March 25th, 2017 by Claudio Schuftan
Human rights: Food for a combative thought
Human Rights Reader 410
Keep in mind: The power of the people is stronger than the people in power. (Babu Owino)
Human rights embody a social learning process originating from social struggles for legal recognition
- Human rights (HR) have to be demanded by those who are the victims of the existing unjust, discriminating structures. This is essential to ensure that HR are appropriately contextualized, are clearly linked to social mobilization, and are based on in-depth political analyses of national and global structures and policies.
- But what we see is that people’s struggles and claims are constantly de-politicized and distorted by those in the service of the-power-of-the-day; distorting and misusing the HR vocabulary is often the cynical tactic integrated into their lingo. Consequently, in their hands, de-politization of the development agenda acts as a powerful tool to silence any dissent. The HR discourse is thus ideologically abused. Quite often too, their official references to HR principles and standards take the form of ‘soapbox oratory’ confirming there is no real intention to fulfill the realization of HR. Ultimately, therefore, HR projects are always at risk of becoming distorted-elite-driven-projects disconnected from those whose rights have been violated.
- The conditions for the struggle for the realization of HR are thus dependent on a bottom-centered logic including the capacity of public interest civil society and social movements to organize ad-hoc campaigns at the national and transnational level. We cannot forget that the ‘political will’ of duty bearers must be pushed –and this depends on the capacity of local, national, and transnational civil society to push governments and relevant international agencies to be consequent with the HR framework —regardless of its complexities.*
*: Take an example: If the SDGs are reduced to a poverty eradication (and not a disparity reduction) program, our struggles will not really challenge existing global power imbalances; they will miss recognizing and acting upon inequality as a central aspect of human development and as the precondition for any progress towards sustainable development. The central issue of equality cannot simply be considered an indicator; it is our central and most desired outcome. What this implies is that the SDGs agreement and its implementation must be used as an opportunity for (re)politicizing global governance with special attention to the voices of the people who have been so far structurally marginalized.
Take another example: The debate over universal health coverage (UHC) is not to focus on the ratification of a particular model, but rather ought to start our struggle for a much wider discussion on the structure of global governance for health.
- Rather than emerging from a democratic process, global development policies are too often determined by the interests of the powerful and the political elite backed by a bunch of technocratic development professionals.** There is now a generalized and justified skepticism based on the fact that those shaping the current Post-2015 Agenda are the very same groups that have for too long perpetuated problems of inequality and inequity. Therefore, in our struggle, global governance is to be introduced as an essential part of the Post-2015 Agenda.
**: Another serious issue here is that there is often a breach between the description/ analysis of the problems at hand and the solutions that are being put forward. The solutions adopted tend to be those that are always praised as being acceptable-to all-parties, but that, in reality, are being imposed by the relevant powerful interest groups.
- Furthermore, it is no longer a secret that Private Public Partnerships (PPPs) contribute to the globalization of the neoliberal model of statehood and its social policies. As such, they hinder sustainable development by deliberately not empowering the structurally disadvantaged and disempowered. PPPs hide the fundamental conflict of interest between the profit-oriented enterprises with a transnational orientation and the societies being subjected to these partnerships. This being the prevailing fashion, foreign aid reinforces the existing power imbalances in which the rich Northern and BRIC countries act as donors.
- In this context, the statements, lobbying, and legislative actions and struggles on the part of progressive groups and entities are of tremendous importance. But they can only be successful when, on the ground, there are strong social movements active-for-the-long-run.*** Mostly, these movements need to push a development agenda that is based on the HR framework. This implies the need to deconstructing false promises, as well as to establishing counter-hegemonic political processes and institutions. The point not to be forgotten here is that alternative development paradigms and models of governance already exist –only that now is the time to bring them into the Post-2015 agenda.
***: Never forget that social movements are such, as long as there are people who actually ‘move’ them… (all the above adapted from Nadja Meisterhans)
The activists’ role is to break the isolation of emerging grassroots struggles confronting powerful, increasingly global, interests
- Today, people rendered poor, impacted by economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) violations, and/or threatened with losing the basis of their livelihoods, reside in every country in the world. If not explicitly united in a common struggle, these communities-upon-communities and social movements risk becoming ineffective and obsolete. No one is voiceless, but the voice of the many is louder! In fact, a united leadership of those directly impacted by dispossession, impoverishment, exploitation and environmental devastation –together with those who have made a political commitment to secure human rights– is critical if a global movement for positive social change has any prospects of succeeding.
- What this means is that victory in the struggle for decent jobs in the Philippines will only be fulfilled when there is adequate housing in South Africa, safe and abundant water availability in the Middle East, and secure livelihoods in Sri Lanka. Otherwise, each of these victories becomes a reason for powerful economic actors to shift their operations elsewhere in the world and continue their pursuit of ever-increasing profit and growth at the expense of HR and environmental sustainability.
- In connecting these struggles, a coherent plan for collective action (perhaps in the form of a global campaign) will reveal not only the contradictions of the current economy and related political systems, but will build the analytical capacity and a broader leadership necessary for a global movement to make HR and social justice a reality for all.
- Given the current isolation of existing grassroots struggles, we must bring more-and-more movements, communities and public interest civil society organizations to this campaign, reinforcing the recognition that: ‘Your-problem-is-my-problem-and-your-struggle-is-my-struggle’.****
****: We also have to contend with the deepening backlash by powerful private actors and government officials against communities and individuals (HR defenders) who have mobilized to demand the respect of HR. (all the above adapted from ESCR-Net)
- The more people hear about and make the HR discourse their own, the more their mindsets will strive to change the dominant discourse and the more they will join the struggle. This evolves over time, but there is a periodicity in this –peaks and valleys that accompany the rise and fall of the political heat. To repeat: The expansion of all HR has always been the result of pressure and struggles from the affected people. Due to these respective pressures, the language of HR is eventually being incorporated into hard law in different countries, as the rights of indigenous peoples and the right to food demonstrates.
Our struggles should not allow anyone in our respective societies to have insufficient income for a life in dignity
Economic and social rights did not fall out of the sky: they were conquered through hard social struggles in which many people lost their lives.
- Social protection and the welfare state have a long history, not unrelated to HR. Both have been consistently eroded since the introduction of neoliberal policies. But now, capitalism does not want welfare states, because it knows they will ultimately destroy it. On the other hand, capitalism cannot exist without the welfare state, so it will try to maintain it. Seems contradictory, no? This dichotomy explains why even the World Bank today is defending social protection, even if it gives it a totally different meaning now than what it had in the past. Well, but social security was meant to be universal, wasn’t it? But it did not eradicate poverty… Some say “social security is about targeting and this is bad”. Well, I am aware of this, thank you. Be it known that I have been pleading all my professional life for universal systems, but applied with differentiated benefits –which is different. All neoliberal ideologues do want to target since they do not want public money to be spent on non-poor people: the latter ought to buy their insurances in the market. What targeting means for the World Bank is that you have to carefully look at which poor people can receive money, i.e., it is targeting and selecting the poor according to the old division between deserving and non-deserving poor: a deplorable stands… All of us have universal rights, but how these rights are to be realized depends on the different political, economic and social arrangements within countries. (Francine Mestrum)
- In our struggles, we are invariably, and all the time, swimming upstream, always trying to push the system to address structural problems. But are we doing so within-the-way-the-system-works? If yes, this tends to make life more difficult than it ought to be for those claim holders who have been rendered vulnerable by the system. (Nancy Birsall)
Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City
All 400+ Readers are now available in my website http://www.claudioschuftan.com
-There are two special, but not rare, kinds of colleagues: those who do not take action, because they feel it threatens their position, and those who think they take action, because they perceive a threat if they do not. Many of them want to be wise, but lack political skills; want to be just, but lack wisdom and determination; want to act politically, but lack the courage. (Paulo Coelho)
–Moral absolutism applied to others, combined with moral relativism applied to our own actions is hypocritical –and this is the worse of social sins. (Mario Waissbluth)
-Of course, indifference can be tempting –actually more than that, seductive. It is so much easier to look away from victims. It is so much easier to avoid such rude
interruptions to our work. It is, after all, troublesome to be involved in another person’s pain and despair. Indifference reduces the Other to an abstraction. (Elie Wiesel)
-Ultimately, being HR-based, being ecological, being intercultural, and emphasizing the importance of mobilization and participation of affected people, not forgetting women and children –this is what it is all about!
March 22nd, 2017 by martin
Dear Friends and Colleagues
Slide Shows on Public Health and Social Justice Website Updated for Spring, 2017
The major (starred, *) Powerpoint slide shows on the Public Health and Social Justice have all just been updated to include the most recently available research and policy information. They range in length from 50 slides to 766 slides (yes, seven hundred sixty six, for the Environmental Degradation and Social Injustice Powerpoint). All slide shows are open access, meaning that anyone can use all or part of one, with appropriate citation. See http://www.publichealthandsocialjustice.org or http://www.phsj.org.
Topic areas are listed below. Some have much more content than others, so submissions are always welcome and can be sent to email@example.com Below the topic areas are direct links to some of the most popular slide shows and videos.
You can also order a copy of the Public Health and Social Justice Reader (2013, Jossey Bass/Wiley) through the website at http://phsj.org/public-health-and-social-justice-reader/ – Click for table of contents, endorsements, and use discount code MPH20 to use to receive 20% off.
Note that all information in the slideshows comes from real, not “alternative” facts, and is culled from peer-reviewed journals, respected news organizations (e.g., AP, Reuters, BBC) and periodicals (e.g., Harpers, New Yorker, National Geographic, Smithsonian, etc.). Note that I have not included developments from the early days of the Trump administration, as it is hard to keep up with the moment-to-moment dismantling of human rights and the Constitution coming from this narcissistic, sociopathic, temperamental, xenophobic, racist, misogynistic, ecocidal, profiteering, anti-science, war-mongering pseudo-Christian and acknowledged perpetrator of sexual assault, and his amoral, complicit to actively-involved toadies, who lack basic human qualities like empathy. Those committed to social justice, human and environmental health, and world peace should resist the dictatorial urges of this demagogue at every turn.
The website and I have no disclosures, I/it receive(s) no external funds, and I have not made any money off the book…..the site is a labor of love and my goal is to just to get the word out and hopefully help educate and motivate others.
