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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 – 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

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


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Human rights: What is behind the food for thought series


Human Rights Reader 400


#: I apologize for this gender insensitive quote that became the title.


[Every 50 Readers, I try to write a Reader about the Readers and their relationship to me, the compiler. Here is what I have to add today].


-For over ten years, I have been painstakingly focusing on the brutal human-rights violations and exploring some alternatives and, in the process, building up a loyal audience.

-For a blogger, doing means words since language, we can safely say, is also a form of action. (Geoffrey Cannon, Albino Gomez)


  1. As a Chinese proverb says: “The only words that have a right to exist are those that are better than silence”. True. But mind that not all words tell; not all silences hide. (A. Gomez)


  1. I firmly believe in our freedom of conscience. I believe I have not only the right, but also the duty to contradict, to criticize, to put in doubt; and, yes, also to coincide with that that I agree-with, but also to say no. (Eduardo Galeano)


  1. I read and travel and think and write. I have had an intercourse with the world, a special intercourse that, as a writer, I want to bring to my readers, not only to ponder, but also to enjoy.


  1. When I write these Readers, I try to say straight forwardly what I think (and what I am), but somehow I do not say what I do not think (and what I am not). …Come to think of it, maybe none of you is too interested in either (A. Gomez) …But somehow I continue writing them anyway.


  1. You know? Marguerite Duras had it right: The writer is a strange fellow. To write is also not to talk; it is shutting-up and doing much listening. Writing is a type of solitude.


  1. What, to me, the Readers are:


  • The Human Rights Readers (HRRs) mainly focus on ideas, which include concepts and principles. They are supposed to spark and shape your inquisitiveness. They are supposed to inspire and present different conclusions from evidence I collect. (G. Cannon)
  • The Readers are intended to be an echo and a revival of the human rights (HR) concepts that it repeatedly stirs. That these concepts are not always new, makes them all the more profound; old concepts can and do achieve a new incarnation.
  • The Readers try to engage in a campaign against empty ‘inflatio-wordiness’? (E. Galeano)
  • The purpose of the Readers is to stimulate thinking and awareness. They provide a view on global issues, often citing items that have already been published in other media, but always clearly attributed.
  • The Readers provide provocative material always hoping that you will react.
  • The Readers observe with dismay the current tragic decline in appealing and workable global perspectives. (Roberto Savio)
  • Through the pages of the Readers, I do intend to sometimes be irreverent and impertinent –or the Readers would not be.
  • The Readers attempt to attune to what Susan Kelleher calls the ‘erogenous zones of a readership’ searching for substance and relevance amid a sea of online chatter and bullpoop.
  • The Readers present ‘the other side of the debate to technological and sectoral approaches to development’ –always striving to expand the awareness on the depth, complexity and resilience of combating HR violations. In a neo-liberal sense, I guess, I could perhaps simply be accused of taking-controversial-ideas-to-market. (From HRR 80)
  • Ultimately, the HRRs are a mixture of political conviction, flair, and addressing good stories. Professional, yes, but (unfortunately) not written to be consumed by grassroots people, like workers or peasants. Instead, the Readers try to hear their voices; not only to speak about reality, but also to criticize reality in an effort to raise political consciousness. (E. Galeano)


  1. But, the above said, I do recognize that every act of writing entails some inevitable exercise in duplicity and I am not immune to it. (Ariel Dorfman)


  1. What, to me, the Readers are not:


  • They are not timelessly true or false but, in practice, and depending on the case, more or less timeless, relevant, useful and/or convincing. (G. Cannon)
  • The Readers are also not directed to gain praises, but rather to bare testimony. (E. Mounier)


[If you have reached this point of this Reader, it means that you are committed to a better world, and you are an unusual reader. According to a study from UNESCO, only 3% of the world population can read 5.000 words of abstract materials, without giving up. It also means that you have some commitment probably to issues that I have left out. It would be the most positive result of reading my writings if you would make an effort and think about your commitments. I aim to provide what you, by any criteria, need to know about where we are in the world. (R. Savio) You are not paying to read these words –or you are paying, indirectly, through your attention –and I have been blessed to be allowed to enter so many of your heads with my scribbling. (J. Biggs)].


The older I am, the more I like my defects (Isabel Allende)


Or, the older I get, the better I was…?


  1. The further I go when I write, the sort of lonelier I become. At the end, I have learned that it is better like that and that I have to defend that solitude, because that way I work better –and time flies…and, if I let time go by, I feel I am committing a sin for which there is no way back. (Leonardo Padura)


  1. I am sure this happens to some of you as well –and may be, or not be, a defect: When re-writing a Reader, it becomes a different one to me; if I publish the same elsewhere it becomes yet another.* (Jorge Luis Borges)

*: Or facetiously: “I cannot write five words without changing seven”. (Dorothy Parker)

  1. Can I, at some point, ask: Does HR rhetoric (i.e., ‘rights talk’) begin to do more harm than good (including to you)? I would say NO; no more harm than good; not enough good, yes (but then, what is enough…?).  The question actually refers to the dichotomy between direct action and only contributing to create strategic credibility and motivation.** What I mean is that, as my readers, and many like you, you have to learn to stop turning the other cheek. (William Bloom)

**: The closest I personally get to direct action is my People’s Health Movement work. I left my native Chile after the coup (long, long ago) and have been an ‘uprooted foreigner’ in the US, Kenya and now in Vietnam ever since so that my chances for involvement in direct action are limited and even dangerous (given my more radical views). So the HR rhetoric of the Readers is the avenue I use. How much does it rub off? Am I reaching 3500+ already converts that receive the Readers? Not sure. (Do not think this does not go through my mind…).  From the feedback I get, the Readers are influencing some. If they use it for direct action I cannot tell –but I sure call for it every chance I have. So this is the short answer to a relevant thorny question. My aim is direct action by claim holders demanding their rights. The process is slow and I always say we are going 2 steps forwards and 1 3/4 backwards…. But if we were not there, it would be worse… Is the younger generation picking up? (We are getting old, you know? I just turned 70). I want to think yes. In PHM we certainly have a breed of new cadres.


I do not search, I find (Pablo Picasso).


