What Makes a Human Rights Success?

Civil Society, Headlines, Human Rights, Indigenous Rights, Inequality, Multimedia, North America, Podcast, TerraViva United Nations

Indigenous Rights

KATHMANDU, Aug 4 2022 (IPS) – The largest ever settlement in Canadian legal history, 40 billion Canadian dollars, occurred in 2022, but it didn’t come from a court – it followed a decision by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. In 2016 the Tribunal affirmed a complaint that the Government of Canada’s child welfare system discriminated against First Nations children. (First Nations are one of three groups of Indigenous people in Canada).


When I heard about that amount and subsequently how the government was negotiating the details of that settlement, I was astounded. Although I’ve had an interest in and reported regularly about human rights in the past three decades, my most intense experience has been here in Nepal, where for a couple of years I worked at the United Nations human rights office.

Nepal’s Human Rights Commission has a long history of having its recommendations virtually ignored by the government of the day. In fact, since 2000, only 12% of the NHRC’s 810 recommendations have been fully implemented. So when I compared the situation in Nepal to the tribunal’s decision and aftermath in Canada, my first question was ‘how’? How could the human rights situation in the two countries be so different that one government was compelled to pay out $40 billion for discrimination while another could virtually ignore recommendations?

First, I have to confess that my understanding of the human rights framework in Canada and Nepal was lacking. As today’s guest, Professor Anne Levesque from the University of Ottawa, explains, Canada, like Nepal, has a federal human rights commission (as well as commissions in its provinces). But Canada also has the tribunal, a quasi-judicial body that hears complaints and can issue orders. Nepal however, lacks a human rights body that has legal teeth.

But is that the whole story, or are there other reasons why the Government of Canada must – and does – pay up when it loses a human rights case while the Government of Nepal basically files away the NHRC’s recommendations for some later date? Nepal, by the way, is not a human rights pariah. It is serving its second consecutive term on the UN Human Rights Council and the NHRC has been given an ‘A’ rating by an independent organization for conforming to international standards.

Resources

As a lawyer who’s helped fight for the rights of First Nations children, here’s what you need to know about the $40 billion child welfare agreements – article by Anne Levesque

Ruling of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal

Public advocacy for the First Nations Child Welfare complaint

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Indigenous Peoples Must Continue To Challenge Human Rights Violations: PODCAST

Civil Society, Global, Headlines, Human Rights, Indigenous Rights, Multimedia, Podcast, TerraViva United Nations

Indigenous Rights

KATHMANDU, Jul 7 2022 (IPS) – Today we are starting a new series focused on human rights. For people working to create a more sustainable and just world – as we are – a human rights based approach makes sense as it starts from the premise that only by recognizing and protecting the dignity inherent in all people can we attain those goals.


Today’s guest, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, has immense experience in human rights. She is the founder and executive director of Tebtebba Foundation, which works to improve the lives of Indigenous peoples in the Philippines, her home country, and beyond. She was the Chairperson of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples from 2005 To 2010, and UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples from 2014 to 2020.

We cover a lot of ground in this episode — from Vicky’s analysis of her time as special rapporteur to recent rhetoric around ‘building back better’, the circular economy and other touted economic reforms, versus the reality on the ground. Indigenous communities are facing growing pressure from both states and the private sector to extract the natural resources that they are trying to protect. This dichotomy between the words and deeds of these powerful actors must be continually exposed and challenged by Indigenous peoples, says Vicky.

Asked whether governments of poorer countries are doing enough to protect human rights, without hesitating Vicky answers no. But she also points out that these countries are themselves pressured by international agreements, brokered largely by rich countries, that leave them with few options but to exploit natural resources.

She also tells me about an exciting project — the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, a body of 23 global experts, is creating a General Recommendation on Indigenous women and girls. Among other things, it recognize the individual and collective rights of Indigenous women, the latter including respect for their rights to land, languages and other culture. Vicki says it is the first time that a UN treaty body is developing a recommendation focussed on Indigenous women.

Resources

Tebtebba Foundation

UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples

UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigneous Peoples

IPS Coverage About Indigenous Peoples Rights

The dichotomy between the words and deeds of powerful actors must be continually exposed and challenged by Indigenous peoples, says today’s guest, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz

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Citizen Leads Drive to Repatriate Temple Gods Looted from India – Podcast

Asia-Pacific, Civil Society, Headlines, Multimedia, Podcast, TerraViva United Nations

Arts

KATHMANDU, Nov 18 2021 (IPS) – The illicit trade in idols and other historical treasures looted from temples, archaeological digs and various sites globally has been estimated at $100 billion a year.


A more telling figure might be the nearly 18,000 villagers in India’s Tamil Nadu state who turned out to welcome home a god figure stolen from one of their temples. More revealing still is the image of a single villager who, seeing a stolen god displayed in a Singapore Museum, falls to the ground and starts to pray.

Vijay Kumar accompanied that villager to the museum, and has witnessed idols lovingly replaced to their ages-old spots in Tamil Nadu temples.

For 16 years he has been working to repatriate gods and goddesses looted from India over the years, and the challenges remain huge, he tells us in today’s episode. For example, in 2020, police seized 19,000 stolen artefacts in an international art trafficking crackdown. 101 suspects were arrested with treasures from around the world, including Colombian and Roman antiquities. One activist estimates that in France alone there are 116,000 African objects that should be returned.

But Vijay is encouraged by the successes of citizen-led movements like his own, which began with a blog, Poetry in Stone, then the launch of the group India Pride Project.

Success can be measured in the growing number of artefacts returned to India: 19, from 1970-2000; 0, from 2000-2013; but 300+ after 2013. That includes roughly 250 items valued at about $15 million, which were repatriated in October, among the treasures looted by disgraced art dealer Subhash Kapoor, the subject of Vijay’s book, The Idol Thief.

