Will Nepal’s election to United Nations body benefit global human rights?

MartyBlogNepalHRC_211017

A cartoon from issue 702 of Nepali Times (11-17 April 2014). It depicts former Prime Minister Girija P Koirala (left) and former Maoist leader Pushpa K Dahal.

Nepal has successfully won a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council, the senior-most human rights body among the world’s governments.

The Himalayan nation was elected for a two-year term during the recent UN General Assembly, despite a rocky human rights record at home. This includes setting up commissions to probe alleged human rights abuses during the 1996-2006 Maoist uprising that fail to meet global standards, and ignoring orders from Nepal’s Supreme Court to fix them.

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Rights at home first

MartyLogan_NepalHumanRightsCouncil_101017The consensus among human rights experts who I interviewed recently is that Nepal should fix its own human rights record before bidding for a seat on the United Nations human rights council—or at least do both simultaneously. Continue reading

Indigenous peoples’ protection of the land limits climate change

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

This a follow-up to my last post, where I took issue with an argument in a recent op-ed in the New York Times by Kenan Malik. He contended that the common claim that Indigenous People have a “special attachment to the land and a unique form of ecological wisdom” is the flip side of the historical argument that they are primitives who cannot adapt in the modern world. He calls it a “reworking of the ‘noble savage’ myth.” Continue reading

The new voice of Indigenous Australia

4 Uluru Convention delegates

Uluru Convention delegates Irene Peachey, Jackie Huggins (National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples), Irene Davies and Commissioner June Oscar. (c) Australian Human Rights Commission)

I’m constantly drawn to the similarities between the history of Indigenous People in Canada and Australia. In both places, settlers stole their land and tried to wipe out their cultures, mainly by taking children from their parents with an aim to ‘kill the Indian in the child’. (The approach was shockingly similar in the US also).

The newcomers failed however, and today Indigenous People in both Canada and Australia are becoming more powerful, as their populations grow, become better educated and politically active. This has led to reconciliation movements in both places. In Canada, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has finished its work and now, as they say, the hard work begins. Continue reading

Nepal building back too slowly, or as expected?

Nepal earthquake

(c) Kunda Dixit, Nepali Times

Nepal faces a lot of challenges, not least of which is rebuilding after the earthquakes of 2015. Add to that the very long, ongoing political transition and, as of last week, disastrous flooding in the south.

So, I often ask myself: how fair it is to criticise one of the world’s poorest countries for progressing so slowly on certain issues? (And reminding myself that Nepal has made great strides in some areas, such as the health of mothers and newborns). This may be one of those questions that I’ll never answer satisfactorily and for now I’ll fall back on the opinions of others. Continue reading

Haida repatriation thriving

Canoes in front of the museum in Haida Gwaii.

Canoes in front of the museum in Haida Gwaii.

I was happy to read an article recently about the Haida people repatriating articles from museums in Canada and around the world. In many cases the articles were stolen, in the 19th and 20th centuries, in the name of collecting evidence of dying indigenous peoples.  Continue reading

Time stands still for Nepal’s conflict victims

Suman Adhikari poses with a photo of his father Muktinath,

Suman Adhikari poses with a photo of his father Muktinath, one of the 17,000 victims of Nepal’s conflict, 1996-2006.

I set out to write an article about the vision underlying Nepal’s transitional justice (TJ) process — was the focus on truth, reparations, justice? etc. — but I quickly understood that any such theorizing was quickly overtaken by political leaders’ desire to use TJ to absolve them of responsibility.

Instead, I focused on some of the victims in this article for IPS News. I understand that efforts are being made to draft amendments to the laws creating the truth and disappearance commissions. If anyone has details, contact me.

“Reconstruction and reconciliation require finances and physical structure, but the families of the victims of the conflict first and foremost need their integrity protected. Physical and financial compensation mean little without justice,” wrote Suman Adhikari nearly 11 years ago, during a ceasefire in Nepal’s Maoist insurgency. Continue reading