Boris Altshuler: World Security, Sustainable Development and Social Rights

posted 16 Feb 2016, 01:48 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 16 Feb 2016, 02:09 ]
8 February 2016

Appeal to UN Conference on Sustainable Development, London, 23-26 February 2016; Munich Security Conference, Munich, 12-14 February 2016

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, December 30, 1999 

Today’s conflicts are characterized by a scale and gravity unprecedented since the end of the Cold War” (Munich Security Report 2016). Why? What happened in the last 25 years?

Yes, global extreme poverty has fallen from 37% to 10% in the last 25 years; however the levels of poverty among children, the levels of malnutrition among children are still appalling. Why has the problem not been solved in spite of all the financial resources and technological achievements?

Why has the foreign interference which put an end to totalitarian regimes in Germany and Japan in 1945 resulted in democratic sustainable development and ‘economical miracles’ in these countries, whereas the same ‘new age’ experience in Libya and Iraq resulted in chaos?

Why have the huge and expensive 25-year-long US and EU programs of democracy building in Russia, Ukraine, and CIS countries proved to be a total and shameful failure, which have resulted now in Russia’s slide towards ‘restalinization’ and a ‘new Cold War’ threatening domestic and world stability (cf. the rather wise words written by Vladimir Putin 15 years ago – see epigraph)?

Why in Russia - the richest country in the world in terms of natural resources - are there millions of families with children in situations of extreme poverty or appalling housing conditions?

I put these ‘Why-s?’ in one row because all our experience of human rights work in Russia says that they have one and the same answer, hence the remedies are universal.

The sad reality is that the plural democracy-building programs remained beyond the understanding of millions of people whose everyday needs of social survival they ignored, while the bulk of the population ended up as victims of corrupt and unaccountable authorities and over-monopolized oligarchical groups. Thus corruption (including corruption in the law-enforcement agencies with their intolerable levies upon business), monopolization (which suppresses market competition and results in “price terror” for the living essentials) and absence of political competition and of free elections (resulting in total unaccountability of the authorities before the population, including at the local level which is most visible and sensitive for people) – those are the main obstacles to sustainable development and the reasons for the present-day global disasters.

But what does all this have to do with World Security?

In his 1975 Nobel Prize Lecture Academician Andrei Sakharov put forward the salutary idea of the intimate connection between observance of personal 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 these were essential factors in triggering ‘perestroika’ and the elimination of the terrifying threat of the end of civilization in mutual thermonuclear blows between the USA and USSR.

In July 2015, the founders of the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG) Yury Orlov and Lyudmila Alekseeva together, with other MHG members, directed an appeal to the OSCE leadership entitled “Violations of Social Rights: A Threat to International Peace.” There we appealed for the elaboration of a new “social rights basket” in the framework of international obligatory rules. These international obligations could play the role of an “external fulcrum”, permitting the participant countries to pull themselves out of the swamp of corruption, destabilizing poverty, etc.

Thus to ensure world security, sustainable development and observance of social rights, including the basic right to work and to support one’s family with this work, we propose:

1. To implement national and global programs based on non-monopoly competitive economics for the production of cheap food and other essentials and for the construction of social housing under the symbolic mottos "Let us feed our children with our own work!", "Let us build for our children with our own hands!". Also the obligations to strengthen and implement the well-known tools of support for small business and microcredit systems.

Note: We – a team of human rights activists and top experts – in response to the avalanche of desperate SOS appeals from families with children, have elaborated under umbrella of the Presidential Human Rights Council a program for the construction of cheap housing in Russian regions based on President Putin’s direct orders and decrees. However, implementation of this program meets resistance from monopolies and the bureaucracy. It is true that Russia, like many other countries, cannot resolve these problems with national remedies. That is why we ask for support “from outside”.

2. To realize the anti-trust measures of the anti-poverty programs of Item 1 is possible only in joint implementation of a package of anti-corruption measures – in the law-enforcement agencies in the first place. Thus we propose the creation of national and international systems of targeted inter-departmental anti-corruption programs which would ensure the identification of any violations of the law by law-enforcement officials.

3. To develop and strengthen plural national and international mechanisms of civilian oversight, including civic tools to ensure the transparency of electons and national judicial systems.

Each of these ideas can be developed in more detail, and we ask for cooperation in doing so.

Boris Altshuler
Head of the Right of the Child NGO, Member of the Moscow Helsinki Group
+7-903-709-35-49 ,
About the author:
Right of the Child: 4, Luchnikov Lane, Entr. 3, of. 6, Moscow, 101000, Russian Federation; ph./fax: (7-495) 624-07-52