UN rights chief warns poor countries about recession

Human rights should not be jettisoned by employers as the recession bites, the UN human rights chief has warned.

"I am very worried about that," Navanethem Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, told the Independent on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of human rights. "Economic rights are just as important as civil and political rights.

"The current financial crisis has had dire and possibly enduring consequences on the global economy. No measure should be overlooked to mitigate the most nefarious effects of the crisis for those who live at the margins of the world’s economy, especially the very poor and people who are eking out a living at subsistence levels."

Ms Pillay, a South African lawyer whose own experience of apartheid made her all the more determined to fight discrimination, argued that "human rights, development and security are all inextricably linked."

Exactly 60 years ago today (wed), on 10 December 1948 the UN General Assembly adopted the 30 articles enshrining universal human rights in the declaration which in effect says "Never again" to world war and the horrors of the Holocaust.

Asked about the Bush administration's detention of inmates without trial at Guantanamo, Mrs Pillay said that in her view, human rights should be placed at the core of internatioal cooperation in counter-terrorism. "There is no denying that those who looked at US leadership to inject new vigour into human rights work have been disappointed in recent years. That is why great expectations are pinned on the forthcoming presidency of Barack Obama," she said, noting his promise to close down the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

Ms Pillay challenged the position of some states – including China, Indonesia and Singapore – which maintain that human rights are a western notion and should be adapted to the cultures of individual countries.

"We should never accept the argument that some rights fit the traditions of certain cultures, but are antithetical to other customs. Universality is anchored in our common humanity, and not on those shifting historic, cultural, economic and geographic circumstances that critics of universality invoke to shore up their views," she said.

The Chinese government defended its position yesterday after two Chinese dissidents were detained as 300 lawyers, writers, scholars and artists prepared to issue an online charter calling for greater human rights in China to coincide with the UN human rights declaration anniversary.

Wang Chen, the head of the State Council Information Office, said: "Under the precondition of recognising the universality of human rights, all governments and people have the right to adopt different policy measures according to their respective national conditions to seek human rights development best suited to their country."

But some countries had "politicised and ideologised human rights by practising double standards, flying the ’human rights’ flag to negate the sovereignty of other countries and carry out power politics," Mr Wang added.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate