Friday, April 08, 2022

Letter to QUNO 1.5

Letter to QUNO from Meeting for Worship for Ukraine  Draft 1.5

Dear Friends

This correspondence is addressed to you on behalf of the undersigned participants in the Daily International Friends Meeting for Worship for Peace who are in Unity with this request. The undersigned have been regular participants in the daily online Meeting for Worship out of concern for the tragic situation in Ukraine. 

After discussion and consideration, we wish to draw to your attention a simple measure which would provide a continuing and universal incentive for every Government to improve its human rights (HR) performance, and which therefore would to some extent reduce the probability of similar tragedies in years to come.

This is that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, (OHCHR) should publish annually the contents of its Universal Human Rights Index in a quantified and tabular form, providing an accessible listing which would summarise the HR performance in the previous year of all Governments, give their relative position in the range of governmental performance, and give an indication of whether their performance is static, improving or worsening.

This would amount to a modest development of the presentation of the Universal Human Rights Index data already present in the UN website.

The effect of this measure will be to take the HR data out of the recesses of the UN website, known only to students of international politics, simplify it, and bring it forward into the public domain, so that anyone considering travelling to, or doing business with, a particular country, will be able to form a reasonably accurate impression of its HR performance at a glance, with the facility of digging deeper into the data as necessary.

Please see the Appendix to this letter where we present images from the Our World in Data website to give an idea of how the UN data could be presented.

We therefore recommend this measure to QUNO for your consideration. We recognise that you will need to explore and weigh up and test the proposal in detail and we would be happy to discuss this matter with you.

With grateful recognition of your valuable work

 

In friendship

 

(Signed)…………….

  

Letter to QUNO – APPENDIX

These screenshots are taken from tabular data on the Our World in Data website 

https://ourworldindata.org/human-rights > All our charts on Human Rights > Human rights protection, 2019 > Table

The scores displayed there capture the extent to which citizens' physical integrity is protected from government killings, torture, political imprisonments, extrajudicial executions, mass killings and disappearances. Higher scores mean fewer such abuses.  Source: Bastian Herre and Max Roser (2016) - "Human Rights". Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: 'https://ourworldindata.org/human-rights' [Online Resource]

Screenshot of the countries with the best scores:


And these are the countries with the lowest scores:



The live table allows us to scroll through the entire rankings.

This gives an indication of how countries would appear on the UN website. The UN would be able to design its own criteria and parameters.




Sunday, April 03, 2022

Preventing a repetition of the Ukraine tragedy

This is an old draft of the letter. Please go here for the latest draft

Letter to QUNO from Meeting for Worship for Ukraine  Draft 1.4

Dear Friends

We are a group of about 100 friends from many nations, who have been meeting daily online over the last month out of our concern for the situation in Ukraine which has impinged on the human rights of so many people.

We recognise that the invasion of Ukraine is the result of a large number of interrelated factors operating on both sides of the divide.

After discussion and consideration, we wish to draw to your attention a simple measure which would provide a continuous and universal incentive for every Government to improve its human rights (HR) performance.

This is that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, (OHCHR) should publish annually the contents of the Universal Human Rights Index in tabular form, providing an accessible listing which would summarise the HR performance in the previous year of all Governments, give their relative position in the range of governmental performance, and give an indication of whether their performance is static, improving or worsening.

This is a modest development of the presentation of the Universal Human Rights Index data already present in the UN website.

The effect of this measure will be to take the HR data out of the recesses of the UN website, known only to students of the UN, simplify it, and bring it forward into the public domain, so that anyone considering travelling to, or doing business with, a particular country, will be able to form a reasonably accurate impression of its HR performance at a glance, with the facility of digging deeper into the data as necessary.

We therefore recommend this measure to QUNO for your consideration. We recognise that you will need to explore and weigh up and test the proposal in detail and we provide a summary of our discussion in the Appendix to this letter.

With grateful recognition of your valuable work

 

In friendship

 

(Signed)…………….

 

 RANKED HUMAN RIGHTS INDEX (RHRI) : DISCUSSION

The virtual meeting convened by Friends House Moscow has discussed the GloHRI proposal in a number of sessions. This is a summary of the main points raised in these discussions.

 

Description of the RHRI

The proposal is that the Human Rights (HR) performance of every government should be quantified and presented in ranked order and tabular form by the UN, refreshed annually.

The aim of the RHRI is to provide a gentle, continuous, and universal incentive for all governments to improve their HR performance, to reduce the tendency to form into dictatorships, and therefore to reduce the likelihood of a repetition of the invasion of Ukraine.

This aim will be realised by publicising the relative human rights performance of all regimes. At present this data exists on the UN website in searchable form, the Universal Human Rights Index - https://uhri.ohchr.org/en/search-human-rights-recommendations.  RHRI brings this data forward, making it far more accessible, and makes the relative position of each government clear.

