Amnesty International 2009 report – criticising laissez faire

29 May

As a respected international human rights organisation, the latest 2009 Amnesty International report wrote in its foreword, a widely-held sentiment held by anti or alternative globalisation advocates for years and which I believed has been long overdue – linking human rights abuses to the Washington Consensus, rampant capitalism, free trade and the perverse relationships between big businesses and governments.

Here are some excerpts:

p 6 – As with the case of climate change, so too with global economic recession: the rich are responsible for most of the damaging action, but it is the poor who suffer the worst consequences.

p 6 – it is clear that the human rights costs and consequences of the economic crisis will cast long shadows. It is also clear that not only have governments abdicated economic and financial regulation to market forces, they have failed abysmally to protect human rights, lives and livelihoods.

p 6 – 7 – Alliances between governments and corporations built on expectations of financial enrichment at the expense of the most marginalized must be dismantled. Alliances of convenience that protect abusive governments from accountability must go.

p 7 –  growing inequality, deprivation, marginalization and insecurity; voices of people protesting suppressed with audacity and impunity; and those responsible for the abuses – governments, big business and international financial institutions – largely unrepentant and unaccountable.

p 8 –   From the urban poor in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to Roma communities in European countries, the dirty truth is that many people are poor because of overt and covert policies of discrimination, marginalization and exclusion, perpetrated or condoned by the state, with the collusion of business or private actors.

p 9 –  structural adjustment policies,led by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank until a decade ago, have eviscerated social safety nets in both developing and developed countries. Structural adjustment policies were designed to create conditions within states which would support a market economy and open national markets to international trade. These led to the promotion of the minimal state in which governments abrogated their obligations on economic and social rights in favour of the market. In addition to calling for economic liberalization, structural adjustment policies also pushed for privatization of public services, deregulation of labour relations, and the cutting of social security nets. User fees promoted by the World Bank and the IMF in areas such as education and health care often put these services out of the reach of the poorest.

13 – Open markets have not necessarily led to open societies.

14 – The Chinese government has reacted with high profile executions of those found guilty of corruption but that has done little or nothing to change corporate or official behaviour in China.

To download the foreword; 2009 AI annual report

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