-I am what I remember, but I also am what I forget.

-I prefer to cause somebody uneasiness by telling the truth than causing admiration by telling lies. (Mafalda)

-What I do want to express must be said with clarity.

-About that-what-you-cannot-talk-about, it is better not to insist and to keep quiet. (Ludwig Wittgenstein)


  1. To me, being busy finding material is not the same as being productive. It is the difference between running on a treadmill and running to a destination; they are both running, but being busy is running in place.*** (Peter Bregman)

***: The constant sending and receiving of emails has turned us into mere ‘human routers’, making for shallow work habits and keeping us from any kind of deep thinking. Our work culture’s shift toward the shallow calls for resisting this trend and for prioritizing greater depth and to produce at a higher rate –while hopefully rarely working past 6 p.m. during the workweek: Leisure time sharpens you…


  1. Do I find suffering in my inquiries? Indeed, a lot. And I am interested in it. Not that I have a soft spot for victims. But most people prefer to divert their gaze at suffering –I stare at it. Suffering has things to tell me –and I can even lend a hand, so I do stare.**** I do not, therefore, live in a state of indifference –not as the writer of the Readers anyway. Being inquisitive and then provocative is not only for the more progressive and radical essayists or bloggers –it is a necessity for all of us– and is not a shame!***** (Philip Roth)

****: Let it be said that spending a week or two in a place where everybody is oppressed and miserable is indeed an eye opener.

*****: Every time I respond to the question about our future, I try to avoid being either highly pessimistic or superficially optimistic. I try to adopt what I consider a realistic position recognizing that in the last few years we have achieved significant progress in the struggle for justice. But, at the same time, I recognize that we still have much to do and many challenges to overcome. We need new ideas that will allow us to implement action programs to end discrimination. One of these ideas is what I call the myth of time. There are individuals that purport that only time can resolve the problems of injustice and discrimination; “you have to give time a chance”, we are told. Too often, we further hear “have patience; in 30 or 50 years the problem will solve itself”. This myth about giving problems time is something that invariably comes up. The only response that I have for this myth is that time is neutral; it can be used constructively, but also destructively. And, in all honesty, I have to say that the forces hostile to our cause have used time in a much more clever way than the constructive forces have done. In our generation, we have had not only to lament the use of empty promises and of violence by bad people, but also to lament the terrible silence and indifference of good people that have not reacted and tend to say: “Time will resolve it”. At some point, it is necessary to recognize that human progress has never come from the inevitability of history; progress comes from the tireless effort and persistent work of dedicated individuals that have the drive to stick their necks out. Without that type of work, time works as an ally of the forces of social status-quo. We must, therefore, ‘help time’ and realize that it always is the right time to do the right thing. It is crucial to understand this. (Martin Luther King)


I often fear that these Readers may be coming through as lecturing rather than informing and providing action-oriented food for thought


  1. I further fear that the Readers content may sometimes suffer when the rhetoric is hot. But one thing is clear: I do not shy away from polemics when discussing the major issues related to the politics of HR. I am undeniably controversial, but, then, trying to break down common beliefs, especially if inaccurate or blinding, is always fraught with controversy. As much as I can, I try to look beyond one-sided and narrow explanations so as to gain and share a stronger understanding.


  1. Sometimes it helps to end an essay with a quote that sums up one’s position. Here is one from the English philosopher Bertrand Russell that defines my position. This is what he said: “A man without a bias cannot write interesting history –if indeed such a man exists.”****** (Quoted by Yash Tandon)

******: Sometimes people ask me, “What is the greatest achievement you have reached in your lifetime or that you will reach in the future?” So I reply that there was a great painter named Mordecai Ardon, who was asked which picture was the most beautiful he had ever painted. Ardon replied, “The picture I will paint tomorrow.” That is also my answer. (Quoted by Eric Friedman)


  1. Bottom line: All the good and wise in the Readers comes from others; that of lesser importance is mine.


Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City



-Like Ulysses, I think that I am only a part of my own history and that, most probably, others are more than what I am myself. And this is a humbling thought… (H. Tizon)

-People who specialize in ‘the life of ideas’ tend to be extremely atypical of their societies. They –we– are freaks in a statistical sense. For generations, populists of various kinds have argued that intellectuals are unworldly individuals out of touch with the experiences and values of most of their fellow citizens, especially those rendered poor. Intellectuals are actually even more exclusive in practice, because the children of the rich and affluent are over-represented among intellectuals. By the standards of the larger society, intellectuals tend to be unusually individualistic. In the social sciences, intellectuals –be they professors, experts, self-proclaimed gurus, or policy making duty bearers– tend to be both biased and unaware of their own bias. Could they be accused of representing ‘bourgeois scholarship’? It may not hurt if, as a condition of career advancement, every professor, opinion journalist, and foundation expert (among other), had to spend a year or two working in a farmers market, construction site, hospital, or warehouse. Our out-of-touch-intelligentsia might there learn some lessons that cannot be obtained from books and seminars alone. (Michael Lind) Intellectuals and experts on tap, but not on top! (Colin Tudge)

-Free are those that create, not those who copy; free are those who think, not those who are obedient; to teach is to teach how to doubt. (E. Galeano)

-In now 400 Readers, over a period of 12+ years I have learned that “whenever someone agrees with me in some respect and disagrees with me in another, I have to rush into print to make clear the difference.” (H. J. Morgenthau, B. Russel)

-By opening the gates of publishing to all, the internet has flattened hierarchies everywhere they exist. We no longer live in a world in which elites or accredited experts are able to dominate conversations about complex or contested matters. Politicians cannot rely on the aura of office to persuade, newspapers cannot assert the superior integrity of their stories. It is not clear that this change is, overall, a boon for the public realm. But in areas where self-proclaimed experts have a track record of getting it wrong, it is hard to see how it could be worse. If ever there was a case that an information democracy, even a very messy one, is preferable to an information oligarchy, then the challenge of getting it right is to place the HR framework at the very center of such a direct democracy. (Ian Leslie)


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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


Breaking News: All HR Readers, from No.1 on, are now available in my new website



-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:
If any problems accessing this link, you might try 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


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Human Rights: Food for the urgent application of a thought


Human Rights Reader 398


At the moment, consensus is lacking on how the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can succeed in environments of disparate governance, especially given the history of failure of almost all states to adopt a human rights-based approach, as well as to foster genuine participatory politics and ‘direct democracy’ alternatives. (Fortunate Machingura)


A quick look back


  1. In the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) we did engage, yes …and, by so doing, we fell into a trap.* The burning question thus now is: What room is there left for us now and what spaces do we not want to miss that are opening for us for immediate, more effective action?

