January 2013 Newsletter

Welcome to the January 30, 2013 edition of this Peace&Justice action email!

This issue provides actions for an international Women’s Rights Treaty, support for a global Arms Treaty, plus a call to ban an insecticide, in addition to other items of interest.  [My apologies for the late date, but this was the earliest possible transmission time].

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U.S.: RATIFY WOMEN’S TREATY

The U.S. is the only developed nation (and one of only seven nations) not to have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).  This issue has been raised previously in this newsletter.  It is being raised again, by Global Solutions, and the petition is directed toward the US Senate given that the new Congress might pass it this time.

No human document is perfect, but CEDAW is the closest international document saying that women’s equality means full equality and rights.  One can argue that on the one hand, for people like Malala Yousufzai, the 15-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for presuming her right to be educated, CEDAW didn’t stop the Taliban nor is particularly enforceable as it stands, which is true and a point of strong debate.  But one can also say that for people like Malala, CEDAW can confirm or awaken the vision of what ought to be, and that one is not alone in such thinking.

From my readings thus far, it seems the reticence for the U.S. to ratify the treaty, apart from some completely disingenuous claims, arises from: (a) those who have a generalized fear that any treaty signed under the UN may undermine sovereignty; (b) conservative groups who feel it could open the door to dismantling their notion of traditional family values; and (c) that in the U.S. the political process often takes an extraordinary time.   Regarding the first concern, sovereignty is always a central concern for government, though in this case the US has some of the strongest rights globally, and was one of the countries involved in the initial drafts, besides which there are “Reservation” clauses that a nation can add should any unease remain.  The second concern is too diffuse to cover here; one must read the text (link below) and decide for oneself.  As for the last concern, if you feel the process has gone on long enough, then consider signing the petition below.

Take Action:
Sign Petition (U.S.-only)

Background (full text and explanation):
http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/cedaw.htm

 

 

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‘BEE’ SURE TO ACT AGAINST THIS CHEMCIAL

Given some of the weighty human rights issues that constantly swirl around us, it might seem trivializing to include an action to help protect bees.  But this newsletter has always maintained the link that basic human rights and life are undergirded by a sustainable planetary ecosystem.  The alarming decline in honey bee colonies has been noted for several years.  Apart from concern due to valuing nature for its own sake, the unease is two-fold: (a) The pollination produced by bees occurs far up the food chain, only a couple of steps removed from human consumption, and thus any collapse could have severe food shortage as well as economic consequences; and (b) Dramatic effects on insects could be a bell-weather indicator of what is also occurring to humans, just too subtle to have been identified yet.

While not all factors are clearly understood, one insecticide type – neonicotinoids – has been linked to the bee decline.  The European Union (EU) will be deciding at any time now regarding this issue.

Take Actions (open to all):
Tell EU to Ban Use of Insecticide (Avaaz deadline imminent)
Tell Bayer to Pull Insecticide Off the Market

Background:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jan/16/insecticide-unacceptable-danger-bees

 

 

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TELL NRA TO STOP OBSTRUCTING THE GLOBAL ARMS TRADE TREATY

The international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is meant to save lives, especially innocent civilians caught up civil unrest in their own countries.  After several years of work the final treaty hopefully will be voted on in March. The goal is to address the ill-regulated legal international arms trade (from jet fighters to missiles to small arms) and eradicate/ reduce the illicit international trade, in order to contribute to peace and security and reduce human suffering.

Those who have followed this newsletter’s longitudinal focus on the Darfur crisis have watched the unspeakable human suffering, instigated by Sudan’s President Bashir and expedited by the illegal arms trade that has allowed Sudan to bomb its own citizens, even up to this present day, as well as arming the Janjaweed (while also remembering that it is a much more complex narrative). The fact that an arms embargo has been in place since 2005, cuts two ways.  First it indicates the need for the ATT – the embargo was partly undercut by the lack of universal, consistent, rigorous transfer controls.  But secondly, it is clear to most people who have worked on this issue, that at best for the foreseeable future the ATT will only be able to reduce somewhat the illicit flow.  But any reduction also means a reduction in death, displacement, and trauma, and hence the value of the ATT, even in an imperfect global situation.

