Right to Food – Flood Victims under Famine Threat in Pakistan

The 2010 monsoon in Pakistan caused one-fifth (307,374 sq mi) of the country to be submerged under flood water, destroying a great portion of the country’s major crop growing land. The flood caused massive food shortage in the country, causing the prices of staple food to skyrocket and out of the reach of the average person, particularly the flood victims. The already burdened economy of the country took a hit of another $43 billion approximately, sending the aftershocks of the devastation into the year 2012. The rising inflation and declining value of the Pakistani currency has added to the miseries of the flood victims as they are unable to afford basic food items. Sen says that in the face of crises like famine, “the focus should be on the economic power and substantive freedom of individuals and families to buy enough food1”; The government of Pakistan, however, lacks any solid relief plan to help the flood victims in these crises and the so called ‘Benazir Income Support Program2’ is only supporting the people along the political party lines. On top of that, the feudal societal structure of the country discourages the ‘endowment’ of the resources by the poor. Although Universal Declaration on the Eradication of Hunger and Malnutrition recognizes that “Every man, woman and child has the inalienable right to be free from hunger and malnutrition in order to develop fully and maintain their physical and mental faculties ………..and it is a fundamental responsibility of Governments to work together for higher food production and a more equitable and efficient distribution of food between countries and within countries3”, we see no short or long-term national or international aid program to ensure this basic human right. Economic and physical “accessibility4” as required by the article 11 of The Right to Adequate Food is not ensured and according to Wolfgang Herbinger, director of the World Food Program (WFP) in Pakistan, due to excessive wheat buying by the Government of Pakistan, now ordinary consumers pay double the price for wheat compared to three years ago and the food security situation has “changed dramatically”, forcing people to take out loans to pay for their food5. To prevent famine and food shortages, Sen says that “attention has to be paid to the need for incentives to generate the growth of outputs and income.6” It is, therefore, important that national and international bodies work in coherence to offer long term output and income growth initiatives before a frontline nation in the war of terror slips into even major economic problems.

  1. Amartya Sen “Development as Freedom”. Chapter 7 “Famines and the Other Crises”. P. 161
  2. Benazir Income Support Program – Government of Pakistan. http://www.bisp.gov.pk/
  3. Universal Declaration on the Eradication of Hunger and Malnutrition. Adopted on 16 November 1974 by the World Food Conference convened under General Assembly resolution 3180 (XXVIII) of 17 December 1973; and endorsed by General Assembly resolution 3348 (XXIX) of 17 December 1974
  4. United Nations Economic and Social Council, The right to adequate food (Art.11) : . 05/12/1999
  5. Pakistan food prices too high: UN food relief agency. http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110323/wl_sthasia_afp/pakistanunfloodsfoodfarmrelief
  6. Amartya Sen “Development as Freedom”. Chapter 7 “Famines and the Other Crises”. P. 177

Globalization’s Impact on the Right to Development

If according to the article 2 of Declaration on the Right to Development, human person is the central subject of development and should be the active participant and beneficiary of the right to development; all human beings have a responsibility for development…..and they should therefore promote and protect an appropriate political, social and economic order for development; and states have the right and the duty to formulate appropriate national development policies that aim at the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population and of all individuals (Declaration on the Right to Development, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 41/128 of 4 December 1986), then is globalization a helpful or harmful force for the achieving RTD for individuals and nations?

I think that the concept of Right to Development, which requires origination and active participation by the people, societies and countries, somewhat collides with the concept of globalization which requires integration of economies, societies and their cultures that may not be indigenous to the people and may even directly conflict with their development goals. Margot E. Salomon states, “In this era of globalization that seeks to provide for an international environment conducive to the further accumulation of wealth by the wealthy through the expansive tendencies of global capital, the right to development demands international cooperation under law for the creation of a structural environment favorable to the realization of basic human rights, for everyone.” (Implementing the Right to Development – The Role of International Law, Stephen P. Marks, Harvard School of Public Health, Chapter 1, P. 17) To formulate national development policies with active people participation requires nation and people centric agenda which discourages accumulation of wealth by few in a globalized environment. Amy Chua states that the prevailing view among globalization’s supporters is that markets and democracy are a kind of universal prescription for the multiple ills of underdevelopment (World on Fire, P. 8). I would, however, think that such globalization agenda needs to integrate the aspirations and objectives of the people and countries of the developing world as well, without which we may experience dominant minority’s economic and social rule which may lead to majority’s disliking towards globalization. The concept and process of RTD seeks equal ground for developing nations at international stage and for globalization to become conducive to RTD, it must resonate the view of the developing world. I would agree with Uvin that the concept of RTD is politically weak and sometimes contradictory to the principles of globalization. Classic example can be Endorois Welfare Council vs. Kenya case where Endorois people’s RTD collided against the game reserve.

