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Announcements & Events | Publications
* The Torch of Struggle for Human Rights
* CSO at the Commonwealth Meeting: Human Rights must be at the Centre of the CHOGM
* Thailand-India Community Leaders Exchange: Human Rights Solidarity for Change
Dignity Partner News
* FreedomFilmFest in Malaysia Continues to Empower the People
* The Occupy Movement Sweeps Over Major US Cities
* Consultation with UN Experts on Women's ESC Rights
* UN Economic Committee Faces Peace, Poverty Eradication Challenges
* Forestry Week Celebrates the International Year of Forests
* 7 Billion Actions Campaign
* Honduras: Extreme violence against peasant communities in Bajo Aguan
Announcements & Events
* The Torkel Opsahl Memorial Lecture, 2011: Creativity, Dissidence, Women and the Revolution
* OHCHR Meetings & Events
* Unity is Strength: The Workers’ Movement in China 2009-2011
* OHCHR 2010 Report Now Available Online
*** The Torch of Struggle for Human Rights - Since 2005, Dignity International has been organising the “Torch of Struggle” annually, in conjunction with the International Human Rights Day on the 10th of December. The idea was mooted by the community partners living within the slum settlements of Nairobi, along with Dignity International. The event consists of a week full of activities at the community level to celebrate the Human Rights Day, culminating to the Torch of Struggle event itself on the 10th December. Besides that, the aim of the event is also to create a space for residents of struggling communities to discuss, reflect and layout demands to the government to protect, respect and fulfil various violated rights.
As a ‘tradition’, the official celebration is conducted at the end of our Annual Global Linking and Learning Programme on Human Rights in Development. This year, the 10th Annual Global Programme will be held in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
To join us as we celebrate “The Torch of Struggle for Human Rights”, or to keep yourself updated with the activities planned, follow us on Facebook.
Torch of Struggle 2010
*** CSO at the Commonwealth Meeting: Human Rights must be at the Centre of the CHOGM - The bi-annual Head of Government Meeting of the Commonwealth (CHOGM) is a unique space for civil society to try and influence the final outcome document. This year the CHOGM was hosted in Perth and it was set against the background of the impending long overdue reforms that is needed by this almost 60 year-old organization. This is what the world has been anticipating for the last 2 years after mandating an Eminent Persons Groups (EPG).
Prior to CHOGM, the civil society organised a Commonwealth People’s Forum (CPF) with the theme "DRIVING CHANGE FOR A DYNAMIC COMMONWEALTH", to coalesce civil society demands to governments. Perth witnessed 350 civil society organisations (CSOs) attending the forum from 26-28th October 2011. It was an intensive 3-day meeting with many workshops, events, and meetings with Foreign Ministers (to name a few). The participants articulated the Civil Society Statement in more depth and detail.
Participants at the CPF 2011
The CPF was coordinated by the Commonwealth Foundation, with support from some CSOs in organising the 8 different sub-themes. Dignity International facilitated the Human Rights thematic workshop alongside Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI). Around 80 participants attended this workshop focused on various issues, particularly the human rights spaces within the commonwealth in terms of the opportunities that exist as well as the gaps that need to be addressed immediately.
L to R: Ms. Hazel Brown (Caribbean Policy Development Center),
Jerald Joseph (Dignity International), and Mr. Opiata Odino (Hakijami, Kenya)
at the Human Rights Panel Discussion Session
In addition to that, the civil society also demanded for a more human rights-focused reform agenda from the Commonwealth, based on the context of multiple human rights issues affecting the most vulnerable and marginalized communities in the commonwealth. These issues include housing and land evictions, a lack of safe and reliable drinking water, guaranteed access to water, excessive detainment, torture and death while in detention, attacks on Human Rights defenders, a retrogression in respect for the freedoms of religion, a growing gap between rich and poor, increasing poverty, and the marginalization of minorities.
Panel Speaker Ms. Alison Duxbury,
Commonwealth Human Rights Intitiative (CHRI)
Four speakers from different continents conveyed the message well, and the workshop turned out successful with the depth of discussion, especially on the call for human rights to be at the centre of the Commonwealth. Despite this, many felt disappointed knowing that the CHOGM leaders shied away from adopting many of the good recommendations proposed by EPG. It was a missed opportunity in their roles as a global inter-governmental organisation.
