Symptom: Human Rights

After decades of abolitionist efforts, all western nations outlawed slavery in the 1800s. Yet today, 30 million people are working under slavery conditions according to the Global Slavery Index. Since 1976, 168 countries agreed to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the right to political participation. However, only 88 countries are free, with these numbers declining eight years in a row according to Freedom House. 188 countries have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; still women are subjugated in most developing countries. Great efforts went into creating the fundamental shifts in thinking required for the world to adopt these treaties and yet human rights remain a dream for millions in the very countries that adopted these conventions! The reality on the ground:

♥ The United Nations and its member states adopted a Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Since then it has created a Human Rights Council, a Human Rights Committee and even a Human Rights Day and yet they admit we are no closer to universal human rights then we were in 1948. In the past twenty years the United Nations Humans Rights Committee registered only 765 complaints, responded to only 199 cases and in only 15% of these have any remedy been offered by the offending government.

♥ Currently there are more than 110 large International Non­governmental organizations dedicated to human rights. Hundreds more work regionally and locally. More groups, more people and more funding is dedicated to the protection of human rights then any time in history and yet according to the Human Rights Risk Atlas, which charts human rights trends in 197 countries, there has been a 70% rise in ‘extreme risk’ countries since 2008.

♥ Many risk their lives to draw attention to Human rights abuses – In 2013, human rights activists were attacked in 28 countries, according to an annual report by the NGO Human Rights Defenders. Famous celebrities use every avenue to draw attention to human rights abuses and yet they continue unabated.

♥ Indirectly, we financially support human rights abuses. By selecting for the products available at the cheapest price, we encourage manufacturers that use poorly paid or slave labor. Slaves cut the tropical wood for our furniture, harvest the Asian cotton for our clothes, mine the African minerals for our electronics. The more possessions we have, the more social status and the more slaves indirectly work to support our lifestyle.

♥ Every solution to Human rights ultimately requires us to think differently. Our brain is wired to be selfish, seeking immediate gratification and not to be as responsive to vague future concerns. Our challenge is overcoming the basic tendencies of a brain designed to care first for ourselves. Our species’ true hope for survival and thrival requires a dramatic upgrade in our understanding and adaptation of our brain to our current environmental conditions.

We need to Leap Forward!

Global Slavery Index (2013) Walk Free Foundation
Freedom in the World (2014) Freedom House
Center for Law and Globalization
Human Rights Risk Atlas 2014

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