[Hpn] REPORT: Human Rights Can Be Good for Business / Human Rights Watch fwd Watch fwd

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Thu, 7 Dec 2000 17:38:18 -0800 (PST)

FWD  Reuters - Thursday December 7, 2000


     By Mark Wilkinson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Globalization has created undeniable
wealth and millions of jobs but the current system leaves little
room for human rights and other social values, Human Rights Watch
said in a report on Thursday.

``International human rights standards exist but are not
uniformly ratified, effectively enforced or adequately integrated
into the global economy,'' the New York-based group said in its
11th annual report.

The report argues that respect for human rights and democracy
is good for business, noting that Amartya Sen, a Nobel laureate
economist, had promoted this theory for years.

Abuse of human rights, like freedom of assembly or a voice in
running the country, impedes economic development as
unaccountable governments are more likely to be corrupt or ignore
signs of oncoming crises, the report said.

Saying the debate had become unnecessarily polarized, the
540-page report on the state of human rights said more rights did
not come automatically with an increase in the flow of
international capital, information and people.

China's booming international trade, it said, had not muted
the government's determination to snuff out political opposition.
And in Sudan, oil revenues made possible by foreign investment,
allowed the government to double its military budget within two
years for a ``highly abusive'' civil war.

In Sierra Leone and Angola, international trade in diamonds,
albeit illicit, had fueled deadly civil wars. And the number of
migrant workers and trafficking victims has grown with
international commerce, the report said.

Yet the report noted that critics of free trade have few
defenders in poor nations, where fears are mounting that linking
global commerce to human rights will end up serving protectionist
interests in the industrial world only.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of the organization, told a
news conference in Washington he was not against globalization
but instead wanted ``to make sure it operates within a framework
of respect for basic rights.''

The United Nations, which has the expertise, has no power and
too few resources to enforce human and social rights. And the
World Trade Organization, which has enforcement powers shies away
from using them and has no ``expertise, culture or tradition of
protecting rights,'' the report said.

Human Rights Watch recommended a series of reforms in
international institutions but said none of them was a panacea.
One proposal was for the World Bank and the International
Monetary Fund to promote the creation of national bodies to
enforce human rights as part of a loan package.

In its survey of 70 countries, the report said Russia's war
in the breakaway province of Chechnya was conducted with ``gross
disregard'' for the suffering of civilians. And one of the
''glaring failures'' in 2000 was the failure to even threaten
Moscow with penalties if it did not control its troops.

The military in Colombia was singled out for not severing
links to paramilitary groups responsible for grave human rights
abuses. Israel was rebuked for using excessive force against the
Palestinians and Indonesia was faulted for not reigning in
militia responsible for scorched earth tactics in East Timor and
now intimidating refugees in West Timor.

* Police Brutality In United States *

In the United States, the report said the criminal justice
system still suffered from too much policy brutality, ``racial
disparities in incarceration, abusive conditions of confinement
and state-sponsored executions, even of juvenile offenders and
the mentally handicapped.''

The report cited the United States' refusal to back the new
International Criminal Court, which would try individuals for
heinous atrocities like war crimes and genocide, as the ``greatest
disappointment'' of 2000. Washington wants an exemption for U.N.
soldiers and officials abroad.

``The United States up until now have been operating under the
delusion that it could destroy the institution,'' Roth said.
''That's not going to happen, this court is going to be here and

For many of the unchecked atrocities in the world, Human
Rights Watch blamed lack of support for the United Nations. The
world body, it said, was used as ``a dumping ground'' for global
problems without the capacity or resources to address them.

Rich countries, especially, the United States did not provide
the United Nations with enough resources to do its job, while
developing nations regarded some funds for emergencies as a
diversion from projects they cherished.

``This lack of capacity at the United Nations is a part of an
unsavory collusion between both the governments of the North and
the South,'' Roth said.

Despite superb efforts by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, ``the
United Nations uses a lot of high-flown rhetoric on human rights,
but it doesn't have the wherewithal to really protect victims,''
Roth said.


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