Corruption-A Major Obstacle in Reducing Poverty

When Sen talks about poverty in terms of “capability deprivation” (Development as Freedom, P. 87) or Jeffery Sachs associates it with “deprivation in well-being” (The End of Poverty) or Economists view it in strictly Gross Domestic Product of a country or from the microscope of Gross Happiness Index; I wonder what if there is one major obstacle in the way of increasing the human capability or well-being in a society/country. An obstacle that does not allow countries to take full benefit from its poverty alleviation policies and seek progress as planned. I think there may be many factors that may reduce the impact of global and domestic efforts towards reducing poverty but widespread corruption in poverty ridden countries/societies may be one of the prominent reasons behind “capability deprivation” and “deprivation in well-being”. According to Amitai Etzioni (Professor of International Relations at George Washington University) in his article Corruption Reduction (Harvard International Review, winter 2011 Volume 32, No.4) World Bank had invested scores of billions of dollars since mid 1990s for economic development in 25 developing countries, and due to widespread corruption in these countries more than half had the same or worsening rates of per capita income from the mid 1990s to the early 2000s. Transparency International Report 2010, Sub-Saharan Africa has seen 62% increase in the corruption levels from 2007-2010 whereas Asia Pacific has seen 47% and Latin America has seen 51% increase in their corruption levels during the same period. A US State Department report found Iraqi government to be rife with corruption at all levels and according to Iraq’s top anti-corruption investigator, around US$11billion dollars are lost to misconduct/corruption in Iraq. Transparency International ranks Afghanistan as the second most corrupt nation among 180 countries with about 23 percent of its GDP is paid in bribes (Etizioni).

 I think it should be of no surprise that poverty ridden countries happen to be the most corrupt ones as well and vice-a-versa. When global efforts to alleviate the poverty hit corrupt practices we can see not only loss of aid money but also loss of hope for many living in dire situation which in turn makes human rights organizations’ job much more daunting.

Right to Development and Economic Framework

Its interesting to find out that although “Right to Development”, a recognized human right adopted first by the United Nations in 1986 (Declaration on the Right to Development), and later at 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights (Uvin 41, 42), is now a broadly acclaimed notion in both the human rights and development economics arena; widespread disagreements still lurks its horizon as to how to achieve this right in a highly political world. Earlier marred by politics of the Cold War, CP rights remained more important than ESC rights, especially in the rich countries which dominate the global human rights movements (Uvin, 47), and later engulfed with the politics of theoretical and practical approach of best achieving these human rights objectives; we yet have to see a solid economic development framework that is acceptable to everyone. If the right to development is so close to human rights and human rights are universal (equal for all humans) then should everyone follow any particular approach to economic development or can we achieve the optimum results by following diverse development approaches? And which approach can provide us better results in achieving both ESC and CP human rights? I think, neither the thesis, antithesis nor the synthesis models (Professor Marks’s Lecture) of economic development alone can provide a comprehensive approach to development that also guarantees all human rights. Mere concentration on economic growth to achieve human rights for all is not the best strategy as noted by UNDP 2001 report, “Human development is about much more than the rise or fall of national incomes. It is about creating an environment in which people can develop their full potential and lead productive, creative lives in accord with their needs and interests” (Professor Marks’s Lecture). China and India, with different political and economic models are able to address different human rights issues through their development models and neither of them have been successful in achieving both ESC and CP human rights (Sen, 41- 43). I think a combination of ‘growth- mediated’ and ‘support-led’ (Sen, 46) policies can provide the answer to development experts in promoting human rights in any society, as experimented by social democracies.

