The Trump administration is reviving the use of landmines. The state department’s cable announcing it said that it would only consider landmines with “technologically advanced safeguards” meaning mines which could self-destruct or mines which can be detonated by remote control. With the exception of Afghanistan in 2002, the US has not used landmines since 1991 and has not produced any since 1997. The treaty banning landmines was signed by 164 nations including all of the US NATO allies. The US however did not sign the treaty wanting to reserve the right to use them in the Korean peninsula. Nevertheless since 1997much progress was made towards destroying the stockpile. Rob Berschinski who worked on landmine policy in the Obama administration and who is now with Human Rights First says that “…they’re not only massively harmful to civilians after war’s end, but they’re also of very negligible military utility.” Landmine Monitor, an organization which monitors landmines, estimates that between 1999 and 2018 there has been 130,000 casualties, mainly civilians.
This may be another instance of the administration
rolling back the policies of its predecessor, but it is also a way to erase
progress that was made toward creating a more harmless more humane world.
In Maduro’s Venezuela one out of every three is malnourished and hungry, among those who may be considered more middle class it’s one in five. In Northern Syria, there are over 900,000 people caught in the war there, and 13 million Syrians have already been displaced. The near one million refugees have no place to go, no one to turn to. It’s been so cold, several children have frozen to death. In Kashmir, the government continues its limited Internet access and other restrictions against the mainly Muslim state, not to speak of the recent riots in New Delhi which is causing many to flee because Muslims are no longer wanted in those areas. In China the Muslim Uighurs are being put in so called reeducation camps for the slightest action, such as growing a beard. In Yemen war rages, in Libya, anarchy continues, in several countries, refugees keep coming and find no refuge, no let up to their angst and difficulties, no escape from poverty, sometimes no way to survive. I could go on about the suffering of the world, and yes these are man-made problems, and because they are man-made they are even harder to resolve, because the human imperfections that caused them still exist. There may be very little we can do, but we can remember these lives, learn from their courage, their fortitude, be inspired by how they endure and handle their suffering, be humbled by their strength and bravery and most of all remember them because their problems dwarf ours no matter how serious ours may be.
The UN describes modern slavery as the condition of people whose work “is performed involuntarily and under the menace of penalty.” Modern slaves can be forced to work through threats of violence, through withholding of identification, through threats to family members, and also through subtler means like financial pressure or limiting movements. All told according to a recent report by the Walk Free Initiative, in 2018 there were 40.3 million people living in these conditions, mainly women. When Mauritania abolished slavery in 1981, as the last stronghold it made slavery illegal throughout the world. One problem is how difficult it is to track down the offenses. It is part of countries with shady human rights certainly, but it is everywhere, including the US. Of these 40 plus million there are at least 16 who are part of the supply chain, meaning the people who work on the things we buy. Even if slave conditions are outlawed within manufacturing, it is difficult to enforce, to make sure products are entirely made by slave free labor. The fashion and the tech industries are two of the worst culprits. With fashion for example, we want cheap clothes, and cheap clothes can only come with cheap labor. Some businesses are onboard, yet because products can have many parts which come from many different countries it is often difficult to know if slave working conditions were involved. Another aspect of the tragedy is that so many of those who are forced to work and/or live under these conditions are not aware they are being exploited. There are no easy answers, but one hope lies in education: Educating people about their rights, and promoting human rights education among vulnerable populations such as those of migrant workers or those likely to be in underage marriages.
If and when we can,
let’s contribute to that education.
About two thirds of the world’s population, 5.1 billion do not have access to justice. Of these, 1.5 billion or one in five, have been left with justice issues they are not able to solve. That could be a land dispute, being the victim of a crime or a consumer debt. These figures come from a new report issued by The Task Force on Justice. The report indicates that 253 million people live with extreme injustice and are deprived of legal protections. They comprise 40 million modern day slaves, 12 million stateless, 200 million who live in countries which are so insecure seeking any kind of justice is not possible. The report points out not only the advantages of providing justice but also the fact that as a human right along with education and health care, it is actually cheaper. In low income countries, where most of the lack to access to justice exists, it costs $20 per person, universal primary and secondary education $41 and healthcare at least $76. These figures would certainly increase for the developed world, but the message that providing justice to those who need it is cheaper than we think remains.
It’s so easy to
forget that providing justice is part of the infrastructure of security in any
country, and that infrastructure is necessary for prosperity, a prosperity
which in turn provides citizens with a modicum of quality of life.