FEATURED PHOTOS AND STORIES

Friday:  August 15, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in Senegal (9)

Wednesday
Apr182012

Islamic States Announce Own Media Channel (REPORT) 

(PHOTO: Opening ceremony of the Information Minsiters meeting of the OIC, Gabon/IINA)(HN, April 18, 2012) - Today, Information Ministers of the member States of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) started the 9th Islamic Conference of Information Ministers (ICIM); a three-day meeting in the capital of Gabon, Libreville hosted by President Ali Bongo Ondimba.

The group is focusing its attention on  "Information Technologies in the service of peace and development” at the Conference Palace in Democracy City and is being attended by a group of ministers and delegates representing 57 member countries.

Morocco who is Chair of the 9th session, and other member representatives, made speeches in which they stressed the importance of the meeting being held during a time characterized by "a multitude of challenges in the world in general, and in the Muslim Ummah world in particular.  

Speakers urged broadcasters to counter stereotypes about Islam and Muslims in the Western media and asked that the adoption by the Seventh Islamic Conference of Culture Ministers held in Algeria in December of a resolution to create a new Islam media channel, be implemented as soon as possible.

Already the organization has been working on a comprehensive plan to combat prejudice against Islam and Muslim communities with a view to developing campaigns to foster respect for cultural and religious pluralism and diversity, while raising awareness of the positive contributions of Muslims to promote tolerance and understanding.

The OIC Secretary General Ekmelddin Ihsanoglu said, "We are keen to have an OIC outlet to present to the world the true picture of both the Islamic civilization and religion."

The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) is also taking part in the conference and Dr. El Mahjoub Bensaid, presented how the organization can support the new OIC media efforts by offering training to journalists.

Concern by the Ministers centered on information programs which would support, in particular, the Palestinian cause and the issues of the sovereignty of Jerusalem, (Jerusalem is known in Arabic as Al-Quds) and Al Aqsa mosque, as well as highlighting the role of the African continent in Islam. A high priority for the group is in restructuring the process of the International Islamic News Agency (IINA) and the Islamic Broadcasting Union (IBU), opening of OIC media offices in member countries and activating cooperation between the OIC and the Global Digital Solidarity Fund. The group is entertaining proposals for the establishment of an OIC Muslim journalists union, and the launching of an Islamic TV satellite channel to be called "OIC".

Malaysia is among 10 countries which have been selected to study the proposed establishment of an Islamic television station that will act as an important platform for highlighting Islamic issues and which will discuss Muslim issues globally, countering coverage that discredits Islam.

Besides Malaysia, the committee will be represented by Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Gabon, Senegal, Nigeria, Morocco and Mauritania.

The first meeting of the committee is scheduled to take place at the OIC headquarters in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the middle of June.

The Gabon resolution says negative news in some Western media has resulted in stigmatized stereotyping, racial discrimination and victimization directed against Muslims. Stressing that the Islamic faith is based on the core values of peace, tolerance, moderation and peaceful co-habitation with all other religions and beliefs, the OIC labeled the emergence of Islamophobia as a “contemporary form of racism and xenophobia motivated by unfounded fear, mistrust and hatred of Muslims and Islam which manifests itself through intolerance and hostility in adverse public discourse.”

“As such, Islamophobia is an affront to the human rights and dignity of Muslims,” the resolution claimed.

THE PLAN

The Gabon conference has short, medium and long term goals for putting in place an action plan to fight Islamophobia it said.  It is asking member states to create funding for media campaigns, and discourage using expressions such as “Islamic” fascists or “Islamic” extremists for criminal terrorists. The OIC underlines the importance of developing Muslim's own narrative on daily issues such as the environment, climate change, social justice, development, poverty, etc.

For the medium term, the resolution asks member states to implement media literacy programs in schools to combat misperceptions, prejudices and hate speech. It aims to utilize success stories in the Muslim world “as a means to show that the interests of Muslims are similar to the rest of the world when it comes to democracy, good governance and human rights.” The resolution even plans to create awards for excellence in unbiased journalism, reporting, photography and publishing.

According to the long term goals of the OIC media resolution, professional media people in member states are called to “develop, articulate and implement voluntary codes of conduct.” It sets up scholarship programs for Westerners to study in the Muslim world and encourage reporter-exchange programs between the Muslim world and the West in order to disseminate this information throughout media outlets.

