Stop the Noise of TV Ads: In All BTS Stations and Inside Trains

The petition to BTS to stop noisy TV ads is out. As of 1st April, there are 137 supporters.

http://www.change.org/petitions/bangkok-mass-transit-system-btsc-stop-the-noise-of-tv-ads-in-all-bts-stations-and-inside-trains

Petitioning Bangkok Mass Transit System (BTSC)

Bangkok Mass Transit System (BTSC): Stop the Noise of TV Ads – In All BTS Stations and Inside Trains

bangkok_bts_station

Petition by Ayoungman Wholikesavacadu Thailand

The constant and loud noise of TV ads is disturbing, and poses long-term health risks to daily commuters, and in particular, young school-going children

To:
Bangkok Mass Transit System (BTSC), Bangkok Mass Transit System Public Company Limited
Stop the Noise of TV Ads: In All BTS Stations and Inside Trains

Sincerely,
[Your name]

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Climate change risks and rights of people

Linking climate change risks and rights of mountain peoples in the Mekong

Xu Jianchu, Rajesh Daniel

Book chapter in: Lazarus K., Resurreccion B., Dao N., and Badenoch N. (Eds.) 2011. Rites of Access: Seeking Justice in Managing Mekong Region Waters. Earthscan, London. Vol 3 of the M-POWER book series.

Introduction

A changed climate is already here as the world faces threats of disaster from more frequent and intense cyclones, heavy rainfall events, sea-level rise, and warmer temperatures with adverse effects on crops, ecosystems and human health (IPCC 2007a, 2007b).  Much of the climate burdens are falling on the poor and marginalized peoples in developing countries bringing to light attention as much on the disasters and impacts they face as on issues of rights and justice with respect to the allocation of resources as well as burdens and risks (Kates 2000; Thomas and Twyman 2005).  This chapter draws on the context of the uplands of the Mekong region to highlight the interconnected dimensions of climatic risks and the rights of those affected by climate change and development, in particular social and political rights[i] as enshrined in the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The uplands of the Mekong region within Montane Mainland Southeast Asia (MMSEA)[ii] comprise steep slopes and tectonic activities where natural hazards and risks are omnipresent. As a result of the seasonal shifts in monsoon weather patterns, a large part of upland Asia is exposed to increased annual floods and droughts (Bates et al, 2008). Climate change multiplies these risks. Available evidence shows that extreme fluctuations of climate such as rapid or sudden shifts in rainfall can result in either too much water causing loss of lives and property from flashfloods or too little water leading to drought, loss of crops and death of livestock (Xu et al, 2009).

Climate impacts are often socially constructed (Ribot, 2009). Apart from climate-induced risks, various government development policies, institutional settings and expansion of regional, national and international markets have also placed upland peoples in a position of greater vulnerability. The rapid pace of regional economic integration has meant that previously subsistence-oriented livelihoods are quickly shifting towards a market-orientation, often at the encouragement of the government. New cash crops are accompanied by new forms of financial management for local people, and debt has become a major concern across the uplands. In this period of transition, the risk of natural disaster has compounded economic implications for local livelihoods.

Response to climate change in terms of mitigation and adaptation can multiply risks as well. Structured measures for climate change adaptation such as embankments might redistribute flood risks (Lebel et al, 2007a) while hydropower development poses threats to river ecosystems and local livelihoods such as fisheries. Tree plantation projects, for instance, to earn carbon credits are taking away common lands and secondary forests used by upland communities (Adger et al, 2007; O’Brien et al, 2007).

Douglas and Wildavsky (1982) define risk as a joint product of knowledge about the future and consent about the most desired prospects. Living with multiple risks, poor and marginalized groups must manage the costs and benefits of overlapping natural, social, political and economic hazards (Xu and Rana, 2005; Ribot, 2009).   The rural poor have successfully faced threats linked to climate variability in the past in forms of mobility, storage and communal pooling of water and other natural resources, diversification, architecture and market exchange in rural settings as the basic mechanisms through which households address risks in securing livelihoods (Agrawal, 2009).