*** Thailand-India Community Leaders Exchange: Human Rights Solidarity for Change - The 3rd community leaders exchange programme was organised as part of Dignity International’s advocacy work from 3-12 October in Mumbai and Raipur, India. The exchange was organised with Dignity partners from India and Thailand: Ekta-Parishad -India, Youth of Unity Voluntary Action (YUVA)-India and the Four Regions Slum Network (FRSN)-Thailand. The first segment of the two-part programme was held in Mumbai from the 4-8 October with urban poor communities. The second segment was held in Raipur from 9-12 October with rural poor communities. This programme was also given high emphasis by the Dignity’s Advocacy Committee as it would strengthen Dignity’s role to facilitate the linking of cross border grassroots voices struggling for human rights. Six community leaders from the FRSN of Thailand travelled together with Dignity’s Michael Chan and Adrian Pereira.
The main objectives of the programme were to:
- Allow participants to exchange and learn from experiences among struggling urban and rural communities and different/concrete ways in which they are resisting injustice;
- Generate concrete recommendations for advocacy and action at different levels (local, national and international);
- Develop strong solidarity with the communities visited as well as solidarity and friendship at a global level with other participants of the programme;
- Strengthen relationships of core partners to strategize, and act together
The Thai delegation from Four Regions Slum Network (FRSN)
sharing their struggles and fight for the right to adequate housing
3-7 October - Mumbai, Maharashtra
Our partners from FRSN visited various urban poor slum communities and rehabilitated communities in Mumbai, the capital city of the state of Maharashtra. Our exchange in Mumbai was facilitated by YUVA which is a “People’s Organisation –People’s Institution” (PO-PI). With a rapidly growing population of between 16 to 20 million, it is estimated that 70% of the population live in slums. As part of YUVAs advocacy for Human Rights, particularly on urban poor-related issues, they have organised the urban poor communities according to various sectors and issues. These include the informal workers union, domestic workers trade union, livelihood, water, housing rights, cooperatives, women’s collectives, and migrant workers. Here, stories and experiences exchanged focused on the methodologies used in organizing and facilitating urban poor grassroots struggle for rights especially on problem-solving. Among the human rights struggles faced by the slum communities included denial of basic services (water, electricity, sanitation), caste based discrimination, female infanticide, gender violence, alcoholism, lack of food, lack of social security for informal sector (hawkers, peasants, street vendors), badly planned slum rehabilitation plans and neo-liberal policies directly effecting development (luxury Condominium/industrial Projects built at expense of the poor).
The absent of access to water leads to further problems
like children not being able to attend schools,
increased spending, and unhygienic environment
The problems faced are complex; hence the multipronged approach by YUVA and the activists. We also discussed on the development policies of Mumbai and India and this included the various mechanisms enshrined by the national constitutions and local laws to enforce human rights at various levels. Among the very important and crucial laws which help elevate the sufferings of the urban poor community in India include:
- Rajiv Gandhi National Crèche Scheme for the Children of Working Mothers: In every village, there is a Day Care Centre supported by the government to provide basic services to young children while parents are at work. Includes immunisation, clean water, sanitation health care, and nutrition and early child education.
- Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA): An Indian job guarantee scheme, enacted by legislation in 2005. The scheme provides a legal guarantee for 100 days of employment in every financial year to adult members of any rural household willing to do public work-related unskilled manual work at the statutory minimum wage of IRS120 (US$2.68) per day.
- The Right to Information Act: Right to Information Act 2005 mandates timely response to citizen requests for government information especially crucial and sensitive information related to distribution and provision of basics services and rights.
Mumbai - Local Workers Union
Nevertheless, the delivery mechanisms are still subjected to various abuses by different parties who are engulfed in greed, abuse of power, mismanagement, and corruption. Even the latest national urban poverty rehabilitation policy, the RAY (Rajiv Avas Yojana) is to be scrutinised by the activists as there are loopholes including the possible criminalisation of activists fighting for housing rights. Hence, the urban poor in Mumbai together with support from YUVA continue the struggle.
