News / Africa

UN: Obstruction of Human Rights Worsens Plight in Horn of Africa

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay (file)
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay (file)
Lisa Schlein

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, says the food emergency in the Horn of Africa is worse in countries that do not respect the fundamental rights of their people.

More than 12.5 million people are affected by the worst drought to hit the Horn of Africa in 60 years.  The U.N. human rights chief, Navi Pillay, agrees that a devastating natural phenomenon is behind this dire emergency.  But she notes the failure of some governments to live up to their human rights obligations is worsening an already dreadful situation.   

“There is no doubt that the deliberate obstruction of human rights and humanitarian work has exacerbated already desperate conditions," said Pillay. "The spiraling effects of the crisis are now engulfing the Horn of Africa where as many as 750,000 lives may be at risk.  A denial of the right to food undermines the right to health, thus ultimately putting at risk the most fundamental of all human rights, that is, the right to life."  

The high commissioner does not point her finger at any one state.  However, it is well known that Somalia's Islamist al-Shabab militant group is not allowing the World Food Program to distribute food to hundreds of thousands of starving people in the areas it controls in the south.

The result is all too painfully visible.  The United Nations has declared six regions in the south as famine zones and says the famine is continuing to spread.

Moving from the food crisis to the global economic crisis, Pillay notes it is the poor who bear the brunt of cost-cutting and other austerity measures.  She says fears of a new global recession are prompting unrest and street protests in countries around the world.

The high commissioner says she joined in Sunday’s remembrance of the victims of the terrorist attacks against the United States 10 years ago on September 11.  She says people who hold human rights in contempt continue to kill and injure innocent people.  

A recent example of this, she notes, is last month’s terrorist attack against a U.N. facility in the Nigerian capital of Abuja.  More than 20 people were killed and scores injured.

“In this context, let me note that the countermeasures adopted by states to combat terrorism have frequently been designed with insufficient regard to human rights," said Pillay. "This has all too often led to an erosion of rights and fostered a culture of diffidence and discrimination which, in turn, perpetuates cycles of violence and retribution.”   

Pillay cites Sri Lanka as one such case.  She says that country has suffered the brutal effects of terrorist acts for three decades.  But instead of working to heal these wounds, she says the response of successive governments has undermined independent institutions, human rights and the rule of law.  

Similarly, she says the killing of civilians by governmental and international forces engaged in counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan is a major concern.

She says the protests in the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere stem from the denial of economic, social and cultural rights, as well as political and civil rights.  

She says the violation of people’s human rights is at the root of many of the existing global crises.  Just as they are the problem, she says good governance, human rights and the rule of law are also an essential part of any sustainable solution.

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid