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.

Tuesday

Women Activists Escalate Demand for “Bodily Autonomy” as 19 Nations Dissent | Inter Press Service

Women Activists Escalate Demand for “Bodily Autonomy” as 19 Nations Dissent | Inter Press Service

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 17 2020 (IPS) -
The United States and 18 other UN member states have come under fire
for denying a woman’s legitimate right to “bodily autonomy”—the right to
self-governance over one’s own body without coercion or external
pressure.



The Executive Director of Women’s March Global, Uma Mishra-Newbery,
told IPS the United Nations has worked towards progress in fighting for
women’s rights.

But many countries on the Human Rights Council continue to negotiate women’s human rights off the table, she pointed out.

In Sept 2019, she said, the world watched as the US, in partnership
with 18 other member states, put forth a statement saying there is no
international right to abortion.

She said UN member states have also witnessed “the continued and
grave human rights violations in Saudi Arabia”, including the continued
torture of imprisoned women human rights defenders like Loujain
al-Hathloul.

“Yet the UN and member states fail to hold Saudi Arabia truly
accountable for its actions. The UN must hold these governments
accountable as they work to strip women’s rights away without
repercussions”, she declared.

Beside the United States, the 18 countries singled out include
Bahrain, Belarus, Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt,
Guatemala, Haiti, Hungary, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Poland, Russia,
Saudi Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

Saturday

Statement in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en Nation | The Council of Canadians

Statement in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en Nation | The Council of Canadians
Council of Canadians chapters, supporters and staff are firmly in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Nation as they continue to assert sovereignty on their traditional territories and resist state violence.
Land defenders have shared on the Unist’ot’en Camp website: “On December 31, 2019, BC Supreme Court Justice Marguerite Church granted an injunction against members of the Wet’suwet’en nation who have been stewarding and protecting our traditional territories from the destruction of multiple pipelines, including Coastal GasLink’s liquefied natural gas pipeline.” The Wet’suwet’en issued a call for international solidarity actions in response to this escalating situation.
Earlier this month, all five clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation evicted Coastal GasLink (CGL) from their territories. The company sought and obtained an injunction from the BC Supreme Court, which gave the Wet’suwet’en until 3pm on Friday, January 10 2020 to comply with an order to remove gates and cabins on their own lands.
In early 2019 the RCMP forcibly removed Wet’suwet’en people and their guests from the Gidimt’en checkpoint. This heavily militarized raid included assault rifles and the RCMP were authorized to use lethal force against Indigenous land defenders.
Since this brutal attack in January 2019, BC has passed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into law, including the right for Indigenous nations to give free, prior and informed consent to activities on their lands. This right includes the right to say no, which is what the Wet’suwet’en are doing now.
In January 2020, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called upon Canada to halt construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline until the Wet’suwet’en people grant free, prior and informed consent to the project. The committee also urged Canada to cease the forced eviction of land defenders and prohibit the use of lethal weapons against Indigenous Peoples, and to guarantee that no force will be used against them. It also urged the federal government to withdraw the RCMP from traditional lands.
In their own words, the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs demand the following:
  • That the province cease construction of the Coastal GasLink Pipeline project and suspend permits.
  • That the UNDRIP and our right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) are respected by the state and RCMP.
  • That the RCMP and associated security and policing services be withdrawn from Wet’suwet’en lands, in agreement with the most recent letter provided by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimiation’s (CERD) request.
  • That the provincial and federal government, RCMP and private industry employed by CGL respect our laws and our governance system, and refrain from using any force to access our lands or remove our people.
To support the Wet’suwet’en Nation, you can take this action in solidarity now.

Friday

A year of resistance: How youth protests shaped the discussion on climate change



A year of resistance: How youth protests shaped the discussion on climate change
...Indigenous activists like Vanessa GrayNick EstesAutumn PeltierKanahus Manuel and many others whose work bridges sovereignty and environmental damage have also played an important role. They have helped shift the climate movement toward the framework of climate justice, which acknowledges the intersections of colonialism, racialization, capitalism and climate change.
This moment also builds on environmental justice movements. Young activists like Isra HirsiCricket ChengMaya Menezes and others have been building movements where a racial justice lens brings the climate movement into focus.
While these leaders may not have been recognized with Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, their work has significantly reshaped the climate movement. They are helping politicize a new generation of climate activists who understand climate change not as an isolated phenomenon, but one with roots in a capitalist system that is inherently racist, colonial, sexist and ableist.

