Humanists for Social Justice and Environmental Action supports Human Rights, Social and Economic Justice, Environmental Activism and Planetary Ethics in North America & Globally, with particular reference to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other Human Rights UN treaties and conventions listed above. see About Us. Subscribe below.

Thursday

‘Human Suffering Has Reached Staggering Levels’

‘Human Suffering Has Reached Staggering Levels’ | Inter Press Service
ROME, May 17 2016 (IPS) - “Human suffering from the impacts of armed conflicts and disasters has reached staggering levels.”
With these one dozen or few words, the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, briefly but sharply portrayed the current humanitarian drama, explaining why the UN has decided to hold the first ever World Humanitarian Summit on May 23-24 this year in Istanbul, Turkey.
Secretary General Ban documented his statement with specific figures: nearly 60 million people, half of them children, have been forced from their homes due to conflict and violence.
“Every humanitarian crisis is inherently unique and context-specific,” O’Brien responded to IPS in an interview. “However, taken together, there are 125 million people in need of aid in the world today as a result of conflicts and natural disasters and over 60 million people have been forcibly displaced. These are the highest numbers we have on record since WWII.”
According to O’Brien, it is clear that the landscape of humanitarian action has changed significantly over the past years and “collectively we have not been able to adequately keep up with and respond to contemporary challenges.”
The UN Under Secretary General then explains to IPS that it is not about one humanitarian crisis, but multiple crises happening at the same time, from the crisis in Syria and the region to the impact of El Niño, which currently affects 60 million people in the world.
And that the humanitarian needs have grown exponentially while the resources have not been able to follow suit which has created an ever-widening gap.
 “A core aim of the summit is the reinvigoration of political will and commitment to take forward the Agenda for Humanity.” And adds “The Summit is a launch pad at the highest level: but what is even more important will be a commitment to follow up and make these actions a reality.”
He also says that UN member States and other stakeholders making commitments during the Summit will be asked to update on progress against their implementation. “Follow-up at the inter-governmental level will begin with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Humanitarian Affairs Segment.
O’Brien adds that the UN Secretary-General’s report to the General Assembly will address how each of the core responsibilities will be carried forward and will define the vehicles for assessing progress.

Wednesday

Muslim states block gay groups from U.N. AIDS meeting; U.S. protests

Muslim states block gay groups from U.N. AIDS meeting; U.S. protests | Reuters

A group of 51 Muslim states has blocked 11 gay and transgender organizations from attending a high-level meeting at the United Nations next month on ending AIDS, sparking a protest by the United States, Canada and the European Union.

Egypt wrote to the president of the 193-member General Assembly on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to object to the participation of the 11 groups. It did not give a reason in the letter, which Reuters saw.

Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, wrote to General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft and said the groups appeared to have been blocked for involvement in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy.

"Given that transgender people are 49 times more likely to be living with HIV than the general population, their exclusion from the high-level meeting will only impede global progress in combating the HIV/AIDS pandemic," Power wrote.

U.N. officials said the European Union and Canada also wrote to Lykketoft to protest the objections by the OIC group, whose members include Saudi Arabia, Iran, Indonesia, Sudan and Uganda.

The issues of LGBT rights and participation in events at the United Nations have long been contentious. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has advocated for LGBT equality but faced opposition from African, Arab and Muslim states as well as Russia and China.

"We are deeply concerned that at every negotiation on a new General Assembly gathering, the matter of NGO (non-governmental organization) participation is questioned and scrutinized," Power wrote."The movement to block the participation of NGOs on spurious or hidden grounds is becoming epidemic and severely damages the credibility of the U.N.," she said.

In 2014, Ban said the U.N. would recognize all same-sex marriages of its staff, allowing them to receive its benefits. Russia, with the support of 43 states including Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, India, Egypt, Pakistan, and Syria, unsuccessfully tried to overturn the move last year.

In February, the 54-member African Group, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the 25-member Group of Friends of the Family led by Belarus, Egypt and Qatar protested six new U.N. stamps promoting LGBT equality.

The Group of Friends of the Family promotes the traditional family. It launched a photo exhibit, "Uniting Nations for a Family Friendly World," at the U.N. on Tuesday, which is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

Monday

Canada removing objector status to UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples - Aboriginal - CBC

Canada removing objector status to UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples - Aboriginal - CBC
Canada will remove its permanent objector status to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said Monday.

The declaration — first adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007 — recognizes Indigenous people's basic human rights, as well as rights to self-determination, language, equality and land, among others. "We are fully adopting this and working to implement it within the laws of Canada, which is our charter," Bennett said.

The announcement came at the UN in New York City, where Bennett and Justice Minister Jody Wilson Raybould are attending the opening session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

While Bennett offered few details on exactly how Canada would implement the declaration, she said that an official announcement would be coming on Tuesday.

The lack of specific details in Monday's announcement frustrated some. "I was so disappointed that there was nothing new or substantiveadded to the conversation," said Hayden King, director of the Centre for Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University.

"[The Liberal government] just repeats these platitudes and these commitments, but it has not demonstrated or indicated any concrete action."

King also had concerns about Bennett and Wilson-Raybould's comments that Indigenous peoples in Canada are already protected and that the UN declaration "breathes life" into Section 35 of the Constitution Act, which recognizes and affirms their rights.

He said previous governments have relied on Canadian courts' interpretation of Section 35, which he calls narrow and limited.

Tuesday

Amnesty International Canada - the world's longest imprisoned Journalist

Amnesty International Canada

Muhammad Bekzhanov is one of the world’s longest-imprisoned journalists. Uzbek authorities seem determined to keep him behind bars and silence his voice. Persecution, harassment and intimidation forced Muhammad Bekzhanov to leave Uzbekistan In 1993 while he was editor-in-chief of Erk (Freedom), the main opposition newspaper.

In 1999, Ukrainian authorities forcibly returned Muhammad Bekzhanov to Uzbekistan. He was detained by security forces and tortured with beatings, suffocation and electric shocks. During his trial, he and his co-defendants described how they were forced to confess to fabricated charges of a bombing. The judge ignored the torture complaints and sentenced him to 15 years based entirely on the confession. Days before Muhammad Bekzhanov was due to be released, his sentence was increased by over four more years for allegedly breaking prison rules. His family are concerned about his declining health. There has been no effective investigation into the allegations of torture. Repeated calls for a fair trial have been ignored.

The international press freedom organization Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders) awarded Muhammad Bekzhanov the International Press Freedom Prize in 2013. The award “salute[s] the exemplary courage of men and women for whom reporting the news is a daily battle.”

Call for the release of Muhammad Bekzhanov.

Friday

Nestle seeks 10-year water-taking permit in Aberfoyle | The Council of Canadians

Nestle seeks 10-year water-taking permit in Aberfoyle | The Council of Canadians

The Council of Canadians is opposed to Nestle securing a ten-year water-taking permit in Aberfoyle, Ontario.

CTV reports, "Within the next few months, Nestle’s permit to take water from the Aberfoyle area will expire. The bottled water giant is seeking a 10-year renewal of that permit, which currently allows them to take about 2,500 litres of water per minute from the Grand River watershed."

The article adds, "Nestle filed its application to renew its water-taking permit earlier this week."
Nestle's current water taking permit in Aberfoyle is set to expire July 31, 2016.

The Council of Canadians has previously raised concerns about Nestle's water-taking business in Aberfoyle. In 2008, the Council of Canadians Guelph chapter and Wellington Water Watchers campaigned against Nestle and succeeded in at least reducing Nestle's requested permit (from 5 years to 2 years) and requiring the company to do extensive monitoring on the impact of their water takings. In 2013, the two groups, with legal representation from Ecojustice, successfully fought against an Ontario Ministry of Environment decision to remove conditions that made it mandatory for Nestle to reduce its water takings in Hillsburgh during droughts.

