Critical issues for Asia Pacific women missing from “The Future We Want”

Published by Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development

Rio de Janeiro (June 21, 2012): Women from Asia Pacific demand governments address critical issues on women’s human rights missing in the Rio+20 negotiations for sustainable development. Employment and economic rights, militarisation, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and women’s role in climate change significantly impact women across the region, yet are being ignored. Asia Pacific women call for States to ensure the promotion, protection and realisation of women’s human rights in the outcome document.

Our six women’s rights organisations represent rural, indigenous and migrant women across Asia Pacific and we see serious gaps in the current draft of the outcome document.

Employment and economic rights: The economic growth model, which will continue in the “green economy”, depends on gendered and international division of labour exploiting informal cheap labour mostly performed by women in the global south. Under-recognition of domestic work reflects exploitative conditions and rampant abuse of domestic workers. This includes women migrant domestic workers, who are often from marginalised communities and vulnerable to discrimination, harassment, abuse and violence. Dismissal of their substantial contribution to economic development is a serious loss in women’s human capacity which could contribute to sustainable development and to eradicating poverty. We demand that all States legally recognise domestic work as work and ensure that women workers, including migrant workers regardless of their legal status, are ensured equal access to education, skills, healthcare, social security, fundamental rights at work, and social and legal protections, including occupational safety and health. States should address the root causes of women’s migration and the conditions necessary for sustainable development with safe and protected jobs for women, including alternatives to migration. This involves enacting and enforcing laws, procedures and redress mechanisms that prevent exploitation and abuse of women migrant workers. States, in fulfilling their extra territorial obligations must review bilateral agreements that contribute to discrimination and violations of the rights of women migrant workers and ensure States fulfill human rights obligations not only within, but also outside their territories.

Militarisation/peace: Militarisation, often a justification for peace and development, only deepens injustice by suppressing the voices of people and denying people’s access to resources. Opening up of new agricultural lands or construction of roads to connect commodity supply with demand most often fragments habitat, and in addition leads to land conflicts and increase use of militarization resulting to violence and displacement, of which women are most adversely affected. Natural resource extractions have often involved forced and violent responses by the military and private security hired by companies, to communities and individuals who claim their legitimate right to resources. Women human rights defenders combating the negative impact of the extractive activities are often the target of harassment, sexual abuse and even murder by these forces. Conflict over natural resources often forces women to migrate or become displaced, becoming vulnerable to violations without basic human rights protections, especially rural and indigenous women. A militaristic approach to “development, which denies the human rights of women and peoples, shall never result in sustainable development. We call on States to monitor and stop the use of state military, paramilitary and private armed groups, including foreign military interventions, in protecting development projects, which are primarily funded by international funding institutions.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights: The full realisation of sustainable development can only be realised when the states accept the importance of women’s right to health and inter alia protect and promote women’s fundamental human right to nutritional well-being throughout their life span by means of a food supply that is safe, nutritious and adapted to local conditions as well as recognise the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women. In addressing the inter-relatedness of rights, it is essential that the Rio+20 outcome document recognise and adopt recommendations for States to ensure timely access to the range of family planning, in particular, and to sexual and reproductive health and rights in general. Particular attention should be paid to the health education of adolescents, including information and counseling on all methods of family planning.

The environment and climate change: Women’s role in climate change is often limited to defining their role as protectors of the environment, and less as agents of change. This perception often blocks their right to participate in climate change related policies, and in natural resources management. Climate change programmes and projects, including international mechanisms to protect areas from deforestation and enhance biodiversity, should be carefully considered. States should ensure effective forest protection policies which require governments to resolve the global economic and trade pressures that cause deforestation. The rights of indigenous and rural communities are not adequately addressed by the supposed “safeguards” currently in place. We call on States to eliminate laws, policies and practices which instrumentalise women as mere protectors of the environment. There should be a commitment to ensure women as active decision-makers in disaster and natural resources management policy and programme development.

In ensuring the adoption ofa human rights centred approach the principles of non-discrimination, substantive equality, and the recognition of the inter-relatedness of rights must be maintained, along with recognition of the principles of non-retrogression. States should ensure equal opportunity, access and benefits, and address the impact of historical and structural discrimination against women. This must include temporary special measures and the increase of women’s participation to accelerate gender equality.

In order to ensure accountability and transparency, all States are obliged to provide mechanisms through which people can hold the State and private actors accountable, participate constructively in decision and policy-making, and access information required to do so.

Asia Pacific women demand that these key issues be addressed by States before the adoption of the outcome document of the Rio+20. The women of Asia Pacific remain committed in engaging on sustainable development in all its future measures, processes and structures, especially in the course of establishing, supporting and monitoring the implementation of the sustainable development outcomes and goals in the region.

