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:

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