Support Us    
 

Civil society assess outcomes of UNGA76 Third Committee session

The 14 undersigned civil society organisations mark the conclusion of the UN General Assembly’s (GA) 76th Third Committee session with the following observations on both thematic and country-specific resolutions. We urge all States to implement the commitments they have made in the resolutions discussed below to their full extent.

We welcome the joint statement on reprisals led by the UK and joined by a cross-regional group of 80 countries (5 more than last year), calling on all States and the UN to prevent, respond to, and ensure accountability for intimidation and reprisals against those who engage or seek to engage with the UN.  We also welcome the resolution adopted at the Human Rights Council in September 2021 on reprisals, inviting the SG to submit the report presented annually to the Council also to the GA from next session.

We welcome the biennial resolution on human rights defenders focussing on the critical role defenders play in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the challenges faced in that regard. We also welcome elements on legal frameworks for their protection and the responsibilities of business. While we are encouraged by enhanced references to surveillance and counter-terrorism measures being used against defenders, we are disappointed that stronger language did not make it into the final text, despite support from civil society and some States. However, we hope that the consensus outcome and 85 co-sponsors, provides a basis for meaningful progress on these issues, and greater protection of defenders.   

We welcome the adoption of the resolution on Policies and Programmes involving Youth by consensus, recognizing the need to fulfill young people’s human rights and as key actors for sustainable development, while acknowledging their important role in decision making processes. The resolution stresses the need to tackle barriers limiting their participation and development, such as unemployment, poverty, gender inequality, multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, HIV/AIDS, SGBV and access to technology. We welcome the strong references to human rights and fundamental freedoms of young people, and the need to note young people’s diverse situations and conditions in national development strategies. Lastly, we welcome calls for a high-level GA plenary meeting to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the World Programme of Action for Youth with the full and effective participation of young people. 

Read the Full Letter

Statement Urging Sixth Committee Action on The International Law Commission’s Draft Articles on Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Humanity

Whereas over the course of human history, millions of people, particularly women and children, have been subjected to murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, persecution, and other atrocities that have shocked the conscience of humanity,

Whereas it was established in 1946 by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg that these “crimes against humanity” are crimes under international law for which the perpetrators should be prosecuted and punished,

Whereas in 2013, the United Nations International Law Commission approved the topic “crimes against humanity” for inclusion in its programme of work, and subsequently, over the next six years, proceeded to study the topic and prepare draft articles for inclusion in a possible new treaty to be negotiated and adopted by States,

Whereas in 2019, the International Law Commission adopted upon Second Reading, following input from States during the course of its work, a draft preamble, draft articles, a draft annex and commentaries thereto on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Humanity, and recommended in paragraph 42 of its Report the elaboration of a convention by the General Assembly or by an international conference of plenipotentiaries on the basis of the draft articles,

Whereas in 2019, although the government of Austria offered to host an international conference of plenipotentiaries for the elaboration of such a convention, progress on the ILC draft articles has not advanced in the Sixth Committee,

Whereas crimes against humanity are among the most serious crimes in international law, along with genocide and war crimes and the absence of a treaty regulating their prevention and punishment is incongruous with crimes of comparable gravity, fueling the misconception that there is a hierarchy of importance,

Whereas a treaty on crimes against humanity would close a crucial gap in the current international framework on mass atrocities.

Whereas the absence of a treaty on crimes against humanity has a real-world consequence for the victims of atrocity crimes,

Whereas although the ILC draft articles represent an adequate baseline for negotiations, there remain a range of views on certain substantive points. The perspectives must not perpetuate an inert cycle, but rather be given the opportunity to be discussed in an inclusive, transparent, and holistic process,

Now therefore, the undersigned, urge the following in order to make real and substantive progress on the work of the International Law Commission draft articles:

  1. The Sixth Committee should establish a procedure at the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly for the consideration of the draft articles with a view towards realizing the recommendation of the International Law Commission that the draft articles on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Humanity be elaborated into a treaty.
  2. The process must have a clear mandate, defined meetings, specific terms of reference, and a timeline for completion of its work.

