Dear Mandela, Dear Obama?

dear mandela

When the South African government begins ‘eradicateing the slums’, Mnikelo, Mazwi, and Zama refuse to be moved. Dear Mandela follows their journey from their shacks to the highest court in the land as they become leaders in a growing social movement.

Within the first minute of Wednesday’s 2012 presidential debate, President Obama mentioned ‘housing’. It is indeed high time that we had a wide and deep discussion about the U.S. housing crisis, the true dimensions of this crisis in terms of human rights, and what realizing the human right to ‘adequate housing’ would look like in one of the world’s wealthiest countries.

But when we think about terrible housing crises, our minds often wander to somewhere outside the United States – the lack of safe housing in Haiti, the crisis facing Roma in Europe or forced evictions in the Occupied Territories.


Exploitation of Nepal’s Migrant Workers

Nepal migrant workers

Families of migrant workers in Morang district, Nepal, 2011, who were interviewed by Amnesty International.

 “Migrant workers from Nepal and other countries are like cattle in Kuwait.  Actually, cattle are probably more expensive than migrant workers there.  No one cares whether we die or are killed. Our lives have no value.” –N.R., domestic worker from Ilam district, Nepal

Anyone who has waited for a flight at Kathmandu, Nepal’s international airport has seen the large groups of men and women quietly lining up to board flights for Qatar or Malaysia, many appearing nervous, clutching only their papers or a small bag of belongings.

But the men and women boarding these flights have reason to be nervous. While some Nepalese migrant workers arrive in the destination country and earn decent wages, others end up in forced labor or exploitative conditions.

These are some of the estimated 25,000 people a month who leave Nepal for work abroad to escape poverty and unemployment at home and to send remittances back to their families in Nepal.


Vedanta Corp: Creating Happiness or Creating Misery?

vedanta ad india

By Rizvi Amir Abbas Syed, used by permission

Vedanta, a UK-based corporation that mostly operates in India, has a big PR problem of its own making. For example, it has been implicated in creating a toxic red mud pond that threatens the lives and livelihoods of thousands of tribal people in the eastern Indian state of Orissa.

You would think that Vedanta should do what’s right and take steps to ensure that the environment and livelihood of the neighboring villages are protected. Vedanta might have taken steps to apologize, compensate and clean up the mess that they’ve already made in those communities.


I Stand With…the Right to Health

planned parenthoodBefore you keep reading, let’s be clear: this blog is about the universal human right to the highest attainable standard of health, the package of services it takes to be well—and the ability to afford it.  It’s also about the implications of the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to stop providing grants to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America for breast cancer screening.  Because too often, women’s health falls victim to agendas that prevent women from exercising their human rights.  It’s about the big picture.

According to Planned Parenthood, the vast majority of its services are the provision of information and education about health, well-being and sexuality; prevention of and response to gender-based violence; prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS; and family planning counseling and supplies. These services are provided to both men and women, of all ages, of all income levels. They are part of basic health care.


Housing: It's a Wonderful Right

housing it's a wondeful right

This is usually one of my favorite times of the year – the holidays are approaching, the aromas of cinnamon, orange and cranberry are in the air and it’s time to rest and watch old movies on TV. One of those old movies invariably on at this time of year still resonates today — It’s a Wonderful Life. In this 1946 Jimmy Stewart film, a small town in crisis comes together to prevent George Bailey, the benevolent loan man, from being imprisoned at the behest of the millionaire slum landlord Mr. Potter.

In the last few days, the U.S. government census figures have revealed that  1 in 2 Americans have fallen into poverty or are struggling to live on low incomes. And we know that the financial hardships faced by our neighbors, colleagues, and others in our communities will be all the more acutely felt over the holiday season.


(S)Hell In The Niger Delta: Satellite Images Document Oil Spills

Bodo Nigeria Before-After

Right: (4 December 2006): A false-color image of the waterways around Bodo. Healthy vegetation appears bright red. Left: (26 January 2009): This image, taken during the second oil spill in Bodo, shows vegetation death concentrated mainly near the river and its tributaries. (c) 2011 GeoEye and Digital Globe (Produced by AAAS).

Newly released satellite images visualize the devastating impact of the 2008 oil spills in Bodo, Nigeria, part of a pattern of destruction by oil companies in the region.

The images from 2006, 2009 and 2011 document the destruction of large swathes of vegetation near Bodo’s riverbanks. The true and false-color satellite images show rainbow slicks in the water ways, discoloration of the intertidal zone and vegetation death around Bodo. Three years after the oil spills, the pollution is still visible in the images.


Shell: Own Up and Pay Up to Clean Up the Niger Delta

shell niger delta

Two major oil spills at Bodo, Ogoniland, have never been cleaned up © Amnesty International

In the United States, the Occupy Wall Street movement has spotlighted the big banks for their role spreading toxic investments and contributing to economic deprivation.  Meanwhile in Nigeria, Amnesty’s new report, The true tragedy: delays and failures in tackling oil spills in the Niger Delta reveals how spills of toxic crude oil from the operations of big oil companies, like Shell, have harmed people’s health and devastated their livelihoods.