Posts

Crop fields NigeriaFood insecurity is outlawed by international rule of law. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on December 10, 1948, as a minimum standard of treatment and quality of life for all people in all nations. Article 25, section 1 of the declaration states: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food.”

Causes of Food Insecurity

Often times, countries that are a part of the U.N. fall short on this promise to provide adequate nutritious food to everyone, including the United States of America. Malnutrition and food insecurity can be attributed to many causes worldwide, from political turmoil, environmental struggles and calamities, lack of financial resources and lack of infrastructure to distribute food equally within a country.

It is widely known that the poorest nations often lack the means or the will to sufficiently supply food to the people and their most vulnerable population, ethnic minority groups, women, and children often suffer the most.

In 2006, the Center for Disease Control reported that widespread media attention in 2005 brought global awareness to a food crisis in the West African country of Niger. According to the report, with a population of 11.5 million in 2002, 2.5 million people living in farming or grazing areas in Niger were vulnerable to food insecurity.

Food Supply Chains

In the United States, conventional food supply chains are used in the mass distribution of food. This method starts with produced raw goods. These products are transferred to distribution centers that may offload goods to wholesalers or sell them directly to food retailers, where these goods are finally purchased by consumers at grocery stores and markets. Food may travel long distances throughout this process, to be consumed by people who may have purchased comparable foods grown closer to home.

In her article entitled Food Distribution in America, Monica Johnson writes, “With each step added between the farm and the consumer, money is taken away from the farmer. Typically, farmers are paid 20 cents on the dollar. So even if the small-scale or medium sized farmer is able to work with big food distributors, they are typically not paid enough to survive.”

Hunts Food Distribution Center is one of the largest food distributors in the United States with over $2 billion in annual sales. According to the New York Economic Development Commission, it sits on 329 acres of land in the Bronx, New York and supplies over 50 percent of food consumed by people in the area, and also supplies food to about 20 percent of people in the region. Still, the Food Bank of New York City reported a meal gap of 242 million in 2014 and food insecurity of 22.3 percent, with 399,000 of people affected being children.

Solution to the Problem

About 13 years after the Niger food crisis the country is still one of the poorest in the world. The World Food Program (WFP), headquartered in Rome, Italy, continues to focus on fixing the problem of food insecurity in countries like Niger. Through helping those like Nigeriens build sustainable livelihoods and ecosystems for crop cultivation, the WFP hopes to lessen the high levels of food insecurity and issues related to it, such as malnutrition and high mortality rates among children under the age of 5.

Assisting locals to manage sustainable local food resources through soil conservation, water harvesting, rehabilitating irrigation systems and reducing the loss of biodiversity among other efforts, the organization focuses on local measures to solve food insecurity issues.

The same is happening in the United States. The country plans to upgrade agricultural facilities and operations, a plan that includes working with other food distributors at the state level to increase integration with upstate and regional food distributors, supporting local farms, and providing growth opportunities for emerging regional food distribution models.

Food insecurity is a big problem in developing, but in developed countries as well. Countries need to make sure to promote local agriculture development in order to achieve food production that will suffice each country needs.

– Matrinna Woods

Photo: Flickr

Religious FreedomThe Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, specifically mentions religious freedom in Articles 2, 16 and 18. Article 18 states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” explicitly establishing religious freedom as a basic human right.

When working in developing nations, aid organizations often focus their aid toward expanding human rights and freedoms, such as ensuring healthy living conditions or equal education for girls. Since religious freedom is a human right, it is important that aid organizations work against religious persecution and intolerance. There is also a significant link to show that religious freedom boosts economic growth, suggesting that assuring religious freedom will help developing nations prosper overall.

