Commission on Human Rights
4 April 2000
A series of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) spoke on economic, social and cultural rights this afternoon, with many of them telling the Commission on Human Rights that more had to be done to eradicate poverty around the world and many others lamenting that economic globalization, high levels of Third World debt, and “structural adjustment” programmes imposed on developing countries by international financial institutions were leaving much of humanity in a situation of hopeless and mounting poverty.
Speaking were representatives of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and the following NGOs: Centro de Estudios Europeos; Federation of Associations for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights; Asian Buddhist Conference for Peace; Human Rights Advocates; Earth-Justice Legal Defense Fund; Organization for Defending Victims of Violence; Organization of Solidarity of the Peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America; World Federation of Democratic Youth; North-South XXI; Aliran Kesedaran Negara; International Federation Terre des Hommes; International Commission of Jurists; Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples; International Federation of Social Workers; Rural Reconstruction Nepal; International Educational Development; New Humanity; Indian Movement Tupaj Amaru; War Resisters International; International Peace Bureau; International Organization for Freedom of Education; American Association of Jurists; International Movement ATD Fourth World; Third World Movement against the Exploitation of Women; Women’s International Democratic Federation; Permanent Assembly for Human Rights; Defense for Children International; International Human Rights Law Group; National Union of Jurists of Cuba; Association of World Citizens; International Institute of Non-Aligned Studies; and Worldview International.
DEBORAH STOTHARD, of the Aliran Kesedaran Negara, said there was a tendency to disconnect economic, social and cultural rights from civil and political rights. There was great poverty in Burma, where there had been no natural disasters and the country had once been described as the rice bowl of Asia. The Government put military spending ahead the well-being of the people.
Public expenditure there was among the lowest in the world. This was in a country where UNAIDS estimated that 440,000 people were HIV-positive. On the national level many universities and schools were shut. Many schools and universities had only been opened for a total of 30 months in the past 12 years. The organization condemned ASEAN for “constructively engaging” with the Burmese Government. This sent the wrong message to the international community and the Burmese people and further slashed away the rights of the Burmese people. The Commission was urged to remember the situation in East Timor and what had followed when people’s human rights were continually violated.
DAVID ARNOTT, of War Resisters International, spoke about the impact of militarization on economic, social and cultural rights. For example, there was the resource-rich country of Burma. The report by the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar was welcomed. The report had raised the issue of excessive military spending, but had not mentioned the direct oppression by the military of the rural population, causing increasing suffering, tensions and displacement. Burma was a good example of the role of Government in producing economic collapse.
The report showed the effects of the ethos of a military regime, policies of militarization, and economic ineptitude. Women and children were particularly affected. The Commission was urged to incorporate the findings of the Special Rapporteur’s report in its resolution on the situation in Myanmar.
THUANG HTUN, of Worldview International Foundation, said Burma was the most appropriate example of how a resourceful rich country could decline to the level of a least-developed country when a ruling military elite denied basic human rights and fundamental freedoms to its people. Everywhere in Burma, there was evidence of poverty, ethnic conflict and growing threats to the environment. Such concerns transcended every region, war zone, and ethnic community.
The most obvious victims were the 120,000 refugees and half a million migrants in Thailand who had fled the country. Forcible population transfers and other forms of human-rights violations had led to the destruction of the socio-economic fabric of village life, widespread malnutrition and death, internal displacement of about 1 million people, and a continuous flow of refugees into neighbouring countries.
(Note by Sanjee: It should be noted that the above three speakers made specific reference to the food scarcity in Burma and the report of the Tribunal)