Monday, July 30, 2012

Susan Ryan: 'Human Rights Never Age'

Susan Ryan, Australian Commonwealth Age Discrimination Commissioner, addressed the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law Conference on 20 July 2012.

She gave an ' outline of the Age Discrimination Act 2004 (Cth) and how it operates. She will discuss gaps in the ADA and other laws and policies which discriminate on the basis of age. Commissioner Ryan will outline opportunities to address these issues, including the federal government's consolidation of anti-discrimination laws and the Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry into barriers to work for older persons.'

Asylum Seekers: People Just Like Us

"I remain ready, willing and able to work with anyone who wants to promote the human rights of asylum seekers.

But I also remain ready, willing and able to work against those who don't."

Allan Asher, former Australian Commonwealth Ombudsman, addressed the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law Conference on 20 July 2012.

From the conference papers:

"This paper sets out the experiences of an Immigration Ombudsman who mistakenly believed that the government was genuine in its commitment to the compassionate and tolerant treatment of asylum seekers and to the honouring of our international treaty obligations.

Key issues include: conditions in detention centres, treatment of juvenile crew, management of suicide and self-harm, community detention, security assessments, poor administrative practice, and failure to support oversight."

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sex, Lies and Julian Assange: 4 Corners Investigates

Finally caught up with the ABC Four Corners documentary Sex, Lies and Julian Assange (screened in Australia on 23 July 2012).

The online version is here.

As well as investigating the charges of rape and molestation against Assange the program:
...looks at claims the United States is working hard to unearth evidence that would lead to a charge of "conspiracy to commit espionage" being made against Assange - which in turn would be used in his extradition from Sweden. The program also documents the harassment experienced by Assange's supporters across the globe - including his Australian lawyer - and the FBI's attempts to convince some to give evidence against him.
46 minutes well spent. Good to see our national broadcaster presenting such quality journalism

Friday, July 27, 2012

'No Winners, No Losers: Just Truth, Justice and Mercy'

"I have a growing disquiet that asking, that expecting, the majority of Australians to vote YES in a referendum to include first peoples in the body of the Constitution and to removing the clause that allows discrimination based on race, in the next three to five years or so, will fail."
Dr. Kerry Arabena, Professor and Director of Research for the School for Indigenous health in the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at Monash University, addressed the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law Conference on 20 July 2012.

The program notes for her presentation 'No Winners, No Losers: Just Truth, Justice and Mercy - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and Constitutional Reform' included:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a history being framed by Australians as either competent or lacking competence; whether we need to be controlled or whether we can take responsibility; whether we are affected by the problems or we are the problem; or whether we are one of you and able to be included, or we are different and need to be excluded. In this presentation, Kerry Arabena explores national discourses relating to Constitutional reform and explores how language is being used to bring about a 'Yes' vote in the referendum. First she reviews the current discourses framing the First Peoples' responses to the Constitutional reform process. Second, she identifies a campaign based on a concept of preciousness by way of providing an alternative discourse than that which is currently popularised in some media. Finally, she explores what a discourse would need to achieve - what compelling narratives do we need to build a positive public response that allow us all to participate in nation building projects across Australia?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Responsibility to Protect after Libya and Syria

To find out which member of the Syrian regime makes Gareth Evans feel like puking you’ll have to watch the video.

The former Australian Foreign Minister and former CEO of the International Crisis Group, addressed the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law Conference on 20 July 2012.

He spoke about the future of the United Nations initiative, the Responsibility to Protect, in the wake of events in Libya and Syria.

