Liberal Dream Turning Sour

Economic, Social and Cultural Rights included in the Human Rights Commission’s action plan, Human Rights Council

Linked with Anthony Ravlich – New Zealand.

Published on, by Anthony Ravlich, Human Rights Council Inc., 10 September 2005.

At public meetings during the current election campaign in New Zealand the representatives of the political parties generally refused to reply when asked where they stood on the economic, social and cultural rights (ESC rights) which were included in the Human Rights Commission’s New Zealand Plan of Action for Human Rights in February 2005. Consequently our political parties are resisting ESC rights (social justice) in their slow climb up the domestic and international agenda.

While all refused to respond at the first meeting of political representatives on 16th August at the second meeting on 3rd September there was a slightly better response. The Maori Party and the Communist League, neither of whom have been elected into parliament, were supportive of ESC rights. Hone Harawera representing the Maori Party said his party would support greater legislative protection for the areas dealt with by ESC rights i.e. employment, fair wages, health, housing, education and an adequate standard of living …

… Most notably the United Nation’s Millenium Development Goals, which aims to eradicate poverty, do not include education in ESC rights so provide no means of challenging the neo liberal ideology. In addition the interpretation of what constitutes ESC rights may be left in the hands of individual countries. For instance an a la carte approach (as opposed to a comprehensive approach) is under serious consideration in the present discussions on the OP at the UN.

This allows individual countries to have their own interpretation of ESC rights and this could ensure there is no challenge to neo liberalism. In my view both the power (ideology) and economic equations have to be addressed and education in ESC rights would address the former while a focus on extreme poverty would address the latter. Although it might be said that at least extreme poverty and the OP are now higher on the international agenda however the democratic principle demands that people be told about ESC rights and be allowed to make up their own minds whether present neo liberal policies should be pursued.

It can, I believe, be safely said that compared to CP rights ESC rights are virtually unknown. In my view, the present UN reforms, with Kofi Annan envisaging that the new UN Human Rights Council will have the same status as the Security Council, needs to urgently address education in ESC rights otherwise it will be nothing but a fraud. The top-down approach cannot be relied upon rather a bottom-up approach must, in my view, be adopted. In other words, it is up to the people to educate themselves. The UDHR is readily available and people can support groups actively involved in the education of ESC rights e.g. in Auckland, the Water Pressure Group (the Right Water) and our council (the Human Rights Council Inc.).

Our council have two members standing for the Human Rights Party, in Epsom and Mt Albert. In addition to education making use of the democratic process could prove the best approach to take.

Following the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe the triumphant West promised freedom and democracy for the world but increasingly the walls between us are growing with people feeling more powerless and the world becoming a more hostile place. ESC rights combined with CP rights can be used a measure of success, whichever ideology or religion dominates or economic and social policies pursued, ensuring that we are properly on track to freedom, democracy, social justice and peace in the world. (full very long text).

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