Cloudbeds Acquires Whistle, Moves to Solve Friction in Guest Journey

SAN DIEGO, June 27, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Cloudbeds, the hospitality management platform powering more reservations and happier guests for lodging businesses around the globe, announced today at HITEC 2022 the acquisition of the industry's leading guest engagement solution, Whistle. Together, the companies will integrate their best–in–class technologies to remove friction points in the guest journey through a single platform.

"The term contactless is becoming far too synonymous with hospitality," said Richard Castle, COO and Co–Founder of Cloudbeds. "We want more contact between lodging businesses and their guests to create purposeful touchpoints, answer questions and provide guidance through the entire guest journey. Research shows that engaged guests spend more, leave better reviews and the majority prefer to communicate via digital channels "" Whistle makes it all possible. Whether it's a booking engine chat or front desk text request, Whistle positions Cloudbeds customers to be a part of the guest journey from discovery to post–stay, removing barriers that might hinder a booking or positive review."

Whistle leads the industry in guest engagement with unified communication tools, digitized arrival experiences and more. Current customers include major hospitality brands and hoteliers around the world, including Choice Hotels, Accor, IHG and Four Sisters Inns, among others. Founded in 2015, the company has been rated the no. 1 guest messaging software by Hotel Tech Report for five consecutive years.

Whistle will play an important role in the company's vision for creating a fully frictionless solution that enables guests to engage with lodging businesses on their own terms. Simultaneously, it will give lodging businesses a unified platform to more efficiently manage points of contact throughout the entire guest journey.

"Our goal has always been to give lodging businesses a unique, easy–to–use solution that simplifies and streamlines the way they communicate," said Christopher Hovanessian, CEO and Co–Founder of Whistle. "Cloudbeds has a clear vision for building a better, more frictionless hospitality experience via a unified platform. Together, we can make a greater impact on the industry that benefits not only the guest, but also the property staff and the lodging business itself."

Following its Series D funding announcement in November, Cloudbeds has doubled down on its commitment to "more reservations, happier guests" with three acquisitions and the introduction of several new product offerings to address major pain points for both operators and guests. Driven by an aggressive product roadmap, the company has nearly tripled in size over the past year, with more solutions set to roll out in Q3 designed to help hoteliers grow their businesses.

For more information, visit cloudbeds.com/whistle.

Cloudbeds will share further details about the acquisition at HITEC 2022 in Orlando, during a press event at 1:30 p.m. ET in Booth # 1701 on Tuesday, June 28.

About Cloudbeds
Cloudbeds provides the platform that powers hospitality, driving streamlined operations, increasing reservations and revenue, and enabling memorable guest experiences for lodging businesses of all sizes and types across the globe. The award–winning Cloudbeds Hospitality Platform seamlessly combines solutions for front desk, revenue, distribution, guest acquisition, and guest engagement in a single unified system, enhanced by a marketplace of third–party integrations. Cloudbeds was named No. 1 PMS and No. 1 Hotel Management System by Hotel Tech Report in 2022 and recognized by Deloitte's Technology Fast 500 in 2021. For more information, visit www.cloudbeds.com.

Contact:
Angela Petersen
angela.petersen@cloudbeds.com

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at: https://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/ea0d94df–2649–42d8–8e49–c59efe9665e5


Roe Overturned: What You Need to Know about the US Supreme Court Abortion Decision

A half-century of reproduction rights upended by the Supreme Court. Credit: Greenpeace.

By External Source
BOSTON, USA, Jun 27 2022 – After half a century, Americans’ constitutional right to get an abortion has been overturned by the Supreme Court. The ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization – handed down on June 24, 2022 – has far-reaching consequences. The Conversation asked Nicole Huberfeld and Linda C. McClain, health law and constitutional law experts at Boston University, to explain what just happened, and what happens next.
What did the Supreme Court rule?

The Supreme Court decided by a 6-3 majority to uphold Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. In doing so, the majority opinion overturned two key decisions protecting access to abortion: 1973’s Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, decided in 1992.

The Supreme Court’s rolling back a right that has been recognized for 50 years puts the U.S. in the minority of nations, most of which are moving toward liberalization. Nevertheless, even though abortion is seen by many as essential health care, the cultural fight will surely continue

The opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, said that the Constitution does not mention abortion. Nor does the Constitution guarantee abortion rights via another right, the right to liberty.

The opinion rejected Roe’s and Casey’s argument that the constitutional right to liberty included an individual’s right to privacy in choosing to have an abortion, in the same way that it protects other decisions concerning intimate sexual conduct, such as contraception and marriage. According to the opinion, abortion is “fundamentally different” because it destroys fetal life.

The court’s narrow approach to the concept of constitutional liberty is at odds with the broader position it took in the earlier Casey ruling, as well as in a landmark marriage equality case, 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges. But the majority said that nothing in their opinion should affect the right of same-sex couples to marry.

Alito’s opinion also rejected the legal principle of “stare decisis,” or adhering to precedent. Supporters of the right to abortion argue that the Casey and Roe rulings should have been left in place as, in the words of the Casey ruling, reproductive rights allow women to “participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation.”

Chief Justice John Roberts concurred in the judgment that Mississippi’s law was constitutional, but did not agree with the majority opinion that Roe and Casey should be overruled entirely.

The ruling does not mean that abortion is banned throughout the U.S. Rather, arguments about the legality of abortion will now play out in state legislatures, where, Alito noted, women “are not without electoral or political power.”

States will be allowed to regulate or prohibit abortion subject only to what is known as “rational basis” review – this is a weaker standard than Casey’s “undue burden” test. Under Casey’s undue burden test, states were prevented from enacting restrictions that placed substantial obstacles in the path of those seeking abortion. Now, abortion bans will be presumed to be legal as long as there is a “rational basis” for the legislature to believe the law serves legitimate state interests.

In a strenuous dissent, Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor faulted the court’s narrow approach to liberty and challenged its disregard both for stare decisis and for the impact of overruling Roe and Casey on the lives of women in the United States. The dissenters said the impact of the decision would be “the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens.” They also expressed deep concern over the ruling’s effect on poor women’s ability to access abortion services in the U.S.

 

Where does this decision fit into the history of reproductive rights in the U.S.?

This is a huge moment. The court’s ruling has done what reproductive rights advocates feared for decades: It has taken away the constitutional right to privacy that protected access to abortion.

This decision was decades in the making. Thirty years ago when Casey was being argued, many legal experts thought the court was poised to overrule Roe. Then, the court had eight justices appointed by Republican presidents, several of whom indicated readiness to overrule in dissenting opinions.

Instead, Republican appointees Anthony Kennedy, Sandra Day O’Connor and David Souter upheld Roe. They revised its framework to allow more state regulation throughout pregnancy and weakened the test for evaluating those laws. Under Roe’s “strict scrutiny” test, any restriction on the right to privacy to access an abortion had to be “narrowly tailored” to further a “compelling” state interest. But Casey’s “undue burden” test gave states wider latitude to regulate abortion.

Even before the Casey decision, abortion opponents in Congress had restricted access for poor women and members of the military greatly by limiting the use of federal funds to pay for abortion services.

In recent years, states have adopted numerous restrictions on abortion that would not have survived Roe’s tougher “strict scrutiny” test. Even so, many state restrictions have been struck down in federal courts under the undue burden test, including bans on abortions prior to fetal viability and so-called “TRAP” – targeted regulation of abortion provider – laws that made it harder to keep clinics open.

President Donald Trump’s pledge to appoint “pro-life” justices to federal courts – and his appointment of three conservative Supreme Court justices – finally made possible the goal of opponents of legal abortion: overruling Roe and Casey.

 

What happens next?

Even before Dobbs, the ability to access abortion was limited by a patchwork of laws across the United States. Republican states have more restrictive laws than Democratic ones, with people living in the Midwest and South subject to the strongest limits.

Thirteen states have so-called “trigger laws,” which greatly restrict access to abortion. These will soon go into effect now that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe and Casey, requiring only state attorney general certification or other action by a state official.

Nine states have pre-Roe laws never taken off the books that significantly restrict or ban access to abortion. Altogether, nearly half of states will restrict access to abortion through a variety of measures like banning abortion from six weeks of pregnancy – before many women know they are pregnant – and limiting the reasons abortions may be obtained, such as forbidding abortion in the case of fetal anomalies.

Meanwhile, 16 states and the District of Columbia protect access to abortion in a variety of ways, such as state statutes, constitutional amendments or state Supreme Court decisions.

None of the states that limit abortion access currently criminalize the pregnant person’s action. Rather, they threaten health care providers with civil or criminal actions, including loss of their license to practice medicine.

Some states are creating “safe havens” where people can travel to access an abortion legally. People have already been traveling to states like Massachusetts from highly restrictive states.

The court’s decision may drive federal action, too.

The House of Representatives passed the Women’s Health Protection Act, which protects health care providers and pregnant people seeking abortion, but Senate Republicans have blocked the bill from coming up for a vote. Congress could also reconsider providing limited Medicaid payment for abortion, but such federal legislation also seems unlikely to succeed.

President Joe Biden could use executive power to instruct federal agencies to review existing regulations to ensure that access to abortion continues to occur in as many places as possible. Congressional Republicans could test the water on nationwide abortion bans. While such efforts are likely to fail, these efforts could cause confusion for people who are already vulnerable.

 

What does this mean for people in America seeking an abortion?

Unintended pregnancies and abortions are more common among poor women and women of color, both in the U.S. and around the world.

Research shows that people have abortions whether lawful or not, but in nations where access to abortion is limited or outlawed, women are more likely to suffer negative health outcomes, such as infection, excessive bleeding and uterine perforation. Those who must carry a pregnancy to full term are more likely to suffer pregnancy-related deaths.

