IALL 2021 Recap: Public and International Law in the Digital Age

By Edward Hart

International Association of Law Libraries

39th Annual Course: Toulouse 2021

Program: Public and International Law in the Digital Age

Presenter: Professor Valère Ndior, Université de Bretagne occidentale

The speaker for this program was Valère Ndior, who is a Professor of Law at the Université de Bretagne occidentale (France), where his teaching and research focuses on public international law and digital law. He is also the Deputy Director of the Lab-LEX research center, the President of the Réseau francophone de droit international and a Board member of the French Branch of the International Law Association.

While States are critical of digital platforms, a growing number of governments and political actors use them as tools to carry out their own activities. The Twiplomacy project reveals that governments leaders are increasingly resorting to personal or official accounts to communicate on Facebook and Twitter. International organizations, local authorities and law enforcement agencies also make extensive use of digital platforms, both for communication with the public and carrying out their missions. The internet is a mean of mass dissemination of official communications of States, with a potential for legal spin.

The presentation considers that digital technology may be a useful tool at the disposal of institutions and agencies, even if used to infringe fundamental rights. The tools can also be a disruptive factor for national activities. The presentation focuses on French law, while touching on US law and International law perspectives

Prof. Ndior points to a number of areas that are of concern for legal issues related to technology and information management in the digital age:

  • Cybersecurity
  • Misinformation
  • Prevention of Sensitive Data Leaks
  • Regulation of Expressions of Individuals
  • Protection of Personal Data
  • Limitation of Control over Data Platforms

An example he highlights is several efforts to build “Sovereign” Clouds that are unlike iCloud spanning most of the technological world, but are under the legal control of the countries in which they are established.  Data does not cross “national” borders denying other countries jurisdiction over the data or any exposure to international intervention.  Two implementations of this were Deutsche Telekom in Germany and Swisscom in Switzerland.  There are also private companies that would establish national clouds, supported by national subsidies.  Two examples were Numergey and Couldwatt, but it did not sound like these were very successful.  

The digital age is manifesting in how governments operate.  States use the internet and present themselves to both their national audience and to the wider world. An estimated 70% – 80% of heads of state use social media.  Many are creating an “e-state” that represents the country on the internet.  This includes establishment of government agencies with mandates over technology.  Some governments are even creating ministerial (cabinet level) departments to oversee the adoption of technology by the country. 

For France, Prof. Ndoir points to the National Commission for Information Technology and Civil Liberties (CNIL), Commission for Access to Administrative Documents (CADA), and National Digital Council (CNN) as examples.  Being a member-state of the European Union, France participated on the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) as well.

Tweets on a PowerPoint slide, including a "lame duck," article on "It's Time to Kick Trump off Twitter," and a tweet showing a map on what is and isn't Russia
Tweets on Prof. Ndior’s slides

The use of technology as a tool is not necessarily all good.  More and more there is targeted and mass surveillance by both private and public players as they monitor individuals in going about their daily lives.  Tech can be intrusive, such as when facial recognition is used in public forums.  Tax authorities are using the internet to track dollars.  Some states have even sought to shut down their national internet networks and sever ties to the World Wide Web.  Iran has gone to the extent of creating its own network infrastructure that is isolated from the wider web.

Legal challenges are mounting for the internet.  The European Union is looking to adopt both the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA) by 2022.  In May 2021, the EU became the first governmental body in the world to issue a draft of regulations aimed at governing the development and use of artificial intelligence.  In the United States there are debates over reforming Section 230 (47 USC § 230), part of the Communication Decency Act, which protects services from liability for user posted content. Across the spectrum there are continued struggles over application of laws regulating public and private online speech.   

Prof. Ndoir sees the shift of governing the internet away from Private Law toward Public Law, along with the development of Digital Law.  Remember the user agreement you clicked when signing up for Facebook or Twitter? That was a contract, an example of private law.  You can also see the shift in perception of academic studies of the topic and the research the academy is publishing.  This shift enjoys shared common perspectives in the views of both the European Union and the United States, but there are many contrasting perspectives embraced by other jurisdictions.  Thankfully, this shift is an application of reasoning to digital law for the public good as we find in public law.

The program was a chance to think beyond the silo that many of us fall in as we only consider our own experiences of using the internet and our national perspective.  While it is a World Wide Web, we are habitually steered toward local solutions.  We have to actively reach aboard to get that glimpse of foreign perspectives and doing so we often unwittingly make ourselves subject to their Digital Laws

Got a AALL Program Idea? Propose it!

The 2022 AALL process to submit program proposals is Open!

FCIL-SIS Education Committee Chairs are here to help review your proposal.

Be flexible in format.

Embrace the opportunities!

Dear FCIL-SIS Colleagues,

This is a reminder that the FCIL- SIS Education Committee Chairs, Marcelo Rodriguez and Dennis Sears are here for you to review any proposals you have!

The theme for the 2022 AALL Annual Meeting & Conference is Advancing Justice for All. The Conference is scheduled to be held on July 16-19 in Denver, Colorado.

The AMPC has released its list of must-have programming topics, and there are a number of them that incorporate the FCIL perspective. We should also not feel constrained by the must-have topics, since we all know that FCIL touches just about every area of law, librarianship, and life! If you would like Dennis and me to review your proposal, please send it to either of us by Friday, November 19.

We look forward to reading them!

Report no.66 on COVID-19: Panel Review – Accessing Resources and Information During the Pandemic (CARICOM, OECS, PAHO)

This is a series of reports by the AALL FCIL-SIS Latin American Law Interest Group and Latino Caucus in a project monitoring COVID-19 legal responses in the Latin America and Caribbean region.

By Yasmin Morais

On September 16, 2021, Marcelo Rodriguez, Foreign and International Law Librarian at the Daniel F. Cracchiolo Law Library, James E. Rogers College of Law, University of Arizona, and the founder of Law Librarians Monitoring COVID-19, welcomed participants to the fifth panel called Accessing Resources and Information During the Pandemic (CARICOM, OECS, PAHO) in a series of 8 webinars for the Conference on Access to Information: Latin America and the Caribbean (CAI:LAC).

Moderator, Janette Bulkan thanked Marcelo and welcomed everyone. She then invited Dr. Carleen Radix to tell participants more about the OECS, what the acronym means, and her role in the organization.

OECS

Dr. Radix described the OECS as a regional grouping of Caribbean states that came together in 1981. Its membership comprises most of the English-speaking eastern Caribbean states and two French-speaking territories. They share a common currency, and they are also a part of CARICOM. She is the Head of the Human and Social Division which is made of up several units including Health and Education, and in this role, she provides oversight for the Pool Procurement Service.

CARICOM

In answer to the question of What is CARICOM? Dr. Karen-Gordon Boyle informed the session that CARICOM was formed on July 4, 1973, through the Treaty of Chaguaramas with the four original member states of Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago. Twenty countries are now a part of CARICOM, with fifteen being members and five as associate states. She also noted that CARICOM continues to work for better trade relations with Europe, Africa, and Asia based on the Cotonou Agreement of 2000. The Cotonou Agreement is a treaty between the European Union (EU) and the African, Caribbean, and Pacific states (ACP). Dr. Gordon-Boyle is the Program Manager of the Health Sector Development Unit. With respect to health,  CARICOM plays a coordinating role and works closely with PAHO and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in shaping policies relating to health and development and bringing Ministers Health in the region together.

PAHO

Dean Chambliss, who is the Sub-Regional Program Director of PAHO, advised that PAHO has been in existence since 1902 and will soon be celebrating its 120th anniversary. The organization is both a public health agency as well as a regional office for the World Health Organization (WHO). PAHO maintains country offices in the region.

Accessing Resources and Information during the Pandemic (CARICOM, PAHO, OECS)

OECS Pool Procurement Service (PPS) for Covid-19

Dr. Radix shared that the OECS PPS was established in 1986 and is a self-financing mechanism for small states to secure medications and medical supplies. As a result of the pooling, over eight hundred products were procured for hospitals and health centers across nine OECS states. The overall benefits of PPS are: reduction in prices, sharing of information/capacity, and the building of supply chains.

