This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Human Rights and Wrongs............. What is a Human Right?..................
Lead author/editor: Steven Heywood
Universal Declaration of Human Rights..................................... Human Rights and young People
Designer: Romain Oria
Environmental Rights....................... 10 Economic Rights............................... 13
Contributions: Green Patriots Posters, David Woollcombe
With thanks to: Eric Benson, Ellie Carter, Eirwen Harbottle, Trista Jensen, Godlove Miho, Edward Morris, Amandine Nakumuryango, Cara Neale, Sonya Silva, Rosey Simonds, Chalne Smokvil, Shahed Muhammed Moin Uddin, Chris Wood, David Woollcombe
War......................................................... 16 War on Terror....................................... 18 Nuclear Weapons............................... 20 Peace.................................................... 22 Gender Inequality.............................. 24 Good News on Gender..................... 26 Youth Action....................................... 28 Glossary................................................ 31
by Mary Robinson
Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Elder and President of the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice.
“The objective of all human rights action is simply this: to ensure a life of dignity for each person on this earth. The question is: How? What makes sense to people who live a comfortable, secure life may make no sense at all to those living on the margins of society. This is a problem I am aware of every day in my job. I find that two words help me a lot in dealing with this problem: ‘respect’ – really listing and hearing each side’s point of view – and ‘responsibility’ – finding the balance between securing my own rights and learning to live by them responsibly so that some else is not deprived of their rights”. “Another word I use often is “together”. I believe the old Native American saying: “the hurt of one is the hurt of all.” A single abused child is a scar on the face of the global family. Our lives will not be completely dignified until we can all achieve a basic level of dignity”. “This is a difficult task. Your generation faces the most daunting challenges as we move into the new millennium. Trafficking in children, environmental destruction, civil wars, corruption, inequality, nuclear proliferation,. I believe we can only tackle all of these problems if we build our society on solid foundations of human rights – the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which are as relevant today as they were when they were written in 1948”. “Human rights work never stops. Many laws and treaties have been passed, but they need to be implemented. We must always be vigilant. 60 years ago, children did not talk about human rights. In fact, nobody did. Now – thanks to the work done since then, and to television and the internet, we can know immediately if some one’s human rights are being abused, even if it is happening very far away. Yet abuses continue, which is why this 5th book in your series is so important: without human rights – without peace which flows from human rights and justice being observed – all the money and sustainable development in the world means nothing”. “You are starting out on a journey through life in which, at every stage, you must defend your own rights and the rights of others young people around the world. If you are reading this – and not having it read to you – you already have more human rights than those who were never taught to read. We have come a long way in the last 64 years: there are double the number of democratic governments than there were back then; apartheid and colonialism have almost disappeared and more people are freely expressing their views, and living their chosen lifestyles than ever did before. But we still have a long way to go: millions of women and young children, especially young girls, are abused every day. Human development will never be sustainable until the rights of all are observed – and that is not something that comes just from the decisions made in courts of law. It flows from the values we embed in our own, and our families’ hearts and minds in every word we speak, in every look we make, in every decision we take”.
Peace Child International Publication 2011
Human Rights or Human Wrongs?
Human Sustainable Develoment and Human Rights
The title of this book is Human Rights and Sustainable Human Development – two things which are not always thought of together, but which are actually reliant on one another. Without accepting that everyone has a human right to life, to health, to water, to work and to freedom, we would have no reason to care about sustainable development. And without a development that promotes better living standards for all, peace and equality, and a clean environment, we have no hope of fulfilling everyone’s human rights. Much of this book focuses less on human rights, and more on human wrongs – those areas where vital human needs are missing. This includes the environmental and economic rights that we increasingly need; the area of gender, where women are often treated as second-class citizens to men; and the most obvious area where human rights are taken away – war, which removes the human right to life. But we hope, in the end, to show that advances are being made, new ideas are being discussed, and that there is a chance for peace, equality, and justice for all.
What is a Human Right?
Human Sustainable Develoment and Human Rights We have seen throughout this book, and the others in the series, that many terrible things happen to people around the world on a daily basis. But there is some hope – a worldwide system of legallybinding human rights that apply to every person on earth.
What are human rights?
They are a set of “basic rights and freedoms that all people are entitled to regardless of nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin, race, religion, language, or other status ”. In simpler terms, our human rights are all the things we are entitled to, or entitled to be free from, from the moment we are born to our death – no country, no person, no law can take them away from us. On the next page we look at what some of these rights are – they include a right to life, freedom from torture, and the right to a fair trial.
Despite these laws and institutions, human rights are still violated on a daily basis, and we still have a long way to go before this is stopped. On top of this, the Universal Declaration was drawn up over 60 years ago, with a strong focus on political rights like the right to vote, and less emphasis on problems that face us today, including environmental and economic rights. Over the next few pages we look at the rights we have, and the rights we should have.
