Open Letter to the Secretary General: Annual Children in Armed Conflict Report

Dear Mr. Secretary-General,

As nongovernmental organizations working to alleviate humanitarian suffering and protect human rights, we strongly support United Nations Security Council Resolution 1612 (2005) and subsequent resolutions on children and armed conflict, as concrete tools for improving the protection of children in war.

We are, therefore, deeply disappointed and troubled by your new report on children and armed conflict (A/74/845-S/2020/525), and in particular, the significant disparities between the evidence presented in the report and the parties listed in its annexes for committing grave violations against children. We are writing to urge you to reconsider your decisions to de-list the Saudi-led coalition for killing and maiming children in Yemen, and the Tatmadaw for recruiting and using children in Myanmar. We also urge you to take steps to ensure that going forward, the annexes accurately and consistently reflect the evidence collected and verified by the UN’s Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM), in line with existing criteria. We have provided evidence of other concerning disparities between the annual report and its annexes in the attached annex.

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Letter to Human Rights Council: Urgent Debate on current racially inspired human rights violations, systematic racism, police brutality and the violence against peaceful protests

Excellencies,

I write to you on behalf of the Global Justice Center (“GJC”), an international human rights organization, with special ECOSOC consultative status, dedicated to advancing gender equality through the rule of law. We combine advocacy with legal analysis, working to ensure equal protection of the law for women and girls.

Last week, GJC was proud to join over 600 of our fellow-organizations, as well as the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown and Philando Castile,1 in calling for the Human Rights Council to convene a special session the escalating situation of police violence and repression of protests in the United States. We thank the Council for heeding this call and scheduling an urgent debate on this topic for this upcoming Wednesday, June 17, 2020.

While we understand that the debate is not focused solely on the United States, we are hopeful that this session will bring crucial international attention to the unchecked violations against Black people, and peaceful protestors in the United States. We also urge you to utilize this meeting to take concrete action to ensure accountability for racist policing tactics and excessive force used against peaceful protesters in the country, in particular by mandating an independent inquiry to document and investigate extrajudicial killings of unarmed Black men and women, and police violence against protesters and journalists.

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Joint Statement Opposing Trump Administration Measures against the International Criminal Court

The undersigned organizations express their deep concern regarding today’s announcement by Secretary of State Pompeo and other senior U.S. officials that the United States, among other things, has invoked emergency powers in order to threaten asset freezes and other punitive actions against officials of the International Criminal Court, their family members, and those who assist their investigations. 

The International Criminal Court exists because it is difficult to hold government officials and other powerful actors accountable when they commit grave human rights abuses.  That impunity, in turn, is corrosive to the broader rule of law, the prospects of lasting peace, and respect for the dignity of all.  Since the ICC’s establishment in 2002 as a court of last resort, diverse coalitions of faith-based organizations, human rights advocates, legal practitioners, victims of atrocities, and other constituencies have often looked to it to complement and reinforce their work for justice.  Like all other human institutions, the ICC has room for improvement. Nevertheless, from Uganda and the Central African Republic to Darfur and the situation in Bangladesh/Myanmar, the ICC continues to play a vital role, filling gaps in the justice system by independently investigating and prosecuting grave atrocity crimes when national authorities do not do so, or when they seek out help.

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Sign on Letter: Request to convene UNHRC special session on Police Violence

Excellencies,

The undersigned family members of victims of police killings and civil society organizations from around the world, call on member states of the U.N. Human Rights Council to urgently convene a Special Session on the situation of human rights in the United States in order to respond to the unfolding grave human rights crisis born out of the repression of nationwide protests. The recent protests erupted on May 26 in response to the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which was only one of a recent string of unlawful killings of unarmed Black people by police and armed white vigilantes.

We are deeply concerned about the escalation in violent police responses to largely peaceful protests in the United States, which included the use of rubber bullets, tear gas, pepper spray and in some cases live ammunition, in violation of international standards on the use of force and management of assemblies including recent U.N. Guidance on Less Lethal Weapons.

