Thursday, October 17, 2019
Human rights leader, Congressman Elijah Cummings, died on October 17th. Congressman Cummings was the son of sharecroppers who never lost his compassion for the marginalized. As a young boy, he was one of the children who attempted to swim in the Baltimore city pools. He was spat on and attacked. But the pools were integrated. Mr. Cummings' courage was a hallmark of his character. His adherence to his principles was constant and unwavering.
He credited watching Perry Mason with his decision to go to law school. The Washington Post reported that Mr. Cummings witnessed many boys in his neighborhood being sent to reform school. "Though I didn’t completely know what reform school was, I knew that Perry Mason won a lot of cases. I also thought that these young men probably needed lawyers.”
Mr. Cummings was fearless in condemning police brutality against young black me and gave the eulogy at Freddie Gray's funeral. “I’ve often said, our children are the living messages we send to a future we will never see. But now our children are sending us to a future they will never see! There’s something wrong with that picture!”
And Mr. Cummings was the first to attempt to calm demonstrators when their actions led to violence in protest of Freddie's death.
A great human being has passed. His courage and humanity defined him as did his moral commitment to doing what is right. No matter what our political allegiance, we must acknowledge that the sort of courage displayed by Mr. Cummings is rare, and now even rarer.
Wednesday, October 16, 2019
Mark your calendars for the 2019 Physicians for Human Rights National Student Conference, November 15-17, 2019, at Harvard Medical School in Boston. The conference title is Foreign Bodies: Fear of the (Un)Known, referencing PHR's extensive work on medical issues facing refugees and asylum seekers.
Tuesday, October 15, 2019
The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, Dr. David Boyd, is hosting a "researchathon" this month. And yes, he promises, there are prizes!!! And even International Recognition!!!
Here's the info from Dr. Boyd and a link that you can follow to find the submission form :
"As the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, I am preparing a report for the Human Rights Council on good practices in implementing the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. There are currently more than 150 UN member nations where this right enjoys some form of legal recognition at the national level—in the constitution, in legislation, or as a party to a legally binding regional treaty that explicitly includes the right to a healthy environment.
One of my goals for the report is to include at least one good practice from each of these 150+ nations. I am defining “good practice” broadly, as any law, policy, program, institution or other government measure that contributes to improved environmental protection.
The right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment includes procedural and substantive elements. Procedural elements include the right of access to environmental information, public participation in environmental impact assessments and other decision-making processes affecting the environment, and access to justice/effective remedies when a person’s rights are being violated or threatened. Substantive elements include clean air, clean water and adequate sanitation, healthy and sustainably produced food, a non-toxic environment in which to live, work, study and play, healthy ecosystems, and a safe climate. Related cross-cutting issues include gender equity, prioritizing vulnerable populations, protecting environmental human rights defenders, and imposing responsibilities on businesses.
This Google Sheet includes a list of the 150+ nations where the right to a healthy environment is recognized at the national level. Please select one nation, and place your name in the box beside it, committing to email me 1-3 good practices for that nation by October 31. My email address is email@example.com
Your email submission should include
- Name of the country
- Your name
- Title of the good practice(s)
- A concise 1-2 paragraph description of the good practice(s)
- Any evidence that this good practice is contributing to improved environmental protection
- From one to five references that describe the good practice or its effects
Every person who completes a submission will have their name recognized in the UN report and entered in a draw for five great prizes, including autographed books and gift certificates!
EXAMPLE: Good Practices in Implementing the Right to a Healthy and Sustainable Environment
Canada (note this is a hypothetical example, since Canada is not yet among the 150+ nations that legally recognize this fundamental human right!)
- Name of submitter
- Title of the good practice
Eliminating coal-fired electricity generation
- Description of the good practice
The Canadian government enacted a regulation pursuant to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 that effectively requires all coal-fired electricity generating facilities to close down by 2030 (subject to several exceptions). Facilities can continue to operate if they implement carbon capture and storage systems, or in certain circumstances where provinces reach equivalency agreements with the federal government to implement other measures that ensure equal reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
Canada, along with the United Kingdom, also created the Powering Past Coal Alliance, a coalition of dozens of governments and businesses that have pledged to eliminate or avoid dependence on coal-fired electricity.