*: Take an example: Did the MDGs change trends in child mortality? In all truth, there has been little assessment of the role the MDGs have had in progressing this international development indicator. A 41% reduction in the under-five mortality rate worldwide from 1990 to 2011 has been reported, as well as an acceleration in the rate of reduction since 2000. But why did this occur? Results analyzed for all developing countries indicate that it is not due to more healthcare or public health interventions, but is driven by a concomitant burst of economic growth. Although the MDGs are considered to have played an important part in securing progress against poverty, hunger and disease, there is very little evidence to back up this viewpoint. A thorough human rights-based analysis of the successes and failures of the MDGs is therefore necessary (and sadly still missing and/or ignored) before embarking on a new round of global goals as those proposed in the SDGs. (Declan French)


  1. To some, it would be more appropriate to refer to the MDGs as the Millennium Development Wishes. Why? Because, other than taking the human rights (HR) dimension for granted, the agreement left entirely unspecified who was to do what. So, if no clear division of labor is specified for achieving the SDGs, there is a real danger that any failures will be blamed on the poorest countries. This is exactly what happened during the MDGs era. (Thomas Pogge)


Cynics will say that international agreements are unenforceable; they are right


  1. Agreements such as the SDGs or the Climate Agreement appeal to humanity’s better angels, but are subjected to national self-interested demons. The question is whether they strengthen resolve, clarify pathways, spur global responsibility, promote initiatives or end up more likely providing the free riding opportunities that so often characterize global cooperation which is big on lip service and short on binding commitments. (Jeffrey Sachs)


  1. We know: Cheery declarations are made in pompous summits knowing that the same are just the beginning of a process, when future progress is actually what it is all about. (But we are told we must be ‘optimistic’…). This is primarily because those political/diplomatic actors ooze confidence that markets will play a forceful positive, correcting role. But as long as these mostly Northern leaders expect the market to do its job, citizen disaffection will (and does) grow and human rights violations will (do) continue unabated.** (Roberto Savio)

**: Be reminded that it is all about social justice, not about an artificially and maliciously thrusted-upon-us ‘market justice’. (Claudia Gonzalez)


  1. The prestigious journal The Lancet went so far as to say: “The SDGs are fairy tales dressed in the bureaucratese of intergovernmental narcissism, adorned with the robes of multilateral paralysis and poisoned by the acid of nation state failure. Yet this is served up as our future”. (Richard Horton) Ultimately, the SDGs only reflect the consensus by193 nations in a way that ‘balances’ interests in an exercise of compromises that reflect the perennial uneven power imbalance reality in a world of haves and have-less (or have-nots).


  1. The problem is that the SDGs are toothless, and are undermined by their devotion to growth along present models. The SDGs explicitly and unapologetically refuse to take the needed steps to address the fallacies of this model and are careful to (not unintentionally) shun needed deep, structural transformations. Public interest civil society and social movements are clear that the SDGs represent neither the people’s ambitions nor their HR concerns. They are not just inadequate, they are dangerous; they will lock in the global development agenda for the next fifteen years around a failing economic model that requires urgent and deep structural changes. (J. Hickel)


  1. What does it really mean to ‘leave no one behind’, as the SDGs proclaim?***

Communities are not forgetfully left behind! It is the neoliberal policies that systematically exclude them. (Warda Rina)


  • The GDP may well have grown in many places, but inequality grew as well. Some member states agreed to the SDGs agenda reluctantly, and in subsequent negotiations there has been a lot of push-back and backtracking by them. For instance, financing negotiations seem to be going back to business as usual. Actually, if some of what is on the table right now goes through, it will create direct obstacles to achieving the SDGs. (Barbara Adams)
  • Furthermore, quite a few UN panels are being steered by corporate interests and are not-a-bit inclusive. (Sandra Vermuyten)
  • Laws of countries, from the U.S. to European countries, are giving more rights to corporations than to human beings. (Chee Yoke Ling)
  • Justified apprehensions are coming back as a deja-vu: Some countries did not start implementing the MDGs in earnest until 10 years after the goals were adopted. If no action is taken in the first 1,000 days of the SDGs –in other words, in the first three years up to September 2018– then governments and all of us (more than) risk leaving people behind and failing to achieve certain goals altogether (mostly those related to HR!). The world simply cannot afford delays that threaten the chances of achieving the SDGs. (ODI)

***: If we are talking about slogans, this one must be linked with another slogan, namely nothing about us without us. Moreover, the strong and urgent commitment to ensure that ‘no one is left behind’ can only be realized if equally ‘no HR is left behind’. (Stefano Prato)


