The Global Citizen: jbunting
A 14-year old Pakistani girl was shot by Taliban operatives yesterday while riding home on her school bus. The young girl, Malala Yousafzai, is an internationally recognized advocate for girls' education. The Taliban extremists said they targeted her specifically because, in their view, she is pro-Western symbol of "infidels and obscenity." They vowed to continue targeting her if she survives this attack.
Yousafzai was first brought to the public eye in 2009 when she wrote an anonymous diary for BBC's Urdu service about the atrocities of the Taliban, who controlled her city in Pakistan for two years through May 2009. Her brave work supporting girls' education rights, particularly against rising fundamentalism, made her a finalist for last year's International Children's Peace Prize. She has also promoted literacy and peace, earning her a peace prize from the Pakistani government.
It is absolutely heartbreaking that a young girl would be the victim of assassination attempts for no reason than her support of her rights to an education. The attack is a chilling reminder of the consequences, particularly for women, of allowing religious extremism to flourish in unstable societies.
Over the last two months, the team here at GlobalSolutions.org has been working to make climate change a bigger election issue this cycle, starting with the first presidential debate on October 3rd hosted by Jim Lehrer of PBS's NewsHour. This morning, GlobalSolutions.org, along with eight other organizations like the League of Conservation Voters and the Environmental Defense Fund, delivered over 160,000 of your petitions to the Newshour offices. Representatives for NewsHour accepted our petitions and guaranteed that our voices would be heard by Mr. Lehrer. According to one staff member, this petition is the largest they have received this election cycle.
We're excited to announce a unique opportunity to join our exclusive webinar, "A Giant Step Towards 'Never Again:' 10 Years of International Justice." The webinar will be held this Saturday at 1:00 PM EST and feature a discussion on the International Criminal Court as it celebrates the 10th anniversary since its creation. The webinar will feature esteemed speakers Luis Moreno Ocampo, former Chief Prosecutor of the ICC, and Ben Ferencz, professor and former Nuremberg Prosecutor.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) is the first permanent international judicial body capable of trying individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes when national courts are unable or unwilling to do so. Its founding treaty, the Rome Statute, entered into force on July 1, 2002 thereby creating the Court and its ability to prosecute war criminals.
As of April 2012, 121 states are parties to the Statue of the Court and thirty-two others, including the United States, have signed but not ratified the Rome Statute. There have been 28 indictments, 20 warrants of arrest, 15 cases brought to the Court, six of which are currently on trial, and 9 successful summonses. The court celebrated a landmark moment when it completed its first trial in March 2012, convicting Thomas Lubanga of the Democratic Republic of the Congo of using child soldiers.
Rio+20, the UN Earth Summit, was held in Rio de Janeiro last week to a decided lack of fanfare. Activists hoping for a significant, binding outcome document were severely let down. Others have written much more eloquently than I could on the underwhelming outcome, both focusing on the disappointments and the silver lining, and I encourage you to read further. But for those of you who want the Cliff's Notes version, here are 5 takeaway lessons from the Rio+20 Earth Summit.
President Obama spoke this morning at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. to observe a Day of Remembrance for the victims of the Holocaust and announce the launch of a new Atrocities Prevention Board. Obama was introduced by author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. Both speakers gave moving testimony on the horrors of the Holocaust and how we can achieve the promise to "never again" allow such atrocities to occur.
Obama spoke to the need to more formally intervene to prevent mass atrocities and genocide, saying "national sovereignty is never a license to slaughter your own people." He said that "never again is a challenge to us all," adding that "remembrance without action changes nothing."
The President used the speech to outline several key actions the administration is taking to truly achieve the goal of "never again." Chief among these was the issuance of an executive order that allows for U.S. officials to impose sanctions against foreign nationals found to have used new technologies, including cell phone tracking and Internet monitoring, to help carry out grave human rights abuses. These sanctions will hopefully help address the repression of regimes, particularly Iran and Syria, who have used the internet to control and censor democracy and human rights activists.
