Posts Tagged ‘Reuters Thompson Foundation’

About the struggle against statelessness

July 10, 2019

Amal de Chickera of the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion worre on 5 July 2019 an OPINION: “We need to build a global statelessness movement”.

…The denial of the right to a nationality and resultant statelessness is a condition imposed on people (almost always through violating international law), with the intention of weakening them. Statelessness is thus, nothing short of violence. Even as the words and actions of many world leaders cheapen human rights and lives; promote insularity, narrow nationalism, racism, xenophobia, misogyny and hypocrisy and disproportionately target the most vulnerable; those denied legal status, the stateless and those at risk of statelessness are inevitably targeted by the politics of hatred and fear.

Be they Rohingya of Myanmar, refugees fleeing Syria, minorities in Assam India, Dominicans of Haitian origin, single Nepalese mothers, those accused of terrorism in the UK, human rights defenders in Bahrain, or those languishing in camps at the American border; we repeatedly witness the denial of status, the right to a nationality and (risk of) statelessness as a consequence and cause of discrimination, exclusion and hardship.

If the right to a nationality and inclusion were a house, it would be no exaggeration to say global politics and events have (again) lit a spark under its wooden foundation.

Confronted with this reality, over a year ago, our Institute decided to organise a World Conference on Statelessness. This may appear a strange decision, considering the number of all-consuming emergencies globally, but our motivation stemmed from a sense that we cannot always be in reaction mode.

We must confront the issue on the front foot, finding inclusive, creative and effective ways to promote the right to nationality. The conference brought together 300 activists, advocates, academics, artists and others from 60+ countries. One participant referred to it as the ‘A team’, not merely for the alliterative descriptors, but because of the commitment shown to come together and create something bigger and better than the sum of our parts.

But what does this mean?

On an issue as complex and intersectional as statelessness, spanning numerous fields including human rights, migration, child rights, development, feminism, humanitarianism, conflict, economics and politics (to name but some), it is evident that there are no simple or straightforward solutions. The conference however did throw up some clear indicators:

  1. The grand challenges of statelessness: the conference was structured around 10 Grand Challenges focusing on global crises and big issues – the Rohingya, Syria, gender discrimination, citizenship stripping and legal identity etc. These issues are bigger than statelessness but can only be resolved if the right to a nationality and statelessness is understood and prioritised.
  2. The underlying problems: The underlying causes of exclusion and statelessness are most often racism, patriarchy and xenophobia. We can tell right from wrong when a racist attacks a minority child, a misogynist harasses a woman, or a xenophobe abuses a migrant. But when this happens under the cloak of law, procedure and official language, we respond not with anger, but tolerance. We try to find a middle ground. The Kuwaiti Bidoon, the Nepali mother or stateless refugee in Greece are not searching for middle ground. They demand their rights.
  3. Celebrating successes: We have many successes to celebrate, including the Makonde successfully securing their Kenyan citizenship and Sierra Leone passing a gender equal nationality law. We must learn from our successes, as we do from our defeats.
  4. Inclusive, interdisciplinary and effective: We have to confront inequalities among ourselves, accepting the very real barriers to inclusion we face, challenging ourselves to diversify our work and our partners, and ultimately transcend the limitations of our own organisations and contexts, creating something bigger, that cannot be claimed by one entity.
  5. Activists front and centre: A global movement must have courageous activists who defy the odds to fight for their people. We who are not directly impacted by statelessness must step aside and let the real experts set the agenda, guide us and hold us to account.

We have a long way to go, but the stakes cannot be higher. The more nationality is instrumentalised and viewed as a privilege to be taken away from the undeserving, the more we will see people and groups being labelled as such, so they may be excluded, denied and deprived. Our house is burning and we can only stem the fire through a global movement and working together.

SEE ALSO: https://www.unhcr.org/protection/statelessness/53b698ab9/handbook-protection-stateless-persons.html

http://news.trust.org//item/20190705101713-ajq91/

George Clooney: one man shows also carry risks..

May 14, 2019

I mentioned in a positive way George Clooney’s action in the human rights area, recently re Brunei [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/04/brunei-back-to-the-middle-ages-will-hotel-boycott-work/]. I believe his ‘instincts’ are good but there is always a danger with basically a ‘one-person’ outfit that there is insuffcient networking/research and that individual words trump wise statements. Michael Taylor for Reuters reports on 14 May 2019 that “George Clooney misfires among LGBT+ activists over ‘warning shot’ to Brunei neighbours“.  The key issue is that some Indonesian and Malaysian human rights defenders think that their countries – which have a modicum of democratic process compared to Brunei – should not be tarred with the same brush.

Oscar-winning actor George Clooney was criticised by LGBT+ activists after he called a boycott of luxury hotels owned by Brunei a “warning shot” to Indonesia and Malaysia should they consider introducing similar anti-gay laws.  “It sends a warning shot over to countries like Indonesia and Malaysia – who are also considering these laws – that the business people, the big banks, those guys are going to say ‘don’t even get into that business’.

