Is the economic divide a root cause of the September 11 attacks? For several years, human rights organizations have made the fight against economic injustice a top priority
One after the other, the major NGOs campaigning for civil and political rights rallied in the mid-1990s to the banner of "economic rights." Marching behind it was the long-established International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH) and its 105 national affiliates along with Human Rights Watch and its supporters in the academic community.
Even more remarkably, the emergency medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders, which has 2,000 volunteers worldwide, launched a campaign in 1996 for access to basic medicines. And finally, Amnesty International and its one million members joined this movement last August.
"We have to be consistent and relevant," say these organizations to explain the move. Governments have to be criticized for their failings in health and education policy, transnational companies for their hypocrisy in doing business in places mired in poverty, and international financial institutions for being blind to the social effects of their programmes.
Beyond the Cold War
Have they been slow in waking up? Economic rights were legally enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 16, 1966 (along with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights), it came into effect 10 years later and has been signed by 141 countries. Governments are expected to take steps to improve the living standards of their people by ensuring adequate food, clothing and housing, the right to a job, training and a "fair" wage, the right to join a trade union and go on strike, and the right to health care and education.
For many years, the covenant was …