October 2019


  1. Hong Kong officially enacts emergency laws to ban masks at protests as NGOs criticise ‘draconian’ measure
  2. A War of Words Fought over Women’s Bodies
  3. How to Support Democracy and Human Rights in Asia
  4. Latin America Already Has a Model to Solve Venezuela
  5. Abortion Bans Strip People of Their Human Rights. Here's Why We Must Stand In Solidarity Against Them

Hong Kong officially enacts emergency laws to ban masks at protests as NGOs criticise ‘draconian’ measure


The law will ban protesters from covering their faces in full or partially during protests. Anyone who wears mask at lawful rallies and marches, unlawful assemblies, unauthorised assemblies or riots could be sentenced to a year in jail and a fine of HK$25,000. Exemptions include those wearing masks at protests for professional or paid work, or for religious or medical reasons.

Additionally, the law states that anyone who disobeys police order to remove masks could be sentenced to six months in jail and a HK$10,000 fine. The definition of “facial covering” not only includes masks, but also items such as paint.

The legislation will be in effect after it is published in the official gazette on Saturday. It came after discussion at a Friday special meeting of the Executive Council, the de facto cabinet of Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

“The decision to enact an anti-mask law is not easy one, but it is a necessary decision considering the situation today,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam said.

“[Banning masks] not an easy decision, but based on the current situation, it is a necessary one,” Lam said. Hong Kong is “not in a state of emergency” despite the enactment of the law, she added.


Emergency powers

The ERO is a colonial-era law that gives the chief executive unlimited power in the event of an “emergency or public danger.” The ERO, introduced in 1922, has not been used since the 1967 leftist riots.

A government source told the pro-Beijing Sing Tao Daily that the government has expected that protesters would not obey the law, but it may have a deterring effect for some.

Hong Kong has seen over 17 weeks of protests sparked by the government’s soon-to-be-withdrawn extradition law. The sometimes violent demonstrations have evolved into wider calls for democracy, police accountability, amnesty for those arrested since June, as well as other community grievances.

The latest development came after the most violent day of protest Hong Kong has seen since the beginning of the movement, as police fired six live rounds on October 1. An 18-year-old student was shot in the left lung by one officer.. Since then, district-level protests have occurred nightly.


‘Draconian law’

The Civil Human Rights Front, an alliance of 50 NGOs which acted as the organiser of mass marches, said the ERO was a draconian law from the colonial times.

“Once invoked, the Carrie Lam government would be declaring the death of ‘One Country, Two Systems’, and that Hong Kong is now a colony under Mainland Chinese rule. This old severe colonial law must be abandoned to keep the government in check and stop it from persecuting Hong Kong residents,” it said.

“If the anti-mask law, once applied, will threaten personal safety and the freedoms of expression and religion. The primary reason for wearing masks and industrial respirators is for protection from tear gas. It is also a political gesture. Without carefully examining practicalities, such laws would also impede religious practices that are under the protection of the Basic Law,” it added.

It said the Hong Kong police should be the first to stop wearing masks and show their identity, following incidents of them using “excessive and lethal force.”

It also said the government should respond to the public’s demands, and not further crackdown on protests.

Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said: “Hong Kong authorities should be working to create a political environment in which protesters do not feel the need for masks—not banning the masks, and deepening restrictions on freedom of expression.”

“Chief Executive Carrie Lam needs to agree to an examination of excessive force by police and to resume the process toward universal suffrage. Additional restrictions are only likely to inflame tensions.”


By                    :               Kris Cheng

Date                 :               October 4, 2019

Source             :               HongKong Free Press




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A War of Words Fought over Women’s Bodies


If governments are serious about universal health coverage, they must commit to building and funding comprehensive health-care systems that work for all people, including girls and women. The result will be a healthier, wealthier, and more equal world.


This month, the United Nations General Assembly will hold a high-level meeting to secure a commitment by member states to deliver universal health coverage (UHC), including financial risk protection and access to essential health-care services, medicines, and vaccines for all. But just how much countries commit to services that meet the unique needs of girls and women as part of their UHC implementation is still up for debate.

By adopting a political declaration on UHC, countries are agreeing to allocate funding from their national budgets to create a future in which diabetics everywhere get insulin, HIV isn’t left to ravage communities, and all children receive essential vaccinations. In that future, even the most vulnerable communities would have reliable and affordable access to the services they need, and the entire society would be healthier and more productive.

And yet the unique health needs of girls and women, not least their sexual and reproductive health needs, remain a matter of political contention, which has long caused their health care to be undervalued and under-resourced. In humanitarian settings, for example, there is very little access to sexual and reproductive health care. And in many places, young people have difficulties exercising their reproductive rights.

Undermining women’s health further, women are often under-represented in medical trials, leading to inadequate diagnosis and treatment of diseases. Even programs that are intended specifically to serve adolescent girls are often designed without meaningful youth engagement; as a result, they often fail to meet their target users’ needs and, at times, even reinforce damaging stigmas.

But for universal health coverage to be truly universal and transformative, it must embrace gender equality in all forms – and that also means providing explicit guarantees of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). This includes modern contraception, pre-and post-natal care, infertility treatment, safe abortion, and prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections and cancers of the reproductive organs. It also includes the right to consent to sex and to be safe from intimate partner violence.

These health services save lives. If the need for modern contraception were met in developing regions, and women and newborns received essential care, unintended pregnancies would drop by 75%, maternal deaths would decline by 73%, and newborn deaths would drop by 80%. Vaccinating girls against the human papilloma virus (HPV) would avert more than three million deaths from cervical cancer over the next decade in 72 low- and middle-income countries. And, of course, healthier mothers have healthier children.

Protecting women’s health and guaranteeing their autonomy over their own bodies, sexuality, and fertility is the bedrock of gender equality. SRHR enables women to reach their full potential by, among other things, participating in their economies, politics, and societies. This boosts the wellbeing of families and communities, thereby contributing to overall economic growth and sustainable development.

