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article imageHuman Rights in the Economic Crisis: A Powerful Amnesty Report

By Mark Kersten     Jun 4, 2009 in Politics
For those who believe that progress on human rights in the world has been adequate, Amnesty International has a sobering and powerful response in their 2009 Report - State of the World's Human Rights.
The report notes that the world is one "where, time-and-again, states pick and choose the rights they are willing to uphold, and those they would rather suppress.”
Regarding the economic crisis, Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International, the British based human rights organization, declared that it has meant that “it is clear that the human rights costs and consequences of the economic crisis will cast long shadows...billions are suffering from insecurity, injustice, and indignity...this is a human rights crisis”
The comprehensive, 400-page report employs an array of analytical statistics to look at the human rights situations in every country from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, striking a significant balance in examining all states. The Economist declared that “with its cautious, empirical approach to researching abuse, 'The State of the World’s Human Rights' is a tome with moral power.”
Many observers have wondered if the financial crisis will result in greater social and political tensions in the world and even violent conflict. In April, prominent historian Niall Ferguson, told the Globe and Mail in an interview that “There will be blood, in the sense that a crisis of this magnitude is bound to increase political as well as economic [conflict]. It is bound to destabilize some countries. It will cause civil wars to break out, that have been dormant. It will topple governments that were moderate and bring in governments that are extreme.”
There have been protests over the economic crisis across the world, particularly in nations hit hardest by the current economic conditions. Even in the relatively stable nations of Europe, unrest has been evident. In January, 10,000 Latvian's took to the street in Riga to express their anger at their government's handling of the crisis. The crisis precipitated political casualties in the Czech Republic and Iceland. France has seen massive strikes.
Regarding the possibility of violence, Khan noted that there "are growing signs of political unrest and violence, adding to the global insecurity that already exists because of deadly conflicts which the international community seems unable or unwilling to resolve.” Yet despite this, she added that during the current crisis, “powerful governments are focusing inward on the narrow financial and economic consequences in their own countries and ignoring the wider world crisis. Or, if they are considering international action, they are limiting it only to finance and economy, and so recreating the mistakes of the past.”
Amnesty International's report has been widely received as a powerful indicator and benchmark for the current state of human rights in all nations, rich or poor, developed or underdeveloped. It is a reminder for the international community and national governments of the reality of current human rights abuses and the responsibility to maintain basic rights, and not abdicate them, particularly during times of economic crisis.
More about Amnesty international, Human Rights, Economic crisis
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