4 Ways Religious Freedom Boosts Economic Growth

  1. Encourages peace – Religious persecution often leads to violence and conflict, disrupting normal economic activities. Conflict especially discourages foreign investment, which is necessary for economic growth, especially in developing nations. For example, many developing nations depend on tourism, which decreases significantly during a conflict. Religious freedom is also a key to stability, which encourages local business.
  2. Reduces corruptionThe Pew Research Center has found that nations with laws and policies that restrict religious liberty have higher levels of corruption. In fact, “Nine of the 10 most corrupt countries have high or very high governmental restrictions on religious liberty” according to the World Economic Forum.
  3. Reduces harmful regulation – Certain religious regulations can create legal barriers and directly affect economic activity. For example, restrictions concerning headscarves have been used to discriminate against women in the workplace and anti-blasphemy laws have been used to attack business rivals.
  4. Promotes diversity – Freedom of religion encourages diversity – religious pluralism – in all areas of society, and diversity has been shown to boost economic growth. For example, the inclusion and participation of minorities can boost economic innovation. According to the World Economic Forum, “the world’s 12 most religiously diverse countries each outpaced the world’s economic growth between 2008 and 2012,” showing that religious freedom boosts economic growth.

U.S. Aid and Religious Freedom

Initially passed 20 years ago, the bipartisan International Religious Freedom Act officially made religious freedom a priority in U.S. foreign policy. According to The U.S. Department of State, “Protecting religious freedom and religious minorities is an American ideal” and supporting victims of persecution and repression remains a priority.

Putting policy into practice, The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is assembling new metrics to measure religious intolerance in developing nations. USAID also works extensively with local faith-based organizations to actually deliver assistance and relief. Working with local faith-based organizations helps USAID maintain cultural sensitivity and reach community members, who often uniquely trust their faith-based organizations.

At The Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom conference, USAID Administrator Mark Greene said, “We believe that religious pluralism, which is part of a cultural mosaic, we believe it is worth preserving as a matter of development.” Religious freedom boosts economic growth and is essential for development, which is ultimately the goal of any foreign aid.

– Kathryn Quelle
Photo: Flickr

Human Rights and Global Poverty
Many of our articles at The Borgen Project examine human rights abuses around the world and how different organizations and people help to combat them. However, many people may not understand what human rights are, where our modern understanding came from and what rights everyone is granted under international law. Human rights and global poverty are at-odds concepts that must be understood.

Some of the most basic human rights are the right to life, work and a standard of living that promotes health and well-being and does not allow for global poverty. It wasn’t until 1948 and the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations that specific rights were first defined, written into international law and accepted as universal to all human beings. Ending the injustice of global poverty is tightly tied to the support and upholding of universal human rights.

What Are Human Rights?

The United Nations (U.N.) defines human rights as rights inherent to all people regardless of race, nationality, sex, color, religion, language or any other status. The principle of universal human rights that are free from discrimination and that all humans deserve is the key to international human rights law. Under these laws, human rights are broken up into three generations — first, second and third.

First generation rights are characterized as civil and political rights and were mainly fought for in the 18th and 19th centuries. Individuals struggled to free themselves from oppressive governments, and so these rights protect citizens from abuses of his/her liberties by the state. These rights include free speech, the right to vote, the right to peaceful protest and assemblies and the right to participate in government.

Second generation rights developed as a response to the creation of the UDHR and a more industrialized world with greater income inequalities. These rights are classified as social, economic and cultural rights and instead of providing protection from governments, they delineate what governments are supposed to provide their citizens.

This group of rights is crucial to fighting global poverty. Examples of second generation rights are the right to adequate levels of food and sustenance, housing, favorable work conditions, education, health and cultural identity.

Third generation rights emerged with the increased globalization and a greater awareness of similar concerns worldwide. An awareness of extreme poverty around the world has contributed to rights such as the right to development, self-determination and a healthy environment. Additionally, minority rights have received greater attention and importance in this third generation of rights.

How Are Human Rights and Global Poverty Related?

With an understanding of the human rights under international law, it is even more apparent why fighting global poverty is such a worthy cause. Millions of people around the world are deprived of work, shelter and food despite their inherent right to these needs and legal recognition of these rights. Therefore, many governments, organizations and individuals have felt a moral (and legal) responsibility to end global poverty and provide basic rights for any and all humans suffering from poverty.

