Welcome To Global Justice

Human Rights

Friday, 11 December 2009


By Agus Miswanto; Mavis Akinyi Olum; Ruth Moyo; Patience Namanya; Clara Kansiime


The word ‘globalization’ is widely used to define today’s world order. It involves increasingly integrating the world into one capitalist political economy operating under a neo-liberal free market ideology . Globalization is a process of interaction and integration among people, companies, and governments of different nations driven by international trade and investment and aided by information technology. Kohl (2003) adds that it is homogenization of world culture and it involves the spread of Western ideology.

However, some scholars state that globalization exacerbates and forms new inequalities. Despite world-wide economic growth and declining poverty rates in the period between 1981 and 2002, the number of people living in extreme poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa nearly doubled from 164 million to 303 million . WHO (2008) comments that, inequality is shaped by deeper social structures and processes. The inequality is systematic, produced by social norms, policies, and practices that tolerate or actually promote unfair distribution of and access to power, wealth, and other necessary social resources.

This paper aims to highlight patterns in inequality that have arisen due to globalization over the past thirty years. It addresses this in the context of income, power, human rights and socio-cultural life.

Globalization and Income

Globalization is characterized by shifts from technological integrations to multilateral and national policy reforms. These are based on the shift from state-led import substitution to a market oriented export-led approach pushed by stabilization and structural adjustment programs. The effects of globalization question the role of institutions like IMF and World Bank in developing countries.

The debate on distributional effects of globalization is polarized between two positions. Some say that globalization will offset incomes and even the poorest will benefit from it . The 2007 IMF Report shows that income inequality has increased in all income groups in most regions. The other position is that though globalization contributes to increased incomes, the benefits are unequally distributed within the country . Financial globalization, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and technological progress are associated with increased income inequality; they increase financial premiums on higher skilled labor .

Due to Structural Adjustment policies by IMF and World Bank such as privatization of public and government owned assets such as hospitals, the global poor have not equally benefited equally as evidenced by decline in accessing health care services due to institutionalization of ‘user fees‘. There is an increase in maternal death and more health related problems especially in developing countries The HIPC (Heavily Indebted poor countries) initiative by IMF and World Bank, has led to increased costs on the poor. The continuous borrowing of structural adjustment loans has accelerated a low income status for the poor countries and has increased the gap between the rich and the poor counties. This has denied developing countries their development and welfare role and it has been manipulated and used to promote global marketing and strategies that benefit the advanced countries.

In addition, it is proposed that free trade models are not achievable and cannot provide the best results for poor countries . The West is known to subsidize their agriculture sectors and African countries loose comparative advantage. As such, trade liberalization causes substantial displacement of labor and hurts workers. Small enterprises and import competing sectors lack access to modern technology, training, infrastructure and sufficient finance to upgrade as observed in developing countries .

Globalization and inequality in socio-culture

The emergence of globalization resonates sameness in perspective and ideology and it disrupts the cultural heritage of the world . Moreover, the tendency of economic and ideological interests results in losers and winners in the cultural debate; dominant verses subjected groups occurs. The dominant groups have access to power and privilege and their culture becomes a reference and measure instrument for the others in an effort to encourage homogeneity, while that from the subjected group is associated and framed as being traditional, backward, and oppressive, but ‘exotic’. These dominant cultures want to appear invisible but instead are quite visible and deviant . Therefore, differential treatment of cultural policies and practices arises, as evidenced in: prohibition of religious practices, choice of languages used in administration and education, physical appearance and recognition of symbolic events and cultural practices .

Disparity of tradition in intellectual and property rights between western and the rest also increases inequality and conflict in the third world. Owners of patents right enable extraction of royalties and monopoly profits from users-irrespective of whether they are industrial users or consumers-of the patented product . Therefore, global patent rules force a transfer of royalty payments from poor to rich countries, implying monopoly of wealth and increasing inequality .

