29 October 2008


The Global Forum on Migration and Development which is taking place in Manila this month is an attempt by the international community to address migration issues with a view to ensuring that orderly international migration has a positive impact on both the communities of origin and the communities of destination.

As a participant in the forum Caritas Internationalis is urging governments to focus on protecting migrants and boosting development in poorer countries through the support of the Millennium Development Goals in a bid to ensure migration is a choice rather than a necessity.

Caritas Internationalis will emphasise the need to empower women in particular in a bid to reduce the numbers forced to migrate.

“Women who are searching for work abroad so they can support their families and educate their children are particularly vulnerable to exploitation if they’re not protected,” said Martina Liebsch, Caritas Internationalis advocacy coordinator for migration, trafficking and gender.

Caritas will call for the protection of women on the migration journey, education about their rights and the adoption of a gender sensitive migration policy by the international community. Caritas also highlights the need to pay special attention to the trafficking of children and young adults.


The issue of abortion continues to be an emotive and divisive one as the recent debate surrounding the passage of a bill decriminalising abortion in Victoria demonstrates.

It is also again an issue in the current US Presidential campaign.

Whilst the positions of those advocating for the rights of the unborn and those advocating for the rights of women to choose are fundamentally incompatible, there may be some areas where common ground might be found.

No-one would argue that abortion is desirable in itself and all would agree with the importance of working to at least reduce the need for abortions.

Sojourners magazine reports that recent studies in the US have shown that there is a strong correlation between abortion and poverty with three quarters of women who have had abortions saying that they just could not afford to have the child.

Perhaps a united concern to address poverty, the root cause of so many of the world’s problems, might be a more effective means of reducing the evil of abortion?


With the focus on the crisis affecting the world’s financial institutions, the plight of the world’s 923 million undernourished people highlighted in events marking the recent World Food Day continues to be largely ignored.

Everywhere the cost of food continues to rise. Changing weather patterns and the increasing demand for biofuels contribute to this problem which impacts most severely on the world’s poor.

In the face of this challenge, Jacques Diouf the Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) appealed to all countries to honour the commitments of support they had made to FAO projects, despite the global financial crisis.

He noted that at a summit held in Rome at the beginning of June, commitments were made to provide a total of $20 billion for the FAO to launch projects in 76 countries. To date only 10% of the funds have been delivered.

In a message to mark World Food Day, Pope Benedict XVI identified "national selfishness, unbridled speculation, corruption, consumerism and arms races" as being the underlying causes of world hunger.

He went on to point out that "the means and resources the world has at its disposal today could supply sufficient food to satisfy the growing needs of everyone," but that there was "a need to rediscover the value of the human person."

For more information on inequalities of food distribution,  the purpose, history and progress of the FAO, global undernourishment, climate change and food, future food systems click here


"Arms regulation, nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation are key elements for a global strategy in favour of human rights, development and international order," said Archbishop Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, in addressing the UN General Assembly recently.

Noting that the approaching 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights invites a renewed commitment to disarmament, development and peace, Archbishop Migliore went on to point out the apparent contradiction between the lack of commitment to nuclear proliferation and test ban treaties and the pursuit of nuclear arsenals by some nations on one hand and efforts to combat terrorism and limit the use of particular types of weapons on the other.

He commended the adoption of the Convention on Cluster Munitions which will be opened for signing on 3 December 2008 in Oslo. The Convention was adopted by 107 States, with the support of 20 Observer States, international organizations and a coalition of non-governmental organizations following a recent meeting in Dublin.

By visiting the above website you can take part in the Global Week of Action to ban cluster bombs and send letters to countries that have not yet decided whether they will sign in Oslo, calling on them to sign! You can also sign the people’s treaty on this issue.

14 October 2008


A declining global economy may reduce the growth in greenhouse gas emissions as consumption of goods and energy usage drops – thus providing a short term amelioration of one of the drivers of climate change

On the other hand there are increasing concerns that the current financial crisis will undermine efforts to find long-term solutions.

