Women's Health and Education Center (WHEC)

WHEC Update - January 2007

A Newsletter of worldwide activity of Women's Health and Education Center (WHEC)
January 2007; Vol. 2, No. 1

All of us join in wishing you a successful New Year!

It has been quite a ride. Emerging and Surging. Firing on all cylinders, WomensHealthSection.com powered ahead in 2006, at its fastest pace, for over 5 years. The good news is that people love "personal" media. We expect to create more dynamic web-pages in 2007. Is there a place for "user-generated content"? The irony is also philosophical in nature. Power is increasingly in the hands of the users. Think about the blogging phenomenon. Today, digital information about nearly every aspect of our lives is being created at an astonishing rate. The Internet is helping to satisfy our most fundamental human needs -- our desire for knowledge, communication, and a sense of belonging. Trend is not destiny, of course. But as a no-nonsense sports writer once wrote during the depth of America's Depression, "The race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong -- but that is the way to bet". We are betting on the Internet-Classrooms because we believe that there is bull market in imagination online. Sophisticated browsers and technologies are simple building-blocks that enable people to produce and distribute content -- are critical in this new world. Simplicity is triumphing over complexity.

Partnerships with civil society are increasingly important for the United Nations in its efforts to protect vulnerable groups such as the poor. These "vital voices" are very often those of women, who perform invaluable advocacy and service work in numerous human rights fields -- combating human trafficking and gender violence or fighting for equal rights, especially in education, health and sports. Collaboration is central to our process. The world must advance the causes of security, health, development and human rights together, otherwise none will succeed.

A Time for Renewal

Your Questions, Our Reply:

How do you see WHEC's role in the ongoing development of health ethics?

Ethics & Health: Nearly all philosophical systems include an ethical component. Ethics is a branch of philosophy dealing with the distinction between right and wrong, and the moral consequences of our actions. Looking at the development of medical ethics from a historical point of view, we see that our Western civilization is based on Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian traditions. Our so-called Western culture is unified by these common roots, which for medical ethics are the Hippocratic writings. Other cultures have different roots -- the Chinese and Hindu traditions, for example. The limited contacts between civilizations in the past had little effect on each one's traditions, culture, and ethical principles. Recent intercultural debates about ethical issues immediately bring to light these differences. In some cultures there is emphasis on the family and the wider circle beyond individual. A great step forward has been the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was developed by the United Nations after the Second World War.

Although it is certainly feasible to develop a universal code of ethics, there are substantial differences in values that are dear to each of us, and we do not like others to interfere. In the field of ethics, as with any controversial issue in society or between different cultural settings, dialogue must come first to share ideas and concerns about the issues inherent in the interactions of health and ethics, and to collaborate in devising and applying means of resolving them. The interests of individuals do not necessarily coincide with those of the community -- very often the interests of the community are contrary to those of the individual. Such conflict exists and needs to be considered from all points of view to see if it is possible to work out a compromise.

In my opinion Women's Health and Education Center (WHEC) is doing this very well because there are continually new developments in global thinking in this field. WHEC is well placed to convince politicians and to stimulate the political will for translating this commitment into action. Cultural differences are central in international work -- we should always keep in mind that people are different and we must endeavor to understand them. The importance of intercultural debate among like-minded people cannot be emphasized enough.

Dialogue, and yet more dialogue, is the way forward.

About NGO Association with the UN:

First Committee: Disarmament and International Security -- As the world stands in the midst of dangers brought on by the nuclear proliferation of ballistic missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, arising environmental concerns and thriving illicit small-arms businesses plaguing all corners of the world, the First Committee convened its session during 61st General Assembly to seek out resolutions to the challenges in international security regime. The agenda that the First Committee is dealing with is a very rich one. It is also an agenda that has not moved according to the means of our times. During the session, reform of the Committee emerged as one of the most visible initiatives. The draft resolution, "improving the effectiveness of the methods of work of the First Committee", was adopted without a vote. In addressing the Committee's working methods, texts that are similar in substance were merged. This initiative was especially relevant in light of the fact that there have been originally two draft resolutions on improving working methods: one submitted by the United States, and the other by Malaysia on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement. After weeks of negotiations, the two co-sponsors managed to unite their divergent draft texts. It was one of the best compromises made between the Non-Aligned Movement Countries and the United States. There was no rivalry, just a consensual merger.

