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30 years?!? Really?

Looking for an icebreaker at your next holiday dinner party? How about asking guests what the United States has in common with Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Nauru, Palau, and Tonga? It's not weather or cuisine, and it certainly isn't number of Starbucks; it's the fact that none of these countries have ratified the United Nations Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (also known as CEDAW). CEDAW came into force on December 18, 1979 which is 30 years ago today and then President of the United States Jimmy Carter signed the Convention.

A movement for global solutions

Human Rights.

Even if it is troubling to admit, the idea of human rights is only fairly recent. It is troubling because we see human rights as something basic, something fundamental, something essential to our nature - yet for most of our existence as a species it never existed.

It's troubling to admit, because it might suggest that we're wrong. That human beings are simply not built to treat each other with dignity and respect, and the reason why we've neglected it for so many millennia is because we are simply cruel by nature.

Confronting this problem is hard, but thankfully, one that we don't have to deal with. We simply have to look at the world around us, and we can see the tremendous progress made towards human rights over the last few centuries. We can take relief in the fact that most people today see human rights as a good thing, and that violating human rights is a bad thing. We may be outraged by violations where they occur, we may be frustrated by the lack of progress, but all of us know that the hardest battle of all - the battle for hearts and minds on this issue - has already long been won. We can take comfort in the inevitability of human rights, knowing that it's just a question of better implementation and structures, knowing that we can tap into the public soul to get stronger action on these issues.

This wasn't always the case. These victories were hard won, by people who were told they were wrong at every single step of the way. People who were laughed at and told that slavery reflected the correct and natural order of the universe, or that women would be incapable of voting, or that genocide was an acceptable method of handling indigenous people. Underlying the cynics' beliefs was one central belief - that ultimately, the public was not going to care, and that they were going to be voices speaking into the wind.

Senate recognizes Globalfamily Day

On 19 November, the Senate introduced Senate Resolution 357, encouraging US Citizens to celebrate and take actions in line with Globalfamily Day.

Globalfamily Day, taking place annually on the 1st of January, is a celebration of global citizenship and cooperation to solve global problems.

Before this, Globalfamily Day has twice received the unanimous support of the US Congress (S. Con. Res. 138, S, Res. 582, H. Con. Res. 317), the UN General Assembly (Resolutions 54/29 and 56/2)

Specifically, this Senate request is as follows:

  1. the people of the United States to observe Global Family Day and One Day of Peace and Sharing with appropriate activities stressing the need--
    1. to eradicate violence, hunger, poverty, and suffering; and
    2. to establish greater trust and fellowship among peace-loving countries and families everywhere; and
  2. American businesses, labor organizations, and faith and civic leaders to join in promoting appropriate activities for Americans and in extending appropriate greetings from the families of the United States to families in the rest of the world. echoes the Senate's request, and congratulates Linda Grover on her fantastic work in getting further Senate recognition of Globalfamily Day.

Human Rights Day 2009

Human Rights Day 2009 is this Thursday!  The focus this year will be on non-discrimination.  Specifically, the main objection will be the promotion of discrimination-free societies throughout the world.  Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated the following, "Discrimination lies at the roots of many of the world's most pressing human rights problems.  No country is immune from the scourge.  Eliminating discrimination is a duty of the highest order."

On past Human Rights Day, the Secretary of State gave a speech highlighting the ideals of the day.   A similar speech this year would be the perfect occasion to promote American support of the United Nations' Treaty CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women).  As the title suggests, this treaty focuses on eliminating discrimination against women on an international level.  This fits perfectly with this year's Human Rights Day theme of non-discrimination.  Additionally, CEDAW's 30th anniversary is next week, making the topic even more timely for the Secretary of State's speech.

CEDAW was passed by the UN General Assembly in 1970 and was signed by President Carter in 1980.  However, the US has failed to ratify CEDAW and is keeping company with known human rights violators such as Sudan, Somalia, and Iran.  The speech on Human Rights Day is the perfect opportunity for the US to express our support for CEDAW and that we are willing to work towards ratification.

