WORLD DAY AGAINST HUMAN TRAFFICKING 2021: “VICTIMS’ VOICES LEAD THE WAY”

“Don’t talk about us without us” is a familiar maxim among NGO representatives at the United Nations to illustrate the importance of the inclusion of voices from the grassroots, especially the population they represent as stakeholders in the negotiation of policies that directly impact these individuals. It implies that real experts on an issue are those who have lived the experience.  

The theme for the 2021 World Day against Trafficking in Persons (30 July), “Victims’ Voices Leads the Way,” highlights the key message that survivors of human trafficking are key actors in the fight against this scourge. A special event to commemorate the World Day organized by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Permanent Mission of Belarus, on behalf of the Group of Friends United against Human Trafficking, addresses this theme. The event highlighted the importance of listening to and learning from victims and survivors of human trafficking. It drew attention to victims and survivors as key actors in the fight against human trafficking and addresses their crucial role in counter-trafficking conversations and responses; including establishing effective measures to prevent this crime, identifying and rescuing victims and survivors, and supporting them on their road to rehabilitation. Survivor-advocates, Member States representatives, and other stakeholders were among the speakers at the event. Watch the event HERE

Learn more:

“Victims’ Voices Lead the Way”: A Special Event on World Day against Trafficking in Persons: https://bit.ly/3fwcpsW

Survivors’ stories; https://bit.ly/379jxaj

Global Report on Human Trafficking 2020; https://bit.ly/3feaskW

World Day against Trafficking in Persons: https://bit.ly/37i2rHi

20TH SESSION OF UN PERMANENT FORUM ON INDIGENOUS ISSUES: “PEACE, JUSTICE AND STRONG INSTITUTIONS: THE ROLE OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES IN IMPLEMENTING SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT 16.”

The twentieth session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues convened virtually from 19-30 April 2021. The theme for this year’s forum is; Peace, justice, and strong institutions: the role of indigenous peoples in implementing Sustainable Development 16.” Indigenous peoples are the inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people, social, cultural, economic, and political characteristics distinct from those of dominant societies in which they live. Indigenous peoples represent about 6.2 percent of the world’s population. They also protect 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity. The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, in his opening remarks at the 20th session of UNPFII, listed some of the problems faced by indigenous peoples in many parts of the world as extreme poverty, disproportionate higher infant and maternal mortality, and many others. Indigenous peoples’ lands are among the world’s most biodiverse and resource-rich. This has led to increased exploitation, conflicts over resources, and land misuse. Violence and attacks against indigenous leaders and women and men working to defend indigenous peoples’ rights to lands, territories, and resources are on the rise.

The UNPFII aims to:

  • provides expert advice and recommendations on indigenous issues to the Council, as well as to programmes, funds, and agencies of the United Nations, through ECOSOC;
  • raises awareness and promotes the integration and coordination of activities related to indigenous issues within the UN system;
  • prepares and disseminates information on indigenous issues;
  • promotes respect for and full application of the provisions of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and follows up the effectiveness of this Declaration (Art. 42 UNDRIP).

Read more: UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: https://bit.ly/2RIqFpv

HUMAN RIGHTS DAY: “RECOVER BETTER, STAND UP FOR HUMAN RIGHTS”

10 December is observed as International Human Rights. On this the day in 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights“a milestone document that proclaims the inalienable rights which everyone is entitled to as a human being – regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinions, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

The 2020 Human Rights Day theme, “recover better, stand up for human rights,” relates to the COVID-19 pandemic. Human rights must be at the center of the post-COVID-19 world. Read the following excerpt from the 2020 UN Human Rights Day campaign:

“The COVID-19 crisis has been fuelled by deepening poverty, rising inequalities, structural and entrenched discrimination, and other gaps in human rights protection. Only measures to close these gaps and advance human rights can ensure we fully recover and build back a better, more resilient, just, and sustainable world.

  • End discrimination of any kind: Structural discrimination and racism have fueld the COVID-19 crisis. Equality and non-discrimination are core requirements for a post-COVID world.
  • Address inequalities: To recover from the crisis, we must also address the inequality pandemic. For that, we need to promote and protect economic, social, and cultural rights. We need a new social contract for a new era.
  • Encourage participation and solidarity: We are all in this together. From individuals to governments, from civil society and grassroots communities to the private sector, everyone has a role in building a post-COVID world that is better for present and future generations. We need to ensure the voices of the most affected and vulnerable inform the recovery efforts.
  • Promote sustainable development: We need sustainable development for people and the planet. Human rights, the 2030 Agenda, and the Paris Agreement are the cornerstone of a recovery that leaves no one behind.”  

