Dimensions of Human Rights and Financial Crisis: Concept of Development Right

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Dr. Seyed Mohammad Kazem Sajjadpour

The ongoing financial crisis has left its impacts on all the domains of international relations and this trend is set to continue. It may be no exaggeration to state that there is no country or individual to remain immune to the direct and indirect consequences of the global financial crisis.

The international financial crisis has challenged the effectiveness of the big industrial powers in global economic and political dimensions in a way that almost all the leaders of the industrial states speak of the need for major changes in the international financial structures and are working to introduce reforms to this effect. But the truth is that the social aspects of the crisis and its impacts on the daily life of human beings are not less important than its politico-economic dimensions. These broad impacts are not limited to unemployment of some people in non-industrial countries; their scope has also covered social life in the developing countries as well.

An interesting event in this respect is the convening of a Special Session by the Human Rights Council and adoption of a resolution on the impacts of the global economic and financial crises on human rights. The resolution adopted on February 23 is noteworthy from different angels. This is the second time since its inception three years ago that the Human Rights Council is holding a session on thematic issues. A similar session which resulted in adoption of an important resolution was held last year on global food crisis and its impacts on human rights.

Generally speaking, violation of human rights by countries in specific geographical domains is among issues taken up by human rights defenders and international players in an extraordinary manner. A clear example of human rights violations was seen in the recent crisis in Gaza. The actions committed by the Israeli regime were in open violation of human rights in Palestine and required urgent attention by the international community. But to take up broad human rights themes such as the right of development, the right of freedom of expression and opinion, the right of access to food, and the right of education as emergency issues had been unprecedented and limited to two cases considered within the time span of 2008 and 2009.

It must be noted that the Human Rights Council launched in 2006 was a significant development in promotion of human rights in the United Nations system. It placed the concept of human rights in the category of ‘international security’ and ‘development’. The Council has convened 10 special sessions so far basically dealing with violation of human rights by the Zionist regime against the Palestinians and Lebanese, the situations in Myanmar, Darfur, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, the very fact that an extraordinary session is held on the human rights impacts of the global financial and economic crisis is noteworthy.

In a resolution proposed by Brazil and Egypt and supported by 30 countries, including Iran (February 20-23, 2009) it has been basically underlined that the global financial crisis has left a downward impact on the economy of the developing countries and the amount of money migrants of the developing countries in the industrial states have been sending back home has decreased. This crisis has added up to the debts of the developing countries and all this has affected one of the basic human rights, namely development.

Furthermore, the crisis has raised concerns about discrimination in employment for migrant workers which is among major human rights issues.

The HRC resolution underlined the urgent need to establish an equitable, transparent and democratic international system to strengthen and broaden the participation of developing countries in international economic decision-making and norm-setting. The resolution has also called on UN human rights institutions to prepare reports on the impacts of the crisis on the different dimensions of human rights for presentation to relevant sections.

The last Special Session held by HRC and the debates cited in the adopted resolution signifies the importance of the right to development and its pivotal role in issues related to human rights on the one hand and the presence of considerable space for the developing countries in the new era after the launch of HRC on the other.

If this trend continues, mere leveling of human rights with civil and political rights and inattention to economic and social rights will face serious challenge. This process will also highlight the responsibility of the developing countries in accomplishment of the economic and social rights of their citizens. In other words, emphasis on the right of development can no longer be used as a tool to overlook the political and civil rights of people in the developing countries. After all, human right is a live and dynamic issue in contemporary international relations and here the right of development has developed significantly itself.


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