The diversity of the Mekong uplands includes multiple livelihoods (from shifting cultivation in the humid tropics to nomadic herding on the high Tibetan plateau, from rice terraces to tea gardens), multiple ethnic cultures (more than fifty officially recognized ethnic nationalities and hundreds of linguistic groups), as well as numerous vulnerabilities (see Box 10.1).

While the upland peoples in the Mekong region experience both threats and opportunities from climate change or development actions, many people, in particular the economically poorer, face disproportionate vulnerabilities in terms of loss of livelihoods and assets in the face of climate variability and global change (Sen, 1981).  This situation is exacerbated by the fact that upland peoples are frequently blamed for environmental risks in downstream and coastal areas, despite the complex and still poorly understood causal linkages between change in the mountains and change in lowland areas. As will be discussed further below, policies to halt perceived environmental degradation in the uplands has often resulted in increased vulnerability for upland people, while the risks to lowland society remain unmitigated.

Climate-related risks will have direct and indirect human rights impacts [iii].  Climate change is already undermining the realization of a broad range of internationally protected human rights: right to health and even life; right to food, water, shelter and property including access to natural resources; rights associated with livelihoods and culture; with migration and resettlement; and with personal security in the event of conflict (UNHCHR, 2009). Multiple climate and economic development-related risks impact on a range of rights including participation in decision-making (Molle et al, 2009).

Climate impact analyses that links to human rights can prove useful in formulating detailed policy and research agendas to inform overarching climate change policy options (ICHRP, 2008), including strategies for mitigation and adaptation, and for particular ecological settings such as the uplands in the Mekong region.

Adaptive management to global climate change can often lie beyond the capabilities of upland and indigenous people even though many communities are dealing with climate risks using their traditional and/or ecological knowledge systems. While recognizing that some groups are more resilient than others, the capabilities of local people and groups can be strengthened when appropriately assisted through partnerships with government and non-government organizations to ensure equitable access to resources and benefits.  Yet low ‘capacity’ for adaptive management is often a product of constraints within the governance system of a country or region. Traditional ecological knowledge and environmental management practices are deeply rooted in local natural and cultural landscapes, but as upland areas are increasingly integrated into lowland social, economic and political systems, the pressures on indigenous and local knowledge increase. However, representation of upland people in national political processes is often constrained to varying degrees across the region. This means that what is perceived as a problem of many may actually be a problem of empowerment; thus the argument for inclusion of rights as a central component in considering risks from climate change.

Our analysis of the climate risks in the Mekong uplands through a rights-based approach tries to address the climate-related vulnerabilities including both natural and human-induced hazards for the upland peoples, in particular for the poorest, in the Mekong region. The chapter’s intent is to bring together three threads that in the authors’ view are not adequately addressed in the climate change discourse: viz. uplands, poor/marginalized people and their disproportionate risks, and the human rights dimension.

The risks-rights framework helps to better understand and address climate related risks and impacts in the uplands of the Mekong region and improve policies related to upland governance and climate change to benefit the poorer and marginalized peoples of the upland populations. Mapping geophysical hazards and socio-political constructed risks provides an entry point for concerted pro-poor climate change adaptation efforts.

The chapter includes the following sections: The risks analysis of geophysical hazards and climate change in the Mekong uplands; Accelerated risks and socially constructed vulnerabilities; The value and challenges in a rights-based approach; The risks-rights nexus towards integrating rights for living with risks; Potential strategies and means to cope with, as well as rebound after, climate risks and disasters; Discussion and conclusions about improving and incorporating local rights as well as addressing the adaptive capacity of upland peoples to climate change.