  1. Let me share with you what I think are Thomas Pogge’s iron laws about the SDGs:


  • The approved SDGs discourse really only invites an incremental approach to overcoming deprivations: “We have a certain distance to traverse, and so we set off toward our destination and approach it step-by-step”. The HR discourse, by contrast, suggests that the corresponding violations must be ended right away (or in an agreed, binding progressive realization plan).
  • In fact, the reductions seen during the MDGs would have been much more substantive if the income gains had not been so heavily concentrated at the very top of the global income distribution. It is indisputable that, to put it mildly, governments have failed to ‘spare no effort’ to reduce severe deprivations during the MDGs period.
  • In UN-speak, ending deprivations right now means (a) that we must aim for the full eradication of these deprivations, (b) that we ought to approach this objective in a continuous manner (without backsliding) and (c) that we may take as much time as we deem reasonable to complete the task progressively, but decisively, if needed.
  • Neither the fact that hunger and poverty were even worse in earlier times, nor the anticipated fact that undernutrition and poverty will one day be eradicated, must be allowed to detract from the moral HR imperative so softly expressed in the SDGs. (The eradication of slavery and of severe poverty are a morally relevant comparison…The worldwide eradication of severe poverty is possible today, so we must eradicate it now, as fast and as thoroughly as we possibly can. The absolute same was true for the abolition of slavery: acting could not wait).
  • The progressive realization of HR notwithstanding, once we recognize a HR not to be enslaved, we must not make a 15-year plan aiming to halve the number of slaves or aiming to reduce floggings by half. (Similarly, once we recognized a human right violation to be done away with, we must not make a 15-year plan “to halve the killing rate at Nazi concentration camps…”).
  • Never in human history has severe poverty been so easily and completely eradicable as in the present period. (Reads like a cliché, but is’nt) That we continue to perpetuate it through national and supranational institutional arrangements that are massively skewed in favor of the rich shows the great moral and political failing of our (and past!) generation(s), of governments and citizens alike.
  • The morally and politically required response is to recognize these deprivations as massive HR violations that we must stop, at once, by implementing institutional reforms at the national and especially the supranational level.
  • At the very center of the SDGs is the Right to Development and the internationalization of responsibilities pertaining to HR.
  • If the world’s most influential agents had been held sufficiently accountable for what they owe toward making sustainable development work, the concepts of plain level partnerships and universalism would have been more meaningful, rather than what they are now likely to become: a smokescreen for perpetuating global inequalities.
  • All we have is a long list of Sustainable Development Wishes along with the pious hope that economic growth and charitable activities will move things far enough in the right direction.
  • The full realization of HR requires a massive roll-back of international and intra-national inequalities, which the SDGs fail to call for, much less demand. There is no explicit reference to reducing inequality within and among countries outside of Goal 10 of the SDGs.
  • Moral concerns are easily dismissed as naïve in the context of the jungle of international relations where each state prioritizes its own interests, power and often survival.
  • As international rules and policies gain in influence and increasingly reflect the interests of global elites, economic inequalities mount and the HR, needs, interests and voices of those rendered poor are increasingly marginalized and easily disregarded.
  • We tend to look at the trends, and invariably find that things have become better than they had been before. But such comparisons are wholly out of place when HR are the issue!
  • In this regard, the SDGs fail by shielding the world’s most powerful agents from any concrete responsibilities for achieving the new goals, when, given their wealth and influence, they ought to be taking the lead in providing the needed resources for sustainable development and in implementing systemic institutional reforms that address the root causes of poverty.
  • The assembled governments in Geneva and New York wished that the HR of those rendered poor would be realized, but they put forth no plan for contributing to this realization, thus effectively entrusting this task to the vagaries of charity and economic growth.

Just consider


  1. To be fair, the SDGs would need to commit to setting and measuring poverty at closer to U$7.40/cap/day (the ethical poverty line, adjusted to 2011 Purchasing Power Parity), and hunger at closer to the normal physical activity threshold by gender and age (or, alternatively, using a survey-based methodology). Anything less than this will result in a misleading assessment of the problem and in inaccurate reports about progress. The SDGs will thus need to include monitoring mechanisms to prevent the kind of statistical manipulation that has compromised the MDGs. Basically, the SDGs want to reduce inequality by ratcheting the poor up, but while leaving the wealth and power of the ‘global 1%’ of the richest intact; they cynically want the best of both worlds. They irresponsibly fail to accept that mass impoverishment is the product of extreme wealth accumulation and overconsumption by a few that, along the way, bring with them processes of marginalization, extraction, and exploitation. You cannot solve the problem of poverty without challenging the pathologies of accumulation. (J. Hickel)


  1. Some states, foreign aid and private philanthropy actors are already ‘cherry-picking’ goals and targets in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and are totally overlooking the HR perspective. Rather than treating all 17 Goals in the 2030 Agenda on equal footing to protect the most marginalized and vulnerable populations and to improve their situation, we are already witnessing some goals getting more support than others. Addressing individual SDG goals (17 of them) and targets (169 of them) is not intended to replace international HR obligations. (Stefano Prato)


  1. In the same vein, the private sector’s contribution to the SDGs agenda must take place with due regard to its responsibility to do no harm and to respect HR, i.e., their agenda must, in no way, become the-perfect-excuse to give less priority to their binding human rights obligations.**** (UNHCR)

****: For instance, as regards the right to food, the SDGs unavoidably will give priority to the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Initiative…. ( This can realistically be foreseen and little we can do about it despite the many-times-pointed-out conflicts of interest the role of the private sector plays in it and in the forthcoming Decade of Action for Nutrition. The question is: Do we really, politically, want this? Will it open space for HR? Funds will go to Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) and multistakeholder platforms and we can guess that this will not necessarily open spaces for HR.


Only participation and accountability from below (bottom-centered) will make the SDGs relevant for all.


  1. The effective implementation of the SDGs depends on it being consistent with the overarching commitment to HR. This includes accountability, non-discrimination and equality, notably gender equality —and clear consideration of the primacy of claim holders demanding States’ uphold their HR obligations. (Stefano Prato)


  1. What we further need is to tackle head-on the irrationality of endless growth, pointing out that capitalist growth–as measured by GDP– is not the solution to poverty and the ecological crisis, but rather the primary cause. And we need a saner measure of human progress –one that gears us not towards more extraction and consumption by the world’s elite, but towards more fairness, more equality, more fulfilled HR, more wellbeing, more sharing –to the benefit of the vast majority of humanity. The SDGs fail us on this. They offer to tinker with the global economic system in a well-meaning bid to make it all seem a bit less violent. But this is not a time for tinkering. (J. Hickel)


  1. The 2030 Agenda –as the SDGs are also, in my view, distortingly addressed as– is already experiencing significant attempts to coopt and ‘domesticate’ civil society’s engagement by fully aligning its agenda to that of the SDGs and undermining any attempts to promote (valid) dissent. This calls for a more sophisticated strategy of resistance and proactivity, one that engages with the process without accepting its limitations and pushes for a level of ambition that is far beyond the currently framed objectives and targets. The current means of SDGs implementation will simply not provide the necessary instruments and resources to advance the aspirations and the depth of transformation that progressive public interest civil society and social movements need to foster. This fundamentally means that these groups cannot limit themselves to the monitoring of the currently framed SDG targets and financial commitments made (or not made) so far, as these are largely inadequate (even if achieved) to support the extent of economic, social and political changes that we collectively aspire to. Hence the need to establish a far more ambitious progressive agenda that raises the bar with respect to the existing level of commitment. (Stefano Prato)


Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City


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:
If any problems accessing this link, you might try 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.
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Human rights: Food for a committed leader’s thought


Human Rights Reader 397


-I do not have enough energy to surrender. (Luis Manzano, peasant activist in Chile)

-Critics who use their words to hide their cowardice of being in the front and making a difference are of no help in human rights activism. (Shula Koenig) On the other hand, there are honest leaders that promise nothing, but silently perform and do have deeds to show for. (Albino Gomez)


  1. Let me start with a caveat: Human rights activists are indeed vulnerable to others’ expressed preferences, ideologies, correct or false perceptions, knowledge and/or ignorance. They must thus be aware that they are vulnerable to taking society’s conventions, policies and hierarchies at not-really-face-value; they must analyze them with care before adopting any of them. (K. Brownlee)


  1. A further distinction that activists must rightfully make is when they see that recommendations are coming from a technocratic-academic- ‘pragmatic’ left rather than from a social-movements-left, i.e., from the electoral-left as opposed to the social movements left. The latter incorporates alternative visions of development and human rights (HR) that are not just symbolic statements, but rather things that can and will be operationalized. This is a trend HR activists are seeing particularly regarding indigenous movements; they do no longer see these movements’ inputs as something symbolic, but as something that needs to be put into practice. From the latter movements absence in the main HR discourse emerged a common slogan in the indigenous movement, namely: ‘From Protest to Proposal’. It embodies the idea that they are no longer protesting policies they disagree with, but are putting forward concrete proposals; this is now the driver. (Marc Becker)


Is utopia the principle of all human rights progress and of the design of a better future? (Anatole France)


In the words of Alfred Adler: “It is easier to struggle for a set of principles than to uncritically live by them”.


  1. I am not sure if utopia is the principle, but only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. (T.S. Eliot) This is one of the reasons why a true leader is s/he who does no longer complain. This is also why true HR activists are the ones who fail the most …because they are the ones who try the most.*

*: Beware: You actually need a lot of bad ideas in order to get a few good ones. (Adam Grant) “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work”. (Thomas A. Edison)


  1. In practice, an activist must foresee that which does not yet exist. S/he has to imagine a future others cannot yet perceive, interpreting reality and making it even more vivid and lasting. (David Ebershoff) Yes, but there also comes the moment for activists when actuality eventually triumphs over their dream(s)… (Philip Roth)


  1. Per aspera ad astra or Ad astra per aspera is a Latin phrase that means any of the following: ‘Through hardships to the stars’ or ‘A rough road leads to the stars’. This is why those who embark in big projects to benefit HR must be prepared to face tiresome delays, painful disilusionments and offensive insults –and, what is even worse, the judgment of presumptuous ignorants. (Edmund Burke, 1729-1797)


  1. So, do HR activists need to become skillful in several ways by, for example, ‘staging creative and provocative acts of civil disobedience’, ‘intelligently escalating our demands once a mobilization is underway’, and/or ‘making sure that short-term cycles of disruption contribute to furthering longer-term goals’? (Mark and Paul Engler) Depending on circumstances, perhaps yes. But, nevertheless, HR activists must question the dubious assumption coming from the mass protests tradition that sheer numbers will win the day. The ‘numbers obsession’ leads to mass marches with big drama instead of starting a campaign with smaller numbers, less drama and more planning –to then win. Some Occupy Wall Street leaders saw the opportunity of disrupting the ‘One percent’ at a small political cost. But, as we know, the prevailing culture of Occupy prevented building a lasting and enduring mass movement –so far. (George Lakey)


  1. Moreover, the traditional political structures have failed us in HR. Nothing new there. So, understandably, there is widespread discontent. The challenge for moving discontent-with-this forward has, by default, fallen on ‘civil society’ –a somewhat nebulous entity. Certainly, ‘public interest’ civil society can play a radical role, as we have seen in the case of the Occupy movement and other contemporary mass mobilizations. But, beware, such mass actions can also easily play a conservative role by appeasing or placating discontent by then opting for various state-funded welfare initiatives. There is no obvious litmus test to decide what the best HR role for public interest civil society is. (Matthew Anderson)


  1. Umberto Eco rightfully said that getting social networks mobilized to demand gives the task to their leaders to talk to legions of disaffected men who previously only talked small talk with no relevance to their communities in bars with a glass of beer or wine in their hands. (Choose your own equivalent venue for women…).


Activists-led direct actions are seen in all effective public interest civil society organizations and social movements


Not surprisingly, these Readers always make a strong pitch for activism as the most reliable foundation for analysis, prescription …and direct action.


  1. Do HR activists really combine penetrating research, formidable intelligence, incremental information, and direct action? (Intelligence not in the sense as used in the Central Intelligence Agency…) Actually, no. But, as the most effective operators within the HR movement, they seek contacts with everybody who counts and seems to be respected and even recognized by their most aggressive adversaries. This is a lesson taught in different ways by Gandhi and by Mandela, as well as equally historically by the fights for universal suffrage. Direct action does not have to involve breaking current law, but it often does, when, at times, the latter is unreasonable and unfair. So, should all HR organizations that want to make a difference remain reasonable? Would they then contribute to the problems they seek to solve? (Geoffrey Cannon)


  1. Conventional wisdom artificially erects a high wall between scholarship and activism. (But the era of scholar activism is here…). The same conventional wisdom makes us believe that the terrorists are always those resisting control by the established political order, and never those that are exercising authority oppressively and violating HR with impunity. Consequently, governments give much more weight to relationships that bolster their security capabilities than they do to matters of international morality, HR, equality and law. (adapted from Richard Falk)


  1. Let me predict: When actively joining the ranks of HR activism, you are setting yourself up (fortunately so, for us already in it) to add yourself to the growing contingent of mentors of the upcoming generation. This, so that our youth
  • not only better understands, but practices solidarity, the respect for mother earth and regains faith in the future, as well as
  • rescues and revalorizes the collective hope in HR so badly lacking right now when consumerism, social media, individualism, extractivism, impunity of HR violations and injustice reign supreme. (Eduardo Espinoza)


  1. Yes, our criticism has become sharper and our demands have grown. But we still face a great deal of atomization that separates us into too many small groups to make collective action successful, i.e., making a substantive difference. We are still fragmented. (Alejandro Korn)


This brings this Reader to the thorny issue of the role of NGOs in human rights work, especially international NGOs


We live in a confusing world of public interest NGOs (PINGOs), international NGOs (INGOs), business interest NGOs (BINGOs) and dishonest or ‘briefcase’ NGOs (DINGOs).