Download the Full Letter 

Another Wave of Atrocity Crimes in Chin State: UN Security Council Must Act Now to End Myanmar Junta’s Campaign of Terror

We, the undersigned 521 Myanmar, regional and international civil society organizations, call on the UN Security Council to urgently convene a meeting on the escalating attacks in Chin State, and address the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian, human rights and political crisis in Myanmar. We call for the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution to consolidate international action to stop the military’s violent assault against the people of Myanmar. The UN Security Council must also impose a global arms embargo to stop the flow of weapons and dual-use goods to the Myanmar military junta.

It has been nine months since the attempted coup by the brutal Myanmar military. 1,236 people have been killed and 9,667 arbitrarily detained as of 3 November, 2021. The junta has continued its violent assault throughout Myanmar, recently deployed troops and increased its attacks against civilians in Chin State, Sagaing and Magwe Regions in north-western Myanmar, while continuing its attacks in Karenni, Karen and Shan States.

On Friday 29 October, the Myanmar military began shelling the town of Thantlang in Western Chin State, setting as many as 200 houses and at least two churches on fire. Soldiers also deliberately torched houses at random.

Save the Children – whose office in Thantlang was set on fire alongside local civil society organizations including Chin Human Rights Organization – strongly condemned the recent attacks stating “the incident is further evidence of a deepening crisis in Myanmar” as the violence continues to affect large numbers of children across the country. Such indiscriminate attacks against civilians and humanitarian organizations are violations of international law and constitute war crimes.

Read the Full Letter

Letter to Secretary Blinken from U.S. Orgs & Leaders in Solidarity with Palestinian Civil Society

288 Organizations Demand Biden Administration Condemn Israel’s Crackdown on Human Rights Groups

Dear Secretary Blinken:

The undersigned U.S.-based social justice, civil rights, and human rights leaders and organizations write to demand that you immediately and unequivocally condemn the Israeli government’s recent decision to outlaw and criminalize six Palestinian human rights and community-based organizations.

The Palestinian organizations currently targeted under the Israeli government’s draconian 2016 Counter-Terrorism Law form part of the bedrock of Palestinian civil society that has been protecting and advancing Palestinian human rights for decades across the full spectrum of issues of global concern, including children’s rights, prisoners’ rights, women’s rights, socio-economic rights, the rights of farmworkers, justice and accountability for international crimes. They are: Defense for Children International - Palestine, Al Haq, Addameer, Bisan Center for Research and Development, Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees. They are trusted partners in our collective work to secure human rights for all.

The Biden administration has repeatedly expressed a commitment to center and promote human rights worldwide and protect the role of civil society. These actions by the Israeli government are a clear attack on human rights. As such, we urge you to issue a swift rejection of this unprecedented attack on Palestinian human rights organizations and the attempt by the Israeli government to shut down, delegitimize, isolate, and chill a growing human rights movement. We agree with 17 UN Special Rapporteurs that “the freedoms of association and expression must be fully respected in order to enable civil society to perform its indispensable work, and cannot be undermined by the manifestly egregious misuse of counterterrorism and security legislation.”

Read the Full Letter

Open Letter on Abortion Stigma

An Open Letter to Public Officials and Policy Makers:

As organizations advocating for reproductive health, rights, and justice, we urgently call on public officials and policy makers to use the word abortion. Abortion stigma—defined as associating a “negative attribute” towards people who provide, have had, or are seeking abortions—has facilitated the passage of radical laws like Texas SB 8, which bans abortion at approximately six weeks of pregnancy and has forced nearly all abortion services to an abrupt stop across the state. Failing to explicitly use the term abortion and reinforcing negative messages about self-managed or non-clinical abortion contributes to abortion stigma. It is more dire than ever that policy makers act now to protect access to care and make all possible efforts to break down abortion stigma, including using the term abortion.