The legal basis for these human rights are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed in 1948 in the aftermath of the terrible events of the Second World War. Although this is not officially a piece of international law, it is one of the principal documents of the United Nations, and is highly respected around the world. The UN investigates suspected abuses of human rights based on the contents of the Declaration, and can decide to punish countries that continually violate them. There are numerous other organisations that can prosecute people for breaking human rights laws, including the International Criminal Court and the European Court of Human Rights.
Human declaration of rights
The human declaration is the ent primary human rights docum in the world.
l, and should act in a gs are born free and equa All human bein r!) hood. spirit of brother (or siste lif Everyone has the right to
e, liberty and security. slavery. l or degrading way.
No-one shall be held in
Article Four Article Five
or punished in a crue No-one shall be tortured, Everyone is entitled to be
Article Seven Article Nine
protected by the law. or exiled without a reason .
punished No-one shall be arrested,
y nocent until proven guilt ime will be considered in d with a cr Everyone who is charge in a public trial. e any country, an their own country, to leav move around Everyone has the right to untry. to return to their own co un protection in another co yone has the right to seek Ever their own.
Article Fourteen Article Fifteen
try if they face danger in
Everyone has the right to
s ome of the key article here we look at s , in clear, easy to in the Declaration tand language. unders
Everyone has the right to marry anyone they want, as long
as both people agree.
Everyone has the right to own property and not to have that them.
property taken from
t, and to believe in Everyone has the right to think and say whatever they wan ion they choose. whatever they want – including the right to follow any relig as a meeting or a protest Everyone has the right to join a peaceful assembly – such – and to be part of any organisation. Everyone has the right to participate in their government, through a free and fair vote.
Articles Eighteen and Nineteen Article Twenty
whether directly or
freely, to join Everyone has the right to work, to choose their own work trade unions, and to be paid a fair wage for their work. Everyone has the right to a healthy standard of living, inclu clothing, housing and medical care.
Article Twenty-Three Article Twenty-Five
Everyone has the right to education, and basic education
should be free.
Everyone is entitled to live in a world possible.
where all of the above is
Human Rights and Young People
e asked some young people ‘what human rights are most important to you and why?’ Here are some of the answers we got...
“To me the right of giving opinions and having security from police and the right of staying out of jail without any trial. Because all of these are neglected by all countries in this period.”
Shahed Muhammed Moin Uddin, Bangladesh
“To have at least one meal a day. Governments should provide for poor people regardless of their sex, age and race; so many people are dying of hunger, especially in Africa.”
Amandine Nakumuryango, Burundi
“The right to asylum from persecution is a fundamental human right. Human rights cannot be restricted or limited by arbitrary national borders or concepts of citizenship. We have a choice to make whether we choose to be a foreigner somewhere or a human being everywhere. In a global context where social, political, and economic instability are commonplace, the experience of persecution frequently crosses boundaries of nationality. To offer asylum to those seeking sanctuary acknowledges the dignity that everyone should enjoy where that dignity has been violated or abused - creating the necessary space for people to rebuild their lives.”
Chris Wood, UK
“To me, I think liberty is the most important, but freedom is not absolute, it is based on conditions when you are economically, socially and culturally content - then you are able to feel free. Not every citizen is guaranteed and protected with the rights we mentioned. In China they have residential permits that differentiate people with different standard in life. We don’t have social/ welfare system that grant every citizen health insurance and facilities that lessen our burden if any accident happens to us (mainly because we have a massive population). And for the young people of my generation, we want freedom of knowledge and internet.”
Chalne Smokvil, China
People have the right to engage in productive employment that contributes to societal good, is fulfilling and utilizes their education and skills to their full potential.
Sonya Silva, Canada
“I write this knowing that I am fortunate enough to have water, food, shelter and the right to vote. It’s understood that anything beyond the previously mentioned are icing on the cake for millions in the world. However, as a young adult female, with a graduate degree I know I will still earn less than a man with less education, experience and possibly ability simply because of my perceived gender. Maybe I am a dreamer when I voice my belief that anyone, no matter their age, gender or race, should be paid an equal amount to the person working beside them doing the exact same task.”
Trista Jensen, USA
he Universal Declaration contains many clauses about what we might call ‘economic rights’ – it mentions the right to a decent standard of food, shelter and healthcare, and the right to work in good conditions for fair pay. But, as we have seen in the other books in this series, and in the world around us, these conditions are often not met. Here we look at some of the economic rights that all people should be entitled to.
