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Category: Human Rights

FIFA's Failures

The World Cup is moving into the knockout stages and, rightly so, the tournament has garnered immense attention internationally. I myself have been cheering for the US Men's National Team, though I think that Die Mannschaft (Germany) will ultimately emerge victorious in the tournament. The World Cup never fails to disappoint and this year has certainly been thrilling.

The World Cup is also a moment in which football's governing body, FIFA, is most scrutinized -- and this is for good reason.

Brazil's opportunity to host the World Cup has been a moment of pride for the Brazilian government and is almost too fitting a scene. A country that evokes images of beach parties, carnivale, and joyful people is coupled with a deep appreciation for the rich history of Brazilian soccer -- players like Pele, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Marta, and more come to mind.

A World Cup, But Not A People's Cup

Soccer is a universal sport. It is played around the world in a variety of countries: rich and poor, democratic and nondemocratic, Western and Southern. For millions, it is more than just a game, it is a source of national pride, and competing in the World Cup is one of the highest honors a team can bring to its country.

But while the sport itself may be a unifying force within and among countries, the international governing body that organizes the World Cup, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), is not. In fact, it is the cause of many of the world’s current issues, ranging from corruption to human rights abuses to mass riots. FIFA has gained enough power and influence to become somewhat of a world government, causing it to be dubbed the “United Nations of Football.”

Brazil, the current host of the World Cup, spent $300 million to build just one stadium in a secluded part of the country that does not have a first-class team to play there afterward; it will apparently cost $250,000 per month to maintain. All this comes from a country that suffers from extreme poverty and inequality, a decaying infrastructure, and both healthcare and education programs in need of more funding. The construction has also led to the gentrification of locals, with many enduring rent increases, demolitions, and evictions.

Can We Leave Our Children A Better World?

I came across a BBC article last week entitled "What our descendants will deplore about us." The article considers human beings' trajectories in recent memory and what we are doing in our contemporary world that our children and grandchildren may find unbelievable--and in some cases downright terrible. The apartheid of South Africa and the segregation of the United States, for example, are deplorable to us now as many of the ongoing injustices around the world will look unacceptable to our children.

This article got me thinking about what I would put on a list of issues facing the world at the moment and which of them are critical to address if we want our progeny to look fondly at what we've done and the world we leave them. In doing so, I came up with the following as some of the most important goals for the global community to work toward:

Peace Among the Religions: A Call to Action,_World_Economic_Forum_2009_Annual_Meeting.jpg#/media/File:Religious_Leaders,_World_Economic_Forum_2009_Annual_Meeting.jpg

In my final year of high school, I delivered a speech called "The Rusted Rule." I argued against the opinion that religion was inherently misogynistic, a justifier for war and a prop of regimes. I maintained that the Golden Rule of empathy, albeit rusted by the iniquities of religious extremism, still united world religions in a creed to abolish war and global injustice. I ended with an exhortation to repair the damage caused by all that is wrong with religion and to uphold all that is right with it.

Of course I was delighted to find at the recent Raise Your Global Voice Conference the means to bring to life the vision of peace through interreligious dialogue.

David Oughton, Professor of Theological Studies at St. Louis University and Board Member of Global Solutions’ St. Louis Chapter, spoke on the responsibility of world religions to take an active role in building a firm foundation for world peace and in promoting the ideals of a global community. He argued that the diverse faiths, in addition to articulating mildly different iterations of a common Golden Rule, share six commandments including “thou shalt not kill” and “help the helpless.” These laid the groundwork for the articulation of a Global Ethic, a universal call to action on the basis of collective religious principle, at the Parliament for World Religions in 1993.

Oughton suggested that all the world’s religions join the struggle for peace through interreligious dialogue, a necessity in accordance with Hans Kung’s statement that there can be “no peace among nations without peace among the religions.

ISIS Declares Caliphate: The Worsening Situation and the Role of the International Community

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) made a huge move yesterday by declaring a caliphate spanning large areas over Iraq and Syria. ISIS has been capturing Iraqi cities one by one for several weeks now. They have successfully overrun military forces, and in some cases made forces voluntarily retreat.

(ISIS has recognized their caliphate as crossing international boundaries and ridding the countries of lasting colonial-era borders and has therefore changed its name to only “The Islamic State”.)

Abu Muhammad al-Adani, ISIS spokesperson, made this announcement on Sunday, which was also the beginning of Ramadan. In it al-Adani declared ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi the imam and caliph (religious and political successor of the Prophet Muhammad) of “Muslims everywhere."

Last week, ISIS had been suspected of overtaking an oil refinery in Baiji, Iraq that would give them control of 1/3 of Iraq’s oil output. Because of this development, President Obama approved 300 troops to be sent to Iraq. These troops are part of what is called an “assessment” mission.

Egypt Delivers a "Draconian" Ruling

Egypt is making headlines again.

