Statement Signed by the Partnership for Global Justice on Sustainable Development and the Integrity of the Earth
INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON HARMONY WITH NATURE TO COMMEMORATE INTERNATIONAL MOTHER EARTH DAY
Discuss different economic approaches to further a more ethical basis for the relationship between humanity and Earth
UN HQ, New York, 22 April 2013
Written Statement by Member Organizations of the Working Group on Sustainable Development and the Integrity of Earth
Thank you Mr. Secretary General and Mr. President for the opportunity to make a brief written statement on the occasion of the Interactive Dialogue of the General Assembly on Harmony With Nature to commemorate International Mother Earth Day.
We write to you on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Sustainable Development and the Integrity of Earth. Our constituencies are found in all continents, and many are experiencing first-hand the devastating impact of human interference in the natural rhythms and cycles of Nature. The conclusions from the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, RIO + 20, reiterated that global sustainability is now critical for human development in our world. The urgency of recognizing global sustainability as an integral part of individual, societal and world development rests on scientific evidence that humanity has indeed exceeded a number of planetary boundaries – namely, climate change, biodiversity loss and nitrogen emissions. It is abundantly clear that we need to recognize that human and natural systems are interdependent and intimately linked with social, ecological and economic systems. In this regard, the Secretary General’s 2012 Report, “Harmony With Nature,” (A/67/317), reminds us that “…humanity needs to recognize that it is time to serve the Planet, rather than using the Planet to serve our economic goals. Humankind and its economic goals must be seen as part of the earth system, as part of an integrated whole, rather than as a separate entity, divided from the Planet and its changing environment. When science is taken into account, it is clear that damaging the environment to serve the needs of the human economy only serves to damage ourselves…Properly grounded, a more ecologically informed economic system would provide clear rules for sustainability.”
In “Realizing the Future We Want For All,” the report t5o the Secretary General from the UN System Task Team on the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda, it is noted that the “continuous striving for improvements in material welfare is threatening to surpass the limits of the natural resource base unless there is a radical shift towards more sustainable patterns of consumption and production and resource use…Business as usual thus cannot be an option and transformative change is needed.”
In this spirit, then, we strongly urge Member States to :
v Responsibly and urgently realize the ten-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production patterns to ensure global sustainability and to enable just, fair, and equitable sustainable development within planetary boundaries.
v Shift from an ethic of exploitation to an ethic of right relationship; an ethic based on the rights of the human and of Earth, as essential for individuals, society and the Planet to flourish.
v Acknowledge that the GDP cannot be the strategic marker of development to the exclusion of all other indicators. We recommend the use of alternative indicators that not only measure economic growth, but also measure social development and environmental sustainability.
In conclusion, we turn once again to the Secretary General’s Report, and his reference to the late author Thomas Berry : “In the twentieth century, the glory of the human has become the desolation of the Earth. And now, the desolation of the Earth is becoming the destiny of the human. Henceforth, the measure of all human institutions, professions, programmes and activities will be the extent to which they inhibit, ignore or foster a mutually enhancing human-Earth relationship.”
Meeting in Vatican, Secretary-General and Pontiff discuss ways to eradicate poverty
9 April 2013 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Pope Francis today discussed what can be done to accelerate work to reduce poverty and advance economic development during a meeting in the Vatican.
“We discussed the need to advance social justice and accelerate work to meet the Millennium Development Goals. This is vital if we are to meet the millennium promise for the world’s poorest,” Mr. Ban told reporters in Rome after his first meeting with Pope Francis.
“It was an uplifting, hopeful meeting. Pope Francis is a man of peace and purpose. He is a voice for the voiceless.”
Mr. Ban said he was greatly honoured to have an audience with the newly elected Pope, and said that His Holiness’ choice of name – after Saint Francis of Assisi – was a powerful message for the many goals and principles shared by the United Nations.
“It speaks loudly of his commitment to the poor, his deep sense of humility, his passion and compassion to improve the human condition,” Mr. Ban said. “I was especially privileged to meet Pope Francis as we mark 1,000 days to the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals.”
Over the weekend, Mr. Ban launched the campaign, “MDG Momentum – 1,000 Days of Action” and called on governments, international organizations and civil society groups to work with the UN and its partners to achieve greater gains by the 2015 target date.
The eight MDGs address poverty and hunger, education, gender equality, child mortality, maternal health, combating AIDS, malaria and other diseases, environmental sustainability and a global partnership for development.