The Declaration gives everyone the right to a healthy standard of living, but too many people around the world today still go without an adequate amount of food, water or shelter, with almost 1 billion people suffering from hunger, and at least 100 million being completely homeless. A lack of basic needs can even affect people who are not usually thought of as being in poverty. The UN’s Multidimensional Poverty Index measures how many people are missing the basics of life – such as nutrition, healthcare, education, sanitation and decent shelter. Anyone lacking in 30% of these things is in poverty, a total of 1.75 billion people worldwide – more than the 1.44 billion people who live on less than $1.25 a day, traditionally thought of as the measure of poverty.
A Right to the Basics
The Declaration also promises everyone a right to work in safe and well paid conditions. Instead, millions of people in the developing world work in treacherous sweatshops or factories, without the correct safety measures, without the right to join trade unions, without any job security – and all for only a few cents an hour. Why do they continue to work in these conditions? Because they know that around the world (including in developed countries) unemployment is rising and wages are dropping, and being out of a job is wortse than being in a bad one. The need for employment is not just about a need for money – though that is an important aspect of it. As well as money, people also need to feel valued, and to feel like they are doing something that is worthwhile and contributes to the well-being of society or to other people. Because of this need, even part-time or voluntary employment can be useful for the development and happiness of people – though this should not overshadow the need to create full-time jobs as well.
A Right to Employment
A Right to Equality
The Declaration suggests that we have rights to equality in some aspects of life. People have the right to equal pay, and women and children have the right to be treated equally to men. The Declaration says in its very first Article that all human beings are equal ‘in dignity and rights’. But this has not translated to much equality in reality. In the last few decades, the rich have got richer, while the poor have got poorer, and that trend looks like it is going to continue. The bankers who have caused financial crises around the world continue to be paid millions of dollars in bonuses, while those who have lost their homes because of their actions are left on the streets; oil companies make billion-dollar profits, while those living in the areas they pollute must face the consequences by themselves. While it is very difficult to make equality a human right, governments need to realise that people want and need to see that they are being treated fairly. When some people own everything – money, land, consumer goods – while others, despite often working just as hard, or harder, own nothing, it can lead to a sense of hopelessness and despair which needs to be fought against just as much as poverty itself does.
The lack of progress in delivering these human rights and human needs, as well as the environmental rights that we looked at on the previous pages, is perhaps one the main reasons why we need sustainable development. Sustainable development aims to deliver meaningful employment to people of all ages, aims to reduce hunger and poverty, and aims to reduce inequality between people and countries. At the same time, it tries to do this through environmentally friendly ways, like creating green jobs in the renewable energy and recycling sectors, or encouraging planet-friendly agriculture rather than the over-use of pesticides and chemicals. Perhaps then, we could say that what people need more than anything is a right to sustainable development.
A Right to Sustainable Development?
The problem of unemployment is particularly acute among young people up to the age of 24, as this graphic shows.
Percentage of unemployed youth (16-24 )
South Africa Spain Tunisia USA
51% 45% 30% 18%
s we have seen throughout this series, many of the world’s resources are finite, and if we keep using as much as we like of resources like coal, oil and steel they will soon run out, leaving none for other people or future generations. The use of many of these resources can also have damaging consequences on our renewable resources – by polluting the air or water, or by causing climate change.
Traditionally, human rights have been seen to apply in very specific times and places, with obvious victims and offenders. If a person is tortured, someone must be torturing them, or have ordered them to be tortured, and those people are guilty. Climate change and other environmental problems pose new problems to this view of human rights – actions in one part of the world, such as burning large amounts of oil, might lead to people dying from droughts in another part of the world, with no direct link between the people burning the oil, and the people dying. Here we look at some of the environmental issues that might clash with people’s human rights.
Pollution is damaging air, water and land resources around the world. Cars and coal power plants release dangerous gases like carbon monoxide and sulpher dioxide into the air; industrial projects discharge chemicals into rivers and lakes; and pesticides and nuclear accidents leave dangerous substances in the soil our food is grown in. Everyone has the right to a good, healthy standard of living, and this is not possible without clean air to breathe, clean water to drink and wash in, and uncontaminated land to grow crops or graze animals on.
A right to air, water, land?
The release of greenhouse gases is also causing climate change, which has potentially disastrous effects on people around the world, including droughts, floods, stronger storms and rising sea levels. The majority of the responsibility for climate change lies in the developed world, or with rich people in the developing world, but its impacts are most strongly felt by poor people who do not have the ability to move homes or build defences against the changes. These people have a right to life, and climate change takes that right away from them. Another possibility is that as the planet heats up and the ice caps at the North and South Poles melt, sea levels around the world will rise, and could flood many low-lying areas. Some of the small islands in the Pacific Ocean, like Tuvalu, are so close to sea level that even a small rise could completely cover them, forcing their populations to evacuate their homeland. These people would then have to emigrate to other countries, and could lose their human right to self-determination – that is, the right to make decisions for themselves as part of their own nation state.
A right to avoid climate change?
