Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
The World Wildlife Fund has organized an event this week in the United Arab Emirates. You know, one of those countries in which political parties are banned.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is not a democracy. Instead, seven hereditary rulers (of the seven emirates/territories) make all the political decisions.
It isn’t just women who are denied the vote in that country – men are, too. 84 different political parties were recognized by the Afghan government in 2012. At least 10 political parties participate at the national level in The Netherlands. In Poland, the number is 13.
But political parties are outright banned in the UAE. Not only can’t you vote, it’s against the law to join together with your fellow citizens to peacefully advocate for a different way of doing things.
Eleven weeks ago, Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action alert regarding dozens of people scheduled to be tried in that country despite having received minimal access to lawyers. Three days later, an Amnesty representative who’d planned to attend the trial as an observer was denied entry into the country.
According to Reporters Without Borders, while foreign journalists enjoy more freedom in the UAE than in other Persian Gulf countries, British and French publications have been banned for discussing not just sexuality, but the nation’s economic shortcomings.
Internet users can be imprisoned in the UAE for the crime of insulting “any religion recognised by the state.” Online journalists have been fined for “insulting” and “humiliating” the state-owned media company. Moreover, says Reporters Without Borders,
Several websites are blocked in [the capital city of] Dubai, particularly those dealing with human rights, prisons, the royal family and freedom of expression.
The wealth of the UAE and its dictator rulers rests on oil. According to environmental activists, the carbon dioxide emissions associated with recovering, refining, selling, and consuming oil are dooming our grandchildren.
So what on Earth are the anti-oil, holier-than-thou folks at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) doing holding an event three days from now in the UAE?
The website for this TED-branded, WWF event advises us that:
As humans, we have no choice but to make changes to the way we live in order to keep our planet healthy.
In my view, basic human rights are a precondition to any serious discussion – or activism – regarding the state of the planet. But you can bet that none of the speakers at this event will be speaking truth to power in that regard.
Instead, a WWF press release tells us that Julie-Ann Odell will talk about “using music to connect to life’s rhythm,” that Lucy Orta is a “contemporary visual artist who tackles ecological and social factors through her artwork,” and that a third speaker, Luc Martin, is a sand artist.