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Human Rights Watch World Report 2007 by…
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Human Rights Watch World Report 2007

by Human Rights Watch

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The bad news is that this report never gets any shorter. I'm not sure that there is any good news...

It opens with four introductory essays that address global problems in the field of human rights. The first essay, by Kenneth Roth, the executive director of HRW, addresses the current lack of credible leadership in the human rights arena. The second essay, written by Peggy Hicks, the global advocacy director of HRW, sets forth a proposed human rights agenda for Ban Ki-Moon, the new secretary-general of the UN. The third essay, written by Nisha Varia, a senior researcher for the Women's Rights Division of HRW, is a short piece that argues for the need to protect the rights of migrant domestic workers worldwide, who frequently find themselves part of a de-facto human trafficking situation. The fourth and final essay, by Dinah PoKemper, the general counsel of HRW, is a discussion of the state of freedom of expression since 9/11 and the onset of the "war on terror."

These essays don't really cover any new ground, but they do offer a concise synthesis of existing trends. The remainder of the book consists of a country-by-country examination of the human rights record, grouped by region, with 3-6 pages devoted to each entry. These vary in helpfulness, depending on your knowledge level. If you know nothing about the country in question, the report will mean little to you - just a sort of jumble of names and places. This was true for me, when reading the sections on Angola and Burundi, for example. I just skimmed. The section on Ethiopia was much more helpful for me, because I follow events in that country, and had a framework in which to locate what I was reading. This is more of a reference work than a political and/or philosophical treatise.

It took some time to work my way through this volume, owing not just to its length, but to its factually-dense text, and the spiritual and emotional exhaustion that comes from perusing a seemingly unending list of the worst possible human behaviors. The amount of information presented is overwhelming, and it seems unlikely that I will retain it all. Certain things did strike me as I read through, however...

First, I was amazed at how many countries that have refused to agree to all or part of various human rights conventions, and in fact have serious domestic human rights issues of their own, have somehow managed to be named to the UN Human Rights Council (among them Russia, China, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Venezuela, Bangladesh). It seems illogical to me to expect that nations which have refused to commit to these rights themselves would be effective in promoting them in the international arena. In light of this, the poor record of the UN HRC no longer seems so surprising, since quite a few of its members seem more interested in subverting human rights than protecting them.

I was dismayed but unsurprised to learn that AIDS infection rates have increased in Africa, since the US government decision to tie funding for anti-AIDS efforts to abstinence-only programs. As infuriating as it is to me that our leaders should attempt to impose their religion-based sexual ethics upon others, the idea that such attempts will now lead to the loss of human lives, is beyond repugnant.

Finally, while there is no question that this report is somewhat dry material, I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to take the time to read such documents. There are any number of deeply divisive issues in world politics, and it is not always easy (or possible) to sort fact from fiction. The "litmus-test" of honesty that I like to apply to my sources is as follows: are the same standards applied to all parties and is the author/organization willing to criticize anyone and everyone? With Human Rights Watch, the answer is YES! ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Jun 5, 2013 |
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