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May 24, 2010

Edited by John and Douglas Carey

In this issue: challenges to freedom of expression; Europe’s navy vs. pirates; protecting fish stocks; children’s rights and parents’ responsibilities.

Four free speech experts adopted on February 3rd in Washington a Declaration on Ten Key Threats to Freedom of Expression, A/HRC/14/23/Add.2. The ten headings are as follows, omitting the explanatory material that follows each heading:

1.     Mechanisms of government control over the media;

2.     Criminal defamation;

3.     Violence against journalists;

4.     Limits on the right to information;

5.     Discrimination in the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression;

6.     Commercial pressures;

7.     Support for public service and community broadcasters;

8.     Security and freedom of expression;

9.     Freedom of speech on the Internet;

10.  Access to information and communications technologies.

The experts signing the declaration are:

Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression;

Miklos Haraszti, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media;

Catalina Botero, OAS Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression;

Faith Pansy Tlakula, ACHPR Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information.

Europe’s navy vs. pirates.

On May 14th Rear Admiral Peter Hudson, Operations Commander of the European Union Naval Force in Somalia (EU NAVFOR) told the press that European forces were protecting the 30,000 ships that pass annually through the Gulf of Aden, where 25 ship seizures had taken place in 2008. This year 400 suspects had been processed, of whom 40 had gone on to prosecution, the rest being released. Pirates go as far as 600 or 700 miles off the Somali coast. Sixty to seventy pirate groups will flood an area. Some pirates are as young as 14 or 15.

Protecting fish stocks.

Declining numbers of fish stocks and the continuing deterioration of marine ecosystems in the world’s oceans are the focus of concern at a Conference being held at United Nations Headquarters this week..

The role of the Conference is to review the implementation of the 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement that established a legal regime for the long-term conservation and sustainable use of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks. It will provide an opportunity for countries to consider new measures to tighten implementation of the legal regime.

Currently, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that three quarters of the world’s fish stocks are in distress and nearing depletion and that the majority of straddling fish stocks, highly migratory species and other high seas fish stocks are either fully exploited or overexploited.

The Fish Stocks Agreement, which took effect in 2001, covers highly migratory species that regularly travel long distances, such as tuna, sword-fish and oceanic sharks, as well as straddling stocks that occur both within the exclusive economic zone of coastal States — up to 200 nautical miles offshore — and areas beyond and adjacent to that zone, including cod, halibut, pollock, jack mackerel and squid.

Conference Chair David Balton, U S Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Fisheries in the Bureau of Oceans, said that, while countries had taken many steps to implement the Agreement, there were still a number of issues that Governments needed to address, including overfishing, overcapacity, the effect of fishing on the marine environment and the need for further assistance to developing countries. The state of fish stocks had not changed dramatically and the Conference would consider what additional steps countries could take.

Non-governmental organizations, including many that raised concerns about Atlantic bluefin tuna and two species of sharks at the recent meeting of the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, will also participate.

“The goal of achieving sustainable fisheries and healthy fish popula-tions will never be met until the international system that manages fish on the high seas is fixed,” said Susan Lieberman, Director of International Policy at the Pew Environment Group. “The global community should look to the United Nations, and the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement, to put in place measures that help ensure healthy oceans for the future.”

The Agreement is considered to be the most important legally binding global instrument to be adopted for the conservation and management of fishery resources since the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982.  Twenty more States have become parties to the Agreement since the Review Conference was convened in 2006. As of March 2010, there were 77 parties to the Agreement. SEA/1931.

Children’s rights and parents’ responsibilities.

At the end of 2009 Belgium submitted a 197-page report, CRC/C/BEL/3-4, to the Committee on the Rights of the Child which was created by the Con-vention on the Rights of the Child. The US has never ratified the Conven-tion, only one of its two Optional Protocols. The report includes this under a heading of Parental Responsibilities:

“311: Since 1 January 2006, mothers in self-employment have received 71 service employment vouchers when they resume work after their maternity leave. Service employment vouchers are a means of paying for services in the home provided by an approved company (cleaning service, washing, ironing, preparation of meals and so on). This is a publicly funded measure. Since May 2007, the number of vouchers has been increased to 105, and self-employed mothers have been able to take eight weeks’ maternity leave. Maternity leave for self-employed mothers and the relevant allowance had already been doubled on 1 January 2003, increasing to six weeks and €1,924.06. * * *

“313. Since 1 July2002, fathers have had 10 days’ paternity leave following their child’s birth. This has been the subject of an information campaign for future fathers and measures to raise the awareness of the world of work through the European ‘Active Fathers’ project which was coordinated in Belgium by the Institute for Equality between Men and Women. Three hundred thousand copies of the booklet Choosing to be involved (Opter pour l’implication) were distributed through various channels. The issue has been portrayed in dramatic presentations (available in video and DVD), both by the authorities and private sector employers and trade unions.”

That’s all for this May 24th issue of United Nations Week: News and Views. We’ll be back with the next issue. Meantime, do send your own views on these of other UN matters

Good-bye for now, and thanks for watching.

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