In thinking about human rights it is easy to focus on case studies around the world, places where human rights abuses are taking place. But what is equally connected to the discussion on human rights is the work of global institutions that promote or ignore the protection of human rights in their work.
Next week the G20 will meet in Pittsburgh.
As a meeting of the "developed" and "nearly developed" world, 2 categories of states that together represent 2/3rds of the global population and 80% of world trade, the G20 will discuss the world's economic future. The G20 is represented by the nations' financial ministers and in next weeks meetings the representatives will decide on economic programs that range from financial stimulus plans to tariff laws.
Frequent critiques of the meeting are the 20's disregard for the final 1/3rd of the world population and the importance of the environment and people powered elements within the economic system.
Economic rights and environmental protection clearly fall within the category of human rights. The environmental costs of factory pollution, the economic degradation of outsourcing and the unsustainable practice large scale free market capitalism on poorer nations diminish a persons ability to live in a healthy world.
Human rights are not simply the right to free speech and association but also the simple ability for a person provide to for themselves and their families. This means clean water for cooking and a job that pays a living wage, among other things. The G20, the G8, have rarely accounted for the necessity of protecting human rights by providing economic infrastructure that promotes higher business standards and fair trade principles. Perhaps this year will be different, with global economic crisis promoting new ways of thinking about aid and financial planning.
In selecting to hold the meeting in Pittsburgh, Obama and the G20 are taking a step in the right direction, acknowledging the need to reinvigorate faltering economies. Maybe the G20 will take a few ideas from Pittsburgh's' sustainable innovations in providing for citizens.
(check out this website on Pittsburgh's urban gardens!)http://www.growpittsburgh.org/growpittsburgh/About/Mission
Last year protests in London broke out over the G20 meeting and a number of actions are in the works for next week. The New York Times reported yesterday that "Judge Rules Pittsburgh Must Allow Protest at G-20" so with the law on their side, I hope to see protesters peacefully bringing a voice to those without representation, reminding the G20 that not everyone consents to having their future decided by the world's financial ministers.