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FOR TOO LONG IT WAS CONSIDERED THAT TRANSNATIONAL CORPORATIONS COULD NOT BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS. THIS HAS NOW CHANGED.

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Human rights: Food for a new corporate thought

 

Human Rights Reader 405

 

Already the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 interpreted the issue as implying that no State, group or person has the right to engage in any activity aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein. (Art.30)

 

  1. Because of this change, it is of the utmost importance that State parties ensure access to effective remedies to victims of corporate abuse of economic, social and cultural rights through judicial, administrative, legislative or other appropriate means. And (!), no distinction is to be made between violations committed by a State, a physical person or a legal person. There is a ratified optional protocol pertaining to business enterprises operating abroad on this, but there are no means of enforcement since available means are not legally binding. Therefore, for now, norms applied to transnational corporations (TNCs) are merely voluntary codes, i.e., with no sanctions and no compliance —so impunity continues.

 

  1. Regarding corruption though, the UN General Assembly has adopted a legally binding instrument (UN Convention Against Corruption, 2003) and, in 2009, a review mechanism for the implementation of the convention was passed.

 

  1. Furthermore, the existing norms applicable to legal persons, hence to TNCs, are fragmented, do not deal with the entirety of human rights (HR), are not universal (since they are not ratified) and they have no coherent implementation.

 

  1. It is now possible to bring the management of TNCs before the International Criminal Court. Since 2008, the HR Council has emphasized that TNCs and other business enterprises have a responsibility to respect HR. TNCs being legal persons are thus subjects and objects of the law; they are indeed bound to respect HR.

 

  1. TNCs have greatly influenced commercial treaties in their own favor. Most trade agreements place TNCs above the State thus above the people. Hence these entities have all the rights, but they are not accountable for their acts. They typically short-circuit national courts, but have the right to bring states before the World Bank’s tribunal (the International Center for Settlement of investment Disputes), their favorite court, which is unfailingly favorable to them while states are denied this right. The ICSID ignores national and international legislation on HR, the environment and worker’s rights.

 

  1. So, by virtue of current international HR law, TNCs are bound to respect HR. All that remains is to clarify the HR obligations of these entities and to establish binding enforcement mechanisms. It is possible to demand they refrain from acts that violate HR and compel them to act so that the respect of these rights is guaranteed.

 

  1. As soon as possible, measures must be taken to require accountability before the courts for their non-respect of HR. Such respect is more than ever indispensable given that privatization policies are being imposed by the IMF and the WB, especially affecting public services previously provided by the State. Simply put, the people must have the possibility to defend their rights.

 

  1. The overwhelming majority of unpunished crimes and violations are committed in the countries of the Global South where justice mechanisms are slow. Therefore, TNCs responsible for these HR violations cannot be subjected to statues of limitation.

 

  1. With their economic and political power, the most powerful TNCs can and do escape all democratic, administrative and legal control. Their strategy consists of reinforcing their dominant position in the market in practically all areas of production and services by the way of acquisitions and mergers. Moreover, legal responsibility must reach all the way to their downstream contractual chains (affiliates, subcontractors, licensees). The parent company is indeed responsible for the offenses these downstream entities commit. The parent company must also assume responsibility for the debts of their affiliates in case they go bankrupt.

 

  1. The treaty now under negotiation at the UN pertaining TNCs liability will have to establish universal jurisdiction enabling legal action in the TNCs’ host State for their offenses committed regardless of where they occur. Host countries must guarantee access to their courts to the victims of violations committed by these entities in foreign countries. The treaty will further have to reassert the hierarchical superiority of HR norms over trade and investment treaties.

 

  1. Additionally, to fight impunity, victims will have to be guaranteed: the right to know, the right to justice, the right to compensation and the right to guarantees of non-reocurrence of violations with states having the obligation to take effective measures to fight impunity. There will have to be: i) no court costs to claimants, ii) the possibility of class action suits, iii) speedy trials (justice delayed is justice denied), and iv) limits to out-of-court settlements, i.e., TNCs offering easy transactional solutions to victims to avoid conviction and victims accepting a partial monetary compensation in exchange for abandoning litigation. Lawyers’ fees will have to be assumed by the State or supported by a special tax on TNCs.

 

  1. Bottom line: In an era of neoliberal (in)justice, the power is in the hands of the biggest TNCs while this power has no correlative counterpart accountabilities. The initiatives taken so far have been limited and are far from responding to what is at stake. The new treaty will also have to take into account environmental crimes and even killings of HR defenders that elude justice. Given the colossal magnitude of the violations committed by TNCs, an international instrument (treaty), as the one under consideration, may appear insufficient. But this will be a significant first step. The existence of such an instrument will be a clear message to HR violators.

