Why not start this blog with a political statement, or rather a subject of discussion. Are Human Rights an Illusion? Is the world we live in, in 2017, as advanced as we believe it to be?
If you would have asked me a week ago if I believed in Human Rights, I would have pondered, and after a few seconds or so I would’ve replied something like, “Well, I guess not everyone on the planet has the same rights at the moment, but I do believe that with the advent of Internet and new technologies, we are heading on the right path”.
What has changed?
On February 21st 2017, Amnesty International released their annual report on “The State of the World’s Human Rights”. An exhaustive list of 159 countries, their situation and changes that occured in 2016, in the human rights department.
Forward on the organisation
Amnesty International was founded in 1961 by a british lawyer, Peter Benenson. He realised one day, after hearing the two Portuguese men were arrested for “raising a toast to freedom”, that anyone in the world can decide to stand up and assure that the United Nation’s Declaration of Human Rights be respected in every country throughout the world.
Now when I first heard of the report, I was in the car with my mother and we went quiet as we heard that Amnesty International described the year of 2016 as a year of state-led oppression of incredible violence in a numerous amount of countries.
Whether you do decide to read the 400 pages or so of the report, here is a little outline of the regions of the world and their issues:
Excessive forces used continually since November of 2015 in Ethiopia against the Oromian population. Which you might have heard of during the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics with Feyisa Lilesa. Deaths of 100 peaceful protesters in Nigeria, 60 of which were shot in two days. Similar situations in South Africa and Zimbabwe. People from the sub-saharian countries are fleeing the war, right now, heading to Libya where they hope to get access to Europe. Future: Amnesty International presume the situations will escalate during the year of 2017 in the countries of Burundi, Ethiopia, Gambia and Zimbabwe.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) categorized the Zika virus as a state of public health emergency.
Although the Americas are home to democracy, the year of 2016 has been imprinted by violence, racism, discriminatory statements. Amnesty criticises the press and media who have normalised such behavior, raising concerns on the future of the United States’ commitment on human rights. Many countries of the Southern Americas are stated of having the highest rates of homicides in the world. Per example: San Salvador has an homicide rate of 108 for 100,000 people. Also, the World Health Organisation (WHO) categorized the Zika virus as a state of public health emergency. An earthquake hit Haïti, leaving the country coping with difficulty in finding shelter for more than 60,000 inhabitants. The country is still damaged by the 2010 earthquake and the president is being accused of fraud. Activitsts, lawyers and journalists have been targeted in many countries while operating in human rights objectives. Future: Although the Americas are going through a dark time, other countries are improving their human rights acts: Canada has launched a national search for missing indigenous women and the Dominican Republic had many LGBTQ+ members added to its political life.
The Asia-Pacific region of the globe holds more than 60% of the world’s population. In the Philippines, clandestine killings were state-sanctioned under the president Rodrigo Duterte: it led to more than 6,000 deaths. A cyclone hit the Fiji and left thousands in need of housing, food which was inadequately distributed. Thousands of Koreans are held into prison camps to ensure population control. The Tibetans are facing ethnical discriminations and are seeing their rights being restricted by the Chinese government. The Pakistani government is rejecting incomming Afghan refugees. Australia and the Nauru Island (needs its own blog article).
Europe and Central Asia
After accepting just over a million refugees in 2015, the European Union decided to reduce the numbers and by the end of 2016, 358,000 refugees had made it to Europe. The UK, as well as many other european countries adopted laws (the Investigatory Powers Act in the UK), which give full access of the state in the population’s technological, trespassing into the private domain.
Middle East & North Africa
“In Syria, more than five years of fighting had resulted in the biggest human-made humanitarian crisis of our time”(Amnesty International)
The Syrian conflict cause 300,000 deaths in 2016 and the deplacement of more than 11 million refugees. The Syrian government leads military attacks such as dropping explosives and firing into civilian residential areas. The Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East area and is fighting against foreign military forces who are disregarding of Yemini lives. The Islamic State is taking violent acts around many countries of the region.
Although 2016 was one of the worst years of the disrespect of human rights globally, it was also the year with the most people standing up to defend those rights and losing their lives to that cause. Amnesty wants us to take a moment and reflect on those activists of profession or improvised.
“It is their courage and determination in the face of dire abuses and threats that offer hope for a better future” (Amnesty International)
Now, what if you were to ask me now: “Are human rights an illusion?”
I will take more than a few seconds to reflect on my thoughts a week prior and to the revelation the Amnesty report has brought to my understanding of the world. Honestly, I do not quite know what I think of this yet, but I do promise that the moment I will, I will write it. Until then, I cannot recommend enough reading at least a portion of the report and I would love to know what you think of it, how it makes you reflect in the comments or contacting me through my Ask page.
“The big question in 2017 will be how far the world lets atrocities go before doing something about them.” (Shetty, 2017)
Here are a few links if you want to know more about: