It is a black book that paints a black picture: Amnesty International’s latest annual report says the economic crisis is eroding human rights worldwide. Amnesty had been due to launch an anti-poverty campaign, but has refocussed on the increasing number of people falling into the poverty trap, and the resulting inequalities and exclusions.
“The key point of the report is that underneath the economic crisis, the global economic crisis, there’s a growing global human rights crisis which is being aggravated by the fact that people more and more are being cast into poverty and out of jobs and their homes,” Amnesty said. A billion of the world’s poor are hungry. Last year’s food crisis pushed another 150 million below the poverty line, and the current economic crisis has added another 53 million. Between 18 and 51 million more are in imminent danger of losing their jobs. The people exposed to poverty are often doubly effected, as food aid is subject to manipulation, and many needy are discriminated against. Food, or the witholding of it as was claimed in Zimbabwe last year, can be used as a weapon against political opponents. As the financial crisis bites, the chances of violent protest, and even more violent repression, rise. “When people took to the streets to protest against desperate social, economic, and political conditions governments responded very harshly. Amnesty International’s reports document protests in 17 countries which were met with excessive force. So there is a real risk that recession could lead to more repression,” said one of the report’s authors. Political instability and mass unrest could rise as the crisis deepens. Amnesty claims the world is sitting on an “inequality powder keg.” Amnesty also lambasts the G20 richest nations for being far from spotless where human rights are concerned. Many European nations are criticised for allowing a rise in racist and intolerant attitudes towards migrants, Jews, Muslims, and the Romany peoples.