Importance of Accountability in the Right Based Approach to Human Rights

Human rights, originating from moral reasoning and social advocacy (A. Sen) of a society, build the framework of socially sanctioned norms and eventual legal structure to protect individual rights. In the backdrops of various cultures, I find the evolution of global consensus on human rights a long, flexible, and politically powered process. The lack of common willingness to effectively implement human rights makes the concept of “accountability” of states, public and private institutions, and even of human rights and development NGOs in actively pursuing right based approach (RBA) of human rights, very fluid. The Human Rights Council of Australia considers accountability as a key to the protection and promotion of human rights (Uvin, 131); however, one of the prominent criticisms on human rights comes on its ‘political’ nature (Mary Robinson, 32)  and politically geared objectives I think, contradicts transparent accountability and can only be improved but is difficult to perfect. Good education and healthcare can be considered as basic rights in any society, but it is difficult and to a certain extent, makes it politically undesirable to hold governments of developing and under-developed countries accountable for their lack of provision of these basic human rights. Sometimes the lack of legal infrastructure hinders accountability. Peter Uvin (Human Rights and Development, 132) talks about the notion of justiciability, the capacity to adjudicate a claim before a court of law, and goes on to explain that economic, political, and cultural (ESC) rights are justiciable but may not happen in practice because in weak systems parties affected are too poor or powerless. The effective way of promoting accountability lies within the framework of the morals of a society i.e. by promoting shared expectations and socially acceptable discourse (Uvin, 134) and to weave a common moral structure across the globe may not be that easy. Thomas Pogge (World Poverty and Human Rights, 65) extends the notion of the government to anyone with authority including the lowest and smallest agencies and officials, in promoting accountability against human rights violations at every level, but in reality, these actors are hardly held accountable in human rights violations. For example, the constitution of Pakistan provides protection to minority rights at both governmental and private levels; however, constant violations of such human rights, for instance, the right to worship etc., can be seen in that country and hardly ever has the state been held accountable for its violation of human rights.


Islamophobia is currently at the center of heated interracial and inter-faith discourse in Europe and America. However, before we discuss the state of Islamophobia in US and Europe, we must first understand the origins and nature of such mind set in any society.

Peter Gottschalk and Gabriel Greenberg, in their book Islamophobia, describe the process of stereotyping a certain society or culture while referring to the movie “Siege” and later with the help of cartoon caricatures. If we consider Islamophobia on one end of the scale, we may find the caricatures on the on the opposite side helping to form the mindset of any society or culture against the other. When I refer to caricatured representation of any society, culture or religion, I am referring to all forms of portrayal including film, drama, print media, cartoons etc. which helps to build the perception of people about the ‘other’ by “focusing on one or more unusual physical or behavioral characteristics” (Peter Gottschalk and Gabriel Greenberg, Islamophobia: p.65). The movement on the scale from caricatured presentation towards stereotyping a group, culture or a religion happens quite smoothly and from “people’s association –positively or negatively-with the stereotyped group from their own society rather than from their experience with that group” (Peter Gottschalk and Gabriel Greenberg, Islamophobia: p.67).

According to Peter and Gabriel, caricaturing of Muslims and eventual stereotyping the whole Muslim society have led the West (specially Americans) to believe that Muslims are synonymous to the Middle East and that all Middle Easterners show specific cultural behavior and share identical ideology. “A common symbol used to depict all Arabs is that of an Arab man who looks unkempt or disheveled. This hints at the “dirty Arab” stereotype not uncommon in both the United States and Europe.” (Peter Gottschalk and Gabriel Greenberg, Islamophobia: p.71). Peter and Gabriel further claim that through such negative depiction of “them,” stereotypes positive define “us” as not like that. This is a very important aspect of societal understanding of itself against the other that further leads to its xenophobic behavior, since ‘they’ are portrayed as opposite to ‘our’ lifestyle and values, ‘their’ acceptance and then integration into ‘our’ society and neighborhoods cannot be acceptable. Negative caricature of a group leading to the respective stereotyping of the culture, religion or region, later leads one group of people to develop xenophobic behavior against the other.

Now the jump from this xenophobia into the Islamophobia is a matter of one small step to reach the other side of the scale. Having understood the journey of a society from being briefed by media, educational and societal caricature of a group to xenophobia and eventually Islamophobia, we can now discuss the state of Islamophobia in US and Europe.

