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.

Friday

UN report on 1.5C blocked from climate talks after Saudi Arabia disputes science

UN report on 1.5C blocked from climate talks after Saudi Arabia disputes science

A major report on 1.5C has been excluded from formal UN climate negotiations, after Saudi Arabia tried to discredit its scientific underpinnings.
Discussions came to a deadlock at the talks in Bonn after a small group of countries refused to engage in substantive discussions over how the report’s findings could be used to inform policies on increasing the pace and scale of decarbonisation.
The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) lays out the differences between 1.5C and 2C of warming – a matter of survival for many vulnerable countries including small island states which pushed for the findings to lead to more ambitious carbon-cutting policies.
At the closing plenary, which took place amid soaring summer temperatures in the former west German capital, a five-paragraph watered-down agreement put an end to formal discussions on the report.
The agreed text expressed “appreciation and gratitude” to the scientific community for the report, which it said “reflects the best available science” and notes “the views expressed on how to strengthen scientific knowledge on global warming of 1.5C”.
It offers no way forward for the report to be considered further in formal negotiations.
In the final meeting of the talks, diplomats came together to express their disappointment. Franz Perrez, lead negotiator for Switzerland, wore a t-shirt with the message “science is not negotiable” and urged countries to use the report to inform their policies and “make the right decisions”.
A diplomat from Costa Rica said the IPCC report on 1.5C represented “a great triumph of science” and that “the quality of the work and the robustness of the conclusions are a tremendous achievement”.
“We recognise that many messages of the special report are difficult to accept,” she said, adding: “On climate change, listening to the science is not a choice but a duty. If we are asking the world to change, we also, as representatives, need to be willing to change.”
The meeting’s chair Paul Watkinson said science remained “at the heart” of UN Climate Change’s science stream and that it is “essential for all our collective and individual activities”.
Carlos Fuller, lead negotiator for the alliance of small island states (Aosis), told Climate Home News he was disappointed there would be no other formal opportunities for countries to delve into the science.
“When anyone is trying to discredit the science it is worrying, especially in the middle of a heatwave. We are the ones suffering if others reject the science,” he said.

Monday

Missing Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls National Inquiry report: Genocide

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The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) has come to the conclusion that Canada has committed genocide against its Indigenous peoples. This is buttressed by a dense and sophisticated 46-page supplementary legal analys is appended to the report.
International lawyers hardly have a monopoly over what is or ought to be characterized as genocide — the issue is also the subject of debate among historians, social scientists and the general public. Nonetheless, genocide as a legal term was the creation of international law. The recognition that it happened is legally significant.
The supplementary legal analysis is careful to emphasize that it cannot be the last word on the matter, but it does come up with a series of strong arguments that draw upon international law.
The United Nations’ Genocide Convention must be interpreted in the light of evolving customary international law: states can be liable for genocide as well as individuals; one can commit genocide through omissions as well as actions; responsibility can be incurred for ongoing and disparate acts; members of a group can be killed in a variety of ways.
In my opinion, some international lawyers who might otherwise be sympathetic to the plight of Indigenous groups in Canada could nonetheless hesitate to label what happened as genocide.
They may emphasize, for example, the non-applicability of the Genocide Convention for much of the period during which it was allegedly violated in Canada. They may argue that only physical and biological killing of the group is covered by the convention. Or they may point out that Indigenous groups were purportedly not covered by the provisions of the Genocide Convention. They may opine that simply because something is not classified as genocide doesn’t mean it’s not despicable or worthy of condemnation.
Such hesitations are understandable, but they miss the larger point.
The attempt to grapple with genocide in Canada by the MMIWG commission is about more than simply applying international law to the facts. It’s also about decolonizing the international law of genocide itself; that is, imagining what international law could be if it had not itself been implicated historically in colonization.
Just as it draws on the authority of international law, the MMIWG report is also a subtle indictment of it.
International law defined genocide narrowly after the Second World War and largely reflected the unique experience of the Holocaust. Colonial massacres before then — such as the genocide of the Herero in southern Africa — or even at the time, like the Sétif massacre in Algeria, were not considered genocide or crimes against humanity.
The focus on individual criminal responsibility in the last two decades may have further reinforced a sense that genocide is committed by a few “bad apples.”
A determination of genocide in Canada, therefore, is partly despite the UN genocide convention’s failure to include Indigenous or gendered groups as protected minorities, its emphasis on massacres and its insistence on individual intent.
The convention makes it structurally difficult to conceptualize genocide as being anything other than the sort of industrial killing or large-scale massacre illustrated by the Holocaust and the Rwandan genociderespectively.
But if we accept that international law — which, by the way, historically sanctified colonization — is not a sacred source of authority but part of a particular, historically and geographically situated tradition, then we can begin to imagine how we might rethink genocide.
The MMIWG report suggests, in particular, that we ought to think of “colonial genocide” as different from “Holocaust genocide.” It is a genocide happening everywhere and all the time. It is a genocide that is at least as much the result of a slow war of cultural attrition than it is the product of massacres. The intent is present but it is structural. Responsibility is not only singular, not the work of a few bad apples, but collective.
Paradoxically, then, the challenge is not only to denounce a genocide but to denounce the limitations of the international law on genocide.
It is to question the authority to define “genocide” and to foreground victims’ experience in defining it. It is to insist that colonial genocide is genocide too. It is to recognize what happened in Canada over several centuries for what it is, despite the law’s best efforts to beat around the bush.
To decolonize genocide, then, is to decolonize how we comprehend genocide and to reimagine what international law could stand for.
There has been much debate since the MMIWG report’s release about what its legal consequences will be. The Organization of American States has asked Canada to agree to the creation of a panel to further investigate the allegation of genocide.