For developing countries, where intellectual property is commonly shared, emergence of patent rights evokes looting and plundering cultural property. For example, the Indonesian cultural heritage has been looted, claimed and patented by people from other countries and the tension between Indonesia and Malaysia has recently increased because the Malaysian government is claimed to have patented and claimed many original culture products from Indonesia .

Globalization and Human Rights

Globalization has had positive influence on human rights. These include: the formation of an international human rights regime, transnational professional bodies, international bodies and NGOs and global communication networks, like the internet, increasing accountability of states . Some of the positive impacts on gender include increased employment opportunities in non traditional sectors and international women's movements to improve their positions in all aspects of societal life. However, they still form the larger percentage of unskilled labour and unpaid labour and this limits their ability to successfully perform in the market economy.

However, there are new forms of human rights violations that cannot be ignored. Multinational companies have violated labor laws. Vulnerable members of society like women and immigrants are subjected to poor working conditions and extremely low wages . Women are largely affected as they strive to escape from poverty. They are involved in illegal sex trade and human trafficking. Today, with the notion of international free markets, states are lowering standards to encourage set-ups of multinational companies. In this way they violate the rights of their citizens . Other vulnerable groups are children, certain races and people belonging to some religious affiliations.

There is loss of autonomy of states, especially in the case of developing countries, and there exists a rising inability to meet needs that constitutes human rights for their citizens. This is propagated by the global neo-liberal institutions of the World Bank, WTO and the IMF which encourage structural adjustment policies and reduction of government spending . In this way, the global economic regime (global capitalism) is seen to hinder achievement of human rights goals in developing countries . Globalization has also highlighted power relations among states; as a result human rights has been used by some states to exercise power relations. For instance, the Invasion of Iraq, and the torture of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay .

Globalization and Power

Political inequality is the extent to which groups within a society differ in influence over government decisions. Political inequality interacts with other inequalities like gender, class and ethnicity.

Globalization transforms the processes, actors, capabilities and agenda of world politics, necessitating more effective international institutions of management.

Theorists of globalization state that the sites of power are becoming more dispersed, and power is leaking away from the state. Few countries are immune from having their borders breached and as a result, state sovereignty is threatened. Indeed the principles on which sovereignty is recognized and respected are changing and we are faced with an impossibly of reconciling the notion of sovereignty. Jawara and Kwa in their assessment at the WTO mention ways in which countries with power exert influence on developing countries through inducements, threats and exclusion. For instance, in the United Nations, the Security council consists of some countries and these can veto decision that has global impacts.

However, Weiss [2005:346] argues that rather than loss of state power there has been structural and political entwinement thereby reinforcing contemporary global networks and domestic structures of nation state. Phillips [2005:102] observes that mainstay of the globalization state debate, in both orthodox and critical perspectives is the contention that states are increasingly centralized, insulated and technocratic and accountable primary to global market forces than national societies.


Globalization remains a new order of marginalization and imperialism in neo-colonial language. Powerful corporate lobbying has encouraged the view that global rules are regulating governments rather than companies, furthering goals related to business volume rather than social development. There is a dire need to remove increased access to markets by dealing with the non tariff barriers like standards and specifications in the developed markets that are hindrance to producers from developed countries. For pro-poor globalization, global governance needs to ensure democracy, regulation and transparency in its operation. National policies should ensure that there is broad citizen participation within their states and that the people benefit from globalization.


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Kurian, Rachel (2009) Lecture notes, Economic globalization Characteristics and Concerns,11th November 2009

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Internet References




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Tuesday, 6 January 2009


This article i take out from the Jakarta Post. i take this article since it is very important for us, especially to describe the human rights condition in our country (Indonesia) today. I hope through deeply discussion and clear thinking, we could give any kind of efforts toward Indonesian future.

Mon, 12/15/2008 10:36 AM National Activists celebrated World Human Rights Day on Dec. 10 this year while the government skipped an official celebration on the day. The Jakarta Post's Adianto P. Simamora spoke with the Chairman of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), Ifdal Kasim, about progress in human rights protection in Indonesia.

What is the status of human rights in Indonesia this year?

