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Bottom-up rights, ethical globalization for a Great Country

by anthony ravlich Monday, Jul. 20, 2009 at 5:50 AM (0064) (09) 302 2761 10D/15 City Rd., Auckland City, New Zealand

A Great Country is inclusive - neo liberal social exclusion settles for mediocrity. Bottom-up rights are those excluded by the UN and States considered incompatible with neo liberalism. The discontented need to struggle for these rights which entail an ethical globalization.

Bottom-up rights and ethical globalization

Anthony Ravlich


Human Rights Council Inc. (New Zealand, Asia-Pacific Region)

10D/15 City Rd.,

Auckland City.

New Zealand.

Ph: (0064) (09) 302 2761

(Revised, July 19, 2009)

The ‘bottom-up’ approach to human rights, which is ethical rather than elitist, are those excluded from UN human rights instruments and which the discontented can struggle for to have included in domestic and international human rights law. It is a human rights answer to neo liberal elitism and political (or economic) globalization which is in decline.

The ‘bottom-up’ approach, which deals with the most serious violations, is particularly relevant as global unemployment increases considerably and the numbers of hungry are expected this year to reach an historic high (1020 million), while a further 90 million people are being forced into extreme poverty (see below).

The ‘bottom-up’ approach also entails an ethical globalization addressing the most serious violations domestically and, where necessary, helping other States address theirs. Consequently it constitutes a major challenge to neo liberal elitism and political (or economic) globalization as whether the ‘bottom-up’ rights are included in domestic and international human rights law is not a matter of if but rather of when although this is assuming human rights, manipulated by elites to their own interest, survives a likely backlash.

The ‘bottom-up’ approach simply consists of those rights left out of the UN human rights instruments which come under international law. The exclusion of these rights pit a ‘we are all in it together’ establishment against the independent peoples (e.g. small business) and the most disadvantaged. It is apparent that the ‘excluded rights’, which address those suffering the worst violations and those empowerment rights which would enable them to help themselves, and nonretrogression were considered by the UN and the global elites as incompatible with the pursuit of neo liberalism and globalization. However if the worst violations are not addressed then human rights are rendered irrelevant.

These omissions are most evident in the Optional Protocol (OP) for the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which will be open for ratification by States on September 24, 2009. The OP is a complaints procedure for those suffering social injustices.

The ‘excluded rights’ in the OP, which was discussed by working groups over a four year period, are the core minimum obligations of the State (as defined by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, see General Comments), the empowerment rights to development and human rights education – the latter rights, which enable people suffering serious violations to help themselves e.g. setting up small business, informing the democratic majority of their views, reality, any electoral candidates etc., as well as non retrogression are also regarded as core minimum obligations by the ‘bottom-up’ approach. The Committee states that without such core minimums the covenant loses its ‘raison d’etre’ (General Comment No. 3).

UN working groups were discussing the right to development at the same time of the OP discussions. The major objection to the right to development, which comes under the umbrella of both civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights, came from America who opposed the latter set of rights (America is the only industrialized country not to have ratified the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights under international law). However the global elites in the OP discussions determined by a considerable majority that both sets of rights were of equal status consequently the right to development should have been included so complaints could be made if this right is violated. However this recognition of the equal status of both sets of rights (although such information is very unlikely to reach the mainstream society) did not extend to the lower level of core minimum obligations consequently States were given an ‘out’ whereby they could, as has been the case with former human rights instruments, simply focus on the usually lesser violations suffered by elites and not only ignoring the poor but ensuring they would not even be able to help themselves by omitting the right to development.