Vancouver-based Council of Canadians water campaigner Emma Lui has written, "Nestlé also withdraws 265 million litres every year in Hope. The BC government kicked off a firestorm of opposition when it released new water rates that would have Nestlé paying only $2.25 per million litres starting in January 2016 when the new Water Sustainability Act comes into force."

The Council of Canadians defends the United Nations-recognized human right to water and opposes the commodification of water, including the sale of bottled water.

Wellington Water Watchers is a key ally in this fight in Ontario. They are dedicated to the protection, restoration and conservation of drinking water in Guelph and Wellington County. To learn more about them, please click here.

Thursday

URGENT: Email Minister of Immigration McCallum to stop next week's litigation 

URGENT: Email Minister of Immigration McCallum to stop next week's litigation 

Despite our best efforts, the Canadian government is going ahead with  litigation that was initiated by the Harper government against U.S. Iraq War resisters. The Federal Court hearings are scheduled for April 5 and 6.
  • We are asking every supporter to immediately email Minister of Immigration John McCallum,  at minister@cic.gc.ca and john.mccallum@parl.gc.ca (model message below)
  • Under your name, please include city and province
  • Please cc Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca
  • Please also bcc the War Resisters Support Campaign at wrsctoronto@gmail.com
Here is a model email message you can copy and paste into your message (or feel free to personalize it) --

SUBJECT: U.S. Iraq War resisters – Stop litigation initiated by Harper government
Honourable John McCallum
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
Dear Minister McCallum,
I am writing to ask that you immediately cease the litigation initiated  by the former Conservative government against U.S. Iraq War resisters. Our new government should not defend decisions made under the previous  government and re-litigate matters the Court has already found on in  favour of these conscientious objectors. As you know, Canadians  overwhelmingly opposed the Iraq War and the Liberal government under Jean Chrétien made a decision not to participate in it.

The cases to be heard by the Federal Court on April 5 and 6 should be settled, and the matters sent back to be re-determined by new  immigration officers.

I thank you for your consideration and look forward to your response.

Sincerely,
cc: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Friday

CSW: World leaders accused of backtracking on gender equality commitments |

World leaders accused of backtracking on gender equality commitments

Claims that world leaders are backtracking on their commitment to end gender inequality have emerged on the final day of negotiations at the Commission on the Status of Women.

Several countries are reportedly trying to water down the progressive language on financing for gender equality and sexual and reproductive health rights contained in the draft text of the outcome document.

Governments are understood to be unwilling to agree commitments on targeted funding for gender equality, getting corporations to pay their fair share of tax, and creating a better environment for women’s rights organisations to operate, which would include more funding.


The work of local women’s groups is regarded as the most likely to bring long-term change in their communities and nationally.

This year’s CSW was seen as the first major barometer of leaders’ appetite to implement the sustainable development goals, adopted by the UN general assembly in September. The SDGs are regarded as the roadmap for ending poverty and inequality, and conserving the environment over the next 15 years.

Goal five commits governments to achieve gender equality and empower women and girls, with specific targets to end violence and harmful practices, recognise the unpaid care work that falls disproportionately on women, get more women into leadership positions, and ensure women can uphold their reproductive rights.

Campaigners went into the two-week annual meeting, which began on 14 March, demanding that governments demonstrate their commitment to the new 2030 agenda by agreeing an outcome document that showed how they plan to implement and finance the goals.

But Shannon Kowalski, director of advocacy and policy at the International Women’s Health Coalition, and a partner of the Women’s Major Group, which represents the views of women in UN processes, said governments “seem to be having second thoughts” on the 17 goals and 169 targets they signed up to last year.

The language surrounding sexual and reproductive health and rights – always a contentious area, particularly for more conservative governments and the Holy See – is being unpicked, with Russia and the African bloc of countries purportedly leading the push back.

Kowalski said the EU, negotiating as a group this year, has been “paralysed by internal politics” as Poland and Hungary seek to water down language on these issues. In the past, the EU has opted not to negotiate as a group because of the diverse nature of its member governments.