--- HUMNEWS

Tuesday
Feb212012

10 million Africans face starvation (REPORT) 

 By Mel Frykberg

(GRAPHIC: FEWS Net)The UN warned on Saturday that 10 million people in Africa’s Sahel region faced starvation and called for a greater humanitarian response to the crisis, which is threatening eight countries, particularly Niger, where at least half of those at risk are situated. The Sahel countries include parts of Senegal, southern Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, southern Algeria, Niger, northern Nigeria, Chad, Sudan and South Sudan, northern Cameroon and Eritrea.

Helen Clark, the UN development programme’s administrator, and the under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs and UN emergency relief coordinator, Valerie Amos, made the appeal during a visit to Niger’s Tillabery region.

Their visit entailed an inspection of an agricultural project supported by the UN, which grows vegetables in a sustainable way, while simultaneously improving the nutrition of the villagers and providing them with a source of income.

“This project shows how a tiny initial investment can make a major difference,” Amos said.

“Just a few kilometres from here, there is a village which has not had this investment, where people are leaving their homes and have taken their children out of school so that they can look for food,” she said.

(PHOTO: Aliyin Would Eleiat, the chief of a village in the Gorgol region of Mauritania shows 1 of few wells that still has water. It serves as the lifeline for 75 families/Irina Fuhrmann, OXFAM)Clark stated that the wider crisis in the Sahel, where poor harvests following repeated droughts had caused severe shortages, threatened 10 million people in desperate need of assistance.

Furthermore, international non-governmental organisations warned that the Sahel could be crippled by this year.

Oxfam has announced that harvests plummeted 25% in the region compared to 2010 because of lack of rains. This will leave more than one million children threatened with severe malnutrition.

---This piece originally appeared in South Africa's New Age

RELATED:

(PHOTO: Baaba Maal with Oxfam in Mauritania/OXFAM)Senegal's Baaba Maal visits Mauritania with Oxfam: "The scale of this crisis is so great that I have to speak out so that the world reacts"

During a 48 hour visit to the Gorgol region of Mauritania, the musician Baaba Maal discovered the harsh reality for communities affected by a food crisis that now touches one in four people across the country. Today 700,000 people are food insecure in Mauritania.

"What is happening in this part of Africa is so close to my heart. People are suffering, especially children. I cannot watch and do nothing,” declared Senegalese singer Baaba Maal after visiting Mauritanian communities at the center of the current food crisis in the Sahel. Low rainfall, poor harvests, a lack of pasture and rising food prices are among the key factors driving this crisis.

Baaba Maal, who met populations in the south of the country, not far from his home village in Senegal, noted: “Some families have almost nothing to eat, and I worry about how they will feed themselves until the next harvest.”

(PHOTO: The Senegal River, which forms the natural border between Mauritania & Senegal, is too low for the crop season/Irina Fuhrmann, OXFAM)The Senegalese singer, internationally renowned and recognized for his commitment to development in Africa, launched an appeal to the international community for urgent action: “We cannot watch and do nothing while our brothers and sisters in Mauritania are victims of such a crisis. I have been able to see the solutions that are being put in place. We have to support and strengthen them."

"I met Hamila, a mother of five children, who had just bought a bag of rice thanks to money provided by Oxfam. This money will allow her to feed her family over the coming weeks. Hamila is among the most vulnerable people in her community but there are many other people who need our help,” explained Baaba Maal.

Last December, Oxfam and its partners launched a humanitarian response in the south of Mauritania in order to provide assistance to 30,000 people, and are planning to scale up operations to avoid a major crisis. In coordination with the emergency plan developed by the Government, the organisation has put in place cash transfers to allow populations to protect their livelihoods. Other actions to improve access to clean drinking water are also underway in order to prevent water-borne diseases that lead to malnutrition, especially in children.

"When I was young, this region was totally green but every year I see it becoming more and more dry. Yet water is there, in the river and in the ground. We have to work together and join forces to solve the problem, so that we never see this situation repeated again,” added Baaba Maal.

Oxfam is calling for urgent interventions to avoid the worst over the coming months, as well as long-term investments to strengthen the resilience of populations, allow communities to cope with bad years, and prevent crises of the future. As well as Mauritania, Oxfam is actively supporting communities affected by this crisis in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger and Senegal.