The fact that countries are positioned in ranked order will almost certainly evoke complaints from some governments that they have been placed too low in the table. The UN Human Rights Commission can respond by sending in rapporteurs to review the position. While waiting for the rapporteurs to visit, it is very likely that governments will discharge political prisoners and take other actions to improve their position in the Index.

One accepted principle of effective behaviour management is consistency. At present, unwanted behaviour in the international community is responded to on an ad hoc basis, with peers condemning or defending the behaviour according to subjective criteria such as political positioning and trade relations. The RHRI system introduces a measure of objectivity to the international relations environment.

States who are placed low on the Index ranking can be offered constructive advice, being advised, for instance, that allowing a diversity to media and freedom of journalism does not necessarily provide an existential threat to them. This approach offers an evolutionary pathway away from dictatorship towards democracy, and is an attractive alternative to revolution, coup, or invasion, which are the other ways that a dictatorship may come to an end. Iraq and Libya show that a violent termination of a dictatorship does not necessarily end well.

It is possible that the very lowest functioning states could be subjected to a tariff of sanctions targeted on the ruling circles. The problem here is that if the tariff is too stringent, and/or the number of sanctioned states should be too numerous, the integrity of the international community could be threatened. The UN always has to balance the need to maintain unity with the need to influence behaviour in a positive way.

The relative movement of the score for each country is an important parameter, both with regard to the country’s performance in previous years and in regard to its position in the rankings.

It should be noted that RHRI is a useful adjunct , to the Responsibility to Protect, which otherwise has little power short of war.

 

 

 

Some questions raised in discussion

 Many were supportive, some had questions, and a few found the proposal contentious

How can qualitative descriptions be reduced to a single number?

                Academic institutions have been practicing this method successfully for many years. There are a variety of indices for measuring human development, freedom and corruption. The Ibrahim Index of African Governance has been functioning for many years. https://mo.ibrahim.foundation/iiag

Would abusive countries not just ignore their ranking?

                Esteem is very important to humans, possibly more so for some personality types who get themselves in positions of leadership. It remains to be seen how each will respond.

 

What should be measured in the Index?

The present proposal is that the characteristics measured in the present UN Universal Index of Human rights should be used. This would require summarisation and quantification.

 

What is the relationship between HR observance and democracy?

It may be supposed that democracies generally have better HR  performance than autocracies, but this is a matter that deserves further study. It is expedient to keep HR performance and democratic performance under separate consideration in order to avoid reducing acceptance of the Index. “Democracy” is often spoken of in public as a binary thing, but the reality is that democracies exist on a spectrum from strong to weak, good to imperfect.

Is there a model of this proposal in action?

A model of this approach can be seen in the Ibrahim Index of African Governance https://iiag.online/data.html. It is wider in scope than the ranked Index of Human Rights, but is using the principle of quantification and presentation in tabular form.

There are a number of other approaches to measuring Governments’ HR performance, notably the Political Terror Scale https://www.politicalterrorscale.org/Data/ which classifies states into 5 categories.

 

Discussion continues

 

 

 

.


Thursday, February 24, 2022

Solving the Chimpanzee Problem that led to the invasion of Ukraine




Humans are an amazingly clever species. In 2022 our knowledge of and mastery over the physical and biological systems that surround us is unparalleled, but the way we manage ourselves and our societies has not moved on much since we came down from the trees. We still organise ourselves pretty much in the same way as a group of chimpanzees, with an alpha male at the top who rules by brute force. Putin is just the latest example of this. The world can see the foolishness of his invasion, but it is very difficult to dislodge a dictator, as we have seen in the case of Saddam Hussain in Iraq, and dislodging them by force just leads to more problems.

The Ukraine crime will run its course. The Ukrainians, many of them, will fight the invaders. Putin may reduce large parts of Ukraine to rubble as a result. Some Ukrainians will not cooperate with the invaders, and try to make the country ungovernable. Other Ukrainians will collaborate with the invaders, and help Putin to rule. In the end Putin will die. He may be deposed. Ukraine will inevitably become free again, the only question is when, and after how much suffering.

Let us stand back from the Ukrainian question.  Let the media obsess about the appearances, about the current symptom, and let us look again at the basic problem - humanity’s chimpanzee troop heritage. Let us address address the cause of the disease. How can we cure our tendency to allow a few people to become obscenely rich and powerful to the extent that they become detached from the condition of non rich and non powerful people? Note that this is not just a matter for Russian "oligarchs". We in Britain have our own oligarchs, but we call them "billionaires". 

How can we create systems of government that are intelligent, that understand that the condition of humanity is 100% dependent on our life support systems,  health of our water, soil, air, weather and fellow humans?

