The Leadership Conference is working diligently to see that Tom Perez is confirmed as U.S. Secretary of Labor. Perez is an eminently qualified public servant and consensus builder who has dedicated his career to ensuring that all individuals are treated fairly and have the opportunity to succeed. He has served with integrity and distinction at the local, state and national level, compiling an outstanding record of achievement.
May 11, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
Wade Henderson, LCCR president and CEO, speaking with Edson Santos, Brazil's minister of the Special Secretariat for Policies to Promote Racial Equality, after April 29 U.S.-Brazil Joint Action Plan Memorandum on Race and Civil Rights steering committee meeting in Washington, D.C.
On April 29, LCCR met with the U.S. State Department, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Brazilian officials that make up the U.S.-Brazil Joint Action Plan Memorandum on Race and Civil Rights steering committee to discuss ways to further implement the agreement's goals.
As the two largest democracies in the Western Hemisphere, the U.S. and Brazil signed the agreement in 2008, outlining both countries' goals for promoting racial equality and equal opportunity for all their citizens and as an example for the rest of the Americas.
After remarking on the parallels in the U.S. and Brazil regarding race, LCCR President Wade Henderson noted that even though "rampant inequality based on race" still exists, the example of the U.S. civil rights movement demonstrates that "transformational change is possible."
Almost half of Brazil's population - more than 90 million people - are of African descent, making it the second largest Black population in the world, after Nigeria. Millions of Brazilians also have indigenous ancestry, though very few identify as such.
Although overt discrimination is illegal, employment and housing discrimination is rampant in Brazil. Brazil has one of the largest economic gaps between Whites and people of color. Afro-Brazilians are paid about half of their White counterparts.
The steering committee will work with American and Brazilian universities and youth outreach programs to help Brazil implement equal opportunity initiatives in education and employment.
May 1, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
As part of its pursuit of a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council, the United States this week released a document pledging its commitment to advancing human rights in the U.S. and abroad. U.N. member states seeking a seat on the council are encouraged to submit a human rights pledge document as part of their candidacy.
In addition to pledging to help combat human trafficking and help reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, the Obama administration promised to push for Congress to ratify several international human rights treaties, most notably, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The treaty calls for equal pay, maternity benefits, repealing all laws discriminating against women, and establishing institutions dedicated to promoting gender equality. Although President Carter signed the treaty in 1980, ratification requires a two-thirds majority vote by the Senate, which has not yet been achieved.
The administration also pledged to honor existing treaty obligations banning racial discrimination and to vigorously enforce the American with Disabilities Act.
The U.N. General Assembly will elect 47 members to the Human Rights Council on May 15.
April 27, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
Greenpeace members hang a banner from a construction crane across from the State Department in Washington, D.C. © Greenpeace / Taz
This afternoon, police arrested approximately 100 disability rights advocates - many in wheelchairs - at a protest in front of the White House.
The protest, by the disability-rights group ADAPT, is in support of the recently-introduced Community Choice Act, which will give people with disabilities and older Americans who rely on Medicaid the choice to receive long-term care from community-based attendants as an alternative to nursing homes.
Also today, Rep. John Lewis, D. Ga., was one of five members of Congress who were arrested for civil disobedience outside the Sudanese embassy in Washington, D.C. The protesters were calling for Sudan's government to reverse a recent decision to expel international humanitarian agencies - such as Doctors Without Borders and Oxfam - from the Darfur region of Sudan.
Since 2003, more than 300,000 people have died in Darfur in a conflict between ethnic rebel groups and the national government. The United Nations reports that nearly 5 million people in the region currently rely on international humanitarian aid to survive.
And early this morning, Greenpeace activists hung a giant banner protesting global warming from a construction crane near the State Department. The message on the 600-square-foot banner, a photo of the planet earth and the phrase "too big to fail," was intended for government delegates from 17 countries who are attending the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate.
April 23, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
Delegates from more than 100 United Nations (U.N.) member nations met in Geneva, Switzerland, this week to discuss strategies for eradicating racism. The Durban Review Conference (Durban II) is a follow-up to the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, which was held in 2001 in Durban, South Africa.
After months of contentious negotiations, the conference's organizing committee reached an agreement Tuesday on a final resolution outlining how U.N. member states can eradicate racism. The resolution, which represents a broad consensus on how to tackle racism and related forms of intolerance around the world, will be formally adopted by the full conference on Friday.
Recommendations in the resolution include:
In the weeks leading up to this year's conference, U.N. officials and experts worried that it would be impossible for the conference participants to come to consensus because of sharp disagreements among countries concerning the right to free expression, singling out certain conflicts in the world, and the refusal of some countries to attend the conference.
The U.S. boycotted this year's conference, as it did in 2001, citing objections to provisions prohibiting hate speech and references to Mid-East policies. Eight other countries, mainly from Europe, also withdrew from Durban II.
But U.N. officials were still encouraged by the level of participation of the countries that did attend the conference. "What we have decided shows the outcome when you remain engaged in the process. It shows that boycotts do not assist," said Amos Wako, president of the conference.
