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Consequences of Violence in Nicaragua
Since April 2018, the citizens of Nicaragua have been protesting against its government. What started originally as a movement against changes to the social security program quickly turned into an opposition movement demanding President Daniel Ortega and his wife’s resignations. The protests turned violent when anti-government protesters clashed with pro-government protesters and police. As a result, these protests resulted in the killings of more than 300 people and about 2,000 people becoming injured. Here are the major consequences of violence in Nicaragua.

Human Rights Concerns

One of the consequences of violence in Nicaragua has been the concerns surrounding human rights abuses by the government. According to Human Rights Watch, the Ortega administration has violated Nicaraguan citizens’ human rights by “[banning] public demonstrations by any group critical of the government, (…) [stripping] nine non-governmental organizations of their legal registration, [shutting] down media outlets, [prosecuting] journalists under the anti-terrorism law, and [expelling] international monitors from the country. The Ortega government has harassed and threatened the media, human rights defenders and other members of civil society.”

Additionally, it appears that the Nicaraguan government is not only denying its people the freedoms they are entitled to, but it is also retaliating against the reports the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) published. This becomes especially apparent by the government’s reactions to the release of these reports: “Following the high commissioner’s first report, the Ortega administration failed to hold perpetrators accountable for abuses and instead promoted senior officials who bear responsibility for killings and torture of demonstrators. In response to the high commissioner’s second report, the government has even defended the armed pro-government thugs that participated in repressing protests.”

Forced Migration

Additional consequences of the violence in Nicaragua is the forced displacement of 80,000 Nicaraguan citizens who are no longer able to live in their home country. Many are seeking asylum and refuge in neighboring countries like Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico and the United States. Of the 33,000 asylum requests that Costa Rica received in this past year, the country has only processed about 4,900 leaving more than 28,000 people to seek refuge elsewhere. Due to the mass displacement of these Nicaraguan citizens, many must survive on temporary employment or none at all, leaving them to suffer as a result.

Limited Access to Resources

One of the major consequences of violence in Nicaragua is the limited access to necessary resources such as food and health care as a result of the unexpected roadblocks that continually appear throughout the country and the capital, Managua. It is rather unclear whether these roadblocks are government-sponsored or a result of government opposition leaders, however, these often lead to detours and inconveniences when Nicaraguans are attempting to access grocery stores and gas stations. Additionally, government hospitals across the country have begun denying treatment to those who they suspect of being a part of the anti-government movement, which has led to people being unable to receive any kind of treatment for their injuries.

Economic Growth Concerns

In the past, Nicaragua has maintained a steady economic growth rate. In 2017, the growth rate was 4.5 percent. However, in the last year, since the outbreak of violence and political unrest, the economy has contracted about 3.8 percent and the World Bank suspects that this contraction will grow up to 5 percent in 2019. These violent protests have caused many to lose their jobs, while also causing a decrease in consumer and business confidence. As a result, some fear that the violence in Nicaragua will cost recent progress the country has made in poverty reduction efforts.

During the years of 2014 and 2016, poverty rates in Nicaragua had fallen from 29.6 percent to 24.9 percent due to the support of international organizations such as the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA). Additionally, the extreme poverty rate also dropped from 8.3 percent to 6.9 percent in the same timeframe. It is too early to predict what the poverty rates will be for Nicaragua in 2019, but there is speculation that poverty rates will rise again.

Efforts by International Organizations

After six weeks of protests, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addressed the situation in Nicaragua by asking the government to consider allowing the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to visit the country. On many occasions, the U.N. has established its willingness to resolve the situation by acting as a mediator in “national dialogue efforts to strengthen the rule of law, respect for human rights and the peaceful resolution of differences.” Additionally, there have been requests for the government to investigate allegations of human rights violations in order to hold perpetrators accountable and to bring much-needed justice and peace of mind for victims’ relatives.

Furthermore, representatives for Amnesty International have spoken out condemning the Nicaraguan governments’ repression of its people. They also suggested the creation of a committee in order to prosecute those guilty of serious human rights violations and crimes. In a report released by Amnesty International titled “Shoot to kill: Nicaragua’s strategy to suppress protest,” there appears to be evidence of Nicaraguan paramilitary forces using lethal weapons against protesters, of which many were students. This report sheds light on the situation in Nicaragua and hopes to bring international awareness in order for others to take action against the repressive forces of the Nicaraguan government.

The consequences of violence in Nicaragua range from human rights concerns to limited access to health care and even issues regarding Nicaragua’s economic growth rate. Though there appears to be no end in sight, there is hope for Nicaragua’s citizens as international organizations attempt to raise awareness and investigate the ongoing crimes committed against the Nicaraguan people. The situation is far from resolution but as it gains more international interest, there is hope that efforts will not be in vain and that the country can find a peaceful resolution.

– Laura Rogers
Photo: Flickr

Guest workers
The exploitation of guest workers in Saudi Arabia has been a common occurrence for many years. Eleven million guest workers have come to the Middle Eastern nation in order to find an opportunity to support their families back home. What some meet with is abuse and hardship from their employers for a variety of reasons. These workers are not citizens and they have a limited number of rights to protect them.

Discovery of Oil and the Demand for Workers

When people discovered oil in Saudi Arabia in the 1930s, it was still a very young country having only established in 1932. The country was one of the most underdeveloped and poorest in the world and did not have the means to extract this oil.

To profit from its discovery, the Saudi government brought in guest workers from the West after World War II and they were mostly professionals in the oil industry. After its success,  it eventually required workers from neighboring Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt, Yemen and Palestine as well, especially as the gas crisis in 1973 raised the demand for oil.

As the economy of Saudi Arabia grew, there came a need for more workers in other industries of the country besides oil. As a result, guest workers from other Asian nations such as Pakistan, India, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Sri Lanka went to Saudi Arabia for work.

Guest Worker Abuses

Human Rights Watch, an international organization, describes the conditions of the guest workers in Saudi Arabia as being similar to slavery. These workers are beaten, exploited, overworked, underpaid and sometimes not even paid at all. The abuse of these workers is deep-seated in race, gender and religious discriminations.

Over 900,000 Filipinos are working in Saudi Arabia and many of them work in the service industries including hotels. There was an instance where 15 Filipino hotel guest workers had to work more than their scheduled 40 hours a week. When they did not receive overtime pay their employers owed them, they complained to the hotel manager who told them to be quiet or they would have them deported.

Guest workers do not have the convenience of collective bargains or unions to protect them from this type of abuse. Saudi employers can dismiss their guest workers at any time regardless of what employment contracts. An employer dismissed a 26-year-old Bangladesh guest worker named Bachu after only seven months because they did not need him anymore. The unexpected termination forced the now jobless worker to attempt to obtain a job illegally, which resulted in his arrest and deportation back to Bangladesh.

There are very few laws that protect guest workers from abuses in regard to the law. There are instances of workers receiving false accusations of crimes, harsh penalties, unfair trials and random arrests. One such incident occurred in 2005 with the arrest and execution of a Sri Lankan maid named Rizana Nafeek. The 24-year-old housemaid suffered the accusation of murdering the baby that she was in charge of taking care of, but she claimed it died from choking. She did not have a translator during her interrogation and the authorities beat her into signing a confession. She was only one of the 100,000 Sri Lankan maids that are guest workers in Saudi Arabia. Over 100 guest workers are sitting on death row in the country.

Changes for the Workers

Recently, the Saudi Arabian government has taken steps towards protecting its guest workers through a series of legislations. In 2015, the government voted on these laws and will impose hefty fines on businesses that it finds guilty of abuses such as not paying employees on time, violating health and safety and employing children under 15.

The U.N. has adopted resolutions that would protect guest workers in not only Saudi Arabia but around the world. The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families emerged to protect the human rights of the 164 million guest workers throughout the world.

Saudi Arabia is a young and growing nation. The use of guest workers has helped its economy expand and thrive as a nation. The treatment of these workers has brought much negative attention to the country, though. It is taking steps, however, to ensure that the abuse and exploitation of these workers come to an end.

– Sam Bostwick
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Child laborChild labor affects 150 million children worldwide. Child labor can take many forms, but the most common is defined as strenuous and dangerous work that is carried out by a child and does not abide by national and international child labor legislation. Many of these children are deprived of education, proper nutrition and a childhood without sports or playtime. Keep reading to learn more about the top 15 child labor facts everyone needs to know.

15 Child Labor Facts Everyone Needs to Know

  1. The agricultural industry makes up 71 percent of child labor in the world. Agricultural labor can include but is not limited to forestry, subsistence and commercial farming, fishing and livestock herding. Children may have to work on farms in long, unbearable heat.
  2. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), 73 million of the 152 million children being forced into child labor are experiencing hazardous labor. Ages between 15 and 17 years old make up 24 percent of child labor and experience more hazardous forms of labor than other age groups.
  3. More than half of child labor around the world is found in Africa. One in five African children is subject to child labor. Between 2012 and 2016, there was no reduction in child labor in Africa although there was some improvement in other areas of the world. Areas with more conflicts and disaster are more likely to experience child labor.
  4. In Africa, 85 percent of child labor is in the agricultural sector. The service sector is responsible for eight million children working, and about two million are working in the industry sectors.
  5. The ages of child laborers range from five to 17 years old. However, the majority of child labor comes from the ages of five to 11 years old. Children ages 12 to 14 years old make up about 28 percent.
  6. There is a large gender gap between girls and boys regarding child labor. Eighty-eight million boys are affected by child labor worldwide, but about 20 million fewer girls are affected by child labor.
  7. Two-thirds of all children in child labor go unpaid.
  8. Research has found that housework and chores are often neglected when children are involved in child labor. However, girls between the ages of five and 14 years old account for more than 21 hours of chore labor every week.
  9. Alliance 8.7 and UNICEF are backing the goal of Target 8.7 in regards to 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Target 8.7 concentrates on measures to reduce all child labor, child slavery and human trafficking worldwide. The organization hopes to end child labor by 2025.
  10. Child labor greatly affects education and children staying in school. Thirty-six million children are not getting an education because of child labor. For those children who do go to school and work, their work still affects their performance and ability to succeed in school.
  11. Although African countries lead with the highest rates of child labor, Asia and the Pacific have 62 million child laborers. The ILO reported that other countries, such as the Americas, have about 10 million child laborers, and the Arab states have the lowest with 1.2 million children.
  12. Two-thirds of children are employed by their families and their companies. But, only 4 percent of those children are paid. The remaining one-third of children working is left to work for third parties.
  13. Children in the age range between 15 and 17 years-old are above the minimum age to work. Even though these children are not young children, they are often actively engaging with work that can affect their health.
  14. Child labor has many circumstances surrounding and affecting it, such as poverty, migration, emergencies and social norms.
  15. Since 2000, child labor for girls has dropped 40 percent and for boys has dropped 25 percent. In addition, there are 136 million children fewer children being affected by child labor around the world.

The 15 child labor facts presented show that children are still being affected by child labor around the world. While organizations such as UNICEF, International Labor Organization, the Human Rights Watch and Alliance 8.7 are working towards eradicating child labor, it still is an issue that is affecting our world.

– Logan Derbes

Photo: Pixabay

Top Five Facts About Girls Education in North Korea

North Korea is known for limiting its citizens’ access to government information and news around the globe. One topic in North Korea that may not be as well known is their education system, more specifically, girls’ access to education. These five facts on girls’ education in North Korea highlight both the positives as well as what needs to be improved.

Top Five Facts About Girls’ Education in North Korea

  1. Primary education in North Korea is free and mandatory. This is especially great for families who are suffering in poverty and cannot afford an education for their children. Young girls around the world are more likely to be denied access to an education due to monetary restrictions, so this is a great achievement for the country of North Korea.

  1. Gender discrimination makes it difficult for women in North Korea to attend universities. In 2017, 26 North Koreans spoke with Human Rights Watch and explained how life in their country is challenging, especially for young girls and women. Due to their patriarchal culture, young girls and women are excluded from opportunities ranging from improving their education, joining the military and being involved in politics. They are instead encouraged to stay at home and take care of children and household chores.

  2. In North Korea, social status affects where children go to school. Based on the father’s wealth, education and social status, this determines where the child can go to university, where they can live and where they can work. The five social statuses of these children include the special, nucleus, basic, complex and hostile. If a young girl has a father with poor social status, this not only limits their educational opportunities but virtually every other major decision in their lifetime.

  3. North Korea’s only private university, Pyongyang University for Science and Technology, previously only allowed men to attend. However, it has been reported in recent years that women are now allowed to attend. This is a great victory for young women in North Korea. Careers in science and technology are notoriously lacking women. Women taking these courses and potentially working in a science or technological field would be quite progressive for this country.

  4. Education in North Korea focuses on nationalist propaganda. Information that includes propaganda for the country starts in nursery school, children are exposed to current and previous political leaders in North Korea who are only shown in a positive light, even if it’s false information. Many children’s first words are political leaders names. Several political courses about the Kim dynasty are required, and if students do not perform well in their courses, physical punishment is sometimes enforced. When young girls are not receiving a well-rounded education, especially when it starts at such a young age, it prevents them from being aware of what’s actually occurring in their own country and around the world.