 

  1. Completing the current UN negotiations setting binding norms on this is indispensable. People must mobilize and network to back these negotiations.

 

  1. Fighting TNCs impunity also means fighting the danger that TNCs represent for democracy and for the very existence of the states. If the states wish to maintain the little credibility they still have and put an end to the principle that might-is-right, they must act promptly against TNCs to subject them to the rule of law. (Taken from TNCs’ Impunity, What’s at Stake and Initiatives, CETIM, 2016, Geneva, www.cetim.ch)

 

Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City

schuftan@gmail.com

 

All 400+ Readers are now available in my new website http://www.claudioschuftan.com

 

Postscript/Marginalia

Not all corporations are averse to responsibilities in the field of human rights. TNCs upholding HR and investing in best practices across contractual and production chains ought to have a clear interest in movement towards developing a binding instrument in regard to TNCs, and other business enterprises in the area of HR. An instrument at the global level will help avoid illegitimate corporate competition that could be achieved through exploiting differences in the applied standards and in mechanisms available to uphold the implementation of rights. (South Centre, Policy Brief No. 32, Geneva, October 2016)

-“Whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation, do take sides! Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” (Elie Wiesel)

Indifference is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor — never her/his victim. In denying their humanity, we betray our own. (Eric Friedman)

-As we persistently propose the adoption of a new HR paradigm, we cannot work with our youth from our desks or facing the old blackboard, treading the old line. We have the responsibility to push them to grow new wings, to face the wind –and fly. (Jaime Breilh)

 

Following the added piece I shared with you two weeks ago on the visionary excerpt from Henry Miller –and given the important change we expect since last week in America– allow me to share with you another very relevant comment:

 

One of the details of understanding human psychology is how a person’s unconscious fear works in a myriad ways to make them believe that they bear no responsibility for a particular problem. In an era when human extinction is now a likely near-term outcome, this is obviously particularly problematic.

 

The belief is that it is the decisions of others, and not ours, that are responsible for the dire circumstances in which we find ourselves. This belief is widespread among those who refuse to accept structural violence, such as the exploitative way in which the global economy functions, as responsible for these circumstances. In a way, this leads to blaming the victims for their circumstances leading many to say: ‘I am not responsible in any way’.

 

Actually, the way these people evade responsibility is by deluding themselves thinking that a-person-who-needs-help is ‘not contributing’ while also deluding themselves about the potential importance their own efforts may have. This is just one of many delusions that wealthy people often have to self-justify their wealth while many, many people work extremely hard and are paid a pittance (or nothing) for their time, expertise and labor. A common way in which particularly some academics evade responsibility is to offer an explanation and/or theory about a social problem, but then take no action to involve themselves to change things. Deluding ourselves that we can avoid dealing with reality, much of which happens to be extremely unpleasant and ugly, is a frightened and powerless way of approaching the world. Yet it is very common. Many people evade responsibility, of course, simply by believing and acting as if someone else, perhaps even ‘the government’, is ‘properly’ responsible. The most widespread ways of evading responsibility are to deny any responsibility for military violence while paying the taxes to finance it, denying any responsibility for adverse environmental and climate impacts while making no effort to reduce consumption, denying any responsibility for the exploitation of other people while buying the cheap products produced by their exploited (and sometimes slave) labor –all these with serious human rights connotations.

 

All of the above should not be interpreted to mean that we should all take responsibility for everything that is wrong with the world. There is, obviously, a great deal wrong and the most committed person cannot do something about all of it. However, we can make powerful choices, based on an assessment of the range of problems that interest us, to intervene in ways large or small to make a difference. This is vastly better than fearfully deluding ourselves and/or making token gestures.

 

Moreover, powerful choices are vital in this world. We face a vast array of violent challenges, some of which threaten near-term human extinction. In this context, it is unwise to leave responsibility for getting us out of this mess to others, and particularly those insane elites whose political agents (who many still naively believe that we ‘elect’) so demonstrably fail to meaningfully address any of our major human rights, social, political, economic and environmental problems.