By valuing second generation rights, organizations like The Hunger Project are making an impact on global poverty. The Hunger Project is working for a world where everyone is able to lead a healthy life based on self-reliance and dignity. Their programs are women-centered and work to move communities from, “I can’t,” to “I can,” to “we can” and improve clean water, education, health and the environment. They currently work in twelve countries and more than 16,000 communities, and have helped over 17 million individuals.

International Advocacy

Some organizations fight for each generation of human rights and global poverty by providing food, shelter, water and more while also advocating for political solutions and civic engagement. One such organization is Oxfam. Oxfam fights the injustice of global poverty by saving lives with humanitarian aid, starting lasting programs to overcome poverty, campaigning for social justice and educating the public about human rights. Last year alone they helped 22.2 million people worldwide and gave 730,000 villagers access to savings and loans.

Under international human rights law, no human being should be living in poverty; all people deserve food, shelter and a healthy life. By supporting and fighting for human rights, people around the world are fighting to end global poverty.

– Alexandra Eppenauer
Photo: Pixabay

Article 19The United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights states in article 19 that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Named after this assertion, Article 19 is a human rights organization whose mission is to protect the freedom to speak globally. The group has worked in many different nations to address censorship, access to information and equality and hate speech, among other subjects.

Founded in 1987, Article 19 is based in London but has regional offices throughout the world, working with 100 organizations in more than 60 countries. The organization protects free speech on a global level by lobbying governments, intervening in individual incidents of rights violations and shaping legal standards relating to media and access to information.

With a commitment to combatting censorship, Article 19 has advocated on behalf of journalists arrested in Gambial, as well as Tanzanian politicians imprisoned for insulting the president. It has launched a petition that calls for a binding agreement for Latin American and Caribbean governments to guarantee access to information and justice in environmental matters, asserting that openness and transparency can help to monitor political corruption.

The organization has also written on the need for hate speech to be addressed in Myanmar and has taken a stance on racial discrimination in Tunisia, stating that racism inhibits pluralism of voices. Article 19 is a founding member of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange, a global network of 119 organizations committed to defending the basic liberty of freedom of expression. The nongovernmental organization raises awareness, acts through advocacy coalitions, forms petitions and conducts conferences and workshops.

Article 19 is also a founding member of the Freedom of Information Advocates Network, a group connecting organizations and individuals promoting access to information. The coalition runs projects such as a discussion list of lawyers, academics and civil society representatives concerned with the right of access.

In March 2017, Article 19 participated in a session of the U.N. Human Rights Council to draft The Global Principles on Freedom of Expression and Privacy, a document that will protect the openness of the media and safeguard the liberties of individuals and organizations internationally. The document is intended to inform policy makers and legislators in navigating liberties online and offline.

The Global Principles on Freedom of Expression and Privacy affirms the right of individuals to exercise freedom of expression anonymously and to use secure communication tools, while calling for the regulation of mass surveillance, describing this practice as interfering with privacy and freedom of expression. Additionally, the plan calls for the protection of confidential information given to companies online, as well as the right for confidential journalistic sources to not be disclosed. Through these measures, The Global Principles on Freedom of Expression and Privacy safeguard fundamental liberties in light of the digital age.

Article 19 is taking a stand against political censorship, the spreading of misinformation and the challenges that journalists face across multiple countries, calling for greater transparency and accountability. The organization operates on an international level, envisioning a world where freedom of expression and information are held in value. Navigating the digital era and the dangers of an oppressed media presence, Article 19 continues to fight for a diverse global community of voices, intervening in cases across the world and engaging in policy work to advance human rights.

– Shira Laucharoen

Photo: Google

ComorosComoros is an archipelago off the coast of Africa composed of three distinct volcanic islands: Nhazidja, Mwali and Ndzouani. Since declaring independence from France in 1975, the state has suffered a steady decline in its gross domestic product. Environmental hazards such as an unpredictable climate, overpopulation and poor harvests have stunted the growth of Comoros’s economy. In 2016, Comoros’ agriculture-based workforce was at a stagnant unemployment rate of 19.96 percent and scored .497 on the Human Development Index, indicating insufficient rates of life expectancy, education and per capita incomes.

