My New Year celebration was quiet and introspective. Time spent in serenity can illuminate the hallways of the possible. Spending time "visioning" for human rights achievements might seem frivolous, but we must consider how to spend our energies on creating hope for people to brighten their darknesses. Meditative time can be helpful in this process. Here's my wishlist for the year for human rights:
1. Cease All Torture. It is imperative to close the world's torture chambers. The horrors of inflicting this kind of pain and debasement on fellow human beings is a blot on our very human fabric. The consequences can lead to cycles of revenge and can last for generations. I can think of no greater priority than to remove this most terrible of human behaviors from current times and to consign it to the global history bin.
2. Stop Drone Warfare. Remotely piloting "soldiers" have too frequently cost the lives of innocent civilians, including children. It is too easy to do this without apparent consequences. It is too cheap and cheapens life. There are too many violations of human rights here. There is little justification one might imagine to justify the surveillance these craft enable, but there is no justification to use them for mass killings.
3. Support Syrian Peace. The peoples of Syria have suffered for too long under an authoritarian regime that is (unsurprisingly) buckling under the weight of civil war. Whatever form of government takes its place needs to protect the rights and freedoms that should be enjoyed by all faiths and all ethnic groups within the country. The world should act to support a nation of tolerance and understanding. With 60,000 dead and counting, it is time to seek peace.
4. Empower Congo's Peoples. Eastern Congo should be rid of the M23 movement and the nation should become a place of business and trade rather than war rapes and wholesale pillaging. It is only with concerted multiparty international coordination that we have hope of ending Congo's resource curse.
5. Israel Should Find a Two-State Solution. At the very minimum, this means to stay out of E-1 with settlements, to recognize the asymmetric nature of casualties in the conflict with Palestinians, and to enable human rights and NGO/aid group access to deliver food and medicines. In a larger frame, this means working on real compromise in a publicly transparent way to make a two State solution happen. Soon.
6. Help Haiti Stand. This will necessitate increased humanitarian and foreign aid along with ongoing debt forgiveness programs on the part of the international community. But it will also require Haiti itself to invest in anti-corruption measures to ensure that donor aid reaches the intended recipients rather than to have monies disappear into the coffers of officials and a mercantile class who want to line their pockets at the expense of the poor. Haiti was neglected for well over a century. It is reasonable to ask donor countries and organizations to stick it out for the decades it will take to stand on its own.
7. End Africa's Child Nightmares. Africans should capture (enough Western militarist adventures in Africa) Joseph Kony to bring to justice, but also to dig deeper into the much broader circumstances that led to his rise. The borderlands of Uganda, Rwanda, Congo, and much of Africa will only settle once we can find solutions to their resource curses and to create mechanisms to support security for all peoples. There should be no more child soldiers in Africa, nor anywhere else.
8. Implore Burma to Stand for Human Rights. This means full human rights protections for the Rohingya, solid peace agreements with all ethnic groups (beginning with an immediate cessation of bombings of the Kachin and other nationalities), and the creation of a safe environment for refugees' return and development that avoids the resource curse. It's a tall order, but for one of Asia's longest suffering nations, it's long overdue.
9. Ask Leaders for Humanitarian Pardons. President Obama should send Leonard Peltier home from prison. Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou should do the same for Chen Shui-bian. Both are facing medical challenges that are unlikely to be aided by prison and have had health issues exacerbated. Peltier was extradited and convicted in dubious circumstances and has been a notable leader for the United States' native peoples. Chen has had a disproportionate sentence and has unquestionably suffered from the neglect of his medical needs. Neither of these men were sentenced to death and should not die in prison.
10. Endorse Human Rights in China. The economic rise of China has lifted many out of poverty and its conditions, but the increasingly powerful nation has lagged in social freedoms. It is only with the full recognition and protection of the human rights of its citizens that China will be entitled to take a place at the table of civilized polities. China stands at the threshold of being able to stride as a Great Power if, and only if, it embraces human rights.
There are 10 Commandments, thus I've 10 wishes for this coming year, both easy ones and long shots. What will you hope for? Take time to think of 10 hopes. Please don't just sign online petitions. While awareness is important, it's also imperative to give real money, time, and energy. I've chosen my wishlist for 2013 and I encourage you to do the same.
With Hope, Jack