Welcome to the Tuesday, August 17, 2010 issue of this Peace&Justice action email! To alter your profile, follow the steps at the end, where your profile is listed.
These newsletters don’t normally deal with aid crises. Yet this one starts with two: Pakistan and Haiti – a mix that I have found very disquieting. There is also further action on Darfur and Sudan, given the deteriorating dynamics in Darfur and the lack of progress as Sudan approaches the 2011 referendum. As well we examine one aspect of the West’s consumer life, and one small step to reduce child prostitution. He newsletter concludes with some follow-up articles and also other articles of interest.
PAKISTAN FLOODS – AID TRICKLES
It has been over two weeks since the flooding started in Pakistan. Up to 20 million people are homeless, equivalent to almost the entire population of Australia. The death toll stands at about 1500, though that could quickly skyrocket if malaria and cholera start to set in.
It has been unsettling to see the slow response, especially compared to the 2004 tsunami and the Haiti earthquake – very roughly it has been one-tenth the response in the first 12 days. I have read varying factors: a Pakistani President who wouldn’t even return home from his European trip (and a very corrupt and ineffective government); it lacked heart-tugging drama and large, immediate death tolls; the recession lingers for many; it is harder to get funds in summer; as noted in the background articles, a reluctance to give to a country seen as politically problematic (although some say, from a political self-interest view, that is why the West should give); and finally, as noted in the next section Haiti, some are reluctant to give when money for Haiti hasn’t seemed to have met targets, though as noted, much of that money is governmental pledges.
Everyone must choose for themselves which script to heed. For those wanting to give, choose a reputable charity (Red Cross, UNICEF, Oxfam, CARE, MSF, etc.). They have the capacity and track record for tragedies of such enormity. And the need is enormous and growing.
CBC: Pakistan's Image Deficit
Guardian: Misgivings Years in the Making
Blog on Giving Response to Pakistan
HAITI – SIX MONTHS LATER, PLEGES OUSTANDING
When Haiti was devastated by the earthquake in January, many individual made commendable donations. Government pledges of support also poured in, although six months later only 10% of their pledged support has actually been delivered. Former U.S. President Clinton, UN Special Envoy to Haiti, is trying to get governments to fulfill their pledges. The organization ONE has created the action below to help back this effort with a global constituency, which you can sign.
Since Haiti will be a long-term project of rebuilding, your individual donations to a reputable charity would be highly valued, if you are in a position to give.
DARFUR & SUDAN – CRUCIAL FOCUS NEEDED
The situation in Darfur is tense. Aid has been halted at the Kalma camp, affecting about 100,000 displaced people. It also involves a stand-off between the UN and Sudan. Various other dynamics in Darfur - aid hijackings, peacekeepers kidnapped – indicate the continuing lawless nature of many areas. As well, on July 12, the ICC added the charge of genocide to President Bashir’s case. President Bashir then travelled to Chad – an ICC member and thus obligated to arrest him – and returned without incident. For fuller details see www.UnitalAll.org/Darfur.htm and click on “Current Status.”
Deeply troubling as well are the dynamics in Sudan itself as it heads toward the 2011 referendums on whether the South will secede, and whether the oil-rich Abyei region, which straddles the North-South divide, will join the South. Preparations on many fronts are all badly behind schedule. All of these events result from the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ended the 20 year (plus 20 year) North-South war which had killed 2 million people. It took a strong outside broker – the U.S. – to get the deal signed. But this time the U.S. policy (and more broadly the international stance) is floundering; strong, comprehensive leadership is lacking, as previous emails have indicated. Thus, likewise, the crucial action remains a call for an inclusive (Darfur AND Sudan), comprehensive strategy.
Support House Resolution on Sudan and Darfur (US-only action):
Use Facebook & Twitter to Send Messages to U.S. Administration (open to all):
Groups Worried by US Lack of Urgency toward Darfur and Sudan
HILTON HOTELS: SIGN CODE TO PREVENT CHILD PROSTITUTION
Hilton Hotels are usually associated with the idea of luxury. But like many hotels, they are susceptible to prostitution, as was recently revealed in southwest China. The point of the following email action is that Hilton is one of the large hotels to fail to sign the ECPAT Code of Conduct (for the Protection of Children From Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism). You can email Hilton’s CEO and senior management below. As well, you can consider taking related actions on the Background site, given the enormity of the human trafficking issue.