8-12 October - Raipur, Chhattisgrah
The second segment of our exchange brought us to Raipur which is the capital city of the state of Chhattisgrah. This segment was facilitated by Ekta Parishad and we were based in PRAYOG, a parent body of the Ekta Parishad network. PRAYOG (Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha), which means “experiment”, works on empowerment of rural marginalised rural grassroots communities with focus on land rights and livelihood. Chhattisgrah together with other states of India like Maharashtra, Jharkhand, and Orissa, are considered “sensitive” areas by the government of India due their strategic lands and natural resources, but at the same time faces people’s uprisings to protect the land and resources from corporate entities and the state. We had the opportunity to visit and exchange ideas with adivasi (tribal) communities, women with cooperatives running livelihood projects and activists from a human rights based disability empowerment centre. We learned that due to the aggressive nature of land grabbing by the state and private corporate entities, the adivasi people are being displaced from their natural habitat and face serious livelihood threats. The mining activities and logging are also responsible for many human rights violations and environmental degradation for profit. Laws like the Forest Protection Act (FPA) are used to displace the adivasi people from the forest in the name of protecting the forest. We also find current “national security” propaganda used to keep the adivasi out of their own habitat but in the meanwhile, “allow” spaces for certain industries to carry out logging and deforestation activities.
Ekta Parishad is empowering rural communities with knowledge of their rights and advocacy/lobbying skills. This includes movement building through democratic structures from local to national levels. This is also part of the larger Ekta Parishad national campaign for land reform, the Jan Satyagraha 2012.
Access to water is a major issue in these settlements as there is
no water connection. Residents have to pay up to Rs50 per day for water.
Key Lessons Learnt and Spaces for Future Actions
Dignity International and FRSN had an evaluation and reflection session to identify key lessons-learnt and possible future actions.
- It is vital for community leaders to be constantly close to their mass base. This includes the creative usage of effective new methodologies and tools suitable for interacting with the movement at its current stage in the struggle.
- The cultural component is instrumental to mass-organising and mobilisation. This is especially true after seeing how songs, music, sloganeering and traditional dances are used to inspire communities to struggle as a collective.
- Having clear leadership roles and responsibilities also play a critical role in effective leadership and mass mobilization as observed within the Ekta Parishad network which has over 200 000 members.
- Unionizing of the informal sector and the alternative livelihood projects, in particular women’s collectives and cooperatives is a possible platform for mass-mobilisation and community organising.
- Organise more exchanges, not just physically but through strategic information sharing. More advocacies can be done to help each other in the struggle for rights and social justice.
As the situation of human rights abuses become more complex, we must respond accordingly and take on multipronged approaches and be more methodological in addressing them.
*** FreedomFilmFest in Malaysia Continues to Empower the People - “Why are Hollywood movies perceived as interesting but human rights documentaries are often considered heavy and boring?” This probed PUSAT KOMAS, a Malaysian human rights NGO to start the crusade for the promotion of human rights films in the country.
The 18 years old NGO has organised 9 consecutive human rights film festivals annually since 2003. The first FREEDOMFILMFESTIVAL (FFF) screening attracted a public crowd of 200, whereas this year’s festival charted an impressive turnout of 3,000 people. Today, the FFF is staged in five states – Selangor, Penang, Perak, Sarawak and Johor, for a full 1-2 days at each location. In addition to that, the event has spread its wings to neighbouring country, Singapore, and across the ocean to the United Kingdom, where local and Malaysian supporters of the FFF started organising film screenings on a smaller scale for the past 2 years.
One of the participants in FFF2011 Georgetown, Penang
sharing her views during the discussion session.
Photo by Ong Song Quan.
The FFF’s running theme, “DARE TO DOCUMENT”, captures the spirit of the festival in terms of documenting and sharing human rights stories through film.
Pusat KOMAS’ unique approach to human rights work is centered on the use of popular communications or “creative media tools” to empower people with basic human rights knowledge and awareness. The powerful film medium has given voice to many marginalised communities including the indigenous peoples, workers, women, children and many others. Similarly, the FFF is designed to provide a platform for social activists and the public to view and discuss human rights issues through film. Every film screening is followed by a discussion to allow the audience to engage in discourse and debate on issues depicted in the films.
Young students also participated in the event and spoke up during the discussion.
Tan Jo Hann (left) , the Director of KOMAS facilitated the discussion.
Photo by Kayo Sunazawa.
