The Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights this afternoon debated a report concerning globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of human rights, which touched upon such issues as intellectual property rights and impartiality within international mechanisms that helped foster globalization.
Authored by Subcommission Expert Joseph Oloka-Onyango and Alternate Expert Deepika Udagama, the report recommends, among other things, professionalizing the membership of the World Trade Organization's dispute settlement panel. Currently, Ms. Udagama said, representatives of Member States of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and even WTO employees served on the panel. More often than not, she said, the panellists came from developed countries because those nations had large missions and pools of expertise. This had affected accessibility, she said -- only one-third of the complaints that came before the settlement board were from developing countries.
Another problem with the board, she said, was the high cost to bring a case before it. Many developing countries could not afford to pay expensive international law firms to represent them. The report recommended that the countries pool their resources in order to gain access.
There was also little transparency within the board, Ms Udagama said. Hearings were closed, and judgments were passed anonymously. As some world leaders conceded after the recent events in Genoa, there was a problem that needed to be addressed. If globalization were to endure, it would have to for the benefit of mankind, and not just for a few.
Mr. Oloka asked if intellectual property could violate human rights. The report, he said, revealed intellectual property rights and their connection to international trade was becoming a matter of concern. There were human rights implications, especially if the needs of the owners of the rights gained primacy of place and in effect superseded the human rights of significant populations. Intellectual property rights, he said, were about monopoly control, and what did they mean for persons and their right to health and their need for access to life-saving drugs?
Further, Mr. Oloka said, there also was the matter of balancing individual rights with communal rights, such as those of indigenous populations to their traditional knowledge and products. Earlier in the meeting, several Experts questioned why the Commission on Human Rights did not approve a request to have Expert El-Hadji Guisse carry out a study on the right to drinking water. Mr. Hadji said the problems in the developing world were dealt with very lightly and were belittled by United Nations organs. But these organizations must understand that problems affecting those in the Third World affected the entire human race. Water was essential to life, but more than 1.5 billion people lacked sufficient access to it. Other Experts pointed out that conflicts in the past had been fought over access to water, and that future conflicts would also involve water.
During the session, several non-governmental organizations spoke about issues surrounding economic, social and cultural rights, including the need for peace to ensure sustainable development and the increasing impoverished populations within the world's most developed countries.
Non-governmental organizations participating in the debate were Association Tunisienne pour l'Auto-development et la Solidarite; the International Movement ATD Fourth World; the World Federation of Trade Unions; the Minority Rights Group; Fraternite Notre Dame; the Indian Movement Tupaj Amaru; the International Federation of University Women; the Minnesota Advocates of Human Rights; Pax Romana, the Indian Council of Education; International Education Development; Centre Europe-Tiers Monde; and the International Commission of Jurists.
Experts participating in the debate were Mr. Oloka-Onyango, Ms. Udagama, Mr. Guisse, Halima Embarek Warzazi, Francoise Jane Hampson, Miguel Alfonso Martinez, Iulia-Antoanella Motoc, Vladimir Kartashkin, Asborn Eide, Jose Bengoa, and Fried Van Hoof.
The Subcommission will meet at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 8 August to continue its deliberations on economic, social and cultural rights.
Progress Report on Globalization and its Impact on the Full Enjoyment of Human Rights
A progress report by Subcommission Experts Joseph Oloka-Onyango and Deepika Udagama (E/CN.4/Sub.2/2001/10) on globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of human rights offers, among other conclusions and recommendations, that while much has been achieved in the struggle to apply the principles of equitable globalization to every individual (human, corporate or multilateral), much still remains to be done. This requires a heightened vigilance on the part of States, members of civil society and all those concerned with the promotion and protection of human rights. The report also discusses intellectual property rights, including a suggestion that Member States of the World Trade Organization emerge with a specific, unequivocal undertaking to the effect that no provision in the agreement prohibits members from taking measures to provide access to medicines at affordable prices and to promote public health and nutrition.
MONCEF BALTI, of the Association Tunisienne pour l'Auto-developpment et la Solidarite, said there was a partnership among non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the battle against poverty, and the Association thanked its partners in the fight. Globalization highlighted each day the important role of the rich countries. Their decisions shaped the world. These countries were asked to follow their words when they preached democracy, tolerance and solidarity. Integrated lasting development could not happen when there was an atmosphere of one versus another. There needed to be solidarity.
The Government of Tunisia had appealed for a World Solidarity Fund, and the idea had been welcomed by the international community. It was hoped that the Subcommission could ensure the establishment of the Fund. It would require local and national strategies to ensure its effectiveness. Trade had a direct impact on the achievement of economic, social and cultural rights, and the world powers were invited to stop defending their own interests, and to support initiatives that aimed at spreading prosperity throughout the world. Exaggerated individualism in certain societies was showing its limits. There was never enough talk about the individual as a social animal. The World Trade Organization should never lose sight of human rights rules.
THIERRY VIARD, of the International Movement ATD Fourth World, said the Commission on Human Rights' resolution on extreme poverty had invited the Subcommission to consider defining guidelines in the context of the fight against extreme poverty; ATD Fourth World hoped the Subcommission would come up with these guidelines. They were needed as existing instruments were not sufficient -- they were too general in nature and did not refer specifically to extreme poverty. Extreme poverty was a violation of human rights; the causes were multi-dimensional. Any guidelines should permit a global approach to civil rights for persons affected and should be drafted in partnership with them.
The Subcommission should give consideration to work in the field already carried out by persons living under conditions of extreme poverty. Their suffering, their aspirations, their thoughts and ambitions must be taken into account. The guidelines should increase public awareness about extreme poverty; should reduce discrimination in that context; and should be addressed to all nations. There should be some kind of obligation with appropriate control mechanisms because the problem was not the lack of resources. It was the lack of political will and commitment that created barriers to ending extreme poverty.
KARAM TALBOT, of the World Federation of Trade Unions, said the realization of economic, social and cultural rights required a process of sustained development that created both material and human wealth. Individuals and groups had to be presented with an environment in which they could best exploit their potential in an atmosphere of freedom so that they could capitalize on scientific and technological developments to further the individual and common welfare. The process of sustained development had to be one of evolution where the political, social and work ethos was gradually changed to meet modern day requirements of economic endeavour. Skipping stages of development of the human resource could jeopardize economic progress since it could create tensions and turbulence in society.
Witness Iran, where a monarchy that denied freedoms sought to implant a western culture and economic model on a traditional and not as yet ready society. The result was a bloody revolution.
It was disheartening that the process of globalization initiated under the new world order had degenerated into the export of western models to traditional societies unmindful of their heritage and ethos. The communications revolution had helped. The Internet and satellite television had helped impart expectations of crass consumerism to societies that were still ill-equipped to provide basic needs to their people. The creation of such expectations was then exploited largely by multinationals pandering to consumer instincts. Television screens were full of glamour of the western variety and advertisements extolling the virtues of expensive consumer goods. There was scant attention paid to advertising designed to create infrastructure of the human resource. The net result of such lopsided globalization was evident in countries like India and other developing countries where even the capital cities could not provide adequate drinking water and electricity to their citizens, but their shops were full of different varieties of potable waters and aerated drinks that were relevant only to a minuscule segment of society. It was the duty of the human rights community to speak out against unfettered and unchartered globalization until the people, whom globalization was meant to benefit, were directly involved in the shaping of the process.
CORINNE LENNOX, of the Minority Rights Group International, said a recent agreement on International Development Goals was an important step toward realizing the right to development, but these goals failed to make any reference to minorities and indigenous peoples; general strategies for achieving the goals would be ineffective without the adoption of special measures to ensure that minorities and indigenous peoples were benefiting equally, and in their own terms, in the development process.
Minority Rights Group International recommended that Governments and relevant development agencies immediately reviewed their policies for the International Development Goals to ensure that the rights of such persons were taken fully into consideration; that such persons had the clear right to participate in the formulation and implementation of country strategies and development programmes; that indicators for measuring progress towards the International Development Goals were revised to include disaggregated data for minorities and indigenous peoples; that the impact of development programmes on such populations were monitored; and that any further studies undertaken by the Subcommission on economic, social and cultural rights and the right to development paid particular attention to the situations of these often neglected groups.
