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  • More than 109,000 children work in Cote d'Ivoire's cocoa industry...

    More than 109,000 children work in Cote d'Ivoire's cocoa industry...

  • Can we create a framework to help businesses prioritize human rights?

    Can we create a framework to help businesses prioritize human rights?

The Upstream Journal

Woman farmer tending soybean field. Source: International Institute of Tropical Agriculture

International Day of Peasants’ Struggles

Did you know that two thirds of the world’s people get their food supply from small-scale farmers? Did you know that small-scale farmers use only 30% of the world arable land? Or that women produce 70% of the food on earth?

April 17th - Day of Peasant's Struggles. Source: La Via Campesina.

April 17th – Day of Peasant’s Struggles. Source: La Via Campesina.

La Via Campesina, also known as the Peasants’ Movement, stands for 200 million farmers globally, including small and medium-size farmers, indigenous people, women farmers, landless workers, migrants and agricultural workers. It represents 164 organizations from 73 countries, according to its website.

Women produce 70% of the food on earth, but they are severely marginalized, making gender equality an important issue when talking about the rights of small-scale farmers.

More than two thirds of the world’s people are dependent for their food on small-scale farmers, who use only 30% of the world arable land, according to the article written by World Development Movement’s policy officer, Christine Haigh. However, most small-scale farmers struggle to establish their rights to use and manage land, water, seeds, livestock and biodiversity.
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The critical voice of South Sudan: Mading Ngor

Mading Ngor was one of the “Lost Boys” of Sudan who fled the infamous massacres of Darfur. He left his village in 1991, when his father was killed. He eventually arrived at a Kenyan refugee camp in 1995, where he remained until he got a visa for Canada in 2001. He went to high school in New Westminster, B.C., studied journalism at Edmonton’s Grant MacEwan University, and then earned his BA in Professional Communication at Royal Roads University in Victoria, when he co-founded a news website, New Sudan Vision. After a brief period working as a freelancer for the Calgary Herald in 2011, Mading returned to South Sudan and became a radio journalist on a popular morning show called Wake Up Juba! Today, he is an international correspondent with Reuters and The Huffington Post, as well as a production assistant with the BBC.

Growing up during the civil war and fleeing Sudan

You were born in Bor, the capital of Jonglei state in 1983. What was your childhood like?

My people are cattle rearing, so life around me when I was young was all about cattle because that’s the Dinka tradition. Even my name Mading is the name of a bull and most of the Dinka names are all about cattle. So I used to take care of the cattle, used to swim by a nearby lake and go hunting with my dog. To me it was a normal childhood. But that all changed when the massacre in 1991 happened in my village and changed my life irretrievably.
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Angelica-Choc bw

HudBay Minerals Inc. being taken to court in Ontario for operations in Guatemala

For the first time a lawsuit against a Canadian mining company over alleged human rights abuses abroad will be heard in a Canadian court. After opposing it for more than a year, HudBay Minerals Inc. has agreed to have the case heard by a Canadian court. But the company says that the charges should be thrown out, arguing that it cannot be tried in court here for the actions in Guatemala of its former foreign subsidiary at the time.

In what could potentially be a landmark ruling for Canadian corporate accountability, members of the Mayan Q’eqchi community of Lote Ocho have brought three lawsuits against HudBay Minerals Inc. in the superior court of Ontario.
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  • 2014 / Mar
  • By Olivia Zeydler
  • 0

Business and Human Rights

Monitoring the actions of corporations to ensure their accountability is a challenge. They work all over the world, under several jurisdictions, have power in the market economy, and operate on a large-scale, impacting the environment and the lives of many people.

Initiatives such as the UN Global Compact and the use of corporate social responsibility reports are ways that corporations voluntarily report on their impacts. But critics argue that these are insufficient, because they are nonbinding.

