Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Human rights on a rainy day

Yesterday I returned to home sweet home (in Quezon City) from a whirlwind UN mission in Nagoya, Japan. I attended part of the Tenth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 10) to launch some of the youth biodiversity educational materials I've been developing over the past year. While there is much I could write about, there are two key areas that are currently occupying my thoughts.

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Once again, I find myself extremely frustrated and at odds with Canada's official position in international negotiations. Briefly, Canada is obstructing the passage of an internationally binding access and benefit-sharing regime at COP 10. Canada refuses to include the text "respect the right rights of indigenous peoples" in an agreement that spells out how genetic material from plants and animals is obtained (e.g. for use in food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, etc.) and how the benefits are shared. Much of information about the uses of biodiversity is based on the traditional knowledge (aka local knowledge or indigenous knowledge) of indigenous people, so recognizing them should be a no-brainer

Canada's position reeks of hypocrisy, given Stephen Harper's June 11, 2008 apology to Canada's Aboriginal Peoples and his pledge to prevent a recurrence of the attitudes that allowed Indian residential schools. At times like this, I am embarrassed to be Canadian.

COP 10 ends Friday. There are two short days for Canadians to write their Members of Parliament, expressing their concern for the future of life on Earth and their support to recognize the value of knowledge created, tested, revised and transmitted over generations.

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Tomorrow I visit the Morong 43It's a day I've been alternately looking forward to and dreading for weeks. It's going to be an emotional roller coaster. How do you prepare yourself for the stories of health workers arrested during a health skills training and detained for the past eight months on the grounds they are members of the New People's Army and in possession of illegal weapons and explosives?

A young man from Selda, an organization for former political prisoners, will take me to visit the women in the morning, including two women who gave birth during their imprisonment. At one pm we'll visit the men. A cautionary email sent from the head of Bayan this afternoon reads "BTW, you will be strip searched before you visit with them because it is in the male section where drug violators, the principal suspect for the Maguindanao massacre, SUSPECT and many innocent Muslims accused of being Abu Sayaff." 

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And that, in a nutshell, are two key issues swirling around in my head this rainy day in Quezon City.

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