Here, There and Everywhere

Archive for July, 2012

Planned Families Save Lives

From Nation of Change
by Julio Godoy
19 July 2012

Family Planning Essential for Development

Improving family planning to avoid unwanted pregnancies in developing countries, as well as assuring girls’ access to education, and women’s participation in the economy, are essential components of a sound development policy, according to Western experts and African activists.

During a summit on family planning in London last week numerous economic development experts, government delegates from industrialised and developing countries, and private donors agreed to raise some 4.3 billion dollars by 2020 to allow 120 million women and girls in the world’s poorest countries, particularly in the continent of Africa, to access contraceptives and other family planning materials.

The summit underscored the importance of girls’ and women’s access to contraceptives as both a right and a transformational health and development priority.

Simultaneously, gender activists attending the second African Women’s Economic Summit, which concluded on Jul. 14 in Lagos, Nigeria, urged policy makers, corporate organizations and political leaders to step up measures to promote women’s empowerment and remove barriers impeding their economic development.

“I don’t want my daughters … in the coming years discussing these same issues (of women’s education and economic empowerment),” Cecilia Akintomide, vice president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), co-organiser of the African summit, told the audience in Lagos. “I want to see a change in my lifetime.”

During the meeting in Lagos, Nigeria’s finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, emphasized that women’s economic empowerment is no longer simply an option “because investing in women, who constitute half of the continent’s population, is the only way to sustain the growth” recently recorded across the African continent.

“Women are the third largest emerging market in the globe. Women are the third largest source of growth. One of the fastest ways to sustain current growth is to invest in women,” Okonjo-Iweala said.

Participants at the London summit echoed these views, with an emphasis on the health risks associated with unwanted pregnancies.

“Enabling an additional 120 million women in the world’s poorest countries to access and use contraception, something women in the developed world take for granted, will save millions of lives and enable girls and women to determine their own futures,” said Andrew Mitchell, British secretary of state for international development.

Mitchell called the commitments of the summit a “breakthrough for the world’s poorest girls and women, which will transform lives now and for generations to come.”

By 2020, the collective efforts announced in London will allegedly result in 200,000 fewer women dying during pregnancy and childbirth, more than 110 million fewer unintended pregnancies, over 50 million fewer abortions, and nearly three million fewer babies dying in their first year of life.

Avoiding unwanted pregnancies also allows girls and women pursue their own education and improve their professional opportunities.

Numerous studies show that the investment of a single dollar in family planning leads to savings of up to six dollars in health, housing, water, and other public services.

Contraceptive use also leads to more education and greater opportunities for girls, helping to end the cycles of poverty that millions of women and their families are trapped in. Up to a quarter of girls in sub-Saharan Africa drop out of school due to unintended pregnancies.

Based on such evidence, the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) call for gender equality, universal education, and improving maternal and child health, setting specific objectives to be met by 2015.

According to the U.N. 2012 MDG report, released Jul. 2, meeting these goals by 2015, while challenging, is possible, “but only if governments do not waiver from their commitments made over a decade ago.”

In the foreword of the report, U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, warned that the current economic crises battering much of the developed world “must not be allowed to decelerate or reverse the progress that has been made.”

“Let us build on the successes we have achieved so far, and let us not relent until all the MDGs have been attained,” he urged.

The U.N. report points out that the world has achieved parity in primary education between girls and boys. Driven by national and international efforts, many more of the world’s children are enrolled in school at the primary level, especially since 2000.

Read entire story at Nation of Change.

Domestic Slavery

Dear Activist,

Did you know that in the Philippines, more women leave their homes to work as maids or nannies than in any other country? But on their first day of “work”, many learn they’ve been deceived. Locked inside strangers’ homes, their passports taken away, many suffer beatings and sexual abuse. Filipino women are the face of domestic work around the world – and sadly, the face of domestic slavery.

But this summer, we can help change that. The Philippines Senate is voting on a law to protect domestic workers from falling into slavery.