It is very difficult to know exactly what conditions are like for young girls getting an education in North Korea. There is limited information on most topics concerning North Korea and their human rights violations. What is known to the general public is that the country needs to improve its patriarchy culture that affects women and their general education standards.

Although young girls in North Korea have access to basic and free education, many other factors that they cannot control affect what kind of education they receive. The education that young girls do receive is not always historically accurate and aims to influence students in the country to approve of their political leaders. These five facts about girls’ education in North Korea proves that the country’s education system is far from perfect.

Maddison Hines

Photo: Unsplash

10 Facts about Myanmar Child Soldiers
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, might be on its way to achieving democracy but it is still far away from achieving a stellar record when it comes to human rights. This becomes especially evident in the case of child soldiers.

In this article, the top 10 facts about Myanmar child soldiers will be presented, one of the biggest problems this nation is currently facing.

Top 10 Facts About Myanmar Child Soldiers

  1. According to Human Rights Watch, Myanmar has the highest number of child soldiers in the world. Children are army members of both confronted sides- the national army as well as rebel groups in the ethnic minority regions outside the capital of Yangon. Roughly 350,000 soldiers make up the Burmese army with an estimated 20 percent of them being child soldiers.
  2. The children are usually taken against their will from public areas, such as parks and train stations in their town. They are often abducted and forced to be conscripted. If they refuse, they are threatened with jail time.
  3. After the 2008 Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar, many families were separated and many identification documents were destroyed or damaged. This made easier for the army recruiters to prey on the vulnerable children, particularly orphans since there is no one to identify and protect them.
  4. One of the examples of exploitation of children for army purposes can be seen in the Northern Rakhine state. It has been verified that 53 boys have been used by the Border Guard Police for various purposes that include maintaining the camps, as well as constructing and carrying equipment.
  5. The largest ethnic opposition groups, the United Wa State Army, has the largest number of forcible child conscripts. Another notorious group, the Kachin Independence Army, is the only military group in Burma that recruits girls.
  6. Boys as young as 12 are forced to fight and to commit human rights violations against the civilians that they are made to round up. This includes setting villages on fire and carrying out extrajudicial killings.
  7. Human Rights Watch has urged the Burmese government as well as all opposition ethnic rebel groups that forcibly recruit children under the age of 18 to stop the practice and release all current child soldiers. It has also called for these state and non-state actors to cooperate with international organizations such as UNICEF.
  8. In June 2012, the Burmese government signed a Joint Action Plan with the government and armed groups to take steps in order to reintegrate the child soldiers into civilian life. The plan also entailed allowing U.N. workers to access military bases.
  9. Since signing the deal in 2012, the government has released 924 children, according to a statement released by child protection agency UNICEF.
  10. The government has released 75 child soldiers in 2018 as part of the above mentioned process to end decades of forced recruitment of soldiers under the age of 18.

In conclusion, Myanmar’s development will be incomplete without the eradication of the problem of child soldiers. As long as the ethnic groups and the official Myanmar Army continue to use child soldiers to fight in their wars, the twin path of democracy and development are still a long way off.

Maneesha Khalae
Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Vietnam
The state of human rights in Vietnam is dire and has hit an all-time low level in 2017. Activism, religious diversity, political variance and even integrity within the judicial and police systems are almost non-existent. Vietnam has seen backlash for its controversial and rigid ways from the U.S. and other Western countries, but the country continues to ignore it and even fights opposition to their government in favor of preserving the authority of the ruling Vietnamese Communist Party.

Vietnamese Political Situation

The Vietnamese Communist Party is the sole state of leadership in Vietnam and has been in this position since 1980. The 1992 constitution, however, delegated more authority to the president and to the cabinet. The party, nevertheless, maintained responsibility for overall policy decisions. Challenges to the Vietnamese Communist Party are not tolerated, and often end in incarceration.

In fact, Vietnam actually prohibits the establishment or operation of independent political parties, labor unions and human rights organizations. Approval from Vietnamese authorities is needed for public gatherings. These authorities can refuse permission for meetings, marches, or public assemblies they believe to be politically unacceptable.

