Tuesday, December 30, 2008

CFP: "Human Rights in the USA"



A Conference at the University of Connecticut

October 22-24, 2009.

We invite scholars from the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Law to submit abstracts of papers on the application of human rights laws and norms in the USA. Panels will address issues such as children's rights, civil rights, health care, environmental justice, human rights and security since 9/11, domestic violence, gender and sexuality, American literature and human rights, the history of equal rights, immigration, social welfare provision and economic rights. The Human Rights Institute will pay panelists' accommodation and registration expenses.

Please submit a one paragraph abstract and one page resume by February 28, 2009.

Conference Organizer: Richard A. Wilson, Human Rights Institute, University of Connecticut humanrights@uconn.edu

For more details, visit: http://humanrights.uconn.edu/conferences/2009.php

Petition Calling for Release of Liu Xiaobo Picked Up by Media

The NY Times recently reported on a petition to free Liu Xiaobo, one of the main players behind Charter 08. Scholars, anthropologists, Nobel laureates, and others signed the petition calling for Xiaobo's release and the need to preserve the basic civil and human right to express one's views.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sixty-six States Support Statement Declaring Equal Rights

Sixty-six nations of the UN General Assembly supported a statement extending international human rights protections to individuals of all sexual orientations and gender identities. According to Human Rights Watch, "The statement condemned killings, torture, arbitrary arrest, and deprivation of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to health." The statement won broad support in Europe and Latin America, but was opposed by the US, Russia, China, and others. Homosexuality remains banned in 80 countries, and is punishable by the death penalty in six nations. There is still much work to be done to promote the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, and the Triple A remains dedicated to protecting human difference in all its forms.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Petition in Support of Charter 08

[Circulated through the human rights listserv:]

Dear colleagues,

We, the undersigned, are writing to ask your help.

Appended below is an appeal letter to China's president, Hu Jintao, expressing "deep concern with the ongoing arbitrary detention of literary critic and former professor of literature Liu Xiaobo" and urging for his immediate release. The letter notes that "For the international community to take seriously China's oft-stated commitment to respect human rights and the rule of law, and for China's own citizens to trust the judicial system to redress legitimate grievances, it is urgent that China's central leadership ensure that no one be arrested or harassed simply for the peaceful expression of his or her views."

Please note, we are not seeking signatures from the general public but are confining our request to academics, lawyers, and recognized members of the international human rights community. In short, we want to send a clear message from prominent individuals around the world concerned with the impeded growth of civil society in China. After the appeal is sent to President Hu, it will be made public.

May we add you to the list below of those who have already signed? If so, please send an e-mail to petition.lxb@gmail.com stating your willingness to do so and including your academic affiliation and your post or other identifying information relevant to your profession.

December 17, 2008

President Hu Jintao
People's Republic of China
Zhongnanhai, Xichengqu, Beijing
People's Republic of China

Dear President Hu Jintao,

We, the undersigned scholars, writers, lawyers and human rights advocates write to share our deep concern with the ongoing arbitrary detention of literary critic and former professor of literature Liu Xiaobo.

Mr. Liu, a prominent and highly-regarded intellectual both in and outside of China, was taken away from his home in Beijing by public security officers on the evening of December 8. During the accompanying search of his apartment, which lasted for several hours, police seized his computers, mobile phones, and most of his personal papers.

No official reason has been given for Mr. Liu's arrest. In violation of China's own laws and regulations, the police have failed to inform either his relatives or his lawyer of his whereabouts or the reasons for his detention.

Because of the fact that Mr. Liu's arrest came half a day before the publication of a public appeal to promote human rights and democracy in China entitled "Charter 08," and because the police detained and questioned several other "Charter 08" signatories at the same time, the presumption is that Mr. Liu has been arrested solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed under China's constitution and international law.

Mr. Liu's activities have always been peaceful and according to law. Although he was twice arbitrarily detained for several years for writing articles criticizing the government, he has never been convicted of any crime. In recent years, Mr. Liu's reputation grew as his essays on current affairs in China and his principled defense of human rights and democracy circulated widely. Mr. Liu has consistently opposed recourse to violence. In his articles, he has lauded the amendments to the constitution that stipulate respect for human rights and property rights. He has written strongly in favor of the development of a free civil society in China.

As President of the People's Republic of China, you have yourself often pledged to strengthen China's legal system, stressing recently that "the rule of law is important for the promotion, realization and safeguarding of a harmonious society." We urge you to honor your commitment to ensure the civil rights of citizens who peacefully express their views on public affairs.

For the international community to take seriously China's oft-stated commitment to respect human rights and the rule of law, and for China's own citizens to trust the judicial system to redress legitimate grievances, it is urgent that China's central leadership ensure that no one be arrested or harassed simply for the peaceful expression of his or her views.

It is equally urgent that judicial authorities throughout China cease to use China's anti-subversion law to prosecute peaceful critics such as Mr. Liu Xiaobo, who should be released immediately without conditions.


The signatories

For more information, please contact:
In Hong Kong, Nicholas Bequelin (English, French, Mandarin): +852-8198-1040 (mobile)
In Paris, Jean-Marie Fardeau (English, French, Portuguese): +33-6-45-85-24-87 (mobile)
In London, Brad Adams (English) +44-79-0872-8333 (mobile)
In New York, Minky Worden (English, Cantonese): +1-917-497-0540 (mobile) or wordenm@hrw.org

Related Links
For the full text of the letter and signatories, please visit:

For an English translation of Charter 08, please visit:

Human Rights Watch news release, "Nobel Laureates, China Scholars Call for Liu Xiaobo's Release," please visit: http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2008/12/22/nobel-laureates-china-scholars-call-liu-xiaobo-s-release

Human Rights Watch news release, "China: Retaliation for Signatories of Rights Charter," please visit:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Brazil's Tikuna Struggle Against Drugs

The NY Times released a story on the struggle of Brazil's Tikuna Indians against increasing drug and alcohol abuse. The Tikuna of Mariaçu, a region of the Amazon that borders Colombia and Peru, are increasingly acting as drug traffickers. Young Tikuna are seduced by the lucrative pay offered to smuggle drugs, and many become addicted to the cocaine they help transport. Tikuna enjoy certain exemptions from Brazilian law, but Mariaçu's two chiefs have asked police to intervene and crack down on traffickers and abusers in their communities. The chiefs are concerned that the young are destroying what is left of traditional Tikuna culture.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Brazil Votes to Create Indigenous Reserve

After 15 years and a recent vote suspension, a decision has finally been made in favor of the creation of Brazil's Raposa Serra do Sol indigenous reserve. Eight of eleven Supreme Court judges voted in favor of the four million acre reserve. The reserve, soon to be one of the largest of its kind, is nestled in the Amazon and borders Venezuela. Farmers, ranchers, miners, etc. who have occupied the reserve and had violent clashes with its indigenous inhabitants will be evicted. According to the NY Times, the debate over the reserve "set off a sharp controversy over property rights, the limits of government authority and the rights of Indians to their original lands." The AAA congratulates members and advocates who have worked diligently to support and protect the rights of Brazil's indigenous peoples.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Yesterday marked the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Originally drafted on Dec. 10, 1948 by the UN, the declaration established a set of rights and freedoms entitled to all peoples and nations of the world.

