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, 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.
Anthony George Ravlich is founder and chairperson of the Human Rights Council Inc. in New Zealand and the author of Freedom from Our Social Prisons: The Rise of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.