In 2001, Comoros published its official constitution. In its preamble, the constitution states that equality, freedom and both economic and basic security will be provided for its citizens “without distinction based on sex, origin, race, religion or belief”. The proclamation goes on to specify direct measures of this freedom, emphasizing both the promised protection of accused citizens to properly defend his or herself before the courts, as well as the rights of a child to be safeguarded by authorities against “any form of abandonment, exploitation and violence”.

Despite these mandates, however, Comoros’ human rights record is tainted with accounts of political corruption, extensive pretrial detention, as well as several instances of child exploitation and abuse. In its current state, Comoros is acting out of the bounds of its own written law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations. Here are two examples of the evasion of human rights in Comoros.

Prisoner Conditions
According to the 2016 Human Rights Report, Comoros’ prison and detention centers were severely overcrowded. Out of three prisons, the largest is based in the nation’s capital city, Moroni. After analyzing the size and structural scope of this prison, the International Committee of the Red Cross announced its capacity at 60 prisoners. However, when examined at the time of this report, Moroni’s prison was holding 148 inmates. Reports also concluded that each prisoner was allotted, on average, only one meal per day. Malnutrition was prevalent among inmates, most particularly those who were not supplemented with food from family members

Investigation into the the livelihood of inmates suggested that juveniles and adults are also held together in the same cellblock. Studies like the one done by the Justice Policy Institute suggest that this practice leads to juveniles re-entering society as hardened criminals, more assimilated to an immoral way of life. This leads to higher levels of recidivism and stunts the growth of the nation’s next generation.

When discussing human rights in Comoros, however, one of the biggest concerns comes from the delay of fair trials when a citizen falls under formal accusation. Disarray within the judicial system often leaves pretrial detainees awaiting trial for more than four months, beyond the permissible limits of holding. On top of this, many of the innate liberties in which the accused are entitled to were ignored or unacknowledged by the court system. These rights include that to a public defender and an impartial judicial environment in which to present his or her case. Oftentimes, bribery, corruption and unpredictability within the court system stomped on the rights of the accused, and many were imprisoned without a fair chance at proving their innocence.

Child Abuse
Among other violations of human rights in Comoros include the exploitation and forced labor of young children. In 2002, three studies financed by UNICEF evaluated and confirmed the widespread physical and psychological abuse suffered by the children of Comoros. These studies determined sexual abuse to be at the forefront of offenses, and the average age of the victim to be 13.

In 2005, UNICEF published the story of Amina, an 11-year-old girl whose life was stolen after the delivery of her illegitimate child. Amina’s rapist, the father of this child, was a Koranic teacher who lived near Amina and her family. Ashamed of what had transpired between her and the 45-year-old aggressor, Amina hid her pregnancy for seven months—neglecting the necessities of prenatal care and putting her life at risk.

Cases like Amina’s are far too common within Comorian society, often ending in informal contracts between the victim’s family and the abuser. Instead of reporting instances of rape and molestation, the offender pays money to the victim and, in the case of pregnancy, agrees to care for and support the unborn child.

Reports also show high instances of human trafficking in the case of young, impoverished children being sent to work for wealthier families in both the financial and agricultural sectors. Their new caretakers often exploit the children by having them work long, exhaustive hours and expose them to both physical and sexual abuse. Some of these children are reportedly placed into positions where they are forced to smuggle drugs into neighboring islands or operate covertly in unlawful tasks.

In other cases, children are sent to Koranic schools headed by fundi, a “learned person”, in order to edify themselves on Islamic law and culture. In 2009, the ILO reported more than 60 percent of the children it surveyed were victims of sexual abuse by their fundi—forced, then, to live among and learn from their attacker.

