TODAY, DECEMBER 10, is commemorated annually as Human Rights Day with focus on the need for the observation of human rights in all countries in the world. Since its first observation in 1948, there have been significant advances in the field of human rights globally, but if one were to be truthful, today’s situation is still far from rosy.
The global picture is not one which inspires hope or optimism, certainly not with the near future in mind. Indeed, among those who proclaim human rights the loudest are the countries of the European Union and the United States of America. Yet one needs to go no further than the borders of these western “champions” of democracy and “human rights” to be shocked at the realities.
There, on the southern borders, tens of thousands of desperate human beings, from Africa, the Middle East and Asia in the case of the European Union (EU), and from Latin America in the case of the USA, wallow in filth amid desperation, huddled in refugee camps unfit for decent human habitation, as they continue to be denied the right to asylum and enjoyment of the “human rights” to which they attempt to gain access in those countries of the north.
The irony is that not only have those desperate folk been misled into thinking that, given their own situations at home, surely the great “democracies” of the west would accept them with open arms, but that the situations from which they are fleeing have been caused, largely or partially, by the actions of the same countries, either economically, militarily or politically. Africa continues to be plagued by needless genocidal wars and bloody military coups with blood-thirsty generals using ethnic and tribal divisions as excuses to plunder the rich resources of the continent at the behest of powerful external forces, especially multi-national corporations.
All over the globe the scourge of famine, disease and poverty continues to subject billions of people, children prominent among them, to a life of misery and hopelessness, a life which falls far short, not only in quality, but in duration as well, of decent life expectancy. Where is the enjoyment of human rights for these poor souls? Are they not as entitled to these fundamental rights as the rest of the world?
One contributing factor to such global misery and increasingly bleaker outlook for the future is the real threat of climate change. There is no longer speculation about it, it has become a reality with entire islands and coastal areas likely to disappear in the next few decades. Yet it is through no fault of these doomed populations, but due to the greed and insensitivity of countries, corporations and ruling classes of rich countries, the very countries which extol “human rights” to the skies.
At the root of all this is inequality in the distribution of power and therefore in the share of the resources of the world. It is THE continuing issue of our times and lies at the heart of all conflicts, internal and external. The United Nations was supposed to be one mechanism for attempting to address this imbalance in the world. Ironically, there is inequality within the United Nations system itself, best exemplified in the Security Council, where a tiny few, but powerful countries, enjoy veto rights and are given the right as Permanent members of the Council. The rest of us can only settle for possible temporary membership, provided the rest of nations give their consent.
Over the centuries military might has been employed by groups and countries to impose their will on others. Thus, it was in the institution of the odious system of colonialism which brought in its train genocide, slavery, racism and the plundering of the resources of those colonized and enslaved. The legacy of these iniquities is fundamental to the continuation of what Professor George Beckford called “persistent poverty” and the denial of basic human rights to most of the world’s peoples.
There are today no more glaring examples of the denial of basic human rights than the situation facing people of African descent and the indigenous peoples of the western hemisphere. It is from them that the clamour for reparations rings the loudest even though those who have been guilty of genocide against these people continue to turn deaf ears and stonewall to prevent a just resolution.
Last month, November, was supposed to be Indigenous Peoples Month, but instead the focus in the western hemisphere was on Thanksgiving Day. The idea of giving thanks to the Almighty for allowing Europeans to exterminate entire ethic groups, to enslave others along with people from Africa who were suffering similar fates at home, is a most repugnant one for it is in fact a glorification of the worst denials of human rights known to mankind. Surely, one cannot be crediting the Almighty for enabling such genocidal plunder.
It can only lead us to deep and introspective reflection on why there continues to be more “human wrongs” than rights, inspiring us to continued commitment to end this injustice and abomination.
To be continued