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Further Oppression of the Poor likely at the UN: America – both the Problem and the Solution.
by Anthony Ravlich
Email: anthony_ravlich (nospam) yahoo.com
Phone: (0064) (09) 302.2761
Address: 10D / 15 City Rd., Auckland City, New Zealand
13 Sep 2008
Radical changes are needed by the UN General Assembly, dominated by left wing neo liberalism, to complaints procedure for social injustices if there is to be hope for the most disadvantaged.
Further Oppression of the Poor likely at the UN: America – both the Problem and the Solution.
Human Rights Council Inc. (New Zealand)
10D/15 City Rd., Auckland City, New Zealand.
Ph: (0064) (09) 302.2761
Economic, Social and Cultural Human Rights will lose its Purpose
Radical changes are needed by the UN General Assembly, dominated by left wing neo liberalism, to complaints procedure for social injustices if there is to be hope for the most disadvantaged.
The UN may render itself virtually irrelevant as defenders of human rights if
the UN General Assembly in October, 2008, adopts a complaints procedure (Optional Protocol, OP) for those suffering social injustices (as defined by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, ICESCR). However, it is ignoring the most disadvantaged by excluding core minimum obligations as defined by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (e.g. see General Comment No. 3).
The New Zealand National Party’s (main opposition party) recently announced its ‘hard line’ beneficiary policy which seems to be anticipating this gross discrimination towards the most disadvantaged by the global elites and the UN, which, in our view, is dominated by neo liberalism, albeit of a left-wing variety.
In fact, in our view, the OP is very likely to further entomb the most disadvantaged in a social prison especially given neo liberalism’s predilection to create under classes wherever it goes. Greater oppression and exploitation will mean that the most disadvantaged are likely to live lives of frequently daily ‘catastrophes’ and social discrimination and hatred. For many the Mental Health System will be beckoning on one hand and on the other the Criminal Justice System. And in the words of Samuel Coleridge, they will ‘…die a death so slow that none will call it murder’ (Religious Musings, 1796).
The way forward, in my view, can be found in what the draft OP omits. A ‘bottom-up’ human rights approach must, in our view, now be put into place driven by financially independent NGOs. These NGOs can promote what the present draft OP fails to address, namely, what we call its ‘major flaws’. This will ensure that a number of important human rights are not completely excluded in society and secure the truth in societies increasingly in darkness.
This is a ‘last minute attempt’ to have the draft OP, which, in our view, gives a very flawed interpretation of the Covenant, revisited and what we see as its major flaws addressed especially as these human rights instruments are virtually ‘set in cement’ once adopted. The draft OP was approved by consensus by the UN Human Rights Council on 18 June 2008. According to the NGO Coalition for the OP to the ICESCR, the draft OP is the culmination of ‘several decades of work’ and the last step will be taken within the 3rd committee (social, humanitarian and cultural matters) of the UN General Assembly in October 2008. The major work on the draft OP has been done at open-ended working groups, which New Zealand representatives attended, over the past four years. It is expected that many States will ratify the OP soon after its adoption by the General Assembly meaning that States will have to arrange to allow complaints to be heard domestically.
The draft OP, and its interpretation of economic, social and cultural rights, does represent a step forward in its inclusion of the working classes (since 1984 society virtually revolved around the interests of the middle class, professional elite) but it is very likely to be at the expense of the most disadvantaged who will have virtually no hope of a better life.
Economic, social and cultural rights were primarily intended for the underclass, marginalized and alienated in society and was born out of the enormous oppression and exploitation of the poor in the Industrial Revolution and the Great Depression. However the present draft OP interprets the Covenant in such a way that the social and economic interests of those in employment – middle classes and working classes - will be prioritized while largely ignoring the unemployed – beneficiaries, a creative milieu outside the establishment, in addition to those that ‘fall through the cracks’, the underclass.
A detailed discussion of the draft OP and its major flaws can be found in my recently released book: ‘Freedom from our Social Prisons: the rise of economic, social and cultural rights’, in particular, Chapter 5, ‘Lack of Will for Social Justice for the Most Disadvantaged at the UN’ (see below). Although this book is now in many New Zealand libraries it is, as with our Council, being ignored by politicians and the liberal mainstream media and human rights NGOs (with only a few exceptions). Consequently people are not being made aware of its existence. In my view, the State and its elites want to eliminate any credible alternative truths which may provide hope for people.