--- This piece originally appeared on OXFAM

Thursday
Feb162012

Warnings of Second African Drought in Sahel (NEWS BRIEF)

As many as 10 million people are threatened by drought in the Sahel. CREDIT: Shannon Howard/WFP

(HN, February 16, 2012) -- A persistent drought in the Sahel region of Africa could turn into a famine and threaten up to 10-million people.

This was the main conclusion of an emergency meeting of UN agencies, NGOs, governments and donors hosted Wednesday in Rome by the World Food Programme (WFP).

"We have a short time to act. We have two to three months, no more than that," the head of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, José Graziano da Silva, said in no uncertain terms at a press conference after the meeting.

Also attending were representatives of the African Union and the Economic Community Of West African States - as well as the executive director of WFP, Josette Sheeran, the UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, Valerie Amos, the administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Helen Clark, the assistant administrator of USAID, Nancy Lindborg and the EU commissioner for humanitarian aid, Kristalina Georgieva.

Said Sheeran: "We are having an emergency meeting to avoid a full blown emergency, before we see the effects which are long lasting and devastating. We know what needs to be done. We have learned some lessons from the Horn of Africa. While we can't prevent drought, we can prevent famine. "

More than 10 million people in the Sahel are threatened because late and erratic rains have ruined harvests in parts of Niger, Mauritania, Mali, Chad, Senegal, Gambia, Burkina Faso and northern Nigeria.

Food shortages have pounded the region at least five times in the past 10 years. Farmers in the region have seen harvests fall by 14 percent in Burkina Faso and 46 percent in Mauritania, says WFP.

The government of Niger says that over 5.5 million people in the country are at risk of going hungry and that a rapid response will be needed to avert a full scale food crisis.  In Chad, 6 out of 11 regions in the Sahelian parts of the country are reporting “critical” levels of malnutrition, with the other 5 at levels described as “serious”.

However the crisis cannot only be blamed on Mother Nature - fighting in Mali has resulted in thousands of refugees fleeing into neighbouring states, including Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso.

- HUMNEWS staff

Tuesday
Feb142012

UNEP Report Says World Soil Management is Key to Food, Water, Climate Future

(PHOTO: Soil, side by side/Treehugger) (HN, 2/14/2012) - According to the United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP) Year Book 2012 released Monday on the eve of the 12th Special Session of the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, 24% of the global land area has already suffered declines in health and productivity over the past quarter century as a result of unsustainable industrial land-use and dramatic improvements in the way the world manages its precious soils will be key to food, water and climate security in the 21st century.

WHY? Soils contain huge quantities of carbon in the form of organic matter that in turn binds the nutrients needed for plant growth and allows rainfall to penetrate into underground aquifers.

Since the 19th century, an estimated 60% of the carbon stored in soils and vegetation has been lost as a result of land use changes, such as, clearing land for agriculture and cities and by some estimates, the top one metre of the world's soils store around 2,200 Gigatonnes (or, a billion tonnes) of carbon; three times the current level held in the atmosphere.

The report states some kinds of agriculture processes have triggered soil erosion rates at 100 times greater than the rates at which nature can form soil and by 2030, without changes in the way land is managed, over 20% of habitats such as forests, peatlands and grasslands in developing countries alone could be converted to cropland which also aggravate losses of vital ecosystem services and biodiversity.

There could also be profound implications for climate change as amounts of this carbon could be released to the atmosphere, aggravating global warming linked to the burning of fossil fuels and points to the world's peatlands as an area of special concern. WHY?  The draining of super carbon-rich peatlands is currently producing more than 2 Gigatonnes of CO2 emissions annually; equal to around 6% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions and is happening at a rate 20 times greater than the rate at which the peat, and thus the carbon, is accumulated.

The Year Book, launched 4 months in advance of the Rio+20 Summit, highlights another issue of emerging global concern - the challenges of decommissioning the growing numbers of end-of-life nuclear power reactors.

There are plans to close up to 80 civilian nuclear power reactors in the next 10 years, as the first generations of reactors reach the end of their `design lives’. So far in world history, 138 civilian nuclear power reactors have been shut down in 19 countries, including 28 in the United States, 27 in the United Kingdom, 27 in Germany, 12 in France, 9 in Japan and 5 in the Russian Federation.

