Artisans of Democracy: the Indivisibility of Human Rights

The chapter this month in Artisans of Democracy was about the European Union and how, over 30 years, the highest levels of the EU came to recognize the existence of poverty in their midst and their own role in both mitigating and eradicating it. Even as the E.U. was being founded in the midst of broad rising prosperity, pockets of people were being left behind, with no chance to catch up on their own. When this fact was discovered by E.U. bureaucrats, they made changes in the way they dealt with extreme poverty. "The E.U. has learned to avail itself of the experience of non-governmental organizations representing disenfranchised groups, in particular the Fourth World Movement, which enabled Europe's poorest citizens to influence the shaping of policy in many of the E.U.'s institutions, including ambitious anti-poverty programs."

"This story shows how discovering the reality of extreme poverty can transform your vision of the world and your personal and professional behavior. Institutions as well as individuals resist facts that will force them to rethink established ideas. To do this, they need a sense of security and an understanding that their larger interests are at stake. The story also describes how personal relationships can spread to involve first small groups and then larger institutions. It is told by several voices, those of European civil servants, politicians and activists, but it is the voice of Robert Pendville that [guides it]. One of the early pioneers of the new European institutions, he [spent] his entire professional career building these institutions."

One of the main messages of the Fourth World Movement has always been that the misery of the Fourth World families is a denial of human rights which demonstrates the indivisibility of human rights.

It is not realistic to separate political rights from economic rights. Wherever one is denied, the others will follow.

Summed up in this statement, first engraved in the Plaza of Human Rights in Paris on October 17, 1987, and since then in thirty-three locations around the world, from the UN Headquarters in New York to the Philippines to Burkina Faso:
Wherever men and women are condemned to live in extreme poverty, human rights are violated. To come together to ensure that these rights be respected is our solemn duty.

(La ou des hommes sont condamnes a vivre dans le misere, le droits de l'homme sont violes. S'unir pour les faire respecter est un devoir sacre.)

Right now, or this Friday, October 17, 2008, U.N. International Day for the Eradication of Extreme Poverty, take a few minutes to bear witness to someone you know who is fighting poverty, in their own life and/or on behalf of others.

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