The state-by-state access to abortion resulting from this decision means many people will have to travel farther to obtain an abortion. And distance will mean fewer people will get abortions, especially lower-income women – a fact the Supreme Court itself recognized in 2016.

But since 2020, medication abortion – a two-pill regimen of mifepristone and misoprostol – has been the most common method of ending pregnancy in the U.S. The coronavirus pandemic accelerated this shift, as it drove the Food and Drug Administration to make medication abortions more available by allowing doctors to prescribe the pills through telemedicine and permitting medication to be mailed without in-person consultation.

Many states that restrict access to abortion also are trying to prevent medication abortion. But stopping telehealth providers from mailing pills will be a challenge. Further, because the FDA approved this regimen, states will be contradicting federal law, setting up conflict that may lead to more litigation.

The Supreme Court’s rolling back a right that has been recognized for 50 years puts the U.S. in the minority of nations, most of which are moving toward liberalization. Nevertheless, even though abortion is seen by many as essential health care, the cultural fight will surely continue.

Linda C. McClain, Professor of Law, Boston University and Nicole Huberfeld, Edward R. Utley Professor of Health Law and Professor of Law, Boston University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Global Biodiversity Agenda: Nairobi Just Added More to Montreal’s Plate

A placard on display at activists' demonstration outside the 4th meeting of the CBD Working Group at the UNEP headquarter in Nairobi. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

A placard on display at activists’ demonstration outside the 4th meeting of the CBD Working Group at the UNEP headquarter in Nairobi. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
Nairobi, Jun 27 2022 – As the last working group meeting of the Post 2020 Global Biodiversity Agenda concluded here on Sunday, the delegates’ job at COP15 Montreal just got tougher as delegates couldn’t finalize the text of the agenda. Texts involving finance, cost and benefit-sharing, and digital sequencing – described by many as ‘most contentious parts of the draft agenda barely made any progress as negotiators failed to reach any consensus.

Nairobi – the Unattempted ‘Final Push’

The week-long 4th meeting of the Working Group of the Biodiversity Convention took place from June 21-26, three months after the 3rd meeting of the group was held in Geneva, Switzerland. The meeting, attended by a total of 1634 participants, including 950 country representatives, had the job cut out for them: Read the draft Post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) and its 21 targets, discuss, and clean up the text – target by target, sentence by sentence, at least up to 80%.

But, on Saturday – a day before the meeting was to wrap up, David Ainsworth – head of Communications at CBD, hinted that the progress was far slower than expected. Ainsworth mentioned that the total cleaning progress made was just about 8%.

To put it in a clearer context, said Ainsworth, only two targets now had a clean text – Target 19.2 (strengthening capacity-building and development, access to and transfer of technology) and target 12 (urban biodiversity). This means that in Montreal, they could be placed on the table right away for the parties to decide on, instead of debating the language. All the other targets, the work progress has been from around 50% to none, said Ainsworth.

An entire day later, on Sunday evening local time, co-chairs of the WG4 Francis Ogwal and Basile Van Havre confirmed that those were indeed the only two targets with ‘clean’ texts. In other words, no real work had been done in the past 24 hours.

On June 21, at the opening session of the meeting, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, described the Nairobi meeting as an opportunity for a ‘final push’ to finalize the GBF. On Sunday, she called on the parties to “vigorously engage with the text, to listen to each other and seek consensus, and to prepare the final text for adoption at COP 15”.

Answering a question from IPS News, Mrema also confirmed that there would be a 5th meeting of the Working Group before the Montreal COP, indicating the work done in the Nairobi meeting wasn’t enough to produce a draft that was ready to be discussed for adoption.

The final push, it appeared, had not even been attempted.

Bottlenecks and Stalemate

According to several observers, instead of cleaning up 80% of the texts over the past six days, negotiators had left 80% of the text in brackets, which signals disagreement among parties. Not only did countries fail to progress, but in some cases, new disagreements threatened to move the process in the opposite direction. The most fundamental issues were not even addressed this week, including how much funding would be committed to conserving biodiversity and what percentage figures the world should strive to protect, conserve, and restore to address the extinction crisis.

True to the traditions of the UN, the CBD wouldn’t be critical of any party. However, on Sunday evening, Francis Ogwal indicated that rich nations had been dragging their feet on meeting the commitment of donating to global biodiversity conservation. Without naming anyone, Ogwal reminded the negotiators that the more time they took, the tougher they would get the decision.

At present, said Ogwal, 700 billion was needed to stop and recover global biodiversity. “If you keep giving less and less, the problems magnify. Ten years down the line, this will not be enough,” he said.

The civil society was more vocal in criticizing the delegates for losing yet another opportunity.

According to Brian O’Donnell, Director of the Campaign for Nature, the negotiations were faltering, with some key issues being at a stalemate. It is, therefore, up to heads of state and other political and United Nations leaders to act with urgency. “But time is now running out, and countries need to step up, show the leadership that this moment requires, and act urgently to find compromise and solutions,” O’Donnell said in a statement.

