8 July 2009


The global web advocacy movement Avaaz has called for an immediate global outcry to prevent the attempt of Canada, Japan, and Russia to veto the '2-degree limit' at the G8 summit currently underway in Italy.

Scientists have warned that if global warming rises past two degrees centigrade, the world's climate systems are very likely to spin out of control - with searing droughts, sudden floods, and rising seas that spread poverty and force hundreds of millions to relocate (and many scientists believe it is already too late and that a four degree rise in temp is almost inevitable)

Whatever the figure it is clear that the world has just months left to agree on a binding global climate treaty if it is to prevent a catastrophic global warming.

Many believe that there is still an opportunity to avert the worst, if urgent UN negotiations succeed this year in reaching a binding treaty. The UN talks, culminating in Copenhagen in Dec, could launch a historic shift towards a clean-energy, green-recovery future that leaves the climate safe for future generations.

But according to Avaaz a few nations - now led by Canada, Russia, and Japan - have blocked-up the climate talks, endangering the treaty and our future, but that as has happened previously, last-moment pressure can change their policies especially with Canadian and Japanese leaders facing elections in the near future.

A petition is available for signing on the above website.


Commentators are still analyzing and reflecting on the long-awaited encyclical letter of Pope Benedict XVI Caritas in Veritate (“Charity in Truth”)", however some things are clear.

According to the National Catholic Reporter the encyclical offers a profoundly new way of understanding business enterprise and a global economic system that values the common good above private profits.

Whilst acknowledging that the church does not have "technical solutions to offer” the encyclical makes specific recommendations on a range of issues:-
- Resisting a “downsizing” of social security systems;
- Support for labor unions and the rights of workers in a global economy marked by mobility of labor;
- Combating hunger “by investing in rural infrastructures, irrigation systems, transport, organization of markets, and in the development and dissemination of agricultural technology”;
- Enshrining access to steady employment for all as a core economic objective;
- Protecting the earth’s “state of ecological health”;
- Seeing “openness to life,” meaning resistance to measures such as abortion and birth control, as not only morally obligatory but a key to long-term economic development;
- Ensuring that the targets of international aid programs are involved in their design and implementation, and trimming the bureaucracy sometimes associated with those programs;
- Lowering domestic energy consumption in developed nations, investing in renewable forms of energy, and adopting new more sustainable lifestyles;
- Curbing an “excessive zeal for protecting knowledge” among affluent nations, “through an unduly rigid assertion of the right to intellectual property, especially in the field of health care”;
- Opening up global markets to the products of developing nations, especially in agriculture;
- Commitment among developed nations to devote a larger share of their gross domestic product to development aid;
- Greater investment in education;
- More generous immigration policies, recognizing the economic contributions of migrants, both to their host countries and to their countries of origin by sending money home;
- Support for micro-finance, consumer cooperatives, and socially responsible forms of business;
- Reform of the United Nations and international institutions of economics and finance, in order to promote “a true world political authority ... with real teeth,” though one informed by the principle of subsidiarity – meaning respect for the liberty of individuals, families, and civil society;
- Opposition to abuses of biotechnology such as a new eugenics.

The full text of the encyclical is available here


The recently concluded UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva proved to be a disappointment according to Franciscans International (FI).

Three weeks after the shameful Special Session on Sri Lanka, where the Council "commended" the government for the measures taken to address the crisis – a crisis that had led to the death of thousands of civilians and the displacement of hundreds of thousands persons, who lacked the most basic assistance in government camps – it took the same body a very tight vote to prorogate the mandate of the expert on Sudan, a country that is experiencing some of the most serious human rights violations in the world.

The session also saw multiple attacks against the UN’s independent experts on human rights (the so-called "special procedures") and increased restrictions for NGOs to participate, among other things.

The adoption of some reports under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) also proved to be disappointing; in particular when some States used their State-sponsored NGOs to take the floor, thereby preventing independent NGOs from expressing their concerns.

On the final day of the session the International Service for Human Rights presented a critique of the first three years of the operation of the Human Rights Council that highlighted some of the concerns also expressed by FI. The series of statements issued by ISHR are available on the above website.

It is to be hoped that in the future more governments will be genuine in their efforts to promote and protect human rights around the world.


Following intensive lobbying by groups such as the Good Shepherd Sisters and Project Respect (both of whom readers of this bulletin have been encouraged to support) the Australian Government has recently announced new laws to protect and support victims of people trafficking.

Advocacy through lobbying can be effective!

In the meantime the Good Shepherd's Social Justice Network has called on religious orders and community groups to strengthen anti-trafficking networks worldwide and support those fighting against human trafficking in poor countries, especially in Asia.

Good Shepherd helped found, and now 'houses' the Victorian branch of the Australian Catholic Religious Against Human Trafficking ACRATH group which was established in 2005 to combat the problem in Australia. The group has developed a strong network of religious congregations within Australia who are committed to the fight against trafficking of humans.

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