Saturday

Open letter signed by 101 experts supporting Bill C-262 – CPIJ

Open letter signed by 101 experts supporting Bill C-262 – CPIJ
On May 30, 2018, the House of Commons passed Bill C-262. Indigenous peoples and individuals, leaders, and human rights experts hailed this historic event as a victory for the human rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada. We are 101 experts and academics who research and work in the fields of Indigenous, human rights, constitutional law and/or international law. We are glad that Bill C-262 has finally been referred to Committee, 11 months after its adoption by the House of Commons. We urge you to proceed swiftly so that it can be passed and become part of Canadian law before the current session of Parliament ends.
Worldwide, Indigenous peoples are amongst the world’s most disadvantaged and victimized peoples. They share common problems related to the protection of their rights as distinct peoples and suffer widespread discrimination at various levels.  On September 13, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly held a historic vote to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Canada, as you are aware, was initially opposed to the Declaration; it based its arguments on extraordinary and erroneous claims, for which no credible legal rationale has been provided. We are concerned that similar misguided claims or apprehensions continue to be used by some Senators to justify opposition and slow the progress of the bill in the Senate.
Bill C-262’s full title is: “An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”.  It is a basic, bottom-line piece of legislation that does not create new rights. It establishes a process for the government, in full partnership with Indigenous peoples, to achieve implementation of the Declaration in Canadian law. It does so in three ways.
  • First, Bill C-262 affirms the Declaration as a universal international human rights instrument with application in Canadian law. This is consistent with the fact that the UN Declaration already has legal effect in Canada and can be used by Canadian courts and tribunals to interpret Canadian laws.
  • Second, the Bill requires the government to work with Indigenous peoples to review existing laws and bring forward reforms to ensure their consistency with the Declaration.
  • Third, Bill C-262 creates a legislative framework for the federal government to collaborate with Indigenous peoples to establish a national action plan for the implementation of the Declaration.
Honourable Senators, the recognition of the human rights of Indigenous peoples works to strengthen human rights for everyone. The provisions in the UN Declaration were developed based on existing standards in international law. Many are already legally binding on Canada, either because they are part of customary international law, or because they are necessary to fulfil obligations under the human rights treaties that Canada has ratified.
The UN Declaration does not create a hierarchy of competing human rights claims. It is absolutely false, as some have claimed, that it gives Indigenous peoples a veto over, for example, development projects. It requires States to consult and cooperate in good faith with indigenous peoples in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them. Respect for free, prior and informed consent is an essential standard in international law and can already be used by Canadian courts and tribunals as a source of interpretation of Canadian laws, including the Constitution, where Indigenous rights are at stake. The UN Declaration provides for comprehensive balancing provisions. It reaffirms what international and Canadian law already acknowledge: the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all must be respected, but limitations may be necessary in a democratic society. Limitations are possible if they are non-discriminatory and strictly necessary for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others. Bill C-262 only reinforces this essential attribute of human rights law.
The UN Declaration offers a framework to enhance harmonious and cooperative relations between the State and Indigenous peoples, “in accordance with the principles of justice, democracy, respect for human rights, equality, non-discrimination, good governance and good faith”. These are the core principles and values of not only Canada’s Constitution, but also the international system that Canada has championed.
The Declaration is a universal human rights instrument. It is also a consensus instrument that has been reaffirmed seven times by the UN General Assembly. No State in the world formally objects to it. Bill C-262 provides a much-needed framework to ensure that Canada works in cooperation with Indigenous peoples to see it fully and effectively implemented.Honourable Senators, you have the power and privilege to make a crucial step in Canada’s pathway to reconciliation, but also to reaffirm Canada’s true commitment to human rights for all. We urge you to proceed swiftly with Bill-C-262.