43,000 people have already signed our petition asking the Senate to pass the law. Our partners in the Philippines tell us this wave of international attention is having a tremendous impact! We want to reach 50,000 signatures by the time the Senate comes back in session in three weeks. Please sign and tell your friends today:

Stop Millions of Women and Girls from Being Deceived and Sold Into Slavery

Recently, our partners in the Philippines organized a Walk for Freedom to demand government action. Thousands of people marched in the streets of Manila asking their government to protect millions of women and girls from falling into domestic slavery. Survivors shared their horror stories of leaving their homes to find a job as a maid – only to end up as a slave.

And Walk Free members were there with them in spirit! 43,000 people from 156 countries have already signed our petition calling on the Philippines to sign the law. The world is watching – if the Philippines becomes the 2nd country to ratify the law, under the International Labour Organization’s provisions, it comes into effect.

We need to keep the momentum going – help us reach our goal of 50,000 signatures by signing and telling your friends today! Walk Free will deliver the petition to the Philippines Senate to send a strong message to senators to pass this law as soon as they come back in session.

Stop Millions of Women and Girls from Being Deceived and Sold Into Slavery

Thank you for your support,
Tim, Debra, Lauren, Galit, Martine, David, Josh and the rest of the Walk Free team

Spill Baby Spill – Arctic Oil

Dear Gabriel,

Weeks away from starting the first major offshore oil drilling operations in the Arctic, Shell is pulling a major bait and switch — telling the EPA it can’t meet the air pollution rules the company had already agreed to in order to get a drilling permit.

Shell has known since 2010 it would have problems meeting the rules for nitrogen oxide and ammonia emissions. But officials still told the EPA they could. Now Shell wants the EPA to weaken the rules at the last minute?

It’s clear that Shell simply cannot be trusted. The company’s request gives the EPA the option to cancel Shell’s permit. That’s exactly what EPA must do.

This is our last, best opportunity to block Shell from drilling in the Arctic this summer.

Tell EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson: Reject Shell’s permit to drill in the Arctic. Click here to automatically sign the petition.

This bait and switch is the latest in a long list of broken promises, walk-backs and mishaps which should serve as clear signs to the Obama Administration that allowing Shell to drill in the Arctic is a recipe for disaster.

Just this weekend, Shell literally lost control of its Discoverer drilling rig, which either ran aground or very nearly did so, when its anchor broke while harbored a thousand miles south of the Arctic. Moderate winds are being blamed — yet these winds are mild compared to what it will encounter in the Arctic. The rig, one of the oldest in the world, had a similar anchor malfunction just last year, while it was stationed in New Zealand.

Shell is also having problems with its nearly forty-year-old oil spill recovery barge. While Shell promised the Coast Guard it would upgrade it substantially to withstand stronger weather, Shell now says those upgrades aren’t necessary. The Coast Guard hasn’t yet decided if it will weaken these standards for Shell.

And of course — while we’ve known for some time that the Obama Administration was being hoodwinked by Shell’s hopelessly inadequate oil spill response plan — now Shell has come out and admitted its initial spill response claims were overstated. Shell initially said it could “recover” 95% of oil in the case of a major spill. Now Shell is saying that what it actually meant is “encounter” 95% of the oil — whatever that means.5

Tell EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson: Reject Shell’s permit to drill in the Arctic. Click here to automatically sign the petition.

Shockingly, the Department of Interior has put the probability of an oil spill in the Arctic at 40%.

That is simply unacceptable. With Shell in the driver’s seat, it’s clear that it would be unwise to even bank on those unacceptably high odds.

Shell’s request to EPA is a major opportunity for President Obama and the EPA to revisit the undeserved trust they have put in Shell thus far. It’s time for EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to be a hero, and draw a line to stop the next major drilling disaster in the Arctic.

With Shell hoping to start drilling as soon as the Arctic sea ice clears in the coming weeks, EPA’s response could come any day. Click here to automatically add your name to the petition now.