  1. Let us embark in a (I recognize partial) reality check:

Fact: The corporatization of civil society has tamed the ambitions of INGOs; too often it has made them agents rather than agitators of the system. (CIVICUS)

Fact: The danger we face through the advocacy carried out by INGOs is one of becoming tools of more sophisticated political actors.

Fact: With the lines between business and politics being blurred, we increasingly see PINGOs voices being relegated to the margins in discussions on the post-2015 agenda and other global matters. (Not so for INGOs). (J. Naidoo)

Fact: INGOs have a hegemonic stranglehold on national civil society’s involvement in international affairs. In that, they pursue interests of their own.

Fact: To some extent, international organizations such as trade unions, farmers or women’s unions provide a counterbalance to INGO dominance IF they are not dominated by their rich world counterparts. Civil society organizations (CSOs) in the global South are too often merely INGOs puppets. What this means is that they do not get the attention and respect they deserve. The systemic predominance of INGOs perpetuates the status quo in the global arena; it actually strengthens it. INGOs supplant the voices and role of those rendered poor in international affairs in various ways. At the root of this power is their funding for southern CSO partners. However well-meaning INGO managers may be, their influence is systemic and too often patronizing. (A. Tujan)

Fact: Some major INGOs continue to approach economic and social rights in ways that do very little to change the marginality of those rights in the development field.

Fact: INGOs want to be seen as ‘whitewater rafts’ instead of ‘supertankers,’ working in the spaces between governments, civil societies and markets, bridging across different geographies and constituencies, and focused on embedding values of equality, sustainability and rights into larger systems: but are they really?*** (Adriano Campolina)

Fact: PICSOs and social movements are basically tired to be treated as ‘allies’ without, de-facto being incorporated in the big decision-making processes.

***: The way I see it, INGOs are too small to be agents of economic transformation; too bureaucratic to be social movements; banned from politics because of their charitable status and structurally removed from the societies they are trying to change. They end up sitting uncomfortably in the middle as the real action takes place around them –doing what they can to save lives, speak-out and build on small successes in the process. For those convinced by the argument that immediate lifesaving is a better option than long term social transformation this strategy may be attractive, but most of the people I talk to inside international agencies are not persuaded. (Michael Edwards)


Progressive public interest civil society organizations and social movements must be recognized and supported as vital partners in achieving the necessary human rights transformations


  1. Especially actors from protest-oriented-social-movements are more effective and transparent in influencing international political processes, so much so that these broad social movements are needed to address delicate power relation issues including those within transnational INGOs. They are thus the ones who rise to the great and urgent challenges humanity is facing. (R. Ranke)


  1. If we take the example of health, a robust public interest civil society can and must fulfill eight essential global health functions. These include:
  • producing compelling moral arguments for action;
  • building coalitions beyond the health sector;
  • introducing novel HR-based (right to health-based) policy alternatives and ensuring these are applied;
  • enhancing the legitimacy of global health initiatives and institutions;
  • strengthening national and local systems for health;
  • enhancing accountability systems; and
  • acting on the commercial determinants of preventable ill-health and malnutrition; (Julia Smith)


NGOs bottom line


  1. INGOs urgently need to focus their efforts much more on advocating for the ‘basic building blocks of HR work’, namely recognition (of HR violations occurring), institutionalization (of HR-based approaches) and accountability (of duty bearers) before delving into the more sophisticated yet vague SDG-proposed techniques for monitoring and promoting economic and social rights that now preoccupy many an international NGO. (Philip Alston)


  1. Moreover:
  • A more robust mutual accountability system among PINGOs working on HR is needed.
  • Organized PINGOs thus needs to go into deep introspection, as well as into truly realigning themselves with people’s needs and their voices so as to rebuild their legitimacy and trust with people.
  • PINGOs thus have to return to the hard, painstaking work of organizing and mobilizing the people, i.,e., unlocking maximum citizens potential, as well as coming up with the tools that will strengthen the struggle for social justice, HR and greater social solidarity. (J. Naidoo)


Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City



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Human rights: Food for a deceivingly measured thought


Human Rights Reader 396

We all know it for long, don’t we?


  1. The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element of so-called democratic societies. Those who manipulate the unseen mechanisms of society constitute an invisible government. In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical [or HR thinking], we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires that control the public mind and policy decisions. (E. Bernays, 1928). This was written in 1928. These days it is not much different: Too often salami-sliced data-dredging dictates policy from spurious evidence. (John Ioannids)


  1. Further consider:
  • When statistics are not based on rigorous and truthful calculations, they lead us along the wrong path instead of pointing us in the right direction. (Alexis de Tocqueville, 1805-1859)
  • Also, Mark Twain (1871-1910) had it right: There are lies, damn lies and then there are statistics.
  • Actually, statistics can be used to mislead without lying, and they have the further advantage of being complicated.
  • Countless organizations and individuals –not only some statisticians– use, and in some cases, manipulate data for some advantage, whether for politics, for prestige or for profit, or for all of the above.*

*: Being a statistician means never having to say you are certain. (Ron Laporte)


  1. Do not take me wrong. I love numbers. They do allow us to get a sense of magnitude, to measure change, to put claims in context. But despite their bold and confident exterior, numbers are delicate things and that is why it is upsetting when they are abused. As we know, politicians often meddle with statistics. Every statistician is familiar with the tedious “Lies, damned lies, and then there is statistics” tease. But this bad habit of some politicians is not so much about lying –since to lie means having some knowledge of the truth– as it is about bullshitting with a carefree disregard of whether the number is appropriate or not. (David Spiegelhalter)


The question is: Who is measuring the measurers?


