Human Rights and Poverty July 01
President, does a peasant suffering from AIDS have the right to access
medicine and treatment that he cannot afford? Does a child born in poverty
have the human right to receive basic education and appropriate vaccines
to protect him from killer diseases? Does a peasant farmer devastated by
natural disasters such as drought, pests and soil erosion have the right
to our assistance? Do millions of people living in misery for political
reasons in isolated countries like Palestine and Iraq have any rights?
What do we mean when we talk about human rights?
urge every colleague concerned with human rights to visit, unannounced and
informally, any peasant in any poor country and ask him about our views on
human rights, political freedom, economic freedom, religious freedom, free
access to education and health services. That peasant will look at you in
bewilderment and plead: "All I need is a supply of fresh water to my
house. All I need is a source of energy so that I can light my house and
cook the next meal".
conflict and civil war resulting in violation of human rights will
continue to impoverish the poor until we help them to do the following.
Firstly, to have a stake in their rural economies. They need to own their
own land, their home and their farm. And secondly, to acquire the
technology to break the cycle of dependency on us and seize the
opportunity to be self-sufficient, self-reliant through their own local
enterprise. When the poor have an economic stake, then civil society and
democracy will take root. These people will see the need for law and order
and political representation. Then you will see the courts replacing the
bullet - and that is when we will see human rights.