Archive for the ‘asimoni’ Category

Haiti: One Year Later

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Peacekeeping - MINUSTAHOn January 12, 2010 a devastating earthquake killed approximately 300,000 people and left nearly two million homeless in Haiti. One year later, more than one million people are still living in appalling conditions in “temporary” tent cities in the capital city and surrounding areas. A report released this week by Oxfam reveals that less than 45 percent of the $2.1 billion pledged for Haiti’s reconstruction has been disbursed. In addition, “less than 5 percent of the rubble has been cleared, only 15 percent of the temporary housing that is needed has been built and relatively few permanent water and sanitation facilities have been constructed.” Adding to Haiti’s misery is the recent cholera epidemic that so far has killed nearly 3,500 people. The all-too-common tent cities are particularly dangerous for women, where gender-based violence and sexual assaults are on the rise. This short video by Amnesty International highlights the dangers women face and emphasizes that “feeling safe from sexual violence is a basic human right.”

Meanwhile, this week in the United States, six civil and human rights groups filed an emergency petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), to halt the roundups, detention, and imminent deportations of hundreds of Haitian nationals by the U.S. government. Deportations from the U.S. to Haiti have been stayed on humanitarian grounds since last year, however on December 9, 2010 the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unexpectedly announced that it would resume deportations this month. A year after one of the most devastating humanitarian crises in history, Haitians continue to struggle to have their basic human rights met.

Matters of Life and Death: Women Count for Peace

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

1325plus10_WomenCount4Peace_208x140This week, ten years ago, the United Nations passed a landmark resolution on women, peace, and security. Known as UNSCR 1325, the resolution addresses the  ways conflict impacts women and it acknowledges the critical role women play in peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peace building.

Here in the United States, our day-to-day lives look very different than that of life in countries like the DRC and Afghanistan—where women are brutalized on a daily basis in the midst of armed conflict. However, that doesn’t mean we’re not impacted by war and responsible for peace. In recognition of this, yesterday Secretary of State Hillary Clinton enumerated several concrete, precedent-setting commitments by the U.S., including $17 million to address sexual and gender-based violence in the DRC and the development of a domestic National Action Plan to accelerate implementation of UNSCR 1325 here in the United States. If these commitments materialize, the U.S. will join 23 other countries who have developed national-level strategies to ensure that women are effectively represented in the full range of peace-building and reconstruction efforts; that they are protected against sexual violence; and that they are the focus of conflict prevention, relief and reconciliation efforts.

As Clinton said in her speech to the U.N., “It’s not as though we are doing a favor for ourselves and them [women] by including women in the work of peace. This is a necessary global security imperative. Including women in the work of peace advances our national security interests, promotes political stability, economic growth, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Just as in the economic sphere, we cannot exclude the talents of half the population, neither when it comes to matters of life and death can we afford to ignore, marginalize, and dismiss the very direct contributions that women can and have made.”

What Do Human Rights Mean to You?

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

onedayonearthRespect for human rights are essential to nearly every social priority, including the right to life, health, education, free speech and much, much more. What rights do you enjoy on a daily basis because you are human? What rights are you denied? …  The ability to freely express yourself? To vote? To go to school? To live where you want regardless of your ethnic group or religion? To freely express your gender or sexual orientation?

On October 10, 2010 (10.10.10) citizens across the globe are recording the human experience over a 24-hour period. The goal of this participatory media event is to showcase the diversity, conflict, tragedy, and triumph that occur in one day. Human Rights Watch is calling on individuals to join this event by reflecting on what human rights mean to them and to society in general. Can you visually document the basic human rights that you enjoy on a daily basis, or the human rights that are being denied to you and to others? The recent awarding of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo illustrates that one person speaking out about human rights does make a difference. Add your voice to the call for human rights for all.

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/

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.

Saving Lives: Humanitarian Assistance is Both a Right and a Responsibility

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

WHD_August 19th is World Humanitarian Day—a day to honor the work of the hundreds of thousands of women and men around the world determined to eradicate disease, poverty, and violence. Humanitarian aid workers strive to ensure that those in need of life-saving assistance receive it, regardless of their religion, nationality, race, or politics. The right to this assistance is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is guided by humanitarian principles that include neutrality, impartiality, and operational independence. However, in many parts of the world, there is growing skepticism about the integrity of humanitarian aid. In its worst manifestation, this skepticism has resulted in an increasing number of targeted attacks on humanitarian personnel. (Including the 2003 bomb attack in Baghdad that killed 22 UN employees and the UN Special Representative Sergio Vieira de Mello. World Humanitarian Day was originally initiated in recognition of this tragic event.) A healthier form of criticism is represented in films like Good Fortune“a provocative exploration of how massive international efforts to alleviate poverty in Africa may be undermining the very communities they aim to benefit.” The film shows a Kenyan man’s farm being flooded by an American investor who hopes to alleviate poverty by creating a multimillion-dollar rice farm and a woman’s business being demolished as part of a U.N. slum-upgrading project in Africa’s largest shantytown. Humanitarian assistance is both a right and a responsibility. However, it is clear that we—as a world community—still have far to go in figuring out how to do it both right and responsibly.