 

You may have had a good laugh at some of the examples above. The real challenge is to ask yourself this question: where do I evade responsibility? And to then ponder how you will take responsibility in the future. (Robert Burrowes) (January 14, 2017)

 

New Video on Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue and Violence in the Trump Era

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For those interested, there is a new video from the series I have been doing on public health and social justice issues, all of which can be found on the videos, tv, radio page of the website at https://phsj.org/videos-tv-radio/ – feel free to share

The latest is on gun violence as a public health issue, epidemiology of violence, the nra, statutes, how women and children are affected, major studies, etc. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5cwchwu0kM

the last 17 minutes covers thoughts on the trump election, what it means viz a viz social justice for the US and the world, including violence

I talk almost the whole time, as this is what the host asked for

Martin Donohoe
http://www.publichealthandsocialjustice.org
http://www.phsj.org
martindonohoe@phsj.org

TALKING GRANDIOSELY ABOUT ‘LIBERTY’ AND ‘FREEDOM’ ALLOWS CONSERVATIVES TO IGNORE ANYTHING APPROACHING THE NEEDED TRULY DEMOCRATIC WAYS OF WORKING TOWARDS THE REALIZATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS. (Ted Greiner)

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Human Rights: Food for how to bias a thought

 

Human Rights Reader 399

 

In many countries, democracy and capitalism may actually be oxymorons (contradictory expressions) –and never forget, low intensity democracy leads to populism. (Albino Gomez)

 

Be the change you want to promote (anonymous slogan)

 

  1. There is little democracy left in our election-based political systems where the same wo/men keep trying to fight each other and where the interest of the many is buried under layers of elitist complacency. Young people know all this and seek solutions elsewhere. They know the post-war (for the North) and postcolonial (for the South) solutions will have to be abandoned, or at least seriously re-visited. We should be grateful for young generations focusing on what needs to be changed. Formal changes in rules and institutions will be indispensible though. Ethics, solidarity and human rights (HR) must be the basis from which to start. Francine Mestrum calls this ‘reciprocity based structural solidarity’ and says this is what will have to be pursued, and further says that it is local initiatives that are the way to democratically build something new, bottom up.

 

  1. If the little that is left of representative democracy is said to be ‘a higher form of human civilization’ and elections to be ‘the festival of a democracy’, then we are not including the violence, the terrorization, the corruption, the filthy speeches, the rigging, the voting booth capturing and the malpractices that go with it. (Swasthya Siksha Unnayan)

 

  1. The problem is that, ideally, democracy expects all its wings to function independently, but in a way that ultimately allows sovereignty to stay with the people. It is another matter that rulers themselves become authoritarian and behave like the worst of the emperors. Those who ought to ensure that democracy functions in the interest of the people are the judges who, in theory, have the power to interpret and apply the law. The debate about whether the judiciary or the executive is supreme is an ongoing discussion. Moreover, on HR issues, journalists are too often failing us in the standards, the rigor and the ethics they apply. None of this has been helped by the new digital technology that promotes very short stories or sound bites. In fact, things have deteriorated to such an extent today that news columns can be bought. It is an open secret that several stories are nothing more than paid news. Some leading newspapers feel no shame in selling the space to whoever wants to buy it. For them, it is purely a question of revenue –forget democracy. (Kuldip Nayar)

 

  1. Are we living in a post-ideologies and post-parties era? Is being on the left or on the right becoming increasingly irrelevant? Without ideologies, politics are becoming just acts of administrative action, where differences disappear. Parties without ideologies carry little motivation and identity. Gone are the times when they were based on strong membership with a vibrant youth wing. Parties are becoming just movements of opinions which mobilize citizens only to vote in temporary campaigns, where hired experts of marketing tools and other instruments of mass communication have replaced debates on actual visions and values. More important yet, the Internet and new technologies have changed how people relate to politics. The relationship between the parties and voters is no longer direct and vertical, as it was at the time of the radio and of TV. Voters still use the TV, but more and more the Internet as their primary instrument of information. Clearly, the great popular meetings filling public squares are something of the past. Is the Internet destroying good politics? The net is progressively reducing the power of the traditional system of information for people now immune to the traditional information systems like the printed press and even TV. (Roberto Savio)

 

What we are left (or right) with

 

  1. Will the traditional political elite be able to learn lessons from reality and change austerity for growth, discard banks as a priority, come back to a debate of ideas and visions, values and ideals, begin to discuss at least social remedies in the face of the disasters of an unregulated globalization? –and growing violence?* (R. Savio)

*: Winston Churchill famously stated that it is always better to “jaw, jaw than to war, war.”

 

  1. Will the traditional political left get its act together and rally around HR? Their leaders tell themselves: “Deep down we are struggling for the same, but too many shades of thinking separate us”. [As opposed to this, the traditional right leaders tell themselves: “Many shades of thinking separate us, but deep down we are on the same page and have a common objective, don’t we?”].** (Politika, Chile)

**: ‘The Right’ has it clear what it wants and what it rejects. ‘The Left’, when it is divided (and it always is), immediately shows its key shortcomings, namely: leadership and a common program of action.