TOPIC AREAS (with direct links):
- Activism and Education – http://phsj.org/activism-and-education/
• Beauty, Body Modification, and Cosmetic Surgery – http://phsj.org/beauty-body-modification-cosmetic-surgery/
• Course Syllabi – http://phsj.org/course-syllabi/
• Criminal Justice System – http://phsj.org/the-criminal-justice-system/
• Death, Dying and End of Life Care – http://phsj.org/death-dying-and-end-of-life-care/
• Drug Testing and Privacy Issues – http://phsj.org/physician-drug-testing/
• Environmental Health – http://phsj.org/environmental-health/
• Ethics Discussion Sessions – http://phsj.org/ethics-discussion-sessions/
• Food Safety/Food Justice – http://phsj.org/food-safety-issues/
• Generalists, Specialists, Referrals, and Research – http://phsj.org/generalists-specialists-referrals/
• Gold, Diamonds, Flowers – http://phsj.org/gold-diamonds-flowers/
• History of Medicine – http://phsj.org/history-of-medicine/
• Homelessness – http://phsj.org/homelessness/
• Homosexuality and Human Rights – http://phsj.org/homosexuality-and-human-rights/
• Human Subject Experimentation, Torture, Hunger Strikes – http://phsj.org/human-subject-experimentation/
• Literature, Medicine, and Public Health – http://phsj.org/literature-medicine-and-public-health/
• Luxury Care/Concierge Care – http://phsj.org/luxury-care-concierge-care/
• Migrant and Seasonal Farm Workers – http://phsj.org/migrant-and-seasonal-farm-worker-health/
• Obesity – http://phsj.org/obesity/
• Pharmaceutical Industry – http://phsj.org/pharmaceutical-industry/
• Preventive Medicine – http://phsj.org/preventive-medicine/
• Public Health and Social Justice Reader – http://phsj.org/public-health-and-social-justice-reader/
• Public Health and Social Justice Training Program (Vision) – http://phsj.org/public-health-and-social-justice-training-program-vision/
• Race, Ethnicity and Culture – http://phsj.org/race-ethnicity-and-culture/
• Research and Industry – http://phsj.org/research-and-industry/
• Science and Pseudoscience, Complementary and Alternative Medicine – http://phsj.org/science-and-pseudoscience-complementary-and-alternative-medicine/
• Student Slide Shows and Papers from PSU Courses – http://phsj.org/student-slide-shows-and-papers-from-psu-courses/
• Tobacco Industry – http://phsj.org/tobacco-industry/
• Universal Health Care/Single Payer System – http://phsj.org/universal-health-caresingle-payer-system/
• Unnecessary Testing, Scams – http://phsj.org/unnecessary-testing-scams/
• Videos, TV, Radio – http://phsj.org/videos-tv-radio/
• War and Peace – http://phsj.org/war-and-peace/
• Women’s Health – http://phsj.org/womens-health/
External Links – http://phsj.org/external-links/
Direct links to some of the most popular slide shows (short versions are also available for most of these, continue to scroll down for most popular videos; note dates on links sometimes refer to date of original upload, not revision):
Slide show on activism and public health & social justice, with literature, history, and photography
Slide show covering causes and consequences of environmental degradation and social injustice – the most comprehensive slide show on the phsj website
Slide show covering the effects of corporations on various aspects of public health
Comprehensive version of slide show covering the links between luxury care clinics and academic medical centers, along with a general overview of concierge care, medical tourism, retail clinics, relevant ethical and legal issues, etc.
Comprehensive version of slide show covering obstacles to abortion and reproductive health care
Comprehensive slide show covering health and environmental risks of genetically-modified organisms, biopharming, genetic modification of trees and vertebrates, and synthetic biology
Slide show on historical and contemporary ideals of beauty and body modification
Comprehensive slide show on the environmental, health, human rights, and economic consequences of flowers, diamonds, and gold
Comprehensive slide show covering the US criminal justice system, including jails/prisons, racism, the war on drugs, prison health care, the prison-industrial complex, and the death penalty
Slide show on health, economic, and environmental consequences of war and militarism; also covers historical epidemiology of warfare, WMDs, current wars, and U.S. military and foreign policy
Slide show on human subject experimentation in the 20th Century, covering WW II Germany and Japan, Willowbrook, Tuskeegee, contemporary research issues, government-sponsored torture, doctors as murderers/torturers/terrorists, etc.
Slide show covering scientific, legal, ethical, and policy issues relevant to drug testing (including physician drug testing), genetic testing, and privacy
Overview of economic, health, and human rights issues of racial and ethnic minorities
Overview of health care in the US and the world, including what constitutes health, major health problems, and how health care is financed
Slide show covering direct-to-consumer marketing of unnecessary (and potentially harmful) screening tests. Slide show also reviews benefits and risks of CT scans (including coronary calcium CTs and lung cancer screening) and examines health care fraud
Slide show re troubling agreement between corporate polluter and human rights-abusing company and large hospital system, with an historical and contemporary overview of General Electric’s activities antithetical to human and environmental health and human rights
Comprehensive slide show covering myriad issues relevant to women’s health and human rights (including individual and societal violence against women)
Environmental and health consequences of planned shipments of Powder River Basin coal through the Pacific Northwest
Slide show on Minamata Disease, mercury toxicity, the Minamata Convention, W Eugene Smith’s photography, and famous photographs relevant to public health and social justice
Exposé of the American Council on Science and Health – based in part on articles on “Science and Pseudoscience” page of phsj website
Slide show covering the relationship between Bayer, overuse of agricultural antibiotics, and the anthrax scare
Slide show with brief overview of health effects of rBGH and hormone use in milk and meat production, breast cancer, and “pinkwashing”
Slide show on epidemiology, causes, consequences, treatments, and public health approaches to obesity
Slide show covering US attempts to scuttle Global Tobacco Treaty, with comments on the links between medical schools, the insurance industry, and the tobacco industry; discusses health effects and costs of tobacco use and current tobacco regulation
Death and Dying in Literature – http://phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Death-and-Dying-in-Literature3.ppt
Slide show on literature relevant to death and dying, uses of such literature in health care education
Slide show covering violence against women in the military, covering both active duty military and veterans
Slide show with famous quotes, some poems, and photos relevant to war and peace
Slide show on war, rape, and genocide, with historical perspectives and an overview of Darfur, Sudan
Slide presentation on cosmetic surgery
Slide show on ethical issues relevant to ideals of beauty, cosmetic surgery, and obesity
Slide show on female genital cutting
Direct links to some of the most (hopefully) interesting videos:
*The kind of world we want for our children, Conversations with Dr. Don (cable television program, May, 2015). Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_B6nlNtaqQc
*Social Justice. Conversations with Dr. Don (cable television program, February, 2013). Available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CD7fMoG1zWk
*Does today’s U.S. government serve corporations or the people? (topics include the appropriate role of government in society and the U.S. health care system) Debate with Howard Ellberger, “Conversations with Dr Don” (cable television program), Portland, OR, May, 2011. Available at http://www.veoh.com/watch/v21004742PCxDDT99 and http://www.veoh.com/watch/v21004742PCxDDT99?h1=CWDD+2011-05-26+(2)+Does+Today’s+U.S.+Government+Serve+Corporations+or+The+People+
*War and peace, Conversations with Dr. Don (cable television program), September, 2013. Available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmGy8HmibWU&feature=c4-overview&list=UUfi1QHZLKx3ESeO0GrdeO2Q
*Corporations and Health, “Conversations with Dr Don” (cable television program, March, 2011). Available at http://www.veoh.com/watch/v208492269jJ8APJN (note: download Veoh web player, as per website, to watch full video).
*Everything you Wanted to Know About GMOs. Conversations with Dr. Don (cable television program), Portland, OR, September, 2014. Available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dVp1pNqy_U&list=UUfi1QHZLKx3ESeO0GrdeO2Q (first 26 mins general discussion of social justice, 27 mins through end focuses on GMOs).
*The corporate assault on human health and the environment (topics include General Electric, the American Council on Science and Health, and corporate infiltration of public education). Conversations with Dr Don (cable television program), Portland, OR, July, 2011. Available at http://www.veoh.com/watch/v21170152kDqfHBPE
*Food Justice (show also includes discussion of activism and medical/public health education and training). Conversations with Dr Don (cable television program), Portland, OR, July, 2011. Available at http://www.veoh.com/watch/v24892987MqXa2ySr
*Obesity epidemic: causes, consequences, and solutions. Conversations with Dr. Don (cable television program), Portland, OR, August, 2012. Available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Q6STkJ-Xfo&feature=plcp
*The Costs of the Symbols of Love: Floriculture, Diamonds, and Gold, Conversations with Dr. Don, Portland Community Television, February, 2014. Available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92ZO6CVplV8&feature=c4-overview&list=UUfi1QHZLKx3ESeO0GrdeO2Q (first half of program is general conversation; second half of program covers topic).
*You are being watched: privacy, public health and society (one hour program, first half features mostly discussion about current political situation with respect to Syrian refugees, terrorism, and the rise of xenophobia and nationalism; second half covers privacy). Conversations with Dr Don (cable television program), Portland, OR, December, 2015. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQBP5vdlZY0
*Doctors gone bad: research, torture, and terrorism. Conversations with Dr Don, (cable television program), Portland, Oregon, August, 2016. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUr1EYuLw7I
*Social justice take on the 2016 election. Conversations with Dr Don (cable television program), October, 2016. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfOq8V0JR_w
Covers American democracy and exceptionalism, a variety of domestic and international social justice issues, and how to create a progressive and more just society.
*Gun violence: public health and public policy (last 17 minutes covers reflections on the election of Donald Trump). Conversations with Dr Don (cable television program), Portland, OR, November, 2016. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5cwchwu0kM
March 11th, 2017 by Claudio Schuftan
Human rights: Food for an unacceptable patriarchal thought
Human Rights Reader 408
In many parts of the world, cows are given more rights than women. (Huffington Post)
We cannot let anybody forget the-female-face-of-poverty
- Women are subjected to multiple and intersecting discrimination and negative gender stereotypes that continue to subjugate them and impede efforts to achieve equality between men and women. Not only do discrimination and stereotypes prevent women from escaping poverty, but they inhibit women’s political participation and, therefore, among other, their ability to influence the distribution of resources.
- While both men and women suffer in poverty, gender discrimination means that women have far fewer resources to cope. Women rendered poor and living in poverty face extra marginalization. Measures targeted to reduce women’s poverty are thus critical. Therefore, starting by collecting better information to track how poverty affects women differently, is essential for solving the problem. Let us be categorical: Ending extreme poverty will come within reach only by fully involving women and respecting their rights –at every step along the way. (http://beijing20.unwomen.org/en/in-focus/poverty#sthash.NoITORtY.dpuf)
Humankind cannot accept macho attitudes (Hans Dembowski)
Our anthropocentric culture is, in reality, androcentric (Julio Monsalvo)
- A fundamentalist backlash against women’s claims to equality, and especially to sexual and reproductive rights, is badly affecting national sovereignty in many countries. Culture and religion are used as excuses for perpetuating patriarchal discrimination and violence (including the control of women’s fertility). This is clearly no longer tenable. (C. Bunch)
- To a certain degree, the SDGs recognize women’s economic empowerment as a prerequisite for sustainable development*, for greater equality and for the achievement of SDG 5 (Gender Equality) and SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth). But ‘realizing’ women’s rights is not as important as securing their right to livelihood plus their ability to realize all human rights. The right to livelihood is linked to other human rights such as the right to food, the right to health, the right to work, the right to education and the right to social security and protection.