  1. Scores of people are surveyed to get ‘their’ opinions or priorities. But do they then organize as claim holder groups to demand pertinent changes? No –even if and when they are ever told the results… Surveys typically only come out with ‘suggested recommendations’ that, more often than not, do not help upsetting claim holders enough to move them into action.


  1. Moreover, how often is data collected and used basically to ratify/quantify what claim holders already know empirically? To convince who? Do duty bearers learn something they did not already know or strongly suspected? The corollary here is that a difference could be made if quite a bit of survey and data collection moneys were instead used for community organization and mobilization for HR.


  1. Ask yourself: Do indicators and data on them look at what is the truth or at what is important for top-down decisions? We know that “you find what you look for”. So, on top of misrepresenting reality, do data change certain realities? Even if they do not, it is actually the link between data and action what interests us in HR work –and this is, more often than not, neglected.


  1. Too often, people and entire groups go uncounted for reasons of power: those without power are further marginalized by their exclusion from statistics, while elites resist the counting of their incomes and wealth. As a result, the actual pattern of counting can both reflect and exacerbate existing inequalities. (Alex Cobham)


  1. It is part of the view of the-elites-as-measurers that the existence of vulnerable people is ‘unfortunate’, in good part due to myriad HR violations. But the attitudes, structures and practices that reproduce HR violations and vulnerability are deemed necessary and inevitable to and indeed demonstrably beneficial for the elites, at least in part because they create and reproduce elite status and control. …and all these we never measure. From this perspective, the counting and measuring of vulnerability is useful only if it is used to contribute to change the structures of power irresponsive to HR. (adapted from David Legge)



We more and more see a politically-motivated failure to count what matters.


  1. Being uncounted is not generally a matter of coincidence, but reflects power: the lack of it, or its excess. Why do the SDGs call for ‘Leaving No One Behind’ when we are, in reality, counting ‘Those Who are Left Ahead’? The uncounted are those left at the bottom. (So, how will the SDGs really ‘Leave No One Behind’?) They go uncounted, because of an excess of power that keeps widening the haves/have-nots gap and that condones, among many other, tax abuses of individuals and companies, as well as the financial secrecy provided by privileged jurisdictions (including those of some of the richest that dodge taxes and the rule of law); add to this the hidden criminality of private and public sector corruption that systematically gets swept under the carpet. (Alex Cobham)


  1. Fundamentally, it will be impossible to ensure no one is left behind without taking proactive and timely steps towards achieving targets like addressing discrimination, social exclusion and economic inequality. Inequalities between countries will also need to seriously be reduced, in particular by dismantling the structural, institutional and policy barriers which severely constrain the policy and fiscal space of the poorest countries, where the greatest number of those most at risk of being left behind. (Kate Donald) The corollary here is that we need to add to the SDGs the “Nothing About Us Without Us” principle.


Big data creates false confidence


  1. We often think that politics is the enemy of good data, because we think politics corrupts data, but try generating data without taking politics into account, and it is just a disaster. The same is true for HR. This entrenched belief of unbiased data collection in development practice weakens foreign aid’s potential impacts. This is some of what we see at the global level: Because there is no global government, there is no accountability on the people that produce the global data, so it is always going to be of lower quality/questionable usefulness. (Angus Deaton)


Take home message


  1. There is a limit we face in our understanding of important dimensions of HR issues. Take health care, for instance. We are at a time when health systems are increasingly involving a range of disciplines pretending to use more holistic models to respond to the mix of physical, socioeconomic and environmental factors that lead to preventable ill health and malnutrition. But they are excluding qualitative data vital to a HR perspective and this deprives decision makers of a significant body of knowledge that can indeed inform decision-making on health systems from a badly needed HR perspective. Basically the existing system effectively silences the voices of community members, particularly those who are marginalized –across all countries. Given the multiple factors (including dynamic individual and collective, as well as political and socioeconomic factors) that influence health and the way services are delivered and experienced, it indeed seems to oversimplify reality to give singular dominance to the old maxim that ‘it is what is measured that counts’. This is at the cost of the wider range of lenses that we have to explore and to analyze so as to really understand what counts –HR concerns certainly included. (EQUINET)


Claudio Schuftan, HoChi Minh City



-Communication is not just about what you say, it is about the reaction it causes in the listener.


As you use a smartphone, your smartphone gets smarter, but you get dumber**

-Why are we not digital dissenters? It would figure, since we are constantly distracted. We walk around with our eyes cast down upon our devices. We are rarely fully present anywhere. We concede our privacy. Robots are taking our jobs. Where do humans fit into this new economy? Really not as ‘creators of value’, but as ‘the content’, i.e., we are becoming the content itself. We are the data. We are the media. Techno-skeptics, who we would want to join, want to go back to the basics –to a world where the interests of humans [human rights (HR) included] come before the needs of robots, algorithms, and Silicon Valley. (Washington Post)

**: Our smartphones are merely new and powerful antidepressants of a non-pharmaceutical variety. There is no dark night of the soul anymore that is not lit with the flicker of the screen; but then, there is no morning of hopefulness either. (Andrew Sullivan)

-Despite the above valuable insight from the Washington Post, the media are increasingly reporting events in an elementary manner and, by and large, have abandoned the process of deep analysis, i.e., peering into the structural and human rights causes of human and humanitarian events. (Roberto Savio)



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Human rights: Food for a fabricated thought


Human Rights Reader 395


What is history, but a fable agreed upon? (Peter Hoeg)


Until the lions write their story, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter (Rene Loewenson)


Take Africa: history was written and falsified by colonial ideology.