Mr. Ban also said he was heartened by the commitment of Pope Francis to build interfaith dialogue and by his outreach to Muslim and Jewish communities to deepen understanding and promote tolerance, inclusion and peace.
“I look forward to continuing our conversation. In that spirit, and following in the tradition of his predecessors, I was honoured to invite Pope Francis to visit the United Nations at his earliest convenience,” Mr. Ban added.
During his visit, Mr. Ban met with Prime Minister Mario Monti, with whom he exchanged views on the worsening situation in Syria, Mali and the wider Sahel region, and Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, to whom he expressed appreciation for Italy’s support to the UN, including through its contributions to the peacekeeping efforts.
Mr. Ban also met with the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Laura Boldrini, the President of the Senate, Pietro Grasso, and the Deputy Foreign Minister, Staffan de Mistura.
CSW - THE GULF BETWEEN THE UN AND CIVIL SOCIETY By: Margaret Owen
Widows for Peace through Democracy - 7 March 2013 We are worlds apart. Separated not just by First Avenue, but by a vast gap in beliefs, philosophy, ideas and hopes. Margaret Owen, director of an NGO, reports on the battle over the text of the Agreed Conclusions at the 57th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women
There are more than of more than 6,000 NGOS registered as attending this 57th Session of the UN CSW - and our international NGO, Widows for Peace through Democracy (WPD), is one of them. Each accredited NGO is allowed to register under its umbrella up to twenty individuals, but is only given two passes to enter the UN building, therefore hearing Government delegates speak is barely possible for most of us who have travelled miles, and spent considerable sums to get here and stay here.
There is anger amongst the women's NGO's, talking mostly to each other in the "ghetto" of the Church Centre, that lies across the road from the UN building. Here we tell the truth. Of the appalling, life-shattering tortures inflicted on women and girls of all ages, of the gang rapes of young girls, even babies, by criminal traffickers; of FGM, dowry-related acid-burning; stoning of older women accused of witchcraft. Throughout the day the eleven floors of the Church Centre are packed with meetings, with overflows in other nearby buildings.
We women want to see Governments made responsible and accountable for the rights, the very lives of their female citizens. We want to see the perpetrators of these acts punished. And we want to know that real actions are being taken to change the attitudes and the behaviour of men and boys. We demand that the stigma associated with the rape victim be transferred to the rapist, the perpetrator. We want zero tolerance of violence against women and now.
Our anger and frustration boils over when news comes back from that "other" place across the road, where a tiny minority of NGO women have managed to gain access, that delegates of countries where women are victims of extreme violence, condoned, even promoted by the State, for example, as in Iran and Afghanistan - make glossy presentations pretending that all is getting better, and that their programmes and policies are implementing the commitments they have under the CEDAW and the Beijing PFA (Platform for Action).
Alas, however, we are worlds apart. Separated not just by First Avenue, but by a vast gap in beliefs, philosophy, ideas and hopes. Somehow we have to bridge that gap so we can properly influence our governments, make them listen to the voices of the victims, take on board their needs, their ideas, their experiences of best practices to stop this outrage. So we have to influence the text of the draft agreed conclusions, now running into some thirty-three pages.
Our goal is to ensure that this year we can get an outcome document that does not renege, does not roll back the language concerning reproductive health rights of the BPFA and the Copenhagen Conference on Population and Development. We want a strong agreed conclusion that member States will be bound by, that spells out zero tolerance of any forms of VAWG whether in the home, the community, in a war zone, or refugee camp; that denies impunity to perpetrators, that will stop trafficking, prostitution, sexual slavery and torture.
But here is the rub. The Vatican, still up to its usual tricks -not deterred by the fact there is no sitting Holy Father - has got into bed with some strange companions, countries such as Saudi Arabia, Malta from the Europe block (often nicknamed the Vatican in Vacation), and Sudan, to object to references to reproductive health rights. Rather than "reaffirming" the BPFA, it offers instead the ambiguous but negative "recalls". Russia, Bangladesh, Yemen, the UAR, Saudi Arabia and another six countries have yesterday formed a new block to strengthen their aim to withdraw from some of the established text on sexuality, and reproductive health services. References in the text to tradition, custom and religion never to justify violence to women has attracted many deletions and additions.
The big exception is Norway. Their Ministers speech was brilliant and compelling. No shifting around the issue. She declared " VAW is a global disgrace. VAW is not about culture, not about religion, it is about power, inequality and lack political will. Let us start at the top, with our own political leaders, mainly men, and demand action."
