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Climate Change Agreement Is Public Health Issue

Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, opines in the Huffington Post today that achieving an international agreement to halt climate change is a public health issue: "Climate change degrades air quality, reduces food security and compromises water supplies and sanitation. WHO estimates that, each year, more than 7 million deaths worldwide can be attributed to air pollution. Climate change is also causing tens of thousands of yearly deaths from other causes."

Currently, climate change negotiators are in Paris to try to achieve an accord that would limit emissions and thus curb global temperatures from rising no more than another two degrees Celsius.

U.N. Finds Afghanistan's Courts Fail Women

According to the United Nations, the court system in Afghanistan is failing women who are victims of violence, leading them to turn to mediation instead, the Los Angeles Times' Ali M. Latifi reports. Women interviewed by UN investigators reported they have to pay bribes to move the judicial process along, that they don't know how the law applies to their cases, and they fear imprisoning the men who are often the sole breadwinners for their households. Orzala Ashraf Nemat, a women’s rights activist, told the L.A. Times that mediation can be a long-term solution to domestic violence, but, on the other hand, "'in the past, we have had judges telling victims of gang rapes to marry their rapists. Clearly, there has to be a certain level of corruption in the formal systems for people to prefer mediation.'”

UN:$6 Billion Investment in Disaster Relief Would Save $360 Billion

Natural disasters are costing $250 billion to $300 billion annually, the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction said in a report released last week. According to the Associated Press' Edith M. Lederer, the report estimates that, if a $6 billion investment is made every year, the cost from disasters would be reduced by $360 billion over the next 15 years. Andrew Maskrey, lead author of the 2015 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, said climate change will make the costs of disasters increase even more.

UN Finds Mass Surveillance Violates Privacy Rights

The United Nations' special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights has found that mass electronic surveillance does away with the right to privacy, The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald reports: "In concluding that mass surveillance impinges core privacy rights, the report was primarily focused on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty enacted by the General Assembly in 1966, to which all of the members of the “Five Eyes” alliance are signatories. The U.S. ratified the treaty in 1992, albeit with various reservations that allowed for the continuation of the death penalty and which rendered its domestic law supreme. With the exception of the U.S.’s Persian Gulf allies (Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar), virtually every major country has signed the treaty."

The rapporteur found that no country has demonstrated with evidence that mass surveillance is necessary. The report also rejected the argument that mass surveillance is justified because there is more protection for Americans than there is for foreigners, Greenwald reports: "'Article 26 of the Covenant prohibits discrimination on grounds of, inter alia, nationality and citizenship. The Special Rapporteur thus considers that States are legally obliged to afford the same privacy protection for nationals and non-nationals and for those within and outside their jurisdiction.'"

United Nations, US Still Treating American Indian Tribes As Dependent #IndigenousPeoplesDay

Last month, the United Nations General Assembly approved a document to strengthen the rights of indigenous peoples around the world as part of a meeting of international leaders. However, Steven Newcomb, writing for Indian Country Today Media Network, says that it is clear that American Indian tribes are not being recognized as sovereign nations by the United Nations or by the United States: "What the United States government is supporting in the United Nations is an international recognition of the United States’ imposed 'domestic dependent nation' status for our Originally Free Nations, a status premised on the Doctrine of Christian Discovery and Domination. The U.S. is fully supportive of that 'domesticated' and 'tribal' status being recognized in the United Nations because it serves to validate in the international arena the centuries-old, 'under-the-thumb' system of US domination and Original Nation subjection, which is typically called U.S. federal Indian law and policy."

Legal Concerns of Artificial Reproductive Technologies Still Unaddressed

Joseph Chamie, former director of the United Nations' population division, writes in a post for the Inter Press Service News Agency that artificial reproductive technologies raise legal and ethical concerns that have not been fully resolved yet. Since 1970, five million people are estimated to have been born because of in vitro fertilization. Chamie notes that "gestational surrogacy raises challenging ethical questions, such as the exploitation of poor women, as well as complex legal issues, especially when transactions cross international borders." The same ethical and legal concerns will be raised by the prospect of people asserting their reproductive rights to be cloned and the development of babies outside the human womb in artificial uteruses, he writes: "Anticipated future medical breakthroughs in human reproduction make it even more imperative for the international community of nations to address the growing challenges and concerns regarding reproductive technologies and rights."

Landmark Event On Indigenous Rights Overshadowed

The landmark World Conference of Indigenous Peoples has been far from the limelight "during a frantic week in New York when world leaders gathered to discuss climate change and the security situation in Syria and Iraq," Radio Australia reports. Kalama Oka Aina Niheu, who is from Hawaii, told Radio Australia that the conference did not provide an avenue for indigenous peoples to voice their concerns about climate change and demilitarization because those issues were kept off that UN conference's agenda. The North American Indian Peoples caucus withdrew its support from the conference, she reports. As a result, she expressed a concern that the conference would be turned into an international version of the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs and "people who are going to be supported and uplifted in this process are going to be people who support extractive industries and who support mechanisms that actually disempower indigenous peoples," she said in the interview.

Islamic State Swings Pendulum Toward Surveillance Again

"What a difference a year makes," writes Colum Lynch in Foreign Policy. In light of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant's recent uptick in activity, including the beheadings of several Western journalists, "discussions about surveillance ... no longer fixate on the NSA's massive electronic spying that contractor Edward Snowden revealed when he leaked the spy agency's internal documents." Law professor Steve Vladeck told Foreign Policy that the effort to reform surveillance has been "'totally overtaken by ISIS.'"

Lynch was writing before the U.S. Security Council adopted a U.S. drafted-resolution to more widely suppress the travel and other activity of suspected jihadists. But his point was made even more strongly by the measure's enactment. Human Rights Watch's Andrea Prascow told Levant that the resolution does not detail how alleged jihadists and terrorists will be afforded due process regarding their right to travel.


UN Endorses Indigenous Peoples' Rights

The United National General Assembly "approved a document strengthening the rights of indigenous peoples worldwide. The Outcome Document was endorsed by consensus at the start of the first World Conference on Indigenous Peoples," the Associated Press reports. Seven years ago, the UN also adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

According to the AP, Aili Keskitalo, president of the Sami Parliament in Norway, said that the outcome document recognizes that indigenous peoples will be allowed to participate in UN actions that affect their communities.

UN Leader Calls Digital Privacy a Human Right

Navi Pillay, the United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights, argues in a draft report that digital privacy is a human right, the Washington Post reports. Wide-ranging surveillance by the National Security Agency and the United Kingdom's General Communications Headquarters undermine that right, Pillay argues. Pillay's draft report argues "'the best remedy of all is to establish strong legal protections to ensure that such violations do not happen in the first place,'" the Post concludes.


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