Global economic downturn imperils human rights – UN

Human Rights Council in session

23 February 2009 – The United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution today highlighting the threat posed by the global financial and economic crises on the realization of human rights and development goals.

Adopted by a vote of 31 for and 14 abstentions, the resolution stressed the need to set up an equitable, transparent and democratic international system to broaden developing nations’ participation in decisions regarding the economy.

The 47-member body, meeting in its 10th Special Session, also expressed grave concern that the twin crises could jeopardize progress made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight ambitious anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline.

Stressing that the worldwide recession does not detract from Governments’ responsibilities in promoting human rights, the Council appealed to the international community to establish and improve safety nets to protect the most vulnerable people.

An open, fair and non-discriminatory multilateral trading system could accelerate strides in development and contribute to the attainment of human rights for all, it added.

Last week, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stressed that the world’s poor and disadvantaged are bearing the brunt of the suffering resulting from the current global financial crisis and ensuing economic turmoil.

Navi Pillay appealed to States and the corporate world to ensure that their policies and practices do not jeopardize people’s human rights, in an address to the Council’s Special Session.

She warned that the downturn in economies around the world is likely to “undermine access to work, affordability of food and housing, as well as of water, basic health care and education.”

In a related development, over 100 top Government officials and representatives of workers’ and employers’ organizations will convene tomorrow at a meeting of the UN International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva to discuss the impact of the economic crisis on the more than 20 million people working in the financial sector worldwide.

According to an ILO report prepared for the two-day gathering, some 325,000 people in the sector have lost their jobs between August 2007 and February 2009. Nearly 40 per cent of these losses – totalling 130,000 jobs – were cut since last October, showing how job losses have gathered speed in recent months.

“As the global economy sinks further into recession, and financial institutions’ assets experience even greater impairment, the industry’s job losses can be expected to rise even faster,” said Elizabeth Tinoco, Chief of ILO’s Sectoral Activities Brance.

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