In April 2010 a conference in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba drafted a document known as the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth – a conscious attempt to create an environmental version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was also a way of saying that the earth and all the things that live on it have rights that are independent of human beings. This is important – we often treat the earth and the animals and plants on it as dead materials for us to use as we wish, but they are all living, feeling creatures with a desire to stay alive and grow, just like us. Some of the things included in the Declaration are the right to clean air and water, health, freedom from pollution, and respect. These rights apply equally to all creatures on the planet, and the planet itself. Additionally, the Declaration claims that human beings have the responsibility to look after the environment, create peace, and promote sustainable economic practices.
The Rights of Mother Earth
You can read the whole Declaration at http://therightsofnature.org/universal-declaration/
Using up our resources, polluting the planet and causing climate change don’t just create problems for people alive today – they also store up problems for people who have yet to be born. Future generations will need clean water and soil, and a liveable climate, just as we do. And if we begin to change to renewable energy sources now, the change will be much simpler, slower and less painful than if we wait, and force our children and grandchildren to make a sudden switch as coal and oil run out. Future generations are, of course, silent, and have no power in the political decisions we make today – but some people are starting to suggest we should think about the world they will have to live in, even before they are born. To this end, Hungary is the first country to have an Ombudsman for Future Generations – an official who is supposed to ensure that decisions made today will leave a sustainable future to those born tomorrow.
Rights for future generations?
The problem with accepting that human rights abuses can be caused by environmental damage is that it’s very difficult to know who exactly is responsible, and often just as difficult to punish them when we do know. For example, in 1984 a chemical plant owned by a company called Union Carbide leaked a huge amount of dangerous gas in the Indian city of Bhopal, killing almost 4,000 people, and injuring half a million more . To this day the site has still not been properly cleaned up, and a legal battle continues to try and put the Chief Executive of Union Carbide on trial, while the families of the dead received only 10,000 rupees (around $200) in compensation. Climate change is even more difficult to hold anyone accountable for, as it is caused by the actions of many people over a very long period of time – no single person’s actions can be linked to a drought caused by climate change, for example. While the actions of governments and corporations may be one of the biggest causes of pollution, national leaders and company executives tend to change every few years, so it remains difficult to definitely blame any one person. This gives us another reason to stop climate change from happening in the first place by creating a strong international agreement on reducing CO2 emissions – just as no individual can be blamed for causing climate change, no-one can stop it alone either. Instead, we need to work together, respect people’s rights to land, water, air and life and reduce our pollution collectively.
War and Genocide
ar is almost as old as humanity. For thousands of years humans have been fighting each other for control of land, for control of resources, and for control of each other. Over the next few pages we look at some of the statistics behind war, some of its worst aspects, and some of the movements for peace.
The 20th century was one of the bloodiest in history. In the first half of the century there were two World Wars that killed up to 90 million people between them. After this, the battle for supremacy between the capitalist and communist worlds, also known as the Cold War, killed many more people through a number of smaller conflicts, such as the Korean War (3.5 million dead) and the Vietnam War (3.8 million). However, many wars are not so obviously about one country attacking another. Many are civil wars – these are wars between two sets of people from the same country. Some of the most famous civil wars in the last century include the battles between the Tsarists and communists in Russia (1917-22) and the Republicans and communists in China (1927-49). Despite being between people who would normally be citizens together, these wars for control of a country are often just as terrible and deadly as wars between different countries. In areas where there are a lot of valued resources and a weak government or army, a number of armed groups often fight over control of the resources and the money they bring in. This has been happening in many parts of Africa for a long time, as armed groups from numerous countries fight over minerals like diamonds and coltan (a precious metal used in mobile phone production), terrorising the local population and often forcing them to work in the mines on fear of death. Other conflicts can be classed as genocides. This is when a particular group of people, usually a minority, is targeted because of their ethnicity. The Holocaust during World War Two is the most well-known genocide, when the German Nazi regime tried to exterminate the Jews (as well as Roma people and homosexuals), putting them into concentration camps and killing huge numbers of them with poison gas. It is estimated that 6 million Jewish people were killed – two-thirds of all the Jews in Europe at the time. Another example is in Rwanda in 1994, where 800,000 of the minority Tutsi people were killed in just 100 days – this was around 20% of the population of the entire country.
All wars have the same losers – the poor. Poor people are killed in much higher numbers during wars between countries (not least because most of the soldiers are usually from the poorest sectors of society), and in most civil wars and genocides it is the innocent, unarmed poor who are mistreated the most – their families killed, their villages burnt, and themselves used as forced labour. On top of this, wars damage crops, pollute water supplies and divert vital resources from human development into human conflict.
The deadliest conflicts of the last century
World War II (1939-45) 72 million dead World War I (1914-18) 20 million dead Russian Civil War (191 7-22) 9 million dead Second Congo War (1998-2003) 5.4 million dead Vietnam war (1946-75) 3.8 million dead Korean War (1950-53) 3.5 million dead]
At the beginning of 2011 there were roughly 34 wars or conflicts going on around the world – from the ongoing problems in Afghanistan and Iraq, to the Israeli-Palestine conflict and the civil war in Libya. There is a strong chance of more wars taking place in future years over control of resources, as oil, food and water become more and more scarce, and therefore valuable. Other potential sources of conflict include culture and religion, and it is these that we look at on the next page.
War on Terror
When the Cold War ended after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, many people thought it was ‘the end of history’ – that the ideas of capitalism and democracy had won a battle against authoritarian communism, and there would be no more need for violent conflict. That idea was never true, but it was completely destroyed by the events of September 11, 2001.
That was the day that two planes were hijacked by members of the terrorist group al-Qaeda (‘the base’ in Arabic) and flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New-York, killing 2,996 people, and starting a decade of war – the so-called ‘War on Terror’. The USA retaliated by attacking Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, was thought to be hiding; and later used the attacks as an excuse to overthrow Saddam Hussein, the leader of Iraq, and a longtime enemy of America. Both of these countries remain in a state of intense conflict to this day.
Al-Qaeda’s method of attack is terrorism. Terrorism is difficult to define precisely, a fact which many governments have used to their advantage, but it generally involves targeting ordinary civilians with extreme violence. The idea is to terrorise the population of the countries being targeted, as a way of achieving political goals. Civilians are also much easier and less dangerous to target than the military, who are usually well-armed and defended. These tactics can be seen in the September 11 attacks, and in the bombings of London, Madrid and other cities around the world, where bombs were set off in crowded places like buses or underground trains, to kill as many people as possible. However, it could be argued that the response of ‘the west’ to the threat of terrorism has itself become a sort of state terrorism. Innocent civilians have been killed by planes dropping bombs, night raids by soldiers. Or silent, invisible ‘drones’, which attack from huge distances away. Wedding parties have been attacked while they celebrated. And in western countries, governments have used terrorism as an excuse to remove human rights and keep people in jail for long periods of time without trials. For countries who claim that winning the ‘War on Terror’ means protecting freedom, this is starting to look a lot like a defeat.
The ‘War on Terror’ has been seen as a conflict between two civilisations – usually portrayed as a liberal, democratic, freedom-loving ‘west’, including north America, Europe, Australia and their allies; and an authoritarian, extremist Muslim world, whose religion tells them to kill unbelievers. This position is, of course, far too simplistic. There are huge numbers of Muslims who do not support terrorism, and who realise that their religion is not a violent one. At the same time, the western countries have supported many dictators around the world who have been anything but democratic towards their people – including Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Muammar Gadaffi in Libya, both of whom were recently overthrown. Ultimately, the conflict cannot be between two civilisations, which are made up of millions of individual people with their own hopes, beliefs and thoughts. Instead, it is between two small factions of those civilisations – the small number of extremist Muslims who think it is right to attack innocent civilians around the world, and the small number of politicians in the west who think that the appropriate response to this is to rain bombs down on Muslim nations, killing thousands of equally innocent civilians and angering millions more. The ‘War on Terror’ has not made the world safer and more free, but has killed countless numbers of people and turned huge numbers of Muslims against the western countries.
Clash of Civilisations
Today, the two main war zones of the conflict, Afghanistan and Iraq, remain in crisis, with the occasional positive signs of elections and the return of children to school continually disrupted by continued terrorist attacks, kidnappings, raids by foreign soldiers, and bombings from drones and planes. If normality is ever to return to these places – and many others – the people of the world must reject both sides, extremist Muslim fanatics and extremist Western politicians, and work together for the peace which the vast majority of the world so desperately seeks.
Afghanistan and Iraq Today
ar is always damaging and always involves terrible weapons designed to hurt as many people as possible. But the worst of these are the most terrifyingly powerful bombs ever created – nuclear weapons.
Movement against them
The science behind nuclear weapons is complicated, but based on the same idea as nuclear power. Quite small amounts of the nuclear material uranium can be forced into a reaction that releases massive amounts of energy – so much energy that a 1 tonne nuclear bomb can explode with the same force as 1 million tonnes of normal explosives. As well as the power of their initial explosion, nuclear weapons have long-lasting effects because they spread radiation across a wide area – radioactive materials have serious health effects on people, causing cancers and mutations, and take a very long time to disappear. While there have been at least 2,000 nuclear weapons exploded for testing purposes, only two have been dropped during wars, both in August 1945 by the US on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These two bombs killed almost 250,000 people from burns, collapsing buildings or radiation sickness, and forced Japan to surrender, ending World War Two. Even today an argument continues as to whether the US was right to drop the bombs, and whether they killed more or less people than would have died had the war continued.
