This program aired on the eve of December 10, the 60th Anniversary of the signing of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The initiative was begun in the Franklin Roosevelt administration and was championed through the U.N. by Eleanor Roosevelt. The Declaration guarantees all human beings the freedoms of speech and opinion, and freedom from fear and want.

Listen to Ecotopia 10 online NOW!

Though the original declaration does not refer specifically to the environment, a 2002 UN conference on human rights and the environment discovered:

“…a growing inter-connectedness between the fields of human rights and environmental protection. The overall context for these developments is the concept of sustainable development, which requires that different societal objectives be treated in an integrated manner.”

Ecotopia is concerned with social, economic, and technological issues as well as environmental.  So in this program we are looking for connections, both negative (degradation of the environment and human rights) and positive (correlations between improved environmental and human conditions). 

To help us explore those relationships, we will be talking Mallika Dutt, Founder and Executive Director of Breakthrough, an innovative human rights organization that uses popular media and ulture in the U.S. and India  to transform attitudes about  HIV/AIDs, immigration, and other issues.

Global News on Human Rights and the Environment

Chevron Oil Company has been acquitted in a San Francisco court of human rights abuses in Nigeria.  But there are multiple perspectives on this story. Chevron claimed that protesters boarded a Chevron oil platform, that they were armed and violent, taking workers hostage. The oil company says they had no choice but to call in the Nigerian military for help, and two protestors were killed.

However, the Nigerians claim that they a peaceful protest at one of Chevron’s offshore oil platforms, demanding a meeting between company representatives and village elders to negotiate for the job training and education programs they had been promised in exchange for the severe environmental harms they had been forced to endure. They were unarmed, and after receiving word that Chevron would attend a meeting in a nearby village the following day, they prepared to leave the platform peacefully. Before they could do so, three company helicopters carrying Nigerian military personnel swooped down on the platform and opened fire, killing two people and injuring several others,

Although in this case, Chevron has been acquitted, the L.A. times talked with Naomi Roht-Arriaza, a professor at UC Hastings’ College of the Law who observed part of the trial. She says that the verdict appears to have turned on the irreconcialable facts in the case, not on whehter a US corporation can be called to account in a US court for actions in other countries.  She believes that despite the outcome, the trial was a success for the human rights community because the lawyers succeeded in bringing the case to trial.,0,3174607.story

Nature Conservancy.  A more positive example of human rights and the environment comes from a recent report issued by the Nature Conservancy. The report describes four programs where Marine Protected Areas have been developed in Fiji, Indonesia, the Solomon Islands, and the Phillippines. Conservancy researchers interviewed 1100 local people about changes in quality of life since the creation of Marine Protected Areas. The researchers found reports of:

  • Improved fish catches.
  • New jobs, mostly in tourism.
  • Stronger local governance.
  • Benefits to health.
  • Benefits to women. I

Interview with Mallika Dutt

Mallika Dutt is the Founder and Executive Director of Breakthrough (, an innovative, high impact international human rights organization using education, media and popular culture to transform attitudes and advance equality, justice, and dignity. Breakthrough works in India and the United States, the world’s two largest democracies, on several issues including women’s rights, sexuality and HIV/AIDS, racial justice and immigrant rights.

Breakthrough’s recent work includes the cutting edge use of gaming and Web 2.0.  The ICED – I Can End Deportation video game ( educated millions about the lack of due process in U.S. immigration policy.  In India, Breakthrough’s 2007 multimedia campaign, Is This Justice?, educated over 35 million about discrimination faced by women living with HIV/AIDS. 

Prior to founding Breakthrough, Mallika was the Program Officer for the Human Rights & Social Justice Program at the Ford Foundation’s New Delhi office. Mallika has also served as the Associate Director of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University and as the Director of the Norman Foundation. She began her professional career as an Associate at Debevoise & Plimpton in NYC.

Mallika is a founder of Sakhi for South Asian Women and has served on several boards and committees, including the Human Rights Watch Women’s Rights Project and Asia Watch, The Sister Fund, Asian American Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy, and the US NGO Coordinating Committee for the UN World Conference Against Racism. She is currently on the Board of WITNESS.

Our Questions for Mallika Dutt:

  • Please tell us a little more about Breakthrough and your programs.
  • Your organizational mission makes specific reference to the UN Declaration of Human rights. On this 60th anniversary, what do you see as the achievements of the Declaration? 
  •  What problems remain for the Declaration? Should it be updated? Made more rigorous in terms of participation and enforcement?
  •  Breakthrough focuses on women’s rights, sexuality and HIV/AIDS, racial justice and immigrant rights.  What do you see as the connections between these and environmental concerns?
  • Who inspires you as an activist? Who are your role models?
  • What suggestions do you have for citizens who see the Declaration of Human Rights and projects like Breakthrough as important and who want to see them advance. How can folks become involved and affect change globally?