MARIE SABINE LEGRAND, of Fraternite Notre Dame, said rights were violated by countries suffering from poverty, but also in European countries that purported to be civilized. Fundamental rights like the right to food, housing and health care were violated all over the world. In the most developed countries, there were millions of people who were plunged into unemployment and had no hope of recovering. That someone who had to beg for a meal in the most industrialized countries was a sad reality. The Fraternite had opened soup kitchens in many of the most developed countries. The means existed to stop this twenty-first century tragedy. Support had to be given to the elderly, and education had to be given to the youth.
There were many children who escaped poverty all over the world. The group treated AIDS patients in many countries. Fraternite Notre Dame was concerned with protecting human dignity, despite people's differences. It was working for a life that was more dignified and humane. It believed that poverty could be stopped on a global scale if people worked together.
EL-HADJI GUISSE, Subcommission Expert, said the Commission on Human Rights had rejected for a second time his proposed study on the right to drinking water; problems in the developing world were dealt with very lightly and were belittled by United Nations organs. But these organizations must understand that problems affecting those in the Third World affected the entire human race. Water was essential to life; this was obvious; water had always been a determining factor in the viability and success of civilizations; these days economic productivity was predicated on access to water. Drinking water was the very wellspring of life -- in fact the human body consisted basically of water.
But more than 1.5 billion people lacked sufficient access to potable water. To ignore this problem was criminal. Some 4.5 billion lacked access to basic sanitation, which was a great concern as so many diseases could result from lack of sanitation. Sanitation, hygiene, agriculture, urban development, transportation, and other major human activities depended on freshwater resources. Very unequal social, geographical and political distribution and management of water resources currently existed. He would submit a resolution this year, again, Mr. Guisse said. All States must work on this matter together. Cooperation on water issues was merely a matter of common sense. Developed countries must work in concert with developing countries to make greater water resources available to improve agricultural production, among other things, and toxic products must be prevented from polluting water sources. If water was an economic asset, it must not be subjected entirely to the market, and currently there was great danger in Africa that water supplies would be privatized by multinational corporations. That would amount to ceding sovereignty to such corporations.
HALIMA EMBAREK WARZAZI, Subcommission Expert, said she was very disappointed to see that the Commission on Human Rights had not voted in favour of a study on water as recommended by the Subcommission. One think tank had predicted that a major source of conflict would be water. Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and countries in Africa -- all had been in conflicts because of a lack of water. One day people would not be able to cross the seas because the seas would be de-salted. It was hard to understand how the developing countries were not waking up to this problem. They could have voted for this study. The delegations should give some serious thought to this. This was a problem of poverty. And the impoverished countries were not present in the meetings, in the informal consultations. Everybody in the Commission of Human Rights had the moral obligation to do this. They should be the first to call for a vote on this.
FRANCOISE JANE HAMPSON, Subcommission Expert, said she found it completely incomprehensible that people not only representing States but who themselves were supposedly human beings did not vote in the Commission on Human Rights in favour of a study on the right to water. What the Commission had done was incomprehensible; the Subcommission should ask it again to authorize such a study, if nothing else to indicate that the Subcommission was completely bewildered. If again rejected, the Subcommission should ask Mr. Guisse to expand his working paper on the topic.
MIGUEL ALFONSO MARTINEZ, Subcommission Expert, said this was the year that the Commission should have authorized the study on water. The right to water was a serious matter for developing countries, but it also affected humanity across the board. It affected the developed countries as well.
IULIA-ANTOANELLA MOTOC, Subcommission Expert, said the fact that the Commission had not, for the second time, approved this study meant that the Subcommission must draft a third resolution asking for permission for this study.
