Amnesty’s growth scepticism

In: Uncategorized

27 Jun 2009

Sameer Dossani, the director of the Demand Dignity campaign at Amnesty International USA, directly counter-poses human rights to economic development in an article in yesterday’s Boston Globe. After describing how a gang attacked and sexually abused the children of a government minister in the Congo he goes on to argue that:

“Governments have reneged on human rights obligations in the belief that economic growth alone would lift all boats. But now the tide is receding. Virtually none of the growth of the last two decades benefited poor and marginalized communities; instead, the gap between rich and poor only deepened in many parts of the world.”

For Dossani it is not economic growth that will bring development. Instead the priority has to be tackling human rights. Evidently Amnesty is promoting a campaign along these lines:

“Now, as the global economic crisis threatens to push an estimated 53 million more people into poverty this year, Amnesty International is launching the most ambitious campaign of its nearly 50-year history.

“Just as we have fought effectively to protect civil and political rights on behalf of tens of thousands of political prisoners, we intend to mobilize our volunteers and supporters to hold governments, corporations, armed groups, and others accountable for the human rights abuses that drive millions around the world into poverty.”

This is an upside down way of looking at the world. Economic forces are responsible for the increase in poverty in the last year or two. No doubt governments will sometimes use repression to quell discontent but economic forces are primarily to blame for poverty.

The logic of Amnesty’s position is to encourage more external intervention in poor countries – all in the name of protecting human rights – while leaving economic inequality intact.

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