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.


DO; Click each day to prevent Violence Against Women (Amnesty)

You can click once each day to send funds to Amnesty's program to stop Violence Against Women. The program is supported by Advertisers (like Tom's toothpaste) and Amnesty itself, if advertising drops off. Here is the link, which is also on the sidebar to the right.


NEWS: Taliban blow up girls school in Pakistan

AgenceFrancePresse: PESHAWAR, Pakistan – The Taliban blew up a girls' school in Pakistan's Khyber district, where troops are fighting against militants in the tribal region bordering Afghanistan, an official said Wednesday.

Militants detonated explosives overnight at the government-run school in Bazgarah town, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of Peshawar, capital of the violence-plagued North West Frontier Province.

The building had 21 rooms. All have been completely demolished," local administration chief Shafeerullah Wazir told AFP by telephone.There were no casualties because the property was empty at the time.

Taliban and their local allies are responsible. They are destroying educational institutions to avenge the military operation against their hideouts in the area," said Wazir.

'This was the ninth educational institution blown up in Khyber over the past six weeks,' he added. Islamist militants opposed to co-education and subscribers to sharia law have destroyed hundreds of schools, mostly for girls, in northwest Pakistan in recent years.

The fabled Khyber tribal region is the main land bridge to neighbouring Afghanistan and the principle supply route for NATO troops fighting an eight-year Taliban insurgency across the border.

Pakistani troops launched an offensive in Khyber in September in a bid to flush out the Taliban and homegrown militant group Lashkar-e-Islam (Army of Islam) led by local warlord Mangal Bagh.

Action: Denounce the emissions targets in leaked Harper document

Council of Canadians:
The CBC reports that it has obtained documents prepared for the Harper government in advance of the Copenhagen summit on a new draft position on emissions targets.

It reveals that the Harper government is contemplating an approach to regulating emissions from the oil and gas, mining and manufacturing sectors that is three times weaker than their promise to reduce emissions 20 percent by 2020.
The Harper government is already playing a numbers game by saying it will cut overall emissions by 20 percent below 2006 levels by 2020. Using the standard 1990 baseline, Harper is really only promising a mere 3 percent reduction. Recent science demands at least a 40 percent cut from 1990 levels by 2020 by global North countries including Canada.

Here again is an example of the tar sands driving Canada’s climate change policy..
The government must take action to transition away from the tar sands towards sustainable and renewable energy sources, not continue to give permission for increased development and emissions from this environmentally-destructive mega-project.

News: Anti Canadian Mining Activist Killed in Chiapas

From HuffPO On the night of November 27, Mariano Abarca was sitting outside of his home in the town of Chicomuselo in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas.
The married father of four, who owned a local restaurant, was talking to a friend when a gunman walked up and shot him four times at point-blank rage, killing Abarca before jumping on a waiting motorcycle and jetting off into the night.

Abarca was an anti-mining activist and his alleged killers were mine workers. The 51-year-old soft-spoken community leader has been campaigning to close the barite mine run by Canadian mining company Blackfire Exploration Ltd. The mining of barite, a crucial part of almost all drilling operations, is causing environmental damage and harming the health of locals, according to activists.

From: MinesandCommunities
Employees of the Canadian company, Blackfire Exploration, have been arrested for allegedly being implicated in the murder.Blackfire's mine has also been shut temporarily by order of the Mexican government, citing environmental infractions.

From: RightsAction "..a dear friend, admired for his struggle against the Canadian mining company Blackfire, and a member of the Mexican Network of People Affected by Mining (REMA-Chiapas). Yesterday we spoke to him on the phone and he told us he had filed a complaint against the company. Today he's dead. It is with great sadness that I write these words. I will continue to update here as more news becomes available." GUSTAVO CASTRO, Otros Mundos


Sign: One Law for All campaign and Laicite

We've posted a link to NoSharia at the sidebar. You may also wish to visit Maryam Namazie's website, and the OneLawforAll campaign in the UK. See also International Bureau for Laicite if you want to sign their petition.
Note this definition:
*After consultation, we finally resolve to use the French concept/word ‘Laicite’ in the name of our platform. The reason for it is that the word 'secularism' in English conveys the notion of equal tolerance of the state vis a vis all religions, rather than the notion of separation between 'Churches'/religions and the state as well as the total disinvestment of the state regarding religions, which is embedded into the French concept of laicite. Rare scholars have of late started to use the neologism 'Laicity', but we feel that it is not known to activists and to public at large.
** On the 9th of December 1905, France voted the Law of Separation of Churches and State

SIGN: Letter to CHOICE hotels re Child Prostitution and ECPAT code.

Last month, 5-year-old Shaniya Davis was sold for sex at a Comfort Inn in North Carolina. Companies like Choice Hotels, the parent company of the Comfort Inn where Shaniya was sold, can help prevent child prostitution with one simple action: signing the ECPAT Code of Conduct. More than 900 companies around the world (very few of them from the U.S.) have been willing to take this simple, effective action. Without their commitment to eradicating child sex trafficking, American-owned hotels are signally their indifference to the plight of children.

You can take action to prevent child prostitution by sending a letter to Choice Hotels CEO Steve Joyce, telling him to sign the ECPAT Code of Conduct and commit to preventing child sex tourism in Choice Hotel hotels.

If you have information on Canadian Hotels and Tourist Companies and ECPAT, please write us. The only Canadian tourist companies listed on the ECPAT member site are Incursion Voyages Homepage and ACTA. However, US parent companies who are members include Carlson Companies (Regent International Hotels, Radisson Hotels, Country Inns and Suites, Park Plaza, CarlsonWagonlit Travel) and the AATA.


News: Iran returns Shirin Ebadi's Nobel Prize

I was going to write about this campaign, but here's breaking news:
IRAN: Authorities hand back Shirin Ebadi's Nobel Peace Prize medal
Iranian authorities have handed back the Nobel Peace Prize medal taken from the bank safety deposit box of laureate Shirin Ebadi.

However, HRW and others are still concerned about her safety:
"We were dismayed to receive the news that the Iranian authorities had recently deprived Ms Ebadi of the medal and diploma given to her when she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003. The medal and diploma have now been restored to her, but her situation continues to be serious. Ms Ebadi is prevented from working as a defender of human rights in her home country and the Iranian authorities have closed the Defenders of Human Rights Centre of which she was co-founder. The confiscation of the medal and the numerous threats directed at her, her family and her colleagues give cause for great concern and are yet another example of the worsened human rights situation in Iran since the election in June this year."

"Norway and Sweden urge the Iranian authorities to allow Ms Ebadi’s safe return to Iran and to allow the Defenders of Human Rights Centre to reopen so that she can resume her important work for human rights in the country," conclude Ministers Støre and Bildt.

News: UNGA panel on Sexual Orientation and Human Rights

Uganda outlaws Female Circumcision, but may criminalize homosexuality.

HRW NEWS: A United Nations General Assembly panel that met this week broke new ground and helped build new momentum for ending human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, a coalition of sponsoring nongovernmental organizations said today.

The meeting included discussion of discriminatory and draconian "anti-homosexuality legislation" currently before the Ugandan parliament, and of the role of American religious groups in promoting that bill and homophobia across Africa. In a groundbreaking move, a representative of the Holy See in the audience read a statement strongly condemning the criminalization of homosexual conduct.

The panel, held yesterday on the 61st anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, featured speakers from Honduras, India, the Philippines, and Zambia, as well as Uganda, where the proposed "anti-homosexuality law" shows the steady threat of government repression.

The statement from the Holy See said it "opposes all forms of violence and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons, including discriminatory penal legislation which undermines the inherent dignity of the human person. ... [T]he murder and abuse of homosexual persons are to be confronted on all levels, especially when such violence is perpetrated by the State."


Sign the Hopenhagen Petition

Hopenhagen is an advertising campaign donated for the Copenhagen summit by the advertising industry/individuals. Yes, it's greenwashing. But the people behind Hopenhagen are volunteers from all over the advertising, marketing and communications industries who have donated their time and resources to the creation of this campaign. We need to encourage people in media and industry to STAY involved in Climate Change, from the inside of the media lens.