If Your Cellphone Isn’t Killing You, It May Be Killing Others

Monday, July 12th, 2010

cellphone-chipThe average American is a slave to technology. Although no one really knows the physical and psychological impact of this, there is a lot of discussion recently about the danger of computers and cellphones. According to several articles and books, these “gadgets” have resulted in shallower thinking, weakened concentration, reduced creativity, heightened stress, and interrupted work and family life. There are also concerns about the physical impact. One Swedish study that followed young people, who began using cellphones as teenagers, for 10 years calculated a 400 percent increase in brain tumors. Another study revealed a potential link between cellphone radiation and loss in bees’ honey production—given that bees pollinate 90% of commercial crops in the USA the side effects of this could eventually be dire. However as Maureen Dowd wrote, “even if scientists told us our computers would make our arms fall off, we’d probably keep typing.” All this recent attention to the physical and psychological impacts notwithstanding, it is people who don’t even use these “gadgets” that are at the greatest, yet far less talked about, risk. Smartphones and laptops are built from minerals—tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold—that warlords trade and use to fund mass slaughter and rape in eastern Congo. This straightforward video by the Enough Project describes how these minerals leave a trail of destruction from the mines in Congo to the cellphone in your pocket, and what consumers can do to help end the violence.

A Woman’s Right to Choose

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

340x_burqas5710There are many choices that, in a democratic country, should be a woman’s right to make—including the choice of what to wear and where to pray. For Muslim citizens of Western countries, however, the right to make these choices is in question. In May, the French government approved a measure to ban full-body veils (burqas, niqabs) in public. According to the leader of the French National Assembly, the ban is both necessary for public safety and a good thing for France and democracy. In response, many women’s rights activists assert that the ban is patronizing and dehumanizing for French Muslim citizens. In the US, the debate is about where Muslim women can pray. A group of Muslim women have begun organizing mosque pray-ins in an attempt to end the gender segregation that occurs in nearly two-thirds of American mosques. (Segregation in mosques is not practiced traditionally and historically in Islam. In the Grand Mosque of Mecca, Islam’s holiest shrine, women and men perform all the hajj rituals, including praying, without segregation.) In a recent Huffington Post article, Jehan Harney asserts that these activists can gain supporters “not necessarily by demanding mosques change their policies to have men and women pray side-by-side, but rather demanding mosques to give women their right to choose where to pray.”

Building a United Nations That Works for Women

Monday, June 14th, 2010

GEARlogoThe United Nations (UN) is in the midst of a historic reform process that has the potential to change the status quo for women’s human rights around the world. Five decades ago, the UN became a galvanizing force for protecting and promoting women’s rights by creating a framework of international laws and commitments. However, the four small UN agencies exclusively dedicated to women’s issues lack the necessary status, funding and country presence to enable the wider UN system and national authorities to fully implement their obligations. This has limited the potential for women around the world to fully enjoy their rights in practice. In September 2009, all 192 member states of the UN General Assembly finally agreed to the creation of a consolidated and stronger UN agency for women. At this moment, member states are negotiating about this new agency. The Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR) Campaign — a network of over 300 women’s, human rights and social justice groups from around the world — is urging the General Assembly to adopt a resolution about the agency by July 2010 and to commit to fund the entity with an annual budget of 1 billion USD. Sign the petition today to ensure that the UN gets this reform right. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to influence systematic change in women’s rights worldwide.

Peace in Afghanistan – Will Women’s Rights Be the Cost?

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

womenafghanistanA peace jirga — which aims to bring together 1,500 Afghan policymakers, community leaders and elders to end the Taliban insurgency — will begin on June 2 in Kabul. The jirga will determine a reconciliation process for members of the Taliban “who are not part of al-Qaeda or any other terrorist network, who denounce violence and who will return to normal life respecting the Afghan constitution.” President Karzai asserts that this historic forum will enable Afghans to chart a way forward. At a recent meeting at the United States Institute of Peace, Karzai sought to allay fears that negotiations with the Taliban would turn Afghanistan away from its commitment to human rights. Karzai distinguished rank-and-file militants from their leadership, asserting that low-level Taliban sympathizers are “countryside boys” who are not enemies of the U.S. Although the peace jirga is slated to include at least 20 percent women, Afghan elders and community leaders have demonstrated reluctance. Many observers fear that the Afghan government, desperate for an agreement with the Taliban, will compromise on the issue of women’s rights and women will be a pawn in the negotiations. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has asserted that it is “essential that women’s rights and women’s opportunities are not sacrificed or trampled on in the reconciliation process.” Afghan women’s rights activists assert that “the US should not support any project, with any amount, where women are not strongly present.”