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

June-July 2012 Newsletter

Welcome to the June – July edition of this Peace&Justice action email!  To alter your profile, follow the steps at the end, where your profile is listed.

This issue provides actions on Syria, Sudan and Burma, among others.  The previously mentioned new feature of these newsletters – occasional sections that focus more in-depth on an issue – will be delayed until the fall.  The first such focus will remain the issue of “Mental Health”.

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SYRIA: STOP THE KILLINGS

What started as peaceful protests over a year ago in Syria has now escalated into an armed conflict throughout the country. Some 15,000 people are dead, thousands have been arrested and many tortured with hundreds dying in custody. Over one million people have fled or are internally displaced.  As well, opposition fighters have also reportedly tortured and killed captured members of the army and their supporters.

The international community has struggled to take effective action. On March 27, 2012 the Syrian government accepted a ‘six-point plan’ by UN Special envoy Kofi Annan and a ceasefire was agreed on April 12. Yet the fighting has continued unabated.

The Russian Federation supported the peace initiative. Yet that same government has repeatedly used its veto at the UN Security Council to block or weaken resolutions aimed at stopping the violence in Syria, while remaining the main weapons supplier to Syrian forces.

Please consider sending a message to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, calling on him to help stop the bloodshed.  While it would be naïve to assume such letters themselves would change his decision, it is important that the international community not be silent.  As well, given that Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad could face war crimes charges, at the end of the day, what regime wants to be found on the wrong side of history?

Take Action:
Tell Russia to Help Stop Syria’s Bloodshed

Background:
Eyewitness of Houla Massacre [Guardian]
Battle for Aleppo [Globe&Mail]

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US: SUPPORT SUDAN PEACE & ACCOUNTABILITY ACT

Consider sending a message to your member of Congress asking them to cosponsor the Sudan Peace, Security, and Accountability Act of 2012. The act calls for a comprehensive strategy to end serious human rights violations in Sudan, to create incentives for other governments and persons to stop supporting Sudan and its resulting atrocities, and to reinvigorate genuinely comprehensive peace efforts in Sudan.  It aims to change Sudan’s calculus using diplomatic measures and {non civilian targeted} sanctions. It also advocates policy to help end human rights violations in Sudan.

This newsletter has highlighted how Darfur and Sudan move in and out of the news spotlight – such is the nature of long-standing conflicts.  But as noted in Current Status, there continues to be significant political oppression, and various areas of either atrocities or humanitarian crises.

Take Action (US citizens only: Enter your zip-code for correct Representative):
http://www2.americanprogress.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=205

Background:
Status of Bill HR4169

 

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U.S.: TELL US REPRESENTATIVES TO MAINTAIN SANCTIONS AGAINST BURMA

After such a long period of political oppression, and at times areas that verged on ethnic cleansing, it has been an almost stunning to see the signs of change, as indicated by recent events surrounding Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.  Yet while this forward momentum toward democracy should be encouraged, it needs to be mixed with much caution, so that it does not reward a government that is still carrying out severe human rights abuses against innocent civilians — particularly in Burma’s ethnic minority states.

Thus the following action calls on the U.S. to renew the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act which will continue to prohibit products made in Burma from being imported into the United States — it will deny hundreds of millions of dollars from getting into the hands of Burma’s military.  While such sanctions punish everyone by prohibiting economic growth, in this case even Aung San Suu Kyi indicates that they need to remain until real political change occurs.  She sees this as a real leverage point that should not be lost.  Lifting them without real change will primarily reward the military with only minimal help for the citizens.

Take Action (U.S. only):
https://secure3.convio.net/sdc/site/Advocacy?pagename=homepage&cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=723

 

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WALMART AT 50: DO MORE TO ELEVATE CONDITIONS

Walmart recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.  As the world’s largest retailer, its policies hold tremendous clout.  Thus in the action below, you can send a greeting which includes birthday wishes to improve workers’ lives, and to sign on to national or global agreements that strengthen local communities, ensure labour and safety standards, and freedom of association.

Send Special Birthday Greetings:
http://makingchangeatwalmart.org/select-an-e-anniversary-card-for-walmart-below-2/

 

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=== FOLLOW-UP TO PREVIOUS ISSUES ===
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Failure to Achieve Arms Trade Treaty

It has been hugely disappointing to see the failure to negotiate a new Arms Trade Treaty.  The proliferation of arms around the world has helped turn local conflicts into large-scale human tragedies for civilians.  Our longitudinal study of Darfur is a case in point, where the flood of simply small arms in the 1980s turned local conflicts in the deadly explosive scenarios we have witnessed.  The flood of arms did not generate the conflict, but they did allow the manipulation of the various conflicts to be highly magnified, resulting in enormous civilian tolls and allowing the entrenchment of political/power landscapes.  The only positive note is that the door is open for further talks and a vote could occur by the end of the year.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/28/arms-trade-treaty-william-hague

 

UWAA:  This endeavour is being placed under the overall rubric of “Until Well-being is Achieved for All.”