President Obama released a statement over the weekend to the citizens of Sudan and South Sudan. South Sudan, nearing its one-year anniversary of independence from Sudan in June, has been disputing borders and control of important oil-rich regions with Sudan for several months. In recent weeks, disputes have turned increasingly violent.
President Obama's message was clear, that "conflict is not inevitable," and there is still time to lay down weapons and come back to the negotiating table. He called on Sudan "to halt all military actions, including aerial bombardments; give aid workers unfettered access to people in need; and end support for armed groups." He also requested that South Sudan "end its support for armed groups inside Sudan and cease its military actions across the border."
Watch the video and share:
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was elected to parliament yesterday in a landmark moment for the nation ruled by a military junta until just a few years ago. Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Suu Kyi has been a long-time pro-democracy activist in Myanmar, spending several years under house arrest for her efforts against the military dictators. Suu Kyi lauded her electoral victory as "a triumph of the people" of Myanmar.
Although Suu Kyi's party will only comprise a small minority in the 664-seat legislature, the election is an important step in the movement towards democracy for the formally autocratic government. While the government is still heavily controlled by the military, the nation's leaders have shown significant signs of improving, including ending Suu Kyi's house arrest, freeing hundreds of other political prisoners, allowing opposition parties to participate in elections and calling for the end of ethnically motivated human rights violations.
These steps have led to increased international involvement for Myanmar, including the normalization of relations with the United States, who had imposed heavy sanctions on the Myanmarese government for its human rights violations. While there is still much work to be done before Myanmar completes its transformation to a true democracy, Suu Kyi's victory is a message to all pro-democracy efforts that perseverance does pay off.
In a landmark moment for international justice, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued its first ever verdict today, convicting Thomas Lubanga of the Democratic Republic of the Congo of abducting and conscripting child soldiers. In honor of this judgment, members of the Washington Working Group on the ICC (WICC), a group of the Washington-based NGOs committed to the cause of international criminal justice, sent a letter to Congress celebrating the verdict.
The letter was signed by twelve organizations, including: Citizens for Global Solutions, American Non-Governmental Organizations Coalition for the International Criminal Court, Amnesty International USA, ENOUGH, The Fund for Peace, International Alliance of Women, International Criminal Court Alliance, International Criminal Court Student Network, Physicians for Human Rights, United to End Genocide, United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society, and Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.
The full text of the letter can be found by clicking here.
The United States and North Korea announced a breakthrough agreement earlier this week, with North Korea agreeing to suspend nuclear weapons testing and halt the enrichment of uranium in return for more than 200,000 metric tons of food aid. This food aid is crucial to the famine-stricken nation that has been subject to heavy sanctions, mostly due to its unbending commitment to a nuclear program.
The announcement is the first true sign of how North Korea's young, new leader Kim Jong-un, who took office last December following the unexpected death of his father Kim Jong-il, will approach international negotiations. While the negotiations began before his father's death, the announcement of an agreement highlights Kim's willingness to engage in negotiations to secure aid that helps solidify support at home.
While the announcement is a positive sign of North Korea's willingness to engage, it is far from a true end to North Korea's nuclear program. North Korea has struck similar deals before without following through. North Korea's state-run media announced the deal with the notable stipulation that they would hold to their end of the deal only "while productive dialogue continues," implying that their cooperation could end at any point. However, the agreement is certainly a step in the right direction.
The Arab Spring has captured international attention for more than a year now, conjuring images of protests in Tunis, Cairo or Homs. Particularly the ongoing plight of the Syrian people has stirred emotions, leading human rights advocates to call for international action to intervene and protect civilians being attacked for protesting. But many people seem to have forgotten another group of people who also took to the streets and public squares to demand greater democracy and freedom - the people of Bahrain.
The uprising, which recently celebrated its one-year anniversary on February 14, has received a fraction of the attention and media coverage that other Arab protest movements have garnered. Activists estimate that more than 70 people have been killed, with thousands more wounded and arrested. An independent committee commissioned by the Bahraini government itself estimates that more than 3,000 individuals are still imprisoned for political reasons. These prisoners have been subjected to torture and their families have been targeted by the government for night raids and home inspections.
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