Nuclear Weapons Today
After the Second World War, the Cold War, a battle for supremacy between the USA and the Soviet Union, saw the number and the strength of nuclear weapons increase rapidly, with five countries – the USA, the Soviet Union, the UK, France and China – creating and stockpiling bombs. This led, in 1968, to the signing of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This called for non-proliferation (which means that none of the countries without nuclear weapons will try to make them), disarmament (which means that the countries with nuclear weapons will aim to dismantle them), and the right of all countries to use the power of nuclear materials for peaceful purposes, such as nuclear power plants. However, the nuclear countries have made very few real efforts to reduce the number of their weapons, with the UK, for example, recently deciding to build a new nuclear submarine when their current one wears out. At the same time, four countries that have not signed the treaty – India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea – have created their own nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are both incredibly dangerous, and largely unusable – during the Cold War it was widely known that neither side could use their nuclear weapons without the other side retaliating and starting a war that would destroy most of the planet. The danger of nuclear weapons has led to a worldwide movement opposing them. The environmental group Greenpeace started by sailing to nuclear test sites in the Pacific Ocean to try and stop the tests from taking place. In the 1950s and 1960s there were high profile marches in the UK on the nuclear weapons research institute at Aldermaston. And even today there are occupations, road blockades and protests against the continued expansion of nuclear weapons around the world.
Russia - 1 1.000 U.S.A - 8.500 France - 300 China - 240 U.K - 225 Pakistan - 1 10 India - 100 Israel - 80 North Korea - less than 10
espite the seemingly endless nature of war on this planet, there have been peace movements all around the world that protest against wars and work to avoid and resolve conflict at all times. On these pages we look at a little bit of their history and their current status.
A well-known example of people fighting for peace is that of conscientious objectors. These are people who have refused to take part in military service because either their conscience or their religion will not let them take part in acts of violence against other human beings, including killing them. Many examples of this stem from times when governments have initiated a draft of the civilian population into the army – this means that the government, because of a particularly large need for soldiers to take part in a war, forces ordinary people to become soldiers. But at other times, people who chose to become soldiers decide to become conscientious objectors against a specific war, because they see it as unjust – this has been the case with numerous soldiers during the war on Iraq. In the case of the Vietnam War, many Americans rejected the war on political grounds, and burnt their draft cards in protest. Conscientious and political objectors have, in many countries, been treated very harshly for their beliefs, and are often sent to prison for refusing the draft. Some decide to leave their country instead, heading to the nearest place that will offer them safety – for example, many American objectors to the Vietnam War fled to Canada.
The Vietnam War was perhaps the first example of a widespread and highly visible peace campaign against a specific war. Many people in the US saw the war as unjust, and were horrified by the massive amount of bombing taking place over Southeast Asia. Protests included mass marches, army veterans publicly returning their medals out of shame, songs written by famous musicians, clashes between police and protestors, and student occupations of buildings (at one student protest, the National Guard even shot and killed four people). None of this ended the war, which continued from 1955 until 1975, but it did make life difficult for the US government and ensure that the impacts of the war on the Vietnamese people were widely publicised.
The Vietnam War
Recently, the war against Iraq has seen a massive revival of the peace movement around the world. February 15th 2003, a few days before the start of the war, saw perhaps the largest international protest in history, as at least 8 million people worldwide went on marches to call for peace – including 3 million in Rome and 1.5 million in Madrid . Despite this enormous show of opposition, the war went ahead, but it wasn’t the end of attempts to stop it. There have been a huge number of marches to show continued opposition to the war, governments have lost elections because of their support of it, and in some cases protesters have even broken into military bases to disable war planes or other vehicles that are used to support the war. When put on trial, these people have often argued that they committed the crime of criminal damage to stop the larger crime of war – and in many cases they have been allowed to go free. These are just some examples of a peace movement that continues to grow every day in opposition to the increasing number of conflicts the world is facing. While they often do not succeed in their immediate aim of stopping a particular war, each one does succeed in making more and more people see the foolishness of violence and the sense of working together for peace.
The Iraq War
espite making up around 50% of the world’s population, women have been marginalised, oppressed and discriminated against for millennia, and this continues today. Over the next few pages we focus on the problems facing women around the world, and some of the solutions and positive changes being implemented.
Many cultures have very traditional views about women which stop them achieving as much as men. For example, in farming communities, women may find it harder to own land or to buy fertilisers or mechanical equipment. In many other cultures, including those in the developed world, women are exclusively expected to take care of domestic duties like cleaning, cooking, food shopping and looking after children. Despite being exhausting, this domestic work is usually completely unpaid – if it were paid at a fair rate, it would be worth US$11 trillion. Cultural issues have also led to an unbalance in the gender ratio – that is, the number of boys being born compared to the number of girls. In China, where most parents are allowed only one child, the prestige of having a son has meant that many baby girls are aborted or abandoned. The result is that 120 boys are born for every 100 girls in China, causing social problems in the future .