Since the pandemic, PPS was put in high gear due to limited market availability and governments in the region competing for supplies. PPS allowed member states to obtain supplies of critical response items, quickly. The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and CARICOM/PAHO also partnered in this effort.

CARICOM’s Negotiations with the African Union for Vaccines

Dr. Gordon-Boyle discussed CARICOM’s partnership with the African Union with respect to the negotiation of prices and vaccine supplies, largely due to the Cotonou Agreement. With the goal of achieving herd immunity of 90%, CARICOM worked to be considered a part of the AU’s negotiation. She noted that it was difficult in the early stages for CARICOM to negotiate vaccine prices, and how more developed states benefitted early on, and even had surplus, while smaller states had a deficit of supplies. To date, CARICOM’s negotiations resulted in the acquisition of up to 466,500 doses of the J & J vaccine, from a company in South Africa, with up to three million doses available to be accessed, funds permitting, because of the African Vaccine Acquisitions Task Force.

She also explained that the J & J one dose vaccine proved useful in efforts to reach indigenous communities in Guyana and Suriname, for example because of the transient nature of these populations, many of which are located hundreds of miles from townships. There was the concern that it would be harder to locate them for follow-up doses for vaccines requiring two doses, so the J & J vaccine was ideal for this situation. 

PAHO COVAX Facility

Mr. Chambliss shared details on PAHO’s COVAX initiative, which is like the OECS response, except that it covers the entire hemisphere. PAHO provides pool purchasing of vaccines and COVAX provided partial quantities for the Caribbean. PAHO also acts as a knowledge broker and provides technical support in delivering health care both for communicable diseases and other non-COVID services. PAHO also provides evidence-based data and policy recommendations on COVID. He mentioned that one of the main challenges of PAHO was in helping countries in the region manage non-communicable diseases during the pandemic and with the overwhelming demands of COVID-19, it was difficult for the region’s public health systems to maintain continuity.

The Importance of Communication and Initiatives Launched During COVID

The moderator then asked the panelists about the importance of communication and what were some of the challenges due to COVID. Dr. Radix noted that both the WHO and PAHO were sources of information on COVID and spoke about one initiative that was launched in June 2020 by the OECS, namely OECS Link. OECS Link, an interactive short series, reached out to ask young people to share on social media what was happening during the pandemic. A technical expert was also included to provide further information. OECS also used both French and English creoles in four member states to communicate widely. Another initiative was the OECS’ Yes Program, involving schools. Students interviewed teachers and discussed events unfolding during the pandemic.

Dr. Gordon-Boyle elaborated further on CARICOM’s  communication initiatives and strategies. CARICOM relied on WHO, PAHO and CARPHA as the sources for technical information related to COVID-19. She noted that the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) was an implementing agency and they had done a study on vaccine hesitancy. Based on their findings, they developed videos of persons who took the vaccine and their experiences of having no side effects. CARPHA also hopes to eventually develop a campaign aimed at vaccine hesitancy based on the study.

In response to the moderator’s question on how PAHO has used its knowledge of non-communicable diseases to address COVID, Mr. Chambliss said he wanted to focus on the mental health aspect of non-communicable diseases. He advised that PAHO, in collaboration with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), used a campaign related to mental health and coping strategies called Stronger Together, which was launched before the pandemic and later adapted to COVID-19. It is aimed at adults and children and the focus is on achieving strong mental and psycho-social health. He stressed the importance of resilience, and helping people who need information, support, and training in individual countries.

With respect to the question of what’s next for the OECS in dealing with COVID-19, Dr. Radix pointed out that no one anticipated the pandemic and the unfolding story of COVID-19, and that for the Caribbean, it has been a significant blow. We had the benefit of seeing the virus come from across the world and that we could try to anticipate our response. However, the region has learned from other countries and has prepared systems. The challenges are that although vaccines are now available, there is hesitancy, as well as new waves of infection with the highly transmissible  Delta variant. The impact on the region’s economy is significant, especially relating to tourism and travel. There needs to be a balance as we move forward to deal with the health system and the economy. The struggle continues as the numbers are increasing with the variants. As in the rest of the world, our health systems are overwhelmed. It will require all hands on deck now, and the vaccine is our biggest tool in our toolbox.

Dr. Gordon-Boyle, in responding to what is next for CARICOM in getting the economy moving and keeping people safe, indicated that it has been over a year since member states have been dealing with lockdowns and other pandemic-related issues. The hope is to get back to normal. She advised that CARICOM has been working on policies to help countries reopen responsibly, and that while some of the policies were regional in nature, they could be adopted. Some of these policies relate to quarantining, and evacuations related to volcanic activity and countries have been receptive to the policies. They had to develop draft policies that are regional in nature that can be adapted and adopted and tweaked by countries to meet their needs. She also mentioned the issue of mandatory vaccine and that,the WHO prefers working with people as opposed to mandatory vaccination. Dr.Gordon-Boyle also shared CARICOM’s concern on how overwhelmed the healthcare workers and systems are and that it is critical to slow the rate of spread of the virus. The Caribbean has done well compared with some countries in terms of hand washing and mask wearing for example.  CARICOM wants to encourage immunization as an effective tool.

PAHO – What Are the Lessons Learned Regarding Sovereignty and How Has PAHO Maneuvered in Relation to the Vaccine?

Mr. Chambliss noted that earlier, many Caribbean countries did well prior to vaccine due to public health measures until the Delta variant. This has led to increased cases. Central and South America have different issues. Vaccine rollout has also been only partially successful due to issues of supplies, demand, and misinformation and varies a lot across Caribbean states. Supply of vaccines has now opened up and most countries have adequate supplies. PAHO’s main role is to provide evidence-based data through public service announcements to ensure.accurate health information. Vaccine coverage is the most effective effort, and the challenge has been to promote this.

Dr. Radix responded to the question on what is the major takeaway for the next pandemic? She pointed out that the region is not a stranger to shocks, being the region described by some as the  most disaster-prone are in the world from hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanos, re-emerging epidemics, and outbreaks of Dengue and new diseases such as and Chick-V and outbreaks of Yellow Fever. She also shared that the Caribbean has a good history of vaccines and was the first region to eradicate other diseases and we have strong immunization and public health measures, and we need to remember this and go back to basics. We need to work together. There is also good collaboration among states. Those would be the major lessons.

CARICOM Challenge of COVID in Haiti and Other Lessons Learned Over the Last Eighteen Months

Dr. Gordon-Boyle reiterated that every member state has experienced COVID-19, and every state is sovereign. and have experienced COVID. She confirmed that Haiti took a while to administer vaccines and was the last member state to do so. Their government has a right to do what they want for their people. She stated that CARICOM does not dictate to individual governments and the final decision is up to the member state but rather we can only support them. Haiti is now on board, and they will also be able to access the three million doses of vaccines previously mentioned. There is also potential support from the World Bank and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to make loans available to countries that do not have the cash to meet their needs. So, there are several initiatives out there.

Among the other challenges experienced across the region are: mental health issues and needs, fears and worries regarding COVID, lockdowns and the attending loneliness. There is the stress of daily living with this disease that cannot be seen. There are people who are stressed about being locked up in a house with children and other issues, while others have the problem of being under lockdown alone and going crazy. She shared an example of someone writing to CARICOM regarding the economic impact of the pandemic. Member states need a social net, and the economic impact of the pandemic must also be remembered. Food and shelter are dire needs. 

The moderator also made the point that there is also the possibility of a lost generation of students who have had to miss school.

Challenges of Language, Size, and Mainland Versus Islands

Mr. Chambliss mentioned that strong health systems are an answer to these challenges. Across the region there is the issue of the ability of health systems to manage. They need to be well-funded, and emergency preparedness and response require improvement. The challenge is to continue to build capacity to prepare for and manage future epidemics or pandemics. Other needs are people’s access to primary healthcare up to tertiary level, universal healthcare, and new investments in digital health products to share information in a timely manner.