Abortion is health care. Access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, including access to abortion care, is essential to gender equity and equality. Abortion restrictions rely on and reinforce harmful stereotypes about gender roles and women’s decision-making instead of offering support, undermining their ability to control their own lives and well-being. When someone makes the decision to have an abortion, they should be able to access the care they need with respect and dignity, free from burdens, barriers, and stigma.

Even though abortion is common and a normal part of reproductive health experiences, with one in four women in the U.S. having an abortion in her lifetime, there remains considerable stigma about abortion. Consequently, public officials will sometimes refer to abortion as “women’s health” and the legal framework around abortion rights as “the right to choose”, “pro-choice” or “protecting Roe v. Wade.” Avoiding the word “abortion” reinforces abortion stigma and the notion that abortion is morally wrong, allowing opponents of abortion to define the moral narrative surrounding it.

Read the Full Letter

Open Letter to Members of the U.S. Congress to Pass the Burma Unified through Rigorous Military Accountability Act of 2021

Dear Members of Congress,

We, the undersigned 242 Burmese diaspora, local CSOs inside Burma, community-based organizations, and civil society organizations both here in the U.S. and around the world welcome the introduction of the Burma Unified through Rigorous Military Accountability Act of 2021, or, the BURMA Act, and call on all members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to co-sponsor this crucial legislation and support its expeditious passage into law. As the situation in Burma worsens daily, U.S. action is vital to the millions of lives currently suffering at the hands of the Burmese military. The BURMA Act will provide much needed U.S. support for the realization of all Burmese peoples’ aspirations for an inclusive, rights respecting democracy.

Since the February 1st coup, the people of Burma have seen increased human rights violations and militarization, and the situation is growing more dire by the day. While the number of people killed by the junta is significantly higher, there are over 1,100 confirmed deaths since February, including at least 75 children. More than 8,700 people have been arrested, of which an estimated 7,104 are still detained. 220,000 have been newly displaced, with 3 million in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the UN. The World Bank predicts an 18% drop in GDP for Burma this year, which, combined with slower growth in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, will leave Burma’s economy 30% smaller than originally expected. The World Food Program estimates that food insecurity will have more than doubled since the coup by October 2021 to more than 6.2 million people.

Despite the Burmese military junta campaign of oppression to terrorize and demoralize the people, they have not won. In each of Burma’s states, ethnic minorities are witnessing the worst of the Burmese military’s violence and crimes against humanity. While it is clear that Burma’s ethnic minorities are disproportionately impacted by violence from the Burmese military, the country’s majority Burman group are also affected, representing the extent to which the junta’s attacks are indiscriminate and truly affect all in Burma.

Read the Full Letter

57 Civil and Human Rights Organizations Urge Biden Administration and Congress to Keep a Pathway to Citizenship for Immigrants in Budget Reconciliation Bill

Re: Keep a pathway to citizenship for immigrant communities in the Build Back Better reconciliation bill 

Dear President Biden, Vice President Harris, Majority Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi, 

We, the undersigned 57 civil and human rights organizations, write to urge you to prioritize keeping a pathway to citizenship for immigrants in the budget reconciliation bill. Deeply rooted immigrants—including those who came to the United States as children and may have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), those who have fled violence and other crises and currently have Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), and those who have kept the US economy going during the pandemic by serving as essential workers—deserve lasting protection from deportation and the ability to live freely with their families and in their communities, protecting fundamental rights, and powering US businesses and the national economy. 

The budget reconciliation bill remains the most viable opportunity to finally make this reform to the US’ unfair immigration system. We urge you not to let obstacles posed by any single individual—whether it be the Senate parliamentarian or a member of Congress—derail the moral imperative of finally achieving a pathway to citizenship.

Read the Full Letter

Open Letter in Support of Continuing Recognition of Ambassador U Kyaw Moe Tun as Myanmar’s Permanent Representative at the UN General Assembly

Excellencies,

We, the undersigned, representing a broad movement of 358 Myanmar and international civil society organizations, urge you to ensure that the current Permanent Representative (PR) of Myanmar to the United Nations (UN), Ambassador U Kyaw Moe Tun, retains his position as Myanmar’s representative to the UN for the upcoming 76th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), scheduled to begin on 14 September 2021.

