Friday, 14 March 2014

Myanmar: The systematic repression of the Rohingya minority continues | by Maung Zarni

“What can we do, brother? There are too many. We can’t kill them all.”

He said it matter-of-factly—a former brigadier and diplomat from my native country, Myanmar, about Rohingya Muslims.

We were in the spacious ambassadorial office at Myanmar Embassy in an ASEAN country when this “brotherly” conversation took place. I am familiar with Myanmar’s racist nationalist narrative. I have also worked with the country’s military intelligence services in pushing for the gradual re-engagement between the West and our country, then an international pariah. Apparently, knowledge of my background made the soldier feel so at ease that he could make such a hateful call in a friendly conversation on official premises in total candor: Islamophobia normalized in the highest ranks of the bureaucracy and military in Myanmar.

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Wednesday, 11 December 2013

USA: State Gun Laws Enacted in the Year Since Newtown

Filed under: Business, Human Rights, Environment,children and youth,Disarmament — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 16:42 PDT

In the 12 months since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., almost every state has enacted at least one new gun law. Nearly two-thirds of the new laws ease restrictions and expand the rights of gun owners. Most of those bills were approved in states controlled by Republicans. Those who support stricter regulations won some victories — mostly in states where the legislature and governorship are controlled by Democrats — to increase restrictions on gun use and ownership. Select categories from the table below to see all gun bills that passed at least one chamber of a state legislature.

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Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The other violence in Latin America

This work is a continuation of an earlier work, Militarism in Latin America. This new report deals with the other violence in Latin America, that is the violence, both armed and political that arises from social struggles that conflict resolution studies centers do not usually evaluate.

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Monday, 1 July 2013

McDonald’s Refuses to Operate in Jewish Settlement

Filed under: Business, Human Rights, Environment,Human Rights,Middle East — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 12:29 PDT

JERUSALEM — The McDonald’s restaurant chain refused to open a branch in a West Bank Jewish settlement, the company said Thursday, adding a prominent name to an international movement to boycott Israel’s settlements.

Irina Shalmor, spokeswoman for McDonald’s Israel, said the owners of a planned mall in the Ariel settlement asked McDonald’s to open a branch there about six months ago. Shalmor said the chain refused because the owner of McDonald’s Israel has a policy of staying out of the occupied territories. The decision was not coordinated with McDonald’s headquarters in the U.S., she said. In an email, the headquarters said “our partner in Israel has determined that this particular location is not part of his growth plan.”

The Israeli branch’s owner and franchisee, Omri Padan, is a founder of the dovish group Peace Now, which opposes all settlements and views them as obstacles to peace. The group said Padan is no longer a member.

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Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Human rights lawyers look for silver lining in Kiobel black cloud

Filed under: Africa files,Business, Human Rights, Environment,Environment,Human Rights — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 16:09 PDT

When the U.S. Chamber of Commerce rushes out a statement hailing a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, you can be sure that opinion is a defeat for plaintiffs’ lawyers. So it is with the court’s long-awaited ruling Wednesday in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum. All nine justices agreed with Shell’s counsel at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan that claims by a group of Nigerian nationals suing under the Alien Tort Statute for Shell’s alleged abetting of state-sponsored torture and murder in their country should be dismissed, though they split on precisely why. The majority, in an opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, held that the presumption against extraterritoriality, most recently articulated by the court in Morrison v. National Australia Bank, applies to the Alien Tort Statute even though the ATS, unlike laws regulating conduct, is strictly a jurisdictional statute. Roberts’ opinion rejected (among other things) arguments that because the ATS was enacted to address piracy on the high seas, it extends to atrocities committed on foreign soil.

Corporations like Shell, which are based outside of the United States, can now rest assured that they cannot be sued under the ATS by non-U.S. nationals who claim to have suffered harm from the corporation’s activities abroad – an outcome greeted warmly by pro-business interests. But in a call with reporters on Wednesday afternoon, human rights lawyers tried to look on the bright side, pointing to indications throughout the court’s majority opinion and three concurrences that all is not lost for victims who want their day in a U.S. courtroom.

Those indications begin with Roberts’ concluding words in the majority holding. Yes, he said, the presumption must be against extraterritorial application of the ATS, but that presumption is not inviolable when there’s a strong connection between the United States and the allegations asserted. “Where the claims touch and concern the territory of the United States, they must do so with sufficient force to displace the presumption against extraterritorial application,” Roberts wrote.

