2 December 2014
On 10 December every year, Human Rights Day commemorates the date on which the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaiming its principles as the "common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations."
This year's slogan, 'Human Rights 365', encompasses the idea that every day is Human Rights Day. It celebrates the fundamental proposition in the Universal Declaration that each one of us, everywhere, at all times is entitled to the full range of human rights, that human rights belong equally to each of us and bind us together as a global community with the same ideals and values.
Overall, despite progress in some areas, 2014 has not been a good year for Human Rights. conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Nigeria to name a few, religious persecution - particularly of Christians, continues with a recent report compiled by the Aid to the Church in Need stating that religious freedom in recent months had deteriorated in 55 of the 196 countries studied, and a continuing and growing concern about the situation of human rights defenders around the world.
The 20th November marked 25 years since the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child at the General Assembly in New York.
The occasion was the first time that children were recognised as rights holders in an international treaty. This marked the transition from addressing children's immediate needs through charity alone, to galvanising the move towards advocacy that would bring about systemic change for the realisation of children's rights.
There is much to celebrate since the Convention was adopted in 1989, from declining infant mortality to rising school enrolment. Extreme poverty has been halved -- a major achievement to realizing that Millennium Development Goal -- and most children in the developing world are now attending primary school. But these gains rarely reach children in "high risk" environments, especially countries at war. According to a 2014 USAID study on extreme poverty, the absolute number of people living on less than $1.25 per day in fragile states has remained unchanged since 1990, at 400 million.
Not surprisingly, half of all child deaths under five in poor countries also occur in these same locales. The war in Syria alone is estimated to have wiped out 35 years of development gains since 2011 that are essential to the survival, education and protection of Syrian children. And there are too many regions of the world right now -- including in Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur, South Sudan, and Somalia -- where children as old as fourteen have never known what it means to live without abject fear.
This milestone must serve as an urgent reminder of the millions of children not yet reached. After 25 years of its existence the question can be asked is the world a better place for children?
Click on the link to view the State of the World's Children Report for 2014
"Illicit financial flows, fueled by anonymous companies and tax haven secrecy undercut economic growth and tax revenues, drain roughly US$1 trillion per year from developing and emerging countries, and facilitate crime and corruption on a grand scale‚" according to Raymond Baker, president of Global Financial Integrity (GFI), a Washington-based research and advocacy organization. "The G20 passed up a golden opportunity to begin tackling this global scourge by curbing the abuse of anonymous companies and instituting public country-by-country reporting for multinational corporations" he added.
The annual meeting of world leaders that concluded recently in Brisbane failed to develop any new ideas or policies for curbing the misuse of anonymous companies.
The summit did affirm the agreement between 89 countries (including every G20 member) to exchange financial information automatically and reciprocally, but failed to address the extension of tax information exchange to the other more than 100 countries in the world.
The G20 leaders also made a critical step towards ensuring developing countries are included in efforts to revise international tax standards, however calls for a commitment to require multinational companies to publicly disclose basic financial information on a country-by-country basis, an important element of curtailing abusive tax avoidance by multinational companies, were ignored.
"Requiring companies to publicly disclose where they are operating, where they are making their profits, and where they are paying taxes is a common-sense approach to detect and deter corporate tax dodging" according to GFI spokesman Joshua Simmons. "The G20 is falling behind public sentiment by failing to embrace it" he said.
The majority of Australians want more renewable energy and know it is the pathway to a sustainable future. Currently Australia is committed to producing 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 - the Renewable Energy Target (RET). Because Australians have reduced the amount of energy they are using it is likely that the RET will exceed its target with renewable contributing 27% of Australia's energy needs by 2020.
Most would see this as a good thing, but not the government or the fossil fuel industry which is campaigning to reduce the RET and thereby increase its profits by an estimated $11 billion dollars by 2030 according to the Climate Institute. Consumers who would face increased electricity bills and and investors in renewable energy projects would be the losers.
The announcement of a US-China agreement to cut pollution and the determination of world leaders to place climate change on the agenda of the recent G20 meeting - despite the efforts of the Australian government, has given new momentum to the push for action to address climate change. Nevertheless there is still much that remains to be done with the Australian government still expressing support for the continued use of fossil fuels while the rest of the world moves towards towards a clean energy future. The RET remains under attack and billions of tax dollars continue to be handed out as subsidies for pollution every year.
Visit the website of the Australian Climate Council (the privately funded body established to continue the work of the Australian Climate Commission which was abolished by the current Australian government) or the Australian Conservation Foundation for more information about how to take action on this issue.