Interntional Human Rights Training in Italy, Sweatshops Don’t Just Happen, Less $$ for Legal Aid for Poor, SNAP Benefits Uncertain & New Complaint Mechanism for Consumers

Call for Applications: International Human Rights Protection Mechanisms

Partners for Human RightsThe Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights and American University Washington College of Law, are organizing the first training on International Human Rights Protection Mechanisms, to be held in Florence, Italy from September 9 to 14, 2013. The deadline to submit applications is August 2, 2013. The training will gather practitioners from different protection mechanisms who will have the chance to share their experiences and lessons learned, both in using international mechanisms and working for their improvement.

Among the trainers there will be key actors of each protection mechanism, such as the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression of the UN, Mr. Frank La Rue, the Chair of the Committee Against Torture and Chair of Treaty Bodies from OHCHR, Dean Claudio Grossman, and former Executive Secretary of the Inter American Commission on Human Rights, Santiago A. Canton, among others.

For complete info about the training in Italy please click here.

Sweatshops Don’t Just Happen- They’re a Policy

candlesOp-Ed By David L. Wilson, Truthout

On May 5, The New York Times dedicated its “Sunday Dialogue” feature to letters about the factory collapse in Bangladesh that had killed more than 1,100 garment workers a week and a half earlier. The “dialogue” started with a letter from University of Michigan business school professor Jerry Davis, who apportioned blame for the disaster to “the owners of the building and the factories it contained, to the government of Bangladesh, to the retailers who sold the clothing,” and to us. Through “[o]ur willingness to buy garments sewn under dangerous conditions,” he wrote, we “create the demand that underwrites these tragedies.”

There’s a striking omission in Prof. Davis’ list – the people whose policies make the sweatshop economy possible.

For more than three decades, US politicians, think tanks and columnists have promoted an economic program known in most of the world as neoliberalism. Here in North America, we use nicer-sounding terms like “free markets,” “free trade” and “globalization,” but the effect on developing nations is the same.

Trade agreements like NAFTA slash the tariffs that once protected local farmers from competition with the industrialized world’s government-subsidized agribusinesses. Driven off the land by cheap imports, the farmers find themselves in cities already filled with workers whose jobs were eliminated by privatization and austerity, policies that international agencies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) imposed as loan conditions. Meanwhile, the same trade agreements that have thrown millions of desperate jobseekers onto the labor market also make it cost-effective for multinational corporations to transfer factory work from their own countries to the Global South. Continue reading here.

US Spending Less and Less on Legal Aid for Poor

budget-cutOp-Ed by Gene Johnson for the Associated Press

The U.S. government is increasingly cutting money for legal defense for the poor — making the right to counsel, a constitutional guarantee, an even more challenging promise to keep.

High-profile cases have been affected by widespread budget cuts. In New York, the trial of Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law was delayed because the public defenders representing him had to take unpaid time off. The lawyers for the surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect have faced unpaid time off as well.

And with staffing cuts causing delays in cases, defendants who can’t afford a lawyer may have to spend more time in custody — raising concerns about the right to a speedy trial. Read more of this AP article here.

Farm Bill Passed Without SNAP (aka Food Stamps)

SNAPOp-Ed by Housing is a Human Right Blog

On July 11th, House Republicans devised a way to push through farm subsidies while avoiding making a decision on SNAP, a program that 47 million Americans rely on for sustenance. Republicans stripped SNAP from the Farm Bill, marking the first time that food stamps have not been part of the Farm Bill since 1973 and ending the uneasy but expedient coalition whereby “farm-state lawmakers went along with food stamps to keep the crop subsidies flowing [and] urban lawmakers did the reverse.” The future of SNAP is now perilously uncertain, as a future House bill focusing solely on SNAP will likely include even more massive spending cuts that deny life-sustaining benefits to millions of Americans, including families with young children. Continue reading here.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Puts Companies on Notice About Harmful Debt Collection Practices

CFPBThe Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) put companies on notice through bulletins advising that all companies under Bureau jurisdiction will be held accountable for unlawful conduct in collecting a consumer’s debts. The CFPB also announced that it is now accepting debt collection complaints and is publishing action letters for consumers to consider using in corresponding with debt collectors. Read the full announcement here.