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Top Academics Rebel Against State Capture
In Favor Of Truth And Ethical Human Rights

By Anthony Ravlich

18 August, 2012

More top academics are breaking the long silence of academia regarding the rights omissions, such as children’s rights, and the new ethical human rights approach which includes all the rights.

The latter approach means replacing the world’s dominant ideology, neoliberalism, with an ethical human rights, development, and globalization which is now also gaining some high profile support on the social networking sites (see below).

The academics (see comments below) were replying to my recent article which also promotes the inclusion of children’s rights in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, “New idea for a better world’ published in Scoop, New Zealand, and Countercurrents.org http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1207/S00319/new-idea-for-a-better-world.htm).

The foundations of the ethical approach to human rights, development and globalization were first articulated in my book, ‘Freedom from our social prisons: the rise of economic, social and cultural rights’ (Lexington Books, 2008).

However, in my experience, academic discussion, both domestic and international, on the new ethical human rights approach, and even the omitted children’s rights, was virtually non-existent despite the book being recommended on the United Nations website for about two years (see an example of how ‘captured academics’ were keeping important human rights truths ‘in-house’ below).

But after about four years since the release of my book some top academics are now rebelling against State capture in favor of human rights truth by being prepared to discuss the human rights omissions such as children’s rights and the new ethical human rights approach.

Associate Professor Claire Breen holds an LLM (International Law) and PhD from the University of Nottingham. She teaches international human rights law, the laws of armed conflict, and contract law at the University of Waikato. She has previously published extensively in the area of children’s rights.

In response to the above article Professor Breen states:

“On the one hand, I feel that I can say that the failure to give clear legal recognition to children's rights and to economic, social and cultural rights in New Zealand is a concern, especially given the strong overlap between poor outcomes for children and failure to secure their economic, social and cultural rights. I would like to see stronger recognition of both set of rights in NZ which can, and should do better.

“On the other hand, I would have to say that although I teach and research in the area of human rights generally, I'm afraid that the discourse around neoliberalism and globalisation is an area that I do not feel well enough equipped to write on. I would like to see a more creative way to regard human rights in NZ, so it will be interesting to see if there will be any change. The poor statistics around children here suggest that such change is necessary” (email,13 August, 2012).

Dr Bryan Gould is a former NZ Rhode Scholar who joined the British Diplomatic Service in 1964. He was a Labour Party MP in the UK for 16yrs, directed Labour's election campaign in 1987 and contested the leadership in1992. From 1994 to 2004 he was Vice-Chancellor of Waikato University. In 2005, he was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Dr Gould after reading the above article stated: “I very much agree that remedying the omission in the Bill of Rights regarding children would be a major step towards giving our children the protection they need. Good luck with your campaign and keep up the good work” (email,1 August, 2012).

Also, after reading a previous article, ‘Hope in Chch rebuilding, ethical human rights despite all attempts to crush human potential’ (http://www.guerillamedia.co.nz/content/hope-chch-rebuilding-ethical-huma...),

Dr Gould referred to the ethical human rights approach:

“I read your article with interest and – as you won’t be surprised to hear – not a little agreement. I would strongly support your case for a stronger Bill of Rights – one that properly complied with the UN Covenant. I hope your campaign succeeds, though – as you point out – the ranks of those who are concerned about such issues seem – in some senses – to be getting thinner” (email,18 May, 2012).

Michael Freeman is Research Professor, Department of Government, Essex University. He teaches at the universities of Edinburgh, Essex, North Carolina, and Gothenburg and lectures at universities in more than 20 countries.

Professor Freeman states that he has a personal interest in New Zealand as he has relatives whose house was ‘wrecked’ in the Christchurch earthquakes and while they were unhurt their house has still to be rebuilt 18 months later. He was due to visit NZ in April 2011, but had to cancel the trip as a result of the earthquake.

Regarding the article, “New idea for a better world’, Professor Freeman states: “I am not sure that the `ethical’ approach to human rights, development and globalization is as new as you claim. At the theoretical level, philosophers such as Alan Gewirth and Carlos Nino have put forward ethical arguments for human rights. At the practical level, activists in human rights and development NGOs are clearly motivated by ethical principles. There is also a literature on the ethics of development.

“I am myself influenced by the work of Thomas Pogge (World Poverty and Human Rights) and the literature that has grown up around it. This suggests that we need to motivate citizens to support the right policies and reform institutions to implement those policies. I think we need a more ethical politics, but also a more political ethics, rather than separating the two….I share your concern with children’s rights, but have not found the time to give them the attention they deserve” (email,11 August, 2012).

Last September 2011, when giving a talk on ‘Poverty in New Zealand: A Human Rights Imperative’ at Auckland University Professor Paul Hunt, a New Zealander, in response to my question from the floor stated that while he ‘personally’ would like to see children’s rights included in New Zealand’s law he considered that this was unlikely to occur in the near future (see my article, ‘Ethical human rights likely to be many children’s and freedom’s last hope in New Zealand’, http://www.guerillamedia.co.nz/content/ethical-human-rights-likely-be-many-childrens-and-freedoms-last-hope-new-zealand).