"We created the campaign in support of the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, when, a little over a year ago, sensing he would need help to create the momentum required to get to a strong deal at COP15, he approached the industry for help through the International Advertising Association.

All of us are people committed to progress and to achieving a strong deal at COP15. We have all signed the UN Climate Petition for progress at COP15. All of the work has been done pro-bono. All of the media has been donated by media owners you can find listed on our Friends of Hopenhagen page."

News on Children's Rights - IHEU Report from the UN


Since the 1980s, advocates for children have increasingly agreed that children need rights protected by international law. Charity is not enough to protect children around the world.

International law exists: November 2009 was the twentieth anniversary of the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the first legally binding agreement setting standards for the care, treatment and protection of all persons below age eighteen. The treaty covers child labor, child marriage, child soldiers, juvenile justice, trafficking, violence against children as well as the fundamental right to birth registration, to acquire a name and a nationality. Embodied in law violators can be held accountable.

More countries have ratified this human rights treaty than any other. About 70 countries have incorporated children's codes into national legislation based on the conventions provisions. The US has, unfortunately, not ratified this treaty. American law reflects many of the provisions and ratifying the Convention would send an important message of humanity to the world.

As part of the treaty, the UN has established the Committee on the Rights of the Child to which countries have to provide regular reports. These reports allow us to track global progress.

While many problems remain, there has been progress in the past two decades.The number of under-five deaths fell from 12.5 million in 1990 to less than 9 million in 2008. The number of children out of primary school declined from 115 million in 2002 to 101 million in 2007. Currently, around 84 percent of children, of the appropriate age, are in primary school. Immunization programs and vaccines have saved millions of lives and helped reduce global measles deaths by 74 percent since 2002.

The declaration spurred many developing countries to register all births. Still, an estimated 51 million were born but not registered in 2007 and one in four developing countries register only half of their births. Unregistered children are legally invisible. They risk losing access to medical care, education and passports, and as adults the right to marry, vote, open a bank account or to inherit.

Child labor is both a cause and consequence of poverty. Children miss school when they work. UNICEF estimates that 150 million children between ages five and fourteen are working, mainly in agriculture. Brazil has helped some 27 million citizens climb up to the middle class since 2002 in part by paying a monthly allowance to families who keep their children in school and take them for regular health checks. Inspired by this success has promoted adaptations in almost 20 countries including Chile, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey and Morocco.

More than a third of women aged twenty to twenty-four report that they were married by age 18, often much younger and sometimes without their consent. The average age of first marriage is very gradually increasing in many countries.

At any one time, more than a million children are being held by the justice system, usually for offenses such as running away from home, truancy, living on the street, alcohol abuse or illegal immigration. In Myanmar, children are legally responsible by age seven. Five countries have executed a child since January 2005.

The US has about 2000 people under age 18 serving life sentences, which violates the convention if they do not have possibilities of parole. In 2005 the US Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional for juveniles and recently announced it will consider the constitutionality of life sentences for minors in two Florida rape and robbery cases. In one, the crime was committed by a thirteen year old.

How we treat children and the vulnerable is an important gauge of the humanity and hopefulness of our culture. Children are the future and represent our vision for the years to come.

Much work still needs to be done. The United Nations will continue to push countries to protect children's rights, providing the bedrock for better lives.

by Dr. Sylvain Ehrenfeld, UN representative from The International Humanist Ethical Union and the National Service Conference of the Americal Ethical Union and Temma Ehrenfeld

Human Rights Day - Statement by Kenneth Roth

HRW As we mark Human Rights Day ― the 61st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ― we are distressed to note that human rights and human rights defenders are under attack around the world As their influence and impact grow, individuals and institutions that monitor rights are under pressure by a number of governments―and not only traditionally repressive ones.

So on Human Rights Day, it is useful to reaffirm the principle guiding our work that no government is ever exempt from its human rights obligations. No matter who the abuser is, no matter how compelling its reasons for violating human rights, no matter how urgently it pleads to be judged by different standards, Human Rights Watch will continue to uphold global standards without exception. That is true whether the abuser is a rebel group or a prime minister, and whether rights violations are perpetrated in open societies or closed ones. Among allies or foes, we apply the same human rights law.