- Evidence of improved state of the environment
Elimination of coal-fired electricity generation has already resulted in a substantial improvement in air quality in the province of Ontario and will have similar positive impacts in other provinces. There will also be a major reduction in Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions as coal is replaced by a combination of renewables (mainly wind and solar) and natural gas.
Reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from Coal-fired Generation of Electricity Regulations, SOR/2012-167, as amended. https://pollution-waste.canada.ca/environmental-protection-registry/regulations/view?Id=116
Government of Canada. No date. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation. https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/climate-change/greenhouse-gas-emissions/regulations/reducing-electricity-generation.html
Powering Past Coal Alliance. https://poweringpastcoal.org"
So, join in! And kudos to Dr. Boyd for "crowdsourcing" this research and allowing so many to contribute!
Monday, October 14, 2019
Yom Kippur in Germany brought an unsuccessful attempt by a heavily armed man to gain entrance to a synagogue. He was unsuccessful in his attempt to enter the synagogue but killed two men outside. Police believe the gunman acted alone, shot at the entrance to the synagogue. He live-streamed the violence where he denounced Jews as the root of all harm, denied the Holocaust and denounced feminism. Police responded immediately, the live stream video was taken down, and one man is in custody.
This attack is part of the worldwide increase in attacks against Jewish people reminding Americans of the horrible Pittsburgh shooting. How important it is for the world to keep the memory of the Holocaust and other genocides alive. Ignorance of these events will lead to more denial - or worse.
These attackers are hateful and disturbed. The historically oppressed are the targets. Religious minorities, particularly Jewish people, women, and people of color, are the likely targets in white-majority nations.
Countries, and especially the U.S., must honor their minorities. Whether minorities and women are oppressed reveals the character of the country. We reflect on this as the U.S. leaves thousands of Kurds to be slaughtered by invading Turks.
Sunday, October 13, 2019
At a time when the US federal government has chosen to squander humanity's future by not only denying climate change but relaxing industry standards and promoting anti-climate policies, thank goodness for the US cities and states that are responding to concerned Americans by taking decisive action on climate issues -- and shrugging off federal threats to penalize them for taking such actions. As these local leaders recognize, federal denial cannot change the reality of what is happening on the ground.
Still, given the stakes, more US cities need to show even more leadership in this arena.
At the C40 climate summit in Copenhagen last week, fourteen members of the C40 global climate cities group pledged to adopt sustainable food policies as a component of combating climate change. The Good Food Cities Declaration commits mayors to use their procurement authority to promote sustainable sourcing of delicious, healthy, low carbon, affordable, and (did we mention this before?) delicious food for their communities over the next decade.
Specifically, the Declaration calls for the following measures by 2030:
· Aligning cities' food procurement to the Planetary Health Diet, ideally sourced from organic agriculture.
· Supporting an overall increase of healthy plant-based food consumption in cities by shifting away from unsustainable, unhealthy diets.
· Reducing food loss and waste by 50% from a 2015 baseline.
· Within two years of endorsing this declaration, working with citizens, businesses, public institutions and other organizations to develop a joint strategy for implementing these measures and achieving these goals inclusively and equitably, and incorporating this strategy into our Climate Action Plan.
A number of US city mayors are speaking at the C40 summit, including mayors of Seattle, Portland (Oregon), Austin (Texas), Boston, and New Orleans. Many more cities are members of the C40 group. Yet Los Angeles was the only US city to join the Declaration as a founding signatory.
Perhaps there are reasons for this lag in pledges -- for example, the governance structure of some US cities mean that the mayor cannot unilaterally commit to change procurement policies. But by whatever local mechanisms are required, all US cities should be working to bring their food policies up to these standards -- contributing to the global effort to moderate climate change while also alleviating malnutrition and food insecurity.