How in other words can we redesign our political and economic systems so that they serve the long term interests of ordinary people, rather than the narrow short term interests of the elite, the super-rich, the oligarchs and billionaires?

There is no quick and simple answer to this question. It has many aspects. In Britain we need radical reform of our systems - electoral, Parliamentary and economic.  

But there is one modest solution that offers a long-term, continuous, global pressure towards good governance, and against the formation of dictatorships. It is called the Global Human Rights Index. It just requires the UN to publish yearly an assessment of the performance of all Governments in the field of human rights. It is Green Party policy  and the full plan can be found here : 

Saturday, February 05, 2022

Examining the Covid claims of Dr Robert Malone

 Neil Young and Joni Mitchell have pulled their music from the Spotify platform because of an interview that Joe Rogan had with Dr Robert Malone, a highly influential pathologist who casts doubt on the need to vaccinate children against Covid. He claims to be the inventor of mRNA vaccines, though it is more accurate to say that he was one of the team that invented them. He has been vaccinated.

Dr Graham Walker, and A&E specialist has written a trenchant criticism of Dr Malone on Twitter, based on what he said in the Joe Rogan interview. Walker's piece can be viewed on Threadreader here.

Dr Malone made a speech at an anti-vaccination mandates rally where he sets out a series of claims about his view of Covid. Let's take a look at his claims.

  1.  "We should not have politicised the public health response to the virus". I am not sure what he means by this, and his blog does not have a search facility, so all we can say it that there is a mainstream public health response to the pandemic which is supported by the vast majority of doctors and scientists and there is a political response of Governments to the pandemic which ranges widely from highly successful (New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and others who have managed to keep cases and deaths low, to Governments like the US and UK who have to a greater or lesser extent failed to control the disease. These states often have an active population of Covid deniers and anti-vaxxers.

  2.  "The 'genetic' vaccines are not working". This is false. Vaccines have been effective in reducing transmission, infection, severity, hospitalisation, ICU admission, and death. This has been established by a large number of studies. Malone touches on this later in his speech, and implies that they may have made sense for protecting the "elderly and frail" but dismisses this as "irrelevant". He is making a grave underestimate of the importance of vaccines in saving hundreds of thousands of lives.

    Often, sceptics take evidence of breakthrough infections in vaccinated people as evidence of their not working. They do the same with masks. The underlying thinking is that "working" must mean 100% effectiveness, whereas science and medicine does not deal in these binary categorisations. In almost every treatment, we look for statistical reductions in disease indices. Dr Malone must know that as a scientist, but his scientific thinking here seems to have become politicised.

  3. "The vaccines are not completely safe". This is true, because no vaccine and no treatment is completely safe. The vast majority of vaccine side effects are mild and short lived. It is true that some people unfortunately do have serious and even fatal side effects. This happens with all treatments and all vaccinations. It is also true that the incidence of these effects is far smaller in vaccination than it is in the case of Covid itself. It is possible that people who die of, say, thrombosis due to vaccination would probably have died of thrombosis if they had the disease itself, though that is of course impossible to test. What we could do is look at the genome of people who died of vaccination and who died of the same syndrome after a Covid infection and see if there is any common feature that might have determined their reaction.  I very much hope that this is being done.

    One thing that can be done in the case of vaccination fatalities is that the bereaved family could be given a financial settlement by the State. Obviously money can never adequately compensate for a bereavement, but lawyers have worked out formulae for this kind of event.

  4. "Vaccines do not work against Omicron". Partially true. Vaccines have a weak effect on Omicron. But this does not matter, because Omicron is pretty mild in its effects.

  5. "Natural immunity is long lasting and broad and highly protective". False. Natural immunity, unfortunately, is less effective than vaccination.

  6. "If there are risks, then we must have choice". True. He is at a rally against vaccine mandates, which I take to mean compulsory orders for vaccination. It is totally impossible and impractical to hold someone down and vaccinate them against their will. People must be allowed to refuse. They should be given accurate information (which Dr Malone is not doing) and it is not unreasonable to withhold a proportion of sick pay when a vaccinated person is off work, but compulsory vaccination is not on.

  7. "Vaccines damage children" Malone claims that vaccination causes permanent damage to children's hearts and brains. So far I have been unable to find his evidence for this claim. If I do find it I will add it here. 

    Meanwhile, here is a reassuring piece about vaccination of children and here is the WHO on children and adolescents.

In conclusion, Malone is wrong to say that vaccines do not work, wrong to say that natural immunity is better, partially right on safety,  and on vaccines effectiveness on Omicron, right to oppose mandatory vaccination, and needs to evidence his claim that vaccines damage children.

I very much hope that we will be able to close this debate, because Omicron will become the dominant strain, and is mainly a reasonably mild illness. We must hope that another strain that is both more transmissible and more virulent than Omicron does not come along.