At this point in the presentation, there was a chat question from audience member, Patricia Bisnott on whether there has been mobilization of CSOs and faith-based organizations. The following responses were provided to the question:

Dr. Radix: These organizations play a vital role and have always played a vital role with health and are strong partners for the health of communities with respect to education. For example, diabetes and hypertension, cancer organizations doing screening and education as an extension of the health system. We need to engage and make better use of these organizations, especially in relation to getting the message out such as taking vaccines, for example. They are also strong partners for mental health. Yes, there is a significant role and yes, we could be doing more with these organizations.

Mr. Chambliss:  Partnerships with civil society organizations are critical across the Caribbean.  We have some very strong civil society partnerships. PAHO must be neutral and cannot advocate but these organizations can. They are critical in the vaccine effort. Faith-based leaders are effective since people listen to those they trust, particularly in view of misinformation throughout the Caribbean.

Dr. Gordon-Boyle: I agree with my colleagues. There is need for an entity to work with them. They can be a part of the problem or a part of the solution, for example the misinformation and hesitancy among some faith-based groups. Faith based organizations have a reach in the community and when they do not believe in vaccines, they are a part of the problem. We need to work with them and try to understand their hesitancy. We also need the participation of the police and other multi-sectoral agencies.

There are examples in Guyana where faith based organizations have had success in administering vaccines and some have taken the bull by the horn. Humanitarian organizations such as The Lions and Rotary Clubs have also helped with sanitation such as installation of sinks and promoting hand washing. We have had ad hoc response and this needs to be organized, and our response must be multi-sectoral. Social services must be on board in turning this epidemic around. We need a governing body to make sure what needs to be done is done. Enforcement is critical. Some countries have systems that are approaching breaking point and CARICOM has to avert it, especially with immunization.

The moderator posed the question on whether the new norm will be digital healthcare, telemedicine, or virtual care and panelists gave the following responses:

Dr. Radix: This is something we have been looking at as small island states. Our populations are small. The health systems were often overwhelmed even before COVID. Telemedicine has been used to bridge the gap. COVID-19 accelerated these things that we had been thinking about. How do we bring the specialist in and get the patients out? Dr. Gordon-Boyle asked about where is our reserve. We have a reserve in our diaspora, but we are not engaging them. How do we create these virtual systems to engage the diaspora? I want to mention one thing that is being done virtually. This is what we call a Virtual Tumor Board, which is a multi-disciplinary team for cancer. This was created to bring specialists together virtually. As small states we only have few specialists that we can bring from abroad. Cancer cases can be discussed, and the resources across the islands. We can make plans based on what we have across countries. This is a pilot program.

Dr. Gordon-Boyle: Since 1989, the Caribbean had suggested that we should have a regional licensing board. We still do not have this in place. The free movement of physicians and nurses across the region would help, particularly if one country is in dire need and this would be at the policy level agreement and for Caribbean heads of government to approve the policy. The diaspora has a pool could also assist, and Ministries of Foreign Affairs and ambassadors might need to reach out to make this happen. We need to look at the Caribbean Association of Medical Councils (CAMC) and CAMC needs to be ratified, so that is another possibility.

Mr. Chambliss: Telemedicine has existed but it is very fragmented. We have seen interesting examples in telemedicine, especially in The Bahamas due to its many islands. There are successful best practices but not in a systematic way. There are some successful best practices to build on. The Caribbean must be able to pool its resources and sends personnel across borders mainly because of the economies of scale.

While the moderator waited for questions from audience members, she mentioned the work and successes being done at the University of Guyana with respect to reaching indigenous populations and getting the message out, particularly work being done by the Amerindian People’s Association. She asked whether we should be doing  more in creole languages.

Dr. Radix: In the Caribbean, we are story tellers and orators, and we speak to each other based on our history of sharing information. She noted that mask-wearing, social distancing and speaking with each other mainly online now, have affected our communication. What is important is meeting people where they are, and we need to use our ways of communicating.

Dr.Gordon-Boyle: One size does not fit all. In the United States there are many cultural groups, and one group has had historical distrust of the health system. The challenges for indigenous groups are language and seclusion. However, a bigger challenge is locating them or physically reaching them due to the transient nature of these groups. That is why the J & J vaccine has been a godsend for this group. It is not known if indigenous groups have been more hesitant of vaccine than other groups. This would be an interesting study. There is also a huge cost in reaching them. Another challenge is maintaining the vaccine’s cold temperature over the long distances to reach indigenous communities.

Indigenous populations are also put in jeopardy by gold miners and loggers, etc. in Suriname and Guyana, with the spread of disease by these groups and the impact on indigenous populations.

Dr. Radix: We should continue to use public health measures from the past. This conference has been interesting. We must work together. This is key, and we have been doing this as a region. We need to continue to use the public health measures we have used in the past. Most islands now have three options for vaccines, so we need to get vaccinated. We also need to keep the conversation going, particularly with respect to mental health. We will have to try to do everything to get us out of this pandemic.

Concluding Comments

Dr. Gordon-Boyle: COVID-19 has reminded us that the world is now a village. No one is safe until we are all safe. She urged everyone to get vaccinated since we don’t want to overwhelm our fragile health system.

Mr. Chambliss: He expressed thanks for the opportunity to serve on the panel. The silver lining is that nothing in living memory has shown us the economic impact of diseases and we need to ensure that the health sector is strong for economic prosperity. Economic concerns often drive policy. Hopefully the Caribbean region and the world will learn from it and that we cannot ignore the health sector and how important health is to economic prosperity.

The moderator thanked all the panelists, stating that we have learned a lot and it has been a rich and wide-ranging conversation. She indicated that the next panel would be discussing Brazil, and again expressed thanks for the thoughtful and wide-ranging responses. She also thanked Marcelo Rodriguez and the group of librarians for these sessions and shared that recording of the session will be available.

Report no.65 on COVID-19: “Love in time of COVID 19” Pandemic, Repression and Access to Information in Nicaragua

This is a series of reports by the AALL FCIL-SIS Latin American Law Interest Group and Latino Caucus in a project monitoring COVID-19 legal responses in the Latin America and Caribbean region.

By Margarita Vannini (En Español)

Pandemic and Misinformation 

On March 15, 2020, as COVID made its way into Central America and many countries in the world were taking drastic measures to stop contagion, the Nicaraguan government summoned a massive march to his supporters and public employees to “confront the global pandemic with love ”. The walk was announced by the vice president Rosario Murillo and was baptized as “Love in times of Covid-19”. Health workers led the march through the main streets of Managua in decorated floats, dressed in their white coats, along with beds and hospital instruments, dancing and making parodies of the global alarm for the pandemic. The government’s attitude was branded by doctors and health professionals as “criminal irresponsibility” while the vice president, eagerly repeated in her daily monologues broadcast by the official channels “we are going to walk with the strength of faith and hope in the whole country, in permanent prayer with the peoples, families and brothers of the world affected by the coronavirus ”. ¹ 

Since the first infections in the region were announced, the government of Nicaragua denied the existence of COVID in the country, continued with his campaign promoting tourism and festive crowds, while at the same time banning the use of masks in hospitals to avoid “alarming the population”. On repeated occasions, the relatives of people who died due to COVID-19 denounced that the death certificates received altered the causes of the death of their relatives. No one could die of coronavirus in Nicaragua, but from diabetes, cancer, kidney failure, or other health complications. Same restriction was imposed on physicians in their diagnoses and prescriptions.