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Human Rights Will Survive Kiobel

Filed under: Africa files,Business, Human Rights, Environment,Human Rights — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 16:04 PDT

This is a tough loss for the human rights advocacy community, ending an era that began with the Second Circuit’s rediscovery of the Alien Tort Statute in its 1980 decision in Filartiga v. Pena. As Julian highlights below, Justice Kennedy may have left the door ajar to future claims, but only barely. Even Breyer’s concurrence — the rejection of the claim was unanimous, which must make it hurt a little more — sets a bar of a “distinctly American interest”, which may translate in the days of compartmentalized multinationals to the presence of US citizen victims. Lots of claims are going to get thrown out in Kiobel’s wake.

Does this mean that corporations can turn a blind eye to human rights? Not a chance.

 

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Monday, 1 April 2013

Gas Industry Report Calls Anti-Fracking Movement a “Highly Effective Campaign”

Filed under: Business, Human Rights, Environment,Environment — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 12:57 PDT

Communities working to stop a controversial gas drilling process are getting what sounds like encouragement from an unlikely source: a report prepared for the oil and gas industry on the risks posed by those communities themselves. Even more bizarre than a risk assessment about grassroots activists is one that basically admits the activists are right.

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Kiobel case: Corporate accountability for human rights abuses

Filed under: Business, Human Rights, Environment,Environment,Human Rights — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:29 PDT

The United States Supreme Court is poised to issue a ruling in the case of Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum. The stakes are enormous – the case will determine whether victims of human rights abuses on foreign soil, who often lack any other viable legal remedy, can bring suit against corporations in US courts.

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Saturday, 5 January 2013

More Guns = More Killing

Filed under: Business, Human Rights, Environment,Disarmament,Latin America & Caribbean — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 10:52 PDT

In the wake of the tragic shooting deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last month, the National Rifle Association proposed that the best way to protect schoolchildren was to place a guard — a “good guy with a gun” — in every school, part of a so-called National School Shield Emergency Response Program.

Indeed, the N.R.A.’s solution to the expansion of gun violence in America has been generally to advocate for the more widespread deployment and carrying of guns.

I recently visited some Latin American countries that mesh with the N.R.A.’s vision of the promised land, where guards with guns grace every office lobby, storefront, A.T.M., restaurant and gas station. It has not made those countries safer or saner.

Despite the ubiquitous presence of “good guys” with guns, countries like Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia and Venezuela have some of the highest homicide rates in the world.

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Thursday, 3 January 2013

Lessons in organization and dignity from the Zapatistas

Filed under: Business, Human Rights, Environment,Indigenous Peoples,Latin America & Caribbean,Nonviolence — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 11:39 PDT

January 1 was the anniversary of the public appearance of the EZLN, the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, in 1994. From early in the morning on December 31, 2012, thousands of families arrived carrying food, blankets and supplies in the town of “Caracol” de Oventic, located about 40 miles from San Cristóbal de las Casas, in the Mexican state of Chiapas. In Oventic, where the Zapatista Council of Good Governance is located, thousands celebrated 19 years of struggle and resistance during a political-cultural festival that lasted until dawn. Two days before, the EZLN published a communiqué explaining its next steps, following the recent massive mobilization on December 21.

What the Zapatistas achieved in Chiapas could only have been achieved with dignity, organization and discipline. On the day that the Mayans predicted the end of one calendar cycle and the beginning of another, at least 50,000 Mayan Zapatistas came out of their autonomous zones to march in silence in five Chiapas cities: Ocosingo, Palenque, Altamirano, Las Margaritas and San Cristóbal de las Casas.

This action was the largest nonviolent mobilization in the history of the Zapatista movement…

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Saturday, 29 December 2012

Yukon | Decision’s effects will be expansive: lawyer

Filed under: Business, Human Rights, Environment,Environment,Human Rights,Indigenous Peoples — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 18:32 PDT

A decision by the Yukon Court of Appeal will have huge implications for the mineral exploration industry in the Yukon, says Whitehorse lawyer Stephen Walsh.

The Court of Appeal ruled the Yukon government has a legal obligation to consult with the Ross River Dena Council before mineral claims are staked in the Ross River area.

Notifying the First Nation after a claim has been staked does not satisfy the duty to consult as defined by the Supreme Court of Canada, the three judges of the appeal court agreed in the 15-page decision released Thursday.

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Friday, 28 December 2012

Idle No More Is Not Just an “Indian Thing” | Wab Kinew, University of Winnipeg | #idlenomore

What is “Idle No More”?

It is a loosely knit political movement encompassing rallies drawing thousands of people across dozens of cities, road blocks, a shoving match on Parliament Hill between chiefs and mounties and one high profile hunger strike.

It is also a meme tweeted and shared about thousands of times a day, for messages about indigenous rights, indigenous culture and cheap indigenous jokes (“Turn off your ignition #idlenomore”).

