NCWQ International Relations and Peace Report May 2019

By Georgina Pickers, NCWQ International Relations and Peace Adviser

The horrific events at the mosques in Christchurch, followed by the attacks on Christians in Sri Lanka then shootings at a Synagogue in the United States serves as a tragic reminder that those with “black hearts” of religious intolerance still live amongst us.  These despicable cowardly acts target ‘soft victims’ – defenceless people in sanctuaries of peace and worship.

The fortitude, empathy and dignity shown by New Zealand Prime Minister Adhern was an inspiration for all World leaders as well as offering genuine comfort to all those affected.

It was timely to note that in the last budget the Federal government allocated increased funding for cyber security and offensive cyber operations programme to $833 million for 2019-20.

While privacy issues and rights of the individual must be a consideration, there is a growing necessity to counter the trend for the internet and various social media platforms to be used to facilitate the planning and publicity for terrorism, the spread of ‘hate speech’, of misinformation, or the glorification of unlawful ego driven acts, or simply nasty, racial or personal mischievous attacks.

At a recent NCWQ dinner, guest speaker Brigadier Susan Coyle CSC, DSM Commander 6thBrigade Australian Army mentioned in her address the growing technological capabilities the ADF now deploy for cyber security and monitoring including drones for surveillance.

It is distressing to civil libertarians but inevitability vital for international relations and peace. That countries closely cooperate in this space to monitor and by necessity, counter threats

The monitoring of cyber-space, the use of CCTV and face recognition soft-wear is going to ignite much ongoing debate.  The balance of freedom of speech and human rights as opposed to maintaining security locally let alone globally is a compelling emotive one.

The plight of Australian women, particularly children languishing in Syrian refugee camps needs to be speedily and sympathetically addressed by the incoming federal government. Whatever the sins of these parents, their children are the innocent parties.  While there are no doubt numerous deserving refugee and asylum seekers these cases should be treated with priority.

Rarely publicised, but a no less important as a human rights issue, is the dilemma of Saudi women asylum seekers.  While it is perceived they come from affluent backgrounds and some may ask why they would have any human rights claims their personal reality is quite different.  Their appeal for freedom and a better life is as justified as any individual seeking our country’s refuge.  While Home Affairs states that most asylum claimants are granted bridging visas the question arises whether these women are treated equably under Human Rights conventions with the protection these covenants should guarantee?

The growth of digital media websites with official and unofficial number of media outlets that are fuelled by 24/7 news demand, has made press reporting at the best, risky to hazardous, but at the worst a deadly occupation.  The Committee to protect journalists (CPJ) reports on the number of journalists killed on assignment.  UNESCO reported between 1993 and 2019, 1324 journalists have been killed.  In 2017, 71 journalists were killed.  5 have been killed this year.  Generally journalists were welcomed.  Now it is a case of “if you don’t like the message, shoot the messenger”

The incoming Federal government is reminded to keep in front of mind, the Millennium Sustainable Goals for all policy, planning, and budgeting allocation.  Australia’s Foreign Aid for 2018-2019 had a budget of $4.2 billion but will be reduced in the 2019-2020 budget to $4.2 billion.

On a final local note the Queensland Museum has an on-going exhibition dedicated to the heroic stories and sacrifices of WW1.  It balances those stores with the organisations who advocated peace or provided comfort, kind words, a cup of tea, or welfare to soldiers and their families.  The irony of war and the extremes it produces delivers quite a contrast in this exhibition.

We are all human beings only in this life for a blink of an eye.  The world would be a kinder more peaceful and happier place if we could start with postings on social media, remembering the old saying “if your can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all”

Human Rights & International Relations & Peace Report, November 2018

By Georgina Pickers

NCWQ International Relations & Peace Adviser

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights.  While in principal it stands solid, the ideals it enshrined are unfortunately not adhered to by many countries who were once proud signatories.

