Submissions to New Zealand Government
HUMAN RIGHTS INQUIRY - 200030 July 2000
The Terms of Reference of this vital Human Rights Inquiry have been divided into the interpretation of human rights, particularly in Asia/Pacific region; the place of human rights in New Zealand's relations with other countries; the place of human rights in the debate on regional security & stability; New Zealand's roles in the establishment and strengthening of multilateral human rights instruments; the extent of ratification of UN human rights treaties & the impact this has on the promotion and protection of the rights of children (including child labour issues, women, workers, indigenous people and minorities); the role of existing NZ institutions, both governments and non- governmental and the means by which these might be improved; the adequacy of existing mechanisms for the formulation, implementation and review of humans rights strategy as an integral part of foreign policy.
Some commentaries from within the Asia Pacific region say that democracy and humans rights are different in the "East" and "West." Some have said that the so called "democratic" rights of the west, have no place in Asia, and that building strong economies is the primary concern; and that strong economies will provide the foundation for human rights. First of all what is the state of socio-economic development around the world today?
Current Socio-Economic Global Trends & Human Rights
It is useful to have a reality check to find out what is actually happening in the world today; to find out the direction of socio-economic policies and where we are heading. The current economic trend, the liberalisation of trade, the breaking down of barriers to trade being driven by trade treaties, the World Trade Organisation, and international financial institutions has been applied world wide for some years now. Is this globalisation, the so called "liberalisation" of trade bringing about harmonious and environmentally sustainable societies around the world, which would be a basis for healthy human rights policies being created organically within societies? From statistics relating to socio-economic trends and the state of the world environment we can deduce the state of human rights now and those in the future, driven by current methods.
Some late 20th Century Statistics
– Inequality between rich and poor is becoming more extreme according to the 1999 UN Human Development Report. A fifth of the world's people accounts for 86% of consumption. Developing countries with about 80% of the world's people have less than a fifth of global GDP. (This would include the Asia/ Pacific Islands region)
– In 1960, the 20% of the world's people in the richest countries had 30 times the income of the poorest 20% - in 1997, 74 times as much. This continues the trend of nearly two centuries. (UNHDR 1999)
– Despite there being more than enough food for all in the world, over a billion people live in utter poverty with constant hunger and 40 million people die yearly of starvation
– 78% of all malnourished children under five from the developing world, (including Asia/Pacific ) live in countries with food surpluses. Many of the countries in which hunger is rampant, export more agricultural goods than they import. (Food First Institute, Oakland California)
– Environmental degradation threatens indigenous people in the Pacific. The World Health Organisation report of November 1999, cites hazardous waste dumping, nuclear testing, chemical burn-off, mining, logging and pressure on space from tourist development.
– Maoris in Aorearoa/New Zealand, according to the 1999 WHO report, have far more psychiatric problems, more accidents and more disease than others here. A similar pattern emerged among Australian Aborigines.
– Economic and labour market deregulation in Fiji (suggested by World Bank structural adjustment policies), has entailed the imposition of repressive anti-labour decrees which strip workers and unions of hard-won rights and openly favours employers. These reforms were applied amidst wide-spread controversy, by the barrel of the gun of military dictatorships. One of the consequences of this has been the transition of Fiji from a middle income country to a low-wage economy where unemployment and poverty is rife. Official unemployment before 1987 was 8%, and just before the recent hijacking of the Fiji government, it was 25%. (see Claire Slatter's article, Banking on the Growth Model, in Sustainable Development or Malignant Growth edited by 'Atu Emberson Bain and Pacific World issue 57, John Henderson, The Divisions that Produced the Fiji Coups)
– In the US, the richest country in the world, an estimated 30 million people are hungry, at least 12 million of them under 18. This figure represents a 50% increase since 1985. (Food First Institute California, 1998)
– In New Zealand, before 1990 there were few foodbanks; by 1994 there were around 365 foodbanks.(Myths About Poverty in Aotearoa/New Zealand - Report of the Christian Social Services & the Joint Presbyterian Questions Committee, October 1998)
Statistics Show Current Development Methods Not Promoting Human Rights Anywhere
The explosion of foodbanks in Aotearoa/New Zealand is also an indicator of rising poverty in New Zealand, a food-rich country which has previously been notable as being an egalitarian society. New Zealand now has one of the widest gaps between rich and poor in the developed world, according to a report prepared for Treasury by Des O'Dea (Evening Post. 9 June 2000.) These statistics, coupled with the 30 million in need of food aid in the US, the richest country in the world, are ample indication that the socio-economic policies of the current development model are not promoting basic human rights, such as the right to food even in the developed countries. If the right to food, is not even being recognised or achieved within the wealthy, developed countries, and the development model is being promoted by the developed countries and elites within developing countries, the outlook for the future promotion of human rights by New Zealand, elsewhere in the world, so long as it is applying the current methods, does not look good.
