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Our Policy Agenda

Phoenix Zones Initiative envisions that public policies, institutions, and practices can become socially, environmentally, and economically just, and that they can uplift the most vulnerable.

I cannot afford the luxury of fighting one form of oppression only. I cannot afford to believe that freedom from intolerance is the right of only one particular group. And I cannot afford to choose between the fronts upon which I must battle these forces of discrimination, wherever they appear to destroy me. And when they appear to destroy me, it will not be long before they appear to destroy you. 

—Audre Lorde

Our Policy Priorities

Stop Exploitation and Abuse to Obtain Food, Fiber, and Knowledge

No one’s economic interests should be vested in exploitation and abuse.

At Phoenix Zones Initiative, we strive to:

Ensure that public resources do not enable exploitation. 

For decades, food and fiber subsidies and regulations have been driving the exploitation of the most vulnerable people and animals. Food and fiber production often rely on human and animal trafficking, and the way in which food and fiber are produced contribute significantly to the most common causes of illness and death worldwide including chronic and disabling conditions, emerging infectious diseases that have pandemic potential, and the climate crisis.

Likewise, too much research relies on the exploitation of the most vulnerable populations, including animals, while too little attention is given to addressing social and political determinants of health.

We advocate for policy changes that require the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Agriculture, and other government agencies to abide by principles that safeguard people and animals against exploitation. We are especially focused on publicly-funded activities that these and other agencies oversee and regulate, including food and textile production, medical research and public health priorities, and international development programs.

We advocate for policy changes that end industry exemptions for exploitative practices, including the exploitation of workers and of human and animal communities.

End the trafficking of children and animals.

Trafficking is one of the cruelest ways to foster abuse and exploitation. However, worldwide, human and animal trafficking is commonly employed to obtain food, clothing, textiles, and other agricultural products.

Trafficking is often a sign that communities lack basic services, which makes children and animals especially vulnerable to various forms of exploitation. Trafficking animals is closely tied to the emergence of novel pathogens such as SARS-CoV-2, which has caused the disease COVID-19.

We advocate for policies that end child and animal trafficking. We also push for adequate resources to strengthen and enforce existing relevant laws.

Expand and Strengthen Legal Rights

Many forms of exploitation and abuse can be addressed by ensuring that individuals possess basic rights—including the right to not be abused or tortured, and the right to a healthy and safe home and community.

At Phoenix Zones Initiative, we aim to:

Help expand rights for the most vulnerable.

We advocate for bringing the US into alignment with the global community’s acceptance of certain human rights; for example, through US ratification of the 1990 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Since Somalia’s ratification of the Convention in 2015, the US remains the only member of the United Nations that has not yet ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

We also advocate for formal recognition of the basic rights of nonhuman animals. Expanding principles like dignity to be inclusive, while also recognizing that people and animals have different needs, will boost the rational and moral legitimacy of laws intended to protect against exploitation and abuse.

Align public health priorities, as reflected in legal rights, with public policy.

We advocate for further development and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals so that they reflect basic principles of justice and self-determination for both people and animals.

We also push for multilateral agencies and international frameworks such as the One Health concept to better address the need for ecological justice and the right to health.

Affirm and ensure the right to a healthy and safe home and environment.

Communities should be constructed to encourage vitality, ethical and sustainable productivity, and happiness. The communities most in need should receive the most attention from public resources.

No one should be unhoused or live in a toxic environment, be denied sanctuary from oppression, or be arbitrarily denied the right to freedom of movement. Neither humans nor animals should suffer because of infrastructure or contrived borders that restrict them from meeting their basic needs.

We advocate for better urban and rural planning at the local level and for more ambitious international frameworks that acknowledge the right to a healthy and safe home, community, and environment.

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