Queensland’s government recently announced the introduction of a Human Rights Bill 2018.  Similar Human Rights Acts have already been passed by the Victorian and ACT governments Justice Minister Yvette D’Ath said, “The primary aim of the Bill is to ensure that respect for human rights is embedded in the culture of the Queensland public sector, and that public functions are exercised in a principled way and is compatible with human rights.”

The Bill protects 23 human rights:

  • Recognition and equality before the law
  • Right to life
  • Protection from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
  • Freedom from forced work
  • Freedom of movement
  • Freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief
  • Freedom of expression
  • Peaceful assembly and freedom of association
  • Taking part in public life
  • Property rights
  • Privacy and reputation
  • Protection of families and children
  • Cultural rights – generally
  • Cultural rights – Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders
  • Right to liberty and security of person
  • Humane treatment when deprived of liberty
  • Fair hearing
  • Rights in criminal proceedings
  • Children in the criminal process
  • Right not to be tried or punished more than once
  • Retrospective criminal laws
  • Right to education
  • Right to health services

The current Anti-Discrimination Commissioner will become the Human Rights commissioner.  The Act aims to ensure better health and education outcomes for Queenslanders.

The rise of white supremacists’ hater speech and the US President’s silence has contributed to fatal consequences which do not bode well for international relations & peace globally.  Right wing backlash in Germany against Angela Merkel’s generous opening of their countries borders to asylum seekers and financial refugees is threatening her Christian Democratic party’s majority and her leadership.

The march of several thousand economic refugees from Central America is going to test the resolve of the U.S. government’s policy for new arrivals as well as their border forces response.  If similar mass movements of people become more common governments will be pressured into either more forceful strategies or providing humanitarian aid in the form of temporary transit camps until refugees can be successfully absorbed into communities.  The answer may be a global strategy in targeting aid to the countries who have such hopeless economies, lack of governance and law and order that it forces people to ‘vote with their feet’  Whatever the answer, the policy the USA adopts in this instance will be closely watched by other nations who face similar pressures.

The controversial announcement by Prime Minister Scott Morrison proposing that the Australian embassy be relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem may have appealed to some Australian voters but one must ask – what has Australia to gain?  Generally the global community regards Jerusalem as a revered centre for the major religions of the world.  The harmony that the city has traditionally represented by this remarkable co-existence, albeit with a few ‘hiccups’ over the ages must endure in the interests of peace.

As the old saying goes “if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all” is still true as ever today, more so than ever.  When you see the many social media platforms and web sites used autonomously for hate speech it is truly sad.  The companies who provide these tools must take (like the car manufacturers) some responsibility for the damage they can do by the dangerous and impressionable messages they transmit.  These messages or call to action do not contribute to good international relations and peace, let alone respect for fellow human beings.

International Relations and Peace, Annual Report 2018

By Georgina Pickers

NCWQ International Relations and Peace Adviser

International Relations and Peace and Human Rights coexist – one dependant on the other.  Like the biblical Ten Commandments, the H.R. conventions should be at the foundation of our thoughts, words and actions.

 

The UN estimates the current global population at 7.2 billion, and like Australia’s, it is increasing annually.  Population pressures; climate change; and dysfunctional or corrupt governments will be major factors affecting future peace and security.  At present the world is relative peaceful given the recent hopeful signs in relation to the Korean Peninsula, but on-going conflicts such as those in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Sudan continue.

 

UNHCR currently reports an estimate of 25.4 million refugees, 16 million stateless persons and 65.4 million forcibly displaced worldwide.  These figures are staggering especially when added to incalculable numbers of economic refugees now contributing to the mass movement of people.  The potential tensions and reactionary measures that may be triggered are a cause for concern.

 

The perceived ‘wealthy’ governments of the developed world will be greatly challenged in balancing the demands of population growth and maintaining social harmony.  Improving the economy and governance of countries helps stem the flow of economic refugees seeking a better life.  Australia’s foreign aid and trade agreements will assist.