When women do get jobs outside the home, as in many developed nations, they are often paid less than their male colleagues. In developed countries the average salary for women is only 74% of that for men, and women are paid only half as much as men in South Korea . Women in these countries are very rarely promoted to top managerial roles within companies, to some extent because they are seen as more likely to take time off for childcare duties – in Norway, 31% of company directors are women, but in Italy this drops to 3%.
Wages, work and education
These examples of systematic inequality are bad enough, but women around the world also face the fear of violence. This takes many forms. It could be domestic abuse, when a boyfriend or husband is abusive, either verbally or physically. It is estimated that 25% of British women suffer domestic violence at some point in their lives, and as of 1998 two women a week were being killed by current or former partners. Violence against women can also be used as a weapon of war – soldiers and militias often rape women – forcing them to have sex against their will – as part of attacks on villages or towns. There have been allegations of this from around the world, including DR Congo (where it is estimated that 48 women and girls were raped every hour between 2006-07), Burma (where rape is used against ethnic minority women), Sudan, and even by members of the US army in Iraq. The use of rape as a weapon of war is not about sex, it is about terrifying, controlling and destroying the population of the area under attack. Some of the cultural barriers that women face can also be violent – a good example of this is female genital mutilation (FGM). This process involves intentionally damaging the genitals of young girls, with consequences including infection, serious bleeding, increased risk of problems with childbirth, and the need for further operations to reverse some of the effects of the mutilation. Despite this damage, people that practice FGM often believe it is a rite of passage for young girls, or has religious backing. Again, this process is about control, this time of women’s sexuality. It currently affects between 100 and 140 million people worldwide .
Women are underrepresented in education, the workplace and Parliament.
% of people with a secondary education.
Women 52 %
Men 62 %
Women In parliament
Men In parliament
% of people with a job Men 83 % Women 57 %
Good News on Gender
espite the many terrible gender inequalities that are still present in all parts of the world, things are not completely negative. In some aspects of development we are starting to see the signs of improvement, and a recognition that freeing women from oppression is good for all of us.
The first large country to give women the right to vote was New Zealand in 1893, and the story of women’s suffrage – or the right to vote and run for office – has been a story of continual expansion ever since. Most European countries granted women’s suffrage in the early 20th century, especially in 1917 and 1918 as World War One drew to a close, and since then almost every year has seen more countries added to the list. In the last decade women have been given the right to vote in Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, and should have suffrage in Saudi Arabia by 2015. The number of women elected to parliament is also steadily increasing in many countries. In Rwanda, women hold 51% of parliamentary seats – the highest number in the world. In Finland the figure is 42%, in Argentina 40%, and in South Africa 34%. While there is still a huge amount of work to do around the world to increase women’s representation in government and politics, these figures are an encouraging start.
The number of girls going to primary school has been growing faster than the number of boys for two decades now – although because this trend started from such a low point, there are still more boys than girls in school. The number of girls completing primary and secondary school once they have enrolled now stands at 87%, up from only 58%. This trend is even more obvious in higher education. In the Arab world overall enrolment into universities has risen by 45%, and there are now 132 women at university for every 100 men. This is also happening in highly developed countries – in the UK, for example, more women than men are going to university and then getting high scores, and there is even increasing talk of a problem with the number of boys who are underachieving at school.
Research into agriculture and fairtrade has shown that empowering women benefits everyone, leading to more food being grown and a more equal society. In rural areas of the developing world, women tend to have more knowledge of local environmental conditions, which helps when growing food or finding medicine. Women are also likely to recognise the benefits of fairtrade more quickly than men, and to insist on using less dangerous chemicals. They also tend to use the extra money generated by fairtrade products to improve the local area by contributing to schools, community centres or other useful projects. This research could be crucial in getting rid of the cultural barriers to women working in the developing world.
Illustration created by Cara Neale and Ellie Carter from Freeman college, Buntingford.
Empowering women and increasing equality between men and women also helps society in other ways. If women are able to work, they are able to bring more money into the household, helping to avoid poverty or hunger; if women are free to insist on using protection during sex, like condoms, then our population growth will slow, there will be less hungry children to feed, and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases like HIV will lessen; and if women are educated then their children are more likely to be educated too, as both of their parents will be able to help teach them.
Benefits for Everyone
Youth Action on Peace
s we have seen, there are still a huge number of problems over gender, human rights and war in this world. But the situation is not hopeless, as long as we believe we can make a change - here are some examples of young people working for a more peaceful world...
Peace is a key element of human rights promotion and the development of human beings. In different circumstances, peace has been violated without thought for the actions taking place. On the African continent, from north to south, west to east, peace is something like an endless story narrated – just to mention a few, in Sierra Leone, Senegal, Libya, Sudan and Somalia human beings exist without hope for their future.