Since the signing of the UDHR in 1949 liberal democracies have invariably excluded education in economic, social and cultural rights thereby protecting elite interests by keeping people ignorant. A recent survey showed that 70% of Britons could not name one human right. (Bert Massey, Chairperson Disability Rights Commission, The Edinburgh Paper, July 7, 2006). Most present States, in my view, want their people to remain ignorant because an educated public can lead to committed believers who are capable of overcoming enormous odds to achieve a better world. In a rather bizarre twist it is likely to be Americans, who are the main drivers of neo liberalism yet there would also be many who are most able to make the most significant positive changes simply because the US Constitution means they are far better educated in human rights – even if this is only of the liberal variety those that do not compromise their beliefs would ensure a ‘voice for the poor’, respect different political persuasions and respect intellectual freedom – they (i.e. the true liberals) will keep the truth alive. Consequently, in my view, America could be described as both the problem and the solution.
While ideally the draft OP really should be revisited and what we see as serious flaws addressed so it better reflects the spirit of the Covenant if it is considered too late for such changes to the present OP there are some relatively minor changes which could assist the most disadvantaged and help retain the credibility of the UN. For example, additions and revisions can be made to some Articles in the draft OP (Revised Draft OP to ICESCR, A/HRC/8/WG.4/3, 28 February 2008). For example, Article 16, ‘Dissemination and information’ and Article 14(1), ‘Trust Fund’ (see the end of this article for these draft OP ‘Articles’ in full):
With respect to ‘Dissemination and information’ in our experience the mainstream liberal media in New Zealand has very rarely mentioned economic, social and cultural rights. According to the New Zealand Public Libraries Index New Zealand, which covers most of the mainstream newspapers and journal (see page 21, ‘Freedom from our Social prisons’) from 1988 to 2006 there were only seventeen articles on economic, social and cultural rights i.e. reported about once per year. For example, when the New Zealand Human Rights Commission released its National Plan for Human Rights in New Zealand in February 2005 Index New Zealand only cited 12 articles but there was no mention of the economic, social and cultural rights which were also included in the plan. People were kept ignorant of them although it was the most recognition these rights have received in this country since being championed by the New Zealand delegation led by former Prime Minister Peter Fraser at the ‘Great Debate’ on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1949. In addition over the past four years the mainstream media have refused to print any of the many articles I have written on the progress of the draft OP at the UN (see Anthony Ravlich on the internet which was virtually the only outlet). Consequently Article 16 could require that States, perhaps through their human rights commissions, place advertisements in the mainstream media with information regarding the OP and economic, social and cultural rights and core minimum obligations (see below). The Human Rights Commission could also subcontract this education function to ‘socially responsible bottom-up human rights NGOs’ (see below). At present our Council is unfunded and relegated to the fringes of society as is also likely to be the case with similar NGOs in other countries. However the State should arrange for some place in the mainstream media for the most disadvantaged to voice their opinions. It is envisaged that national and internationally televised human rights debates involving both sets of rights plus core minimum obligations would not only make good viewing but contribute considerably to world peace in States and a world which is increasingly dividing into ‘them versus us’ camps within and between countries. For example a few years ago I made the suggestion to some of the world’s top human rights experts to have a televised debate on poverty and human rights – they were very interested but I was unable to get funding for the project. Personally I am prepared to debate this subject with anyone on the planet but I get no offers, in fact, I am invariably ignored such is the fear that pervades neo liberal societies.
With respect to the ‘Trust Fund’ it could be extended to require States to make microcredit facilities available to enable these NGOs to set up commercial enterprises e.g. a book shop or coffee/ food shop perhaps involving a human rights education, and so become financially independent. This money could even be repaid. Such ideas would also enable the UN, if it intends to adopt the present draft OP, to retain some human rights credibility by giving the most disadvantaged a ‘voice’ through these NGOs.
The most disadvantaged are likely to be ignored because the draft OP has failed to include core minimum obligations (and consequently the protection of the courts), as defined by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (General Comment No. 3), which means the fate of the most disadvantaged is left in the hands of the State and the dominant elites and their neo liberal ideology which in the past has created large under classes in many countries. The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights state that if the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is read in such a way as to deprive people of core minimum obligations (which the draft OP does do by omitting them) then the Covenant will lose its purpose. The Committee states: “ On the basis of the extensive experience gained by the Committee, as well as by the body that preceded it, over a period of more than a decade of examining States parties' reports the Committee is of the view that a minimum core obligation to ensure the satisfaction of, at the very least, minimum essential levels of each of the rights is incumbent upon every State party. Thus, for example, a State party in which any significant number of individuals is deprived of essential foodstuffs, of essential primary health care, of basic shelter and housing, or of the most basic forms of education is, prima facie, failing to discharge its obligations under the Covenant. If the Covenant were to be read in such a way as not to establish such a minimum core obligation, it would be largely deprived of its raison d'être”.