Thursday, October 10, 2019
On October 22, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights to Water Sanitation will hold the first in a series of three consultations on the meaning of progressive realization in the context of the human right to water. More background is available here. Below is the schedule for three consultations:
- 22 October 2019: public consultation in New York
Together with Franciscans International, the Special Rapporteur is organizing a public consultation.
Date and time: 22 October 2019, 10 a.m. - 12 p.m.,
Venue: Baha'i International Center, 866 United Nations Plaza #120,
- November 2019: online bilateral consultation
The Special Rapporteur and his team are organizing online bilateral consultations via Skype on 1 November, 8 November and 15 November 2019.
Sign-up for the online bilateral consultation is now available.
See background paper guiding questions for further information.
- December 2019: questionnaire to State and other stakeholders
In line with previous practice, the Special Rapporteur will seek input from States and non-State actors by distributing a questionnaire. The questionnaire will be available in December with the deadline of 28 February 2020.
Wednesday, October 9, 2019
If you're teaching US Human Rights this year, you may want to include a focus on corruption and human rights -- necessarily a rapidly expanding area of concern for US advocates.
Here are some resources to get started:
-- The US ratified the UN Convention Against Corruption in 2006 and is subject to periodic peer review in accordance with that treaty's provisions. The US country profile page includes the results of the 2015 review and the most recent self-assessment prepared by the US in July 2019 in anticipation of the upcoming peer review led by the Netherlands and Bangladesh.
--Anne Peters' 2018 article in the European Journal of International Law discusses corruption as not just a human rights concern, but a violation of human rights, and provides background on corruption's place in the human rights canon.
--The report of a recent conference on corruption and human rights at Harvard's Carr Center provides a snapshot of current research and advocacy on the links between corruption and weakening human rights enforcement, including examples from the United States.
Tuesday, October 8, 2019
Thursday, October 10, will mark the 17th annual World Day Against the Death Penalty. This year, the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty aims to use the day to highlight the impacts on children whose parents have been sentenced to death or executed. In 2018, 20 countries around the world carried out executions, with the US among the top 10 executioners. For ideas about how you can join efforts to abolish the death penalty in the US, click here.
Though the fight against the death penalty is a long struggle, the news is not all bad. On October 8, Oklahoma responded to advocates by agreeing to move "qualifying" death row prisoners out of solitary confinement. While it remains to be seen how the state determines which inmates qualify, advocates anticipate that within days, most of these prisoners will be moved to units with more humane conditions, where they can see natural light and interact with other people.
However, one step forward and two steps back . . . in a blow to human rights activists, in July, the Trump Administration announced that it was reinstating the death penalty for federal prisoners. Five people are scheduled for executions in December 2019 and January 2o20 -- the first federal executions since 1983.
Monday, October 7, 2019
Constitutional Scholars better versed can address the upending of what for many of us was traditional first amendment jurisprudence over the past few decades. That separation of religion and government, while frequently tested, was axiomatic. That has changed. Beginning with Hobby Lobby, the amount of litigation based upon religious freedom has exploded. Religious fundamentalists have been patiently working away. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is a cornerstone to prioritizing the religious "freedom", no matter how ugly, over civil law. The proponents have chipped away at women and LGBTQ rights and other populations that challenge power.
Historically the invocation of religious freedom was used to protect believers from dismantling by the state. Likewise, communities were protected from the intrusion of unwanted religious beliefs upon their civil activities. Flipped, religious freedom is now used to unburden believers of their duties as citizens to comply with and uphold the law.
Those claiming religious protection disguise their claims by finding religious reasons for dismissing the human rights of non-conformists. Every major religion has some version of "love your neighbor." No exceptions. Perhaps love should be the test of whether a belief is valid and sincere.
Religions can bring comfort. But when religion is used to perpetuate the oppression of others it is time to challenge the underlying religious interpretations that often ignore accuracy and disregard context. The result is oppression based on sex and sexuality. The cherry pickers of scripture should not dismantle hundreds of years of constitutional interpretation favoring human rights. The expansion of "freedom of religion" without counterbalancing "freedom from religion" offends the very notion of freedom.