Amnesty Write-A-Thon: Letter to Iggy re Bill C-300

Amnesty International is deeply concerned about human rights violations committed directly or indirectly by some Canadian mining, oil, and gas companies operating in developing countries.

The organization has received disturbing reports about Canadian extractive companies operating in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. Human rights abuses involving corporations are often carried out with impunity. Host nations are frequently unable or unwilling to prevent and punish such actions.

Amnesty International urges the Canadian government to adopt stronger legal and policy frameworks to hold corporations to account for their abuse of human rights in developing countries.

Canada’s parliament will be voting soon on new legislation on corporate accountability. Bill C-300, An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries says that Canada’s government should not provide funding or other support to companies that violate international human rights standards or that badly degrade the environment.

Bill C-300 already has the support of two opposition parties – the NDP and the Bloc. The Conservative party has made it clear they will not support the Bill in any form.

The fate of Bill C-300 rests with the Liberal party – if they vote Yes, then the bill will pass. But Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff has not yet publicly declared his support for the Bill. Time is of the essence: the standing committee tasked with reviewing Bill C-300 will wrap up its hearings shortly.

Every Human Has Rights - Mary Robinson at the UN Dec 10

This last weekend, the Elders gathered a group greater than two hundred strong at La Maison Des Arts et Métiers in Paris to reflect on the last year of Every Human Has Rights. They stood alongside more than 30 award-winning human rights journalists, civil society leaders, and government and business leaders to amplify the voices of millions of people around the world; re-committing themselves to the goals of the Universal Declaration and calling on governments and individuals everywhere to renew their commitment to human rights.

On Wednesday, 10 December - the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - Mary Robinson will highlight messages from Paris and the individual pledges and group commitments made throughout the campaign in an address to world leaders at the UN General Assembly. Make your own pledge HERE

Human Rights Day /Amnesty in Toronto

WORDS: In honour of International Human Rights Day, professional and amateur writers across the city will be putting pen to paper for Amnesty International's Write for Rights campaign. The Amnesty International Toronto Office will be hosting an all-day write-a-thon which includes on-the-hour speakers to inspire drop-in activists. Refreshments will be served and Amnesty merchandise and prizes given away. Alternatively, those near the Junction can drop in to the Annette Street Library any time today to join their all-day writing campaign. Annette Street Library (145 Annette Street), 12:30-8:30 p.m., FREE; Amnesty International Toronto Office (1992 Yonge Street, 3rd floor), 11 a.m.-8 p.m., FREE.

News: Uganda bans Female Circumcision

Female Genital Mutilation, or FGM, is not widely practiced in Uganda, but it is now officially banned, with prison sentences imposed. BBC reports Anyone convicted of the practice, will face 10 years in jail, or a life sentence if a victim dies. Rights groups welcomed the move, but urged awareness campaigns to ensure the centuries-old practice stops. The key to implementation, as always, is education. Here is more background from the UNFPA

Laws are useful, but changing traditional practices is complex, and involves working closely with those who 'benefit' from archaic practices, such as the women who benefit financially and in status by performing FGM and the men who keep the power imbalance. Ouseman Sembene's wonderful film Moolaadé is a "fascinating study of the clash between pragmatic modern thinking and staunch religious traditionalism in Senegal. The film focuses on the controversial procedure of 'purification', in which young girls are forced to undergo genital mutilation to supposedly make them more faithful wives. When six young girls flee the cutting, they seek refuge with a well-known woman, Collé who is viewed with suspicion in the community for her stubborn refusal to adhere to all the societal 'norms'. Collé herself had refused to let her daughter be 'purified' and her actions prove to be inflammatory. Sembene's work is moving and engaging. He is able to explore ideas of male hegemony while simultaneously studying the difficulties faced by the patriarch in striving towards accepted constructions of masculinity. Sembene understands the quirks of this society and his representations of these offer both light relief and food for thought. Religious traditionalism manifests itself through a ruthless and outdated male hegemony and it is clear Sembene sees feminism as a crucial means by which modernisation can be achieved". Consider holding a screening.