Indigenous-led resistance

This year has also seen Indigenous-led resistance to climate change and the related oil, gas, fracking, hydro and other natural resource extraction too.
Secwepemc leaders and their allies have built tiny houses to prevent the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion from being forced through unceded Secwepemc territory. In Mi'kmaqi and Wolastoqey territory, there’s been resistance to fracking. Across northern Manitoba, Cree and Nishnaabe communities are resisting hydro projects they say will devastate their communities.
In British Columbia, nations have fought the Site C dam, which threatens to flood communities, change watersheds and escalate violence against women through work camps filled with men. Inuit and Cree communities in Labrador have resisted the Muskrat Falls hydro project.

Thursday

Scientists Want to Make Harming the Environment a War Crime

Scientists Want to Make Harming the Environment a War Crime

Now in a letter published in the scientific journal Nature, a group of scientists is urging the United Nations to make it a war crime to harm the environment during times of conflict. The UN’s International Law Commission is in talks through Aug. 8, and the scientists are calling on attending members to create a framework “to protect the environment in regions of armed conflict.”
“We call on governments to incorporate explicit safeguards for biodiversity, and to use the commission’s recommendations to finally deliver a Fifth Geneva Convention to uphold environmental protection during such confrontations,” the petition reads. 
“Despite calls for a fifth convention two decades ago, military conflict continues to destroy megafauna, push species to extinction, and poison water resources,” the petition continues. “The uncontrolled circulation of arms exacerbates the situation, for instance by driving unsustainable hunting of wildlife.”

Tuesday

A Shadowy Industry Group Shapes Food Policy Around the World | Portside

A Shadowy Industry Group Shapes Food Policy Around the World | Portside
When the Indian government bowed to powerful food companies last year and postponed its decision to put red warning labels on unhealthy packaged food, officials also sought to placate critics of the delay by creating an expert panel to review the proposed labeling system, which would have gone far beyond what other countries have done in the battle to combat soaring obesity rates.
But the man chosen to head the three-person committee, Dr. Boindala Sesikeran, a veteran nutritionist and former adviser to Nestle, only further enraged health advocates.
That’s because Dr. Sesikeran is a trustee of the International Life Sciences Institute, an American nonprofit with an innocuous sounding name that has been quietly infiltrating government health and nutrition bodies around the world.
Created four decades ago by a top Coca-Cola executive, the institute now has branches in 17 countries. It is almost entirely funded by Goliaths of the agribusiness, food and pharmaceutical industries.
The organization, which championed tobacco interests during the 1980s and 1990s in Europe and the United States, has more recently expanded its activities in Asia and Latin America, regions that provide a growing share of food company profits. It has been especially active in China, India and Brazil, the world’s first, second and sixth most populous nations.
In China, the institute shares both staff and office space with the agency responsible for combating the country’s epidemic of obesity-related illness. In Brazil, ILSI representatives occupy seats on a number of food and nutrition panels that were previously reserved for university researchers.
And in India, Dr. Sesikeran’s leadership role on the food labeling committee has raised questions about whether regulators will ultimately be swayed by processed food manufacturers who say the red warning labels would hurt sales.
“What could possibly go wrong?” Amit Srivastava, the coordinator of the advocacy group India Resource Center, asked sarcastically. “To have a covert food lobby group deciding public health policy is wrong and a blatant conflict of interest.”

Friday

Women at Queens Park for Climate Action

Pesonal note! Here are 3 generations of my family at the Climate March in Toronto.  Great day, very inspiring.