 

6a. Because ideology also plays a key role elsewhere, this brings us to the equally hot topic of governance. [Governance is the tradition and institutions that determine how authority is exercised].

 

Good governance needs to be measured by more than the number of meetings where jawing occurs, but also by who’s invited to do the talking

 

Not being facetious, what is needed for better global governance is not convergence, but rather more dancing together… or better, what is actually needed is not negotiators trying to fit into the same shoes, but rather taking off their shoes as a gesture of equality.

 

  1. The problems States face when negotiating with other states at the global level is to be found in their divergent interests and ideologies and their unequal wealth and resources. This invariably results in conflicts as relates to finding the solutions they can eventually agree-upon. There is a glaring neglect of true efforts to find common interests and ideas that are to benefit humanity and are not constrained by national physical, political and mental borders’ interests; the result is watered-down initiatives, resolutions declarations or whatever. (adapted from Kelley Lee)

 

  1. Newly proposed governance tools, even the so-called whole-of-government approaches, have proven insufficient to the task. (Olivier de Schutter) Political negotiations involve complex political processes over prolonged periods of time with a predicable conciliatory outcome inevitably dominated by the same old tensions between rich and poor counties. (F. Sassi) Power imbalances and the ensuing impacts on decisions taken should not merely be seen as ‘inconvenient obstacles’, because they invariably end up taking center stage. (IPES)

 

  1. Multilateralism creates a false confidence that global governance is adequate. On the contrary, if its outcomes are shaped by the interplay of national interest perspectives generated from highly unequal circumstances, it is naïve to think that global interests will be adequately served. (Richard Falk) The challenge is making multi-actor governance work for the HR of those lacking the necessary power to have not only voice, but influence.

 

  1. The network model of governance highlights how power is mobilized through nodes that link ideologically linked groups (in political and HR terms, basically two). Each group ultimately aims to alter the distribution of power more in their favor. This is the logic of the approach public interest civil society organizations and social movements are using to achieve political change (…and so do their opposing forces, but only to keep the status-quo). (adapted from David Legge)

 

  1. If we take the example of the needed global mobilization aimed at democratizing all instances global health governance, we have to be clear that this objective is not separate from, but very much part of, a global mobilization effort of a wider perspective. To treat global health governance as somehow independent of global economic and political governance is outright absurd. Simply said, proclaiming that the challenges of global health governance can be dealt independently plays the important political role aimed at obscuring the vested interests and power relations at play. (D. Legge)

 

Welcome to the Human Rights Hive

 

  1. Here is an interesting novel theory: The value of being connected is not in just-being-networked; it also is in arriving-at-a-shared-opinion and collectively-moving-into-action-towards-the-desired-outcome. This is why the concept of a hive is a smarter one, as it has now evolved from the concept of a network. The hive is bigger than the sum of its parts. The hive calls for: i) increasing the frequency of interactions, and ii) creating a higher level of synchronicity between members of the hive. This produces stronger ties between individual members and allows the hive to act collectively. As we are moving towards the idea of achieving more with less, hives will beat networks. If you want to survive, do not just build a network. You have to build a hive, and eventually a ‘hivemind’. In that sense, a network is a neutral description of how connections between composite parts form a system. The hive learns collectively and this is how the hive makes informed decisions in response to a changing external environment; in short, it becomes more effective. Hives produce stronger ties between individual members and allows them, as a hive, to act collectively. Because of the increased frequency of interactions, a hive behaves more intelligently. It ongoingly responds; interactions get everyone on the same page so as to work in sync aligned around shared goals. (Arjun Sethi)

 

Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City

schuftan@gmail.com

 

Breaking News: All HR Readers, from No.1 on, are now available in my new website www.bodega-vn.com

 

Postscript/Marginalia

-Political will is usually understood as a greater resolve on the part of states. But political will is not owned by politicians –who usually act only in response to consistent and compelling pressure from claim holders. Therefore, it is not a lack of political will, but rather the accumulation of a political will by the powerful to oppose or stall, in our case, the implementation of progressive policies that tackle HR abuses.

-In the corridors of governance, we can often hear the haves say: “Other things being equal, the safer option is obviously the better one”. But other things are not equal….

-In the corridors of governance, we can often hear the have-nots say: “We had the best slogans, they won the war”. (Spanish Civil War) [Is this because it is which voices, and at what decibel levels, are the ones that ultimately clinch decision-making…?].

