Human Rights Advocacy
U.N. Leader urges for biotech safeguards
Secretary General Kofi Annan of the United Nations warned that the potential for danger from the rapidly growing biotechnology industry was increasing exponentially and urged creating global safeguards. Mr. Annan, in a speech in this Swiss university town, warned of “catastrophic” results if recent advances in biotechnology, including gene manipulation and work with viruses, fell into the wrong hands.
“As biological research expands, and technologies become increasingly accessible, this potential for accidental or intentional harm grows exponentially,” he said, according to the text of his speech. “Even novices working in small laboratories will be able to carry out gene manipulation.”
In May, Mr. Annan called for a global forum on biological terrorism, saying current treaties were too weak and governmental and commercial initiatives too scattered.
Mr. Annan likened the current consensus-building phase over rules for life sciences to the debate over nuclear technology in the 1950s that preceded the creation of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
“We lack an international system of safeguards to manage those risks,” he said. “Scientists may do their best to follow rules for responsible conduct of research. But efforts to harmonize these rules on a global level are outpaced by the galloping advance of science itself.”
Investment in proven strategies needed to end vaw
Every year on 25 November, advocates around the world jointly raise their voices to denounce violence against women as what it is: the most pervasive and shameful human rights violation. But the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women also provides an opportunity to reflect on progress made. And there is encouraging news: by now, 89 states have adopted legislative provisions that address domestic violence, including 60 states with specific domestic violence laws. This is a clear increase in comparison to 2003, when only 45 countries had specific laws on domestic violence. The other ray of hope is that funding for initiatives to end violence against women is on the increase. The UN Trust
Fund to End Violence against Women, which is managed by UNIFEM, could disburse $3.5 million this year -- almost twice the amount that we had at our disposal last year and close to four times more than in 2004.