The New Zealand major opposition party the National Party’s recent ‘hard line’ beneficiary policy appears to be anticipating such a grossly discriminatory OP. New Zealand attended the discussions regarding the OP from the beginning and like most countries gradually increased their support for economic, social and cultural rights in addition to traditional civil liberties and democracy. The American camp including such countries as the UK, Japan, Australia, Canada (who domestically champion charity but refuse to make an ideological commitment at the UN) opposed the OP and prioritized civil and political rights and the interests of the middle classes but eventually most countries moved towards accepting economic, social and cultural rights as being of equal status to the former set of rights. In this respect the OP represents a step forward and very likely to also protect the interests of the working classes (however, in my view, this is actually to gain broader support for the continuance of neo liberalism which nearly everyone except the global elites seems to know failed to deliver on ‘trickle down’). But for 59 years the UN has held out economic, social and cultural rights as a hope for the poor the present draft OP represents a cynical disregard for the promises made and demonstrate that the global elites and the UN have no compunction in destroying what little hope the most disadvantaged have left and are perfectly prepared to violate the spirit of the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to further neo liberalism and consequently their own interests. The present day very self-interested global elites bare little comparison to the altruistic world leadership which followed the second world war and created the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In my view, the huge gap between rich and poor globally has resulted in an extremely alienated elite who pose a major threat to world peace.
During the open-ended working groups New Zealand, although promoting the equal status of both sets of rights, was described as ‘light opposition’ to the draft OP, close to but not in the American camp. The New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Peters, described New Zealand’s international support for economic, social and cultural rights (which, however, is rarely ever mentioned domestically) and the draft OP which represents a ‘compromise’. He states: “….New Zealand is strongly committed to the universality and indivisibility of all human rights and better promotion of economic, social and cultural rights by the international community. With this in mind, we actively participated in the Working Group negotiations to elaborate the draft OP to ICESCR”. He added: “Within the Working Group there was a wide spectrum of views on the shape and language of the OP’s key provisions. This made negotiations difficult and compromise necessary. As a result, the UN General Assembly will consider an OP text which does not meet everyone’s expectations” (personal correspondence, 29 August, 2008).
The New Zealand National Party (generally tipped to win the elections this year), who would almost certainly have been aware of this global trend to gaining majority support while ignoring the most disadvantaged, announced its beneficiary policy on August 19, 2008, intending to first reduce the dole with the possibility of it being cut off completely if people cannot find fifteen hours work per week. However from our observation, our council being part of the beneficiary sector, not only is finding employment extremely difficult in the present climate but it is likely to get worse as unemployment increases. Consequently it seems very likely that the under class will increase as more individuals ‘fall through the cracks’. In our view there will be a considerable increase in demands being placed on the Mental Health and Criminal Justice Systems.
As stated above a major flaw of the draft OP is its failure to include core minimum obligations. This means that the most serious violations such as long term unemployment and homelessness, living below the poverty line (necessitating the use of food banks and begging on the streets), serious cases on the hospital waiting list, serious child poverty, the declining health of individuals trying to pursue their right to development, dreams and ‘free speech’ in extremely hostile conditions will not have to be emphasized by the State as the most serious violations should be. However human rights legal protection of these obligations offer a much more realistic hope than relying on the market and/or the largesse of the State and its elites e.g. the present global ‘food price crises’ demonstrates a need for such greater protections from the market – at present while there is plenty of food people haven’t the money to buy it. Olivier De Schutter, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food stated: “Although the surge in food prices caught people around the world off guard, the poor are hungry because they cannot afford to eat, not because of a lack of food” (UN News Centre, 10 September 2008).