*: As per the UN CEDAW Committee, one of ten UN Treaty Bodies, advancing the economic equality of women is one of the key human rights standards. [The other nine human rights Treaty Bodies that monitor implementation of the core international human rights treaties are: the Human Rights Committee on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR), the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural rights (CESCR), the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the Committee against Torture (CAT), the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT), the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW), the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and the Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED)].
- In this context, there are 18 human-rights-linked-musts to secure women’s rights
- States must not, in the name of development, displace people, especially women, from resources that support livelihoods and adequate standards of living.
- Women’s access, ownership, control and management (including decision-making power) of productive resources and their outputs –land, water, forests, livestock, credit, energy, technology, knowledge, education, skills– must be ensured with deeds, not promises.
- Most women work, be it paid or unpaid must be recognized; therefore, states must recognize women as workers, as growers and as producers.
- States must further recognize, reduce and redistribute women’s multiple burden of work including those in domestic chores.
- States must provide better infrastructure facilities to meet rural women’s needs to reduce their day-to-day drudgery in providing for themselves and their families.
- Women must be given individual rights over productive resources (including natural resources) to secure sustainable livelihoods, irrespective of who they are and where they come from.
- Land and property must be either in the woman’s name or under joint ownership. Single women including widows must have individual land ownership.
- Gender-differentiated statistics and indicators must be collected nationally and regionally in order to measure gender gaps and consequently adjust development programs to rectify inequalities.
- States must ensure universal, but not uniform, social security for all, and make all state welfare schemes applicable to all working people (old-age pension, health benefits, pension, gratuity, and maternity benefits).
- States must also set up a recurring welfare fund by setting aside three per cent of the total revenue of the government and women must be part of the system.
- All countries must strive towards universal respect for human rights and dignity, rule of law, justice, gender equality and non-discrimination, respect for all ethnicity, race and diverse culture for the realization of human rights and shared prosperity.
- Notwithstanding the fact that women have a miniscule role in the events of war and terrorism, they however suffer most owing to large-scale killings, injuries and instances of displacement. States must recognize women as the primary claim holders in matters of security and peace and be given the major role in re-building and reconstruction in post-conflict regions.
- The adverse impacts of natural and man-made disasters on women’s livelihood must get due policy recognition and women’s voices must be heard in decision-making on issues related to them.
- Women lack control over their bodies including their sexuality, decision making in choice of their partner and marriage, and when and whether to have children. Social and cultural norms prescribed by patriarchal control over women’s bodies and sexuality result in limited mobility, brutal violence including honor killing, sex-selective abortion, marital rape, domestic violence, child marriage and limit access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services and information. Similarly, sexual minorities and sex workers are subjected to violence from different sections of society. They also face extreme social rejection and exclusion. State governments must protect and ensure women’s bodily integrity and autonomy.
- Sexual and reproductive health and rights must be protected and freedom from violence must be ensured.
- States must also include universal comprehensive sexuality education and information for young people and adolescent girls.
- Violence against women is one of the most pervasive universal violations of human rights, a public health crisis, and one of the greatest obstacles to development and peace. Women are facing sexual harassment, abuse, misconduct, verbal and psychological degradation, as well as non-acceptance in higher positions. They are subordinate at their work places and institutions including market places, public transports, bus stands and in the electronic media which limit the mobility of women and their hoes to live a life with self-esteem. States must ensure women-friendly and speedy grievances redressal mechanisms and procedures, as well as a reinforced culture of accountability.
- Women lack access to justice due to the existence of informal justice systems and the unavailability and inefficiency of judicial protection and legal aid. So, last, but not least, this aspect must also be addressed. (SAFA)
- Because states are being called to comply on all these musts does not mean these actions will, by divine grace, be taken. A global push on women’s organization and mobilization is needed so that, as organized claim-holders, they coalesce into movements to increasingly demand these musts become reality — one-by-one.
- All big change starts with small groups meeting regularly –take the women’s movement, the civil rights movement, the Chinese revolution. You cannot do it by yourself to create a different set of possibilities. The need is to have an alternative regular space to discover that you are not crazy: the system is crazy. And this needs to be a regular part of your life. My wish for the women’s movement is the following: the ideal structure will resemble a whole lacework of regular women’s meetings and drop-in meetings, i.e., a whole lacework of little groups meeting in schools, churches, around village wells, where any woman can drop in, leaderless, free, with the goal of supporting each other’s self authority. This is what we need to start a revolution. (Gloria Steinem)
- By mainly attributing value to gender equality in relation to economic development, the issue of power is thrown out of the window completely –and if gender is about anything, it is about power relations. Issues of gender inequality produce and reproduce power relations around the world, and while power relations are not a zero-sum game, achieving gender equality cannot be reached without some redistribution of power. We need to understand that gender issues are always relational. Talking about gender while excluding half of the global population from the discussion does not make sense, neither will it get us anywhere if we want to improve the situation for ‘the other half’. We cannot remain stuck in our safe discourse in which empowering women is only seen as valuable in economic terms and in which, for political reasons, many women around the world are excluded. We must dare to speak up, and dare to disagree. This is the only way we can make the Sustainable Development Goals global and inclusive so that they secure human rights for all people, regardless of their sex, gender or age. (Jannemiek Evelo)
Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City
All 400+ Readers are now available in my website http://www.claudioschuftan.com
Women’s human rights are affected not only by poverty, food insecurity, lack of political participation, etc., but also by religion, especially when the State and other groups misuse religion, a deeply personal experience for many people, for political power and to exert control over people –and over women. While patriarchal interpretations, as well as religious fundamentalisms and extremisms, can disempower women and girls, women and girls can also use religion as a source of emancipation, empowerment and agency.
February 25th, 2017 by Claudio Schuftan
Human rights: Food for a long but important thought
Human Rights Reader 407
[Taken from ‘From Disparity to Dignity: Tackling Economic Inequality Through the SDGs’, Human Rights Policy Brief, CESR, November 2016. I found this briefing to be a gold mine of what I call iron laws. I wanted to share them with you in case you have not had the opportunity to read the full document –which I highly recommend. I do apologize for the length and compactness of this Reader].
There are (long surpassed) limits to the degree of inequality that can be reconciled with notions of dignity and commitments to human rights for everyone.
- If economic growth over the last 30 years had been more equally distributed, the world would be on track to eliminate extreme poverty completely by 2030
- The current global indicators proposed to measure progress towards SDGs Goal 10 (‘to reduce inequality within and among countries’) are manifestly inadequate –for example, in failing to include a robust measure of economic inequality.
- The agreed indicators to measure SDG10 do not properly address the scope and intentions of the goal and targets. They do not incentivize those policy actions that have been proven effective in advancing equality in society and the economy.
- SDG10 does address a central and much-noted weakness of the MDGs, namely, that they praised and celebrated aggregate progress while masking (or even encouraging neglect-of) economic and social inequalities. But, beware, Goal 10 remains vulnerable to strategic neglect, and in some cases political backlash.
- There is a high risk that Goal 10 will remain an ‘orphan’ goal –hostage to the ebbs and flows of competing international development priorities and diverging national interests. Governments will simply need to take much more proactive and timely steps towards achieving Goal 10 –and we are not seeing this.
- SDG10 has no obvious set of institutions at the national or international level whose mandate is to drive actions and funding-to or monitoring this goal.
- Furthermore, the policies that drive inequalities between countries go largely unmeasured by Goal 10 targets.
- The World Bank’s approach to Goal 10 is shaped by its institutional priority to promote what it calls ‘shared prosperity’ rather than embracing a more comprehensive need to tackle income and wealth inequality.
- An approach to development that pays attention only to absolute poverty and basic needs is far from sufficient if not altogether wrong
Soaring inequality is not only a development failure; it is both a symptom and a cause of the human rights crisis, perpetuating poverty, entrenching a widespread dearth of opportunity for many individuals and communities, and contributing to alarming outcomes in health, education, employment and other areas.
- At present, there are few institutions –either at the national, regional or international level– set up with the express mandate to address one of the biggest challenges of our time: economic inequality.
- Many of the key determinants of inequality –from the erosion of labor rights to the weakening of public service– can be framed as denials of internationally guaranteed human rights (HR).
- Inclusive societies are not compatible with the extreme inequality that is now undermining social cohesion, political stability and civic security.
- All countries in the world have stark and persistent inequalities, which in many cases have grown in recent decades (including in China and in Vietnam).
- ‘Leaving No One Behind’ is unfortunately more a rhetorical slogan; it camouflages fundamentally exclusionary policies.
- Sustainable development policies will need to grapple with the top end of the income and wealth spectrum, or else starkly compromise any promise of leaving no one behind.
- Vertical economic inequality (inequality in income and wealth between individuals and households) has been relatively neglected by HR bodies. Increasingly, however, the HR impacts of economic inequality are being explored, as contributors to rather horizontal inequalities (social disparities and other HR deprivations).
- Laws and policies that appear to treat women and men equally are not enough to ensure that women are able to enjoy the same rights as men. (Such a ‘formal equality’ can never be sufficient). This is due to the legacy of historical inequalities, structural disadvantages, biological differences and biases in how laws and policies have been/are implemented.
- Discrimination is often indirect and/or can be structural leading to chronic inequality; both unequal opportunities and unequal outcomes must thus be scrutinized as different treatments will be required to move towards equality in practice.
- Inequality is not natural, inevitable or intractable
Power is an expression of wealth.
- The question is not if, but how public law and policies must be formulated to challenge the fundamental disparities found in economic opportunities and outcomes.
- ‘Neutral’ measures to reduce economic disparity can have unintended adverse effects on particular social groups; they can in fact discriminate. Therefore, robust measures to be put in place must, first and foremost, prioritize redistribution towards the most disadvantaged groups.
- Strong labor unions with the power to bargain collectively are an important factor in ensuring more equality. Moreover, joining a trade union that is allowed to function freely is a HR.
- Wage protection measures are just as important in reducing the growth of inequality. Policies to address unemployment and to create more decent jobs must, of course, also be put in place.
- Since a gender pay gap exists in all countries of the world, labor and wage policies must address wages and labor conditions in the informal, as well as the formal sector, making sure they are gender-sensitive.
