Dear Mr. President and Madam Vice President, We, the undersigned organizations, care deeply about advancing gender equity and equality around the world and are writing to express our appreciation for the steps your administration has taken in your first 50 days to signal the United States’ renewed leadership on this issue. In particular, we are pleased to see early action on announcing the co-chairs of the new White House Gender Policy Council and were excited to see its official establishment by Executive Order on International Women’s Day. We also applaud the U.S. decision to re-engage immediately with the UN Human Rights Council and to seek a seat on the Council at the first opportunity, as well as the announcement that Vice President Harris will provide remarks during the UN Commission on the Status of Women next week.
Advancing gender equity and equality for all women and girls, as well as those in the LGBTQI+ community and individuals with disabilities, is first and foremost a matter of human rights and should be a goal in and of itself. It is also a necessary precondition for achieving key U.S. foreign policy objectives. We urge your Administration to ensure gender equity and equality are key tenets of U.S. foreign policy and assistance efforts through urgently taking the below critical actions:
- Announce unprecedented strong support in your first budget proposal to Congress with robust funding for gender equity and equality programs around the world, including significantly increasing funds to directly support women’s and LGBTQIA+ rights organizations;
- Announce your plan to appoint a Senior Gender Coordinator to the National Security Council to ensure that gender equity and equality issues are addressed at our nation’s most critical foreign policy making table; and,
- Announce your intention to appoint a foreign policy task force and staff lead for the new White House Gender Policy Council to ensure that the power of your office is brought to bear on gender issues everywhere, not just within the United States.
We, the undersigned organizations, call on the United Nations Security Council and UN member states to urgently institute a coordinated, global arms embargo on Myanmar in response to the February 1, 2021 military coup that has deprived the people of Myanmar of the right to democratically elect their government. Our concerns are heightened by ongoing violations of human rights and the security forces’ history of grave abuses against peaceful critics of military rule, as well as against the Rohingya and other ethnic minority groups.
Under the commander-in-chief, Sr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the Myanmar military has detained the elected civilian leaders of the country, nullified the results of the November 2020 democratic elections, and installed a junta, the State Administration Council, under a manufactured “state of emergency.” Since February 1, the junta has increasingly used excessive and at times lethal force at demonstrations; threatened and arbitrarily detained activists, journalists, students, and civil servants; and imposed rolling internet shutdowns that put lives at risk.
Days after the coup, UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated, “We will do everything we can to mobilize all the key actors and international community to put enough pressure on Myanmar to make sure that this coup fails.” The UN special rapporteur on Myanmar has called for targeted UN sanctions on the military and an arms embargo, while the deputy high commissioner for human rights has voiced support for targeted UN sanctions on the coup leaders.
In that spirit, we urge the Security Council to immediately impose a comprehensive arms embargo on Myanmar. Such a resolution should bar the direct and indirect supply, sale, or transfer of all weapons, munitions, and other military-related equipment, including dual-use goods such as vehicles and communications and surveillance equipment, as well as the provision of training, intelligence, and other military assistance. The embargo should be accompanied by robust monitoring and enforcement mechanisms.
To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Geneva, Switzerland
We, the undersigned human rights non-governmental organizations, strongly support the call for a UN Human Rights Council (HRC) special session on the deteriorating human rights situation in Ethiopia and urge your delegation to support such a session without further delay.
Since 4 November 2020, fighting between federal government forces and affiliated militias with forces and militia allied to Tigray’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, has reportedly killed hundreds of civilians and caused more than one million people to flee their homes, including at least 57,000 refugees who are now in Sudan. There have been widespread reports of serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights violations and abuses including possible atrocity crimes, including indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, unlawful killings, widespread looting, and rape and sexual violence against women and girls. There have also been reports of massacres committed along ethnic lines within Tigray, as well as ethnic profiling, discrimination, and hate speech against Tigrayans both within and outside the country. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has also expressed alarm for the “safety and well-being” of the 96,000 Eritrean refugees in Tigray, given the unconfirmed but “overwhelming number of reports of Eritrean refugees in Tigray being killed, abducted and forcibly returned to Eritrea,” where they could face persecution. Access to independent humanitarian aid continues to be limited in Tigray despite an agreement reached between the federal government and the UN on 29 November. Journalists critical of the government have been arrested, exacerbating existing restrictions on communication and information from the region.