To create a more effective framework to help businesses prioritize human rights, in 2005 UN Secretary General Kofi Annan appointed John Ruggie of Harvard University. The result was the the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, approved unanimously by the Human Rights Council in 2011.
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Cocoa industry and child labour

“There’s something that is really unsavory and horrible about companies, and the people that run those companies, being able to be so wealthy at the top of the supply chain. But at the bottom you see a level of exploitation that is almost unmatched. Still, the chocolate industry is transforming, and a good portion of that transformation is due to consumer pressure.” - Sean Rudolph, Campaigns Director, International Labour Rights Forum

70% of the cocoa exported worldwide comes from West Africa, primarily from Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire. More than 109,000 children in Cote d’Ivoire’s cocoa industry work in what the US Department of State calls one of the worst forms of child labour. 10,000 are estimated to be victims of human trafficking or enslavement.
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Working for a better world

How young people can prepare for a life in international development
Finding your way into international justice

Political science undergraduate students like me often choose international development as a part of their studies. With a secondary degree a growing necessity, law school is often seen as the most logical continuation of our field of studies, especially if we are interested in international justice.

But there are other options. A career in international justice may combine political science and development studies in a legal setting, but you don’t necessarily need a law degree.
Two experts I spoke with agreed that that there is more than one path to working in international justice. John Cerone, a professor of law and visiting scholar to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), talked about his decision to get a law degree. Continue Reading

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New energy strategy may be an improvement, but will it be enough?

The World Bank is preparing a new energy sector strategy that it says will respond to the need to increase energy access for the poor while supporting the shift towards environmentally-sustainable development. To provide large energy supplies, the Bank continues to invest in oil, coal and fossil fuel-powered plants that have large environmental impacts, so its energy strategy is a concern for environmentalist groups.

Environmentalist NGOs note progressive steps in the latest draft, but are concerned with several aspects:
- the lack of clear screening procedures and requirements for projects to promote decentralized and environmentally sustainable projects,
- the lack of a clear definition of “clean energy,”
- the promotion of hydropower without appropriate guidelines. Continue Reading

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Charities say lack of CIDA support and delays in funding are damaging international development efforts

25% of organizations say people are suffering and dying as programs scale back or close

Almost half of the 113 organizations that responded to a survey by the Canadian Council for International Cooperation say that delays and accompanying lack of project financing are slowing down or stopping project work in developing countries. 25% of those surveyed say that people are suffering or dying because urgently needed community development and health initiatives are not being provided.

42% say they have to restructure other programs, alter their overall budget, or draw on financial reserves to continue operating.

35% of organizations say funding delays have meant layoffs, delays in hiring, low morale, and employees quitting due to organizational uncertainty because of delays in getting CIDA funding commitments.
Almost 60% of organizations say their projects are being scaled back, shut down, or losing momentum and continuity, and 30% say that their international partners are in limbo while they wait for a decision from CIDA.

CIDA funds aid groups partnering with mining companies

In September, the Canadian government announced new development aid funding for pilot projects with three major development NGOs who have partnered with mining companies to provide social development projects.
World University Service of Canada (WUSC) is partnered with Rio Tinto Alcan, Plan Canada with IAMGOLD, and World Vision Canada with Barrick Gold.

The IMAGOL/Plan Canada project is the biggest, at $7.6 million. IAMGOLD’s press release about the funding says that “CIDA has approved funding of CDN$5,654,980 to support this five-year project which was jointly proposed by Plan Canada and IAMGOLD. Together, Plan Canada and IAMGOLD have committed CDN$1,919,830 to the project, which represents one of the largest public-private partnerships with an extractive company in CIDA’s history.” Continue Reading

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Shrilanka: the state of emergency is over, but lack of justice and accountability continue

