Human rights not luxury for rich, U

 

Human rights not luxury for rich, U.N. report

says

 

UNITED NATIONS, June 29 (Reuters) - Human rights are

not a luxury only rich nations can afford but are crucial for

development and stimulating economic creativity in all

countries, says a U.N. report released on Thursday.

 

Conversely, civil and political rights are not sufficient if

people are starving and have no access to education,

proper health care and a decent way of making a living,

the Human Development Report 2000 says.

 

"Just as individuals have the right not to be tortured, they

have the right not to die from hunger," says the report, the

annual flagship survey of the U.N. Development Program.

 

For the past 11 years, the Human Development Report

has looked for new ways to measure the lives of people

using a yardstick that goes beyond economic statistics --

such as who goes to school, who has access to clean

water and who shares in economic benefits.

 

This year's 290-page survey focuses on the relationship

between human rights and development, and it proposes

policies to promote respect for rights and democracy, in

addition to its much-debated annual rankings of 174

countries.

 

DEFINITION OF RIGHTS

 

The report tries to square the circle between economic

and social rights and civil and political rights. It defines

basic human rights as freedom from discrimination, from

want, from fear and from threats to personal safety, as

well as freedom for personal development and decent

work without exploitation.

 

"Human rights are not, as has sometimes been argued, a

reward of development. Rather they are critical to

achieving it," UNDP administrator Mark Malloch-Brown

said.

 

"Only with political freedoms -- the right of all men and

women to participate equally in society -- can people

genuinely take advantage of economic freedoms," he

wrote in the report.

 

"Only when people feel they have a stake and a voice will

they throw themselves wholeheartedly into development.

Rights make human beings better economic actors," he

said.

 

But good health and good jobs are often not within a

government's ability to provide and depend on a strong

economy, which needs an engaged labor force.

 

"People will work because they enjoy the fruits of their

labor," the report said. "But if the rewards of their labor are

denied, they will lose their motivation."

 

An example of causal links between civil and political

rights and economic and social rights, according to the

report, is discrimination against women, which can cause

deprivation in nutrition and health.

 

CAUSE OF FEMALE MALNUTRITION

 

Exceptionally high levels of malnutrition among girls in

South Asia, it says, cannot be explained by any reason

other than a household's distribution of food and health

care in a patriarchal society.

 

Birth certificates, in many countries a prerequisite for

education and health care, are often not provided to the

poor. In Turkey, for example, the registration rate is 84

percent in the western region but only 56 percent in the

east. And fewer than half of the births in Kenya are

registered.

 

With military rule having ended in more than 100 countries

in the past 20 years, democracy and elections

nevertheless often sideline minorities and allow the

winners to oppress the losers, the report says.

 

Nor is a nominally democratic system enough to

guarantee human or social and economic rights or provide

for an independent judiciary, a free press, and the

inclusion of minorities in government, the army and

institutions.

 

"People do not want to be passive participants, merely

casting votes in elections. "They want to have an active

part in the political decisions that shape their lives," it

says

 

In a special contribution to the report, Nigerian President

Olusegun Obasanjo writes of the "evil governance"

experienced by his country before its return to civilian rule

last year.

 

"A main feature of Nigerian sociopolitical life of the recent

dark years is the extent to which it spawned human rights

activism. The more tyrannical the regime got, the more

people became aware of what they were losing by way of

freedom of expression and the right to determine how they

were to be governed," he said.

 

The report also criticizes international trade agreements,

saying that rules have developed in a patchwork manner

separate from human rights or environmental agreements

and its negotiations are conducted in secret barring those

"who have to shoulder the burden of paying back the

debts incurred."

 

But it echoed U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's

frequent skepticism of whether labor standards should be

included in future global trade agreements, saying this

was "far from likely to be a panacea for labor rights."

 

Instead, poorer countries would have another obstacle

used against them in their quest for trade liberalization

without rooting out abuses. The United Nations has been

trying to play a role in international trade and monetary

institutions by urging participants to conclude separate

guidelines with U.N. agencies dealing with labor,

environmental and human rights.

 

 

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