Ambassador U Kyaw Moe Tun is the incumbent representative of Myanmar and he represented Myanmar throughout the 75th session of the UNGA after his credentials were accepted by the Credentials Committee in November 2020 and approved by the UNGA on 1 December (A/RES/75/19). He was appointed as Myanmar’s PR to the UN by the democratically elected government of Myanmar, which had held office since 2016. His credentials were renewed by the current duly elected government of Myanmar.

The new government, which won in a free, fair and credible general election in November 2020, was due to be formed in February 2021 and take office in March. The general election, which was observed by accredited international election monitoring bodies including the Asian Network for Free Elections and the Carter Center, certified that the election reflected the will of the people of Myanmar. However, on 1 February 2021, the Myanmar military launched a coup, physically prevented the scheduled session of the new parliament and forcibly detained elected members of Parliaments.

Read the Full Letter

2021 Open Letter to Permanent Representatives to the United Nations in advance of the annual Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security

The Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda is, at its heart, an agenda led by civil society, who, in partnership with Member States and the UN, lobbied for the adoption of Resolution 1325 (2000). At this year’s Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security, we ask you to stand with the women human rights defenders (WHRDs), peacebuilders, advocates for gender equality and other civil society leaders who play a critical role in advancing our common goal of peace, human rights and gender justice, yet are under relentless attack for doing so.

To be a woman today in many parts of the world, particularly in a conflict zone, means having to choose between fighting for your rights, or fighting for your life.

We are deeply concerned by the crisis in Afghanistan and the plight of the many Afghan women civil society leaders, peacebuilders, human rights defenders (HRDs) and journalists at grave risk, who have either been forced to flee or remain trapped in the country since the Taliban took power. Afghan women have courageously and tirelessly fought for their rights for decades, despite conflict, deeply-rooted discrimination, corruption and poverty — they are now under threat from a regime that has an extensive record of brutality and repression of women’s rights. In recent months, women leaders, activists and journalists have been targeted and prevented from fully exercising their right to participate in all spheres of public and political life in areas under Taliban control. Women who are, or are perceived to be, lesbian or bisexual face additional risks of persecution.

Women human rights defenders in other conflict zones fare little better. In Myanmar, the women who led protests against the coup by the Tatmadaw in February this year are fighting against both the military and patriarchy. They have been detained, tortured and sexually abused for standing up for human rights and democracy, all while continuing to hold leading roles in the resistance movement. In Colombia, HRDs, especially Afro-descendant, Indigenous and LGBTIQ activists, are at heightened risk of gender-based violence for defending their rights, their land and their communities. Yemeni activists have warned that retaliation against women for participating in political life has reached unprecedented levels. South Sudanese defenders and peacebuilders both within and outside the country face routine targeting and surveillance. Palestinian WHRDs who criticize the Israeli occupation regularly face violence, raids, judicial harassment, arrest, assault and movement restrictions for carrying out their work.

Read the Full Letter

An Affirmation of Feminist Principles

We the undersigned organizations and individuals from across the world come together in this letter to emphasize our shared belief that to achieve justice, equality and liberation, we must combat and dismantle the patriarchal systems of power which continue to oppress and exclude many of us. 

We affirm some key feminist principles and their alignment with issues pertaining to sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics.

We reinforce and defend the place that trans, intersex and nonbinary people have alongside many others in feminist movements.

We underscore the recognition that human rights do not distinguish between persons, they are, in their construction, universal, indivisible and inalienable.

We affirm that the realization of the human rights of any one group of persons does not come at the cost of the rights of any others. These shared principles and values have united diverse feminist movements everywhere.