But Clooney’s remarks sparked an online backlash as critics and regional LGBT+ activists pointed out major differences between Brunei and its Islamic neighbours. “I call on George Clooney and Hollywood to listen and work together with local activists and human rights defenders on the ground,” Numan Afifi, president of the LGBT+ advocacy PELANGI Campaign in Malaysia, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Local activists have been putting their lives at risk on the ground working, for years,” Afifi said. “His statement, while well-meaning, might also be counterproductive for our case.”

Dede Oetomo, one of Indonesia’s most prominent LGBT+ activists and founder of LGBT+ rights group GAYa NUSANTARA, also questioned Clooney’s comments. “Malaysia and Indonesia are larger entities and have some democratic processes that although not perfect, they work,” Oetomo said. “Pressure from within is more possible in both countries, though it is frustratingly slow and protracted.”

http://news.trust.org//item/20190514105512-1ox5t/

 

Star power for good: George and Amal Clooney at least try to tackle controversial issues

March 15, 2019

On 16 March 2019 Belinda Goldsmith reports for the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Edinburgh how celebrity couple George and Amal Clooney say they want to use their star power to push for justice globally for women, children, LGBT+ people, religious minorities and journalists. Too many celebrities simply ignore these (controversial) issues and focus instead on less complicated charity work or – worse – serve the human rights violators by lending their name [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/31/amnesty-international-calls-on-golfers-not-to-play-the-saudi-propaganda-game/]

The couple’s Clooney Foundation for Justice, set up in 2016, plans to this year launch, TrialWatch, a project to monitor trials and create an index to track which countries are using courtrooms to oppress minorities and government critics. Amal Clooney, an international human rights lawyer, said it was important to expose injustices and the countries using courts to target vulnerable people, human rights defenders and press freedom. “We now have the highest number of journalists in jail in the world since records began,” she told a charity gala organized by the People’s Postcode Lottery in Edinburgh. [See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/10/16/amal-clooney-speaks-about-the-maldives-at-ai-side-event/]

The Clooneys said they were both committed to using their fame to raise awareness about human rights abuses and corruption. Amal Clooney said her job was less glamorous than it might seem as it mainly involved piling through vast amounts of paperwork but their fame could be used to their advantage. [See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/02/26/george-clooney-speaks-out-on-sexual-violence-in-darfur/]

Her actor husband also played down the glamor of fame, joking about being the father of one-year-old twins, but acknowledged that he had always been determined to use the public spotlight to do good. “I didn’t grow up wealthy,” he said. “If you end up getting lucky, you should share that luck.

Further plea to Nobel foundation to recognize the HRDs of the world

October 5, 2018

On Thursday, 4 October 2018 Michel Forst and Susi Bascon wrote for the Thompson Reuters Foundation a piece entitled: “Growing global authoritarianism means we all need to become human rights defenders”. It is a further appeal to for the 2018 Nobel Peace prize to go to the Human Rights Defenders of the world {see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/09/18/campaign-to-give-the-nobel-peace-prize-2018-to-the-global-community-of-human-rights-defenders/]:

It would be foolish to think that defending human rights is just an issue for people in faraway countries

Every night Juana Ramirez Santiago would deliver her husband’s dinner to the hardware store he worked as a watchman. One evening in late September she called him to tell him she was on her way. She never arrived. Neighbours heard four gun shots then found her lying dead on the street. Juana – who helped found a group to challenge violence against women – was just one of hundreds of human rights defenders brutally assassinated so far this year. 2018 is on course to set a grisly record. 

Tomorrow, the Nobel committee will announce the winner of the 2018 Peace Prize. This year the prize should be awarded not to a person or an organisation but – for the first time ever – to a community: a collective award for human rights defenders like Juana Ramirez all around the world.

Each day, these brave people stand up and speak out for nothing more than the rights which everyone should be entitled. And as a result, each day, many are silenced – thrown in jail, attacked or even murdered.

Yet how many of us have heard their names? They are hidden heroes. Too often they have to stand alone, courageous individuals and small grassroots communities forced to face down crooked legal systems, corrupt multinationals and oppressive governments. That’s why the role of UN special rapporteur for human rights defenders was developed. It’s why organisations like Peace Brigades International – who provide crucial life-saving support to defenders on the ground – exist. 

The prize would shine a global spotlight on their struggle in a year when we mark the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders which outlined how defending human rights is a right in and of itself, not a crime. 

The award could not come at a more urgent time. Not just because they deserve recognition, but because in the words of the late Kofi Anna, “We need to be vigilant in the protection of human rights defenders, for when the defenders’ rights are violated, all our rights are injured.”