 

A Social Justice Take on the 2016 from Martin Donohoe, Public Health and Social Justice Website – Re-post with additional link

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Re-posting, as some have had problems accessing link.

 Please forgive the blatant self-promotion……hopefully some will find this interesting, since it touches a little on the candidates, but more on how various social justice objectives are/are not being (and can be) achieved in the US – host gave me permission to pretty much rant for an hour
Social justice take on the 2016 election. Conversations with Dr Don (cable television program), October, 2016. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfOq8V0JR_w.
If any problems accessing this link, you might try https://www.youtube.com/user/friendlydon1 instead, then clicking on my show P0720.
Covers American democracy and exceptionalism, a variety of domestic and international social justice issues, and how to create a progressive and more just society.
Feel free to share

A Social Justice Take on the 2016 from Martin Donohoe, Public Health and Social Justice Website – Re-post with additional link

Add a comment
Re-posting, as some have had problems accessing link.

Please forgive the blatant self-promotion……hopefully some will find this interesting, since it touches a little on the candidates, but more on how various social justice objectives are/are not being (and can be) achieved in the US – host gave me permission to pretty much rant for an hour

Social justice take on the 2016 election. Conversations with Dr Don (cable television program), October, 2016. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfOq8V0JR_w.
If any problems accessing this link, you might try https://www.youtube.com/user/friendlydon1 instead, then clicking on my show P0720.
Covers American democracy and exceptionalism, a variety of domestic and international social justice issues, and how to create a progressive and more just society.
Feel free to share
m

March and Rally to Close Riker’s Island September 24, 2016

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Rikers Island has been a cauldron of despair for decades. The brutality is endemic, and today violence is up even as the detainee population is down. Every day thousands of people are held in pre-trial detention simply because they cannot afford bail, leading to a litany of tragedies, such as the terrible death of Kalief Browder. Racial disparities are a hallmark of both Rikers Island and the broken criminal justice system it represents.

Horrific media stories and damning government investigations have become commonplace. There is no dispute that the Rikers Island Correctional Facility jails are dangerous, isolated, and woefully inappropriate for human beings. With all that we know about the human suffering on Rikers, the biggest scandal is that Rikers continues to exist at all.

As our nation finally confronts the error of mass incarceration and the failures of the war on drugs, communities across the country — including New York City — are rethinking policies to ensure public safety and health. A growing number of New Yorkers have come to a simple conclusion:

Rikers cannot be reformed; it must be closed. That is why two previous mayoral administrations have tried to close it. Those previous efforts stalled. Today, however, with growing momentum in New York City and around the country to fix our shameful, broken criminal justice system, the time is now for real solutions –it is time to finally

#CLOSErikers.

Closing Rikers will not be easy, but we know that it is possible and necessary, and that New Yorkers are up to the task. During his inauguration, Mayor de Blasio declared, “Our city is no stranger to big struggles — and no stranger to overcoming them.” As New Yorkers we must tackle this big struggle and re-imagine what a modern criminal justice system should look like, where justice and fairness is attainable to all, and where we heal the harms caused by a broken system by supporting the communities most impacted by its years of abuse.

Local Contact in the Bronx

There will be buses to the Rally coming from and returning to the Bronx. For more information please contact Joyce Wong at: mingjoy@aol.com and cell 917.331.0575.

rikers-march-rally-vigil-sept24

Doctors Gone Bad – Slide Show and Television Program from Public Health and Social Justice

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criminal.jpg human.jpg

A recently-updated, open access slide show and one hour television interview are now available on the Human Subject Experimentation/Torture/Hunger Strikes page of the Public Health and Social Justice website at https://phsj.org/human-subject-experimentation/. These cover the history of human subject experimentation from World War II to the present (including the Nazi and Japanese medical “experiments;” the Tuskegee syphilis study; the Guatemalan STD study; the Willowbrook hepatitis experiments; Beecher’s seminal paper on unethical U.S. experiments; Pentagon studies involving chemical and biological agents, radioactivity, and illicit drugs; and contemporary controversies — e.g., unethical placebo-controlled trials in the developing world, the use of prisoners and the uninsured as research subjects, etc.). Also covered are doctors who murder and/or torture and doctors as terrorists and despots (e.g., Ikuo Hayashi [sarin gas on Tokyo subway], Ayman al-Zawahiri [leader of Al-Qaeda], Radovan Karadjic [war criminal, former leader of Bosnian Serbs], and Bashir Al-Assad [Syrian president]). Learn about how medical education and training inadequately cover the Geneva Conventions, military medical ethics, physician participation in torture and executions, and human rights) and what can be done to improve such training. Also on this page are presentations from Dr Steve Miles on physicians who torture and caring for torture victims. While you are browsing this page, be sure to check out all the open-access slide shows covering myriad other topics on the public health and social justice website at http://www.publichealthandsocialjustice.org or http://www.phsj.org (e.g the Incarceration Nation slide show on the Criminal Justice System page includes a discussion of the history of the death penalty in the U.S., including the involvement of physicians and drug companies – see https://phsj.org/the-criminal-justice-system/.