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Statement of Solidarity with the World Health Organization

Dear Dr. Tedros,

As U.S.-based public health research, academic, and advocacy organizations, representing millions of people across the country, we write to express our solidarity with the World Health Organization (WHO) and your individual staff and teams around the world. We thank you for the WHO’s efforts to rapidly and effectively prevent the spread of COVID-19.

We are deeply disappointed by the U.S. government's decision to play politics with public health and safety by slandering the WHO’s vital work in combating the global coronavirus pandemic and subsequently terminating ​U.S. government funding​ to the organization. We reject our government’s decision to end U.S. contributions to the WHO, because we recognize the harms that doing so will cause to the global community’s ability to both combat the coronavirus pandemic and safeguard global health and public safety in the future.

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FY 2021 Appropriations - Repro Community Letter

Dear Chairman Shelby, Vice Chairman Leahy, Chairwoman Lowey, and Ranking Member Granger:

As you debate and consider fiscal year 2021 (FY 2021) funding bills, the undersigned organizations committed to advancing reproductive health, rights, and justice urge you to introduce and pass bills that promote access to reproductive health care, including abortion, and protect reproductive freedom.

As we work together to face an unprecedented national crisis and global pandemic, our country is at a juncture. Policymakers opposed to reproductive health care are exploiting this crisis to eliminate abortion access. They are building off decades of attacks, including existing restrictions in appropriations bills that have for too long denied individuals access to affordable, comprehensive health care. Now is the time to put an end to these policies. The appropriations bills for FY 2021 must instead build to the future we want where access to comprehensive health care, including abortion and birth control, is provided precisely because it is essential for people’s dignity and economic security.

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CSO letter in support of the UN and WHO

Dear Excellencies,

We are writing to register our outrage at Acting USAID Administrator John Barsa’s letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres demanding the UN remove reference to “sexual and reproductive health” from the Global Humanitarian Response Plan’s (HRP) guidance on COVID-19. The removal of this wording is not symbolic--it will have a detrimental impact on people who need and rely on sexual and reproductive health services. We are deeply concerned about the health and human rights impact of this request, which comes at the same time the U.S. Government is attacking the WHO and threatening to freeze funding in the midst of the COVID- 19 pandemic.

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Letter sign-on: Allow civil society to submit new supplemental reports for the UPR

Dear XXX,

The undersigned civil society organizations request an opportunity to provide supplements to submissions made to the 36th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group, tentatively scheduled for November 2 to 13, 2020. In order for civil society contributions to meaningfully support the work of the Human Rights Council, we also request that the supplemental submissions be summarized and published by the UPR Secretariat and shared as an addendum to the summary of stakeholders' information.

On March 20, 2020, the Bureau of the Human Rights Council decided to postpone the 36th session of the Working Group, which was scheduled to take place May 4 to 15, 2020. The decision was made because “of the spread of COVID-19 and the emergency measures that have been taken by affected countries worldwide, including the host country, Switzerland.”

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Asia Justice Coalition Statement - Rohingya at sea

The Asia Justice Coalition – a network of organizations that have come together to focus on international justice and accountability in Asia – expresses its grave concern at the plight of Rohingya refugees stranded at sea.

Currently, it is estimated that there are two boats with more than 500 refugees that are being denied permission to disembark and have been ‘pushed back’ at sea by Malaysia. On 16 April 2020, nearly 400 Rohingya refugees who were adrift at sea, and denied sanctuary in Malaysia were permitted to disembark in Bangladesh. The situation is again critical now, with the grave threat of loss of life.

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Global Submission to US Commission on Unalienable Rights

Dear U.S. State Department Commission on Unalienable Rights:

As human rights organizations, scholars, defenders and activists, we the 167 undersigned, write to express our grave concern about the work of the U.S. State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights and any potential report or output that undermines the international human rights system and purports to reinterpret its respective treaties and monitoring bodies. In particular, we urge the Commission to reject the prioritization of freedom of religion as a cloak to permit violations of the human rights of women, girls, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Now more than ever, countries worldwide should prioritize the rights to health and well-being of all their people without discrimination and recognize that reproductive rights are clearly established and articulated under international law. These rights are interrelated and indivisible from all human rights and cannot be subordinated within a hierarchy of rights.