Read the Full Letter

Policy Brief: The United States and the Generation Equality Forum

Dear Madam Prosecutor,

After years of debate as to whether or not to host a Fifth World Conference on Women, UN Women and leading progressive nations wishing to mark the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action at the Fourth World Conference on Women have created a champions-only space outside the United Nations (UN) system: the Generation Equality Forum (GEF).

The Generation Equality Forum (GEF), organized by UN Women and the governments of Mexico and France, will create a space for governments to revisit the outcomes from the Fourth World Conference on Women; elevate issues such as climate change that were not a focus in 1995; make new, transformative commitments; and marshal resources and generate will toward achieving the vision of Beijing and beyond.

For the Biden-Harris administration, the GEF offers among its first and best opportunities to demonstrate its renewed and unwavering commitment to these issues on the world stage. By making strong commitments to achieve gender equality and protect women’s human rights across all six of the priority themes—organized in what are known as Action Coalitions—the United States can advance gender equality and women’s rights both globally and domestically, in line with the Biden-Harris administration’s priorities: an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the advancement of racial justice and equity and a robust response to the global climate crisis.

Read the Brief

Open Civil Society Letter To ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda

Dear Madam Prosecutor,

As your term as prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) draws to a close, we are writing to thank you for your longstanding service and significant contributions to the ICC, as well as to acknowledge the progress that the Office of the Prosecutor has made during your tenure.

While civil society organizations have identified areas for improvement and will continue to advocate for changes to ensure effective investigations and prosecutions, the office has made considerable advances in a number of situations and preliminary examinations under your leadership.

We especially admire the high degree of independence you have exhibited during your mandate. Your office has opened investigations in the face of immense pressure and politicized opposition. You have done this work at great personal and institutional cost. Developments on the ground in Myanmar, Afghanistan, and Palestine over the last few months have confirmed that accountability in those and other situations is essential, especially when the ICC is the only remaining option for justice. We will call on the next prosecutor to build on this legacy and continue to ensure that the court fulfils its mandate, regardless of the nationality or position of alleged perpetrators.

Read the Full Letter

Joint NGO Call for a UN Human Rights Council resolution on the ongoing human rights crisis in Tigray, Ethiopia

To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations Human Rights Council (Geneva, Switzerland)

Your Excellency,

We, the undersigned human rights non-governmental organizations, strongly urge the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) to adopt a resolution at its upcoming 47th session (HRC47) on the ongoing human rights crisis in Tigray, Ethiopia.

Over the last seven months an overwhelming number of reports have emerged of abuses and violations of international humanitarian and human rights law (IHL/IHRL) during the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region. Reports by civil society organizations have detailed widespread massacres, violence against civilians and indiscriminate attacks across Tigray while preliminary analysis by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) indicates that all warring parties have committed abuses that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. There is now ample evidence that atrocities continue to be committed, notably by the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, Eritrean Defense Forces, and Amhara regional special police and affiliated Fano militias. These include indiscriminate attacks and direct attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, widespread and mass extrajudicial executions, rape and other sexual violence, forced displacement, arbitrary detentions, including of displaced persons, widespread destruction and pillage of civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, schools, factories and businesses, and the destruction of refugee camps, crops and livestock.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) on Sexual Violence in Conflict has repeatedly expressed alarm over the widespread and systematic commission of rape and sexual violence in Tigray. On 21 April she stated that women and girls in Tigray are being subjected to sexual violence “with a cruelty that is beyond comprehension,” including gang rape by men in uniform, targeted sexual attacks on young girls and pregnant women, and family members forced to witness these horrific abuses. The SRSG also stated that these reports, coupled with assessments by healthcare providers in the region, indicate that sexual violence is being used as a weapon of war.

Download the Full Letter 

Generation Equality Letter to President Biden

Dear President Biden,

On behalf of the 38 organizations committed to advancing gender equality at home and abroad, we applaud your administration’s decision to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and to have Vice President Kamala Harris deliver the U.S.’s remarks at the 65th Commission on the Status of Women. Additionally, we welcome your Executive Order formally establishing the White House Gender Policy Council and its mandate to develop the Government-Wide Strategy to Advance Gender Equity and Equality. Coupled with the Presidential Memorandum on Protecting Women’s Health at Home and Abroad and the Presidential Memorandum on Advancing the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Persons Around the World, these actions begin to restore the U.S. as an authoritative voice on human rights and gender equality.