Martin Donohoe

Social Medicine Course in Uganda 2017

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Course Announcement

 On behalf of SocMed, we are pleased to invite health professional students to apply for the seventh annual course Beyond the Biologic Basis of Disease: The Social and Economic Causation of Illness, a social medicine immersion experience offered on-site at Lacor Hospital in Gulu, Uganda from January 3rd – 27th, 2017.  Beyond the Biologic Basis of Disease merges unique pedagogical approaches including community engagement; classroom-based presentations and discussions with a breadth of facilitators; group and self-reflection; theater, film, and other art forms; patient clerking and presentations which emphasize narrative medicine, and team projects.  These approaches create an innovative and interactive learning environment in which students participate as both learners and teachers to advance the entire class’ understanding of the interactions between the biology of disease and the myriad social, cultural, economic, political, and historical factors that influence illness presentation and social experience of disease. 

The course curriculum places considerable importance on building partnerships and encouraging students to reflect upon their personal experiences with power, privilege, race, class, and gender as central to effective partnership building in global health.  In the spirit of praxis (a model of education that combines critical reflection with action inspired by Paolo Freire), these components of the course give students the opportunity to discern their role in global health and social medicine through facilitated, in-depth conversations with core faculty and student colleagues.

In our annual Uganda course, thirty health professional students enroll each year, with half of the spaces filled by students from Ugandan medical and nursing schools, and the other half filled by international students from anywhere outside Uganda.  Credit for away-rotations can be arranged.

This course is offered through SocMed, a social justice non-profit organization working to expand the conversation on and engagement with the social determinants of health through education and movement building.  Our focus is to foster a diverse community of learners who carefully examine and strategically respond to the social and economic contexts of health.  Our aim is to provide space, opportunities and facilitation for students from around the world to build partnerships with one another in order to gain skills and practice in tackling challenging health problems.

More Information and Application Process

 Further information can be found in the attached course prospectus and on the SocMed website:www.socmedglobal.org.   Please view short videos describing the course, publications related to the course, and advocacy videos created by previous students during the course by visiting the “Resources” tab on the website.

Applications are due July 31, 2016. Templates are available on the SocMed website but please note that applications this year must be submitted through an on-line format at:

http://goo.gl/forms/w2A41FQP9Pom41wD3

If you have questions, please contact us at socmedglobal@gmail.com.

IF THE POLITICS ARE NOT FAVORABLE TO SPEAKING TRUTHFULLY ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS THEN CLEARLY WE MUST DEVOTE MORE ENERGY TO CHANGING THE POLITICS. (M. Moses) Part 1 of 2

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Human rights: Food for changing a thought (part 1)

Human Rights Reader 388

 

  1. These days, international politics is too fragmented to achieve much, especially as so many political leaders are guided by corporate interests. (H-J. Luhmann) As a consequence, nation states, rich and poor, have had less and less ability to lead independently from that influence. In the zero-sum game we live-in, compromise is hard to achieve, because the success of one party (the one with more corporate backers) is almost assured.* This is why unregulated markets continue to miserably produce consumer goods that nobody seems to need, and fail to produce in sufficient quantity and quality those badly needed, such as medicines, simply because private investment in these goods does not pay.

*: As Warren Buffett said, “There’s been a class warfare going on for the last 20 years and my class as won”.

 

  1. The productivist paradigm above is reinforced by an all-too-complying mix:

 

  • of scientific knowledge (that adds the rational justification needed),
  • of ideological/political positions (proclaiming that private enterprises are more efficient than the public domain),
  • of dominant values (asserting the consumers’ absolute sovereignty and the survival of the fittest),
  • of popular myths (e.g., the one of the individualist, self-made man),
  • of false knowledge (e.g., genetically modified organisms or GMOs will improve production and combat hunger), and
  • of overvalued facts (e.g., the contributions of the dominant elites to each historical period). (adapted from Jose Luis Vivero)

 

Without public interest civil society engagement, politics is a top-down process that disregards grassroots reality (Katja Dombrowski)

 

Giving access to the right information for these groups is a vital element of democracy, and the loss of information is one of the reasons for the decline of politics and political engagement.