Hopes for some action on climate change in the US had risen given both presidential candidates had pledged to make cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions a top priority. Environmentalists now fear that the next president may be more focused on reviving the economy, and Congress could be wary of supporting any measures that might slow growth or raise energy prices for consumers.

In Europe, the "Guardian" reported on concerns that Leaders of EU countries plan to use the global financial crisis as an excuse to renege on climate change commitments.

Meanwhile in Australia some business leaders joined the Leader of the Opposition in a call for a delay in the introduction of the proposed carbon trading scheme, but the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported the Climate Change Minister as rejecting that call.

That world leaders were able to come together to plan a unified response to the global financial crisis gives hope that it may be possible for a similar response to avert the arguably a greater catastrophe face by the planet as a result of climate change.


This week on 17th October, the United Nations celebrates the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty which in Australia is part of Anti-Poverty Week

Millions of people around the globe will be mobilizing on that day to Stand Up Against Poverty to urge world leaders to honour their commitment to take action against poverty through the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals

Through the MDGs, world leaders have committed to halving extreme poverty by 2015. Some of the goals include reducing child mortality, ensuring environmental sustainability, combating diseases such as HIV and AIDS and malaria, increasing and improving aid, dealing with the debt problems facing developing countries and delivering a fair and equitable trading system.

Anti-Poverty Week also includes a week of Global Action Against Debt and International Financial Institutions. Details of the campaign can be found at the websites of Jubilee Australia and the Jubilee Debt Campaign


Recent reports indicate that those responsible for the Bali bombing which took the lives of over two hundred people including 91 Australians are due to face execution in Indonesia at any time, while a further three convicted Australian drug smugglers continue to be under of sentence of death in Indonesian prisons.

The Australian Government has a policy of opposition to the death penalty. However it intervenes on behalf of some individuals who face the death penalty but not others. Such inconsistency undermines the credibility of its commitment to eliminate capital punishment.

Last year, at least 1252 people were executed in 24 countries. At least 3347 people were sentenced to death in 51 countries in the same year. Up to 27,500 people are estimated to be held on death row across the world.

This year the October 10, World Day Against the Death Penalty focused on Asia where, despite the worldwide trend towards abolition, 14 countries continue to carry out executions.

Although the death penalty continues to be imposed and used as a tool of oppression in some countries, there is a growing recognition that capital punishment is inconsistent with the right to life, that it is ineffective in reducing crime, that it is discriminatory in that the poor and members of racial, ethnic and religious minorities are disproportionately subject to it and it is not immune from error.

A recent Vatican statement proclaims that "the universal abolition of the death penalty would be a courageous reaffirmation of the belief that humankind can be successful in dealing with criminality and of our refusal to succumb to despair before such forces, and as such it would regenerate new hope in our very humanity."

Last December, the UN General Assembly endorsed a resolution calling for "a moratorium on executions"wummse by an overwhelming majority — 104 votes in favour, 54 against and 29 abstentions.


The Victorian State government recently passed legislation decriminalizing abortion despite a concerted campaign against the bill in which the Catholic Church was prominent in its opposition.

The issue of abortion will continue to remain controversial and polarizing given that it places the rights of women in direct conflict with the rights of the unborn.

However by compelling doctors who have a conscientious objection to abortion to provide a referral to another doctor who will perform the procedure, this particular bill appears to violate freedom of conscience by forcing such doctors to be complicit, however indirectly, in something they believe to be morally wrong.

Recent presentations given at the Australian Catholic University on this issue can be viewed at the above website.

Catholic opposition to abortion has been voiced consistently and strongly and is based on the beliefs that life begins at conception and that all life is sacred.

However the question can also be asked as to why the Church’s voice is not heard as strongly and consistently on issues of poverty, disease, war, human trafficking, the death penalty, nuclear weapons, and the worldwide deaths of 30,000 children every day from preventable causes, which are also key life issues.

