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.

Monday

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.

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

Image result for lorelei williams bc
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.

Monday

The startups paving the way for a world without plastics |

The startups paving the way for a world without plastics | Green shoots | The Guardian:

(Bioplastics?)
A number of startups and innovators have risen to this challenge, producing “zero-waste” materials with similar properties to plastic. San Francisco-based Mango Materials, for example, has developed a bioplastic that is cost-competitive with petroleum-based plastics. The company, which won the 2012 Postcode Lotteries Green Challenge, was co-founded by CEO Molly Morse after her PhD studies at Stanford University fired her interest in naturally occurring biopolymers called PHA – a naturally-made polyester.
 “You can tailor their properties to get a lot of different types of mechanical performance,” she says. “Also, they’re one of the few, if only, naturally occurring biopolymers you can melt and mould into different shapes.” Historically PHAs have been produced through a costly method that involves feeding sugar to bacteria. But Morse and her co-founders realised it was possible to substitute sugar for a widely available and much more affordable alternative: methane.
 Today, the company transforms methane (a highly potent greenhouse gas) from landfill and wastewater treatment into bioplastic, which comes in the form of either powder or pellets. These are sold to existing plastic producers, who turn them into products. When these products eventually reach a waste facility, they biodegrade back to methane in a closed-loop process. And if, somehow, Mango Materials’ bioplastic does end up in the ocean, marine microorganisms can digest it naturally. Recently, the company has developed a polyester replacement from its PHA, which could potentially help to reduce the amount of harmful microplastic fibres that enter waterways and oceans when clothes are washed. Morse also hopes to build a large-scale commercial facility in the future. “If we can make a billion pounds [of bioplastic] at a single plant, we will enjoy the economies of scale that petroleum-based plastics enjoy,” she says.

The US Goes 'Bonkers' at the UN Women's Conference - PassBlue

The US Goes 'Bonkers' at the UN Women's Conference - PassBlue
Hold the line” was the frequent refrain heard during the contentious negotiations swirling around the annual meeting at the United Nations ensuring the rights of women. Delegates from the UN’s 193 countries were urged by conference leaders to remain steadfast against a rising tide of conservative national positions, which included the United States, regarding the conference’s final document enshrining women’s rights.
At the 63rd Commission on the Status of Women, held in New York and attracting 10,000 people worldwide, tensions were palpable throughout the 11-day gathering, starting on March 11. The Commission, established in 1946, is dedicated to promoting gender equality and empowering women.
But it was the negotiations on the agreed conclusions, setting in stone positions on women’s rights, where top diplomats and their delegations spent the most energy haggling — including one day until dawn — over such loaded language as “gender,” “family” and “sexual health.”

....Depending on the particular issue or word, some unlikely alliances emerged in which the US, Iran, Yemen, Bahrain, Russia and Saudi Arabia agreed, mostly with the overarching goal of weakening women’s rights.
Joining the US on certain issues was also the Holy See, a UN observer state, in demanding but failing, for example, to remove language in the final document around sexual health, contending that the language promoted sexual activity among girls as well as abortion.
(not posting the entire article, as it will stay online. - interesting, if depressing, read)

Friday

The Protected Places Declaration - Ontario Nature

Email the governments of Ontario and Canada | The Protected Places Declaration - Ontario Nature
Planet Earth is a shared home for humans and millions of other species, and our fates and well-being are interdependent. Recognizing our responsibility and impact on the whole, we invite you to sign the Protected Places Declaration.The declaration urges governments, civil society and business leaders across Canada to work together to protect at least 17 percent of our lands and inland waters, and 10 percent of our coastal and marine areas by 2020, in accordance with commitments under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