“We are extremely disappointed. Countries coming to these negotiations are not even willing to negotiate,” added Kowalski.

“There are a huge number of issues the Africa group and Russia are saying they are not going go discuss here. It makes it almost impossible to make progress.”

On Wednesday, the Coalition of African Lesbians, a pan-African feminist organisation, said it was “deeply disturbed” by the positions being taken by the Africa group in regard to sexual and reproductive rights.

It said: “States are seeking to weaken or delete references to sexual and reproductive health and rights. Twenty years’ worth of agreements are at risk because of the Africa Group’s refusal to accept the word ‘sexuality’ in the agreed conclusions.”

The coalition called on South Africa to break ranks with the Africa group if its members continued to take this stance. The coalition said the text was inconsistent with South Africa’s constitution.

The CSW is due to end on Thursday, but negotiations are expected to continue into the early hours of Friday.


Medically Assisted Dying Panel Tickets, Sat, 14 May 2016 at 1:30 PM

Medically Assisted Dying Panel Tickets, Sat, 14 May 2016 at 1:30 PM | Eventbrite

Medically Assisted Dying - Where Do We Go From Here?

The Supreme Court has ruled. Polls indicate 4 out of 5 Canadians support physician-assisted dying. Parliament has the directive to produce simple and straightforward legislation. Our distinguished panel will speak to many of the questions that arise as we consider where we go from here.
Panel Members:
  • Shanaaz Gokool, CEO, Dying with Dignity
  • Dr. Isser Dubinsky, Physicians’ Advisory Council, DWD
  • Blair Henry, Ph.D (pending) Clinical Bioethicist Sunnybrook Hospital
When:
Where:
Koffler House - 569 Spadina Crescent Room 108, Toronto, ON M5S 2J7, Canada - View Map

Tuesday

Global Actions Demand Fast Food Giants Get Antibiotics 'Off the Menu'

Global Actions Demand Fast Food Giants Get Antibiotics 'Off the Menu' |

In light of the public health risks associated with increasing antibiotic resistance, activists in 60 countries are celebrating World Consumer Rights Day by calling on fast-food companies to get antibiotics "off the menu."

The worldwide actions, organized by the London-headquartered Consumers International (CI), call specifically on McDonald's, Subway, and KFC to make "global, time bound commitments to stop serving meat from animals routinely given antibiotics that are classed as important for human medicine by the World Health Organization."

As CI director general Amanda Long wrote Monday at the Huffington Post:
McDonald's has made such a commitment on chicken in USA
and Canada. The commitment does not extend to other types of meat
however, nor to other countries outside of North America. Subway has
committed to stop serving meat from any animal given antibiotics in the
USA. KFC has made no meaningful commitments anywhere.

Of course we would like to see other restaurant chains, as well as
meat suppliers and retailers, make global time bound commitments to stop
selling meat from animals routinely given antibiotics important for
human medicine. We are focusing on these three chains because they have
over 100,000 restaurants between them. It is about more than simple
buying power however, these are global household names with the ability
to influence markets even where they have fewer outlets.
In February, a coalition of more than 50 public health, environmental, and consumer rights groups issued a similar demand to In-N-Out Burger, California's hamburger restaurant chain.

A report (pdf) issued late last month by CI stated that: "Despite worldwide concern about the overuse of antibiotics, their use in agriculture is due to increase by two thirds by 2030: from 63,200 tons in 2010, to 105,600 tons in 2030."

This is cause for alarm because antibiotic resistant bacteria spreads from farms to people through air, soil, water, manure, and theconsumption of medicine-treated meat and animal products

Top Pakistani religious body rules women's protection law 'un-Islamic' | Reuters

Top Pakistani religious body rules women's protection law 'un-Islamic' | Reuters

"This Law makes a Man insecure".  sometimes you don't even have to write the analysis...

(note: the law was supported by  AURAT, the women's rights group ...very interesting work)

A powerful Pakistani religious body that advises the government on the compatibility of laws with Islam on Thursday declared a new law that criminalizes violence against women to be "un-Islamic."