The name Idle No More comes from a recent meeting in Saskatchewan. Sylvia McAdam and three others were mad about Bill C-45, the omnibus budget bill. Their biggest frustration was that nobody seemed to be talking about it. Two provisions in particular upset them: the reduction in the amount of federally protected waterways and a fast tracked process to surrender reserve lands. In McAdam’s view, if Aboriginal people did not speak out it would mean they “comply with [their] silence.” So she and her friends decided to speak out. They would be “Idle No More.” They held an information session under the same name. Co-organizer Tanya Kappo fired off a tweet with the hashtag “#IdleNoMore.”

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

170 legal victories empower First Nations in fight over resource development

Filed under: Business, Human Rights, Environment,Environment,Human Rights,Indigenous Peoples — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:06 PDT

The wakeup call: Corporate interests need to accept what the courts already have — that First Nations now hold the balance of power in deciding the fate of Canada’s resource projects because they have rights that others don’t

Canada is orchestrating a big push to accelerate development of its natural resources, but behind the hype there is a shifting and tense legal landscape. First Nations are on a big winning streak in the courts that has empowered them to have a say on projects in big parts of the country.

The tension is pushing corporations to spend huge dollars to keep the peace and move projects along in areas First Nations claim as their traditional lands.

But the approach is piecemeal and there have been few consistently successful strategies. Tension, frustration and confrontation abound. Lawyers, consultants and vested interests fuel and feed off the tension, making it hard to come up with solutions.

Many projects worth billions of dollars have been delayed or sunk altogether.

They include scores of mining, forestry and pipeline projects such as the now-shelved Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline in the Northwest Territories. The Northern Gateway pipeline could be next unless accommodation is found with opposed First Nations in the B.C. interior and on the coast.

Bill Gallagher, a former federal government regulator, oil and gas lawyer, treaty negotiator, and author of a new book, Resource Rulers, Fortune And Folly on Canada’s Road to Resources, argues there is a better way.

“The current situation in terms of access to resources, with the overarching tensions, has become unsustainable,” Mr. Gallagher said in an interview. “That is the key to the whole thing. Recognizing that Plan A has not worked; let’s put a Plan B together.”

The good news: Canadian First Nations are not opposed to development.

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Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Corruption: It’s Easier Than You Think

Filed under: Business, Human Rights, Environment,News Watch Blog,Southeast Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 06:12 PDT

WASHINGTON — When I lived in Cambodia, I got into a lot of fights. I’d protest the fruit seller who was overcharging me for mangoes because I was American. I’d wave my hands at the police officer who fined me for driving on the correct side of the road. I’d get angry with doctors at the “free” clinic for charging poor patients for drugs.

My Cambodian boyfriend usually just watched and shook his head.

But when we went to the Justice Ministry to get papers for his U.S. visa application, he told me not to fight. Not this time. Just go with it, he said, as he handed money to the clerk to get his papers the same day.

It made me wonder, why do people accept corruption that’s exploiting them? Why defend a government that runs off bribes or nepotism?

“We rationalize the status quo because it reassures us that things are under control and we’re going to be able to have a predictable life,” says Justin Friesen, a doctoral candidate at Ontario’s University of Waterloo and co-author of “Why Do People Defend Unjust, Inept and Corrupt Systems,” published in Current Directions in Psychological Science.

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Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Governments should hear the global outcry against corruption

A growing outcry over corrupt governments forced several leaders from office last year, but as the dust has cleared it has become apparent that the levels of bribery, abuse of power and secret dealings are still very high in many countries. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2012 shows corruption continues to ravage societies around the world.

Two thirds of the 176 countries ranked in the 2012 index score below 50, on a scale from 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived to be very clean), showing that public institutions need to be more transparent, and powerful officials more accountable.

“Governments need to integrate anti-corruption actions into all public decision-making. Priorities include better rules on lobbying and political financing, making public spending and contracting more transparent and making public bodies more accountable to people,” said Huguette Labelle, the Chair of Transparency International.

“After a year of focus on corruption, we expect governments to take a tougher stance against the abuse of power. The Corruption Perceptions Index 2012 results demonstrate that societies continue to pay the high cost of corruption,” Labelle said.

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Monday, 12 November 2012

MYANMAR: Concern over international peace efforts

Filed under: Business, Human Rights, Environment,Environment,Human Rights,Myanmar,Southeast Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 21:45 PDT

CHIANG MAI – Civil society groups in Asia are calling for a review of donor-funded peace initiatives in Myanmar, expressing concern that their pace is too fast, they pay little heed to the humanitarian cost of economic development, and may do more harm than good.