Thank you for defending the Arctic from reckless offshore drilling.

Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

Working All Over the World

From FINCA

Gabriel,

Ecuador Clients Impacted by Floods Get Back on Their Feet with Microinsurance.

Earlier this year, flooding in the cities of Guayaquil, Quevedo, Portoviejo, Santo Domingo, Libertad and Chone devastated more than 200 FINCA Ecuador client businesses, however clients are rebuilding their businesses, thanks to FINCA’s “Mi Hogar Progegido” (My Home Protected) insurance product. The product, which is provided for a small fee as part of FINCA Ecuador’s loan package, provides clients with a lump sum payment of $500 to rebuild their businesses, replace inventory, or repair their homes, if they are damaged or destroyed by fire or natural disasters.

In addition to cash support, FINCA Ecuador staff collected clothes and household good, as well as funds which were matched by FINCA International, and used to purchase food and supplies. Clients were invited to attend events in their communities, during which they received bags of food donated by local supermarket partner TIA. The chain also offered clients discounted prices in their stores.

The local team is proud that verified claims were processed in three days, in an effort to help clients get back on their feet quickly.

Read more success stories at FINCA.

Oil & Wildlife Don’t Mix

Gabriel,

The Arctic fox is in a losing battle to survive in a warming climate. According to experts, their presence in the Arctic indicates a healthy arctic ecosystem. Unfortunately if Shell gets its way, this ecosystem — and the Arctic fox who call it home — will be forever changed.

Oil industry Giant Shell is halfway to the Arctic to begin exploratory drilling in a region that has gone largely untouched for many years. Exploratory drilling has a high probability of leakage and accidents, and in the remote Arctic there is little chance they could contain a spill.

Should a spill occur, the oil giant’s clean up ‘plan’ is, pun intended, a hollow shell.

We have a plan to stop them, but we’ll need your help. We’re halfway to our goal of raising $100,000 by midnight July 18th. Help support our campaign to save the Arctic and protect our planet by making an urgent gift right now.

What’s our plan? It’s simple. Greenpeace has already mobilized more than half a million people around the world to help save the Arctic.

Celebrities such as Penelope Cruz, Jude Law and Sir Paul McCartney and others have also added their names to our “Arctic Scroll” petition as a symbol of their determination to save the Arctic. Once we reach a million we’re going to take those names, put it on a flag with all the others and plant it at the bottom of the sea 4 km beneath the North Pole.

But that’s not all. The Greenpeace ship Esperanza is on the way to the Arctic right now. We’ll be launching a scientific dive — the first of its kind — to find out what’s actually happening below the surface. We will also continue to expose Shell in the news and social media as well as educate the public about the Arctic.

And just two days ago, we joined with several of our colleagues to challenge filing suit to challenge Shell’s oil spill response plan. We’re in this for the long haul. We need your support.

The fact is Shell isn’t prepared for a disaster in the Arctic Ocean. No one is. With constant high seas, icebergs and massive waves, there’s no way to effectively clean up an oil spill in the Arctic Ocean. Even the head of the US Coast Guard has publicly admitted that his agency would have little chance of dealing with a spill in the frozen Arctic on their own.

We can’t wait for this to happen. Make a gift right now to support our work in the Arctic. Just 375 more gifts from supporters in California to help make that happen.

This is one of the biggest campaigns we’ve ever undertaken. Shell has tried to bully Greenpeace and people like you to keep us quiet and silence our campaign. But we refuse to stand by while they and other oil industry giants destroy the Arctic and our planet.

Greenpeace doesn’t take a dime from corporations or governments. All we care about is doing what is necessary to save the Arctic. But our plans and the polar bears that call the Arctic home all depend on your support. We’re halfway there. Help support our long-term campaign by making a donation today.