AMIHAN – National Peasant Women’s Network, Philippines; Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development; Asian Rural Women’s Coalition; International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific;

Kachin Women’s Association in Thailand; Solidaritas Perempuan, Indoneisa

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15 Responses to Critical issues for Asia Pacific women missing from “The Future We Want”

  1. Perhaps we are dealing with a collective failure of perception within the leadership of the human community at the Rio Summit that results in an inadequate reality orientation to the world we inhabit as well as to the ‘placement’ of the human species within the order of living things. Not nearly enough leaders see that there can be no sensibly functioning global economy without the natural resources and ecosystem services only the Earth can provide. No living Earth, no human economy.

    There are no substitutes for certain vital resources and environmental stabilization mechanisms of the Earth. Geo-engineering of the Earth and its ecology, as a way of trying to protect and preserve what is being degraded and destroyed on our watch, could be a monumental fool’s errand.

  2. Another future……

    Ioannes Paulus PP. II
    Karol Wojtyla

    “The unforgiveable sins this earth must confront and overcome are Nationalism, capitalism, and hoarding. The idea of every nation should be forgot, price should be struck from the commons, and princes should be seen for the devils they are. The sins include our church, secret societies, and other religions which make of the spirit of God a divide.”

    The Holy Father’s last rites declaration – 2nd April 2005

  3. With regard to the need to humanely and swiftly shrink the colossal size of the human population on Earth, please note that declining TFRs cannot be the primary driver of rapid population decline because the growth of absolute global human population numbers could be a function of food supply. Declining TFRs in certain places, perhaps many places on the surface of the Earth, must not blind us to the observable fact that absolute population numbers of the humans species are continuing to grow fast worldwide. Not to see, or if seen not to acknowledge and accept the biophysical reality that TFRs are indeed declining incrementally and simultaneously with the skyrocketing increase of absolute global human population numbers could be a critical failure of human perception, scientific thought and empirical verification….an abject error derived from defective judgment and deficient knowledge, with profound implications for future of life as we know it in our planetary home.

  4. What we know about evolution would lead sensible people to conclude that there is nothing or precious little that can be done to change the human ‘trajectory’. So powerful is the force of evolution that we will “do what comes naturally” by continuing to overpopulate the planet and await the next phase of the evolutionary process. Even so, still hope resides within that somehow humankind will make use of its singular intelligence and other unique attributes so as to escape the fate that appears ‘as if through a glass darkly’ in the offing, the seemingly certain fate evolution appears to have in store for us. Come what may. In the face of all that we can see now and here, I continue to believe and to hope that we find adequate ways of consciously, deliberately and effectively doing the right things, according the lights and knowledge we possess, the things which serve to confront and overcome the ‘evolutionary trend’ which seems so irresistible.

  5. A breath-taking analysis…

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population
    established 2001
    Chapel Hill, NC

  6. Somehow we have to grasp much more adequately the sum and substance of our distinctly human nature, with special attention given to improving our ‘reality orientation’ with regard to such vital issues as human population dynamics. Although relatively small in number, evolutionary biologists and scientists in other fields of research understand what the best available science indicates to us about the skyrocketing growth of absolute global human population numbers in our time.Research of outstanding scientists indicate that the population dynamics of the human species is essentially similar to, not different from, the population dynamics of other species. We have uncontested, apparently unforeseen and unfortunately unwelcome scientific evidence regarding the ‘placement’ of the human species within the order of living things that is everywhere denied; whereas, preternatural theories (eg, Demographic Transition Theory), political ideologies (eg, Conservatism and Liberalism) and economic theologies (eg, neoclassical economics) are widely shared and consensually validated as somehow supported by science. To elect to extol the virtue of ideas that have been refuted by scientific research (evidence which is consciously and deliberately ignored, avoided and denied) cannot be construed as the right thing to do. Even though ‘political correctness’ is predominant and accepted as real, when theory, ideology and theology are directly contradicted by science, then science must be shared. Scientific knowledge must prevail over theory, ideology and theology.

  7. Do reasonable and compassionate human beings have a “duty to warn” of looming threats to future human wellbeing and environmental health, and then to sensibly help one another make preparations or are we to pose as if we are blind, deaf and dumb to the predicament and, thereby, let the least fortunate, most poorly situated and simply unaware among us suffer the consequences, come what may?

  8. Economists and demographers are not scientists. Are they political hacks? Who exactly and what precisely are they representing? The 1%? Ideologues?

    The colossal global predicament facing the human community in our time is partly a result of widely shared preternatural demographic theories and consensually validated economic thought. Unscientific models have been presented and defended as science on our watch. Well-established scientific knowledge regarding biological evolution, human population dynamics and well known physical ‘rules of the house’ of Earth has been ignored. These experts consciously and deliberately fail to recognize a difference between the way the natural world works and the way they think. They assume resources of a finite and frangible planet can supply infinite products. At the behest of corporate benefactors and political powerbrokers, they bear some responsibility for directing the human community down a ‘primrose path’ that is marked by skyrocketing overpopulation, rampant overproduction, outrageous overconsumption, unconscionable hoarding as well as extraordinary resource depletion and widespread environmental degradation. Most experts of demography and economics hold onto outdated ideas that serve to confuse the public and deny what could be real. A paradigm shift and drastic action to redo demographic and economic thinking will be required so that researchers in these fields of study embrace relevant science rather than conveniently overlook it.

