The Global Citizen: Human Rights
The Senate is on the verge of ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This could be amazing! The Senate has not been able to push through a multilateral treaty since the Chemical Weapons convention in 1997.
Senator John Kerry (D-MA), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has said that current U.S. laws protecting the disabled are the “gold standard” for such initiatives worldwide. He said that the treaty would “take that gold standard and extend it to countries that have never heard of disability rights.”
126 nations have already ratified the CRPD, improving the lives of over 1 billion people living with disabilities. Over 80% of the world’s disabled population lives in developing countries where the treaty would have the greatest impact. U.S. ratification of the treaty will not only maintain our essential leadership on disability issues internationally but allow us to play a key role in forming the legislation and policies that will ensure the equality and inclusion of all people with disabilities worldwide.
They put their lives on the line for us daily. They make sacrifices that I myself could not be able to fathom. Yet women in the military are denied the same rights to basic health care that other citizens have.
Under current law, if a woman solider is raped and becomes pregnant, she cannot use her military health plan to pay for an abortion. She would be forced to seek health care outside of the military base, which often is very dangerous. But Senator Jeanne Shaheen is working to reverse this glaring human rights violation.
The New Hampshire Senator is the creator of Amendment 1120 (also known as the Shaheen Amendment), which would protect enlisted women so that they can have the same health care as the very citizens they protect. A case where an enlisted woman was raped by a fellow soldier reveals how unjust our current laws are. Jessica Kenyon* was raped and denied access to health care on the military base in Korea where she was stationed. There were no other safe health care alternatives where she was, and because of these circumstances that were beyond her control, she was given no other choice but to leave and give up her military career. She later miscarried.
Yesterday was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. In December of 1999, the United Nations created this day to highlight how gender based violence affects billions of women all over the world, which in turn affects the economic capacity of their communities and nations.
Over a decade later, women’s human rights are just now starting to take center stage. The 2012 election put a record number of women in the Senate— but we have yet to reach political parity. Efforts to end gender-based violence are underway, yet there remains the haunting statistic that one in three women will be raped or attacked in her lifetime. Just recently in Ireland, Savita Halappanavar was left by doctors to die because she was denied an abortion—a case that made international news and spurred hundreds of protests throughout the world.
A significant amount of the world's resources and minerals are in countries on the African continent. From diamonds to oil reserves, you would think these resource-rich nations would be some of the most economically advantaged. Instead, the presence of resources, like oil, in countries such as Sudan and South Sudan, has only created more problems and turmoil in the region.
Disagreement over oil reserves and how the profits should be dispersed throughout the country is a major reason for Sudan's ongoing civil war (arguably the longest in history) and the eventual secession of South Sudan.
Countries rich in resources are actually more prone to conflict, as these resources can be used to finance war or rebellion efforts that otherwise wouldn't be sustainable. The profits can be used by corrupt governments to finance their own needs without any need for input from civilians, leaving them less accountable to their people. However, these are the same resources that have helped African nations to develop some of the fastest growing economies in the world.
According to the IMF's 2012 World Economic Outlook, of the 20 fastest growing economies in the world, 10 are located in Sub-Saharan Africa. South Sudan ranks # 2 in the world. Others who make the list include the Republic of Congo, Zambia, Ghana and Mozambique.
"We believe that 'We're all in this together' is a far better philosophy than 'You're on your own'.'' That's how Bill Clinton summed up the philosophical difference between Democrats and Republicans when he nominated President Barack Obama to run and eventually win a second term. It's also the philosophy that underpins the work of the Connect U.S. Fund. For the last eight years they have brought together a community of advocacy and grassroots groups, philanthropic foundations, and think tanks to push for farsighted American leadership in efforts to create a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world. They have just released a letter to President Obama and his transition team signed by over 180 foreign policy leaders, who represent millions of Americans, and came together to develop proposals to enhance U.S. global leadership and cooperation in this new presidential term. As one of its signatories, I'm excited by the detailed recommendations which lay out a blueprint for constructive and achievable U.S. actions across four key areas: human rights, climate change, nuclear weapons, and development. The letter urges the President to take action to:
The United States sent a message on Tuesday night's election: women's human rights are not to be threatened. This message was loud and clear when the country elected a record-breaking number of women to Senate. The 113th Congress of the United States will have 20 women Senators---the most women to serve in United States history. Ever.
