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Food for a morally responsible thought

Human rights Reader 260

-Is morality a private matter? Decency certainly is a public matter…
-Intellectuals pride themselves for their logic, but logic, by definition is deprived of moral responsibility.
-By definition, the essence of an intellectual should be her/his consciousness. An intellectual that does not deeply understand what is going-on in her/his time and in her/his country is a walking contradiction. (R. Walsh)

1. Development outcomes are determined by human rights (HR) standards (some of the MDGs, for example). But the processes to reach them should be conditioned, guided and controlled by HR principles (empowering participation, inclusion, non-discrimination, accountability, rule of law…) –nothing new here. (U. Jonsson)

2. As this Reader has also said before, in following those standards and principles, both claim holders and duty bearers have to move from an ethics-of-principles to the ethics-of-responsibilities. *
*: We all have met people of an ethical conviction and behavior beyond doubt; people that have never received any formal ethics education. But also the contrary: social, spiritual or ethical spokespersons who really do not act by their precepts and lead a double life or are nothing but opportunists when circumstances are unfavorable for what they have claimed loyalty to until then. (L. Weinstein) [This has been called ‘maybe ethics’ or also ‘moral relativism’]. Let’s face it, many people are more interested in prosperity than in human rights. (A. Gomez)

3. An ethical behavior does not imply a full endorsement of HR though. It just is that certain types of ethical behavior are closer to human rights than other. **
**: Being a nice person does not require that the person believes in human rights. However, a person who genuinely adopts the human rights ethics and lives a life according to these, will be a kind person. (U. Jonsson)

4. Basically, when the human being is left out, our objectives in development work lose their North –the needle of our compass drifts to zones of high risk; our ethics become slippery; we drift into moral inertia.***
***: Let us be honest: Many in our sphere of work often lack a moral consciousness –but less often do they lack an intellectual consciousness: it bothers intellectuals less to be accused of being immoral than being taken for being dumb…

5. Therefore, beyond strategies, at the bottom, there should be an ‘ethical reserve’ that makes us question, and if necessary oppose, the economic system we see needing to be replaced.

6. Some say that science is responsible for half the problems it tries to resolve… especially when it tries to analyze moral problems with ‘scientific impartiality’. Moreover, key for HR work is to be aware that, additionally, in moral matters, con-science must always prevail over the content of outdated laws and policies.

7. The two questions this all leaves us with are: i) Can one be immune to moral responsibility? (Dan Brown, in Angels and Demons), and ii) Do UN Covenants and Conventions represent universal values? ****
****: The word “covenant” connotes a biblical term that speaks to a moral authority, acknowledging the sanctity of life. (S. Koenig)

8. As you know, regardless of the respective answers to these two questions, sadly, as time goes by, the memory of our rulers about the covenants and conventions they signed/ratified (as well as the morals of these rulers…) become progressively blurred. The result is that everything is forgotten and nothing is fixed; nobody then takes notice of the injustices as they are being condoned by the officialdom; all injustices are thus ultimately overlooked and disregarded. (M. Kundera) Hence the role of claim holders to ‘un-blurr’ the rulers’ memory…

9. To reinforce this, one can safely say that, in many countries, a whole litany of HR violations result from their elites’ irresponsible procrastination on HR issues. We strongly condemn letting the melodious rhetoric in the mouths of such elites gloss over HR violations! Even well drafted HR documents are of little help if our leaders do not live-up to their pledges thus becoming accomplices to a ‘HR-stand-still’. *****
*****: Bottom line, it is to no avail to have HR written in paper only. Ergo these two quotes:
i) There can be no good faith in the world if among men, and among nations, treaties are not more than a pile of papers. (S. Bolivar)
ii) We are sick and tired of duty bearers who have the ability, but not the intention to grant any given rights. (B. Kneen)

10. It is thus, again, claim holders who must sternly remind irresponsibly-acting governments of their duties. Only through that kind of pressure will the state eventually reorient its policies towards the public good.

Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City
Adapted from Z. Acevedo Diaz, La Dama de Cristal, Fondo Editorial Casa de las Americas, La Habana, 1999; A. Gomez, Ultimo Patio, Ed. Turmalina, Buenos Aires, 2009; A. Gomez, Despojos y Semillas, Editorial Belgrano, Buenos Aires, 1997; and D+C, 36:12, Dec.2009.

Postscript: My hope is not only based on faith; faith can comfort you, but can also be based on an illusion, in something irrational and impossible. I prefer the world of reason, of common sense and morals; I recognize the possibility that I can write something to reach you, the reader, with an idea; that I can act and inspire others so they act by themselves. (taken from Susan George)

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