The Women's Protection Act, passed by Pakistan's largest province of Punjab last week, gives unprecedented legal protection to women from domestic, psychological and sexual violence. It also calls for the creation of a toll-free abuse reporting hot line and the establishment of women's shelters.

But since its passage in the Punjab assembly, many conservative clerics and religious leaders have denounced the new law as being in conflict with the Muslim holy book, the Koran, as well as Pakistan's constitution. "The whole law is wrong," Muhammad Khan Sherani, the head of the Council of Islamic Ideology said at a news conference, citing verses from the Koran to point out that the law was "un-Islamic."

The 54-year-old council is known for its controversial decisions. In the past it has ruled that DNA cannot be used as primary evidence in rape cases, and it supported a law that requires women alleging rape to get four male witnesses to testify in court before a case is heard.

The council's decision this January to block a bill to impose harsher penalties for marrying off girls as young as eight or nine has angered human rights activists.

The new law establishes district-level panels to investigate reports of abuse, and mandates the use of GPS bracelets to keep track of offenders.It also sets punishments of up to a year in jail for violators of court orders related to domestic violence, with that period rising to two years for repeat offenders.

Fazlur Rehman, the chief of one of Pakistan's largest religious parties, the Jamiat-i-Ulema Islam, said the law was in conflict with both Islam and the constitution of Pakistan.

"This law makes a man insecure," he told journalists. "This law is an attempt to make Pakistan a Western colony again."

In 2013, more than 5,800 cases of violence against women were reported in Punjab alone, the province where Wednesday's law was passed, according to the Aurat Foundation, a women's rights advocacy group.   

Wednesday

Female farmers in 90 nations face discriminatory land laws

Female farmers in 90 nations face discriminatory land laws

A woman picks coffee berries while holding a child at the Paradise Lost coffee farm in Kiambu, outside Kenya's capital Nairobi, November 10, 2015. REUTERS/Siegfried
TORONTO, March 8 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Women in more than 90 countries still lack equal rights to own land, hurting food production and efforts to tackle poverty, Rwanda's former agriculture minister said. Nations in eastern and southern Africa have considerably improved their laws to grant land ownership rights to female farmers, Agnes Kalibata said.

But many states in North Africa and South Asia continue to treat women as second class citizens when it comes to land ownership, "In Africa, six out of 10 women depend on the land for their livelihoods," Kalibata told the Thomson Reuters Foundation "They must have access to the means of production - the land itself. If we are going to have development across the globe, women need equal access to the land." Up to 30 percent of women have land access in eastern and southern Africa, compared to less than 10 percent in northern and central Africa, she said.

Without formal land titles, women have a harder time feeding and educating their children.
Agricultural productivity also suffers as female farmers are less likely to invest in improving the land without formal ownership, making it harder to feed the 795 million hungry people worldwide.

During her tenure as Rwanda's agriculture minister which ended in 2014, Kalibata helped enact legal changes that give a woman ownership of half the land her family owns. In many other developing countries, land titles are kept in the husband's name. She also made it easier for widows to inherit family plots when their husbands died.

"Incredible things are going on in Rwanda when it comes to women's land rights," said Rena Singer, spokeswoman for the Washington-based rights group Landesa.

"If women can't inherit land, we see the continuation of inequality between genders. The only way most poor people get resources in their lifetime is to inherit - they don't have the money to purchase land."

Even in countries like Rwanda with good land laws, lax enforcement and patriarchal customs can make it harder for femalefarmers to control their incomes, Kalibata said.

Tuesday

International Women's Day - Canadian Nurses, MSF, and Gender Violence

International Women's Day

Today is International Women's Day, and Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is using this opportunity to highlight sexual violence as an urgent health and medical issue. Here, two Canadian MSF nurses discuss how we can make a difference in the lives of women affected by sexual and gender-based violence.
Learn more about their work, and how MSF helps the survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in more than 90 projects in nearly 30 countries around the world.