The Next Steps

The CBD Secretariat mentioned a string of activities that would follow the Nairobi meeting to speed up the process of building a consensus among the delegates. The activities include bilateral meetings with some countries, regional meetings with others, and a Working Group 5 meeting which will be a pre-COP event before COP15.

Finally, the CBD is taking a glass-half-filled approach toward the GBF, which is reflected in the words of Mrema: “These efforts (Nairobi meeting) are considerable and have produced a text that, with additional work, will be the basis for reaching the 2050 vision of the Convention: A life in harmony with nature,” she says.

The upcoming UN Biodiversity Conference will be held from 5 to December 17 in Montreal, Canada, under the presidency of the Government of China. With the bulk of the work left incomplete, the cold December weather of Montreal is undoubtedly all set to be heated with intense debates and negotiations.
IPS UN Bureau Report

 


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Five Takeaways from the 2022 State of Civil Society Report

A group of women fleeing Ukraine arrive in Moldova. May 2022. Credit: UN Women

By Mandeep Tiwana
NEW YORK, Jun 27 2022 – 2022 is halfway through. It’s clear this is a year of immense disruption, mayhem and contestation. Horrendous war crimes are taking place in Ukraine.

The conflict is spurring soaring living costs, impacting the most vulnerable people, already faced with the adverse impacts of the pandemic and extreme weather caused by climate change.

In this scenario, concerned citizens and civil society organisations are responding by protesting misgovernance, campaigning for justice and helping out those worst affected. CIVICUS’s 2022 State of Civil Society Report analyses global events and outlines the current state of play.

Five findings with implications for the future stand out and are highlighted below.

1. Rising costs of fuel and food are global protest triggers

Governments around the world are failing to protect people from the impacts of massive price rises worsened by Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. Fossil fuel companies are banking record-breaking profits while many people, already strained by the pandemic, are struggling to make ends meet.

Public anger at corruption and dysfunctional markets is rising. In Sri Lanka, mass demonstrations against crony capitalism recently led to resignation of the prime minister. In Indonesia students protested over the rising cost of cooking oil. In Spain, increases in food, energy and fuel prices brought thousands to the streets in early 2022.

In more repressive contexts protests are met with state brutality. In Kazakhstan over 200 civilians were killed with impunity following protests over fuel price increases in January.

Reported lethal violence has also come in response to recent food price protests in Iran. In contested political environments such as the occupied Palestinian territories the potential for renewed cycles of protest and state violence remains high.

2. These are harrowing times for democracy but there are successes too

Institutions and traditions of democracy are facing increasing attacks from anti-democratic forces. Military coups are making a comeback. In Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, Myanmar, Sudan and Thailand armies are running governments.

In Tunisia hard-fought gains are being reversed by a president who dismissed parliament, took control of the judiciary and is rewriting the constitution. India’s constitutional commitment to secularism is being strained by religious intolerance promoted by its ruling party. In El Salvador, a president with a legislative supermajority is removing democratic checks and balances.

In Nicaragua, a sitting president organised a fraudulent election, enabled by mass repression. In Turkmenistan, the outgoing president bestowed the office to his son. The Philippines election saw two authoritarian dynasties enter into an alliance to win the presidency and vice presidency through a campaign of disinformation and falsification of history.

Nonetheless, there have also been bright spots, with successful mobilisations to strengthen democracy. In the Czech Republic and Slovenia political leaders who fostered divisiveness were voted out. In Australia, the incumbent government, with its failure to act on climate change, was defeated after almost a decade in power.

Meanwhile, Chile elected its youngest and most unconventional president ever, and his choice of cabinet reflects the country’s diversity and his commitment to social justice. Honduras elected its first woman president, who ran on a progressive platform to address poverty, expand women’s sexual and reproductive rights and tackle corruption.

3. Struggles for justice and equality are gaining momentum

Despite severe pushback by anti-rights groups on hard-won gender justice gains in Afghanistan and on women’s sexual and reproductive rights in countries such as Poland and the USA, the overall global trajectory is leaning towards progress.

In several Latin American countries including Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador and Mexico, restrictions on abortion have been eased. While opportunistic politicians in Ghana and Hungary have to sought to gain political advantage from the vilification of LGBTQI + people, globally the normalisation of LGBTQI+ rights is spreading.

Recently, the people of Switzerland voted in favour of an equal marriage law. Even in the challenging context of Jamaica advances have been made by civil society through the regional human rights system.

Steps forward have come after years of campaigning by civil society, which is increasingly modelling and proving the value of diversity. A new, young and diverse generation is forging movements to advance racial justice and demand equity for excluded people. They are embedding demands for rights for everyone with potential impacts for better democracy and inclusive economies.