Despite these enormous benefits, experience suggests that unless SRHR is explicitly protected in UN declarations, it is likelier to be left out of policy deliberations and budgets. Ensuring such protections is an uphill battle, because conservative UN member states push to strike words like “gender” and “sexual and reproductive health and rights,” and sometimes even “human rights,” from various international declarations.

There is a war of words being fought in the multilateral system, and women’s bodies are the battleground. That is why the Alliance for Gender Equality and UHC – which comprises more than 100 civil society organizations from 46 countries – has been calling on UN member states not to allow a victory for those seeking to undermine women’s health and rights. The deletion of these words has very real consequences.

“Health care for all” includes sexual and reproductive health, and “all” includes every person, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, ability, migration status, gender identity or expression, indigeneity, health condition, class, or caste. To have any chance of delivering this, SRHR must be recognized, funded, and manifested in every country and community in the world.

The fight now moves from words on a page to action. If governments are serious about UHC, they must commit to building and funding comprehensive health-care systems that work for all people, including girls and women. The result will be a healthier, wealthier, and more equal world.


Katja Iversen is President and CEO of Women Deliver, a global advocate for gender equality and the health and rights of girls and women.


By                    :               Katja Iversen

Date                 :               September 19, 2019

Source             :               Project Syndicate




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How to Support Democracy and Human Rights in Asia


There is a growing struggle in Asia between authoritarian forces and the people attempting to stand up for human rights and democracy. From the crackdown on mass protests in Hong Kong, to genocide in Myanmar, to extrajudicial killings and attacks on government critics in the Philippines, to the detention of more than 1 million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps in western China, the situation can appear bleak. While these and other abuses of power playing out across Asia are not unique to the region, the continued deterioration of human rights and democracy in Asia could have disastrous consequences, not only for the region but also for the United States.

Faced with mounting challenges to universal rights in Asia, U.S. policymakers often have difficult decisions to make: What tools can the United States deploy to ameliorate the situation? How can U.S. action tangibly support human rights?

As daunting as these challenges are, the United States must stick to its principles to support human rights and democracy and the peaceful resolution of disputes. To do so, the United States must pursue immediate and long-term policies that increase the likelihood of governments respecting the rights of their people.


Troubling times across Asia

In the second half of the 20th century, hundreds of millions of people benefited from the democratization processes across Asia. The United States did much to support this trend over the past few decades, from helping to democratize Japan in the wake of World War II1 to providing assistance to countries, such as Indonesia and the Philippines, that have transitioned to democratic forms of governance in more recent years.2

Yet autocratic governments still rule billions of people in Asia. China’s persistent authoritarian presence casts a long and ominous shadow; North Korea’s grave human rights violations continue to shock the conscience; and Vietnam and Laos remain one-party states. Moreover, the people of numerous other Asian countries remain in some form of limbo, benefiting from aspects of democracy without enjoying full human rights protections.

The cultural relativism narrative of “Asian values” is still cited as justification for the region’s lack of democracy.3 As the theory goes, Asian countries have different values that prioritize the community over the individual, and therefore, Western democracy and human rights supposedly are unnecessary. The false notion that a nondemocratic form of government, such as that of China or Vietnam, can better promote economic growth and the collective good still carries sway in large parts of the region.

Furthermore, the long history of U.S. policies that undermined democracy and human rights in the region has rightly fueled skepticism of America’s support for universal rights. From the Vietnam War to decades of U.S. support of dictators in South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, and the Philippines, the United States has done significant damage to the cause of human rights and democracy in Asia.

Today, the challenges to human rights are mounting. China has detained more than 1 million Uighurs in concentration camps in Xinjiang in a systematic effort to extinguish their ethnic and cultural heritage.4 Myanmar, after embarking on a democratic transition, has carried out genocide against its Rohingya Muslim population.5 In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte is pursuing an extrajudicial drug war and has cracked down on press freedoms.6 Thailand’s military is cementing its position five years after a coup brought it to power. And in Hong Kong, there are fears that Beijing could end the current round of protests with Tiananmen-like violence.7

President Donald Trump, of course, has made clear how little he cares about human rights and democracy. Trump praises Duterte while ignoring his human rights abuses;8 invited Thailand’s dictator to the White House;9 and heaps acclaim on North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.10 Trump has said he is willing to disregard human rights in exchange for progress on economic issues,11 tweeting “Hong Kong is not helping”12 in response to the ongoing trade war with Beijing. Through disinterest and inaction, the Trump administration renders the United States complicit in the repression of people by authoritarian governments.


Why the United States should care

Democracy and human rights are intertwined, as a true democracy protects human rights, and the protection of human rights can only be guaranteed in a democracy. Democracies, of course, are about far more than elections, and U.S. policy must focus on encouraging the growth of all aspects of democracy: unfettered elections, a free press, an equitable economy, an independent judiciary, and a thriving civil society.

Supporting democracy and human rights advances U.S. prosperity and security. Mature democracies are less likely to go to war with one another and are more likely to support sustainable economic growth over time.13 Greater levels of democracy in Asia mean a reduced chance of conflict that could affect the U.S. economy or, worse, drag the United States into a war.14

Moreover, defending human rights is the right thing to do. Human rights, as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and backed by the United Nations, are universal.15 Standing up for political rights such as freedom of speech and assembly and for economic rights such as labor protections and health care is morally just. Championing these principles is part of what defines America. Despite its failings at home and abroad, the United States was founded on the belief that a democratic system, which protects human rights and has the capacity to improve itself, is the best form of government.16 In order to live up to that ideal and to distinguish America’s foreign policy from that of countries such as China, it is incumbent that the United States does what it can to support these rights globally.


What the United States can do

There is no policy silver bullet that can effectively advance human rights and democracy abroad. In some places, the United States can make a real difference; in others, opportunities to usher in change are slim. Although there are places where the United States may be unable to directly engender change, it must continue to stand up for universal values. To do otherwise would undermine U.S. economic and security interests, as well as shirk responsibility and moral obligation.

The United States has no shortage of tools to support democracy and human rights in Asia. U.S. leaders can send important signals through public rhetoric and private diplomacy. In addition, the United States allocates tens of millions of dollars each year to support civil society organizations and provide trainings for government officials. Importantly, sanctions and other punitive measures can also deliver a strong message when governments violate human rights or backslide on democratic principles.