Read more:

UN Human Rights Day: https://bit.ly/39vLrQi

INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ERADICATION OF POVERTY: ACTING TOGETHER TO ACHIEVE SOCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE FOR ALL

Extreme poverty is a violation of human rights. It strips an individual of his or her God-given human dignity. According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, poverty is not solely an economic issue, but rather a multidimensional phenomenon that encompasses a lack of both income and the basic capabilities to live in dignity.” Persons living in poverty experience many interrelated and mutually reinforcing deprivations that prevent them from realizing their rights and perpetuate their poverty. Some of the apparent deprivations suffered by people living in poverty are; dangerous work conditions, unsafe housing, lack of nutritious food, unequal access to justice, lack of political power, limited access to health care, etc.

On 22 December 1992, the UN General Assembly, in resolution 47/196, declared 17 October as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. The theme for this year’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty addresses the “challenge of achieving social and environmental justice for all.” The growing recognition of the multi-dimensionality of poverty means that these two issues cannot be separated. Social justice cannot be fully realized without aggressively fixing environmental injustices at the same time. Pope Francis in his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si, also stressed this fact that: “We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time, protecting nature.” (LS #139) Evidence has shown that extreme weather events resulting from climate change have more devastating impacts on people living in poverty.

Poverty and other forms of injustice also breed unrest and violence. The former President of the United States, Mr. Barack Obama, hinted at this in his formal address to the UN General Assembly in September 2016, as he reminded world leaders that “a world where 1% of humanity controls as much wealth as the bottom 99% will never be stable.” As coronavirus continues to ravage many communities worldwide, it has also exposed the economic and social inequities in many countries. Extreme poverty poses a threat to the social and political stability of any society. Governments must, therefore, focus on implementing social programmes to address injustices and alleviate poverty rather than forcefully or, in some cases, violently clamping down on protesting youth, as was the recent experience in Nigeria and other countries.  

Read more:

International Day for the Eradication of Poverty: https://bit.ly/3edbsUE

Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston: https://bit.ly/2TKx3dV

ANTI-TRAFFICKING IN PERSON: 2020 WORLD DAY AGAINST HUMAN TRAFFICKING AND MORE

6Designated by the United Nations, 30 July is observed as the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. This day is intended to raise awareness and educate people on the evil of human trafficking. Human trafficking is among the most heinous crimes in the history of humanity. It strips victims of their inherent human dignity and human rights. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime describes human trafficking as the acquisition of people by improper means such as force, fraud, or deception to exploit them. The critical role that first responders play in times of crisis is being acknowledged and appreciated globally in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. The UN also chose to highlight the role of first responders such as social workers, law enforcement officers, healthcare professionals, NGO staff, and many others, in the fight against human trafficking as the theme for the 2020 World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. The coronavirus pandemic, with the resulting economic and social impacts, has exacerbated incidences of human trafficking around the world.

On another note, the US Department of State on 25th June launched the 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP). This was also the 20th annual TIP report. The TIP report, according to the Department of State, is the government’s principal diplomatic tool to engage foreign governments on human trafficking. The US 2019 TIP report focused primarily on human trafficking that happens within the borders of countries. Below is an excerpt from the report:

Each instance of human trafficking takes a common toll; each crime is an affront to the 7basic ideals of human dignity, inflicting grievous harm on individuals, as well as on their families and communities. Yet, if it were possible to hold human trafficking up to a light like a prism, each facet would reflect a different version of the crime, distinct in context but the same in essence. Together they would show the vast and varied array of methods traffickers use to compel adults and children of all genders, education levels, nationalities, and immigration statuses into service in both licit and illicit sectors. Traffickers may be family members, recruiters, employers, or strangers who exploit vulnerability and circumstance to coerce victims to engage in commercial sex or deceive them into forced labor. They commit these crimes through schemes that take victims hundreds of miles away from their homes or in the same neighborhoods where they were born. – US 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report.

Lastly, the UN celebrates 20 years since the adoption of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.  This is one out of the three protocols to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crimes. The Convention is the main international instrument in the fight against transnational organized crimes. The protocol on trafficking was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 15 November, 2000.

Here are some facts and figures on human trafficking from the International Labour Organization;

  •  An estimated 40.3 million people are in modern slavery, including 24.9 million in forced labour and 15.4 million in forced marriage. This means that out of every 1,000 people in the world, 5.4 are victims of modern-day slavery; 1 in 4 of victims of modern-day slavery are children. Out
  • Out of the 24.9 million people trapped in forced labour, 16 million people are exploited in the private sector such as domestic work, construction or agriculture, 4.8 million persons in forced sexual exploitation, and 4 million persons in forced labour imposed by state authorities.
  • Women and girls are disproportionately affected by forced labour, accounting for 99% of victims in the commercial sex industry, and 58% in other sectors

 

Read more:

2019 US Trafficking in Persons Report (PDF): https://bit.ly/2Wa4h86

UN World Day Against Human Trafficking: https://bit.ly/33hsBJp

UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crimes: https://bit.ly/3jYodVO

 

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE: WORLD REFUGEE DAY

Each year, millions of people are forced to flee their homes to escape violent conflict, 6persecution, or natural disaster. Some of the people cross the borders of their countries, while many end up in camps within their countries. Whether displaced within or outside one’s country, people on the move face untold hardships.