Decommissioning has only been completed for 17 of them, so far but events such as the tragedy of the tsunami that struck Fukushima and its nearby nuclear power plant in Japan in 2011 has caused heightened concern.

Meanwhile, an increasing number of developing countries have built or are considering building nuclear power plants, including the United States which just announced at least 2 new reactors to be built on February 4.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director said: "The Year Book spotlights the challenges, but also the choices, nations need to consider to deliver a sustainable 21st century and urgently improve management of world's soils and the decommissioning of nuclear power reactors".

"Superficially they may seem separate and unconnected issues, but both go to the heart of several fundamental questions: how the world will feed and fuel itself while combating climate change and handling hazardous wastes," he added.  "The thin skin of soil on the Earth's surface is often one of those forgotten ecosystems but it is among the most important to the future survival of humanity. Improved, sustainable management such as no-till policies can assist in productive agriculture without draining peatlands," said Mr. Steiner.

Across the globe, there are examples of how multiple benefits can be delivered through effective management of soil carbon. In Kenya, the World Bank's BioCarbon Fund is providing the Kenya Agricultural Carbon Project with US $350,000 to pay smallholder farmers to improve their agricultural practices, to increase both food security and soil carbon sequestration.

From Dakar to Djibouti, the `Great Green Wall’ initiative is a massive forestation project creating a 15 km wide strip of trees and other vegetation along a 7000 km transect to improve carbon sequestration, stabilize soils and conserve soil moisture amongst others.

In China, similar approaches are being monitored to assess whether land degradation in arid areas can be reversed.  In Brazil, changes in crop production and rotation practices have been found to have significant effects on soil carbon stocks and conversion to no-till techniques in soybean, maize and related crop systems resulted in a decrease of soil carbon degradation. And in Argentina, significant increases in soil carbon stocks have also been achieved, where farmers changed to no-till systems, along with enhanced benefits in water retention, infiltration and erosion prevention.  The UNEP Year Book 2012 is available at: http://www.unep.org

--- HUMNEWS

Wednesday
Feb082012

An African Spring in Senegal?

By Barnaby Phillips in Africa 

Sign behind protesters reads, "2000: popular jubilation, 2012: popular distress". [AFP]

For more than a year, opposition supporters in some of sub-Saharan Africa's more repressive countries have hoped that the wave of pro-democracy protests will spread south from Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

By and large, the wait has been in vain. There is some irony in that the latest candidate mooted for "people power" is Senegal, one of the few African countries with a genuine democratic tradition in the post-independence era. 

Senegal has strong institutions, and is the only country in west Africa never to have suffered a military coup. 

The current president, Abdoulaye Wade, first come to power in 2000 when he defeated the incumbent in one of the most exciting and transparent African elections of the post-independence era. 

But now, to the fury of many, Senegal's constitutional court has ruled that Wade will be allowed to run for a third term in presidential elections due at the end of this month.

'Constitutional coup'

The court decided that Senegal's two-term limit does not apply to Mr Wade, because it took effect after he became president. (In fact, he introduced it himself.) 

This sophistry certainly appears to be in violation of the spirit with which term-limits were conceived, whatever one makes of opposition accusations that the constitutional court is manipulated by Mr Wade. 

The court has also ruled that the world-famous singer Youssou N'dour cannot stand as president, because of concerns about the alleged authenticity of the signatures on his application form.

When I met Youssou N'dour in Dakar, he was angry. He describes the court's decisions as "a constitutional coup". 

He appealed to the international community "to speak sense to Wade, otherwise we'll have a catastrophe in this country". 

Divided opposition

It is true there have been riots in several cities, and the clumsy police response has made an already volatile situation even worse.

But, I have to say, my feeling during five days in and around Dakar was that a popular uprising in Senegal is not imminent.

For a start, the opposition is divided, and somewhat confused.

Some believe that Wade is beatable in the elections, and want to get on with the campaign. N'dour, on the other hand, believes the process is a sham, but even he is not advocating a boycott of the polls.

Wade, who is believed to be 85 years old, shows a depressing determination to cling onto power.

My friend Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, a long term Dakar resident,  writes here how his star has faded.

