Leaders ignore human rights abuses during recession at world's peril

Plans are afoot at Amnesty’s Human Rights Action Centre to mark its 48th birthday.  The air is abuzz with chatter of who’ll be DJ-ing at this evening’s party, what to wear and for some, where the party is going to be held (okay, so that would be me!).

However, even on its birthday Amnesty has its eye on the state of the world’s human rights. So today also marks the launch of our Annual Report, where we send a stark warning to world leaders that greater attention has to be paid to human rights, especially those of the world's poorest, during the current economic crisis and beyond. 

As the Secretary-General, Irene Khan stated at yesterday's press briefing, 'ignoring one crisis to focus on another is a recipe for aggravating both.'

Heavy warnings indeed but you only have to consider the events of last year to get an idea of what Irene Khan meant.

Over the course of 2008, millions of people slid into poverty, particularly in countries in Asia; hundreds of thousands of people in countries including Cambodia and Nigeria were forced out of their homes for the sake of economic development and there have also been growing instances of state repression.  Speaking to the Financial Times, Amnesty’s Secretary-General pointed out that an increase in food prices has led to angry protests around the world, which state security forces responded to with excessive force. In Cameroon for example, around 100 people were killed after clashes between police and demonstrators after riots broke out about rising food prices.

And so as the Times reports Amnesty’s calling on world leaders – particularly the G-20 – to invest in human rights as purposefully as they are investing in economic growth. As inthenews.co.uk reports, Amnesty claims that economic recovery is neither sustainable nor equitable if it did not include a strong focus on human rights.

In particular there needs to be a concerted effort upon world leaders to improve the human rights of the poorest people.  Speaking to the Guardian’s Diplomatic Editor, Irene Khan describes the world’s poorest as being on ‘the edge of survival’.  You can have listen to the interview at the Guardian’s Daily podcast.

Regularly it is the poorest people who are the most marginalised, who experience greater discrimination and who are greatly deprived of their human rights.  It’s those people who Amnesty will be focusing on as it launches its ‘Demand Dignity’ campaign. Campaigning with and on behalf of those who are marginalised and excluded, Amnesty intends to empower those who are living in poverty to assert their rights, to ensure that states and companies are held to account for any abuses they commit against the world’s poor and to ensure that the poorest and marginalised can access their rights. 

You can find out more about Demand Dignity here.

Before I sign off, just a note to say that Nobel Peace prize winner, Wangari Maathai will be at Amnesty’s Human Rights Action Centre this evening. Her new film called ‘Taking Root’ will be given its UK premiere at the Human Rights Action Centre, here in east London this evening.  Seats may still be available so if you’re in the area, visit our site to book a ticket.

Well, I’m off now to enjoy the rest of the celebrations.

Til the next time!

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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