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One Billion Slum Dwellers Cannot be IgnoredAlysha Atma Salem-News.com African Affairs Correspondent
Effective mechanisms to hold governments accountable can strengthen efforts.
(PORTLAND, Ore.) - Amnesty International (AI) is urging the international communities and their governments to recognize and repair the cavernous holes within the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), calling for the protection of the world's poorest and most vulnerable people.
"Unless world leaders agree to take urgent steps to uphold the human rights of people living in poverty, the poorest and most disadvantaged people around the world will continue to be left out of the MDGs," said Amnesty International's Secretary General, Salil Shetty. "But language alone is not enough, people must be able to hold governments accountable when they fail to uphold human rights. They should be able to challenge corruption or neglect through courts and regulatory bodies to ensure governments actually fulfill their obligations."
Mass forced evictions of people living in slums are being carried out around the world driving them deeper into poverty; with Roma communities evicted across Europe and slum dwellers in Delhi forcibly evicted to make way for the Commonwealth games. In Nigeria over 200,000 people are currently facing eviction, the authorities plan to demolish more than 40 informal settlements in Port Harcourt's waterfront area; losing not only their homes but also their livelihoods.
“A couple of weeks ago in New York, governments promised to help 100 million living in slums. The problem is that more than a billion people live in slums. They don’t have water, schools, sanitation, or health care,” said Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International.
An estimated 70 percent of those living in poverty are women, yet, the MDG efforts in many countries fail to address the wide-spread discrimination women face in accessing food, water, sanitation and housing. Kenya is an example of a country whose policies have ignored the needs of women living in slums while trying to meet its MDG targets. Women living in slums risk being attacked when trying to use communal toilets, particularly after dark.
The lack of effective policing to prevent, investigate and punish gender-based violence or provide an effective remedy to women and girls, means violence against women goes largely unpunished. While discriminatory policies, laws and practices continue to go unchanged, and unrecognized; they undermine the overall progress of all the MDGs.
"A global promise to tackle poverty cannot leave the poorest and most vulnerable people behind," said Salil Shetty. "But that is what is happening – and will continue to happen – unless world leaders commit to take the action necessary to achieve real change, and to uphold the human rights of the poor."
Effective mechanisms to hold governments accountable can strengthen MDG efforts. The recent summit failed to call on governments to stop forced evictions, despite evidence that evictions drive people further into poverty and undermine all the goals. It instead asked governments to ‘reduce slum populations’, raising fears that this could encourage more forced evictions.
“From France to Zimbabwe to Cambodia, we have documented how governments are destroying homes of some of the poorest people in their countries. Those whose homes are destroyed are failed by the law, they get no compensation and have no place to live,” said Widney Brown. “It is time for World leaders to move beyond the rhetoric we heard in New York and take urgent action to protect the rights of people living in slums.”
Sources: Amnesty International
Alysha Atma spends many hours working on projects that support and benefit the beleaguered people of African nations who spend way too much time off the western media's radar. This writer explains that she is a culmination of all her experiences, most importantly knowledge she says, and all that she still needs to learn; lessons of love, laughter and the extraordinary giving of both young and old. She says she has the enormous fortune of learning from the best; every person around her, and the amazing strength and fortitude of those she has never met but will always strive to listen to. "I continue to work and write because I believe in the power of community and the power of one, both contradictory to each other and yet can move together in a very powerful way. I feel a responsibility to use my place, freedoms and connections here in the US to stand up and yell for those who need my voice and actions. I have seen such strength in my fellow humans that I cannot even begin to comprehend, they have traveled distances, have gone without food, water, shelter and safety for days and weeks at a time. I have a responsibility as a fellow human to put our common humanity before anything else. Everyone deserves to look towards tomorrow, to dream of a safe future and to have a peaceful present." You can write to Alysha Atma at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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