But not everyone felt that way. Representatives of many countries and human rights advocates were deeply disappointed with how the final resolution failed to recommend compensation regarding the lasting effects of transatlantic slave trade, although that topic was addressed in the 2001 conference.
Final resolution (PDF)
April 21, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
Elie Wiesel, founding chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, speaking at a ceremony held during the Tribute to Holocaust Survivors. Washington, D.C., November 2003.
Photo Credit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day dedicated to remembering those that suffered, those that fought and those that died during over 60 years ago during the Holocaust.
The first Holocaust Remembrance Day took place in 1951 in Israel. They chose the 27th day of the month of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar to honor the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the largest revolt by Jews during the Holocaust.
People around the world observe the holiday in a variety of ways. Often, six candles are lighted to represent the six million people that died. Participants will sometimes read a list of names of victims to honor them.
In 1980, Congress established the Days of Remembrance, an annual weeklong commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust that includes the Holocaust Remembrance Day, and created the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, in Washington, D.C. This year's theme, "Never Again: What You Do Matters" encourages people to reflect on the power of individuals to help solve injustice around the world.
President Obama and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel will speak at the museum's ceremony on April 23.
April 14, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
In an effort to better track its own demographic shifts and combat racial discrimination, France will consider conducting a national census that will account for race and ethnicity for the first time.
In France, unlike the U.S. and the U.K., it is illegal for the government to classify people by race, ethnicity, and religion, though it does make distinctions among native and foreign-born French citizens and noncitizen foreigners.
Yazid Sabeg, a close advisor to French President Nicholas Sarkozy, is leading an effort to change that policy. Sabeg recently told the BBC that data collection on minorities in France is "essential to measure how effective are official policies combating discrimination."
April 7, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
Today is World Health Day, an annual celebration which marks the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO) on April 7, 1948. The WHO, an agency of the United Nations, coordinates public health efforts worldwide, particularly by working to combat infectious diseases.
This year, World Health Day focuses on the safety of health facilities and the readiness of health workers who treat people affected by emergencies, such as earthquakes, floods or outbreaks of communicable diseases.
Earlier today, the WHO called for governments to make their health facilities disaster-proof -- a message that is especially apt the day after an earthquake in Italy killed more than 200 people. A hospital in the town of L'Aquina had to be evacuated due to structural damage.
"The tragedy of emergencies or disasters is compounded when health facilities fail," said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan. "When a hospital collapses, all its functions are disrupted, lives that depend on emergency care can be lost."
April 3, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
On Tuesday, the Obama administration reversed a key Bush decision by announcing it will run for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council. The 47 members of the council are elected by the U.N. General Assembly from among all the countries that are members of the U.N.
The State Department explained that by seeking election to the council "we can make the council a more effective forum to promote and protect human rights. We hope to work in partnership with many countries to achieve a more effective council."
Established in 2006, the U.N. Human Rights Council is an intergovernmental body designed to monitor compliance with human rights treaties and promote the protection of human rights around the globe. Members of the council are elected to three-year staggered terms.
Critics of the U.N. have said that the council's predecessor, the Human Rights Commission, allowed some countries such as Sudan to block scrutiny of their own human rights records and that the council is mired in the same problems. That was one of the reasons why President Bush considered the council too flawed to merit U.S. participation.
However, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon praised the announcement and noted that full "United States engagement on human rights issues is an important step towards realizing the goal of an inclusive and vibrant intergovernmental process to protect human rights around the globe."
March 23, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
Fifteen-year-old Brett Elder died yesterday in Bay City, Mich., after he was Tasered by a police officer trying to break up a fight. State police are investigating the circumstances of the death.
Many law enforcement agencies in the United States use Tasers, a type of weapon that shoots dart-like electrodes on conductive wires, causing an electric shock which temporarily incapacitates the person who is struck.
Although Tasers are not meant to be lethal, a August 2008 report from Amnesty International found that in the United States since 2001, 334 individuals died after being struck by Tasers. Around 90 percent of those individuals were unarmed.
In 2006, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed concern about U.S. police using Tasers against "unruly schoolchildren," people with mental disabilities, the elderly, pregnant women, and unarmed suspects fleeing minor crimes. The committee called for Tasers and similar weapons to be used only where "greater or lethal force would otherwise have been justified."
March 19, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
On March 17, President Obama announced that he will formerly support a United Nations statement that calls for the decriminalization of homosexuality worldwide.
Though it is non-binding, the statement acknowledges that GLBT people around the world are subject to "violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatization and prejudice" and states that human rights "apply equally to every human being regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity." It is the first time the U.N. General Assembly has formally addressed human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
When the declaration was introduced to the U.N. General Assembly in December 2008, it was supported by 66 U.N. member nations. The U.S. was the only western country that didn't sign the statement at that time. Former President Bush opposed the declaration, arguing that it raised legal questions that required further review.
Currently, nearly 70 U.N. member nations have laws banning homosexuality. And in some countries, homosexuality can be punished by execution.
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