The Sentinel

Human Rights Action :: Humanitarian Response :: Health :: Education :: Heritage Stewardship ::
Sustainable Development
Week ending 27 October 2018

This weekly digest is intended to aggregate and distill key content from a broad spectrum of practice domains and organization types including key agencies/IGOs, NGOs, governments, academic and research institutions, consortia and collaborations, foundations, and commercial organizations. We also monitor a spectrum of peer-reviewed journals and general media channels. The Sentinel’s geographic scope is global/regional but selected country-level content is included. We recognize that this spectrum/scope yields an indicative and not an exhaustive product. Comments and suggestions should be directed to:

David R. Curry
GE2P2 Global Foundation – Governance, Evidence, Ethics, Policy, Practice

PDF : The Sentinel_ period ending 27 Oct 2018

:: Week in Review  [See selected posts just below]
:: Key Agency/IGO/Governments Watch – Selected Updates from 30+ entities   [see PDF]
:: INGO/Consortia/Joint Initiatives Watch – Media Releases, Major Initiatives, Research:: Foundation/Major Donor Watch -Selected Updates  [see PDF]The Sentinel_ period ending 20 Oct 2018
:: Journal Watch – Key articles and abstracts from 100+ peer-reviewed journals  [see PDF]

Doctors and scientists must defend a free press – The Lancet

Featured Journal Content
The Lancet
Oct 27, 2018 Volume 392 Number 10157 p1487-1598
Doctors and scientists must defend a free press
The Lancet
Nov 2 marks the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. UNESCO has recorded 1010 killings of journalists in the past 12 years. In 90% of cases, the killers went unpunished. The work of journalists worldwide offers a vital platform to discuss and debate the health and wellbeing of populations whose plight might otherwise never come to international attention.

Death is not the only way journalists are silenced—they are regularly intimidated and detained as well. Already this year, The Lancet has condemned Shahidul Alam’s detention for highlighting the Government of Bangaldesh’s failure to ensure road safety for its citizens. 2018 has also seen Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo of Reuters convicted after reporting on the alleged killings of ten Rohingya at the hands of soldiers and Buddhist villagers in Myanmar. Journalists risk their personal safety because highlighting health and human rights atrocities is so important.

Press freedom around the world is currently at its lowest ebb for 13 years. 2017 saw 73 000 people classify themselves as journalists or editors, down from 84 000 just 1 year previously. Only 13% of the world’s population currently has a free press. Free press and free expression are inextricably linked to the struggle to advance health for individuals and populations. As we can see from the recent scrambles by Russia and Saudi Arabia to invent narratives to explain their illegal actions, it is only wider attention that can bring sufficient pressure on governments to act within the law and respect the health and human rights of its citizens. Journalists offer a key avenue for applying this pressure.

Let Nov 2, this year, mark a change in the way we think of journalists. It is not just the job of press colleagues, lawyers, and governments to defend the rights of journalists worldwide—health professionals and scientists must stand up for a free press too. If we hope for the better health of people worldwide, we must defend the rights of the most objective international monitoring mechanism we have—a free press.

“Cultural Relativism” and Human Rights — Statement by Karima Bennoune, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights

Human Rights – Relativism
Statement by Karima Bennoune, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights at the 73rd session of the General Assembly
New York, 23 October 2018

[Excerpt; Text bolding by Editor]
The universality of human rights is today the cornerstone of human rights law, regularly reaffirmed by states in new legal standards, and a foundational aspect of the human rights system. It greatly enhances the lives of all human beings, including by guaranteeing their cultural rights. It is a critical tool for human rights defenders around the world.

However, universality is currently under sustained attack from many directions, including by those who misuse culture and cultural rights justifications. This poses many challenges for all human rights, including cultural rights. In response, we need a foundational renewal of universality, and one with a broad youth constituency that can nourish the tradition of the UDHR during its next 70 years.

Meanwhile, in recent years, respect for cultural diversity has also been threatened by those who seek to impose monolithic identities and ways of being, who advocate various forms of supremacy and discrimination. Cultural diversity is still wrongly understood as being in opposition to universality, including by some Governments and other actors who misuse it as an excuse for violations of the very universal human rights within which its enjoyment is embedded, and by others who oppose the concept altogether.

