Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi proposes International Convention To Eradicate Poverty
Lawyer and human rights activist, Dr. Shirin Ebadi, the first Muslim woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, was in Montreal at the Millennium summit on April 16 with others major players and key figures from government organizations, civil society, and leading international humanitarian organizations to raise awareness on the importance on sustainable development and the eradication of poverty. At the Summit, Dr. Ebadi proposed an International Convention to eradicate poverty.
According to Ebadi, corruption and military expenditures are major factors that increase poverty and hunger in the world today. In a brief conference, Ebadi explained that in democratic societies, journalists are often able to bring information about corruption into the public sphere and eventually legal actions may be put in place to prevent it. However, in most non-democratic societies, corruption is hidden and even protected by diverse interests. She said that corruption is an insidious plague that has a range of effects on societies.
There are already Conventions in existence that serve to protect the environment, so why are there still no Conventions to protect the lives of human beings who are dying of hunger? To eradicate poverty, Ebadi is therefore proposing an international convention. This Convention would need to be proposed at the United Nations and brought to the General Assembly, and would be intended as a human rights instrument with an explicit, social development dimension. Such a Convention would mark a “paradigm shift” in attitudes and approaches in front of the problematic situation of poverty and hunger in the world today. It would greatly help the work of international aid organizations moving from works of charity to a more sustainable level.
Ebadi also spoke about how in some countries, the military budget exceeds the health and education budget. In that sense, the Convention would specify that all countries with a military budget that exceeds the health and education budget will not be eligible for any benefits coming from international aid or loan organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund. In others word, if a country needed financial aid, that government would first have to reduce the military budget.
The Convention would also specify that if a country has a foreign debt, such a debt would be forgiven and erased if the government dissolved the military apparatus. Moreover, countries that have already dissolved their military apparatus would get financial aid. According to Ebadi, there are countries in the world such as Costa Rica and Iceland that have no military apparatus but have all the security in the world. For Ebadi, there is no reason for a poor country to keep a military apparatus and spend enormous resources on military expenditures. She explained that Burma, for example, has more soldiers than teachers.
Finally, Ebadi proposed that the Convention define corruption as a crime against humanity and that cases could be brought to the level of the International Criminal Court.
The Nobel Peace Laureate ended the conference on a challenging note: “*I know that today, my words are like a dream. But it’s a challenge of this time, this moment. We have to move toward a society and toward a world where the gap between the wealthy and the poor decreases. I know we will see that day, because we all want to see that day.*”