 

  1. It would be fair to say that the politics of development has been tied to the ‘conventional’ Euro/US-centric notion that basically supports capitalist patriarchal reasoning stemming from religion and spilling over to the law and to commerce. Among other, this has meant favoring the economy over the planet’s ecology, favoring capital over labor, masculine over feminine, North over South and, last but not least, favoring basic needs over human rights (HR). For quite a while now, we have been carrying out a successful political contestation that rejects these hierarchical assumptions, because such a framing is, by definition, antagonistic to the goal of protecting HR and the right to life itself.

 

‘Liberal politicians’ campaign from the left and rule from the right

 

-Politicians are good at this kind of thing, i.e., hiding the human costs of policies adopted and being polite about ideas that just have no place in polite company. (Naomi Klein)

-Liberal leftism often uses leftwing rhetoric as a cover.

 

  1. The concepts advanced by liberal politicians typically span between ethics and economics.** From that polarity, they specifically try to exclude ‘the political’ by labeling it merely as the domain of conquering power.*** (C. Schmitt) But, of course, there is much more to it. The great weakness of the liberal understanding of ‘the political’ is that it neglects the inherent function played by power and conflicts of power in the struggle for HR. (C. Askheim)

**: This happens largely by conflating the political discourse with the moral discourse, through the reduction of political questions to mere technical issues to be solved by experts. (C. Mouffe)

***: The theorists who want to eliminate passion from politics and argue that democratic politics should be understood only in terms of reason, moderation and consensus building show their lack of understanding of the dynamics of ‘the political’. (C. Mouffe)

 

  1. Mind you, no politician ever is the worst; no one ever is. For every bad leader, there is a worse one. (Except Adolf Hitler, perhaps.) As the ancient Romans would have said: “Sweet and fitting it is to lie for the fatherland.” (Uri Avneri) Truth can have many versions, especially when lies aren’t challenged. (Jerome Koenig)

 

  1. When consensus agreement is reached among politicians in opposing political matters, it is usually because something or someone (claim holders?) is/are left out. This unfortunately also is the ideological picture of many a negotiation in the UN –so painfully clearly when it comes to HR matters. (C. Mouffe)

 

Way too often, political parties of the left have evolved into mere electoral machines. (Albino Gomez)

 

  1. Traditional political parties have become more and more centered around personalities rather than around ideas and vision. They have lost the classical structure of party affiliation, increasingly becoming movements of public opinion, with campaigns closer to ‘brand launching’ than to political programs. A true democratic consensus is largely missing. As a result, democracy as a concept is becoming brittle and, certainly, HR are getting schortschrift. Should we, for instance, not agree that ethnic fears and greed are not pillars for democracy? Worse, a growing number of citizens are showing to be ready to accept a non-democratic system. Projecting this to the international sphere, what is clear is that we do not have even a minimum system of global governance. [Just ask yourself: Would it be possible today to adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?] (Roberto Savio)

 

  1. It is time to realize that political disaffection with traditional political parties is not only increasing xenophobic and right wing parties, but also sapping the prestige of democracy as an undisputed modern value. In times of crisis, people are more interested in their security and work, than who is in power. Many traditional voters for the left, like workers and the unemployed, now vote for the right wing parties, and believe their promises of going back to the golden past. They are no longer interested in ideologies or political visions. They think that right and left does not exist any more. They are disillusioned with the classical party system, and they are ready to try anything new, anything that is not part of the establishment. The real problem thus is that we are in a crisis of political vision –lest of a HR vision. When ideologies are discarded as relics, and the following step is to adopt pragmatism as a solution, in fact you are making of politics a collection of ad-hoc solutions, without any final view of the society; each action is chosen as the most useful for that specific issue. That is not pragmatism; it is mere utilitarianism, one that downgrades policy to administration. Democracy is under attack, not only from ISIS and terrorism, but also from leaders elected by their citizens. In Marxists terms, this means that people have lost their sense of class and they, therefore, do not resent inequality as they did before. And this means that the political class does not feel inequality and HR are crucial issues. It is not by chance that the term ‘social justice’ has disappeared from the political debate. But how long will this last?* (R. Savio)

*: Both justice and injustice share one thing: the need for authority and sometimes (especially in the case of injustice) for force to be applied. (A. Gomez)

 

Of political terms, tasks and momentum in human rights work

 

When economics has ceased to strengthen social bonds and its prescriptions are actually further pauperizing millions, it is time to start thinking in political terms again. This is one of my cherished iron laws.