In Africa, one of the greatest difficulties in controlling illicit proliferation of small arms is the fact of their easy accessibility to non-States individuals. The First Committee estimates that there are 650 million small arms in the world. About 500,000 people die each year from their use. It is not easy to find a way out; yet the only possibility is that NGOs should try to be more open to proposals, so that window of opportunity can be identified, especially the countries in the middle that are Non-Nuclear-Weapon States or Chemical-Weapon possessors. NGOs can influence countries that need to make specific steps towards disarmaments and advance the agenda by taking initiatives.

Summary of 59th Annual DPI/NGO Conference, Unfinished Business: Effective Partnership for Human Security and Sustainable Development can be accessed at: http://www.un.org/Pubs/chronicle/2006/webArticles/110206_DPINGO.htm

Collaboration with World Health Organization (WHO):

In October 2002, the World Health Organization launched its Ethics and Health Initiative to provide a focal point for the examination of the ethical issues raised by activities throughout the organization, including the regional and country offices, and to develop activities regarding a wide range of global bioethics topics, from organ and tissue transplantation to developments in genomics, and from research with human beings to fair access to health services.

Our Activities: work in ethics and health is now carried out by the Department of Ethics, Trade, Human Rights and Health Law in the Sustainable Development and Healthy Environments cluster at headquarters (SDE/ETH). This department is involved in a wide range of ethics activities, both on its own initiative and in response to the needs of other parts of WHO, in Geneva as well as WHO's country and regional offices. The specific projects, many of which link different departments and involve experts from outside the organization, evolve in response to changes in the field; special attention is paid to issues that overlap work carried out elsewhere in the department on law, human rights, and the effects of globalization. For details please visit: http://www.who.int/eth/ETX_WP_Jan05.pdf (Requires Adobe Reader)

Collaboration with UN University (UNU):

Ethics in Action -- The Ethical Challenges of International Human Rights Nongovernmental Organizations; publication of UN University and Cambridge University Press introduces reflections on dialogues between practitioners and theorists of Human Rights. This book is the product of a multi-layer dialogue between leading human rights theorists and high-level representatives of international human rights nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) sponsored by the United Nations University, Tokyo and the City University of Hong Kong. It is divided into three parts that reflect the major ethical challenges discussed at a series of workshops: the ethical challenges associated with interaction between relatively rich and powerful Northern-based human rights INGOs; and the tension between expanding the organization's mandate to address more fundamental social and economic problems and focusing on more immediate and clearly identifiable violations of civil and political rights. Each section contains contributions by both theorists and practitioners of human rights. Chapters on -- Dilemmas Facing NGOs in Coalition-Occupied Iraq; addresses the challenge of dealing with States that restricts the activities of INGOs.

The United Nations University is an organ of the United Nations established by the General Assembly in 1972 to be an international community of scholars engaged in research, advanced training, and the dissemination of knowledge related to the pressing global problems of human survival, development, and welfare. Its activities focus mainly on the areas of peace and governance, environment and sustainable development, and science and technology in relation to human welfare. The University operates through a worldwide network of research and postgraduate training centers, with its planning and coordinating headquarter in Tokyo.

Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS):

Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS; "Global Crisis -- Global Action" series:

  1. We, Heads of State and Government and Representatives of States and Governments, assembled at the United Nations, from 25 to 27 June 2001, for the twenty-sixth special session of the General Assembly convened in accordance with resolution 55/13, as a matter of urgency, to review and address the problem of HIV/AIDS in all its aspects as well as to secure a global commitment to enhancing coordination and intensification of national, regional and international efforts to combat it in a comprehensive manner
  2. Deeply concerned that the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, through its devastating scale and impact, constitutes a global emergency and one of the most formidable challenges to human life and dignity, as well as to the effective enjoyment of human rights, which undermines social and economic development throughout the world and affects all levels of society -- national, community, family and individual
  3. Noting with profound concern, that by the end of the year 2000, 36.1 million people worldwide were living with HIV/AIDS, 90 per cent in developing countries and 75 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa
  4. Noting with grave concern that all people, rich and poor, without distinction of age, gender or race are affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, further noting that people in developing countries are the most affected and that women, young adults and children, in particular girls, are the most vulnerable
  5. Concerned also that the continuing spread of HIV/AIDS will constitute a serious obstacle to the realization of the global development goals we adopted at the Millennium Summit

To be continued...