Professor Hunt was formerly from Waikato University and is now based at Essex University, UK. He was also the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur (expert) on Health for six years.

However, since Professor Hunt’s comment the ethical approach to human rights, which would also include the omitted children’s rights, has been getting some high profile support on the social networking sites of the internet.

For example, the US State Department, the White House Open Democracy Initiative, the United Nations, and Save the Children and other high profile organizations and individuals have embedded tweets of support on the internet (a partial list of embedded tweets can be found in the above article, ‘New idea for a better world’. Also, google, anthony ravlich twitter, for the full list).

Also, on the linkedin internet site a number of New Zealand professionals indicate their support while the NZ government may also be interested (see article, ‘New idea for a better world’, cited above. Also, anthony ravlich’s linkedin).

Even though America and New Zealand pursue neoliberal policies the ethical human rights approach is, to my knowledge, a new idea whose universality (without exclusion) is most likely to gain humanity’s acceptance as the world’s balance of power shifts from the West to Asia and China.

New Zealand is meant to become part of the proposed East Asia regional bloc (equivalent to the European Union). And I am very concerned, and perhaps this is also reflected in the support the ethical human rights approach is receiving, about a possible decline in the influence of human rights with negative effects on individual rights as China and Asia have less of a human rights tradition than the West.

Humanity has already learned what happens when individual rights become expendable. The Great Depression of the 1930s, World War Two and the concentration camps led to the creation of the UDHR which is a vision for the ‘great collective’ – the human family.

The ethical human rights approach includes both civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights. It also includes a duty to the community. Article 29(1) of the UDHR states: “Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible”.

The exercise of duties to the community enables individuals to maintain a head/heart balance and stay connected to the ‘great collective’.

One major international NGO, The People’s Movement for Human Rights Learning promotes ‘Human Rights as a Way of Life’ (PDHRE, www.pdhre.org).

According to the Founding President of PDHRE, Shulamith Koenig, the recipient of the 2003 UN Award for outstanding achievement in the field of Human Rights: "Women and men must join in building a new political culture based on human rights through learning about the practical holistic vision of human rights. We have no other option if we are to achieve economic and social justice in equality and non-discrimination for all."

Shulamith Koenig is also lending support to ‘an ethical approach to human rights, development and globalization, for all, to replace neoliberalism, for ignorant bureaucratic elites’ by joining my linkedin along with a number of New Zealand professionals.

The New Zealand Human Rights Commission state that the UDHR ‘creates duties for States’ while ‘individuals too, have responsibilities’ (see discussion on duties in Rights in New Zealand Today, New Zealand Human Rights Commission, ch 2, Introduction, http://www.hrc.co.nz/report/chapters/chapter02/framework01.html).

The ethical human rights approach requires that the State has a duty to ensure all have, at the very least, their core minimum human rights in the UDHR.

In addition, the ethical approach requires that the duties of individuals also applies to groups such as the ‘bi-cultural’ bureaucratic elite and the ‘tribal collectives’ they represent as well as the Corporations in order to remain connected to the ‘great collective’ – the human family.

The ethical human rights approach retains the emphasis on individual rights as exists in the UDHR but as it also includes ‘duties to the community’ and economic, social and cultural rights it cannot be equated with the ‘individualism’ of a past era which was only concerned with civil and political rights.

And in what seems to have been a reaction against ‘individualism’ my work shows that the exclusion of many civil and political rights in the NZ bill of rights (which is part of constitutional law) has reinvented human rights from an emphasis on individual rights to an emphasis on the collective i.e. ‘the greater good’. This has led to individual ‘freedom of thought, conscience, expression, belief’ becoming collective thought, collective conscience, collective expression and collective belief ( see below and ‘Fear of freedom: collectivist bill of rights reducing New Zealanders to dependency’, http://www.guerillamedia.co.nz/content/fear-freedom-collectivist-bill-rights-reducing-new-zealanders-dependency ).

The bill of rights both captured and strongly favored a ‘bi-cultural’ bureaucratic elite and a left-tribal minority which aligned themselves with Corporate interests, although also very concerned to control the latter.

But, from my observation, this elite ‘partnership’ has now become very disconnected (i.e. a major head/heart imbalance amongst many involved) from the ‘great collective’ or human family (see, ‘Hope in Chch rebuilding…’, cited above).

In my experience one of the worst manifestations of State capture can be found amongst the social controllers e.g. of the Occupation, rallies and meetings, ‘employed’ by the left-tribal groups, often aligned with the Green Party and Labour Party, for whom control seems to have become everything and truth utterly irrelevant.

From my observation, these social controllers, often given a high (and undeserved) social status, are concerned to ‘shut down’ any dissent within their ranks to an extent that borders on fanaticism. In fact, I am convinced, if they did not know who they were, the Dalai Lama, Jesus Christ or a Noam Chomsky would be quickly ‘shut down’ in any of these left-led protests, rallies and meeting.