In order for human rights in Comoros to be acknowledged and respected, these transgressions need to be punished with the proper repercussions. This comes primarily from supporting the U.N. in their initiatives like the Global Action Programme on Child Labor Issues. In its targeting of problem countries, Comoros included, this project works to pinpoint the legal gaps that allow child labor to exist, and diminish its existence in terms of both legislation and livelihood. The effort of the individual to lobby for programs and projects like this helps perpetuate the regard for human rights in Comoros.

Briana Fernald

Photo: Flickr

The Right to Education in Sub Saharan Africa“Everyone has the right to education,” stated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 61 years ago. Unfortunately, this statement has not been true for all countries in the world. More than 72 million children are currently out of primary school, with 50 percent living in Sub-Saharan Africa and 11 million of them concentrated in Nigeria alone. According to a ruling from the Economic Community of West African States Community Court of Justice, all Nigerians are entitled to education as a legal and basic right. However, the right to education in Sub-Saharan Africa has not been granted to many children who suffer from marginalization and deprivation of education.

Recent data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) and the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report revealed alarming out-of-school rates in Sub-Saharan Africa. The report shows rates reaching 21 percent for primary school-aged children, 34 percent for lower secondary school-aged children and 58 percent for upper secondary school-aged adolescents – the highest percentage worldwide.

UNICEF released a report in 2016 on The State of the World’s Children, showing that even children in school for at least four years are not learning the skills and knowledge that are vital for their intellectual and social development. Because of inaccessibility to quality education, the same report states that about 130 million children of primary school age in Sub-Saharan Africa lack basic literacy and numeracy skills. According to the World Bank, Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest adult literacy rate worldwide, with 60 percent of their population of 15 and over able to read and write, which is far below the 80 percent world rate.

Increases in out-of-school and dropout rates are directly linked to many poverty factors such as health issues, unemployment and have parents who are illiterate. Some children are forced to quit school for health problems or the need to provide support for their household. Another factor increasing risks of non schooling concerns the lack of financial resources needed for schooling materials, creating schools and recruiting and training teachers.

By taking a closer look at the data, girls reveal to be the ones majorly disadvantaged by non-schooling. In fact, UNESCO data discloses major gender inequity statistics such as 23 percent of out-of-school girls compared to 19 percent of boys in primary school. It also states that the exclusion rate of adolescent girls reaches 36 percent, while the one for adolescent boys is 22 percent.

Now, the question is what needs to be done to achieve the right to education for all in Sub-Saharan Africa? First of all, there needs to be additional investments in educational aid from leading international donors, such as the U.S. Reducing the general costs of schooling for families will also help increase accessibility to education for many children. Gender equality is also a key issue to be considered in education that can be achieved through training teachers and parents to increase gender awareness in the classroom.

According to the UNICEF report, it is also important to make sure all children get quality education by acquiring skills that enable them to participate fully in society and obtain jobs that can help lift them out of poverty. If every child was entitled to education and had the opportunity to build a secure livelihood, it would have major positive effects on the society and economy of Sub-Saharan Africa and around the globe.

Sarah Soutoul

Photo: Flickr

Poverty and Human Rights
Some individuals assume that issues, such as poverty and human rights violations, can be solved separately from one another. However, what many fail to realize is that poverty and the denial of human rights are problems that are interdependent issues. In other words, where there is poverty, there are human rights violations and vice-versa.

Poverty is more than just individuals lacking in quality employment and material goods; it also incorporates social and physical goods. Social and physical goods are characterized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a right to cultural identity, right to equality, freedom to live with respect and dignity, freedom from violence and degrading treatment, freedom of political opinion, education, personal security and many other basic human rights.

According to Amnesty USA, “Gross economic and social inequality is an enduring reality in countries of all political ideologies, and all levels of development. In the midst of plenty, many are still unable to access even minimum levels of food, water, education, healthcare and housing. This is not only the result of a lack of resources, but also unwillingness, negligence and discrimination by governments and others. Many groups are specifically targeted because of who they are; those on the margins of society are often overlooked altogether.”

It is estimated that one-third of all human deaths occur because of poverty associated reasons. These poverty related reasons are considered easily preventable such as access to clean water, nutrition and access to quality health care because they fall under basic human rights.