The American Anthropological Association has developed a Declaration that we believe has universal relevance:

"People and groups have a generic right to realize their capacity for culture, and to produce, reproduce and change the conditions and forms of their physical, personal and social existence, so long as such activities do not diminish the same capacities of others. Anthropology as an academic discipline studies the bases and the forms of human diversity and unity; anthropology as a practice seeks to apply this knowledge to the solution of human problems.

As a professional organization of anthropologists, the AAA has long been, and should continue to be, concerned whenever human difference is made the basis for a denial of basic human rights, where "human" is understood in its full range of cultural, social, linguistic, psychological, and biological senses."

The AAA definition reflects a commitment to human rights consistent with international principles but not limited by them. Human rights is not a static concept. Our understanding of human rights is constantly evolving as we come to know more about the human condition. It is therefore incumbent on anthropologists to be involved in the debate on enlarging our understanding of human rights on the basis of anthropological knowledge and research.

Of course, there are some who attack the concept of universal rights as a Western construct, Barbara Crosette wrote in The Nation. Louise Arbour, former UN high commissioner for human rights, said, "Probably one of the existential issues in international human rights currently is the rise of cultural relativism and a pushback against the concept of universality." Some note that this view stems from governments in the US and Western Europe that more often observe human rights when it comes to freedom of conscience than to freedom of want.

Related Articles
The Price of Rights

UN Rights Chief Says World Hopes Pinned on Obama

In Europe, Same-Sex Showdown Moves to UN

Climate Change Predicted to Uproot Millions

According to a top U.N. official, climate change could uproot almost six million people annually and the effects of global warming might displace 200-250 million people by mid-century. Steps to adapt to and reduce climate change, while important, will not prevent a rise in weather-related disasters and conflict over scarce resources. The world's most underprivileged populations are often the first to feel the impact of climate change, but they are unable to fully prepare for these impending crises. The U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees claimed that aid agencies will need to increase their relief supplies 10- or 20-fold in order to respond to future catastrophes.

University of Washington anthropologist Holly Barker provides insight into this dilemma in her CounterPunch op-ed, "The Inequities of Climate Change and the Small Island Experience."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

CfHR & MESA Respond to Arrest of Grad Student in Iran

AAA's Committee for Human Rights signed onto a letter [pdf] by the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association of North America expressing concern about the recent arrest of Esha Momeni by Iranian police. Momeni, a graduate student in journalism and media studies at California State University--Northridge, was arrested in Tehran following a minor traffic violation. She was not charged with a crime during her arrest, but has since been charged with "acting against national security" and "propagating against the system," the LA Times reported. Police searched Momeni's property and confiscated many of her belongings, including her computer, videotapes, books, and writings. AAA and MESA are concerned that her arrest is related to her research on the women's movement in Iran. According to Amnesty International, she videotaped interviews with members of Change for Equality, a nonprofit organization that aims to improve the status of women in Iran by training them in civil disobedience. Momeni has been released on bail, but may not leave the country and will soon stand before a tribunal to face the charges against her.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Edited Volume Released: Reparations & Human Rights

Waging War, Making Peace - Reparations and Human Rights will be formally launched by Left Coast Press at this years AAA meetings.

This book is subtitled "A Report from the American Anthropological Association, Committee for Human Rights, Reparations Task Force" and is developed from a 2006 CfHR-sponsored session at the AAA's and subsequent task force work. The book was developed as an interdisciplinary reader -- meant to communicate anthropological insights and experiences to a broader public and academic audience.

Click here for additional information.

Table of Contents

2. REPARATIONS AND THE ILLUSIVE MEANING OF JUSTICE IN GUATEMALA ~ DILL, Kathleeen (Latin American Studies Institute, University of Texas, Austin) and Barbara Rose Johnston (Ctr. For Political Ecology)
4. REPARATION: NICARAGUA ~ PHILLIPS, James (Southern Oregon University)
10. THE ETHICAL DIMENSIONS OF PEACE ~ SCHAFFT, Gretchen (American University)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

400 Academics Write to Senator Obama

Anticipating a democratic victory in the November 4 presidential elections, four-hundred academics specializing in Latin America urge Senator Barack Obama to become a partner, rather than an adversary, concerning to the changes already under way in Latin America. Above all, they ask Senator Obama to understand the current impetus for progressive change in many of the region’s countries: the rejection of the “free-market” model of economic growth that has been imposed in most countries since the early 1980s, and the adoption of more socially just and environmentally sustainable development styles. The group expresses the hope that an Obama administration will embrace the opportunity to inaugurate a new period of hemispheric understanding and collaboration for the welfare of the entire Hemisphere. Most of those signing are members of the Latin American Studies Association, the largest and most influential professional association of its kind in the world.

Thanks go to Arturo Escobar, professor of anthropology at UNC-Chapel Hill, for developing the petition, as well as all those involved in drafting the final version.

AAA has posted the letter along with signatories here [pdf].

Thursday, October 23, 2008

CfHR Responds to US Census Bureau

Last month, the AAA's Committee for Human Rights wrote to the House Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives [pdf] and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce [pdf] urging them to "take appropriate legislative action to (1) pressure the U.S. Census Bureau to refrain from classifying any speakers as 'linguistically isolated' due to its inaccurate and discriminatory nature, and (2) to add a question concerning proficiency in languages other than English to the national census in order to arrive at a more accurate picture of language in the U.S.A." Comprehensive language information will allow our nation's institutions to better implement and tailor programs to meet local needs. CfHR will follow up with House Representatives to ensure that their concerns are addressed.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Child Soldiers Accountability Act is Signed by President Bush

Human Rights Watch reported that the Child Soldiers Accountability Act of 2007 has been signed by President Bush. The bill allows the US to arrest, prosecute, deport, and deny entry to individuals who have recruited and used children in armed conflicts. In 1998, the International Criminal Court declared the recruitment and use of children as soldiers a war crime. Despite efforts to curb recruitment, children are currently used as combatants in at least 17 countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

New Development Agency

In Japan, Sadako Ogata, the former UN High Commissioner for Refugees, received a huge influx of financial resources for her aid organization—the Japan International Cooperation Agency. The agency swallowed a government bank that offers grants and low-interest loans, effectively raising its available financial reservoirs by $10.3 billion. The amount, which is approximately 2.5 times that of USAID, makes it the world’s largest bilateral development agency. Ogata plans on collaborating with other aid agencies and nations to fight poverty and provide relief to crisis areas, such as Sudan, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Returning Refugees

The Economist recently published a story on the politics involved in returning refugees to their respective homelands. They ask, "is the right of return a principle on which no negotiation is possible, or is it simply one of several considerations, on which there can be political trade-offs?"