- Along with well-funded childcare services, family leave is also crucial to ensure the HR of both caregivers and the claim-holders receiving care.
- More important than attributed, financial liberalization has lead to growing economic inequality
Economic inequality is inextricably intertwined with other dimensions of social exclusion.
- Financial deregulation has invariably been linked to a more unequal distribution of income. It has exacerbated the fiscal austerity measures (antithetical to achieve Goal 10 and set to intensify in the coming years) that many governments have taken.
- Human rights principles –including participation, transparency, equality and non-discrimination and above all accountability– provide powerful tools to counter financial regulations biased in favor of the economic elite.
- In countries across the globe, economic inequality has escalated since the onset of austerity fuelling the worldwide trend of increasing income disparity and wealth concentration.
- Policy areas in tax, social protection, education and health are all redistributive especially if all implemented (They are all necessary, but not sufficient).
- Regressive taxes do cancel out the equalizing potential of healthcare spending.
- An effective action agenda against unjust inequalities will thus require an integrated approach, rather than merely measuring the distributive effects of siloed interventions, such as tax policy or conditional cash transfers alone.
- Governments are obliged to explore all fiscal alternatives before introducing retrogressive measures, such as cutting back on social spending, even in times of economic crisis.
- As regards social protection, while Brazil’s much-lauded targeted cash transfer scheme Bolsa Familia has undoubtedly played a role in tackling inequality, research has shown that it is actually the country’s pension system that has had the biggest impact on income inequality.
- Human rights-informed social protection policies must also be carefully designed to be gender-sensitive. Family and child benefits and paid maternity leave are essential planks in these policies.
- In health, interventions must go beyond past interventions that were often limited to the boosting of physical access.
- Health services are a crucial equalizer by redistributing wealth into ‘virtual income’ for all.
- The human right to health relates not only to health care services and goods, but also to the underlying determinants of health such as water, education, sanitation and housing. If implemented hand-in-hand with the commitments to allocate a minimum of 15 per cent of the national budget to health, Universal Health Coverage could provide people with a nationally determined set of promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative health services that will ensure the enjoyment of the right to health for all without discrimination.
- User fees and privatization of essential water, health and education services that exclude the poor clearly contradict governments’ HR duties. Actually, user fees in education or ‘low-cost’ private schools have been shown to be detrimental to greater equality and the enjoyment of HR.
- Additionally, one extra year of education is associated with a reduction of the Gini coefficient by 1.4 percentage points. Yet formal schooling between the ages of 5 and 18 is increasingly insufficient by itself to ensure equal chances for all in the modern economy.
- Early childhood education is one of the most effective ways of combatting economic inequality throughout life.
- Taxation: no progress without progressivity
Tax policy is one of government’s most powerful tools to reduce income and wealth inequalities.
- The decline in tax rates for the top end of the spectrum has been a key factor in the growth of inequality since the 1980s.
- In order to tackle inequalities, taxation measures must be progressive in nature, ensuring the well-off contribute a larger proportion of their income.
- The value added tax (VAT), popular in many countries, hits the incomes of the poor the hardest, and particularly affect poor women.
- Governments are to also substantially crack down on tax abuse and eliminate unjustifiable tax incentives that largely benefit wealthy individuals and large corporations. Low-income countries in particular lose billions of dollars in potential revenue through these channels.
- Rich countries are most responsible for –but currently most resistant to– creating a fairer international tax system that can tackle economic inequality within and between countries.
- Also included and crucial must be improving the regulation of financial markets, enhancing the voice of developing countries in global financial institutions, in facilitating safe migration, in special trade treatment for developing countries, in tackling illicit financial flows and in encouraging official development assistance to those states that most need it.
- One of the most important ways to create more equality between countries is to stem this hemorrhaging of wealth away from the countries in which it is generated.
- Substantial reform in global economic governance is necessary in order to redress the power imbalances among states that have prevented effective international cooperation for the fulfillment of HR and the reduction of inequalities within and between states. Most high-income countries have proven very resistant to such measures.*
*: Developed countries at the Addis Ababa Conference on Financing for Development in July 2015 forcefully blocked developing countries’ and civil society’s demand for an intergovernmental tax body within the UN with the mandate and resources to create a coherent and more equitable global framework for international tax cooperation.
- Without these reforms and others like them in equally critical areas such as debt, trade and investment policy, it will be very difficult to move towards a fairer balance of power between countries.
- As discussed above, inequality is largely a political problem –the result of a conglomeration of specific decisions made by policy decision-makers with particular narrow interests in mind.
- Politics is very often a zero-sum game in which the empowerment of a small elite results in the disempowerment of the many.
- The weaker and more underfinanced the government or civil society is, the more this elite is able to lock-in its own economic privileges, creating a vicious cycle of elite capture and rent-seeking that weakens both democracy and the economy.
- Existing HR standards provide powerful tools to challenge elite capture. Equal access to remedy, justice and the rule of law, free and fair elections, access to information that affects people’s lives, meaningful participation in the design implementation and monitoring of laws and public policies –these are all HR in an of themselves.
- Robust and inclusive monitoring and accountability institutions will be indispensable to drive actual changes on the ground
Note that the most privileged in society are largely uncaptured by official statistics.
- Wealthy families are under-sampled in household surveys while, for example, capital gains are rarely captured in income statistics, and significant amounts of offshore wealth escapes the tabulations of both tax collectors and statistical agencies.
- Yet, data does not translate into usable information without context and purpose behind it.
- It is concerning that the agreed list of SDG targets and indicators is not informed by HR considerations and is thus inadequate at present to hold governments to account for tackling inequalities.
- Given these shortcomings in the targets and indicators, the importance of using HR obligations and principles as a guide to implementation and monitoring becomes yet more urgent.
- Efforts at the national and regional levels to more robustly measure and tackle inequalities will be crucial, as much as to improve global tools, datasets and the benchmarks set for processes that need to be put in motion towards the progressive realization of HR.
- Public interest civil society –including academics and HR organizations– will be crucial in envisioning and operationalizing alternative and more rigorous measures of inequality.
- Public interest civil society organizations are to be involved in formulating and interrogating accountability plans, as well as holding governments answerable for implementing them.
- The power of the High Level Political Forum on the UN to review and hold states accountable for the implementation f the SDGs is, as of now, insubstantial and limited, especially given its reliance on voluntary self-reporting by states, and a meeting time of only eight days per year.
- Given the HLPF’s institutional weaknesses, other accountability mechanisms must also be engaged. In particular, the international HR monitoring mechanisms must be encouraged and supported to play a key role.
- Review mechanisms are to seek to examine the transnational dimensions of SDGs implementation, for example, the impact that country policies are having beyond their borders, or the impact of transnational multi-stakeholder partnerships.
- Enabling public interest civil society to meaningfully engage in shaping the structures, processes and substance of global follow-up and review of the SDGs will simply be crucial to ensure accountability.
- Recommendations: What, at the very minimum, is needed is:
- A serious worldwide commitment to a more equitable redistribution of resources and of decision-making power over all the above is indispensible.
- This will need to be pursued via three main policy areas: taxation, social protection and universalization of public services.
- Ultimately, this can be broken down into overhauling what is pursued, i.e., i) how and from whom resources are raised, and ii) how and for whose benefit they are spent. Both questions are necessary to see real improvement in equality.
- Governments have to raise revenue for achieving SDG10 from those most able to pay, including by cracking down on tax abuses by corporations and wealthy individuals and closing loopholes which enable them to avoid paying their fair share of tax.
- Labor markets, workplaces and financial systems must be regulated to protect against exploitative practices and unfair accrual of benefits at the top end of the income spectrum.
- Disadvantaged groups, including people having been rendered poor by an unfair system, must be primarily supported and enabled to access decent jobs that pay a living wage.
- Excessive speculation must be regulated to stop accumulation at the top and against the losses to the 99 per cent, especially those already living in poverty or at risk of falling into poverty.
- Benchmarks chosen to monitor processes set in motion towards the progressive realization of the different HR are to be complemented by time-bound targets to progressively eliminate inequalities between groups by prioritizing a more ambitious rate of progress for those most disadvantaged groups.
- The engagement of ordinary people in the design, implementation and monitoring of sustainable development policy processes and outcomes is not a discretionary privilege, but a right.
- Governments are to foster citizen-led monitoring of the implementation of the SDGs, particularly SDG10.
- Civil society space for engagement in SDGs implementation must be protected and expanded.
- Revenues must be raised in ways that reduce inequality, in particular through progressive taxation; resources raised must be spent in ways that help equalize socio-economic opportunities and outcomes.
- Fiscal abuse of power must be checked.
- Governments must assess and address the gender equality effects of policies as a priority task in implementing the SDGs, as well as invest in addressing the structural barriers that drive gender inequality in the economy.
- Minimum wage thresholds are also to be tracked and regularly improved.
- National statistics offices and UN agencies are to be empowered to collect the data needed to monitor disparities on the widest possible range of relevant grounds.
- Affected communities are to be closely involved in deciding the types of data required, and the indicators and benchmarks to be/being used.
- Donor countries are to conduct HR and equality impact assessments to ensure their proposed policies and programs reduce rather than reinforce economic and other inequalities in other countries.
- National Human Rights Commissions must be strengthened and given the resources, independence and mandate to effectively monitor inequalities under the rubric of SDG10 and existing HR obligations.
- The HLPF is to move to more binding reporting, as well as complement national and regional follow-up and review mechanisms on priority issues such as economic inequality, macro-economic policy, climate change and other.
Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City
All 400+ Readers are now available in my new website http://www.claudioschuftan.com
February 11th, 2017 by Claudio Schuftan
Human Rights: Food for a captive thought
Human Rights Reader 406
- Donor countries (the US in particular) continue to push WHO towards working with industry through ‘multi‐stakeholder partnerships’, rather than giving WHO the chance to implement regulatory and fiscal strategies that could make a real difference. (David Legge) Moreover, bilateral donors (and big philanthropies) demand WHO provides data according to their particular interests. Therefore, the types of data produced by WHO (and other UN agencies) are greatly influenced by a donor mandate that goes beyond the simple compilation of country-reported statistics. We know that donors seek to add value primarily through providing technical interventions (and not right to health or social determinants, for instance). So, here we are clearly faced with a biased stumbling block?* (Elizabeth Pisani, Maarten Kok)
*: Consider: While economics is not WHO’s core expertise, the impact of poverty and income maldistribution on population health clearly justifies WHO working with other agencies within or outside the UN system to focus much more attention on these questions of disparity.
