Global Women Unite for Peace

unacto11.jpgThe following was written by Patsy George, Honourary Director of UNAC-Vancouver who is at the Hague attending the 100th anniversary of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
I am attending the 100th anniversary  of the only global women’s organization still active. It was founded at a conference held at the Hague by women who opposed the First World War. 800 of us who are peace activists along with a large number of U.N officials, ambassadors and media are here. The groups of women represented are from the North and South, particularly from the areas where the conflicts are in full force.
Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 9.01.36 PMI have had the privilege of listening to women from Lebanon, Palestine, Nigeria, Syria , Columbia and Pakistan. They have experienced war, lost families and seen their communities be completely destroyed. But no one, including the UN, is willing to listen to these women’s proposed solutions. Of course the women are completely against the military solutions and insist on mediation and diplomatic approaches.
I must share my feelings of frustration when a delegate from Columbia spoke about losing her husband and brother in the mines owned and operated by Canadian companies. She and others are organizing to get safer labour conditions but she has been under death threats. She believes that the mining companies hire thugs to go after women active in the community.
The Office of the Indigenous people of the Americas based in Geneva organized a march to the Canadian Embassy at the Hague with 1200 pairs of shoes on Tuesday to remind them of the missing and murdered women in Canada. It is their hope that shaming Canada this way will bring some attention to this issue from the Harper Government.
There is another session examining the role of the UN Peacekeepers who have been accused of sexually violating women and girls and boys in some of the areas where they serve.
Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 9.07.46 PMSo you can see that working for peace involves addressing the root causes of violence and the power structure which does not pay attention to equality and human rights of majority of human beings, particularly the women and girls.
It is great to be with a large group of people who are against wars and are seeking peace building as the only alternative to making sure that we and the planet we call our home survives.
One of the positive reports I heard  was from the Secretary General  of WILPF, Madelene Reese, was that the organization was able to arrange a meeting between the UN Security council members and a group of women from Syria. This was the first time; it has ever happened.
Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 8.59.50 PMThe women gathered at this conference adopted a new manifesto which concluded saying that violence is not inevitable. We choose non violence as a means and as an end. We will liberate the strength of women and in partnership with like-minded men bring to birth a just and harmonious world. We will implement peace which is a human right.
What is needed is total world wide disarmament; economic systems that will deliver well-being to every human being and other life forms on the precious planet; multinational organizations capable of mediating between states and guaranteeing international law; democratic governments from local to global; social systems that accord no privilege to certain type of people or people of a given physical type, culture or religion; the end of male supremacy; and radical changes to the way we live together and the fulfillment of women’s rights as human rights.
It is important to remember that Peace is possible and Wars must stop and it is the job of each and every one of us to see to it.
Patsy George, Honourary Director of the United Nations Association of Canada – Vancouver Branch.

UNAC proud to sponsor DOXA film Uyghurs: Prisoners of the Absurd

DOXA2015-Poster_webThe United Nations Association of Canada – Vancouver branch is pleased to sponsor an upcoming film at the DOXA documentary festival.  The film is entitled Uyghurs: Prisoners of the Absurd and will be showing on Wednesday, May 6th at 6:00 PM at VanCity Theatre.  The film will be followed by a Justice Forum discussion.

The film follows twenty-two Muslims from China’s Uyghur minority who fled China, but were unfortunate enough to be rounded up in the months following the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan.  Patricio Henriquez’s film follows their journey from China to the Middle East and then to the detention prison at Guantánamo where they were imprisoned without trial for up to eleven years. Even after being proven innocent, they were stuck in a legal black hole.  In- depth candid interviews with three of the former detainees, now resettled in other countries around the world, bring to light the shocking injustices of these little-known victims of the War on Terror.  This documentary encourages us to closely consider the religious, political and cultural persecution of minority groups, many of which are ignored by the international community, swept under the carpet for larger political reasons.

uyghursTo see a trailer of the film:

To go to the DOXA webpage on the film:

We hope to see many UNAC-Vancouver members there!


Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

unacto1The UNAC is among thirteen prominent organizations that have urged the Canadian government to cease objecting to and start working for a global law to eliminate all nuclear weapons.

In a letter to Canada’s new Foreign Minister, Rob Nicholson, the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons also warned that deteriorating relations between the major nuclear powers, the US and Russia, have heightened the risk of nuclear conflict. Those two states possess 95 percent of the world’s 16,300 nuclear weapons, which include a frightening number on high-alert status.

Citing the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences” of nuclear warfare, the letter called on Canada to: “Support the commencement of work on a Nuclear Weapons Convention in a forum not subject to veto and cease objecting to the negotiation of such a convention as being somehow incompatible with the Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

The letter, emerging out a recent seminar held in Ottawa, appealed to the government to take action to protect the viability of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which will undergo a month-long review at the UN starting April 27. “Given the huge stake Canada has in the future viability of the NPT and the global nuclear governance based on it, we believe some focused efforts are warranted,” the letter said.

A Nuclear Weapons Convention, called for by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, would be a global treaty to eliminate nuclear weapons.

The letter called on the government to publish a strategy paper setting out Canada’s priority aims and to revive Canada’s capacity for verification technology to ensure compliance with nuclear agreements. It also requested the government to host a meeting of like-minded states as called for by the Middle Powers Initiative. The government should also work more closely with civil society representatives.

To view a copy of the letter, click here: Letter to GOC re 2015 NPT (Final)

International Migrants Day

unacto11.jpgOn International Migrants Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to shape diverse and open societies that provide opportunities and lives of dignity for all migrants.”      Ban Ki-moon message for International Migrants Day 18 December 2014

Migrant worker : a person who is to be engaged, is engaged or has been engaged in a remunerated activity in a State of which he or she is not a national (Convention).

We live in a world of unprecedented mobility; the globalization of people, culture, and capital is a characteristic of the modern world. Working and living abroad has become a luxury enjoyed by many. At the same time, working outside one’s country has become increasingly necessary for citizens of the developing world. This coincides with extraordinary control over mobility; restrictions on where one can work, how long one can travel a given country, and where one can establish permanently is a feature of the Westphalian model of the nation-state, of which humanity’s existence is organized. Today, no country in the world allows open access to immigrants (Moses 54).  Yet despite the web of laws regulating immigration, labor and citizenship, movement flourishes.

In response to this phenomenon in order to protect those outside of the protection of their home country, The International Convention on the Protection of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families was adopted on December 18th, 1990, 24 years ago. Since then, economic, social and political inequalities, curiosity and ambition continually lead over 232 million people to emigrate (double the number in 1990); most of which is pursued in order to secure an income through improved employment opportunities abroad.

Today every region hosts migrant workers; Europe (France and Germany) and Asia (Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia) and the United Arab Emirates host voluminous numbers. International migrants are both men and women respectively, often between the working ages of 20 and 64 (UN). Remittances sent home from workers abroad totaled $440 billion in 2010, of which $325 billion was sent to the developing world (World Bank 2011). It has been regarded that remittances can help decrease poverty, providing a “dependable, short-term economic lifeline for many” (Moses 129). For a long time, high fees were charged per transaction, a large economic burden however, after concentrated efforts transaction costs have decreased this year, now sitting at an average of 7.98%. This decline occurred in almost all regions of the World, with the exception of Latin America and the Caribbean (World Bank Sept 2014). Despite the benefits afforded by working abroad, the drawbacks can be much more severe than high banking fees.

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The greatest issues concerning migrant workers include: wages, social security and workplace safety. A recently example of job insecurity is evident in the Middle East, where deportation of illegal workers is common. Over 7,000 were deported from Bahrain in 2013 (Migrant Rights). Beyond the risk of working illegally, is the lack of oversight that can occur in an international private setting. For instance, in Saudi Arabia domestic workers clock an average of 63.7 hours per week (Migrant Rights).

At the same time in the West, migration has been met with growing securitization and a rise in domestic hostility to foreign immigrants and workers. This fact is evident everywhere: In the harsh criticism by Republicans against Obama’s efforts to seek legal status for millions of Mexican and Central Americans living in the country (the United States/Mexico route is the most populated in the world – witnessing an increase of 23 million migrants in the 24 years since the Convention’s establishment) and in the rise of anti-immigrant rhetoric in Europe, where right-wing parties have recently gained influence.

Both the Middle Easter and European examples demonstrate the need for an international body monitoring the increasingly large number of migrants around the globe. Join us in raising awareness on this day of observance.

For more information on migration issues, see:

Moses, Jonathon Wayne. International Migration Globalization’s Last Frontier. Bangkok, Thailand: White Lotus ; 2006. Print.

Post written by UNAC-Vancouver website writer Brittney Potvin.

UNAC & other NGOs call for an end to torture

unacto1On Human Rights Day, the United Nations Association of Canada joined other non-governmental organizations in calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to strengthen global efforts to stop torture.  The letter was crafted and managed by Amnesty International and was signed by non-governmental organizations from across the country.  In particular, the letter calls on PM Harper to ratify the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on Torture, which aims to establish national and international systems for inspecting detention centres.

As the letter states, the Optional Protocal “seeks to pierce the shroud of secrecy that allows torture to continue at such alarming rates around the world.  Amnesty International has documented torture in 141 countries in the last five years.”

For more information on the open letter, see the following link: