Human rights protection in a globalized economy
While traditional human rights, including economic and social rights, relate individuals to their respective governments (or states) by means of listing rights and obligations, individual (and collective) rights are increasingly affected by acts and policies emanating from across the national borders. Such acts and policies are typically those of foreign governments, international organisations and corporations. An enormous legal void exists regarding the protection of human rights against encroachment by entities lying outside the jurisdiction of the State. A few examples should suffice to highlight the problem:
1. Economic sanctions have caused serious harm to millions of innocent human beings, including the denial of an adequate standard of living, the right to education, health and in many cases, to life. Yet, the survivors have no legal recourse for remedies in the current world order; they are not entitled to the truth, to apologies, to compensation and to the punishment of the offenders.
2. Victims of structural adjustment measures imposed or induced by the IMF and the World Bank, do not enjoy any effective protection against such measures, cannot initiate judicial proceedings against the authors/instigators of these measures, nor obtain compensation for the harm they have endured. By claiming that the sole entity responsible for their rights is the State (which is allegedly free to heed or refuse IMF recommendations), their rights are thus nullified.
3. Civilian victims of attacks by foreign military and civilians unlawfully detained by foreign forces, have no international forum to which they turn for judicial protection. They remain at the mercy of the inter-state order.
1. Civil society, including the World Social Forum, should demand that the UN General Assembly adopt a Declaration on the Obligation of all States and International Organisations to Take Full Account of the Transborder Effects of their Acts and Policies on the Enjoyment of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Such a Declaration should include provisions for the establishment of international (UN) mechanisms to protect individuals (and groups) against infringement of their human rights caused by transborder acts and policies by third states and international organisations.
2. Gross violations of economic and social rights, such as policies which cause a civilian population to live or remain in inhumane conditions of existence, should be regarded as a specific form of a Crime Against Humanity, to be included as one of the Crimes against humanity under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, when fulfilling the general requirement of a Crime Against Humanity.
3. The concept of “odious debts” should be extended to loans taken by States in conjunction with socially regressive policies, when such policies are undertaken without adequate public consultation.
4. The concept of “security”, used increasingly in order to rally rich nations against a contrived threat from “international terrorism” should be exposed as fraudulent and redefined as “human security”, a concept englobing the physical, social, economic and ecological environment. The fraud of the “threat of terrorism” should be duly exposed: The number of victims of terrorism worldwide (about 3-4000 a year, Source. Website of the US State Department) is merely 1/10 percent of the number of children dying of preventable diseases. On the list of world scourges, terrorism hardly deserves a place.