VLADIMIR KARTASHKIN, Subcommission Alternate Expert, said it was astonishing that the Commission had not accepted the Subcommission proposal and had not allowed Mr. Guisse to carry out the study. Why did the Commission reject a number of Subcommission proposals? When pressed for an answer, the Commission members said they did not even know which of the Subcommission's proposals had been taken on. Because the Commission had an overloaded programme, and often met at night, it was thought that the Commission did not have the opportunity to fully examine the proposals forwarded by the Subcommission. Perhaps it would be worth it for the Subcommission to resubmit all the proposals that the Commission approved last year.
JOSEPH OLOKA-ONYANGO, Subcommission Expert, presenting a study on globalization (E/CN.4/Sub.2/2001/10) carried out with Alternate Expert Deepika Udagama, said the document followed on several other studies and working papers they had prepared over the past several years; their concern was that the process of globalization give full respect to internationally recognized human rights. The focus of this year's report was the tensions and complementarities between international economic law and international human rights law.
There were three broad areas concerned -- globalization and intellectual property rights, including trade-related intellectual property rights, or TRIPS; mechanisms in operation at the World Trade Organization; and poverty-directed efforts at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, including the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HPIC).
The report predated the recent events at the G8 Summit in Genoa, but it did note the way globalization was being protested against, and the way Governments were responding to those protests, Mr. Oloka-Onyango said. Globalization, it was clear, could affect civil and political rights, including the right to life, as well as economic, social and cultural rights.
Intellectual property rights and their connection to international trade were becoming a matter of concern, he said; binding dispute mechanisms applied to those who might violate intellectual property rights, and there were human rights implications, especially if the needs of the owners of the rights gained primacy of place and in effect superseded the human rights of significant populations. Could intellectual property rights be used abusively -- in fact to violate human rights? There were questions about the pressures applied, politically and economically, in this context, and in bilateral relations between countries that could have negative impacts on developing countries. There also was the matter of balancing individual rights with communal rights, such as those of indigenous populations to their traditional knowledge and products. In addition, intellectual property rights were about monopoly control, and what did that mean for farmers around the world, for persons and their right to health and their need for access to life-saving drugs? Would such drugs be priced out of the range of access for persons in developing countries? These questions needed to be put in context and looked at in a broad and fair fashion.
World Bank and International Monetary Fund programmes on debt and poverty reduction also had human rights complexities that were tackled by the report, Mr. Oloka-Onyango said; and it was a matter of concern to know to what extent human rights standards applied to the operations of these organizations, or rather to make sure that such standards were made sure to apply in their operations
DEEPIKA UDAGAMA, Subcommission Alternate Expert, said one of the main issues in this progress report was the World Trade Organization's (WTO) dispute settlement mechanism. This was key in taking up human rights issues and providing redress in the rules-based system. The dispute area provided structure. By establishing such a mechanism, the international rule of law could be effectively maintained. Still, there were serious concerns of the impact on the economically marginalized populations. The dispute settlement system could and should play a pivotal role within the rules-based system. It needed to ensure impartiality and transparency.
The system had been used in a prolific manner, especially by the United States, Canada, and the European Community. Presently, Government representatives and even WTO employees could serve on the settlement panel, and that raised questions about its impartiality. The progress report recommended that membership on the panels should be professionalized, and that the costs should be borne by the WTO. An aggrieved member would have to go through the panel first before going to the appellate body, and for developing countries, that could be expensive. More often than not, panellists seemed to be from developed countries since these countries generally had large missions and pools of expertise. Accessibility to a system of redress was also essential. Statistics provided by the WTO pointed out that only about one-third of the complaints that came before the settlement panel were from developing countries. There was a great cost in doing this, especially with international law firms charging high rates. It was essential that developing countries be provided with technical know-how, and it was recommended that the developing countries pool their resources.
There was little transparency within the panel. Hearings were closed, and judgments were passed anonymously. As some world leaders conceded after the recent events in Genoa, there was a problem that needed to be addressed. If globalization was to endure, it would have to be for the benefit of mankind, and not just for a few. Human rights laws had to be respected, and the reasoning of institutions that individual Member States were responsible for human rights respect was not accepted.
