The Unheard Truth: Poverty and Human Rights

The Unheard Truth: Poverty and Human Rights


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The Unheard Truth: Poverty and Human Rights 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
willyvan More than 1 year ago
Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International, has written a fine book on what she rightly calls 'poverty, the world's worst human rights crisis'. She points out that the inequities in the world today are greater than those in apartheid South Africa, and they are growing. The number of those suffering hunger has risen steadily since 2000. In 2008, rising food prices pushed 100 million people back down into poverty, and the economic crisis has forced another 50 million into poverty. One billion people go to bed hungry every night. China now spends less than 1 per cent of its GDP on health care, ranking it 156th of 196 UN member states. 30 million more Chinese people were illiterate in 2005 than in 2000. The richest 10 per cent of China's people get 30 times the income of the poorest 10 per cent. In India, 42 per cent of females over the age of 6 have never attended school. Ms Khan shows how countries need the universal provision of essential services, including, for example, abortion: South Africa's deaths from abortion complications fell by 90 per cent after it was legalised in 1994. In a brilliant chapter on the need for housing, she points out, "the market on its own has failed to provide affordable and accessible homes to all sectors of society . Global housing debates tend to accept that only market-based solutions to the global housing crisis will prevail (despite such approaches arguably being the cause of the crisis in the first place!)" The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights states, "The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions." The USA has not ratified this Covenant; China has not ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Ms Khan argues against the false notion that there are two distinct kinds of freedom - positive (economic, social and cultural) and negative (civil and political), imposing positive and negative obligations on states. As she observes, "Building an effective court system to ensure fair trials is as positive an obligation as building schools to fulfil the right to universal primary education." And, "As regards cost, most human rights require resources. Maintaining a fair and effective judicial system requires significant public investment. Without it many civil and political rights would be impossible to fulfil. Cost should not be a determinant of human rights." But, as she notes, "All sides are placing high levels of trust in the market to deliver rights - despite the global economic crisis exposing the fallacy of such an approach" and points out that voluntary codes, like the UN Global Compact, have led to no 'significant change in the behaviour of companies or governments'. Yet she finishes by just vaguely advising the richer countries to 'do much more - in their trade and investment policies, in tackling the companies, banks and arms dealers .'