Bug4Good: Open Source for Human Rights

 

From my colleague Enrique Piraces at Human Rights Watch:

I want to share with you our submission to the UC Berkeley Human Rights Center Mobile Challenge. 

The project is great 🙂 and we have an opportunity to get some attention and further develop the idea. 

Voting will take place between March 23 and March 27, 2009 and will determine the Top Ten Finalists. 

I want to invite you to keep an eye on the project and to help us spread the word about it. And if you want to further improve your karma, please consider registering to vote for the project. [It is so easy. Just register, go to the project page, and give us a “star”. After that you can also share any comments and criticisms in the same page] 

http://www.netsquared.org/projects/bug4good 

A small favor (only takes 30 seconds)

Boris Dittrich, Advocacy Director of LGBT Rights at Human Rights Watch, has been nominated for the Jos Brink Prize, award by the Dutch government for outstanding work on furthering LGBT human rights. Before coming to HRW, Boris was member of the Dutch Parliament.  He sponsored a bill on the opening of civil marriage to same sex couples and a bill on adoption by gay couples.  Both bills became law in 2001.

The prize is determined by popular vote on the internet.  This is where we need your help.  Please vote for Boris at http://www.coc.nl/dopage.pl?thema=any&pagina=polls&stelling_id=87.

It only takes a few seconds, and no registration or personal information is necessary.  The site is in Dutch, but voting is simple and straightforward.  You don’t need to read Dutch or even be Dutch to participate.

Boris is currently in second place, but we only need a few more votes to get him to number one, so your vote counts.  The recipient of the prize will receive 10,000 Euros and an artwork.  More importantly, winning the prize would give Human Rights Watch an increased visibility in our fight to protect the rights of LGBT communities around the world, especially in places where they are being discriminated against, tortured and executed.

Thanks so much for your help, or as the Dutchies say, “Dank je wel.”

More about Boris
More on HRW’s work on LGBT rights

Commentary on the Olympic Torch Protests

Human Rights Watch Asia Advocacy Director Sophie Richardson on The Newshour.

Human Rights Watch Media Director Minky Worden on Democracy Now!

The Olympic Torch Relay dates back to the Nazi Olympics in 1936.

Minky Worden:

There is a wonderful new academic book called Nazi Games, which gives a concise history of this. The torch relay itself is essentially a PR invention of the Nazi era, and the point of it was to run the torch through parts of Europe that Nazi Germany hoped to take over, including the Sudetenland. So I think if the corporate sponsors of the torch relay really knew the history of this, I can’t imagine that they would want to be associated with it. And the sponsors are Coca Cola, Lenovo, and Samsung…There certainly will be a price to pay in terms of corporate reputation if the torch relay inside China turns into a major human rights debacle.

Minky’s upcoming book: China’s Great Leap: The Beijing Games and Olympian Human Rights Challenges.

My view: The Olympics are essentially about political propaganda and making money. The role of activists and people who are simply engaged and concerned with the issues, both in China and people standing in solidarity with the people living in/under the PRC, is to exploit the inherent weaknesses and flaws of authoritarian propaganda (and it’s private sector corollaries, corporate branding and marketing) and to communicate an alternative message of respect for rule of law, human rights, and basic universal freedoms. We need to brand-jack and culture jam the marketing/propaganda of the Olympics to refocus attention on real issues of human rights and freedoms.

Yogyakarta Principles and rude, racist guard at the UN

LS outside the UN with Human Rights Watch colleagues

I went to the New York launch of the Yogyakarta Principles on LGBT rights in the international human rights context on Wednesday. It was my first time inside the UN, so it was very exciting. I was very upset by a very rude and racist security guard working at the security entrance, but it did not damper my spirits at this historic event in the struggle for international human rights for ALL people.

From the Yogyakarta Principles website:

In 2006, in response to well-documented patterns of abuse, a distinguished group of international human rights experts met in Yogyakarta, Indonesia to outline a set of international principles relating to sexual orientation and gender identity. The result was the Yogyakarta Principles: a universal guide to human rights which affirm binding international legal standards with which all States must comply. They promise a different future where all people born free and equal in dignity and rights can fulfill that precious birthright.

So here is the story of the security guard: He was a white man and most likely an Eastern European immigrant based on his heavy accent. There was a woman ahead of me in line wearing metal bracelets. He told her to lift her hands up while going through the metal detector, because the machine indicates where the metal objects are. If she beeps only because of her bracelets, then he would let her through. But he did not convey this in a clear manner, or the woman did not understand him well. So the security guard cracks a not-so-funny comment: “You know, I’m not speaking Japanese here you know!” I cringe.

Then it is my turn to go through the metal detector. I take off my coat and empty my pockets and place my belongings on the conveyor belt x-ray. Then I walk through the metal detector. My belt buckle sets off the metal detector. He tells me to take off my belt. “What!?” I retort. I have been in airports countless times, and NEVER have I had to take off my belt or seen anybody take off their belts. That is why they have wands. Taking off one’s belt in public is 1 step too close to a strip search. Ok, maybe that is overexagerating, but it is undignified in any case. “Don’t you have a wand?” I ask. “No, I’m kidding when I tell you to take off your belt!” he snaps back. I would have gladly taken off my belt the first time if he had asked nicely, without sarcasm and spite in his voice. I say, “well, you could at least ask nicely…”

“Please, thank you” was his curt reply.

If I were to give this guy the benefit of the doubt, perhaps his English abilities were not good enough to convey instructions in a polite way. Or maybe he is just rude. Either way this is still unacceptable, especially at an institution such as the UN. In addition, we were not tourists; we were invited guests to a special event. Not that we should get preferential treatment in any way, but the UN does belong to the people of the world after all. Racist comments and unnecessary rudeness have no place. Also, if you are going to work in a customer service position that deals with the public, it should be expected that you can communicate politely.

Sorry for the rant. In any case you can read more about the Yogyakarta Principles New York launch on the Human Rights Watch website and visit the official Yogyakarta Principles homepage.