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Digital tools being used to track people as never before

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The internet and new digital tools are being manipulated as never before to infringe on people’s right to free assembly, the UN’s top rights official said on Thursday, in a call for a moratorium on the use of facial recognition technology during peaceful demonstrations.

Amid global protests against systemic racism, corruption and economic woes exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis, High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet also expressed concern about the use of non-lethal weapons against demonstrators.

These emerging devices include pepper ball launchers, acoustic weapons and drones and other “autonomous systems” that release tear gas, Ms. Bachelet’s Office, OHCHR, said in a report, mandated by the UN Human Rights Council.

The High Commissioner urged States and businesses to ensure that these and other fast-developing technologies are developed and used in ways that do not disrupt and prevent people’s participation in public affairs.

“New technologies can be used to mobilize and organize peaceful protests, form networks and coalitions…thus driving social change”, Ms. Bachelet said, a former two-term president of her native Chile. “But, as we have seen, they can be – and are being – used to restrict and infringe on protesters’ rights, to surveil and track them, and invade their privacy.”

Training call

In a call for mandatory training for law-enforcement personnel on the use of crowd control weapons – and accountability for rights violations related to their misuse – the High Commissioner explained that they “can kill if …improperly used, whether deliberately or accidentally”.

According to OHCHR protests took place in some 80 countries around the world in 2019, with many grievances at the core of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

This year, people in thousands of cities worldwide took to the streets in the wake of the death in the U.S. of George Floyd, whose death on 25 May in Minneapolis was captured on video, while a police officer knelt on his neck for over eight minutes.

More facial recognition

In a worrying development, more States are increasingly using facial recognition technology to identify protesters, “sometimes in real time”, said OHCHR’s Peggy Hicks, Director of Thematic Engagement.

This was despite the fact that the technology was allegedly “prone to errors”, she continued, urging its proportionate use.

“That means in this context that misidentification could lead to wrongful arrest for example, or prosecution. These risks we know are substantially greater for women and people of colour, raising the likelihood that facial recognition technology may perpetuate and amplify discrimination.”

Calls blocked, accounts hacked

It was also deeply concerning that protesters faced having their cell phone calls intercepted or blocked by “many” police forces, or their social media accounts hacked and systematically monitored.

“Too often authorities have viewed peaceful assemblies as something that needs to be controlled or managed, rather than as critical vehicles for public participation in democracy”, Ms. Hicks told journalists via video conference in Geneva.

Among its recommendations, the OHCHR report urged States to avoid resorting to internet shutdowns, which happened during at least 65 protests in 2019.

Addressing the fact that only around half of the world’s people have access to the internet today, Ms. Bachelet also insisted that it was “crucial” that States ensure secure and affordable online access for everyone.

“Given the importance of the enjoyment of the right of peaceful assembly for democracies, and the role Internet-based technologies can play, it is crucial that States close the digital divide and ensure the greatest number of people possible can get secure, affordable Internet access”, the High Commissioner said.

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Scholz and Macron threaten trade retaliation against Biden

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Image source: International Affairs

After publicly falling out, Olaf Scholz and Emmanuel Macron have found something they agree on: mounting alarm over unfair competition from the U.S. and the potential need for Europe to hit back, – writes POLITICO.

The German chancellor and the French president discussed their joint concerns during nearly three-and-a-half hours of talks over a lunch of fish, wine and Champagne in Paris.

They agreed that recent American state subsidy plans represent market-distorting measures that aim to convince companies to shift their production to the U.S., according to people familiar with their discussions. And that is a problem they want the European Union to address.

Both leaders agreed that the EU cannot remain idle if Washington pushes ahead with its Inflation Reduction Act, which offers tax cuts and energy benefits for companies investing on U.S. soil, in its current form. Specifically, the recently signed U.S. legislation encourages consumers to “Buy American” when it comes to choosing an electric vehicle — a move particularly galling for major car industries in the likes of France and Germany.

The message from the Paris lunch is: ‘If the U.S. doesn’t scale back, then the EU will have to strike back. That move would risk plunging transatlantic relations into a new trade war.’

Crucially, Berlin — which has traditionally been more reluctant when it comes to confronting the U.S. in trade disputes — is indeed backing the French push. Scholz agrees that the EU will need to roll out countermeasures similar to the U.S. scheme if Washington refuses to address key concerns voiced by Berlin and Paris, according to people familiar with the chancellor’s thinking.

Before bringing out the big guns, though, Scholz and Macron want to try to reach a negotiated solution with Washington. This should be done via a new “EU-U.S. Taskforce on the Inflation Reduction Act” that was established during a meeting between European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Mike Pyle.