The ‘Modus Operandi’ of the UN
The present draft OP is following, in my view, the Western pattern of manipulating human rights to fit in with neo liberalism rather than reflecting, as it should, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The latter position is required by the UN under the UN Charter which states that part of the function of the UN is ‘…promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all [my underline]…’ (Purposes and Principles, Chapter 1, Article 1(3)). The ‘modus operandi’ of the UN is evident in previous human rights instruments such as the covenant on civil and political rights and the conventions with respect to race and women which failed to prevent the growth of under classes in many countries with the poor still voiceless and, in fact, far greater numbers of Maori unemployed and far more women on the DPB were created (for the statistics see page 64 of my book). The ‘modus operandi’ which also applies to the present OP is as follows: the UN allows States ‘a wide margin of appreciation’ with respect to the implementation of the draft OP and in response States ‘turn human rights on its head’ emphasizing the human rights of those at the top of the social structure rather than emphasizing the most serious violations at the bottom as, according to human rights logic, they should. However even if this is indirect in nature the UN must, in our view, take responsibility for the outcome of their actions especially as they would certainly be aware of the failure of previous human rights instruments to prevent the growth of an underclass. Even the poor must take responsibility for their actions no matter how unjust the circumstances even given their minimal choices often between bad and worse. This manipulation of human rights by global elites is primarily to serve the interests of neo liberalism and consequently themselves (although the middle classes are now finding that they too are expected to make sacrifices for the long-term reward of a world completely dominated by neo liberalism although they are likely to be the major beneficiaries). Although the creation of under classes was permitted in the human rights instruments mentioned it is far more unacceptable with respect to economic, social and cultural rights because these rights were spawned by the immense suffering of the poor in Great Depression and the Industrial Revolution in the eighteenth century and have long been given lip-service by the global elites as offering hope to the poor at some unspecified time in the future.
The socially responsible ‘Bottom-Up Human Rights Approach’
It is argued that the present draft OP is designed to allow States to support the pursuit of neo liberal policies by the exclusion of core minimum obligations. Neo liberalism is a human rights approach which focuses solely on civil and political rights, economic freedoms and with the right to development, domestic and global, focused on the middle class, professional sector and the Corporations with the promise of ‘trickle down’ sometime in the future. It is concerned with clawing back the gains made to the Welfare State in a bi-polar world (post-second world war) when communism forced the liberal elite to be socially responsible because the people had an alternative hope i.e. communism. Neo liberalism wants greater State control to ensure that it completely controls mainstream society but allows a fringe sector to generate new ideas which are never rewarded or make it into the mainstream but are used by the elite where it suits them to maintain the status quo. Such social control replaces State social responsibility. ‘Trickle down’, which has not happened in twenty-five years, has proved to be a false hope. Rather huge gaps in wealth and power have grown within and between countries. Consequently given the failure of neo liberalism the middle class elite now have a completely unsubstantiated faith in their own ability to deliver what is best for all and can only seek greater majority support and resort to the War on Terror and greater social control to crush opposition such as terrorists, dissidents, and contain the bourgeoning under classes, particularly ensuring they are not offered hope from other quarters.
Such bottom-up NGOs can also aspire to what the global elites now aspire to, and can achieve progressively, namely the equal status of both sets of rights however these NGOs will also require, what we consider should be obvious, that this equal status also applies at the level of the core minimum obligations of both sets of rights with the latter subject to immediate implementation (the ‘talent pool’ on the fringes of society needs a ‘hand-up’ now so they can provide immediate work for the under class). The present draft OP not only fails to include core minimum obligations but also does not ensure the right to human rights education without which people cannot make an informed vote or make a complaint. In addition also excluded is the right to development without which people cannot use their abilities, follow their dreams, and provide jobs for others such as the underclass which is the way virtually full employment was achieved after the second world war. Consequently States are free, given ‘their wide margin of discretion’, to discourage small enterprises, by implementing user pays, high compliance costs, with the establishment only giving itself contracts (with meritocracy ignored), as well as making loans very difficult to obtain. This, in my view, is presently the case. The right to development is also particularly important as it operates under both sets of rights (i.e. see the UN Declaration in the Rights to Development) extending the domain of reason thereby creating in the words of Franklin Roosevelt a ‘true freedom’ (providing a better welfare safety net, at present it is a welfare survival net, for small entrepreneurs and the under class also making access to civil and political rights more affordable). Extending the domain of reason reduces the domain of political expediency where, for example, benefit levels, market rentals for Housing NZ homes, student fees/loans, user pays etc. are at the whim of successive governments. The inclusion of economic, social and cultural rights and core minimum obligations would, in my view, allow many new ideas to come to the fore pertaining to health, education, employment, housing etc. whereas at present only those ideas which suit neo liberalism gain currency. For example, the micro credit idea has helped many millions globally and could also be used in the West to give a ‘hand up’ to innovative projects and business enterprises. From my observation over the past four years the open-ended working groups seemed to be preoccupied with the concept of ‘limited economic resources’ than by being positive by attempting, by ensuring a comprehensive human rights education extending the mind beyond the ‘neo liberal square’, to maximize and harness the ideas of society and the globe for the purposes of addressing the most serious violations. The ‘budgeting mentality’, which pervaded the OP discussions as well as neo liberal democracies in general, seemed to suggest that they expected those living in extreme poverty should budget their ‘one dollar a day’!!