4. Action on climate justice has transformative potential

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change through its recent reports has made clear that greenhouse gases must be cut drastically to avoid catastrophe. As the brunt of climate change continues to be disproportionately felt by excluded populations, renewed urgency is being demanded by civil society movements for governments to make ambitious emission cuts.

Activism, including mass marches, climate strikes and non-violent civil disobedience, is likely to intensify as the impacts of destructive storms, heatwaves and floods are being felt by growing swathes of populations.

Vital street action will continue to be supplemented by other tactics. Climate litigation is growing, leading to some significant breakthroughs, such as the court judgment in the Netherlands that forced Shell to commit to emissions cuts.

Shareholder activism towards polluting industries and their funders is intensifying, and pension funds are coming under growing pressure to divest from fossil fuel companies. The intersectionality of the climate movement holds hope for the future.

5. The UN needs to revitalise itself

A key purpose behind the formation of the UN in 1945 was to ‘save succeeding generations from the scourge of war’. Experience from the past few years, including in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Sahel region, Syria, Yemen and many other places shows that the UN’s record in preventing and stopping conflict is patchy at best.

Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and brutal attacks on civilian populations have further exposed fundamental weaknesses. The UN Security Council is hamstrung by the veto-wielding role of Russia as one of its five permanent members, although the UN General Assembly voted to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council.

The UN’s top leadership are expected to ‘reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights’ and ‘establish conditions for justice under international law’ but have often struggled to find their resolve when powerful states have committed grave human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

A lot of the UN’s energies appear focused on humanitarian response and management of crises over effective preventative diplomacy and justice for victims. Meaningful civil society engagement and access to key arenas can help overcome these bureaucratic shortcomings. Regardless, courage and vision will be needed from within and outside to reinvigorate the UN.

The world as it stands today is characterised by crisis and volatility, where regressive forces are mobilising a fierce backlash against struggles for equality and dignity, but also where determined civil society actions are scoring vital victories for humanity.

Mandeep Tiwana is chief programmes officer and representative to the UN headquarters in New York at CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance.

IPS UN Bureau

 


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Urgent Need to Enact Proposed Law to Secure Sexual and Reproductive Health in East Africa Countries

The proposed law seeks to provide age appropriate sexual and reproductive health information and services. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

The proposed law seeks to provide age appropriate sexual and reproductive health information and services. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Stephanie Musho
NAIROBI, Jun 27 2022 – The Ministry of Health in Kenya recently reported that about 700 teenage girls got pregnant daily over a two-month period, in this year alone. What is more is that during this period, 98 adolescent girls between the ages of 10 and 19 contracted HIV every week in this time period

Worse still is that HIV positive women in the country continue to be stripped of their dignity and face abuse in the form of forced sterilization which is as a warped method of reducing HIV infection despite there being no scientific evidence to support these assaults. Moreover, consider that concurrently, 7 women die every day from complications arising from unsafe abortion.

This is only a snapshot of the depressing state of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the country.

If passed, all partner states of the EAC will be required to integrate sexual and reproductive health in their efforts towards universal health coverage. Additionally, countries will be required to harmonize their national health policies and regulations, more so, on and sexual and reproductive health rights

The grim reality however does not seem dire enough for Kenyan parliamentarians who have twice before – in 2014 and in 2019, failed to enact separate but similar legislation – the Reproductive Health Bills – that would have provided a framework to mitigate the prevailing circumstances, prevent future occurrences and ultimately bring down these figures.

The much-needed legislation was not passed despite the Constitution providing for the right to the highest attainable standard of health – including reproductive health in article 48 (1) (a).

Worse still is that policies are often drafted, and withdrawn at the whim of Ministry of Health officials, leaving Kenyans at the mercy of individuals and their biases.  Take for instance the Standards and Guidelines on Safe Abortion which were developed to direct medical practitioners on how to administer safe medical abortion, in compliance with the law.

The then Director of Medical Services, Dr. Nicholas Muraguri arbitrarily withdrew the policy document. The High Court ruled in 2019 that Dr. Nicholas Muraguri and the Ministry of Health violated the rights of Kenyan women and girls in withdrawing these guidelines and ordered their reinstatement. This was not done. Consequently, women and girls in need of safe abortion, with very few – or no safe options.

In 2022, the Head of Reproductive and Maternal Health in the same ministry, Dr. Stephen Kaliti wrongfully stated that giving contraceptives to minors is a criminal offense punishable by a jail term of up to 20 years. In his erroneous statement that pointed to a proposed policy that is yet to be passed, Dr. Stephen Kaliti misled millions of Kenyans. To make matters worse is that the police then use such pronouncements to harass patients and service providers. Consequently, they are hesitant to give and seek services respectively, exacerbating the crisis.

The state of affairs is depressing. Nonetheless, there remains hope at regional level. On the floor of the East Africa Legislative Assembly is the East Africa Community Sexual and Reproductive Health Bill, 2021 (EAC SRH Bill); sponsored by Hon. Kennedy Mukulia; a South Sudanese national representing South Sudan in the House.