In Europe, the difference between the xenophobia and Islamophobia is negligible. Europe’s association and promise towards the formation of a secular or ‘Laicite’ society that adheres to a distinct separation of the state and religion and of course their perception of European Muslims as ‘foreigners’ has led them to a greater debate on Islamophobia. This current debate on Islam started as xenophobia amongst the Europeans for their respective Muslim communities. Since Muslims form the largest minority in Europe, the debate of preserving the integrity of their societies quickly shifted towards Muslims, hence giving birth to a wide spread Islamophobia. John R. Bowen in his book Why The French Don’t Like Headscarves, explains in great detail the French discontent of public depiction of religious especially Islamic religious symbol i.e. Headscarves. Dominic McGoldrick explains Islamophobia as part of today’s European political discourse, especially in France, in his book Human Rights and Religion: The Islamic Headscarf Debate in Europe. In one of our other readings, Comparative State Practice, we can have a comparative analysis of Islamophobia in retrospect to France, Germany, and Switzerland and of the predominantly Muslim country, Turkey. The larger debate in Europe revolves around laicite or in general about preserving secular values. Consideration of Muslims or Islam as foreign and in contradiction to the European values and norms, along with the perception of Islam and Muslims as incapable of integration has led a widespread panic of Islamophobia.

The current Islamophobic campaign has put European countries, specially France, Germany, Denmark, and Switzerland on their cautious foot with the majority public against the public depiction of all sorts of Islamic symbols like scarves, mosques and minarets. As the professor Cesari mentioned in the class, Islamophobic sentiments in the US are getting closer to the European discourse and it seems as if it’s a spillover of the European discourse into the US society. According to Louise Cainkar, Homeland Insecurity, discrimination against Muslim or Arab Americans is not a pre-9/11 phenomenon. His reference to the Southwest of Chicago and Southwest suburbs and explanation of various cases in pre and post 9/11 era clearly shows that discrimination against the Arab Americans were present and hatred against the group was developing long before the terrorists’ attacks.

Cainkar mentions the comments of a 19-year-old Colin Zaremba who marched with a group from Oak Lawn towards Bridgeview Mosque expressed his hatred towards Arabs saying “I am proud to be American and I hate Arabs and I always have.” This clearly shows that in the Southwest suburbs of Chicago, hatred against the Arab was developing long before the 9/11. The terrorists’ attacks were, however, important in pushing the envelope and giving the prelude to express such hatred in public. Cainkar explains the reason for low rate of hate crimes and discrimination in the southwest side of the city of Chicago due to mixed multiethnic (Latino, African American, and White) population.

Whereas the hate crimes on the southwest suburbs were higher due to predominantly white American population who were not happy of Arab population growth in their neighborhood and found it a threat to their homogenously white suburban areas. “This pattern was evident across the United States as hateful actions continued to occur for years after 9/11 attacks because these actions were about matters much larger than post-9/11 backlash- they were about cultural hegemony and the ‘moral order’ of the neighborhood.” (Cankar: Homeland Insecurity). In the neighborhoods where community integration process was already in place before 9/11, the backlash was minimal. Organizations like Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) and others mobilized to further integrate and help the Arab Americans around the suburban areas. Current debate on the Ground Zero mosque project has given a whole new dimension to the Islamophobia in the US leading to the extreme outpour of emotions in the form of the Quran burning effort led by the Florida pastor. We must also understand that such anti-Arab, Anti- Islam sentiments were already there but were mainly unorganized across the United States. These two recent incidents have taken the US discourse on Islamophobia a whole new meaning and a new level.

The current debate in US is no longer a xenophobia but has transformed itself into a a complete Islamophobic debate. Islamophobia in US was propelled by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The country of immigrants has always welcomed Muslims from all over the world and has successfully integrated millions of Muslims as part of the American Society. Sporadic and unorganized incidents of hatred and discrimination of Muslim and Arab Americans but mainly it was 9/11 attacks that brought US closer to the European stance that Muslims or Islam cannot be integrated into the main fiber of the Western Societies.

How to Build a Company that You Can Sell

As an entrepreneur you may have huge dreams for your business. You must have given your business every drop of your sweat and diligence hoping to get great reward someday. Possibility is that while you are building your business, you are also making it handicap by having your customers revolve around you. Ninety nine percent of the businesses are unsellable as they center around the business owner and the fear remains that customers may leave the company with the initial owner.

How can you build your company that you can sell leter on?  There are few basic steps that you can take to ensure that you get a great price when selling your business one day. Find out more about it at Small Business Open Forum.