In light of your administration’s stated commitment to U.S. leadership and partnership on gender equality and human rights on the global stage, we are writing to urge you to personally attend and participate in the Generation Equality Forum taking place in Paris between June 30 - July 2.

The Generation Equality Forum, a partnership between UN Women, the governments of Mexico and France, feminist and youth movements and advocates from every sector of society, are intended to take place outside of the formal intergovernmental process in order to allow bold thinking and ambition - they are a space only for champions of gender equality. As such, they provide an opportunity for the United States to demonstrate its renewed commitment to human rights and make commitments towards the goals of the six Generation Equality Action Coalitions: gender-based violence, economic justice and rights, bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive health and rights, feminist action for climate justice, technology and innovation for gender equality, and feminist movements and leadership.

We urge the United States to make strong, cross-cutting, and specific commitments in both domestic and foreign policy, to catalyze progress on all 6 of the Action Coalition themes.

Download the Full Letter 

Letter to UN Secretary General on Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict

Dear Mr. Secretary-General,

We are writing with regard to your forthcoming annual report on children and armed conflict. As you finalize your decisions regarding the annexes, we urge you to ensure the publication of a complete list of perpetrators of grave violations that is evidence-based and accurately reflects data collected and verified by the United Nations Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM).

As nongovernmental organizations working to alleviate suffering in humanitarian settings and protect human rights, we strongly support UN Security Council Resolution 1612 (2005) and subsequent resolutions on children and armed conflict, as concrete tools for improving the protection of children in war. The MRM, the annual report, and its annexed list of perpetrators are a crucial foundation for accountability and ending and preventing violations, by paving the way for the UN’s engagement with parties to conflict. However, these mechanisms will only remain as powerful as they are credible and consistently applied to all perpetrators.

We, therefore, reiterate our disappointment with the significant disparities between the evidence presented in last year’s annual reportand the parties listed in its annexes for committing grave violations against children. In particular, we believe that the de-listings of the Saudi- and Emirati-led coalition and the Tatmadaw contravened the criteria that were set out in the 2010 annual report,which states that a party would be de-listed from the annexes “on condition that there is UN-verified information that it has ceased commission of all the said grave violations against children for which the party is listed […] for a period of at least one reporting cycle” (A/64/742-S/2010/181, para. 178). Neither the Saudi- and Emirati-led coalition nor the Tatmadaw have met these criteria.

Read the Full Letter

Coalition Letter to UN African Group on Ensuring Effective Accountability for Police Violence in US

To: Ministers of Foreign Affairs of African States
CC: Permanent Representatives of African States in Geneva
Re: The UN Human Rights Council’s role to ensure effective accountability and follow-up to HRC Resolution 43/1

Dear Excellencies,

The families of victims of police violence and undersigned civil society organizations write with regard to the follow up to Human Rights Council resolution (A/HRC/43/1) on “the promotion and protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Africans and of people of African descent against excessive use of force and other human rights violations by law enforcement officers.”

We appreciate your governments’ leadership at the Council and your support to the demands made by victims’ families, civil society organizations, and Special Procedures in the context of the urgent debateon the “current racially inspired human rights violations, systemic racism, police brutality and violence against peaceful protests”. We urge your governments to continue supporting these demands in the follow up resolution at the 47th session of the Council.

During her first oral update, the UN High Commissioner affirmedto the Council that the report will reflect and amplify the voices of victims of people of African descent, their families, and communities. She also affirmed that the report will examine the root causes that have enabled systemic racism and police violence includingthe legacies of enslavement, the transatlantic trade of enslaved Africans, and its context of colonialism.

