Amnesty: Austerity is undermining human rights worldwide

Salil Shetty

Austerity is undermining human rights around the world, Amnesty International has said in its annual global report for 2017/18.

The human rights group shines a spotlight on austerity in The State of the World’s Human Rights 2017/18, naming a woman who was left without legal aid in Britain in 2012 as “one of countless millions affected worldwide by government austerity policies”.

It states: “Austerity is a human rights issue. It affects people’s access to education, health, housing, social security and other economic and social rights. It also leads to abuses of civil and political rights, as governments respond to protests and other dissent in draconian ways or cut services that affect access to justice, such as legal aid.

“All too often, governments dismiss these rights and make decisions that put the greatest burden on those living in poverty while threatening the welfare of society as a whole.”

Amnesty said that austerity is a “global issue” and it is currently researching the impact of austerity policies on the protection and realisation of socio-economic rights in selected countries.

Its next piece of research, to be published in the first half of 2018, focuses on the impact of austerity on the right to health in Spain.

Writing in the report’s foreword, Amnesty secretary general Salil Shetty said a “global battle of values” had reached “a new level of intensity” by the start of 2018, twenty years on from the adoption of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and seventy years on from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Mr Shetty (pictured) wrote: “As we approach the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in December 2018, the challenge ahead is clear. This is a moment to reclaim the essential idea of the equality and dignity of all people, to cherish those values, and demand that they become a foundation for policy-making and practice.

“The artificial boundaries erected by a politics of demonisation lead us only towards conflict and brutality, a nightmarish vision of humanity governed by naked self-interest and blinded to the plight of others. Too many leaders in the world have allowed the exponents of vilification to set the agenda, and failed to articulate an alternative vision.

“It is time for this to change. We must refuse to accept narratives of demonisation and build instead a culture of solidarity. We must hone our capacity for generosity towards others. We must assert the right of all people to participate in building the societies to which they belong. And we must seek constructive answers – rooted in human rights – to the frustrations, anger and alienation that provide a ready context for toxic political narratives of blame.

“The coming year provides a vital opportunity for a renewed commitment to the transformative idea of human rights, as we ask what kind of societies we want to live in. We must not squander it.”

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