In addition, the State which is ultimately responsible for core minimum obligations can ensure a socially responsible private sector. The right to property is included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but unlike all other rights were not included in the two covenants which came under international law rather it was put in the hands of the UN Specialized Agencies – the IMF and World Bank. But there is no reason to believe that property rights are any more important than, say, children’s rights or freedom of speech. This ‘special treatment’ of the right to property meant that whether the private sector was socially responsible or not was ultimately a choice of the State however under the neo liberal dominated UN many have been severely pressured, under threat of isolation, to adopt the socially irresponsible structural adjustment policies of the IMF and the World Bank. While more research is required this suggests that the world financial crisis may have been manufactured. For instance, the trade union elite was empowered by the OP being able to use the complaints procedure to gain social justice leading to the ‘we are all in this together’ approach of neo liberal State leaders. It could well be the case that investors used to Western societies which really only revolved around the interests of their class i.e. liberal, middle class, professionals, were reluctant to share profits with the trade unions until sufficient numbers of workers were laid off.

In addition, included in the ‘bottom-up’ approach are those rights excluded from previous human rights instruments which were core minimum obligations (not devised by the UN Human Rights Committee) with respect to civil and political rights. As stated above failure to include the core minimums of either set of rights in human rights instruments means that the State can, as it has done in the past, simply focus on the human rights of elites. For instance, the poor lack a voice of their own in the mainstream media so they can influence the democratic process – yet to implement this would have cost very little and also non-discrimination on the grounds of social origin need to be included in domestic human rights law (yet it is in the relevant covenant) to ensure affirmative action e.g. micro loans, goes to those who will employ others as well as ensure those in power do not stigmatize those at the bottom. In addition, in a democracy there should be a duty to provide the necessary information so people can make an informed vote. So if a party wishes to be inclusive of the poor they will not be ignored by the mainstream media which has been the case with our ethical party, the Human Rights Party, in New Zealand.

In my many years of mixing with the poor what I consider they most want is for the neo liberal establishment to ‘get out of their way’ and allow them to help themselves as they have the new ideas, talents and abilities as well as ethical beliefs to take society forward economically and socially whereas the establishment is alienated, largely concerned with social control, redistribution of the wealth upwards, with a reliance on the old ideas represented by the Corporations as well as wanting to see their ‘them versus us’ social model of society replicated around the world.

Ethical globalization means that a State ensures core minimum obligations (the wider view of the ‘bottom-up’ approach) are immediately implemented domestically and where necessary help other States achieve theirs – this is by right, under international law, not charity especially as neo liberalism and globalization have prevented the poor from helping themselves.

Because of the exclusion of these rights Obama’s recent promotion of democracy in the Arab States and Africa cannot be taken seriously because it is an ‘elitist’ democracy where people have little alternative but to vote for elitist representatives – ethical men (and women) of the people are neither interested or get the chance in such a ‘them versus us’ society which pits a ‘we are all in this together’ establishment against the independent peoples and the most disadvantaged. A more ethical rather than elitist approach could be to promote core minimum obligations with respect to democracy e.g. an autocratic State could instead hold a national referendum where the people could, at least, state their approval or otherwise for such a leadership. Failure of the autocratic state to do so would indicate whether they are simply ‘out for themselves’ or are ‘working in the interests of the people’. Such an approach would not require the autocratic State to also adopt an elitist human rights agenda but instead after implementing core minimum obligations could work progressively towards a full democracy.

The ‘bottom-up’ approach constitutes an ethical base immediately ensuring the core minimums while higher levels are addressed progressively. Non-retrogression protects existing human rights in society and a high democratic standard is required to curb or remove such rights. By dealing with the most serious violations and those empowerment rights which allow those suffering extreme violence to help themselves any belief system, organization, or State would lack credibility if they ignored them. Consequently, the ‘bottom-up’ approach can be driven by NGOs but also form the ethical base of various ideologies, such as liberalism, socialism, mixed economies or religious States, political parties could become ethical parties, and discontented States, perhaps in poorer regions, could promote these core minimum obligations. Also it could be promoted by the Non-Aligned Movement and the anti-globalization movement. In fact, the discontented in the world could unite to encourage neo liberalism to adopt such an ethical base. Grave and systematic violations, terrorism and War are very exceptional situations in a different category to core minimum obligations and it often failure to address the latter which is the causes of major violent conflict.