We share the High Commissioner’s assessmentthat we cannot let the urgency felt in the Council in June 2020 subside, and that the Council “can contribute to making this moment a critical turning point in the respect and protection of the human rights of people of African descent.”

Read the Full Letter

Global Civil Society Statement: The UN Must Block Arms Sales to Myanmar

We, the undersigned organizations, call on the United Nations Security Council to urgently impose a comprehensive global arms embargo on Myanmar to help prevent further violations of human rights against peaceful protesters and others opposing military rule. In recent weeks, Myanmar security forces have killed hundreds of people, including dozens of children, merely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

Since the February 1, 2021 coup, Myanmar’s military junta has responded with increasing brutality to nationwide protests calling for the restoration of democratic civilian rule. As of May 4, security forces have killed at least 769 people, including 51 children as young as 5, and arbitrarily detained several thousand activists, journalists, civil servants, and politicians. Hundreds have been forcibly disappeared, the authorities unwilling to provide information on their well-being or where they are being held. Over the past few months, the military has demonstrated a callous disregard for human life that has driven its strategy for decades. In video footage from cities and towns across the country, soldiers can be seen shooting down protesters, including children, brutally beating medical aid workers, and firing shotguns into crowds of peacefully protesting doctors.

In addition to the latest violations of human rights, Myanmar’s security forces have a history of grave abuses against peaceful critics of the government and military, and war crimes and other international crimes against the Rohingya and other ethnic minority groups. Of particular note is the military's widely documented use of sexual and gender-based violence as a weapon against ethnic communities.

No government should sell a single bullet to the junta under these circumstances. Imposing a global arms embargo on Myanmar is the minimum necessary step the Security Council should take in response to the military’s escalating violence. Arms and materiel provided to Myanmar’s security forces are likely to be used by the security forces to commit abuses in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law.

Download the Full Letter 

Letter to President Biden: Call for Executive Action on United States Abortion Restrictions on Foreign Aid

Dear President Biden,

We, the undersigned organizations, welcome your administration’s reengagement of the United States (US) with the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) and recommitment to promoting human rights. We also applaud you for revoking the Global Gag Rule (also known as the Mexico City Policy) within your first ten days in office, and now we ask you to go further to implement “the policy of the US to support women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights in the US, as well as globally.” Therefore, in light of your administration’s response to the recommendations made to the US during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) before the HRC in Geneva last November, we are writing to urge you to take further steps to implement the UPR recommendations made with regard to sexual and reproductive health and rights, including by taking executive and administrative action to ameliorate the harmful impact of US abortion restrictions on foreign aid, particularly the Helms Amendment, a nearly 50-year-old policy that must be congressionally repealed in its entirety. Recognizing the racist and neo-colonial roots of the Helms Amendment, we also urge the implementation of the recommendations made regarding racism and discrimination. These recommendations were made by 23 countries spanning across Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East and, if implemented, would positively impact access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well as the livelihood and wellbeing of persons experiencing discrimination.

During the UPR, the US was called on to strengthen its support for sexual and reproductive health and rights at home and abroad. A number of countries made formal recommendations for the US to take action on its restrictions on foreign assistance, and we commend your support of these recommendations. The Netherlands called on the US to “repeal the Helms Amendment...and, in the interim, allow United States foreign assistance to be used, at a minimum, for safe abortion in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment.” During the UPR adoption, the United Kingdom specifically addressed its “hope that the US can go further and clarify its interpretation of the Helms Amendment, and ensure universal access to safe abortion care.” Congress must repeal the Helms Amendment entirely and the Administration must do all that it can to mitigate the harms of this egregious policy in the interim. In order to implement these recommendations, we encourage you to take steps to:

  • Take executive action and issue guidance from relevant agencies and departments to clarify and implement US foreign assistance support for abortion care to the maximum extent allowed under the Helms Amendment, namely by immediately clarifying that funds can be used to support abortion care provided in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment of the pregnant person.
  • Issue guidance from relevant agencies and departments to proactively clarify that US foreign assistance may be used for abortion information and counseling under the Leahy Amendment.
  • Prioritize the removal of abortion funding restrictions like the Helms Amendment, in addition to addressing many other important sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) priorities, through the White House Gender Policy Council, with its focus on promoting SRHR domestically and globally, in order to bring US policy in line with its human rights obligations and the administration’s stated commitment to advancing global health and equity. All actions by the Gender Policy Council must also consider the role of racial and other forms of discrimination on recipients of sexual and reproductive healthcare in the US and elsewhere across the globe.
  • Consult with relevant stakeholders and agencies to issue policies to combat systemic racism and discrimination against marginalized and minoritized populations and ensure implementation of these policies at the state, federal and local levels, recognizing that domestic US policy and practice influence the values exported through US foreign assistance and foreign policy.
  • Ensure robust support for sexual and reproductive health and rights, including eliminating Helms and similar abortion coverage restrictions from the Fiscal Year 2022 budget.

Download the Full Letter 

Open Letter to Secretary of State Blinken on the Public Health and Human Rights Crisis in Myanmar

To: Antony Blinken, Secretary of State

CC: Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor; Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; Jeff Zients, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator; Samantha Power, USAID Administrator Nominee

Secretary Blinken:

We write as concerned human rights organizations, humanitarian organizations, medical professional associations, labor organizations, and refugee rights organizations to urge you to take immediate additional actions to address the public health and human rights crisis in Myanmar.

It has now been two months since the Myanmar military executed a coup d’état to overthrow the country’s democratically elected government, prompting widespread peaceful protests demanding a return to democracy. The military’s security forces have responded with an increasingly brutal crackdown defined by some of the worst human rights violations imaginable: unlawful and arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture, and extrajudicial killings. This includes the bloodiest crackdown yet: more than 110 civilians reportedly killed in just a few days by security forces, among them children as young as five years old.

Myanmar’s health care workers, in particular, have been systematically targeted by the military for participating in the civil disobedience movement and providing care to injured protestors.Many health care workers have been forced into hiding, kidnapped in night raids, or detained arbitrarily pursuant to spurious charges.More than 100 medical students and health care workers have reportedly been arrested since the start of the coup.

Read the Full Letter

The Right to Vote Is a Reproductive Health, Rights, & Justice Issue

Dear State Legislator:

We, the undersigned organizations, state legislators, and leaders in the reproductive health, rights, and justice movement, join together to call out the racist and anti-democratic attacks on voting rights and access happening in state legislatures across the United States.

Conservative state legislators have ramped up their efforts to make it harder to vote. Voter restrictions have long been part of the conservative platform; however, their attempts to push anti-democracy bills have recently spiked, in response to record voter turnout, revealing they will stop at nothing to disenfranchise Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC). In the 2021 state legislative session alone, 253 anti-voter bills have been introduced in 43 states with this number expected to grow. The bills institute new barriers to voting and target people of color and by reducing hours of polling locations, cutting back on early voting options, requiring new, unnecessary identification requirements and curtailing or eliminating absentee voting.

Conservatives are trying to destroy our democracy. The 2020 Presidential election put the issue of voting rights and access front-and-center. As conservatives tried to restrict access to polling stations, mail in ballots, and contested ballot validity, progressive groups and legislators--often aligning with principles of reproductive health, rights, and justice--sought to ensure the United States democracy stood firm, recognizing that the overwhelming majority of votes that were in question were largely Black and Brown voters.

The reproductive health, rights, and justice movement cannot stay silent in this moment. We know that reproductive freedom and voting rights and access are intrinsically linked. Equitable access to the vote means better representation of our communities and responsiveness to our basic needs like comprehensive healthcare, including contraception, maternal care, abortion care, and comprehensive sex education. Moreover, equitable access to the ballot box allows us to focus on justice and liberation, which increases bodily autonomy and integrity for many marginalized communities especially Black and Brown people, young people, and queer, transgender, and nonbinary people.

Read the Full Letter