Moreover, the declaration calls for protected areas identification and management processes that respect the right of Indigenous Peoples to free, prior and informed consent.Protected areas are the cornerstone of efforts to conserve the diversity of life on Earth. By signing the declaration, you will be part of a movement demanding governments meet their protected areas targets, and respect Indigenous responsibilities and rights.Sign the declaration to show you care about protected places and ask the governments of Ontario and Canada to meet our commitment to protect at least 17 percent of lands and inland waters by 2020.We need to work together to make sure the next three years count so that all species and wild spaces are conserved for generations to come.
Photo: Algonquin, Edwin Poon

United Nations Calls to Fight Racism

United Nations Calls to Fight Racism

United Nations, Mar 21 (Prensa Latina) On the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on Thursday, the United Nations has called to fight those expressions that violate people''s dignity and rights.


In its latest resolution on the elimination of racism, the United Nations General Assembly reiterated that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and have the potential to contribute constructively to the development and well-being of their societies 

The resolution also emphasized that any doctrine of racial superiority is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous and must be rejected, together with theories that attempt to determine the existence of separate human races.

In her recent report, the UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, E. Tendayi Achiume, analyzed the threat posed by nationalist populism to the fundamental human rights principles of non-discrimination and equality.

She added that nationalist populism advances exclusionary or repressive practices and policies that harm individuals or groups on the basis of their race, ethnicity, national origin and religion, or other related social categories.

The UN independent expert highlighted the use of digital technology to spread neo-Nazi intolerance and related forms of intolerance.

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed every March 21, because on that day in 1960, the police opened fire and killed 69 people in a peaceful demonstration against the apartheid laws in Sharpeville, South Africa.

Wednesday

Sign the Petition: Support Universal Pharmacare

Sign the Petition: Support Universal Pharmacare:
Canada continues to be the only developed country in the world with a universal health care system that does not include universal drug coverage. The Canadian government will decide soon on whether to adopt universal prescription drug coverage. Sign the petition to tell the government you support universal pharmacare.

 Prescription drug prices are some of the highest in the world and Canadians are being forced to choose between buying groceries or taking medication. Big insurance and pharmaceutical companies are lobbying aggressively to keep a system that enriches their rich shareholders. They have spent aggressively to keep the status quo, including foreign American companies who profit off of sick Canadians.

 The timing is critical. This could be the last change to adopt single-payer universal prescription drug coverage. Please send the government a message that you support universal pharmacare before it’s too late.



Friday

UN chief calls for double efforts to protect women's rights

UN chief calls for double efforts to protect women's rights - Xinhua | English.news.cn
UNITED NATIONS, March 6 UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday called for double efforts to protect and promote women's rights, dignity and leadership.
Gender equality and women's rights are fundamental to global progress on peace and security, human rights and sustainable development, said Guterres in a message to mark the International Women's Day, which will be observed on March 8.
"We live in a male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture. Only when we see women's rights as our common objective, a route to change that benefits everyone, will we begin to shift the balance," said the UN chief.
Increasing the number of women decision makers is fundamental, said Guterres, adding that the United Nations now has the highest ever numbers of women in senior management, and this progress will continue to be built on.
However, women still face major obstacles in accessing and exercising power. According to the World Bank, just six economies give women and men equal legal rights in areas that affect their work, he said.
"If current trends continue, it will take 170 years to close the economic gender gap," he said.
"We need to redouble our efforts to protect and promote women's rights, dignity and leadership. We must not give ground that has been won over decades and we must push for wholesale, rapid and radical change," said the UN chief.
"Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change" is the theme for International Women's Day this year.
Guterres said that women decision makers in areas like urban design, transport and public services can increase women's access, prevent harassment and violence, and improve everyone's quality of life.
Innovation and technology reflect the people who make them. The underrepresentation and lack of retention of women in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and design should be a cause of concern to all, he added.

Meet Seven Women Changing the World for Good in 2019

Meet Seven Women Changing the World for Good in 2019

Some inspiring stories here!