Monday

Intersecting Human Rights Issues Central to UN Discussion of Surrogacy | Human Rights Watch

Intersecting Human Rights Issues Central to UN Discussion of Surrogacy | Human Rights Watch: Medical advances have produced important progress in assisted reproduction, and law makers are struggling to keep up. One advance is the increasing use of surrogacy – where a person able to carry a fetus to term does so in order for someone else to be the parent of the resulting child – and the ability through in vitro fertilization for a surrogate to carry a baby who is not her biological relative.
The United Nations is currently considering how to address surrogacy. The process has profound implications for children born through surrogacy, but also for people who have acted or wish to act as surrogates, and those who seek to become parents through surrogacy. In formulating policy, the UN should carefully consider the rights of all of these stakeholders, Human Rights Watch and the International Women’s Health Coalition said in a submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on Sale of Children.
Surrogacy has given new hope to many people who wished to become parents but faced barriers, including LGBT people and people experiencing infertility. But surrogacy also raises complex legal and ethical issues. In some countries, lack of regulation can lead to exploitation, including by unscrup

Not one single country set to achieve gender equality by 2030 | Global development | The Guardian

Not one single country set to achieve gender equality by 2030 | Global development | The Guardian: No country in the world is on track to achieve gender equality by 2030, according to the first index to measure progress against a set of internationally agreed targets.

Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said the index, launched on Monday, “should serve as a wake-up call to the world”.

Even the Nordic states, which score highly in the index, would need to take huge strides to fulfil gender commitments in the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), which 193 countries signed up to in 2015. The goals are considered the blueprint for global efforts to end poverty and inequality and halt the climate crisis. The deadline to meet them is 2030.

The inaugural SDG Gender Index, developed by the Equal Measures 2030 partnership, found that 2.8 billion women and girls currently live in countries that are not doing enough to improve women’s lives.

We Can’t Halt Extinctions Unless We Protect Water

We Can’t Halt Extinctions Unless We Protect Water | Inter Press Service: COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, May 31 2019 (IPS) - Global biodiversity loss has reached critical levels. One million species of plants and animals are now estimated to be at risk of extinction. The window for action is closing, and the world needs to urgently take note.

Countries would do well to consider this: our ability to preserve species hinges to a great extent on the actions we take to protect freshwater ecosystems. Safeguarding water for the environment is critical for biodiversity and for people.

Freshwater ecosystems are major biodiversity hotspots. We derive much value from them, even though we may not realise it. Wetlands purify drinking water; fish is one of the most traded food commodities on the planet; and floodplains can provide vital buffers that lessen the impacts of flooding.

The people who depend most on the services provided by aquatic ecosystems are generally the poorest and most marginalized in developing countries and consequently those hardest hit by biodiversity loss.

However, all of us, both rich and poor, depend on healthy ecosystems, so degradation of ecosystems and loss of biodiversity pose an enormous threat for everyone. About 35 per cent of the world’s biodiversity-rich wetlands, for example, have been lost or seriously degraded since 1970. The annual value of the benefits these wetlands (freshwater and coastal) provide is estimated at a staggering USD 36.2 trillion; nearly double the benefits derived from all the world’s forests.

Sustainable management of aquatic ecosystems (and of water resources in general) must aim to ensure that ecosystems continue providing these services.
A key approach for reversing this trend centres on ensuring that water continues to flow in a way that will sustain aquatic ecosystems, thereby supporting populations, economies, sustainable livelihoods, and well-being.

