UN and US Congress Act to Curtail Female Cutting Globally

Young girls in Sierra Leone about to be circumcised

Only four days before Christmas, when many minds were fixated on the year-end holidays, two important steps were taken almost unnoticed to combat female genital mutilation globally, raising hopes that millions of girls might be spared the excruciatingly painful and harmful yet persistent practice. In what Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called “historic” UN action, the General … Read more

Deep Flaws in UN Response to Sri Lanka Include R2P Failure

Tamil Tiger cadres loading up in Sri Lanka

The United Nation’s internal report on its role during the final stages of the prolonged civil war in Sri Lanka was unusually critical of the Secretariat and highlighted major shortcomings in the UN’s response to the fighting. The report, which was leaked to the BBC days before its official release on Nov. 15, forced top … Read more

US Foes of Disability Treaty Reflect Discomfort With UN

At the UN's International Day of Persons with Disabilities

In blocking adoption by the United States of a global convention to protect the disabled, the Republican right signaled on Dec. 4 that it intends to stall or kill all international treaties sent to the Senate for ratification by the Obama administration. Even pleas from a frail and crippled Bob Dole, a former senator, in … Read more

WORLDVIEWS

The Last Throes of the Death Penalty?

Texas Moratorium Network

Mores in societies change over the years. While slavery, torture and public executions were once a global phenomenon, and foot binding and deadly duels were deeply entrenched aspects of regional cultures, they are no longer considered acceptable by the international community. In line with what the United States Supreme Court once called “evolving standards of … Read more

 

New Human Rights Council Members, Some Already Sullied

GA votes on Human Rights Council members

Eighteen members were elected by the United Nations General Assembly to the Human Rights Council on Nov. 12. The members, serving three-year terms beginning Jan. 1, join 29 other countries on the council. Of the 18 new members, only the United States was seeking a second term. The other states chosen were Argentina, Brazil, Estonia, … Read more

WORLDVIEWS

Aung San Suu Kyi, of Burma, Making No ‘Easy Promises’

Aung San Suu Kyi at the United Nations, Sept. 21, 2012

WASHINGTON — Though the national elections in the United States loom less than seven weeks away, partisan bickering was agreeably suspended for one day last week here, when the Burmese dissident, Aung San Suu Kyi, was honored by top Republicans and Democrats with the US Congressional Gold Medal. The award had originally been made to … Read more

Two Faces of Burma Coming to New York

Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese opposition leader, leaves Westminster Hall.

It may have been a coincidence or maybe not. When the 67th United Nations General Assembly session opens in New York in mid-September, the president of Burma, Thein Sein, is expected to speak in what is still called, quaintly, the “general debate.” At almost the same time, Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize … Read more

Cool Men Don’t Buy Sex

Ruchira Gupta, founder of Apne Aap

After Ruchira Gupta, an Indian journalist, produced an Emmy Award winning documentary, “The Selling of Innocents,” about trafficking of women and girls from Nepal to India, she and 22 other women, from Mumbai’s red-light district who were featured in the film, founded Apne Aap Women Worldwide in 2002. They wanted to forge a world where … Read more

 

UN Security Council to Study Child Soldier Use in Colombia

BOGOTÁ — Two longstanding Colombian armed groups are cited in the United Nations secretary-general’s annual “list of shame” released this month, enumerating parties who use children in armed conflict, among other related human-rights abuses. The country’s two major antigovernment guerrilla groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or Farc, and the National Liberation Army (Eln), have … Read more

Nursing Fellow Burmese in Thailand Against Many Odds

Dr. Maung

GENEVA — Dr. Cynthia Maung doesn’t care that much about the high-level Rio+20 United Nations conference on sustainability this week. And it doesn’t matter to her that the country she lives in, Thailand, is advancing a green agenda. Dr. Maung, a general practitioner, prefers to see action on the ground to help the refugee and … Read more

Rights Violations Tarnish Democracy in South Asia

Cooks at the Tharanikulam Ganesh School in Vavunya, Sri Lanka

The mind-numbing daily reports of death and destruction in Afghanistan and Pakistan obscure a larger issue: the prevalence of political and ethnic violence across South Asia, a region dominated by India that includes Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Maldives and Bhutan. Recently, the publication of two annual global reports on human rights – from the … Read more

A Long, Long Way to Walk in Myanmar

Myanmar dissident

GENEVA — The victory of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and Myanmar dissident, in winning a seat in Parliament has indicated a rapid shift toward democratic reform in the country. But Zoya Phan, a longstanding advocate for the Karen ethnic group in Myanmar, is cautious about the developments. Phan was here … Read more

 

Native Americans Still Suffer ‘Profound Hurt,’ the UN Says

apache dancers

The relationship between the United States government and the United Nations machinery of human rights reporting has been a troubled one. Over the years, numerous UN rights monitors – called rapporteurs — have often been unwelcome visitors, sometimes refused permission to visit institutions like prisons or courts in some American states. The reception got a … Read more

Nagging Hunger Undermines Millennium Poverty Goal

eradicating hunger

The first of the eight Millennium Development Goals makes an ambitious demand: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger worldwide. It is now widely accepted that progress has been made in many countries on cutting the percentage of people living with less than the rock-bottom $1.25 a day. But decreasing hunger by half is another sadder story. … Read more

Paying Attention to the Hidden Strengths of Rural Women

commission on status of women

Rural women are worse off than their urban counterparts and their male neighbors. They are generally poorer, less educated, discriminated against and left with limited health care choices and jobs, yet they are classic behind-the scene doers, often performing most of the unpaid work at home and on farms, while producing a majority of the … Read more

Worked to Death in Lodz

Polish ghetto

  In the Lodz ghetto in the center of German-occupied Poland, residents were not allowed to own cameras, but at least two professional photographers there, commissioned by the local Department of Statistics for the Jewish Council, documented the area’s slide, from 1940 to 1944, into near obliteration. The images by Mendel Grossman and Henryk Ross … Read more

 

Time for a Gray Revolution?

older people issues

The United Nations is the place to go for people who are oppressed or neglected to discuss their problems and try to find solutions. One of the most recent special-interest groups to meet at the UN highlighted the plight of older people, who, of course, have grievances and want to be heard. “No longer is … Read more

Fighting the Use of Child Soldiers With a List

The “naming and shaming” tool has been the most successful mechanism so far in the United Nations’ arsenal on ending the practice of child soldiers in the last 10 years, said Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN secretary-general’s special envoy for children and armed conflict since 2006. Yet pockets of child soldier use still elude efforts by … Read more

A Story From Nagaland

It is a very long trip to the Indian Northeast, a singular region connected to the rest of the country by a mere strip of land that skirts Bangladesh. Few foreigners go to the area or get to know its ethnically distinct people. So for Athili Sapriina, a local human-rights advocate, it was also a … Read more

Human Rights Chief Calls for More Action in Syria

As violence continues unabated in Syria despite tough economic and travel sanctions from such big players as the Arab League, the European Union, Turkey and the United States, the head of the UN’s high commissioner for human rights has spoken out by calling for international intervention to protect civilians against government attacks. Navi Pillay, the … Read more

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