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Abortion and President Biden's State of the Union

Dear President Biden,

People’s access to abortion in this country is in crisis, with attacks coming constantly from all levels ranging from the Supreme Court to state and local governments. That’s why it is imperative that everyone, from the White House to Congress to state and municipal governments to local communities, work hard to protect and expand abortion access.

As you prepare for the State of the Union, we urge you to be clear that protecting abortion access is of paramount importance given both the ongoing crisis in Texas and the likelihood that the Supreme Court will further decimate the constitutional right to abortion later this year. We also urge you to reiterate your support for the Women’s Health Protection Act, critical legislation that would establish a right to abortion throughout the United States and help to guard against the abortion bans and other medically unnecessary abortion restrictions being advanced and enacted by state politicians across the country.

We appreciate your clear call for a “whole-of-government”response to the dire state of abortion access in Texas. Indeed, it is critical that all parts of the administration work tirelessly to protect abortion access in the face of ever increasing threat, building on the work of Vice President Harris, the Department of Justice, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Becerra and his staff, and the White House Gender Policy Council, work tirelessly to protect abortion access in the face of ever increasing threats.

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Diaspora, CBOs/CSOs, NGOs Urge President Biden to Implement a Coordinated Response Against the Burmese Military Junta

Dear President Biden,

We, the undersigned 233 diaspora, CBOs/CSOs and nonprofit organizations from 17 countries, write to urge your Administration to implement a coordinated and comprehensive response to the Burmese military’s shocking and escalating violence since the February 1, 2021, attempted coup. The Burmese military’s systematic violence has resulted in extensive loss of life, daily human rights violations and the forced displacement of tens of thousands, especially in ethnic areas. On the one-year anniversary of the military’s illegal coup, we call upon you to treat the situation with the urgency and decisive action it demands by not only publicly condemning the ongoing brutality across Burma but also implementing a multi-step response plan, which includes coordinating a global arms embargo and sanctioning the military’s oil and gas revenues.

Most crucially, a global arms embargo is necessary to prevent the military from accessing the artillery and air strike equipment that it currently utilizes to indiscriminately attack civilians. This relentless campaign of terror is funded by key oil and gas revenues that allow the military to continue paying their personnel and purchasing deadly weaponry. Thus, cutting off the military’s profits from oil and gas revenues is necessary to strangle a crucial source of funding for the brutal campaigns and militarization currently seen in several ethnic states. Third, supplying cross-border aid is imperative given the countless internationally displaced persons (IDPs) who have been forced to seek refuge in neighboring Thailand, where they shelter in unsanitary, inhumane, and insecure conditions. Lastly, to show true solidarity with efforts to resist the junta’s illegal rule, the National Unity Government must be recognized as Burma’s only governing body to effectively invalidate any power commandeered by the State Administration Council. The primary means to ensure genuine democracy in Burma is to recognize the legitimacy of the political will of the Burmese people and to defund and delegitimize the Burmese military because of what they are: illegitimate usurpers and unconscionable perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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Joint statement on Myanmar UN Security Council open briefing

We, the undersigned 286 organizations stress the need, at an absolute minimum, to convene an open meeting of the UN Security Council to address the deteriorating humanitarian situation and urgent civilian protection concerns in Myanmar as a matter of extreme urgency. As we approach one year since the attempted coup on 1 February, all UN Security Council member states have a shared responsibility to address the crisis in an open setting and share national positions on actions the UN Security Council should be taking. Closed meetings and press statements are not working. We call on Norway as UN Security Council President, the UK as Myanmar “penholder” and all supportive states to table the open debate before the one-year anniversary and require other member states to declare their support.

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Support the Women's Health Protection Act

Dear Senators:

The more than 225 undersigned organizations dedicated to protecting and advancing civil rights, health, economic security, LGBTQ rights, and gender justice write in support of S. 1975, the “Women’s Health Protection Act” (WHPA). We urge the Senate to swiftly bring the bill to the floor and for all Senators to vote yes on passage.