 

While Australia’s defence budget has increased (34.5 billion dollars in 2017-2018 and $150 billion over the Forward Estimates – growing to .2% of GDP by 2020-21) Taking into account domestic economic pressures, Australia’s aid budget has been reduced in the last budget (it does not reach the UN recommended aid budget target of .07% ODI/GNI Overseas Development Assistance to Gross National Income), it does substantially focus on important areas.  One aspect targets provision for awarding scholarships, fellowships and short courses to individuals from over 60 countries; with the objectives to promote prosperity, reduce poverty and enhance stability.  The 2018-19 aid budget of $4.2 billion allocated $1.2 billion to the Pacific region and $55 million to gender equality.  Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop and her department must be acknowledged for favouring the empowerment of women and girls.  This is particularly important in countries where better women’s health, higher education, greater economic opportunity and participation in the decision-making process are critical to development and beneficial to the entire community.

 

In the past security and defence pacts were foundations of bi-lateral and multi-lateral relationships.  Today trade agreements are becoming more prominent. Traditional allies such as the UK, USA, Canada and New Zealand will always remain, but Australia could be well served in looking at wider ties with established and developing nations within the Indo/Asia Pacific regions.

 

Expansionist strategies such as have occurred in the South China Sea, are a risk.  It would be chaotic for the world should other countries assert similar ambitions in expanding their territorial waters, then restricting the passage of shipping and aircraft.

International Relations and Peace Report, July 2018

By Georgina Pickers

NCWQ International Relations and Peace Adviser

 

International Relations & Peace and Human Rights coexist – one dependant on the other.  Like the biblical Ten Commandments, the H.R. conventions should be at the foundation of our thoughts, words and actions.

The UN estimates the current global population at 7.2 billion.  And like Australia’s, it is increasing annually.  Population pressures coupled with climatic changes, dysfunctional or corrupt governments will be major factors affecting future peace and security.  Although for the present the world is relative peaceful given the recent hopeful signs in relation to the Korean Peninsula and excepting on-going conflicts in places including Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Sudan.

However the UNHCR currently reports an estimate of some 25.4 million refugees, 16 million stateless persons and some 65.4 million forcibly displaced worldwide.  These figures are staggering especially when added to incalculable numbers of economic refugees now contributing to the mass movement of people.  The potential tensions it will cause and reactionary measures that may be triggered is cause for concern.

The perceived ‘wealthy’ governments of the developed world will be greatly challenged in balancing the demands of accommodating greater numbers and maintaining social harmony.

Improving the economy and governance of countries helps stem the flow of economic refugees seeking a better life.  Australia’s foreign aid and trade agreements will help.

While Australia’s defence budget has increased (34.5 billion dollars in 2017-2018 and $150 billion over the Forward Estimates – growing to .2% of GDP by 2020-21) and taking into account domestic economic pressures, Australia’s aid budget has been reduced in the last budget (it does not reach the UN recommended aid budget target of .07% ODI/GNI Overseas development Assistance to Gross National Income) it does substantially target important areas.  One aspect targets provision for awarding scholarships, fellowships and short courses to individuals from over 60 countries; the objective being to promote prosperity, reduce poverty as well as enhancing stability.  The 2018-19 aid budget of $4.2 billion allocates $1.2 billion to the Pacific region and $55 million to gender equality.  Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop and her department must be acknowledged for favouring the empowerment of women and girls.  Particularly important in countries where better women’s health, higher education, greater economic participation as well as participation in the decision making process are critical to development and beneficial to the entire community.

In the past security and defence pacts were foundations of bi-lateral and multi-lateral relationships.  Today trade agreements are now more prominent to those relationships. Traditional allies such as the UK, USA, Canada and New Zealand will always remain Australia could be well served in looking at wider ties with established and developing nations within the Indo/Asia Pacific regions.

It would be helpful to future global international relations and peace that countries did not embark on subtle expansionist strategies such as have occurred in the South China Sea.  It would be chaotic for the world should other countries asserted similar ambitions in expanding their territorial waters, then restricting passage of shipping and aircraft.

At no time in human history have we been so well informed yet at the same time so unquestioning, or accepting news as ‘fact’ or simply lacking healthy scepticism. The rise of the social media has influenced this trend.  Whatever the case, it may well be widening the gap in extreme opinions leaving no middle ground for reasonable debate or compromise.  It is a trend that is concerning.

In many countries this is causing the majority to embrace authoritarian leaders, threatening long-term instability, civil and human rights.

The UNHCR currently estimates that there are 22.5 million refugees, 16 million stateless persons with 65 million forcibly displaced worldwide.  Added to that figure, the incalculable numbers of economic migrants who are either legally apply for visas or illegally (by any means) seek better economic prospects than what their country can offer.  Consequently it is causing a greater mass movement of people than ever in the past

Human Rights conventions give legal if not an assumed sense of entitlement to refugees or asylum seekers to freely enter another country no matter what category or reason.  This is severely testing the soverignty of many countries as well as their capacity to comfortably accommodate and integrate new arrivals.  There may well be an increase of unaccompanied children in expectation that countries will be forced to accept them (and later their families) under the Rights of the Child Conventions.  This factor will add further pressures.

International crime in the form of people smuggling operations is taking lucrative advantage of these mass movements.  They offer desperate ‘clients’ false hopes and for a price unsafe or fatal passage to the perceived affluent Western world. The ILO (International Labour Organisation) estimate human trafficking profits at $150.2 million annually.  More one third of the profit comes from forced labour exploitation and the remaining two thirds from sexual exploitation.

Domestic and Family violence reported incidents to Queensland Police were down 5% in the 2016-17, however the figure still represented 62,264 offences in that period, with breeches of Domestic Family Violence Protections Orders up 9%.

In an effort to curb the scourge of domestic family violence the Queensland government asks ‘by-standers’ to speak up, safely intervening or reporting suspected cases of D.V.  The tendency to blame the victim is slowly dissipating.  No longer should it be used as a common excuse for the assault of women (or men) behind closed doors or in public.

If a child is raised by a village the whole community therefore has the responsibility of keeping children safe.  Foster parents are in greater demand than ever.  While the Queensland Government’s  Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women pleads for more foster carers they are under greater pressure than ever to ‘vet’ suitable people following the much publicised death of a foster child at the hands of the foster family.  While greater scrutiny of foster carers will always be necessary, timely monitoring into the child’s on-going welfare must be incorporated.  We cannot risk driving away potential foster carers that then necessitates the return of institutional care.  The recently announced Federal Government national apology and National Redress Scheme those who experienced institutional child sexual abuse (reportedly up to 60,000 survivors) timely and bears witness to the failings of a system that flourished when governments abdicated responsibility for the care of vulnerable in the community to third parties.

After national dialogue about Elder Abuse particularly in relation to financial matters, where enduring powers of attorney has been assigned to a close family member the Queensland Government announced in September 2017 a new law to protect older persons from financial abuse.  The reform concerns powers of attorney.  These new laws, while welcomed, have yet to be enacted.  When enforced they will be administered by the Queensland Public Guardian within the Queensland Civil Administrative Tribunal (QCAT)  Authorities have commented that financial elder abuse may be a ‘red flag’ to other forms of abuse.  Advocates have asked for a national reporting policy for when high care or nursing home fees are in arrears before the debt balloons to the point that a person is removed.

In 2017 the NCWQ made a submission to the Qld. Government regarding enduring powers of attorney in order to protect the financial assets of elderly dependents.

The phenomenal global campaign of the ‘MeToo’ movement initially via social media and later main stream media sent a strong message to men (and women) in positions of power or authority or those with some twisted sense of entitlement that sexual harassment is not acceptable in any community or occupation.  The ‘message’ hopefully filtered down through all social strata’s.  It is a wake-up call that behaviour that erodes the dignity of a person is not lawfully or socially acceptable in the 21st century.

