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by Anthony Ravlich
Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009 at 1:36 PM
email@example.com (0064) (09) 302.2761 10D / 15 City Rd., Auckland City, New Zealand
The neo liberal elite seized their opportunity to create global unemployment when an ideological shift by the global elites occurred over the past four years at the UN from right wing neo liberalism (Bush) to left wing neo liberalism (Obama).
The Neo liberal elite seize their opportunity to increase unemployment globally.
Human Rights Council Inc. (NZ, Asia-Pacific Region)
10D / 15 City Rd.,
Ph: (0064) (09) 302. 2761
The Neo liberal elite has seized their opportunity following a recent ideological shift by the global elites at the United Nations to create massive global unemployment and greater ‘top-down’ control by the State, the collectives, the media and big business.
The global elites in adopting a complaints procedure for those suffering social injustices (economic, social and cultural rights such as the right to employment and fair wages) signaled to States, by its exclusion of core minimum obligations, that there would be ‘no bottom line’ with respect to living standards i.e. there would be neither protection for the most disadvantaged nor would they be given the chance to help themselves. This considerable global elite consensus lends legitimacy to neoliberal States ignoring the human rights of the most disadvantaged as well as the new unemployed who are joining them. The complaints procedure, called the Optional Protocol (OP) to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, was adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 2008, after four years of discussions at the UN. (The OP and the ideological shift at the UN is discussed in full in my recently released book, Freedom from our social prisons: the rise of economic, social and cultural rights, Lexington Books, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers).
The neo liberal elite also seized their opportunity in 1991 following a major ideological shift - the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe in 1989 which ensured there would be no challenge to neo liberalism. This collapse led to the marginalization of economic, social and cultural rights at the United Nations. The major champions of these latter rights had been the communists. While economic, social and cultural rights have rarely found their way into domestic human rights law (exceptions are South Africa, Norway, Finland, and Russia) States’ economic and social policies reflect decisions made by the global elites at the United Nations. Following the collapse of East European communism unemployment in New Zealand, as with many other countries, reached 10% in 1991. In the same year the Employment Contracts Act, which allowed workers to chose whether to join a union, was passed. The trade unions came close to a national strike but the leadership decided against it opting to accept the new neo liberal regime. By the end of the decade trade union membership had halved. Also in April 1991 there were harsh benefit cuts as high as 25% in some cases.
The global elites at the United Nations were very united when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the above complaints procedure last December but at the beginning of the discussions on the OP it was by no means clear what direction it would take. The ideological shift involved a shift from right wing neo liberalism (championed by the Bush Administration), which did not recognize economic, social and cultural rights and opposed the OP, to left wing neo liberalism (which Obama’s policies reflect) which regarded economic, social and cultural rights as being of equal status to civil and political rights and supported the OP.
However, the OP excluded core minimum obligations which would have protected the most disadvantaged. These are basic levels of rights such as the right to shelter, basic health and education, food and water – all devised by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (see General Comment No.3). The Committee stated that if such core minimum obligations were excluded from the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural it would lose its ‘raison d’etre’ (see General Comment No. 3). This is simply because if the State overlooks the most serious violations then the Covenant makes no sense.
In addition, the empowerment rights to development (such as small business development) and human rights education (as well as non-retrogression, which protects existing rights) were also excluded from the OP. These would have permitted greater ‘bottom-up’ control. The empowerment rights would have enabled those at the bottom of society to help themselves e.g. microloans have helped millions around the world to set up small businesses and the loans are nearly always paid back, while human rights education would enable people to use the democratic process to get certain human rights in law as well as hold the liberal elite (and conservative elite as they share similar civil and political rights) to account with respect to the human rights agenda.
While the Bush administration focused exclusively on the interest of the global elites (liberal elites in particular) and civil and political rights the complaints procedure supported by the considerable majority of the global elites encouraged a domestic elite consensus by empowering groups other than the liberal, middle class, professional elite by giving greater recognition to their economic, social and cultural rights. For example, trade unions could use the complaint procedure to gain social justice for the trade unions first at the domestic level and, once this avenue was exhausted and if still dissatisfied with the outcome they could take their complaint to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Although America is one of the very few countries not to have ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights they have Corporations around the world so are affected by the economic and social policies adopted by other States.
