Global human rights are at risk. After a difficult year that saw bleak changes in social, political, and economic forces, human rights experts see a real and present danger of global erosion in systems that honor and protect human rights and that uphold the rule of proper law within societies, corporate systems, and governments. The very essence of human dignity is being worn away. There is hope for improvement and a return to better times for all, but the battle to do so may be difficult, and it must involve everyone. Scholars and authorities point to specific issues that indicate this stark trend is real.
Extreme inequality among the many is corroding efforts from the limited human rights community to maintain and promote well-being. Currently, economic inequality means that the top 1 percent of the global population owns more than everyone else combined. Experts say that when such inequality exists, human rights violations are likely to increase.
Big Information Holdings
Experts predict that by 2020, there will be 352 zettabytes (in bytes, that is 352 with 21 zeros behind it) of data in the world. In 2009, the entire World Wide Web was estimated to contain only about 0.5 zettabytes of information, and estimates also say that if all of the speech ever spoken in human history were digitized, it would equal about 42 zettabytes.
Within three years, experts expect 70 percent of those 352 zettabytes of information to be held by private companies. It will be increasingly handled and managed by machines, without human involvement. It is up to the corporate holders to initiate societal discussions about how and when this information will be used. However, the current environment suggests that this may not happen, and the result may be that corporations and governments will instead assume that the general population has given consent for them to use the information as they wish.
The essential nature of work is also expected to continue its pattern of austere changes. Businesses are predicted to continue the trend of hiring fewer permanent, full-time employees, instead turning to temporary workers who get paid less and receive no benefits such as health insurance. Another popular but controversial corporate policy is for employers to offer zero-hour contracts. While these changes may give workers some increased flexibility, they also mean workers have less security.
Throughout all of recorded history, there are more refugees currently than at any other time. More than 65 million people throughout the world are displaced, with 21 million registered as refugees, people who cross international boundaries looking for a safe haven. This entire issue is a huge responsibility for modern societies. The causes of displacement must be addressed as well as the immediate care of large crowds of homeless people and animals.
What can be Done?
While there is a frightening global climate of greed, displacement, and suppression, the good news is that there is also a movement pushing back against this desolate tide. Experts in the forefront, people like Thor halvorssen, are making sure human rights abuses are exposed and solutions are sought and implemented. There are several key elements in restoring basic human protections and dignity around the world.
Inclusive and Responsible Economies
On a national level, governments must implement policies that focus on greater equality through fostering a competitive yet creative economy that makes growth inclusive, businesses responsible, and resource distribution more equitable. Corporations and governments must work together to restore and protect fundamental rights. One good start is for businesses to implement living wages for workers. Other vital steps include improving education, empowering women, hiring locally, and increasing apprenticeship opportunities.
Private Sector Participation
Caring for the huge global refugee population must involve private sector businesses and participants. They must pledge to offer significant refugee employment and education that allows displaced populations the power to thrive in their new environments. Inventive solutions include establishing more apprenticeship programs and industrial parks. Policies also must be put in place to manage and mediate illegal employment to ensure that refugees receive proper wages.
Return Power to Women
With women and girls making up more than half of the world’s refugee population, their needs must be addressed. Around the world, women are paid less than men and offered jobs with lower skills and less value than their male counterparts. Females are more likely than men to spend what little wages they receive on family care and health needs. With proper education and work opportunities, this widespread and socially debilitating issue of gender inequality can be redressed.
Human Rights Are for All
Human rights are recognized as inherently owed to all persons, male and female, children as well as adults. Governments and corporations have no right to arbitrarily choose a select few who are allowed their dignity and even great prosperity while the rest of the population suffers and starves, having everything taken away. Yet this is exactly what is happening around the world. Huge numbers of persons are displaced and basic protections are worn away by the short-sighted grab for greed and power.
The global population must be empowered to push back against this bleak, desolate pattern to preserve everything they value. All who dream about a better world must take action now to make it so, rather than waiting for somebody else to do it. The tide can be turned, if people work together.