“Most of the conflict, human rights abuse and environmental destruction [are] directly involved with planned resource extractions in ethnic areas,” said Wong Aung, an adviser for the Shwe Gas Movement, a watchdog NGO based near the Thai-Burmese border in Chiang Mai, which was set up in response to the exploitation of gas deposits off the coast of Arakan State in western Myanmar.

The NGO is part of the Burma Partnership, an alliance of 16 activist and civil society groups throughout Southeast and East Asia that commends the “well-intentioned” peace funds, but fears they can undermine long-term stability in conflict-affected border areas heavily populated by ethnic minorities. “If… environmental concerns or human rights violations are overlooked, the security situation on the ground will never be resolved,” Wong Aung added.

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Dealing with an Angrier Public

Filed under: Business, Human Rights, Environment,Dispute resolution and negotiation,Environment,Human Rights — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:48 PDT

In 1996, we published the book Dealing with an Angry Public. In it we raised concerns about the distrustful attitudes that citizens have toward government and corporations, and the inability of these institutions to respond to public concerns in a robust, inclusive, and effective way. We put forward six principles that might help win back the public’s trust. We expected that leaders and organizations that adopted these principles would be better off.

Dealing with an Angry Public: The Mutual Gains Framework

  1. Acknowledge the concerns of the other side
  2. Encourage joint fact finding
  3. Offer contingent commitments to minimize impacts if they do occur; promise to compensate unintended effects
  4. Accept responsibility; admit mistakes, and share power
  5. Act in a trustworthy fashion at all times
  6. Focus on building long-term relationships

We can now cite hundreds if not thousands of cases in which our Angry Public principles and related tools and techniques increased trust, decreased pubic anger, and resulted in positive results…

More broadly, many corporations and governments around the world are now incorporating a serious commitment to sustainability in their operations, addressing social, economic, and environmental issues simultaneously. Corporate stakeholder engagement efforts have led to the adoption of voluntary standards for human rights …

Yet in most respects our desire to spur a different kind of public discourse has not panned out. We have not seen substantial changes in government or corporate behavior…

Why are we more divided than ever before? We believe there are three reasons: 1) distrust of science and expertise as a neutral foundation for policymaking has grown dramatically; 2) engagement with public and common activities has eroded; and 3) a deep economic and demographic anxiety has infected the country…

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Friday, 9 November 2012

Meet 4 African Women Who Are Changing The Face Of Coffee

Filed under: Africa files,Business, Human Rights, Environment,Environment,gender,Rwanda — story spotted by Ernie Fraser @ 13:01 PDT

If you’re a coffee drinker, chances are the cup of java you drank this morning was made from beans that were produced or harvested by women. Women’s handprints can be found at every point in coffee production.

In fact, on family-owned coffee farms in Africa, about 70 percent of maintenance and harvesting work is done by women, according to an analysis by the International Trade Centre, but only rarely do women own the land or have financial control.

The International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) is trying to change that by giving them access to training and networking, and the opportunity to develop new trade relationships…

Fatima Aziz Faraji … manages a family coffee farm called Finca Estate in Tanzania. She’s pushed for a larger voice for women by filling the seats on coffee oversight boards traditionally reserved for men. For instance, she’s getting ready to begin a stint on the Tanzanian Coffee Board, and she’s a co-director of the Tanzania Coffee Research Institute.

So what is the IWCA’s alliance doing for women in her country? She explains the IWCA is bringing women together who previously had no access to each other, or the outside world.
The International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) is trying to empower women in the coffee sector through training, networking and new trade development.

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Sunday, 28 October 2012

Filed under: Business, Human Rights, Environment,Cambodia,Environment — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 15:10 PDT

Chet Borei district, Kratie province – Sitting at his outpost overlooking the Mekong River, Deab Kuy remembers an incident some years ago when fishermen threatened to attack him if they were stopped from casting their nets around the river’s sandy islets here in Sambok commune.

The outpost, little more than a wooden house on the banks of the Mekong, is one of 15 set up in Kratie and Stung Treng provinces where a total of 77 unarmed “river guards” monitor local fishing communities in an effort to protect the area’s endangered freshwater dolphins.

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Monday, 22 October 2012

Northern Gateway Pipeline Protest To Defend BC Coast

Filed under: Business, Human Rights, Environment,Environment,Nonviolence — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 23:36 PDT

VICTORIA – Thousands of protesters who packed the front lawn of the British Columbia legislature Monday yelled a thunderous “Yes” when asked if they were willing to lay down in front of pipeline bulldozers if the Northern Gateway project is approved.

But despite the crowd’s verbal willingness to risk arrest or injury to stop the pipeline, Victoria Police proclaimed the protest peaceful and arrest free.

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