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West Rebellion Justified: A global Ethical HR 'Bottom-line'

West Rebellion justified: could ensure a global ethical human rights ‘bottom-line’.
By Anthony Ravlich
Chairperson
Human Rights Council (New Zealand)
www.hrc2001.org.nz

A complaints procedure (Optional Protocol, OP) for the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2008 and there can be little doubt that this led to the Global Financial Crisis in 2009 with the statistics providing stark evidence.

The OP enables complaints of violations of economic, social and cultural rights such as the rights to employment, health, education, fair wages, adequate standard of living, housing, trade unions, family etc. to be made to the UN.

Previously, civil and political rights e.g. ‘freedom and democracy’, prioritized by the West dominated ideologically. The complaints procedure (Optional Protocol) for civil and political rights entered into force on 23 March 1976.

The adoption of the present OP effectively recognized for the first time under international human rights law the equal status of civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights e.g. ‘food’, prioritized by Developing Asia, including China.

The considerable consensus of the State bureaucratic elites at the UN decided to adopt the OP which now highly favored Developing Asia, including China, because of its exclusion of the core minimum obligations of the State as grounds of complaint which meant there would be no human rights socio-economic ‘bottom-line’.

While over the past three decades Developing Asia, including China, had the global economic competitive advantage because it was able to exploit its vast work force the omission of these core minimum obligations and therefore any ‘bottom-line’ meant such exploitation was to be sanctioned under international human rights law ‘by its omission’.

This occurred despite strong opposition to the OP from the American camp, including the UK, Canada, and Japan who often wanted to include in the discussions a ‘no OP’ option.

The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights state that without the State ensuring core minimum obligations the Covenant loses its ‘raison d’etre’ (see General Comment No.3, UNCESCR) i.e. if there is to be no ‘bottom-line’ what is the point of these rights!.

The exclusion of such core minimum obligations of the State as basic shelter, food, health, education (see General Comment No.3, UN CESCR) would allow exploitation of labour in Developing Asia while there would also be no limit to how far living standards could be reduced in the West which does not have the global economic competitive advantage.

Following the adoption of the OP in December 2008 the reaction of the economic markets to this ‘virtually permanent’ change in the global balance of power was dramatic and immediate in 2009.

The Statistical Data from the International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database, April 2012, starkly show that the crisis, while affecting all, strongly favored Developing Asia (including China) over the West:

The 2009 crash majorly affected the European Union, -4.2 Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Major Advanced Economies (G7), -4.0 GDP, far more so than Developing Asia (including China), +7.1 GDP (Global Finance, World’s GDP Growth by Region, http://www.gfmag.com/tools/global-database/economic-data/11854-worlds-gdp-growth-by-region.html#axzz2DwYoIqCE.).

Also when comparing the periods 2002-8 and 2009-12 the average GDP of the European Union decreased by 106.8% from the former to the latter period, the Major Advanced Economies (G7) decreased by 74.3% while Developing Asia only decreased by 10.5%. So relatively speaking, Developing Asia was far less affected by the crash than the West where it also signals a ‘virtually permanent’ drop in living standards [the G7 is Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom and United States].

Consequently, the Global Financial Crisis was the result of a major ideological change at the UN not a market fluctuation as many people of the West have been led to believe.

The discussions on the OP over about a four year period is covered in chapter 5 of my book, ‘Freedom from our social prisons: the rise of economic, social and cultural rights’ (Lexington Books, 2008) which was recommended on the UN website for about two years. It discussed the exclusion of the core minimum obligations from the OP which permitted the West to pursue neoliberal policies which excluded the poor.

For instance, the neoliberal economic policies of the IMF required States to omit a number of human rights in domestic law to considerably prioritize a global free market over a domestic free market. And the latter led to high unemployment and the creation of an underclass as well as the mass exodus of New Zealanders overseas because of lack of opportunities at home.

However, the State could if it so chose claim the right to self-determination reject IMF policies and adopt an independent path while exercising an ethical duty to the global community helping those States unable to meet their core minimum human rights and those individuals deliberately deprived of the latter by aberrant States.

The exclusion of the core minimum obligations means the State can simply focus on the economic, social and cultural rights of those higher on the social scale and ignore those at the bottom.

What, in my strong view, the UN State bureaucratic elites failed to do was to ensure the equal status of both sets of rights at the level of core minimum obligations i.e. the latter would have established a universal ‘human rights bottom-line’ for both sets of rights (see the ethical approach to human rights, development and globalization to replace neoliberalism below).

Without ensuring such ‘core minimums’ human rights are reduced to absurdity as few, if any, States ensure their populations even the core minimum human rights let alone any higher levels of rights.

Such a universal ‘human rights bottom-line’, which all States have to adhere to, would mean fair competition without exploitation (an ethical globalization).

This would mean there would be no need for regionalization such as the European Union or the proposed East Asia community where increased top-down social control would almost certainly mean far less individual freedoms with individual ‘freedom of thought, conscience, expression, belief’ subsumed by the collective, meaning everyone will virtually think the same.