Here are a few principles the United States should follow in its foreign policy approach, no matter the circumstance:

  • Support those on the ground and follow their lead. A key aspect of advancing human rights and democracy is supporting the people aspiring to secure those rights. The United States must pay close attention to the perspectives of citizens and civil society and understand what they are asking for when crafting policies.
  • Recognize that human rights reinforce other U.S. interests. U.S. policymakers frequently create a false paradigm by weighing interests against one another; one example is the belief that supporting human rights comes at the cost of risking other U.S. interests.17 While it is certainly true that pushing a country on one issue can affect cooperation on other issues, supporting human rights and democracy arguably advances U.S. economic and security interests over the long term. The United States must act to improve the human rights situation. Lastly, when America makes trade-offs to advance its other interests, it signals to repressive regimes that they can do the same, ultimately making the United States less effective at achieving its foreign policy goals.
  • Speak up. Although public statements can sometimes fail to result in significant change, they are nonetheless necessary. No matter which other policies the United States considers, it must make its views clear and public. At the very least, the people struggling for their rights and freedom can take encouragement in knowing that the United States is speaking out in support of their cause.
  • Work with allies. More voices are better than one. The United States is likely to be more effective if it coordinates efforts with allies and partners around the world.
  • Boost democracy assistanceU.S. democracy assistance—which includes support to civil society and assistance to governments—is a crucial, tangible strategy for improved governance in countries across the democracy spectrum. Moreover, this assistance must focus on securing stronger protections for labor rights, environmental safeguards, and anti-corruption efforts.
  • Improve human rights and democracy at home. American democracy is far from perfect and in recent years has taken tremendous steps backward. In order to assume a credible role in supporting democracy and human rights around the world, the United States must continue to strive for a more perfect union by reinvigorating its democratic institutions and respecting and protecting the rights of all people living within its borders.

When it comes to standing up for democratic values and human rights, the overarching question is how best to apply different tools to unique situations. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, it is important to understand how different strategies can support the cause of human rights and democracy across the region.


How to prevent imminent violent repression

When people take to the streets to protest repressive governments or when there are signs of an imminent crackdown by a government on its citizens, it is important for the United States to act. In so doing, however, the United States must strike a careful balance between offering support and inadvertently bolstering the specious argument frequently made by authoritarian governments that domestic protest movements are somehow being fomented by America and the West.18 That said, repressive regimes are likely to blame the United States regardless of its level of involvement, so the United States need not be overly concerned with this perception.

To deter crackdowns by repressive regimes, the United States can take the following steps:

  • Signal clear public support for vulnerable populations. The United States must publicly state its desire for a peaceful resolution to conflict between a government and its citizens along with full-throated support for the protection of human rights. U.S. public support signals to people on the ground and to the world exactly where the United States stands and can help rally support from other countries.
  • Send private messages to repressive governments clearly outlining the consequences of violence. The United States must engage with problematic regimes to send the unequivocal message that a peaceful resolution is necessary and that any violence will be met with concrete responses from the United States. These private signals should not only make clear that there will be consequences, but also give the regime a potentially face-saving way out if it refrains from further repression. Importantly, the United States must only threaten consequences if it is willing to follow through on them, as making empty threats will only weaken its credibility.
  • Prepare tangible responses to violence. The United States must prepare specific sanctions or other actions tailored to each particular case in the event of a violent crackdown.
  • Use technology to keep people connected to the world and one another. Civil society movements rely on modern communications technology to organize and ensure that information reaches the rest of the world. The United States can work with technology companies to ensure that those lines of communication stay open.
  • Avoid counterproductive actions. The United States must refrain from taking counterproductive steps. For example, in response to Beijing’s involvement in the Hong Kong protests, there are growing calls to consider ending Hong Kong’s special status, which is derived from a 1992 U.S. law that enables the United States to engage the city differently from mainland China in economic and political relations.19 However, such a move could further cut off the people of Hong Kong from the rest of the world and worsen their plight.20 Similarly, returning Myanmar to its former state of international isolation in response to the mass atrocities against the Rohingya, as opposed to pursuing a more targeted response, would be more likely to hurt the Rohingya and other people of Myanmar.21 

How to respond to violent repression

When autocratic governments pursue violence and repression against their citizens, the United States must respond decisively. While it is difficult to change the actions of repressive governments, that in no way means that the United States cannot make a difference. Quick and resolute action is most effective; a delayed or a piecemeal process—such as the Trump administration’s slow rollout of actions against Myanmar in the wake of the Rohingya genocide22—has little chance of stopping the violence and sends weak signals about the United States’ depth of concern.

In the face of violence and increased repression, the United States should:

  • Impose targeted costs. The United States must follow through on its promised actions or quickly implement consequences in the event of sudden repression. Targeted sanctions leveled against the individuals involved in a crackdown can send a signal but may not have much practical effect. However, sanctions through U.S. firms and international companies that conduct business with a repressive regime are a potentially powerful tool, although they must be wielded carefully to avoid negative ripple effects. In extreme cases, such as the genocide in Myanmar and the Uighur concentration camps in China, the United States should use a combination of these punitive tools while also rallying the world to apply concerted pressure. In addition, the United States should demand urgent U.N. Security Council meetings and action; even if Russia or China vote to prevent decisive action, these meetings can force international spotlight on the issue.
  • Recognize that there is power in numbers. The most effective pressure on autocratic regimes is often through coordination with partners and allies.23 Concerted pressure from a variety of partners—especially if sanctions are involved—can significantly affect the calculus of a repressive regime.
  • Activate regional institutions. While Asia has few regional security institutions, the United States should press for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the East Asia Summit (EAS)—which consists of ASEAN countries and eight other regional powers, as well as the United States—to meet for emergency sessions to respond to human rights violations.
  • Establish the steps necessary to improve circumstances on the ground. The private diplomacy that follows a government crackdown must signal that a swift U.S. response is imminent. At the same time, diplomatic efforts need to clearly outline the steps the regime must take to improve the situation and potentially forestall or remove the threatened U.S. actions.