Defenders are an example to us all. They show us that our rights are not only granted by law but upheld and protected by communities and individuals. They demonstrate that we all need to be human rights defenders. Particularly now that there’s a growing backlash against human rights. 

It would be foolish to think that this is just an issue for people in faraway countries. Threats to hard won rights are advancing across the West, even in the United States. Just look at women’s rights. Access to abortion is being tightened in states like Iowa, Louisiana and Mississippi.

On LGBT rights it’s still legal to fire someone for being gay in most places in the United States. There are real fears about a rollback of rights from the Supreme Court.  

When even leaders of even the oldest democracies brand the media as an enemy of the people or say that “it’s embarrassing for the country to allow protesters” it’s time to recognise that the struggle of distant human rights defenders is a struggle everyone must face. That is, if we want to continue living in healthy, free and democratic societies.

Make no mistake, the tide has shifted – freedom and democracy are on the defensive. Authoritarianism is on the rise worldwide. That’s why we need to stand shoulder to shoulder with defenders across the globe.  And that’s why they should win the Nobel Prize. Worldwide, a narrative is spreading that human rights defenders are criminals.

The Nobel Prize is the loudest stage we have to challenge the growing discourse that discourse that dismisses and delegitimises non-violent activists as terrorists, anti-patriots, or threats to security and development.

It would send a clear message: to human rights defenders both home and abroad – you are not alone. To those who would harm them – the eyes of the world are watching and your actions will have consequences. And to the rest of us? The rights we don’t defend are the rights we can so easily lose. 

Michel Forst is the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights defenders and Susi Bascon is the director of the Peace Brigades UK

———-

http://news.trust.org//item/20181004153903-7wymp/

Joan Carling – indigenous land rights defender from the Philippines

November 2, 2016

On 1 November 2016 the Reuter Thompson Foundation published an article on a woman human rights defender, Joan Carling, under the title “Malaria, murder and occupational hazards of indigenous activists in the Philippines“.

Joan Carling, a prominent indigenous rights defender from the Kankanaey tribe of the northern Philippines’ Cordillera region. Photo Reuters

A little over a decade ago, indigenous activist Joan Carling from the Philippines Cordillera region lost three colleagues in the space of a few years – all murdered in one of the world’s deadliest countries for land rights defenders. Then came her turn: a relative in the military told Carling’s father his daughter’s name was on the “order of battle”, the Philippines military’s list of people, including activists, who are deemed enemies of the state. “When you are on the order of battle, you are an open target for extrajudicial killings,” said 53-year-old Carling…She kept her head down, hired a bodyguard, then spent several months at a U.S. university having won a fellowship for frontline human rights defenders.

For decades, Carling has been at the forefront of the fight for land and the environment, which London watchdog Global Witness calls “a new battleground for human rights”, with communities worldwide locked in deadly struggles against governments, companies and criminal gangs exploiting land for products like timber, minerals and palm oil.

In 2015, more than three people a week were killed defending land, forests and rivers against industries, said Global Witness. Of the 185 murders it documented in 16 countries, the Philippines ranked among the most dangerous, with 33 deaths last year alone.

Carling, from the Kankanaey tribe of the northern region of Cordillera, grew up on a logging concession where her parents ran a shop. She got her first taste of protest in the mid-1980s while studying at the University of Philippines in Baguio. She spent two months in the Kalinga tribal areas protesting against four World Bank-funded dams along the Chico River, which activists said threatened to inundate 16 towns and villages and displace an estimated 85,000 people. The World Bank ended up withdrawing its funding for the Chico dams, which were never built, and the episode prompted the bank to develop its policy on indigenous peoples, she said.

In the early 1990s, Carling immersed herself in mountainous tribal villages in the Cordillera and worked with the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) fighting for land rights, until the day she fell sick and had to be hauled out on a stretcher. “…..After medical treatment, she went straight back to her duties, hanging her dextrose IV bag on the walls of a building in the town center, where she met indigenous people from remote areas who shared grievances about alleged land grabs.

After working with the CPA to help indigenous peoples at home, she moved on to a regional stage, and nearly eight years ago became head of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Through her work with AIPP, she has helped build a network among indigenous peoples from countries including Indonesia, Nepal, Taiwan and Japan – helping them to feel less isolated. She has turned her attention to the impacts of climate change and solutions such as hydropower, which often have a negative impact on indigenous communities.

Carling expressed concern about the “narrow conservation approach” of taking people out of the environment to protect the environment, instead of allowing indigenous peoples to protect the resources and watersheds on their ancestral land. “Indigenous people are actually the natural conservationists because it’s part of our being – to protect and conserve our natural environment because we need to pass it on to future generations,” Carling said. “That is the wisdom of the indigenous people – we only use what we need.” 

Source: http://news.abs-cbn.com/focus/11/02/16/malaria-murder-and-occupational-hazards-of-indigenous-activists-in-the-philippines