Sunday, October 6, 2019
On Monday, October 7, the U.S. Supreme Court will open its 2019-2020 term. The Supreme Court is designed to resolve the hardest cases, of course, but even so, this term already promises an unusual number of contentious issues. Much has already been written about the impact that this conservative Court might have on civil rights and civil liberties issues this term. In addition, the rulings this term may further undermine U.S. adherence to its treaty obligations and to general human rights norms articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Further, in some cases -- for instance, the pending case concerning gun regulation -- the Court may also be asked to take note of the ways in which the U.S. is a human rights outlier.
On the first Tuesday of the term, the Court will hear three cases involving the question of whether Title VII bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender identity. The ultimate question is one of statutory interpretation, i.e., what is the meaning of "because of . . . sex" in Title VII. Similar language in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) -- to which the U.S. is a party -- has been construed to encompass discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. As stated by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, "[t]he legal obligations of States to safeguard the human rights of LGBT people are well established in international human rights law on the basis of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequently agreed international human rights treaties" and include "the right to be free from discrimination."
Among the many amicus briefs filed in the three cases, the brief of InterAct, an organization representing the interests of intersex individuals, draws heavily on human rights analyses to refute the employers' arguments that "sex" under Title VII should be defined rigidly.
The venerable Charming Betsy doctrine of statutory construction is relevant here. In 1804, Chief Justice Marshall wrote in the Charming Betsy case that “an act of Congress ought never to be construed to violate the law of nations if any other possible construction remains.” The doctrine applies whether or not a ratified treaty is deemed to be self-executing.
One rationale for the doctrine is that the Court, a non-political branch, should not unnecessarily place the U.S. in the position of violating its international human rights obligations. This rationale is quite pertinent to the three cases currently before the Court. As a member of the UN, the United States's human rights compliance is regularly reviewed through the Universal Periodic Review process. Should "because of sex" be construed to exclude sexual orientation or gender identity, the U.S. will undoubtedly be questioned about its backsliding. The U.S. is also required to make periodic reports to the UN Human Rights Committee about its compliance with the ICCPR, and the UN's Special Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity monitors worldwide compliance with these human rights. Again, these international monitors would view the denial federal protection against employment discrimination to LGBTQ and transgender individuals as a deliberate retreat from human rights, for which the U.S. would be condemned internationally.
Charming Betsy says, it's not for the Court to make this decision if the language of the statute can support a definition that meets international human rights standards. "Because of . . . sex" is clearly susceptible to this broader construction -- indeed, this construction has previously found favor before many federal courts. Given the stakes, including the serious international repercussions of defaulting on our human rights commitments, the Court should steer away from adopting a more restrictive definition, and leave the matter to the legislature.
Friday, October 4, 2019
October 3 was the deadline for civil society submissions in advance of the UN's Universal Periodic Review of the United States' compliance with human rights, set for May 2020.
Submissions address issues ranging from the treatment of pregnant women submitted by National Advocates for Pregnant Women, to a sharp critique of the U.S.'s fading participation in UN processes, filed by Human Rights Watch, to a review of continuing detention and torture at Guantanamo, submitted by the World Organization Against Torture, the International Commission of Jurists, and REDRESS. Many more civil society submissions will be coming on-line in the next few days and weeks, and in the months leading up to the UN review, this blog will highlight and analyze a number of the submissions.
The US government's own submission is due in February 2020, with the review session scheduled for May 2020. An overview of US UN participation and schedule of reviews is available here.
Wednesday, October 2, 2019
Thanks to the Detroit Mercy Law Review for sending the timely call for proposals set out below. The call doesn't specifically identify human rights as a topic, but we are sure that it's fair game, since the Symposium organizers approached us and since many of the issues that they identify can be framed in human rights terms. For example, the issues of water and sanitation quality and affordability raise important human rights concerns, as does the issue of inter-generational impacts of climate change. So, gentle readers, write on!