But there is a far more insidious outcome in largely focusing the right to development only on the upper echelons of society and minimizing the right to development for the rest and that is the crushing of the holistic development of many. The most disadvantaged can be seen as consisting of the under classes, the marginalized ‘talent pool’ (which has resulted in mass exoduses of New Zealanders to Australia), as well as the massive alienation within individuals and between groups a consequence of the ‘them versus us’, top-down, society very discriminatory with respect to the right to development.
First is the mind/heart alienation whereby different classes judge other classes according to their own reality without any experience of the other’s situation. For example, the concept of individual responsibility which has attained a ‘common sense’ status since 1984 bears little relationship to the reality of the lives of the under class because they have such extremely few choices yet have to take responsibility nonetheless. In addition is the far more dangerous body/soul alienation whereby people are forced to compromise their beliefs. Neo liberalism in its quest for complete control is very politically intolerant – to make a living people often have to compromise their own beliefs to survive. Dissidents are relegated to the fringes of society where, in my opinion, they act as a source of new ideas for the elite to maintain the status quo – because of the control it is extremely difficult for such dissidents to offer an alternative hope to the mainstream – the internet offers the best chance. Also, the elite are not immune. They constantly promote freedom of speech, intellectual freedom and press freedom as universal values yet can not give the poor a voice of their own in mainstream society as evidenced by the suppression of my book. These compromises of individual freedoms increases as the State is forced to comprise civil and political rights to enforce social control and protect itself against terrorism e.g. the US Patriot Act and political dissidents and keep the bourgeoning under classes suppressed. Such alienation, especially when coupled with social isolation, is evidenced by high rates of mental illness and the increase in drug use in many liberal democracies. The holistic approach to development i.e. understanding and overcoming such alienation, is important if one wants to reach one’s full potential in one’s field of endeavor (particularly important for intellectuals who, in my view, in New Zealand are more concerned with educating students for a job rather than the search for truth). While alienation affects both the oppressor and the oppressed (as does mental illness) but the former are propped up by their wealth, power and social status and their adherence to the dominant ideology. This insidious aspect of neo liberalism means it is more concerned with either the capturing or destruction of ‘souls’ (beliefs systems) effectively enslaving the people who can later be discarded at will as they no longer have any beliefs which they can use to defend themselves. The OP’s failure to include non-retrogression with respect to human rights means that the State is able to compromise its own principles i.e the draft OP gives States ‘a large margin of appreciation’ to violate their own human rights where it suits them e.g. as described above - allowing individual freedoms to be compromised. We see a need for a requirement that if States are to compromise their human rights principles this should be subjected to a public referendum or a supermajority of parliament or congress and certainly should not go so far as to violate core minimum obligations of either sets of rights e.g. Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay with respect to torture. This points to the need for the UN Human Rights Committee to formulate core minimum obligations with respect to civil and political rights which should be regarded as absolute limits. In addition, as was conceived in the early 1950s, the Covenants should be amalgamated as their division allows for further manipulation of human rights e.g. food (economic, social and cultural rights) can be given with one hand and freedom (civil and political rights) taken away with the other and vice versa where it suits. For example, poverty is often measured in dollar terms ignoring the degree of powerlessness that exists – an improvement in lifestyle may simply reflect more people ‘selling their souls’ so when an economic decline does come people will have no way of defending themselves and ‘simply go down with it’. In my view, the latter is what will happen if the New Zealand National Party’s beneficiary policy is enacted.