 

International Relations Report, March 2018

By Georgina Pickers

NCWQ International Relations Adviser

It is regrettable that in one lifetime Australia’s heavy labour intensive manufacturing industries such as iron and steel making, shipbuilding s and car manufacturing have closed down or moved off-shore to cheaper labour markets, and yet we have a federal government enthusiastically promoting our defence and weapons manufacturing capabilities.

While these industries undoubtedly provide specialist jobs and export income wouldn’t international relations and global peace be better served if this type of science, technology and manufacturing was unessential?

The utter devastation of towns and cities in Syria and parts of Iraq defies comprehension. While the mounting civilian death and injury toll that includes many children draws criticism from the UN and NGO agencies it has little or no impact on the numerous forces and their covert backers.  In this complex geo-political struggle it is difficult to see what will be achieved when nothing is left except rubble.  The up serge of terrorist attacks in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia is further evidence that religious motivated terrorism continues to add to the turmoil, death and destruction.

The phenomenal ‘Me-too’ campaign has gone global.  It is finally exposing widespread sexual harassment in the workplace.  While highly publicised cases involving affluent Western white males have received wide exposure the frank discussions have raised awareness, helping to curb this ‘sense of entitlement’ behaviour is an affront to all women’s human rights.

Change the Day debate raised little commentary in Queensland although it was energetically advocated in other states.  While a minority of Australians may be offended by the marking of the first fleet’s arrival on the 26th January 1788 and ensuring impact on the ‘first people’ it cannot rewrite history or put rogjt past wrongs.  Using the day to reaffirm programmes or new initiatives to acknowledge and assist our marginalized sisters and brothers would have a more lasting and meaningful effect.

One must question the sanity of any person (outside of the military) who has a compelling need to buy, carry or use an automatic weapon.   In the wake of recent mass shootings (Florida High school and Las Vegas) America risks losing further global respect and credibility because of its’ government’s inability to legislate effective gun control.  To blame mass killings on the shooters mental state or other factors does not deal with the core problem.  That is, weapons of war have no place in the hands of ordinary citizens of any age or gender.  In the light of these recent events, the NCWA must robustly appeal to the Australian government and state councils to their respective state ministers NOT to relax our gun laws.  Further, to apply more pro-active measures to combat illegal importation, internet sales, trafficking and enforce strict authorised ownership of all types of guns.

The escalating readiness of police to use their guns when dealing with potential threat or harm is a worrying trend.

While the Queensland police have an Ethical Standards Command (ESC) it is an internal investigation.  When the majority of the population is not permitted to carry guns, the prudent use of guns by our police forces needs closer scrutiny.  An independent authority should be engaged to investigate instances of police action.  This is especially the case when mental health issues have triggered responses that might have been resolved by less lethal means.

The Gold Coast and South East Queensland  venues will host the Commonwealth Games in April this year.  The goodwill and contribution to international relations and peace cannot be under-valued   Sporting competition aside, the potential for generating return visits and even eventual immigration by those games visitors or competitors maybe a strong probability.

It was therefore not surprising that Border Security Minister Peter Dutton saw fit to publically warn all overseas attendees not to overstay their respective visa, just in case the Gold Coast seemed more like  a ‘paradise’ – not just a ‘surfers Paradise’ to those impressed visitors.

International Relations & Peace Report, September 2017

By Georgina Pickers

NCWQ International Relations and Peace Adviser

A tumultuous 12 months has passed since the last AGM report.  As much as I would like to think there have been improvements in global affairs things could have been better.

Elections in countries including the USA, UK and France defied predictions with other European governments trending toward conservative ‘right’ politics.   Other governments including Turkey, Philippines, Mexico and Russia have voted in favour of more authoritarian leaders and policies.  And while much of the world’s media fixates on every word uttered by President Trump, other countries such as Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Mexico, Philippines and North Korea literally get away with murder.