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Joint CSO letter to UNSC on participation & transparency

Excellency,

We, the undersigned civil society organisations, write to you as human rights, humanitarian, development and peacebuilding organisations that actively and regularly contribute to the work of the UN Security Council. We write to you at this time to raise concerns around the transparency of the work of the Security Council and obstacles to the effective participation of civil society in its work due to recent changes to the working methods of the Council in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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MISP Letter to Acting Administrator O'Connell

Dear Acting Assistant Secretary O’Connell,

As members of the Inter-Agency Working Group on Reproductive Health in Crises (IAWG) we are writing to thank the U.S. government for its emergency response and humanitarian assistance to the COVID-19 global pandemic and to inquire about the inclusion of sexual and reproductive health supplies and services.

We appreciate PRM’s long-standing leadership in addressing the sexual and reproductive health needs of people around the world through U.S. global health and humanitarian funding and programs. As you know, women and girls, and others who face stigma and discrimination, continue to have sexual and reproductive health needs even as crises unfold. These can include pregnancy, the desire to become pregnant, avoid unwanted pregnancy, avoid sexually transmitted infections, and prevent and respond to gender-based violence. During crises, some of these needs are more acute. We know that gender-based violence increases during crises and that gender-based violence increases the risk of acquiring HIV.

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MISP Letter to Acting Administrator Barsa

Dear Acting Administrator Barsa,

As members of the Inter-Agency Working Group on Reproductive Health in Crises (IAWG) we are writing to thank the U.S. government for its emergency response and humanitarian assistance to the COVID-19 global pandemic and to inquire about the inclusion of sexual and reproductive health supplies and services.

We appreciate USAID’s long-standing leadership in addressing the sexual and reproductive health needs of people around the world through U.S. global health and humanitarian funding and programs. As you know, women and girls, and others who face stigma and discrimination, continue to have sexual and reproductive health needs even as crises unfold. These can include pregnancy, the desire to become pregnant, avoid unwanted pregnancy, avoid sexually transmitted infections, and prevent and respond to gender-based violence. During crises, some of these needs are more acute. We know that gender-based violence increases during crises and that gender-based violence increases the risk of acquiring HIV.

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Re: Request regarding Covid-19, Docket: FDA-2020-D-1106

Dear Dr. Woodcock,

We, the undersigned, respectfully request the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reconsider its limitation of the recently released Policy for Certain REMS Requirements During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (Docket FDA-2020-D-1106).

The policy waives certain Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS) requirements – namely laboratory tests and imaging – but not others. The requirements that certain drugs must be dispensed in-person by certain medical professionals provides similar burdens and risks to patients and providers as the waived requirements. Therefore, we request that in-person dispensation requirements, specifically for mifepristone, be included in this policy as temporarily waived.

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Bangladesh: End Internet Blackout to Protect Public Health of Rohingya Refugees and Host Communities

(BANGKOK, April 2, 2020)—The Government of Bangladesh should immediately take all necessary steps to protect Rohingya refugees and nearby host communities in Cox’s Bazar District from COVID-19 infection, said Fortify Rights and 49 human rights organizations in an open letter today. The authorities should immediately lift all restrictions that prevent Rohingya refugees from freely accessing mobile communications and the internet and also halt the construction of fencing aimed to confine Rohingya refugees in camps.

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Joint letter re: restrictions on communication, fencing and COVID-19 in Cox's Bazar District Rohingya refugee camps

Dear Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina,

As authorities around the world struggle to cope with the spread of COVID-19, it is crucial that States act to protect the most vulnerable, including refugee populations.