Basic Human Rights Are Affordable
The UN Human Development Report of 1997/1998 estimates that the additional cost of achieving and maintaining access to basic education for all, basic health care for all, reproductive care for all women, adequate food for all, and safe water and sanitation for all, is roughly $40 billion a year. This is a lot of money. But it is just 4% of the combined wealth of the world's richest 225 individuals.
New Zealand's Role in the Strengthening of UN Human rights treaties, particularly in the Asia/Pacific region and the impact this has on the promotion and protection of the rights of children (including child labour issues), women, workers, indigenous people and minorities
EXPORT CREDIT AGENCIES - IMPACT ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Export credit agencies (ECAs) have an increasingly negative impact on the environment, human rights, debt, arms trade, corruption and other concerns of civil society worldwide. In response, the "Jakarta Declaration" was drafted at the recent 3rd Annual International NGO Strategy Session on ECA Reform in Indonesia in May 2000. More than 40 representatives of NGOs and social movements from around the world convened for the strategy session and contributed to the wording of the Declaration as well as to ideas for how to campaign around it. The Jakarta Declaration builds on the previous 1998 NGO Declaration on ECA reform by noting the minimal progress that ECAs have made since that time. It also raises the bar in terms of what a growing number of NGOs worldwide expect from ECAs in relation to: transparency and consultation; environment and social guidelines and; criteria on human rights, corruption, arms trade and debt.
The text of this declaration, which the Pacific Institute of Resource Management (PIRM), endorses, reads: "Non-governmental organisations around the world call the attention of governments and international institutions to the mounting adverse environmental, social, human rights and economic consequences of ECA activities. We have directly witnessed the unconscionable human suffering and environmental devastation that ECAs have produced in Indonesia, which is only one of many country examples. ECAs have supported many projects e.g. in the mining, pulp and paper, oil and power sectors which have had devastating social and environmental impacts. ECAs have supported the export of arms used for human rights abuses by the Suharto government. In 1996, ECA exposure in Indonesia was $28 billion, an amount equivalent to 24% of Indonesia's external debt. The Indonesian ECA debt places an unacceptable burden on the Indonesian people, crippling their future development. As a 22 September 1999 "Financial Times" article pointed out, careless industrialised country export credit agencies share a major responsibility for violence in East Timor and economic disaster in Indonesia.
"Official Export Credit and Investment Insurance Agencies have become the largest source of public international finance, supporting in 1998 over eight percent of world exports. In 1998 ECAs supported $391 billion in private sector business and investment, of which $60 billion was for middle- and long-term guarantees and loans, mainly supporting large-scale project finance in developing countries. This exceeds all bilateral and multilateral development assistance combined, which has averaged some $50 billion over the past decade. ECAs account for 24 percent of all developing country debt, and 56 percent of the debt owed to official governmental agencies."
In April, 1998, 163 NGOs from 46 countries sent to the finance and foreign ministries of the major industrialised OECD countries a "Call of National and International Non- Governmental Agencies for the Reform of Export Credit and Investment Insurance Agencies." The NGOs called for transparency in ECA decision-making, environmental assessment and screening of ECA financial commitments, including participation of affected populations, social sustainability (equity and human rights concerns) in appraisal of ECA commitments, and for an international agreement in the OECD and/or G8 on common environmental and social standards for ECAs.
Over the past two years the major industrialised countries have only made the minimal commitment to work towards common environmental approaches and guidelines in the OECD. The lack of transparency and meaningful public consultation in the OECD Working Party on Export Credits and Credit Guarantees, particularly the lack of any consultation with representatives of affected groups and organisations from non- OECD recipient countries, has rendered this process a travesty. ECAs have consistently learned no lessons from the past and continue to approve financing for environmentally and socially destructive operations.
The social and environmental negligence, support for human rights violations, and lack of transparency of ECAs must come to a halt. ECA financing for major arms transactions, for obsolete technologies rejected or illegal in their home countries, and for economically unproductive investments is a scandal of global proportions.
