Monday, February 23, 2009

Lawyers at risk

It’s open season against Filipino lawyers and judges who are critical of the human rights record of the Philippine government. In a short span of seven years, 37 lawyers and judges have been brutally murdered, making the Philippines one of the most dangerous places for lawyers and judges on the planet.

This seems like a scene in Hamlet VI where Shakespeare wrote, “The first thing we do let’s kill all the lawyers,” which ironically became the rallying cry of lawyer bashers. But this interpretation of Shakespeare is misguided since the great bard was in fact paying homage to lawyers as the frontline defenders of democracy. In his play, Shakespeare recognized that the first thing any potential tyrant must do to eliminate freedom is to “kill all the lawyers,” which sends chills to the bones because this is exactly happening in the Philippines today.

According to a news report in the United States, majority of lawyers in the country do not feel safe in their jobs as a result of the current economic downturn. When job losses have become daily fodder due to the U.S. economic crisis, it is understandable that lawyers are going to be hit too.

In the Philippines, however, lawyer mortality is not due to drop-outs or lay-offs because of the economic slowdown, but literally lawyers and judges getting killed. That makes the legal profession a very dangerous ambition.

The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) has been monitoring the killings of lawyers and judges involved in human rights advocacy since 1999. The group reported that 22 lawyers have been killed since 2001 and 15 judges murdered since 1999. It also noted a sharp increase in the number of killings of lawyers and judges since 2001: from 15 lawyers in 2006 to 22 by 2008, and 10 judges in 2006 to 15 in 2008.

NUPL Secretary-General Neri Javier Colmenares said that “attacks against human rights lawyers are being perpetrated by a government antagonistic to the fact these lawyers provide services to human rights violations.” The group also revealed that attacks on lawyers and judges include death threats, surveillance, labelling and inclusion in the military’s order of battle, among others.

Violent attacks against lawyers in the Philippines are nothing new. During the regime of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, it was common practice by his loyalist military to harass and threaten lawyers who represented labour and student activists who were outspoken critics of the Marcos dictatorship. On November 13, 1986, labour leader and lawyer Rolando Olalia, chairman of the militant Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and his driver, Leonor Alay-ay were found brutally murdered in Antipolo, Rizal. Followers of former Defence Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and ranking leaders of the Rebolusyonaryong Alyansang Makabansa (RAM) were suspected in the assassination of Olalia.

Rolando Olalia was a mainstream lawyer until his father, Felixberto Olalia, urged him to take up the workers’ cause. When his father died, Olalia took over the helm of the KMU whose membership grew in number as they challenged the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, as well as Filipino and foreign industrialists. At the time of his assassination, Olalia was also secretary-general of Partido ng Bayan, or People’s Party.

For more than twenty years, justice has remained elusive for Rolando Olalia and his driver Alay-ay as their killers remain on the loose. While state-sponsored violence and terror against advocates of human rights and social justice continue to escalate under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, another KMU leader, labour lawyer Remigio Saladero, Jr., KMU chief counsel, was arrested on October 23, 2008, by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Military Intelligence Group of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Saladero was accused, along with 71 others, of multiple murder and attempted murder in Mindoro Oriental. A high-profile labour lawyer, Saladero has personally argued before the Supreme Court against the constitutionality of the repressive Calibrated Preemptive Response (CPR) policy of the Arroyo government. According to the NUPL, there could be no other reason for Attorney Saladero’s arrest than his human rights advocacy and scathing critique of Mrs. Arroyo.

Last February 16, 2009, barely a week after lawyer Saladero and five other activists were released from prison, another murder case has been filed against them. This has prompted the organizers of Free Atty. Saladero et al Coalition to declare: “For a full-time lawyer, a columnist, a resource person in paralegal training, a diabetic and survivor of two strokes, such allegations against Atty. Saladero are incredibly unbelievable if not plain stupid.”

Frustrated with the government’s failure to address the problem of killings and other rights abuses, the NUPL has resolved to seek the help of the United Nations in stopping the continuing attacks against Filipino lawyers and judges. Together with the Counsels for the Defense of Liberties (CODAL), the NUPL announced that they would file a complaint before the United Nations against the Philippine government for failing to protect lawyers and judges who are under siege.