2020 Detroit Mercy Law Review Symposium:
Race, Class, and Environmental Justice
Call for Proposals
Deadline: Friday, October 18, 2019
The University of Detroit Mercy Law Review seeks proposals for its 104th annual Symposium, which will focus on Race, Class, and Environmental Justice and will be held Friday, March 6, 2019, in Detroit, Michigan. Proposals, which should be approximately 250–500 words, are due no later than 5 p.m. EST on Friday, October 18, 2019. Possible topics include, but are not limited to: the impact of water and air quality issues on marginalized people; the history of ecological inequities and the law; legal approaches to climate change and global warming; challenges arising from efforts to increase the use of renewable energy; legal and equitable issues connected with deep decarbonization projects; and any other topic related to race, class, and environmental justice. Please include a current CV with your proposal and indicate whether the proposal is for a presentation only, or whether you also plan to submit an article for possible publication. Preference will be given to proposals that include plans for an article, which will be due to the Law Review on Friday, March 13, 2019. Proposals and questions should be directed to Bridget Underhill, Symposium Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, October 1, 2019
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and on October 14, Duke Law will be hosting a unique event that examines US gun policy and domestic violence through the lens of human rights.
Cincinnati Law School Dean Verna L. Williams, Sherry Honeycutt Everett, Legal Policy Director at the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and Aya Fujimura-Fanselow, Senior Lecturing Fellow and Supervising Attorney, Duke International Human Rights Clinic, will discuss issues of domestic abuse and firearms in the United States including what it means to frame and address this issue using a human rights-based approach. Professor Darrell A.H. Miller, Melvin G. Shimm Professor of Law and Faculty Co-Director of the Duke Center for Firearms Law, will moderate the discussion.
Monday, September 30, 2019
Judge Dolly Gee of Los Angeles blocked permanently the Trump administration's plan to detain children indefinitely. The administration's proposal, which the judge referred to as "Kafkaesque" in parts, would violate the Flores agreement. Under Flores, children are to be released within twenty days of the initial detainment. The judge ruled that only Congress can change the terms of the Flores Agreement.
The New York Times reported "Administration officials said that the effort to allow families to be detained indefinitely was an attempt to avoid having to either separate families or release them while they waited for their cases to be heard. " Opponents say that the administration's proposal is part of a plan to stop immigration by separating children and treating them cruelly.
This policy has been unsuccessful to date and has done nothing but cause anguish among families and create a generation of children who are traumatized by the loss of their parents and kept in cages that do not permit any significant play and deprive the children of the sensory comforts they need to feel safe and to flourish.
Sunday, September 29, 2019
September 28th was the International Day of Safe Abortion. As part of bringing awareness to this serious global issue organizations, activists and scholars from around the world signed on to a letter submitted to the 42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council. The letter was delivered on behalf of 37 organizations and 506 individuals. The letter follows:
In the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, States explicitly agreed to prioritize the realization of women’s human rights and recognized that all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. Yet, 26 years later, women and girls’ human rights and bodily autonomy continue to be routinely violated, including through the denial, criminalization and stigmatization of access to safe and legal abortion - all of which is rooted in the discrimination, oppression, violence and coercion affecting the material conditions that shape people’s lives and ability to exercise their bodily autonomy and human rights.
In 1994, Black feminists came together as the Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice, in reaction to the white supremacy, colonialism and capitalism they observed shaping reproductive politics and inherent in the broader population control narratives. Reproductive justice is centered on the rights to bodily autonomy and self-determination, and to parent and not to parent in safe and healthy environments.iii It is rooted in an intersectional analysis and moving beyond an individualistic conception of “choice” to instead place emphasis on the material conditions necessary to exercise reproductive rights. Reproductive justice also addresses the legacy of population control informed by white supremacy and replacement theory, which has resurfaced in current populist politics.