While these actions may not necessarily influence repressive regimes or force governments to alter course, they can clearly indicate that there will be costs for continued repression and violence and that this pressure will not be relieved unless certain steps are taken. Furthermore, they serve as a deterrent to other countries that might consider gross human rights violations.


How to deal with democratic backsliding

Democratic backsliding creates a different set of challenges for the United States. When democracies erode—such as when a coup overthrows the democratically elected government or an elected government assaults democratic institutions—the United States must use its leverage to try to mitigate the damage. At the same time, the United States should proceed with caution, recognizing that democracies often have legitimate processes that remain intact and can address the domestic situation without intense outside pressure, depending on the severity and nature of the erosion.

Another complicating factor is that democracies are often held to much higher standards than nondemocracies: For instance, if a democratic country backslides, there may be pressure for the United States to respond with harsh sanctions. However, the United States is rarely expected to level similar punitive measures on autocratic countries that have never experienced democracy. There are few calls for the United States to increase sanctions on Jordan or Vietnam, for instance, but when a true democracy such as the Philippines backslides—even if it maintains most of its democratic institutions—the calls for pressure grow very loud.24 However, such U.S. pressure is necessary regardless of a possible double standard.

In response to democratic backsliding, the United States should:

  • Downgrade the partnership. The United States should respond appropriately and in a timely fashion to any erosion in democracy, especially when the democratic institutions of a U.S. ally are under assault. In the case of democratic backsliding in an allied country, the United States has a greater stake in the outcomes. Moreover, without a U.S. response, other countries could perceive the United States as complicit in democratic erosion by virtue of its ongoing security partnership. The United States must downgrade the allied relationship, which includes suspending security cooperation and refraining from high-level visits. For example, after the 2014 coup in Thailand, the Obama administration suspended certain types of security assistance, downgraded the nature of military cooperation, and stopped sending high-level officials to Thailand, though the policy on visits was effectively reversed by the Trump administration in 2017.25
  • Discern cooperation that helps people from cooperation that could further harm them. While cooperation with governments on certain issues—countering human trafficking, for instance—should continue, U.S. support to security services or other institutions that could be used to further erode democratic institutions must end. The United States can continue to work with an allied country on outward-facing security threats, as in the case of U.S. support to the Philippines in the South China Sea, but assistance such as selling weapons that could be used by internal security forces must cease. Moreover, the United States must send a clear message that the lower-profile, reduced alliance will continue until democracy has been restored.


How to apply appropriate pressure

Once the United States has applied pressure on a country that has violently cracked down on its own people or eroded democratic norms, one question inevitably arises: How long should the U.S. maintain pressure?

There are many instances of the United States resuming normal relations with autocracies after egregious human rights violations. For example, while the United States maintained an arms embargo on China after its violent crackdown on protesters in 1989, the United States resumed active support for China’s integration into the global economy and membership in the World Trade Organization during the 1990s.26

It is important to set realistic expectations with a regime early in the process when deciding how long to apply pressure. If an offending regime is given specific demands, there are clear steps that can serve as a benchmark for progress. If a regime then fails to take those steps, it does not mean that its relationship with the United States can never change, but it means that the relationship should not return to what it was before. Additionally, U.S. pressure can continue to be directed toward specific individuals—for instance, the officials directly involved in carrying out the mass atrocities in Myanmar—or on specific aspects of the relationship, such as the arms embargo against China.

Supporting democracy and human rights over the long term

There are other steps that the United States can take to advance democracy and human rights in Asia. The United States can attempt to strengthen global multilateral mechanisms, such as the Community of Democracies, and rejoin the U.N. Human Rights Council. It can open its doors to more refugees and asylum-seekers and, most importantly, improve its track record on democracy and human rights at home.

In Asia, the United States should forge closer bonds with the region’s democracies, aiming to both strengthen existing democracies in Asia and enable them to coordinate more effectively on behalf of democracy and human rights throughout the region. During the George W. Bush administration, the United States started an informal network with a similar aim called the Asia-Pacific Democracy Partnership, but the effort languished.27 Recently, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue—comprising the United States, Japan, Australia, and India—resumed meeting at a senior-official level with the goal of forging a strategic partnership among four of the largest democracies in Asia with veiled intentions of countering China’s regional influence.28 Whatever the forum, the United States must find ways to bring together the democracies of Asia—quietly, conspicuously, or both—to forge shared approaches to democracy and human rights in the region. To that end, the United States, in concert with Asian allies, should:

  • Create an Asia-Pacific Democracy Network. The United States should revive a version of the Asia-Pacific Democracy Partnership in a new format that weaves together a combination of formal and informal gatherings of officials from as many Asian democracies as possible, including Japan, South Korea, Australia, Mongolia, New Zealand, Indonesia, India, and Taiwan. The network’s goals should include coordination on specific issues and a public show of democratic solidarity as well as serving as a venue for longer-term collaboration on strengthening democracy across the region. This sort of initiative must also be linked with more global efforts to bring democracies facing similar challenges together, whether through the Community of Democracies or other mechanisms.
  • Integrate Taiwan. A key component of longer-term efforts to advance democracy is working with Taiwan, a thriving democracy facing growing pressure from Beijing.29 The United States should make sure that it not only continues to provide for Taiwan’s autonomy and security, but also integrates Taiwan into broader regional and global networks that can protect its democratic system. Even as the United States maintains the “One China” policy30 and the Taiwan Relations Act31—effectively meaning that the United States does not take sides in the dispute between China and Taiwan and upholds a relationship with Taiwan that includes providing security and economic support—there is plenty of space for the United States to more robustly support Taiwan, its democracy, and its autonomy.
  • Encourage ASEAN to address democracy and human rights. ASEAN has historically shied away from tackling challenges to human rights and democracy, especially when non-ASEAN countries are present in broader meetings such as the EAS.32 Nevertheless, the United States must push for action on grave human rights violations—such as Thailand’s democratic regression, Duterte’s drug war, Myanmar’s genocide of the Rohingya, and China’s detention of Uighurs—including by making sure that these violations are on the agenda at annual EAS and ASEAN meetings with the United States. Through interparliamentary exchanges, trainings, and other mechanisms, the United States should also support efforts to expand ASEAN’s capacity on issues such as anti-corruption, environmental protections, labor rights, and more.