  1. As a consequence, for the present, we live with no real sense of the true before, with conventional history replacing causality with simultaneity, history with news, memory with silence about human rights (HR). That is how in conventional history atrocities end up being blamed on the victims, while aggressors are decorated for bravery in the struggle against supposed emancipation. Why are thieves portrayed as judges and major political decision makers (without a single moral bone in their bodies) get away in history with disastrous decisions resulting in the most appalling HR consequences? Excesses are made to coexist with unreported dire need and want; destruction is always justified with the imperative of building –no mention of what. Economic interests are the fundament of everything. Public opinion is treated as indistinguishable from the private opinion of those with the power to chronicle and publicize it. Historians have changed the names of things so that these things can eventually skip what they really were. Inequality has been renamed merit; destitution renamed austerity; hypocrisy renamed HR; all-out civil war, humanitarian intervention; mitigated civil war, democracy. War itself has come to be called peace, so that it could go on forever. Praise of someone’s virtues or moral qualities simply ceased to rest on criteria of personal worth rather being achieved at the expense of somebody else’s vilification and degradation or by negating their qualities and virtues. (Santos)


  1. Capitalism, based as it is on an unequal exchange between supposedly equal human beings, is disguised painting an idealized reality so that its very name has fallen into disrepute. Colonialism, which was based on discrimination against human beings who were nothing but equal in a true way, ended up being accepted as something natural. The purported victims of racism and xenophobia have been invariably labeled trouble-makers before they were victims. As to patriarchy, which has been based on the domination of women and the stigmatization of non-heterosexual orientations, it has been accepted as something as natural as some moral preference endorsed by almost everyone. Limits have thus been imposed on women, homosexuals and transsexuals in case they did not know how to stay within their limits. General laws have been so selectively reported-on that have allowed them to violate impunity, under such pretenses as protecting law-abidingness. (Santos)


  1. Considering all this, the affected, the non-reported-on and those whose HR have been violated, settled mostly for resignation. Those who would not give up emigrated. Too often in history, things seemed about to explode, but they never really exploded because, when they did, they were not chronicled or were reported-on in a drawn-out and piecemeal fashion. But the result was that those who suffered from the explosions were either dead or poor and were picked up by history as underdeveloped or old or backward or ignorant or lazy or useless or mad –in any event, expendable. But they were the vast majority (!) even if an insidious optical illusion made them invisible. People were ‘socio-degraded’ to become expendable populations, such as immigrants or young people from peripheral areas. (Santos)


  1. It was generally accepted that the common good had to be based on the opulent wellbeing of a few and the destitute ill-being of the many. But there were those who would not accept such normalcy and therefore rebelled. The non-conformists were divided though. Their myopia caused them to be divided in that which was supposed to unite them and united in that which was supposed to divide them. That is why events were chronicled the way they did. (Boaventura de Sousa Santos)



Conventional history is made up of fallacies, sophisms (apparently clever but flawed arguments) and forgetfulness (not so innocent omissions) (Ernesto Sábato)


In a way, history portrays the lives of human beings who suffer the consequences precisely of the inaccuracies of a history that is actually imposed on them. (Albino Gomez)


  1. Only some historians tell us that changes in the world have been always caused by greed or by fear. Yet it is evident that we have gone through (too) long periods of greed. It is greed that has been a factor in forgetting values like solidarity, justice and HR. Now, for instance and for the first time in a long time, it is security not the economy that is at the center of conventional historians’ debates. Does that mean that we are going from a cycle of greed to a cycle of fear? Is that progress? History should want to give us a different reading: civilization has advanced not by confrontation, but by cooperation; not by war, but by peace; not by aggression but by tolerance; not by selfishness but by solidarity … and not by military security, but by human security and human rights. (Roberto Savio)


  1. Has the trajectory of conventional history –one claiming to chronicle for us a professional yet Western view of fairness and justice— been truly denouncing multi-dimensional crimes against humanity exposing the succession of competing imperial perpetrators? Too many historians ‘medicate’ us and manage to maintain a clear conscience amidst the crime scene that past (and present) history have been.* Is there such an awareness in them, a hidden culpability? …perhaps one that ebbs and flows depending on the ceaseless convenient forgetfulness of such historians. It is clear from history that empires have risen and fallen –and we remain confident that those who work for true global cooperation, HR and peace will outlast the empire with all its contradictions and denials. (J. Luchte)

*: Fast forward to modern history. I ask: Are silicon-based IT technologies fast-tracking socioeconomic gaps that conventional historians may fail to point out? (S. Harrison)


  1. As regards Northamerican history, its global role and mission to spread American values around the world, was divinely sanctified and historically preordained, thanks to the genius of its founding fathers. Jefferson’s ‘empire of liberty’, Roosevelt’s ‘arsenal of democracy’, and Reagan’s ‘shining city upon a hill’ are variants on the same theme of American pre-eminence, a country that sought to colonize the planet with its ideas. The problem, globally, is that American exceptionalism has increasingly come to have negative connotations. (N. Bryant)


  1. The truth is that, normally, we learn about history’s storylines in isolation. We might have a strong sense of the history of scientific breakthroughs or the progression of Western philosophical thought or the succession of French rulers, but we are not as clear on how each of these storylines relate to each other, to the have-nots, to the wretched of the earth and to HR. (T. Urban)


I hope social movements will be the ones to offer political responses to change the course and the contents of history


Their challenge is to be with one foot rooted in an accurate account of history (the real true before) and both eyes looking to the future.


  1. History is not a science; it is the art of showing a clean face and hiding the dirty and smelly behind of things. (Leopoldo Marechal) So, bottom line about history, we need to awaken the ‘investigative reporter’ in us all to constantly go after the human story behind conventional history. After all, journalism is the rough draft of history –and we want to be counted in shaping it. Those whose interests we claim to serve also expect it from us.


  1. Making history was never easy, and the current challenge is but one opportunity to make a tectonic shift in what is actually an unfathomable distortion.


  1. I am of the opinion we shall overcome, because we have truth on our side. Truth, for too long trampled by history, will prevail. (W.L. Cullen)


Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City




-How a Nearly Successful Slave Revolt Was Intentionally Lost to History.

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-History teaches us that the evil of some is only possible due to the indifference of others. (K. Theidon)

-It is a truism that we must remember the past or else be condemned to repeat it. But there are times when some things (but only some things!) are best forgotten. (David Rieff, The Guardian)


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


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: and cell 917.331.0575.