Professor Philip Alston, New York University Law School, who was Chairperson of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1991-1998), was responsible for the first draft of the OP in 1994. While he states he has not been following the discussions on the draft OP over the past four years he considers that there would be no consensus amongst States if the drafting was reopended. He stated: “My overall view, however, would be that it is better to have an OP whose interpretation can be gradually expanded than to have no OP at all. If the drafting were to be re-opened, I am confident that the result would be no consensus on anything and I don't think that outcome would be in the best interests of the most disadvantaged” (personal correspondence, August 20, 2008).
However, in our view, what is being delivered is nothing more than a ‘softer’ form of social control to suit left-wing liberals – control by structural violence. By contrast the ‘harder’ form of control, the War on Terrorism, suits the right-wing liberals – the control by physical violence. But both sides have a mutual interest in prioritizing civil and political rights and ensuring the continued oppression and exploitation of the most disadvantaged, terrorists and intellectual dissidents. Both direct, physical violence, and indirect, structural violence, can have the same outcome i.e. death. Why should we support an OP which wishes to impose greater social control and structural violence over us? Why should we trust the UN when it is not even prepared to be honest about the severe limitations of the OP? All we can do is use the truth and try to encourage the neo liberal dominated UN to ‘make peace not war’. The above suggestions regarding changes/additions to some Articles in the OP may help in this regard but is very far from satisfactory.
A United Socially Responsible World
The global elites at the United Nations are overlooking the most disadvantaged because, in my view, they can – political Islam, socialism, other religions and disparate belief systems do not have sufficient global credibility to significantly impact on neo liberalism. The socially responsible ‘bottom-up human rights approach’, however, can incorporate various ideologies, which are more amenable to such an approach, under a UDHR umbrella. This is not implausible given that nearly all countries have ratified both covenants under international law and the present global elites at the UN now recognize their equal status. In addition some countries such as Norway and New Zealand (for the latter see p165 of the book) are promoting core minimum obligations (although this was not evident at the UN Working Groups or domestically) at the international level. Such ‘a bottom-up human rights approach’ with many countries working together to promote and implement it could encourage neo liberalism to join a more civilized world. The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights describes how various ideologies can be accommodated given the political neutrality of the Covenant. The Committee states: “In terms of political and economic systems the Covenant [on economic, social and cultural rights] is neutral, and its principles cannot accurately be described as being predicated exclusively upon the need for, or desirability of, a socialist or capitalist system, or a mixed, or centrally planned or laissez-fair economy, or upon any other particular approach” (UN Document E/C. 12/1990/8).
That such a more civilized approach is required, or at the very least the global elites could regarded it as a second line of defense, is indicated by the considerable global changes which are taking place: the ‘global food price crises’ mentioned, the move towards regionalization (e.g. the discussions regarding an East-Asian Regional Bloc which would include both Australia and New Zealand), oil price increases, the global decline in confidence in the US and the UK (the leading proponents of neo liberalism) due to the Iraq war debacle, the growing schism between Russia and the West, the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea, global terrorism, massive social problems such as mental illness and also the considerable global expansion of liberal democracy, since 1975 liberal democracies more than doubled (Francis Fukuyama, see the book), now seems to have abated and may be contracting (Freedom House, 2008). A recent report on the Millennium Development Goals– "Delivering on the Global Partnership for Achieving the Millennium Developing Goals – was commented on by the Secretary-General Bam Ki-moon: "This report sounds a strong alarm….While there has been progress on several counts, delivery on commitments made by Member States has been deficient, and has fallen behind schedule." In addition, the report stated that the recent breakdown of the Doha development round of trade negotiations – aimed at establishing an open, equitable, rule-based and non-discriminatory multilateral trading and financial system – was "a major setback" for developing countries seeking to benefit from expanding global trade opportunities to reduce poverty (UN News Centre, 4 September, 2008). The latter suggests a possible move from globalized trade to bilateralism and protectionism. Given, in my view, the massive alienation, fear and extreme conformity in society it is very likely our societies will find it very difficult to adjust to any necessary future changes. Consequently it could be considered dangerous for a State to continue to ‘put all its eggs in the Corporations basket’ and instead should diversify by encouraging small enterprises. A number of the Corporations are simply food outlets which New Zealanders can easily replicate as numerous small businesses – such Corporations are simply a way liberal democracies can transfer monies to the parent countries to enable them to pursue their dream of world neo liberal domination, which, in my view, will essentially mean slavery for most. However given the steady, gradual decline of neo liberalism coupled with the extreme alienation of the elite it is likely that the latter will eventually lose the will to fulfill its dream of expanding the Neo liberal Empire. H.G. Wells in relation to the Fall of the Roman Empire states: “All empires, all states, all organizations of human society are, in the ultimate, things of understanding and will. There remained no will for the Roman Empire in the world so it came to an end” ( An Illustrated Short History of the World, p86).
It is of much concern that countries in discarding neo liberalism will also discard civil and political rights resulting in authoritarian states with no respect for any human rights. The ‘bottom-up human rights NGOs’ would also help protect civil and political rights but unlike other human rights NGOs such as Amnesty International, Freedom House, and Human Rights Watch they will seen as more balanced and less political and not as ‘puppets’ of the US Constitution and its narrow definition of human rights. The above mentioned well-known NGOs are left-neo-liberal organizations increasingly seen as promoting Western culture.
Many on our council, including myself, have spent many years living in poverty on the fringes of society in Auckland, New Zealand. I could be described as an intellectual dissident having been forced to live in poverty since I began promoting the Universal declaration of Human Rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights, since 1991.The fear of the establishment is that new ideas may offer more hope than neo liberalism consequently our council’s ‘freedom of speech’ has been almost exclusively restricted to fringe outlets especially the internet. We are not funded like most of the left-liberal NGOs attending the open-ended working groups so could not attend any of the discussions regarding the draft OP over the past four years although took part in the intellectual debate on the internet. Consequently, States and international bodies are able to ensure that the ‘voices of the poor’ are rarely ever heard in the mainstream and can pass human rights instruments without having to take responsibility for how they are implemented by States.
If the global elites at the UN General Assembly decide not to revisit the draft OP and address its major flaws then at the very least they could ensure a space in society where the rights ignored by the OP can be pursued, using education and the democratic process, by financially independent NGOs. States could arrange for microcredit to be made available (e.g. through Lotto) so these NGOs could set up commercial businesses to finance their work. In this way UN human rights will not be a complete fraud.
Failing any action by the UN the most disadvantaged will still have the socially responsible ‘bottom-up’ human rights belief system to struggle for and they have ‘right’ on their side because emphasizing the most serious violations is the only way to interpret human rights. Also because ‘right’ is on their side they will also gain the support of some of the world’s top human rights intellectuals. As well as this ‘bottom-up’ approach being a universal it can also claim to improve the human rights of all by reducing the alienation – head/heart, body/soul alienation - which all experience and consequently reduce mental illness. In addition, as global conflict increases and economic globalization declines so the fortunes of the most disadvantaged are likely to increase as the neo liberal elite will be forced to change and focus on the development of small business. While the most disadvantaged do not, unlike the liberals, have the mainstream media (as well as the apparatus of the State) at their disposal, or like the trade unions the ability to strike they also have access to the internet and, unlike these latter groups, they have the ability (although their activities will be severely circumscribed) to think and operate outside the ‘neo liberal square’. Also not being responsible for structural violence, as these other groups must take responsibility for their actions, they can, with greater credibility, promote national and international cooperation by arranging human rights debates on whatever media outlets are available to them.
**Freedom from our Social Prisons: the Rise of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by Anthony George Ravlich has just been released – see Also Lexington Books (Rowman and Littlefield Pub). For review copies google Lexington Books and enter the book title or contact editorial assistant, Melissa Wilks, (mwilks (at) rowman.com, Ph: (301) 459.366, Maryland, USA). Lexington Books has also provided chapter one on the internet - ‘Sample Chapter(s) for Freedom from Our Social Prisons’. The book is obtainable by library inter loan and may be coming out in soft cover in a few months.
Draft OP, Article 16, ‘Dissemination and Information’:
“Each State Party undertakes to make widely known and to disseminate the Covenant and the present Protocol and to facilitate access to information about the Views and recommendations of the Committee, in particular, on matters involving that State Party, and to do so in accessible formats for persons with disabilities”.
Draft OP, Article 14(1), ‘Trust Fund’:
“A [trust fund] shall be set up in accordance with the relevant procedures of the General Assembly, to be administered in accordance with the financial regulations and rules of the United Nations, in order to assist individuals or groups of individuals to submit communications under the present protocol and to provide expert and technical assistance to Governments and non-governmental organisations for the implementation of the rights recognized in the Covenant as the Committee may consider appropriate in the context of the present protocol and with the consent of the State party concerned”.
This work is in the public domain