17 June 2008


The week beginning June 15th has been designated by the Refugee Council of Australia as Refugee Week, in the lead up to World Refugee Day on June 20th.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is globally promoting the theme of 'refugee protection', whether that’s shelter or fair treatment or the right to seek asylum - particularly as the world this year prepares to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Australia’s Refugee Week theme of 'A Place to Call Home' encourages people to think about the global themes of protection and human rights by focusing on the fundamental right to a secure place to call home. It encourages Australians to think about our common obligations to people who have no secure home, as well as to acknowledge the 700,000 refugees and humanitarian migrants over the past 60 years who have made Australia their home.

Whilst the new Australian Government has done much to ensure fairer treatment of asylum seekers and refugees – the abolition of the ‘Pacific solution’; closure of detention centres on Nauru and Manus island; the abolition of the Temporary Protection Visa system and an increase in the humanitarian intake component of the immigration program – concerns remain.

Just Act a Uniting Church publication, highlights the plight of refugees on bridging visas who are still denied work rights, access to Medicare and social security income; the opening of the detention centre on Christmas Island; the retention of the law billing asylum seekers for their time in detention and the continuation of the mandatory detention policy, as issues of concern.

Suggested actions and sample letters in relation to these concerns can be found at the above website.


A draft protocol being considered by the UN Human Rights Council will effectively "fill a gap" in the international human rights system, says the Holy See's permanent observer at the UN offices in Geneva, according to Zenit (a newsagency specializing in coverage of events of interest to the church.)

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi made his comments to a working group of the 8th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, which is discussing a draft of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The protocol would establish a mechanism that would allow victims of economic, social and cultural rights violations to submit a complaint to the United Nations, as can be done already in the case of most UN treaties and conventions.

Adoption of the protocol would be a step towards addressing the perception (particularly in developed western countries) that economic, social and cultural rights were 'second-rate human rights' in comparison with civil and political rights – a perception that has been a source of friction between nation states in the past.

"The universal value of human dignity requires the promotion and protection of all human rights without distinction of any kind," Archbishop Tomasi said.


Etiko one of the first Australian businesses to source overseas products that are Fairtrade Certified and sweatshop free - meaning the people who make them are paid a decent wage and have good working conditions – recently won the Victorian Premiers’ 2008 sustainability award for small business.

The award can be seen as an acknowledgement of an increasing awareness and support among consumers for Fairtrade products.

The Fairtrade labelling system began in The Netherlands in 1989, and currently operates in 20 countries. It was introduced in Australia and New Zealand in 2003.

Globally in 2005 Fairtrade products amounted to approximately $1.8 billion worldwide and in Australia $5.4 million Fairtrade products were sold in the 2005-2006 financial year, an increase of 157% over the previous financial year.

Fair Trade is an alternative approach to conventional trade. It is a trading partnership based on dialogue, transparency and respect that seeks greater equity in international trade.

Some sites that include more information and suggestions for action can be found at the People for Fair Trade and See the Flipside websites


The recent United Nations-sponsored global climate change talks ended recently in Bonn, Germany, with calls to step up the pace of negotiations in the run up to next year’s crucial summit in Copenhagen, but with little by way of concrete proposals for action.

Delegates from the 172 nations gathered in Bonn were asked to bring concrete proposals for revising Kyoto to extend greater protection and more funding for the countries most vulnerable to the threatened ravages of changing climate and the least capable to adapt.

Mexico, China, South Africa and Brazil came with full brief cases. The European Union, long considered a champion of climate change, came empty handed. Environmentalists accused the United States, Canada and Australia of obstruction and "nitpicking."

The latest campaign of AVAAZ urges rich countries to commit now to mid term targets to cut emissions which are seen to be critical to avoid climate catastrophe. As the chair of the Summit, Japan has the opportunity to exercise bold leadership to ensure rich nations make progress.

On Wednesday, June 18, AVAAZ will deliver a petition representint the worldwide public outcry for strong G8 climate commitments to Japanese PM, Yasuo Fukuda. Those concerned about this issue are urged to sign the petition now!

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