Today’s conversation is packed with information, including Vijay’s opinion that countries like India and Nepal, where idols are part of the living heritage and still prayed to daily, should be treated differently than countries whose artefacts are looted from buried remains. He also has advice for would-be activists — in the murky world of art repatriation, be very, very wary about accepting money from anyone.

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Rural Communities in El Salvador United to Supply Water for Themselves – VIDEO

Civil Society, Development & Aid, Headlines, Integration and Development Brazilian-style, Multimedia, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations, Video, Water & Sanitation

Water & Sanitation

LA LIBERTAD, El Salvador, Oct 8 2021 (IPS) – As the saying goes, united we stand, divided we fall, hundreds of families in rural communities in El Salvador are standing together to gain access to drinking water.


The Salvadoran state fails to fulfill its responsibility to provide the resource to the entire population, and the families, faced with the lack of service in the countryside, have organized in “Juntas de Agua”: rural water boards that are community associations that on their own manage to drill a well and build a tank and the rest of the system.

It is estimated that in El Salvador there are about 2,500 rural water boards, which provide service to 25 percent of the population, or some 1.6 million people, according to data from the non-governmental Foro del Agua (Water Forum), which promotes equitable and participatory water management.

One of those community systems has been set up in the small village of Desvío de Amayo, in the canton of Cangrejera, part of the municipality and department of La Libertad, on the central coastal strip of El Salvador.

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The system provides water to 468 families in Desvío de Amayo and eight other nearby villages.

“Governments have the constitutional obligation to provide drinking water in each country, but when they are not able to do it, as it happens here, the families decided to meet to take decisions and seek support either from NGOs or municipal governments to set up drinking water projects”, José Dolores Romero, treasurer of the Cangrejera Drinking Water Association, told IPS.

Created in the 1980s, this board finally obtained in 2010 a contribution of US$ 117,000 from the National Administration of Aqueducts and Sewers (Anda), the sector’s authority, for the expansion and improvement of its network infrastructure, he explained.

For more information, you can read an article on the subject of this video here.

As agreed by those involved in this effort, each family pays seven dollars for 20 cubic meters a month. If they consume more than that, they pay 50 cents per cubic meter.

“We benefit from the water, it is a great thing to have it at home, because we no longer have to go to the river, remember that we cannot go there because it overflows during the rainy season, so this community system benefits us a lot”, María Ofelia Pineda, from the village of Las Victorias, told IPS, while washing a frying pan and other dishes.

“Before, we had two or three hours of water during the day, and now we have it all day long, I am very happy for that, because I have it all day and all night,” said Ana María Landaverde.

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Civil Society Must Build on Protest Movements – Podcast

Civil Society, Featured, Gender, Global, Headlines, Human Rights, Multimedia, Podcast, TerraViva United Nations

Civil Society

In these tumultuous times, what civil society must do better is channel the energy of the movements on the streets into medium and long-term projects to build alternatives to existing structures, says Lysa John, Secretary General of CIVICUS

KATHMANDU, Sep 6 2021 (IPS) – 2020 was a year of tremendous upheaval. The murder of George Floyd, followed by global Black Lives Matter protests, Covid-19 and the stark light that the pandemic shone on inequality within countries and between the global north and south, protests and brutal repression after elections in Belarus, ongoing demonstrations for climate action led by youth around the world, to name just a few.


Civil society, that is all sectors of our lives that are not family, government or for-profit, played a central role in all of these movements. But are those actions leading to positive results that will change people’s lives for the better?

Today’s guest, Lysa John, Secretary General of CIVICUS, a global alliance of civil society groups, responds unequivocally yes. She points to past examples like the campaigns to recognize women’s right to vote and for legal recognition of gay rights.

In these tumultuous times, she argues, what civil society must do better is channel the energy of the movements on the streets into medium and long-term projects to build alternatives to existing structures.

In these tumultuous times, what civil society must do better is channel the energy of the movements on the streets into medium and long-term projects to build alternatives to existing structures, says Lysa John, Secretary General of CIVICUS

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Civil Society Leading Covid-19 Mask Campaign in South Asia – Podcast

Civil Society, Headlines, Health, Multimedia, Podcast

Health

Civil society leading Covid-19 mask campaign in South Asia

Civil society leading Covid-19 mask campaign in South Asia

KATHMANDU, Jul 30 2021 (IPS) – Footage of flames engulfing bodies at makeshift funeral pyres and stories of people dying in cars as drivers desperately raced from hospital to hospital seeking a bed. These scenes marked the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in India just months ago.


Nepal was similarly walloped: staff turned away people at intensive care units and patients attached to oxygen cylinders were being treated in parking lots. Other South Asian countries were less affected but overall Covid-19 has officially killed 450,000 people in the region since 2020.

With vaccines expected to arrive painfully slowly in coming months—India for example has fully vaccinated just 6% of its population, Nepal 4% and Pakistan 2%—mask wearing needs to be the priority, says the guest on today’s episode of Strive.

Maha Rehman is Policy Director at the Mahbub ul Haq Research Centre at Lahore University of Management Sciences, in Pakistan. She is also a leader of the NORM mask-wearing intervention taking place in four countries in the region, and beyond. She describes NORM’s early success in Bangladesh and how finding a way to embed the programme in local communities in each of these very different countries will be key.

If you enjoyed this first episode of Strive, please help spread the word by rating or reviewing the show on Apple podcasts. You can also subscribe, follow or favourite Strive on any podcast app.

Stay up-to-date with us between episodes on Twitter and Facebook. If you have something to say to me directly email me at mlogan@ipsnews.net.

Resources

Civil Society Leading Covid-19 Mask Campaign in South Asia - Podcast

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