Will Iran’s New Support of Human Rights Go Deeper Than Rhetoric?

Weekly vigil in Trafalgar Square against human rights violations and political executions in Iran.

Weekly vigil in Trafalgar Square against human rights violations and political executions in Iran. Photo: helen.2006/flickr.

It is no secret that Iran has an image problem in the international arena. As part of a comprehensive campaign to regain credibility and improve its reputation on the world stage, the country is adopting a new approach to diplomacy that seems to extend well beyond the nuclear dossier. But President Rouhani’s attempts to remake the country’s foreign policy since his election last June have met with much suspicion, as many outside Iran fear that this leopard can’t change its spots.

Delegates in the UN General Assembly have been noticing a turnaround in the way that the country’s representatives engage with social, humanitarian, and human rights issues. In October, observers were taken aback by the palpable softening of Iran’s tone1 in the delegate’s reaction to the latest report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran. In its statement, the Iranian representative to the Third Committee sounded conciliatory as she declared that “Iran emphasizes the need to use the momentum engendered by this election [of President Rouhani] to adopt a new and constructive approach by all relevant parties towards cooperation and dialogue for the promotion and protection of all human rights” adding that the “government does not claim that the situation of human rights within the country is perfect.” » More

Comments Off

Diagnostics for Global Health

Measles Vaccination in Merawi Province, Ethiopia, courtesy of DFID/Flickr

CORVALLIS, OREGON – In developed countries, most people take for granted that when they are sick, they will have access to timely diagnosis and treatment. Indeed, while the diagnostic process – which typically involves sending a sample of blood, urine, or tissue to a laboratory for analysis – may be cumbersome and expensive, health-care providers and sophisticated laboratories remain widely available. As a result, the disease burden in the developed world has declined substantially.

By contrast, in the developing world, millions of people die each year from treatable diseases like malaria, owing to the lack of sophisticated laboratories and alternative diagnostic tests. But there is reason for hope: Advances in the field of microfluidics have the potential to transform health care by allowing “gold standard” laboratory-based testing to be transferred to the point of care (POC). » More

Comments Off

Lampedusa and Marketized Surveillance in the Mediterranean

Illustration by Tjebbe van Tijen, courtesy of Tjebbe van Tijen/Flickr

Following the latest deaths near Lampedusa on 3rd October and then again off the coast of Sicily on 11th October, what are we to make of the current and likely future European responses?

There has been, quite rightly, much talk of the tragedy experienced by the migrants, families and survivors. Yet, in the fortnight since the 3 October, the political cycle has offered little comfort in its unedifying spectacle of member states blaming one another for what is above all a European problem. This has led to media talk of policy deadlock and intractability. However, closer inspection reveals that the perceived political problem of the Lampedusa crisis is not tragic deaths at sea, but rather the irregular migration from the African continent to the shores of particular EU member states. In the face of other member states’ intransigence on responsibility-sharing, we can see that policymakers’ logical response is not deadlock, but a further rationalization of the only European ‘solution’ on the table: increased surveillance and militarization of the Mediterranean. » More

Comments Off

Inevitable Transhumanism? How Emerging Strategic Technologies will affect the Future of Humanity

Military robot

A military robot gets prepared to inspect a bomb. Photo: Kevin L. Moses Sr./Wikimedia Commons.

It is ironic and indeed counterintuitive that our own human nature has a huge potential to drive us towards physical and cognitive enhancements that may completely alter the characteristics of our species. As I have outlined in a previous work, human nature is defined by emotional amoral egoism[i]. Humans are genetically and neuro-chemically programmed to `feel good` and are driven by a number of factors, which I call the “Neuro P5″: “power, profit, pleasure, pride and permanency”. Consequently, if a technology appears which enhances any of these strong motivators, our neurochemically-mediated calculations, emotions and survival instincts will intuitively push us in that direction. I therefore believe such technologies bring us on the brink of inevitable transhumanism. This radical human metamorphosis and enhancement (physical and cognitive), through the convergence of various emerging strategic technologies, is not a question of ‘if’ but of ‘when’, ‘how’, and “at what cost”. » More

China’s “Surgical” Human Rights Crackdown

Internet Cafe in China. Image by Kai hendry/Flickr.

Two weeks ago China and the US conducted their annual human rights dialogue amid what the US reaffirmed afterward has been a renewed crackdown on policy activists under the Xi administration, the latest victims being anti-corruption campaigner and legal scholar, Xu Zhiyong, detention of whom began two weeks before the dialogue, and his petitioning defender, journalist Chen Min, whose detention began only the day after the dialog concluded. Last week an unprecedented one-minute “jailbreak” video went viral of Xu making a one-minute appeal from inside the jail to rally the grand jury of world public opinion against laying charges, shows breakdown inside the security apparatus, and can still be viewed inside China. China has responded that human rights aren’t being reduced.

The targets of these actions appear increasingly to be “mobilizers” and their vocal associates and families, while the underlying threat is the mushroomed population of microbloggers against whom an editorial in the People’s Daily made this accusation the week of the dialog uncoincidentally: “Every day microbloggers and their mentors in the same cause pass rumors, fabricate negative news about society”. These suggest that the Party hardliners are out to shut down China’s true online/wireless innovation/craze, the free cellphone Facebook-cum-Twitter-cum-videophone-cum-voicemail service known as Weixin (WeChat) 微信 (literally “micro message”) which uncannily, but with different tonal emphasis, is represented by another and well-known pair of Chinese characters 维新 meaning “reform,” “modernization.” » More

Comments Off
Page 1 of 6