An immediate role for Congress

Many of the above recommendations are geared toward the U.S. executive branch. However, with a presidential administration that largely ignores human rights challenges at home and abroad—and, in many ways, has made them worse—Congress must step up to play a leadership role, just as when it passed a resolution to end U.S.-Saudi support for the war in Yemen.33 There are a few ways that Congress can act:

  • Force the administration’s hand. Whether in response to the detention of Uighurs or the genocide against the Rohingya—and with the Trump administration acting too slowly or not at all—Congress can pass legislation that forces the administration to impose costs on the offending regimes. There are multiple pieces of legislation that have been introduced in Congress to respond to human rights abuses in China, Myanmar, and the Philippines.34 Congress should use these opportunities to send a firm signal to these countries and to the Trump administration that it will take strong action.
  • Create a democratic strategic advantage initiative. The United States can also streamline its own policies to maximize its impact in support of democratic countries by creating a democratic strategic advantage initiative.35 Such an initiative would provide a combination of financial and security assistance as well as other policy preferences such as advantageous trade terms.36 This is a particularly important tool that could be used effectively to support countries, in Asia and elsewhere, that are on the right path toward strengthening democracy and human rights.
  • Speak out. Countries in the region pay close attention to what leaders in Congress say and do; therefore, it is especially important for U.S. congressional leaders to speak out early and often on issues of human rights and democracy. In addition, meeting with officials and civil society in the region and in Washington while delivering the right messages during these sessions can send important signals about the United States’ commitment to universal values, as well as the potential consequences imposed for gross human rights violations.



With mounting and urgent human rights challenges across Asia today, it is important for the United States to craft tailored, concrete strategies to support democracy and human rights and to prevent and respond to human rights violations and democratic backsliding. The United States cannot control what happens across the region, but with the right policies, it can make a difference in outcomes on the ground. If the United States does not act now, the deterioration of human rights and democracy in Asia could begin to have real and direct consequences on the region and on the United States.


Michael Fuchs is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.  

The author would like to thank Haneul Lee for her assistance with this paper.