Official poster inviting the Love walk in times of COVID-19 ( El 19 digital )
Official poster inviting the Love walk in times of COVID-19 ( El 19 digital )

At this moment, we are experiencing a second wave of infections, higher than last year. However, the attitude of the regime remains the same. No information whatsoever provided about infections, deaths or vaccines, or do so in a limited, confusing, and therefore unreliable way. Hospitals and health centers are hermetic instances where providing information of any kind is punishable with dismissal. Independent physicians and epidemiologists who provide information on deaths, infections and prevention measures suffer persecution, threats of imprisonment and suspension of licenses.

This information and communication policy of the Ortega Daniel regime has been imposed since his return to the presidency in 2007² and is characterized by secrecy, lack of access to public information, exclusion of the independent press, as well as the persecution and harassment of journalists and photographers covering the events. The only person authorized to speak on behalf of the government is the Vice President and First Lady, Rosario Murillo.

Daniel Ortega returned to the presidency thanks to an electoral process where he faced a divided opposition³ . Fourteen years later, he is still in the presidency now accompanied by his wife, Rosario Murillo, who was his presidential companion in the 2016 elections. Throughout these years the regime has been concentrating power in the Executive, making changes necessary to modify the Constitution and subordinate the other powers of the State, including the Supreme Electoral Council and the Armed Forces. In addition to the process of concentration of political power, it established an alliance with private capital which he baptized as “Model of dialogue and consensus” assigning it constitutional rank. At the level of civil society, it was building their own networks of activists and shock forces, the only ones authorized to manifest in public , while restricting spaces for the opposition or prevented them through violence any form. Since then the country undertook an authoritarian regression that today places us in front of an autocratic government, very similar to the dictatorship Somocista who was overthrown by the Sandinista revolution in 1979.

The tight control of official information and a misleading narrative that promoted the image of Nicaragua as an idyllic country with growth sustained economic and social peace collapsed in April 2018 when a social explosion brought to light the pent-up tensions and social conflicts and repression.

The April 2018 Rebellion 

In April 2018 there was an unprecedented social explosion in Nicaragua. The spark that lit the fire was the brutal repression of the peaceful protests of university students and pensioners, by police and security forces closely linked to the government. Violence against protesters who expressed their rejection of the reforms to the Social Security law, as well as the assault on journalists covering the event, were broadcast live on the television and went viral on social media.

Sandinista Youth shock forces are in charge of attacking journalists 
covering protests and stealing their equipment, cameras and cell phones. (Source: Margarita Vannini, Author)
Sandinista Youth shock forces are in charge of attacking journalists 
covering protests and stealing their equipment, cameras and cell phones. (Source: Margarita Vannini, Author)

The outrage caused by these events generated massive mobilizations that multiplied in all the cities of the country and put in evidence the generalized rejection of the Daniel Ortega regime and the violence with which he has responded to the social protest since his return to the presidency in 2007.

Between April and September 2018, massive marches throughout the country they demanded democracy, justice and the end of the dictatorship.
Between April and September 2018, massive marches throughout the country they demanded democracy, justice and the end of the dictatorship.

As we have pointed out, the repressive character of the dictatorship was not new, it had already been shown in rural areas where the Army repressed the peasant movement and the population that opposed the extractive activities encouraged by the self-styled “Christian, socialist and supportive” government , which, however, promotes practices neoliberals in alliance with big private capital. Hence it is socialist and left-leaning, only in the outward speech. Inward, for the past 14 years, the protest social was impeded or repressed, public spaces were privatized to forces related to the government. Likewise, arbitrariness of all kinds and the corruption have multiplied, systematically undermining the institutional framework and the rule of law. 

The rebellion of April 2018 put the new generations on the scene as protagonists and vital force of an unprecedented self-convened movement connected on social media. This youth to which the writer Sergio Ramírez called “the grandchildren of the revolution”, took to the streets, occupied the university precincts, mobilized and paralyzed the entire country for six months.

"Dictatorship No, Democracy Yes"
“Dictatorship No, Democracy Yes”

The massiveness of the rebellion took the dictatorship by surprise, which did not hesitate in crushing citizen protest through excessive lethal violence. The regime imposed a de facto state of siege, citizen mobilization was prohibited and the protest was criminalized and prosecuted through a makeshift “Law Against Terrorism.” Under the protection of that law more than 600 political prisoners were detained, imprisoned and prosecuted, men and women, among them the main leaders of the student movement and the peasant movement, journalists, feminists, LGBTQ members, as well as citizens and workers who spontaneously joined the protest.

Several human rights organizations documented the excessive use of force with which the State responded to the social protests as well as the various forms of state violence, impunity and responsibility of the police and paramilitary forces in the repression. Government repression left 328 dead⁴, many of them killed by sniper fire stationed in the public buildings, or paramilitaries armed with weapons of war who fired to kill against an unarmed population.

The repression forced approximately 100,000 people to emigrate and/or seek refuge in third countries. These reports document crimes against humanity committed by the Nicaraguan government, as well as the different phases that the repression escalated and the cruel torture suffered by men and women⁵. 

Three years later, the citizen resistance has been dismantled and the repression increases as we approach elections presidential elections scheduled for the month of November of this year. The dictatorship Ortega Murillo has become radicalized and is not willing to endanger his power in a fair election. To do this, it has strengthened its control over all powers of the State and expeditiously passed laws to imprison, threaten or besiege the opposition. In a few months, the country’s National Assembly dominated by the regime has passed a dozen repressive laws that broadly and ambiguously define criminal types that facilitate all kinds of accusations, without proof some. Among them, the Law for the Regulation of Foreign Agents, aimed at criminalize non-governmental organizations; the Special Law of Cybercrimes, called the “gag law on journalism”, of employee control state and the establishment of life imprisonment for hate crimes; the law of Defense of the Rights of the People to Independence, Sovereignty and Self-determination for Peace that inhibits the nomination of candidates for the presidency which applaud international sanctions against the regime and its officials; and the reform of the Criminal Procedure Code to extend up to 90 days the period for which a person can be detained without being charged, while the Prosecutor’s Office invents and fabricates crimes to convict opponents.

This normative frame has created the conditions so that in the last two months unleash an onslaught against any sector that dares to question power absolute rule of the regime or that put the re-election of the Ortega-Murillo marriage at risk. Thereafter, 34 people were taken to prison and incommunicado or forced to remain in their homes, including six Presidential candidates representing different social sectors. Likewise, peasant leaders, students, journalists and feminists from different social organizations were kidnapped along with relevant historical FSLN cadres, including Dora María Téllez and Hugo Torres. These kidnappings join 110 other innocent people who unjustly remain prison for months and some for years. The arrests were carried out in operations that in some cases took place at night and in weekends, without exhibiting court orders and with ostensible demonstrations of violence that reveal the intention to intimidate and silence critical voices. In addition, immigration restrictions were ordered to affect journalists, businessmen and social leaders without an open court case. 

On November 7, elections will be held in which Ortega will seek to access his fifth term of government, the fourth in a row and the second for his wife. It will do it by means of a fraud because they do not exist guarantees of a transparent electoral process and, furthermore, without competition since the main opposition candidates and leaders of society organizations civilians have been kidnapped and are being held in solitary confinement or subjected to different types of torture. Among the detainees are two journalists and the general manager of Diario La Prensa. Three weeks ago, facilities of the newspaper La Prensa were raided by the police and remain busy. Journalism has been the target of the persecution and siege of the regime. Many journalists have fled the country, their media outlets were closed and the facilities raided, looted, occupied or burned.

Persecution of journalists and systematic violation of freedom of expression

On July 13, the Inter-American Society of Journalism (IAPA in Spanish) presented to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights a report on the chaotic situation in Nicaragua and the systematic violation of freedom of the press and of expression by the regime of President Ortega. The IAPA expressed its solidarity with journalists and the independent media reporting despite the climate of general anxiety. After a series of interviews with media directors, academics, businessmen and other members of civil society, the organization concluded that “the fence on free journalism is closing day by day.” Among the main problems for the exercise of journalism in Nicaragua the report highlights: “the exodus of media personnel and managers; difficulties to access essential supplies; pressure on advertisers; police checkpoints in front of newsrooms or journalists’ homes; stigmatizations and threats to generate self-censorship; less social media activity for fear of being pursued; lack of access to public information; media concentration in hands of the state or the ruling family and the growing demand for sources to remain anonymous. ” The report concludes that “guarantees are urgently needed to secure the full exercise of the freedoms of expression, of the press and of meeting, keys to reestablishing an open and plural citizen debate, which the government insists on aborting and without which it is impossible to speak of the validity of democracy”.