Call for Reform
Based on the experiences of Indonesia and many other countries, NGOs from around the world reiterate the April, 1998 international Call for Reform of Export Credit and Investment Insurance Agencies. We ask the government to call upon OECD governments, ministers and national legislatures to undertake with as soon as possible the following reform measures for their ECAs:
1. Transparency, public access to information and consultation with civil society and affected people in both OECD and recipient countries at three levels: in the assessment of ongoing and future investments and projects supported by individual ECAs; in the preparation within national ECAs of new procedures and standards; and in the negotiation within the OECD and other fora of common approaches and guidelines.
2. Binding common environmental and social guidelines and standards no lower and less rigorous than existing international procedures and standards for public international finance such as those of the World Bank Group and OECD Development Assistance Committee. These guidelines and standards need to be coherent with other ongoing international social and environmental commitments and treaties, for example, the conventions of the International Labour Organisation and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. In addition ECAs must conduct full, transparent accounting for climate change impacts and move to increase investments in sustainable renewable energy. So far, some governments have established, or are establishing, environmental and social policies which substantially deviate from, and are below these internationally recognised standards and guidelines.
3. The adoption of explicit human rights criteria guiding the operations of ECAs. This should be done in consultation with affected people and civil society, and based on existing regional and international human rights conventions. In Indonesia and elsewhere ECAs have not only supported arms exports directly linked to egregious human rights abuses, their support for mining, paper and pulp mills and other major infrastructure investments often has been accompanied by destruction of indigenous and local peoples' rights to land and livelihood resources, armed suppression of dissent, and suppression of press freedom to criticise such abuses.
4. The adoption of binding criteria and guidelines to end ECAs' abetting of corruption. According to Transparency International, the continued lack of action by ECAs to address this issue is bringing some ECA practices "close to complicity with a criminal offence." We endorse the recommendations of Transparency International submitted to the OECD and European Union in September, 1999, on how ECAs should avoid continued complicity in corruption. These include, inter alia, recommendations that export credit applicants must state in writing that no illegal payments related to a contract were made, and that any contravention of the ban on illegal payment should entail cancellation of the state's obligation to pay. Companies found guilty of corruption should be banned from further support for five years, and export credit agencies should not underwrite commissions as part of the contracts they support.
5. ECAs must cease financing non-productive investments. The massive ECA support for military purchases and white elephant projects, such as nuclear power plants, that would be rejected by OECD bilateral aid agencies and multilateral development agencies such as the World Bank must end.
6. The cancellation of ECA debt for the poorest countries, much of which has been incurred for economically unproductive purposes. We support the call of the Indonesian anti-debt coalition for the cancellation of Indonesian ECA obligations, now placing an insupportable burden on the Indonesian people.
The OECD Development Assistance Committee declared in 1996 that " we should aim for nothing less than to assure that the entire range of relevant industrialised country policies are consistent with and do not undermine development objectives." The OECD ECAs, and the OECD Export Credit Working Party, completely disrespect this call. These ECAs have so far refused to accept any responsibility for their past mistakes, and to draw any meaningful lessons from them. The current practices of the ECAs embody a form of corrupt, untransparent, environmentally and socially destructive globalisation as serious and reprehensible as the concerns raised by civil society and activists around the world about the World Trade Organisation, the proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment, and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
PIRM, in the pressing interests of basic human rights, along with hundreds of other organisations and concerned citizens worldwide, calls on the government to attend the issue of the Export Credit Agencies and work for their reform without delay.
The Role of Existing New Zealand Institutions for the Formulation, Implementation and Review of Human Rights Strategy as an Integral Component of Foreign Policy.
The current promotion of genetically engineered food raises the question of the human right to information; and also about food being produced in a radically different way, which is scientifically controversial, and whether it is a breech of human rights that this food is being promoted, when such conservative bodies as the British Medical Association recommend a precautionary approach and moratorium on its use in the food supply. Should this food be in the marketplace at all? (see also works of Dr Beatrix Tappeser, & Dr MW Ho et al)
Using GE Food in Developing Countries (Asia/Pacific) and for Disaster Relief - Human Rights Abuse The use of such questionable food in developing countries and the dumping of genetically engineered food on country's in the grip of some disaster such as has already happened this year after the recent cyclone in Orissa in India, is a breech of human rights of the worst kind. Indian scientist Dr Vandana Shiva has rightly condemned this in a statement on June 24: "The US has been using the Orissa victims as guinea pigs for GE products which have been rejected by consumers in the North, especially Europe. The US provided a 'relief' package of $7.5 million to Orissa out of which 4.15 million was for food aid. In this way the US government is using public funds for aid to create profits and markets for the biotech industry. We demand that the US government stop using money meant for relief of the poor for subsidising the biotech industry and helping it to use emergencies to create market access and market entry for GE products. The diversion of public money for private gain at social cost is unethical and unnecessary."