In 2011, the U.S. Department of State did a report on human rights in Vietnam and deemed the country to be “neither free nor fair” and claimed a large contributing factor for this state was the corruption of the judicial and police systems. The report stated that the Vietnamese judicial system was inefficient and experienced political influence and endemic corruption. Moreover, there were multiple cases of police brutality in both arrests and later detention, denial to a fair trial, ambiguity in arrests, and inhumane prison conditions. A government official from Vietnam fired back at the report stating that Vietnam supports human rights but opposes initiatives by outside nations interfering in internal affairs.

Reports on the Current Situation

The Vietnamese government has proven to be untrustworthy in their claims about human rights in Vietnam as well. The Vietnamese government has continuously claimed, since 2010, that there are no political prisoners in Vietnam. Yet as of April 2018, there have already been approximately 97 prisoners of conscience in the country.

In 2012, the U.N. ran their own human rights report on Vietnam and the results were increasingly positive, relative to the U.S. report in 2010. Though, the report still urged the government to implement major human rights treaties, like the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment which is an international human rights treaty meant to prevent all acts of cruel and inhuman treatment across the world.

Yet, despite this relatively positive report, human rights in Vietnam took a decline in 2017. The Human Rights Watch reported at least 36 cases of violence against activist from January to April 2017. Moreover, the Human Rights Watch found that the judicial system was still very much under the control of the government and that it has failed to meet international standards.

In Vietnam, people who suffer from a drug dependency, including children, are sent to governmental detention centers where they are forced to do menial work or “labor therapy.” It was reported by state media that during the first six months of 2017, about 3,168 people were sent to centers in Ho Chi Minh City. It was also found that those that are most at risk of violent treatment in these centers are children, women and ethnic minorities which goes directly against the Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment treaty the U.N. urged Vietnam to implement back in 2012.

There are organizations who are actively attempting to intervene in the high number of arrests being made by law officials of The Vietnamese Communist Party, and who are also fighting for the improvement of Human Rights conditions in Vietnam.

Organizations Involved in improving Human Rights in Vietnam

Organizations like the Human Rights Watch and the International Federation For Human Rights (FIDH) have urgently been asking for donations and letters to intercede the Human Rights violations being made in Vietnam. Moreover, there has been an increase in the number of activists for Human Rights, within Vietnam, in the last decade.

However, Vietnamese activists have to remain relatively quiet in their effort to bring these violations to the attention of the rest of the world due to the high probability of being arrested. Since 2014, there have been a little over 160 human rights activists that have been jailed in Vietnam, and this number continues to rise.

Thus, it remains to be seen if the conditions of Human Rights in Vietnam will improve in the coming years, but with the high number of arrests already in 2018, the outlook does not look so bad. The government has to change it’s attitude towards this issue if the country plans to grow in this aspect.

– Isabella Agostini
Photo: Flickr

 

HIV in the Philippines
HIV/AIDS in the Philippines continues to be a growing epidemic with an average of 68,000 individuals currently living with HIV, and fewer than half of them are being treated with antivirals. The Philippines now has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in Southeast Asia and in the world, reporting to have about 1,021 new cases of HIV/AIDS infected people in January 2018, with 17 percent of those newly infected individuals already showing signs of advanced infection. Luckily, the Philippines government is taking action to reduce HIV in the Philippines.

How the Philippines Are Addressing HIV/AIDS

In August 2018, a government organization called The League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) signed a partnership with UNAIDS in order to fast track the reduction of the number of new HIV/AIDS infections within the country.

UNAIDS states that for the past seven years, annual, new HIV infections have more than doubled, reaching to about 12,000 in 2017. Because 80 percent of HIV cases are reported within 70 cities in Manila, LCP and local governments in the Philippines are taking direct action regarding this epidemic, pledging to eradicate this disease.

According to Laarni L. Cayetano, the National Chair of LCP, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Philippines is definitely an issue, stating it “‘needs urgent action among local governments, especially since key populations at risk of infections reside mostly in cities.'”

The Philippines are already beginning to address this issue by starting more innovative services to prevent HIV. Quezon City, for example, has continued to increase HIV funding since 2012 in order to build three clinics that now provide rapid, judgment-free HIV testing and counseling for those who are infected.

The Department of Health

The Department of Health (DOH) has launched a tri-beauty pageant, specifically a “Lhive Free Campaign,” in Quezon City in order to find ambassadors in the prevention of HIV/AIDS among youth. With DOH’s desire to reduce HIV in the Philippines, this campaign serves as a message to the people as well as provides free, early detection methods and free medications needed for those infected.