For more information on Human Rights Day, click here.

For more information on CEDAW, click here.

Copenhagen Climate Talks- Talking the Same Language

The Copenhagen climate talks began today amid much excitement, anxiety and hope. As representatives from around the world negotiate key issues such as emissions reduction commitments and monetary assistance to developing countries, they should keep in mind one goal that will facilitate the agreement to and monitoring of all other climate deals: establishing a common metrics for measuring and declaring emissions reductions. has advocated the establishment of such a common metrics, and today the Washington Post released an article making the same point. Fredd Krupp of the Environmental Defense Fund said that climate change mitigation efforts should be "measured in the same units -- tons of carbon" in order to facilitate private capital investments for mitigation funds to assist developing countries. This editorial demonstrated one of the many beneficial effects of setting a standard of how to measure emissions reductions.

U.S. Government Recognizes the Value of the International Criminal Court

Today, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Rosemary A. DiCarlo, made a statement expressing concern over the tragic conflict in Darfur. Significantly, she conveyed the importance of resolving the issue through the lens of the International Criminal Court and its crucial role in ending impunity for heinous crimes such as those committed in Sudan.

DiCarlo emphasized the Sudanese government's non-cooperation with the ICC. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1593 referred the Darfur situation to the ICC, providing the court with jurisdiction in the area. Since the resolution was adopted under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, it is binding an all U.N. members regardless of whether they are State Parties of the ICC, which neither the U.S. nor Sudan are. DiCarlo lamented Sudanese non-cooperation despite this resolution, and noted the government's responsibility in prolonging the conflict by killing civilians and impeding the improvement of the humanitarian situation.

Most importantly, DiCarlo recognized that the ICC's greatest value lies in its being the only permanent international institution capable of bringing to justice the leaders of mass atrocities around the world, such as that in Darfur. She said, "we believe that the ICC's prosecution of the key architects of the conflict in Darfur remains critical, "and added: "Those responsible for these atrocities must be held accountable."

START Ends with US and Russia Close to a New Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty

The US and Russia pledge to have a new nuclear missile treaty worked out very soon. Negotiators from both countries say they are very close to completing a successor to the Cold War-era agreement that has cut both countries stockpiles of nuclear weapons, START. The current START treaty, created in 1991, expires at midnight tonight, amidst ongoing negotiations for a new treaty. Kremlin sources have been optimistic that some agreement can be made while President Obama is in Europe next week to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Washington has expressed hopes of having an interim agreement in place until a new treaty can come into effect if necessary.

The details of the new agreement have not been finalized, but Obama's National Security Advisor said both sides are "down to the last few paragraphs and sentences." After a new treaty agreement is announced, both countries must still ratify the treaty. This process could take up to months. Even if a treaty does not fully go into effect for months, both countries have indicated their willingness to uphold current nuclear arms arrangements until the new treaty is in place using a bridge agreement.

It is encouraging to hear that both nations are presenting the negotiation of a new nuclear arms treaty in such a positive light. The Cold War is long over, and these two Cold War superpowers recognize the importance of nuclear disarmament as a matter of international security more than ever. The sooner an agreement can be reached, the more legitimate Obama's ambitious strategy on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament becomes. Even though a new treaty will not be in place when the START treaty expires at midnight, the negotiation of an agreement, which most likely will have even deeper reductions in nuclear stockpiles than START is an accomplishment in itself.

Ban Ki-Moon Approves Obama Afghanistan Plan

UN Secretary-General  Ban Ki-Moon gave a positive response today to Obama's Afghanistan decision.  The United Nations believes that any plan that would increase the capacity and institution-building of Afghanistan is a step in the right direction. Mr. Ban believes that President Obama's new Afghanistan plan will do just that.

Public Opinion of President Obama's Afghanistan Decision

On Sunday, President Obama issued orders to send 30,000 additional
American troops to Afghanistan.  He will address the nation tonight to explain his decision and rally an American public that "no longer sees the war as worth fighting," according to the Washington Post.