Top Two Articles Accessed in December 2006:

  1. Endometriosis
    Author: Dr. Robert L. Barbieri; Professor and Chairman, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology; Brigham and Woman's Hospital, Boston, MA (USA)
  2. Ethical Issues in Reproductive Health: That Delicate Balance
    Supported by Educational Grant from Women's Health and Education Center (WHEC). Special thanks to UN -- Population and Development Program for its assistance in preparation of the symposium.

News, Invitations and Letters:

The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM): It is the women's fund at the United Nations. It provides financial and technical assistance to innovative programs and strategies that promote women's human rights, political participation and economic security. UNIFEM works in partnership with UN Organizations, governments, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and networks to promote gender equality. It links women's issues and concerns to national, regional and global agendas by fostering collaboration and providing technical expertise on gender mainstreaming and women's empowerment strategies. The UNIFEM Trust Fund in Support of Actions to Eliminate Violence against Women is the only UN global grant-making mechanism that supports innovative efforts to end violence against women worldwide. Since it was established in 1996, the Trust Fund has awarded over 7.8 million to programs around the globe in 73 countries.

Women's rights have been repeatedly defined in international agreements such as the Beijing Platform for Action, and while much progress has been made, a continued emphasis needs to be made on keeping these promises. One of the most important references is the legally binding Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), a milestone series of commitments to protecting and advancing women's rights in all spheres of life that is widely known as the women's international bill of human rights. By the second half of 2005, 180 governments had become party to the Convention. The Millennium Declaration, product of the 2000 Millennium Summit, calls upon governments to implement CEDAW. UNIFEM's work on women's human rights makes consistent connections to rights across its programs, including by ensuring that attention goes first to the most marginalized groups. Protecting women's rights starts with appropriate legislation that must then be upheld in practice.

On 29 January 2007, the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI) will organize the second annual observance of the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, with a ceremony from 10.30 am to 12.30 pm in the General Assembly Hall at the United Nations Headquarters. Madame Simone Veil, President of the Foundation Pour la Mémoire da la Shoah and a survivor of the Holocaust, will deliver the keynote address. In keeping with the theme of "Remembrance and Beyond", the observance will focus on the importance of infusing today's youth with the lessons of the Holocaust, so that future generations may carry the torch of remembrance, and remind the world of the dangers posted by hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice. A university student will speak on the importance of learning about the education in promoting tolerance and ending discrimination. This observance is being organized by DPI's Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Program, created in the context of General Assembly Resolution 60/7 in order to help to prevent future acts of genocide.

From Seeds to System: The United Nations Charter: It is noteworthy that the United States Senate voted 89 to 2 for ratification, and hopes that the Organization could ensure a peaceful and harmonious future were very high. During this great conference in 1945, the evidence of war was unmistakable. The streets continued to swarm with military personnel, even though the war in Europe ended halfway through the Conference, San Francisco Bay throbbed with the energy of naval vessels preparing to join the campaign against Japan -- that war outlasted the Conference. The setting is important in understanding what the United Nations was intended to be. Franklin Delano Roosevelt of the United States, and Winston Churchill of the United Kingdom were the main proponents of a new start in organizing the world to do better than it had done between the end of the First World War and the outbreak of the Second World War. They wanted to avert a future like that of the past with its sequence of aggressions, the rise of Fascism and Nazism, the plunge into a war that was the greatest man-made disaster in human history, and the collapse of the League of Nations. They were idealists -- and they were also realists. They agreed that at the center of the new structure there had to be a great power nexus. At the heart of their plan were the great power policemen working together to maintain a post-war system of security and peace under law. For them, international peace and security was the dominant purpose. They needed the Soviet Union in the great-power core. They also recognized that economic circumstances and human rights were important to their goal, but these were auxiliary not primary objectives. Details: http://www.un.org/Pubs/chronicle/2005/issue3/0305p18.html

Special Thanks:

WHEC acknowledges the indispensable work of Dr. Benton Baker III, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Texas and Director of Graduate Medical Education, in the launch of e-learning publication: WomensHealthSection.com. His invaluable support and friendship to the project is the corner stone of our success. Thanks again for everything.

Beyond the numbers...

There are three short and simple words, the hardest to all to pronounce in any language, but the man or nation that is unable to utter them cannot claim to have arrived at manhood. These words are -- I was wrong.

Women's Health & Education Center
Dedicated to Women's and Children's Well-being and Health Care Worldwide