Human Rights Policy and Nonprofit Organizational Development

Archive for February, 2009|Monthly archive page

Policy Blog: Maritime Piracy

In Policy Blog on February 26, 2009 at 12:18 am

The Crimes of War Project just released a very interesting essay  called “Maritime Piracy and International Law.”  The piece points out that although there has been a recent upsurge in the waters East of Africa, the problem is not a new one.  In fact, the International Maritime Bureau has run a Piracy Reporting Center since 1992.  Before 2008, most maritime piracy took place off the coast of Asia.

This issue has been in the news a lot in the past year, probably because the idea of piracy really captures the imagination.  I think what is ignored in the discussion is how crime of this nature is a product of poverty and absolute desperation.


Mexico: Drug violence grows

In Policy Blog on February 23, 2009 at 12:11 am

More shocking reports of cartel-related violence have come out of Mexico.  Most recently, five were wounded in sleepy beach town Zihuatenejo by a reported narco grenade.  The same day, two people were killed in AK-47 shooting sprees in restaurants in central Mexico, one on a highway near Mexico City.

Even more troubling are reports that the Chief of Police in Juarez resigned because of threats, made via hand-scrawled cardboard signs taped up all over the city, that a police officer would be killed every 48 hours until he did.  (See AP and New York Times reports)

That week five police officers were killed, and the Mayor of the city promised that officials would not back down.  Ciudad Juarez has been home to a third of the 6,000 drug-related murders in the last year, in spite of the increased presence of federal troops.


A forensic police officer works at the crime scene where a body was found in Ciudad Juarez, northern Mexico, Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009. Violence still continues in Ciudad Juarez, where police found several bodies apparently killed in separate incidents. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo, from here)

Policy Blog: Global Gag Rule and maternal health

In Policy Blog on February 12, 2009 at 9:29 pm

In a statement accompanying the act that repealed the Mexico City Policy, also known as the Global Gag Rule, Obama said that offices and officials in his administration will have “the goal of reducing unintended pregnancies. They will also work to promote safe motherhood, reduce maternal and infant mortality rates and increase educational and economic opportunities for women and girls.”

Family Care international, an NGO working on maternal health issues, has joined forces with colleagues to offer policy recommendations to the new administration.

Key actions range from the immediate — like repealing the Global Gag Rule and restoring funding to the UN Population Fund — to a number of bigger-picture goals. Specifically, FCI and its partners are calling for the U.S. government to allocate $1.3 billion for maternal and newborn health in 2010, and for an additional $1 billion allocation to support family planning programs. The community is also urging the Administration to develop a comprehensive, evidence-based Maternal and Newborn Health Emergency Action Plan, and to take the lead in global efforts to provide universal access to life-saving health care for mothers and newborns in the developing world.

Obama has embraced international treaties and agreements and international human rights law more than any previous American president, and has said that the U.S. will adopt the Millennium Development Goals under his administration.  

Maternal health is Goal 5.  According to an MDG Fact Sheet,

Estimates for 2005 show that, every minute, a woman died of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth.  This adds up to more than 500,000 women annually and 10 million over a generation. Almost all of these women – 99 per cent – live and die in developing countries.

Maternal mortality shows the greatest disparity among countries: in sub-Saharan Africa, a woman’s risk of dying from treatable or preventable complications of pregnancy and childbirth over the course of her lifetime is 1 in 22, compared to 1 in 7,300 in developed regions. Every year, more than 1 million children are left motherless and vulnerable because of maternal death. 

In many countries, unsafe clandestine abortion is a leading cause of maternal mortality, a fact which has been decried by the international human rights community and numerous treaty interpreting bodies.  The risk of abortion procedures performed in a safe, clinical environment is extremely low, making those deaths wholly unnecessary.

Drug violence in Mexico affecting women

In Policy Blog on February 10, 2009 at 11:19 pm

As 2009 progresses, drug violence escalates in the north of Mexico.  This recent story tells of how more and more women are being killed, and how beauty queens are courted and lavished with luxuries as “narco wives.”  


Mugshot of a former beauty queen and narco-girlfriend

Mugshot of a former beauty queen and current narco-girlfriend, arrested with her boyfriend who was smuggling guns.


A friend of mine from Ciudad Juarez told me that when she lived there it was an unspoken rule that you didn’t go into clubs or restaurants with a bunch of SUVs out front, and if narcos came in and started throwing money around you left immediately.  One of her stories of having to tactfully accept a drink from an obvious narco reminds me of the girls this story talks about.  

What’s especially striking to me is how little agency the female characters in these stories seem to have.  They are mentioned as property, as dressing, as a canvas upon which rivals can carve their disrespect.

Forcible sterilization case against Chile

In Policy Blog on February 4, 2009 at 12:33 am

The Center for Reproductive Rights announced today that a Chilean woman has filed a case against the Chilean government before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.  Her complaint alleges that she was forcibly sterilized because she is HIV positive, a violation of her human rights.

The Center for Reproductive Rights’ Luisa Cabal says, “Forced sterilization is a violation of a woman’s most basic human rights and is all too often committed against members of vulnerable groups, which deserve special protection, such as women living with HIV.  It’s time that the Chilean government respect the human rights of all its citizens and take concrete action to guarantee that a woman living with HIV receives quality reproductive health services and has the ability to make decisions about her own life.”

The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights and the Chilean NGO VIVO POSITIVO have presented the claim on the behalf of F.S., who wished to remain anonymous.  VIVO POSITIVO had found numerous cases of forcible sterilization of HIV positive women, and hopes that the case will promote systemic change.  The Inter-American Commission monitors OAS state compliance with human rights agreements.