The ‘best and brightest’ were purged from New Zealand. They were unable to meet the extremely high ‘compliance’ standards required by neoliberalism. It is not just those at the bottom who are contained but also the containers themselves (see my article, ‘Hope in Chch rebuild and ethical human rights despite all attempts to crush potential’, 5 May 2012, http://www.guerillamedia.co.nz/content/hope-chch-rebuilding-ethical-human-rights-despite-all-attempts-crush-human-potential ).

In addition little economic and social development takes place because it may result in ‘unsafe’ knowledge. In the ultimate fanatical neoliberal top-down control requires the elimination of all ‘unsafe’ ideas and this I consider is its prime purpose.

This is achieved by ‘divide and rule’ whether its discrimination on the grounds of gender, race or what is the most prevalent under neoliberalism is caste, social class, socio-economic status (wealth) or descent. Such discrimination requires the overwhelming conformity of containers and the contained (see my submission to the UN, ‘New Zealanders must ‘speak out’ regarding the omitted rights or be reduced to mere ‘numbers’, http://www.hrc2001.org.nz/nzmso.htm ).

It was as if the domestic and international human rights establishment were under strict orders not to show any public dissent with respect to the OP – in fact, I was the only one dissenting at the exclusion of the core minimum obligations at the time although I did not then understand the full global dimensions i.e. the change in the ideological balance of power from the West to Asia.

But I now see this virtually ‘impregnable united front’ was so as not to attract controversy as people were to be kept in ignorance of this major change in the global balance of ideological power (for further information on this see my submission to the UN, ‘New Zealanders must ‘speak out’…..’, cited above).

The exclusion of core minimum obligations in the OP meant many, including the children, in the West, were to have their core minimum human rights violated ostensibly to benefit the poorer regions of the world. However, in human rights, ‘the ends do not justify the means’.

Also the UN’s ideological decision was a betrayal of many, for example the burgeoning under classes, who were to be deprived of the promised ‘trickle down’ (both in terms of the money and human rights) of neoliberalism which, rather than for all, focused on the human rights and development of the middle class, professional sector and the Corporations.

A Western fight for the global ethical human rights approach would also, in my view, help those severely contained in Developing Asia who while likely to receive the focus of the millennium development goals are very likely to have little voice – see the case of one Developing Asian State, Bangladesh, in my article, ‘Muslim anger and ethical human rights’, 10 March 2012, http://www.guerillamedia.co.nz/content/muslim-anger-and-ethical-human-rights-approach ).

But essentially the failure to include the core minimum obligations is very decidedly contrary to the spirit of the Covenant (which I fought for over very many years virtually alone in the community) which is primarily for the poor – those with exceedingly few opportunities in life. And, of course, I am prepared to debate this Covenant with any neoliberal but from my experience none will.

An ethical core minimum human rights ‘bottom-line’ requires BOTH ‘survival with dignity’ (economic, social and cultural rights) as well as the added dignity of being able to help oneself, without any form of discrimination (civil and political rights). The latter would provide sufficient freedom for the individual to reach full economic and social potential (and this translates into the State and World reaching its full potential).

Given the reasons above I consider revolutions in the West are fully justified and an ethical approach to human rights, development and globalization for World Peace (to replace neoliberalism) can be fought for peacefully (for further information on this ethical approach see my book and my many articles since on anthony ravlich’s blog, guerilla media, which also gives the increasing support, some very high profile, this approach is receiving).

Although its virtual inevitability was signaled when adopted the OP has so far been ratified by eight States requiring only two more State ratifications to enter into force under international human rights law (The United Nations Treaty Collection, Status of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-3-a&chapter=4&lang=en ).

That a Western fight-back can be a peaceful one is shown by the New Zealand experience in the Christchurch earthquake zone where the neoliberal extreme (actually ‘fanatical’!) top-down bureaucratic/corporate approach to the rebuild has been successfully challenged.

I began promoting an ethical ‘bottom-up’ emphasis on development for the massive rebuild of Christchurch following its tragic on-going earthquakes (185 deaths) only about four days after the first earthquake in September 2010. I travelled there on three occasions and wrote a number of articles (see my blog cited above).
.
In Christchurch there were a number of street protests on the part of residents, NGOs and websites in support of the residents who were concerned with the slow rebuilding (as has been the case in Japan and Haiti), excessive bureaucratic control, lack of communication by politicians and public officials and lack of democracy in decision-making as well as considerable concern at the State’s proposed reorganization of schools.

About two years after the first earthquake the major opposition party the New Zealand Labour Party at their conference in November 2012 announced that the rebuilding of Christchurch would be ‘from the grassroots up not the Beehive down’ [the Beehive is NZ’s center of government].

David Shearer, the new leader of the NZ Labour Party, also strongly indicated that this bottom-up emphasis would apply to New Zealand as a whole also calling on New Zealanders to ‘rise up’ against the National Government’s policies (Labour Speech: New Zealand – A new direction, David Shearer, Nov 18, 2012, http://www.labour.org.nz/news/speech-new-zealand-a-new-direction ).

This, in my view, shows that when it comes down to it its not the globally dominant elites who determine the destiny of humanity but rather its the will of a peaceful (unless directly attacked) but determined people as well as ‘a better idea’ and this gives hope for the discontented in the rest of world as well.

ENDS

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