 

April 2012 Newsletter

Welcome to the Monday, April 30, 2012 issue of this Peace&Justice action email!

This issue provides opportunity to strengthen our global fabric by supporting new Arms Trade Treaty talks. As well, more concretely you can support hopes for a peaceful resolution of highly volatile attacks between Sudan and South Sudan. Finally you add you voice to get Shell to clean up the devastating mess in the Niger Delta.

SUPPORT STRONG ARMS TRADE TREATY

The illegal movement of arms has devastating effects around the world, fuelling many of the conflicts. While there are some international agreements in place, the UN will be spending eight weeks in July grappling with ideas to strengthen such efforts. But those efforts depend on the resolve of the constituent countries and that resolve rests on the voice of its people. Thus you will find below actions that can be taken (thanks to Amnesty International), tailored for many of the countries that this newsletter goes to, as well as a generalized one for other countries.

Hopefully the UN meetings will produce a stronger arms trade treaty. While such a treaty by itself will not magically stop the flow of arms, it is a necessary step, and any impact it can have in reducing the devastation is worthwhile.

Take Action (according to country):

Australia: http://www.amnesty.org.au/armstrade/comments/28348/

Canada: http://www.amnesty.ca/iwriteforjustice/take_action.php?actionid=856&type=Internal

UK: http://www.amnesty.org.uk/content.asp?CategoryID=10079

USA: http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocacy/ActionItem.aspx?c=6oJCLQPAJiJUG&b=6645049&aid=517422

Other Countries: Click on the picture in the following link, select your country and sign petition:

http://www.amnesty.org/en/campaigns/control-arms

Background: The Small Arms Survey organization provides excellent work on the analysis and impact of the illegal movement of small arms and its ability to fuel conflicts around the globe. It also provides good background material for the current state of treaties and agreements on international, national and regional levels.

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US-ONLY: SUPPORT THE SUDAN PEACE, SECURITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT

The lives of half a million people in Sudan are now at risk. Many could starve to death from Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s blockade of food and humanitarian aid or die from his relentless bombing of villages and refugee camps — similar tactics he used in Darfur to terrorize and murder innocent civilians. Sudan is extremely volatile – teetering on full-scale war with South Sudan. There is desperate need for the international community to facilitate a peaceful resolution to the complex dynamics.

Many of the points of conflict can be traced back to unresolved aspects of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that the U.S. helped broker. Thus it is appropriate that the U.S. be one of the leading countries trying again to stabilize the region. The action below is to help garner enough support for a U.S bill currently in Congress that tries to bring a comprehensive approach to the various destabilizing and dehumanizing clashes. For sure, leaders in both Sudan and South Sudan have made extremely misguided actions (Sudan in taking some of the oil; South Sudan is cutting off all oil; Sudan in its bellicose responses), at least in relation to their citizens (some of whom have started twitter feeds aout living peacefully with each other).

US-only: Tell your Representative to Support New Sudan Legislation:

Send Petition to your Representative

Darfur update: There is no explicit action for Darfur. For sure if Sudan goes to war it will bring even more misery to Darfur. It is interesting to note that Bashir summoned some of the Darfur Arab leaders to join in the fight against South Sudan, and this time some of them declined. Most notable in Darfur is Bashir’s growing attempt to paint Darfur as a conflict that is over, with people voluntarily returning home and where foreign friends will help in the reconstruction of Darfur; this contrasts sharply with views from within the camps and elsewhere. For more details, see http://untilall.org/Darfur.htm#B.%20CurrentStatus.

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TELL SHELL: PAY UP FOR DEVASTATION IN NIGERIA

This newsletter joined similar calls before, but thus far Shell has not made significant efforts to stop its destructive processes in the Niger Delta let alone clean them up and compensate the local people for their loss of livelihoods, health and sometime life. In a recent study more than 100,000 barrels had been spilled or leaked over a 72-day period. Amnesty will be collecting the following petition and taking it to Shell’s Annual General meeting in May, so please consider signing it and raising the pressure – with over $30 billion in profits, Shell can easily afford the cleanup and better practices.

Take Action:

Tell Shell CEO To Clean Up Niger Delta

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PEACE, JUSTICE AND THE ISSUE OF MENTAL HEALTH

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This new feature has been postponed and will appear either in another week or will become part of May’s newsletter, along with further reflection on #Occupy (its spring should be May 1) and #Kony2012, given that its April 20 campaign fizzled.

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=== FOLLOW-UP TO PREVIOUS ISSUES ===

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Charles Taylor guilty of aiding Sierra Leone war crimes

This newsletter has followed issues in both Liberia and Sierra Leone. On April 26, former Liberian President Charles Taylor was convicted of 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his backing of rebels in the conflict in neighbouring Sierra Leone. He was convicted by a UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (which is an ad hoc Court not to be confused with the permanent International Criminal Court which handed down its first conviction as reported last month).

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-17852488

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Missed an action email? An archive is kept at: www.UntilAll.org/archives.htm.

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UWAA: This endeavour is being placed under the overall rubric of “Until Well-being is Achieved for All.”