[ii] The Mekong uplands, lying within the larger context of Montane Mainland Southeast Asia (MMSEA), as defined in this chapter is a large, eco-region comprising about half of the land area of Cambodia, Laos, Burma/Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and China’s Yunnan Province. The headwaters of the Yangtze, Salween, Irrawaddy, Mekong, Red, Chao Phraya and Pearl Rivers are located within the MMSEA region that drain an area of nearly 4 million km2 and have impacts on the lives of more than 696 million people (Xu and Thomas, 2010). The MMSEA region can be further divided into an alpine zone (above 3,000 masl), a high mountain zone (between 1000~3,000 masl), and a low mountain zone (between 300~1000 masl). The term “uplands” is used here to describe areas in the montane and alpine zones (Thomas et al, 2008). Our definition centers on areas that are between 300 to 3,000 metres above sea level (masl) in elevation, and located within and across several river basins. The alpine zone, which is dominated by the high altitude Tibetan Plateau, is referred to as the ‘Water Tower of Asia’ (Xu et al, 2008), while the montane zone has been called the ‘Roof of Southeast Asia’ (Thomas et al, 2008).

[iii] Climate change will have implications for the enjoyment of human rights. The United Nations Human Rights Council recognized this in its “http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/climatechange/docs/Resolution_7_23.pdf” \t “_blank” resolution 7/23 “Human rights and climate change” (28 March 2008), expressing concern that climate change “poses an immediate and far-reaching threat to people and communities around the word” and requesting the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner to prepare a http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/climatechange/study.htm study on the relationship between climate change and human rights (“http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/climatechange/index.htm” http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/climatechange/index.htm, accessed 14 June 2010).

A matter of right

file:///Users/rajesh/Documents/articles/The%20Hindu%20-%20A%20matter%20of%20right.webarchiveA matter of right

The Hindu

Sunday, September 02, 2011

Human rights activism has often ignored social and economic issues in its emphasis on civil and political rights.

NOEL RAJESH reviews a book that highlights conceptual tools and strategies and encourages expansion of activism.

THE issue of human rights in relation to social and economic issues is explored in Circle of Rights. In the view of the authors,

comprising people from countries in both the North and South with a rich and varied experience in the field of human rights, international human rights activism has often sidelined social or economic justice issues because of its predominant concern with civil and political rights issues.

Therefore, those involved in human rights work still have many questions when dealing with the economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights such as food, housing, health and similar matters. Even those supporting the idea of social rights may often ask “What is the ‘right to housing’ and the ‘right to work’? Should everyone be provided with education even up to the university level? Is the state responsible for providing all of this?” and so on.

At the same time, many vested economic interests, for instance multinational corporations, consider ESC rights to be unacceptable constraints or limitations on their own freedom to make profits. In this process, in many countries of the world, the plight of individuals and groups who have little or no access to food, shelter and education is largely forgotten.

Circle of Rights attempts to answer some of the many questions that are asked about ESC rights as well as “encourage an expansion of activism that has as its goal the promotion and protection of ESC rights and fill the absence of conceptual tools to deal with the social and economic issues”.

According to the authors, Circle of Rights is about regaining the dignity of all those who have lost it due to a lack of food, health and a healthy environment, education, housing, social security, work or a quality of life that embodies and perpetuates their culture. It is designed to enable social activists and other groups to ensure that the poor and other disadvantaged groups are able to claim their economic, social and cultural entitlements as a matter of right.

Despite its daunting size, the book is elegantly assembled with 10 sections (interspersed with illustrations, poems and country case studies) that range through the history and overview of ESC rights, explore specific ESC rights, and examine strategies and tools for national and international activism. The publication successfully brings together in one place information about concepts and tools that are central to developing and applying a rights-based perspective on ESC issues.

But what is a rights-based perspective? According to the book, the dignity and well-being of human beings is the foundation on which a rights-based approach is built. Each and every human being, by virtue of being a human being, is a holder of rights, and this entails an obligation on the part of the government to respect, promote, protect and fulfil it.

So individuals and communities cannot be asked to wait for “economic development,” or to “sacrifice their livelhoods or natural resources for national benefits,” before their dignity is respected. Violations of human rights are therefore defined as breaches of the related state obligations.

