‘The Impoverishment of Many to Satisfy the Greed of a Few’

Amnesty International Report 2009


In September 2008 I was in New York to attend the UN high-level meeting on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the internationally agreed targets to reduce poverty by 2015. Delegate after delegate talked about the need for more funds to eradicate hunger, to cut preventable deaths of infants and pregnant women, to provide clean water and sanitation, to educate girls. The life and dignity of billions of people were at stake, but there was only limited will to back up the talk with money. As I left the UN building I could see the ticker tapes running a very different story coming from another part of Manhattan: the crash of one of the largest investment banks on Wall Street. It was a telling sign of where world attention and resources were really focused. Rich and powerful governments were suddenly able to find many more times the sums that could not be found to stem poverty. They poured them with abundance into failing banks and stimulus packages for economies that had been allowed to run amok for years and were now running aground.

By the end of 2008, it was clear that our two-tier world of deprivation and gluttony – the impoverishment of many to satisfy the greed of a few – was collapsing into a deep hole.

As with the case of climate change, so too with global economic recession: the rich are responsible for most of the damaging action, but it is the poor who suffer the worst consequences. While no one is being spared the sharp bite of the recession, the woes of the rich countries are nothing compared with the disasters unfolding in poorer ones. From migrant workers in China to miners in Katanga in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), people desperately trying to drag themselves out of poverty are feeling the brunt sharply. The World Bank has predicted 53 million more people will be thrown into poverty this year, on top of the 150 million hit by the food crisis last year, wiping out the gains of the last decade. International Labour Organization figures suggest that between 18 and 51 million people could lose their jobs. Skyrocketing food prices are leading to more hunger and disease, forced evictions and foreclosures to more homelessness and destitution.

“The world needs a different kind of leadership, a different kind of politics as well as economics – something that works for all and not just for a favoured few.”

While it is too early to predict the full impact on human rights of the profligacy of recent years, it is clear that the human rights costs and consequences of the economic crisis will cast long shadows. It is also clear that not only have governments abdicated economic and financial regulation to market forces, they have failed abysmally to protect human rights, lives and livelihoods.

Billions of people are suffering from insecurity, injustice and indignity. This is a human rights crisis. Full Story


2 responses to “‘The Impoverishment of Many to Satisfy the Greed of a Few’

  1. I do agree the poor suffer much more than the wealthly through all of this, but curious your solution?

    I tend to think left leaning government solutions drive up the cost of living for everyone. Friends I work with who just recently moved from Europe are stunned at inexpensive life in Atlanta is- and how much disposable income they have. They also talk about incredible resentment at Turks and others who have moved into their home countries and have abused their social welfare programs.

    We will witness that increase in average cost of living ourselves here in America over the upcoming several years. Liberal Democrats may have their way and move us towards a more “socially responsible” government system, but it will be very expensive. And Obama’s budget, etc. is going to exacerbate inflation and drive up interest rates. This will be very damaging to retirees and people living on fixed incomes.

    I just don’t think these solutions are simple as blaming the rich and instituting government programs to redistribute wealth towards the poor.

    At any rate, that may not be what you personally are advocating. I’m just popping off here at the tone of the article that is posted.

    • Stephen, I am not blaming the rich nor advocating instituting government programs to redistribute wealth towards the poor, nor do I think that Amnesty Int’l is either. However, I strongly object to the way the rich generally amass their wealth – by exploiting the poor – and this clearly, understandably, will have deletrious repercusions.

      In the article their concern is that the emphasis is on Wall Street and the banks rather than on the people, a growing number who are gravely suffering. The predominate and narcissistic emphasis on the health of Wall Steet while ignoring the basic needs of the impovershed will unleash a level of social unrest that Amnesty is understandably concerned about. The World Bank president recently shared his concerns about this as well: World Bank President Warns of Social Crisis

      The U.S. government, far from left leaning, is a corporate favored one, a corporatacracy. I recently engaged in a rousing discussion with an old man from Italy who cannot understand why Americans think healthcare for ALL is akin to socialism. It’s a basic human right, he told me.

      The cost of living will increase due to printing money with nothing backing it but thin air. Hyperinflation will deflate the lives of many more who are already living on the edge.

      The issue of foreign nationals is also tied to the corporatations that lure them here with jobs. When the work runs dry, what are they to do then? It’s not as cut-and-dry as many would like to believe.

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