The Bill is anchored on article 118 of the East Africa Community Treaty which speaks to the commitment by partner states to cooperate in health specifically in the advancement of reproductive health and rights.  If passed, all partner states of the EAC will be required to integrate sexual and reproductive health in their efforts towards universal health coverage. Additionally, countries will be required to harmonize their national health policies and regulations, more so, on and sexual and reproductive health rights.

Specifically, the proposed law seeks to provide age appropriate sexual and reproductive health information and services. Often, most people associate the term “age-appropriate” in the ambit of sexual and reproductive health and rights only with adolescents.

Stephanie Musho

Nonetheless, it cuts across the divide; including provisions for elderly persons on issues of menopause and andropause – which is a collection of symptoms, such as fatigue and a decrease in libido, experienced by some middle-aged or older men and attributed to a gradual decline in testosterone levels.  Additionally, the Bill seeks to prohibit and facilitate the elimination of harmful practices from the community.

These include female genital mutilation, forced sterilization of HIV positive women and forced marriage among others. Which all remain pressing issues in all partner states of the East Africa Community.

While it could be argued that countries are sovereign and will retain the current hard stance on sexual and reproductive health and rights; the Bill has a clause on monitoring and reporting where if passed, all countries will have to provide reports as to the state of implementation to the Secretary General who will then provide a compiled report to the legislative assembly.

Where dissatisfied with fellow states’ progress – or lack thereof, partner states can engage mechanisms including through the East Africa Court of Justice among others, to hold other states accountable to their commitments. This is a welcome prospect as countries – including Kenya have a history of selectively adhering to the rule of law at national level.

As the Bill comes up for public participation on June 26 2022, it is important that Kenyans and all other persons in the East Africa Community fully understand the issues articulated in the Bill. Thereafter submit informed memoranda to the East Africa Legislative Assembly. It is important that we #PassEACSRHBill to put an end to preventable diseases and preventable deaths.

Stephanie Musho is a Nairobi-based human rights lawyer and a Senior Fellow at the Aspen Institute. She is the Host of the Steff Musho Show, that focuses on leadership in Africa. Twitter: @steffmusho

Civil Society Holding the Line in Contested Times: 2022 CIVICUS State of Civil Society Report

By External Source
Jun 27 2022 – Published at the halfway point of 2022, the State of Civil Society Report shines a light on a time of immense upheaval and contestation. Russia’s illegal war on Ukraine has directly blighted the lives of millions but is also sending echoes of disruption around the world, as soaring food and fuel prices pile further misery on communities already hit hard by the impacts of the pandemic and extreme weather caused by climate change.

The report finds hope, however, in the many mobilisations for change around the world: the mass protests, campaigns and people’s movements for justice, and the many grassroots initiatives defending rights and helping those most in need. Civil society is striving by all means available to make a difference.

VIEW THE REPORT

Five key trends

The report identifies five key current trends of global significance:

    1. Rising costs of fuel and food are spurring public anger and protests at economic mismanagement
    2. Democracy is under assault but positive changes are still being won
    3. Advances are being made in fighting social inequality despite attacks
    4. Civil society is keeping up the pressure for climate action
    5. Current crises are exposing the inadequacies of the international governance system

1. Governments around the world are failing to protect people from the impacts of massive price rises worsened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Public anger at a dysfunctional economic system, poverty and economic inequality and corruption is rising. Mass protests are the result. In Sri Lanka, widespread protests against economic mismanagement led to resignation of the prime minister. In Iran people are demanding fundamental change as food prices soar. In Kazakhstan over 200 people were killed with impunity following protests over fuel price rises. But people will continue to protest out of necessity even in the many countries where fundamental freedoms are repressed and state violence is inevitable.

2. Institutions and traditions of democracy are under increasing attack. Coups are imperilling hard-fought gains. The military has gained power in multiple countries, including Burkina Faso and Sudan. In several others, including El Salvador and Tunisia, elected presidents are removing democratic checks on power. Entirely fraudulent elections have been held in countries as different as Nicaragua and Turkmenistan. Autocratic nationalists have triumphed in elections in countries including Hungary and the Philippines. But at the same time there have been successful mobilisations to defend democracy, not least in the Czech Republic and Slovenia, where people voted out political leaders who fostered divisiveness in favour of fresh and broad-based alternatives. Progressive leaders promising to advance social justice have won power in countries such as Chile and Honduras. In many contexts, including Costa Rica and Peru, a prevailing sentiment of dissatisfaction is leading to a rejection of incumbency and willingness to embrace candidates who run as outsiders and promise disruption.