Other international organizations have analyzed the situation in the last two years in Nicaragua and they conclude that the government Nicaraguan has perpetrated different types and phases of attacks against the independent press. The first phases were evidenced by assaults and attacks against the press followed by a process of disqualification and stigmatization of the journalistic exercise. The person in charge of spreading stigmatizing language and threatening is the first lady and vice president Rosario Murillo, the only voice authorized by the government. They also point out that the work of the media has been systematically obstructed.

Police beat a photojournalist during protests demanding his release of political prisoners (December 2019, EPA-EFE / Jorge Torres)
Police beat a photojournalist during protests demanding his release of political prisoners (December 2019, EPA-EFE / Jorge Torres)

In particular, the regime has been cruel against the media Confidencial and 100% news. Both media were subject to police raids and raided in December 2018. Carlos Fernando Chamorro, director of Confidencial and the newscasts Tonight and This Week, is currently in exile. Miguel Mora and Lucía Pineda, from 100% Noticias, were both jailed for 6 months. In June of this year, Mora was captured again and accused of treason. The facilities where these media operated were raided, looted and confiscated. 

Carlos Fernando Chamorro⁶ pointed out that “there is no freedom of the press in Nicaragua, the media are under police occupation, the journalists are attacked, censorship is increasing and there is no access to public information. A reporter can be the target of an assault in any moment while on the street covering a fact. ” 

For his part, Pedro Vaca, rapporteur for the Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (OAS), present at the forum entitled The Latin American Press under site, freedom for detained journalists⁷, after hearing the testimonies of two Nicaraguan journalists, pointed out that in Nicaragua there is a state policy of silence that uses sophisticated censorship mechanisms with the participation of the judicial system, the Prosecutor’s Office, the Police and other public security institutions. The entire institutional framework is not in favor of human rights and freedom of expression, but only to protect those authoritarian mechanisms. The Independent journalists and media in Nicaragua lack elementary guarantees for the exercise of their rights and face a systematic persecution ”. 

Faced with this situation, the demands of citizens are focused on the urgency of freeing the 130 people kidnapped for political reasons, the cessation of the persecution and harassment of journalists and the media, and the realization of a transparent electoral process that allows leaving the dictatorship and open a transition period with justice and without impunity.

In this fight with an uncertain future, journalists, independent media and young communicators creatively using new digital media, represent an immeasurable force to denounce the crimes of the dictatorship and illuminate the new paths through which pursue the democratic fight.

The Mothers of April Association (AMA) maintains its demand for justice for its children 
murdered and respect for their memory
The Mothers of April Association (AMA) maintains its demand for justice for its children 
murdered and respect for their memory 

Notes

1 Wilfredo Miranda Aburto. Love in times of COVID 19: Government of Nicaragua calls a march to face the coronavirus . 03.15.2020. aa.com.tr

2 Paradoxically, that year the Law on Access to Public Information was approved (Law 6211, May 16 2007).

3 The electoral results were: 38% for the FSLN, 29% for the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance and 25% for the Constitutionalist Liberal Party.

4 See reports of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 2018, 2019 and subsequent years.

5 See the report of the Special Monitoring Mechanism (MESENI) and the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) for Nicaragua.

6 Interview with Carlos Fernando Chamorro, director of the Confidencial Magazine and the newscasts Esta Night and This Week. https://www.confidencial.com.ni 

7 The Forum was organized by Fundamedios, Voces del Sur and other organizations that watch over the freedom press in the hemisphere. In: Confidential September 8, 2021. https://www.confidencial.com.ni

Bibliography 

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, OAS) 2018. Graves violations of human rights in the framework of social protests in Nicaragua https://www.oas.org/es/cidh/informes/pdfs/Nicaragua2018-es.pdf 

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, OAS). September 2019 . Situation of Human Rights in Nicaragua. https://www.oas.org/es/cidh/actividades/visitas/2018Nicaragua/BoletinMESENI-September2019.pdf 

Confidential. https://confidencial.com.ni/giei-regimen-orteguista-cometio Crimes against humanity/ 

Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) https://gieinicaragua.org/gieicontent/uploads/2018/12/GIEI_INFORME_DIGITAL.pdf 

Digital 19 https://www.el19digital.com/articulos/ver/titulo:101226-nicaragua-realizara walk-love-in-times-of-covid-19 

United Nations. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

Annual Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Rights Humans. Situation of human rights in Nicaragua. September 3 of 2019. https://reliefweb.int/report/nicaragua/situaci-n-de-los-derechos-humanos-en nicaragua-report-of-the-high-commissioner-of

Ortega, M; Gomez, JP; Agudelo, I. (2020). Nicaragua 2018. The insurrection April civic (2020). Managua, UCA Publications Editorial Fund. 

Pedro Vaca, Rapporteur of the IACHR-OAS: In Nicaragua there is physical and legal censorship and symbolic. https://www.confidencial.com.ni/nacion/periodistas-perseguidos-y no-rights-in-nicaragua-cuba-and-venezuela/ 

Ramírez, Sergio. Nicaragua: The grandchildren of the revolution . In: El País, May 30 from 2018 https://elpais.com

Rocha, José Luis (2019) Self- convened and connected. The university students in the April revolt in Nicaragua. Foreword Elena Poniatowska. San Salvador. UCA Editors and Editorial Fund UCA Publications.

IAPA delivers critical report on Nicaragua to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) https://bit.ly/3wJex6M 

Vannini, M (2019). Power and Memory. A perspective from Nicaragua. Keynote speech presented at the opening of the Memories Meeting for the future. Guatemala City.

Photographs taken from: https://confidencial.com.ni ; https://www.divergentes.com ; International Press Institute (IPI) https://ipi.media/

Report no.64 on COVID-19: Panel Review – Access to Women’s Rights in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay

This is a series of reports by the AALL FCIL-SIS Latin American Law Interest Group and Latino Caucus in a project monitoring COVID-19 legal responses in the Latin America and Caribbean region.

By Barbara Krieger (En Español)

In her introductory words, the moderator, Gloria Orrego Hoyos commented on the struggle that “access to public information” has meant in the region, this being a source of power for individuals, peoples and citizens, and how it has been manifested specifically in its relationship with women’s rights, making visible the lack of transparency in the information that concerns them, that empowers them, and that makes possible the development and evaluation of public policies for the exercise and guarantees of their rights.

Access to Women's Rights in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay

The 1st presentation was given by Ornella Maza Gigena , lawyer, Director of the Agency for Access to Public Information of the General Defender of the Argentine Nation , who spoke about “ Access to public information and gender in Argentina: progress, obstacles and challenges on the agenda ”.

She began her presentation by temporarily contextualizing the Argentine regulations and institutions that refer to Latin America, mentioning that the country incorporated in 2017 the Law 27,275, which recognized the right to access public information as a fundamental human right. The text linked to it as guarantors of access to public information, began to function only in 2018, establishing a series of questions and structural principles of the system, such as the principle of presumption of publicity, by which all information generated by the the state is considered public, and this is the one that must demonstrate non-publicity, thus breaking the paradigm of state secrecy.

The presenter mentioned that the law also establishes a short process to request information and the obligation to deliver it in full and preferably in electronic formats; Also, active transparency actions, that is, the publication of information on official portals.

