UNTIL ALL ACHIEVE WELL-BEING

Welcome to the Saturday, May 08, 2010 issue of this Peace&Justice action email!  To alter your profile, follow the steps at the end, where your profile is listed. 

In this newsletter we start with a foundational element – the world’s journalists and others who provide us with information.  While these emails are focused on action, I do occasionally pause for a touch of analysis, in this case to refresh our recognition that everything else that follows in this email depends on those who provide the crucial information, often at risk to their lives.

There is also a special focus on Darfur – one of the long-time cases that is being followed – as Sudan emerges from its national elections and heads toward a critical referendum.  As well there are actions on the recent U.S. Arizona Immigration law and on Congo conflict minerals, as well as several articles of interest.

 

_____________________________

WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY

This past week included World Press Freedom Day, on May 3.  I want to use it to highlight the courage of the many people around the world who endeavour, sometimes at the cost of their lives, to bear witness to some of the world’s most brutal and oppressive regimes.  This includes local journalists as well as outside investigative journalists (and their local contacts and translators, such as Daoud Hari: The Translator, whose risks are far graver).  You can take action on one such case below.

Secondly, taking a step back, I want to acknowledge how deeply we are shaped, for better or worse, by the news coverage we receive.  Except for what we see with our own eyes, everything comes to us through a filtered medium.  Getting the most accurate perception is fundamental to anyone wanting a better world – we need to know what our world currently is.  Thus the essential role of journalists. 

Finally I wanted to mention a trend, at least in the Western World at least.  With the spread of the information age, has come a greater variety of sources.  While the non-monopolization of information is a good thing (Twitter and cell phones can give early signals, and cell phone videos can provide so many more eyes), it becomes more difficult to distinguish information from noise, worthy analysis from cheap talk.  As well, I read a report that indicated that as traditional sources become more squeezed for revenue (from the New York Times on down to the many local papers, some of which have already disappeared) that one trend is to take short cuts.  For instance, some news sources reduced their actual reporters and now rely more on police reports.  Doing so skews the news toward crime, and feeds fear about crime, even as crime rates have dropped in my country. 

A second consequence is the “dumbing down” of news, where it slips into infotainment.  I watched in dismay as the CBC ran stories, day after day about the angst of the golfer Tiger Woods – I’m sure the CBC staff cringed at such trivialization of news.  This phenomenon is nothing new (for those in North America, think O.J. Simpson) and I mention it as it is something we have some control over.  This element of “news” is about giving the consumer what they want.  As consumers we can and must demand better.  Our perception of the world depends on it.

Specific Email Action on Behalf of Arrested Iranian Journalist:

   http://www.amnesty.ca/worldpressfreedom/action.php

General Emails to Any or All Leaders of Iran, China, Mexico, Philippines and Sri Lanka:

   English Version

   Version française

   Versión española

 

Extra: Pulitzer-winning New York Times Journalist Nicholas Kristof on the emerging role of electronic technology:

   http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=31&aid=181424

_______________________________

DARFUR – GRASPING FOR HOPE

Sudan held their national elections last month.  As expected President Bashir and his National Congress Party (NCP) won the elections, among accusations of census and vote rigging, intimidation, etc.  The accusations led most of the main opposition parties to boycott the elections.  International monitors such as the Carter Center said the elections were not up to international standards, citing some shortcomings.  But they also said it could be a step to more democratic processes in the future.  Their silence on Darfur however is a glaring omission.  Over 2 million people are in camps – some able to vote; others not.  Another large section of Darfur was rebel-controlled and generally inaccessible for the voting process. Plus, as mentioned last month,  the government attacked a rebel stronghold prior to the elections.  Given that Darfur is about 20% of Sudan’s population this downplaying by the international monitors is typically seen as part of the larger picture, where many in Sudan and the international community simply wanted to get through the election period.  Having done that, Sudan can now prepare to face the real test – the 2011 referendum, where the South decided whether to secede or not (it almost certainly will).

What can be done?  Darfur’s real hopes are being marginalized again, although Bashir and other speak of great plans.  See link below for detailed analysis. The solid efforts being made, for which action can be taken below, involve the overall Sudanese dynamic, which is shaped by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in 2005, ending 20 years plus 20 years of war between the North and south (Darfur in the west was not directly involved).  The CPA called for the national elections just held and the 2011 referendum.  It laid out the various steps along the way, which Bashir either delayed or has not implemented.

The action involves the U.S., who was instrumental in brokering the CPA.  The Obama administration reviewed their Sudan policy and came up with {secret} benchmarks to hold Sudan accountable.  Nothing has come of it.  Thus some organizations have created their own public benchmarks and are asking that the highest level officials -  Secretary of State Clinton and Ambassador Rice, become directly involved to apply the dis/incentives to ensure a smooth transition period through the 2011 referendum and afterwards, regardless of outcome.  Thes benchmark include progress on Darfur.

Contact your Senators now and tell them we need President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice to all personally step up and make sure that the regime in Khartoum is held accountable for a lack of progress towards peace, using the public benchmarks as clear trigger points.

   Contact Senators to Fully Engage Obama Administration

Grading the Benchmarks

   http://www.enoughproject.org/publications/grading-benchmarks

___________________________________________________________

DARFUR: DEMAND RELEASE OF MISSING ACTIVIST IN EGYPT

On a very specific note, Faisal Haroun was a human rights activist in Darfur who had to flee to Egypt due to persecution from the Sudanese government.  But the Egyptian government also harassed him, allegedly on advice from Sudan, arresting him in January.  He has not been seen since.  You can send a message to the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights, the Egyptian Minister of the Interior, and the Egyptian Minister of Justice, urging them to treat Faisal with dignity and ensure his legal rights.