The killings of lawyers and judges in the Philippines have put the criminal justice system in great jeopardy. Since most of the victims represent human rights violations against the state’s security apparatus, these killings have also pushed the cause of human rights in the Philippines into a dark period. Because these killings create an environment of fear and intimidation, the task of dispensing justice becomes more than doubly impossible.

Human Rights Watch has described a “climate of impunity” in the Philippines, where the justice system suffers from serious credibility. The killings of lawyers and judges have only deepened public distrust in the justice system.

The idea of silencing lawyers in order to destroy individual freedom has been around for centuries. During the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell tried to repress individual freedoms by prohibiting more than three barristers congregating outside of court. Cromwell worried that the greatest threat to his tyrannical decrees was the collective commitment of the London Society of Barristers to the principles of freedom expressed in the Magna Carta.

The Nazi leader and despot Adolf Hitler once asserted: “I shall not rest until every German sees that it is a shameful thing to be lawyer.” To Hitler, destroying lawyers was necessary in order to destroy the rights of individuals.

Lawyers have played a significant role in establishing and defending democratic institutions everywhere in the world. They have become the primary defenders of the people’s rights as their advocates in court, or they have contributed largely to the drafting of people’s constitutions, or in the field of commerce, where they have been instrumental in writing and negotiating contracts between businessmen. From a historical perspective, the power of the people has always been tied inextricably to the influence of lawyers. Writing about democracy in America in 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote: “I cannot believe that a republic could subsist at the present time if the influence of lawyers in public business did not increase in proportion to the power of the people.”

In the Philippines today, if you happen to be a human rights or labour lawyer, you stand between the abuse of governmental power and the individual. As a lawyer, you could find yourself standing in the crossfire between the military and police on one hand, and the activist, labour leader or peasant organizer on the other. As a judge, you are sworn to be fair and to uphold the law in dispensing justice, but you, too, can also be an endangered species if you allow your conscience to rule against the mighty state.

The persecution of Atty. Saladero, KMU chief counsel, by the Arroyo government amounts to persecution of the hundreds of workers, urban poor, peasant organizations and other marginalized sectors that he represents. Saladero’s sympathizers are right when they said that “persecution of people’s lawyer is persecution of people.”

There is an ominous sign that the killings of lawyers and judges in the Philippines will only get worse as President Arroyo and her military apparatus become bolder in silencing opposition to her repressive government and her ambition to stay in power beyond 2010. This could very well be the death knell to justice and democracy in the Philippines.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Philippines for sale?

The ghosts of Charter change have risen from the grave.

Efforts to change the Philippine Constitution have been revived from the dead when Speaker Prospero Nograles of the Philippine House of Representatives filed a resolution to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution. Those in favour of removing the Constitution’s national patrimony provisions argue that it is important to attract foreign investment into the country. They assert that the wholesale removal of all manner of protection and regulation of key domestic economic sectors will boost foreign direct investment, and thus promote national development. Amending the Constitution will open to foreign capital all strategic enterprises, natural resources, land ownership, public utilities, professions, education, mass media and advertising.

On the other hand, critics of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo are quick to see it as a lame argument that actually masks her real intent to stay in power beyond 2010.

Do we really need more foreign direct investment (FDI)?

Throughout much of the twentieth century, the Philippine economy has largely been in the hands of American corporations. This has been ensured by the colonial relationship between the United States and the Philippines, as well as a post-independence agreement protecting the interests of United States’ corporations operating in the country. Citizens of the United States were not bound by Philippine citizenship restrictions with respect to foreign investment until 1974.

In 1948, fifty per cent of assets in manufacturing, commerce and mining were foreign-owned, as were 80 per cent of electricity assets. By 1970, foreign ownership of these assets had declined to around 40 per cent, and very little foreign investment remained in utilities. In the 1980s, foreigners controlled about 30 per cent of the assets of the 1,000 largest corporations in the Philippines.

Although foreign investors were forbidden by the Philippine Constitution to own or lease public agricultural lands, there were 124 transnational agribusiness firms operating in the Philippines in 1985, of which 58 were directly engaged in cultivation of cash crops on the southern island of Mindanao. As early as the 1920s, Del Monte Corporation, an American-owned company, had established a pineapple plantation in Bukidnon in Northern Mindanao. American companies, B.F. Goodrich and Goodyear Tire Corporation came in 1950s, while Castle and Cook entered in the 1960s, setting up a pineapple plantation in South Cotabato.