The law makes no specific mention regarding gender issues. However it establishes a broad legitimation system, that is, a request for information without any type of requirement. Regarding the institutional situation, Ornella Maza Gigena pointed out that there are still no specific policies in the areas that work on public information, but given the principle of non-discrimination and maximum access, the inclusion of perspective can be facilitated through them. She also emphasized the importance of public information access systems starting to work together with the gender agenda, in order to detect and make visible gaps-barriers-roles-stereotypes linked to it, illustrating their exposure with different examples in which women were disadvantaged in: high positions, job occupation, digital divide, unpaid domestic work, composition of jobs by area. 

Finally, the Director of the Agency for Access to Public Information of the General Defender of the Argentine Nation mentioned the challenge and task that all state offices have when it comes to accessing public information, to strengthening and developing the system, building institutions, publishing information on its web portals, generating its own statistics (a task carried out at this time mainly by civil society), generating criteria on the matter for its application, and in gender matters the need not only to serve as a tool to prepare cases of incidence, but also as an autonomous right of women to know, participate in public life, request information and analyze it.

The 2nd presentation was in charge of María José Duran , lawyer, legal advisor of the organization Seeds for Democracy , who spoke about ” Access to public information in Paraguay “, contextualizing the issue within the country’s regulations. Law 5282 of 2014 is the specific norm of access to public information as well as the result of a long citizen struggle in which organizations, social actors, academics, journalists, people who had an important role in advocacy issues were a part of. She also commented that the law had as antecedents to its promulgation the strategic litigation in the courts of various organizations and social actors, which culminated in a ruling of the Supreme Court of Paraguay, in which standards of the protection system of human rights, -the regulatory decree of the law n ° 4064 of the year 2015, and -the one agreed by the Court 1005 of the year 2015 that regulated the judicial procedures to make effective the rights of access to public information, through the guarantee constitutional protection.

The speaker mentioned that the law provides broad coverage to the definition of a source of public information, incorporating all official institutions, powers, state financial entities, universities, departmental and municipal governments. In this sense, everyone has the right of access to public information, without the need to justify the reason for the request. Regarding the principles, she mentioned that of -maximum transparency, that is, access is the rule and secrecy the exception, -the obligation to publish, that is, active transparency, minimum information available without waiting for the citizen to request it, which should be expressed in a simple and understandable language, and – open government, as the fight against corruption using technologies to strengthen governance.

Regarding the obstacles that arise, she mentioned that the government leaves the burden of access to citizens in the face of express or tacit denial of access. Although it can be requested and constitutionally protected and the process is free, technical and legal help is required. María José Duran cited that to date, there are 110 cases prosecuted for tacit denial of information. Other obstacles are: the lack of synergy between the data of one institution and another, the technological gap, the lack of Internet, the lack of knowledge on the part of the population of the right of access, and the lack of national coverage in terms of an official web portal, departmental and local governments without relevant offices on the matter. 

In gender matters, the obstacles are related to the absence of public data or the non-disaggregation of them, thus avoiding the visibility of situations or conditions of women. Another obstacle is access to justice in matters of violence, often linked to structural limitations, but to a greater extent to the attitude of the operators who question complaints. The normative and institutional framework exists. However, discriminatory practices still persist for access to protection services, with access to information not being an exception either. Therefore, it is a great challenge to include gender issues in public policies with a gender perspective and in justice, being evidenced in the situation experienced during the quarantine, in which victims of violence and aggressor were seen in the obligation to live together 24 hours a day, thus exposing the absence of a planned state response for comprehensive care that meets the needs and severity of the problem.

The 3rd presentation was in charge of Ana Lima , lawyer and feminist, consultant in human rights and gender, National Coordinator of CLADEM Uruguay , who shared information on ” The access of women, girls and adolescents to their rights during the pandemic “. She noted that in Uruguay feminist and human rights organizations actively participated in gender issues, norms that they addressed and protected from different angles. She also provided an overview of the application of the normative body in society, especially how women, adolescents and girls have exercised their rights during the pandemic.

The exponent commented that the recent government of her country is contrary or reluctant to the agenda of women’s rights, especially sexual and reproductive rights, causing under the COVID-19 scenario a deepening of inequalities with women, hindering the objectives of the 2030 agenda. In relation to domestic violence and the situation of child pregnancy, data collection has been slowed down or access to them has become increasingly difficult.

Ana Lima also mentioned the systematic dismantling of specialized teams in the Ministry of Women, putting at risk the proper approach to these areas for the attention of gender-based violence. She indicated that the change of political orientation in the Ministry of Health affects the struggles, and that despite the declaration of emergency in their country due to the death of women, the National State is failing to comply with the pertinent regulations, especially the creation of judicial offices of concern, claiming the Supreme Court does not have resources to specialized courts. She also added that the government reported that crimes against women have decreased during the pandemic, but this information contrasts with the data provided by different aid services for women victims of domestic violence.

Finally, the national coordinator of CLADEM Uruguay took advantage of the space to think and demand concrete actions from governments, with a gender perspective, that strengthen the care system, and that allow a better dialogue with Civil Society, which works with data generated through research and networking.

The 4th. exhibition was in charge of Graciela Romero, Legal advisor and Coordinator and legal advisor of the unit of access to public information. Her presentation was titled “ Right of access to public information with a gender perspective: data and action plans of the region ”. She sought to synthesize the main data in relation to access to public information with a gender perspective in Uruguay and in the region, presenting the main results of the project of the RTA “Transparency and gender model” and the DAIP and gender Action Plan of the region.

In her presentation, she showed how the concept of public information and its access acquire different meanings according to the educational level of the people. In general, the most economically disadvantaged groups in society do not associate public information with information that the state can produce and / or possesses, and they say they do not feel legitimized or authorized to require it.

Regarding the use of the internet, there are no gender differences. Regarding the information sought, stereotypes are marked. Women consult more about services, social and health programs, and men more about financial, employment and political issues. Access difficulties are present in certain sectors such as indigenous, rural, poor, elderly and disabled communities.

The presenter pointed out the importance of adopting public policies, which might cause changes in society, and generate capacities in those who can claim the rights of those who are beneficiaries, that is, beyond political changes they feel confident in claiming them. She also pointed out the need to create public policies taking as reference the Model Law 2.0 of the OAS, which incorporates the gender perspective and intersectionality.

Regarding the presentation of the RTA project, Graciela Romero commented that it was divided into two phases. The 1st constituted the diagnosis of the situation, and the 2nd the elaboration of action plans, pilot test and evaluation indicators. The purpose of the project is to introduce the gender perspective in the production, availability and publication of public information.

Finally, the Legal Advisor commented that the preparation of the 1st. version of the “Manual of Good Practices to incorporate gender perspectives in public information object of active transparency”, will also include intersectionality, given that women do not constitute a homogeneous but heterogeneous block, which can be broken down into different dimensions such as: race, social issues, immigration, disability status, gender identity, among others.

CONCLUSIONS:

As common characteristics between the different persentations, the following can be mentioned :

  • Existence of regulations in the countries that make up the LATAM region, regarding Access to Public Information.
  • Said regulations do not specifically mention gender issues.
  • Difficulty in public data on gender issues or disaggregation of the same or lack of synergy between institutions to share or develop data together.
  • Stigmatizations and gender stereotypes.
  • Civil society provides relevant data and information.
  • Challenge and task of the states, in building institutional framework on gender issues, publishing information on their web portals and generating their own statistics (both tasks partially fulfilled so far).
  • The need for public policies that allow people who claim rights, such as Access to Public Information, to feel legitimized and authorized.
  • In short, that the right recognized by the letter of a law, be socially consolidated.

Upcoming Webinar on 10/26: Canon Law 101!

Please join the American Association of Law Libraries’ Customary & Religious Law Interest Group on October 26 at 10 am US Central time for a webinar on Canon Law 101! Register now.