Consequently, a number of intelligent, concerned young people who ‘question things’ and could, in my opinion, have ‘really made things happen’ found themselves isolated, live lives ‘under the radar’ in New Zealand society and often to join the exodus of the ‘best and brightest’ overseas (see Aotea Square Occuptation: Human rights fact stranger than any conspiracy theory, 12 May, 2011, http://www.guerillamedia.co.nz/content/aotea-square-occupation-human-rights-fact-stranger-any-conspiracy-theory ).
The increased interest shown in the ethical human rights approach in New Zealand also coincides with the Key government’s constitutional review, including bill of rights matters, due for completion in mid-2014.

There is much discussion whether the Treaty of Waitangi should form the foundation of a future New Zealand Constitution. But my work indicates that the treaty as the foundation of the constitution would seriously impede human rights development by making it far harder for the omitted human rights to be included (see article, ‘Hope in Chch rebuilding….’, cited above).

An example of the State capture of academics is given in our council’s submission to the United Nations (also posted on the internet by the Office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights). It describes the drafting of the Optional Protocol (OP) to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which began about 7 years ago (the OP is covered in Ch 5 of my book).

The submission describes how, apart from my book, there was a remarkable complete absence of dissent, at least aired in public. And that this very strongly indicated that both the domestic and international political/human rights establishment operate by way of consensus, hiding the omitted rights and important truths, presenting a united front with no public dissent permitted unless necessary.

Yet about fifteen months after my book appeared on the UN website some academics from the University of Antwerp Law Research School gave some support for my point of view on the OP which was that it was made compatible with neoliberalism and failed to ensure the core minimums, essential for both survival and self-help.

Arne Vandenbogaerde (Human Rights Consultant) and Wouter Vandenhole (Professor of Human Rights Law, UNICEF Chair in Children’s Rights, University of Antwerp Law Research School state in the abstract to their article:

“In this article it is submitted that the text of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as finally adopted on 10 December 2008, is to be seen as the outcome of a drafting process that was dominated by ideological prejudices rather than concerns with potential effectiveness of rights…… At times an absolutist search for consensus seems to have been the driving force behind weakening the text” (The Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: an Ex Ante Assessment of its Effectiveness in Light of the Drafting Process, Human Rights Law Review (2010), May, 2010. cited in our councils’ submission, ‘New Zealanders must ‘speak out’ about omitted rights or be reduced to ‘numbers’, http://www.guerillamedia.co.nz/content/new-zealanders-must-speak-out-about-omitted-rights-or-be-reduced-numbers ).

I stated in the above submission that my dissent shows the importance of an independent mind seeking truth and which liberal rights are meant to protect - not possible with collective thought, collective conscience, collective expression and collective belief a consequence of the bill of right’s emphasis on the collective.

How, in a society where everyone thinks the same, can progress of any significance take place? We seem very far removed from the independent ‘No.8 Wire’ approach to innovation and entrepreneurship we once valued.

The ethical (non-political) human rights approach requires that all, including children, should have, at the very least, their core minimum human rights and so be able to survive with dignity and have the added dignity of being able to help themselves (without any form of discrimination) - both being required for sufficient individual freedom to unleash potential and take society forward.

Whereas I consider neoliberalism, which omits more than half the rights in the UDHR, emphasizes a collectivism which undermines even the individual core minimum rights and so crushes human potential and this is very likely to be why we are now seeing ‘nil to minus GDP outcomes’ for a number of Western States (the latest being Germany with ‘nil growth’ according to the BBC news, 15 Aug, 2012. Also see ‘New idea for a better world’, cited above).

The above academics seem very likely to be joined by others, academics and non-academics, in rebelling against State capture.

This would help overcome what I perceive as a ‘deep-seated’ cynicism and hopelessness in the population even though with the rebuilding of Christchurch and, once there is greater awareness, the ethical human rights approach they have hopes would prove nearly impossible to take away.

And the academic concern for human rights truth is also likely to help those in the public sector to rise above, what I see as, their descent into mediocrity.

Even what appears, from the publicity, to be their greatest dream, ‘a smoke-free world’, seems out of touch with reality because the massive rebuilding required in the Christchurch earthquake zone would very likely mean people will smoke less, drink less alcohol, as well as take off weight.

By discussing the omitted human rights and the new ethical human rights approach is likely to lead to a far more open constitutional debate.

New Zealand could regain international respect for its human rights by adopting an independent ethical human rights approach and so demonstrate that we have learnt from our past mistakes - the many serious violations of human rights which have been described in my work.

And, perhaps, at long last I might be able to engage in public debate on human rights because, in my experience, those captured by the State will only debate with those similarly captured.

Anthony Ravlich MA, BSc, Dip Crim(Hons), Author
Human Rights Council (New Zealand)
10D/15 City Rd.
Auckland City.
Ph: (0064) (09) 940.9658



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