This relationship is further validated by statistics. The Human Rights Watch reports that those who live in dire poverty within low income or lower-middle income countries, also live in homes where the head of household is part of an ethnic minority group.

In recent years, the Office of the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in collaboration with other U.N. partners, have recognized this relationship between poverty and human rights violations. A few of the approaches that these organizations are utilizing are empowering the poor, providing international assistance and cooperation and strengthening human rights protection systems.

Currently, these organizations are collaborating with multiple governments in order to employ poverty reduction strategies as a way to ensure that vulnerable groups have access to their basic human rights.

Shannon Warren

Photo: Flickr

global_education
The number of children across the globe attending primary school at the beginning of the 1800s: 2.3 million. This number has surged to 700 million today. But despite this gigantic increase, primary school children across the developing world still face one major problem.

A new Brookings Institution report details just what this problem is: a 100-year gap in the quality of education between developed and developing regions of the world. This means that the average level of education in many poor countries today is the same as the levels of education in places like Europe and North America were in 1900.

Not only is there a 100-year gap between global education in the developed world and the developing world, but the developing world also lags 85 years behind when it comes to educational attainment. It will take average-scoring students in the developing world six generations to catch up to the same scoring students in the developed world today.

Ninety percent of primary school-aged children are enrolled in school around the world – that success should not go unnoticed or without applause. At the end of World War II, only 1 million children attended primary school. In 65 years, this has increased to 7 million. This “going to scale” of education across the world is incredible. The next step, however, is catching the developing world up to the education levels the developed world enjoys today.

How did it get behind in the first place? The idea of mass schooling being available to all young people and not only those with the resources to access it became a mainstream idea in the middle of the 1800s in areas like North America and Europe. Only in 1948, almost 100 years later, with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights did this become a concept applied to children across the whole world.

Even with the large enrollment number victory, if the data is broken down in specific regions, the picture is not as pretty. In Sub-Saharan Africa, less than 80 percent of school-aged children attend school.

Another way to examine the gap is through looking at the average number of years of schooling adults have. In 1870, adults in the developed world completed an average of 2.8 years of schooling, while adults in the developing world completed under half that time – 0.5 years.

The average lagged behind, usually with adults in the developing world completing under half the years of education that their counterparts in the developing world did until 2010. For every 12 years that adults in the developed world completed on average, adults in the developing world complete an average of 6.5 years – just over half.

It is imperative that this gap is reduced and eventually banished for good. Besides the idea that morally all children deserve the opportunity to develop in order to thrive in the modern age, there are a couple of other reasons why action should be taken immediately. First, ending the 100-year gap holds the possibility for reform and improved education globally. New ways of thinking about education in the developing world have the potential to be helpful to education systems in the developed world and benefit all young people.

Second, there is a skills deficit that has already started – between 2010 and 2030, 360 million people over the age of 55 will retire. At the same time, 60 percent increase in the global labor force will come from places like Africa, India and other South Asian countries, all places in the developing world. These young people will need to not be effected by the education gap, so they can seize their place in the world economy left by the well-educated retirees that came before them. If nothing is done, the 100-year gap will continue into eternity. Changes must be made to ensure this does not happen, for the sake of the world’s children and perhaps the world’s economy as well.

– Greg Baker

Sources: Brookings, BBC MG Africa
Photo: Africa Business Conference

Namibia
While there have been numerous peace operations, the United Nations peacebuilding mission in Namibia is regarded as one of the United Nation’s most prominent successes. Peace operations were not originally mentioned in the 1945 U.N. Charter, however the modern condition of warfare has allowed for flexibility in international law, norms, and actors. The extension of the definition of “threats to peace and international security” has broadened over time, as evidenced by legal positivism and treaties such as the Responsibility to Protect and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It has been argued the Security Council embraced an innovative character throughout the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.  A large contribution to this was the extension of “threats to peace” after the Cold War to include widespread violations of international humanitarian law and the massive flow of refugees. Since the 1990’s, the Security Council has acted past its authorized powers by means of flexible interpretation of the charter, but mostly expressed consent.There have been numerous peace operations, specifically during after the 1990’s, and many of these operations have taken place in civil war conflict areas. While there are various debates on the efficacy of peace operations, the mission is Namibia provides a case of a successful and sustainable peace.