So what does the illegal international movement of arms such as tanks, missiles, aircraft and small arms have to do with a U.S. domestic-focused group called the National Rifle Association (NRA)?  At first glance, absolutely nothing.  But being Canadian and thus not ever having had any sense of a right to own arms, I have spent hours of research to understand the dynamics going on (and hence this slightly longer section).  I can see how one can feel the need for a watchdog like the NRA if one feels the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment – the right to bear arms – is so sacrosanct [the crucial question of ‘why sacrosanct’ must await another time].  And I believe the NRA has played that role for some people over its 140 years, although I also see over the last few years a discontent from some members (to the point of forming a new organization), feeling that it is now overreaching it arguments.  But that aside, the one sliver of contact between this domestic right and the ATT lies in the ATT’s notion of recordkeeping for imports.

For the ATT, the legal movement of arms such as tanks or attack helicopters needs to be tracked.  Vastly oversimplified, if within nation A there is a request to {somewhere within Nation B} for 100 tanks, then if nation A doesn’t get 100 tanks then that allows the discrepancy to be tracked since some form of record has been kept, hopefully leading to the illegal activity.  The point is that it can make sense for large items, but the NRA is claiming it may be used for a citizen ordering a single rifle from, say, Germany.  And that basically becomes a registration scheme, let alone expensive overhead.  And registering firearms is a red-line for the NRA, in that it could become a tool for any possible “tyranny of government.”  This logic seems to be behind all three points in the original NRA objections listed below.  I give a sample response in the “Alternate Wording” below.  The other points raised by the NRA have been addressed by Amnesty and also by the link below.

So please consider signing the petition below.  To be honest I am not overly enamored with the Amnesty wording and will substitute the following, which you are also welcome to use.   And regardless I am sure we will be visiting this issue next month since it be will just prior to the final ATT meeting:

===  Alternate Wording ===

Subject: NRA: Stop Abusers of Small Arms

Given that NRA members pride themselves in being responsible gun owners, I ask that the NRA support the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), since it is a legitimate attempt to keep guns out of the hands of those who would intentionally use them to harm others, including harming the U.S. military.

The current draft of the ATT addresses most of the concerns you have voiced, specifically its wording about “the sovereign right and responsibility of any State to regulate and control transfers of conventional arms that take place exclusively within its territory pursuant to its own legal or constitutional systems.”  And the State Department has made explicit its  “Key U.S. Red Lines” on the ATT, including:
– upholding of the Second Amendment;
– no restrictions on civilian possession or trade of firearms, and
– no dilution of sovereign control over issues involving the private acquisition, ownership, or possession of firearms.

Finally, if you remain concerned about record keeping, the NRA could easily recommend that no individual citizen importing a small number of firearms shall be tracked, and siilarily for stores.  If there are further concerns the NRA should provide wording that would be acceptable and/or provide a suitable “Reservation” clause.

I am sure your members are appalled whenever there is misuse of firearms anywhere in the world, and would welcome your leadership to reduce such occurrences via a commendable final version of the ATT.

=== END Alternate Wording  ===

 

Sign Petition (open to all countries – select “Not in USA” as the State):
http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocacy/ActionItem.aspx?c=6oJCLQPAJiJUG&b=6645049&aid=519084&msource=W1301EAATT2

Background:
List of Original 3-point NRA Objections
Article Refutes NRA Claims
Actual Treaty Draft Text and other Info.

