On May 22nd, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC), made a landmark announcement: For the first time in its short history, the Court was opening an investigation that, from the start, would prioritize crimes of mass rape along with mass killings.
The prosecutor's announcement was a significant step forward for African civil society groups and their international partners across the continent that have been working to collect evidence and push the ICC to investigate and prosecute crimes of sexual violence. Yet this victory has been hard won, and there is no guarantee that the ICC's new-found focus on sexual violence will translate into long-term gains for victims of these crimes.
This was supposed to be a milestone year in the fight against AIDS. In 2001, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that it intended to intensify its prevention programs in order to cut new HIV infections in half by 2005. Instead, the number has held steady at 40,000 a year since 1998. Just this June, the CDC announced that, for the first time since the 1980s, more than 1 million people in this country are living with HIV or AIDS. This number partly reflects the fact that, thanks to medical advances, more people are living longer with the disease, even though public treatment and care programs for HIV-positive individuals -- such as the Ryan White CARE Act and Medicaid -- are massively strained for funds.
It's an unusually hot August afternoon in small-town Florence, Massachusetts, and a ragtag group has gathered under a tent behind the Florence Community Center. They're participants in the 10th annual Grassroots Radio Conference, and they've come from all over the country to build a new low-power community radio station for the area.
People wander in and out of the tent as the afternoon plenary session opens, but then a man approaches the microphone, and suddenly everyone is paying attention. He isn't exactly an imposing figure -- he's rather short, and his neatly pressed, button-down shirt is hardly eye-catching -- but as he begins to speak, he's greeted by thunderous applause.