Because States are given a ‘wide margin of appreciation’ in the implementation of human rights, the exclusion of core minimum obligations enables the States to ‘turn human rights on its head’ and focus on the human rights of elites rather than emphasizing, as they should, the most serious violations often occurring amongst those in the lower classes. This was also the case with past human rights instruments such as the UN conventions concerning non-discrimination with respect to race and gender – both these conventions contained economic, social and cultural rights but affirmative action was focused on the elites while the most disadvantaged were invariably overlooked. Because the considerable majority of States around the world follow neo liberal policies it seems inevitable that this will happen because from the start neo liberalism has created under classes around the world. The global elite consensus allowed States, if they so wish, to virtually disregard the human rights of those at the bottom of the social ladder and the neo liberals, in my view, seized upon this opportunity to further increase the gap between rich and poor by relegating millions to a much lower lifestyle.
If core minimum obligations as defined by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights had been included the State may well have been required to eliminate homelessness, mass begging on the streets, the indignity of food banks, serious cases on the hospital waiting list, student loans which force people to leave the country, children going to school hungry and ensure the low waged had adequate for themselves and their family etc. Unlike economic, social and cultural rights the committee that deals with civil and political rights, the UN Human Rights Committee, has not devised core minimum obligations for these rights however with respect to torture this may have helped avert Abu Ghraib and Guantanomo Bay. The lack of such core minimum obligations with respect to the latter rights which deal with individual freedoms means that States, with respect to the covenant on civil and political rights (also ratified under international law by America) were able to focus on the human rights of elites and overlook the very pressing need for the poor to have a voice of their own (their right to freedom of speech) in the mainstream media so they can influence the democratic process. There is also a need to ensure non-discrimination on the grounds of social origin (and/or class) to guard against the stigmatization of the unemployed by the media, politicians etc. This, although in the covenant on civil and political rights, has been conveniently left out of the New Zealand Human Rights Act 1993.
Obama’s left-wing neo liberal approach (which, as stated, simply reflects the present global elite consensus at the United Nations) offers greater protection to civil liberties which is likely to keep left liberals and the ‘so-called liberal media’ quiet and ensure greater unity amongst the collective elites, including the trade unions, and political parties. So as unemployment increases few voices of protest may be heard from the establishment. Such establishment unity is an alternative means of controlling any ‘speaking out’ rather than threateningly curbing civil liberties in law which undermines America’s global ‘freedom and democracy’ message i.e. America has learnt (Abu Ghraib and Guantanomo Bay) that ‘high profile’, very serious compromises of liberal principles results in a considerable loss of global credibility. Those in the establishment or funded by the State or big business who do not share the neo liberal vision of the State (i.e. the global expansion of Western Corporations) and the mass unemployment that has resulted and ‘speak out’ could find themselves relegated to the ranks of the unemployed. However, in my view, Abu Ghraib and Guantanomo Bay are just the tip of a very huge iceberg as neo liberalism has constantly compromised liberal principles with many millions being reduced to powerlessness, voicelessness and subjected to discrimination.
Those facing further oppression and exploitation, by the State, the collectives, the media and big business are the more creative, innovative, independent peoples of America, including small businesses - which drive the America Dream and would surely be a better option than big business with respect to ‘energy and conservation’. The independent peoples while able to ‘speak out’ will very likely be shut out by the establishment, those NGOs funded by the latter and the ‘so-called liberal’ mainstream media. The State provision of infrastructure jobs (where it will also be difficult to ‘speak out’) for the unemployed, more than likely paying far less than the jobs they had previously, offered by Obama seem to fall far short of the American Dream where small to medium businesses, with the greater dignity and freedom that such independence provides, satisfied the hopes and dreams of many millions of Americans in the past. The website (www.asbl.com) of the American Small Business League shows that so far small businesses have lost about ,500,000,000 in federal small business contracts to big business and the website states that President Obama ‘has not honored his campaign promise to stop the diversion of small business contracts to the corporate giants’. Such apparent discrimination towards small business could even herald the demise of America’s meritocracy. This represents an assault on the economic, social and cultural rights of small business, who could potentially employ the most disadvantaged as well as provide opportunities for entrepreneurs. It is hoped they will organize themselves and with the support of the unemployed defend the truth and the American Dream.
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