With 2020 now underway, recalling the major human rights challenges of the 2010’s, it is useful to look into what the world faces in terms challenges in the new decade.
Arms Trade Treaty: This was one of the great victories for human rights around the world of the 2010’s. It was the first comprehensive effort to regulate the armaments industry. Is it perfect? There is no such thing as a perfect treaty and if one ran a fine comb over the text I am sure some legitimate bugs on both sides would come out. New Zealand to its credit has been in on this treaty from the start despite the various disaffected groups and individuals who think their liberty is being taken from them.
Challenge: The U.S. under President Donald Trump will probably try to undermine this at some point in his tenure. Russia and China are not signatories to the A.T.T., which hinders its effectiveness. Getting more nations on board can only be a good thing.
MeToo: One of the great social movements of the 21st Century thus far and one that has the potential to have long lasting impact worldwide, MeToo has sort of fizzled since the buzz period of 2017-2018. Part of this may be an acknowledgement that men also suffer significant sexual abuse as well, and that this needs much better recognition. Part of it might also be that “15 minutes of fame” syndrome where the media after concluding a new sensation has run what they perceive to be its course, dump it and look for something newer and more attention grabbing.
Challenge: MeToo unleashed some very necessary conversations that might have been awhile longer happening about sexual abuse and how women are treated, for which it has to be congratulated. Now that those conversations have happened or are happening, the challenge is to keep them in the spotlight, keep them current. Oh, and acknowledging the many male survivors of sexual abuse will go a long way towards stabilizing the proverbial boat.
Refugees: This issue has been probably the most pressing one world wide for awhile now, and the longer the world shows its inability to address the primary causes – war; famine; lawlessness and the agents that make them possible, it will probably remain the single biggest non-environmental threat to humankind. The swing to right wing politics serves to undermine governments, agencies and individuals trying to help, as does the increase in intolerance that goes with the territory.
Challenge: Much of this comes down to just a few powerful nations refusing to pull their weight, such as Russia, China and the United States – joined by Italy, Turkey and Australia in viewing refugees as a security threat, savages who cannot look after their own and as criminals. Unfortunately the undercurrents in this matter mean there is not much likelihood of them addressing these any time soon.
China: 12 years after the Beijing Olympics, which drew widespread condemnation International Olympic Committee for awarding them to China, the human rights record of the dragon is as bad as it has ever been – arbitrary detentions; silencing of the media; executions; unfair trials; massive surveillance of the ordinary person are all just a few of the problems faced. Being a human rights activist is an extremely dicey proposition, especially in Xinjiang Province where a network of concentration camps are holding over a million Uighur Muslims.
Challenge: Standing up to Beijing takes courage, stamina and in China a dangerous job. In New Zealand, despite the free media and right to exercise freedom of speech, pro-Beijing organizations and individuals regularly hound dissidents; Members of Parliament find themselves having to tread carefully when dealing with Chinese delegations to make sure they are not being bought off.
America: Sadly now as one the biggest menaces on the world stage, the American Government competes with its Chinese counterparts for the title of “Most malignant Superpower”. President Donald Trump’s desire to “Make America Great Again” by taking a hard line on foreign policy and domestic policy has pleased his hardline base, but alienated Republicans and Democrats alike. His keenness for some kind of conflict with Iran is only matched by the disregard he has shown for international law.
Challenge: Mr Trump is up for re-election this year in what already promises to be the bitterest election in American history. The challenge for the world should Mr Trump win is to do enough to prevent him lashing out impulsively at other nations, whilst maintaining some sort of damage control in terms of western and international interests.