Despite the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade nearly fifty years ago, abortion access has continued to be under threat. Anti-abortion politicians and advocates have continued to undermine abortion access both at the federal and state levels. This is part of a nearly fifty-year strategy to make abortion wholly inaccessible for those who need it. In September, and again in December, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to to put an end to Texas’s S.B. 8, a six-week abortion ban, rendering Roe v. Wade’s protections meaningless for the majority of Texas abortion patients, and giving other states hostile to reproductive rights a green light to ban abortion outright in the near future. People with resources are being forced to flee the state to access abortion, while those who are unable to leave the state are being forced to continue their pregnancies against their wishes. Around the same time, the Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case in which Mississippi has asked the Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. The Supreme Court could gut or wholly overturn the right to abortion by this summer.

WHPA would help protect access to abortion against state-level bans and medically unnecessary restrictions that are reducing, and in some cases, eliminating, access to abortion across the country. WHPA establishes a statutory right for health care providers to provide, and their patients to receive, abortion free from medically unnecessary restrictions, and limitations, as well as other restrictions, including bans, that single out abortion and impede access to care.

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Hold the Myanmar military and security forces accountable for their grave human rights violations, including violence against women

We, the undersigned women’s rights and human rights organizations, call upon the UN Security Council to hold the Myanmar military and security forces accountable for their grave human rights violations, including the use of violence against women. We strongly condemn the Myanmar military and security forces for their acts in violation of international human rights and humanitarian laws and norms, which amount to crimes against humanity according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, and the UN Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar. Since the Myanmar military’s attempted seizure of power on February 1, 2021, the junta has arbitrarily arrested and detained at least 11,047 people, and murdered over 1345. Nationwide, the Myanmar military junta is intensifying its use of air strikes and other heavy weapons against civilians, forcing thousands of women and children to flee their homes. Given the Myanmar military and security forces’ decades-long use of sexual and gender-based violence against ethnic minority women, including Rohingya, we are extremely distressed that the situation of the women of Myanmar will continue to be severely exacerbated.

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48th Anniversary of Helms Letter

Dear President Biden,

We, the undersigned organizations, call on you to protect reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy for people across the globe by demonstrating your support for the repeal of the Helms Amendment. Failure to do so is in direct conflict with the priorities stated by this administration to “promote access to sexual and reproductive health and rights both at home and abroad.” We urge you to proactively protect essential human rights, including abortion, for people in other countries as well as our own. We appreciate the actions you have taken in support of sexual and reproductive health and rights, including repealing the Global Gag Rule and calling for increased UNFPA funding. However, simply reversing harm inflicted by the previous administration is not enough to make meaningful progress on health and human rights.

We write to you on this day specifically because it is the 48th anniversary of the passage of the Helms Amendment, which prohibits U.S. foreign aid from being used for “the performance of abortion as a method of family planning.” This provision is over-implemented as a total ban on abortion under any circumstance, denying millions of mostly Black and brown people in low-to-middle income countries the health care they want and need. Authored by the late Sen. Jesse Helms, this policy has roots in racism and neocolonialism, allowing the U.S. to police other countries through the power of foreign assistance and control their policies even in instances where countries have expanded abortion access. The result is drastic global health inequities, stifled bodily autonomy, and preventable death.

Last year, many of us called on your administration to support the "Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act," which repeals the Helms Amendment. The Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act now has over 170 cosponsors and is endorsed by a diverse coalition of over 175 organizations. The Helms Amendment was also successfully removed from the House-passed Fiscal Year 2022 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations bill. Despite growing momentum for repeal of the Helms Amendment, it remained in the FY22 President’s Budget and was not addressed in the recently released National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality, both missed opportunities to ensure bodily autonomy for people globally, no matter who they are or where they live.

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Ending Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Harassment in Global Health

Your excellencies,

The 16 Days of Activism, 25 November to 10 December, mark the global campaign for the prevention and elimination of Gender Based Violence. During the 16 Days of Activism 2021, we the undersigned organizations, wish to express our deep concern at the sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment (SEAH) of women and girls by WHO staff during the tenth Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). We stand with survivors of SEAH and whistleblowers in their pursuit of justice and the truth, and we call on WHO to act now to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls.