To some, Australia’s presence at world bodies such as the G20, the UN or similar, has minimal influence.  Nevertheless, the work of our foreign affairs representatives, UN personnel, ambassadors, and consular corps should never be under valued. Beneath the loud dramatic headlines, ‘false truths’ (propaganda) etc. their work quietly goes on ‘below the radar’ in maintaining essential lines of communication.

My optimistic wish for the World is that by the next AGM Report the chaotic and tragic conflict in Syria is resolved.  The economic and human disaster that civil war has caused beyond its borders goes without saying.

The developed world will need to formulate plans to be better able and willing to absorb, or at least offer safe temporary refuge to the tens of millions escaping future conflicts and poverty.  Besides civil wars and sectarian conflicts, it is predicted that climate change will trigger new waves of economic refugees.

While conflicts and civil unrest are prime drivers of refugee movements, corruption and poor governance within numerous countries can be the root cause. This in turn impacts the well-being of many who naturally are forced to seek secure lives, better education and future for their children.  Until this problem is alleviated the mass movements of economic migrants to perceived ‘wealthy’ Western countries will only increase.   Should foreign aid be conditional upon necessary governance or legal reforms being undertaken, or to assist and prioritise those needs?  A guide to the Global Corruption Perspectives Index 2016 can be found at: www.transparency.org               Australia was ranked 13th out of 176 countries.

While rolling electronic and  print media constantly assaults us with depressing headlines and negative news we must take a moment to salute the unsung ‘heroes’ who are the individual peace makers of the world.  Those NGOs, Charity organisations, individual volunteers, UN aid agencies, UN Peacekeepers (70th Anniversary this year)  and other diplomatic personnel who all strive to keep lines of assistance open or are helping to make a positive difference in people’s lives, even if it’s one person at a time.  Their kindness and humanity help balance the scales in the interest of International Relations and Peace.

International Relations & Peace Report March 2017

By Georgina Pickers

NCWQ International Relations & Peace & Human Rights Adviser

While the feminist heart in me wanted Hilary Clinton to finally break the most powerful ‘glass ceiling’ in political history, my pragmatic head had to concede, that as distasteful as many remarks made during the election campaign, President Donald Trump certainly struck a chord in the minds of voters who believed they have been forgotten. History will be the critical judge of this new era but how Australia will fit into relations with the U.S.A. is opaque. The underlying theme of President Trump’s speeches emphasised business, meaning what’s good for America. Australia’s close relations and treaties have mostly been defence orientated. With anticipation of revising existing trade agreements it’s more critical than ever that Australia asks “What’s in it for us?”.

With trade and business in mind, it’s sad to read the global corruption perspectives index 2016. While Australia is ranked 13th out of 176 countries (Denmark was first, Somalia 176th ) the listing is a reminder that all levels of government, business and judiciary will always need scrutiny. Globally it’s indefensible that the potential economic growth and living standards of so many countries are robbed due to individual or corporate greed or compromised governance. For more information visit: www.transparency.org/cpi

It has been amazing to see the endless amount of mainstream and social media energy expended in forensically analysing every word the new U.S. president utters. You might think there is nothing else of importance happening in the world so it is concerning that while so much attention is being focused on Trump and the U.S. administration other political events take second stage. For international Relations and Peace stable predictable relationships are essential. The recent political events in the U.S.A. have emboldened other countries to become introspective, with ambitious political leaders appealing to the populist views of the voters. The move towards the conservative right of politics, while in itself not necessarily bad, can cross a fine line between those views and authoritarian actions governments may impose in the name of preserving security and ‘democracy’.

The plight of asylum seekers especially those waiting for relocation in off-shore detention centres have been made a fine example of at great taxpayer expense. If or when they are relocated in any third country who will accept them, or chose to be sent back to their country of origin Australian immigration has made their point. The speedy resettlement of these people, wherever it may be, needs to become a reality.

The Queensland government has taken the initiative in combating domestic violence though early intervention counselling of first time offenders. The success of the trial will be evaluated and expanded subject to available resources. Several fatal incidences in Queensland have occurred due to domestic  Violence offenders either breaching their Domestic Violence Orders (DVO) or bail conditions. In Queensland, thousands of DVO breaches occurred, as many times as they are applied for by police or private applicants. (19,208 in 2015). D.V Connect spokesperson Di Mangan concedes in an interview that the figures raise the question of what can be done to protect victims of family violence. “Many women are protected by those orders,” she said. “But some men won’t take notice of those orders because their sense of entitlement won’t abide by any law.”

With the rolling electronic, social and print media constantly assaulting us with depressing negative news stories let us take a moment to remember the unsung individuals, the true peace-makers of the world, the non-government organisations or charity organisations who tirelessly strive to make a positive difference in people’s lives, even if it is only one person at a time. Their kindness helps balance the fragile scales for humanity.

International Relations & Peace Report, November 2016

By Georgina Pickers

NCWQ International Relations and Peace and Human Rights Adviser

An associate of NCWQ drew my attention to the on-going legal ‘firestorm’ which started in 2013. It was created by students attending the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) commenting on social media about their denied access to an exclusive learning area for indigenous students.

Much has already been written in the media about an injured party who regarded their comments as racially motivated; appealing to the Human Rights Commissioner who judged it was in breach of clause 18C of Australia’s racial discrimination laws and commenced legal proceedings against the students.

More recently a Bill Leak cartoon published in the Australian that depicted an aboriginal father and son has been regarded by some, including the HRC as having ‘racist’ overtones. This has been strenuously defended as the majority regard cartoons and satire as a form of basic ‘freedom of speech’

While we all have a personal responsibility not to participate or condone open racism, bigotry or just plain nastiness some common sense must prevail. Some opinion feels the Act in its present form is too broadly interpreted and should be reviewed. More recently some members of the coalition Federal government urged that words “offend” and “insult” be removed from the Act.

The Queensland parliament recently enacted the Domestic and Family Violence Protection and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016. This bill incorporates changes to the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012. The Amendments, particularly relating to police powers, applications for protection orders (PO) and Domestic Violence Orders (DVO) The tailoring, duration mutual recognition across state borders and compliance of DVO’s has been addressed. While Domestic Violence organisations and the NCWQ welcomed the changes there is a pressing need for more dedicated crises accommodation and legal assistance for women and children affected by D.V. especially those living in remote communities and townships.

Child protection in Queensland was found to be wanting after horrific reports of several cases of child abuse, torture and death. The Minister, Departments and officers must do better. Review of procedures, reporting and extra funding for front-line staff must be a priority.

Annual UN World Human Rights Day was observed on August 19. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop gave a keynote address at the State Library Melbourne as to Australia’s past and current Human Rights responses.

African Nations including Gambia, Tanzania have banned child marriage; the minimum age has been lifted from 15 to 18 years by law. According to UNICEF top counties that allow child marriage are Niger, Chad, Central African Republic, Bangladesh, Mali, Guinea, South Sudan, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, and Malawi. Human Rights groups, Amnesty International and Plan International all assert his practice is direct contravention of Human Rights. So, it was indeed heartening to read that Malawi Chief Teresa Kach Indamoto took a stand, breaking up 850 child marriages in 3 years. She is a Senior Chief to more than 900,000 people, ordering people to give up ‘old’ ways, by terminating early marriages.

The social, health, education and economic welfare of girls must be universally raised. An address by Minister Fierra Vanti-Wells marking the International Day of the Girl Child on October 11 highlighted the appalling lack of rights and status girls suffer, but what they and their communities can achieve given respect, education, health and protection.

Australia should not be complacent because girls as young as 12 and 13 were taken out of Australia for arranged marriages to someone much older, someone they did not know or even someone related to them. The Australian Federal Police reports that there were 69 incidents of forced marriage investigated in the financial year 2015-16, up from 33 the year before (the cases reported and investigate) One might only guess how many there may have occurred prior to 2013 when forced marriage was criminalised.