 

  1. To make the HR framework and approach concrete and giving it substance is a political task. Their enforcement and holding governments accountable for their HR records can only be achieved through political action. Soft approaches will not do. This is why targeting social interventions from the top down, as we still so often see, badly misrepresents complex realities, involves big costs in monitoring and destroys the political momentum for critically needed structural changes.

 

Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City

schuftan@gmail.com

 

Postscript/Marginalia

-The pursuit of unending power ultimately reveals an inferiority complex. (M. Fernandez)

-Certain politicians suffer with special intensity the divorce between words and facts. When they say yes, they do no. When they say more or less, they do less than more. So, facts and words never encounter each other. When in positions of power, politicians are trained to lie. They are trained to accept lies as a way of life. (adapted from Eduardo Galeano)

-Not being facetious, the secret of political success is sincerity; once you can fake that, you’ve got it made. (anonymous)

-If you tell the truth it will not be necessary to remember; lies, you have to keep in your memory to avoid contradicting yourself. (A. Gomez)

-More than ever before, we need overt political interventions, simply because economic violence is best counteracted by political antibodies backed by counter-power, and what the people’s movements around the world want is simply ‘More’, More from life, More from history and More from us.

 

Note: I am the first to recognize that the Human Rights Readers are often repetitive. But not so in a mechanical way! Repetition in the Readers is rather through emphasizing the same point from different angles and perspectives. It is my experience that this is the way for HR concepts to ’sink-in’ so that you, the reader, begin using these concepts in your interaction with others. That, I see, is the ultimate goal in action-oriented HR learning.

Reimagining Social Medicine Conference – April 2016

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We would like to invite you to participate in the highly-anticipated upcoming conference, “Reimagining Social Medicine: Transformative Education and Social Action for Health Equity,” that will take place April 30th, 2016 on the Twin Cities campus of the University of Minnesota.  The conference will provide a forum for engaged, global conversation on understanding and responding to the social determinants of health, which heavily shape societal health outcomes throughout the world.  Social medicine, a discipline with a rich and storied history of efforts to address the social determinants of health, promotes health equity by integrating the voice and vote of patients, families and communities, taking a multidisciplinary approach that involves social science, ensuring an equity agenda, and using deep understanding of local context to inform global policy.  In the spirit of global dialogue, we will be joined by international guests from Uganda, Rwanda, Lebanon, Haiti, and Zimbabwe, who will share their vision and insights on pursuing health equity.

The program will include participation from world-renowned:

  • Dr. Paul Farmer (Founder of Partners in Health),
  • Dr. Joia Mukherjee (Medical Director of Partners of Health and University of Minnesota Medical School alumnus),
  • Dr. Sande Ojara (SocMed/St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor in Gulu, Uganda),
  • Dr. Paul Pierre (Deputy Chief Medical Officer Partners in Health),
  • Dr. Grace Akello (Lecturer at Gulu University),
  • Dr. Ed Ehlinger (Minnesota Commissioner of Health),
  • Dr. Heidi Behforouz (Director of Innovation at Martin Luther King Outpatient Center),
  • Dr. Fitzhugh Mullan (Murdock Head Professor of Medicine and Health Policy, Professor of Pediatrics, and Co-Director of the George Washington University Health Workforce Institute),
  • Dr. George Thibault (President of the Macy Foundation and Federman Professor, Emeritus at Harvard Medical School)
  • Ms. Angella Namwase (SocMed Alum and Intern Nurse)

Amongst other international leaders and practitioners from Uganda, Rwanda, Haiti, and Zimbabwe.

In addition, smaller breakout sessions on topics such as “Social Medicine in the Clinic: Narrative Medicine and the Social History,” “Transformative Models of Social Medicine Education,” and “Bridging Clinic and Community: Action to Address the Social Determinants of Health” will be offered.

SocMed (www.socmedglobal.org) and EqualHealth (www.equalhealth.org), two non-profit organizations with extensive experience training health professionals on the social determinants of health, are leading this effort in partnership with the University of Minnesota Global Health Pathway.  The Macy Foundation (www.macyfoundation.org), dedicated to improving the health of the public through health professional training, is providing significant financial support for this event.

Registration is now open at https://www.tickets.umn.edu/northrop/online/article/socmedsymposium. Additionally, more information about the conference may be found at socialmedicineconsortium.org/conferencedetails.

 

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