Thanks for your support,

Dan Howells
Greenpeace Deputy Campaigns Director

Inclusive Nonviolence

Must We Change Our Hearts Before Throwing Off Our Chains?
by Cynthia Boaz
10 July 2012
Excerpt from Nation of Change

One of the consequences of the Occupy movement’s emergence onto the scene over the last nine months is the escalating disagreement about the role of various strands of nonviolence and nonviolent action in the struggle. In the process, misconceptions about nonviolent strategy are being unfortunately perpetuated by earnest adherents of principled nonviolence and require correction. The phenomenon of nonviolent action is already misunderstood in most media. To see it further distorted by our own colleagues is disheartening.

In an article called “How to Sustain a Revolution” that appeared on Truthout several months ago, Stephanie Van Hook made an eloquent case for personal transformation in the context of nonviolent struggle. The essence of her argument was that acting nonviolently is not enough to sustain a people-powered revolution, and that a person must have nonviolent intentions and the willingness and ability to engage in an internal discipline of personal nonviolence if the struggle is to be truly won. On this point, I don’t have any serious disagreement. While I am not sure I would make the same case that nonviolent success requires this level of individual transformation prior to the waging of the struggle, Van Hook’s argument is similar enough to the case I would make — that nonviolent success requires genuine appreciation of one’s own (and thus our collective) power. I am someone who does not align solely with one camp of nonviolence or nonviolent action, and am someone who believes that both principle and strategy are magnified when they are married. I think our differences here are mostly rhetorical rather than conceptual.

However, in describing what she sees as a key challenge to nonviolent success in the ongoing people power struggles around the world, Van Hook writes:

“Those who profess a commitment to what is called strategic nonviolence know how to start a revolution, that is, in the same way that one would have to fight if one is the weaker party: you do what you your opponent is trying to prevent you from doing, you cast all or most of the blame on them, and you draw upon the sympathies of the masses — the “reference public” — to express your power. In this approach it’s acceptable to use threat, humiliation, and coercion to get what you want, and you often accept short-term and short-lived “success” as your goal. Nonviolence in this approach is simply refraining from physical violence while one’s inner frustrations and pains continue to grow, or are left wholly unresolved. After lighting the match of revolution, a person using nonviolence by this definition can walk away from the responsibility to carrying it forward for the long run. So a people left their guns at home this round? Where will it get them when they decide to take them back out because a limited vision of nonviolence did not bring about the deep changes needed?”

Although I believe it was unintentional, Van Hook’s characterization of adherents of “strategic nonviolence” seems to be guilty of the same sort of stereotyping with which she takes issue. I know hundreds of scholars, activists and journalists who study and engage in this form of struggle, and have yet to meet one who has “professed a commitment to strategic nonviolence.” Such an assertion does not make sense because nonviolent strategy is not an article of faith or a belief system. More concerning, though, is the implication that those engaging in strategic nonviolent action are not just unprincipled, but also undisciplined and lacking in a basic sense of social or civic responsibility.

One part of the problem is in the mislabeling of the phenomenon. By calling it “strategic nonviolence” instead of “strategic nonviolent action” or “nonviolent strategy,” she implies that the phenomenon is fairly classified as a category of nonviolence, but this isn’t accurate. Nonviolence implies commitment to a philosophy that eschews violence in all forms and that adheres to some key principles. By calling it “strategic nonviolence,” which is juxtaposed conceptually against “principled nonviolence,” the field of study with which Van Hook identifies, the suggestion is that the commitment to nonviolence has been made for non-principled reasons. But according to Van Hook’s principled outlook, a person who engages in nonviolent action for reasons other than commitment to principle is suspect because they are not embracing or practicing “true” nonviolence. No wonder there is tension — the person practicing principled nonviolence sees the person practicing “strategic nonviolence” as a pretender.

