Wednesday, December 12, 2012
The European Parliament yesterday adopted legislation creating a single European patent which will take effect in 2014. Under the new regime, inventors will be able to apply for a single patent from the European Patent Office that will be valid and offer intellectual property protection in 25 of the 27 European Union Member States. Italy and Spain have refused to participate due to an objection that the patents will only be in English, French and German. The adoption of this new legislation should save businesses significant time and money.
US Recognizes National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces as Legitimate Representative of Syrian People
US President Obama announced last night that the United States is prepared to give formal recognition to a coalition of opposition groups formally known as the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. A handful of other States have also recognized the National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. Libya is the only state that has recognized the National Coalition as the legitimate government of Syria so far. This move is intended to further pressure Syrian President Assad to end the violent conflict. It represents the US belief that the National Coalition has created a workable transition plan and is the best hope for the Syrian people following the end of the conflict.
Monday, December 10, 2012
Today is International Human Rights Day; This Year's Theme is "Inclusion and the Right to Participate in Public Life"
United Nations officials today marked Human Rights Day by declaring that everyone has the right to be heard and to shape the decisions that affect their lives and communities. “International law is clear: No matter who you are, or where you live, your voice counts,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the Day, observed annually on 10 December. “On this Day, let us unite to defend your right to make it heard.”
This year’s theme for the Day, which is being observed through numerous events around the world, is ‘Inclusion and the Right to Participate in Public Life.’
The General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) on 10 December 1948 – and the date has since served to mark Human Rights Day worldwide. The UDHR sets out a broad range of fundamental human rights and freedoms to which all men and women, everywhere in the world, are entitled, without any distinction.
In his message, Mr. Ban noted that there has been “undeniable” progress over the past century along the path of inclusion. However, far too many groups and individuals face obstacles, including women, indigenous peoples, religious and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities or those with a different sexual orientation or political opinion.
“These are not just nice ideas,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, stated in her remarks to a Human Rights Day event in Geneva, referring to this year’s theme. “Millions of people have gone on to the streets over the past few years, some demanding civil and political rights, others demanding economic, social and cultural rights,” she said. “This groundswell is not simply a question of people demanding freedom to say what they think. “They have been asking for much more than that. They have been asking for their right to participate fully in the important decisions and policies affecting their daily lives. That means not only the democratic processes, but also the key economic decisions that can have such a huge impact on individuals, families, and even entire groups and nations.”
In a separate statement for the Day, Ms. Pillay saluted all those who have suffered so much seeking what is rightfully theirs, saying that “we have a voice, we have our rights and we want to participate in the way our societies and economies are run.”
The voices of too many women and girls, in particular, continue to be stifled through discrimination, threats and violence, the Executive Director of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), Michelle Bachelet, said in her message for the Day. “This is holding back progress for women and for all members of society,” she stated. “Women’s participation is fundamental for sustainable development, peace and democracy. It is time to remove the barriers to women’s full and equal participation in the economy, in politics and in all aspects of public life.”
As part of today’s celebration, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is holding a high-level event at its Paris headquarters in support of girls’ education, with a special tribute to Malala Yousafzai, a 15-year-old girl who was shot by the Taliban in October for her efforts to defend the education of girls in her native Pakistan. ‘Stand up for Malala – Girls’ education is a right’ aims to accelerate political action to ensure every girl’s right to go to school, and to advance girls’ education as an urgent priority. Speakers include UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and the UN Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown. “Whenever and wherever a young girl is forbidden from going to school, it’s an attack against all girls, against the right to learn, the right to live life to the full; and it is unacceptable,” Ms. Bokova stated last month in support for Malala, who is recovering in a hospital in the United Kingdom.
Observances for Human Rights Day also include a special event at UN Headquarters in New York on Tuesday on the role of leadership in the fight against homophobia, which is organized by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and a number of permanent missions to the UN as well as international human rights organizations.
(UN press release)
Every December 10, the world celebrates human rights by commemorating the adoption of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly. Each year, the United Nations chooses a theme to highlight. This year's theme is "My Voice Counts." The UN is spotlighting the rights of all people — women, youth, minorities, persons with disabilities, indigenous people, the poor and marginalized — to make their voices heard in public life and be included in political decision-making. This year is a particularly appropriate one to highlight the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, to peaceful assembly and association, and to take part in government, (protected by articles 19, 20 and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), because these rights have been at the center of the historic changes in the Arab world over the past two years. These rights have also been at the forefront in the United States where the “99%” made their voices heard through the global Occupy movement protesting economic, political and social inequality.
More information may be found here
Sunday, December 9, 2012
Marking International Anti-Corruption Day, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday called for full global acceptance of an international convention aimed at ending corrupt practices around the world. "Corruption is not inevitable," Mr. Ban said in his message for the Day. "It flows from greed, and the triumph of the undemocratic few over the expectations of the many." Click here to read his statement.
In 2003, the General Assembly designated 9 December as International Anti-Corruption Day to raise awareness of both corruption and the role of the UN Convention against Corruption in combating and preventing it. That same year, the Assembly -- today comprising 193 countries -- adopted the Convention, becoming the world's first global legally binding international anti-corruption instrument.
In his message, the Secretary-General noted that 164 countries have so far become States Parties to the Convention, adding that "we need universal adherence." The Convention entered into force in December 2005, and sets out prevention and criminalization measures targeting corruption, while also facilitating international cooperation and asset recovery.
The UN chief said addressing the problem of corruption had become "all the more urgent" as world governments and institutions seek to craft a new development agenda to succeed the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were agreed on by world leaders at a UN summit in 2000 and have a 2015 deadline for achievement. He also highlighted that the General Assembly's landmark High-Level Meeting on the Rule of Law in September -- which linked respect for transparent justice-based laws to success in achieving peace, security and prosperity -- stressed the importance of addressing and preventing corruption. "Corruption destroys opportunities and creates rampant inequalities," Mr. Ban said. "It undermines human rights and good governance, stifles economic growth and distorts markets."
With the theme for this year's Day being 'Act Against Corruption Today,' Mr. Ban said he was calling on "everyone to work towards a sustainable future, where corruption is exposed and rejected, where integrity prevails, and where the hopes and dreams of millions are realized." He added, "Governments must play their part, and citizens must raise their voices."
Mr. Ban pointed out that the ill-effects of corruption ripple throughout society, denying people vital social services and infrastructure, and denigrating the environment. "The cost of corruption is measured not just in the billions of dollars of squandered or stolen government resources," Mr. Ban said, "but most poignantly in the absence of the hospitals, schools, clean water, roads and bridges that might have been built with that money -- and would have certainly changed the fortunes of families and communities."
Corruption aggravates environmental problems, he said, through such activities as illegal dumping of hazardous waste, or the illegal trade in animal and plant life.
Mr. Ban also flagged how these activities can be facilitated by bribery and under-the-table incentives, which in turn determine who is awarded contracts. He added that this was especially true in the case of "highly lucrative, large-scale infrastructure projects."
(Adapted from a UN press release)