During the first half of 2006, the Central Bank of the Philippines reported that FDIs to the Philippines reached over US$1.15 billion because of the country’s strong economic structure. Nowhere in its report did the Central Bank indicate giving up the country’s ownership of its key sectors to foreign control was necessary to continue the influx of FDI into the country. In a 2007 report prepared by the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), $2.928 billion worth of FDIs flowed into the Philippines, but this was offset by an outflow of $3.442 billion worth of foreign direct investments.

The number one factor investors consider in locating to a host country is market size and growth, and the Philippines certainly has the sheer market size to attract foreign investment. However, foreign investors are scared of the political uncertainty and corruption in the Philippines. Most Filipino economists cite poor governance as a hindrance in attracting investors, which reflects badly on the performance of President Arroyo. And if President Arroyo continues to undermine the Constitution by hinting of her desire to stay in power beyond her term, this will only muddle the prospect of a stable political climate and plunge the country into a constitutional crisis, hence repel foreign investment from coming in, thus negating the purpose of the proponents of Charter change in amending the Constitution.

The arguments of the promoters of Charter change in favour of removing constitutional restrictions on foreign investment lack any merit and fly on its face. We have one of the most liberal investment environments in Southeast Asia, domestic labour that is so cheap, and productivity that is relatively high due to a skilled labour force. As well, we have the available infrastructure such as roads and telecommunications network. In addition to a potential large market, foreign investors can also take advantage of a sycophant government that is more than willing to cave in to every one of their demands. No wonder that foreign investors in the Philippines repatriate more profits to their parent companies than reinvesting their earnings in the country, which may not even be necessary because access to capital through local borrowing has been made easy by the government.

Our country’s experience with FDIs affirms what can go wrong with foreign investment. While foreign investment has played a big role in the economic development of many countries, notably China, South Korea and Malaysia, FDIs into the Philippines have not lived up to expectations such as jobs, poverty reduction and industrialization. Without sound and effective policies to strengthen the local economy, our country’s development will continue to be stunted despite inflows of FDIs. Unrestrained foreign investment, as envisaged by the advocates of Charter change, would only result in more foreign domination of our economy which has been wobbling from decades of globalization. Excessive amounts of foreign capital may in fact retard economic development. We might as well put up a big sign that our country is up for sale.

With our history of FDIs, we can expect more American foreign investment into the country if our Constitution is amended to give investors a free rein on our economy. High concentration levels of American capital would only ensure perpetual control over our country’s economic, political and social dynamics. With our imbalanced trade relationship with the United States, our stature as a “banana republic” is assured, a country with a weak and corrupt government heavily influenced by a foreign power.

Foreign direct investment may be essential to the achievement of sustainable development, but it is not a panacea. A sustainable development strategy would require nurturing the local capacities for production and innovation. Rather than encouraging FDI to flow towards export platforms for the assembly of imported inputs, industry and technology policies should aim to develop local skills, local markets and solid world-class domestic firms. With the right set of local economic policies, FDI could potentially help in that process.

But what’s really behind this sneaky effort to amend the Charter?

With Arroyo’s minions in Congress, there could likely be a prospect of amending the Constitution through Congress as a constituent assembly. This could pave the way for the Arroyo loyalists to inset amendments that will allow her to run in the 2010 elections. Requiring members of Congress not to insert term extensions is useless and not going to work because of their lack of credibility. Mrs. Arroyo seems determined to do whatever is necessary to ensure that she stays in office beyond 2010 and this present effort to change the Charter’s economic provisions to favour foreign direct investment is just another ploy to accomplish her objective.

According to lawyer Neri Javier Colmenares of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, Arroyo is so obsessed at amending the term of presidential office because of her fear of losing her immunity when her term expires in July 1, 2010. With overwhelming evidence against Arroyo, it would be difficult for her to cover up her crimes once she is no longer president.

Should this happen, history would repeat itself as Arroyo becomes the second president convicted for corruption, electoral fraud or human rights violation. Erap Estrada, whom Arroyo ousted from the presidency, must be laughing while cheering from the sidelines.

