Governments should apologize for human rights abuse

In spite of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations 60 years ago, governments throughout the world continue to violate human rights with impunity.

Amnesty International reports that restless, angry and disillusioned, people will not remain silent if the gap continues to widen between their demand for equality and their governments’ denial.

As it is, governments have exhibited more interest in the abuse of power or in the pursuit of political self-interest, than in respecting the rights of those they lead.

US, the world’s most powerful state, has distinguished itself in recent years through a disregard of human rights thereby setting a bad example for other countries.

In fact, US’ disregard for human rights has resulted in the emergence of both leaders and movements in many parts of the world that abuse human rights.

“The human rights flashpoints in Darfur, Zimbabwe, Gaza, Iraq and Myanmar demand immediate action,” said Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

“Injustice, inequality and impunity are the hallmarks of our world today. Governments must act now to close the yawning gap between promise and performance,” she added. Continue reading

Why US Must Care About Climate Change

The US has in the past shown great moral strength, courage and sacrifice to respond to global crises but no so with the imminent threat of global climate change.  

Yet, in order to accelerate global efforts to protect the environment, the US must not only be held to a higher environmental standard than the rest of the world, it must also show greater commitment to a coordinated worldly response. 

The statistics speak for themselves – the US produces a total of 5,410 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, almost a quarter of the global emissions, according to researchers.

This makes the US the world’s leading polluter, making it imperative to hold the country to a higher environmental standard. 

The impact of US emissions go far beyond its borders of the US, changing climatic patterns in many parts of the world, and disrupting people’s lives. 

The apparent lack of US enthusiasm to make the world greener is in a word detrimental to the agenda of protecting the global environment. Since the Kyoto treat was established in 1997 to collaborate a global response to environmental destruction, in particular global warming, the US government has exhibited a consistent reluctance to ratify the agreement thereby dealing a body blow to the global campaign to protect he environment. 

Incumbent US President George W. Bush has insisted that making global commitments to climate change would harm his country’s economic prospects.

Since President Bush entered the White House, his administration has muzzled the country’s responsibility to significantly contribute to environmental solutions, including pulling out of the Kyoto climate change agreement. 

“The United States’ performance indicates that the next administration must not ignore the ecosystem impacts of environmental as well as agricultural, energy and water management policies,” said Gus Speth, Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at the launch of the 2008 Environmental Performance Index (EPI).

 “The EPI’s climate change metrics ranking the United States alongside India and China near the bottom of the world’s table are a national disgrace.” 

The fact of the matter is that, in order to produce a real global outcome on climate change, the US must step out of its shell of self-interest and show leadership as the world’s greatest power through ratifying and implementing international global climate agreements. 

Though the US cites protecting its economy as the reason for its reluctance to make a global commitment, the long term of little action against climate change will undoubtedly unravel that current concern. 

If the US can commit to higher environmental standards – mainly because it is the main polluter anyway, it will significantly make it easier for the world to engage other major polluters such as China and India in the global climate response.  

China and India, like many developing nations accuse the US and other developed nations of having done damage to the environment for longer periods to time.

Unlike the US however, many of the developing national have approved international climate agreements, a critical first step in addressing the problem.  However, developing nations lack the werewithal to produce the requisite greneer techonlogies as well as the political and economic might to influence a global response. 

On the contrary, the US has all this in abundance but seriously lacks the moral aptitude because of its stance on the global climate agreement. With its financial and technological might, the US is well-positioned to build a low-emissions environment, and therefore set an example to the rest of the world. 

It is a paradoxical sham that the US assumes a claim to higher moral standards in protecting democracy worldwide yet refuses due to self-interest to commit to global agreements against what scientists have described as the “greatest threat facing humanity” in our time. 

The proposition that the US can go it alone is hurtful to global efforts because it makes other countries, chiefly China, to engage in finger pointing without addressing the problem.  

As the world’s leading power, the US needs to show farsighted leadership in efforts to respond to threats posed by climate change.  

“By committing to higher environmental standards, the US can make it a priority to develop and prove the effectiveness of alternative forms of energy, and use this as a basis to lobby and mobilize less-developed nations,” states US in the World, an initiative to get Americans involved in worldly matters. 

“By acting first, the U.S. and other rich countries that are most responsible for global warming – because they burn the most oil, gas, and coal – can set a powerful example for others to follow.

By committing themselves to developing alternative energy sources, technologically advanced countries like the United States can create new jobs and industries at home while jump-starting the international effort to slow global warming and influencing the energy choices of less advanced countries that are on the brink of making big new energy investments,” adds US in the World. 

The current bickering over who should assume greater responsibility for emission cuts, steered by the US government, does not augur well for efforts to combat global change. 

Obviously, collective global action is required, with emerging giants such as China and India requred to commit to better, greener technologies in the wake of theri rapid economic expansion. 

Indeed, a global climate agreement should hold the US to a higher environmental standard than the rest of the world because it is the leading polluter, and therefore should assume a pole position in the climate change agenda. 

Given that the US is world’s super-power, it needs to lead by example, and rally the world toward a better management of the environment.