Afghanistan has apparently been a "relative success story," with over 5 million refugees returning from Pakistan and Iran since 2002. Unfortunately, the voluntary return of displaced Afghans has come to a halt amid worsening security, as well as social and economic, conditions.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Gay Iraqis Attacked

Newsweek had an article detailing the plight of gay Iraqi men who were being attacked by militiamen of the Mahdi Army and Shia extremists of the Badr Corps. According to the London-based NGO Iraqi LGBT, more than 430 gay men have been murdered in Iraq since 2003. The NGO has helped establish several safehouses in Baghdad where approximately 40 men remain under protection. Newsweek's queries about gay rights were ignored or evaded by the Human Rights and Labor and Social Affairs ministries, as well as the UN's human rights office. Advocating for human rights can be a difficult, and sometimes dangerous, business, but we encourage social scientists and governments to work with NGOs to protect vulnerable populations.

What steps would you take to help combat discrimination and violence against gays in countries that criminalize homosexuality? Specifically, what can anthropologists do to improve the situation of gays living in Iraq?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Senators Protest FBI Guidelines

The New York Times reported on a forthcoming plan by the Justice Department to loosen restrictions on the FBI, effectively allowing them to investigate someone without reasonable suspicion. Although details have not yet been released, four Congressional staffers obtained information on the plan during a briefing and four Democratic Senators have already aired concerns about the new plan in a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey. The Senators wrote, “[the plan] might permit an innocent American to be subjected to such intrusive surveillance based in part on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, or on protected First Amendment activities.” Mukasey said the FBI would still require a legitimate purpose for an investigation, but agreed to hold off on approving the plan until after a Congressional hearing on the matter scheduled for September 17th.

These guidelines come on the heels of a recent ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to allow Custom and Border agents to randomly search and seize electronic information stored on laptop computers, cameras, cell phones, MP3 players, and other devices without “reasonable suspicion. Triple A has already aired concerns about these searches, and will take similar action on any discriminatory plans that give the FBI carte blanche to investigate US citizens.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

APA Members Protest Torture

Democracy Now! reported on a rally that was held at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association this past week. APA members were protesting the involvement of psychologists in the design of CIA interrogation methods. APA members will be voting on a resolution that would make participation in military interrogations a violation of their code of ethics.

During AAA's 2006 Annual Meeting in San Jose, a resolution was voted on and passed by our membership condemning the use of anthropological knowledge as an element of physical and psychological torture, and to prosecute all individuals who have violated laws prohibiting torture.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Expand Iraqi Resettlement

Although the US has increased the number of visas awarded to Iraqis being threatened for their affiliation with US forces, a group of Iraqi and international NGOs urged the US to resettle 105,000 Iraqi refugees. Given the US' poor resettlement efforts over the past several years, the prospect for a mass resettlement seem dim. Still, the need to assess and address the needs of internally-displaced peoples, refugees in countries neighboring Iraq, and other vulnerable populations is of crucial importance.

Anthropologists working with refugee populations are often familiar with the hardships and obstacles of resettlement and migration. Is there are a way for social scientists to facilitate the resettlement process and alleviate the tense situations that many refugees find themselves in? Comment below...

2009 Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples

Our readers involved in indigenous rights may know someone who can benefit from the 2009 UN Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples. The fund provides financial assistance for indigenous delegates seeking to attend the 2nd Session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the 8th session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Additional information is available here, and application forms can be found here [.doc].

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Threatened Iraqis to Receive Visas

The U.S. is finally making good on its goal to admit more Iraqi refugees into the States. The NY Times reported that the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad will issue ten times the number of visas for Iraqis who have received threats for working with the American government. Five thousand Iraqis will be admitted to the US for each of the next five years; a dramatic improvement from the 500 translators allowed to apply to the program in 2007.

As anthropologists are acutely aware, the challenge does not end once refugees arrive in the U.S. Many will have difficulty learning English, finding jobs, supporting their families, and adjusting to a new socio-cultural environment. Mechanisms need to be in place in order to help immigrants make this transition as smooth as possible.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Fulbrights Denied Visas... Again

The three remaining Palestinian Fulbright scholars were issued visas following review by US officials. According to the NY Times, these visas were revoked two days after they were issued. The State Department apparently received new information regarding the scholars, and is currently reevaluating their cases. One scholar left Gaza before being informed about his changed status and was denied entry at the airport.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Gazan Fulbright Scholars Update

In June, AAA joined Human Rights Watch and the Middle East Studies Association in writing a letter to the Department of State regarding Israel’s refusal to allow students, specifically seven Palestinian Fulbright recipients, in Gaza to travel abroad for further education. Israeli officials carried out security checks on the seven Gazans, but according to the NY Times, only granted four of them travel permits. The remaining three Fulbright scholars were determined to have links to Hamas and denied permits. American consular officials will interview these scholars, and, if they don’t raise any alarms, grant them visas and pressure Israel to allow them to leave. The Fulbright controversy has compelled the Israeli government to let more Gazan students with foreign study grants to leave the region, but more progress still needs to be made.

Friday, July 18, 2008

AAA Endorses the End Racial Profiling Act

As recently reported by the Associated Press, rules being considered by the Justice Department may permit the FBI to institute new guidelines allowing the agency to investigate Americans based upon their race, ethnicity, religion, and/or travel patterns. Not only is this a violation of basic civil rights, but it stems from and helps propagate negative stereotypes and inequalities that pervade American society. AAA has written to both Senate and House Judiciary Committees calling for them to take action on the End Racial Profiling Act of 2007 (HR 4611; S 2481), which is currently awaiting subcommittee review.

As anthropologists are well aware, present-day “racial” inequalities are the products of historical and contemporary social, economic, educational, and political circumstances. It is a basic tenet of anthropological knowledge that human beings have the capacity to learn any cultural behavior. The proposed FBI guidelines would condemn individuals to certain practices based solely upon their physical characteristics. Readers are encouraged to write to the Judiciary Committees regarding this issue. Please feel free to use our letters as a template.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Great Apes Receive Human Rights

The NY Times reported that the environment committee of the Spanish Parliament approved the extension of certain human rights to great apes (chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans). Should the bill pass it would become illegal for Spanish citizens to kill apes, except in self-defense. Torture and imprisonment would also be forbidden, although the 300 or so apes in Spanish zoos would not be freed. Religious beliefs that place humans above all animals have caused some, such as the country’s Catholic bishops, to protest the vote. Scientists who use chimpanzees in medical studies are also disturbed by the committee’s decision. Anthropologists recognize that great apes can greatly contribute to our understanding of human evolution, and their continued protection is vital to the discipline.