The text of the draft agreed conclusions we are all working on can change from day to day. The hard copy I am looking at is a mess of deletions and addition, brackets and references. We heard this evening that tomorrow there will be a new format, with an executive summary, easier to work on. Still there are eight days to go, with negotiations going on within and between the different blocks often through the night. There is a very well funded opposition to the commitments and message of Beijing.
We cannot bear to consider the possibility that this year, as in 2011 and in 2012, there might be no outcome document. But rather nothing, than one that is weak and withdraws from women the gains made, at least on paper.
The women delegates of, for example, Afghanistan, Egypt and Iran may declare unchallenged, in the UN building, that their governments respect women's status and progress, is being made. But we, in our restricted place across the road, listen in grief and pity to accounts of rape, sexual slavery, be headings of women activists and human rights defenders; of women imprisoned for fleeing forced marriage, of widow abuse, and of honour killings disguised as suicide. And of young women activists stripped and sexually assaulted in Tahir Square, Cairo. Of what is really happening to the women of Libya and Syria. Rape may be a weapon of war, but women's bodies are being targeted in many countries, post conflict, and during revolution, and where there is no war.
We must get a good agreement through. The UK is determined to keep to where we are, and use all its influence with other blocks and countries to get the right consensus. As member States pontificate, many mouthing platitudes, women and girls are dying, or if not dead, destroyed.
The priority theme this year is Prevention and Elimination of Violence to Women and Girls (VAWG). 70 per cent of the world's women have suffered violence. We cannot betray the women and girls of the world. We must get the outcome document they need and deserve. In the long list of acts of violence against women and girls, it will refer to the systematic, widespread, extreme but hidden violence targeting widows. Widows as young as twelve years old. If we get this, my trip here to New York will have been worth while.
This article can be found at: http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/margaret-owen/csw-gulf-between-un-and-civil-society-0
USUN PRESS RELEASE #025 March 8, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Statement by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2013
Today, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, we applaud the progress and achievements of women all across the world. From the announcement that combat positions would be open to the women bravely serving in the U.S. military to the record number female members of the U.S. Congress currently in power, the U.S. has made real progress towards leveling the playing field for American women and empowering them to live up to their full potential.
But today is also a day to acknowledge the progress we as Americans and international community have yet to make. One in three women worldwide will be beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in their lifetimes. More than 30 million girls worldwide do not receive the benefit of any schooling, and more than 280,000 women die each year from childbirth complications that can be anticipated and treated.
Our societies are not truly free, if we do not uphold our fundamental ideals of fairness and equality. We as a people are not free when women and girls still struggle for their survival and safety or find their reproductive rights blocked. When women around the world still face discrimination and even death because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, our values are compromised.
Yesterday, President Obama signed the Violence Against Women Act, which launches new programs to help survivors of rape and assault, strengthens tools to hold offenders accountable, and offers increased protections for Native American women and the LGBT community. The U.S. is working to improve girls’ access to education and to ensure that all women have access to reproductive health services as well as maternal, newborn and child health services.
The Partnership for Global Justice chaired one of the events at the UN during the International Day to celebrate women around the globe. The room was packed and the audience heard from UNICEF personnel, the founder of Breaking Free and Canadian lawyers against State-Torture.
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“I am afraid to go home. My father’s friends used to rape me weekly and said if I told anyone they would bring shame to my family.” This statement was made by a teenage girl I interviewed in India recently as part of my research into rehabilitation processes for survivors of sex trafficking. To escape this abusive home situation, she ran away, and in the process was trafficked from Bangladesh to India. She spent two years in a brothel before being rescued by Rescue Foundation. She was 14 years old.
It is estimated that 27 million slaves are being held worldwide, with the most common form being sexual exploitation of women and girls, according to the US State Department Trafficking in Persons Report for 2012. International Women’s Day marks a time to celebrate the victories of women’s rights across the world, but it is also a call to act together against sex trafficking – around the world and in the United States.
For close to two years, I saw the reality of sex trafficking first hand as I lived in India and worked with an organization that rescued girls from commercial sexual exploitation. When I moved to Harrisburg, Penn. to work at Messiah College, I was surprised to hear that a similar subculture existed in my own backyard. Carlisle, near Harrisburg, is one of the bigger hubs for trafficking in the East Coast of the United States due to a stretch of trucker motels and gas stations off of main highways.
What can be done about this global and complex problem? Here are three key ways that you can make a difference.
1. Get educated
Contact organizations like Polaris Project or the National Research Consortium for Commercial Sexual Exploitation for more information about trafficking issues in your area, and guidance for what is needed to help.