Universality is not a weapon against cultural diversity, nor is cultural diversity a weapon against universality. The two principles are mutually reinforcing and interlocking. In today’s polarized world, we need a sophisticated multi-directional stance. We must simultaneously defend the universality of human rights from those seeking to use cultural claims as a weapon against rights, and at the same time defend cultural rights and respect for cultural diversity, in accordance with international standards, when those principles come under attack. This is an important way to mark the 70th anniversary of the UDHR and its Article 27 guarantee of the right to take part in cultural life without discrimination.

Women’s cultural rights are prime sites of threat to universality and must be rigorously defended, especially in a world where even some leaders openly denigrate women and deny their equality. Equality and universal human rights are not overridden by culture or what is claimed to be culture. Cultural rights are not an excuse for violations of other human rights. They do not justify discrimination or violence.

Universality is not an idea that belongs to any one country or culture, to any one region or religion. In this seventieth anniversary year, we have an obligation to remind ourselves of the contributions made by women and men from around the world to the Universal Declaration, and to promote and share its truly global history. The text adopted in 1948 was not an imposition of the values or cultures of any one region of the world, but rather a foundational challenge to entrenched systems of racial and sexual discrimination that were prevalent. Notwithstanding abstentions, not a single country voted against the Universal Declaration [of Human Rights]. It has become not only a vital international legal standard, but also one of the most important pieces of intangible cultural heritage created during the twentieth century and, thus, part of the cultural heritage of all humankind. It requires vigilant protection.

Ardent defenders of the universality of human rights are found in all regions. Its opponents are likewise geographically diverse. People and Governments in every part of the world are capable of violating or sustaining this idea. The rhetoric of universality often resonates most strongly with those who are most marginalized and discriminated against.

There are many forms of relativism that undermine human rights culture and meaningful universality. These include the refusal to recognize entire categories of rights, such as economic, social and cultural rights. Such an approach results in a selective universality, which is unacceptable. Tolerance of extreme poverty in the name of markets is as undermining of universality as is the attempt to justify discrimination in the name of culture. A robust universality must include civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights, must include the rights of all people and must enable their full implementation.

In contrast to cultural diversity which is positive for human rights, cultural relativism – which suggests that some have lesser or different rights because of the collective to which they are assumed to belong, which uses culture not to amplify rights but to take them away – is destructive and has been repudiated by international law. Cultural relativism is no mere theoretical construct; the exclusions from rights protection it seeks to create have grave, sometimes lethal, consequences. The fact that the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women is the human rights convention subject to the most reservations, many of which are based on unacceptable cultural relativist excuses for not implementing women’s equality, is a matter of urgent concern.

It is reprehensible that relativist arguments even find their way into United Nations resolutions. “Sensitivities” do not overrule the international human rights obligations of States. No historical, social, cultural or religious “sensitivities” can justify the criminalization of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity, nor could they justify racial discrimination.

To effectively challenge cultural relativism, I call on States inter alia to:
(a) Review laws that discriminate against anyone on the basis of cultural or religious arguments, and bring them in line with universal human rights standards; and
(b) Refrain from using culture, cultural rights or tradition to justify violations of international human rights and ensure that no representative of the State does so in national or international forums.

Cultures also have many positive implications for the enjoyment of universal human rights. Cultural diversity is a necessary condition for and the result of the exercise of cultural rights by all.

We must recognize the very real histories of forced assimilation that have sometimes been imposed, inter alia, on indigenous peoples, minorities and people living under colonialism and the disdain with which their cultural resources have often been treated. Universality is about human dignity, not about homogeneity. But we must also recognize the diversity of diversities, not only between, but within all human collectivities. In all countries, there should be provisions and mechanisms to protect those who decide to step outside given cultural and religious frameworks, such as non-religious persons, from physical attacks, threats and incitement to hatred and violence. This diversity of diversities breaks the myth of homogeneous cultural blocs, and questions the authority of any person or institution to impose an interpretation on cultural resources.