Power imbalances and root causes

As diverse organizations working for the rights of women and girls in global health, we are appalled at the reports of SEAH by United Nations’ employees and international aid workers, including WHO, outlined in the Independent Commission reportof 28 September 2021. The Commission uncovered 83 alleged perpetrators, 21 of whom were WHO employees. The allegations included 9 rapes and countless demands for sex for jobs. Women and girls as young as 13 years old became pregnant, had miscarriages and abortions as a result of rape and sexual exploitation, and a reported 22 children were born. It is shameful and completely unacceptable that male staff of UN and aid agencies have caused such deep harm and blighted the lives of women and girls whose health they were paid to protect. This case in DRC is one in a long series of such cases and almost certainly the tip of the iceberg within the health sector.

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Ethiopia: The UN Human Rights Council should urgently hold special session to address the ongoing human rights crisis

We, the undersigned human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs), strongly urge the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) to hold a special session on the ongoing human rights crisis in Ethiopia and to establish a robust investigative mechanism in that context. We urge your delegation to support such action without further delay.

On 3 November the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) released a joint report that found evidence of widespread violations of international human rights, humanitarian, and refugee law by all parties to the conflict in Tigray, including the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, Eritrean Defense Forces, the Tigray Defense Forces, and Amhara regional special police and affiliated Fano militias. The report also found that many of these violations and abuses may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. The report concluded that “the seriousness of these allegations calls for independent investigations and appropriate prosecution of those responsible,” and said that an international, independent mechanism can be established to collect evidence of the atrocities in preparation for future criminal prosecution.

The joint report acknowledges it was not a comprehensive investigation into the crisis in northern Ethiopia and calls for further investigations. OHCHR and the EHRC were unable to visit key sites of massacres, like Axum, which was previously documented and reported on by international NGOs. Moreover, the report was only mandated to investigate abuses that took place from 3 November 2020 to 28 June 2021. The conflict remains ongoing and has spread to neighboring regions, threatening millions more civilians and where serious abuses have now also been documented. Abuses linked to the conflict are also taking place outside of the affected zones, as the High Commissioner reported last week, scores of ethnic Tigrayans have been arbitrarily arrested, including in Addis Ababa, in the last weeks alone.

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Civil society assess outcomes of UNGA76 Third Committee session

The 14 undersigned civil society organisations mark the conclusion of the UN General Assembly’s (GA) 76th Third Committee session with the following observations on both thematic and country-specific resolutions. We urge all States to implement the commitments they have made in the resolutions discussed below to their full extent.

We welcome the joint statement on reprisals led by the UK and joined by a cross-regional group of 80 countries (5 more than last year), calling on all States and the UN to prevent, respond to, and ensure accountability for intimidation and reprisals against those who engage or seek to engage with the UN.  We also welcome the resolution adopted at the Human Rights Council in September 2021 on reprisals, inviting the SG to submit the report presented annually to the Council also to the GA from next session.

We welcome the biennial resolution on human rights defenders focussing on the critical role defenders play in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the challenges faced in that regard. We also welcome elements on legal frameworks for their protection and the responsibilities of business. While we are encouraged by enhanced references to surveillance and counter-terrorism measures being used against defenders, we are disappointed that stronger language did not make it into the final text, despite support from civil society and some States. However, we hope that the consensus outcome and 85 co-sponsors, provides a basis for meaningful progress on these issues, and greater protection of defenders.   

We welcome the adoption of the resolution on Policies and Programmes involving Youth by consensus, recognizing the need to fulfill young people’s human rights and as key actors for sustainable development, while acknowledging their important role in decision making processes. The resolution stresses the need to tackle barriers limiting their participation and development, such as unemployment, poverty, gender inequality, multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, HIV/AIDS, SGBV and access to technology. We welcome the strong references to human rights and fundamental freedoms of young people, and the need to note young people’s diverse situations and conditions in national development strategies. Lastly, we welcome calls for a high-level GA plenary meeting to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the World Programme of Action for Youth with the full and effective participation of young people. 