To take action upon this situation, Youth Ambassadors of Peace held a 5th International youth summer school in Gambia from 15th to 30th July 2011. I was the only person from outside West Africa that attended the school. I am from Tanzania working with a youth organization on human rights development and awareness among young people. At the summer school I learned a lot on human rights. The facilitators provided a lot of experience on the promotion of human rights and a means to restore peace. It was a good experience to meet with other young people from Gambia and Senegal.
Student Christian Movement, UK
The Student Christian Movement (SCM) is a student-led movement passionate about living out faith in the real world. We campaign against injustice and violence, because we believe that faith and social justice are inseparable. We are inspired by Jesus, who proclaimed a message of peace, and challenged the injustices of corruption and collusion with imperial power. SCM is a member of the Stop the Arms Fair Coalition - a network of groups and individuals campaigning to end government support for the Defense and Security Equipment international (DSEi) arms fair held bi-annully in London. During the DSEi arms fair in 2011 SCM Students joined with the Speak network and the Fellowship of Reconciliation in a protest outside the offices of drone manufacturers General Atomics, to campaign against the indiscriminate killing caused by these non-piloted aircrafts in the Gaza strip, Pakistan, and Libya. SCM Students sang hymns, distributed leaflets to passers by and held banners exposing the reality of drone attacks. It is our hope that through such creative actions we can challenge those who profit from warfare and violence, and point to a peaceable future built upon the foundations of justice and cooperation.
The Green Patriots Posters
Images for a new Activism
Green Patriot Posters a multi-channel campaign centered on posters that encourage all U.S. citizens to take part in building a sustainable economy. It has already reached 6 million people through a book, bus ads, billboard campaigns, museum exhibitions, workshops, media coverage and an upcoming film. Anybody is free to submit to Green Patriot Posters. Simply go to www.greenpatriotposters.org, click the link for “Make a Poster” and follow the instructions for uploading an image. The idea behind Green Patriot is to invigorate the sustainability movement with images of strength optimism and unity. We want the movement to connect with culture in a way that moves beyond clichés. To this end we have commissioned posters from design leaders, and developed an on-line community for sharing and voting on original designs. We have collected more than 400 designs to date and are constantly receiving new ones. It is our mission to distribute these designs as broadly as possible. Another key component to Green Patriot Posters is workshops. We have organized workshops for all age levels, where students learn about ecological issues and then make posters in response. Join us! Green Patriot Posters is produced by The Canary Project (www.canary-project.org), which is dedicated to creating art and visual media that deepen public understanding of climate change.
Civil War – a war between two groups of people within the same country, usually for political and military control of the country. Cold War – a long 20th century battle for supremacy between the capitalist and communist states – primarily the USA and the Soviet Union. Both sides stockpiled nuclear weapons to scare each other out of attacking, and instead funded and took part in wars in other countries like Vietnam, Korea and Afghanistan. Conscientious Objector – a person who refuses to take part in military action because their conscience or their religion makes them opposed to either all war, or to a specific war they see as unjust. There are also people who have a political objection to war and refuse military service on that basis. Disarmament – the idea of reducing the number of weapons in the world, with the ultimate hope of eventually abolishing weapons altogether. Nuclear disarmament is the specific process of destroying the world’s nuclear weapons. Domestic Work – work like cooking, cleaning and looking after children, which is primarily (though not always) done by women. Despite being just as tough as other kinds of work, domestic work is usually ignored and unpaid, and isn’t considered to contribute to a country’s GDP. Female Genital Mutilation – the practice of mutilating the genitals of young girls in various ways. Some parts of the world believe this to be necessary because of their religion, but it is generally viewed as a horrible practice that needs to be ended. Genocide – the purposeful killing of one group of people by another group because of their race or ethnicity – the best known example of this is the Holocaust during World War II, when millions of Jews, homosexuals and Roma were killed. Non-proliferation – the idea that no additional states should create or purchase nuclear weapons other than the ones that already have them, in the hope of eventually achieving nuclear disarmament. Nuclear Weapons – missiles and bombs that contain nuclear material, which creates a much more powerful explosion than ordinary weapons. They have only been used twice in warfare – on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – but have been tested often and are possessed by nine nations. Self-determination – the right to vote for one’s own leaders, rather than being ruled over by another country. This right may be in danger for the small island nations of the Pacific Ocean if their countries are submerged by rising sea levels. Terrorism – there are many definitions, but terrorism usually involves killing innocent civilians with extreme violence, in an attempt to win political power – it can be done by non-government groups, and governments themselves. Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the main document laying out the human rights of all people. It was accepted by the General Assembly of the UN in 1948.
Artwork by Eric Benson
Be a Green Patriot - www.greenpatriotposters.org