To improve respect for cultural diversity, States should inter alia:
(a) Recognize and value it within the framework of universal human rights and avoid abusively restricting its expression; recognize and respect cultural dissent, syncretism and cultural mixing, and the right to re-interpret cultures;
(b) Reaffirm the importance of secularism and the separation of religion and State, and of both secular and intercultural spaces, for full enjoyment of freedom of religion or belief, and cultural rights…

First United Nations Expert on Sexual Orientation Presents Inaugural Human Rights Report to Third Committee, as Others Tackle Justice, Environment Concerns

Human Rights – Sexual Orientation
First United Nations Expert on Sexual Orientation Presents Inaugural Human Rights Report to Third Committee, as Others Tackle Justice, Environment Concerns
GA/SHC/4243 25 October 2018
General Assembly Third Committee
Seventy-third Session, 33rd & 34th Meetings (AM & PM)

Right Not to Be Arbitrarily Deprived of Life Universally Recognized, ‘Applies at All Times’, Says Special Rapporteur
Thousands of trans and gender-diverse persons are subjected to levels of violence that “offend the human conscience”, the first United Nations expert on the topic told the Third Committee today, as delegates engaged with mandate holders on the promotion and protection of human rights.

In his inaugural presentation, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Independent Expert on the protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, who took up his mandate 1 January, said thousands of trans and gender-diverse persons have been killed in recent years. In some countries, the life expectancy of a trans woman is only 35 years, he said, meaning that at age 17, she is middle-aged, and at 23, nearing the end of her life.

Describing this as “the tip of a horrifying iceberg”, he said a lack of reporting and data collection, itself stemming from transphobia, has meant an enormous amount of information is unknown about these communities. Bureaucratic approaches that lack “rhyme or reason” only exacerbate the risk of violence and discrimination, notably when the name, sex or gender details in official documents do not match a person’s appearance.

Moreover, when Governments do recognize the gender identity of trans persons, they often impose arbitrary and abusive requirements, he said: medical certification, surgery, treatment, sterilization or divorce among them. States’ non-recognition of trans and gender-diverse persons has created a “legal vacuum”, violating the right to equal recognition before the law, and in turn, the rights to health, education and housing.

And yet, Governments have the power to end such ordeals, he said, urging them to eliminate the conception of gender as pathology. They should instead design and conduct public education campaigns — including on anti-bullying and sexual education — and formulate education policies addressing harmful social and cultural bias, misconceptions and prejudice. “These measures cannot be postponed”, he asserted.

In the ensuing dialogue, delegates expressed concern about discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, with Albania’s representative voicing regret that more than 70 countries still criminalize sexual orientation. Colombia’ delegate advocated measures to fight such abuse, while Costa Rica’s delegate pointed to measures adopted this year that allow people to change their names through a simple administrative procedure…

An estimated 2,300 children traveling with migrant caravan in Mexico need protection and essential services – UNICEF

“Migrant Caravan in Mexico” – Essential Services for Children
An estimated 2,300 children traveling with migrant caravan in Mexico need protection and essential services – UNICEF
Press release
NEW YORK/MEXICO CITY, 26 October 2018 – An estimated 2,300 children traveling with the migrant caravan now in southern Mexico need protection and access to essential services like healthcare, clean water and adequate sanitation – UNICEF warned today. The long and arduous journey has left children exposed to inclement weather, including dangerously hot temperatures, with limited access to proper shelter. Some have already fallen ill or suffered from dehydration, according to UNICEF teams on the ground.

Many of the children and families in the caravan are fleeing gang and gender-based violence, extortion, poverty and limited access to quality education and social services in their home countries of northern Central America – El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Sadly, these conditions are part of daily life for millions of children in the region. Each day, families facing these harsh conditions make the painful decision to leave their homes, communities and countries in search of safety and a more hopeful future.

While those traveling with the caravan hope for safety in numbers, the perils of using irregular migration routes remain significant, especially for children. The journey is long, uncertain and full of danger, including the risk of exploitation, violence and abuse.