- Things being the way they are right now, it is difficult to make sense of the shrinking scope of WHO’s role in global health governance, partly because of the ambiguity of the slogans about ‘stakeholders’ and the fait-accompli of ‘multistakeholder platforms’ and ‘public-private partnerships’ now used profusely. The continued use of the term ‘stakeholders’ (and the bundling together of public interest civil society organizations with international NGOs, private sector enterprises and philanthropies under the term ‘non-state actors’) appears to endow all of these private ‘stakeholders’ with having the right to have a ‘seat at the table’, with only the tobacco and arms industries declared off limits. Such ‘sitting rights’ sharply jeopardize the human rights enshrined in the various human rights (HR) instruments that address the rights of real people –the right to health prominently included.** (D. Legge)
**: It is important to note that the treatment of WHO by the rich countries is part of a wider onslaught on the UN system generally. The whole UN system is held hostage to short-term, unpredictable, tightly earmarked donor funding. The same strategies of control have been applied across the UN system generally through: freezing of countries’ assessed contributions, tightly earmarking voluntary contributions, and creating dependence on private philanthropy, as well as periodic withholding of assessed contributions and applying continued pressure to adopt the multi‐stakeholder partnership model of program design and implementation that, as said, gives global corporations an undeserved ‘seat at the table’.
- The Reform of WHO, aimed at realizing the vision of its Constitution, will require a global mobilization around the urgently needed democratization of global health governance; and this is not separate from, but part of, a global mobilization for HR and greater equity. Why? Because to claim that global health governance is somehow independent of global economic and political governance, is simply absurd. Nonetheless, such claims, still voiced by many, play an important political role for them in that they help to obscure the vested interests and power relations at play in the constraining (shackling) of WHO. (D. Legge)
Is WHO tinkering with a bureaucratic model inherited from the postwar era?
- WHO actually seems strangely detached from the broader political turmoil unfolding around the world. Globalization has created new collective health needs that cross old spatial, temporal and political boundaries. In response, we need global health governance institutions that represent the many, not the few; are sufficiently agile to act effectively in a fast-paced world, on top of being capable of bringing together the best ideas and boundary-shattering knowledge available. (Kelley Lee)
- WHO may point to its 193 member states and claim to be universally representative, but it is far from politically inclusive. Like the political alienation felt by millions around the world, many members of the global health community have turned elsewhere to move issues forward and get things done. What we see is a steady decline of WHO, clinging furiously to obsolete political institutions and bureaucratic models, yet kept alive by member states as an essential public institution. This decline is not because WHO is not needed, but because it has not adapted to and is not publicly financed for a changing world; it is not the WHO that we need today. (K. Lee)
- Political innovation must become a fundamental part of the process of WHO reform. Think: How might virtual and interactive town halls improve communication between global health policy-makers and the constituencies they serve? How might the closed world of global policy-making be opened up and strengthened through virtual public consultations, feedback systems and monitoring systems –all of them also aiming at reforming WHO? How might the concept of global citizenship become institutionalized within our global health institutions, especially WHO? (K. Lee)
Prescribing “LEGO models’?
- Otherwise, in the first decade of the new millennium, donors have pushed for increases in development assistance for health, yes, but in particular for medicines. This has clearly contributed to the re-legitimation of the ‘free trade agenda’ in health and has strengthened intellectual property (patents) protection regimes with their well-known negative consequences. Furthermore, in that development assistance, the mantra they preach to recipient countries is the one called ‘realistic costing of outputs’ that prescribes a LEGO model of program implementation, i.e., with each program comprising a set of planned outputs each of which comprises a known number of prescribed activities all of which have known costs. This approach leaves little, if any, room for flexibly managing complexity in planning and carrying out program implementation.*** (D. Legge)
***: WHO is made wary of prolonged project implementation processes, in part because they disrupts the ‘production schedule’ demanded by its paymasters. (Elizabeth Pisani, Maarten Kok)
- What is missing from the whole discourse is carrying out a robust analysis of the root causes of the preventable global disease burden. Only this will provide clearer criteria regarding which ‘stakeholders’ (duty bearers in the proper HR lingo) are part of the problem and which are part of the solution –and therefore which of them can be trusted to have a seat at the table. Human rights principles provide such criteria and so does the WHO report on Social (and political) Determinants of Health of 2008.**** (D. Legge)
****: The importance of non-medical factors is largely recognized as being a key predictor of health. In 2008, the WHO Committee on Social Determinants of Health stated: “Social injustice is killing people on a grand scale and constitutes a greater threat to public health than a lack of doctors, medicines or health care services”. The general conditions under which people live and work thus have a major impact on health outcomes. These social determinants of health further comprise, among other, the structural determinants of socioeconomic development, working conditions, education, housing, sex and high-risk behavior… What this implies is that health care is just one of the factors to influence health and can, therefore, only be considered part of the solution. (Koen Detavernier)
- The influence/control of donors over ministries of health in the South is nowhere more evident than in having kept any possibility of these ministries focusing on the human rights based approach in their agenda beyond mere lip service. Instead ministry officials keep pushing the newest slogans such as ‘universal health coverage’, ‘development assistance ‘and public-private partnerships’ that, in essence, are part of a common agenda consistent with the program of the 1% richest. They thus speak for the priorities of the 1% perhaps not realizing that they do so from within a worldview that accepts as natural and unchanging the global inequalities, the environmental degradation and the beneficence of private enterprise. (D. Legge)
Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City
All 400+ Readers are now available in my new website http://www.claudioschuftan.com
January 27th, 2017 by Claudio Schuftan
Human rights: Food for a new corporate thought
Human Rights Reader 405
Already the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 interpreted the issue as implying that no State, group or person has the right to engage in any activity aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein. (Art.30)
- Because of this change, it is of the utmost importance that State parties ensure access to effective remedies to victims of corporate abuse of economic, social and cultural rights through judicial, administrative, legislative or other appropriate means. And (!), no distinction is to be made between violations committed by a State, a physical person or a legal person. There is a ratified optional protocol pertaining to business enterprises operating abroad on this, but there are no means of enforcement since available means are not legally binding. Therefore, for now, norms applied to transnational corporations (TNCs) are merely voluntary codes, i.e., with no sanctions and no compliance —so impunity continues.
- Regarding corruption though, the UN General Assembly has adopted a legally binding instrument (UN Convention Against Corruption, 2003) and, in 2009, a review mechanism for the implementation of the convention was passed.
- Furthermore, the existing norms applicable to legal persons, hence to TNCs, are fragmented, do not deal with the entirety of human rights (HR), are not universal (since they are not ratified) and they have no coherent implementation.
- It is now possible to bring the management of TNCs before the International Criminal Court. Since 2008, the HR Council has emphasized that TNCs and other business enterprises have a responsibility to respect HR. TNCs being legal persons are thus subjects and objects of the law; they are indeed bound to respect HR.
- TNCs have greatly influenced commercial treaties in their own favor. Most trade agreements place TNCs above the State thus above the people. Hence these entities have all the rights, but they are not accountable for their acts. They typically short-circuit national courts, but have the right to bring states before the World Bank’s tribunal (the International Center for Settlement of investment Disputes), their favorite court, which is unfailingly favorable to them while states are denied this right. The ICSID ignores national and international legislation on HR, the environment and worker’s rights.
- So, by virtue of current international HR law, TNCs are bound to respect HR. All that remains is to clarify the HR obligations of these entities and to establish binding enforcement mechanisms. It is possible to demand they refrain from acts that violate HR and compel them to act so that the respect of these rights is guaranteed.
- As soon as possible, measures must be taken to require accountability before the courts for their non-respect of HR. Such respect is more than ever indispensable given that privatization policies are being imposed by the IMF and the WB, especially affecting public services previously provided by the State. Simply put, the people must have the possibility to defend their rights.
- The overwhelming majority of unpunished crimes and violations are committed in the countries of the Global South where justice mechanisms are slow. Therefore, TNCs responsible for these HR violations cannot be subjected to statues of limitation.
- With their economic and political power, the most powerful TNCs can and do escape all democratic, administrative and legal control. Their strategy consists of reinforcing their dominant position in the market in practically all areas of production and services by the way of acquisitions and mergers. Moreover, legal responsibility must reach all the way to their downstream contractual chains (affiliates, subcontractors, licensees). The parent company is indeed responsible for the offenses these downstream entities commit. The parent company must also assume responsibility for the debts of their affiliates in case they go bankrupt.
- The treaty now under negotiation at the UN pertaining TNCs liability will have to establish universal jurisdiction enabling legal action in the TNCs’ host State for their offenses committed regardless of where they occur. Host countries must guarantee access to their courts to the victims of violations committed by these entities in foreign countries. The treaty will further have to reassert the hierarchical superiority of HR norms over trade and investment treaties.
- Additionally, to fight impunity, victims will have to be guaranteed: the right to know, the right to justice, the right to compensation and the right to guarantees of non-reocurrence of violations with states having the obligation to take effective measures to fight impunity. There will have to be: i) no court costs to claimants, ii) the possibility of class action suits, iii) speedy trials (justice delayed is justice denied), and iv) limits to out-of-court settlements, i.e., TNCs offering easy transactional solutions to victims to avoid conviction and victims accepting a partial monetary compensation in exchange for abandoning litigation. Lawyers’ fees will have to be assumed by the State or supported by a special tax on TNCs.
- Bottom line: In an era of neoliberal (in)justice, the power is in the hands of the biggest TNCs while this power has no correlative counterpart accountabilities. The initiatives taken so far have been limited and are far from responding to what is at stake. The new treaty will also have to take into account environmental crimes and even killings of HR defenders that elude justice. Given the colossal magnitude of the violations committed by TNCs, an international instrument (treaty), as the one under consideration, may appear insufficient. But this will be a significant first step. The existence of such an instrument will be a clear message to HR violators.
- Completing the current UN negotiations setting binding norms on this is indispensable. People must mobilize and network to back these negotiations.