An Escalating War on Reproductive Rights |

An Escalating War on Reproductive Rights | Inter Press Service: UNITED NATIONS, Jun 3 2019 (IPS) - Abortion has long been a contentious issue across the world, and the debate is only heating up, prompting women to stand up and speak out for their reproductive rights.
In response to increasingly restrictive policies, civil society is taking action to help protect abortion rights.

“The failure of states to guarantee reproductive rights is a clear violation of human rights,” said President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) Nancy Northup

Human Rights Watch’s Senior Researcher Margaret Wurth echoed similar sentiments, stating: “No rape survivor should be forced into motherhood without the chance to consider a safe and legal abortion.”

Watch Out: Your Money Is Being Used to Destroy the World! | Inter Press Service

Watch Out: Your Money Is Being Used to Destroy the World! | Inter Press Service
MADRID, Jun 3 2019 (IPS) - Perhaps the most direct way to introduce this tough issue is what the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, stated just one week ahead of the 5 June World Environment Day, which focuses this year on air pollution, caused chiefly by the use of fossil fuels both in transport, industry and even household cooking, heating, etc.
“Subsidising fossil fuels means spending taxpayers’ money to “boost hurricanes, to spread droughts, to melt glaciers, to bleach corals: to destroy the world,” the UN chief warned, adding that “We need to tax pollution, not people.” “End subsidies for fossil fuels.”
 A corporation that knows much about money –the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that, globally, subsidies remained large at 4.7 trillion dollars (6.3 percent of global GDP) in 2015 and were projected at 5.2 trillion dollars (6.5 percent of GDP) in 2017.
Its 2 May 2019 Working Paper Global Fossil Fuel Subsidies Remain Largeupdates estimates of fossil fuel subsidies, defined as fuel consumption times the gap between existing and efficient prices (i.e., prices warranted by supply costs, environmental costs, and revenue considerations), for 191 countries.
“The largest subsidisers in 2015 were China (1.4 trillion dollars), United States (649 billions), Russia (551 billions), European Union (289 billions), and India (209 billion dollars),” it reports.
And it adds that “about three quarters of global subsidies are due to domestic factors—energy pricing reform thus remains largely in countries own national interest—while coal and petroleum together account for 85 percent of global subsidies.”

Wednesday

Inside The FP2020 Reference Group – Family Planning 2020

Inside The FP2020 Reference Group – Family Planning 2020 – Medium
This particular meeting had special significance, because it was our first opportunity to hear feedback from the broader family planning community captured through the post-2020 global consultation, including results from the recent survey circulated among our partners about the future vision for this movement. Our agenda also included planning for the impending results of the ECHO trial (Evidence for Contraceptive Options and HIV Outcomes), and championing the incorporation of family planning within the growing Universal Health Coverage (UHC) movement and benefits packages.Perhaps the most memorable portion of the ECHO discussion were presentations by two African sexual, reproductive health and rights (SRHR) advocates, Yvette Raphael from APHA South Africa and Jhpiego’s Angela Mutunga from Kenya. They reminded us the risks women face in their sexual and reproductive lives are deeply personal. Yvette rightly pointed out that, “No woman just has HIV. Or just needs family planning. There is just one woman with many needs.”

Looking beyond the ECHO trial, A similar discussion took place around how to integrate family planning into the UHC and primary health care frameworks. WHO’s Ian Askew reminded us that family planning has an advantage because it’s embedded within two of the Sustainable Development Goals, unlike other global health issues. As we all know, there are life-threatening consequences if family planning is not included in UHC schemes; there is no development without girls and women. And we must elevate the economic benefit argument so that family planning is included in the list of interventions driven by real value.