I hope you're not wondering what could have set this precedent but if you are, let's recap:
Representative Todd Akin, who was running for Claire McCaskill's Missouri Senate Seat made his "legitimate rape" comment, explaining how the female body has "ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
Richard Mourdock, running for Senate in Indiana spoke for God when he declared that when a woman gets pregnant from a rape, it "is something God intended." There were scores more of men who made similar statements.
State Representative Roger Rivard lost re-election in Wisconsin when he declared, "consensual sex can turn into rape in an awful hurry [...] some girls, they rape so easy."
Sadly, there are a more comments like these, which you can read here.
"I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."
--Indiana GOP U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock in Tuesday's televised debate, in response to a question regarding the candidates' position on abortion.
In a society that is plagued with rape culture, this is a dangerous and horrifying statement, to say the least. Sure, we have seen backlash from the media, but just as in Todd Akin's case, this man will continue to run for Senate under the guise of "family values."
"We are living through a period of profound turmoil, transition and transformation. Insecurity, inequality and intolerance are spreading. Global and national institutions are being put to the test. With so much at stake, the United Nations must keep pace across the spectrum of its activities - peace, development, human rights, the rule of law, the empowerment of the world's women and youth."
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Today, 67 years ago, the United Nations Charter was ratified and, with this document, the United Nations was born. There is no doubt how significant this establishment has been and today we should take a minute to reflect on this accomplishment.
If I were lucky enough to be able to select a couple of questions for tomorrow night's Presidential Debate at Hofstra, I would choose some questions that have not been beaten to death on the campaign trail so far. Whether or not these important issues are touched upon in the debates, here are the ones that I would want to make sure that the next leader of the free world weighed in on before I went to the polls:
One glaring omission so far is climate change. There is no doubt that the Earth is heating up; the ice caps are melting and drought is rampant, resulting in higher food prices globally. This issue has been every presidential debate cycle since 1984, but so far this time around, there has only been silence. Although the Democratic Party Platform did touch upon this issue as a national security concern, Obama has not said much since the Democratic Convention. On the other hand, the Republican Party's skepticism concerning the seriousness of climate change (I mean come on, Romney joked about it during his convention speech) casts a lot of doubt on their willingness to do something about it. If Romney is going to change his mind (which seems to be an effective campaign strategy), he needs to give the message enough time to reach voters.
On September 20th, GlobalSolutions.org, hosted a panel discussion titled It Can Be Done: U.S. Personnel in International Peacekeeping. During this event, attendees were treated to the perspectives of three prominent U.S. peacekeepers: Lynn Holland, William Stuebner, and Deborah Owens.
First, Lynn Holland provided her perspective on the importance of U.S. involvement in peacekeeping missions, as well as her take on the role that women have in future peacekeeping missions. Next, William Stuebner provided a realistic perspective on future U.S. engagement in international peacekeeping, providing a number of conditions that must be met in order for the United States to engage in the process. Finally, Deborah Owens provided some of her perspectives that she gained through service in Somalia, Rwanda, and Bosnia.
The panel discussion was the last in a series of events held to promote a report we published last year in conjunction with the Partnership for Effective Peacekeeping, entitled “U.S. Engagement in International Peacekeeping: From Aspiration to Implementation.” Thanks to generous support from the Compton Foundation, we were able to hold events education policy makers, government officials, fellow NGO staff, and students on the benefits of U.S. engagement in peacekeeping efforts.
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