- Fighting TNCs impunity also means fighting the danger that TNCs represent for democracy and for the very existence of the states. If the states wish to maintain the little credibility they still have and put an end to the principle that might-is-right, they must act promptly against TNCs to subject them to the rule of law. (Taken from TNCs’ Impunity, What’s at Stake and Initiatives, CETIM, 2016, Geneva, www.cetim.ch)
Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City
All 400+ Readers are now available in my new website http://www.claudioschuftan.com
–Not all corporations are averse to responsibilities in the field of human rights. TNCs upholding HR and investing in best practices across contractual and production chains ought to have a clear interest in movement towards developing a binding instrument in regard to TNCs, and other business enterprises in the area of HR. An instrument at the global level will help avoid illegitimate corporate competition that could be achieved through exploiting differences in the applied standards and in mechanisms available to uphold the implementation of rights. (South Centre, Policy Brief No. 32, Geneva, October 2016)
-“Whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation, do take sides! Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” (Elie Wiesel)
–Indifference is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor — never her/his victim. In denying their humanity, we betray our own. (Eric Friedman)
-As we persistently propose the adoption of a new HR paradigm, we cannot work with our youth from our desks or facing the old blackboard, treading the old line. We have the responsibility to push them to grow new wings, to face the wind –and fly. (Jaime Breilh)
Following the added piece I shared with you two weeks ago on the visionary excerpt from Henry Miller –and given the important change we expect since last week in America– allow me to share with you another very relevant comment:
One of the details of understanding human psychology is how a person’s unconscious fear works in a myriad ways to make them believe that they bear no responsibility for a particular problem. In an era when human extinction is now a likely near-term outcome, this is obviously particularly problematic.
The belief is that it is the decisions of others, and not ours, that are responsible for the dire circumstances in which we find ourselves. This belief is widespread among those who refuse to accept structural violence, such as the exploitative way in which the global economy functions, as responsible for these circumstances. In a way, this leads to blaming the victims for their circumstances leading many to say: ‘I am not responsible in any way’.
Actually, the way these people evade responsibility is by deluding themselves thinking that a-person-who-needs-help is ‘not contributing’ while also deluding themselves about the potential importance their own efforts may have. This is just one of many delusions that wealthy people often have to self-justify their wealth while many, many people work extremely hard and are paid a pittance (or nothing) for their time, expertise and labor. A common way in which particularly some academics evade responsibility is to offer an explanation and/or theory about a social problem, but then take no action to involve themselves to change things. Deluding ourselves that we can avoid dealing with reality, much of which happens to be extremely unpleasant and ugly, is a frightened and powerless way of approaching the world. Yet it is very common. Many people evade responsibility, of course, simply by believing and acting as if someone else, perhaps even ‘the government’, is ‘properly’ responsible. The most widespread ways of evading responsibility are to deny any responsibility for military violence while paying the taxes to finance it, denying any responsibility for adverse environmental and climate impacts while making no effort to reduce consumption, denying any responsibility for the exploitation of other people while buying the cheap products produced by their exploited (and sometimes slave) labor –all these with serious human rights connotations.
All of the above should not be interpreted to mean that we should all take responsibility for everything that is wrong with the world. There is, obviously, a great deal wrong and the most committed person cannot do something about all of it. However, we can make powerful choices, based on an assessment of the range of problems that interest us, to intervene in ways large or small to make a difference. This is vastly better than fearfully deluding ourselves and/or making token gestures.
Moreover, powerful choices are vital in this world. We face a vast array of violent challenges, some of which threaten near-term human extinction. In this context, it is unwise to leave responsibility for getting us out of this mess to others, and particularly those insane elites whose political agents (who many still naively believe that we ‘elect’) so demonstrably fail to meaningfully address any of our major human rights, social, political, economic and environmental problems.
You may have had a good laugh at some of the examples above. The real challenge is to ask yourself this question: where do I evade responsibility? And to then ponder how you will take responsibility in the future. (Robert Burrowes) (January 14, 2017)
January 14th, 2017 by Claudio Schuftan
Human Rights: Food for an interfering thought
Human Rights Reader 404
Innovation is not a prerogative of the private sector.
- More and more, we are seeing a process of outsourcing the international development agenda. The current trade and investment regimes are already favoring wealthy countries and corporations. And where has this led us? To the balance already being outrageously skewed in favor of private interests. (Look at WHO’s financing, for instance).
- In this Reader, I have more questions than I have answers:
- What track record do businesses really have for being part of the solution?
- What is the incentive for TNCs to exert their enormous power and influence in any way beyond maintaining the status-quo that has delivered so many benefits to them? So, Who benefits from the current state of affairs?:
- The gargantuan pharmaceutical and food and beverages industry, intent on protecting their profits?
- Governments that now are increasingly elected on the back of private election finance?
- Does all this imply that the incentive structure only operates in one direction –not the human rights direction?
- Is the assumption such that we should have less confidence in the aptitudes of the public sector, so that it must do more to operate on business terms? …even when those are the same terms that have led to the current highly inequitable, unsustainable, human rights-violating patterns of development?
- Since public and private incentives are currently so poorly aligned (a marriage in hell?), it is hard to imagine how public entities operating more and more along private lines will keep up with their primary public responsibilities, including as the main duty bearers for protecting sustainability, inclusiveness and human rights (HR). The question really is:
- At what point should projects vital to human and environmental wellbeing happen regardless of a business take on the issue?
- Many businesses (of course, not all –I am not a business basher…), encouraged by years of deregulation, think of themselves as existing outside any social contract –or as able to select the parts of such a contract useful to them— for instance picking deliberate strategies that reduce their tax bills even as they are underpaying workers who then have to rely on social protection schemes paid for by general taxation. As a privileged group, big corporations are able to set their own norms, mostly related to their own survival and profitability, and further expect the public sector not to stand in their way. Large transnational corporations have pushed this approach so far that some progressive governments at the United Nations have called (and are acting upon it) for a legally binding framework to regulate them so as to provide appropriate protection, justice and remedy to victims of corporate HR abuses. But if such a new social contract keeps gaping exemptions or exclusions, it is bound to collapse. Businesses have to understand that the new global contract will be binding, not optional; it will have to be upheld and enforced, and there can be no picking and choosing –no exceptions. (B. Adams and G. Luchsinger)
There is no such a thing as a developed and underdeveloped world; there is only a single, badly developed or maldeveloped world (CETIM)
Some like to call the current development model “an evidence-free zone”. (Steven Nissen)
- Poor countries beware: Under the SDGs, more experts are coming! Not soldiers and bureaucrats to run your affairs like during colonialism, now it is an army of ‘experts’. (Note that, sometimes, experts are even more dangerous than soldiers). Experts come to tell you: “You cannot. The market will be irritated. The market will be angry”. It is as if the market is an unknown, but very active and cruel God punishing us, because we are trying to commit the cardinal sin of changing reality. I ask: Is recovering dignity a cardinal sin? (Eduardo Galeano)
- Fittingly, long ago, Immanuel Kant was of the opinion that, whoever wills the end, wills also (so far as cold reasoning* decides his conduct) the means in his power which are indispensably necessary thereto.
*: Marcel Proust used to talk about the intermittences of the heart as he observed world development going from bad to worse. (as cited by Alfredo Bryce Echenique)
The narrative of progress in development is no longer sustainable –unless things change (Steven Smith)
- The UN (and other development) agencies have, for decades, pitifully little to show in the implementation of actual actionable deliverables in the realm of the HR-based framework to development. It is evident that the power of interventions aimed at fulfilling HR principles and standards comes not from where they are ‘targeted’ top-down –when this power is rather to come from those who know (or suffer) how these interventions do not work to create positive change within the prevailing unfair economic and political system. This means that efforts targeted at government policy can have only limited effectiveness if they are aimed at changing relatively weak (or outright uninterested) leverage-points and individuals in the prevailing unfair system. (G. Carey)
- Even if it has been more than twenty years since their re-emergence on the international agenda, economic, social and cultural rights still remain a rhetorical aspiration. …or is there some global evidence that there have been many real advances in how they are enjoyed, claimed and enforced? This is indeed a pressing question. In a way, the affirmation by UN member states in the Vienna Human Rights Declaration of 1992 that HR and development should be seen as ‘mutually reinforcing’ still has a hollow rhetorical ring twenty five years on. (Alicia Yamin)
- On a less negative note, yes, some progress has been made on each front, particularly in the realm of discrimination, legal protection and judicial enforcement. Human rights are beginning to play a more prominent role in how we think, and how we act. But the economic and social rights of millions of people across the globe are still under systematic and renewed attacks as a result of a number of even current pervasive private/financial sector-dominated development trends. These include the imposition of regressive fiscal austerity measures and other policies fuelling economic inequality, the failure to take effective action against climate change, and the consolidated grip that unbridled corporate power now has on both national and international governance. (UN CESR) On the other hand, one of the most important innovations in human HR has been the increasing attention to economic policies such as the scrutiny of budgets, taxation, and social security systems. (Sakiko Fukuda-Parr)
- As you can see, a mixed picture. …in need of a photoshop overhaul…
Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City, January 14, 2017
-In dreaming begins responsibility. (W.B. Yeats)
-We are simply acting as the folk wisdom that says: “If we do not change direction, we are going to get where we are going.” This is equivalent to the cartoon Yogi Bear’s: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
–Peace, more than any other word, represents the essence of our work in HR. (Anwar Fazal)
-Henri Bergson used to say: The future is not what ‘is coming’, but rather what we will be capable of doing and achieving. It makes no sense to wish ourselves a Happy 2017 if, like donkeys, we are going to continue accepting what is being imposed on us by a corrupt and out-of-reputation political class; wishing ourselves a Good Year of Struggles, that yes! (Politika)
Given what is happening in the world later this month, I cannot think of anything more pertinent to share with you than a visionary excerpt from Henry Miller’s 1933 Tropic of Cancer. He had this to say:
How many people and colleagues do we know that have no allegiance, no social responsibility, no hatred, no prejudices, no passion, being neither for nor against –claiming to be neutral. It is actually hard to talk to a man or woman when you have nothing in common with him or her; you betray yourself, even if you use only monosyllabic words with them.
The axis has shifted, the world is dying. The world is pooped out; there is not a dry fart left. Who, that has a desperate, hungry eye can have the slightest regard for existing governments, laws, codes, principles, ideals, ideas, totems and taboos? This crazy civilization looks like a crater. And the crater is obscene. But more obscene than anything is inertia, is paralysis.
Conversely, even as the world goes to smash, there are men and women who remain at the core, who remain combative as the process of the world’s downward spiral quickens. At the very hub of this downward spiral we must keep rolling; otherwise, the whole world will belch no more. The wheel is falling apart, but the revolution is intact. Ideas have now to be wedded to action; if there is no vitality in them, there is no action. Ideas cannot exist alone in the vacuum of the mind. I find it soothing and refreshing to move among the creatures with living, breathing pores whose ethical background is stable and solid. The task to throw ourselves into is to overthrow the existing values, to make the chaos about us a new order.
The wallpaper with which the men of science and technology have covered the world of reality is falling to tatters. The grand whorehouse that they have made of life requires no such wallpaper decoration. Beauty is finished. The world is still beautiful only in an old fashioned way; it is the same old world of wine and fornication.