Time is running out for Arroyo to keep her dream alive of staying beyond 2010. Previous efforts to change the Charter, obviously through her subalterns in Congress, either by calling a constitutional convention or simply convening Congress as a constituent assembly have been rebuffed by the Supreme Court and by public opinion. This present initiative to open up Charter change seems bound to fail again and Arroyo has no other options left but to clean up her act in her last months in power.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Lessons from history

History is meaningless unless we learn from it. It becomes a mere written record of the past, like an old book gathering dust on the shelf. Teaching family history helps a child understand who he or she is, and this applies to almost everything. History’s importance seems self-evident.

But today, when change is happening almost at a rate faster than we can comprehend, we have chosen to define ourselves in terms of where we are going, not where we have come from. In a sense, modern-day society has turned its back on the past. History doesn’t seem to matter anymore.

The African historian Runoko Rashidi has spoken about the importance of history to African liberation in terms of using history as a “springboard for struggle.” He talks of history as “a light that illuminates the past and a key that unlocks the door to the future.” To him, this is a fundamental step in the process of the African liberation. Rashidi is fond of quoting an African proverb that goes: “Until the lion has his historian, the hunter will always be a hero.”

According to David Brion Davis, Sterling Professor Emeritus at Yale University, an understanding of history or the forces and events that made us what we are, is a prerequisite for all human freedom. Davis was concerned with “the erosion of interest in history – the view expressed by even some leading teachers and intellectuals that we should ‘let bygones be bygones,’ ‘free’ ourselves from the boring and oppressive past, and concentrate on a fresh and better future.” Thus, to understand the enslavement of blacks in America, Davis stressed the need to recognize “the full horror of a social evil to which mankind has been blind for centuries.”

Just as it was important to join in the euphoria of the recent inauguration of the first African-American to the presidency of the United States, it is equally vital that this be understood in the context of the historical struggle of black America for emancipation and equality. This month being Black History Month, we see substantial progress achieved across America in appreciating the celebration and expanding the consciousness of African Americans about the importance of black history.

History really does matter. History shapes our view of the present, and helps determine what answers we offer for existing problems.

Let us take us Filipinos, for example. Most of us who were born after the Second World War, including the younger generation, were deeply influenced by American culture and by anything foreign which we were taught as superior. Colonial mentality, having been embedded in our minds through education and our exposure to American media and culture, has also destroyed our national identity. To produce a new breed of Filipinos who have a strong sense of nationalism in their hearts and minds, we need to search for our lost past in the study of history. Our historical search should go beyond dates, persons, places and events, and should be based on a deep understanding of what they had meant to us, not to our colonizers while they were in control of our country.

Our history tells us the story of our nation, emphasizing the most salient features of our national experience that shape our understanding of national values and a commitment to preserve our nation. Perhaps, like African Americans, we also need to set aside a month to celebrate our own heritage and examine those values our ancestors fought for to form our own distinct identity.

The Battle of Mactan, for instance, tells us of the valour of Lapu-lapu and his men in resisting the Spanish invaders led by Magellan who boasted to teach the natives a lesson. Because of Lapu-lapu’s victory, this incident needs to be celebrated as a historic milestone as it symbolizes our struggle to be free from foreign power.

In 1901 during the Filipino-American War, close to 3,000 (Filipino nationalist historians estimate it to be about 50,000) Filipinos in Samar were massacred by American troops in retaliation for the deaths of more than forty American soldiers killed in a surprise guerrilla attack in the town of Balangiga. Filipinos regarded the attack on the American troops as one of their bravest acts in the war while the Americans described it as its worst defeat since the Battle of the Little Bighorn. The ensuing response by American soldiers was a manifestation of human cruelty and injustice. General Jacob Smith ordered his men to take no prisoners, and to make the interior of Samar a howling wilderness; as a result, it earned him the sobriquet “Howling Wilderness Smith.” General Smith ordered everyone ten years old and over killed who were capable of bearing arms against the United States.

