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  5. A New Area of Human Rights Work

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FOCUS December 1996 Volume 6

A New Area of Human Rights Work

Addressing the root causes of human rights violations is a new area for human rights work. This is also the new focus of work of the recently-elected President of International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination - Dr. Nimalka Fernando.

After spending years and years of advocating for women's rights, Dr. Fernando thought that it is time to move on to another area that has been missed by most human rights organizations. She stressed that the view on human rights at present is different from that in the past. In the traditional approach, when violations exist mechanisms to remedy the problems are created.

But she then asked the questions: why are violations occurring? what cause them to happen?

With the present trend toward globalization, a disaster for human rights will occur in the next century she maintains Thus the relationship between free enterprise and human rights, and globalization and human rights are the contexts for human rights work.

National security measures to promote political stability within a free enterprise scheme cause human rights violations. Political dissenters are labelled as anti-government agents, terrorists and insurgents.

Capitalists have twisted around the meaning of human rights and good governance. Thus, she said, in Sri Lanka the government has become transparent and follows good governance in pursuing privatization. She cited the case of the arrest of wives and children of striking employees of a publicly-owned water facility in order to force them to stop opposing the privatization of the facility.

Human rights, she said, cannot be compromised for progress and development, and vice-versa. She criticized Asian leaders for speaking about Asian values but failing to speak about the poor in their own countries.

She then suggested the need for people-to-people common action against GATT, WTO, and global processes. There is a need to empower small producers all over the world, for new consumer patterns, and for production activities to be related to human rights. This is the challenge that should lead to strengthening the civil society, to giving birth to social movements of a different kind, and to strengthening the movements of the socially discriminated. The human rights paradigm should refer to liberation from the transnational corporations, to the establishment of democratic life of women, children, and family.

She also mentioned that Third World human rights movement is becoming more political as it tackles more the global system. Democratic governments are getting engulfed by private capital and becoming anti-people. The global nature of the problem presents a more complex system of addressing them.

Dr. Fernando spoke in a meeting jointly organized by the Buraku Liberation Research Institute and HURIGHTS OSAKA. The meeting was held in mid-August this year in Osaka city.

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