The Use and Misuse of Human Rights

In this month’s CPNN bulletin, we consider both positive and negative sides of the discourse about human rights.

On the positive side, the state of human rights is a good indicator of progress towards a culture of peace. In this regard, the lead taken by Latin American countries to ratify and enforce human rights treaties reflects the fact, often noted in this blog, that they are the most advanced continent towards a culture of peace. The rights of women, of democratic participation, of sustainable equitable development, of honest information, all these are essential components of a culture of peace.

On the negative side, there is often a great deal of hypocrisy in the international accusations of human rights violations. This dates from the days of the Cold War when Western accusations of human rights violations in the socialist countries of the East were used as a propaganda arm of the culture of war. We see the same thing being done today as the United States, with the help of the commercial media, and (unfortunately) the leading human rights organizations, is accusing Venezuela of human rights violations in its handling of the mass political demonstrations. Actually, these demonstrations are being orchestrated by the United States as a means of overthrowing the government that was elected there. There is a further danger that the U.S. will use the pretext from this propaganda to justify a military intervention, using the so-called “right of humanitarian intervention.”.

There are two major components to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: political and economic. During the Cold War while the West refused to accept the economic provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, they attacked the East for their record on political rights. In fact, the West continues to be deficient in guaranteeing economic rights to its citizens. Recently, in doing a report on the state of the culture of peace in my American city, I found that human rights was the one aspect of the culture of peace that is going backwards. Each year, Americans have less and less economic rights such as food, shelter, employment and trade union representation. Meanwhile, the US government continues to use political human rights as a propaganda tool to attack other governments that they wish to overthrow.

In fact, history shows that any good concept can be mis-used. That is true for Culture of Peace, just as it has been true for Human Rights. For example, if you search “culture of peace” in Google news, you will often find statements by Israeli officials criticizing the Palestinians for their lack of a culture of peace. What hypocrisy!!!

Words are not enough. For this reason, one of the basic rules of CPNN is that articles must refer to specific actions: “Reports should refer to specific events, projects or productions rather than be vague and over-generalized abstract comments. .. they do not have to be “breaking news.” Instead, they may reflect the “slow news” of processes that develop slowly over long periods of time.”

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