Reproductive justice is achieved when all people are able to enjoy their right to bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive self-determination. It requires people to enjoy economic, social, and cultural rights and freedoms, and the ability to make and exercise choices not limited by oppression, discrimination, stigma, coercion, violence, lack of opportunities or possible consequences. Treaty bodies and special procedures have echoed this need and recognized that the realization of women’s reproductive rights depends on the material conditions in which they are born, grow, live, work and age, and on power structures and resource distribution at all levels - in other words, the social and other determinants of health.v These include access to housing, safe drinking water, effective sanitation systems, access to justice, and freedom from violence, among other factors, and impact the agency that individuals can exercise with respect to their sexual and reproductive health.vi Our discussions on abortion and sexual and reproductive rights cannot continue ignoring these factors.
The realization of reproductive justice, the right to bodily autonomy and substantive equality also requires freedom from control and interference by State and non-State actors, including private companies, donors and multinational corporations, including criminalization of sexual and reproductive behaviors and decisions, restrictive abortion laws, punitive sanctions, and legal restrictions to regulate women’s control over their own bodies.
These laws, policies and practices typically target and disproportionately impact women of color, women from the Global South, women with disabilities, women living in poverty, migrant
women, ethnic minorities and indigenous women, women living with HIV, young women and adolescents, sex workers and gender-non-conforming persons based on racial, class, disability and gender stereotypes.viii
Today, on 28 September, International Safe Abortion Day, we urge States to respect, protect and fulfill women and girls’ human rights and realize reproductive justice for all. We call on states to:
● Ensure access to available, accessible, acceptable and quality sexual and reproductive health services as part of universal health coverage and public health systems, including modern contraceptive options, comprehensive abortion and post-abortion care, financed adequately through taxation and free from control from other governments, multilateral agreements and transnational corporations.
● Remove all legal and social barriers to safe abortion, including its criminalization, which is broader and including sanctions and no sanction regimes, and commit to providing safe abortion services on request.
● Address social and other determinants of health in law and practice from an intersectional perspective to ensure that they enable all individuals to effectively enjoy their sexual and reproductive rights.ix
● Hold private companies and multinational corporations accountable for unethical research practices, violations and abuses of women and girls’ reproductive rights and bodily autonomy.
● Prioritize the meaningful participation of local movements, women human rights defenders and feminists demanding accountability for sexual and reproductive health and rights violations, and center their demands and recommendations for the realization of reproductive justice.
You may listen to a concise version of the letter being read at the UN Council meeting here.
Thursday, September 26, 2019
Following up on last week's post on an article advocating for free menstrual products in schools, we report that the issue has taken on some national publicity.
CBS News reported recently that actress Sophia Bush has taken up the cause against "period poverty". As reported "Bush is partnering with Always which makes period products, to raise awareness about just how widespread the issues is. She plans to help them surpass last year's donation of 20 million products to girls across the country."
The numbers of girls who have missed school due to inability to afford products is astounding. CBS reports the following numbers: 143,000 girls in New York City; 88,000 in Los Angeles; 65,000 in Chicago; 57,000 in Atlanta; and 38,000 in Houston.
The movement is gathering support. The Pacific Standard reported on a group of activists demanding the elimination of taxes on menstrual products and free products in school, prison and shelter restrooms as well as those in public spaces. Boston established a pilot program to devote $100,000 to stock products with school nurses.
This is the time for advocacy to accelerate. With more school systems acknowledging the need, this is the time to bring the same demands to institutions of higher learning and all government buildings.
Wednesday, September 25, 2019
Kudos to the three social justice lawyers among this year's MacArthur Fellows. Lisa Daugaard is a criminal justice reformer and director of the Public Defenders' Association. Her work to develop alternatives to punitive and ineffective law enforcement practices has had nationwide impacts. Danielle Citron is a BU law professor who has taken up the cause of on-line abuse, influencing policymakers to take the issues seriously. Her work focuses on the human dignity issues underlying the invasions of privacy represented by on-line harassment. sujatha beliga is a pioneer in survivor-centered restorative justice, developing alternatives to incarceration and exploring the cultural contexts the support restorative justice.
Together, these three are transforming both law and legal practice to be more responsive to human needs.