  1. Patrick Christy, “America’s Proud History of Post-War Aid,” U.S. News & World Report, June 6, 2014, available at https://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/world-report/2014/06/06/the-lessons-from-us-aid-after-world-war-ii; U.S. State Department Office of the Historian, “Occupation and Reconstruction of Japan, 1945–52,” available at https://history.state.gov/milestones/1945-1952/japan-reconstruction (last accessed September 2019); United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research, “Lessons from U.S. interventions to Japan, Afghanistan and Iraq” (Helsinki, Finland: 2013), available at https://www.wider.unu.edu/sites/default/files/RB2013-Lessons%20from%20US%20Interventions%20to%20Japan%2C%20Afghanistan%20and%20Iraq.pdf.  
  2. Marian L. Lawson and Susan B. Epstein, “Democracy Promotion: An Objective of U.S. Foreign Assistance” (Washington: Congressional Research Service, 2019), available at https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R44858.pdf; Phineas Rueckert, “Thanks to US Foreign Aid, These Countries Are Becoming Democracies,” Global Citizen, September 1, 2017, available at https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/foreign-aid-is-helping-these-countries-transition/
  3. Mark R. Thompson, “Pacific Asia after ‘Asian values’: authoritarianism, democracy, and ‘good governance’,” Third World Quarterly 25 (6) (2007): 1079–1095, available at https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0143659042000256904
  4. Amnesty International, “Up to One Million Detained in China’s Mass ‘Re-Education’ Drive,” available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/09/china-up-to-one-million-detained/ (last accessed August 2019). 
  5. Hannah Beech, “Myanmar’s Military Planned Rohingya Genocide, Rights Group Says,” The New York Times, July 19, 2018, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/19/world/asia/myanmar-rohingya-genocide.html
  6. Luke Hunt, “Duterte’s Media War in the Philippines,” The Diplomat, September 24, 2018, available at https://thediplomat.com/2018/09/dutertes-media-war-in-the-philippines/; Human Rights Watch, “Philippines: Duterte’s ‘Drug War’ Claims 12,000+ Lives: Government Harassment, Threats Against Rights Defenders,” January 18, 2018, available at https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/01/18/philippines-dutertes-drug-war-claims-12000-lives
  7. Orville Schell, “Tiananmen in Hong Kong: The Alarming Echoes of 1989,” Foreign Affairs, August 19, 2019, available at https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2019-08-19/tiananmen-hong-kong
  8. Noah Bierman, “Trump praises his ‘great relationship’ with Philippines’ Duterte, ignores questions about human rights,” Los Angeles Times, November 13, 2017, available at https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-fg-trump-duterte-20171113-story.html
  9. Associated Press, “Diplomatic coup for Thai junta, as Trump welcomes military leader Prayuth at White House,” South China Morning Post, October 3, 2017, available at https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/southeast-asia/article/2113749/diplomatic-coup-thai-junta-trump-welcomes-military-leader
  10. Philip Rucker, “Trump praises Kim Jong Un’s authoritarian rule, says ‘I want my people to do the same’,” Chicago Tribune, June 15, 2018, available at https://www.chicagotribune.com/nation-world/ct-trump-kim-jong-un-20180615-story.html
  11. Daniel Victor, “Trump Says ‘Hong Kong Is Not Helping’ in Trade War With China,” The New York Times, August 15, 2019, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/15/world/asia/donald-trump-hong-kong.html
  12. Donald J. Trump, @realDonaldTrump, August 14, 2019, 3:21 p.m. ET, Twitter, available at https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1161719408202584064
  13. Shah M. Tarzi, “Democratic Peace, Illiberal Democracy, and Conflict Behavior,” International Journal on World Peace 24 (4) (2007): 35–60, available at https://www.jstor.org/stable/20752801?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents; Sean M. Lynn-Jones, “Why the United States Should Spread Democracy” (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Kennedy School, 1998), available at https://www.belfercenter.org/publication/why-united-states-should-spread-democracy
  14. Stuart A. Bremer, “Democracy and militarized interstate conflict, 1816–1965,” International Interactions: Empirical and Theoretical Research in International Relations 18 (3) (1993): 231–249, available at https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03050629308434806?journalCode=gini20
  15. United Nations, “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” available at https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/ (last accessed August 2019). 
  16. New World Encyclopedia, “American Exceptionalism,” available at https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/American_exceptionalism#Aspects_of_arguments_for_American_exceptionalism (last accessed August 2019). 
  17. Mitchell Plitnick, “A False Dichotomy: Security vs Human Rights,” Foundation for Middle East Peace, November 25, 2015, available at https://fmep.org/blog/2015/11/a-false-dichotomy-security-vs-human-rights/; Elliott Abrams and others, “The U.S. Must Put Democracy at the Center of its Foreign Policy,” Freedom House, March 16, 2016, available at https://freedomhouse.org/article/us-must-put-democracy-center-its-foreign-policy
  18. Richard Spencer, “Hosni Mubarak says US plotted to overthrow him in Egypt from 2005,” The Telegraph, September 15, 2013, available at https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/egypt/10310904/Hosni-Mubarak-says-US-plotted-to-overthrow-him-in-Egypt-from-2005.html; Dimitri Simes, “Senior Kremlin Official Accuses NATO of Plotting ‘Color Revolutions’ in Russia’s Neighborhood,” CNS NewsJuly 5, 2019, available at https://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/dimitri-simes/senior-kremlin-official-accuses-nato-plotting-color-revolutions-russias
  19. Kenneth Rapoza, “Hong Kong Throws Protesters A Bone As Senator Rubio Threatens ‘Special Status’,” Forbes, September 4, 2019, available at https://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2019/09/04/hong-kong-throws-protesters-a-bone-as-senator-rubio-threatens-special-status/#660d66273b6e; David Brunnstrom, “U.S. senator warns China on Hong Kong trade status if it intervenes in protests,” Reuters, August 14, 2019, available at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-hongkong-protests-usa-senator/u-s-senator-warns-china-on-hong-kong-trade-status-if-it-intervenes-in-protests-idUSKCN1V326I; Alex Lockie, “Mitch McConell slams China over Hong Kong, threatens a global confrontation that could tank the finance hub,” Business Insider, August 21, 2019, available at https://www.businessinsider.com/mitch-mcconnell-china-review-1992-hong-kong-policy-act-2019-8
  20. Lockie, “Mitch McConnell slams China over Hong Kong, threatens a global confrontation that could tank the finance hub.” 
  21. Trevor Wilson, “Beware a new age of isolation for Myanmar: Sanctions are not likely to lead to solutions for Rohingya,” Asia & The Pacific Policy Society Policy Forum, November 30, 2018, available at https://www.policyforum.net/beware-a-new-age-of-isolation-for-myanmar/
  22. Nahal Toosi, “U.S. not fully enforcing Myanmar sanctions, documents show,” Politico, August 10, 2018, available at https://www.politico.com/story/2018/08/10/myanmar-sanctions-rohingya-united-states-congress-773358
  23. Kelly Magsamen and others, “Securing a Democratic World: The Case for a Democratic Values-Based U.S. Foreign Policy” (Washington: Center for American Progress, 2018), available at https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/security/reports/2018/09/05/457451/securing-democratic-world/
  24. Doug Bandow, “America Should Drop Philippines Alliance: Thank Rodrigo Duterte for Encouraging Divorce,” Forbes, October 20, 2016, available at https://www.forbes.com/sites/dougbandow/2016/10/20/america-should-drop-philippines-alliance-thank-rodrigo-duterte-for-encouraging-divorce/#4278e7546485
  25. Associated Press, “Thailand coup: US suspends $4.4 million in military aid,” The Straits Times, May 24, 2014, available at https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/thailand-coup-us-suspends-44-million-in-military-aid; Congressional Research Service, “Thailand: Background and U.S. Relations” (Washington: 2018), available at https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/IF10253.pdf; Amy Sawitta Lefevre, “Tillerson in Thailand presses for more action on North Korea,” ReutersAugust 8, 2017, available at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-tillerson-asia-thailand/tillerson-in-thailand-presses-for-more-action-on-north-korea-idUSKBN1AO0CU
  26. Jim Mann, “Many 1989 U.S. Sanctions on China Eased or Ended,” Los Angeles Times, June 30, 1991, available at https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1991-06-30-mn-2555-story.html; Harold J. Johnson, “Testimony Before the U.S. General Accounting Office Joint Economic Committee on China, U.S and European Union Arms Sales Since the 1989 Embargoes,” April 28, 1998, available at https://www.gao.gov/archive/1998/ns98171t.pdf; Council on Foreign Relations, “U.S. Relations With China: 1949–2019,” available at https://www.cfr.org/timeline/us-relations-china (last accessed August 2019). 
  27. Associated Press, “Bush’s speech to APEC business summit,” Reuters, September 7, 2007, available at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-apec-bush-text/bushs-speech-to-apec-business-summit-idUSN0637464620070907
  28. Ankit Panda, “US, Japan, India, and Australia Hold Working-Level Quadrilateral Meeting on Regional Cooperation,” The Diplomat, November 13, 2017, available at https://thediplomat.com/2017/11/us-japan-india-and-australia-hold-working-level-quadrilateral-meeting-on-regional-cooperation/
  29. Katie Hunt, “China’s ramping up pressure on Taiwan,” CNN, May 29, 2018, available at https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/28/asia/taiwan-china-explainer-intl/index.html
  30. Bonnie S. Glaser and Michael J. Green, “What is the U.S. ‘One China’ Policy, and Why Does it Matter?”, Center for Strategic and International Studies, January 13, 2017, available at https://www.csis.org/analysis/what-us-one-china-policy-and-why-does-it-matter
  31. Gary J. Schmitt and Jamie M. Fly, “The Taiwan Relations Act at 40: It’s time to deepen ties,” The American Interest, April 8, 2019, available at http://www.aei.org/publication/the-taiwan-relations-act-at-40-its-time-to-deepen-ties/
  32. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, “Democracy and human rights at risk as ASEAN turns 50, parliamentarians warn,” Press release, September 19, 2017, available at https://aseanmp.org/2017/09/19/democracy-and-human-rights-at-risk-as-asean-turns-50-parliamentarians-warn/
  33. Associated Press, “Senate passes resolution to end US support for Saudi war in Yemen,” The Guardian, March 13, 2019, available at https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/mar/13/senate-vote-war-yemen-saudi-arabia.
  34. David G. Timberman, “Philippine Politics Under Duterte: A Midterm Assessment” (Washington: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2019), available at https://carnegieendowment.org/2019/01/10/philippine-politics-under-duterte-midterm-assessment-pub-78091; Patrick Murphy, Mark C. Storella, and Kate Somvongsiri, “The Rohingya Crisis: U.S. Response to the Tragedy in Burma, Hearing Before the Committee on Foreign Affairs,” October 5, 2017, available at https://docs.house.gov/meetings/FA/FA00/20171005/106471/HHRG-115-FA00-Transcript-20171005.pdf; Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, “Uyghurs are being persecuted in China — US Must protect them,” The Hill, May 10, 2019, available at https://thehill.com/opinion/international/443212-uyghurs-are-being-persecuted-in-china-us-must-protect-them
  35. Magsamen and others, “Securing a Democratic World.” 
  36. Ibid. 