Beauty Queen and Actress Kylie Verzosa, who was crowned Miss International in 2016 and is currently a DOH ambassador, also supports this campaign and pageant. Although Verzosa is known for her advocacy on mental health, she also shares a passion to spread awareness of HIV/AIDS and promote its prevention. She sees HIV as a physical, emotional, and mental health concern, considering that depression and anxiety can be developed in an HIV patient struggling to live with this condition.

The DOH and World Health Organization (WHO) in the Philippines previously held free, anonymous HIV screenings in the workplace for more than 400 people, DOH staff members and walk-ins alike. They provided eight different stations located throughout the DOH grounds. This service not only helped to promote HIV/AIDS testing as a strategy to fight against this epidemic but it is also important, according to Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque, for DOH staff members to know their own HIV status as they are encouraging others to seek treatment.

Other Groups Working to Prevent HIV/AIDS

Other departments and organizations are working to help decrease the HIV/AID epidemic in the Philippines. Dr. Edsel Maurice T. Salvana, the director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at The National Institutes of Health (NIH) at the University of the Philippines, reports that the NIH is researching and working on the molecular epidemiology of HIV viruses that appear to be drug-resistant. The NIH is also offering a variety of services for those infected in this country, such as HIV drug-resistance testing and genotyping, helping to end the further increase of the disease.

The Human Rights Watch also provided recommendations regarding the government’s approach to reduce HIV in the Philippines. The group suggests implementing further HIV prevention education within schools, providing access to condoms, destigmatizing the infection and reinitializing harm reduction programs that focus on injecting drug use.

The LCP partnership with UNAIDS serves as an opportunity and a push to help end the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country. As governments vow to reduce HIV in the Philippines, improvements in the health of the people the country will increase substantially. Advocating for and addressing this issue will not only encourage citizens to seek available treatments but it can also prevent the further spread of HIV/AIDS in the Philippines in the future.

Charlene Frett
Photo: Flickr

 

War on DrugsAfter being elected President of the Philippines in June 2016, Rodrigo Duterte quickly declared a “war on drugs.” As a result, there have been more than 12,000 casualties to date with the majority of victims being the urban poor.

For two years, President Duterte’s “war on drugs” has caused numerous human rights violations by police, including extrajudicial killings. In some cases, the war has led Philippine National Police (PNP) to target children and impoverished populations, hindering poverty reduction.

How the “War on Drugs” Began

During his presidential campaign, President Duterte classified drug dealing and addiction as barriers preventing economic and social advancements for the country. Following his presidential election win, Duterte said, “go ahead and kill” drug addicts, which has been taken literally by the public. Suspected drug dealers and addicts became victim to vigilante attacks and police began conducting large-scale raids in Manila, Philippines.

Unfortunately, substance abuse is not uncommon in the Philippines. Marjoree Razal, a former resident of Manila, Philippines told The Borgen Project: “There are a lot of drug addicts and some children will begin using drugs at a very young age.” In fact, there are about 1.8 million drug users in the Philippines, and “shabu,” a form of methamphetamine, has been the most common drug of choice. According to a 2012 United Nations report, The Philippines had the highest rate of methamphetamine abuse in East Asia.

The “War on Drugs” Has Resulted in Human Rights Violations

According to data gathered by The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), between July 2016 and September 2017, the police had already caused the deaths of 3,906 alleged drug users and dealers. Thousands more have been killed by masked gunmen who were disguised police officers or hitmen working with police.

Razal said, “These killings did not become common until President Duterte took office. Most of the recent killings have been ordered by him.” An investigation conducted by The Human Rights Watch (HRW) uncovered that PNP has been continuously conducting extrajudicial killings of potential drug suspects and falsely declaring self-defense. Police are also guilty of planting weapons, ammunition and drug packaging on victims’ bodies to incriminate them of drug activity.

According to Peter Bouckaert of HRW: “The way the targeting takes place is that each community has to compile a list of drug users that is known as the “watch list.” From those lists, people are targeted for either police operations or they’re simply killed by unidentified gunmen.”

Since most of the extrajudicial killings have been done in Manila, Philippines, the urban poor population is being directly impacted as a result. Thousands of children have become orphans or are now living in single-parent households because of Duterte’s crackdown on drugs. Razal said, “It is not unusual for the government to mistreat the poor since the country thrives on money and power.”

The Effects of The War On Drugs

Rhoda, a 29-year-old widow, became a single parent after her husband was killed by police in the drug war. Rhoda now supports seven children by herself, but health problems prevented her from working last year. Since then, she has found a job selling beauty products and earns 4,000 pesos per month ($212).

