Human Rights and Transition: The Ombuds(wo)men and their contribution to the future

In early December, the Latin American Institute of Ombudsmen (ILO) held its 12th Annual Assembly and Seminar. ILO is a Latin American and Caribbean network that brings together Human Rights institutions and Human Rights defenders in the region, promoting the creation of these institutions, the strengthening of their role and institutionality, and the promotion and full exercise of Human Rights. 

Due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, the Assembly and Seminar in 2021 were held on line for the second year in a row. In this occasion, it was named ‘Berta Caceres’, a Lenca indigenous woman from Honduras, a human rights defender, murdered in March 2016 in her home for her permanent struggle for the rights of the Lenca people, the protection of the territory and the natural environment. ILO chose to come together remembering Berta Caceres in a historical moment where the defence of Human Rights necessarily implies a defence of Life in its diversity, and because the daily reality in Latin America and the Caribbean, where there is the highest number of murders of environmental defenders around the world – mostly women -, reminds us of the centrality of that struggle in order to imagine a truly just, equitable and sustainable future. In this sense, the focus of the meeting, based on the learnings of the responses to the pandemic, was to think collectively about the transition and to do it from a perspective of rights anchored in the protection of our natural environment.

It was also decided to dedicate some of the presentations to analyze women’s rights in the region, taking into account that the encounter took place within the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. Other groups specially considered during the seminar, also in coincidence with international days dedicated to highlight their rights, were the elderly, people with disabilities, as well as victims of various forms of slavery and human trafficking. Several women with roles in these institutions in charge of promoting and defending women’s rights and other collective rights, from several countries of the region, shared their experiences, views and proposals during the seminar. 

All sessions had an artistic expression representing some of the sub-regions. This was done recognizing the importance of culture and cultural expressions for the construction of just and democratic societies which value and respect diversity. 

As a result of the rich exchange throughout the three days of the seminar and assembly, a final declaration was issued where among others, the following topics were highlighted:

  • Concern about the worsening of the human rights situation in the region because of the pandemic and the inadequate and unequal policies implemented in response to it, including racist and discriminatory approaches.  
  • Concern about the impact that the pandemic has had on structural problems in the region, such as gender violence (including the growing number of feminicides), discrimination against women and the LGBTIQ + population, mistreatment of children and adolescents, limitation of rights to population groups such as people with disability, elderly, groups in a situation of human mobility, indigenous peoples, and lack of public policies in response to these situations.
  • Condemnation of the refusal by industrialized countries, based on economic interests, to take measures in order to reduce the effects of climate change; it also expressed its condemnation of the high number of human rights and environmental defenders, who have been pressured, threatened or assassinated, again, in order to defend economic interests associated with the extractivist model.
  • Concern about the impacts in people’s lives and intimacy resulting from surveillance capitalism; in line with this, it highlighted the current weakness of democratic institutions calling for broader and deeper participation of civil society in political life. 

The declaration provides a roadmap for ILO and its members for the work to be implemented in 2022, with the aim to contribute to strengthen the respect of human rights in the region. 

 

Ana Agostino
(First Vice-president of ILO and Ombudsperson of WEGO)

 

Regístrese ahora: “Ecología política feminista y ciudades vivibles: Diálogos transatlánticos”

¿Cómo podemos re-imaginar las “ciudades vivibles” desde una perspectiva feminista y a través de una mirada anclada en la justicia socio-ambiental?

En este evento en línea proponemos discutir críticamente el tema de las “ciudades vivibles” desde una perspectiva de la Ecología Política Feminista, poniendo énfasis en la justicia socio-ambiental.

Entre los/las invitados/as se encuentran activistas, académicos/as, actores/as gubernamentales y legisladores/as de Barcelona (España), Montevideo (Uruguay), México y Chile que compartirán sus perspectivas sobre este tema e intercambiarán ideas sobre desafíos comunes, visiones progresistas emergentes y estrategias para abordar las injusticias socio-ambientales en las ciudades.

Como investigadores/as jóvenes y senior de la red WEGO (Bienestar, Ecología, Género y Comunidad), enfocada en la Ecología Política Feminista, presentaremos y discutiremos a manera de introducción los hallazgos y experiencias de nuestras investigaciones relacionadas con la justicia social y ambiental desde una perspectiva crítica feminista.