By                    :               Michael Fuchs

Date                 :               September 16, 2019

Source             :               Center for American Progress




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Latin America Already Has a Model to Solve Venezuela


The Larreta Doctrine – not the Rio Treaty – should serve as the region’s framework for collective action.

The U.S. and its Latin American allies last month invoked the Rio Treaty, a region-wide defense pact, to open the door to a new round of sanctions on Nicolás Maduro’s government in Venezuela. But the move may have unwanted consequences.

Signed in 1947, the treaty is seen by many as a Cold War remnant tied to the U.S.’ legacy of intervention in the region – rather than put pressure on the regime, it may end up as fodder for Maduro’s “anti-imperialist” message.

That’s a shame, because the 16 countries that voted to invoke the treaty had a better alternative at their disposal – another historical artifact whose approach to international support for democracy could offer a way forward in the Venezuelan crisis.

In 1945, as the agenda for the upcoming Rio conference was under debate, then-Uruguayan Foreign Minister Eduardo Rodríguez Larreta proposed a framework to collectively protect and defend democracy in the Americas.

That proposal, dubbed the “Larreta Doctrine,” offered a series of commitments to democracy and mutual support, as well as pre-conditions to intervention and assistance in the region. In contrast, the Rio Treaty mostly imagined common responses to external threats.

In qualifying the circumstances under which member states would act collectively to address threats to democracy in the hemisphere, the Uruguayan tried to bridge the tension between the defense of national sovereignty and the defense of human rights.

Rodríguez Larreta’s proposal didn’t make the cut – the doctrine was left off the agenda at the conference and the Rio Treaty ultimately gave democracy only a rhetorical nod, foregrounding security instead. But the doctrine still offers relevant ideas and principles for rethinking how the Western Hemisphere approaches sovereignty, non-intervention and the protection of rights and democracy.

The doctrine included three essential elements: First, an acknowledgement that democratic governance and the protection of human rights were inseparable. Second, a call for states to agree in advance that, should egregious violations of democratic rule or human rights threaten popular sovereignty in a member state, a two-thirds vote by the remaining states would make collective action permissible. Finally, the proposal called for a pre-commitment by the only great power in the Americas, the United States, to work through the regional system instead of unilaterally.

Under Rodríguez Larreta’s view, popularly elected governments should make pre-commitments of their own, including permitting in advance the regional support of democracy should it be under threat. Outside powers helping to restore a legitimate government or counter anti-democratic forces would not pose a threat to national sovereignty because sovereignty should be based on the popular will. Anti-democratic forces could not claim true, popular sovereignty. But by the same token, action by the international community would only be legitimate if it followed clear, collectively agreed procedures. They could not be the sole initiative of a great power, dressed in humanitarian garb.

In that light, the Larreta Doctrine offers intriguing ideas for a proactive, positive approach to squaring the region’s long (and understandable) emphasis on non-intervention with a parallel tradition of republicanism, rights and democratic practice.

As Maduro’s behavior and the halting regional response have shown, a rethinking of inter-American commitments to human rights and democracy is long overdue. Venezuela is only the most blatant case of deteriorating democracy in the region. Presidents in Bolivia, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua have concentrated executive power at the expense of checks and balances. Despite their divergent ideologies, the presidents of Brazil and Mexico have evinced disregard for institutions of governance.

There are of course hurdles in trying to promote the ideas of the doctrine in Latin America today. In 1945, the debate around the proposal – like current ones on Venezuela – made it clear that military intervention would destroy the regional consensus needed for effective action. The doctrine’s critics saw it as a backdoor for U.S. imperialism, deriding it as “neo-intervention.”

While seen by some critics as interventionist, the Larreta Doctrine would also have been a disappointment to hawks. Rodríguez Larreta insisted that military intervention was not his goal. Instead, the doctrine sought to motivate early, collective action to prevent a crisis – what scholar Luke Glanville has called the “responsibility to perfect.”

In that sense, the doctrine addresses failings of the regional response to the Venezuelan crisis: that it has been too late in coalescing, and that the U.S. has failed to assuage fears of a selective, ideologically driven return to interventionism.

Many regional actors turned a blind eye to a long trend toward concentration of power in Venezuela, as long as ideology and oil revenues made the country an attractive partner. Meanwhile, the United States’ divisive approach and its inconsistency on democracy elsewhere – especially in Honduras – undermined its ability to lead when Venezuela became a priority. Opportunities to act collectively through less coercive means were lost.

Here, the doctrine points to a missing element in today’s debates about democracy promotion, the responsibility to protect, and – concretely – the response to Venezuela’s crisis. To be perceived as acceptable and legitimate, pre-commitments must bind both weaker states that are candidates for the future collapse of democratic and human rights conditions, and strong states that are potential interveners.