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Statement Urging Sixth Committee Action on The International Law Commission’s Draft Articles on Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Humanity

Whereas over the course of human history, millions of people, particularly women and children, have been subjected to murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, persecution, and other atrocities that have shocked the conscience of humanity,

Whereas it was established in 1946 by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg that these “crimes against humanity” are crimes under international law for which the perpetrators should be prosecuted and punished,

Whereas in 2013, the United Nations International Law Commission approved the topic “crimes against humanity” for inclusion in its programme of work, and subsequently, over the next six years, proceeded to study the topic and prepare draft articles for inclusion in a possible new treaty to be negotiated and adopted by States,

Whereas in 2019, the International Law Commission adopted upon Second Reading, following input from States during the course of its work, a draft preamble, draft articles, a draft annex and commentaries thereto on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Humanity, and recommended in paragraph 42 of its Report the elaboration of a convention by the General Assembly or by an international conference of plenipotentiaries on the basis of the draft articles,

Whereas in 2019, although the government of Austria offered to host an international conference of plenipotentiaries for the elaboration of such a convention, progress on the ILC draft articles has not advanced in the Sixth Committee,

Whereas crimes against humanity are among the most serious crimes in international law, along with genocide and war crimes and the absence of a treaty regulating their prevention and punishment is incongruous with crimes of comparable gravity, fueling the misconception that there is a hierarchy of importance,

Whereas a treaty on crimes against humanity would close a crucial gap in the current international framework on mass atrocities.

Whereas the absence of a treaty on crimes against humanity has a real-world consequence for the victims of atrocity crimes,

Whereas although the ILC draft articles represent an adequate baseline for negotiations, there remain a range of views on certain substantive points. The perspectives must not perpetuate an inert cycle, but rather be given the opportunity to be discussed in an inclusive, transparent, and holistic process,

Now therefore, the undersigned, urge the following in order to make real and substantive progress on the work of the International Law Commission draft articles:

  1. The Sixth Committee should establish a procedure at the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly for the consideration of the draft articles with a view towards realizing the recommendation of the International Law Commission that the draft articles on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Humanity be elaborated into a treaty.
  2. The process must have a clear mandate, defined meetings, specific terms of reference, and a timeline for completion of its work.

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Another Wave of Atrocity Crimes in Chin State: UN Security Council Must Act Now to End Myanmar Junta’s Campaign of Terror

We, the undersigned 521 Myanmar, regional and international civil society organizations, call on the UN Security Council to urgently convene a meeting on the escalating attacks in Chin State, and address the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian, human rights and political crisis in Myanmar. We call for the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution to consolidate international action to stop the military’s violent assault against the people of Myanmar. The UN Security Council must also impose a global arms embargo to stop the flow of weapons and dual-use goods to the Myanmar military junta.

It has been nine months since the attempted coup by the brutal Myanmar military. 1,236 people have been killed and 9,667 arbitrarily detained as of 3 November, 2021. The junta has continued its violent assault throughout Myanmar, recently deployed troops and increased its attacks against civilians in Chin State, Sagaing and Magwe Regions in north-western Myanmar, while continuing its attacks in Karenni, Karen and Shan States.

On Friday 29 October, the Myanmar military began shelling the town of Thantlang in Western Chin State, setting as many as 200 houses and at least two churches on fire. Soldiers also deliberately torched houses at random.

Save the Children – whose office in Thantlang was set on fire alongside local civil society organizations including Chin Human Rights Organization – strongly condemned the recent attacks stating “the incident is further evidence of a deepening crisis in Myanmar” as the violence continues to affect large numbers of children across the country. Such indiscriminate attacks against civilians and humanitarian organizations are violations of international law and constitute war crimes.

