Boris Altshuler: New “Basket” as Remedy against Appalling World Instability

posted 22 Sept 2015, 11:15 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 22 Sept 2015, 11:20 ]
12 September 2015

By Boris Altshuler

In August this year the founders of the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG) Yury Orlov and Liudmila Alekseeva together with the author of this letter and other MHG members directed an appeal to the OSCE leadership entitled “Violations of Social Rights: A Threat to International Peace.” 

I explained in detail the background of this appeal in my talk at the MGH Conference in Moscow on 25 August 2015 (see also on the website of Novaya gazeta).

In his 1975 Nobel Prize Lecture Andrei Sakharov put forward the salutary idea of the intimate connection between observation of human rights and world security.

Also about 40 years ago Russian human rights defenders initiated the world-wide Helsinki Movement – in support of the civil rights “Third basket” of the 1975 Helsinki Declaration. And this was an essential factor in triggering ‘perestroika’ and in elimination of the terrifying threat of the end of civilization in mutual thermonuclear blows between the US and USSR.

Now, 25 years later, we see again the terrifying world instability, including instability in Russia with its crazy slide towards the ‘restalinization’ and the ‘new Cold War’.

As a result, a number of questions arise:

- Why have the enormous 25-year-long US and EU programs of democracy building in Russia proved to be total shameful failure? The same failure we see almost everywhere – in Ukraine and other CIS countries, in Iraq etc.

- Why did the US occupation of Germany and Japan in 1945 result in evident successes in building democracy – contrary to many modern experiences?

To our mind the answer is evident. In 1945 democracy-building in the defeated ultra-totalitarian Germany and Japan was accompanied by effective measures to build a market economy which put an end to poverty of millions and created strong small- and middle- business classes.

On the contrary, after the collapse of the USSR, in Russia and the democracy building programs remained totally beyond the understanding of millions of people because they did not include this economic dimension, because they ignored people's everyday needs of social survival, while the bulk of population ended up in the hands of corrupt and unaccountable authorities and over-monopolized oligarchical groups.

“Why do children have nowhere to live in the largest country in the world?” – this is the title of an open appeal by Liudmila Alekseeva and Boris Altshuler of April 2015 to President Vladimir Putin (read here in English or in Russian).

Russia is also the richest country in the world in its natural resources. Then why do millions live in extreme poverty, especially families with children?

The answers are: unlimited corruption, unlimited monopolization (including in production and in trade of the essentials needed for people’s survival), suppression of small- and middle-sized business by corrupt law-enforcement agencies, and dramatic unaccountability of authorities at all levels.

The same is true not only for Russia. Let us remember that trillions of dollars spent by the West over the last decades in the struggle against world poverty have gone “into the sand” or more exactly – into the pockets of the bureaucracy in the recipient countries of this charitable assistance.

“The right to housing”, “the right to a decent existence” are social rights established by the Constitution of the Russian Federation. Also the right to work and for the ability to support one’s family by this work is among the most important social rights of which millions are deprived in Russia and in many other countries.

And this is the main reason for the present day global instability. That is the reason for our appeal to world leaders to elaborate a new “social rights basket” in the framework of international obligatory rules. For certain this “basket” must include obligatory international remedies against national corruption and monopolization, as well as international measures to protect small business, providing fair and competitive local and national elections. And the “basket” must also include ways to development different facets of civil control over the authorities, including international tools of civil control.

My detailed coverage of these issues at the MGH conference on the August 25 I headlined with two significant epigraphs:

1. “All dictatorships, authoritarian systems of governing are transient. Only democratic systems are stable. In spite of all their shortcomings, mankind has invented nothing better.”, -

Vladimir Putin in the Article "Russia at the Turn of the Millennium" ("Nezavisimaya Gazeta", Dece mber 30, 1999).

2. “I do not know who inspires Russians with the stupid idea of the invincibility of corruption”, -

Mikhail Saakashvili ("Novaya Gazeta", August 19, 2015).

I also advised Russian leaders to invite Mikhail Saakashvili to help Russia overcome corruption (see )

This is not a joke, since Russia, as well as many other countries, is evidently incapable of overcoming corruption with exclusively national remedies.

Thus I would like very much that this advice be addressed to Vladimir Putin when he comes soon to the UN General Assembly.

Moscow, 12.09.2015

Boris Altshuler

Head of the Right of the Child NGO and Member of the Moscow Helsinki Group

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