BBC Story

Thursday, July 10, 2008

CfHR Issues Statement on Tibet Protests

AAA's Committee for Human Rights issued a statement on the protests that spread throughout China’s Tibetan regions over the past several months. The statement details major concerns about how the Chinese government has reacted to the protests, and urges the People’s Republic to address some of the underlying cultural, economic, political, and religious issues that fueled the violence. CfHR issued a number of requests to the Chinese government, those being: (1) End the use of force against Tibetans in China and allow them to exercise their international rights to freedom of speech and assembly; (2) acknowledge the level of discord in Tibet and work to alleviate these conditions; and (3) continue serious talks with representatives of the Dalai Lama, and treat him with the courtesy and respect due to a global leader and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Italy Targets Roma

Italy’s interior minister proposed that the government conduct a census of the Romani people, widely known as Gypsies, living in camps throughout Italy. The census would include the fingerprinting of all Roma. The proposal was made a part of Prime Minster Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative campaign to crack down on street crime. The proposal has already been accused of being racist and discriminatory, and the UN Children’s Fund has expressed “surprise and grave concern” regarding the proposal. Council of Europe Secretary-General Terry Davis said, “While I believe the Italian democracy and its institutions are mature enough to prevent any such ideas becoming laws, I am nevertheless concerned that a senior member of the government of one of [the] Council of Europe member states is reported to have made such a proposal.”

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Wireless Technologies & Human Rights

Experts gathered at the International Summit for Community Wireless Networks, hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in late May. Attendees examined the potential benefits that wireless technology can have for human rights, particularly in the developing world. While the digital divide and strict political environments may prevent many in these nations from accessing the internet, cell phones and other wireless communication technologies offer a way for individuals to access information and report human rights abuses. Individuals may also use wireless technology to address issues of free expression and democracy. AAAS’ Science and Human Rights Program has undertaken a Wireless Communication Technologies and Human Rights Project to promote the reach and impact of human rights groups.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

UN Condemns Sexual Violence as War Crime

The UN Security Council declared that rape and other forms of sexual violence constitute war crimes, and that measures are needed to combat such violence. China, Russia and South Africa said such matters were an unfortunate byproduct of war but aren't a matter of international peace and security. Fortunately, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was able to introduce the US-sponsored resolution after a number of advocacy groups pushed the issue back onto the council’s agenda. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged nations to prosecute UN personnel who sexually abuse those they are sent to protect because the UN lacks the authority to do so.

U.N. Security Council says sexual violence akin to war crimes (LA Times)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Call for Journal Articles: Societies Without Borders

The journal, Societies with Borders: Human Rights & the Social Sciences will publish 3 issues per year beginning February 2009. The journal is posted on the Brill website and on Sociologists Without Borders. A description of the journal can be found below:

What the world’s peoples have in common – notwithstanding the borders that divide them – is the aspiration to achieve human rights – the rights to food, housing, health care, education, decent work, free speech, to speak one’s conscience, as well as the right to a fair trial, to a safe environment, and the right to peace. What the world’s people are beginning to discover is that this aspiration is not only a common one, but it can only be pursued collectively in disregard of the borders that divide people. People may live in societies, derive their identities from their societies, but the pursuit of human rights is pursued and coordinated across borders. The journal, Societies without Borders, aims for high caliber scholarly analysis and also encourages submissions that address pioneering thought in human rights, globalism, and collective goods.

Authors are cordially invited to submit articles to the journal editors Judith Blau and Alberto Moncada, and books for review to the Associate Editor Keri Iyall Smith.

US Withdraws from UN Human Rights Council

The US came under heavy criticism from Human Rights Watch after it distanced itself from the UN Human Rights Council and said it would only engage the council when matters of “deep national interest” arose. State Department spokesman Sean McCormarck said, “Our skepticism regarding the function of the UN Council on Human Rights in terms of fulfilling its mandate and its mission is well known. It has a rather pathetic record.” Critics of the Council claim that it has fallen under the control of Islamic and African countries that easily maintain a majority vote when backed by their Russian, Chinese, and Cuban allies. The Council has also come under fire for criticizing Israel for its treatment of Palestinians while failing to act on a number of human rights violations, such as Darfur. Human Rights Watch claims that “Washington’s hands-off approach to the Human Rights Council undermined it from the start” and that “the US shares responsibility for the shortcomings it’s now using to justify its withdraw from the council.”

US distances itself from UN rights body (Reuters)
US: Leaving UN Rights Council Fails Victims of Abuse (HRW)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

UN Chief Calls for an End to HIV-Based Discrimination

United Nations Chief Ban Ki-Moon called on countries to end discrimination against people infected with HIV, specifically travel restrictions against infected individuals. He noted that "it is shocking that there should still be discrimination against those at high risk, such as men who have sex with men, or stigma attached to individuals living with HIV." A total of 345 NGOs sent a letter to countries, including the US, that still restrict travel of HIV carriers. The AAA urges all countries to respect the basic human rights of individuals, regardless of their medical condition, and to support the UN's effort to eliminate discrimination.

UN calls for lifting travel restrictions on HIV carriers (AFP)
Declaration on Anthropology and Human Rights

Thursday, June 5, 2008

CA Supreme Court Refuses to Delay Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

The New York Times reported that the California Supreme Court refused to stay its decision on allowing same-sex marriage. The AAA wrote a letter to the judges urging them to enact their ruling on June 16th as scheduled. San Francisco’s mayor applauded the ruling and told reporters that the city’s goal is to “marry as many as 5,000 [same-sex] couples by the November election.” Anthropological research indicates that a vast array of family types, including same-sex partnerships, can contribute to stable and human societies. We hope the court’s ruling will allow voters to see that the institution of marriage can accommodate a diverse number of relationships, and that Californians will vote to protect the right of all individuals to enter marriage.

Court won't delay same-sex marriages (NYTimes)
AAA Statement on Marriage and the Family
AAA Letter to CA Supreme Court [pdf]
Gay marriage ban qualifies for California ballot (AP)
Same-sex marriage ruling makes waves (Washington Post)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

AAA Teams Up to Defend Fulbright Awardees in Gaza

The AAA joined Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) in writing a letter to the Department of State this week regarding 7 Palestinian Fulbright recipients who nearly lost their rewards due to Israel’s refusal to allow students in Gaza to travel abroad to continue their education. The State Department initially planned to “redirect” the awards of the recipients in Gaza to students in the West Bank, but ultimately decided to reverse its decision. Although we are pleased by the State Department’s final response, we remain concerned by the “disturbing readiness on the part of the United States to actively support Israel’s policy of strict closure on the Gaza Strip, a policy that has caused grave harm to the population there and constitutes collective punishment, a serious violation of international law.”

Israel’s refusal to allow students to study outside of Gaza has adversely affected students far beyond those of the Fulbright awardees. AAA, HRW, and MESA wrote, “We urge you [the State Dept.] to take this opportunity to call on Israel to allow all students in Gaza, except where there are legitimate security concerns specific to particular individuals, to exercise their right to freedom of movement and access to education. At a minimum, the United States should clearly and publicly disassociate itself from Israel’s policy of collective punishment as it affects students seeking to study abroad.” The Israeli Supreme Court also called upon the government to drop travel restrictions for Palestinian students.

