Welcome to the Thursday, March 31, 2011 issue of this Peace&Justice action email! To alter your profile, follow the steps at the end, where your profile is listed.
This newsletter begins with three actions – the first is the most urgent, involving a Libyan woman who spoke out and has been arrested. The other two actions deal with Darfur and Nigerian oil. Following that are two sections that don’t have any action, but are one of the occasional times that this newsletter steps back from the glaring and already well-reported issues of the day – in this case Japan’s disaster and the Libyan crisis – to consider some of the longer-term issues as it pertains to the “well-being of all.”
[My apologies for the unavoidable delay in sending this – all actions should still be valid]
LIBYA: SAVE COURAGEOUS WOMAN CAUGHT ON FILM
One week ago, a young woman lawyer named Iman al-Obeidi burst into a Tripoli hotel and pleaded with foreign journalists for help, showing bruises and crying that she had just been gang-raped by 15 of Qaddafi's men. She screamed as she was dragged away by Libyan agents and has not been seen since. A journalist caught the scene on film, which some of you may have seen. Anyone knowing about Qaddafi’s internal security apparatus, knows the woman is in grave danger.
Avaaz recognizes that any direct appeal to Qaddafi is useless. But Qaddafi did listen to the Turkish government when they asked him to release foreign journalists. So consider signing the petition which will be hand-delivered to the Turkish consulate in Benghazi:
Background: Video footage:
TELL OBAMA TO HELP SUDAN DEVELOP LASTING PEACE
Three areas form major concerns. Darfur continues to deteriorate. The level of government-directed violence has increased sharply the last four months, eerily reminiscent of the early days when the worst atrocities took place. It has resulted in well over 100,000 fleeing into camps that now often receive less food and medical supplies. Southern Sudan, about to become the world’s newest country on July 9, finds growing unrest. And the oil-rich central Abyei region, as noted in the satellite images below, has experienced ominous violence and has seen both North & South troop build-ups (For further details, see: UntilAll.org)
The U.S., which helped broker the original 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, has two top diplomats working in Sudan (Princeton Lyman as Envoy to Sudan and looking after the N-S tensions; and Dane Smith, Envoy to Darfur). And they have a coherent package in place, if not entirely satisfying. But given the swirling world events, Sudan can easily get lost. Thus while this may sound like a broken record, it remains crucial that public support be sent to the administration.
Take Action (open to all countries):
Urge Obama to Strengthen Efforts Against Sudan Deterioration
Satellite Report of Village Tajalei Destruction:
DON’T LET OIL COMPANIES DESTROY NIGER DELTA
This concern has been targeted in earlier newsletters, but the issue remains largely unresolved. The oil industry is abusing the human rights of hundreds of thousands of people in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region. So far, the Nigerian government can’t or won’t hold oil companies accountable.
A major source of oil pollution is the practice of gas flaring -- burning off excess gas as waste. Communities affected by flaring and organizations working on oil industry pollution have raised serious, but unanswered questions about the risks to human health. The poorest communities are among the hardest hit. The following petition will be delivered by Amnesty International and its partners to the Nigerian government, Shell, ENI, Total, Chevron and other multinational oil companies active in the Niger Delta this summer.
Sign Petition to Nigerian Government
JAPAN’S TSUNAMI TRAGEDY AND NUCLEAR REACTOR DISASTER
On March 11 one of the world’s strongest earthquakes (magnitude 9.0) struck off the northern coast of Japan, resulting in a tsunami that is predicted to claim over 20,000 lives and has displaced hundreds of thousands of people. If you wish to support ongoing aid efforts, be sure it is through a credible agency.
Before getting to the main topic, I have included, below, time-lapse maps of the original quake and aftershocks. While images abound of the brutal power of the tsunami, I include it for those who would like to imagine, even slightly, the ongoing fear and trauma that such people live with after an earthquake – lulls followed by more tremors (within 1 week, over 400 tremors, of which amazingly 60 are at least magnitude 6.0; 4 over 7.0 and one of 8.0)
Video of Time-lapsed Aftershocks (both videos: 1 second = 1 hour):
a. Shows northern area that felt each tremor (big one at 0:13); best viewed full-screen; in upper left, it counts the size of each tremor;
b. Shows size & location of each tremor (big one at 1:17); gives longer sense of timeline.
EXPLORATION: JAPAN AND THE QUESTION OF ENERGY SOURCES
These emails are primarily focused on web-based actions and not an in-depth exploration of issues, desirable as it would be. But occasionally I do divert briefly into an issue. The focus here concerns the reaction to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant crisis. From the standpoint of the “well-being of all” the most basic question – always - is how best to help life flourish.
But specifically within that, the fundamental issue here is: “which energy source?” Even with a simple roof over your head and wanting to cook food, it becomes a world of trade-offs, whether smoke-inhalation if poorly vented, fires in slums, potential rape if collecting wood, etc. At this very basic level the health costs are horrible for far too many in the world, whether the energy source is scavenged wood, charcoal or dung (and yes, simple higher tech. stoves exist but simply don’t get to enough people – the issue of a different kind of power distribution). And by the time one gets to the most sophisticated energy source – nuclear energy - you have not only the technology to consider but the varied interests of the energy companies and governments (an openDemocracy article gives some sense of those interactions).
The first lesson regarding energy sources is easy – reduce our energy usage, although actually implementing that on the scale needed gets into a complex web of influences – a topic for another day.
The second observation is also easy – any form of energy generation comes with trade-offs. My unease comes from the general lack of a level playing field in the discussion. When discussing nuclear energy an underlying focus seems to be on the potential catastrophe, which parsed out seems to skew toward the fear of Developed World deaths. Talk of oil and coal brings up environmental issues, again seen primarily in terms of Developed World implications, but seldom tracing back to other ramifications (as noted in the above Niger Delta issue – no one would even know of this if not for activists bringing it to our attention). And even when connections are made, they can come with other agendas: for example, oil-sands-friendly voices recently have created the term “ethical oil” to trace back the human rights abuses of Middle East oil compared to the “ethically cleaner” oil from Canada. And so on. The above all contain legitimate concerns, but are poorly anchored and layered with other agendas.
Some sense of a better starting base might be similar to the Death Rate Analysis of various energy sources. As the table in the link stands, it is woefully inadequate. I use it only to illustrate that from the standpoint of the “well-being of all”, at least it does not distinguish among people. Of course, various other dimensions and factors would need to be included, but that is exactly the type of discussion that should take place, which might eventually be able to help shape the basis for better energy policies.
EXPLORATION: LIBYAN CRISIS & THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT
On March 18, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1973 authorizing a no-fly zone over Libya. The action was premised on the notion of “The Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) doctrine, first formulated in 2001 and passed in 2005 by the World Summit and later by the UN General Assembly. R2P has been discussed in previous newsletters, but its basic tenets are that should a nation be unable or unwilling to protect its people, and if certain criteria are met regarding the situation (intervention is likely to succeed, etc.) then the international community has a responsibility to protect the people in question.
R2P is loosely analogous to my city, where society can’t just enter someone’s home (it is sovereign), but if something terrible is happening in the house then society has a responsibility to protect the innocent people inside. To transform the international order, we now have the start of the legal framework (both R2P and the International Criminal Court were part of the Libyan resolution) but structurally we lack enforcement. It currently can only be supplied by member nations or other coalitions, such as NATO. But that remains entangled in national self-interests – much better would be a volunteer permanent rapid reaction force. And like my city the aim is deterrence not actual use of force. All other forms of preventive means should be in place and at work initially (and that is part of the R2P concept – all non-violent means must be attempted first). And finally, getting the international dynamics to the level of “my city”, while a quantum leap, still only gets one to a semi-functional state – there is much more on this whole topic well beyond the scope of this brief piece.
Nonetheless enforcement did coalesce for the Libyan crisis, particularly after Gaddafi’s statement that he would “show no mercy.” In a teleconference this week with Tom Malinowski, one of Human Right Watch’s experts for the region, he stated that whether R2P will be positively reinforced will depend on whether in the end civilians are protected. But even if this happens, the circumstances of the Libyan crisis were fairly distinct: (a) Libya’s UN representative switched sides, allowing him to be a strong influence in favour of the UN action rather than the opposite; and (b) the geography was a strong factor in that the two sides were in separate regions with only a narrow corridor connecting them – the most ideal case for a no-fly zone. So while we can hope civilians will end up being protected, and if so, then it does strengthen the R2P concept but not substantially in practical terms.
Making advances on the global dynamics that help place us on a more peaceful footing is one of this century’s massive challenges. R2P and the ICC are two conceptual tools that are at the stage of being tried, inevitably clumsy that the efforts are (and with real lives on the line, either way). I had hoped to have a Blog ready so that people could start interacting with such ideas, but you can either wait for a week or so, or you can email me your thoughts, always welcome regardless of your stance.
=== FOLLOW-UP TO PREVIOUS ISSUES ===
Progress on Conflict Minerals:
These emails have been following the “Conflict Minerals” issue for over two years now (background below). Tracking conflict minerals will be difficult, requiring a certification system that would be credible. And it requires political will. On that front, a key gauge is the set of rules to be adopted by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC. And realistically without the State Department on-side, the rules were unlikely to be substantial. Anyway, I just received a report indicating that the State Department has submitted strong recommendations.
So thanks to everyone who joined with others from the earlier campaign to make this a priority – there was a huge response. It helped back-up the argument for the U.S. to be part of the global campaign. And stay tuned - there is a long road ahead.
Background: “Conflict Minerals” refer to minerals such as coltan and tin, which come primarily from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and are used for cell phones and computers. As backdrop, the DRC has suffered a civil war that has killed millions of people, the world’s most underreported atrocity. “Conflict-free minerals” is a strategy similar to Sierra Leone and “blood diamonds,” and decades earlier, apartheid and boycotts – that is, when political will is lacking, to at least shut down the rampant funding that fuels the conflict. Specifically the idea is to stop or reduce the trade in conflict minerals by ensuring that consumer products are made of conflict-free materials.
=== ARTICLES OF INTEREST ===
Global Ranking of Think Tanks
The latest ranking of think tanks has been published. These are some of the highly influential, behind-the-scenes groups who create conceptual framings and practical policy ideas on various topics. While from my standpoint the selection process still has refinements to make, you may find it interesting to see who are (or are not) in the various categories.
Myanmar: Rights abuses lead to health "catastrophe"
While it was encouraging to see the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, the following report show just how desperate some of the regions have become in Burma. The report indicates that the indirect health consequences will likely dwarf the actual killings by the military.
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Missed an action email? An archive is kept at: www.UntilAll.org/archives.htm.
Go back to Home: www.UntilAll.org.
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UWAA: This endeavour is being placed under the overall rubric of “Until Well-being is Achieved for All.”
rdowning94 [AT] shaw.ca
Surrey BC Canada
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