Real story

There are superficial similarities with some of the dictators of the Arab world who have been toppled in the past year; a partiality for garish monuments, the apparent grooming of a son as a successor, and the constitutional meddling.

Another similarity is the huge number of unemployed, frustrated young men in the cities. 

But there are also differences. Wade is not a vicious dictator. Senegal has a more open tradition of parliamentary democracy than Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, and, in fact, just about every Arab country.     

The next few weeks will be crucial. 

The presidential elections are due on February 26. The country is divided. There is the risk of a violent campaign and a disputed election. 

Never mind superficial comparisons with the Arab Spring; the real story is that Senegal's democratic credentials are under threat.

Originally published by AlJazeera under Creative Commons License 

Monday
Feb072011

Over 6,000 Communities Across Africa Abandon Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (Report)

(HN, February 7, 2011) - Over 6,000 communities have chosen to abandon the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), according to a joint United Nations programme designed to eliminate this practice, and the number is growing.Youth Federation representative Asiya Oumer speaks at a declaration ceremony on abandonment of FGM/C in northern Ethiopia's Awash-Fentale District. UNICEF
  
“We are working in 12 out of 17 priority African countries and have seen real results - the years of hard work are paying off with FGM/C prevalence rates decreasing,” said Nafissatou Diop, Coordinator of the joint programme run by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, and UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund.
 
“In Ethiopia, the prevalence rate has fallen from 80 per cent to 74 per cent, in Kenya from 32 per cent to 27 per cent, and in Egypt from 97 per cent to 91 per cent. There is still a lot of work to do.”
 
Three million girls face FGM/C every year in Africa and worldwide, and up to 140 million women and girls have already undergone the practice. Research indicates that mothers and grandmothers of women have enormous influence over their decisions on whether to put their daughters through the dangerous procedure. In countries such as Egypt, the procedure is often administered by women with no medical credentials.

It is little wonder then that experts have concluded that FGM/C is a practice with serious immediate and long-term health effects.

In some countries, the influence of religious and clan leaders, local government officials and former circumcisers has brought a remarkable reduction in female cutting. Some Muslim scholars have called for banning FGM and for legislation criminalizing the practice.

Last year, a 13-year-old girl died after undergoing FGM in a public hospital in Egypt - even though the procedure had been made illegal since 2008.

“We must break the wall of silence that surrounds this issue and step up our national campaign to prevent the practice being passed on to the next generation”, Egyptian Minister of Family and Population Mushira Khattab said last year. “Our target is to make it clear that the practice will not be tolerated in Egypt.”

The UNFPA-UNICEF joint programme, set up in 2008, encourages communities to collectively abandon FGM/C - it is also known as positive deviance. It uses a culturally sensitive approach, including dialogue and social networking, leading to abandonment within one generation. The programme is anchored in human rights and involves all groups within a community, including religious leaders and young girls themselves. Rather than condemn FGM/C, it encourages collective abandonment to avoid alienating those that practice it and instead bring about their voluntary renunciation.
 
To mark the International Day Against Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, UNFPA and UNICEF are renewing their commitment to put an end to the practice, and call on the global community to join in this critical effort. They also believe that FGM/C can be abandoned in one generation, which would help millions of girls and women to live healthier, fuller lives.
 
“Three years into the programme, more than 6,000 communities in Ethiopia, Egypt, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Gambia, Guinea and Somalia have already abandoned FGM/C,” according to a joint statement.

“Social norms and cultural practices are changing, and women and men in communities are uniting to protect the rights of girls. UNFPA and UNICEF are working with partners to end this harmful practice in one generation and we believe that reaching this goal is possible.”

FGM/C refers to the removal of all or part of the female genitalia. Despite global efforts to promote abandonment of the practice, FGM/C remains widespread in many developing countries, and has spread to other parts of the world, such as Europe and North America, where some immigrant families have now settled. The majority of girls who have undergone the practice live in 28 countries in Africa and Western Asia. 

- UN, HUMNEWS staff

Thursday
Dec232010

New Convention Imposes Penalties for 'Enforced Disappearance' (Report)

(HN, December 23, 2010) - The entry into force of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance is being hailed as a milestone event in the fight to prevent and eradicate disappearances.