This election came amid an inflection point for our country – the stakes could not be higher.
We’re still in the midst of the worsening COVID-19 pandemic, an economic crisis, and a national reckoning on systemic racism. All* Above All believes that systemic racism, economic insecurity, and immigration status can multiply the already-massive barriers to abortion care--and that true abortion justice must incorporate racial, economic, and immigrant justice.
Our constituency is at the center of the public health and economic crises, while the number of people of color working to make ends meet is only growing. This year reminds us that restrictions that deny people abortion care are not separate issues from police violence, wage gaps, and deep inequities in our health care system -- they’re all rooted in systemic racism that denies all people the ability to thrive and live their lives with dignity and economic security.
For the last four years, the Trump-Pence administration shamed, punished, and targeted people struggling financially, especially women of color, by pushing policies that deny them the ability to make their own decisions about their health and their lives with dignity and economic security. We’ve watched as a Supreme Court nominee was rushed through to tip the balance of our highest court, putting at risk our health care, our voting and worker’s rights, LGBTQ rights, abortion rights, and more. We are not just talking about the legal right to abortion--that is not and was never enough. We must reimagine abortion access beyond Roe.
Dear President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris,
Thank you for taking an aggressive stance in your administration’s planned response to the public health and economic crisis we are facing as a nation. We also appreciate that the COVID response team will prioritize racial equity under the leadership of Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith. We strongly believe that centering race within the COVID response is essential to building back better from the pandemic.
Women, disproportionately Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women, are on the front lines of responding to COVID-19 – as health care workers, child care providers, groceryclerks, and other essential workers sustaining us through this pandemic. And yet, women are shouldering the brunt of the pain from our nation’s inadequate response. During this crisis, we are more likely to lose our jobs, more likely to be doing unpaid care work at home, and more likely to be pushed out of the labor force altogether.
Dear President-Elect Biden,
As organizations committed to reproductive, gender, economic, immigrant, and racial justice, we know that this is a crucial moment for Black and Brown communities, women, LGBTQ folks, immigrants, and young people. Our communities are still trying to survive the COVID-19 pandemic and people continue to fight for racial justice all over the country. We are fighting for a future in which we can control our own bodies, safely care for our families, and work with dignity, no matter who we are or where we live. We are reimagining a world in which each of us makes a living wage, has the right to unionize, families live free from violence, and everyone has access to the full-spectrum of reproductive, maternal, and sexual health care, including abortion.
As we continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, civil society discuss various outcomes at this session of the Third Committee, despite additional challenges associated with the session being held mostly online.
We welcome the joint statement on reprisals led by the United Kingdom and joined by a cross-regional group of countries, calling on all States and the UN to prevent, respond to, and ensure accountability for cases of intimidation and reprisals against those who engage or seek to engage with the UN. We welcome in particular the increased number of States joining this year (75 compared to 71 last year).
One highlight of this session was a powerful joint statement on China by a cross-regional group of 39 Member States. This statement represents a strong public rebuke of the Chinese government’s widespread human rights violations in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Tibet, and is further proof that a growing number of governments are braving Beijing’s threats of retaliation and voicing alarm. The joint statement endorsed an appeal from 50 UN human rights experts for the creation of a UN mechanism for monitoring human rights in China. It also urged China to allow the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights unfettered access to Xinjiang. We hope the Chinese government will heed the message of this statement and end the abuses, including in Xinjiang, Hong Kong.
