6 February 2010


In the aftermath of the recent earthquake ONE International has organized an online petition requesting Finance Ministers of creditor countries, IMF, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and bilateral creditors, to cancel Haiti’s remaining $1 billion of debt.

Prior to the most recent disaster there were signs of progress in Haiti. As well as greater political stability and some gains in the fight against poverty, the country had also reached a significant milestone in the debt cancellation process: $1.2 billion owed to bilateral and multilateral institutions had been completely dropped -however a significant debt burden still remains.

The popular image of Haiti has been of a country characterized by mismanagement, ineptitude and corruption, however it is worth recalling some of the history of this second-oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere (after the United States).

Haiti succeeded in winning its independence in 1805 after a slave revolt that developed into a particularly bloody ten-year war. Unlike the other newly founded republics France and the United States, Haiti totally renounced slavery; a stance that resulted in Haiti being ostracised and denied access to world trade, finance, and institutional development from its birth – a situation for which France and the United States in particular bear responsibility, along with the other major European powers.

To gain acceptance in the world community the Haitian government was eventually forced to accept terms (including the payment of billions of dollars in ‘reparations’ to France - payments which took more than a century to pay off). This resulted in the exploitation and impoverishment of the Haitian people.

The wake of the current disaster provides an opportunity to correct a long-standing injustice.


The first UN world report on the State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples reveals alarming statistics on poverty, health, education, employment, the environment and human rights among other issues.

According to the report, the world’s indigenous population has been estimated at 370 million individuals living in more than 70 countries. They are defined as having their own history, language, culture, political systems, livelihoods, beliefs and identity. There are 5000 different indigenous groups and almost the same number of languages used by indigenous communities worldwide.

Although they make up five per cent of the world’s population, indigenous peoples represent 15 percent of the world’s poor. Over the last three decades they have moved from their traditional lands towards urban areas partly seeking opportunities for education and employment, partly because of human rights abuses and violations in particular to their land rights and partly for cultural survival.

In developing as well as developed countries, indigenous peoples are still the daily victims of violence, assimilation policies, forced displacement and dispossession of their lands for commercial exploitation.

The report states that today, of the estimated 70,000-87,000 Batwa or Forest Peoples living in the Great Lakes Region in Africa, only one tenth has direct access to the forest. In parts of Asia-Pacific, allegations have been made of the abuse of indigenous peoples at the hands of military forces. A sizeable gap persists between the number of years of schooling attended by indigenous and non-indigenous children in several countries in Latin America. Almost a quarter of Native Americans and Alaska Natives live under the poverty line in the United States.

The adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007 has given indigenous peoples and the international community a framework to tackle these issues.


More than nine years after the signing of the Millennium Declaration little progress has been made in achieving equal opportunities and rights for women and girls.

While more girls are starting school, many of them, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and the Arab countries, do not complete their primary education. In countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan, two-thirds of illiterates are women. Women in many countries cannot do paid work outside the agriculture sector. In South Asia and North Africa, for instance, only 18% of women have paid work and they are generally paid lower wages. Of the nearly one billion people with an income of less than one dollar a day, some 700 million are women.

Laws that discriminate explicitly against women remain in force around the world, putting the formal endorsement of the state on gender-based discrimination.

International Women's Day is celebrated each year on 8th March to recognize the fact that securing peace and social progress and the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms require the active participation, equality and development of women; and to acknowledge the contribution of women to the strengthening of international peace and security.

The theme for the 2010 celebration of International Women’s Day is “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for All” Despite a disappointing lack of progress the empowerment of women continues to be a central feature of the UN’s efforts to address social, economic and political challenges across the globe.


In 2007, the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed 20 February as World Day of Social Justice. The day was observed for the first time in 2009.

Governments committed to the promotion of social justice at national, regional and international levels. They also pledged to promote the equitable distribution of income and greater access to resources through equity and equality and opportunity for all.

The governments also recognized that economic growth should promote equity and social justice and that "a society for all" must be based on social justice and respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Observance of the day is intended to contribute to the further consolidation of the efforts of the international community in poverty eradication, promotion of full employment and decent work, gender equity and access to social well-being and justice for all.

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