The China University of Politics & Law (CUPL) announces its 2018 Summer School program
the Institute for Human Rights of CUPL will organise the 10th session of its CUPL Human Rights Academy will be held on July 2 -13. The instructors will include a number of international scholars. You can read more about the program and conditions to participate here.
Freedom House publishes its latest mapping of the free world
“Political rights and civil liberties around the world deteriorated to their lowest point in more than a decade in 2017, extending a period characterized by emboldened autocrats, beleaguered democracies, and the United States’ withdrawal from its leadership role in the global struggle for human freedom.”
This is a paragraph of the explanatory text of the Freedom in the World 2018 map recently published by the Freedom House. Indeed, when we start calculating the non-free world by adding the purple and green nations, we end up with 55% of less-than-free countries. From the other side, the not-unfree nations are still good for 75%. While not contending the importance of freedom, this map and the reasoning on which it is based are highly problematic, when interpreted from the philosophy of the CCHRC. First of all, culture does not seem to play a serious role for the members of Freedom House. A search with ‘culture’ using the site’s own search engine, generates phrases with the structure ‘culture of X’, where X stands for words like: rape, fear, corruption, tolerance, compromise. Some of these have a positive connotation, but the majority are negative. Culture as a set of basic values that people of a region use to make sense of the world is completely absent. One could contend that Freedom House is focusing on freedom, only one aspect of human rights. However, even then, to colour a country like India green and China purple, completely ignoring the enormous differences in the percentage of the population living below the poverty line, is at least ironic. What is the meaning of ‘freedom’, like free elections, if such a large part of the population is starving? We at the CCHRC are not the only ones wondering about this, as shown by this discussion on Quora. Back to China, one of the most populous of the purple nations on this map, how can the information provided by Freedom House explain the high ratio of Chinese who believe that their country is on the right track (90% for Chinese; 79% for Indians)?
Yet another organization spends its days monitoring the degree of happiness of the peoples of the world. Here is their latest mapping, the World Happiness Index 2017. The darker green the happier the people of that nation; the darker red the unhappier the people of that nation.
Continuing with China and India as two populous non-Western nations that are so frequently compared, we can look up the exact indices of these nations. China tops India with their respective ranks of 79 and 122. While we can readily relate freedom to human rights, happiness seems like a more elusive state of mind. However, the Happiness Index is a compound including indices for ‘healthy life expectancy’, ‘freedom to make life choices’, which are directly linked to human rights. The ‘freedom’ in this context refers to everyday life, while Freedom House concentrates on political freedom.
And then there is the World Inequality Report 2018. Let’s zoom in on one of the tables on this site, showing the share of the top 10% income shares in the GDP of selected nations in 2016.
According to these figures, income inequality in China is considerably smaller than in India, and even smaller than in North America.
Finally, there is the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer. This continuous study monitors the trust in NGOs, business, government and media by the general online population and the informed public in 28 countries. While the global trust situation deteriorated a little in 2017, that of both India and China increased slightly. China even tops the 2018 list with 74 (from 3rd in the 2017 report with 67). India ranks 3 with 68 (from first in 2017 with 72). Most of the purple countries on the Freedom list end up on the less than 50 sections of the Edelman Trust list. We can hear people argue that people with more freedom will vent their feelings of distrust more freely. However, Edelman has taken than into account. The high score for China can be attributed to the efforts of the current government to fight corruption, which used to be the major concern of the man in the street in China. The fact that only non-Western nations end up in the positive section seems to indicate that culture is mediating the outcomes. However, the Edelman Trust Barometer does not take culture into account, like Freedom House.
The CCHRC does not have all the answers ready, but we would never claim that we have. The common problem we have will with all these mappings is that they has been done while looking at humanity through a very narrow lens. The CCHRC proposes that the human rights situation in each nation should be judged using a combination of a commonly accepted set of basic human rights and a model of national/regional culture. The practical implementation of the same human right can differ between regions with different cultures. Moreover, regional developments can take place at a speed that defies the annual drawing of simplified maps. We prefer thorough case studies like the ones you can find in the Publications section of this site.
Berlin celebrates Human Rights with Christmas
The United Buddy Bears, each decorated using the unique symbols of a different nation, were one of the highlights of the Christmas decorations of Berlin in 2017. The bears could be admired in the Walter-Benjamin-Platz. In the middle of the square, a single bear was dedicated to Human Rights, with all national bears staring at him in awe. The bears moved elsewhere on January 8, but your webmaster was lucky enough to shoot some pictures and make this the first news item on the CCHRC’s new site.
The First South-South Human Rights Forum adopts the Beijing Declaration
More than 300 officials, scholars and representatives from over 70 countries, regions and international organizations attended the South-South Human Rights Forum that was held in Beijing December 7-8, 2017. CCHRC’s Tom Zwart (see the About page on this site) was one of the speakers during the opening session. The two-day forum centred on the theme “Building a Community of Shared Future for Humanity: New Opportunities for South-South Human Rights Development“. According to the Beijing Declaration issued at the forum, participants agreed that the right to subsistence and the right to development are the primary basic human rights. The main body of the right to development is the people. Developing countries should pay special attention to safeguarding the people’s right to subsistence and right to development, especially to achieve a decent standard of living, adequate food, clothing, and clean drinking water, the right to housing, security, work, education, health and social security, said the declaration.
You can find the full text of the Beijing Declaration here.