Elders Letter on Copenhagen - Action Dec 12

Elders Letter on Copenhagen.

The Elders are a group of eminent global leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela and also the initiators of the Every Human Has Rights campaign. Brought together by Nelson Mandela, they include Kofi Annan, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Jimmy Carter, Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu. In an inspiring personal letter, The Elders have urged 192 world leaders to attend the Copenhagen climate talks in person and to reach a fair, ambitious, effective and binding agreement to reduce emissions and build a low-carbon, and sustainable future for us all. They are planning a vigil at the conference.

You may wish to quote parts of their letter in your own actions.


Ask the UN to enforce women's rights on the Anniversary of Bejing

Amnesty asks for support in the campaign:

The United Nations is a galvanizing force in setting new international standards and commitments to protect and promote women's human rights. But, the UN’s capacity to support national implementation of these standards and commitments is woefully underfunded and inadequate. This has limited the potential for women around the world, especially those at risk of violence, or facing poverty, to fully enjoy their rights in practice,

A global network of over 300 women's, human rights and social justice groups representing millions of people, are campaigning for a new strong UN agency for women to effectively support the protection and promotion of women's human rights. Show your solidarity for women worldwide and sign the global petition to the President of the UN General Assembly.

As the representative of all 192 UN member states, the President of the UN General Assembly, His Excellency Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, can help to prioritize the establishment of the new UN women’s agency, making sure it becomes fully operational in 2010 - the 15th anniversary year of the Beijing World Conference on Women. The new agency should have:

* ­ World coverage and the necessary country presence and strong policy and programmatic mandate to effectively improve the lives of women worldwide.
* Accountability mechanisms in place at both national and international levels, including through meaningful involvement of civil society, particularly women’s non-governmental organizations.
* Substantial and predictable resources to ensure the capacity to meet expectations and deliver results at all levels. It must be funded initially at a minimum level of $1 billion USD, with increases over time.
* An Under-Secretary-General, appointed by International Women’s Day on 8 March 2010, in order to lead the agency


Gifts: Give a child a birth certificate and prevent trafficking

Article 7 of the Convention on Children's Rights says:
1. The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and. as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents.

Unicef and Foster Parents Plan (Plan International) found and registered 50 million 'missing' children. Over four years and across three continents and 32 countries, PLAN has helped to protect hundreds of thousands of children in danger of being trafficked, and girls as young as 12 being forced into illegal marriages – and it is now also saving untold numbers of unborn girls from being aborted because they are the "wrong sex". It is that very rare thing: a global good news story.

Slumdog Millionaire star Anil Kapoor donated his entire fee for the movie to Plan’s birth registration campaign. You can lend your support for just $25.


HRW: Investigate Canadian Detainee abuse

The Canadian government should carry out a full and public inquiry into the alleged torture of detainees whom Canadian forces transferred to Afghan government custody in 2006-07, Human Rights Watch said today.

Senior Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin, who was based in Afghanistan in 2006-07, told a House of Commons committee last week that persons taken prisoner by Canadian forces in Afghanistan and transferred to Afghan custody during that time period were likely tortured. Colvin testified that he made repeated warnings about detainee abuse. He said that his warnings were at first ignored by senior Canadian government officials, but he was then later instructed to "be quiet and do what we were told."

Under the Convention Against Torture, which Canada ratified in 1987, states are obligated to prevent, investigate, prosecute, and punish its nationals who are complicit or participate in acts of torture. Knowingly transferring persons to a government where they are likely to be tortured may amount to complicity in torture.


No Dirty Gold: Thank Sears and KMart

Sears/Kmart logoSears, others take a step towards certified gold
The jewelers have signed on to the Golden Rules at a time when discussions are advancing on third party certification of more responsible mining practices through the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA). The Golden Rules signatories have committed to seeking such third party certification of responsible sourcing when it becomes available.
"The No Dirty Gold campaign is a great initiative that pushes for sustainability and ethical sourcing on gold," said Sears' Senior Vice President Michelle Pearlman. "Sears strives to be a green company and we will continue to work
Note: Target, TJ Maxx, Harry Winston are refusing to sign at present.
 Send your letter HERE