Tuesday, September 24, 2019
The UN isn't the only place where national representatives are coming together to discuss human rights this week. In Warsaw, Poland, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)'s annual "Human Dimension Implementation Meeting" is underway. Billed as "Europe’s largest annual human rights conference," the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) brings together hundreds of government officials, international experts, civil society representatives and human rights activists to take stock of how states are implementing their commitments to "the core values that promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms." The meetings are organized by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
The United States is a member of the OSCE and takes an active part in these meetings. The US delegation to the conference is headed by Ambassador James Gilmore, who this year has participated in sessions on anti-semitism, women's rights, journalists' safety, and judicial independence, among others. Links to live stream, twitter, and an agenda for this year's conference are here.
Side events at this year's conference include several sponsored by the US delegation, including one on human rights monitoring in Crimea. A few more were sponsored by US-based organizations, such as the American Bar Association's event on lawyers and human rights defenders. A complete list of side events is here.
Given the US pull-back from the UN, and President Trump's anti-globalist speech at the UN meeting this week, it's refreshing to see an active US delegation at the HDIM apparently fully participating in the proceedings. At the same time, there seem to be very few US-focused advocacy groups in attendance. Human Rights Watch is there, and HRW reps have tweeted a couple of pointed critiques of US participation. Amnesty USA is in attendance, too. Anyone else?
Dozens of domestic advocates travel to Geneva virtually every time the US is reviewed by a human rights body. Meanwhile, in Warsaw, is the US getting a pass at the HDIM? At this year's HDIM, the US delegation has been hosting a coffee hour for NGO reps in attendance who want to talk to the delegation. By skipping Warsaw, are US-based groups missing an opportunity to bring human rights home?
Monday, September 23, 2019
In August the Department of Education threatened to withhold grant monies to programs that present Islam in a favorable light.
According to the Washington Post "The agency ordered the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies to revise its offerings or risk losing its $235,000 federal grant." The administration claims that the program advances an "ideological agenda and promotes a positive view of Islam while virtually ignoring Judaism, Christianity and other religions." The letter was published this week in the Federal Register and is largely interpreted to be a warning to academia.
This must sound familiar to those who studied authoritarian regimes. The state dictating what can and cannot be taught are essential to maintaining a demagogue's power. First universities will lose federal funding. Then watch for professors to be fired, for not demonzing Islam and for other "offenses" that do not conform to the administration's agenda.
Next will be lawyers' arrests. (One judge has already been indicted for not cooperating with ICE.) Law professors beware. Our dual identity may make us more vulnerable but also must make us more resistant.
Sunday, September 22, 2019
This week, foreign leaders will convene in New York for the 74th session of the UN General Assembly.
Monday will kick off with a Climate Summit, hard on the heels of Friday's massive global Climate Strike. Climate strike crowds worldwide were estimated at 4 million people. According to a recent Washington Post poll, two-thirds of Americans believe that Trump is doing too little to address climate issues, and 4 out of 10 Americans believe that climate change is a "crisis."
French President Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, UK's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and other world leaders will be in attendance at Monday's UN Climate Summit. The format will involve national leaders making short remarks highlighting bold initiatives and climate pledges. The US, which will be represented by Marcia Bernicat, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs, has not been invited to speak.
But where in the world is the US President?
Not satisfied with simply not attending the Climate Summit, Trump has organized his own conflicting meeting to discuss religious persecution. And not only does Trump's meeting conflict with the Climate Summit, but Trump's gathering is scheduled to be held in the same building -- what some observers, including Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, see as a deliberate effort to distract attention from the climate issue.
Given the rising concern about climate change, particularly among US young people, Trump's decision to schedule his meeting directly opposite the Climate Summit seems strategically tin-eared and self-destructive. As the poll shows, 80 % of Americans already think the Administration is falling short in this area -- very likely, the percentage of young voters who think this is even higher. These young folks have a lot of energy and a lot at stake -- they are not soon going to forget the Trump Administration's deliberate efforts to undermine those who are trying to take action.
For more background on human rights and climate, see this background info compiled by the OHCHR.
For Greta Thunberg's disarming Ted Talk on climate change and future generations, click here.