Please take a moment to comment on AAA's response, as well as the actions of Israel and the US Dept. of State.

AAA, HRW, and MESA letter [pdf]
Israel Court Condemns Student Ban (BBC)
State Dept. Reinstates Gaza Fulbright Grants (NYTimes)

Same-Sex Marriage Comes Under Fire in CA

Efforts to include a vote on gay marriage in California's November ballot have succeeded. If approved by the majority of voters, the measure will overturn the California Supreme Court ruling. Same-sex marriage opponents are also attempting to stay the court's decision until it can be voted on in November.

As a continued supporter of same-sex couples, the AAA applauds the court's decision and is urging them to enact its ruling on June 17th as scheduled.

AAA Letter to CA Supreme Court [pdf]
AAA Statement on Marriage and the Family
Gay marriage ban qualifies for California ballot (AP)
National Center for Lesbian Rights

Canada to Document and Apologize for Indigenous Abuses

Canada has formed a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to examine the country’s past policy of removing aboriginal children from their homes to teach them Christianity. The BBC reported that up until the 1970s over 150,000 children were relocated to state-funded parochial schools “in an attempt to rid them of their native cultures and languages and integrate them into society.”

The Commission will spend 5 years interviewing survivors and detailing the abuses that occurred within these schools. Canada is set to issue a formal apology to its indigenous inhabitants on June 11th. The US and Australia issued similar apologies earlier this year.

Canada Hears of Native Abuse Pain (BBC)

NY Recognizes Same-Sex Marriage

The New York Times reported that New York’s Governor, David Paterson, recently ordered state agencies to revise their policies and regulations—-numbering around 1300—-so that they recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states and countries. Gay couples wed elsewhere would be entitled to the same benefits that married couples receive in New York. Paterson’s decision would make New York the only state to recognize same-sex marriage while prohibiting such marriage itself. The decision signals staunch support for the gay community, and Paterson is expected to make a strong push to legalize same-sex unions in New York. As one gay rights advocate said, “this is a temporary but necessary fix for a longer-term problem.”

NY to back same-sex unions from elsewhere (NYTimes)

Monday, June 2, 2008

AAA Writes to CA Supreme Court

In a letter sent to the California Supreme Court last week, the AAA urged the Justices to reject the efforts of same-sex marriage opponents to pass a motion for a stay on the Court's ruling regarding same-sex marriage. Opponents of the ruling are attempting to delay the enactment of the Court's decision until the November ballot.

Anthropological research on households, kinship relationships, and families—across cultures and through time—provide no support whatsoever for the view that either civilization or viable social order depend upon marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. Instead, research has shown that a vast array of family types, including families built upon same-sex partnerships, can contribute to stable and humane societies. The enactment of the Court's ruling will grant voters an opportunity to see that the institution of marriage can accommodate all types of relationships, and will give same-sex couples the rights that they have been denied over the years.

The limitation of same-sex marriage to heterosexual couples is both discriminatory and harmful. Inequalities between marriage and domestic partnerships include different requirements for the formation and dissolution of domestic partnerships and marriages; the ability to receive equal rights and benefits from other states, countries, and the federal government; and disparate treatment by California courts. The creation of a separate legally-sanctioned institution for same-sex couples stigmatizes these relationships as unworthy of equal status.

As a professional organization that recognizes and values human diversity, AAA seeks to prevent human difference as a criteria for the denial of basic human rights. We are committed to promoting marriage equality for same-sex couples, and urge the Court to enact their ruling without delay.

AAA Statement on Marriage and the Family
Same Sex Marriage Ruling Makes Waves (Washington Post)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

AAA Urges Brazil to Halt Construction of Dams

AAA's Committee for Human Rights, International Rivers, Survival International, and a number of other organizations have signed a letter urging the Brazilian government to abandon its plans to build hydroelectric dams in the Xingu River Valley and to engage in a discussion with local communities about environmental sustainability and infrastructure planning. The letter was the result of a 5-day gathering of over 1,000 Brazilian Amazon Indians and their allies who were protesting development on the Xingu River and its tributaries. Damming of the river will lead to flooding that will displace thousands, many of whom are indigenous peoples, and will also dry up more than 100 kilometers of the river that a number of indigenous groups depend on for survival. A number of smaller dams are also slated for construction, but the government has made no attempts to determine the potential impact these dams will have upon indigenous groups living in the area. All people have the right to realize their capacity for culture, and it is necessary for governments to consult with communities before undertaking development that threatens their way of life.

"The Xingu Forever Alive Letter [.doc]" (preliminary copy - not all signatories added yet)
Amazon Indians lead battle against power giant's plan to flood rainforest (The Independent)
Indians protest Brazil hydro dam project (AP)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Global Online Freedom Hearing

The Senate Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Human Rights and Law heard testimony from Google Inc., Yahoo Inc., Cisco, Human Rights Watch, and the Global Internet Freedom Consortium (GIFC) this Tuesday regarding global internet freedom and corporate responsibility. A number of US companies have been criticized for restricting civilian access to information on the Web and for helping China track down “dissidents.”

Cisco denied claims that its products are designed to facilitate censorship and monitoring after an internal document surfaced highlighting China’s attempts to “combat ‘Falun Gong’ evil religion and other hostiles.” Shiyu Zhou, deputy director of GIFC, argued that Cisco provided planning, construction, technical training, etc. to help China improve its online security, and that Cisco can no longer guarantee Congress that it is not aiding China’s attempts to censor online speech. Yahoo has also faced criticism over the past two years after it released information to the Chinese government that led to the arrest of two Chinese journalists.

The subcommittee’s chair, Richard Durbin (D-IL), said the Senate may draw up legislation similar to the House ‘Global Online Freedom Act’ (H.R. 275) which would make it illegal for US companies to release personal information about their users to countries that restrict internet access and use.

Subcommittee Testimony
NY Times – Cisco Denies Censorship Role

Friday, May 16, 2008

California Supreme Court Legalizes Gay Marriage

In September of 2007 the AAA signed onto an amicus brief in support of San Francisco’s petition to strike down California’s ban on same-sex marriage. We are pleased to announce that the California Supreme Court overturned this ban in a 4-3 ruling. The court wrote, “Our state now recognizes that an individual’s capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individuals’ sexual orientation.” Anthropologists have shown that a vast array of family types, including same-sex partnerships, can contribute to stable and humane societies, and the association continues to advocate for human rights issues where people are denied their capacity for culture.