It is clear that the inability of the elites to develop beyond liberalism (despite the in-house rhetoric at the UN), coupled with their alienation as consequence of increasing elitism, means their ideas are insufficient in today’s very complex world with its increasing major social problems. Consequently it is perhaps not surprising to see there is a retreat to the ‘safety’ and unity of the establishment. Bot these global problems require a proactive approach together with the necessary will and understanding. It could be said that it is now a time when great ideas are needed – the mediocre ideas of the past which simply exclude people are no longer acceptable.

Recently Lexington Books, my publishers, asked me if I would write an article on the ‘Bottom-Up’ Approach to Human Rights which formed the basis of my book, ‘Freedom from our social prisons: the rise of economic, social and cultural rights’ – this coincided with the release of the paperback on June 28, 2009. Chapter 5 deals with the Optional Protocol (OP) for the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The article appeared in three parts on the Rowman and Littlefield Blog:

June 30, 2009

The More Ethical ‘Bottom-Up Approach to Human Rights’.


By Anthony Ravlich

The Optional Protocol (OP) for the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which will be open for ratification by States on September 24, 2009, shows the neo liberal dominated global elites at the UN are prepared to deny a number of human rights to further neo liberalism and globalization.

The rights excluded by the OP are the core minimum obligations of the State, the empowerment rights and non-retrogression. However in the exclusion of these rights the global elites have provided a more ethical ‘bottom-up human rights approach’ for the discontented to struggle for and have included in domestic and international law.

Those groups most affected by the exclusion of these rights are the most disadvantaged and the independent peoples. The exclusion of these rights indicates that social control and old ideas represented by the Corporations are much more preferred to new ideas, independence and going forward.

In addition, the exclusion of these rights allows States to ignore the most disadvantaged and focus on the usually lesser violations of human rights suffered by elites. This has also been the case with previous human rights instruments.

The ‘bottom-up’ approach to human rights also includes core minimum obligations with respect to civil and political rights as their exclusion in previous human rights instruments have left the poor voiceless and discriminated against. The ‘bottom-up’ approach, based on my work in the community, anticipated the exclusions of the OP and is described in full in my book, Freedom from our social prisons: the rise of economic, social and cultural rights (Lexington Books).

For sixty years economic, social and cultural rights have been held out often by the liberal elites at the international level as a hope for the poor but the present OP now disinherits them. For example, the core minimum obligations of the State includes the right to food, water, shelter, basic health and education and are defined by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which states that without these core minimums the covenant loses its ‘raison d’etre’ (General Comment No.3) i.e. if the most serious violations are ignored then human rights become irrelevant.

Also excluded is the empowerment right to development which means that neo liberal States can disregard small business which means people will be less able to help themselves through developing their talents, gifts and new ideas. It also means much higher unemployment. The other empowerment right excluded is human rights education. If educated in both sets of rights the people would be able to hold the domestic and global elites to account at election time. In addition, non retrogression was also excluded enabling the State to curb or reduce human rights at its discretion.

Independent NGOs and even States dissatisfied with neo liberalism can struggle to have the ‘bottom-up’ approach included in domestic and international law.

July 01, 2009

Part II: The More Ethical ‘Bottom-Up Approach to Human Rights’.


By Anthony George Ravlich

The Optional Protocol (OP) for the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which will be open for ratification by States on September 24, 2009, excludes such core minimum obligations as the right to food and also the right to development so the world’s hungry will be reliant on the insecurity of charity and the vagaries of the market.

World hunger is projected to reach an historic high in 2009 with 1.02 billion people going hungry every day, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (June 22, 2009). The inclusion of core minimum obligations in the above OP would have ensured that the hungry could have their rights to food and development as the State is ultimately responsible for human rights. Without the right to development there is no assurance the poor will be permitted to help themselves. Kanayo Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development states: "For most developing countries there is little doubt that investing in smallholder agriculture is the most sustainable safety net, particularly during a time of global economic crisis”.

The excluded rights are included in the ‘bottom-up’ approach to human rights which can be struggled for by NGOs to have included in domestic and international law. Part Three argues that the ‘bottom-up’ approach is ethically far superior to neo liberalism. The ‘bottom-up’ approach is discussed in my book, Freedom from Our Social Prisons: The Rise of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Lexington Books).

The recent ideological shift at the UN was from right wing (Bush administration) to left wing neo liberalism (adopted by Obama). What both approaches have in common is the exclusion of the above rights. However, while the right wing curbed civil liberties as a means of social control the left wing is ensuring social control (e.g. silence in return for ‘safety’) by adopting a ‘we are all in this together’ approach with a consensus between the liberal and trade union elites.

The establishment will oversee the growing unemployed who may get health insurance and infrastructure jobs but without the right to development they will have little chance of making use of their talents and gifts. For instance, the American Small Business League state: “This year small businesses have lost about billion dollars in federal small business contracts to large corporations. To date, President Obama has not honored his campaign promise to stop the diversion of small business contracts to corporate giants”. In addition, without core minimum obligations in place, for small entrepreneurs failure can not be an option.

However, I consider the main purpose of the ‘we are all in this together’ approach is internationally where the elite consensus further supports the West’s promotion of democracy to empower liberal forces within autocratic regimes. In addition, the West’s social model which involves the subjugation of the independent peoples and the most disadvantaged may also meet foreign elite approval.

July 07, 2009

Part III: The More Ethical ‘Bottom-Up Approach to Human Rights’


By Anthony George Ravlich

The ‘bottom-up’ human rights approach, whose core minimum obligations, non-retrogression and empowerment rights are considered by the global elites at the UN as incompatible with political globalization, promises instead an ‘ethical globalization’.

It’s a world in trouble – according to the United Nations ‘the global recession has pushed up to 90 million more people into extreme poverty’ (Reuters, July 6, 2009). Because of its massive denials of liberal rights I consider that neo liberalism has lost legitimacy.

The ‘bottom-up’ approach includes the rights excluded by the Optional Protocol (OP) for the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (as well as past human rights instruments). It is not a matter of if these rights will be included but rather it is a matter of when.

The OP is open for ratification by States on September 24, 2009.The ‘bottom-up’ approach forms the basis of my book, ‘Freedom from Our Social Prisons: The Rise of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ (Lexington Books).

While the ‘bottom-up’ approach, driven by NGOs and perhaps some States, promotes the inclusion of the excluded rights in domestic and international law it can also act as an ethical counterbalance to neo liberalism and, particularly, inform the independent peoples and the most disadvantaged who are those most affected by the excluded rights.

Ethical globalization requires the core obligations etc. to be included in domestic and international law. Where other States require assistance it would be by way of right not charity because the desperate state of the poor is a consequence of neo liberalism.

In terms of the empowerment rights to development and human rights education micro credit, televised human rights debates as well as a ‘voice for the poor’ indicates these rights are attainable while other core minimum obligations can be fulfilled by the State and small business development with the increased employment giving people better access to their rights.

If ethical globalization is implemented the liberal elite could refocus its promotion of ‘freedom and democracy’ at the international level by ensuring liberal rights at the domestic level and thereby regain lost legitimacy. Although, in my opinion, people are not yet aware of the true extent of the denials of liberal rights which now could be said, to a large degree, only to constitute the privileges of elites.

The ‘bottom-up’ approach is inclusive as it requires that the most serious violations to be immediately addressed while the lesser violations usually at higher levels are dealt with progressively. Consequently the ‘bottom-up’ approach is far more ethical approach than neo liberalism which excludes core minimum obligations and economic, social and cultural rights at the domestic level.

Western liberal elites, in particular, are preoccupied with ‘safety’ and establishment unity. Also the narrow liberal perspective is very likely to prove inadequate in dealing with the complex problems of a troubled world. Consequently it is left to NGOs to ‘speak out’ on behalf of the oppressed and exploited and also to promote the more ethical, ‘bottom-up’ human rights approach, with its much wider perspective of human rights, with a view to their inclusion in domestic and international human rights law.

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