Islamic Relief (IR) took part in an Amnesty International panel debate this weekend, discussing the relationship between poverty and human rights.
The debate, which took place in Birmingham’s Council House, Victoria Square, on Saturday October 11 2008, is part of Amnesty’s Poverty and Human Rights campaign, which will be officially launched in 2009 and was attended by IR’s head of policy and research Willem van Eekelen as well as representatives from Oxfam and Amnesty International UK.
Director of Amnesty International UK, Kate Allen, opened the debate by reminding those present that this year marks the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and yet human rights abuses continue to affect billions of people worldwide. Allen revealed the areas to be addressed by Amnesty’s campaign (forced evictions, corporate accountability and maternal mortality) and why Amnesty had decided to come on board and help tackle poverty.
“Human rights have to be an integral part of the solution to poverty. Amnesty brings a unique human rights experience which draws a link between human rights abuse and poverty,” Allen said.
Van Eekelen began by discussing how IR was founded in 1984 in response to a famine in the Horn of Africa and explained that, over time, the organisation took an increasingly long term approach to its work.
“Amnesty has been drawn into campaigning on poverty from a position of human rights, with Islamic Relief it has been the opposite. We traditionally work on poverty, and the links between poverty and human rights have driven us into the field of human rights,” he said.
“First, we came to realise that disasters are closely related to poverty. Disasters cause a great deal of suffering, but a much larger number of people suffer as a result of poverty. When working in the field of poverty alleviation, we came to realise that our projects were good in and by themselves but that their impact would remain limited if a few root causes of poverty are not addressed. Human rights violations are among these root causes,” he added.
Van Eekelen also discussed the ways in which governments contribute to disasters, outlining three types of government that fail to fulfil their role as duty bearers: those which actively carry out human rights violations, those which simply do not care that their people do not have access to adequate services and those which do care but that lack the capacity to provide adequate services.
“An example is the government’s ability to prepare communities for disasters. You can see a hurricane coming 48 hours before it arrives, and plan for it. A government’s ability to do so is an indication of their commitment to the well-being of their citizens,” he added.
For more information on Amnesty International’s Poverty and Human Rights campaign click here.