Resources for Human Rights Actions

–Amnesty International has called for participation in specific human rights campaigns:

·         The U.N. Millennium Development Goals were adopted in 2000 by 189 different countries, setting targets for alleviating poverty and disease and improving quality of life through sustainable development.  But more than halfway to the endpoint of the goals, the world is in danger of falling far short. Amnesty asks you to call on world leaders to make realization of those goals a priority.

·         Amnesty International also wants you to urge President-Elect Obama ran on a pledge “to partner with the people of the Gulf Coast to rebuild now, stronger than ever”. Now is the time for change in the Gulf Coast. Ask the new Obama administration to follow through on the commitment to rebuilding the Gulf Coast.

·         Improve healthcare for Native American and Alaska Native women  The Indian Health Service (IHS) is the principle and in some areas, sole provider of health services for Native American and Alaska Native people. Despite its prevalence, IHS continues to lack consistent protocols and resources for treating sexual assault survivors. You can Join the AIUSA Stop Violence Against Women campaign and help break down the barriers for Indigenous women overcoming cri.

–In Chico, the new chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is providing multiple ways of getting involved in human rights and civil rights issues, including committees on immigrant rights, young people, police actions, and GLTB rights.

Another excellent source of information is the Mainstream Media project, and we want to thank Halimah Collingwood of Mainstream Media for the followin notess and resources.

60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

About the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

         The Declaration was drafted by Eleanor Roosevelt and others after World War II and was adopted by the United Nations on December 10th, 1948.

         The Declaration has 30 Articles that spell out human rights, including Article 3 which states, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”

         The Declaration states that people have a right to be free from slavery, servitude and torture.

         Article 7 states that all people are equal before the law and are entitled without discrimination to equal protection of the law.

         The Declaration details specific protections for labor rights, including the right to just and favorable working conditions, the right to form and join trade unions and the right to equal work for equal pay.

         The Declaration includes freedom of religion and freedom of political affiliation and the right of all people to freely participate in their government.

Human Rights in the U.S.:

         Many human rights defenders recommend that the U.S. re-establish the Interagency Working Group on Human Rights. The group, which was established by President Bill Clinton and essentially dismantled by the Bush Administration, was responsible for coordination among federal agencies on human rights issues. The Group would be responsible for responding to human rights complaints by international organizations, reviewing legislation for conformity to human rights obligations and performing an annual review of human rights allegations against federal agencies.

         The legacy of the Bush Administration included one of the most blatant violations and abuses of human rights at home: the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina. The next president must work to uphold domestic human rights and can do so by addressing these issues in his Inaugural Speech, first State of the Union Address or a separate but high profile speech dedicated to domestic human rights issues.

         Other domestic human rights issues include the racial wealth gap, the gender wealth gap, the lack of affordable housing in the U.S., racial discrimination and profiling, unemployment, poverty and health care. Some 46 million Americans are without health insurance.

         Although only 8% of Americans can identify the Universal Declaration of Human rights by name, 82% believe all people have basic rights and recognize that principle as a core part of American identity. 2/3 of Americans believe the government should expand programs that guarantee human rights.

         Our credibility abroad on human rights issues relies on our performance at home. If the U.S. government does not respect and uphold human rights at home, other world leaders who have human rights abuses could point to the U.S. as hypocritical.

U.S. war on terror and international human rights abuses:

         The U.S. has broken international treaties in its pursuit of terrorists in the War on Terror, including condoning torture of prisoners and imprisoning people at Guantanamo Bay without trial indefinitely.

         When the world witnessed the pictures of U.S. military personnel engaged in humiliation and torture of people in Abu Ghraib prison, the U.S. lost credibility in the world as a defender of human rights and was instead viewed as a violator of human rights and international treaties against torture and inhumane treatment.

         Many human rights defenders are calling on President-elect Obama to provide redress for the abuses that have occurred, stop the military commissions and instread prosecute terrorist suspects in federal court, as well as reject preventive detention (detention without trials) as an alternative to prosecuting terrorist suspects.

International Human Rights:

         Although we’ve come a long way in 60 years, there are still serious human rights abuses occurring worldwide. The U.S. can re-enforce its commitment to upholding human rights and working with international groups on human rights issues in other countries by signing onto international human rights treaties and adhering to those treaties in all its actions.


Play List for Ecotopia #10

1. Get Up, Stand Up            3:18    Bob Marley     Legend                                 

2. Find The Cost Of Freedom        2:22    Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young       Four Way Street

3.  Long Walk to Freedom (Halala South Africa) 5:19   Ladysmith Black Mambazo           Long Walk to Freedom      

4. Human Rights                             7:06    H.R.     Human Rights         

5. Weave Me the Sunshine           4:28    Peter, Paul And Mary         The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary   

6. If I Had a Hammer           2:10    Peter, Paul And Mary         The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary