Matt Tyrer | Development Officer | Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations
Recently I was privileged to chair an excellent debate as part of SCVO’s outreach for our Masters in Citizenship and Human Rights programme where we were getting to grips with whether we really want to be free from poverty.
We agreed that it is not a problem of poverty we face but one of wealth, or more precisely our inability to share it. We were reminded of WWF’s ‘Footprint Calculator’ which claims the richest countries live as though we have many planets’ worth of resources, while poorer nations use only a fraction of their entitlement.
We need to get much better at sharing, but many of us, unless we feel the direct impact on our lives, are reluctant to do anything meaningful about it. We need to be convinced why it is in the interest of everyone, not just the poorest, to eradicate poverty, something Richard Wilkinson’s well known The Spirit Level argues very well.
We also agreed it is crucial to understand this is a human rights issue, not just income. Our socio-economic rights are at stake, such as our right to education, housing, health and an adequate standard of living – things that the Oxfam Humankind Index demonstrates are important to us and that are contained within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for us all to ‘claim’, rather than things we have a responsibility to ‘earn’.
As I consider what this means for Scotland’s future I wonder how it might influence my vote in the upcoming referendum. What option, if any, will provide the best opportunity for us to eradicate poverty?
Our decision’s impact will remain long into the future, so it has concerned me that we might base it on current, transient political values. But as I’ve considered things more carefully I’ve begun to understand why this might happen.
To use a simple analogy, it strikes me that our destinations are determined not by the vehicles we choose to travel in, but by where the most influential passengers wish to go, and not least the drivers.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a prime example. It transcends the boundaries of national citizenship to provide rights to which we are all entitled. Yet its application varies tremendously, both between countries and over time, and is dependent on the will of people, especially those with power.
I cannot know which constitutional vehicle will be best without also knowing what the values of my fellow passengers and drivers will be, not just now but years into the future.
So I am left to base my decision either on current political values, much like a government election, or my gut instinct.
If I’m honest, for all my talk of analysing the options, it has been my gut instinct, and my heart, that has lead me in pretty much everything else in my life, so I can’t see that changing now.
One thing I know for sure, and that our human rights reinforce, is that whatever national boundaries we decide to operate within, we are all in this together as equal citizens of the same tiny planet.
What do you think? Leave your comments below
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