On the contrary, the FFF is also a venue for young and experienced film makers to promote the production and sharing of social documentaries which rarely grace mainstream media, including commercial cinemas, in Malaysia. Aside from the screenings, a film proposal competition is held in conjunction with the FFF too. Three winning film proposals are selected annually, made into films, and premiered at each film screening in all the targeted states. Winners receive the “Justin Louis Award; the award was named after the first Coordinator of KOMAS who died in a boat accident while traveling upstream into the remote jungles of Sarawak State during an NGO fact-finding mission, to investigate the abuse of Penan indigenous peoples.
FreedomFilmFest2011 winners, Liaw Pey Wen and Afiq Deen,
posing for pictures with the judges and the directors of KOMAS.
Photo by Lee Chun Chong
In addition to that, this platform has also facilitated the projection of many other campaigns; for instance the environmental network - “Green Voters”, in their campaign for environmentally responsible political candidates and; the popular Bersih 2.0 coalition who are campaigning for free and fair elections.
Participants of FFF2011 Selangor supporting the Green Voters 2.0 movement.
Photo by Kayo Sunazawa.
For more updates and information about the Freedom Film Festival, CLICK HERE.
Source: Pusat KOMAS
*** The Occupy Movement Sweeps Over Major US Cities - Occupy Wall Street is a people-powered movement that began on September 17, 2011 in Liberty Square in Manhattan’s Financial District, and has spread to over 100 cities in the United States and actions in over 1,500 cities globally. #ows is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations. The movement is inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and aims to expose how the richest 1% of people are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future.
The occupations around the world are being organized using a non-binding consensus based collective decision making tool known as a "people's assembly". To learn more about how to use this process to organise your local community to fight back against social injustice, please read this quick guide on group dynamics in people's assemblies.
Occupy Wall Street is leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants. This #ows movement empowers real people to create real change from the bottom up. We want to see a general assembly in every backyard, on every street corner because we don't need Wall Street and we don't need politicians to build a better society.
Source: Occupy Wall Street
*** Consultation with UN Experts on Women's ESC Rights – The Women and ESCR Working Group of ESCR-Net served as the primary facilitators and experts at the Expert Consultation on Women's ESCR hosted by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on 27-28 October, 2011 in Geneva. This meeting was organized to bring together key actors working on women's ESCR from (i) the UN treaty bodies and (ii) the UN special procedures, (iii) civil society, (iv) UN agencies, and (v) from within OHCHR.
The aim of the consultation was to (1) identify the key economic and social challenges facing women today and (2) map the substantive issues where there is a need for conceptual clarity, better coherence between international bodies and (3) provide practical guidance and develop a strategy to advance such issues at the international level and identify opportunities for collaboration.
ESCR-Net's Women and ESCR working group and other members of the Network attended and contributed to the discussion including FIDA Kenya; Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights; Center for Reproductive Rights; Amnesty International; Center for Equality Rights in Accommodation; Equis: Justicia para Mujeres; Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation; Women's Legal Centre of South Africa; FIAN International; Global Initiative for ESCR; ; International Women's Rights Action Watch -Asia Pacific; International Commission of Jurists; Graciela Dede Delfino and Maria Virginia Bras Gomes.
In addition, experts from the newly appointed Human Rights Council Working Group on Discrimination Against Women in Law and Practice, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Human Rights Committee and Virginia Dandan, newly appointed Special Rapporteur on International Solidarity, participated in the event.
For more information contact Rebecca Brown (
) for more information.
*** UN Economic Committee Faces Peace, Poverty Eradication Challenges - The General Assembly's Second Committee has many pressing issues to address this fall including poverty eradication, agriculture development and energy efficiency. A new agenda item on “People’s empowerment and a peace-centric development model” has also been introduced. On 3 October, Ambassador Momen opened his first official meeting as the Chair of the UN General Assembly’s Economic and Financial Committee, also known as the Second Committee. Pleased with the way the work has started and with a very optimistic outlook, Ambassador Momen shares his thoughts on the tasks ahead this fall. He highlights sustainable development and the Monterrey Consensus as some of the areas where he would like to see more consensus and talks about expected resolutions on price volatility, transition of landlocked countries and on coral reefs. He also gives praise to the Member States for their inventiveness when they addressed critical issues during the general debate. To read the full article CLICK HERE>>>
*** Forestry Week Celebrates the International Year of Forests - Second Asia-Pacific Forestry Week (APFW) will take place on 7-11 November in Beijing, China. The week, organised by FAO, is being held in conjunction with the 24th Session of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission and will include events in celebration of the International Year of Forests, 2011. The theme of the Week is “New Challenges – New Opportunity.” Over 1,500 participants are expected to discuss forest issues in the evolving Asia-Pacific landscape. Director of the UN Forum on Forests Secretariat (UNFFS), Ms. Jan McAlpine, will deliver a keynote speech on the International Year of Forests at the plenary session.