It sounds nutty to me, all this palaver about things happening so fast. Nothing is happening that I can see, except the usual calamities on the front page: Love and hate, despair, pity, rage, disgust, war, disease, cruelty, terror, the evil, the sorrow, the discord, the rancor, the strife, the disorder, the violence, the hatred, the chaos, the confusion…
A new day is dawning. As the thermometer rises, the form of the world grows blurred; there still is articulation, but at the periphery the veins are all varicose and are starting to bleed. To fathom the new reality it is first necessary to dismantle the gangrened ducts of the system responsible for all the garbage we see and experience.
Once I thought that to be human was the highest aim we could have, but I see now that it was meant to deceive me. I see this other race of individuals ransacking the universe, turning everything upside down, always moving in blood and tears, slaying everything within reach. We are governed by counterfeit values; only the tiny part that is left is human, i.e., the rest that belongs to life. We simply have to act before a large portion of humanity is buried, wiped out forever. My world has overstepped its human bounds; what it is to be human is left to moralities and codes disregarded by those in power. Too much of what they feed us to read is mere literature, not reality. I know what they are really like. Underneath this fake morality all is dead, no feelings. They are selfish to the core. They think of nothing but money, money, money. And they look so goddammed respectable, so bourgeois. That is what drives me nuts.
We have got our faults, but we have got integrity and enthusiasm. It is better to make mistakes than not to do anything.
December 31st, 2016 by Claudio Schuftan
Human rights: Food for an evidence-overwhelming thought
Human Rights Reader 403
[Mostly abstracted from chapter 18 of the International Panel on Social Progress, 2016]
-Inequality in health is a morally significant fact in itself.
–A purely biomedical understanding of diminished health and preventable mortality misses key dimensions of social and economic issues.
- The differences in health statistics that impinge on human rights (HR), pertain to how health outcomes are distributed (the distributive pattern), to what is being distributed (the distributive currency), and to the area in which that assessment is made (the distributive locus). The risk that non-disaggregated data carry is fostering prioritarianism. Prioritarianism puts greater weight on the health or wellbeing of those who are worse off rather than focusing specifically on the gap between them and those who are better off.
- The emphasis must be on equality of true access to services and the health outcomes the existing inequalities brings about. Emphasis must also be on equality in the resources being made available to all. Consequently, assessing equality has to focus on the equality of fundamental social status/class, i.e., the equality in the relations among members of a population that is rarely obtainable beyond inequalities in money, in power, and, to a large extent, in health and health care. [Keep in mind that social groups are marked either by their tendency to attract advantages and disadvantages across many distributive spheres, or by their social salience and relevance].
- Further keep in mind that the continued high incidence of infant and child deaths in some countries plays a significant role in determining how personhood is bestowed over time, sometimes at a child’s first or even fifth birthday, instead of at birth; personhood is a human right.
- Historically, the reduction in child mortality began to slow down in 1985 and reversed direction in 1994 (-1/2%) before resuming its former downward trend beginning in 1997.* How do we explain this interruption of more than a decade?: Structural Adjustment. This regime had dramatic negative effects on public health, leading to its visible deterioration. Add HIV/AIDS and TRIPs to these determinants and you get pretty much the full picture. (Child deaths from HIV/AIDS peaked in 2005 and have declined thereafter, no doubt as a consequence of people-demanded greater access to anti-retroviral treatments).
*: Furthermore, note that, in all countries of the world, child mortality is significantly lower for children of more educated women even after adjusting for the effect of income/wealth.
- Only by the turn of the millennium did the devastating impact of the World Bank’s policies on children’s rights become impossible to ignore. Since then, the new global health actors (Gates, GAVI, GFTAM) work in close collaboration with Big Pharma and are in an important sense driven by the desire to generate a new regime for pharmaceutical innovation and a new stream of revenue flows for the pharmaceutical industry. In this way, public (not really public?) health is being resurrected as a profitable area of investment in ways that shape the kinds of health care interventions that are prioritized and this forecloses the revival of a truly public health care infrastructure. This has resulted in overwhelmingly vertical funding schemes focused on single diseases. The vertical orientation has equally brought about a new dominance of public-private initiatives and other para-statal actors over national actors.
By now we know
- Social and environmental factors influence child development in a broad way and, through this process, also influence adult health. In a strong way, adult mortality is socially and economically differentiated in all countries. (Serious illness does not lead to bankruptcy where there is social insurance…). A lack of programs targeting both children and overall economic wealth redistribution thus has long-term consequences for adult health and survival –their right to health included.
- To date, global health inequalities in child health do remain highly pertinent. However, health inequalities within countries are widespread too. Economic disparities are not only persistent, but in some areas widening. The economic gap between urban and rural, and the formal and informal economic sector is starkly visible in health trends and outcomes. Large disparities in health services and outcomes are not confined to economically poor countries, but can be found in countries throughout the world. In the United States of America, for instance, access to health services for children is highly unequal. Health prospects there intersect with race, gender and economic status.
- We further note that, while some of the most celebrated global health interventions of the past few decades have targeted infants and in particular under-five year olds, the specific health risks of adolescents are still relatively neglected.
- Within country mortality differences by income, wealth, class and level of education also persist. In many countries inequalities in adult mortality are increasing; most typically when adult mortality improves faster among the better off. Therefore, life expectancy between countries differs –and it looks like the dispersion is about the same in 1955 as in 2015 (about 35 years between the two countries with highest and lowest life expectancy).
Why do social class differences in health reappear again and again in every new generation?
Health in early life is heavily influenced by the social circumstances of the previous generation. Thereafter, life-long social circumstances have a dominant influence on people’s health and survival.
- Child mortality in poor household is around double that of rich households in the same country. Study results show a gradient in infant mortality from income quintile 1 to income quintile 5. This is the typical pattern in any country.
- Middle-aged white Americans have experienced increasing mortality during the 1999-2013 period. However, this trend only applies to low educated whites, not to those of middle or high education groups. Actually, since at least 1990, there is a longer trend of generally widening mortality differences between educational groups –and not only in middle-aged men and women. The mortality of white men and women with less than twelve years of schooling has been growing gradually worse over time.**
**: Is it likely that global market forces and corporate actors now exercise a growing influence over national income distributions, labor markets, consumption patterns, taxes and welfare policies in general that are too powerful for national governments to balance?
- Bottom line: According to the influential report of the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health (2008), health inequalities and the violation of the right to health are not consistent with a ‘business as usual’ approach to tackle them.
Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City
The social determinants of health (SDH) are those circumstances in which individuals are born, grow, work and age. They also pertain to all those forces and systems that affect those circumstances like the economic, social and development policies and the cultural norms. In general, also key are the political systems that regulate how wealth and power, prestige (status) and (natural) resources are distributed globally, nationally and locally. From a more formal perspective, the social determinants of health are the structural components of a major model of causality arrived-at to specifically explain and understand (give a rational basis) to our observations and actions with regards to the health of a population at multiple levels and contexts, i.e., how these factors determine health and well-being. This new eco-epidemiological paradigm recognizes the social and historic determination of health centered around risk factors that cannot be ignored and, particularly, recognizing the distributive inequality of the opportunities to succeed in achieving good health outcomes. The SDH paradigm replaces the obsolete paradigm under which our observations about the interactions between the physical and social environments are considered ‘difficult to frame and to appropriately match’. (Oscar Mujica, PAHO)
December 17th, 2016 by Claudio Schuftan
Human Rights: Food for a thought at the very roots (2)
Human Rights Reader 402
We are witnessing the return of a neo-feudal system based on the governance of the powerful with (questionable) ethical values (Sofia Monsalve)
The great powers have not hidden their agenda of displacing the debate on governance away from the United Nations. The Group of Seven (G7) has become the Group of 20 (G20), and the World Economic Forum in Davos a more important space for exchange than the UN General Assembly. (Roberto Savio)
- Transnational corporations (TNCs) are the big-time beneficiaries of Globalization’s architecture of impunity, especially on human rights (HR). This means that these entities, more often than not, not only escape legal action owing to a lack of political determination on the part of certain states, but also get away with it, because of a lack of appropriate legal instruments at the international level. (CETIM)
- To add insult to injury, the profitable valorization of wo/men at the expense of nature is advancing ever onward. ‘Growth until downfall’ has long become a reality that, by now, nearly everyone is aware of.*** (Thomas Gebauer)
***: In the colono-globalized world, the center is powerful and impermeable to the ecological, social, HR and cultural realities of the periphery; it is mostly made up by multilateral and bilateral TNCs and financial institutions and their managers that are out to homogenize the world. (Jorge Osorio) (Bankers, hedge fund managers and TNCs’ CEOs are, more and more, prone to feed panics rather than quell them –look at right-wing politicians in the developed world these days… In the world of the globalized free market we live-in, the ‘liberty of money’ demands that the dispossessed be constantly imprisoned in the jail of fear and fright –which is the worst of all jails). (Eduardo Galeano)
- Yes, together with many (and growing) I am super critical-of, but not a blanket private sector basher. We all look at what is happening with conflicts of interest (CoI), public private partnerships (PPPs), free trade agreement (FTAs), multistakeholder platforms and at so many other conflicting issues …and what is the common denominator we find?: An increasing interference in public decision-making.
- By now, we are convinced that PPPs are not for the benefit of society, but about constructing new subsidies to benefit the already wealthy in the private sector. In them, it is less about financing development than developing finance. Understanding and exposing these PPPs is essential to challenge growing inequality. But equally important is critically reflecting on how the wealthy are getting away with it. (Nicholas Hildyard)
Challenging the power of the few and ending inequality badly needs greater strategic cooperation between development groups, social movements, trade unions, and human rights organizations (A. Campolina)
- Extreme economic inequality is not inevitable. It, big time, hampers progress in everything from economic growth and disparity reduction to social cohesion and political stability. It is created, perpetuated and exacerbated by laws, policies and practices of the sort that have dominated the capitalist global policy agenda of at least the last (too many) decades. As we know, it is compounded and reinforced by disparities and discrimination on grounds such as gender, race and disability. (Kate Donald)
- Although the exact package of measures for tackling economic inequality under neoliberalism will vary by country, there are several types of policies that are generally and particularly indispensable including social protection, fiscal policy (especially progressive tax policies), public services provision, labor and wage policies, and financial regulation. All of these policies are linked broadly by the idea of redistribution (how economic rewards are shared), and of changing the current status-quo of where wealth, income, power and resources are concentrated. These policies should be seen as interdependent. Each addresses a different stage or aspect of redistribution. Success will require, not only a reversal of the ongoing austerity trend that is fuelling inequality worldwide, but also a significant redistribution of wealth, resources and power, which, in turn, means addressing the financial and political privileges of wealthy elites and transnational corporations. Focusing solely on the bottom 40 percent of national populations neglects one of the key drivers of inequality, namely runaway accumulation at the top. It will be down to public interest civil society and social movements to ensure inequality is kept under the spotlight of accountability. (K. Donald) No to poverty alleviation, yes to disparity reduction!