Only months after a court sentenced over 600 defendants to death, Judge Sa'ed Yusef Sabri confirmed the death sentence for 183 Muslim Brotherhood supporters, including the group’s former leader, Mohammed Badie.

At the time the initial sentence was handed down, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called the proceedings a “cursory mass trial.” Many of the accused were tried in absentia, never facing trial. On Monday similar words were spoken. Ms. Pillay said she was “shocked and alarmed” in a statement and released shortly after the sentencing.

In a statement from New York, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reaffirmed that “Proceedings that clearly appear not to meet basic fair trial standards, particularly those resulting in the imposition of the death penalty, are likely to undermine prospects for long-term stability." The statement went on to stress that "participation in peaceful protests or criticism of the Government should not be grounds for detention or prosecution”.

Hesham Qasim, former chairman of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, has called for authorities to intervene in the matter.

Free for a Day: Meriam Ibrahim Released and Rearrested

A few days ago, my mother, who of course reads my blog posts, excitedly notified me over Facebook that Meriam Ibrahim has been released from prison in Sudan. Last week I wrote about how the court’s apostasy accusation against Ibrahim, in addition to being an egregious assault on religious freedom, was also a case study in codified misogyny. This legalized chauvinism had forced a mother to give birth shackled to the floor and had sentenced her to death--but last Monday it seemed she’d been granted a reprieve.

The international outcry against the conviction’s abuse of human rights seemed to have been answered in the Court’s latest ruling. Jehanne Henry of Human Rights watch suggested that the international pressure may have had an influence on the decision. Certainly between Amnesty International, David Cameron, and Hillary Clinton, influential voices had raised a clamour worldwide in an international campaign demanding justice for the imprisoned Ibrahim. Widespread investment and concern for the fate of one woman had transcended borders and yielded a concrete and happy result.

Still, the international community rejoiced cautiously. US Rep. Chris Smith called the release a “huge first step,” but maintained that the next was putting Ibrahim and her family on a plane to the US.

Senate Hearing on Women's Rights Affirms Importance of IVAWA, CEDAW

Senate Witness Panel on Gender-Based Violence, cred. Feminist Majority

This blog was co-authored with Ben Gross

Tuesday marked a monumental day for women around the world as the Senate Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy, and Global Women’s Issues gathered to address the global epidemic of gender-based violence and discrimination. Senator Barbara Boxer, presiding, convened an impressive array of witnesses that included prominent Senators as well as many other leading figures in the struggle for gender equality.

Senator Boxer emphasized in her opening remarks the need for the long-overdue passage of  the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) and the ratification of the Women’s Rights Treaty (CEDAW) as vital steps in protecting women’s rights worldwide.

Can Unitary Action Supplement International Intervention?

On Thursday, June 19th, the White House announced that the US will be cutting and redirecting aid to Uganda in response to its harsh anti-homosexuality laws. This comes roughly 3 months after the passage of the law and two weeks after Uganda’s Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa was elected President of the UN General Assembly.

The US’ specific plan includes the following, as outlined on the White House Blog:

  • Restricting entry to the United States by implementing a visa ban on Ugandan individuals involved in human rights abuses or corruption
  • Ceasing support for Uganda’s community policing program in order to address police abuse related to the anti-homosexuality law
  • Redirecting certain financial support for the Ministry of Health (MOH) to other partners by shifting funding to non-governmental organizations, thus untying US aid from the Ugandan government
  • Relocating funds for a planned public health institute and other measures relating to health programming to another country within Africa, in addition to relocating the National Institutes for Health genomics meeting to South Africa

The US will not, however, suspend humanitarian support or its commitment to help end the Lord’s Resistance Army.

World Cup Puts Global Inequality on Display

A mural street artist Paulo Ito painted on the doors of a schoolhouse in Sao Paulo's Pompela district. From Ito's Flickr feed.

With the 2014 FIFA World Cup underway in Brazil, it’s easy to ignore the headlines about protests in favor of the dramatic, high-scoring football matches capturing the attention of fans worldwide. But before we get out of the group stages, let’s focus on a chief concern of those protestors: inequalities in Brazilian society, and a corollary – how dismayingly common those inequalities are around the world.

Let’s start with Brazil. Around 15.9% of Brazilians are below the national poverty line. Just 3% of Brazilians own two thirds of the arable land, and agriculture is big business in Brazil. The most important picture of Brazil is the contrast in, say, Rio de Janeiro, between the massive favela shanty towns and the picturesque high-rise hotels immediately adjacent – the exact scene that will be playing out for tourists at the World Cup. With families locked in poverty sometimes for generations while the wealthy seemingly stay on top, desperation can easily set in.

But Brazil is only one piece of the puzzle; inequality is getting worse around the world. One study saw the top 1 percent of earners in the world increase their incomes 60 percent from 1988 to 2005; the bottom 20 percent saw no change. Eight percent of people see 50 percent of income worldwide. Coupled with staggering extreme poverty figures – we still have 1.22 billion people living on less than $1.25 a day – we all have a reason to protest.