Many children under age 18 have also died in the drug war since June 2016 because they were either with someone who was being targeted or, it has been suggested, were actual targets themselves. According to the Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center, at least 54 children have been killed by PNP or masked gunmen since July 2016.

In response to the killings of children, Duterte said there would be an investigation to hold the officers accountable; however, no investigation was ever launched, and the officers in question are still on active duty. In fact, to date, nobody has been prosecuted for any of the extrajudicial killings.

Additionally, the Philippine judicial system is considered to be corrupt and works very slowly. Since drug dealers and addicts are a stigmatized group, it is difficult for them to receive any political support even when there is no evidence that proves they took part in drug activity. President Duterte claims “The war against illegal drugs is far from over” and vows it will continue until 2022 despite the opposition.

Improvements

The Catholic church has formed a campaign against violence in efforts to help and provide shelter for victims. The St. Francis of Assisi and Santa Quiteria Parish in Caloocan, Philippines created a drug rehabilitation program as a nonviolent approach to combat the country’s illegal drug problem.

Rev. George Alfonso, a priest of the parish said: “We are not denying that drugs are a problem in our society. But instead of acting about the war against them, we decided to do something to help the person.” The church believes that addiction is a result of a social issue, not just an issue of crime.

Furthermore, during the June session of the Human Rights Council, 33 states are calling for the end of extrajudicial killings along with an investigation into those behind the acts. Several “unofficial” investigations have been started to look into the extent of the human rights violations that have occurred so far.

Since President Duterte’s removal of PNP from anti-drug operations, extrajudicial killings have declined, but continue to occur. Instead, the government needs to adopt a policy for addressing drug-related issues that is non-violent and improves public health in order to limit the spread of diseases from certain kinds of drug use such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and hepatitis.

By adopting harm-reduction measures, like education and access to rehabilitation, the amount of violence in poverty-stricken areas will begin to decrease and potentially bring about improved relations between the government and its people.

– Diane Adame
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Non-Profit Human Rights Organizations
Human rights are universal moral values that should protect individuals and allow them to live free and safe lives. Certain human rights include the right to life, freedom from torture, right to education, etc. These rights, however, are not always protected by regulations and laws, which can lead to ethical concerns. Non-profit human rights organizations focus on getting individuals the rights they deserve. Here are 10 non-profit human rights organizations.

10 Non-Profit Human Rights Organization

  1. Human Rights Watch
    The Human Rights Watch was created in 1987 in order to shine a light on the human rights violations that were happening in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. The non-partisan, non-governmental organization has gained recognition from citizen movements and other humanitarian causes. It now has 400 staff members working around the globe. Human Rights Watch investigates abuse and effectively spreads this information, increasing public awareness and working with government officials and corporations to make a change.
  2. Human Rights First: Based in America, Human Rights First puts pressure on those in power, whether government or private companies, to combat social injustice. Like the Borgen Project, Human Rights First creates campaigns that not only inform the public on issues but also encourage them to email and call Congress in favor or against certain legislative laws. Examples of their campaigns include ending modern-day slavery, stopping Trump’s Refugee Ban, and closing Guantameno Bay.
  3. Human Rights Foundation: Unlike other non-profit organizations, the Human Rights Foundation focuses on closed societies. Closed societies are authoritative regimes and dictatorships that restrict individual freedom and expression. Established in 2005, the Human Rights Foundation promotes freedom and democracy by supporting activists and exposing political and social corruption in totalitarian governments.
  4. Ella Baker Center for Human Rights: Ella Baker was an activist and a leading figure during the Civil Rights Movement. The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights works with people of color to attack racial injustice in the U.S, specifically the prison system. People of color are disproportionately targeted by the police, so it isn’t surprising that they make up more than ½ of prisoners in correctional facilities. The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights breaks the cycle of incarceration by organizing campaigns around the country to protest in support of their freedom. Their recent victories include closing five out of the eight youth prisons in California, creating Books Not Bars, starting community safety plans and more.
  5. Refugees International: Refugee International was created in 1979 to protect Indochinese refugees. Since then, this independently funded, non-profit human rights organization has provided hands-on assistance to displaced refugee families. Advocates travel to areas in need to assess the situation and compile crucial resources for refugees.
  6. FINCA International: By giving small loans to the poor, entire communities can grow. FINCA International addresses poverty through microfinancing and social enterprise. There are 20 community-based microfinance banks placed across low-income neighborhoods throughout the world. These services help build small businesses that, in turn, improve economic development and sustainability.
  7. Mending Kids: Mending Kids is a life-saving, non-profit human rights organization that sends surgical teams to over 60 countries to mend children in need of surgical procedures. The surgical staff trains local doctors in developing countries to effectively provide more complex surgical procedures. For children who are facing serious, life-threatening problems, host-families are set up around the U.S. to care for them while they undergo medical procedures
  8. War Child: War Child is comprised of three major offices in the U.K, Holland and Canada. The organization protects children who have been and who are still being affected by armed conflict. War Child’s approach includes improving access to education, helping children understand their legal rights through training and programs and offering support to children who endured mental trauma during acts of armed conflict. In fact, many of the staff have also been survivors of armed conflict.
  9. Habitat for Humanity: Families around the world are struggling to find affordable, decent housing. Habitat for Humanity works in the U.S. and 70 other countries helping low-income families apply for homeownership. In the case of natural disasters, Habitat for Humanity works with local communities to supply resources for those whose homes were damaged.
  10. Polaris: Polaris is named after the North Star, which was used during slavery as a guide to freedom. Today, Polaris serves as an assistance hotline to victims and survivors of human trafficking. As one of many non-profit human rights organizations focused on human trafficking victims, Polaris builds public data sets to better understand human trafficking. With this information, Polaris designs strategies to target the system and engages law officials to enforce plans that will stop trafficking both nationwide and internationally.