The new convention may help prevent enforced disappearance

"It is an important achievement in the struggle against a cause of indescribable fear and sorrow for hundreds of thousands of people worldwide," said Olivier Dubois, deputy head of the Central Tracing Agency and Protection Division of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). "This convention will certainly contribute to greater protection against enforced disappearance. States that are party to it must implement it into national law. They must put it into practice and make enforced disappearance an offence under their national criminal law."

Enforced disappearance is a crime under international human rights law and – when it occurs in war – under international humanitarian law. The convention contains a series of measures to prevent forced disappearances.

For example, it requires that any person deprived of liberty must be registered by the detaining authority. It also enshrines the right of any victim to know the truth about the circumstances of an enforced disappearance and the fate of the disappeared person. The convention also requires suitable criminal sanctions to be taken against persons who commit enforced disappearances. As of today, the provisions of the treaty are legally binding on the first 20 States that have ratified or acceded to it.

Iraq, which acceded to the treaty 30 days ago, triggered the entry into force. Tens of thousands of people in Iraq are still hoping to receive news of their relatives who have gone missing in the country since the 1980s.

The other signatories as of now are: Albania, Argentina, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Germany, Honduras, Iraq, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mali, Mexico, Nigeria, Paraguay, Senegal, Spain and Uruguay. It will also be binding on Brazil as of 29 December 2010.

In every situation of armed conflict or internal violence, people disappear. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, to mention just one other example, the fate of more than 10,000 people who went missing during the conflict in the early 1990s remains unknown.

Despite its illegality in international law, Human Rights Watch said world governments "routinely" fail to investigate accounts of disappearances.

"Putting this landmark treaty into effect is immensely important, but to end this practice, every country is going to have to recognize that it may never abduct people and hide them away," Aisling Reidy, a legal adviser for the rights group, said in a statement.

The ICRC works around the world to prevent people from going missing, to help clarify what happened to those who do disappear and to support the families of missing persons. The ICRC has also actively supported the process of drafting the convention and is committed to achieving its widespread ratification and implementation.

- HUMNEWS staff, ICRC, UN

Thursday
Oct072010

(News Brief) UN gathering urges global cooperation to fight human trafficking

(HN, October 7, 2010) --- With human trafficking knowing no borders, anti-trafficking experts from regional and sub-regional organizations have met for the first time in a United Nations-backed forum to discuss how to join forces to counter the scourge.

“Effective coordination of the various anti-trafficking initiatives and enhanced cooperation among all actors involved in combating trafficking is essential to maximize available resources, minimize duplication and address States’ fatigue vis-à-vis the number of demands they are required to attend to,” said Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.

She led the two-day gathering in Dakar, Senegal, which wrapped up on Tuesday and drew experts from around the world to confer on how to prevent trafficking, protect victims, and frameworks set up to address the problem in all regions.

“Assistance to and protection of victims must be non-conditional, responsive to the needs, and respectful of the human rights of trafficked victims,” the Rapporteur stressed, calling for regional and sub-regional groups to ensure that their policies are appropriate to victims’ ages and sensitive to gender aspects.

She highlighted the unique position that regional mechanisms are in to combat what she called a “modern day slavery, growing in scale and in terms of human rights repercussions” due to their expertise and knowledge of local realities.

Presenting her annual report to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council in June, Ms. Ezeilo characterized human trafficking as “one of the most appalling forms of human rights violations” and said that it remains one of the world’s fastest growing criminal activities in the world.

- UN News

Thursday
Jun032010

Number of Young Women Smokers in Developing Countries Skyrockets

(HN, June 4, 2010) Young women in developing countries are being targeted by "seductive" advertising from the large tobacco companies and all governments must take immediate action to protect them from harmful messages, says the World Health Organization (WHO).

 WHO says female business owners are prime targets for seductive offers from tobacco companies, such as branded umbrellas or kiosks

The world health body says that if current trends continue, women could soon be on par with men in terms of rates of death due to smoking, creating what one expert called "a very perverse equality."

"The tobacco industry is spending heavily on seductive advertisements that target women - especially in low and middle income countries. The advertisements try to dupe women into believing that tobacco use is associated with beauty and liberation," Dr. Douglas Bettcher, Director of the WHO Tobacco Free Initiative, told a recent press briefing in Geneva. "In effect they have had to offshore their marketing strategies, look for greener pastures."

Of the world's more than one-billion smokers, only about 200 million are women - but WHO warns those numbers could change rapidly.