We are to fight ‘The Three Xs’: Exploitation, Exclusion and Extinction (Julio Monsalvo)
- Profit-driven Globalization is compelling us to think within the so-called ‘permitted worldviews and accepted narrative frames’. Markedly alternative or radical views are and will be consistently discarded by the dominant mainstream, by being labeled utopian, naïve or, even worse in our times, ‘communist’ (before a challenging political ideology and nowadays just a mere insult used by the mainstream thinkers). (Jose Luis Vivero)
- Furthermore, we have to fight the indifference of our youth to the present HR situation. Right now, our young and upcoming colleagues also, remain largely indifferent to the overwhelming negative effects Globalization is having in the world.
- Our struggle is not about the rich being stroked for a little more noblesse oblige, but about ordinary citizens banding together to challenge them, winning tough regulations, and creating a much fairer system as a result. (Naomi Klein)
- Taking a minimalist stand towards Globalization will do no harm, but neither will it do much good. Historically, inertia (has) and will always work(ed) against the more visionary and radical changes deemed necessary when the same fall outside the ruling paradigm.
What does the wealth gap suggest about the need for new forms of organizing by us who are attempting to resist elite power?
The key question is: What oppositional strategies can unsettle elite power instead of making it stronger? (N. Hildyard)
- The need clearly is to reclaim public spaces, at all levels of governance so as to protect them from the undue influence of private interests and ensure that they respond to claim holders’ demands. Cohabitation with a predatory and hegemonic form of economic globalization is hardly possible any longer. What this calls-for then is to exert resistance to this current dynamics and to strengthen all alternative social, economic and political avenues. The construction of such a people-centered agenda for social justice, equity, HR, ecology, and respect for diversity can only be driven by the inspiration and leadership of social movements and the direct participation of those most affected by the many development challenges. This contrasts sharply with the increased professionalization of international non-governmental organizations and their increasing attachment to mainstream agendas. (Stefano Prato)
- How to move beyond the ‘converted’ in this and capture new converts? The fundamental challenge is not so much that of pushing power structures as it is educating and challenging privileged citizens and consumers to change their habits and make the connection between their comforts and other people’s misery. (S. Prato)
- Yes, you can have a pessimistic long-term outlook, but this does not mean you give up hope. We cannot give up hope. If we give up hope we are lost. But if we keep battling away, we can at least make a difference, and there is at least some hope that we may turn things around before the world reaches the terminal skids. The odds of success are perhaps the same as winning the lottery. But, as the cliché has it, without a ticket we have no hope at all.(Colin Tudge)
- Bottom line: an effective challenge against Globalization and its negative effects on HR is possible, but demands the same kind of intellectual commitment and vigor that characterized anti-colonial or independence struggles.
Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City
-Humanity should not succumb due to its blind selfishness. This is the truth we have conveniently forgotten for too long. After the failure of humanity in the use and control of the forces of the universe –that have now turned against us– it is indeed urgent that we feed on another class of energy. We want our species to survive; we must find a new sense in life; we must save the world and every human being that inhabits it. Hatred, selfishness and greed stand in our way in this the only planet we have. (Albert Einstein)
-The World Bank is good at systematizing findings and issues, e.g., 4 key points in this, 3 actions needed for that, actions in 4 areas, to address 2 major challenges, etc; all looks so neat in its analyses –when reality is really not so neat.
-Major immorality is a systemic trait of the North American elites; its general acceptance by the public constitutes an essential characteristic of a mass-media-controlled-society. (Adapted from Charles Wright Mills)
-What is called the international community in the United States is the United States and anyone who happens to be going along with it. The standard line is that the ‘international community’ cannot object to this. So, who really and ultimately is the international community?: What the United States determines it to be. (Noam Chomsky) Americans do not want you to say ‘yes’, they want you to say ‘yes sir’. (Boutros Ghali)
December 4th, 2016 by Claudio Schuftan
Human Rights: Food for a thought at the very roots (1)
Human Rights Reader 401
-Mind that the SDGs are indeed permissive of neoliberalism. (G. McNaughton)
-However attractive the ideas of neoliberalism are at first sight, they hide a dangerous liberal logic that threatens human rights and cannot thus make for a better world. (Francine Mestrum)
Neoliberalism: do we all share what it really is? To some, neoliberalism is the ideology at the root of all our planetary problems
- Neoliberalism has become hegemonic as a discourse. It has reached pervasive effects on our ways of thought to the point where it has become incorporated into the common-sense-way many of us interpret, live-in, and understand the world. (David Harvey)
- Neoliberalism manifests itself through behaviors that spring from the values (or anti-values) that define how we see and respond to the world around us. The notion of human rights (HR) is no exception: It springs from how a given culture adopts behaviors and such values and anti-values that define how the world is perceived. In neoliberalism, individualism, competitiveness and having the power to control dominate. Its morality is utilitarian: Everything is a ‘resource’ or a ‘commodity’ measured in monetary terms. But this is exploitative, excluding and extinguishing… We hear: “S/he who cannot pay should not consume”; this is the essence of the discourse. For such an ethics, feeding oneself, educate oneself, clothe oneself, take care of one’s health and having a decent home, are consumptions that need to be paid. In neoliberalism, the concept of HR and solidarity is totally absent. When someone or something is not considered ‘useful’, because it does not produce rent, s/he or it is excluded, abandoned. This invariably leads to violence in all its manifestations, wars, arms race, global warming and the loss of biodiversity. (Julio Monsalvo)
- The neoliberal ideology emphasizes personal responsibility, private property and markets above all else. The core human rights ideals thus differ from those of neoliberalism that promotes only individual freedoms and a skewed brand of dignity, but not equality and solidarity. The HR paradigm recognizes that individuals living in families, in communities, and in societies are bound by a global order. Crucially, this people-centered framework puts people’s wellbeing before all else. It discards a trickle-down approach as eventually leading to the enjoyment of HR. Interestingly, civil and political rights have not clashed substantially with neoliberalism; this explains a lot… (G. McNaughton)
Have a look at this table:
|Comparison of Neoliberalism with the Holistic Human Rights Framework
||The ideology in Neoliberalism promotes
|The ideology of International Human Rights principles and standards promotes
• Individual freedoms,
· Is gender neutral and
• Individual and collective freedoms
· Is gender sensitive and
|Role of the State
||In Neoliberalism, the role of the state is to
• Protect property rights
• Ensure free markets
• Ensure unhindered free trade
In the HR framework the role of the state is to
• Respect, protect and fulfill people’s (indivisible) rights
· Ensure property rights and free trade do not infringe/impinge-on human rights
• Ensure human rights principles and standards are realized/enforced
• Implement wealth redistribution measures
||The policy framework of Neoliberalism
• Promotes competition
• Deregulates essential services
• Dismantles labor protection measures
• Promotes flexible labor markets
• Reduces welfare
• Reduces taxes
• Attracts foreign investment
• Balances budgets
· Uses maximum available resources to enhance personal/corporate wealth.
The policy framework pertaining HR
• Promotes solidarity
· Opposes privatization
• Ensures claim holders participation
• Regulates essential services and corporations
• Protects and promotes unionization
· Secures fair wages
• Ensures universal free daycare,
education, health care
• Increases social protection measures
• Implements progressive tax regimes and protects people’s rights in foreign investment schemes
• Uses maximum available resources to enhance well-being of people.
By G. McNaughton as amended by me.
Social justice vs. ‘market justice’ (Claudia Gonzalez)
Market fundamentalism relates to the belief (conviction?) that all areas of policy, politics, society, culture and knowledge, and not just economics, should be ordered by the market logic. (Mary Nolan)
- Adam Smith, one of the fathers of capitalism, did place great weight on morality: He believed that economic activity takes place in a society and can not be justified except as it advances the interests of that society. But too many economists* have come to believe that the interests of society can be measured by a number: that if a policy change raises GDP it is justified — whatever its impact on people. (J. Legge)
*: Conservative ideologues and economists so often are one and the same. Homo economicus –the fictional abstract individual who actively maximizes his personal ‘utility function’ through rational calculation– continues to hold sway as the idealized model of human action in the contemporary entity we call ‘the economy’. The real tragedy of the market is to be found in the ‘rational’ individualism at its base.
Rosa Luxemburg used to say that if the people would really know, capitalism would last three days
–The rich are becoming richer and the richest are getting richer faster.
-The veritable economic anarchy of the capitalist society, as it exists today is, in my opinion, the true source of our evils. (Albert Einstein)
- Capitalism excels at certain innovations, granted. But it is/has miserably failing(ed) at maintenance; and, for most lives, it is maintenance that matters more. (Lee Vinsel)
- Take, for example ‘Green Growth’ as it is being variedly proposed. It has not resulted in solving our looming ecological crises but, in reinterpreting them, is actually creating new opportunities that business is taking advantage -of while diffusing responsibility for the causes of the same crises. Green Growth is full of contradictions and resistance to its orthodoxy is inevitable. (Larry Lohman)
- Actually, in Globalization –the current flagship of capitalism– “Might is Right” has come back with a vengeance. And in a defeatist stance, we have so far accepted this fact and have bowed to the forces we think we cannot effectively oppose.
- Globalization is, therefore, not a neutral term. You know that. It is a straight jacket as strong as those of previous incarnations of capitalism as a hegemonic ideology. Globalization also presents the market as the only basis for society, with the elimination of any national barrier for the free flow of capitals and trade –but not people. Globalization shuns, as obsolete, the values of social justice and social institutions (like welfare). Its ‘new’ values are individual success over community values. The state is seen as an impediment, a problem, not as a solution. But the problem is that the State has left the market unregulated, devoid of any redistribution mechanisms blindly trusting trickle down will do it ‘in due time’. The engine of Globalization’s growth thus is greed. You know that too. The great powers de-facto control trade –one of the two engines of Globalization; the other engine, finance, was taken away by Washington. The UN has been left only to deal with the broken dishes, i.e., with the resulting rising social issues —and doing so in an increasingly irrelevant and underfinanced role.** (Roberto Savio)
**: Today, the United Nations has no funds for action, and has become a dignified International Red Cross, left with education, health, food, children, mothers and any other humanitarian sector which is totally extraneous to the arena in which the politics of money and power is played out. The MDGs, adopted with great fanfare by the world’s Heads of States in 2000, would have cost less than 5% of the world’s military expenses. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council are responsible for the international trade of 82% of weapons, and the Council’s legitimacy to approve military intervention is a blanket conveniently used according to circumstances. (R. Savio)
Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City