Namibia is a country that was colonized by the Germans until a defeat by South Africa in 1915. South Africa ruled colonized Namibia until the Security Council confirmed the illegality of South Africa’s presence in the Territory in 1970, and later declared the necessity to hold free elections in Namibia as to ameliorate the oppressive presence of the South African Administration on the Namibian peoples. The United Nations adopted Resolution 435 in 1978 for U.N. supervision over Namibia’s independence, the mission was titled United Nations Transition Assistance Group, also referred to as UNTAG.According to the U.N. Mandate, the mission aimed to “Assist the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to ensure the early independence of Namibia through free and fair elections under the supervision and control of the United Nations. UNTAG was also to help the Special Representative to ensure that: “All hostile acts were ended; troops were confined to base, and, in the case of the South Africans, ultimately withdrawn from Namibia; all discriminatory laws were repealed, political prisoners were released, Namibian refugees were permitted to return, intimidation of any kind was prevented, law and order were impartially maintained.”

UNTAG proved to be different from previous peace operations, for its goals were focused on political rather than military goals. The success of the mission in Namibia had many ingredients. Not only was the timing appropriate due to the regional desire for peace, but UNTAG involved a great deal of civilian involvement. This is a critical component, for civilian input is invaluable when a society is being constructed into a democratic entity. Since the United Nations had been involved in Namibia for a substantial amount of time, the personnel and senior offices were very familiar with the situation. This is significant, for outside parties need dense insight into the conflict of which they are intervening. The wide mandate of the UN, combined with the sense of legitimacy by the Namibian people was necessary for the lasting peace in the region. Namibia gained independence in March 1990 and joined the United Nations as an independent country in April 1990.

– Neti Gupta

Sources: Taylor & Francis Online, University of Colorado, United Nations 1, United Nations 2

Photo: Fotolibra

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Upon the founding of the United Nations, there was much discussion of the purpose of the organization. The founding years in the late 1940s were immediately following the horrors of World War II, and the representatives UN had made it a priority to set the world on a new path of peace. One of the mission documents for the attempted new world order was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The document put forward some great ideals for the rest of the Twentieth Century, but there is still much work that has to be done to meet the goals of the Declaration.

The first sentence of the document describes “the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family.” That sentence gives a great amount of hope for the UN and its mission, yet for a reader over 65 years later, we see how far things still have to go. We see in a number of developing nations how women are still discriminated against, as well as religious and ethnic discrimination. The feelings after World War II might have given a sense of optimism, that those horrors would never come again, but that is one claim that the UN has yet to achieve.

The Declaration contains a pledge by the UN member nations that “in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms.” This statement, as part of a founding document for the UN, stands out when considering the situation in Syria. The UN has worked for the past three years to alleviate the plight of Syrians, yet there has been criticism from some of its own members. This pledge in the Declaration shows the need and responsibility the UN has to help in a situation of humanitarian plight.

Article three of the Declaration reads “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person.” Out of the many instances where this principle has not been upheld, the recent anniversary of the Rwandan genocide is one of the most egregious examples. The genocide of 1994 resulted in the death of almost a million Rwandans. The UN unfortunately did little to stop the killings, and after 20 years the genocide is still a large black mark on the international community.

Overall the Universal Declaration of Human Rights put forwards what we would all hope would be the best for the international community. It gives an idea of what the UN stands for, and while there have been a number of instances when the league has not held up to their lofty standards, the UN has carried out countless missions to help the impoverished. Hopefully they will learn from their slip-ups, however, and do more to accomplish their stated mission.

– Eric Gustafsson

Sources: UN, Youth for Human Rights
Photo: Encyclopædia Britannica