AAA Statement on Marriage and the Family
AAA Press Release on Amicus Brief

NY Times Article
SF Chronicle Article

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

New Exhibit on Global Health and Human Rights

The National Library of Medicine (NLM), the world's largest medical library and a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), recently launched a new exhibition, "Against the Odds: Making a Difference in Global Health." The exhibition will be on display at the NLM on the outskirts of Washington DC until 2010, and can be viewed online. The web site focuses on a different theme each month and for MAY 2008 the theme is HEALTH and HUMAN RIGHTS: http://apps.nlm.nih.gov/againsttheodds//index.cfm

The exhibition explores aspects of the history of global health as well as current issues, highlighting the shared concerns of communities around the world. Materials from the History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine are on display alongside artifacts and images gathered from across the globe and video interviews. Featured stories include the early years of the AIDS epidemic in the United States and the work of ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), the Chinese barefoot doctor movement, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, and the smallpox eradication program led by the World Health Organization.

Alongside scientific discoveries and ongoing challenges, the stories illustrate the connections between health and human rights: the importance of clean water, safe housing, nutritious food, affordable healthcare, and protection from violence in fostering health and wellbeing. Visitors to the exhibition web site are invited to share their perspectives on these issues and GET INVOLVED:

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Global Online Freedom

The ‘Global Online Freedom Act’ (H.R. 275) received renewed attention after Rep. Chris Smith met with Reporters Without Borders to lobby for passage of the bill. It is supported by over a dozen human rights groups—including Reporters Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International—and would make it illegal for US companies to release personal information on their users to countries that restrict internet access and use. Smith is attempting to get the bill on the House floor prior to Congress’ summer recess. Smith, along with a number of human rights organizations, has also used the bill to bring attention to China’s human rights abuses, and proposed that passage of this legislation will help prevent China from jailing human rights and pro-democracy activists.

We encourage you to comment on this post. What are the possible political and economic implications of this bill? What can social scientists do to encourage China to improve its human rights record?

Wired Blog Article: Ahead of Olympics, Congressman Pushes ‘Global Online Freedom Act’

Sudanese Dams Threaten to Displace Nubians

Human rights may often become a secondary concern when countries attempt to step up industrialization efforts. This may be the case in Sudan where the government plans to build a total of four dams in the heart of Nubian territory. The Independent reports that Nubians feel they are being unfairly targeted and poorly consulted by the government. Moreover, the towns constructed for their resettlement have much poorer soil than their homes along the Nile. Protests held against the construction of the dams have, at times, been violently suppressed and, in one instance, resulted in the death of three people. With just one dam displacing 50,000 people it seems likely that unrest will only continue to escalate.

Given the potential for broader conflict, anthropologists and other social scientists working in the region may wish to become engaged in this issue. What are some approaches they could take to encourage dialogue between the parties involved? And does a compromise seem likely given the attitudes reported by The Independent? Please comment below.

The Independent Article

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Call for Papers/Panels/Posters

Human Rights Section
ISA Convention 2009

New York City
, February 15-19, 2009

*The deadline for submission is MAY 30, 2008.*

The Human Rights Section of the International Studies Association is seeking papers, panels and posters for the ISA 2009 Convention. The theme of the Convention (which marks the 50th for ISA) is "Exploring the Past, Anticipating the Future." (For an extended discussion of the convention theme and instructions for submitting a proposal, please see http://www.isanet.org/newyork2009/).

The Human Rights section encourages submissions that speak to this theme. For example, how do lessons from the past inform our research concerning the future development and protection of human rights? How have concepts, norms and institutions concerning human rights changed over time, and do these trajectories indicate future possibilities?

How has the violence of the past influenced the formation of future power-relations, such as, (for example) in politics, international relations, transitional justice mechanisms, the proliferation of social movements and legal institutions?

Other submissions on topics related to human rights are also welcome.

The HR Section encourages full panel submissions, although individual papers and posters are welcome as well. Due to spatial limitations, proposals for complete panels will have an advantage over individual submissions, so please organize and network accordingly. Additionally, panel, paper and poster proposals that link constructively with another section (such as international law, international organizations, peace studies, gender and ethnicity, etc) will also be given priority. Proposers are encouraged to list 'Human Rights' as the primary section but also add the appropriate related second section.

Finally, the Convention organizers have asked participants to consider alternative types of panel formats, embracing creativity in the presentation of scholarly research.

Proposals are due to ISA by May 30th, 2008 (early submissions encouraged). Please direct questions about the Human Rights section program to Dr. Amy Ross at rossamy@uga.edu.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Satellite Imaging and Mapping Helps Human Rights

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)—-with funding from the MacArthur Foundation, the Oak Foundation, and the Open Society Institute—-is expanding the application of geospatial technologies to human rights issues. AAAS is using satellite imagery, geographic information systems, global positioning systems, and other geographic mapping technology and software to track human rights abuses. Analysis of maps can provide information on conflict, indigenous rights, environmental and social justice issues, and other human rights violations. AAAS and Amnesty International used satellite imagery in 2007 to monitor threatened villages in Darfur and to provide evidence of atrocities being committed, such as the destruction of villages and burning of towns. These technologies offer strong evidence of abuses, and may influence policy makers, courts, and governments to take action.

The World Bank is also making use of global positioning systems to promote sustainable development. They distributed handheld GPS devices to Mbendjele Pygmies in the Republic of Congo so that they can map sacred trees, hunting grounds, and plants that they use for to survive. Anthropologist Jerome Lewis adapted the devices so they are more accessible by the Mbendjele Pygmies. The GPS maps guide loggers away from marked territory in order to preserve Pygmy territory. Whether or not this will actually prevent a larger ecological impact and lead to sustainable development remains to be seen.

AAAS – Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project

AAAS Press Release on Satellite-Based Human Rights Work

Ping Magazine Article on Mapping for Human Rights

Indigenous Group use GPS to Protect Congolese Forests

Science & Human Rights Coalition

The AAA is assisting the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in the planning of the Science and Human Rights Coalition. The Coalition will allow a number of scientific societies to pool their collective expertise on human rights issues and become more involved in addressing these issues.

AAAS Press Release

Science & Human Rights Coalition

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Chevron Locked in Legal Battle with Ecuadorean Indigenous Groups

The Christian Science Monitor reported on a lawsuit against Chevron that has been in the works since 1993 when the company was accused of dumping 18 billion gallons of toxic waste into Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest, causing health problems among the regions inhabitants, many of whom are indigenous groups. A report by a court-appointed Ecuadorean geological engineer attributes the contamination to Chevron, and suggests the company pay between $8-16 billion in environmental damages. Chevron has dismissed the report because “it is the result of irregular processes that do not conform with court orders.” This environmental lawsuit is one of the biggest against any oil company, and, regardless of the outcome, sends a message to industries that are extracting resources that they must account for negligent practices.

Anthropologists who are working with communities in resource-rich regions may be particularly suited to assess the impact—-both positive and negative—-that oil corporations and other industries have upon the environment, health and economy of their informants.

Please comment on how you think anthropologists and other social scientists may contribute to the protection and well-being of their informants.

