Neo-liberal Globalization and Human Rights: How to reconcile?

Dr. Sudip Chakraborty

Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted at the United Nations in 1948. This was a great leap forward in the journey of mankind to the destination of ‘prosperity of all human beings’. This Declaration was not a mere expression of good intent voiced at the Global Body by the member states. It bound the member states to incorporate the basic tenets of Human Rights into their domestic legislations. On ratification of the human rights treaty, each state was duty-bound to protect fundamental human rights of their citizens as conferred to them by the UN. All citizens are rights bearers and all nation states are rights providers. But the issue is hurdles posed by the states in discharging their duty as protectors of human rights in the face of the ongoing neoliberal globalisation process. The ongoing globalization is happening in a very faster pace. This quicker process started from the last decade of the last millennium. Structural Adjustment Programme was prescribed by the World Bank and IMF as panacea for the developing countries’ economic distress: swelling fiscal deficit, inflation, falling GDP and growing unemployment. Countries adopted openness, free trade, and deregulation competition, strengthening market for more efficiency. In this rescue operation, nation states reneged on protection of human rights for their citizens. This paper looks into friction between ongoing neo-liberal globalization and protection of human rights. This paper argues that Human rights and neo-liberal economic reforms are mutually exclusive projects of the states. Conditions for the violation of human rights are structurally entrenched in the existing neo-liberal globalization. Fundamental right to decent life cannot be guaranteed when the poor and powerless are exposed to the market. Marginalization and destitution are sure to happen. Human rights are sure to be abused. Rights are crushed by the hegemony of Neo-liberal market reforms. So the need of this hour is to reconcile between these two contrasting projects. Public policy and implementation by member states matter most. Increased resources in the wake of opening up must be used for promotion of human rights in provisioning universal and free health care and education.