Human Rights: 2015 assessment

José Zalaquett

José Zalaquett

Head of the Project at MOOC Chile
Lawyer, Universidad de Chile. Doctor Honoris Causa, by the Universities of Notre Dame and City University of New York.
José Zalaquett

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A proper global assessment of human rights for the present year would largely surpass the extension of a brief column. Let us limit ourselves, then, to pointing out the most outstanding trends. These are the following ones:

1. Regarding global security, the main event is, of course, the sheer power acquired by the Islamic State, which has become most famously known for its recent terrorist attacks in Paris. Such events are the most acute expression of a tendency that has been developing during the last years: the threat posed by sub-State groups that do not hesitate to resort to acts of terrorism and that exhibit a dangerous disposition toward self-immolation. Of course, in this and in other similar cases there concur the legal and moral criteria that would justify the resort to public force to confront this threat. However, we must remember that among such criteria there is the need to count with a reasonable chance of success. In other words, it is not enough to have legitimacy on one side. It is also necessary that what is intended is or can reasonably be expected to be effective. In this regard, the European powers are usually limited in their possibilities to resort to war, due to the rejection to war by their citizenry, as well as to the fact that their public opinion is generally against increasing military expenses.

2. Transparency and public integrity, positively speaking, or the fight against corruption, negatively put, continue to outrage the public opinion of many countries. This topic has been in the social and political global agenda during the last 25 years. The passing of time, outrageous scandals in different countries and a growing ability to gather information and to act coordinated by citizenry, due to technological progress and social networks, have given this concern an unprecedented momentum.

3. For similar reasons, social unrest have continued, and at times worsened, in different parts of the world. This can be traced back to the protests which erupted with special intensity in 2011 against extreme inequality and in favor of more inclusive and fair social policies.

4. As a result from all of the above, an immigration wave of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing from persecution, war or extreme poverty in Africa and the Middle East toward European countries has taken place. This has led, on the one hand, to an intense social and political debate in the receiving societies; and on the other, it has increased xenophobia and nationalist political opinions in several European countries.

5. Also, the political pendulum is starting to move away from the populism that prevailed in Latin American countries such as Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil in the last years. In other regions of the world, including the United Kingdom, left-wing political positions have also lost strength.

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