LIVING IN A CONSUMER CULTURE
The next two actions pertain to those living in a Western-style consumer culture. As someone who lives in the western world, I find such a tangle of reactions to the consumerist aspect of our culture. Stances range from unabashed free enterprise to fully engaged counter culture. This newsletter is not a forum for probing these complex layers and hidden dynamics – there are many places for that, as well as many people trying to provide alternate lifestyles. This section simply wants to highlight two examples to reinforce one aspect that tries to remain hidden - that the price of our consumer goods does not reflect the entire ‘cost’, whether environmental or human.
1. TELL COSTCO TO STOP EMPTYING THE OCEAN
occurs in many parts of the world. As a Canadian, I watched our once robust Atlantic
cod fishery completely collapse. In the past few years the most endangered
fish around the world have been identified – Greenpeace has red-listed the 22
most endangered. In almost every Costco store you will find freezers and
coolers full of unsustainable fish – they sell fifteen of the twenty-two red list seafood items.
earlier newsletter indicated that Greenpeace was working with some of the large
supermarket chains to address this problem. As part of that overall strategy, Greenpeace
is now urging Costco - largest wholesale club
operator in North America - to implement a
sustainable seafood policy, to offer transparency in its seafood labeling, and
to stop selling red list seafood starting immediately with orange roughy and
Chilean sea bass.
Email Costco CEO
2. WALMART & BANGLADESHI POVERTY WAGES
Walmart is the world's largest public corporation by revenue. It has been the topic of previous newsletters. In this case garment workers in Bangladesh are protesting poverty-level wages, a term that even the Bangladeshi President uses. These factory workers generally make 11.5 cents per hour, a wage that is not enough for them to meet even basic needs. These factories, though not owned by Walmart, make much of their goods for the retail giant.
According to Walmart's own Ethical Standards for Suppliers, "Suppliers are encouraged to provide wages and benefits that are sufficient to meet workers’ basic needs and provide some discretionary income for workers and their families."
These conditions are clearly abhorrent to any standard of decency and are most likely in violation of Walmart's own Ethical Standards Program. But the retailer has done nothing to support a minimum wage for these workers. In fact, according to the National Labor Committee, Walmart has actively push down payment to these workers.
UPDATE: This issue is changing quickly. During the time to prepare this newsletter the original action (to tell Walmart to support workers asking for a meagre wage gain) has been superseded. Violent action against the workers in Bangladesh prodded Walmart to write a letter to Bangladesh. But the new action, below, is to tell Walmart to follow-up that letter with real pressure. The world’s largest retailer can exert substantially more influence . . . and they need to.
Tell Walmart to Exert Real Pressure:
Original Action (no longer active):
=== FOLLOW-UP TO PREVIOUS ISSUES ===
Progress on Conflict Minerals:
These emails have been following the “Conflict Minerals” issue for almost two years now. They refer to minerals such as coltan and tin, which come primarily from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and are used for cell phones and computers. As backdrop, the DRC has suffered a civil war that has killed millions of people, the world’s most underreported atrocity. “Conflict-free minerals” is a strategy similar to Sierra Leone and “blood diamonds,” and decades earlier, apartheid and boycotts – that is, when political will is lacking, to at least shut down the rampant funding that fuels the conflict. Specifically the idea is to stop or reduce the trade in conflict minerals by ensuring that consumer products are made of conflict-free materials. The following is a report of the significant progress being made:
Progress on Conflict-Free Minerals
Fuller View of Congo Dynamics
Potential Backsliding on Blood Diamonds:
Even as conflict-free minerals make progress, the issue of blood diamonds could backslide or even fall apart. As previously reported, keeping blood diamonds out of the market hinges on the Kimberley Process of certification. The KP just met and approved the sale of some diamonds from a questionable Zimbabwe mine (definite human rights issues). See the second article for some of the nuances. Civil society groups are calling for reforms of the KP. The main point is that the KP is flirting with the edges of acceptability, with possibility disastrous consequences.