This practice surely contravenes the Rights of the Child and fundamental Human Rights and it has no place in modern Australia.

UN Women advise that 64% of illiterates globally are women. The UNAA have published a 2016, 34 page Economic Empowerment for Women and Girls. Over 80 participants and speakers contributed. To read more visit: www.unaa.org.au

The Federal governments Minister for Immigration’s recent declaration that illegal boat arrivals with face a life time ban on taking up residency will face strong opposition from Human Rights advocates not to mention robust debate and stormy passage through parliament. Whatever your views the major ‘selling point’ of people smugglers is that “we’ll get you there (at your cost) and they have to take you (eventually)”

Ending on more positive note, Australia joined 175 other countries in signing the UN Paris Climate agreement on April 22nd, 2016. The country joined 195 other countries who’ve signed up.

To date 98 countries including the United States of American and China have ratified the agreement. Australia’s commitment is not yet ‘set in stone’ as the agreement has yet to be ratified in the Australian parliament. Australia’s emission target reduction in relation to other less developed countries remains a contentious issue.

 

International Relations and Peace Report October 2015

By Georgina Pickers

NCWQ International Relations and Peace Adviser

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The ICW plans of Action 2015-2018 for International Relations and Peace has asked National Councils to:-

– Promote peaceful co-existence and international understanding by peace education through school programs and establishing appropriate mechanisms and frameworks for effective peace building.

– Create dialogue among women from conflict zones by developing professional exchanges and organizing educational and cultural events and developing joint projects.

– Initiate training activities/workshops/seminars for women’s involvement in decision-making at all levels.

– Monitor the implementation of SCR 1325, SCR 2122 and related SC Resolutions.

and the empowerment of women.

– Formulate and implement programmes to legislate for stronger measures against violence, early marriage, and trafficking of women and girls.

Refugee numbers are at historic highs globally and increasing. While safety is the primary concern for those escaping conflicts, economic reasons are the major motivator. Climate Change will also be sited a factor for claiming refugee status in the future movement of populations, particularly in oceanic nations.

A moving Bridge of Peace Ceremony was convened jointly by NCWQ and WFWP (Women’s Federation for World Peace) at Parliament house in Brisbane on September 16th marked the 70th Anniversary of the ending of WW11. Visitors from Japan joined hands with local organisation representatives, in a Sisterhood Pledge of solidarity, reconciliation and friendship between Australia and Japan.

The Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN) has appealed for supporters in advocating for peace and justice in Palestine and Israel based on United Nations resolutions and international law. For more information visit: www.apan.org.au

Following a spate of deaths to women related to domestic violence an increased National strategy by the Federal and state governments towards awareness and strategy has been undertaken.

A White ribbon Day Breakfast, co-hosted by Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and The Honourable Dame Quentin Bryce AO CVO, will be held in Brisbane on Wednesday 25 November. The White Ribbon movement is now the World’s largest male-led movement to end men’s violence against women. A panel discussion on taking action to prevent violence against women will follow breakfast. For more information, support and tickets visit: www.qld.gov.au/whieribbionday.

This year is the 70th anniversary of the United Nations.

On Friday 23 October the United Nations Association Queensland chapter held the UNAAQ Community Awards presentation at government house. The awards, presented by the Governor of Queensland His Excellency the Honourable Paul de Jersey AC covered 8 awards in various categories. Recipients included long standing young refugee mentor, teacher and supporter Adele Rice, Friends of HEAL Foundation (Home of Expressive Arts in Learning) providing relief from distress and enhancing education and cultural integration especially for refugee adolescents and the Qld. Country Women’s Association (QCWA) for their unswerving efforts in supporting families living in remote areas of Australia and overseas. Currently QCWA support Pacific Islands in the form of Birthing Kits to PNG, and primary school books and school supplies.

While there are mixed feelings, Queensland primary producers and processors of food particularly applauded opportunities that will arise from the recent ratification of Free Trade agreements between Australia, China, Japan, Korea and others.