Strength for the Fight Ahead

January 20 marks the one-year anniversary of President Trump’s inauguration. For human rights advocates, the past 365 days have been marked by daily efforts to resist actions from our nation’s highest office that propagate racism, hate, fear, ignorance, and greed. Right now, we are fighting for a clean Dream Act even as dysfunction in Washington holds up these efforts.

However, reflecting on the past year, and the work of our partners and staff in action, gives us hope—this work tells a story that is much more about courage and perseverance than one of despair.

Our shared vision of a world free from oppression provides fuel in the fight to advance human rights. Working together, with our partners and allies, we have activated strategies that confront unjust power structures and challenge oppressive policies.

Here are just a few moments from the past year that motivate us for the work that lies ahead.

This year, sustained by the passion of our community and supporters, we will continue to focus on strategies for protecting families fleeing violence in Central America, fighting for an end to ethnic cleansing in Burma, and responding to the front lines of climate change and ready to respond to natural disasters.

Celebrating International Migrants Day with a Call to our Philanthropic Allies

In 2000, the United Nations General Assembly designated December 18 as International Migrants Day. This day recognizes that international migration is a growing phenomenon in our world and calls us to reaffirm and uphold the human rights of migrants and refugees.

In early December, UUSC Senior Program Leader for Environmental Justice and Climate Action, Salote Soqo, participated in a stock-taking meeting for the Global Compact for Migration – an international mechanism for advancing a more unified approach to the needs of migrants. “The meeting was extraordinary,” Soqo says, “in the sense that in a time of rising nationalism and xenophobia, there was great convergence amongst delegates around centering the global compact on the protection of the rights of all migrants.” The meeting sent a strong signal that the Global Compact — and the international community’s collective actions on migration — must be centered on human rights.

David Boseto, of UUSC Partner Ecological Solutions, and boat driver Muku in Wagina, Solomon Islands

This International Migrants Day, celebrate with UUSC as we issue a new resource, Community-Led, Human-Rights Based Solutions to Climate-Forced Displacement: A Guide for Funders. UUSC is calling more funders to engage directly on the issue of climate-forced displacement and to incorporate human rights-based approaches to amplify the voices, advocacy, and solutions of frontline communities.

Climate change is advancing rapidly and placing people’s human rights at risk. According to Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre and Norwegian Refugee Council’s Global Report on Internal Displacement: GRID 2017, in 2016, 24.2 million people were newly internally displaced by natural disasters. It is likely that 200 million people will be displaced by climate change by 2050.

“Climate impacts exacerbate existing inequities in society.”

Climate-forced displacement is having severe impacts on human rights. Climate impacts exacerbate existing inequities in society. A majority of disaster-related displacements occur in low- and lower-middle income countries and disproportionately affect small island developing states, according to the Global Report on Internal Displacement. The spectrum we have developed outlines human rights at risk and key concerns for frontline communities, from the tipping point at which communities decide they must consider radical adaptation measures, through migration or resettlement.

→    The right to self-determination must be at the core of relocation planning.

“Frontline communities have the most appropriate solutions to these challenges.”

While frontline communities have the most appropriate solutions to these challenges, these communities receive the smallest share of funding and are sidelined by state and international decision makers. Trends in financing favor climate change mitigation over other approaches. No reliable mechanisms exist for community organizations to access international funds directly. Indigenous communities face additional hurdles accessing funds from national governments — and it is even more difficult for unrecognized tribes.

Our guide offers concrete steps funders can take to advance community-led, human rights-based solutions to climate-forced displacement by:

  • Assessing how climate-forced displacement relates to a current strategy or portfolio
  • Effectively partnering with grassroots communities working on issues along the climate-forced displacement spectrum
  • Advancing a human rights-based approach to climate-forced displacement
  • Acting as a bridge and network builder to amplify the voice and impact of grassroots communities

Rights Reading

Our weekly roundup of what we’re reading: a few select articles from the front lines of human rights that we don’t want you to miss. This week, we are focusing on Climate Justice, as Climate Justice Month comes to an end.