The United Nations observes 20 June as World Day for Refugees. According to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), World Refugee Day celebrates the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution. It is also an occasion to build empathy and understanding for their plight and to recognize their resilience in rebuilding their lives. The UNHCR estimates the number of refugees globally to be 79.5 million in 2019, with about 10 million people fleeing in the past one year.

While acknowledging refugees to be among the most vulnerable population around the world, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, also commended the efforts of refugees in stepping up on the frontlines of response to the coronavirus pandemic in their host communities.  In his video message to mark the 2020 World Refugee Day, Mr. Guterres noted that from camps in Bangladesh to hospitals in Europe, refugees are working as nurses, doctors, scientists, teachers, and in other essential roles, protecting themselves and giving back to their communities.

7The Office of the UNHCR was created in 1950, during the aftermath of the Second World War, to help millions of Europeans who had fled or lost their homes. And in 1951, the UN Member States adopted the Convention on Refugees. The Convention is the key legal document that informs the work of the UNHCR. The core principle of the Convention on Refugees is non-refoulement, which asserts that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom.

 ***Some basic rights contained in the 1951 Convention include:

  • The right not to be expelled, except under certain, strictly defined conditions;
  • The right not to be punished for illegal entry into the territory of a contracting State;
  • The right to work;
  • The right to housing;
  • The right to education;
  • The right to public relief and assistance;
  • The right to freedom of religion;
  • The right to access the courts;
  • The right to freedom of movement within the territory;
  • The right to be issued identity and travel documents.

Some basic rights, including the right to be protected from refoulement, apply to all refugees. A refugee becomes entitled to other rights, the longer they remain in the host country, which is based on the recognition that the longer they remain as refugees, the more rights they need.  (The 1951 UN Convention on Refugees)

Read more:

UN World Refugee Day: https://bit.ly/2Z1Xnm1

The 1951 UN Convention on Refugees and its 1967 Protocol: https://bit.ly/3hTVLTJ

 

 

 

COVID-19 PANDEMIC: UNMASKING THE INEQUALITIES IN OUR SOCIETIES

1The coronavirus pandemic has unmasked the entrenched systemic inequalities that exist within many countries. In the early weeks of the pandemic, it was said that the COVID-19 disease is an equalizer. But this has proven not to be entirely the case. Stories emerging from different countries has revealed that rather than being an equalizer, the pandemic has unmasked the structural socio-economic inequalities that exist in many countries.  In countries like the US, UK, France, to mention a few, the so-called minority ethnic groups (Blacks, Indigenous Peoples, Asians, Latinos, migrant population, and older persons in nursing homes) have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus.

The painful experience from the devastating economic and social impacts of the coronavirus, in addition to the brutal murder of Mr. George Floyd, an African-American man by a White police officer in the US city of Minneapolis, sparked off global protests against police brutality and conversations about an age-old demon – racism. People of African descent have suffered centuries of human rights abuses and systemic racism resulting from the long history of transatlantic slave trade, enslavement, and colonialization in the Americas, Europe, and the Caribbean.

The cry of George Floyd, “I can’t breathe,” found resonance in the streets of Minneapolis,2 New York City, Washington DC, London, … among a people who have been denied justice and unleased anger, sadness and rage. The protests we have witnessed across the globe are the cries of the unheard, “the public processing of pain…, and an intentional and communal act of expressing grievance by the victims.” Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” Now is that time. It is no longer just enough to claim not to be a racist, an ethnic bigot, or a homophobe. But we must act and speak out against all forms of bigotry, and become “anti” to everything that promotes the exaltation or supremacy of a group over another. Racism and all forms of discrimination are the sins of humanity. Consequently, the work of truth, reconciliation, and justice awaits all of us.

After a three-month COVID-19 enforced break, the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva reconvened its 43rd session on Monday, 15 June, with a rare and urgent debate on racism and police brutality in response to the murder of George Floyd. The debate was sponsored by the African Group.

 

58TH SESSION OF THE COMMISSION FOR SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT: “AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND SOCIAL PROTECTION SYSTEMS FOR ALL TO ADDRESS HOMELESSNESS.”

2The 58th United Nations Commission on Social Development with the theme, “Affordable housing and social protection systems for all to address homelessness,” was unique because it was the first time that the UN in its 75-year history explicitly addressed the issue of homelessness. A home is one of the basic human needs, without which an individual or, in some cases, an entire family lives in a very precarious situation, making the individual vulnerable to violence and abuse.  Homelessness has become a global challenge as increasingly, many people have no longer a place to call home. Violent conflict, natural disasters resulting from climate change, and migration are some of the factors for homelessness. Some people also lose their homes because of economic misfortune, mental or physical illness, and so on. But for whatever reason, a home is a human right as affirmed by two distinct UN human rights instruments; the UN Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).  Each of these UN human rights mechanisms clearly articulates the right of individuals to adequate housing, yet, the UN-Habitat in 2015 estimates that over 1.6 billion people worldwide are homeless or live in inadequate housing.

During the 2020 Commission on Social Development which took place at the UN Headquarters in New York from 9-20 February, Member States representatives, civil 3society organization representatives, and other stakeholders, including people experiencing homelessness deliberated and proffered solutions on how to end, or at least reduce incidences of homelessness. One concrete solution for states to end homelessness is to ensure social protection for every individual within its territory. All Member States unanimously adopted resolution on the priority theme on “affordable housing and social protection system for all to address homelessness” at the end of the Commission. Click HERE to read the resolution.

SISTER DOROTHY STANG: HER LIFE AND LEGACY

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Dorothy Stang, SNDdeN

12 February 2020 marked 15 years since the brutal murder of Sister Dorothy Stang, SNDdeN. Sr. Dorothy was assassinated for her solidarity with the people of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil in their struggle to protect their ancestral lands from exploitation by commercial farmers and loggers. Fifteen years on, the battle for the Amazonians and many indigenous communities around the world to defend their ancestral lands from the destructive impacts of extractivism by national and transnational corporations’ is far from over. Hundreds of environmental and human rights defenders around the world continue to suffer grave injustices, and some pay the ultimate prize for standing up for and defending their ancestral heritage.

According to the 2019 report by Front Line Defenders, more than 300 human rights defenders were assassinated in 31 countries in 2019. Forty percent of them were working on the land, indigenous peoples’ rights, and environmental rights.  States and politicians often use economic and/or development to justify the devastating impacts of extractivism on the human rights of indigenous peoples and the environment. However, as noted by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, “extractive activities within indigenous peoples’ lands and territories undertaken without adequate consultation or consent is the main source of serious violations of their human rights, including violence, criminalization, and forced displacement.” Nothing justifies the violation of people’s human rights, especially the right to life.

Read the full REPORT by Front Line Defenders

Watch the video commemorating Sr. Dorothy Stang’s 15th Anniversary:  https://bit.ly/2v3j6iw

 

SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME DE NAMUR, CONGO PROVINCE: WORKING FOR JUSTICE, ACTING FOR PEACE

 

 

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Sr. Isabelle Izika

By Isabelle Izika, SNDdeN, Congo Province JPIC Animator – Working for justice and peace is sometimes risky because it upsets the perpetrators of injustice and those who benefit from it. We hear about men and women around the world, sacrificing their lives for the sake of their brothers and sisters who are treated unjustly. Social justice advocates need courage and the willingness to work in collaboration with like-mind individuals or groups to achieve sustained systemic change. Collaboration is vital for mutual support. Training is also crucial for acquiring skills for social analysis and the strategies for effective advocacy.

 

 

As the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) animator for the Congo-Kinshasa

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SNDdeN Congo Province JPIC Team Workshop

province of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, my wish has always been for my unit JPIC team to collaborate with the Justice and Peace Office of the Episcopal Conference of the Democratic Republic of Congo (CENCO), because it is the most influential social justice pressure group  currently with the government of the country. This dream came true when, on August 14, 2019, CENCO granted our request for a training workshop for the province JPIC team.  Training offered by CENCO personnel is usually a prerequisite for any organization wishing to become a member of the CENCO justice and peace network. So, two justice and peace mentors from CENCO came to our community in Kimwenza to provide basic training in social analysis for the members of our newly inaugurated province JPIC committee.  Eight members of the committee and fifteen other interested sisters attended the training. Every community in the unit was represented.  The idea was for the participants to return to their respective communities to inform and engage with members of their communities in the promotion of justice and peace.   

 

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SNDdeN Congo Province JPIC Team

The training consisted of the social analysis of our local and national contexts, the history and work of CENCO, and reflecting on some cases of injustice in the Scriptures.  We reflected on the story of Suzanne in the Book of Daniel, Chapter 13, and the story of the woman caught in adultery in St. John’s Gospel.  We also identified and examined some cases of injustice in our individual lives, communities, places of work, and in our country. Then as a group, we reflected on ways we can denounce and encourage others to condemn these injustices, following the examples of the people in the Bible and the Catholic Church in the DRC.

 

I am glad that our unit JPIC Committee has officially become a member of the Justice and Peace Network of the Episcopal Conference of the DRC. Our Sisters are very enthusiastic and ready to continue to be in solidarity with our people in the DRC as we struggle for a just and equitable society. They have also expressed the desire to be part of the justice and peace commissions that exist in their respective parishes.