Learn about the factors that foster vulnerability to trafficking such as poverty, unsafe migration, subcultures of gender discrimination, lack of education, demand, and lack of law enforcement. Investigate reputable organizations like International Justice Mission or GEMS, examine their approaches to combat trafficking, and consider volunteering or supporting their interventions.
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2. Get involved
There are many organizations that can suggest ways to get involved in the fight against sex trafficking, both globally and locally. But sometimes, an individual’s best help is to be alert and ask questions.
Eldon Fry, campus minister for Messiah College, told me this story: “We met a person at Harrisburg International Airport from the Philippines via Qatar headed for Pittsburgh. It sounded fishy so we intervened, and she was ultimately rescued by Homeland Security. We have stayed connected, and she is receiving support from the Polaris Project and is waiting for trial against her “employer,” who was poised to traffick her.”
Ashley Sheaffer, a faculty member at Messiah College, monitors Craigslist for Harrisburg, Carlisle, and Philadelphia for advertisements that might be associated with trafficking and reports them to partner organizations that work with law enforcement to rescue women who have been trafficked.
These are two examples of people in ordinary communities doing their part in the fight against sex trafficking.
THE MONITOR'S VIEW: The Village Voice and the selling of children for sex on the Internet
3. Organize and take action
If you see genuine needs that you can help with that are not being covered by existing services, organize a team and a strategy with clear objectives. Your strategy should include partnerships with reputable organizations locally or globally to strengthen and coordinate interventions.
Approaches can include intervening in areas where women are trafficked from, through programs like education and micro-economic development to empower vulnerable populations and help with survivor re-integration. Other approaches can include intervening in areas where women are trafficked to, through services like raising awareness, education, advocacy, housing, counseling, legal assistance, and job training.
Reflect regularly on what is working, what is not working, and why. Build in a feedback system to partner organizations for continual learning, guidance, and accountability.
21 February 2013 – The United Nations and its partners today called on the international community to prioritize ensuring access to water and sanitation to vulnerable populations in the ‘post-2015’ development agenda, stressing this would help combat inequality and promote human rights and sustainability.
“The future development agenda must aim at tackling the most persistent of all challenges: inequalities in access to essential services to realize people’s rights,” the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, the Government of Finland and Water Aid, said in a joint press release.
“Crucially, among these essential services, it must aim for every person to have equal access to water, sanitation and hygiene. Special attention should be given to women and girls, who are disproportionately affected by the lack of these services.”
The group stated that countries must build on the lessons learned working towards the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which are set to expire in 2015. The eight MDGs set specific targets on poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental stability, HIV/AIDS reduction, and a ‘Global Partnership for Development.’
“On the eve of the consultations on the post-2015 development agenda, we believe that the world must achieve and build on the MDGs, but must also craft even more ambitious goals. The goals must create incentives for change – a change that will reach every single woman, man, boy and girl,” it said.
The group also noted that States have a responsibility to respond to the millions of people who are marginalized on a daily basis and do not have access to basic services.
“We must have a world that recognizes and responds to the millions and millions who for too long have remained hidden within aggregate statistics that mask the reality of life without safe drinking-water and sanitation: children, women, people with disabilities and those living in remote areas and urban slums.
“The post-2015 agenda must not move forward without clear objectives towards the elimination of discrimination and inequalities in access to water, sanitation and hygiene.”
As the General Assembly concluded its debate today on challenges to achieving the human right to water and sanitation in the context of the Millennium Development Goals, delegates shed light on their nations’ struggles to resolve the practical implications of that quest.
The representative of the Solomon Islands said that for many least developed countries, access to clean drinking water and better sanitation was a real challenge, especially among women and children. The rising seas had caused salt water to seep into groundwater supplies in small island developing States, leaving local water supplies for human and agricultural consumption brackish. Those nations were also grappling with coastal erosion, drought, floods and king tides. To address such “water poverty”, tangible programmes and resources to ensure sustainable water must be incorporated into overall development frameworks.
New Zealand’s representative pointed to a recent report on the issue’s impact in the Pacific region, which revealed that the most pressing concern for Pacific families was access to water and sanitation. Extreme weather events threatened to damage or destroy water infrastructure, while sea-level rise could threaten the availability of safe, clean drinking water. Atoll communities were particularly vulnerable, while growing urbanization was straining existing supply systems. To address those concerns, New Zealand was supporting improvements in rainwater harvesting and distribution infrastructure in the Cook Islands and other areas.