Dear President Trump,
As over 800 organizations, scholars, individuals, law clinics, and survivors who are dedicated to ending all forms of violence against women, we are painfully aware of the victimization histories of most incarcerated women. Studies consistently show that up to 95% of incarcerated women have been victims of physical or sexual abuse. Lisa Montgomery’s story is a shocking example of what the research only begins to describe. Lisa suffered a life-time of horrific abuses, was consistently failed by people and systems that should have helped her, and became severely mentally ill by the time she committed her crime. Lisa committed her terrible crime – the seriousness of which we do not minimize – in the wake of a lifetime of victimization and mental illness. We urge you to have mercy and to commute her death sentence to life without the possibility of parole.
Lisa Montgomery was born with permanent brain damage as a result of her mother’s alcohol intake during pregnancy. Sexually abused by her stepfather for the first time at eleven years old, Lisa was repeatedly raped for years. Lisa’s mother beat her children brutally and emotionally tortured them, once killing the family dog in front of them. Lisa’s mother also trafficked Lisa to men for sex beginning when Lisa was in her early teens. Lisa developed dissociative disorder and complex posttraumatic stress disorder as a result of the repeated anal, oral, and vaginal rapes she suffered by the men to whom her mother trafficked her. Lisa told people about her abuse, but no one intervened. School administrators knew that Lisa came to school dirty, in tattered clothes, but failed to investigate or report. At age eighteen, Lisa, at her mother’s behest, married her stepbrother, who also raped and beat her. She had four children, then was sterilized against her will—another form of violence. Her mental health continued to spiral downwards. When her ex-husband/stepbrother filed for custody of two of her children and said he would reveal her sterilization to her new husband (who believed her to be pregnant), Lisa’s history of victimization, trauma, and mental illness tipped over the edge. Threatened with the loss of the children she deeply loved, Lisa committed a horrific crime.
As organizations committed to the advancement of human rights and gender equality, we stand in solidarity with all those in Poland who for the last week have peacefully protested against the politicized attack on women’s fundamental human rights and access to health care.
Last week Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal issued a decision purporting to invalidate a legal ground for abortion. If this decision is given legal effect it will amount to the introduction of a near-total ban on abortion in Poland.
Thousands across Poland have protested peacefully against this unlawful and retrogressive decision. We express our deep admiration for the courageous and tireless efforts of those defending the rights of women in Poland. Women’s fundamental human rights are universal. Attacks on these rights concern everyone in society and their impact transcends national borders.
We urge the Polish Government to respect the right of freedom of assembly and peaceful protest, and to exercise restraint and refrain from excessive use of force and violence. We are deeply concerned by reports that military action is being planned to suppress peaceful protests and demonstrations. We urge the EU and the international community to monitor the situation and to act with urgency to prevent violence against peaceful protestors and attacks on women human rights defenders.
Since the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) recognizing the vital role of women in peacebuilding, peacekeeping, and post-conflict recovery, the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Agenda has gained global recognition. In the two decades since, the United States (U.S.) has taken steps to
elevate WPS in its foreign and national security policies. In particular, in 2011, President Obama launched the first U.S. National Action Plan on WPS via executive order, which was subsequently updated in 2016. In 2018, Congress enacted the landmark WPS Act. In 2019, pursuant to the WPS Act, the Trump Administration released the U.S. Strategy on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS Strategy). In 2020, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), as well as the Departments of Defense, State, and Homeland Security, as required by the WPS Act, rolled-out agency-specific implementation plans to operationalize the WPS Strategy.
We 136 organizations in support of reproductive health, rights, and justice — strongly oppose the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. The Senate should not consider any nominee to fill any Supreme Court vacancy until after the inauguration. Whoever fills Justice Ginsburg’s seat could spend decades being a crucial vote on a range of issues that affect our lives -- from voting rights to health care access to employment discrimination. The people deserve to have a voice in who is confirmed to the Supreme Court and in some states people are already casting their votes to make that voice heard. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread throughout the United States — including now on Capitol Hill and in the White House — we demand the confirmation process of Judge Barrett be halted. The time to confirm the next Supreme Court Justice is not as we work to rein in our global health crisis.