Saturday

Ecuador Amazon tribe win first victory against oil companies

Ecuador Amazon tribe win first victory against oil companies

Ecuador’s Waorani indigenous tribe won their first victory Friday against big oil companies in a ruling that blocks the companies’ entry onto ancestral Amazonian lands for oil exploration activities.
After two weeks of deliberations, a criminal court in Puyo, central Ecuador, accepted a Waorani bid for court protection in Pastaza province to stop an oil bidding process after the government moved to open up around 180,000 hectares for exploration.
The lands are protected under Ecuador’s constitution that establishes the “inalienable, unseizable and indivisible” rights of indigenous people “to maintain possession of their ancestral lands and obtain their free adjudication.”
Crucially, however, the wealth in the subsoil is owned by the state.
The constitution also enshrines the need for prior consultation on any plans to exploit the underground resources, given the probable environmental and cultural impacts on tribal communities.
The state reached an agreement with the Waorani over oil exploration in 2012, but the tribe’s leaders say they were duped.
The judges ordered the government to conduct a new consultation, applying standards set by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, based in San Jose.
The ruling “has created a significant precedent for the Amazon,” said Lina Maria Espinosa, attorney for the plaintiffs, outside court. “It has been demonstrated that there was no consultation and that the state violated the rights of this people, and therefore of other peoples.”

Tuesday

‘Inspiring’ protester becomes symbol of resistance for Sudanese women | The Guardian


‘Inspiring’ protester becomes symbol of resistance for Sudanese women | World news | The Guardian: The image is striking: a young woman, alone, standing above the crowd, urging them on with songs of revolution. Taken on Monday night in the centre of Khartoum, as tens of thousands thronged the roads in front of the heavily guarded complex housing the headquarters of the military and the feared intelligence services, the picture of the woman in white with gold circular earrings has become an icon of a protest. Lana Haroun told CNN she had taken the picture. “She was trying to give everyone hope and positive energy and she did it,” she said. “She was representing all Sudanese women and girls and she inspired every woman and girl at the sit-in. She was telling the story of Sudanese women ... she was perfect.”

..Salah, in her first statement to the media since her photo went viral, in a WhatsApp message that she is currently studying engineering and architecture at Sudan International University in Khartoum.
Hind Makki, an interfaith educator and blogger, pointed out on Twitter that the details in Salah’s clothing make the photograph even more powerful. She said that the white garment and gold moon-shaped earrings Salah wore pay homage to working women; her dress is a "callback" to the clothing worn by Sudanese women from earlier generations who also fought for the end of dictatorial rule.

Wednesday

UN: Soap and Superbugs: 2B People Lack Water at Health Facilities

UN: Soap and Superbugs: 2B People Lack Water at Health Facilities: LONDON —  A quarter of the world's health facilities lack basic water services, impacting 2 billion people, the United Nations said on Wednesday, warning that unhygienic conditions could fuel the global rise of deadly superbugs. In the poorest countries, about half of facilities do not have basic water services — meaning water delivered by pipes or boreholes that protect it from feces — putting birthing mothers and newborns in particular danger, new data showed.
 The World Health Organization (WHO) and U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) said more than 1 million deaths a year were associated with unclean births, and 15 percent of all patients attending a health facility developed infections. "Hospitals are not necessarily points of care where you can heal, but points of almost infection. (We) are very alarmed by this," WHO public health coordinator Bruce Gordon told a media briefing in Geneva. Worldwide, nearly 900 million people have no water at all at their local health facility or have to use unprotected wells or springs. One in five facilities also lack toilets, impacting about 1.5 billion people, the agencies said.
 One of the development goals agreed by world leaders in 2015 was for all to have access to safe water and sanitation by 2030. "A health care facility without water is not really a health care facility," said UNICEF statistician Tom Slaymaker. "Sick people shed a lot more pathogens in their feces, and without toilets, staff, patients — this includes mothers and babies — are at a much greater risk of diseases caused and spread through human waste."
 The agencies said good water and sanitation services were crucial to reducing the spread of antimicrobial resistance, one of the greatest global health threats. International charity WaterAid said rising rates of superbugs had been linked to poor sanitary conditions in health facilities which lead to the overuse and misuse of antibiotics. Helen Hamilton, WaterAid policy analyst, said the data revealed the "often-deplorable conditions" in which health workers were trying to help patients.
 "The battle to save lives, and to slow the rise of deadly superbugs which threaten us all, cannot be won as long as these dedicated frontline staff are denied ... the fundamentals of health care," she said. She urged governments to prioritize the issue when they meet at next month's World Health Assembly in Geneva.
 The data showed that West Africa had some of the lowest rates of access to water and sanitation. WaterAid said this was alarming given that a lack of clean water and good hygiene had contributed to the spread of the world's worst Ebola outbreak in the region, which killed more than 11,300 people between 2013 and 2016.