 

 

 

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=== FOLLOW-UP TO PREVIOUS ISSUES ===
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DARFUR AND SUDAN

There is no current action on this topic.  And I am out of time, except to say that the humanitarian crisis along the border between North and South Sudan remains appalling.  And the situation in Darfur, also remains largely in a tragic state, with a significant increase in hostilities.  See www.UntilAll.org/Darfur.htm for details.  Of a related note, is the following item:

Sudan Elected to UN ECOSOC

The UN elected Sudan onto its Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).;  This is particularly galling given that ECOSOC is responsible for regulating various human rights bodies and for overseeing UN committees on women’s (and some children’s) rights.  Thus rather than having its own abysmal record examined in these areas, it will be in a position to try to manipulate the council and such decisions as which human rights NGOs can participate in the Human Rights Council, thereby filtering out the level of outrage that should be directed toward Sudan’s atrocities.
http://blog.unwatch.org/index.php/2012/11/08/outrage-u-n-elects-genocidal-sudan-to-top-human-rights-body/

 

Uganda & LRA – fear gone but poverty remains

Joseph Kony, a name made infamous for his repugnant use of child soldiers, has long ago left Uganda.  But as the following article indicates, it has left in its wake the grinding struggle of poverty.
http://www.irinnews.org/Report/97206/UGANDA-Peace-restored-but-northern-children-still-struggle

 

Myanmar: Hope and Pitfalls

It has taken a long time for most people to give much credence to the transition in Burma.  But the past year has awakened many to see it as more than a mere façade.  Real political and media space has opened up.  That said, and not dismissing the discrimination against the Muslim Rohingya, the fighting in the Kachin area of Myanmar may pose the greatest risk:
http://www.crisisgroupblogs.org/resolvingconflict/2013/01/10/a-serious-threat-to-peace-in-myanmar/

 

Fair Trade Chocolate – Hersheys commits to 100%

Even for a chocolate lover such as myself it is easy to see such a headline, give a little nod, and move on.  But when I stop and consider the implications, on the one hand  it is terrific news for the rights and well-being of children.  Ending properly the appalling conditions of many of the children in the cocoa industry would relieve such suffering and loss.  That said, while Hershey’s commitment to 100% Fair Trade chocolate is a welcome statement, at this point that is all it is.  It could slip away, and if not done properly so that proper transitions occur it may simply transfer the pain elsewhere.
http://www.takepart.com/article/2012/10/06/hershey-vows-stop-using-child-slave-labor-eight-more-years

 

 

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=== ARTICLES OF INTEREST ===
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World Less Free – List of Gains and Losses

Freedom House has released their latest “freedom score” or list of the countries that have gained or lost in terms of basic freedoms over the last three years (please note that both the source and content are controversial).  The following article provides a quick graphic and summary:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/01/16/which-countries-are-most-free-and-most-oppressive/

 

Syria After Assad: What religious role among various factions? Views of scholar after visit

http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/politics/6667/which_islamists__religion_and_the_syrian_civil_war

 

How Not to “Feed the World”

A Mother Jones article highlights work from Oxfam which indicates how, even setting aside such controversies as Monsanto and mantras of increasing crop yield, one of the chief obstacles feeding the world is the growing amount of land in poorer countries being bought up – “land grabs” – either by speculators (such as hedge funds) or by companies (such as Iowa’s AgriSol) who want to use the land often to grow export crops for use in biofuels for instance.  This leaves the local people sidelined both in terms of ability to use the land and with less land being used to feed the local population.  Oxfam takes aim at the World Bank who it hopes with a change in leadership may alter its advice to such governments.  The stakes are high – we are talking about enough land to feed a billion people.
http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/10/want-feed-world-first-stop-land-grabs#13580087895611&action=collapse_widget&id=5350611

 

Positive Note: Global Pact on Mercury Controls

Even as a child, I knew mercury was a bad thing.  Sometime later the industrialized world started to take action to curb its use.  However it was not until this month that a global, legally-binding treaty was reached at the U.N.  While not perfect and with possible snags to come, it is nonetheless welcome news to everyone, since it respects no human boundaries.  That said, it will be most needed, if the mechanisms can be worked out, in the many unregulated areas around the world.
   Los Angeles Times article, Jan. 23, 2013

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