This list is only a fraction of the organizations in the world trying to make a difference. There are many groups fighting for important causes like ending world hunger and poverty, providing clean drinking water and providing medical aid. If you are looking to donate or volunteer, one of these top 10 non-profit human rights organizations would definitely be a good place to start.

– Lilly Hershey-Webb
Photo: Flickr

Democratic Republic of CongoDuring the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), from 1998 to 2003, more than 5.2 million children did not receive an education. Although the situation has improved since then, the legacy of the war remains, especially its effect on the female population.

In 2012, it was reported that approximately 62.92 percent of female youth aged 15 years and older were literate compared to an 87.91 percent literacy rate for young males.

Factors Impacting Girls Education in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The overarching traditional outlook about the role of females in society: Many families believe that girls have a responsibility at home, while boys should work outside as the main breadwinners. This thinking leads people to discredit education as an important part of girls’ lives, whereas boys are encouraged to attend schools.

Poverty: According to the World Bank, although the poverty rate in the DRC declined from 71 percent to 64 percent between 2005 and 2012, the country still remains one the poorest countries in the world with a ranking of at176 out of 187 countries per the United Nation’s 2015 Human Development Index. As a result of high levels of poverty, many girls take up jobs to support their families.

Opportunities in armed groups: About 30 to 40 percent of children in the armed groups are girls. Girls are often lured into joining local militias because of enticing factors like wages. However, the NGO Child Soldiers International interviewed over 200 female former child soldiers, who reported that instead of finding opportunities within these groups, they were drugged, raped or forced to commit crimes.

For those who are able to escape, they attempt to matriculate into school but are unable to because of the stigma associated with the former sexual relationships between the girls and male soldiers. The same girls who were interviewed cited how they were called “prostitutes” and “HIV carriers” by schools and were not allowed to enroll.  

Solutions

To resolve the issue of lack of girls’ education in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the nation is reforming its system so that more children are able to pursue an education. For example, the DRC has increased its education budget from 7.9 percent in 2012 to 14.7 percent in 2015. In addition, the government has received a $100 million grant from the Global Partnership for Education to continue its efforts. 

Moreover, USAID and the United Kingdom Department for International Development have funded a five-year education program that focuses on reading outcomes in the DRC. It is the largest implemented education program in the DRC and plans to improve the reading outcomes of 1.5 million grades 1-4 students.

Furthermore, USAID has worked to create safe school environments, especially for girls, by training teachers and administrators on how to assess safety and security at the school. Through this, girls will not have to fear for their safety, the lack of which also caused them to join militias.

The results of these actions are clear in the numbers. In 2016, UNESCO reported that approximately 66.5 percent of females aged 15 years and older were literate. Although a small increase, this is still an improvement from 2012. 

Girls’ education in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has faced many obstacles. However, the country is combating this crisis and ensuring that all children are provided with this opportunity, an action that other underdeveloped countries should follow.

Sheharbano Jafry
Photo: Flickr