Claims of extrajudicial executions are not uncommon in Sri Lanka. The Asian Human Rights Commission has referred to a “constitutionally entrenched impunity” which plagues the small island nation just emerging from three decades of civil war.
From 1971 to 2011, Sri Lanka was under a state of emergency almost continually. Emergency regulations can override, amend, or suspend legislation, and permit detention without charge or trial for up to 18 months in a secret location. Human rights advocates say this facilitated human rights abuses like forced disappearances, torture and death in custody.
“The emergency regulations are a real concern because they introduce very broad categories of what constitutes terrorism, and erode the normal safeguards that would be in place when someone is detained,” Yolanda Foster, of Amnesty International’s South Asia team, told me.
Successive governments have used national security as justification for the introduction of a broad range of security legislation.
Sri Lanka also has a Prevention of Terrorism Act, which allows for the suspension of certain rights of criminal procedure, including that of being presumed innocent until proven guilty.
“The emergency regulations and the Prevention of Terrorism Act put all citizens of Sri Lanka at risk of arbitrary detention. But, because of the nature of the ethnic conflict, the security forces have predominantly targeted young Tamil men with these laws,” Foster said, who are especially subject to arbitrary arrest and detention.
What happened to one young man, “Saman”, is an example of how police operate, his brother told me. He died during an encounter with police, who also arrested his mother and sister, claiming that Saman was involved with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
Saman’s brother, Tharindu, is adamant about his innoncence. “He was studying. He was not a member of the Tigers, I can assure you of that. Even the police report said that my mother and sister don’t know anything.”
The 2011 Amnesty International report “Forgotten Prisoners” quotes one lawyer as saying: “We in the legal profession don’t even know how many prisoners are on remand for crimes they didn’t commit. Sometimes prisoners end up pleading guilty out of desperation, so they can put an end to the feeling of being in limbo.”
This is normal in Sri Lanka, Tharindu says. The lawyer representing Tharindu’s mother and sister presented them with a similar deal. The authorities could drag the case out for two, three, even five years, but if they plead guilty to the charges against them, there was the possibility that the sentence could be reduced to as low as four months. They refused.
The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, in April, 2010, ruled that there was no evidence with which to hold them, and the Attorney General ordered the release of both women. However, they remained in detention because the Ministry of Defense refused to obey the release order.
“There are so many similar cases where the judgment is to release but the Ministry of Defense objects. The judiciary has no role in Sri Lanka,” says Vairamuttu Varadakumar, of the London-based Tamil Information Center. “The accountability is gone.”

“One of the challenges that Sri Lanka faces is that there are no independent institutions functioning,” Foster said. “And since the end of the war Sri Lanka has seen a concentration of executive authority.”
Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, is President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother. Two other brothers also hold high political positions.

In practice this means that there is no institution with the authority to investigate human rights violations and prosecute offenders.

In 2011 emergency regulations were lifted, but other laws, like the Prevention of Terrorism Act, remain in force and allow the thousands of people currently detained, many without charge, to remain so.
The United Nations Refugee Agency reports that of more than 11,000 people arbitrarily detained in 2009, 6,000 remain in detention camps without access to lawyers or the Red Cross. Continue Reading

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  • 2012 / Jan
  • By Timothée Labelle
  • 0

Des femmes

Le 22 mai dernier, Manal Al-Sharif, activiste saoudienne reconnue, prend le volant pour vaquer à ses activités quotidiennes. Elle est arrêtée dans les heures qui suivent, mais la vidéo de son court trajet prendra rapidement d’assaut les médias sociaux.

Moins d’un mois plus tard, une quarantaine de femmes roulent dans les rues de Riyad, la capitale. La campagne spontanée Women 2 Drive commençait, le dernier épisode d’une longue lutte pour la reconnaissance des droits des femmes saoudiennes. Bilan d’un combat de longue haleine pour des libertés fondamentales.

Les femmes et la monarchie

À son arrivée au pouvoir en 2005, le roi Abdullah promet d’intégrer les femmes à la vie économique saoudienne. Il prend une série de mesures destinées à reconnaître certains droits aux femmes.

Il nomme Mme Nora bint Abdullah al-Fayez ministre de l’Éducation, la première femme à accéder à un poste au cabinet. Il ouvre aussi une université mixte, s’engage à prendre des mesures pour contrer la violence domestique et démarre un dialogue national sur l’égalité des sexes. En septembre dernier, le roi annonçait même que les femmes auraient le droit de voter aux élections régionales de 2015. Les groupes humanitaires demeurent toutefois sceptiques. Continue Reading

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