How a Tiny Alaska Town Is Leading the Way on Climate Change, Joe McCarthy, Global Citizen, April 18, 2017

 School in Kivalina

“By 2100, as many as 13 million people living in coastal regions of the US and hundreds of millions more people throughout the world could be displaced by climate change.”

Kivalina, Alaska is a small village in Northwest Alaska, with a population of 420 indigenous people. Located 70 miles above the Arctic Circle, Kivalina is one of the most affected communities of climate change. The temperature increases have doubled in Alaska compared to the United States, and the Arctic Sea has evaporated by half in the last 35 years. In just 10 years, Kivalina will no longer be a place people can inhabit.

The people of Kivalina are mobilizing and planning. They are known to be self-reliant and have a lot of experience working with their communities and government. The article highlights more of the history of Kivalina and some of the work our partner, Alaska Institute for Justice is doing.

How a Warming Planet Drives Human Migration, Jessica Benko, The New York Times, April 19, 2017

There are obvious environmental consequences to climate change, but the effects are manifold. Climate change leads to droughts, floods, food and housing insecurity, and famine. This then leads to both political and economic insecurity. While there is no official legal definition for what it means to be a climate refugee, in 2010, it was estimated that 500 million people would need to evacuate their homes by 2015 due to climate change.

The evaporation of Lake Chad has led to 3.5 million already being displaced. In Syria, 1.5 million were forced into cities because of a three-year drought in 2006. Other areas, such as China, the Amazon Basin, and the Philippines have also experienced the detrimental effects of climate change, displacing and even taking lives.

On April 29, We March for the Future, Bill McKibben, The Nation, April 19, 2017

Climate justice is being threatened by the Trump administration, but the reality is, climate justice has been a decades-long battle with each administration. The current climate-justice movement is being led by communities, farmers, scientists, and indigenous people. Those that are marching march for a multitude of reasons: pipelines, the labor movement, fracking, solar panels to other sustainable measures.

The United States is facing setbacks with the current administration, but the rest of the world is showing hope. Solar panel prices have dropped, wind energy is being used, and other countries are investing in renewables. People continue to march, protest, and resist in other ways, defining what the new normal is.

Check out related blogs and articles for climate justice month

Three-part series on composting, The Good Buy, April 18, 2017

5 Ways to #Resist this Earth Day, Green Peace, April 18, 2017

Making a Deeper Commitment to Climate Justice Month, UUSC, April 19, 2017

Global Women’s Call for Climate Justice

UUSC staff supporting women's global call to climate action

From Oct 28 to Nov 6, UUSC is joining our allies and grassroots partners in the Global Women’s Call for Climate Justice: Ten Days of Action campaign. The campaign is a lead up to the UNFCCC COP 22 annual meeting held in Marrakech, Morocco.

The Global Women’s Call for Climate Justice seeks to amplify the experiences of women and children, who are the most vulnerable amongst us, in addressing the injustices caused by environmental injustices and climate change. It also seeks to elevate the various ways that women around the world are taking action to implement sustainable solutions to adapt to and mitigate the effects of these problems. 

We are encouraged by the voices and the actions that women around the world are taking to address this catastrophe. Women are stepping up and showing us and the rest of the world what works.  

Women experience multiple challenges in part due to the various roles they play – they are mothers, wives, daughters, farmers, caregivers, etc., not to mention the inherent attributes that they experience from just being a woman such as giving birth, nursing their children, and menstruating every month. These various layers that women play need to be taken into consideration when we’re thinking about long term climate actions – whether its adaptation or mitigation or whether it involves financing or politics. Planning our strategies from a women’s rights perspective ensures that we are advancing gender equity, which then produces a number of outcomes that are just and sustainable. A classic example of this is happening right now in many parts of Africa, where rural women farmers are fighting for their rights to access land. Accessing land gives them the security to be able to take care of their families, to farm their lands using agroecological methods that reduce emissions, and to protect them and their children from being exploited and displaced. 

UUSC is proud to be a part of this initiative, and we stand with our allies in demanding that our global leaders advance climate justice and gender justice at COP 22 and beyond.  