Christian Science Monitor article

Chevron press release

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Google Earth and UNHCR Team Up

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) teamed up with the Google Earth Outreach program to enable users to view refugee operations occurring in Iraq, Darfur and Colombia. Google Earth allows users to view refugee camps and surrounding areas, as well as information regarding the everyday experiences of refugees. The new program will also allow humanitarian agencies to “overlay text, audio and video information onto Google Earth in what is known as a ‘layer,’ enabling them to explain and illustrate their humanitarian work to a worldwide audience.”

Anthropologists working with refugees and other displaced peoples are encouraged to contribute to the “layering” of the Google Earth Outreach program. Others may find it to be a useful educational tool.

UNHCR & Google Earth Program

UNHCR Press Release

AFP Article

Monday, April 7, 2008


Despite progress in treating children with AIDS and preventing HIV transmission, a report (pdf) that was jointly released by UNICEF, WHO, and UNAIDS says significant steps remain in order to slow the AIDS epidemic. The report identifies several factors that often hinder prevention and treatment efforts: “Poor geographical service reach, aggravated by weak health systems, and the fear, stigma and denial that discourage many women from being tested for HIV are significant barriers to wider coverage. Community mobilization and family support, especially from men… remain urgent priorities.” Not surprisingly, the report also stresses that additional resources are needed for prevention, treatment, and the development of new and current HIV/AIDS initiatives.

The impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic extends from the individual to the global level. Children are often born with the virus or have lost one or both parents to the infection. Others are forced to carry a social stigma and may face discrimination and abuse in their daily lives.

Anthropologists working in HIV/AIDS afflicted communities may highlight the difficulties faced by individuals living with the infection. Such insight may be used to educate communities and address social problems that result from (mis)perceptions about the infection.

Is there a particular facet of this issue that deserves more attention? How can anthropologists bring attention to HIV/AIDS related issues? Readers are encouraged to comment on what they believe anthropologists can do to fight HIV/AIDS, promote research, and advocate for the rights of infected individuals.

UN News Center Article

UNICEF Press Release

AIDS & Anthropology Research Group

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Film Crew Accused of Spreading Flu Epidemic to Peruvian Indians

A film crew of the British TV production company Cicada Films has been accused of spreading a flu epidemic to people living in isolated Matsigenka settlements in the Peruvian Amazon.

The regional indigenous rights group FENAMAD, the Peruvian government and US anthropologist Glenn Shepard claim the Cicada producer and his Peruvian filmmaker guide traveled without a permit to isolated settlements on the upper Cumerjali River in Manu National Park and apparently caused a respiratory epidemic killing four people and causing severe illness among many others.

Cicada has denied accusations of violating their permit and causing the deaths, stating they did not travel to the headwater region where the epidemic is said to have occurred. The team, "traveled only a short distance from the large town Yomibato, and only at the invitation of the local people," Cicada said in a statement.

Anthropologist and AAA member Glenn Shepard says he met the film team while he was doing work in Yomibato and warned them not to go to the isolated settlements.

"If the people at Cumerjali had wanted sustained, permanent Western contact, I told Currington, they would have moved permanently to Yomybato, as did many of their fellow relatives. However the ones who remained behind in Cumerjali did so for a reason: because they wanted to live in peace and tranquility, and because they wanted to be safe from the onslaught of Western diseases. I urged Currington and McLauchlan to 'leave these people in peace,' said Shepard in a written statement.

The film crew are believed to have been scouting locations for a sequel to Mark Anstice and Oliver (Ollie) Steed's TV series "Living with the Kombai," which was filmed among an extremely remote tribal group in New Guinea.

Survival International, an international organization that advocates for tribal people and human rights, has issued press releases to raise awareness of the issue and helped to prompt a series of English-language articles on the subject.

The following are some related news articles:

BBC News

The Guardian

Daily Mail (British national daily newspaper)

The Times
(British national daily newspaper)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Journal of Human Rights - Special Offer for AAA Members

From the Editor of the Journal of Human Rights:

The Journal of Human Rights is pleased to invite members of the American Anthropological Association to subscribe to JHR at a special reduced annual rate of $35 US. This subscription is available to all members of AAA, regardless of area of research area or teaching expertise.

The Journal of Human Rights is an interdisciplinary journal publishing a wide range of scholarly and creative work relating to the theory and practice of human rights throughout the world. Its readership is global and its editorial board and contributors draw from an international pool. It serves as an arena for the public discussion and scholarly analysis of human rights, broadly conceived.

JHR seeks to broaden the study of human rights by fostering the critical re-examination of existing approaches to human rights, as well as to develop new perspectives on the theory and practice of human rights. The journal provides the opportunity for the critical examination of the human rights community and of the different visions of human rights and different practical strategies which exist within that community.

More information about the Journal is available on its website: www.jhr.uconn.edu

To subscribe to JHR at the special reduced rate visit the Taylor and Francis website and complete the form supplied. The webpage is www.tandf.co.uk/journals/offer/cjhr-so.asp

Richard P. Hiskes

Editor, Journal of Human Rights

Monday, March 31, 2008

Insurance Troubles for Same-Sex Couples

The Washington Post released a story detailing the inability of a same-sex couple in Idaho—-one of 21 states that does not recognize same-sex unions—-to receive the insurance benefits of their partner because of their sexual orientation. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and gay civil rights groups argue that this is a blatant example of discrimination against same-sex couples. In a similar case, the ACLU is pursuing action against H&R Block for not allowing gay couples to file their income taxes online, including in states that recognize such civil unions. ACLU writes, “failing to provide gay couples with civil unions the option of filing their taxes online as it does for married couples is in violation of a state law that bars discrimination based on sexual orientation and civil union status.”

The AAA does not support any law or policy that discriminates against lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered individuals. We urge insurance companies to recognize unions of all types, regardless of sexual orientation. The AAA has released the following statements relevant to this matter:

AAA Statement on Laws and Policies Discriminating against Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Persons

AAA Statement on Marriage and the Family

Washington Post


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Indigenous Groups in Amazon Threatened by Big Oil?

The negative impact of unregulated development and industrialization on indigenous groups and territories is an all too familiar story to anthropologists. Rising global energy prices are fueling oil development across the globe, and Peru is no exception. The drive of developers into the oil-laden Amazonian rainforest poses serious threats to the area’s indigenous groups, National Geographic reports, and approximately 75 percent of Peru’s Amazon rainforests have been leased to oil prospectors and developers. BBC News details the story of one of Peru’s indigenous communities, the Achuar, that is not isolated, and is filing a class action lawsuit against Occidental Petroleum for contaminating their territory and damaging their population's health. David Hill of Survival International says, “Isolated Indians are especially vulnerable to any contact, because they have no immunity to outsiders’ diseases.” The elusiveness and vulnerability of some indigenous groups makes it difficult for civics and rights organizations to assess the impact of expansion into the rainforest. Oil and gas companies, along with Peruvian President Alan Garcia, maintain that there is no evidence for the existence of these groups, and that their presence may have been conjured up as a means to oppose development. Rights groups are currently petitioning the Organization of American States and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to intervene in this matter.