  9. The children’s future is being determined right here, right now by the leading elders in my generation. How do you think we are doing? Too much talk? Too little behavior change? Too much arrogance. foolhardiness and greed? Too little……

    Steven Earl Salmony

    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, established 2001

    Chapel Hill, NC

  10. Steven Earl Salmony says:

    What is Galileo doing tonight? My hope would be that the great man is resting in peace and that his head is not spinning in his grave.

    How, now, can Galileo possibly find peace when so few leaders and experts speak out clearly and loudly regarding whatsoever they believe to be true about the distinctly human-driven predicament that could soon be confronted by the family of humanity which results
    directly from the unbridled overproduction, overconsumption and overpopulation activities of the human species now overspreading the Earth and threatening to ravage the planetary home God has blessed us to inhabit? Many too many leaders and a predominant coterie of the’ brightest and best’ experts are choosing to remain silent. Please consider how their elective mutism could be contributing to the ruin of Earth as fit place for human habitation.

    Where are the leaders and experts who are willing to openly support science that is being presented in solid research and validated empirical data? Look at the dismaying disarray in which we find ourselves now and how far we have to travel in a short time to move the human community away from precipitating some unimaginable sort of global ecological wreckage.

    What would the world we inhabit look like if scientists like Galileo had chosen to adopt a code of silence? In such circumstances, Galileo as well as scientists today would speak only about scientific evidence which was deemed by the super-rich and powerful to be politically convenient, religiously tolerable, economically expedient, socially correct and culturally prescribed. Galileo and modern-day scientists would effectively breach their responsibilities to science and duties to humanity to tell the truth as they see it, as best they can report it. If science does not overcome silence, then everything the human community believes we are preserving and protecting could be ruined.

    Perhaps there is something in the truthful reports of research from intellectually honest and moral courageous scientists regarding the colossal environmental and geological impact of the rapidly growing human population on the Earth that will give Galileo Galilei moments of peace.


    The Untold Story of the Ecological Science of Human Population Dynamics, presented at the following link,

    There is one issue that is not being given the attention it deserves. I want to ask you to focus on human exceptionalism as it relates to population dynamics of the human species. How are we to grasp the gravity of the human predicament, much less gain consensus about how to go forward, if we cannot share an adequate, scientific understanding of the ‘placement’ of the human species within the order of living things. Specifically, is the population dynamics of the human species essentially similar to, or different from the population dynamics of other species? In terms of our population dynamics are human beings actually exceptional? If so, where is the science for an assertion of human exceptionalism vis a vis its population dynamics. The population dynamics of non-human species are routinely and immediately understood. Food is the independent variable and population numbers is the dependent variable. More food equals more organisms; less food equals less organisms; and no food, no organisms. But the minute our focus shifts to human organisms, everything we know from well established scientific research about population dynamics is turned upside down. We widely share, consensually validate and automatically broadcast via the mass media the notion that the human species must grow food in order to meet the needs of growing human population. All of sudden human population numbers is the independent variable and food is the dependent variable. Where is the scientific research for this distinctly human exceptionalism with regard to the population dynamics of humankind? I cannot find sufficient scientific support for such exceptionalism.

  12. Steven Earl Salmony says:

    I do think it worth noting that ‘the emperor has no clothes’ when it is so very evident. Allow me to offer an examples from Guy Mc’s blog where bloggers willingly acknowledge rather than willfully deny or silently condone what our lights and best available science indicate regarding human exceptionalism as it relates to the population dynamics of the human species,

    “SES : I cannot find sufficient scientific support for such exceptionalism.

    I don’t think that there is any, is there ? It’s just people clinging to a comforting myth. As far as I know, we are subject to the same ecological laws as the reindeer on St. Matthew Island. Except that we found coal and oil. Which can be thought of as a handy ship arriving every winter with an enormous quantity of a hay… until one winter, it does not arrive anymore…

    October 25th, 2012 at 9:07 am

    Thank you for summarizing the issue in such clear terms.

    At the moment, as we are still in the thralls of the growth and progress delusion, any discussion of depopulation is verboten. The big, ugly questions surrounding depopulation are who decides?, who lives?, who dies? and by what means would depopulation be carried out? The issues are especially thorny since we are running out of time.

    The likelihood of a near term managed population and economic contraction (short of some science-fictionesque engineered pathogen) seem pretty slim……

    October 25th, 2012 at 9:18 am
    SES you are of course exactly right. The problem is that the population is now so large that no restriction of births can help soon enough. As I think I have shown, restriction of all births only gets us to 4 billion in 60 years. So what is the point of talking about population as if it was a problem we could address. It will be addressed by other means – nature through famine, disease, or by humans through war, or germ warfare. But increasingly it looks like climate change will just solve the whole thing by wiping us out. There is nothing more to be done about population other than each individual thinking about what kind of world they would bring a child into and hopefully taking advantage of permanent sterilization before all birth control is gone.

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