3. In politically turbulent times, and despite severe pushback by anti-rights groups, progress has been achieved in advancing women’s and LGBTQI+ rights. The USA, where neoconservative forces are emboldened, is ever more isolated on sexual and reproductive rights as several other countries in the Americas, including Colombia and Mexico, have eased abortion restrictions following civil society advocacy. Opportunistic politicians continue to seek political advantage in vilifying LGBTQI+ people, but globally the normalisation of LGBTQI+ rights is spreading. Most recently, the people of Switzerland overwhelmingly voted in favour of an equal marriage law. Even in hostile contexts such as Jamaica important advances have come through civil society’s engagement in regional human rights systems. But when it comes to fighting for migrants’ rights, only Ukrainian refugees in Europe are being received with anything like the kind of compassion all such people deserve, and otherwise the dominant global sentiment is hostility. Nonetheless, a new generation is forging movements to advance racial justice and demand equity for excluded people.

4. A young and diverse generation is the same social force that continues to make waves on climate change. As extreme weather gets more common, the brunt of the climate crisis continues to fall disproportionately on the most excluded populations who have done the least to cause the problem. Governments and companies are failing to act, and urgent action on emissions cuts to meet the size of the challenge is being demanded by civil society movements, including through mass marches, climate strikes and non-violent civil disobedience. Alongside these, climate litigation is growing, leading to significant legal breakthroughs, such as the judgment in the Netherlands that forced Shell to commit to emissions cuts. Shareholder activism towards fossil fuel firms and funders is intensifying, with pension funds coming under growing pressure to divest from fossil fuels.

5. Russia’s war on Ukraine is the latest crisis, alongside recent conflicts in the Sahel, Syria and Yemen, among others, to expose the failure of global institutions to protect people and prevent conflict. The UN Security Council is hamstrung by the veto-wielding role of Russia as one of its five permanent members, although a special session of the UN General Assembly yielded a resolution condemning the invasion. Russia has rightly been suspended from the UN Human Rights Council, but this peak human rights body remains dominated by rights-abusing states. If the UN is to move from helping to prevent crises rather than trying to react to them, effective civil society engagement is needed. The world as it stands today, characterised by crisis and volatility, needs a UN prepared to work with civil society, since civil society continues to seek and secure vital progress for humanity.

About the report
This is the 11th annual State of Civil Society Report, published by global civil society alliance CIVICUS. This year’s report takes a shorter and more accessible format. It draws from stories published by our rolling commentary and analysis initiative, CIVICUS Lens, and from over 120 interviews with civil society activists, leaders and experts who are close to the important issues of the day.

Healthy Planet Needs ‘Ocean Action’ from Asian and Pacific Countries

By Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana
BANGKOK, Thailand, Jun 27 2022 – As the Second Global Ocean Conference opens today in Lisbon, governments in Asia and the Pacific must seize the opportunity to enhance cooperation and solidarity to address a host of challenges that endanger what is a lifeline for millions of people in the region.

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

If done right ocean action will also be climate action but this will require working in concert on a few fronts.

First, we must invest in and support science and technology to produce key solutions. Strengthening science-policy interfaces to bridge practitioners and policymakers contributes to a sound understanding of ocean-climate synergies, thereby enabling better policy design, an important priority of the Indonesian Presidency of the G20 process. Additionally policy support tools can assist governments in identifying and prioritizing actions through policy and SDG tracking and scenarios development.

We must also make the invisible visible through ocean data: just three of ten targets for the goal on life below water are measurable in Asia and the Pacific. Better data is the foundation of better policies and collective action. The Global Ocean Accounts Partnership (GOAP) is an innovative multi-stakeholder collective established to enable countries and other stakeholders to go beyond GDP and to measure and manage progress towards ocean sustainable development.

Solutions for low-carbon maritime transport are also a key part of the transition to decarbonization by the middle of the century. Countries in Asia and the Pacific recognized this when adopting a new Regional Action Programme last December, putting more emphasis on such concrete steps as innovative shipping technologies, cooperation on green shipping corridors and more efficient use of existing port infrastructure and facilities to make this ambition a reality.

Finally, aligning finance with our ocean, climate and broader SDG aspirations provides a crucial foundation for all of our action. Blue bonds are an attractive instrument both for governments interested in raising funds for ocean conservation and for investors interested in contributing to sustainable development in addition to obtaining a return for their investment.

These actions and others are steps towards ensuring the viability of several of the region’s key ocean-based economic sectors, such as seaborne trade, tourism and fisheries. An estimated 50 to 80 per cent of all life on Earth is found under the ocean surface. Seven of every 10 fish caught around the globe comes from Pacific waters. And we know that the oceans and coasts are also vital allies in the fight against climate change, with coastal systems such as mangroves, salt marshes and seagrass meadows at the frontline of climate change, absorbing carbon at rates of up to 50 times those of the same area of tropical forest.

But the health of the oceans in Asia and the Pacific is in serious decline: rampant pollution, destructive and illegal fishing practices, inadequate marine governance and continued urbanization along coastlines have destroyed 40 per cent of the coral reefs and approximately 60 per cent of the coastal mangroves, while fish stocks continue to decline and consumption patterns remain unsustainable.