COP 22: Pushing global leaders to walk the talk!

cop22-logoCOP 22: Marrakech 2016

Two days into COP 22 and Marrakech, Morocco is swarming with various stakeholders from around the globe. This COP (Conference of the Parties), dubbed by many as the “African COP,” due to its location and the strong presence of the African diaspora, is focused on accelerating implementation of the Paris Agreement, which was ratified by 100 Parties, including the United States. The Paris Agreement, which went into effect November 4, 2016, is about the post-2020 timeframe. It’s about countries committing to do the best they can to reduce their emissions and to work toward keeping global temperature increases to below 1.5 degrees celsius.

In 1994 the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) entered into force with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. The COP is the governing body of the Convention and meets annually.

The Paris Agreement: One step in the right direction

The world broke out in celebration when the Paris Agreement was adopted last April, and we can still feel the momentum here in Marrakech. What has been exciting so far, is the expected outcome that COP 22 will produce a roadmap for how things will proceed, such as how the Green Climate Fund will achieve its mandate of reaching $100 billion by 2020, or how states will report their emissions and reductions, etc. However, whether COP 22 will actually produce something tangible, just, equitable, and sustainable is the concern of many civil society organizations, including UUSC.

The focus here so far has been on the Paris Agreement and its implementation. But what does this mean for pre-existing commitments such as the Kyoto Protocol and its Doha Amendment? Doha, which was adopted by Parties to the Kyoto Protocol in Qatar in 2012, was meant to provide a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol—a legally binding emissions reduction treaty necessary for global climate action in the years leading up to 2020. However, Doha is still not in effect. If Parties are serious about Paris, they have to implement Doha.

salote-and-meena-raman
Meena Raman and Salote Soqo in Marrakech, Morocco for COP 22.

Meena Raman, of the civil society organization, Friends of the Earth Malaysia, thinks that this might be a loophole that will allow developed countries to escape their existing commitments. She gave European Union as an example: “The E.U., which has not ratified Doha is racing like a Japanese speed train to ratify Paris. Have they forgotten about their commitment to Doha?” Which leaves us to wonder—where is the United States in all this? While the United States did ratify Paris, the state has no obligation to the Doha Amendment because it did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol (sigh).

Civil society organizations have to tell our leaders that the UNFCCC, Kyoto Protocol, and Paris Agreements cannot simply be subjects for coffee room discussions. Initiatives, pledges, and plans are not enough to deal with the catastrophic issues affecting Mother Earth and our communities. UUSC and the rest of the UUA delegates are joining our allies from all around the globe here in Marrakech to remind our global leaders to act out their commitments. An accelerated action on Paris Agreement requires the implementation of the Doha Amendment to Kyoto Protocol.

UUSC Statement on Hurricane Matthew

UUSC is deeply concerned about the people of Haiti in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. We are working with our local partner organizations to assess the effects of the storm on “stateless” people stranded along the Dominican Republic border, and the more than 55,000 internally displaced people still living in camps and temporary shelters around the country.

As we learn about the situation on the ground, we will provide urgently-needed support to these marginalized populations. But there will be little time between their immediate needs and the next crisis. The hurricane threatens to further destabilize the country at a crucial point in time – the first round of Haiti’s scheduled presidential election is less than a week away.

The UU College of Social Justice is actively exploring Haiti’s need for volunteers with specific skills in the coming weeks and months. To learn more about the effects of Hurricane Matthew on Haiti’s population and how you can help, please contact us at info@uucsj.org.

UUSC responds strategically to disaster situations where human rights are threatened, focusing on the rights of marginalized and oppressed people. We work with the understanding that disasters, be they wars or hurricanes, tend to hurt most those who are already marginalized in society.

After large-scale disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina and the Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, UUSC and the Unitarian Universalist Association launch a joint appeal for humanitarian relief donations. Together, we have directed millions of dollars of relief aid toward disaster-affected communities in the United States and around the world. For more information, consult our web page of frequently asked questions about how UUSC responds to disasters and humanitarian crises.

Click here to make a donation and support our work today.

Updated October 13, 2016: For an update on UUSC’s advocacy work to support Haitian immigration to the United States  and how you can take action in your congregation to support efforts during this recovery period, please click here. We also have our partner on the ground. To learn more about the specific work, click here.