We, the 50 undersigned organizations, have welcomed the Bangladesh government’s efforts to host the Rohingya refugees who were forced to flee atrocities perpetrated by the Myanmar Army. We also commend the Bangladesh Government for working closely with the humanitarian community on COVID-19 preparedness and response in Cox’s Bazar District, including efforts to establish isolation and treatment facilities.

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FY 21 Healthy Youth Sign on Letter

Dear Chairman Blunt, Ranking Member Murray, Chairwoman DeLauro, and Ranking Member Cole:

The undersigned 109 organizations, committed to supporting the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people, request your support for fiscal year (FY) 2021 funding that helps to ensure the health of our nation’s youth. We urge you to protect the integrity of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP) and increase support for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) school-based HIV and STI prevention efforts. We also encourage the elimination of the abstinence-only “sexual risk avoidance” competitive grant program.

Young people face barriers to accessing health information, education, and services, resulting in persistent inequity and health disparities. While a young person’s health and wellbeing is about more than just the absence of disease, or in the case of sexual health, the absence of HIV and other STIs, unintended pregnancy, or sexual violence, the adolescent data on these points alone, remain largely unchanged and alarming in recent years.

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International Family Planning & Reproductive Health Recommendations for the FY 2021 State-Foreign Operations Bill

Funding Request:  A total of $1.66 billion for family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) programs, both bilateral and multilateral, with funding provided from the Global Health Programs account and the Economic Support Fund and from the International Organizations and Programs account for a $111 million voluntary contribution to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)—but no less than $1.030 billion, including $69 million for UNFPA, in order to provide the first installment of the funding increases necessary to incrementally achieve the $1.66 billion target over a five-year period.

Any increase in the FY 2021 appropriated level for FP/RH programs should not come at the expense of other poverty-focused development, global health, or women’s empowerment and gender equality programs. Funding for the overall international affairs budget to ensure ongoing U.S. leadership around the globe should be $60 billion in FY 2021, including at least $57.4 billion for the State Department and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill—the FY 2017 enacted level.

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Recommendation for the FY 2021 State-Foreign Operations Bill: Deletion of the reiterations of the Helms Amendment

The following endorsing organizations respectfully request that the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs remove the harmful and redundant reiterations of the Helms Amendment in the FY 2021 appropriations bill. 

The Helms Amendment prohibits the use of U.S. foreign assistance funds for “the performance of abortion as a method of family planning.” This provision hurts millions of people around the world who live in areas that rely heavily on U.S. foreign assistance in order to fund health programs by restricting the ability of individuals to make their own personal medical decisions and access comprehensive reproductive health care. Furthermore, the Helms amendment has been over-implemented as a complete ban on U.S. funding for abortion, even in cases of rape, incest, or a life-endangering pregnancy. 

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Letter to UN Security Council members regarding Myanmar’s Independent Commission of Enquiry and the Provisional Measures ordered by the International Court of Justice

Your Excellency,

We are writing to you in light of the recently published summary of the final report of Myanmar’s Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE), which was issued the same week that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Myanmar to take immediate action to prevent genocide against the country’s persecuted Rohingya minority. In particular, we would like to raise grave concerns regarding the ICOE’s: (1) independence and impartiality; (2) methodology; and (3) flaws in narrative and findings.

The ICOE’s independence and impartiality have been seriously undermined by its reliance on the Office of the President of Myanmar for financial and technical support, as well as by the composition of the Commission itself, which includes at least one official directly implicated in the bulldozing of Rohingya villages damaged during the 2017 crisis in Rakhine State. The executive summary of the ICOE’s report also provides no information as to what sources and materials were relied upon beyond individual interviews, nor how the ICOE corroborated and verified this information, making it impossible to assess the quality of their methodology. Crucially, the ICOE did not interview a single Rohingya refugee in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, regarding the circumstances that resulted in over 700,000 people fleeing the country. Finally, there are serious flaws and misrepresentations in the ICOE’s narrative of the crisis in Rakhine State, including disturbing inaccuracies and omissions in relation to mass rape and widespread sexual violence directed at Rohingya women and girls during the military’s so-called “clearance operations.”

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