These and other pressures exacerbate climate-induced ocean acidification and warming and weaken the capacity of oceans to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Global climate change is also contributing to sea-level rise, which affects coastal and island communities severely, resulting in greater disaster risk, internal displacement and international migration.

To promote concerted action, ESCAP, in collaboration with partner UN agencies, provides a regional platform in support of SDG14, aligned within the framework of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030). Through four editions so far of the Asia-Pacific Day for the Ocean, we also support countries in identifying and putting in place solutions and accelerated actions through regional dialogue and cooperation.

It is abundantly clear there can be no healthy planet without a healthy ocean. Our leaders meeting in Lisbon must step up efforts to protect the ocean and its precious resources and to build sustainable blue economies.

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is an Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

IPS UN Bureau

 


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‘When it Comes to Gender Equality, Our Best is Not Good Enough’: says Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

By Sania Farooqui
NEW DELHI, India, Jun 27 2022 – The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted lives all over the world. According to this report, gender is emerging as a significant factor in the social, economic and health effects of Covid-19. Women have been hit much harder socially and economically than men. The greatest and most persistent gender gap was seen in employment and uncompensated labour, with 26% of women reporting loss of work compared with 20% of men globally in September 2021.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

UNESCO has projected almost 11 million girls might not return to school due to Covid-19’s unprecedented education disruption. This alarming number not only threatens “decades of progress made towards gender equality, but also puts girls around the world at risk of adolescent pregnancy, early and forced marriage and violence,” states this report. As almost 90% of the world’s countries have shut their schools in efforts to slow the transmission, this study estimates that 20 million more secondary school-aged girls could be out of school after the crisis has passed.

“The world has changed, and these changes are impacting women. Poverty has deepened, the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women are under attack, climate change is upon us, and changes in technology are also disproportionately impacting women. The world is facing a gender divide,” says Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Chair of the Board at Women Deliver and former United Nations (UN) Under Secretary General and Executive Director of UN Women in an exclusive interview given to IPS News.

The impact of Covid-19 pandemic has threatened to reverse decades of progress made towards gender equality. Dr. Mlambo-Ngcuka says, in the last decade the world was heading in the right direction including addressing extreme poverty, but now things have changed.

“The pandemic has hit women disproportionately and young women, women are now facing food insecurity in a significant way, and of course we’ve seen that the conflicts have not ended, they have escalated. We have the war in Ukraine, and as you may know any situation that creates a humanitarian crisis, women are always likely to be the ones that pay the price more than men bearing arms. Women and children tend to be affected much more and then of course an increase in gender-based violence in trafficking of women,” says Dr. Mlambo-Ngcuka.

Women have faced compounding burdens from being over-represented working in health systems, to facing increased risks of violence, exploitation, abuse or harassment during times of crisis and quarantine. Women have been at the forefront of the battle against the pandemic as they make up almost 70% of the health care workforce, exposing them to greater risk of infection, while they are under-represented in leadership and decision-making processes in the health care sector.

This crisis and its subsequent shutdown response resulted in dramatic increase in unpaid emotional and care burden on women and families, women were already doing most of the world’s unpaid care work prior to the onset of the pandemic, only to have it increased since 2020.

Worldwide, women lost more than 65 million jobs in 2020 alone, resulting in an estimated US$800 billion loss of income, an estimate which doesn’t even include wages lost by the millions of women working in the informal economy – domestic workers, market vendors and garment workers – who have been sent home or whose hours have been drastically cut. COVID-19 has dealt a striking blow to recent gains for women in the workforce.

“Honestly, my heart goes out to our young people today just because of the difficulties we are facing. I do want to challenge older people like myself to really open the space through collaborations and co-creations with younger people, their involvement and engagement should not be token, but real.

“It’s important for us to mobilize allies from the other side so that it is not always women who are knocking on doors, there must be someone inside who is trying to open the door for you. Working with men and pushing an agenda for men to stand for gender equality is also very important. I go back to emphasizing on the need to have policies, we always must open a door for more people to come in and be empowered,” says Dr. Mlambo-Ngcuka.

However, one area where women stood out was where data supported the fact that countries led by women handled Covid-19 much better than their male counterparts. Countries with female leaders tend to have lower Covid-19 death rates and better economic performance, but the number of countries with women in executive government positions continues to remain low. As of 1 September 2021, there are only 26 women serving as Heads of State or government in 24 countries.

Whether it is balanced political participation, leadership roles in organizations or power-sharing between women and men, Dr. Mlambo-Gnuka believes the answer lies in setting targets, quotas and policies for effective participation and representation of women.

“We need to have mechanisms for accountability towards those who are responsible for implementing these measures, and we also need women themselves to continue making demands, we must balance what happens in boardrooms policy wise and outside through those who are carrying black cards.

“It’s hard to talk about progress but you cannot deny that there are more women leaders than before, that’s for sure there are more women in the labour force, more girls in schools, but our best is not good enough, there is still much more for us to do,” says Dr. Mlambo-Ngcuka.

IPS UN Bureau Report

 


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