The Permanent Observer of Palestine said Israel continued to violate the Palestinian people’s right to water and sanitation by exploiting 90 per cent of the shared water sources for its own use, forcing Palestinians to survive on just 10 to 30 litres per day per capita, far below 100 litre daily minimum set by the World Health Organization (WHO). Israel had not supported General Assembly resolution 64/292, which stated that clean drinking water and sanitation were integral to the realization of all human rights. On the contrary, Israel had destroyed several cisterns, wells and other water infrastructure, he said, urging the international community to ensure Israel respected the human right to clean water and sanitation; allocated shared water resources equitably and immediately stopped destroying Palestinian water and sanitation infrastructure.
Some delegates shed light on their nations’ strategies to implement the goals set forth in the Assembly resolution. For example, Kyrgyzstan’s representative said that with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), his Government was carrying out new projects to ensure its population had access to clean drinking water. It recently had installed water pipes in 550 villages across the country — a move that had increased access to water and lowered the prevalence of infectious diseases. The Government recently passed the Drinking Water Act, along with related legislation, to that end.
India’s representative, quoting national hero Mahatma Gandhi, said “sanitation is even more important than independence”. But Mr. Gandhi’s dream of total sanitation for all was elusive; India was still confronted with widespread lack of sanitation and about 12 per cent of its population lacked safe drinking water, posing a major challenge to India’s development goals. Addressing that issue as a matter of priority, in the past five years, India had increased investment in rural sanitation by as much as six times. Its Total Sanitation Campaign focused on the demand-side to effect change through local community leadership, while nearly 300 villages were being added to the drinking water supply network each day.
Sister Deirdre Mullan, Executive Director of the Partnership for Global Justice at the UN, carried the Irish Flag into a packed General Assembly on February 14th 2013 to celebrate Inter-faith harmony week.
There were speakers from all religious faiths and traditions as well as Ambassadors from many of the Nation States. The flags were carried in alphabetical into the Assembly were over 1800 delegates had gathered.
Acc – The United Nations today launched the International Year of Water Cooperation, which seeks to provide a platform for countries to collaborate in the management of this precious resource in the interest of peace and development.
“Water is central to the well-being of people and the planet,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his video message for the International Year of Water Cooperation 2013. “We must work together to protect and carefully manage this fragile, finite resource.”
More than half of the world’s people depend daily on water resources shared by more than one country and 90 per cent of the global population live in countries that share river or lake basins. However, 60 per cent of the world’s 276 international river basins lack any type of cooperative management framework.
Mr. Ban stressed that with rising demands and changing climate conditions, it will be crucial for countries to work together to ensure every person has access to quality water.
“Each year brings new pressures on water,” Mr. Ban said. “One-third of the world’s people already live in countries with moderate to high water stress. Competition is growing between farmers and herders; industry and agriculture; town and country. Upstream and downstream, and across borders, we need to cooperate for the benefit of all – now and in the future.”
The General Assembly proclaimed 2013 International Year for Water Cooperation in 2010, following a proposal from Tajikistan. The Year will serve to raise awareness and prompt action on the multiple dimensions of water cooperation, such as sustainable and economic development, climate change and food security.
“Overexploitation, management, financing of water resources, all of these aspects are incredibly important and cooperation at different levels is therefore critical,” UNESCO Science Specialist Ana Persic said during a press conference to mark the start of the Year at UN Headquarters in New York.
Ms. Persic added that the benefits of intensifying cooperation include poverty reduction, equity, economic growth, and the protection of the environment. “We know water is critical for human life, but it is also critical for life on Earth if we want to protect and sustainably manage the planet we have.”
The UN representative of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Paul Egerton, underlined the link between climate change and water, stressing that extreme weather events result in desertification or extreme flooding in different areas and hinder development and access to safe water.
“Water scarcity triggers migration, refugees, situations where basic human rights are weakened or threatened,” Mr. Egerton said, adding that fewer resources can also trigger conflict and governments need to address these risks immediately.
The official launch of the Year took place today at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Headquarters in Paris, France. Opened by the agency’s Director-General Irina Bokova, the event gathered representatives from inter-governmental organizations, non-governmental organization (NGOs), scientists and policymakers from around the world to discuss themes such as existing mechanisms for water cooperation and regional, national and local cooperation around river basins.
As part of the launch, an exhibition entitled “Water at the heart of science” was inaugurated at UNESCO, and students from Japan travelled to meet their French counterparts to share their experiences related to water and prepare a youth declaration on water cooperation to be presented to the other participants.
Cooperation on water issues will also be the theme for World Water Day, observed on 22 March.
For more information about the UN and the International Year for Water Cooperation, click here.
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