Abordaremos temas como la política del agua y la gestión integrada, el enverdecimiento urbano, los bienes comunes, la salud urbana y planetaria en tiempos de pandemia y los enfoques del ‘derecho a la ciudad’. Temas que hemos estado investigando en Barcelona y en otras regiones de España y de Europa y también en otras regiones del mundo.

Nuestro objetivo es estimular un pensamiento crítico que cuestione y subvierta el imaginario omnicomprensivo de la “ciudad sostenible global neoliberal” impulsado por el desarrollo y el neodesarrollismo. Así, la discusión girará en torno a enfoques radicales, situados y justos del urbanismo sostenible.

Fecha: 4 de Noviembre de 2021
Hora: 14:00 – 16:00 & 18:00 – 20:00
Regístrese ahora: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_yLXN892FRvueWXThn-5QSQ 

 

Consulte el programa y las/los ponentes:

 

Register now: “Ecología política feminista y ciudades vivibles: Diálogos transatlánticos”

How can we re-imagine ‘livable cities’ from a feminist perspective and through a social and environmental justice lens?

With this one-day online event we aim to bring together researchers, activists and local government actors, to discuss critically on the theme of “livable cities” from a feminist political ecology perspective and with a focus on socio-environmental justice. We invite activists, academics, government actors and policy makers from Barcelona (Spain), Montevideo (Uruguay) and beyond, to share their perspectives on these issues and exchange ideas on the common challenges, emerging progressive visions and strategies for addressing socioenvironmental injustices in cities.

We, research fellows from the WEGO_ITN network on FPE will also present and discuss our research findings and experiences relating to social and environmental justice from a feminist perspective. We will touch on topics such as water politics and integrated management, urban greening, food sharing and the commons, urban and planetary health in times of pandemic, and ‘right to the city’ approaches, as those were studied in Barcelona and other regions in Spain, Europe, and beyond.

Our aim is to ignite thinking that questions and breaks away from the all-encompassing imaginary of the neoliberal and growth-driven “global sustainable city”, to open the discussion on radical, situated and just approaches to sustainable urbanism. The discussions will be held in Spanish.

Date: November 4th 2021
Time: 14:00 – 16:00 & 18:00 – 20:00 CET
Register now: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_yLXN892FRvueWXThn-5QSQ

 

Take a look at the program:

 

Reflections from the Degrowth Conference – Part 1

We did it – after 2 years of intense preparation, the 8th International Degrowth Conference took place in The Hague and online from 24-28 August 2021, and WEGO was involved on many levels to make it happen!

Under the theme ‘Caring Communities for Radical Change’, the conference brought together over 900 activists, academics and artists to collectively imagine economically, ecologically and socially just degrowth futures for a planet that is facing multiple urgent crises. 

As a starting point, the conference aimed to address these big questions – not necessarily with the expectation to find absolute answers but rather to further the degrowth movement by exploring and learning from already existing ways of being and practicing alternatives to the destructive growth paradigm:

  • How do we confront the contradictions between endless economic growth and the ecological boundaries of our planet?
  • What kind of society would ensure a good life for all, without wealth and power being hoarded by the few?
  • How can we enable a just transition that halts over-extraction, over-production and over-consumption?

WEGO members were actively engaged in the conference organisation from its very beginnings. Apart from our network’s substantial financial contribution to cover the costs of the event, many of us were involved in shaping the thematic content as well as the logistical tasks behind the scenes. WEGO PhD’s and mentors who either contributed to the conference as core organisers, hosts of thematic sessions or plenary panelists included Wendy Harcourt, Chizu Sato, Panagiota Kotsila, Giovanna Di Chiro, Stefania Barca, Seema Kulkarni, Rebecca Elmhirst, Ana Agostino, Constance Dupuis, Irene Leonardelli, Ilenia Iengo, Alice Owen, Marlene Gómez, Siti Maimunah, Dian Ekowati, Nanako Nakamura and many others of our colleagues who joined as participants. Not to forget our communications and social media manager Karin Hueck who made sure to share this collective WEGO endeavour with wider circles by actively twittering about the conference. I myself was part of the WEGO team organising the FPE key conversation, the Arts & Culture working group and the key conversation on Rural-Urban Dialogues whose coordination I took over in the work-intensive weeks before the conference during which I also joined the Facilitation and Coordination team. I completed my 3-month secondment at Wageningen University with mentor Chizu Sato.