ASBJORN EIDE, Subcommission Expert, said the debate on the right to development had perhaps been held on too general a level, and it should focus more on specifics; the report on globalization helped to deal with such specifics. Human rights started at home, within countries; internal discrimination and inequality had to be addressed before a country approached these topics internationally. In the case of women it was clear that there was a growing feminization of poverty caused partly by domestic and partly by global structures. There was a lack of effective ownership of land by women, lack of access to credit; and in many parts of the world women worked much more in agriculture then did men, yet had less secure land tenure. Also, the reproductive rights of women were often circumscribed. These matters, if addressed domestically, could have great effects on human rights.
Globalization was an ambiguous term; economic globalization was overwhelming everyone, and it was hard to get a sense of orientation and a fair perspective. The study just presented gave a detailed, professional and sober analysis that gave credit to institutions of globalization where credit was due. As a result of the mass protests, some of the multilateral institutions had begun to modify their policies; there was the possibility of a dialogue opening up between populations and international financial agencies. One major substantive issue was the relation between international economic law and international human rights law. The two had different perspectives and philosophies of "development", but the multilateral international financial institutions, as they were composed of member Governments, were obliged to respect international standards of human rights and should be made to do so. Debt reduction efforts were given detailed consideration in the report. Among aspects deserving further consideration were agricultural matters, as they affected so many of the poor around the world. Multilateral institutions should enhance rather than weaken the efforts of States to respect human rights.
MR. KARTASHKIN said the process of globalization was unavoidable, and, by and large, it was a positive thing. It had a great effect on economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights. The main issue was how to combat the negative effects of globalization, while keeping and enhancing its positive effects. As a result of the studies being prepared by the Subcommission, which were remarkable for their great depth, it was proposed that special resolutions of the Subcommission should be drafted and sent to the Commission on Human Rights. It was the authors of the studies and working documents who knew the issues in depth, and they would prepare the most accurate and effective resolutions. This would enhance the effectiveness of the work of the Subcommission.
LAZARO PARYof Tupaj Amaru, said the victims of globalization were indigenous peoples and minorities around the world; the Subcommission's role was to investigate social phenomena of importance to human rights. Would Mr. Guisse think of investigating the situation of indigenous peoples as related to drinking water? In Bolivia there were indigenous populations drinking water under the same conditions as animals drank it. Experts should go where hunger and misery prevailed, so that they could see the full extent of the problems they were supposed to investigate; and they should be more practical in what they recommended for eliminating global plagues such as poverty and discrimination and the negative effects of globalization. Indigenous peoples felt the system itself had to be changed.
KATHERINE HAGEN, of the International Federation of University Women, regarding the feminization of poverty, urged the disaggregation of data by gender and age in order to come up with further information.
MOHAMED NOUNIR LOUFTY (Egypt) said Egypt was one of the countries in the Commission on Human Rights that had put globalization on the agenda. In practical terms, how could States deal with globalization issues when dealing with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund? Egypt had recently felt caught between domestic economic, social and cultural rights concerns and structural adjustment demands placed upon it.
PENNY PARKER, of Pax Romana, said the reports on globalization and drinking water raised a problem; in the case of water, it was a natural product, but when it was put in a bottle it became a product and a process. At that point matters of accessibility and affordability came to the fore. This was the vital stage of things. Where and how did matters such as human rights and dignity come into play?
KALIL TAHIR, of the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, said the due to the importance of this subject, it might be useful to turn this progress report into an issue paper or to put it in another form, instead of it just being a United Nations document.
AMARJIT SING.NARANG, of the Indian Council of Education, said it was unfortunate that the report that most non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were most interested in was not yet available. How could the Subcommission's reports urge other organizations to take action, for example, how to correct the effect globalization was having on women's rights.
ADAM BRANCH, of International Educational Development, said that in terms of the supposed inevitability of globalization, one could not equate it with economic liberalization; if so there would always be a negative battle under way. Instead the underlying processes had to be confronted; a deeper critique of globalization was needed so that human rights did not become in the hands of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank just one more way of mitigating the effects of globalization while economic liberalization continued unhindered.