The other problem with this terminology is that it implies that the phenomenon being discussed is actually attempting to be what is understood by adherents of principled nonviolence as nonviolence. Recall that nonviolence embodies an entire philosophy and set of principles regarding the ethics of eschewing violence. Nonviolent strategy — defined as organized, collective action in pursuit of a clear and achievable objective, carried out with nonviolent weapons — does not, on the other hand, require the practitioner to adopt a philosophy in order to utilize it. In fact, to me, this is a great appeal of nonviolent strategy: its inclusiveness. Anyone can practice it. There is no spiritual or philosophical litmus test. And since unity isa criterion for success in nonviolent struggle, inclusiveness is a very helpful means to achieving that end. And moreover, contrary to principled critics of “strategic nonviolence,” I would argue, the unwillingness to adopt a philosophy of principled nonviolence from the outset does not necessarily make the subsequent action an inferior form of nonviolence. I suppose this is where Van Hook and I really part ways. She wants nonviolent action to be engaged in with full intention and consciousness of the power of nonviolence, while I believe that the use of nonviolent tools produces an appreciation for the power of the phenomenon and probably does more to convert skeptics than any other mechanism. In other words, I believe that commitment to the principle can evolve from the action, which itself is a result of the strategy.

On the other hand, by demanding a commitment to a spiritual philosophy as a prerequisite for joining the struggle, there is a danger of being perceived as (or of actually being) exclusionary. Such a requirement suggests that in order for the practice of nonviolence to be effective, the activist must hold a set of spiritual beliefs about, say, the unity of all life or the imperative to turn the other cheek. But there have been many successful nonviolent struggles waged by people who either held religious or spiritual beliefs different than those commonly found amongst practitioners of principled nonviolence, or who held spiritual beliefs very different from others in the movement, so that there was no unity over fundamental belief systems. The unity came from the commitment to nonviolent action as the most effective set of means to address the injustice. Would these movements have been formed and the struggles been waged if there had been a spiritual litmus test in place before action was taken? I doubt it.

Nonviolent action, when done well, can achieve results. When people come to see its efficacy and power through its use, they may develop more appreciation for the principles called for in Van Hook’s treatise. But whether activists get to the principle prior to action or through it does not matter. One need not necessarily be fully converted to the philosophy of nonviolence before being willing to try a new means of waging struggle. Willingness to take such a risk is the essence of courage — the most important personal quality in the nonviolent activist.

Read entire story at Nation of Change.

Chen’s Family In Danger

Dear Gabriel,

Two months after a Houdini-like escape from house arrest in China, human rights activist Chen Guangcheng walks the sidewalks of New York a free man — thanks to sustained pressure from you and tens of thousands of other Amnesty activists worldwide. Now he urgently needs your help to protect his family back home, which is under threat from Chinese authorities.

I had the great honor of meeting Chen face-to-face last week at New York University, where the self-taught lawyer has taken up formal legal studies. He asked me to share the following message with you:

“When you get back to your office, please say thank you to members all around the world for their continued support and concern for my family. When the opportunity arises, I shall thank them in person.”

Chen received hundreds of messages of solidarity from activists like you after he was detained for exposing forced abortions and sterilizations in China. I’ll never forget how his face lit up when he recounted the encouragement he felt after receiving your handmade cards and handwritten letters.

Your letters provided Chen with the comfort of knowing that he wasn’t forgotten — and they put Chinese authorities on notice that Chen had Amnesty’s millions-strong global human rights movement in his corner.

Now he needs your help again. Chen warned before coming to the United States that Chinese officials would retaliate against his family – and they have. His nephew, Chen Kegui, has been detained and could face the death penalty. Chen Kegui claims he had to defend his family against an attack by plain-clothes local police in his home.

Urge authorities to guarantee that Chen Kegui is given a fair trial and to investigate local officials in Linyi county, Shangdong Province.

As each day passes, our call-to-action becomes more urgent. The court has switched Chen Kegui’s lawyers, calling into question whether he will have access to a fair trial.

Thank you for calling for the protection of Chen’s family today.

In Solidarity,

Suzanne Nossel
Executive Director
Amnesty International USA

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