Zimbabwe: Conflict Over Diamonds
Is the Blood Diamond making a Comeback?
Cluster Munitions Convention Takes Effect
On August 1st 2010, the Convention on Cluster Munitions formally entered into force and all of its provisions become legally binding for the countries that have ratified it.
BBC: Cluster Bomb Overview
A Milestone but also Call To Action
=== ARTICLES OF INTEREST ===
A New Human Right - Water
Nothing, apart from air, is more basic to life than water. Therefore, one would think water would be implicitly considered a human right under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (articles 3 and 25 – the right to life and to an adequate standard of living including food). Yet in recent years from Bolivia to the Bushman of the Kalahari, the right to water has come into question. Thus the UN General Assembly voted to declare water and sanitation a human right. It was not without controversy as noted by the 41 abstentions. Concerns ranged from procedural (there is UN process underway with the Geneva Human Rights group) while others were concerned with scope and lack of clarity. Commentators clarified that national sovereignty remains intact – it is a call for each nation to provide clean water to its own people. While it is not so simple, it is hoped to be a good step forward.
Actual Resolution (in English; PDF File)
International AIDS Conference
Up to 20,000 people assembled for the 18th International AIDS Conference in Vienna. Highlights ranged from a promising gel for women to use that cuts down on infection rates, to concern and anger that financial support may be leveling off at a time when the drugs to combat it were supposed to be accessible to all in need, to linkages among other health and rights issues, even including a well-received report, the “Vienna Declaration”, indicating that the “war on drugs” is not only a failure and wrong-headed, but helps fuel the AIDS problem around the world.
Actual Home Site of Conference
Issues, Important and Overlooked
The Tyrant of Indifference
In last month’s issue, we highlighted the U.S. Gulf oil disaster. The following article from Foreign Policy shows five massive environmental disasters that continue to this day. They include Nigeria and oil, mentioned last month; China and massive coal fires since 1962; Haiti and deforestation; the Uzbekistan/Kazakhstan’s shrinking Aral Sea; and the ocean’s largest garbage dump - the size of the U.S. and 100 feet deep. I mention these, not to diminish the BP oil spill but quite the opposite – our impact on the earth is ominous both in the scope of these disasters and in the silence about them.
Eco-Concerns – Most Basic
Phytoplankton may not be a normal part of conversation, but a recent article in the prestigious journal Nature indicates a 40% drop in this organism at the bottom of the ocean’s food chain
BBC Summary Article
The Actual Nature Journal articles
Another Obstacle to Clear Perceptions of World
The following article reveals some of the Public Relations (PR) firms in London, England and how they are hired to present more positive pictures of unsavory people or regimes. With many different offerings, it was good to see that some firms set limits – one company turned down a $3 million contract to do PR work on Darfur for Sudan.
PR Firms Tidy-up Dubious Regimes' Images
Grants Honor 42 Writers for Courage Facing Political Persecution
Human Rights Watch awarded 42 writers with grants for their commitment to free expression and courage in the face of political persecution. All are writers whose work and activism have been suppressed by their governments.
Plus, look at a tiny courageous emerging youth movement in Sudan (Girifna) – using non-violent methods, they started during the Sudan elections in April, but endure beatings, repression now. Will this be a brief spark snuffed out, or a crack that can’t be closed?
Washington Post article on new Sudan youth group
Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army 'On Massive Forced Recruitment Drive'
The LRA is one of the world’s most repugnant rebel groups, brutalizing civilians by cutting off limb, ears, noses, killing parents and forcing children to become child soldiers and sex slaves. In 2008 a concerted effort failed to capture the leader Joseph Kony, but it did diminish their numbers. But the article below indicates their numbers are growing again, as they crisscross parts of Uganda Central African Republic, D.R. Congo and S. Sudan. Alleged ties with the government of Sudan persist, alleging that such funding allows the LRA to terrorize and destabilize parts of southern Sudan. The U.S. signed an anti-LRA bill in May 2010, so it remains to be seen if a new strategy with sufficient resources may emerge that will finally rid this repulsive scourge.
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