The Balangiga Massacre exemplifies the brutality of war, and is a tragic and controversial incident in the annals of Philippine history. Demands for the return of the bells of the church of Balangiga, taken by the Americans as war trophies, remain an outstanding issue related to the war. One church bell remains in the possession of the 9th Infantry Regiment in South Korea, while the remaining two others are on display at the F.E. Warren Air Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Two more war-time incidents in Philippine history are worth mentioning. These are the Fall of Bataan and the Death March, both of which happened during the Japanese occupation of the country. The Fall of Bataan, which has been a subject of Hollywood war movies, represents the largest surrender in American and Filipino military history. To Japan, the capture of the Philippines was crucial to its effort to control the Southwest Pacific, seize the resource-rich Dutch East Indies, and protect its Southeast Asia flank.

On the other hand, the Death March is a glaring testament to Japanese war crime and atrocity, where more than 75,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war after the fall of Bataan were forced to march a distance of sixty miles to their new prison camps. Some prisoners were beheaded, others had their throats cut, and many more shot by the Japanese. Those who fell on the wayside were driven over by Japanese trucks. Marching for five to six days without food and water, only 54,000 prisoners reached their destination.

Probably the greatest Filipino historic event that left a significant mark in world history was the People Power Revolution of February 1986, a nonviolent and prayerful mass street demonstrations in Manila that led to the ouster of the 20-year authoritarian regime of Ferdinand Marcos. It made headlines around the world as “the revolution that surprised the world”. The majority of the demonstrations took place at EDSA (Epifanio delos Santos Avenue) in Quezon City and involved over 200,000 civilians as well as several political, military, and religious figures.

One lesson we need to learn from studying history is to be critical of the historical events we read, particularly those written from the point of view of our colonizers. Accounts of the Fall of Bataan and the Death March occupy much of our country’s history during the Second World War, yet not much has been written about the exploits of Filipino resistance fighters, which included the peasants of Central Luzon or those in the Visayas and Mindanao regions. Many Philippine historians seem to downgrade the significance of American defeat during the war, while glossing over the valiant efforts of our soldiers and guerrillas which actually helped end the war and pave for the return of the American army on Philippine soil. Instead of depicting the Fall of Bataan as a major military loss, this event was even romanticized in movies. One wonders if this American military setback would have been regarded with great shame and grief had the Americans lost the war in the Pacific.

The brutality of war is a valuable lesson we learned from the Death March. In time of war, humanity is often lost, and all the rules of engagement and ways to treat prisoners humanely are ignored. What happened in World War II is repeated in every combat, in every hostility. Iraq and Guantanamo are disgraceful examples of how the U.S. military has stooped down so low in the treatment of war prisoners.

Manila’s People Power Revolution was only as good as it lasted. It helped drive out the dictator but failed to change the social structures that nurtured such abuse of power. Every time the country is faced with a crisis, the strong appeal of another people power revolution lingers. The lesson we have learned from history is that while it captivated the news around the world, what remains beyond the coverage is just a flicker of hope that someday real revolutionary change would happen.

In Toronto, and perhaps in all places where Filipinos have migrated in search of a better life, we need to celebrate Philippine history just like our African American peers so we can fully understand and appreciate who we once were, and what kind of people we have become at present. Filipino community organizations should include in their yearly programs a month where we can go back in the past through open forums, lectures, video presentations, and cultural and theatrical productions so we can celebrate our heritage, and learn important lessons from Philippine history.

Our past is a laboratory of human experience which, if we study well and so acquire useful habits of mind, can gain us relevant skills and an enhanced capacity for informed citizenship, critical thinking, and social awareness.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Human rights on the balance

Since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (“Universal Declaration”) in 1948, there has never been a more striking split between categories of human rights than between political and economic rights.

Articles 3 to 21 of the Universal Declaration define the fundamental political rights of man while economic rights are enshrined in Articles 22 to 28. Naturally, the Universal Declaration bifurcated into two distinct and different covenants: the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“Political Covenant”) and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (“Economic Covenant”). These two covenants also reflected the great divide between the more developed states (the capitalist countries or free market economies) and the less developed or newly-developing countries, or in present day parlance, the North (Western States) and the South (Third World).

This split into two covenants has disruptive ramifications as it allowed states to adopt some rights and derogate others. The United States, for example, has ratified the “Political Covenant” while withholding acceptance of the “Economic Covenant” which was signed by President Carter but until now remains frozen in the U.S. Senate.