The doctrine further offers a solution to the sovereignty dilemma by allowing representatives of a sovereign people to work out guarantees and permissions before they lose their voice to dictatorship. It could also help protect against violations of sovereignty in the form of, say, unilateral U.S. interventions or extended military occupations, common in the first third of the 20th century.

Unfortunately, U.S. policy today has created an impediment to a Larreta-like solution, which requires a baseline of trust between Latin American states and the United States. In 1945, that had been partially achieved by Franklin Roosevelt’s good neighbor policy, the New Deal and wartime cooperation. That trust is currently lacking.

The Trump administration’s embrace of democracy has been inconsistent in Latin America and globally. Donald Trump’s affinity for strongman rulers has been widely noted. In the region, the administration has supported the Honduran president despite democratic decline and let popular internationally supported anti-corruption measures wither there and in Guatemala.

It will take time, and concrete action, for a new U.S. administration to begin rebuilding its relationship with the region. Perhaps, if the Trump presidency starts to look like an aberration and an atmosphere of trust is restored, ideas for a pre-commitment scheme to preserve democracy and human rights can be put back on the inter-American agenda. Until then, Latin American democrats need not wait for Washington, but can turn to their own history for ideas for protecting their common values.


Long is Associate Professor of Politics & International Studies at the University of Warwick. Friedman is Professor of History and International Relations at American University. Their article in Perspectives on Politics, “The Promise of Precommitment in Democracy and Human Rights: The Hopeful, Forgotten Failure of the Larreta Doctrine,” can be found here.


By                    :               Tom Long & Max Paul Friedman

Date                 :               October 3, 2019

Source             :               Americas Quarterly




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Abortion Bans Strip People of Their Human Rights. Here's Why We Must Stand In Solidarity Against Them


Banning abortions isn’t particularly effective. When governments restrict access to abortion, abortions actually continue to take place at roughly the same rate, according to the World Health Organization. But they get less safe. When abortion services are denied or limited, coat hangers, toxic herbal medicines and unqualified practitioners step into the breach, while medical professionals who provide proper care are criminalized.

Total bans or restrictive abortion laws in countries like El Salvador, Poland and more recently several U.S. states (including Louisiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama and Missouri) are designed to control and confine women and girls to stereotypical gender roles. They are an affront to their human rights and dignity and constitute gender discrimination. For transgender and queer people who need abortions, such restrictive laws are the latest in a long line of attacks on their rights and freedoms.

Organizations defending human rights have documented the agony and despair stemming from restrictive abortion laws around the world. One of the most harrowing stories is that of “Ms Y”, a woman who was granted asylum in Ireland after being beaten and raped by paramilitaries in her own country. Ms Y tried to kill herself several times when she was told she could not end her pregnancy, which was the result of rape. She was eventually forced to give birth by C-section. At every step of the way, the Irish authorities’ concern for the protection of the fetus trumped any consideration of Ms Y’s mental and physical health.

Last year Ireland joined the list of nearly 50 countries that have expanded access to lawful abortion over the last few decades. It was a historic move which came too late for Ms Y, but which will protect others from suffering the same trauma.

More recently, we have seen the horrific impact of criminal abortion laws being used to punish people for suffering pregnancy-related complications. In El Salvador, women who suffer miscarriages or stillbirths are routinely “suspected of having abortions” and charged with homicide.

In April 2016, Evelyn Hernández, a 21-year-old El Salvadorian woman, suffered an obstetric emergency at home, resulting in the loss of her pregnancy. She was arrested, tried and sentenced to 30 years in jail for aggravated homicide. In February this year, a higher court overturned this ruling and ordered a re-trial — which found Evelyn innocent. However, on Sept. 6, the Salvadoran Public Prosecutor’s Office announced that it would appeal that judgement – showing the authorities’ obsession with charging her under the country’s draconian laws.

We must continue to stand up to governments’ efforts to control women’s and girls’ bodies. According to the US-based reproductive health non-profit the Guttmacher Institute’s latest report, as of 2017, 42% of women of reproductive age live in the 125 countries where abortion is highly restricted (prohibited altogether, or allowed only to save a woman’s life or protect her health). Jurisdictions around the world are going to extreme lengths to restrict abortion access — stripping those who can get pregnant of their human rights and bodily autonomy.

Any person who does not control what happens to their body cannot be free. The debate around abortion should go beyond whether a person’s life is endangered by pregnancy. At the core of the issue is a person’s right to make decisions about what happens to their body. This right is critical to enabling all people who can get pregnant to fully exercise their human rights and to live their lives with dignity. Governments must not only decriminalize abortion and ensure access to safe abortion in practice, but also create social conditions in which people can make pregnancy-related decisions free of oppression, discrimination, stigma, coercion, violence, lack of opportunities or punishment.

More and more countries have woken up to this fact, despite the alarming rollback of reproductive rights in some countries, like the United States or Poland, driven by anti-choice groups and supported by populist politicians. Over the last 25 years, around 50 countries have changed their laws to allow for greater access to abortion. Although national contexts vary, one thing has united all successful campaigns to reform abortion laws: women speaking out. From Ireland to South Korea, activists have helped dispel the stigma and secrecy surrounding abortion by sharing their stories. In Argentina and Poland, over a million women have marched to demand that their voices be heard.

People who need, or have had, abortions deserve our support and solidarity. Whether by donating time and resources to national abortion networks, taking to the streets in protest or educating people in our lives about the need for safe abortion, we all have a role to play in reclaiming our rights.

At the same time, governments must expand access to safe, lawful and affordable abortion and contraception for all people. Not only is it the humane thing to do, it is a state obligation under international law. It will prevent countless deaths, life-long trauma and life-changing injuries.


Uma Mishra-Newbery is an Executive Director from Women’s March Global. Jaime Todd-Gher is a Legal Advisor from Amnesty International.


By                    :               Uma Mishra-Newberry & Jaime Todd-Gher

Date                 :               September 27, 2019

Source             :               Time




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