MR. OLOKA-ONYANGO said multilateral institutions would have an affirmative response to ensuring their policies did not affect human rights. To recognize that human rights were or should be part of their operations was important for multilateral institutions. There was a need for a deeper critique of globalization -- it should not be taken as a given. But care should also be taken not to make a blanket condemnation of globalization. Civil society, in terms of its ability to combat and engage the poor effects of globalization, would not have been possible without the revolution that had taken place in information technology. Most people left this room to check their email. It was true that the critique needed to go deeper, but the benefits also had to be looked at. It was important that the language, at a minimum, should be transformed from the language of the market to the language of human rights.
MRS. UDAGAMA, responding to the debate, said the comment by Mr. Eide about the levels of legal obligation of multilateral institutions was interesting; the report took the position that human-rights obligations applied to such institutions, but it hoped to go into more detail on the topic. There also, as noted by Egypt, was the tension between Government obligations related to human rights and the financial obligations imposed on Governments by multilateral institutions. That made it more important that the human rights obligations of the financial institutions should be made clear. They had to be convinced to respect international law. A dialogue had begun between the World Trade Organization and herself and Mr. Oloka-Onyango; it was encouraging that this was a beginning, but the process had to be built on. So far the responses they had got to their questions were that the institutions respected first of all their own charters but that they did not necessarily feel bound by human-rights standards. Transparency in the operations of these institutions was important -- it had to be seen how decisions were made in them, and how influence could be applied.
MR. EIDE said it would be interesting to explore the further implications of international institutions protecting human rights to see if there were any negative aspects, and to see if this would infringe on the laws of Member States.
JOSE BENGOA, Subcommission Expert, said that on the dissemination of Subcommission studies and reports, someone had suggested that a resolution be drafted on ensuring greater visibility for Subcommission documents. A number of important studies from the past were no longer available; perhaps many of them should be published together. A resolution might be developed to that end.
FRIED VAN HOOF, Subcommission Expert, said multilateral institutions should concern themselves with protecting human rights. There had already been discussions about such protection infringing on States in several multilateral institutions.
MALIK OZDEN, of Centre Europe - Tiers Monde, said there was a strengthening of inequality and anti-democracy along with grave violations of human rights as a result of globalization. Neo-liberalism was based on a lie -- that democracy and the market went together. Nothing could be further from the truth. Distinctions had to be drawn between the objective forces of globalization, which were neutral and inevitable, and policies such as liberalization, which were the result of choice and could be reversed if they proved to be to the detriment of mankind.
Free trade supposedly was always an advantage because it enhanced competition. But in reality, one or two producers in direct competition did not mean better results for both but the crushing of the weaker by the stronger. The World Trade Organization (WTO) had had grave repercussions on human rights although its Constitution did not even refer to human rights. The WTO was extending its coverage to deal with patents and intellectual property, and there was pillage of the intellectual resources of the south by transnational corporations.
The international financial system, for its part, imposed measures that were incompatible with human rights. It was essential that international institutions had policies consistent with human rights standards.
NATHALIE PROUVEZ, of the International Commission of Jurists, said in recent years, considerable attention had been given to the impact of economic globalization on human rights. In particular, the human rights implications of international and regional trade-related agreements, as well as policies and programmes of international and regional financial institutions, had become central to the work of the Subcommission, as well as other human rights mechanisms. Specific attention had been given to the human rights implications of the World Trade Organization's TRIP's Agreement, in particular with the report of the High Commissioner on the impact the Agreement had on human rights. But further clarification was needed, in particular on the impact of the WTO's trade-related intellectual property rights agreement on the enjoyment of specific rights, such as the right to self-determination, the right to food, and the right to education.
Under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, States were responsible for ensuring the provision of affordable and accessible medical, educational and other necessary social services. The Subcommission was well-placed to reassert the primacy of human rights obligations over economic policies and agreements, as well as to recommend further studies on the implications of trade-related agreements on human rights. The Subcommission could also play an important role in having other relevant United Nations human rights mechanisms -- treaty bodies and special procedures -- look at and consider the implications of economic policies and agreements on the enjoyment of all human rights.