Archive for September, 2010

Nobel Peace Prize Committee, Are You Ready?

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

As Editor, it is a pleasure to welcome Yingying Jiang from Hong Kong, and present her first contribution to Human Rights Angle. -lesoltis

Every year as the Nobel Prize Committee prepares to announce its decision, the human rights community in China holds its breath and awaits in suppressed excitement, hoping that this time, the Committee will finally give the prize to Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波), China’s most prominent dissident and human rights activist. The Committee announces its decision on October 8th this year.

Liu Xiaobo is currently sitting in a jail cell serving an 11-year sentence in China’s northeastern Liaoning Province. The crime? For drafting and distributing Charter 08, a manifesto signed by 10,000 people calling for bold reforms promoting democracy and human rights in China. This is not the first time Mr. Liu has been in jail, however. After playing a leading role in the pro-democracy movement in 1989, which later suffered a bloody government crackdown, he was sent to a labor camp for three years in 1996.

No Chinese citizen has ever been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. As China is on the rise to become the world’s superpower, what exactly will be its effect on the world? In recent years, it has been in disputes over territory and resources with almost every country it borders, the latest being a row with Japan over a group of deserted islands in the East China Sea. As China becomes more powerful, it will expand its sphere of influence. The problem is not about raising a fuss with one’s neighbors, it is about a government’s encouragement of nationalism and its victimhood among ordinary people, in order to bolster its grip of power over the nation. This does not bode well for the rest of the world. But there are critical voices in China, questioning the government’s treatment of minorities and its human rights records. But what becomes of those voices? They’re censored and those who dare to utter them, such as Liu Xiaobo, are punished and carted off to prison.

Peace and human rights are intimately linked. Instead of “containing China,” other nations must commit themselves to firmly standing up for those Chinese citizens like Liu Xiaobo who brave imprisonment and torture to speak out for human rights. So, Nobel Peace Prize Committee, are you ready?

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2010 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award Winner

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Yesterday, September 23, 2010, Mr. Abel Barrera Hernández was publicly announced as the winner of the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award for his tireless efforts to protect the rights of peasants and indigenous peoples in Guerrero, Mexico and his commitment to end human rights abuses resulting from military impunity and narco-violence.

A press release from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights outlines how Mr. Barrera and his colleagues at the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center of the Mountain work under “constant threat to protect the rights of peasants and indigenous peoples against forced disappearances, rape, arbitrary detentions, intimidation, dispossession of lands and illegal interrogations, and to improve their access to healthcare, legal representation and education.”

The award will be presented to Mr. Barrera by Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy in a ceremony in Washington, D.C. in November. Mr. Barrera joins 41 other RFK human rights laureates representing 24 countries. Recipients in recent years include the Coalition of Immokalee Workers from the United States, Dr. Mohammed Ahmed Abdallah from Sudan, and most recently, Magodonga Mahlangu and Women of Zimbabwe Arise.

Mr. Abel Barrera Hernández, right

Mr. Abel Barrera Hernández, right

Your Chance to Show That Peace Is Possible

Monday, September 20th, 2010

peacedayWhat will you be doing on Tuesday, September 21st? How about intentionally turning off the television when a show depicting murder or any other form of violence comes on? Or taking the time to resolve a conflict with a co-worker? What would it look like if you declared a “no bickering” day in your household? And what if troops in Afghanistan, rebels in DRC, and armed criminals in the US ceased hostilities for the day? According to UN Resolution 55/282, this and more is what we should all be doing on September 21st — the International Day of Peace. It is a day of global ceasefire and non-violence, “an invitation to all nations and people to honor a cessation of hostilities for the duration of the day.” In 2007, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said this about Peace Day, “I call for a day of global ceasefire: A 24-hour respite from the fear and insecurity that plague so many places. I urge all countries and all combatants to honor a cessation of hostilities. I urge them to ponder the high price that we all pay because of conflict. I urge them to vigorously pursue ways to make this temporary ceasefire permanent.” Peace Day is an opportunity to make peace in our own relationships as well as to impact the larger conflicts of our time. To learn more, watch this UN Peace Day Global Broadcast. And to get ideas of simple things you can do to show that peace is possible go to: http://internationaldayofpeace.org/

Bachelet Appointed Head of New ‘UN Women’

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

In July, the United Nations boldly created a UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, or “UN Women” for short. This entity has been given a broad mandate to “promote gender equality, expand opportunity, and tackle discrimination around the globe.” Yesterday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed a strong leader to head the new organization; former President of Chile, Dr. Michelle Bachelet. While women’s rights advocates are critical of what they see as an insufficient budget for the organization, many are hopeful that under the leadership of Dr. Bachelet, UN Women will be better able to organize global efforts to forward women’s human rights and their crucial role in development. In a great blog in the Huffington Post, Nandini Oomman articulates the advantages of Dr. Bachelet’s qualifications and outlines three steps UN Women should take in the early stages of its work.

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Swept Under the Rug: Domestic Workers’ Rights

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

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I am a woman with a job that pays a reasonable salary, provides health insurance, gives paid leave, and contributes to a growing nest egg. It just doesn’t leave me with time to clean my house. Thankfully, there are people—most often women—who can be hired to help with that. However, for these individuals, housecleaning (or any other form of domestic work including raising children) routinely means low pay, long hours, and denial of health care. And in the worst cases, it can result in severe physical abuse. As one domestic worker described, “Amid the global recession . . . we perform the necessary labor to make other work possible for American businesses and professionals. We do the very basic and vital work for any economy — taking care of the next generation, the elderly, the homes, cooking food and doing the laundry. But even in New York, our labor remains unrecognized, unprotected, and devalued.” On August 31, New York signed the US’s first law protecting domestic workers’ rights. The bill guarantees overtime pay, a minimum of one day off every seven days, three days of paid leave per year, and protections against sexual harassment and racial discrimination for the estimated 200,000 domestic workers in NY (93 percent of whom are women, 95 percent are people of color, and 99 percent are immigrants). These are more rights than domestic workers anywhere in the US, or in most of the world, have. Let’s make sure other states and countries follow in New York’s footsteps.