Professor Ibrahim Gassama gave a sobering assessment of the progress made toward realizing the economic and social rights embedded within the UN Declaration of Human Rights. For the original drafters of the UNDHR, political and civil rights were inextricably tied to the economic and social rights–issues of welfare, poverty, and social security were just as important as freedoms of political association, due process, and so on. However, for the past 60 years, the rights to food, shelter, health care, education, and work have been given second class status.
At the beginning of the 21st century, the UN acknowledged the reality of extreme poverty for about 1/5 of humanity: close to 1 billion people live with about only $1 a day at their disposal to satisfy all their needs. Another 2 billion or so live on about $2 a day. Dr. Gassama argues that such poverty is usually not thought of as a crisis, or dramatized as much as other human rights tragedies, such as wide spread torture or wars of aggression, but it is usually at the root of so many other political and military disasters around the world today.
Recognizing a lack of political will to address extreme poverty, the UN shifted its emphasis from rights to goals. That is, instead of insisting that human beings have right to various economic goods and standard of living which nations must provide, the UN set itself to urging the world community to meet several Millennium Development Goals by 2015. You can find out more about the MDG here.
Unfortunately, the world community has not done a very good job at committing itself to the MDGs, according to Professor Gassama. And with the global economic downturn enveloping both developed and developing nations, he finds its very unlikely that much will be done to alleviate grinding global poverty in the near future, and this does not bode well for peace and justice.
You will be able to download a free podcast of Professor Gassama’s full lecture in just a few days! Check back soon on this blog and share you thoughts with us about economic and social justice in the world today.