In Mexico, UNICEF is working with the Government and other partners to ensure that uprooted children are provided with the support and services they need and that their rights are upheld. This includes providing technical assistance to authorities on nutrition and child protection, and expanding access to psychosocial support. UNICEF and its partners are also providing children and families in the caravan with more than 20,000 litres of safe drinking water, hygiene and sanitation packs, oral rehydration salts, sunscreen and soap.

Throughout northern Central America and Mexico, UNICEF continues to provide psychosocial counselling for children and families who have endured violence, exploitation and abuse at different stages of the migration journey. UNICEF is also developing models for alternative care to detention, and strengthening consular protection for uprooted children.

UNICEF reiterates its call on all governments to prioritize the best interests of children in the application of immigration laws and procedures, to keep families together, and to find alternatives to immigration detention of children.

US$70 million to UNICEF to support education programmes in Yemen through monthly cash stipends to unpaid teachers across country

Education – Yemen Crisis
US$70 million to UNICEF to support education programmes in Yemen through monthly cash stipends to unpaid teachers across country
Press release
23 October 2018 – UNICEF appreciates the announcement from the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia of US $70 million towards monthly cash stipends to teachers across Yemen.

“More than 135,000 Yemeni teachers have not received their salaries in more than two years” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore who visited Yemen in June this year. “Classrooms are where children feel some semblance of normalcy in their lives, and a place to prepare themselves for their future lives. The stipends will help teachers stay in classrooms.”

“Education has been one of the biggest casualties of this conflict,” Fore said. “We urge the warring parties to end this conflict and allow children to resume their childhood. Peace is the only solution.”

New global commitment to primary health care for all at Astana conference


New global commitment to primary health care for all at Astana conference
Declaration of Astana charts course to achieve universal health coverage, 40 years since declaration on primary health care in Alma-Ata
News Release 25 October 2018, Astana, Kazakhstan
Countries around the world today agreed to the Declaration of Astana, vowing to strengthen their primary health care systems as an essential step toward achieving universal health coverage. The Declaration of Astana reaffirms the historic 1978 Declaration of Alma-Ata, the first time world leaders committed to primary health care.

“Today, instead of health for all, we have health for some,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO). “We all have a solemn responsibility to ensure that today’s declaration on primary health care enables every person, everywhere to exercise their fundamental right to health.”

While the 1978 Declaration of Alma-Ata laid a foundation for primary health care, progress over the past four decades has been uneven. At least half the world’s population lacks access to essential health services – including care for noncommunicable and communicable diseases, maternal and child health, mental health, and sexual and reproductive health.

“Although the world is a healthier place for children today than ever before, close to 6 million children die every year before their fifth birthday mostly from preventable causes, and more than 150 million are stunted,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “We as a global community can change that, by bringing quality health services close to those who need them. That’s what primary health care is about.”

The Declaration of Astana comes amid a growing global movement for greater investment in primary health care to achieve universal health coverage. Health resources have been overwhelmingly focused on single disease interventions rather than strong, comprehensive health systems – a gap highlighted by several health emergencies in recent years.

“Adoption of the Declaration at this global conference in Astana will set new directions for the development of primary health care as a basis of health care systems,” said Yelzhan Birtanov, Minister of Health of the Republic of Kazakhstan. “The new Declaration reflects obligations of countries, people, communities, health care systems and partners to achieve healthier lives through sustainable primary health care.”

UNICEF and WHO will help governments and civil society to act on the Declaration of Astana and encourage them to back the movement. UNICEF and WHO will also support countries in reviewing the implementation of this Declaration, in cooperation with other partners.

Notes to editors:
The Global Conference on Primary Health Care is taking place from 25-26 October in Astana, Kazakhstan, co-hosted by WHO, UNICEF and the Government of Kazakhstan. Participants include ministers of health, finance, education and social welfare; health workers and patient advocates; youth delegates and activists; and leaders representing bilateral and multilateral institutions, global health advocacy organizations, civil society, academia, philanthropy, media and the private sector.

The Declaration of Astana, unanimously endorsed by all WHO Member States, makes pledges in four key areas: (1) make bold political choices for health across all sectors; (2) build sustainable primary health care; (3) empower individuals and communities; and (4) align stakeholder support to national policies, strategies and plans.