When the preparations for the conference started, nobody was expecting a global pandemic to disrupt all our lives so drastically. Covid-19 and the subsequent travel restrictions meant that we adapted the conference to take place in hybrid format with a big part of it taking place online – thus also making participation possible to people in places far away from The Netherlands or who saw their mobility restricted due to health reasons. However we did not fully want to give up on a physical gathering and so put a lot of energies into setting up decentralised venues in The Hague – ISS and other cultural spaces – for the in-person activities to take place which were joined by 230 participants who made their to the Dutch coastal city.

And what a strange and beautiful thing to finally meet again face-to-face with colleagues and friends who for a big part of this journey had only been seeing each other on countless zoom meetings of the different organisational teams. “Oh, you do have a body, you’re not only a floating two-dimensional face on a screen!” was an exclamation we heard many times on the first day in The Hague.

WEGOers excited to finally meet in person again: Anna Voss, Wendy Harcourt, Margreet Zwarteveen, Chizu Sato, Nanako Nakamura and Irene Leonardelli. Photo by Julien-François Gerber

Thematically, the manifold panels sessions, interactive roundtables and workshops were organised under 8 thematic key conversations:

  • Feminist Political Ecology & Degrowth
  • Decoloniality & Degrowth
  • Anarchism & Degrowth
  • Rural & Urban Dialogues on Degrowth
  • Green New Deals & Degrowth
  • Cultural Politics of Degrowth
  • Embodying Degrowth
  • Dutch Social Movements & Degrowth

As it is impossible to list the huge variety of sessions here, if you wish to get an impression of our overall programme please have a look at the conference website: https://www.degrowth.nl/ 

Yet it was not all just intellectual talking-debating-discussing – the Arts & Culture working group coordinated by WEGO mentor Chizu Sato (that I was part of together with my PhD colleagues Irene Leonardelli and Alice Owen, and other engaged members) made sure that the conference also provided spaces to engage and experience degrowth creatively, both online and in-person. 

The cultural programme ranged from film screenings and debates, theatre and music performances, weaving workshops, an immersive forest walk, exhibitions and artistic installations. Even now that the conference is over, outside the cultural venue NEST in The Hague an earth-built sitting area is still standing to provide a space for the surrounding neighbours to meet and chat, and a pigeon tower created out of recycled oyster farms’ mycelium waste is now growing fresh mushrooms to be picked up by funghi lovers. 

WEGOers enjoying the interactive artistic installations in The Hague. Photos by Irene Leonardelli, Nanako Nakamura and Anna Voss

You can read Part 2 of this post here.

Caring in the time of Covid, in Indonesia

July 2021

This morning, like every morning in the past weeks (I can’t remember exactly how many), when I get my phone to view my WhatsApp messages, I prepare myself to see and hear death. My relatives’ death, my friend’s death, my friend’s families, my friend’s friend, my neighbours, my neighbours’ families. And the list continues.

My ears go numb from hearing ambulance’ sirens, announcement of neighbors’ death from nearby mosques. It feels numb now to listen to such stories of death, how they were well, healthy, kind people. How they struggled at the end of their lives to find the care they needed (not all, but many, mostly). How they were alone (without their loved ones) in their final days of struggle.

My eyes are exhausted from reading death, pain, suffering and precarity. The news is full of death. Crowdfunding is filled with stories of people losing jobs that can not afford food for their families. Twitter is flooded with sad, desperate updates. I want to close my eyes and stop listening.  But closing my eyes makes the demon even bigger and scarier.

My heart used to feel anger. But now I feel scared. It feels like days go by and I wait for my turn. What if I need medical care (which is almost impossible to get now)? What if I don’t make it? What would it feel like to leave my two young children forever?

My head is just full, no space left there.

I and I see people have done what they can do, we try to care more. But nothing we do is enough. People are still starving. People are still struggling. People are still in pain. And those in power do not seem to understand the weight of ordinary people in their everyday life. They live in their bubble.

The day I finished this draft, a friend passed away (Monday evening, 19 July 2021, Bogor, Indonesia). He was a kind, loving husband and father to his 4 years old son. Healthy, young, just started a small workshop that provided income for 5 employees and their families. I contacted him at the end of last month, June, when I heard that his wife was infected with Covid and needed to self-isolate, and he was fine back then. He asked me to pray for him and his family to make it through. A week or so ago I knew that he was admitted to the hospital because he was infected and had problems breathing. Then he got worse – but not too worse – judging from the video he showed in his WhatsApp status. I kept on sending him messages (I asked him not to reply). I sent prayers. Then he said to his wife that he got better, tested negative, but was still in the hospital to improve his health. Two days later, he departed.

I got angry with the government, with God, with him. What an untrusted ruler to let their people dying to breathe and survive. What a cruel God to take him away when he had so much to live on. I got angry at him for not fighting harder, how dare he leave his very young son behind. People are unfair, the world is unfair. Every day is really hard to navigate. I got so many questions in my head in these terribly difficult times. I can’t even start to understand.

 

24 Aug 2021

I find it hard to decide whether I should share it or keep it in my folder, contained safely – suppressing my emotions and not letting it show – as the world tells us to do – be strong, be resilient. But then, two days ago, a good friend’s husband passed away, after two weeks of struggle in the hospital. Their sons are similar in age with mine and used to be in the same class in their school. That’s how I met my friend (the wife). She offered me her friendship, despite our differences. This gives me a push to share these small notes, to grieve and to remember them.

 

16 Sept 2021

Thinking and acting Care with FPE

My journey with FPE (Feminist Polirical Ecology) tells me to be reflective, to listen to stories embodied by others, my own stories. María Puig de la Bellacasa said that care is a matter of innocence as well as non-innocence and situatedness of care. 

Covid changes the way of caring. I do not have many friends but meeting occasionally and especially when we are in difficult times has always been a feature of our relationship. Being close and looking into their eyes, listening to their lived struggles, are a way of caring that I found healing – or at least it helps me to survive another day (both as the recipient or giver of care). But then Covid rules say that being close to each other, and having physical contact, is the opposite of caring. We struggle to connect and sense through words in our WhatsApp and voices over the phone, as video calls seems too much during bad days.

And therefore we scramble trying to find ways to stay with the trouble (famously said by Donna Haraway) – do we have other options anyway? (As I read from Anna (Tsing, 2015) in her book in ruin of capitalism context): Continue or maintain life – forget repair. At that point when my friends even find it hard to breathe, to survive. I just want to continue life (make every day bearable) and leave repairing to another time and space.

“in the most general sense,  care is a species activity that includes everything we do to maintain, continue, and repair our world so that we may live in it as well as possible. That world includes our bodies, our selves, and our environment, all of which we seek to interweave in a complex, life-sustaining web.”
Berenice Fisher and Joan C. Tronto, “Toward a Feminist Theory of Caring,” in Circles of Care, ed. Emily K. Abel and Margaret Nelson (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1990) in (Tronto, 2015) emphasis added.

Caring is indeed not necessarily a feel-good thing, Bellacasa mentions this in her book Matters of care (Bellacasa, 2017). Caring means being emotionally drained for days when your good friend is ill and you see them pass away. Caring means that no matter how I feel shattered, I need to get up and be there for my young children.

Reciprocity is something in care that FPE scholars have attended to, and I find it in my everyday experience of care for my young children. The time I care for my young children (who are not able to take care of themselves yet), it is also the time I feel cared for. Maybe it is the kind of reciprocity that might be different with the conventional reciprocity “This is because reciprocity involves giving, receiving, and returning what has been given” (Mauss, 1974 in (Gómez Becerra & Muneri-Wangari, 2021)). My young children at this care relation do not necessarily return what I gave to them, but still their mere existence fuels my everyday life (in positive and negative sense) – me talking from the perspective of a mother from the Global South, with a partner attending to one school age child (online school for 1.5 year now) and one toddler. After all the pain of losing I experience, I might not be whole now if not for my children.

 

Readings that helped me with this piece:

Bellacasa, M. P. de la. (2017). Matters of Care: Speculative Ethics in More Than Human Worlds. The University of Minnesota Press.

Gómez Becerra, M., & Muneri-Wangari, E. (2021). Practices of Care in Times of COVID-19. Frontiers in Human Dynamics, 3(June), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.3389/fhumd.2021.648464

Tronto, J. C. (2015). Who Cares? How to Reshape a Democratic Politics (First). Cornell University Press.

