International has released its annual report on the state of the world's human
rights and it warns the global economic and food crises are contributing to billions
of people suffering from insecurity, injustice and indignity.
van der Borght, director of amnesty's Africa Program, says when the food crisis
began last year it set the stage for rights abuses.
of people moved into the streets to demonstrate against the increased cost of
living, against the high price of food. And reaction we have seen from
authorities was often to repress those demonstrations and to arrest people arbitrarily,"
people were killed during such protests in Cameroon and Mozambique.
saying Amnesty understands authorities must maintain order if demonstrations
turn violent, van der Borght adds, "We saw across many countries in Africa a
very repressive reaction from the authorities when people came to the street to
demand their right for an adequate standard of living."
report states, "It is also clear that not only have governments abdicated
economic and financial regulation to market forces, they have failed to protect
human rights, lives and livelihoods."
Money ahead of human Rights?
"We are certainly concerned that that's
what we're seeing exactly now," he says.
the food crisis in 2008 in Africa, the economic crisis then began to unfold. "We're
very concerned that certainly those who are already vulnerable, including the
poor, those who are marginalized, will be disproportionally affected," he says.
says while nations move to end the global economic crisis they may pay less
attention to eradicating poverty.
will focus on re-fixing the financial system, but they will not necessarily
address the underlying causes and they will not address the poverty issues,
which are happening," van der Borght says.
Poverty and human rights violations linked
"People living in urban slums and
informal settlements, who are affected, have no access to essential services.
They have no voice to decide on what happens to them. They are often as risk
for forced evictions, which drive them even more into poverty because they lose
their meager belongings," says van der Borght.
of food and the economic downturn helped fuel xenophobia and racism.
In 2008, South Africa experienced
xenophobic violence against foreigners. Amnesty says 60 people were killed, 600
injured and tens of thousands displaced.
reacted against foreigners because they feel it was a competition in regarding
to housing and land," he says.
Fast growth, fragile growth
Amnesty International report says, "Human rights were too often relegated to
the backseat as the juggernaut of unregulated globalization swept the world
into a frenzy of growth in recent years."
admitting globalization and economic growth have their positive aspects, van
der Borght says it's clear that economic growth was very fragile. "The
slightest disbalance (sic) or crisis brings people back into poverty." He says.
he says, have failed to get communities involved in problem-solving.
"People should be much more involved in
decisions that affect their day to day lives. They should be part of the
solution and we're concerned that that attitude has not changed," he says.
Somalia, Darfur, DRC
human rights report state, "The conflicts in Darfur and Somalia are playing out
in areas with fragile ecosystems where increased pressure on water and the ability
to provide food to sustain the population are both a cause and consequence of
the continuing wars."
for the eastern DRC, it says, "Greed, corruption and economic interests have
vied with regional power politics to impoverish the people and entrap them in a
persistent cycle of violence."
Call for new leadership
"It's clear there is still an immense
gap between the rhetoric we hear - including in Africa in terms of commitment of
respecting and promoting human rights - and the reality on the ground," he
African leaders are being called on to
make greater investment in basic social services, such as health, education,
water and sanitation.
calling on them to be accountable to their people, to respect the rule of law,
to end corruption practices, which directly lead to human rights violations. So,
there has to be a shift in mentality," he says.
Amnesty report says, "Global poverty – exacerbated by the economic situation –
has created a burning platform for human rights change. At the same time, the
economic crisis has triggered a paradigm shift that opens up opportunities for