Solidarity Center partner Kailash Satyarthi wins Nobel

Labor and human rights activist and long-time Solidarity Center ally Kailash Satyarthi won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, the Nobel committee announced this morning, the Solidarity Center reports. He shares the prestigious award with Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who survived a brutal 2012 Taliban attack for her stance on girls’ education.

As a grassroots activist, Satyarthi has led the rescue of more than 78,500 child laborers and survived numerous attacks on his life as a result. As a PBS profile describes Satyarthi’s work: “His original idea was daring and dangerous. He decided to mount raids on factories—factories frequently manned by armed guards—where children and often entire families were held captive as bonded workers.”

Solidarity Center Asia Regional Director Tim Ryan said, “Kailash’s lifetime commitment to the cause of eradicating child labor is an inspiration to every human rights defender around the world to promote the rights of the most vulnerable, the most economically exploited young workers and the paramount importance of finding ways to secure basic education for all children around the world.” Satyarthi’s decades of work to end exploitive child labor have encompassed advocacy for decent work and working conditions for adults, including domestic workers, because impoverished families must often make the difficult choice of sending their children to work for the sake of family survival. ….

In 1998, Satyarthi created the Global March Against Child Labour, a coalition of unions and child rights organizations from around the world, to work toward elimination of child labor. ….

Winning the Nobel “will help in giving bigger visibility to the cause of children who are most neglected and most deprived,” Satyarthi said upon learning he won the prestigious prize. “Everyone must acknowledge and see that child slavery still exists in the world in its ugliest face and form. And this is crime against humanity, this is intolerable, this is unacceptable. And this must go.” (Listen to his interview with the Nobel Prize team.)….

Satyarthi’s award of the Nobel Prize is the latest high-profile recognition of worker rights activists in the last month. Earlier this week, Alejandra Ancheita, founder and executive director of the Mexico City-based ProDESC (Project for Economic, Cultural, and Social Rights), won the prestigious international Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. And in September, Ai-jen Poo, founder and director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, became a MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant recipient.

RTWT

 

From politics to protest: taking it to the streets

IvanKrastevThe pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong are just the latest in a wave of political protests that has swept the world since late 2010. In “From Politics to Protest,” Ivan Krastev (left) examines why people have been taking to the streets, not only where they are denied the right to freely elect their leaders (as in Hong Kong), but also in countries where they fully enjoy the right to vote. Krastev suggests that elections are losing their capacity to make voters feel that their voices are being heard, and he explores what this may mean for the future of democracy.

India’s sixteenth general elections heralded a new era in the country’s politics: The Hindu-nationalist BJP won an unprecedented absolute majority in parliament, while the long-dominant Congress party suffered a stunning defeat. Four essays by leading experts explain the electoral outcome, look at the economic implications of the BJP’s victory, weigh the possibility of renewed communal violence, and give a big-picture assessment of India’s future.

jodoctIndonesia held successful parliamentary elections in April and presidential elections in July. Yet the news is not all good. The parliamentary contest was marred by pervasive “money politics,” as Edward Aspinall explains in “Politics and Patronage,” and the presidential race was nearly won by Prabowo Subianto, a populist who “promised to undertake the radical and dangerous experiment of restoring Indonesia’s pre-democratic order.” In “How Jokowi Won and Democracy Survived,” Marcus Mietzner cautions that “Indonesian democracy is still vulnerable, and will be for years to come.”

Elsewhere in the issue, Ghia Nodia writes on “The Revenge of Geopolitics,” part of a set of articles on “External Influence and Democratization” that also features pieces by Jakob Tolstrup and Steven Levitsky & Lucan Way; a pair of essays by João Carlos Espada and Liubomir Topaloff examine the rise of Euroskeptic parties in the EU and what it means; Richard Joseph explores the prospects for democracy in Africa through the lens of Nigeria; and Javier Corrales & Michael Penfold detail the growing trend in Latin America to relax or eliminate presidential term limits.

To see the complete Table of Contents, please visit www.journalofdemocracy.org.

 

Past as prologue? Call to fix US ‘human rights misstep’ with Vietnam

Vietnam_cu huyThe United States government made a mistake this month in relaxing a ban on lethal arms sales and transfers to Vietnam — a non-democratic, one-party state with an abysmal human rights record, says a leading rights activist.

The U.S. move, announced on October 2 as Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh was visiting Washington, undermines courageous activists in Vietnam and squanders important leverage that might have been used to encourage more reform, according to John Sifton, Asia Advocacy Director for Human Rights Watch. 

An American diplomat says that Vietnam has made some progress in terms of its human-rights record, including the release this year of 11 prisoners of conscience. But a full lifting of the lethal-arms embargo, the diplomat says, would depend on “additional progress”, The Economist notes:

That may be some way off. Yet Tuong Vu, a Vietnam expert at the University of Oregon, says the American shift is a “clear case” of strategic interests trumping human rights. Many dissidents remain behind bars, and the one-party state continues to arrest its critics under worryingly vague national-security laws.

Cu Huy Ha Vu* (above), one of the political prisoners who was recently freed, is a Sorbonne-educated lawyer who was jailed in 2011 for, among other crimes, calling for multiparty government. After his release, Mr Ha Vu, the son of a revolutionary poet, flew directly to Washington, DC. He says he would one day like to see both a democratic Vietnam and a military alliance with America against Chinese expansionism. But, he adds, selling spy planes today, amid continuing domestic repression, only prolongs the regime’s survival.

Torture is still endemic in Vietnam, and the government has taken no steps towards scrapping laws that criminalize free speech or political organization,  Sifton writes for Foreign Policy:

Most recently released prisoners were terminally ill or otherwise incapacitated by poor health. In the case of the higher profile dissident Cu Huy Ha Vu — a lawyer and former Communist Party member who has criticized government leaders for corruption and mismanagement — the government did not release him but rather forced him into exile in the United States, where Hanoi believes he will be less able to organize opposition to Vietnam’s one-party rule.

*Cu Huy Ha Vu is a Reagan Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy.

Will, space, capacity – keys to building democratic parties

A leading democracy assistance group has launched a new set of tools to help improve the effectiveness of programs to support the development of democratic political parties.

The Toolkit, published by the National Democratic Institute, includes a Political Party Programming Guide and a Context Analysis Tool.  Together, they incorporate accumulated expertise in party assistance as well as the latest innovations in development aid.

The Toolkit is built around the Will, Space, Capacity Framework, which provides a structured approach for examining key factors that influence political party behavior: 

  • Political space: the environment in which political parties operate and how they interact with it;
  • Political will: the incentives that influence political parties and the individual actors within them; and
  • Capacity: the skills and resources that parties need to compete in elections, propose policies and contribute to governance.

ndi toolsThese publications: 

  • Explain the functions parties through which parties fulfill their representative roles in democracies;
  • Outline which principles and core competencies parties need to fulfill that role democratically;
  • Describe three key drivers that can be used to better understand party behavior and prospects for more democratic behavior; and
  • Include tools to help party assistance providers analyze diverse political, social and economic contexts, design effective assistance programs and improve monitoring and evaluation.

 The publications were funded by the National Endowment for Democracy. Further information here.