Who runs the world? Meet seven influential women whose important work in film, business, advocacy and beyond positively affects women within their own communities, and the world

International Women's Day - UN Women Watch

https://womenwatch.unwomen.org/
International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.
The 2019 theme Think equal, build smart, innovate for change focuses on innovative ways in which we can advance gender equality and the empowerment of women, particularly in the areas of social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure.
Echoing the priority theme of the sixty-third session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63), in 2019 we look to industry leaders, game-changing start-ups, social entrepreneurs, gender equality activists, and women innovators to examine the ways in which innovation can remove barriers and accelerate progress for gender equality, encourage investment in gender-responsive social systems, and build services and infrastructure that meet the needs of women and girls.
On 8 March 2019, join us as we celebrate a future in which innovation and technology creates unprecedented opportunities for women and girls to play an active role in building more inclusive systems, efficient services and sustainable infrastructure to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs and gender equality.

Tuesday

It’s official: the planet is getting greener

It’s official: the planet is getting greener: After nearly two decades of recording data, NASA has confirmed what it began to suspect in the 90’s; the world really is becoming a greener place and two unlikely countries are leading the charge. Areas with the greatest increase in foliage are indicated in dark green. Image by NASA Earth Observatory


For nearly 20 years NASA has been monitoring the Earth’s foliage using two satellites and the high-resolution data has revealed changes in the world’s vegetation in impressive detail, taking four images every day of every area of the planet. Overall, the planet is 5% greener than it was in the early 2000s. This is the equivalent of the Amazon rainforest in extra leaf cover from plants and trees.

At first, NASA believed it was as a result of climate change but with the new data, they’ve concluded that humans are behind a large part of this trend.

They also discovered something that surprised them; India and China accounted for one-third of the greening, despite having only 9% of the world’s green areas. Both countries have embarked on an extensive reforestation programme and, over the period of research, China’s foliage grew more than 10% while India’s increased by more than 6%. The global average was 2.3%.

 While the message is positive in some places, the researchers are careful to note that this does not detract from the dire warnings in places like Indonesia and Brazil, where the loss of vegetation is ongoing and will have disastrous consequences for those ecosystems and biodiversity if left to continue. However, it does show that deforestation can be reversed.

Populism is eroding human rights across the world, says Amnesty International | News | DW | 22.02.2018

Populism is eroding human rights across the world, says Amnesty International | News | DW | 22.02.2018
Human rights watchdog Amnesty International published its annual report, warning of increased violations across the globe.
Amnesty International's David Griffiths told DW that they made a conscious choice to release the report in Washington, given "how President (Donald) Trump's hate-filled rhetoric has translated into reality." "There are complex links between human rights abuses and social inequality," Griffiths added. "But one of the ways we see them connected is how many leaders have exploited people's fears about economic fragility in order to promote hatred and fear."
But the United States isn't the only place to witness a dangerous erosion of human rights due to populist leaders. Across the globe, Amnesty said, political leaders have used divisive rhetoric to shore up support for their causes, including in Turkey, Hungary and Myanmar.
The report said that at least 312 human rights activists were killed in 2017 because of their work. Journalists and media workers are increasingly being targeted by state actors, it noted. Griffiths said the number of human rights defenders killed in 2017 marked an "increase on the previous year."
"But it is not just killing; it is also intimidation and smears and harassment, making life very difficult for those who choose to stand up for human rights," he said. "And those threats are coming from lots of different places, whether it is governments or armed groups or companies or others."
The report called on Germany to do more at the international level to defend human rights, especially for the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told DW that the human rights situation is "getting alarmingly worse in many places" across the globe.
"It seems people are forgetting it now, and that's very worrying because then you risk a repeat of many of the awful things that have happened in not-so-distant history," Colville said.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, backed by 48 of the 58 UN member states in 1948, was created in response to the atrocities committed during World War II.
"The anniversary this year is a critical opportunity to try and reclaim those values that are articulated so beautifully in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - the idea of the fundamental dignity and equality of every member of the human family,"