Experts believe the tobacco industry has made the shift towards women and young adults in order to compensate for the drop off in tobacco use from smokers who have died from cancer, emphysema, heart attacks, stroke, asthma, tuberculosis and other tobacco-related diseases. One WHO expert accused the major tobacco companies of using "predatory marketing strategies" to lure women in developing countries into taking up the smoking habit, adding that state-owned tobacco companies tend to be less aggressive than the multinationals.

Said Bettcher: "They need to always be refreshing these pools and that's why they are looking to low and middle income countries over the last decade - looking at new populations such as young women to light up and support their profit motives."

Among the venues used to lure women and young girls to tobacco are women's magazines and the fashion industry, WHO says. "The industry has studied what makes women 'tick' in the developed and developing countries," said the WHO's Peju Olukoya, adding that they use sporting and music events that draw many young people. In some countries, free cell phones and text messaging campaigns are used heavily to promote cigarettes.

In Egypt, one WHO expert said, tobacco companies are trying to lure more women by producing cigarette packages to resemble perfume boxes. In Nigeria, cigarette companies build stalls with branded umbrellas and even fund school supplies. "As a result of this, the acceptability for the use of cigarettes by women is gradually increasing., In the past cigarettes have always been associated with the red light district in town," said Olukoya, a native of Nigeria.

She added that Big Tobacco sends confusing messages in many developing countries - by promoting slimness in cultures where this is not necessarily valued and by putting forward smoking as liberating. As for messaging to young men: "It's all about the macho..a big man smokes a big cigarette."

Bettcher says the industry's marketing strategy is having its desired impact. In half of the 151 countries surveyed by WHO, about as many girls smoke as boys. "In some of the countries, in fact, even more girls smoke than boys." Countries where there are more girl smokers than boy smokers include: Uruguay, Mexico, Cook Islands, Croatia, Argentina, Senegal, Chile, Colombia and Bulgaria.

Said Bettcher of the rise of female smokers: "This is a serious red flag. It could mean that we are on the cusp of a much worse global tobacco epidemic amongst women. Girls and boys who smoke are likely to remain smokers as adults."

Bettcher said that one can expect "an explosion" in adult women's tobacco use rates in the coming years. "We simply cannot allow this trend to continue. All governments must take action to protect women from tobacco advertising and promotional sponsorship.

"We must empower women to protect themselves and their families from the harms of tobacco use."

Bettcher added that women need to be protected from second hand smoke, especially in countries where women feel powerless. Smoke-free areas in restaurants and help to cope with addiction are among the steps recommended.

Of the 430,00 adults who die from second-hand smoke each year, well over half - 64 percent - are women. And of the more than 5 million people who die from tobacco use each year, about 1.5 million are women. "Most of these tobacco-related deaths occur in low and middle income countries, which can least afford such dreadful losses," said Bettcher.

By 2030, there could be as many as 8 million people who die from tobacco, of which 2.5 million will be amongst women.

In the Asia-Pacific region, more than 8 per cent of girls between 13 and 15, or around 4.7 million girls, are using tobacco products, said WHO.

Betcher called the new trends - where women became as likely as men to die of smoke-related reasons - a "very perverse equality."

WHO chose as the theme for the recent World No Tobacco Day 2010 as "Gender and Tobacco With an Emphasis on Marketing to Women."  WHO recommends that tobacco advertising and sponsorship should be completely banned. In the US alone, 11 percent of advertising and promotional expenditures in 1996 came from the tobacco industry; in 2005 $13.11 billion was spent on tobacco advertising and promotions.

In 2006, only 17 countries in the world had comprehensive bans against tobacco advertising, and Bettcher said some wealthy countries "dont do very well" in terms of enforcing bans. In response to bans, tobacco companies have become more sophisticated, turning to such tactics as product placement in movies and sponsorships of popular events.

That tobacco companies are tailoring their marketing strategies increasingly towards women in developing countries is nothing new. In 2003, the American Cancer Society flagged the issue as very serious. "The tobacco industry has intensified its marketing strategies -- especially those targeting women -- in developing countries,” said Michael J. Thun, vice president of epidemiology and surveillance research for the American Cancer Society. “International measures such as the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control are essential to help countries protect themselves.”

Staff, files