This webinar introduces canon law: the administrative code of the Catholic Church. Attendees will learn about the historical development of canon law, focusing on the first universal canonical code, the “Pio Benedictine” Code of Canon Law of 1917, and Pope St. John Paul II’s order to revise this code, culminating in the promulgation of the current 1983 code of canon law. Attendees will also learn how canon law is enforced through the canonical court system, one of the most complete unified systems of courts and legal systems in the world, covering all parts of the globe where Roman Catholics live. Finally, attendees will learn how canonical research is conducted and how the lack of modernization and intense secrecy that pervades the canonical system hinders the ability to conduct canonical research and enables abusive and inequitable application of canon law.

Ornately decorated page from 1917 Codex Iuris Canonici (1918 ed.)
1917 Codex Iuris Canonici (1918 ed.) Credit: Catholic Church, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Speaker Brody Hale is an attorney with a practice focused on representing nonprofits and start-ups. He regularly consults on efforts to preserve historic Catholic churches, serves on the boards of several nonprofits supporting historic preservation, and is the co-founder and president of the St. Stephen Protomartyr Project, an organization committed to ensuring that alternatives to permanent closure are found for historic Catholic churches and sacred spaces. He holds a JD from Boston College Law School and an MPA from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Before attending law school, he taught middle school in New Orleans as part of Teach for America and taught English in South Korea as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant.

We encourage you to register and hope to see you there!

Renu Sagreiya, Chair, Customary & Religious Law Interest Group, Foreign Comparative and International Law Special Interest Section, American Association of Law Libraries

Caitlin Hunter, Chair, Continuing Education, Foreign Comparative and International Law Special Interest Section, American Association of Law Libraries

IALL 2021 Recap: Will Civil Aviation Survive Covid-19?

By Edward Hart

International Association of Law Libraries

39th Annual Course: Toulouse 2021

Program: Servicing On-Orbit: the Next Frontier in Space Commercialization.

Presenter: Professor Lucien Rapp, University Toulouse – Capitol, SIRIUS, Chair (Space Institute for Research on Innovative Uses of Satellites)

While the listed program title was “Servicing On-Orbit: the Next Frontier in Space Commercialization.” Prof. Rapp’s slide presentation was entitled “Facing Environmental Challenges in Outerspace.” He focused his talk on the growing hazards of space travel created by humans’ launching so many objects into orbit and beyond.  

Prof. Rapp first made it clear that there are distinct differences in governance of airspace and outer space.  He uses the figure hundred kilometers altitude as a line that marks the difference between these two regions above earth. Each area has its different uses, so each has its different rules.  

Slides on the left with the title Space Wild/Far West and Lucien Rapp on the right mid-speech
Professor Lucien Rapp delivers his presentation

However, are there rules in outer space?  Rapp describes space as a wild frontier that might have more in common with the wild, wild West. With increasing availability of private funds, not just government spending these days, there are a growing number of options for launching into space and competition for those launches will also grow. Moreover, we are not just talking about satellites, more and more people will fly off into space as well.  Prof. Rapp states these growing numbers are not sustainable for the safe use of space. New regulations are required. One example of the problem he shares: plans exist to launch an average of 580 “smallsats” into space each year over the next decade. More objects in orbit leads to more space debris, which lead to more collisions, which jeopardizes materials resources as well as lives of anyone in orbit.

He notes that beside the challenges humans are creating, space itself has environmental challenges.  There is something we can call space weather. An example would be the solar winds from the sun, which may affect human built items in space.  There are also near-earth objects, such as asteroids, which may or may not collide with our crafts in orbit as well as fall to earth.

Prof. Rapp calls for the development of space traffic management.  It should ensure independent access to space and its use, “thanks to a space watch in particular of the risks for orbital and terrestrial infrastructures.” To carry out this management, we will need to develop both technical tools and more importantly develop legal tools.   The legal tools will need to govern launch, orbit, and reentry to help keep us all safe.

Report no.63 on COVID-19: Panel Review – Access to Information on/for Venezuelan Refugees

This is a series of reports by the AALL FCIL-SIS Latin American Law Interest Group and Latino Caucus in a project monitoring COVID-19 legal responses in the Latin America and Caribbean region.

By Juan Andres Fuentes

On September 14th, 2021, a very interesting webinar titled “Access to Information on/for Venezuelan Refugees” took place as part of the Conference on Access to Information: Latin America and the Caribbean (CAI:LAC). The panel was moderated by Eunice Lee, Associate Professor of Law, at the University of Arizona Law. Ms. Lee had Tim Howe, Regional Coordinator at R4V; Ivonne Garza, Associate of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, Georgetown Law School; and David Sanchez, Specialist in migrant and refugee populations; as speakers. They explained in detail the current situation of Venezuelans as migrants and refugees as well as the challenges they face in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

The exodus of Venezuelans that slowly started when Hugo Chavez came to power, has progressively spiked with the election of Nicolas Maduro as their President in 2013. To date, there are 5.7 million Venezuelans migrants and the number is going up everyday because of the ongoing pandemic, which has worsened food and medicine insecurity in the South American country. 

R4V - Response for Venezuelans

Thanks to a welcoming policy by Latin American States, 4.6 million Venezuelans reside in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to R4V, Regional Interagency Coordination Platform for Refugees and Migrants of Venezuela. However, current times are extremely hard for migrants. Venezuelans work in the informal sector as close to 60 % of them are undocumented and the strict lock-down put in place in the region to fight Covid-19 has aggravated their precarious situation. Their main needs are food, housing and employment. Thus, legalizing their situation is a must. 

Host countries such Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru need to ease the access of information to migrants and refugees, creating centers of information ad hoc. Regarding the content of information, the speakers advise that it needs to be provided to Venezuelans in a simple way by trained staff, preferably in person as many of the migrants have not completed high school, and/or they are not comfortable dealing with Internet. Also, documents requested by host States to regularize Venezuelans status should be harmonized, especially now that they have started mobilizing from their host countries to the north (Panama, Mexico and the United States). The panel also suggested to apply flexible criterion to legalize their situation. For example, many Venezuelans have traveled with an expired passport, either because the cost of obtaining a renewal in their home country was not affordable, or the pandemic has made it even more difficult. Thus, to require a valid passport from host countries seems not feasible.  

Finally, the panelists agreed on the necessity of host countries to strengthen cooperation with organizations such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as well as non governmental organizations.

Report no.62 on COVID-19: Panel Review – Access to Education in Cuba, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico

This is a series of reports by the AALL FCIL-SIS Latin American Law Interest Group and Latino Caucus in a project monitoring COVID-19 legal responses in the Latin America and Caribbean region.

By Jeanette Lebrón (En Español)

Last Tuesday, September 7, 2021, the second panel called Access to Education within the online Conference on Access to Information: Latin America and the Caribbean (CAI:LAC) was held with presentations from speakers from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Cuba. The panel was made up of the journalist Carla Minet, Executive Director of the Center for Investigative Journalism in Puerto Rico, Professor Sergio Ángel Baquero, Coordinator of the Observatory of Academic Freedom, Cuba – Colombia and Mr. Vladimir Rozón, Coordinator, Dominican Political Observatory. The moderator of the discussion was Mrs. Loida García-Febo. 

The discussion generated sought to know the situation of access to information in the Caribbean, particularly in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Cuba, the challenges and problems of education, the impact of the pandemic on education and the specific proposals of each of the panelists to improve the educational situation in their countries.

The discussion began by discussing the situation of access to information in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. As part of the panoramic picture expressed by the speakers, the journalist Minet highlighted that in Puerto Rico the most pressing issues of education, from a journalistic perspective, address four main elements. The first is the precariousness of the systems, infrastructure and administration of the public system. The second is the recurring trauma related to the way students have experienced education due to crises such as Hurricanes Irma and María, earthquakes that occurred in January 2020, COVID-19 and the dismantling of the public system with the sales and closure of public schools. As a result of this, many students have been placing themselves in other schools and on the other hand have had to pursue remote online education due to COVID 19. Thirdly, she mentioned corruption as a chronic problem of the political class and the Department of Public Education in Puerto Rico where the assignment of contracts does not necessarily respond to educational needs, but rather to cronyism and political favors. Finally, the governance problem is mentioned in terms of the lack of stability as a result of the continuous changes of Secretaries of Education in Puerto Rico in recent years. These consecutive changes make the system inefficient and difficult to respond to people’s needs. 

Access to Education in Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Cuba

For the reporter, COVID 19, emphasized the deficiencies of the public system and deepened its inequalities. A reflection of this is the lack of computers in students’ homes at the beginning of the pandemic, as well as the lack of access to the internet to follow their classes. Therefore in homes where more than one child needed to take classes at the same time, the lack of resources makes it difficult for parents to make decisions to provide the necessary data. This added to the lag in technological skills in parents and grandparents and the need to take care of children in their homes while having to stop attending their jobs. 

In the case of the Dominican Republic, Mr. Vladimir Rozón refers to historical data when investment in education began. It was not until 1957 that a law was created that addressed the challenges of the country’s educational problems. Despite the law, the lack of resources for education was still a general complaint. In 2012, 4% of the gross domestic product was applied to education and investments began in the construction of new educational establishments in different parts of the country to strengthen the structural issue in areas of difficult access.  

However, according to Rozón, the efforts have not been sufficient or well channeled. The overview of education in the Dominican Republic currently shows three critical elements: 

  • Learning problems and transmission of knowledge. This as results of the ISA tests given to students in the Dominican Republic where the worst results have been reflected at a general level. The data summarizes that the Dominican Republic obtained the last places in science, fourth position in reading and another area such as mathematics and Spanish. 
  • Academic deficiencies in teachers. In this area, a high percentage (more than 70%) of failures was reflected in the most recent academic measurement tests administered to teachers who offer classes in public schools. 
  • The lack of planning in educational investment taking into consideration that the funds allocated to the construction of schools was not the priority at the moment. In this case, it is evident that investment had to be made in strengthening the academic skills of the teaching staff and the learning of the students.

Mr. Rozón also made reference to the arrival of COVID 19, whose problems added to educational failures.

In Cuba, the panoramic picture of access to information, described by Professor Baquero, is based on three specific ideas:

  1. Cuba has been recognized worldwide in terms of coverage of higher education and in the elimination of illiteracy as a project of the revolution.
  2. Cuba has been recognized for the success of the quality of tertiary higher education and that of its professionals in its different areas. 
  3. Growth, in terms of budget and infrastructure, has deteriorated in tertiary, secondary and primary education.

Baquero also mentions the issue of school dropout in the country, reflected in data from the Observatory of Academic Freedom. These data indicate that for the year 2015 the highest dropout peak was reflected in children, while in 2019 the highest peak was in adolescents. In addition, they establish that tertiary education no longer has coverage similar to 2011 where enrollment was 80.9% and by 2019 it dropped to 41.4%.

Finally, he broke down the types of most recurrent incidents within the universities from 1959 to the present, these being harassment, unjustified and illegal dismissal and the denial of the right to education for political and ideological reasons.

The second intervention addressed the challenges and problems of education. In this regard, the speaker from the Dominican Republic highlighted the digital divide and social inequality, taking into consideration that the majority of public school students did not have equipment to take remote classes and did not have internet connection during the pandemic. Likewise, he mentioned the challenge of outdated learning and knowledge transmission models that require immediate action to improve students’ academic achievement. Finally, he criticized the teacher evaluation that is carried out by the evaluation bodies of the same ministry of education, creating a kind of scheme that does not allow a good evaluation of teachers. 

In the case of Cuba, one of the challenges that Baquero claims is the elimination of aspects related to ideological biases. This is because professors who are not practicing revolutionary politics must renounce being university professors or anything related to education. For this reason, the dogmas that lead to an ideological education must be eliminated. On the other hand, the issue of the low number of functioning school infrastructure, the migration of the most qualified due to lack of incentive to stay in classrooms and the high cost of connectivity were also pointed out as a challenges for education in Cuba. 

Regarding Puerto Rico, the journalist Minet points out the accelerated purchase of schools in 2019 that became a good business for investors and developers. Thus, the effectiveness of online platforms that have been integrated from COVID19 in the Department of Education is also questioned. Another challenge is the difficulty parents and grandparents of children face in accessing the Department of Education’s online platforms due to lack of technological skills. In general, Carla Minet mentions that many of the difficulties of education in Puerto Rico are not related to the lack of resources, but rather to the problem of governance, the administration of resources and the management of funds. 

Another question to the panel sought a description of the impact of the pandemic on an already fragile situation in the countries’ education. In Cuba, social distancing and the measures established by the government to prevent the issue of COVID 19 accentuated the problems that were already evident in education. One of them is connectivity and the other is access to devices for distance education. On the one hand, the cost of computers and internet access are very high for students and on the other hand the sanctions of the United States prevent the purchase of the devices. These factors have resulted in the youngest having to access classes from the television and despite the fact that the teachers stopped by the students’ houses to deliver and collect the assignments, this presented the dramatic result of the lost year and evident dropout . Another challenge is related to the social network as a form of internet connection for the youngest of the island. In this case, the only company that provides internet is the Cuban telecommunications company, whose costs are very high. 

The experiences of students in Puerto Rico, reported by Minet, have been very varied, with effects of uncertainty, insecurities and mental health situations. According to the journalist, there was an increase in cases of depression, anxiety and suicide in young people and minors on the island due to the pandemic. In addition, an academic lag was reflected that could not be identified and for which no solutions are presented. On the other hand, in Puerto Rico the departure of thousands of students from the public system has been reflected, in part due to the earthquakes that occurred in the south of the island. The departure of these students has generated great pressure on parents and grandparents for taking care of these children and also for having to face technologies that they are not familiar with.  

In the Dominican Republic, the pandemic has also had its effect. Some of Mr. Rozón’s remarks have been the lack of connectivity in many of the most remote sectors of the country; the lack of technological culture in parents, who did not know how to operate equipment to help their children, and in teachers who are not prepared to offer classes; and the lack of devices to take distance classes.

Based on all the above, the three speakers presented a concrete proposal to improve the educational situation in each of their countries. Mr. Vladimir Rozón understands it is necessary for the Dominican Republic to develop comprehensive and permanent education plans that are not interrupted by a new government. He also recommends the need to work with students and parents to reduce school dropouts and create broad and diverse learning environments in relation to students, their profiles, interests and skills. 

Professor Sergio Baquero believes in the elimination of stigmatized forms of education that include a single ideological conception of the party in Cuba. Likewise, he also recommends thinking about democratization by developing strategies that lead to the reduction of connectivity costs and the mechanism of access to devices for a better connection. Finally, he refers to the generation of new incentive devices for students to enter education and feel that they will have retribution. 

Clara Minet refers to the improvement in the process of providing data to the press on educational matters that are currently bureaucratic. Alternative information systems must be established to have information on school sites and teachers can take leadership in this regard. Another recommendation is to develop initiatives and projects to develop model schools, create educational systems that are more empathic with students and their disadvantaged realities, and finally incorporate digital, media literacy and critical media consumption initiatives. 

Got a AALL Program Idea? Propose it!

The 2022 AALL process to submit program proposals is Open!

FCIL-SIS Education Committee Chairs are here to help review your proposal.

Be flexible in format.

Embrace the opportunities!

Dear FCIL-SIS Colleagues,

This is a reminder that the FCIL- SIS Education Committee Chairs, Marcelo Rodriguez and Dennis Sears are here for you to review any proposals you have!

The theme for the 2022 AALL Annual Meeting & Conference is Advancing Justice for All. The Conference is scheduled to be held on July 16-19 in Denver, Colorado.

The AMPC has released its list of must-have programming topics, and there are a number of them that incorporate the FCIL perspective. We should also not feel constrained by the must-have topics, since we all know that FCIL touches just about every area of law, librarianship, and life! If you would like Dennis and me to review your proposal, please send it to either of us by Friday, November 19.

We look forward to reading them!