How can anthropologists contribute to this dialogue? Can social scientists verify the existence of such groups while respecting their desire to remain isolated?

BBC News article

National Geographic article

Organization of American States

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Iraqi Refugees, part 2

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) released a report this week detailing the current Iraqi refugee crisis. With numbers exceeding 4 million, the Iraqi refugee (and IDP) population is the third largest in the world. The report draws attention to the slow response of the US to admit refugees or grant them asylum. The US goal of admitting 12,000 Iraqi refugees by October seems a long way off given that the US has only managed to resettle 1,876 refugees this fiscal year. Despite this lag in admittance, Ambassador James Foley, Senior Coordinator on Iraqi Refugee Issues, believes the US can reach its goal now that the proper infrastructure is in place abroad. Congress, however, has its doubts. The report also underscores the need to provide billions of dollars in aid for refugees and their host countries, while improving conditions in Iraq that would enable their safe return. AAA members may wish to press Congress for more support and funds for refugees and IDPs. Please take a moment to send a pre-generated letter to your Senator & Representative using Amnesty’s online action center (see link below).

AAA members and guests are encouraged to share their thoughts and experiences about refugee and IDP issues. What are the impacts of displacement on refugee populations, their host countries, and surrounding regions? What contributions can anthropologists make towards addressing refugee crises? Are there particular caveats to this crisis that the international community has failed to consider?

IRC Report [pdf]

CNN Article on IRC Report

Amnesty Advocacy Letter to Congress

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Forced Labor

Newsweek recently published an article on a type of human trafficking that is largely ignored by the media--forced labor. Although media coverage of human trafficking largely focuses on forced prostitution and elements of crime, the market for forced laborers is far larger, with the UN’s International Labor Organization putting their numbers over 12.3 million worldwide. Forced labor occurs when workers are deceived about the nature of their work and/or conditions of their employment contract by predatory employment brokers. They are often confined to their workplace, given wages far below what was promised by their brokers, subjected to violence, and threatened with arrest, imprisonment, or deportation. Nations, such as Malaysia, can unwittingly propagate the trafficking of people by implementing laws that require companies to confiscate foreign workers’ passports and report runaways to the police. With only a few thousand trafficking convictions every year, the AAA is concerned about the continued growth of this market and the current actions that governments are taking to oppose it, as well as identify and compensate its victims.

Newsweek Article

UN International Labor Organization

International Organization for Migration

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Thailand Reinstates War on Drugs: AAA President Takes Action

In a recent advocacy letter to Thailand Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, the American Anthropological Association (AAA) president Setha Low and AAA Human Rights Committee Chair Sara Davis voiced their opposition to Thailand’s recently-reinstated war on drugs.

In the letter included below, Low and Davis point to two grave concerns related to Thailand’s new drug war—the barriers to HIV treatment and prevention for injection drug users in Thailand and the high number of extrajudicial executions that occurred during the former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s 2003 drug war and are occurring again under Prime Minister Sundarevej.

Over 600 people have been killed since the launch of the anti-drug campaign in early February, the BBC reported in late February. Other victims of the anti-drug policies include HIV-positive injection drug users, who are denied antiretroviral treatment due to their status as drug users. The Thai government estimates that 40 to 50 percent of injection drug users in Thailand are HIV-positive.


Related Links

Thai Drug Wars Attacked, BBC, February 24, 2008

Thai Crackdown on Drug Dealers, BBC, Feburary 4, 2008

Thailand: Denial of HIV Treatment Erodes Success on HIV, Human Rights News, November 27, 2007

Deadly Denial: Barriers to HIV Treatment for People Who Use Drugs in Thailand, 57-page report by Human Rights Watch

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Iraqi Refugees

Rep. William Delahunt (D-Mass.), chairman of a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee, is urging the US to step up efforts to provide assistance for Iraqi refugees. On February 26, 2008, Deputy United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Craig Johnstone, testified to the subcommittee regarding US efforts to alleviate the Iraqi refugee problem. With approximately 2.2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 2 million refugees, the Iraqi refugee situation is the largest in the world. Syria, Jordan, and Iraq’s other neighbors are sheltering the vast majority of Iraqi refugees, but funding for refugees and their host communities remains scarce. The International Organization for Migration reported that it only received 28 percent of its $85 million request for assistance with IDPs. Johnstone believes this lack of funding could be disastrous, “The lack of assistance to refugees and host communities in neighboring states could also lead to a mass (coerced) return to Iraq as the ability of host governments to provide assistance, as well as the coping mechanism of refugees, incrementally fail. The likelihood that the bulk of refugees will not be able to return to their original home and will be forced into secondary displacement will also have a significant destabilizing effect on the social and security environment within Iraq.”

Johnstone’s Written Statement: http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/110/joh022608.htm
Delahunt’s Opening Statement: http://www.house.gov/delahunt/delahuntopening22608.pdf

News articles:

In addition to increasing financial support, the US is expected to admit 12,000 refugees by the end of the fiscal year. As of February 2008, only 1,432 refugees have been admitted, leaving 10,568 for admission by September 30th. The administration has come under heavy criticism for its poor performance in admitting refugees, and many argue that the US needs to improve efforts to resettle the most vulnerable individuals.

Briefing Transcript: http://www.state.gov/p/nea/rls/rm/100030.htm

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Deforestation And The Amazon Rainforest

The rising price of soy on the world market and new agrogenetic technologies are the newest contributors to deforestation in the Amazon basin of Brazil. Infrastructure, including massive engineering projects such as dams, water highways, biodeisel plants, roads and ports, threaten over eighteen different indigenous peoples in the vicinity. Indigenous peoples, rural workers, and others, have publicly protested this onslaught into their areas. In recognition that deforestation in the southeastern portion of the Amazon basin was the highest its been since 1988, large international conservation organizations, including CI, TNC, and WWF, worked with soy corporations two years ago to reach a "moratorium" on deforestating new lands for soy cultivation.

At least two points of action are possible:

1. The "soy moratorium" resulted in soy farmers purchasing already deforested areas from landholders in the area, causing a secondary wave of deforestation in which those not within the moratorium push the frontiers of deforestation forward.

2. The two-year "soy moratorium" is about to expire.

The CfHR could become a contributor to international conversations on both of these topics. This offers the opportunity to partner with and advocate with international environmental NGOs on the rights of indigenous peoples; this can be done with a great deal of diplomacy if we take a chair at the table. There is also opportunity here for working with local Brazilian organizations and possibly contributing to social impact assessments. CfHR might also be able to work with the Public Attorney's office in Belem. Among other things, they are involved in cases involving the human rights of indigenous peoples. And, finally, we should contact ABA (the Brazilian anthropology association) and ISA (Instituto Socioambiental) in Brazil to consider possible synergies.