Human Rights or Global Capitalism: The Limits of Privatization

Human Rights or Global Capitalism: The Limits of Privatization

Human Rights or Global Capitalism: The Limits of Privatization

Human Rights or Global Capitalism: The Limits of Privatization

Synopsis

The fall of communism in the late 1980s and the end of the Cold War seemed to signal a new international social order built on pluralist democracy, the rule of law, and universal human rights. But the window of opportunity for creating this more just, more equal, and more secure world slammed shut just as quickly as it opened. Rather than celebrate the triumph of democracy over autocracy, or political freedom over totalitarian rule, the West exulted in the victory of capitalism over communism. Neoliberal policies of deregulation and privatization that minimized the role of the state were imposed on the transitional societies of Central and Eastern Europe, as well as economically weak and politically fragile nations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Twenty-five years later, the world reaps the fruits of that market-driven state foundation: inequality; poverty; global economic, food, financial, social, and ecological crises; transnational organized crime and terrorism; proliferating weapons; fragile states.

Human Rights or Global Capitalism is not simply concerned with the success or failure of neoliberal policies per se or judging whether they are good or bad. Rather, it examines the application of those policies from a human rights perspective and asks whether states, by outsourcing to the private sector many services with a direct impact on human rights--education, health, social security, water, personal liberty, personal security, equality--abdicate their responsibilities to uphold human rights and thereby violate international human rights law. Manfred Nowak explores these examples and outlines the ways in which neoliberal policies contravene the obligations of states to protect the human rights of their people.

Excerpt

When the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe collapsed in 1989 leading to the end of the Cold War, the time seemed ripe for a new international social order built upon pluralist democracy, the rule of law, and universal human rights. The Vienna World Conference on Human Rights in 1993 solemnly proclaimed the universality, indivisibility, and interdependence of all human rights. But this window of opportunity for creating a more equal and more secure world order remained open only for a short while. Rather than celebrating the victory of democracy over autocracy and political freedom over totalitarian rule, the West seemed only concerned about celebrating the victory of capitalism over communism. The neoliberal ideology of deregulation, privatization, and minimizing the role of the state, which had dominated politics in the United Kingdom and the United States under the conservative governments of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan during the 1980s, reinforced by the Washington Consensus of 1989 as a global policy to be promoted by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, was vigorously forced upon the newly emerging transitional societies in Central and Eastern Europe as well as on economically weak and politically fragile states in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Twenty-five years later, we see the results of globalization driven by neoliberal market forces: growing inequality, poverty, and global economic, food, financial, social, and ecological crises. In addition, we witness increasing threats to our global human security resulting from transnational organized crime and terrorism, a proliferation of weapons and armed conflicts, fragile states and global climate change.

Much has been written about the pros and cons of the neoliberal economic theory and its application in times of globalization, including through privatization. But there are only a few studies that look at these phenomena from a human rights perspective. Of these, most deal with the . . .

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