In a book Prisoners of Freedom – Human rights and the African poor (Englund 2006) it says that whereas the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes civil, political, social and economic rights alike, various governments have emphasized only some rights at the expense of others. ”When the ambassador of the United States to the United Nations dismissed the provisions of the Universal Declaration on social and economic rights as ”a letter to Santa Claus” (quoted in Chomsky 1999), universalism was sacrificed to political expediency.” The translations of the notion ”human rights” differ so that for example the Kiswahili and Luganda understandings of rigths is associated with moral authority. The legalist discourse on human rigths asserts universal equality before the law. The word can be understood in many ways, for example having the meaning of ”freedom”, ”liberty”, ”independence” and so on. I wonder, if our concept about the problems the developing countries are facing are any clearer, when we talk about things like overpopulation or any other problem we define with one word.
For example, often you’re asked what you consider to be the most important of the MDG’s, or, if you only could wish for one Christmas-present, which one it would be? In the video conference by European Journalism Centre, on last Friday night John McArthur, the Chief Executive Officer of Millennium Promise, talked about the Millennium Villages project, one of which we will be visiting in Kenya (Kisumu/Sauri) in January. He explained that the problems such as diseases, poverty, and so on are to be tackled simultaneously as they all have influence in each other. This is so true, if we think about for example the case of Malawi, where the poverty is very linked to the diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS. The country’s incidence of HIV/AIDS has been one of the worst in the African pandemic.
When it comes to the HIV/AIDS prevention, it is a complex problem that is linked to many things such as social habits, economical and other problems which make it so complicated to be resolved. When it comes to sexual behavior transimission, sometimes, you have to use interesting ways to make attitudes change. For example David Korpela has found in his research that theater and masks can help in this work to make malawian people believe that there are other ways to make the diseases go away than what they have traditionnally believed in. If it was a human who told them that sex only makes the diseases spread, they wouldn’t believe, because they thaught it was the way to make the diseases go away. But when a mask is used, they know the message comes from the spiritual world, so they will believe it and change their habits.
This is a good example of the complexity of the problems. I’m not sure if only one thing is enough, so I hope Santa will not bring only one big present instead of many smaller ones, that together can contribute to solving the problems! Maybe a mask or two, or whatever that makes the difference!