We welcome the High Commissioner’s first update on the implementation of the Human Rights Council resolution (A/HRC/RES/43/1) which followed an Urgent Debate "on current racially inspired human rights violations, systemic racism, police brutality and violence against peaceful protests."
The resolution has mandated the High Commissioner, with the assistance of relevant Special Mandate Holders, “to prepare a report on systemic racism, violations of international human rights law against Africans and people of African descent by law enforcement agencies, especially those incidents that resulted in the death of George Floyd and other Africans and of people of African descent, to contribute to accountability and redress for victims.” The resolution has also requested that your office “examine government responses to antiracism peaceful process peaceful protests, including the alleged use of excessive force against protesters, bystanders and journalists.” In addition, the resolution also requested that the High Commissioner “include updates on police brutality against Africans and people of African descent in all her oral updates to the Council.”
While we were disappointed that the Council adopted a watered-down resolution due to enormous diplomatic pressure from the United States and other allied countries, we consider the outcome of the urgent debate a crucial first step towards full accountability for systemic police violence against Black people in the United States and more generally against people of African descent around the world. We make the following recommendations and suggestions to ensure effective implementation of the resolution and a transparent, inclusive process for producing the report with maximum meaningful participation and engagement from directly impacted communities and other relevant stakeholders:
In the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, States recognized that women’s rights are human rights and that all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. This should have been the basis for an intersectional approach to human rights and the recognition that the denial of access to safe and legal abortion impacts all aspects of women’s lives.
Everyone has the right to life-saving interventions during or outside of crises. And yet, women and girls’ rights to bodily autonomy and safe abortion have been some of the first rights to be conveniently sacrificed under the guise of prioritizing COVID, as if health was a zero-sum game. That includes free, safe and legal abortion and comprehensive abortion and post-abortion care, without which women, girls and gender-non-conforming persons are forced to seek unsafe clandestine abortions or to carry unwanted pregnancies to term, in complete violation of our rights.
During this pandemic, some governments are increasing barriers to abortion services by deeming it a non-essential medical procedure, or are instrumentalizing the crisis to further restrict access in law or practice. In health systems, for example, inadequate planning and the redeployment of medical personnel and resources to COVID-19 have decreased access to abortion and contraception.
Non-Governmental Organizations, Faith-Based Groups, Legal Professionals, Experts, and Former Government Officials Unequivocally Oppose U.S. Sanctions Against the International Criminal Court
The undersigned organizations and individuals write to express grave concerns and unequivocally oppose the Trump administration’s use of the sanctions authority of the United States to attack the International Criminal Court (ICC), an independent judicial institution dedicated to combatting impunity for the gravest crimes known to humanity.
Many of the undersigned spoke out against steps in this direction taken earlier this year by the U.S. administration. We now issue this further statement because it is uniquely dangerous, extreme, and unprecedented to utilize a mechanism designed to penalize criminals, their aiders, and abettors, against an independent judicial institution. Asset freezes and entry restrictions are tools intended to combat individuals and entities constituting a threat to U.S. national security. By applying these measures to a court that 123 countries – and on two occasions, the United Nations Security Council – have entrusted with providing accountability for atrocity crimes, the United States has brought upon itself the stigma of siding with impunity over justice. The administration’s actions jeopardize the ability of desperate victims to access justice, weaken the credibility underpinning the use of sanction tools in other contexts, and put the United States at odds with its closest allies.
Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, and Leader McCarthy,
We, the 189 undersigned local, state, and national organizations, write to you in solidarity with Black women Reproductive Justice advocates leading the work to ensure Reproductive Justice for all, which includes the ability to make decisions about our lives, bodies, sexuality, and reproduction free from interference and violence. We call on you as federal leaders representing constituents who have been directly harmed by police violence and other state sanctioned violence to support the efforts and leadership of Black women and other reproductive and racial justice leaders in each and every one of your districts and states across the country.
Dear Mr. Secretary-General,
As nongovernmental organizations working to alleviate humanitarian suffering and protect human rights, we strongly support United Nations Security Council Resolution 1612 (2005) and subsequent resolutions on children and armed conflict, as concrete tools for improving the protection of children in war.
We are, therefore, deeply disappointed and troubled by your new report on children and armed conflict (A/74/845-S/2020/525), and in particular, the significant disparities between the evidence presented in the report and the parties listed in its annexes for committing grave violations against children. We are writing to urge you to reconsider your decisions to de-list the Saudi-led coalition for killing and maiming children in Yemen, and the Tatmadaw for recruiting and using children in Myanmar. We also urge you to take steps to ensure that going forward, the annexes accurately and consistently reflect the evidence collected and verified by the UN’s Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM), in line with existing criteria. We have provided evidence of other concerning disparities between the annual report and its annexes in the attached annex.
Letter to Human Rights Council: Urgent Debate on current racially inspired human rights violations, systematic racism, police brutality and the violence against peaceful protests
I write to you on behalf of the Global Justice Center (“GJC”), an international human rights organization, with special ECOSOC consultative status, dedicated to advancing gender equality through the rule of law. We combine advocacy with legal analysis, working to ensure equal protection of the law for women and girls.
Last week, GJC was proud to join over 600 of our fellow-organizations, as well as the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown and Philando Castile,1 in calling for the Human Rights Council to convene a special session the escalating situation of police violence and repression of protests in the United States. We thank the Council for heeding this call and scheduling an urgent debate on this topic for this upcoming Wednesday, June 17, 2020.
While we understand that the debate is not focused solely on the United States, we are hopeful that this session will bring crucial international attention to the unchecked violations against Black people, and peaceful protestors in the United States. We also urge you to utilize this meeting to take concrete action to ensure accountability for racist policing tactics and excessive force used against peaceful protesters in the country, in particular by mandating an independent inquiry to document and investigate extrajudicial killings of unarmed Black men and women, and police violence against protesters and journalists.
The undersigned organizations express their deep concern regarding today’s announcement by Secretary of State Pompeo and other senior U.S. officials that the United States, among other things, has invoked emergency powers in order to threaten asset freezes and other punitive actions against officials of the International Criminal Court, their family members, and those who assist their investigations.
The International Criminal Court exists because it is difficult to hold government officials and other powerful actors accountable when they commit grave human rights abuses. That impunity, in turn, is corrosive to the broader rule of law, the prospects of lasting peace, and respect for the dignity of all. Since the ICC’s establishment in 2002 as a court of last resort, diverse coalitions of faith-based organizations, human rights advocates, legal practitioners, victims of atrocities, and other constituencies have often looked to it to complement and reinforce their work for justice. Like all other human institutions, the ICC has room for improvement. Nevertheless, from Uganda and the Central African Republic to Darfur and the situation in Bangladesh/Myanmar, the ICC continues to play a vital role, filling gaps in the justice system by independently investigating and prosecuting grave atrocity crimes when national authorities do not do so, or when they seek out help.
The undersigned family members of victims of police killings and civil society organizations from around the world, call on member states of the U.N. Human Rights Council to urgently convene a Special Session on the situation of human rights in the United States in order to respond to the unfolding grave human rights crisis born out of the repression of nationwide protests. The recent protests erupted on May 26 in response to the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which was only one of a recent string of unlawful killings of unarmed Black people by police and armed white vigilantes.
We are deeply concerned about the escalation in violent police responses to largely peaceful protests in the United States, which included the use of rubber bullets, tear gas, pepper spray and in some cases live ammunition, in violation of international standards on the use of force and management of assemblies including recent U.N. Guidance on Less Lethal Weapons.