Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Sept 20 at United Nations in Geneva

This is the beginning to what I hope will be a daily entry on what I learn from the UN.  The UN, as many of you are aware, often is all talk and little action, well here's my little bit of action to help build some awareness on issues the world faces on a daily basis. 

Today was an interesting start to the day.  I began by watching my first debate on the wording to a resolution.  The resolution in question was on protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.(say that 5 times fast).  There were lots of very polite scuffles on the wording, the worst of which was probably a drawn out debate between the US and EU representatives on the wording between "right to privacy"(EU stance) and "right to protect privacy"(US stance).  If you've seen the new Snowden movie (I haven't seen it yet) you probably aren't surprised by this take, but you may be surprised to know that in many cases the EU has much more invasive intelligence than the US in regards to private citizenry, but it was the US, who was most defensive about the resolution.

Another interesting point that was argued was on whether wording should be used that classifies all violent extremism as terrorism.  They couldn't decide, can you?

In the general assembly, today was focused on the rights of indigenous peoples throughout the world.  The interesting points are as follows

1. Finland, Sweden, and Norway all are working on revitalizing their native populations of Sami people.  They have plans to turn the now dead languages to living languages by 2025.  Iceland also jumped in on this part by saying they wanted research done on how to increase reproduction rates among indigenous females. (For those of you who saw the recent Italian campaign with similar language backfire, you might raise your eyebrows at that.)

2. The topic of treaties, transnational corporations, and natives got brought up quite a few times by different countries.  Ecuador summed up the situation best by stating that there are bilateral treaties (treaties between two countries or in this case Ecuador and say a multinational company like Chevron) where the state is responsible for the welfare of its citizens AND for the carrying out in good faith of the treaty.  A special rapporteur of the UN had just published a suggestion about treaties having to be done where both the state and the company in question would have to have to seek to guarantee the human rights of the citizens in said state.  Ecuador, Egypt, and Chile were all for this, saying corporations have the responsibility to protect all human rights, including natives, but one of the state's, whose native populations is worst off thanks to these treaties (Peru) joined the US in opposition to this new statement.  Of course, it's no surprise that the US is against it, as there would be a lot of pressure from special interest groups in the US (big oil) to keep treaties as they are, but it sure makes me grimace that at a human rights council at the UN, we can't agree that corporations should have the protection of human rights in mind when they go abroad.  Instead, the US's response was that it was solely the state's responsibility to protect its citizens, which in the case of Peru (here I'm no expert, but I was fortunate enough to talk to a attorney for the natives in Peru today) the state owns all of the natural resources in a state.  So even if the natural resource is on native land, the state owns it, and while technically they should consult with the natives before a treaty is signed, they do not have to, and in most cases do not.  Hence for the indigenous Peruvians these treaties are extractive to the core and only the state and the company profit.

3.Now we get to my favorite comments.  The first one was by Russia, who agreed with the findings of the special rapporteur and went on to say that they believe statistical data should be kept of natives and medical assistance provided, and went so far as to say they had created 2800 mobile medical teams to help provide aid.  Here I'll have to take a step back, because one of the findings of the panel today was that medical assistance should be provided by the home state to indigenous populations, but it should be provided in a form that agrees with the traditions of the peoples themselves, so maybe with the use of spirits or alternative medicine etc.  So basically Russia was saying, we'll take care of them our way, oh and we'll also use this "taking care of them" as a method of intelligence.

4. The Aussies also had a great response to this panel.  They said they agreed with ideas that encouraged indigenous peoples to use businesses to lift themselves out of poverty.  They wanted more "indigenous entrepreneurs" to help get rid of explicit bias and exclusion.  Yes, that's right, Australia, because the indigenous people are poor because you took their land and resettled them in the middle of nowhere, it should be up to them to lift themselves out of poverty and get rid of their own stigma.  For those who are unfamiliar with Australia's history on this respect.  Let's just say they did worse things than we did to the indigenous population, and even now, scholars report having a lot of difficulty from the Australian government in trying to independently study the subject.

5.Finally my favorite quote of the day, whether I did not hear it right or it was said wrong.  The Chinese delegate stated that he agreed and applauded the findings of the rapporteur, and then dropped the bombshell that everyone else should follow it, but China had no need since they did not have any indigenous peoples!

til tomorrow...

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