In fact, this is one of the more interesting sections of the book dealing with the “obligations of states and nonstate actors.” The central international treaty on ESC rights – the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) – as well as related treaties provide the individual and community with a range of guarantees related to economic, social and cultural issues. The section clarifies how each of these rights carries with it corresponding obligations by the state.

First of all, states must not destroy the standard recognised by a human right that describes a quality of life such as access to education, the opportunity for a fair trial and freedom from torture. Therefore, state authorities must not keep people from educating themselves, they must not tolerate unfair trials, they must not torture. An obligation of this type is called “the obligation to respect”. Such obligations are sometimes also called negative obligations, since they tell states what they must not do – torture people, undermine educational opportunities or conduct unfair trials.

On the other hand, the state also has positive obligations that are called “the obligation to protect”. Thus states have to prevent third parties from destroying this quality of life. For instance, states have to ensure that children are not prevented from attending school, for example by their parents; states have to prevent children and wives being tortured by their fathers and husbands.

Another positive obligation is the state’s “obligation to fulfill” the human rights standards by taking appropriate measures to ensure that human rights standard is attained. Therefore, states have to provide remedies to address a faulty trial, or guarantee access to education, or intervene in situations of torture.

The authors also stress the importance of recognising that there is a dialectical relationship between the obligations placed on the state and the claims of those who feel their rights have been violated. So the claimants of rights are not simply “beneficiaries” but have often engaged in a struggle for, and won recognition of, specific rights – a struggle that remains central to ESC rights.

The history of human rights law indicates that human rights were intended to protect the individual against excessive use of state power, and the key conventions make explicit that only states hold human rights obligations.

But what about “nonstate” actors? As the book notes, in the changing environment at both the national and international levels, nonstate actors such as corporations, fundamentalist groups and armed opposition groups are having an increasing impact on the enjoyment of ESC rights. International human rights law does not oblige private actors (whether corporations or others) to act in particular ways, and therefore they cannot be brought to account directly through human rights law.

However, human rights obligations can be imposed on nonstate actors such as corporations by national constitutions or laws. For example, courts in some countries, such as the Supreme Court in India, have placed human rights obligations directly on nonstate actors such as corporations dumping poisonous effluents into rivers and threatening the fishing livelihoods of local communities.

Moreover, human rights law does oblige states to regulate the conduct of nonstate actors, including corporations, to ensure that they do not commit human rights abuses. For example, in 1997, a United States district court judge ruled that victims of forced labour and other gross human rights violations could bring suit against the Unocal Corporation, for its joint participation in a petroleum pipeline project with the Burmese military junta in which Burmese people were used as forced labour and atrocities committed against them.

Needs as rights

Human rights language has emerged out of struggles to protect the rights of the politically marginalised peoples, particularly of individuals and communities displaced or dispossessed of cultures and livelihoods, of their homes, fields, farms and commons by conventional economic development. The human rights-based approach offers tools so that states or corporations are forced to respect the inviolability of humans, based on the belief that if we all have the same needs, we have the same rights.

Yet, we also recognise our mutual humanity in our differences, in our individuality, in our history, in the faithful discharge of our particular culture of obligations. In his powerful book about human rights and social needs, The Needs of Strangers, Michael Ignatieff notes that beneath the duties that tie us to individuals, there ought to be a duty that ties us to all men and women whatever their relation to us.

However, he states, beneath the social and the historical, there is nothing at all: “The abstract subjects created by our century of tyranny and terror cannot be protected by abstract doctrines of universal human needs and universal human rights, and not merely because these doctrines are words, and whips are things. The problem is not to defend universality, but to give these abstract individuals the chance to become real, historical individuals again, with the social relations and the power to protect themselves”.

Cirlcle of Rights goes some way towards enabling social activists and other groups to support the struggles of the poor and other disadvantaged groups to ensure they are able to claim their economic, social and cultural entitlements as a matter of right.

Circle of Rights. Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Activism: A Training Resource, International Human Rights Internship Program, USA and Asian Forum of Human Rights and Development, Thailand, 2000, p.660.