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Letter to Secretary Blinken from U.S. Orgs & Leaders in Solidarity with Palestinian Civil Society

288 Organizations Demand Biden Administration Condemn Israel’s Crackdown on Human Rights Groups

Dear Secretary Blinken:

The undersigned U.S.-based social justice, civil rights, and human rights leaders and organizations write to demand that you immediately and unequivocally condemn the Israeli government’s recent decision to outlaw and criminalize six Palestinian human rights and community-based organizations.

The Palestinian organizations currently targeted under the Israeli government’s draconian 2016 Counter-Terrorism Law form part of the bedrock of Palestinian civil society that has been protecting and advancing Palestinian human rights for decades across the full spectrum of issues of global concern, including children’s rights, prisoners’ rights, women’s rights, socio-economic rights, the rights of farmworkers, justice and accountability for international crimes. They are: Defense for Children International - Palestine, Al Haq, Addameer, Bisan Center for Research and Development, Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees. They are trusted partners in our collective work to secure human rights for all.

The Biden administration has repeatedly expressed a commitment to center and promote human rights worldwide and protect the role of civil society. These actions by the Israeli government are a clear attack on human rights. As such, we urge you to issue a swift rejection of this unprecedented attack on Palestinian human rights organizations and the attempt by the Israeli government to shut down, delegitimize, isolate, and chill a growing human rights movement. We agree with 17 UN Special Rapporteurs that “the freedoms of association and expression must be fully respected in order to enable civil society to perform its indispensable work, and cannot be undermined by the manifestly egregious misuse of counterterrorism and security legislation.”

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Open Letter on Abortion Stigma

An Open Letter to Public Officials and Policy Makers:

As organizations advocating for reproductive health, rights, and justice, we urgently call on public officials and policy makers to use the word abortion. Abortion stigma—defined as associating a “negative attribute” towards people who provide, have had, or are seeking abortions—has facilitated the passage of radical laws like Texas SB 8, which bans abortion at approximately six weeks of pregnancy and has forced nearly all abortion services to an abrupt stop across the state. Failing to explicitly use the term abortion and reinforcing negative messages about self-managed or non-clinical abortion contributes to abortion stigma. It is more dire than ever that policy makers act now to protect access to care and make all possible efforts to break down abortion stigma, including using the term abortion.

Abortion is health care. Access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, including access to abortion care, is essential to gender equity and equality. Abortion restrictions rely on and reinforce harmful stereotypes about gender roles and women’s decision-making instead of offering support, undermining their ability to control their own lives and well-being. When someone makes the decision to have an abortion, they should be able to access the care they need with respect and dignity, free from burdens, barriers, and stigma.

Even though abortion is common and a normal part of reproductive health experiences, with one in four women in the U.S. having an abortion in her lifetime, there remains considerable stigma about abortion. Consequently, public officials will sometimes refer to abortion as “women’s health” and the legal framework around abortion rights as “the right to choose”, “pro-choice” or “protecting Roe v. Wade.” Avoiding the word “abortion” reinforces abortion stigma and the notion that abortion is morally wrong, allowing opponents of abortion to define the moral narrative surrounding it.

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Open Letter to Members of the U.S. Congress to Pass the Burma Unified through Rigorous Military Accountability Act of 2021

Dear Members of Congress,

We, the undersigned 242 Burmese diaspora, local CSOs inside Burma, community-based organizations, and civil society organizations both here in the U.S. and around the world welcome the introduction of the Burma Unified through Rigorous Military Accountability Act of 2021, or, the BURMA Act, and call on all members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to co-sponsor this crucial legislation and support its expeditious passage into law. As the situation in Burma worsens daily, U.S. action is vital to the millions of lives currently suffering at the hands of the Burmese military. The BURMA Act will provide much needed U.S. support for the realization of all Burmese peoples’ aspirations for an inclusive, rights respecting democracy.

Since the February 1st coup, the people of Burma have seen increased human rights violations and militarization, and the situation is growing more dire by the day. While the number of people killed by the junta is significantly higher, there are over 1,100 confirmed deaths since February, including at least 75 children. More than 8,700 people have been arrested, of which an estimated 7,104 are still detained. 220,000 have been newly displaced, with 3 million in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the UN. The World Bank predicts an 18% drop in GDP for Burma this year, which, combined with slower growth in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, will leave Burma’s economy 30% smaller than originally expected. The World Food Program estimates that food insecurity will have more than doubled since the coup by October 2021 to more than 6.2 million people.

Despite the Burmese military junta campaign of oppression to terrorize and demoralize the people, they have not won. In each of Burma’s states, ethnic minorities are witnessing the worst of the Burmese military’s violence and crimes against humanity. While it is clear that Burma’s ethnic minorities are disproportionately impacted by violence from the Burmese military, the country’s majority Burman group are also affected, representing the extent to which the junta’s attacks are indiscriminate and truly affect all in Burma.

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57 Civil and Human Rights Organizations Urge Biden Administration and Congress to Keep a Pathway to Citizenship for Immigrants in Budget Reconciliation Bill

Re: Keep a pathway to citizenship for immigrant communities in the Build Back Better reconciliation bill 

Dear President Biden, Vice President Harris, Majority Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi, 

We, the undersigned 57 civil and human rights organizations, write to urge you to prioritize keeping a pathway to citizenship for immigrants in the budget reconciliation bill. Deeply rooted immigrants—including those who came to the United States as children and may have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), those who have fled violence and other crises and currently have Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), and those who have kept the US economy going during the pandemic by serving as essential workers—deserve lasting protection from deportation and the ability to live freely with their families and in their communities, protecting fundamental rights, and powering US businesses and the national economy. 

The budget reconciliation bill remains the most viable opportunity to finally make this reform to the US’ unfair immigration system. We urge you not to let obstacles posed by any single individual—whether it be the Senate parliamentarian or a member of Congress—derail the moral imperative of finally achieving a pathway to citizenship.

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Open Letter in Support of Continuing Recognition of Ambassador U Kyaw Moe Tun as Myanmar’s Permanent Representative at the UN General Assembly

Excellencies,

We, the undersigned, representing a broad movement of 358 Myanmar and international civil society organizations, urge you to ensure that the current Permanent Representative (PR) of Myanmar to the United Nations (UN), Ambassador U Kyaw Moe Tun, retains his position as Myanmar’s representative to the UN for the upcoming 76th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), scheduled to begin on 14 September 2021.

Ambassador U Kyaw Moe Tun is the incumbent representative of Myanmar and he represented Myanmar throughout the 75th session of the UNGA after his credentials were accepted by the Credentials Committee in November 2020 and approved by the UNGA on 1 December (A/RES/75/19). He was appointed as Myanmar’s PR to the UN by the democratically elected government of Myanmar, which had held office since 2016. His credentials were renewed by the current duly elected government of Myanmar.

The new government, which won in a free, fair and credible general election in November 2020, was due to be formed in February 2021 and take office in March. The general election, which was observed by accredited international election monitoring bodies including the Asian Network for Free Elections and the Carter Center, certified that the election reflected the will of the people of Myanmar. However, on 1 February 2021, the Myanmar military launched a coup, physically prevented the scheduled session of the new parliament and forcibly detained elected members of Parliaments.

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2021 Open Letter to Permanent Representatives to the United Nations in advance of the annual Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security

The Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda is, at its heart, an agenda led by civil society, who, in partnership with Member States and the UN, lobbied for the adoption of Resolution 1325 (2000). At this year’s Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security, we ask you to stand with the women human rights defenders (WHRDs), peacebuilders, advocates for gender equality and other civil society leaders who play a critical role in advancing our common goal of peace, human rights and gender justice, yet are under relentless attack for doing so.

To be a woman today in many parts of the world, particularly in a conflict zone, means having to choose between fighting for your rights, or fighting for your life.

