Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Geneva, Canada, and the Rights of Children


The following is a Guest Post by Kathy Vandergrift, Chair, Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children:

While Canada’s Prime Minister was in China promoting trade and raising human rights issues in China, I was in Geneva to inform the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child about major gaps in the implementation of children’s rights in Canada.  Is Canada a violator of children’s rights?  Most people think of less developed countries as places where children’s rights are violated – not in Canada.  Surely not as bad as China  – not bad enough to go to the UN.  

Human rights treaties apply to all countries alike.  That is one of their benefits.  The Convention on the Rights of the Child, for example, incorporates the principle of progressive realization.  Nations who ratify the treaty are obligated to improve the conditions for children, based on available resources – and not slip backward.  In several areas, conditions for children are not progressing in Canada.  Evidence of inequitable treatment of children is a concern in Canada as much as in China.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Syria and the UN General Assembly Vote

It's hard to know what to write about over the last few days, since so much relating to social justice and human rights has been in the news. One thing that stuck out, though, was the new UN vote that took place just yesterday, condemning the violence in Syria . This vote--which was taken in the General Assembly instead of the Security Council, where the last bill failed--passed by a strong majority, but has no real legal power.

With the violence in Syria reaching new levels, it's small wonder that there is movement to try to condemn the situation and push for change. Yesterday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accused the Syrian government of likely committing crimes against humanity, and there has been a groundswell of support for people affected by the violence, with one example being Britain recently deciding to send a good deal of food rations. Where there have been such crimes, as appears very likely from the news we have been getting across a variety of media sources, we cannot ethically do nothing. Having said that, though, who is "we" and what would constitute the proper "something" to do?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Economics, Justice, and human rights

The economy has been on the mind of many lately, what with the federal budget due out soon (amid dire warning it will be rough), talk of more economic sanctions on Iran, backlash over the Keystone XL pipeline decision, and Harper's visit to China to talk trade all being prominent topics in the media recently. And there has been a good deal of worry that the focus on economics (particularly with Harper's visit to China) will result in concerns of human rights being put on the back burner or ignored altogether. With China's recent veto on the UN resolution regarding the violence in Syria, and Prime Minister Harper's Beijing visit to talk about energy and trade coming so shortly afterward, the concern does not seem unwarranted.

But one thing I wanted to raise in addition to talking about human rights, which we have discussed on this blog several times, is the relation of economic choices, economic practices, and justice. "The economy" seems often like it is a huge machine (perhaps a broken one, or one spiraling out of control) but when we really think about it, the economy is a system of relationships. It is a social phenomenon. Some (many?) of those relationships are exploitative--as we are hearing about the ongoing allegations concerning Apple and Foxconn making exploitative use of their workers. But nevertheless, the economy is based on humans engaged in socially mediated practices of an economic character. And when speaking of relationships, normative language makes sense. Whether or not the parties involved pay attention to it, there are ethical concerns that come along with human relationships.