Wednesday

Protect coastal, island communities now as seas rise, scientists urge

Protect coastal, island communities now as seas rise, scientists urge

 By Laurie Goering.  LONDON, Sept 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) -
Melting of the world's glaciers and warming of its oceans are fuelling rising seas, fiercer storms, worsening water shortages and other risks that could force millions from their homes or leave them hungrier and poorer, scientists warned on Wednesday.
Some of the threat could be averted both by rapidly slashing climate-heating emissions and speeding up efforts to adapt to the coming changes, using everything from sea-walls to early warning systems for extreme weather, they said.. But "we may be losing this race" to put protective measures in place in time, warned Hoesung Lee, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a U.N.-backed panel of climate scientists. Coastal communities, particularly in the tropics and on low-lying islands, as well as people dependent on glacier melt for their water are most at risk, scientists said in a new report outlining how climate change could affect oceans and ice.The report, crafted by more than 100 scientists from 36 countries, said 680 million people live in low-lying coastal zones worldwide, a figure expected to rise to 1 billion by 2050.As sea level rises - driven increasingly by accelerating melting of the world's ice sheets as well as by ocean warming - those people will face more frequent flooding and harsher storms that drive powerful seawater surges inland, the scientists said.Some areas that once flooded only every 100 years or so - particularly on low-lying islands that are home to 65 million people - could face annual flooding by 2050, they warned, unless strong protective measures are put in place."This could create very vexing questions about the habitability of some areas of the world," said Debra Roberts, a South African scientist and a co-author of the report.

Monday

From Indonesia to Gabon, countries turn to nature to cut climate risks

From Indonesia to Gabon, countries turn to nature to cut ...

By Laurie Goering
NEW YORK, Sept 23 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - New York City gets its drinking water from a network of more than 20 reservoirs and lakes further north in New York state, some more than 100 miles (161 km) away.
Because the land surrounding the reservoirs is carefully protected and managed, the water piped in is pure enough so that the city is one of the few in the United States that does not need to filter its drinking water, officials say.
Creating more "nature-based solutions" like this - planting coastal mangroves or protecting coral reefs to slow storm surges - is a relatively cheap and effective way to curb rising climate change risks, resilience experts told a meeting in New York.
It could also help address other threats, including accelerating losses of plant and animal species not just from climate change but also expanding agriculture, forest-felling and mining, to meet the needs of a rising human population.
"There is a wealth of evidence ... that if we restore, protect and enhance ecosystems, they will lower human vulnerability to climate change," said Nathalie Seddon, a University of Oxford zoologist.
Especially in poorer countries, such measures can offer "the only affordable solution to climate change", she told the meeting on boosting resilience to climate pressures ahead of a U.N. summit Monday to accelerate action on global warming.
AFRICA FOREST DEAL
In Indonesia, international organizations and the government are working together to protect eroding coastlines by planting mangroves, said Henk Nieboer, director of Ecoshape, a Dutch foundation that promotes efforts to "build with nature".
Once in place, the mangroves provide jobs by improving fishing and act as a barrier to destructive storm surges, he said.
Ecoshape has carefully monitored the benefits of 14 pilot mangrove restoration projects in Indonesia, providing evidence that has now attracted interest from Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia and China, he said.
Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Fiji's attorney general and economic minister, said his Pacific island nation was also planting mangroves to blunt the effects of rising seas, store carbon, protect biodiversity and promote sustainable fisheries.
Restoration projects are possible in many other natural environments, from peat-rich wetlands to grasslands and forests, climate experts said.
Andrew Norton, director of the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), said efforts to maintain ecosystems can provide "a stunning range" of benefits, from jobs to absorption of climate-changing gases.
But finding the money to fund that work remains a challenge, not least because putting a financial value on the benefits is hard, and investors have yet to see an obvious pay-back.
Nieboer said attracting capital would require the creation of value for ecosystems through measures like a carbon price to monetize avoided or removed carbon emissions.
That is what is happening in Gabon, which will receive $150 million over 10 years for protecting its carbon-absorbing tropical forests in an agreement announced Sunday - the first such deal for an African country.
Under it, Norway will guarantee payment of at least $10 for each tonne of carbon certified as being stored.
Close to 90% of Gabon's land is covered in natural forests, much in reserves created over a decade ago, but like many Central African nations, it is under pressure to allow forest-felling to bring in cash.
"We have to raise the value of the Gabonese rainforests in order to ensure that conservation and sustainable exploitation can be used as tools to improve the living standards of the Gabonese people," its environment minister said in a statement.
SOCIAL JUSTICE
Backers of such efforts to put a clearer value on forests and other natural systems warn that doing so brings some risks, including that indigenous people and others living on the land could be pushed off as its value rises.
"Nature-based solutions have to work for social justice as well as climate solutions," said Norton of IIED.
Nicky Batang-ay of Tebtebba, the Philippines-based Indigenous Peoples' International Centre for Policy Research and Education, noted that "as indigenous people, we've been doing these nature-based solutions from time immemorial".
Oxford's Seddon, who runs the university's Nature-Based Solutions Initiative, said payments and other incentives should protect and expand natural forests rather than support single-species plantations with fewer natural benefits and far less resilience to climate change.
Natural ways of dealing with climate change have seen a "wave of political momentum" in the build-up to the U.N. climate summit, speakers said on Sunday.
U Ohn Win, Myanmar's minister of environmental conservation, said his country - which is highly vulnerable to extreme weather - was looking to reforest 600,000 hectares (1.5 million acres) over the next 10 years, in part to cut its climate risks.
"Our country has committed to a sustainable development pathway ... with nature-based solutions at its core," he said.
(Reporting by Laurie Goering @lauriegoering; editing by Megan Rowling. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women's rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate)

ANALYSIS-Hands off our cultural heritage, say world's ...

ANALYSIS-Hands off our cultural heritage, say world's ...

By Umberto Bacchi

TBILISI, Sept 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - From disappearing languages to selfie-taking tourists at sacred sites, preserving native cultural heritage has become a race against the clock, indigenous groups said.

The suicide of an indigenous rights activist protesting against Russia's language policies has highlighted the cultural threats native communities face across the globe as they fight for their land and survival, campaigners and researchers warned.
According to local authorities, a man died last week after setting himself on fire outside the regional parliament in Izhevsk, the capital of the so-called Udmurt Republic in western Russia.

Indigenous groups said the man, whom local media identified as 79-year-old Albert Razin, carried out the act in protest over a recent law that they said favours the study of Russian over native tongues.

Images shared on social media showed Razin holding signs reading "If my language dies tomorrow, then I'm ready to die today" and "Do I have a Fatherland?" as he stood outside the parliament building.

More than 40% of the estimated 6,000 languages spoken around the world are at risk of disappearing, and most of them are indigenous tongues, according to the United Nations.

Sophie Grig, a senior researcher with the British-based indigenous rights group Survival International, said when a language is lost, the entire community that spoke it also risks disappearing.

"(Language) holds the key to the wealth of knowledge a people has about their past, their land, their livelihoods and ways of understanding the world," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation."When it is lost, the tribe's future is imperilled."

Indigenous knowledge and land rights could be crucial in global efforts to curb global warming, according to a special report by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
CULTURAL THREATS

The extinction of a community's native languages can also lead to the loss of its claims over the land it occupies, indigenous rights experts say.

And indigenous communities already have a tenuous hold on the land they live and work on.

Up to 2.5 billion people depend on indigenous and community lands, which make up more than half of all land globally, but they legally own just 10%.
Along with fighting for their languages and land, indigenous groups also regularly find themselves defending their culture, language and knowledge against what they see as cultural appropriation by businesses.

Last week, Air New Zealand angered indigenous Maori when it sought to trademark a logo with the phrase "kia ora", which means "good health" and is commonly used to say "hello".

Similarly, Mexican indigenous communities have protested the use of their traditional designs by international fashion labels, while Indians have challenged attempts to patent traditional items such as turmeric and neem.

In Australia, Aboriginal groups are pushing back against public access to heritage sites like mountains and beaches, in an attempt to preserve areas of historical and spiritual importance.
DYING TONGUES

For native communities in Russia, language is one of the main issues of concern, said Rodion Sulyandziga, director of the Russia-based Centre for Support of Indigenous Peoples of the North (CSIPN).

Udmurt, which is one of more than 100 tongues spoken across Russia, is spoken by about 400,000 people, according to UNESCO. And it is listed among the dozens of Russian languages that the U.N. cultural agency says are at risk of disappearing.

"Beyond larger populations, such as the Udmurts, (there) are also many small ethnic groups whose languages and cultures may well cease to exist within a generation," said Neil Clarke, head of the Central Asia programme for Minority Rights Group Europe.

That threat is heightened by legislation passed last year that relegated native languages from compulsory to elective school subjects in regions with more than one official tongue, he added."Current policies are encouraging language loss," said Clarke.

 Russian authorities had previously denied the law infringes on indigenous rights, saying it allows children the freedom to decide whether or not they want to learn local languages.

"The law is not aimed at destroying linguistic diversity, but to the contrary, allows people to study their native languages and protects their rights," the government's official newspaper, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, wrote last year.Yet, Razin's death has sparked calls for changes in the law.

"Legislative bodies should immediately review the issue of native languages," said Kadi Khalkechev, head of the Karachay People's Congress, which represents the ethnic-Turkic group mainly based in the North Caucasus, in a statement on the Russian social media platform VKontakte.Sulyandziga of CSIPN said the whole world has a stake in preserving native languages."If we lose one language, we lose something fundamental for the whole of humankind," he said.(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Jumana Farouky and Zoe Tabary. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

World Humanitarian Day, 19 August

World Humanitarian Day, 19 August

2019 WHD campaign: #WomenHumanitarians

On World Humanitarian Day 2019 we honour the work of women in crises throughout the world. We focus on the unsung heroes, who have long been working on the front lines in their own communities in some of the most difficult terrains, from the war-wounded in Afghanistan, to the food insecure in the Sahel, to those who have lost their homes and livelihoods in places such as Central African Republic, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. And we salute the efforts of women aid workers from across the world, who rally to people in need.
Women make up a large number of those who risk their own lives to save others. They are often the first to respond and the last to leave. These women deserve to be celebrated. They are needed today as much as ever to strengthen the global humanitarian response. And world leaders as well as non-state actors must ensure that they – and all humanitarians – are guaranteed the protection afforded to them under international law.
Women humanitarians dedicate their lives to helping people affected by crises. #WomenHumanitarians We want to hear from you

Humanitarians on the frontline of the Burundi refugee crisis in Tanzania | Oxfam Canada

Humanitarians on the frontline of the Burundi refugee crisis in Tanzania | Oxfam Canada



Humanitarian workers are the backbone of life-saving humanitarian responses. Though the role of a humanitarian worker is straightforward — providing life-saving assistance and long-term rehabilitation to communities affected by humanitarian disasters — the situations they operate in are far from it. From natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes and cyclones, to humanitarian emergencies caused by war and drawn-out conflicts, working as a humanitarian requires a special set of skills and a deep well of fortitude.
From 2017 to 2018, Oxfam provided 22.3 million people with life-saving assistance. This is a huge number, but behind it are real people – each one caught up in a crisis marked by a myriad of hardships, including extreme food insecurity, displacement, political violence and outbreaks of deadly disease. Also behind this number are thousands of humanitarians, working hard on a daily basis to provide life-saving assistance.
World Humanitarian Day is held every year to pay tribute to aid workers who risk their lives in humanitarian service around the world. Here, we profile some of Oxfam’s inspiring humanitarians working in Burundian refugee camps in Tanzania, who are delivering life-saving assistance, providing support to refugees to live a life of dignity and promoting women’s rights.

Will Sanctions Undermine 1947 US Treaty with UN? | Inter Press Service

Will Sanctions Undermine 1947 US Treaty with UN? | Inter Press Service

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 14 2019 (IPS) - When Yassir Arafat was denied a US visa to visit New York to address the United Nations back in 1988, the General Assembly defied the United States by temporarily moving the UN’s highest policy making body to Geneva– perhaps for the first time in UN history– providing a less-hostile political environment for the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).
Arafat, who first addressed the UN in 1974, took a swipe at Washington when he prefaced his statement by saying “it never occurred to me that my second meeting with this honourable Assembly, since 1974, would take place in the hospitable city of Geneva”
The Trump administration, which has had an ongoing battle with Iran, has imposed a rash of political and economic sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Javid Zarif — even as Washington, paradoxically, proclaims that the Iranian problem can be resolved only diplomatically while, at the same time, it keeps the negotiator-in-chief away from the US.

The sanctions on Zarif will also prevent him from being a member of the Iranian delegation – and also from addressing the six high-level summit meetings scheduled for late September.
If Zarif is denied a visa, as expected, it will be a violation of the 1947 UN-US headquarters agreement under which Washington was expected to facilitate — not hinder– the smooth functioning of the world body.
While the PLO was not a full-fledged UN member state, Iran is a founding member of the world body.
The Trump administration has already reneged or abandoned several international agreements, including the 2015 Paris Climate Change agreement, the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, and most recently the landmark 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia which helped seal the end of the Cold War.