He argued that the Responsibility to Protect needs a real consensus at the United Nations Security Council such as the one that existed for Libya last year. The current crisis in Syria is a “low point of paralysis, even on adopting non-military measures’.
He examined why this consensus has fallen away. Syria is a very different geo-political situation from Libya, not just a breakdown of the Responsibility to Protect. It includes:
  • complex internal sectarian divisions;
  • potentially explosive external regional implications;
  • real anxiety about the democratic credentials of many of those in the opposition;
  • absence of Arab League unanimity in favour of tough action;
  • and a strong Syrian army.
He analysed why there is no consensus, even about sanctions. He argues that many blame how the NATO mandate was carried out in Libya. The BRICs countries believed that civil protection was manifestly exceeded. They accused the US, UK and France of not settling for anything less than regime change, by rejecting ceasefire offers, bombing retreating forces and civilian targets such as presidential palaces. Real debate was resisted in the Security Council and information withheld.
Gareth believes that although “the bruises need to heal, a way forward had opened up”. Brazil has argued that, “the R to P concept needs to be supplemented by a complementary set of principles and procedures, a Responsibility while Protecting”. This set of criteria would be backed up by enhanced monitoring and review processes. This would enable debate of such mandates by the Security Council.
The guidelines could include that:
  • the risk justify the force
  • use of force be primarily to halt the threat/harm
  • every non-military option has been explored
  • there is proportionality – the minimum force necessary to meet the threat
  • there is a balance of consequences –those threatened will be better off
Opposition to R to P continues, with a belief by some members of the Security Council that low-level action such as sanctions will inevitably lead to military action. “Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile”.
Progress will be hard but, “the alternative is a return to the bad old days of Rwanda, Srebrenica and Kosovo”. Gareth believes that the Responsibility to Protect is here to stay and will evolve. It can be “effective in responding to a whole range of these horrible situations”.
During questions Evans expanded on the Syrian crisis and on Russia’s role there and in the world in general. “Putin’s instincts are wholly undemocratic, unsympathetic to human rights…” “…there are some things that the Russians are saying which have a skerrick of truth to them, namely that the Alawi and Christian and one or two other minorities are at risk…”.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tim Flannery: Global Warming and Human Rights

Professor Tim Flannery addressed the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law Conference on 20 July 2012. He spoke about global warming, climate change and their links to human rights issues.

Among the basic human rights, he included rights to: food and water; a nationality; protection from dangerous rates of change; life itself. He argued that each of these is affected by climate change. The greenhouse gases are the product of our economic success. We must uncoupled this link and there has been some progress over the last ten years in doing this.The most disadvantaged people are the most vulnerable and suffer the most from climate change.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Social Media and the Tunisian Revolution

Sami Ben Gharbia, outgoing editor of Global Voices Advocacy addresses the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law Conference on 20 July 2012.

He speaks about the role of digital activism in the 2010 Tunisian revolution and the Arab spring. He shares some of the strategies used to expose government corruption and nepotism and to combat its censorship, both online and offline.

In addition he touches on the involvement of Wikileaks and Anonymous in assisting the campaign.

Professor Sarah Joseph, Director of Monash University's Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, chairs the question time that follows the presentation.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Lion Promenade - Pride of Masai Mara

'Shot' at Masai Mara National Park, Kenya on 26 June 2012.

Music: nebife by Oumou

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Seizing Kenya's Sporting Chance: Richard Wanjohi

Kenyan Richard Wanjohi speaks with GV author Kevin Rennie in Nairobi at the GV Citizen Media Summit 2012 in July about the challenges facing Kenya and Africa in general.

Richard speaks about political, social, and economic issues. He reflects on the role of blogging and the growing importance of citizen media in Africa.

He is a great sports lover and would like to be Global Voices sports editor.

Monday, July 9, 2012

When Change Comes - Kenyan Poet Njeri Wangari

Kenyan poet and blogger Njeri Wangari reads her poem 'When Change Comes' at the Global Voices Summit in July 2012 in Nairobi. Njeri also talks to GV author Kevin Rennie about the challenges facing Kenya and Africa today, including political, economic, educational and health issues.

She speaks about her role as a blogger and the growing significance of citizen media in Africa.

From her poem 'When Change Comes':

When villages grow into towns
Towns into cities
Shops into malls
Spaces into estates,
When streets turn into avenues
Avenues into highways, super highways
Subways and runways
Then things change.

Njeri blogs at Kenyan Poet.