UN Marks International Safe Abortion Day

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United Nations Human Rights experts issued a formal statement on Friday, September 28, in honor of International Safe Abortion Day. The UN Human Rights Council Working Group fights discrimination against women in both law and in practice, and the group opened its statement by acknowledging the central link between a women’s access to reproductive agency and her access to justice, equality, financial security and all aspects of public life.

A woman’s ability to make her own reproductive decisions lies “at the very core of [her] fundamental right to equality, privacy and physical and mental integrity and is a precondition for the enjoyment of other rights and freedoms”.

And yet, 47,000 women die each year due to unsafe abortions. An additional five million suffer temporary or permanent disability. And an estimated 225 million women worldwide don’t have access to basic modern contraception, with girls under fifteen experiencing five times the risk of limited access and resulting unplanned pregnancy. If 225 million women could gain this access and prevent unwanted pregnancy, human health and human rights around the globe would experience a sharp increase.  

As stated by the group, “legal frameworks for abortion have been typically been designed to control women’s decision making through the use of criminal law.”

The World Health organization has demonstrated that criminalizing abortion does not prevent the procedure; instead, it pushes women to resort to unsafe and unregulated medical provision. In addition, in many cultures, women who have received abortions are mistreated by health professionals, denied emergency care, or are otherwise subject to forms of societal punishment that in many cases violate national and international law.

It is essential that governments reclaim this essential cornerstone of women’s reproductive rights through referendum, legislative and judicial action.

It’s also essential that concerns about unsafe abortion be addressed through public health policies and changes to relevant civil law including medical malpractice laws.   

Discrimination against women is a thread that winds through public and private life in times of both peace and war. It transcends national and cultural boundaries and is often fueled by power imbalances between women and men that are formally mirrored in laws, policy, and cultural practice. Many of these laws and practices are long-standing and deeply entrenched. But these laws can be removed with the systematic application of legal pressure and education; these are among the primary goals of the Working Group by the Human Rights Council. To learn more about the Working Group, click here. The next session of will take place in Geneva from October 22-26.

Climate Change and the US: Where to Move?

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This article published in the Guardian, while a bit sensational in tone, raises a question that many of us have been contemplating as the climate changes, weather becomes volatile, and policy actions fail to materialize: If certain parts of the United States become uncomfortable or uninhabitable, where will the occupants of those places migrate to? If our region of the country experiences untenable heat waves or flooding that we can’t properly insure our homes against, many of us may decide to move. But when we recognize that it’s time to pack up and go, how will we choose a destination?

For many of us, this remains a simple thought exercise. Our jobs, families and home equity determine our location for us, and we haven’t yet experienced any storms, fires or floods that have the power to permanently drive us out. But for those who live on vulnerable coastlines, the question takes on growing significance every year. And according to the researchers who contributed to the article, the answer can be summed up roughly in two directions: North and west.

Dangers Facing Southern and Coastal Homes

While Florida has experienced a sharp upward curve in population over the past few decades, most of the southern tip of the state will experience rising sea levels, increasing floods and a general increase in water-related damage and threats. Insuring homes in southern Florida will become more difficult and expensive, and most of what we now recognize as the coast will become submerged over the next ten years. The Gulf Coast will also become increasingly subject to flooding and storm damage, and the integrity of the coastline will become increasingly inappropriate for construction with every passing year as sea levels continue to rise. So Florida and Gulf Coast states are due for a population drift northward, in some cases to inland cities and in many cases out of the region altogether.

Why Go West?

Portland University climate change expert Vivak Shandas recommends destinations “above the 42nd parallel”, or the line that divides NY and PA in the east and Oregon and CA in the west. Moving north provides a buffer against blistering heat waves, and heading west can remove the threat of rising seas and property damage from elevated water tables. According to Shandas and also Jesse Kenan, a climate expert at Harvard, plenty of population centers inland and relatively close to the Great Lakes will offer a perfect refuge, especially those that fall east or west of the tornado corridors in the great plains.

Another things to consider: proactive municipal decisions that are likely to protect citizens from personal and financial damage. New York City, for example, appears geographically vulnerable (it’s a small island), but massive investments recently poured into infrastructure and flood protection are likely to minimize dangers over the long term. By contrast, unprepared urban areas will suffer a double impact as unrestrained flooding and storms drive residents away and weaken population and tax bases.

We don’t know what the future holds for population centers around the world, but the decision to move is often deeply personal. When the time comes to relocate, financial resources, family mobility, and destination choices will all play a critical role. Read more here.

Taiwan’s Participation in the UN Assembly

The historically complex region we now know as Taiwan was once a colony of Japan, which was relinquished by the country after Japan’s WWII surrender in 1945. Handed over to China by US forces, the island received a seat on the UN security council alongside the US, the Soviet Union, Britain and France, an honor it received for being the first UN nation to be attacked by an axis power.

This influential position became awkward four years later after the Chinese civil war. Nationalist forces led by Chiang Kai-Shek lost the war to Communist forces and fled to the island, and a 20- year period began in which the Nationalist government of the island (then called the Republic of China) held a UN Security Council seat while China was closed out of the world body altogether.

Until 1975, Chiang held onto hopes of retaking China, and continually rejected a two-state solution in which the communist People’s Republic of China would hold Security Council seat while Chiang’s government would continue to hold onto the island (then called Taiwan or Formosa). Despite Chiang’s rejections of this option, the UN passed a resolution in 1971 that passed the seat to the People’s Republic.

Since that year, Beijing has aggressively promoted a “one-China” policy, which rejects the independent status of Taiwan and pressures the world community to consider Taiwan a part of China. China has block Taiwan’s participation in the UN and taken action against entities that reject or ignore the one-China position.

This week, the UN body will convene in New York. And this time Taiwan will not push for membership, as per custom. Instead, the island will be sending two ministers (digital and environmental protection) who will promote adherence to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, though they will not be able to participate in the Assembly itself. This is part of Taiwan’s ongoing and growing effort to present itself as a responsible stakeholder in world affairs.

Despite its past history of martial law and brutality, Taiwan is embracing its new profile as a defender of human rights. In fact, a sharp contrast is beginning to develop between Taiwan’s responsible reputation and China’s increasingly authoritarian government in which citizens cannot vote, speech is restricted, and Muslims have been detained in camps.

Though the UN continues to officially ignore Taiwan, and China continues its efforts to restrict Taiwan’s presence and influence on the world stage, a growing chorus of voices are recognizing Taiwan’s efforts to contribute to the world community. Follow us as we observe the proceedings of the UN assembly and in the meantime, learn more here and also here.

Agricultural Challenges in the 21st Century

Several well recognized factors and global trends are pushing the planet closer to a state of precarious food distribution, which could lead to increases in malnutrition, hunger, and unpredictable agricultural commodity markets. These trends have been on the rise for years, and they don’t come as a surprise to those who study agricultural markets and food distribution issues, but some of them appear to be reaching critical tipping points. These include: 1) increasing population concentrations in urban areas 2) increasing populations in general, and 3) the impact of climate change, which we have yet to fully understand. Shifts in planetary temperature can wreak unpredictable havoc on growing patterns, pest and disease ecosystems, rainfall, and our ability to keep food fresh and safely transport it from one place to another.

On Monday, the United Nations agricultural agency chief outlined these issues while announcing the launch of the FAO’s (Food and Agriculture Organization) latest publication. This year, the publication will focus on the links between agricultural trade, food security, and climate change.

According to the Director General, in the coming years, the agriculture industry will face intense pressure to provide the world with safe and nutritious food in increasing quantities under increasingly difficult conditions. The industry will be required to feed the world while also preserving the world’s biodiversity and natural resources. This will be no small task, and the challenge will be greatest in lower latitude regions of the world closer to the equator.

Unpredictable fluctuations in rainfall will likely accompany rising temperatures, and arid and semi-arid regions will experience lower crop yields. At the same time, less affected areas at higher latitudes may experience a reduced impact, which can increase an already destabilizing development gap between wealthier and poorer regions of the world.

Even without the backdrop of climate change and shifting growing systems, the global food system will need to produce almost 50 percent more food by 2050 then it did in 2012. Using fewer resources to produce greater yields will be necessary to generate the basic stability we will require during the century ahead.

Are you interested in entering the field of agriculture or agriculture science? Our team can help you find a path into this challenging and vital field. Contact our office! In the meantime, learn more here.

Peace Negotiations Across the Horn of Africa

In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s second largest city, Saudi diplomatic efforts have just played a key role in facilitating a historic peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eretria, two nations that have endured a simmering conflict since the 1990s. After a bloody, unresolved war followed by years of tense, frosty relations, the two countries have come together to sign a historic accord and hopefully continue a pattern of normalizing relations across the Horn of Africa.

Long-standing conflict between Djibouti and Eritrea may also reach a turning point this week in the same city as diplomatic representatives and national leaders come together to continue what appears to be an inspiring set of resolutions and peaceful negotiations.

Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, sees strong and positive implications in these agreements and has offered statements praising the leaders of both parties and expressing hope for stability in the region.

“We have seen a conflict that has lasted for decades ending, and that has a very important meaning in a world where we see, unfortunately, so many conflicts multiplying,” said Mr. Guterres.

As a very important part of this positive development, the border between the two countries has reopened at two key crossing points after 20 years of closure. As of the past few days, hundreds of citizens from both sides have crossed the border to reconnect with relatives and loved ones, and celebrations have taken place around the region.

Eritrea established its independence from Ethiopia in 1991, and the two countries enjoyed relatively stable relations until 1998, when conflict erupted over a host of issues, the border closed, and trade tensions escalated.

At this point, both sides will need to leverage the current spirit of goodwill as the next stage of border negotiations take place, but peace is expected to prevail. Read more here and also here and join us as we follow this encouraging story.