8 April 2008


This week sees a significant development at the UN with the first group of countries being reviewed on their Human Rights record under the new Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism adopted by the newly formed Human Rights Council.

In this first ever session, sixteen countries will be examined, including the United Kingdom, India, South Africa, Argentina and the Philippines – states in which the Edmund Rice Network has a presence.

The UPR mechanism, by which all of the 192 UN member states will be reviewed every four years, was introduced in part to address a criticism that the UN tended to focus only on the human rights record of particular countries, while others escaped scrutiny.

The UPR mechanism is intended to be "based on objective and reliable information, of the fulfillment by each State of its human rights obligations and commitments in a manner which ensures universality of coverage and equal treatment with respect to all States" further"the review shall be a cooperative mechanism, based on an interactive dialogue, with the full involvement of the country concerned."

Each country being reviewed is required to submit its own self-assessment to the reviewing panel and NGO’s such as Edmund Rice International and other interested parties can also raise issues, and suggest questions and recommendations that might be taken up by the panel.

The National reports, together with a compilation of information from other UN sources and a summary of the information provided by other stakeholders (including NGO’s) are available for viewing on the website of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights

Observers will watch with considerable interest to see if the UPR will be an effective means of improving the human rights situation in particular countries.


The grass-roots movement GetUp has online petitions that enable concerned citizens to call on the Australian Government to act on a range of issues.

One petition calls on Prime Minister Rudd to urge the Chinese Government to respect the human rights of Tibetans; to allow international monitors and journalists access to Tibetan areas; and to engage in direct negotiations with the Dalai Lama for genuine and meaningful Tibetan autonomy.

A second petition asks for an increase the annual Indigenous health funding by $460 million to enable equal access to health services in order to Close the Gap; and the third petition enables you to suggest your own priorities in regard to government spending on issues related to climate change.


The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food is demanding an international five-year ban on producing biofuels to combat soaring food prices.

Switzerland's Jean Ziegler said the conversion of arable land for plants used for green fuel had led to an explosion of agricultural prices which was punishing poor countries forced to import their food at a greater cost.

"232kg of corn is needed to make 50 litres of bioethanol," Ziegler said. "A child could live on that amount of corn for a year."

Whilst falling short of calling for a moratorium the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon has called for a comprehensive review of the policy on biofuels as a crisis in global food prices - partly caused by the increasing use of crops for energy generation - threatens to trigger global instability.

The promotion of bio-fuels as a solution to climate change and global warming is also opposed by environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth

7 April 2008


With the recent ratification by Ecuador of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities this new Convention will become effective from May 3rd.

The Convention was originally adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in Dec 2006, but as with all UN Conventions, it required ratification by at least twenty countries before it can come into force. Ecuador became the twentieth State to do so.

A further 106 States have also signalled their intention of ratifying the Convention at some time in the future.

The 50-article Convention fights discrimination in relation to a wide range of rights that are often not accorded to persons with disabilities, either deliberately or through neglect. These include the rights to education, health, work, adequate living conditions, freedom of movement, freedom from exploitation and equal recognition before the law. The Convention also addresses the need for persons with disabilities to have access to public transport, buildings and other facilities and recognizes their capacity to make decisions for themselves

This Convention brings the total number of UN Treaties to eight, the others being (with the year of their adoption shown):-
Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), 1965
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), 1966
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), 1966
Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), 1979
Convention Against Torture (CAT), 1984
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), 1989
Convention on Migrant Workers (CMW), 1990

A separate Committee (known as a Treaty Body) has been established to monitor the implementation of each of the Treaties by those States that are party to the Treaty. (States Parties)

This monitoring process provides another opportunity for NGO’s such as Edmund Rice International to intervene and encourage State’s to live up to the commitments they have made.

ERI is particularly interested in the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

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