We are deeply concerned by the crisis in Afghanistan and the plight of the many Afghan women civil society leaders, peacebuilders, human rights defenders (HRDs) and journalists at grave risk, who have either been forced to flee or remain trapped in the country since the Taliban took power. Afghan women have courageously and tirelessly fought for their rights for decades, despite conflict, deeply-rooted discrimination, corruption and poverty — they are now under threat from a regime that has an extensive record of brutality and repression of women’s rights. In recent months, women leaders, activists and journalists have been targeted and prevented from fully exercising their right to participate in all spheres of public and political life in areas under Taliban control. Women who are, or are perceived to be, lesbian or bisexual face additional risks of persecution.

Women human rights defenders in other conflict zones fare little better. In Myanmar, the women who led protests against the coup by the Tatmadaw in February this year are fighting against both the military and patriarchy. They have been detained, tortured and sexually abused for standing up for human rights and democracy, all while continuing to hold leading roles in the resistance movement. In Colombia, HRDs, especially Afro-descendant, Indigenous and LGBTIQ activists, are at heightened risk of gender-based violence for defending their rights, their land and their communities. Yemeni activists have warned that retaliation against women for participating in political life has reached unprecedented levels. South Sudanese defenders and peacebuilders both within and outside the country face routine targeting and surveillance. Palestinian WHRDs who criticize the Israeli occupation regularly face violence, raids, judicial harassment, arrest, assault and movement restrictions for carrying out their work.

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An Affirmation of Feminist Principles

We the undersigned organizations and individuals from across the world come together in this letter to emphasize our shared belief that to achieve justice, equality and liberation, we must combat and dismantle the patriarchal systems of power which continue to oppress and exclude many of us. 

We affirm some key feminist principles and their alignment with issues pertaining to sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics.

We reinforce and defend the place that trans, intersex and nonbinary people have alongside many others in feminist movements.

We underscore the recognition that human rights do not distinguish between persons, they are, in their construction, universal, indivisible and inalienable.

We affirm that the realization of the human rights of any one group of persons does not come at the cost of the rights of any others. These shared principles and values have united diverse feminist movements everywhere.

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Policy Brief: The United States and the Generation Equality Forum

Dear Madam Prosecutor,

After years of debate as to whether or not to host a Fifth World Conference on Women, UN Women and leading progressive nations wishing to mark the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action at the Fourth World Conference on Women have created a champions-only space outside the United Nations (UN) system: the Generation Equality Forum (GEF).

The Generation Equality Forum (GEF), organized by UN Women and the governments of Mexico and France, will create a space for governments to revisit the outcomes from the Fourth World Conference on Women; elevate issues such as climate change that were not a focus in 1995; make new, transformative commitments; and marshal resources and generate will toward achieving the vision of Beijing and beyond.

For the Biden-Harris administration, the GEF offers among its first and best opportunities to demonstrate its renewed and unwavering commitment to these issues on the world stage. By making strong commitments to achieve gender equality and protect women’s human rights across all six of the priority themes—organized in what are known as Action Coalitions—the United States can advance gender equality and women’s rights both globally and domestically, in line with the Biden-Harris administration’s priorities: an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the advancement of racial justice and equity and a robust response to the global climate crisis.

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Open Civil Society Letter To ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda

Dear Madam Prosecutor,

As your term as prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) draws to a close, we are writing to thank you for your longstanding service and significant contributions to the ICC, as well as to acknowledge the progress that the Office of the Prosecutor has made during your tenure.

While civil society organizations have identified areas for improvement and will continue to advocate for changes to ensure effective investigations and prosecutions, the office has made considerable advances in a number of situations and preliminary examinations under your leadership.

We especially admire the high degree of independence you have exhibited during your mandate. Your office has opened investigations in the face of immense pressure and politicized opposition. You have done this work at great personal and institutional cost. Developments on the ground in Myanmar, Afghanistan, and Palestine over the last few months have confirmed that accountability in those and other situations is essential, especially when the ICC is the only remaining option for justice. We will call on the next prosecutor to build on this legacy and continue to ensure that the court fulfils its mandate, regardless of the nationality or position of alleged perpetrators.

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