Exercises for Facilitators and Teachers, HREA). Exercise for a workshop setting about World Food Day (16 October). Participants will learn how to differentiate between “wants” and “needs”; distinguish among: hunger, malnutrition, and starvation; develop some perspectives on global hunger, including the ranking of several countries; develop some comparative skills in analyzing the causes of hunger in your country; devise some policies to respond to issues of hunger, taking “globalization” into account.

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Some spanish human rights links

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Linked with Articles for Indigenous Peoples on our blogs.

Published today on Boletin of Panama profundo’s Homepage, (see also their Archive):

Weekly Ethical Reflection

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Linked with Robin M. Coupland – England, with Centre for the Study of Human Rights, and with The Missing.

Published on ‘School of Applied Global Ethics, at the Leed’s Metropolitan University, by Seidu Alidu, PhD student, working on ‘Reconciliation after Conflict in Africa’, and Gavin Fairbairn, Running Stream Professor of Ethics and Language, School of Applied Global Ethics, 1 October to 8 October, 2007.

Wireless internet, ethics and the law

In developed countries across the globe, public internet access is becoming more common, as ‘zones’ in cities are created where wireless internet is made freely available. In spite of this, Broadband is big business, because most people have to pay to get online. Financial interests are at stake. The Communication Act (2003) says that a ‘person who (a) dishonestly obtains an electronic communication service, and (b) does so with intent to avoid payment of a charge applicable to the provision of that service, is guilty of an offence.’ Put simply, it is illegal to make use of internet services that one has no right to access.

Problems arise because of the promiscuity of unsecured internet connections that make themselves ‘available’ to anyone whose computer has the potential to connect to wireless facilities. Effectively this means that as wireless broadband access has become more common it is often possible for non-subscribers to use services paid for by others … (full text).

Link: Ethical Reflections, weekly short statements about Ethics (see example above).

Fight against Landmines

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Linked with Elisabeth Reusse-Decrey – Switzerland, and with Geneva Call.

Published on Mine Action Information Center, by Elisabeth Reusse-Decrey, President, Geneva Call, not dated.

Engaging Non-State Actors in the Fight Against Landmines, A Key to Negotiating Peace in Colombia

Excerpt: … Conclusion: Lessons Learned

Even if the ultimate objective of a total ban on anti-personnel mines currently seems out of reach, there is space for improving the lives of populations that face the threat of landmines on a daily basis. One rebel recently stated that it is not necessary to have peace in order to save lives. This valuable statement is particularly relevant to the situation in Colombia.

By way of conclusion, let us recall the following lessons learned from Geneva Call’s involvement in Colombia:

  • Discussing a concrete and tangible topic such as landmines can open up new possibilities of dialogue and bring actors who would otherwise refuse to speak to each other together because the acute need for solutions to the humanitarian issue posed by mines is uncontested;
  • The involvement of the national government is indispensable. However, an NGO such as Geneva Call can assume a role that governments can rarely afford to play, especially in a complex political reality such as the one in Colombia;
  • By raising awareness of the problem of landmines, it is possible to find common ground for negotiating regional humanitarian agreements. This approach, which begins locally and expands regionally, has been the key to achieving peace in Colombia;
  • The fight against landmines, approached inclusively through the parallel engagement of state and non-state actors, has proven to be central to reopening peace talks between the government of Colombia and the ELN.

… (full long text).

UNAMI issues its 11th report on the situation of human rights in Iraq

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Published on UNIRAQ.org, (click on title of October 11, 2007).

Baghdad, 11 October 2007 – The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) issued its eleventh report on the human rights situation in the country covering the period 1 April to 30 June 2007. The report recognizes the challenges confronting the Government of Iraq in the face of ongoing violence and an ever-deepening humanitarian crisis …

… The eleventh Quarterly Human Rights report states that civilians continue to be targeted by armed groups through suicide bombings, abductions and extrajudicial executions by perpetrators who make no distinctions between civilians and combatants. The report warns that such systematic or widespread attacks against a civilian population are tantamount to crimes against humanity and violate the laws of war, and their perpetrators are subject to prosecution …

… The report also emphasizes UNAMI’s concern regarding prolonged detention and the absence of timely processing of detainees’ cases through the judicial system. The overwhelming majority of detainees interviewed by UNAMI spoke of extended delays in their initial referral to a judicial official of up to two months in many cases and lack of information on what would happen next, or where and when they would be transferred and how long they would be held. As a matter of urgency, the Government of Iraq and the judicial authorities need to take all necessary measures to address these concerns, concludes the report.

(full text), click on title of October 11, 2007.