It has never been the intention of the Universal Declaration to morph into two covenants but the Western states demanded the division. They insisted that economic and social rights cannot be deemed as rights but essentially aspirations or plans and their realization depended on the availability of resources and on economic theory and ideology. Such rights, according to the West, should not impose binding obligations and be allowed to dilute the legal character of honouring political and civil rights.

Both economic and political rights were included in the Universal Declaration on the assumption that these rights could only successfully exist in combination. Meaning that human beings can only enjoy civil and political freedom and freedom from fear and want in conditions where everyone can also enjoy their social, economic and cultural rights, as well.

Following the full-belly thesis, without civil and political rights the public cannot assert their economic, social and cultural rights. Similarly, without livelihoods and an economically viable society, the public cannot assert or make use of their civil or political rights. Under this assumption, all human rights are indivisible and interdependent, and this has been confirmed by the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, which states that:

“All human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and related. The international community must treat human rights globally in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing, and with the same emphasis.”

The stark reality, however, is that most signatories to the Universal Declaration do not assign equal value to the different types of rights. Some Western countries have often given priority to civil and political rights, sometimes at the expense of economic and social rights such as the right to work, to education, health, food and housing. In the United States, for example, there is no universal access to free health care, although these rights are not overlooked in Canada and Western Europe, particularly in the welfare states. In the same vein, developing countries, such as those in Africa and Asia, have tended to place priority on economic, social and cultural rights, but often failed in providing civil and political rights to their citizens.

This great rift between political and economic rights is never more obvious in majority of governments today – those newly emerging countries from the Third World which have embraced free and open elections and other basic features of democracy such as free press and the right to peaceful assembly. But their concept of human rights veers away from the Western or Northern model, which emphasizes political and civil liberties. To these new governments, development issues, economic and social rights are top priority, so the luxury of political freedoms can come later.

The combined voices of the global South on human rights pose a considerable diplomatic challenge to European and North American governments, particularly to the United States which seems the least prepared to respond to this challenge. Official American participation has been conspicuously absent in recent initiatives by the United Nations in building new norms in international law and human rights, notably the International Criminal Court and the United Nations Human Rights Council. It has been the policy of the U.S. government and pro-Israeli groups to ignore the UN’s human rights apparatus and the new Human Rights Council. Without philosophical compromises between the United States and the blocs of nations often unfriendly to America, it seems likely that the United States will continue to be missing in action on almost every human rights initiative by the United Nations.

One probable reason for the widening split between political and economic rights is the rise of cultural relativism which seems to push back the concept of universality of human rights. Those who are critical of human rights argue that it is essentially a Western concept, rooted in the ideology of the West and its ideals, and that it only serves the political and economic interests of the West. Human rights as promoted by the United Nations is oftentimes seen by its detractors as another way for the West to impose its sense of superiority over the less developed countries, and has thus become a new form of neo-colonialism.

Countries who have adopted cultural relativism argue for acceptance of their distinct indigenous cultures which may clash with human rights. An example is female genital mutilation in different cultures in Africa, Asia and South America. It has become a traditional practice in many cultures although not mandated by any religion. Much of the international community considers this practice as a violation of women’s and girls’ rights and is outlawed in some countries.

Universalism is often described by some as cultural, economic or political imperialism. Thus, the concept of human rights that is fundamentally rooted in a liberal outlook generally acceptable in Europe or North America is not necessarily taken as a standard for everyone.

Louis Arbour, the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has held the West responsible for perverting the concept of universality. According to Arbour, the United States in particular has never embraced freedom from want as a right:

“It [the U.S.] has been the champion of civil liberties – of freedom from fear – but freedom from want was meant to be achieved by a healthy marketplace... not a place for governments to play too large a role. The developing countries – and whether they are in bad faith or good faith – are doing exactly the opposite. They claim at least to be very interested in freedom from want and that freedom from fear would look after itself if their populations were not starving. These are very profound clashes of vision.”

The new U.S. administration has a very difficult diplomatic role of reversing its image to rest of the world, particularly to the non-Western nations, if it wants to be an important player on the international stage. It must, as President Barack Obama has said many times during the presidential campaign, be willing to open meaningful dialogues, not only with its friends but also with its enemies. This would be a smart step in rebuilding American credibility. It is also a very important step in paving the way for international discussions on human rights with the end in view of restoring the true intent of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as it is broadly understood.