In celebration of the International Year of Forests, this year’s event will include film screenings from the International Forest Film Festival, launched by UNFFS in partnership with the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival.
For more information: http://www.fao.org/forestry/ap-forestry-week/en/
The International Year of Forests: http://www.un.org/forests
*** 7 Billion Actions Campaign – A world of 7 billion people poses many challenges – and countless opportunities to make a positive difference. 7 Billion Actions, established by the United Nations Population Fund, inspires change that will make a difference by highlighting positive action by individuals and organisations around the world. Learn more.
*** Honduras: Extreme violence against peasant communities in Bajo Aguan – The Bajo Aguán valley is witnessing an alarming situation of violence and repression against peasant communities: between January 2010 and early October 2011, 40 people involved in peasant organisations in the region were murdered. To read more and take action, CLICK HERE>>>
*** The Torkel Opsahl Memorial Lecture, 2011: Creativity, Dissidence, Women and the Revolution - The University of Oslo’s Human Rights Award for 2011 is presented to Nawal El Saadawi. The Egyptian human rights activist will receive the award on Monday 14 November. In accordance with this, Dr. Saadawi has kindly accepted the NCHR invitation to serve as this years' Torkel Opsahl Memorial Lecturer.
El Saadawi has herself chosen the title of the lecture: Creativity, Dissidence, Women and the Revolution. In a short introduction she writes:
I will try to discuss these questions:
- What do we mean by creativity? Are women less creative than men?
- What is the relation between creativity and dissidence? And revolution?
- What do we mean by Human Rights? And Women Rights?
- The role of women in the Egyptian Revolution 2011.
- The counter-revolution and backlash against women rights.
- The Power of Women: Unity, Organisation. Unveiling of the Mind.
- Global and local struggle and solidarity.
The lecture is open to the general public, and free of charge. No registration is necessary for the lecture.
Any questions should be directed to the NCHR Head of information.
Later on the 14th, there will be an award ceremony and reception, between 18.00 and 19.00 in the University’s Ceremonial Hall (Gamle festsal), Domus Academica, Karl Johans gate 47.
Everyone is invited to a reception after the ceremony. Dress-code: Business
at the Award ceremony by 7 November.
Formal invitation to the Award ceremony (in Norwegian - pdf)
Source: Norsk senter for menneskerettigheter
*** OHCHR Meetings and Events
Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) / 47th session
From : 14-11-2011 To : 02-12-2011
PW Grd Floor
WG on Arbitrary Detention / 62nd session
From : 16-11-2011 To : 25-11-2011
WG on the use of mercenaries / 14th session
From : 28-11-2011 To : 02-12-2011
PW Grd Floor
BoT, UN Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery / 16th session
From : 28-11-2011 To : 05-12-2011
Forum on Minority Issues / 4th session
From : 29-11-2011 To : 30-11-2011
Pre-sessional WG - CESCR / 47th session
From : 05-12-2011 To : 09-12-2011
PW Grd Floor
*** Unity is Strength: The Workers’ Movement in China 2009-2011 - The workers’ movement in China has been galvanised and invigorated over the last three years by a new generation of migrant workers. They are demanding better pay and working conditions, and are refusing to tolerate the exploitation and discrimination their parents had to endure. These young activists have not only won noticeable concessions from their employers, they have also forced the government and trade unions to reassess their labour and social policies. However the movement remains fragmented and unstable because these young workers are denied the opportunity to put the experience and knowledge gained from organising strikes and negotiating settlements with management to long-term use.
China Labour Bulletin’s fourth in-depth report on the workers’ movement examines the current trends and developments in worker activism in China, both in the private sector and in state-owned enterprises (SOEs), and documents the responses of employers, government and trade unions.
Source: China Labour Bulletin
*** OHCHR 2010 Report Now Available Online - The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has recently published its 2010 annual report online. To access the report, CLICK HERE>>>