To assess the country's human rights record, we need to look at the issue in terms of regulations and their implementation in the field. In terms of regulation, we noted some positive progress with the issuance of laws and policies related to the promotion and protection of human rights. The ombudsman law and anti-discrimination law, for example, have the potential to greatly advance human rights protection in the future. However, while the anti-discrimination law strives for human rights, the government enacted pornography law could harm the strength of these rights and threaten there protection. It is open to wide interpretations, and could have serious implications when enacted socially. The pornography law will directly impact on the rights of minority groups, such as lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender individuals within Indonesia. The porn law constitutes a government violation of human rights, and for this reason, the Komnas HAM is extremely worried about the measure. In terms of the implementation of rights protections, Indonesia's record is still very poor and far from international standards. There was no significant progress made by the government to resolve human rights cases this year. Not one case of human rights violations was brought before a court. The state's response to resolve legal cases involving human rights violations was far too slow. The problem is that good regulations are not followed by appropriate law enforcement, so justice is not provided to victims and protection not available for vulnerable groups. The government also failed to meet its deadline, promised in the Helsinki peace agreement, to establish a truth and reconciliation commission in Aceh with the task of investigating human rights violations in the province before the peace accord in 2005.

Could you elaborate on cases of human rights violations, particularly those which the Komnas HAM recorded this year?

There were many cases of religious-based violence that tarnished Indonesia's human rights record this year. Discrimination against minority groups is still very prevalent. There were examples of physical attacks at the schools and homes of those associated with Jamaah Ahmadiyah, Jamaah Al-Qiyadah and the Tani Mulya Church. Some local administrations issued bylaws which have negatively affected the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedom for minority groups. We also observed that abduction cases continued to occur this year, including those in penitentiaries. There were some cases where police officers arrested the wrong people, including in the case of Imam Hambali alias Kemad and the case of David Eko Priyanto. The number of cases that resulted in the issue of the death penalty rose this year. From January to July, there were six people executed including the trio of Bali bombers, who faced the firing squad in November.

How has progress been made into resolving major cases of human rights violations?

There were no cases involving human rights violations brought before the court this year. The killing of noted human rights activist Munir Said Thalib remains unresolved even now. The Komnas HAM have submitted at least seven reports of alleged human rights violations to the Attorney General's Office (AGO), but the latter investigated too slowly to keep up with our findings, particularly involving the Semanggi shooting case. The situation differs from when the House of Representatives revived investigations into the abduction of democracy activists. The attorney general was quick to respond and the case was closed after a meeting with the President.

Has the economic downturn hampered any efforts to promote and protect human rights?

Many groups, including government and business bodies, still regard the rights associated with the economy, society and culture as not linked with human rights. Human rights issues have not yet been included in the government's regulations related to development affairs. The regulation left the rights of citizens unprotected. There are many regulations around development but the eviction of poor residents remained widespread this year. We also see many poor families suffering from a lack of quality foods and nutrients. There were massive layoffs in companies and the prices of basic necessities continued to increase due to the global economic crisis. This economic aspect is part of human rights violations because the state failed to protect the welfare of its citizens. Local administrations issued bylaws to evict people from *illegal' residencies, spending state money to demolish properties without offering any solutions for those told to move on. We are also concerned about malnutrition cases and high mortality rates in many areas across the country. Possibly the increase in fuel prices and basic foods could have influenced this trend. The government has actually launched several programs to help the poor, such as providing them with direct cash assistance and national empowerment programs. But in fact, giving cash directly to the poor encourages dependency on the government, and in turn, efforts to combat poverty continue to ignore people's rights within the economy, society and culture.

So, what should the government do next?

I think the government should move forward. President Yudhoyono needs to order the AGO to speed up their efforts in resolving major human rights cases. The government must pursue its action plan on the promotion and protection of human rights. The government also needs to make official celebrations for Human Rights Day an important date in its annual calendar in a similar way to efforts for Anti-Corruption Day, which was on Dec. 9.