Take Action (open to all countries):

   http://www.change.org/petitions/view/urge_egyptian_authorities_to_provide_legal_rights_to_faisal_haroun

Background (at end of article):

   http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/03/31/egypt-guards-kill-3-migrants-border-israel

_________________________________________________________________

U.S. & ARIZONA IMMIGRATION LAW: CALL FOR PROPER RESPONSE

On April 23, 2010, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed a controversial Immigration Bill.  It empowers police officers to stop and interrogate any individual about his/her lawful immigration status if they have "reasonable suspicion" and makes it a trespassing crime to be an undocumented person in Arizona. It has no safeguards against racial profiling and it increases the likelihood of arbitrary arrest and detention.

While this bill seems to be created out of frustration, much genuine – a broken immigration system – it in no way justifies abdicating the responsibility to uphold the basic human rights of people, of which a cornerstone is non-discrimination. The topic of immigration is complex and this is not a forum to disentangle all the issues (though some background links are provided).  From the perspective of the well-being of all, the problem ultimately lies in our unjust global structures and power dynamics.  Such primitive international dynamics grossly inhibit various aspects of well-being where many people live, whether it is security, food, education, livelihood, etc. (see http://untilall.org/Wellbeing.htm).  We need to envision a world where both “home” and the freedom to move should provide people a place where ability and opportunity match.  

But in the meantime action needs to be taken when a core response erodes basic principles of human rights.  Amnesty International has created an action for U.S. citizens to speak out against the bill.

Take Action (US citizens only):

   Email your Senator

Background:

   The Bill Is At Odds with Basic Human Rights

   Some Myths About U.S. Immigration

   Actual Text of Bill 1070

_________________________________________

US BILL ON CONGO CONFLICT MINERALS

Over the years war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has claimed an unimaginable, repugnant 2 million lives.  Much of that conflict now is fuelled by the minerals (“conflict minerals”) used in our electronic goods such as cell phones.


Right now, the House of Representatives is weighing a piece of legislation that would make it easier to identify imports into the United States that contain such minerals.  If Congress required companies to disclose the origins of the minerals used in their products, then we, as consumers, could be assured that the electronics and products we purchase do not directly finance conflict or fuel human rights abuses.

We've been told that if Representatives don't hear from constituents on this issue in a big way soon, then they are likely to put this issue on the back burner until next year when the new Congress is seated.

 

Take Action (US citizens only):

   http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocacy/ActionItem.aspx?c=jhKPIXPCIoE&b=2590179&aid=13740

_______________________________

=== ARTICLES OF INTEREST ===

_______________________________

Follow-up: Zimbabwe May Reject Kimberely Process:

In earlier emails we pushed to establish the Kimberley Process (to certify conflict-free diamonds), and then have it apply in Zimbabwe.  However President Mugabe is now talking about reneging.  If he does it could weaken the agreement by making it difficult to certify such diamonds.  Stay tuned – there wil hopefully be ways to make him reconsider.

   http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=88968

Follow-up: Myanmar’s Junta and Upcoming National Elections

Last week, several cabinet members in Myanmar’s junta did a quick change, resigning from the armed forces, apparently in preparation for parliamentary elections expected later this year.  As civilians they could run for office, thereby maintain a firm hold on the country while giving the appearance of fair elections.  On the opposition side, the National League for Democracy, headed by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi but who is prohibited from running due to absurd circumstances, has announced that it will not participate in the elections, which it condemned as unfair and undemocratic.  That party won the last elections, in 1990, by a landslide but was prevented from assuming office by the ruling junta, which maintained its grip on power.

   http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/02/world/asia/02myanmar.html?th&emc=th

Follow-up: Quebec Refuses to Investigate Asbestos Industry:

Canada has continued to allow the exporting of asbestos, as previously noted.  Since the company in question is from Quebec, it makes it an extremely politically sensitive move for the federal government to step in, ethical as that would be.  In the latest news, even the province of Quebec has refused to investigate.  Stay tuned – I think more action will be forthcoming.

   Le Gouvernement Québécois refusent de débattre

Water – A Commodity or Human Right?

Some say that water will become the next oil – that is a very precious and traded commodity.  In the following article an MA student uses animation to briefly highlight some of the issues involved.  And make not mistake – while the animation is not in-depth the issue of the privatization of water is a monumental concern.

   http://www.opendemocracy.net/isobel-foulsham/in-our-hands-%25E2%2580%2593-human-right-to-water

The Sahara's new cargo: drugs and radicalism:

While the Sahara desert is often envisioned as an empty lifeless land, it is in fact a place where much clandestine work takes place, as illustrated in this article:

   http://www.opendemocracy.net/stephen-ellis/saharas-new-cargo-drugs-and-radicalism

Toxic Footprint & new Certified recycling:

Our Toxic Footprint is the sum of what happens when we dispose of items.  Some items we even try to dispose of ethically through supposed recycling programs.  But not all are reliable.  You can read below that finally a certification process is in place and also all the ways that our toxic legacy often finds its way to harm others.

   Certification Program

   Extensive list of bad and good stories of where toxic waste ends up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-   -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -   -  - -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -   -  -  -  - 

 

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

 

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

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

 

Volunteers Needed:  If you can provide one hour per week or so, tracking down concrete actions to help strengthen this effort, please reply to this email with the Subject Line: “UWAA: Edit” and place any comments in the body.  Diverse perspectives especially welcome.

 

Rod Downing

rdowning94@shaw.ca

Surrey BC Canada

(604) 535-6550

 

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

To subscribe someone, have them reply to this e-mail with a subject line “UWAA: Subscribe”

To stop getting these emails, reply to this e-mail with a subject line “UWAA: Unsubscribe”

 

To change something, reply with a subject line “UWAA: Edit” and place any desired instructions in the body of the email.