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Uzbekistan’s Artel joins UN’s ‘Orange The World’ campaign against gender-based violence

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Artel Electronics LLC (Artel), Central Asia’s largest home appliance and electronics manufacturer, has teamed up with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) on a public information campaign against gender-based violence.

The campaign is in line with the UN’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which utilizes the color orange to symbolize a brighter future. Artel’s green branding turned orange for several days in advertising material throughout Uzbek capital Tashkent, and public figures made statements to raise awareness.

Artel joins an international movement that kicked off on 25th November and lasts for 16 days. Since 1991, it has been used by individuals and organizations to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.

This is the second year the company has ‘gone orange’. Artel Electronics HR Director, Lazizbek Mamatov, also took part in a panel discussion about Gender Equality in the Workplace hosted by the UNFPA at Westminster International University in Tashkent in line with the campaign.

Shohruh Ruzikulov, CEO of Artel, said “It is a privilege to once more work with the UN in raising awareness about the issue of Gender Based Violence. In Uzbekistan, this conversation is at a relatively young stage. We are proud to stand against domestic violence and continue Artel’s work in all areas to contribute to a better society.”

Mr. Yu Yu, Country Representative of the United Nations Population Fund, said “We are delighted to partner with a company like Artel on such an important issue. The public reach of the private sector is vital in ensuring our message to stand against domestic violence can be heard across all segments of society. We are grateful to Artel for taking leadership on this important issue in Uzbekistan. Together, we can make the change.”

The true rate of domestic violence in Uzbekistan is not known. However, the government alongside diplomatic partners and aid organizations are prioritizing the issue. In recent years the Presidential Administration has issued decrees targeted at domestic violence prevention, the government has adopted laws guaranteeing equal rights for women, and funding has been provided for information campaigns and rehabilitation centers.

Support for this campaign is just one of Artel’s initiatives to support women’s empowerment. Internally, the company has introduced whistle-blowing mechanisms, and is implementing an internal legal clinic to improve the legal literacy of employees. Over the last year, the proportion of women in the company’s 10,000 employees has risen by 5%, to 35%. The global average for the manufacturing industry is thought to be around 30%.

In 2021, Artel became a full participant of the UN Global Compact (UNGC), the world’s largest business community focused on sustainable development. In doing so, the company committed to promoting ten principles covering human rights, labor rights and environmental protection.

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Douglas Macgregor: ‘Russia will establish Victory on its own terms’

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The Biden administration repeatedly commits the unpardonable sin in a democratic society of refusing to tell the American people the truth: contrary to the Western media’s popular “Ukrainian victory” narrative, which blocks any information that contradicts it, Ukraine is not winning and will not win this war, notes in his new article Douglas Macgregor, Col. (ret.), who was the former advisor to the Secretary of Defense in the Trump administration.

Months of heavy Ukrainian casualties, resulting from an endless series of pointless attacks against Russian defenses in Southern Ukraine, have dangerously weakened Ukrainian forces.

Predictably, NATO’s European members, which bear the brunt of the war’s impact on their societies and economies, are growing more disenchanted with Washington’s Ukrainian proxy war.

European populations are openly questioning the veracity of claims in the press about the Russian state and American aims in Europe.

The influx of millions of refugees from Ukraine, along with a combination of trade disputes, profiteering from U.S. arms sales, and high energy prices risks turning European public opinion against both Washington’s war and NATO.

After concluding that the underpinning assumptions regarding Washington’s readiness to negotiate and compromise were invalid, Putin directed the STAVKA to develop new operational plans with new goals:

– first, to crush the Ukrainian enemy;

– second, to remove any doubt in Washington and European capitаls that Russia will establish Victory on its own terms;

– and, third, to create a new territorial Status Quo commensurate with Russia’s national security needs.

It is now possible to project that the new Russian armed forces that will evolve from the crucible of war in Ukraine will be designed to execute strategically decisive operations.

The new military establishment will consist of much larger forces-in-being that can conduct decisive operations on relatively short notice with minimal reinforcement and preparation.

Put differently, by the time the conflict ends, it appears Washington will have prompted the Russian State to build up its military power, the very opposite of the fatal weakening that Washington intended when it embarked on its course of military confrontation with Moscow.

Biden’s “take no prisoners” conduct of U.S. foreign policy means the outcome of the next phase of the Ukrainian War will not only destroy the Ukrainian state. It will also demolish the last vestiges of the postwar liberal order and produce a dramatic shift in power and influence across Europe, especially in Berlin, away from Washington to Moscow and, to a limited extent, to Beijing, writes Douglas Macgregor.

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