1 October 2008


In all the confusion and anxiety surrounding the current crisis that is threatening to bring down the world financial system some things are clear.

At a time when the United Nations is seeking increased financial assistance from rich nations to help developing countries meet the faltering Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including a 50-percent reduction on extreme poverty and hunger by 2015, the current U.S. economic crisis and its predictably negative fallout overseas is expected to be a major setback.

Addressing delegates last week, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that the current gloomy outlook threatens the well-being of billions of people, "none more so than the poorest of the poor."

It is interesting to note that whilst it seems that 700 billion dollars can be readily found to prop up failing Wall St financial institutions, it is unlikely that the 72 billion dollars per year in additional external financing to achieve the MDGs by 2015 will be found – and that was the case before the onset of the financial crisis!

Last year over 43 million people around the globe joined the Stand Up campaign to ensure governments worldwide hear the demand to end poverty and inequality.

It would be hoped that members of the Edmund Rice Network around the world could lend their support to this campaign and take action on Oct 17-19. An information kit about the campaign is available from the above website and from Caritas Australia website.


"This was one of the most important experiences of my life," Br Ralph Sequiera told colleagues in Geneva. "For the first time I have really felt that what I have been doing for the last ten years in Arunachel has made an impact beyond my local community. The reality of the lives of the poor in rural India is largely unknown outside India. People don't know. Now, I feel that my community in India has found its voice. We know that we can bring our story to the world. It's a great feeling."

Br Ralph was speaking after giving testimony before a United Nations Social Forum in Geneva on the impact of poverty and environmental degradation on the poor in his local community in the state of Arunachal Pradesh

His participation in the forum was facilitated by both Edmund Rice international and Franciscans International


This year marks the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

After learning about the Every Human Has Rights campaign and the commitments to stand up for human rights made by members of The Elders and so many others, a group of refugee/migrant and indigenous youth from the northern suburbs of Perth Australia decided to sign the ‘Every Human Has Rights’ pledge and take some first steps toward bigger commitments of their own.

Five young leaders from the Edmund Rice Centre Youth Leadership Group helped organize and host an event to share the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with their community; and each member of the group brought their personal connection to the cause.

Atot Amoly and his twin brother were part of the effort: "My brother and I came to Australia in 2005 from Egypt after fleeing Sudan, a country where human rights abuses are very common," Atot said. "The war was getting closer, so my father made the decision for us all to leave. It was very confusing and leaving friends behind was really hard."

Ezra Godfrey, who also fled Sudan via Egypt before arriving in Australia, said it was experiences like this that made him passionate about human rights.

You can read the full story with its accompanying photos and video at the above website. Click on "Campaign News" and scroll down to the item posted on the 13th Sep. You can also make an online personal commitment to uphold the goals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the same website.


Oct 2nd, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement and pioneer of the philosophy and strategy of non-violence has been designated by the UN as the International Day of Non-violence

Hopefully the day may have some special resonance in India which has been wracked recently by communal violence.

In a letter to the President of the United Nations Human Rights Council a plea was made for action to address the pattern of communal violence and impunity that has developed in India over recent years.

The call was issued by Franciscans International on behalf of the victims of recent violence in the state of Orissa. Currently an estimated 23,000 people mainly Tribals and Dalits of Christian faith are living in overcrowded relief camps and many others are in hiding. Their lives are threatened if they do not convert to Hinduism. The ongoing anti-Christian violence has resulted in the death of at least 35 individuals and the destruction of more than 6,000 houses and over 90 religious buildings.

Concern was expressed at the outbreak of violence and the lack of protection given by the police who reacted slowly and insufficiently, despite the fact that it was foreseeable.

The violence has also been condemned by Human Rights Watch but has generally been ignored by much of the world.

As Father Raymond de Souza lamented in a recent article for Canada's National Post, anti-Christian violence 'cannot be checked if it is not even noticed'.

The Human Rights Council at least provides a forum where abuses of human rights can be brought into the open.

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