Tsing, A. L. (2015). The Mushroom at the End of the World: on the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. In PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS (Vol. 1). Princeton University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107415324.004

 

Gender and climate change adaptation responses in Kenya

The links between climate change and gender are widely known. However, little research has been done on how men and women respond differently to climate variability and uncertainties. To help respond to this, my ongoing PhD examines the politics of gender in climate change adaptation in the Maasai community of the Mara region in Kenya. So far, I have found many ways in which gender, class and age intersect with responses to climate variability, among diverse pastoralist men and women.

Extreme weather events

The Mara region of Kenya has experienced increasingly unpredictable extreme weather events like frequent prolonged droughts and floods that plague the area. This has led to a loss of key resources for livestock pastures, water, and salts, that are crucial for livestock production. The region has also faced tremendous ecological and social economic changes in the last couple of decades in the form of land fragmentation and dispossession, urbanization, and an influx of immigrants. These changes, coupled with the erratic weather events, have compromised the communities traditional coping strategies. In response, changes in processes, livelihood activities, and sources of income have emerged, along gendered lines.

Responses to climate variability occur in the confines of society that is laced with social inequalities along the lines of gender, class, age, race etc. These in-equalities pose barriers to access, control, and ownership of resources, perpetuate unequal distribution of labour, and excludes certain segments of society from meaningful decision making. Thus, shaping how diverse men and women, avoid, prepare for, respond, and recover from extreme weather events that threaten their lives and livelihoods.

You can read the full text at the Institute for Development Studies.

Video series: Second Training Lab

Originally planned to take place in Bolsena, Italy, at WEGO-ITN’s partner Punti di Vista, last year’s Second Training Lab was adapted into an on-line event, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. All meetings, lectures, workshops and plenaries happened between June 10th-18th 2020.

All encounters and discussions were recorded and are now also available in videos produced by the group. The editing was a collaborative project by WEGO PhD’s Marlene Gómez, Dian Ekowati, Enid Still and Anna Katharina Voss, together with film maker John Akerman.

Videos include a keynote lecture by Prof. Dr. Katherine Gibson, from the Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University, and the Community Economies Research Network (CERN) – plus discussions between WEGO members about the meanings of Feminist Political Ecology and care. Finally, 3 videos depict mini lectures on PhD’s research projects.

They are also available at our Youtube and Vimeo channels.

International Women’s Day: ‘Gender Dimensions in Climate Change’ lecture

International Women’s Week was a day of celebration – and combativeness – for WEGO-ITN researchers and partners. Coordinator Prof. Dr. Wendy Harcourt held a lecture at Radboud University  on ‘Gender Dimensions in Climate Change’, which is now fully available online:

About the lecture:

’My talk will look critically at the notion of the green economy as the way to mitigate climate change. My argument is that the neoliberal green economy relies on market and technological efficiency and only pays lip service to notions of gender, empowerment and inclusion. Its apparent championing of small-scale green entrepreneurs – particularly women and indigenous groups from the Global South as ‘good for climate’ ignores power relations and inequalities based on gender, race, ethnicity, class, and physical ability. The neoliberal green economy is not a climate- or people-caring economy because it ignores the actual care work that is required to maintain everyday life in all societies.

My talk proposes that we must move beyond the green economy in order to advance climate justice by reimagining ‘caring for climate’ through a caring economy or solidarity economy framework, one that is embedded in the principles of cooperation, sharing, reciprocity, and intersectional environmental justice. Instead of ‘greening’ the economy we need to be ‘sustaining livelihoods’ to ensure nutrition, ecological balance, clean water, secure housing, gender equality, meaningful approaches to all forms of labour.

Care work is always there. What needs to change is that it is no longer invisible, privatised, and done for free by women, people of colour, immigrants, or other marginalised groups. Caring for climate, caring for earth, and caring for people should be at the centre of economic value, not at the margins. What is required in order to ‘care for climate’, is to build caring communities for change based on solidarity economies. Such economies would value care work in all areas of life with the creation of new job sectors and climate-friendly livelihoods which challenge the gendered composition of the today’s neoliberal, androcentric and capitalocentric economy.’’