PROMOTION OF GE FOODS - A HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE!
The Institute would like to draw attention to a conference being held August 15-17 this year in Auckland. Subtitled, Regional Food Safety Conference for South East Asia and the Pacific Islands - Food Safety Initiatives - Influencing Public Health & Trade. We received notice of this conference as late as 28 July. Registrations are supposed to be in by 4 August. We have been given far too brief notice of this conference. But there are other serious concerns about the nature of this conference which has no less than 10 speakers brought over from the US and is introduced by the US Ambassador to NZ. It is being run by the FDA and USDA (organisations from the US), and Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry for New Zealand.
We hope that this conference in Auckland is not going to be used to promote GE food in the Asia/Pacific region.
PRINCIPLES FOR AN ETHICS OF FOOD AID
PIRM joins with Dr Vandana Shiva and the Good Food Campaign and calls on the NZ Government and US Government to stop using public finance to subsidise gene giants and the genetic engineering of agriculture. We demand that the World Bank stop using public funds to create markets for US biotech corporations. We call on the Government to explore alternatives for food and nutrition aid which strengthen local economies, protect farmers' livelihoods and ensure safe and culturally appropriate foods. We call on all aid agencies not to use GE food in children's food aid. We call on all relief agencies to stop dumping of inappropriate and unsafe food and to subscribe to ethical principles of food aid.
Principles for an ethics of food aid:
–   Emergency situations should not be used for dumping untested and
–   Food aid should be culturally appropriate.
–   The food coming in as relief should be labelled for its ingredients and
–   As far as is possible local and regional surpluses should be mobilised
–   Distribution policies should be equitable both in the sense that they
–   Policies for rehabilitation should increase people's self reliance and
–   To ensure sustainable livelihood, all policies of food aid should be
–   Crops selected should strengthen household food security, provide
–   Livestock should provide both drought power and food. Multipurpose
–   Seeds distributed to farmers should be open pollinated varieties so
–   External interventions in agriculture should not be a vehicle for draining
–   External interventions should build on people's skills and knowledge,
THE GOOD FOOD CAMPAIGN
Food safety in terms of quality and nutrition is of utmost importance to every human being. As a basic right, it is imperative that those eating the food ought to know what it is constituted of. Guaranteeing the right to information can ensure food safety.
Unsafe food cultures are being perpetrated by vested interests of the biotech industry. The most serious threat to food comes in the form of genetically engineered foods and crops. Major corporations that are active in the agri-sector are trying hard to push genetically modified crops and foods.
What is worse is that disaster and emergency situations especially those in the Third World are being used to create market access and opportunities for such unsafe food technologies which are being rejected in the North, (Europe has closed its markets to such genetically modified foods). The government and local communities in such vulnerable areas are being trapped into the corporate agenda of seed and food dependency.
We call on the government in this submission on human rights, to recognise that GE crops and food present far greater threats to developing countries where people's livelihoods are much more closely linked to their ability to grow food. The promotion of GE food is thus not only a threat to food safety but also food security in developing countries in the Asia /Pacific region.
It is the understanding of PIRM that the current "liberalised" globalised world market place is having an adverse impact on human rights in New Zealand, in Asia/Pacific and around the world. Statistics do not paint a rosy picture of the present and certainly not for the future, should we continue in the same manner.
– The Role of Existing New Zealand Institutions, both government and
– The Adequacy of Existing Mechanisms for the formulation,
Since the current development model is producing such glaring inequities in New Zealand and worldwide and the deregulated world market place is causing the erosion of the human rights to food, water, shelter, livelihoods, safe food, safe communities, and sustainable resource use, New Zealand institutions need to generate national and international debate about the current state of affairs. Once the problems are recognised and acknowledged for what they are, the goodness and creativity of people will arise to create just, sustainable societies here in Aotearoa and around the world.
- PIRM/Pacific Ecologist, POBox 12125, Wellington, Aotearoa/New Zealand -